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America's History in the Making

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Port Huron Statement of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)

Introductory Note: This document represents the results of several months of writing and discussion among the membership, a draft paper, and revision by the Students for a Democratic Society national convention meeting … It is represented as a document with which SDS officially identifies, but also as a living document open to change with our times and experiences. It is a beginning: in our own debate and education, in our dialogue with society …

As a social system 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.

In a participatory democracy, the political life would be based in several root principles:,br/> • that decision-making of basic social consequence be carried on by public groupings;
• that politics be seen positively, as the art of collectively creating an acceptable pattern of social relations;
• that politics has the function of bringing people out of isolation and into community, thus being a necessary, though not sufficient, means of finding meaning in personal life;
• that the political order should serve to clarify problems in a way instrumental to their solution; it should provide outlets for the expression of personal grievance and aspiration; opposing views should be organized so as to illuminate choices and facilities the attainment of goals; channels should be commonly available to related men to knowledge and to power so that private problems--from bad recreation facilities to personal alienation--are formulated as general issues. The economic sphere would have as its basis the principles:
• that work should involve incentives worthier than money or survival. It should be educative, not stultifying; creative, not mechanical; selfdirect, not manipulated, encouraging independence; a respect for others, a sense of dignity and a willingness to accept social responsibility, since it is this experience that has crucial influence on habits, perceptions and individual ethics; that the economic experience is so personally decisive that the individual must share in its full determination;
• that the economy itself is of such social importance that its major resources and means of production should be open to democratic participation and subject to democratic social regulation.
• Like the political and economic ones, major social institutions--cultural, education, rehabilitative, and others--should be generally organized with the well-being and dignity of man as the essential measure of success …

As students, for a democratic society, we are committed to stimulating this kind of social movement, this kind of vision and program in campus and community across the country. If we appear to seek the unattainable, it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.

Tom Hayden,The Port Huron Statement, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the student Department of the League for Industrial Democracy, 1962.

Creator Tom Hayden
Context The height of the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War protest movement of the mid-60s.
Audience Students for a Democratic Society and the general public
Purpose To create a document that explained the political goals of Students for a Democratic Society

Historical Significance

In 1962, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) issued a political manifesto entitled the Port Huron Statement, which criticized the United States government for its failure to achieve international peace abroad and address social problems at home. In writing the Port Huron Statement, SDS employed a collaborative approach that relied on group discussion and feedback. As the war in Vietnam escalated, SDS protested through teach-ins on college campuses and demonstrations in Washington, D.C. SDS lasted to the end of the sixties and used direct action through non-violent civil disobedience to bring about "participatory democracy."

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