Of course, there are differences between the Port Huron Statement and the Occupy Wall Street manifesto, but they should not be overstated. It meant exercising the right to popular initiatives, referendums and recalls, as achieved by Progressives in the early twentieth century. 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. We went through a near-death experience during the Cuban missile crisis. But even the “best and brightest” among the young radicals were thwarted by our inability to predict the future. The Port Huron Statement correctly predicted that if nuclear war with the Soviet Union could be prevented, there still would be an ongoing “international civil war” between proxies of the United States and Soviet Union. And in response, new movements arose across the planet against war, sweatshops, hunger and environmental destruction. The kind of democracy we were proposing was more than a blueprint for structural rearrangements. Listening and speaking in clear vernacular English was crucial. 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. On the other hand, as Richard Flacks, a principal author of the PHS, has noted, we underestimated another realignment: the flight of white Southern voters from the Democratic Party, predicted by Johnson and encouraged by Nixon’s 1968 “Southern strategy.” This resulted in two backlash victories by Republicans (Nixon, Reagan) and the transformation of the white South from solid Democratic to solid Republican. The future of democracy is uncertain, but we are committed to its urgent renewal today. The Port Huron Statement was the most important manifesto of the New Left student movement of the 1960s. For want of another term, it was the system itself, or the powerful paradigm we defied but could not defeat. "[7], "An imperative task for these publicly disinherited groups, then, is to demand a Democratic Party responsible to their interests. Well, anarchists can’t seem to understand that they are to support that…. At present the majority of America’s ‘public sector,’ the largest part of our public spending, is for the military. The ’60s movements stumbled to an end largely because we’d won the major reforms that were demanded: the 1964 and 1965 civil and voting rights laws, the end of the draft and the Vietnam War, passage of the War Powers Resolution and the Freedom of Information Act, Nixon’s environmental laws, amnesty for war resisters, two presidents forced from office, the 18-year-old vote, union recognition of public employees and farmworkers, disability rights, the decline of censorship, the emergence of gays and lesbians from a shadow existence… Perhaps never in US history had so many changes occurred in so short a time, all driven by the vibrancy of participatory democracy. The consequences for realignment were far different from our predictions. 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). Politicians lied about taking us to war. It’s time to organize a progressive majority, and the vision and strategy of Port Huron is worth considering as a guide. On May 9, 1970, one week after the National Guard killed four protesting students at Kent State, and after Walter Reuther demanded an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, he and five others were killed in a charter-jet crash. AFL-CIO staff were also involved in the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and in controlling Saigon’s labor federation, protecting the flow of US military supplies into South Vietnam’s ports during the war. But the Statement also called for economic democracy, as distinct from the New Deal’s more bureaucratic approach: the major resources and means of production should be “open to democratic participation and subject to democratic regulation.” There was a danger of “bureaucratic coagulation” and too much emphasis in Kennedy’s New Frontier on “problems are easiest for computers to solve.” There should be experiments in decentralization, we said, devolving the power of “monster cities” to local communities seeded with more developmental incentives. Historical Amnesia About Slavery Is a Tool of White Supremacy. SDS called for the creation of a “New Left,” that is, a new kind of liberalism. Beginning in 1968, the Weatherman (later the Weather Underground) faction surfaced as new “communist revolutionaries,” inspired by the revolutions in Vietnam and Cuba, and the Black Panthers at home. J. Edgar Hoover’s orders to “neutralize” protest leaders are well documented. The civil war between so-called red and blue continues to this day, with the red lines eerily drawn around the Old Confederacy and much of the West where the Indian wars were fought. After these democratic transitions came the uprisings across the Arab world. 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. Port Huron Statement Draft This is the text of the original draft of the 1962 Port Huron Statement, as distributed by Alan Haber to the attendees at the SDS Northeast Regional Conference, April 23, 2006.For the final, published Port Huron Statement, click here. The legacy of McCarthyism, if continued in the 1960s, would mean that all our work, from the sit-ins to the Freedom Rides to the Port Huron Statement, would be marginalized as taking the wrong side in the cold war. "[7], The Port Huron Statement argued that because "the civil rights and peace and student movements are too poor and socially slighted, and the labor movement too quiescent", it should rally support and strengthen itself by looking to universities, which benefit from their "permanent position of social influence" and being "the only mainstream institution that is open to participation by individuals of nearly any viewpoint". The same spirit of popular participation that inspired OWS drove the electoral successes of Latin American nations emerging from dictatorships in the 1990s. Quite simply, I wanted to live like them. The UFW’s four-year global consumer boycott of grapes was a channel of participatory democracy that attracted thousands of new activists. The document at one point mentioned a need to bring together “liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance and the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system.” Even those at Port Huron who were children of the Old Left had concluded that moral values and democracy were more important than any ideological renovation of Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism, Maoism or anarchism. 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? As the anti-war movement spread, that ideology spread with… It appeared among the demands of young people in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries in the Arab Spring of 2011. The same dilemmas arose in the ’60s in the relationships between SNCC and the national civil rights leadership, and between SDS and the liberal Democrats we blamed for starting the Vietnam War. 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. In addition to its critique and analysis of the American system, the statement also suggested a series of reforms: it proclaimed a need to reshape into two genuine political parties to attain greater democracy, for stronger power for individuals through citizen's lobbies, for more substantial involvement by workers in business management, and for an enlarged public sector with increased government welfare, including a "program against poverty." By “system” I mean the intersecting (though not coordinated) hierarchies of banks, corporations, the military, media and religion, dominant then as now (though there are far more women and people of color at the upper levels today). The new SDS leaders, in search of an ideology, turned steadily to Marxism, then to Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. Early in 1960, the SLID changed its name into Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). 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. This paradigm at first froze us in fear. [2] Under Walter Reuther's leadership, the UAW paid for a range of expenses for the 1962 convention, including use of the UAW summer retreat in Port Huron.[3]. I had never met young people willing to take a risk—perhaps the ultimate risk—for a cause they believed in. One victim of an assassination attempt in 1969 was Richard Flacks, a key participant at Port Huron. Though I was already a student editor and a budding pamphleteer, I remember myself, just 22, as a kind of vessel for channeling a larger spirit that was just in the air—blowin’ in the wind—and coursing through the lives of my friends. The Kennedy administration was in a crossfire between two opposing forces: the civil rights movement versus the dinosaurs of the Dixiecrat South, on which the party depended for its national majority. The Free Speech Movement’s Mario Savio described himself as a non-Marxist radical shaped by secular liberation theology who was “an avid supporter of participatory democracy.” We were all influenced by Ella Baker, an elder adviser to SNCC with a long experience of NAACP organizing in the South. On the one hand, the UAW’s Reuther brothers helped fund and provide conference quarters at Port Huron; supported the March on Washington and the early UFW organizing effort; and were frustrated by Meany’s archconservative views. I prefer to wait and see. The SDS call for a participatory democracy echoes today in student-led democracy movements around the world, even appearing as the first principle of the Occupy Wall Street September 17 declaration. The Vietnam escalation was accompanied by hundreds of uprisings in black communities, with the cost in lives still uncounted and billions of dollars wasted. Proposals for a government-led poverty program and “medical care…as a lifetime human right” anticipated the Medicare legislation that came in 1965, and the PHS’s concept of a government-led anti-poverty program foreshadowed the Office of Economic Opportunity, a project envisioned by John F. Kennedy and adopted by Lyndon Johnson. This year marks the first presidential campaign in our lifetime when the gluttony of Wall Street, the failures of capitalism, the evils of big money in politics and a discussion of fundamental reform will be front and center in election debates. I don’t know whether history begins anew or just repeats its sputtering cycles again and again. Death, our old nemesis, also intervened. The Statement advocated for participatory democracy … SNCC played a direct role in shaping my values, as it did with many SDS founders. Subscribe now for as little as $2 a month! 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. Returning to the Statement’s moral focus, since a human being’s economic experience has “crucial influence on habits, perceptions and individual ethics,” we insisted that there be incentives beyond money or survival, ones that are “educative, not stultifying; creative, not mechanical; self-directed, not manipulated; encouraging independence, a respect for others, a sense of dignity, and a willingness to accept social responsibility.”, Not that Marxism was irrelevant to the Port Huron gathering. We were dreamers too, but dreamers who had a plan for achieving political influence and power. There is endless speculation these days about the future of Occupy Wall Street. The vast constituency of Occupy surely knows that a participatory future cannot be protected without engaging in some sort of politics in the present. Labor and Participatory Democracy. The Reuther wing was tied to Johnson’s leadership and unwilling to break from Meany. 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). Participatory Democracy and Occupy Wall Street. Even today I find it hard to explain the “power and excitement,” the “dignity” and the “persuasiveness” of this document, which sprawls over 124 pages in book form. Despite, or perhaps because of, the nuclear near-miss over Cuba in 1962, President Kennedy became an important critic of the cold war before his assassination. Finally came Occupy Wall Street. Where possible, the peace movement should challenge the "peace credentials" of the otherwise-liberals by threatening or actually running candidates against them. This was the “power elite” described by Mills. Its key idea, "participatory democracy," proved a watchword for Sixties radicalism that has also reemerged in popular protests from the Arab Spring to … 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. There was a growing peace movement, which many in our ranks eagerly joined. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1962 Port Huron Statement, the founding document of SDS. What is clear enough is that the Occupy movement began without pundit predictions, without funding, without organization, with only determined people in tents, countless Davids taking on the smug Goliath in spontaneous planetary resistance. Black people who played by the rules would see those rules changed when power was threatened. tn_author: ['tom-h'], It was written by political activist… 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. in the 1950 sociological study by that title. 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. Much was omitted because in 1962 awakenings just around the corner were not anticipated. The Port Huron Statement, ultimately, was a document of idealism, a philosophical template for a more egalitarian society, a call to participatory democracy where everyone was engaged in issues that affected all people - in civil rights, in political accountability, in labor rights, and in nuclear disarmament. The Vietnam War diverted public attention and drained resources from the budding War on Poverty. 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. Ms. Baker, as everyone referred to her, was critical of the top-down methods of black preachers and organizations, including her friend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She argued that SNCC should remain autonomous and not become a youth branch of the older organizations. 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. That brief generation tried to make sense of the terrible and traumatizing events of the time. Like a lot of my friends (to varying degrees), I empathized with the anti-capitalist + anti-imperialist = anti-war rhetoric of the 1960s. These reforms came about, as Zinn would rightly warn, as pragmatic institutional responses or concessions meant largely to restore order. Our proposal was to de-escalate the bipolar nuclear confrontation. We have come a long way from the Free Speech Movement’s outrage at IBM cards, to the exploding vista of instant information and interaction that has played a critical role, from the Zapatista uprising and the Battle of Seattle to the recent eruptions of interactive, live-streaming, participatory democracy all over the world. Why Cuba Matters (Seven Stories). But by 1969 less than eight years after its founding, the factional wrangling killed SDS. On the other hand, the right-wing AFL-CIO foreign affairs department carried on the anti-communist crusade with its covert operations. Assassination and Vietnam Destroy the Great Society. } The overall strategy of realignment envisioned participatory democracy directly connected to a new social movement, one capable of forging a new governing majority on a national scale, with young people as shock troops building a “bridge to political power” composed of liberal Democrats, peace groups, organized labor and the civil rights movement. As a result of centuries of extensive popular struggle, there is a minimal welfare system that provides support for poor mothers and children. Vietnam seemed to prove that militarism and imperialism were central to American society, whether liberals or conservatives were in power. But the early SDS saw no alternative to winning reforms from the state and corporate sectors. No one had complained when that label was suggested in 1960 by C. Wright Mills, in his open “Letter to the New Left.”. Copyright (c) 2020 The Nation Company LLC, Georgia Senators Loeffler and Perdue Are Campaigning Against Democracy. It was written to reflect their view that all problems in every area were linked to each other. These issues were prefigured in the PHS in the briefest of complaints about computerized problem-solving and in the outcry two years later from Berkeley students in the Free Speech Movement, who felt they were being processed like IBM punch cards. Making the paranoia all the more justified was the palpable sense among many of us that we had been abandoned by our parents; a 1969 Gallup survey indicated that 82 percent of Americans wanted student demonstrators expelled. 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