Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Students for a Democratic Society
The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a radical student activist movement in the United states founded in 1959. As part of the New Left movement in the United States, the organization developed rapidly in the mid-1960's, before dissolving in 1969.
It developed from the youth branch of a socialist educational organization known as the League for Industrial Democracy which descended from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society which was started in 1905. SDS held its first meeting in 1960 at Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Robert Alan Haber was elected president. Its political manifesto, known as the Port Huron Statement, was adopted at the organization's first convention in 1962, based on an earlier draft by staff member Tom Hayden. This manifesto criticized the political system of the United States for failing to achieve international peace and failing to address social ills in contemporary society. It also advocated non-violent civil disobedience as the means by which student youth could bring forth a "participatory democracy."
At Port Huron, Tom Hayden clashed with Irving Howe and Michael Harrington, over the perceived potential for totalitarianism. Hayden said, "While the draft Port Huron Statement included a strong denunciation of the Soviet Union, it wasn't enough for LID leaders like Michael Harrington. They wanted absolute clarity, for example, that the United States was blameless for the nuclear arms race.... In truth, they seemed threatened by the independence of the new wave of student activism...."
From 1965 to 1969
At first, SDS focused on peaceful efforts to promote the civil rights movement and improve the conditions of the inner-city ghettos. However, it came to be known for the leading role that it played in student opposition to the Vietnam War. While SDS remained non-violent, it became increasingly militant, and certain splinter factions had a reputation for violent confrontation, including the Progressive Labor Party (Worker-Student Alliance ), the Weathermen (Revolutionary Youth Movement I, later known as the "Weather Underground Organization"), and the Revolutionary Union (Revolutionary Youth Movement II).
SDS formed the core of a movement in the 1960s known collectively as the New Left, or simply "The Movement." This was loosely associated with other prominent student activist organizations such as the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, a coalition of student groups at the University of California, Berkeley that was formed in response to a prohibition on political activities on the Berkeley campus.
SDS split up in 1969 amidst enormous internal discord, with its more radical remnants continuing as the Progressive Labor Party, Weathermen, and the Revolutionary Union. The last of these went on to form a new student organization, the Revolutionary Student Brigade , which remained active into the 1970s.
A few former SDS leaders went on to successful political careers, including Tom Hayden who is still active in politics and writing. Hayden is a former member of the legislature of the state of California and is well known as the former husband of actress Jane Fonda, a prolific author, and a former candidate for offices such as Governor of California, Mayor of Los Angeles, and United States Senator.
The SDS was the organizational high point for student radicalism in the United States, and thus has been an important influence on student organizing in the decades since its collapse. Participatory democracy, direct action, radicalism, student power, shoestring budgets, and its organizational structure are all present in varying degrees in current national student activist groups.
Though various organizations have been formed in the years prior as proposed national networks for left-wing student organizing, none has approached the scale of SDS, and most have lasted a few years at best. Several attempts have been made at reviving the name, including a circa-2003 organization with a few chapters at colleges in the Midwest and Northeast.
- SDS Historical Documents and other links. Retrieved April 12, 2005.
- New School University (NYC) SDS
- SDS Eastern Michigan University
- SDS Dartmouth College
- SDS University of Michigan
- Students for a Democratic Society (S.D.S.), Records, 1965-74. May 4 Collection -- Box 107. Kent State University Libraries and Media Services. Department of Special Collections and Archives. Online guide retrieved April 12, 2005.
- Students for a Democratic Society Period : 1962-1970. Period : 1962-1970. Total Size : 0.5 m. International Institute of Social History. Online guide retrieved April 12, 2005.
- Alper, Mark. The Legacy of S.D.S. and Its Relevance to Today's Activists. Electronic Worker. Direct Action Tendency, Socialist Party USA. Retrived April 12, 2005.
- Bookchin, Murray. Anarchy and Organization: A Letter To The Left. Reprinted from New Left Notes. January 15, 1969. Retreived April 12, 2005. "The essay originally was written in reply to an attack by Huey Newton on anarchist forms of organization."
- Sale, Kirkpatrick . SDS: Ten Years Towards a Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1974. Mass market paperback, 752 pages, ISBN 0394719654 (this ISBN, while correct, sometimes leads to another book).
- Klatch, Rebecca E. . A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s. Berkeley : University of California Press, 1999.
- Halstead, Fred. Out Now!: A Participant's Account of the Movement in the United States Against the Vietnam War. 759 pages. Hardcover edition. Publisher: Anchor Foundation; Reprint edition. June 1, 1978. ISBN 0913460478.
- James, Mike. Getting Ready for the Firing Line: Join Community Union. Chicago: Students for a Democratic Society, March 1968. Stapled softcover. 8p. Photos by Nancy Hollander, Tom Malear of the Chicago Film Coop, Todd Gitlin & Les Jordan, SCEF. Reprinted from "The Activist," Spring 1967. Introduction for this pamphlet by Mike James.
- Oppenheimer, Martin. Alienation or Participation: The Sociology of Participatory Democracy. n.p.: Students of a Democratic Society (S.D.S.), 1966. 7 pages. 1st edition. Stapled paperback.
- Students For A Democratic Society [S.D.S.]. Fight Racism! Boston: Students for a Democratic Society, n.d. . 28pp. 1st edition. Stapled softcover.
- Students for a Democratic Society. New Left Notes. Chicago. [?] Vol. 1 # 1 1965 [?] - Vol. 4 # 31 Oct 2/1969.
U.S. Government Publications
- U.S. House of Representatives. Investigation of Students for a Democratic Society, Part 2 (Kent State University): Hearings Before the Committe on Internal Security, House of Representatives; 91st Congress, 2nd Session, June 24 and 25, 1969. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969.
- U.S. House of Representatives. Investigation of Students for a Democratic Society, Part 3-A (George Washington University); Hearings Before the Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives; 91st Congress, 2nd Session, July 22, 1969. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969.
- U.S. House of Representatives. Student Views Toward U.S. Policy in Southeast Asia; Hearings Before an Ad Hoc Committee of Members of the House of Representatives; 91st Congress, 2nd Session, July 22, 1969. Washington: U.S. Government Printng Office, 1969.
- U.S. President. Commission on Campus Unrest. Report. This publication is often referred to as the Scranton Report, issued in 1970.
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