Many of us read Doris Lessing and Simone de Beauvoir, but the first women’s consciousness-raising groups were two years in the future and would be provoked in part by our own chauvinism. He was targeted politically by Hoover and the Chicago police “red squad” before being attacked in his office with a claw hammer by someone who was never apprehended. slotId: "thenation_right_rail_84840", By 1966 the United Farm Workers was bringing new energy to the labor movement; that same year, Congress moved to include minimum-wage protections for farmworkers, who had been excluded for the previous twenty-eight years under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The oppressive paradigm the PHS tried to discredit was the cold war between two blocs engaged in nuclear brinkmanship. In doing so, they sought the rejection of the extant anti-communism of the time. The PHS condemned the disenfranchisement of migrant workers while also citing them as a potential base for rebirth of a “broader and more forceful unionism.” In 1964 the government’s hated bracero program was forced to its end. If that was true, what was the point of depending on mainstream public opinion? They must support Southern voter registration and Negro political candidates and demand that Democratic Party liberals do the same (in the last Congress, Dixiecrats split with Northern Democrats on 119 of 300 roll-calls, mostly on civil rights, area redevelopment and foreign aid bills; and breach was much larger than in the previous several sessions). This formulation followed long discussions in which we repudiated doctrines of pessimism about the fallen human condition, as well as the liberal humanist belief in human “perfectibility.” It may have been influenced also by the Vatican II reforms then sweeping the Catholic Church. For the next generations, perhaps the most important issue for participatory democracy will be ownership and control of the means of producing and distributing information. For an American hero, the Weathermen turned to John Brown, who led a suicidal uprising against slavery. As a result of the civil rights movement, there came a generation of white liberal politicians like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, along with a huge complement of black elected officials from the South, from local sheriffs to Congressmen like John Lewis (a SNCC member) and Jim Clyburn (vice chair under Charles McDew of the South Carolina State student movement in 1960). When a worker in her audience replied that he couldn’t wait for the overthrow of capitalism but that he also needed two hours less work “to feel human, to read a book or take a walk in daylight,” the experience gave Goldman the consciousness of a great organizer. Death, our old nemesis, also intervened. Why was it so necessary for SDS leaders to reject Port Huron as “reformist”? [4] Also known as the "Agenda for a Generation", it "brought the term 'participatory democracy' into the common parlance". Professor Jim Soto spoke about the Port Huron Statement, a political manifesto written in the summer of 1962 by the Students for a Democratic Society. We sang of Joe Hill; knew all about “Big Bill” Haywood, Emma Goldman and Mother Jones; and lamented the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. The second generation of SDS, and the movement generally, was learning hard lessons from experiences not available to us in 1960–62. What do Chavez, Gonzales, and Tijerina all have in common? By signing up to receive emails, you agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation's journalism. tn_subject: ['activism', 'occupy-mov', 'social-jus'], The Movements Rise Again, With SDS Underground. While Occupy could not and would not agree on making detailed demands, it did agree, as noted earlier, on “direct and transparent participatory democracy” as its first principle. The early SDS certainly identified with the Wobblies, the anarchists who organized the 1912 Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts; the Haymarket Square martyrs; and the historic wildcat strikes across the Western mining country. In retrospect, however, it’s impossible to reach a majority, much less the 99 percent, while rejecting coalition politics. Soon Northern students were streaming south for the Mississippi Summer Project, in 1964, whose aim was to unseat the state’s white Democratic delegation and replace it with a democratically chosen slate, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, at the convention that year in Atlantic City. The Statement’s economic program was an extension of the New Deal and a call for deeper participatory democratic reform. For most of us, Kennedy, as well as other national leaders assassinated that decade, including JFK’s brother Robert, King and even Malcolm X, had been central figures in the transformation we hoped to see. It was a way of empowering the individual as autonomous but interdependent with other individuals, and the community as a civic society. Elections produce popular mandates, and mandates spur popular activism. The importance of this sojourn into left-wing history is that SDS and SNCC (and King, among others) were unaware of the company we were keeping. Finally came Occupy Wall Street. When those from an earlier tradition pointed out, sometimes vehemently, that we were not only not new but descendants of the left, the New Left became our hybrid brand. There were also children of New Deal democratic socialists now experiencing liberal middle-class lives, and there were plenty of mainstream idealistic student leaders, graduate sociology students, a few pacifists and a number of the spiritually inspired. A massive research and publicity campaign should be initiated, showing to every housewife, doctor, professor, and worker the damage done to their interests every day a racist occupies a place in the Democratic Party. Two thousand full-time FBI agents were deployed, with massive use of informants and counterintelligence programs. The Port Huron attendees insisted that it begin with an emphasis on “we,” to be followed immediately by a section on values. We were fully aware of the dangers of being co-opted into the system, the managed cooling of street heat, the predictable countermovements that would rise up. First, there was the assassination of John Kennedy, which devastated any rational basis for strategy. To take one example among many, official disclosures in 1984 revealed that John McCone, Kennedy’s CIA director, head of the Atomic Energy Commission and Bechtel executive, conspired with the FBI in a “psychological warfare campaign” against the Free Speech Movement and to elect Ronald Reagan governor of California. Though they were not at Port Huron, there were other philosophical searchers at the time who practiced participatory democracy. The authors hoped that the movement would not get sidetracked on single-issue struggles but would stay focused on the broader struggles on all fronts at the same time. The SDS manifesto, known as the Port Huron Statement, was adopted at the organization's first convention in June 1962, based on an earlier draft by staff member Tom Hayden. One link between these events was the leadership of United Auto Workers president Walter Reuther; his brother Victor; and a top UAW officer, Mildred Jeffrey, the mother of a key SDS founder at Port Huron, Sharon Jeffrey. One of the major differences has to do with anarchism, or “direct democracy,” which plays a major role in the thinking, structure and practice of many Occupy activists. It is time for a participatory New Deal, to bring the banks and corporations under the regulations and reforms they have escaped through runaway globalization. We carefully avoided adopting any of the previous ideologies of the left, including anarchism, in our search for something new. Porto Alegre showcased a model of “participatory budgeting,” in which local citizens are directly involved in decisions to allocate public funds for neighborhood needs. It proved impossible to dislodge from the organization, and pushed all internal discussions in a poisonous sectarian direction. It appeared among the demands of young people in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries in the Arab Spring of 2011. The energy of some SNCC and SDS organizers also overflowed into the nascent farmworkers’ organizing efforts in the Southwest at around the same time. According to Michael Kazin and others, the role of the American left has been to make lasting cultural and normative contributions while never actually coming to power. For want of another term, it was the system itself, or the powerful paradigm we defied but could not defeat. Vietnam seemed to prove that militarism and imperialism were central to American society, whether liberals or conservatives were in power. We even thrashed out basic views of human nature day after day, not the usual subject of political platforms. It was written by SDS members, and completed on June 15, 1962, at a United Auto Workers (UAW) retreat outside of Port Huron, Michigan (now part of Lakeport State Park), for the group's first national convention. Contrary to the subsequent stereotype of SDS as “antilabor,” Listening and speaking in clear vernacular English was crucial. We went through a near-death experience during the Cuban missile crisis. By using this website, you consent to our use of cookies. As the anti-war movement spread, that ideology spread with… Indeed, the greatest outpouring of youth, student, GI, liberal, feminist and environmentalist sentiment—of perhaps any previous era in American history—occurred after SDS had closed its doors. As a Cold War document, the Port Huron Statement is … [2] It issued a nonideological call for participatory democracy, "both as a means and an end",[2] based on non-violent civil disobedience and the idea that individual citizens could help make "those social decisions determining the quality and direction" of their lives. Subscribe now for as little as $2 a month! This is the fiftieth anniversary year of the Port Huron Statement, the founding declaration of Students for a Democratic Society, issued as a “living document” in 1962. College enrollments were booming in the 1950s and 1960s, and many students objected to the way college administrators attempted to control their personal lives. [7], "Universal controlled disarmament must replace deterrence and arms control as the national defense goals. As if to prove Zinn’s thesis, the global cold war quickly morphed into the rise of neoliberal globalization, the militarized war on narcoterrorism and, by 2001, the “global war on terror.” The old threat of international communist conspiracies was replaced by alleged new threats from the narcoterrorists and global jihadists. SDS was banned on many campuses. Initially drafted by Tom Hayden and debated over the course of three days in 1962 at a meeting of student leaders, the statement was issued by Students for a … Jesse Jackson would eventually run impressive presidential campaigns where none had been possible in the previous century. According to Kirkpatrick Sale’s SDS, published in 1970 and still the most comprehensive history of the organization, the PHS “may have been the most widely distributed document of the American left in the sixties,” with 60,000 copies printed and sold for 25 cents each between 1962 and 1966. He was the author of more than 20 books, including most recently Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement (Yale) and Listen, Yankee! I believe the Port Huron vision of a progressive alliance would have succeeded in bringing a new governing majority to power in 1964, with a likelihood of avoiding the Vietnam War, were it not for the murder of Kennedy and Johnson’s subsequent escalation of it. These were compelling notions to many SDS radicals desperate to stop the Vietnam War and disillusioned with liberalism’s default. Rampant conspiracy theories seemed to negate the prospects of popular movements and peaceful transitions through elections. Led by Tom Hayden, the 25,700 word statement outlined a new vision for America’s future, including disarmament, a revised Democratic Party, and … For the first time, students were thinking of themselves as “agents of social change.” The buoyancy of this strategy, perhaps carried on the innocence of the young, was a momentous break from the culture of the left in those times, which was dispirited by McCarthyism, bogged down in poisonous factional disputes and weighted with the ideological language and baggage of a Marxism that remained foreign to most Americans. The Reuthers were the great hope, but they were loath to break from Johnson over the Mississippi delegation battle in Atlantic City and over Vietnam. I prefer to wait and see. The power of the independent movement came first, but it was also necessary to pressure the president to follow, to recognize and legitimize and legalize the victory and pursue a transition to a more participatory and egalitarian democracy. For Zinn, the reforms at best were reluctant concessions “aimed at quieting the popular uprisings, not making fundamental changes.” But were all those reforms meaningless? In the North, reform clubs (either independent or Democratic) should be formed to run against big city regimes on such issues as peace, civil rights, and urban needs. There was a growing peace movement, which many in our ranks eagerly joined. But Vietnam wrecked all that, plunging our young movement into five years of draft and war resistance, and provoking an escalated militancy against the warmakers. In June 1962, a group of mostly white, middle-class college students met in Port Huron, Michigan, to draft a manifesto for the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). "[7], "The Port Huron Statement: Still Radical at 50", "As Port Huron turns 50: Peace and justice activist Tom Hayden on Rag Radio", Historical media images from University of Michigan 50th anniversary conference website, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Port_Huron_Statement&oldid=995290902, Wikipedia articles with style issues from July 2020, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 20 December 2020, at 06:26. [tone] The ideals that led those gathered outside Port Huron, Michigan in 1962 to issue this call to action not only added to the discussion of what became the Great Society of the mid-60s, but helped frame the issues that fueled the rising anti-war movement, college campus activism, and the broader social movement known then as the counterculture that carried into the early 1970s in the United States. Perhaps it would take a vanguard of martyrs to incite an American revolution, or so the thinking went. Six years later Ramparts magazine revealed that the secretive Control Group included CIA agents whose work was to promote a pro–cold war global student movement. No one had complained when that label was suggested in 1960 by C. Wright Mills, in his open “Letter to the New Left.”. There is endless speculation these days about the future of Occupy Wall Street. His concept of power was broader than that of an economic ruling class. The writers of the document believed that ordinary citizens, particularly students, could create change through non-violent means. The Port Huron call for a life and politics built on moral values as opposed to expedient politics; its condemnation of the cold war, echoed in today’s questioning of the “war on terror”; its grounding in social movements against racism and poverty; its first-ever identification of students as agents of social change; and its call to extend participatory democracy to the economic, community and foreign policy spheres—these themes constitute much of today’s progressive sensibility. In 1961 at a National Student Association convention I found a yellow pad with a chart identifying SDS in a box on the left, Young Americans for Freedom on the right and an entity named Control Group in the center-top. The implication was that no genuine explanatory framework existed for a radical US social movement outside Marxism, a thesis that ignored or downplayed deep historical currents of populism, pacifism, religious reform and slave rebellions in American history. Bob Moses, perhaps the single greatest influence on the early SDS and SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), could be described as a Socratic existentialist. And it meant widening participation to include the economic sphere (workplace democracy and consumer watchdogs), neighborhood assemblies and family life itself, where women and children were subordinates. But the heightened militancy became disconnected from a comprehensible narrative that the wider public might have understood. We wrote that “we are imbued with urgency, yet the message of our society is that there is no viable alternative to the present” (the same phrase later employed by Margaret Thatcher). The Vietnam War diverted public attention and drained resources from the budding War on Poverty. Political realignment was advanced that same year when the Supreme Court decreed that voter representation must be based on population rather than the land holdings of growers. 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