How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account

Licata, Nick

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Date Written:  14/06/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23664

A look at how Students for a Democratic Society imploded 50 years ago and how it is similar to the behaviour of political parties in the US today.




It may be unpopular to say, but extremism from within SDS destroyed it, not the government or the rightwing. Sure, they would have liked to see that happen, but in the end the leftist SDS leadership was demanding their supporters to conform to a party line as they embraced rightwing Senator Barry Goldwater’s advice from 1964, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice...."

The extremist beliefs that brought down SDS, occurred from within. They were not imposed on it by the government or right-wing groups. SDS’s demise occurred because its leadership embraced absolute truths; demanding that there was only one true path moving forward; and labeling those not adopting their vision as enemies. Compromises and reason were their poisons; they blurred that vision by challenging the official pronounced premises and offering alternative ones.

This history may warm the hearts of conservatives who will gleefully see SDS’s destruction as the result of flying to close to a socialist sun, which blinded their logic and melted their wings. That perspective feeds upon the same diet of hubris that undermined SDS’s democratic foundation; the belief that your world view is the only correct one, such as considering that anything socialistic is bad.
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