Skip to main content

Full text of "SDS: An Introduction"

See other formats


^;j STRUGGLE *^^ 

■t'^ IS JUST . k---v, 


^ t- 


the emergence of the new left 

In the spring of 1968, thousands of students 
in New York's Columbia University erected barricades 
and battled police following a successful four-week 
strike against University complicity in the Vietnam War 
and racist expansion programs in nearby Harlem. 
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of French 
workers and students — after seizing factories, schools, 
and streets — nearly toppled the DeGauUe government^ 
Significantly, the mass revolt grew out of studehf 
protests against the policies of the first Frencll, 
"multiversity* at Nanterre. In West Germany student 
strikes and demonstrations iayolving thousands were 
directei^ \ ai^inst the Government's passage of 
"emergency i laws* giving near- dictatorial powers 
2 to itself: In Japan, Italy, and the Scandinavian countries, 
similar actions have been occurring as well. ^ 


If The identifiable thread running through these internationally dramatic 

events is an assortment of radical student organizations. These groups 
make up the core of what has come to be known as the New Left. Although 
they have only been visible to the general public for the past two or three 
years, most of these organizations first formed in the late 1950s and 
early 1960s. Generally, they are made up of students and unaffiliated 

I young people within those advanced capitalist countries with highly 

developed technological societies. 

The post- World War II rapid transformation of these economies 
had a similar effect on their systems of higher education — the growth of 
the "knowledge factories" or multiversities. With the dominant social 
themes of this period being affluence, consumption, and adjustment, 
the young men and women were expressing their cultural oppression 
and personal alienation with growing intensity. Out of apathy and the 
gray flannel suit emerged James Dean, Marlon Brando, and the Angry 
Young Man — the Beat Generation. Also, following the Hungarian Revolt 
crushed by the Soviets in 1956, hundreds of young intellectuals left the 
European and US Communist Parties in disgust over the crimes of Stalin. 

All this, to be sure, was only an vindercurrent, a minor key. In the 
mainstream was the Cold War, Joe McCarthy, the silent generation 
filing into heavily- mortgaged Ozzie and Harriet suburbia, the prototypes 
of Carl Oglesby's man of those times — slim-waisted, swivel- hipped, 
bullet-headed make-out artists. While many young activists of today 
may find these images rather alien, this is where the history of the 
New Left begins. These were the conditions giving birth to our present 

the growth of sds 

The central force of the New Left in the United States has been 
Students for a Democratic Society or SDS. We are a young, rapidly 
growing movement; only sixty- odd people attended our founding 
convention at Port Huron, Michigan in 1961. Even by early 1965, SDS 
had fewer than twenty- five hundred members with chapters on less than 
^J/. forty campuses. However, with its April 17th, 1965 March on Washington 
to End the War in Vietnanij SPS grew in national prominence. Presently, 
there are over forty thousand national and local SDS activists in more 
than three hundred chapters in universities across the country. 

In the early years, SDS was a coalition of liberals and radicals, 
working from a multi-issue aerspective dn^^^ 
* disarmament, civil rights, potetty, ana university i-eform. We supported 
^ reform Democrja-tic elefctoral campaigns, and in 1964 even ^t out a button 


g. : -,. ■■ >.'■• I i % 


saying "Part of the Way with LBJ". 

Our bitter yet powerful experience with American politics in the 
1960s has moved us considerably away from our original Left- liberal 
stance. Today SDS is a mass radical and anti- imperialist student 
movement. The critique we are developing of American corporate 
capitalism has brought us to advocate the necessity of an activist and 
revolutionary politics for the New Left, 

where do we stand? 


SDS completely opposes the US Government's immoral, illegal, 
and genocidal war against the people of Vietnam. We insist on the 
immediate withdrawal of all US personnel from that country. Moreover, 
we see the US policy in Vietnam as part of a global strategy for containinf 
revolutionary change in the "Third World" nations of Asia, Africa, and 
Latin America. Rather than the result of an essentially good government's 
mistaken decisions, we see the world-wide exploitation and oppression 
of those insurgent peoples as the logical conclusion of the giant US 
corporations' expanding and necessary search for higher profits and 
strategic resource^.. That f^steim is wst properly named imperialism, 
and we stand by and suppoj^all those' Mo struggle against its onslaugit. 
They are our brothers and sisters, giot our enemies. 








SDS demands the abolition of the Selective Service 
System. We see the Draft as racist and anti- democratic, 
procuring manpower for aggressive wars abroad. 
Moreover, through the "deferment" system, the primary 
coercive function of the Draft is "channeling* the lives 
of millions of young people outside the Military into 
lifelong vocations deemed "essential* by corporate 
military elites rather than freely chosen by themselves. 
We urge and will organize all young men to wage a 
collective struggle in resistance to the Draft by refusing 
to serve in the Military. We also seek to break the 
barriers placed between us and our brothers in uniform. 
When forced by threat of imprisonment or exile, some 
of us will organize within the Armed Forces, advocating 
desertion and other forms of resistance to US foreign 


SDS has long and actively supported the struggle 
of black Americans for freedom and self-determination. 
Racism and exploitation confront black people as a 
group, together as a people. From thi$ given condition 
of their daily lives, black people niust act as a group 
in establishing their common ide^ti^, and in planning 


a strategy to challenge their oppression. We do not simply "tolerate" 
the growth of black consciousness, we encourage it. Criticizing "black 
power* as "racism in reverse* is as mistaken as denouncing the 
American Revolution of 1776 as "colonialism in reverse". In addition to 
k confronting all aspects of institutionalized racism in American life, 

we strongly believe that the strongest supjwrt we can afford the black 
movement comes from our efforts to engage exploited whites in the 
struggles and values of radical politics^ 


From its beginnings, SDS has recognized the crucial role that the 
working class has to fulfill in any movement for radical social change. 
More recently, we have rejected the false notion that most Americans 
are "middle-class*. Considering professional, service, white-collar, 
and university-trained technical workers as a "class* separate from 
blue- collar industrial workers serves only to confuse and divide millions 
of workers and students and prevent them from realizing the corporate 
capitalist source of their exploitation and their common interest in uniting 
against its oppression. To further the unity and radical consciousness 
of the working class as a whole we support the rank-and-file insurgencies 
of working people against their employers, the Government, and corrupt 
union leadership. Our concern is not only the improvement of wages 
and working conditions for our brothers and sisters in the shops, but for 
a transformation of all labor issues growing out of alienation and lack of 
control into a movement against the capitalist system itself. 


SDS views the multiversity as a knowledge factory, a kind of service 
station producing skilled manpower and intelligence for integration with 
the marketable needs of the major coriwrate, government, and military 
institutions. Neither the content of the educational process, nor the ends 
to which our learning and resources are directed, further the fulfillment 
of humane social needs, father, the "knowledge commodity* (ourselves 
and the results of our work) is shaped to further the production of waste, 
social oppression, ; and military destruction. The recognition of this 
process has been the driving force in our work to transform student 
"alienation* into a radicsU force reaching out and uniting with 
Constituencies beyond the campus in struggles against oppressive 
university administrations. 

f 1 


/ ■ / 

'^Ifl^^^kjm-^-^- ■'■-'■■ ■■■■■■■:■-■■< ^^^.^-^ -~-r-''ir:^:::rr^r.^^ ■'' ■ ^ - ^ ^"^^MH^M^,,...^,^^^^ ^^^^^ 

from moral outrage to radical vision 

The New Left has not been noted for the completeness or coherence 
of its analysis or strategy for change. Within the ranks of SDS exists 
a variety of political positions: socialists, anarchists, communists, and 
humanist liberals. Nonetheless, the interplay of these ideas with 
a common commitment to action has produced a rich and powerful shared 
political experience emerging from an on- going struggle. We have looked 
primarily to that experience as the source and test of political truth, 
rather than to this or that dogmatic catechism. While not shunning 
analytical work, we have always seen this focus as a basis of our strength 
and authenticity. 

Whatever the degree of the New Left's diversity, however, we have 
always asserted a common clarity in our values. Within our vision, all 
authentically revolutionary movements are seen as first, last, and always 
movements for human freedom, whatever form their demands may take 
in a given historic period. The New Left radical consciousness began 
with the perception of a gap between the actual reality of our daily lives 
and the accessible potentiality for human fulfillment already in existence. 
This tension — the contradiction between what is and what can be — first 
futilely sought its resolution in a quest for personal salvation. 

When the interests of the dominant social order denied the 
realization of that potential, we discovered our powerlessness, our 
unfreedom. Moreover, the social character of our oppression revealed 
the need of a collective struggle for liberation. We discovered our deepest 
personal hopes and desires were the widely-held aspirations of many. 
That discovery has led to our affirmation of a common humanity with 
all of the oppressed. 


At present, the contradiction between the brutal and dehumanized 
reality of advanced corporate capitalism and the liberating potential 
of its technology and productive organization has never been greater. 
Planned obsolescence and waste production increase in the midst oi* 
growing scarcity. Fragmented job specialization and meaningless toil 
expand; while cybernation and automation contain the possibility of total 
job integration, the abolition of alienated labor, and the vast expansion 
of free and creative activity. From this viewpoint, all the world's people 
have never been more oppressed. At this moment of history, on the other 
hand, the potential of the struggle for l^iman fulfillment has never been 

- greater. The New Left will be at ifie center oit^at struggle. Our humanity 

' is at stake. Join us. 


new left notes 

find what sds is about 
learn our plans for the future 
read the ongoing debates inside the organization i j 
read about your brothers and sisters in other 
parts of the country 

$5.00 for members ($1 for sub, $4 for dues) 
$10.00 for non- members 

write to new left notes - sds 
1608 W, Madison St. 
Chicago, 111. 60612 



students for a democratic society 

1608 West Madison, Chicago 60612 (312-666-3874) 


I would like to join sds and receive i] 

New Left Notes (dues $5/yr) | 

Send me more copies of this 


Send me a complete list of sds 


Send me further Info on sds 


.. --^ ■■-%.. 


■ . ■ ^- 

; ■ 5 

(ci%, stat^^ and zip) 

t^ ', ■>: >.'■;.■ 

Reprinted By: 


fj BOX 4092 1 '■■ f_ f|; ^ttffi^ i 

NY 10304