Most famous for its anti-war sentiments, the SDS didn't start out that way.

Students for a Democatic Society (SDS) was founded in 1960 and was the mainstay of what was being called the New Left. In June of 1962, 59 members and sympathizers met in Port Huron, Michigan, to draft a sixty three page political platform. Credit for authorship of what was called the Port Huron Statement was mostly given to Tom Hayden. As it turned out , the Port Huron Statement was a critique of the cold war and the materialistic complacency of postwar American life. It proposed that universities be the focus of a new movement for "participatory democracy". Although the goal was never precisely defined, The SDS's aim was to transfer power from representative institutions to individuals and communities.

In September of 1963, the SDS formed the Economic Research and Action Project to try and put participatory democracy into practice. In the summer of 1964, about 125 SDS organizers in nine cities tried to mobilize poor people for something they were calling the "new insurgency". Although it gained some popularity in Newark and Chicago, the movement never really took off.

It was then that the group turned to antiwar activism. In April, 1965, the SDS organized the first of several demonstrations against the Vietnam War, drawing fifteen thousand people to Washington D.C.. In November of the same year, they co-sponsored a demonstration that drew thirty thousand.

In 1968, SDS achieved a level of power and prominence that was unprecedented for a student organization. To protest Columbia University's participation in what they felt was war-related research and the university's appropriation of a public park for a gymnasium, students occupied the campus buildings. The university brought the occupation to an end by calling in New York City police. The police managed to injure over 200 students and arrest about 700 more. Similar occupations of campuses occurred in about 40 other colleges around the country.

By the end of the year, differences had occurred in the leadership of the SDS. When the Progressive Labor party took over in 1969, the SDS collapsed. The remnants became the revolutionary group called the Weathermen.

On SDS Origins:

The SDS’s roots can be found in another organisation: the League for Industrial Democracy. LID dates back to 1905, and was founded in part by the defence attorney from the Scopes trial, Clarence Darrow. In a somewhat ironic twist, during the Soviet Era it was strictly anticommunist. Anyway, they formed a student branch, SLID. But those pesky young leftists had ideas of their own, and finally distanced themselves from LID by changing their name, and drafting the greatly influential Port Huron Statement. LID could not accept the sympathetic attitude that the statement took towards communism and eventually cut all ties with SDS by 1966.

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