Ours was a democratic populist heritage, in which, we naïvely believed, many factions could bloom but none could choke our growth. No one had complained when that label was suggested in 1960 by C. Wright Mills, in his open “Letter to the New Left.”. In Inspiring Participatory Democracy Tom Hayden, one of the principal architects of the statement, analyses its historical impact and relevance to today's movements. "[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, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Port_Huron_Statement&oldid=995290902, 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. True The movements of the 1960s challenged the 1950s understanding of freedom linked to the Cold War abroad and consumer choice at home. The latter had developed a largely anti-communist orthodoxy in the wake of the HUAC and Army-McCarthy hearings. The UFW’s four-year global consumer boycott of grapes was a channel of participatory democracy that attracted thousands of new activists. But even if the paranoia went too far, as it usually did, there were still grounds for believing that manipulators were behind the curtain. Sale made two observations about the Statement: First, the PHS contained “a power and excitement rare to any document, rarer still in the documents of this time, with a dignity in its language, persuasiveness in its arguments, catholicity in its scope, and quiet skill in its presentation…a summary of beliefs for much of the student generation as a whole, then and for several years to come.”, Second, “it was set firmly in mainstream politics, seeking the reform of mainstream institutions rather than their abolition, and it had no comprehension of the dynamics of capitalism, of imperialism, of class conflict, certainly no conception of revolution. LID descended from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, started in 1905. 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. As a result of centuries of extensive popular struggle, there is a minimal welfare system that provides support for poor mothers and children. The CIA also ran covert operations through the AFL-CIO’s international affairs department. Spontaneous democratic demonstrations erupted in Russia late last year, organized on Facebook by young people seeking honest elections. College enrollments were booming in the 1950s and 1960s, and many students objected to the way college administrators attempted to control their personal lives. 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. What did Port Huron say in his statement? At its most basic, it meant the right to vote, as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “not with a mere strip of paper but with one’s whole life.” It meant simplicity in registration and voting, unfettered from the dominance of wealth, property requirements, literacy tests and poll taxes. And we knew the grim math: the trillions spent on weapons were dollars that could have been invested in economic development, healthcare and education. For an American hero, the Weathermen turned to John Brown, who led a suicidal uprising against slavery. In 1966 new SDS leaders rejected the PHS as “too reformist.” It was certainly true; the PHS did envision reforms—substantive rather than token, rapid though not overnight—and revolution was seen more as an undefined aspiration or long-term hope. Cuba was one such focal point, and Vietnam became another. placementName: "thenation_right_rail", Tom HaydenTom Hayden, the former California state assemblyman and senator, author, lifelong activist, and Nation editorial board member, died in Santa Monica on October 23, 2016. In 1961 at a National Student Association convention I found a yellow pad with a chart identifying SDS in a box on the left, Young Americans for Freedom on the right and an entity named Control Group in the center-top. In doing so, they sought the rejection of the extant anti-communism of the time. 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. The Port Huron Statement was adopted at the organization's first convention in 1962 based on an earlier draft by staff member Tom Hayden. [4] Also known as the "Agenda for a Generation", it "brought the term 'participatory democracy' into the common parlance". When a worker in her audience replied that he couldn’t wait for the overthrow of capitalism but that he also needed two hours less work “to feel human, to read a book or take a walk in daylight,” the experience gave Goldman the consciousness of a great organizer. In retrospect, however, it’s impossible to reach a majority, much less the 99 percent, while rejecting coalition politics. 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. And finally, the power elite ruled beyond, or behind, elected officials. Most of the participants were shaped and informed in part by Marxist traditions. After twenty years of celebration, we decided in 1962 that those New Deal reforms were stagnating and insufficient, and that it was time to begin again. Politicians lied about taking us to war. You may unsubscribe or adjust your preferences at any time. [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. LID descended from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, started in 1905. tn_ptype: 'article', This was the “power elite” described by Mills. For more information, visit our Privacy PolicyX. The climate of officially sponsored terrorism ebbed in the South, and leaders like the Rev. One victim of an assassination attempt in 1969 was Richard Flacks, a key participant at Port Huron. 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. The Port Huron Statement was notable for addressing universities and students as potential agents of democratic change. You can read our Privacy Policy here. The Port Huron Statement offered a new vision of social change while defining freedom to mean participatory democracy. 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. By signing up to receive emails, you agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation's journalism. In the North, reform clubs (either independent or Democratic) should be formed to run against big city regimes on such issues as peace, civil rights, and urban needs. Zachary sets the scene with his poem, “Port Huron Revisited.” About This is Democracy. I was one of many hundreds who moved into inner-city neighborhoods to engage in community organizing against poverty, establishing groups that took over local boards in Newark, New Jersey. 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. 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. 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. The Port Huron Statement called for the growth and implementation of participatory democracy across college campuses, in the South, and in inner cities. There is endless speculation these days about the future of Occupy Wall Street. in the 1950 sociological study by that title. SDS called for the creation of a “New Left,” that is, a new kind of liberalism. No doubt the crisis that gave rise to Occupy will not be fixed by an election, but that’s beside the point. Indeed, the greatest outpouring of youth, student, GI, liberal, feminist and environmentalist sentiment—of perhaps any previous era in American history—occurred after SDS had closed its doors. 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