[Marxism] SDS

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Fri Jan 13 07:15:48 MST 2006

The thing to remember about the SDS is that it was a bundle of
youthfully intense and ardently decent intentions, coupled to a lot of
common sense.  Of course, it was denounced by all the forces of reaction
to the point that its very name became a talisman that high school kids
used to give their principals insomnia.  However, the SDS had almost no
experience or theory with which to protect itself, and it remained so
amorphous that it couldn't draw the same conclusions from what little
experience it had.

The demise of the SDS is often ascribed to the older radical
organizations that intervened or fed off its bones, but it was really a
victim of the Democratic Party--the Jack-the-Ripper of American
radicalism.  The victories of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy in
early 1968 among Democratic primary voters seemed to test the viability
of the Democratic Party.  The prospect of their success drained SDS
ranks and constituencies to a point where there was little with which to
resist or fully exploit the August 1968 armed assault of the Democratic
Party on the people of the U.S. The convention disoriented the SDS (and
much more), making its aftermath simply anticlimactic.  

By November 1968 (and afterwards), the alternatives seemed to be picking
up the gun or picking from among the candidates the ruling class would
permit to live and run for office.  At the time, I think that most of us
recognized that either of these put all the eggs in one basket...that
is, choosing one of these created a dynamic that would allow that
solution to select itself in the future.  A very small proportion of
what had been there actually made its way past the Democratic addiction.

It always seemed to me that the SWP and the Left saw student radicals as
a renewable resource.  Generally, they viewed radicals with any
experience in something like the SDS as simply pains-in-the-neck who
asked questions and argued.  They wanted to bring in the inexperienced
and more malleable, so that what they'd learn would be under the
particular tutelage of the organization.

Mark L.

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