In late 1967 Johnson screamed at his top advisers, “I’m not going to let the communists take this government, and they’re doing it right now!” Fifteen hundred Army intelligence officers, dressed as civilians, conducted surveillance on 100,000 Americans. The Port Huron Statement was the most important manifesto of the New Left student movement of the 1960s. We went through a near-death experience during the Cuban missile crisis. But by 1969 less than eight years after its founding, the factional wrangling killed SDS. Early in 1960, the SLID changed its name into Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). tn_articleid: [84840], As a result of centuries of extensive popular struggle, there is a minimal welfare system that provides support for poor mothers and children. From Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, the ideals of the statement — particularly “participatory democracy” — continue to inform popular movements across the world. Without this empowerment on both levels, the PHS warned, we were living in “a democracy without publics,” in the phrase of C. Wright Mills, the rebel sociologist who was one of our intellectual heroes. targeting:{ [7], "Universal controlled disarmament must replace deterrence and arms control as the national defense goals. That uprising was vindicated to the Weathermen (and many African-Americans) by the vast swelling of support for John Brown during and after his martyrdom. In doing so, they sought the rejection of the extant anti-communism of the time. 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? One link between these events was the leadership of United Auto Workers president Walter Reuther; his brother Victor; and a top UAW officer, Mildred Jeffrey, the mother of a key SDS founder at Port Huron, Sharon Jeffrey. 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. Globally, however, the unfettered appetites of capitalism have created an intolerable human condition. A useful model was implicit in the Port Huron Statement, one transmitted from our parents’ generation, the last until now to weather Wall Street scandal, foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment (without any safety net). It closed with the following: "If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." Those who warned us of the system’s unbendable durability, like Howard Zinn, a mentor I dearly loved, seemed at times to undervalue these achievements while celebrating the very movements that made them possible. At present the majority of America’s ‘public sector,’ the largest part of our public spending, is for the military. SDS was banned on many campuses. The statement also presented SDS's break from the mainstream liberal policies of the postwar years. freestar.config.enabled_slots.push({ Zachary sets the scene with his poem, “Port Huron Revisited.” About This is Democracy. 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. The latter had developed a largely anti-communist orthodoxy in the wake of the HUAC and Army-McCarthy hearings. The kind of democracy we were proposing was more than a blueprint for structural rearrangements. It included the November 1969 Moratorium against the war, up to that point the largest peace march in American history; Earth Day 1970, for which. Books were treasured, but where you stood, with whom and against what risks was even more important, because if the people you were organizing couldn’t understand your theories, you had to adjust. In domestic matters, it criticized racial discrimination, economic inequality, big businesses, trade unions and political parties. It’s time to organize a progressive majority, and the vision and strategy of Port Huron is worth considering as a guide. in the 1950 sociological study by that title. Political realignment was advanced that same year when the Supreme Court decreed that voter representation must be based on population rather than the land holdings of growers. It meant a greater role for citizens in the ultimate questions of war and peace, then considered the secret realm of experts. The document provided ideas of what and how to work for and to improve, and also advocated nonviolent civil disobedience as the means by which student youth could bring forth the concept of "participatory democracy.". This argument may be criticized as purely hypothetical, but it tries to capture the immensity of our dream and how close it seemed to our grasp. But the Port Huron vision of a participatory democracy, of a society in which all people have the right to a voice in the decisions affecting their lives, still resonates. And so we described ourselves as a new generation “raised in modest comfort, looking uncomfortably at the world we inherit.” This was an uncertain trumpet compared with, say, the triumphal tones of The Communist Manifesto. It was an establishment far more flexible, even liberal, that had presided over the growth of the white middle class in the 1950s. But we believed that social movements should insist on the democratic reform of state and corporation, not expect their overthrow or implosion. [6] In particular, the statement viewed race ("symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry") and Cold War–induced alienation ("symbolized by the presence of the Bomb") as the two main problems of modern society. The second generation of SDS, and the movement generally, was learning hard lessons from experiences not available to us in 1960–62. "[7], "The Port Huron Statement: Still Radical at 50", "As Port Huron turns 50: Peace and justice activist Tom Hayden on Rag Radio", Historical media images from University of Michigan 50th anniversary conference website,, Wikipedia articles with style issues from July 2020, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 20 December 2020, at 06:26. President Eisenhower had a name for this system—the military-industrial complex—and we noted that he dared name it only as he was leaving office. The Port Huron call for a life and politics built on moral values as opposed to expedient politics; its condemnation of the cold war, echoed in today’s questioning of the “war on terror”; its grounding in social movements against racism and poverty; its first-ever identification of students as agents of social change; and its call to extend participatory democracy to the economic, community … Full text of "Port Huron Statement" See other formats THE PORT HURON STATEMENT ... we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation governed by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organized to encourage independence in men and provide the media for their common participation The Port Huron Statement is a message sent in a bottle, and participatory democracy a tradition for future rebels to drink from. The Statement therefore included a twenty-page attack on this cold war mentality, half devoted to a proposal for phased nuclear disarmament, half to a welcoming attitude toward anti-colonial revolutions. 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. After waiting several years for Wall Street to self-correct, the people of the 1930s began demanding what became the Wagner Act, Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Writers Project, which made life better for generations to come. The technological revolution of the Internet and social media is propelling a global revival of participatory democracy. It proved impossible to dislodge from the organization, and pushed all internal discussions in a poisonous sectarian direction. On this episode, Jeremi and Zachary, with guest Dr. Vaneesa Cook, discuss the Port Huron Statement, and the shifting ideals of democracy in America. Where possible, the peace movement should challenge the "peace credentials" of the otherwise-liberals by threatening or actually running candidates against them. The new SDS leaders, in search of an ideology, turned steadily to Marxism, then to Marxism-Leninism and Maoism. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published just two months after Port Huron, but all the Statement observed about the environment was that “uncontrolled exploitation governs the sapping of the earth’s physical resources.” There was no counterculture, no drug culture, no hippies—all that was to come. tn_subject: ['activism', 'occupy-mov', 'social-jus'], Death, our old nemesis, also intervened. The Vietnam War diverted public attention and drained resources from the budding War on Poverty. The power of the independent movement came first, but it was also necessary to pressure the president to follow, to recognize and legitimize and legalize the victory and pursue a transition to a more participatory and egalitarian democracy. It was a splendid bedlam of participatory democracy, which led neither to socialism nor fascism but to Keynesian economics and a vision of the state as an instrument that can sometimes be bent to the popular will and public interest. Chicano: a Mexican American who is politically and culturally aware. There was a third obstacle to the PHS dream, besides the assassinations and the Vietnam War. By “paradigm” I mean an understanding of power as cultural hegemony or dominance, a thought system in which there seems to be no alternative. 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. She spoke of and personified participatory democracy. Even a philosophical anarchist (or “libertarian socialist”) like Noam Chomsky has written in favor of radical reform: There is a state sector that does awful things, but it also happens to do some good things. 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. Much was omitted because in 1962 awakenings just around the corner were not anticipated. [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]. They must support Southern voter registration and Negro political candidates and demand that Democratic Party liberals do the same (in the last Congress, Dixiecrats split with Northern Democrats on 119 of 300 roll-calls, mostly on civil rights, area redevelopment and foreign aid bills; and breach was much larger than in the previous several sessions). A truly ‘public sector’ must be established, and its nature debated and planned. In fact, a few sons and daughters of former Communist Party members were present, but their previous family dogmas and loyalties lay shattered by the crushing of the democratic Hungarian revolution in 1956 and the revelations about the Stalinist gulag by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. 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. Why did it resonate with so many activists? The future of democracy is uncertain, but we are committed to its urgent renewal today. 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. After these democratic transitions came the uprisings across the Arab world. tn_pos: 'rectangle_1', 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). This led to a language and a form of thinking cleansed of ideological infection, with an emphasis on trying to say what people were already thinking but hadn’t put into words. If that was true, what was the point of depending on mainstream public opinion? [tone] The ideals that led those gathered outside Port Huron, Michigan in 1962 to issue this call to action not only added to the discussion of what became the Great Society of the mid-60s, but helped frame the issues that fueled the rising anti-war movement, college campus activism, and the broader social movement known then as the counterculture that carried into the early 1970s in the United States. The Reuther wing was tied to Johnson’s leadership and unwilling to break from Meany. There is a utopian belief that downloading and freeing information, especially secret information, will bring about a decentralized revolution—anonymously, one might say. The assassination of a president simply wasn’t factored into any models we took seriously about reform or revolution. Why Cuba Matters (Seven Stories). But the early SDS saw no alternative to winning reforms from the state and corporate sectors. The high school and college students engaged in direct action there changed my life. And yet the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of the New Left issued in 1962 by members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), still echoes with a modern voice. If so, “participatory democracy” and the priorities of Port Huron continue to offer clues to building a committed movement toward a society responsive to the needs of the vast majority. Our diagnosis of the prevailing apathy was that deep anxieties had fostered “a developed indifference” about public life but also a yearning to believe in something better. Two thousand full-time FBI agents were deployed, with massive use of informants and counterintelligence programs. But the New Deal itself was driven by a chaotic, eclectic, sectarian, combative, fanatic and passionate energy, and included anarchists, communists, musicians, muralists, liberals, progressives, prairie populists, industrial union organizers and, yes, reformers, from Al Smith to Upton Sinclair to Eleanor Roosevelt. Many of us read Doris Lessing and Simone de Beauvoir, but the first women’s consciousness-raising groups were two years in the future and would be provoked in part by our own chauvinism. Our parents wanted a New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt to meet their basic needs, just as black people in Mississippi wanted the vote and Kennedy, and workers wanted the eight-hour day in Emma Goldman’s time. Porto Alegre showcased a model of “participatory budgeting,” in which local citizens are directly involved in decisions to allocate public funds for neighborhood needs. ), The Values section of the PHS reflected our eclectic, existential, sometimes apocalyptic, take on life. LID descended from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, started in 1905. The writers of the document believed that ordinary citizens, particularly students, could create change through non-violent means. As a result of the civil rights movement, there came a generation of white liberal politicians like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, along with a huge complement of black elected officials from the South, from local sheriffs to Congressmen like John Lewis (a SNCC member) and Jim Clyburn (vice chair under Charles McDew of the South Carolina State student movement in 1960). “We have no sure formulas, no closed theories.” We would accept no hand-me-down ideologies. And we knew the grim math: the trillions spent on weapons were dollars that could have been invested in economic development, healthcare and education. 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. And finally, the power elite ruled beyond, or behind, elected officials. No doubt the crisis that gave rise to Occupy will not be fixed by an election, but that’s beside the point. In foreign policy, the statement took issue with the American government's handling of the Cold War, both the existential threat of nuclear war, and the actual arms race. I don’t mean to say that all Occupiers oppose reform. They also criticized the United States for its exaggerated paranoia and exclusive condemnation of the Soviet Union, and blamed this for being the reason for failing to achieve disarmament and to assure peace. Initially drafted by Tom Hayden and debated over the course of three days in 1962 at a meeting of student leaders, the statement was issued by Students for a … The same spirit of popular participation that inspired OWS drove the electoral successes of Latin American nations emerging from dictatorships in the 1990s. Here’s Why. 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. But even the “best and brightest” among the young radicals were thwarted by our inability to predict the future. 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. Elections produce popular mandates, and mandates spur popular activism. Soon Northern students were streaming south for the Mississippi Summer Project, in 1964, whose aim was to unseat the state’s white Democratic delegation and replace it with a democratically chosen slate, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, at the convention that year in Atlantic City. [4] Also known as the "Agenda for a Generation", it "brought the term 'participatory democracy' into the common parlance". 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. The formulation about “unrealized potential” was the premise for believing that human beings were capable of participating in the decisions affecting their lives, a sharp difference from the dominant view that an irrational mass society could be managed only by experts, or the too hopeful Enlightenment view of Tom Paine that our world could be created anew. They were leaders in the Chicano movement. By 1966 the United Farm Workers was bringing new energy to the labor movement; that same year, Congress moved to include minimum-wage protections for farmworkers, who had been excluded for the previous twenty-eight years under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit. By signing up to receive emails, you agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation's journalism. 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. placementName: "thenation_right_rail", This formulation followed long discussions in which we repudiated doctrines of pessimism about the fallen human condition, as well as the liberal humanist belief in human “perfectibility.” It may have been influenced also by the Vatican II reforms then sweeping the Catholic Church. We were the first generation in history to grow up with the Bomb, to learn to hide under desks or in bomb shelters, to be exposed to the mad logic of “mutual assured destruction” and the cynical realpolitik of “free world” and Soviet blocs controlling alliances of servile authoritarians. When the UAW finally broke from Meany and demanded a cease-fire in Vietnam, SDS and SNCC were too radicalized and factionalized for it to matter anymore. VIDEO: People in Denmark Are a Lot Happier Than People in the United States. I prefer to wait and see. Leaders were assassinated if they moved in a progressive direction. We were dreamers too, but dreamers who had a plan for achieving political influence and power. The main reasons were external—the escalation of the Vietnam War and the draft by the liberal Democrats—but there was an internal dynamic as well. 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). 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. Their ideological heroes included Lin Piao, a leader of the Chinese Revolution, along with Che Guevara and the young French intellectual Regis Debray, with his foco theory that small bands of armed guerrillas could set off popular revolutions and their vision of a “tri-continental” alternative to the “revisionist” Soviet Union. Jesse Jackson would eventually run impressive presidential campaigns where none had been possible in the previous century. 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. A massive research and publicity campaign should be initiated, showing to every housewife, doctor, professor, and worker the damage done to their interests every day a racist occupies a place in the Democratic Party. 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. Softer counterinsurgency techniques included the screening-out of the “protest prone” by admissions officers and the use of psychological counseling to “treat” alienated students. It advocated for participatory democracy … Perhaps it would take a vanguard of martyrs to incite an American revolution, or so the thinking went. 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. When I first saw a computer in 1964 it was the size of a room, and the professor who predicted microprocessors seemed nuts. What did we mean by participatory democracy? 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