Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)

During the 1960s, the political landscape sees the rise and rapid growth of many radical groups, collectively called "The Movement" or the "New Left" (in contrast to the old labor-oriented left or liberal Democrats). A handful of activist groups form the core of the New Left, including the SDS.

In June 1962, fewer than 100 people attend the first SDS convention at Port Huron, Michigan. The group adopts an official political manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, based largely on a draft by Tom Hayden (later of the Chicago Seven).

We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.

First line of The Port Huron Statement
Oct. 15, 1962

The power of the Port Huron Statement lies in the concept of a participatory democracy, in which people take part in making decisions that affect their lives. This view of political ownership is a central theme in the rise of the New Left. By 1965, the SDS can easily assemble 25,000 protestors; by '68 there are 50,000 SDS members.

Growth brings conflict. In 1969, the last SDS convention degenerates into bickering among competing factions. Members withdraw to splinter groups, and the SDS collapses.

The most notorious SDS offshoot, the Weathermen, find their name in a Bob Dylan song, Subterranean Homesick Blues. The lyrics suggest a coming revolt: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." In '69, the Weathermen launch a wave of domestic terrorism and bombing that will last into the '70s.

Most of the Weathermen surrendered to authorities; some were captured; a few others remain in hiding. Tom Hayden moved to California, served in the state Senate, and remains involved in politics.

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