|Predecessor||Student League for Industrial Democracy|
|Successor||New Students for a Democratic Society|
|Founded at||Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|Purpose||Left-wing student activism|
|Secessions||Revolutionary Youth Movement|
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a national student activist organization in the United States during the 1960s, and was one of the main representations of the New Left. Disdaining permanent leaders, hierarchical relationships and parliamentary procedure, the founders conceived of the organization as a broad exercise in "participatory democracy." From its launch in 1960 it grew rapidly in the course of the decade with over 300 campus chapters and 30,000 supporters recorded nationwide by its last national convention in 1969. The organization splintered at that convention amidst rivalry between factions seeking to impose national leadership and direction, and disputing "revolutionary" positions on, among other issues, the Vietnam War and Black Power.
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A new national network for left-wing student organizing, calling itself new incarnation of SDS was founded in 2006.
SDS developed from the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID), the youth branch of a socialist educational organization known as the League for Industrial Democracy (LID). LID descended from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, founded in 1905 by Upton Sinclair, Walter Lippmann, Clarence Darrow, and Jack London. Early in 1960, the SLID changed its name to SDS at the behest of its then acting Director, Aryeh Neier. The phrase "industrial democracy" sounded too narrow and too labor oriented for campus recruitment. SDS held its first meeting in 1960 on the University of Michigan campus at Ann Arbor, where 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.
The Port Huron Statement decried "the disturbing paradoxes" of the world's "wealthiest and strongest country": that the United States "should tolerate anarchy as a major principle of international conduct" (with an "uncontrolled exploitation of the earth's resources" and the spectre of nuclear destruction); that it should allow "the declaration 'all men are created equal...'" to ring "hollow before the facts of Negro life in the South and the big cities of the North"; that it should continue to impose "meaningless work and idleness" even as technology advances; and that while "two-thirds of mankind suffers under nourishment" it should be content that its "upper classes revel amidst superfluous abundance" "
"For most Americans, all crusades are suspect, threatening," yet in their "deeply felt anxieties about their role in the new world" there is a "yearning to believe that there is an alternative to the present, that something can be done to change circumstances in the school, the workplaces, the bureaucracies, the government." To this desire, "at once the spark and engine of change," the SDS directed their "appeal."
"Perhaps matured by the past"--by "the horrors" of a century in which "to be idealistic is to be considered apocalyptic"--SDS disclaimed any "formulas" or "closed theories." That did not not mean that "the values that should guide social analysis are beyond discussion and tentative determination." Men are "possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love," so that where the opportunity is embraced they will rise to task and participate in the decisions that determine "the quality and direction" of their lives.
"From where else can power and vision be summoned?" The "civil rights, peace, and student movements are too poor and socially slighted, and the labor movement too quiescent, to be counted with enthusiasm." There is "an overlooked seat of influence". No matter "how dull the teaching, how paternalistic the rules," the universities possess an "accessibility to knowledge" and an "internal openness" that creates "a potential base and agency." Any "new left" in America would have to be "a left with real intellectual skills, committed to deliberativeness, honesty, reflection as working tools."
Students must "look within the university and act with confidence that [they] can be powerful." But they must also "look outwards to the less exotic but more lasting struggles for justice." "The bridge to political power . . . will be built through genuine cooperation, locally, nationally, and internationally, between a new left of young people and an awakening community of allies." It was to "stimulating this kind of social movement, this kind of vision and program in campus and community across the country" that the SDS was committed.
For the sponsoring sponsoring League for Industrial Democracy there was an immediate issue. The Port Huron Statement noted the rise of "totalitarian states" and the perversion of "the older Left" by "Stalinism". But there was an insufficiently direct and orthodox condemnation of communism and of communist-party regimes. The references to Cold War tensions were too even-handed. Haber and Hayden, at this time respectively the National secretary and the new President of the student organization, were summoned to a hearing on the 6 July 1962. There, Hayden clashed with Michael Harrington (as he later would with Irving Howe), but no concessions were made
At the LID's insistence the constitution adopted at the 1962 convention had included a communist-exclusion clause: an affirmation that the SDS was opposed to any totalitarian principle as a basis for government or social organization, and no advocates or apologist for such a principle would be eligible for membership. For the LID this was to be a guarantee against "a united-front style takeover of its youth arm." For some activists it was too obvious a concession to the Cold-War doctrines of the political right. It smacked of "red baiting." When at the 1965 SDS National Convention (attended, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reported, "by practically every subversive organization in the United States") they succeeded in striking the clause there was a final parting of the ways. The association with the LTD was severed by mutual agreement 
In the academic year 1962–1963, the President was Hayden, the Vice President was Paul Booth and the National Secretary was Jim Monsonis. There were nine chapters with, at most, about 1000 members. The National Office (NO) in New York City consisted of a few desks, some broken chairs, a couple of file cabinets and a few typewriters. As a student group with a strong belief in decentralization and a distrust for most organizations, the SDS had not developed, and was never to develop, a strong central bureaucracy. National Office staffers worked long hours for little pay to service the local chapters, and to help establish new ones. Following the lead of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), most activity was oriented toward the civil rights struggle.
By the end of the academic year, there were over 200 delegates at the annual convention at Pine Hill, New York, from 32 different colleges and universities. Still greater reliance was placed on the local chapters. They would send delegates to a quarterly National Council (NC) to discuss ongoing activities. The spirit of "participatory democracy" also dictated that new officers should be selected each year by consensus. Lee Webb of Boston University was chosen as National Secretary, and Todd Gitlin of Harvard University was made president.
In 1963 "racial equality" remained the cause celebre. Yet with the growing calls from within the SNCC for Black Power it was becoming increasingly impolitic for white activists to lead or front protests. At the same time, for many, 1963 was the year white poverty was discovered. Michael Harrington's The Other America "was the rage"..
Conceived in part as a response to the gathering danger of a "white backlash," and with $5000 from United Automobile Workers, Tom Hayden promoted an Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP). SDS community organizers would help draw white neighbourhoods into an "interacial movement of the poor". (When in 1966 Stokley Carmichael asked white volunteers to leave the SNCC it was to be with the message "organize your own!"). By the end of 1964 ERAP had ten inner-city projects engaging 125 student volunteers. 
With the election of new leadership at the July 1964 national SDS convention there was already dissension. With the "whole balance of the organisation shifted to ERAP headquarters in Ann Arbor", the new National Secretary, C. Clark Kissinger cautioned against "the temptation to 'take one generation of campus leadership and run!' We must instead look toward building the campus base as the wellspring of our student movement." Gitlin's successor as President, Paul Potter, was blunter. The emphasis on "the problems of the dispossessed" was a mistake. Evidently the SDSers' "own" were not the poor, of whatever color. They were the middle class: "It is through the experience of the middle class and the anesthetic of bureaucracy and mass society that the vision and program of participatory democracy will come—if it is to come."
Hayden, who committed himself to community organizing in Newark (there to witness the "race riots" in 1967) later suggested that if ERAP failed to build to greater success it was because of the escalating U.S. commitment in Vietnam: "Once again the government met an internal crisis by starting an external crisis." Yet ERAP volunteers may have taken little persuasion to leave their storefront offices and heed the anti-war call to return to campus. Tending, in the spirit of the Fort Huron Statement, to the "less exotic struggles" of the urban poor had been a dispiriting experience.
However much the ERAP organizers might talk at night about "transforming the system," "building alternative institutions," and "revolutionary potential, credibility on the doorstep rested on their ability to secure concessions from, and thus to develop relations with, the local power structures. Regardless of the agenda (welfare checks, rent, day-care, police harassment, garbage pick-up) the daytime reality was of delivery built "around all the shoddy instruments of the state." ERAP was trapping the SDS in "a politics of adjustment".
Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide in the November presidential election swamped considerations of Democratic-primary, or independent candidature, interventions--a path that had been tentatively explored in a Political Education Project. Local chapters, meanwhile, were expanding activity across a range of projects, including University reform, community-university relations, and now, in a small way, the issue of the draft and Vietnam War. But they did so within the confines of university bans on-campus political organization and activity.
While students at Kent State, Ohio, had been protesting for the right of to organize politically on campus a full year before, it is the televised birth of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley that is generally recognized as the first major challenge to campus governance On October 1, crowds of upwards of three thousand students surrounded a police cruiser holding a student arrested for setting up an informational card table for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The sit-down prevented the car from moving for 32 hours. By the end of the year, demonstrations, meetings and strikes all but shut the university down. Hundreds of students were arrested.
In February 1965, President Johnson dramatically escalated the war in Vietnam. He ordered the bombing of North Vietnam (Operation Flaming Dart) and committed ground troops to fight the Viet Cong in the South. Campus chapters of SDS all over the country started to lead small, localized demonstrations against the war. On April 17 the National Office coordinated a march in Washington. Co-sponsored by Women Strike for Peace, and with endorsements from nearly all of the other peace groups, 25,000 attended. The first teach-in against the war was held in the University of Michigan, followed by hundreds more across the country. The SDS was recognized nationally as the leading student group against the war.
The National Convention in Akron selected as President Carl Oglesby (Antioch College). He had come the SDSers' attention with a magazine article critical of the Vietnam engagement written while he had been working for a defense contractor. Vice President was Jeff Shero, from the increasingly influential University of Texas chapter in Austin Consensus, however, was not reached on a national program 
At the September National Council meeting "an entire cacophony of strategies was put forward" on what had clearly become the central issue, Vietnam. Some urged negotiation, others immediate U.S. withdrawal, still others Viet-Cong victory. "Some wanted to emphasize the moral horror of the war, others concentrated on its illegality, a number argued that it took funds away from domestic needs, and a few even then saw it as an example of 'American imperialism.' This was Oglesby developing position. When on November 27, at a major anti-war demonstration in Washington, he suggested as much--that U.S. policy in Vietnam was essentially imperialist--and called for an immediate ceasefire, he was wildly applauded and nationally reported.
The new, more radical, and uncompromising, anti-war profile this suggested, appeared to drive the growth in membership. The influx, combined with the discomfiting of the "old guard", resulted in a crisis that dogged SDS until its final breakup. Tom Gitlin later conceded that the older members like himself simply had no "feel" for an anti-war movement
Despite repeated attempts to do so, consensus was never reached on what form the organization should take or what role it should play whether in relation to stopping the war or other pressing issue. A final attempt by the old guard at a "rethinking conference" to establish a coherent new direction for the organization failed. The conference, held on the University of Illinois campus at Champaign-Urbana over Christmas vacation, 1965, was attended by about 360 people from 66 chapters, many of whom were new to SDS. Despite a great deal of discussion, no substantial decisions were made.
SDS chapters continued to use the draft as a rallying issue. Over the rest of the academic year, with the universities supplying the Selective Service Boards with class ranking, SDSer began to attack university complicity in the war. The University of Chicago's administration building was taken over in a three-day sit-in in May. "Rank protests" and sit-ins spread to many other universities. The war, however, was not the only issue driving the new militancy.
There was a growing call on campus to seriously question a college experience that the Fort Huron Statement had described as "hardly distinguishable from that of any other communications channel--say, a television set." Students were to start taking responsibility for their own education.
By the fall of 1965, largely under SDS impetus, there were several "free universities" in operation: in Berkeley, SDS reopened the New School offering "'Marx and Freud,' 'A Radical Approach to Science,' 'Agencies of Social Change and the New Movements'; in Gainesville, a Free University of Florida was established, and even incorporated; in New York, a Free University was begun in Greenwich Village, offering no fewer than forty-four courses ('Marxist Approaches to the Avant-garde Arts,' 'Ethics and Revolution,' 'Life in Mainland China Today"); and in Chicago, something called simply The School began with ten courses ('Neighborhood Organization and Nonviolence,' 'Purposes of Revolution')." By the end of 1966 there were perhaps fifteen. (So serious was the challenge, that universities soon began to offer run seminars run on similar student-responsive lines, and a "liberal swallow-up" began).
The summer convention of 1966 was moved farther west, to Clear Lake, Iowa. Nick Egleson was chosen as President, and Carl Davidson was elected Vice President. Greg Calvert, recently a History Instructor at Iowa State University, was chosen as National Secretary. The convention marked a further turn towards organization around campus issues by local chapters, with the National Office cast in a strictly supporting role. Campus issues ranged from bad food, powerless student "governments," various in loco parentis manifestations, on-campus recruiting for the military and, again, ranking for the draft.
Despite the absence of a politically effective campus SDS chapter, Berkeley again became a center of particularly dramatic radical upheaval over the university's repressive anti-free-speech actions. One description of the convening of an enthusiastically supported student strike suggests the distance travelled from both the Left, and the civil rights, roots of earlier activism. Over "a sea of cheering bodies" before the Union building a twenty-foot banner proclaimed "Happiness Is Student Power." A booming address announced:
We’re giving notice today, all of us, that we reject the notion that we should be patient and work for gradual change. That’s the old way. We don’t need the Old Left. We don’t need their ideology or the working class, those mythical masses who are supposed to rise up and break their chains. The working class in this country is moving to the right. Students are going to be the revolutionary force in this country. Students are going to make the revolution because we have the will.
After a three-hour open mike meeting in the Life Sciences building, instead of closing with "We Shall Overcome," the crowd "grabbed hands and sang the chorus to 'Yellow Submarine'".
SDSers understanding of their "own" was increasingly colored by the country's exploding countercultural scene. There were explorations--some earnest, some playful--of the anarchist or libertarian implications of the commitment to participatory democracy. At the large and active University of Texas chapter in Austin, the The Rag, an underground newspaper founded by SDS leaders Thorne Dreyer and Carol Neiman has been described as the first underground paper in the country to incorporate the "participatory democracy, community organizing and synthesis of politics and culture that the New Left of the midsixties was trying to develop." 
Inspired by a leaflet distributed by some poets in San Francisco, and organized by the Rag and the SDS in the belief that "there is nothing wrong with fun, a "Gentle Thursday" event in the fall of 1966 drew hundreds of area residents, bringing kids, dogs, balloons, picnics and music, to the UT West Mall. A summary ban by the UT administration ensured an even bigger, more enthusiastic, turnout for the second Gentle Thursday in the spring of 1967. Part of "Flipped Out Week," organized in coordination with a national mobilization against the war, it was a more defiant and overtly political affair. It included appearances by Stokley Carmichael, beat-poet Allen Ginsberg, and anti-war protests at the Texas State Capitol during a visit by Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. The example set a precedent for campus events across the country
The Winter and Spring of 1967 saw an escalation in the militancy of campus protests. Demonstrations against Dow Chemical Company and other campus recruiters were widespread, and ranking and the draft issues grew in scale. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (mainly through its secret COINTELPRO) and other law enforcement agencies were often exposed as having spies and informers in the chapters. Harassment by the authorities was also on the rise. The National Office became distinctly more effective in this period, and the three officers actually visited most of the chapters. New Left Notes, as well, became a vehicle for promoting a degree of coherence and solidarity among the chapters. The Anti-War movement had begun to take hold among university students.
The school year had started with a large demonstration against university complicity in the war in allowing Dow recruiters on campus at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on October 17. Peaceful at first, the demonstrations turned to a sit-in that was violently dispersed by the Madison police and riot squad, resulting in many injuries and arrests. A mass rally and a student strike then closed the university for several days. A coordinated series of demonstrations against the draft led by members of the Resistance, the War Resisters League, and SDS added fuel to the fire of resistance. After conventional civil rights tactics of peaceful pickets seemed to have failed, the Oakland, California, Stop the Draft Week ended in mass hit and run skirmishes with the police. The huge (100,000 people) October 21 March on the Pentagon saw hundreds arrested and injured. Night-time raids on draft offices began to spread.
In the spring of 1968, National SDS activists led an effort on the campuses called "Ten Days of Resistance" and local chapters cooperated with the Student Mobilization Committee in rallies, marches, sit-ins and teach-ins, and on April 18 in a one-day strike. About a million students stayed away from classes that day, the largest student strike to date But it was the student shutdown of Columbia University in New York that commanded the national media. Led by an inter-racial alliance of Columbia SDS chapter activists and Student Afro Society activists, it helped make the SDS a household name. Membership was to soar in the 1968-69 academic year.
More important for thinking within the National Office, Columbia, and the outbreak of student protest which it symbolized, seemed proof that "long months of SDS work were paying off." As targets students were picking war, complicity, and racism, rather than dress codes and dorm hours, and as tactics sit-ins and takeovers, rather than petitions and pickets." Yet it was the case that most chapters continued to follow their own agendas. Congressional investigation found that in the fall of 1968 their issues fell into one or more of four broad categories: (1) war-related issues such as opposition to ROTC, military or CIA recruitment, and military research, on campus; (2) student power issues including requests for a pass-fail grading system, beer sales on campus, no dormitory curfews, and a student voice in faculty hiring; (3) support for university employees; and (4) support for black students.
The December 1967 convention took down what little suggestion there was of hierarchy within the structure of the organisation: it eliminated the Presidential and Vice-Presidential offices. They were replaced them with a National Secretary (20-year-old Mike Spiegel), an Education Secretary (Texan Bob Pardun of the Austin chapter), and an Inter‑organizational Secretary (former VP Carl Davidson). A clear direction for a national program was not set but delegates did manage to pass strong resolutions on the draft, resistance within the Army itself, and for an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam.
The presumption by the SDS of male agency had been evident from the outset, and in its earliest initiatives. In exploring "the roots of the womens' liberation movement" in the New Left, Sara Evans argues that one of the undeclared sources of tension in the ERAP program was that in the community SDSers found themselves contending with matters that were not regarded, in the first instance, as male issues. The community agenda was originally conceived as JOIN, Jobs or Income Now. Disregarding the mother on welfare, project workers had gone door to door looking for young men. When confronted with the reality of a war-heated economy, in which "the only men left to organize were very unstable and unskilled, winos, and street youth," JOIN gave way to "GROIN (garbage removal or income now—the ‘nitty-gritty’ issues of daily life in the ghetto)." Springing "in cultural terms . . . from the women’s sphere of home and community life, "issues such as day care, schools, street lighting, housing, and welfare" had disconcerted and challenged a predominantly male leadership. 
There was no womens-equality plank in the Fort Huron Statement. When, at the 1966 convention, women had requested one they were showered with abuse--and pelted with tomatoes. At the 1967 convention there seemed to be some willingness to make amends. The Women's Liberation Workshop succeeded in having a resolution accepted that insisted that women be freed "to participate in other meaningful activities" and that their "brothers" be relieved of "the burden of male chauvinism." The SDS committed to the creation of communal childcare centers, women's' control over reproduction, the sharing of domestic work and, critically for an organization whose offices were almost entirely populated by men, to women participating at every level "from licking stamps to assuming leadership positions." However, when the resolution was printed in New Left Notes it was with a caricature of a woman dressed in a baby-doll dress, holding a sign "We want our rights and we want them now!"
Little changed in the two years that followed. By and large the issues that were spurring the growth of an autonomous women’s liberation movement were not considered relevant for discussion by SDS men or women (and if they were discussed, one prominent activist recalls, "separatism" had to be denounced "every five minutes") Over the five days of June 1969 convention women were given just three hours to caucus and their call on women to struggle against their oppression was rejected. For committed feminists this was the end of the line (but then, the outcomes of the 1969 convention proved to be the end of the SDS line for most everyone).
At the 1967 convention there was another, perhaps equally portentous, demand for equality and autonomy. Despite the winding down of SDS leadership support for ERAP, in some community projects struggles against inequality, racism and police brutality had taken on a momentum of their own. The projects had drawn in white working class activists. While open in acknowledging the debt they believed they owed to SNCC and to the Black Panthers, many were conscious that their poor white, and in some cases southern, backgrounds had limited their acceptance in "the Movement." In a blistering address, Peggy Terry announced that she and her neigbors in uptown, "Hillbilly Harlem", Chicago, had ordered student volunteers out of their community union. They would be relying on themselves, doing their own talking, and working only with those outsiders willing live as part of the community, and of "the working class", for the long haul.
With what she regarded as an implicit understanding for Stokely Carmichael's call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations, Terry argued that "the time has come for us to turn to our own people, poor and working-class whites, for direction, support, and inspiration, to organize around our own identity, our own interests.”
Paradoxically, just as Peggy Terry was declaring her independence from the SDS as a working-class militant, the most strident voices at the convention were of those who, jettisoning the reservations of the Fort Huron old guard, were declaring the working class as, after all, the only force capable of bottling U.S. imperialism and of effecting real change. It was on the basis of this new Marxist polemic that endorsements were withheld from the mass demonstrations called by the National Mobilization Committee To End the War in Vietnam to coincide with the August 1968 Democratic National convention in Chicago.
In the event, under the mandate of recruitment and of offering support should the Chicago police "start rioting" (which they did), national SDSers were present. On August 28 national secretary Michael Klonsky was on Havanna radio: "We have been fighting in the streets for four days. Many of our people have been beaten up, and many of them are in jail, but we are winning." But at the first national council meeting after the convention (University of Colorado, Boulder, October 11-13), the Worker Student Alliance had their line confirmed: attempts to influence political parties in the United States fostered an "illusion" that people have democratic power over their major institutions. The correct answer was to organize people in "direct action." "The 'center' has proven its failure . . . it remains to the left not to cling to liberal myths. but to build its own strength out of the polarization, to build the left 'pole'".
The Worker Student Alliance (WSA) was a front organization for the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), whose delegates had first been seated in the 1966 SDS convention. The PLP was Maoist, but was sufficiently old school that it viewed policy and action not only from the perspective of class, but also from the perspective of "the class." The PLP condemned the protest in Chicago not only because there had been the "illusion" that the system could be effectively pressured or lobbied. It was also because the foolish "wild-in-the-streets" resistance estranged "the working masses" and made it more difficult for the left to build a popular base. It was an injunction that the PLP appeared to carry across a range of what they regarded as the wilder, or for the working man more challenging, expressions of the movement. These included feminists (those who want to "organize women to discuss their personal problems about their boyfriends"), the counter-culture, and long hair.
At a time when the New Left Notes could describe the SDS as "a confederation of localized conglomerations of people held together by one name", and as events in the country continued to drift, what the PLP-WSA offered was the promise of organizational discipline and of a consistent vision. But there was a rival bid for direction and control of the organization.
At a national council held at the close of 1968 in Ann Arbor (attended by representatives of 100 of the reputed 300 chapters), a majority of national leadership and regional staffs pushed through a policy resolution written by national secretary Michael Klonsky titled "Toward a revolutionary youth movement." The SDS would transform itself into a revolutionary movement, reaching beyond the campus to find new recruits among young workers, high school students, the Armed Forces, community colleges, trade schools, drops outs, and the unemployed.
Like the PLP-WAS this Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) faction was committed to an anti-capitalist analysis that privileged the working class. But RYM made at least two concessions to the broader spirit of the times. First it outbid the PLP-WSA in accommodating black and ethnic mobilization by embracing the legitimacy within "the class" of "Third World nationalism." "Oppressed colonies" in the United States had the right "to self-determination (including the right to political secession if they desire it)" Second, as a youth movement, the RYM allowed that--if only in solidarity with others of their generation--students could have some agency.
Yet neither tendency was an open house to incoming freshmen or to juniors awakening to the possibilities for engagement. Sale observes that "at a time when many young people wanted some explanations for the failure of electoral politics, SDS was led by people who had long since given up caring about elections and were trying to organize for revolution." To students "just beginning to be aware of their own radicalization and their potential role as the intelligentsia in an American left," the SDS was proposing that the "only really important agents for social change were the industrial workers, or the ghetto blacks, or the Third World revolutionaries." For students willing to "take on their [college] administrations for any number of grievances," SDS analysis emphasized "'de-studentizing,' dropping out, and destroying universities.* To those seeking to "supplant the tattered theories of corporate liberalism, SDS had only the imperfectly fashioned tenets of a borrowed Marxism and an untransmittable attachment to the theories of other revolutionaries"
As for women wishing to approach the SDS with their own issues, the RYM faction was scarcely more willing than the PLP-WSA to accord them space. At at a time when young people in the Black Panthers were under vicious attack, they deemed it positively racist for educated white women to focus on their own oppression.
The Fort Huron vision of the university as a place where, as "an adjunct" to the academic life, political action could be held open to "reason", and the Gentle Thursday openness to a range of expression, had been cast by the new revolutionary polemic onto "the junk heap of history."
In the new year the WSA and RYM began to split national offices and some chapters. Matters came to a head in the summer of 1969, at the SDS's ninth national convention held at the Chicago Coliseum. The two groups battled for control of the organization throughout the convention. The RYM and the National Office faction, led by Bernardine Dohrn, finally walked several hundred people out of the Colosseum.
This NO-RYM grouping reconvened themselves as a convention near the National Office. They elected officers and they expelled the PLP. The charge was twofold: (1) “The PLP has attacked every revolutionary national struggle of the black and Latin American peoples in the U.S. as being racist and reactionary", and (2) the “PLP attacked Ho Chi Minh, the NLF, the revolutionary government of Cuba--all leaders of the people’s struggles for freedom against U.S. imperialism.”
The 500-600 people remaining in the meeting hall, dominated by PLP, declared itself the "Real SDS", electing PLP and WSA members as officers. By the next day, there were in effect two SDS organizations, "SDS-RYM" and "SDS-WSA."
SDS-RYM dissolved soon after the split. In a decision to effectively dissolve the organization ("marches and protests won't do it"), a faction including Dohrn, resolved upon armed resistance. A "white fighting force", in alliance with "the Black Liberation Movement", would "bring the war home" On October 6, 1969, the Weatherman planted their first bomb, blowing up a statue in Chicago commemorating police officers killed during the 1886 Haymarket Riot. Others were to follow Michael Klonsky into the New Communist Movement.
Before itself dissolving in 1974 into the Committee Against Racism, the SDS-WSA did function nationwide, with a focus on fighting racism, and supporting labor struggles. But this reduced "SDS" operated as an organization with structure and dynamic very different to that the Port-Huron movement.
The broad and growing range of political and cultural tendencies that that confederal SDS had tried to corral and coalesce over the course of sixties continued to spill out in their various and different directions.
Beginning January 2006, a movement to revive the Students for a Democratic Society took shape. Two high school students, Jessica Rapchik and Pat Korte, decided to reach out to former members of the "Sixties" SDS (including Alan Haber, the organization's first president) and to build a new generation SDS. The new SDS held their first national convention in August 2006 at the University of Chicago. They describe themselves as a "progressive organization of student activists" intent on building "a strong student movement to defend our rights to education and stand up against budget cuts," to "oppose racism, sexism, and homophobia on campus" and to "say NO to war." They report chapters in 25 states with some thousands of supporters. .
As director of LID, I decided to try to invigorate its student division. One step in that direction was to rename it.