Students For A Democratic Society

802 Words4 Pages
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was one of the most radical student movements in America during the 1960s. Initially, the principle goals of the organization were to support the Civil Rights Movement and politically organize the urban population against a micro-managing government. The SDS began to grow in size and publicity after it published the Port Huron Statement, which openly criticized the government’s involvement in domestic issues like segregation and foreign conflicts, specifically the Vietnam War. This manifesto portrayed youth as the cutting edge of a new radicalism and claimed to offer a route to greater freedom (Foner 778). Students for a Democratic Society viewed the war in Vietnam as an unnecessary effort to “ensure world stability, global order and the freedom of the American and Vietnamese people” (Debate Guidelines). SDS called for a new vision of social change that would pave the way to a better future in the United States. Eric Foner outlines that the SDS was seeking the “establishment of a democracy of individual participation [in which] the individual shares in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life” (Foner 787). The SDS viewed freedom as participatory democracy. The concept of participatory democracy is derived from citizens striving to create opportunities for all members of a population to make contributions in decision-making processes. Furthermore, the Port Huron Statement promoted protestors to increase their involvement with the more liberal side of the Democratic Party and to embrace civil disobedience to achieve a true participatory democracy. The pursuit of this new vision of a true participatory democracy began to clarify the idea of the New Left. Precedi... ... middle of paper ... ...estiny which sent hundreds of thousands of young men to their demise. The conduct of war became insidiously brutal. “American planes dropped more tons of bombs on the small countries of North and South Vietnam than both sides had used in all of World War II” (Foner 792). With college students exempted from the draft, casualties rising and the lack of domestic support, President Johnson’s Great Society had ravaged families, universities and the Democratic Party. The uniting factor against LBJ’s foreign policy, in the midst of the violence, was the doubts and discontents of the working class and poor (Foner 792). The SDS viewed this as an opportunity to invite opponents of American policy in Vietnam to Washington, D.C. This gave the SDS hope that the antiwar movement would gain popularity as they continued to expand their definition of freedom into the cultural realm.
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