Those who lived or studied the 1960’s will remember SDS- Students For a Democratic Society as a radical multi- issue center of the new left active for civil rights, economic justice, education reform, opposing the Vietnam war and trying broadly to change the country and the world.
A notice was circulated a few months ago, announcing “the next meeting of SDS.” The old SDS hadn’t met, of course, for 30 plus years. SDS, after the 60’s, spread out into a hundred different movements: feminist, environmentalist, human growth, identity, freedom and liberation and solidarity, and underground. Some have nostalgic memories of the good old days (which weren’t that great). Activist students and youth study the old SDS. Some wondered why there wasn’t an SDS now, now that we needed it.
The call to “a meeting” gave an opportunity to explore: should there be another one? Either another meeting or another attempt at organization?
“The next meeting of SDS” was held on November 29. 2003. The notice / invitation proposed a too-full agenda. Though opinions were wide ranging on what to do, or what are social forces now in motion, a spirited discussion continued until 9:30. One impatient long time fighter left early, saying “we were a depressing lot and we should move on.”
The depressing discussion focused on a number of topics:
*Votes are fixed, votes are uncounted, new machines can be hacked. *Votes are irrelevant, who is there to vote for? *The power of the monopolized media is overwhelming, shaping the image in people’s minds of what is true. *University service workers just sold out their union gains for a mere $500, facilitating privatizing, piece working, and outsourcing future jobs, falling for the union busting two-tier strategy of the corporations. *There is no consciousness out there, people sell out for nothing and feel no solidarity. *Bush is the best thing for the revolution, bankrupting America — 4 more years is what it might take to wake up the working class. *The poor and immigrant and alien are all among us, the “peace movement” does not see the reality at home — the class war in our own town. *People live in a bubble of delusion, fed on consumption.
*European Americans, which was all but one in the room, live at the top of a pyramid of privilege sharing in the capital exploited and stolen from the Native Americans and African Americans, in slavery and since, and now fed on the riches of the global system of exploitation. We have all imbibed white supremacy as the assumption of this culture and denial of the thievery on which our way of life is based.
On the other hand, every negative had a more positive perspective: the magnifying power of “move-on” like networks, the growing independent media and independent sources of information, the winning of small victories locally, several of which were recounted — winning an environmental taxation vote, winning a water privatization case, raising money to rebuild Palestinian homes, and being in the streets.
The quest most returned to in the discussion was what local actions or questions could both focus energy and connect with the larger picture. The on-going “borders books and music” strike was most mentioned — don’t shop Borders, Walden books or Amazon until the corporation settles with its Ann Arbor workers. Can our extended networks help make this an effective national boycott?
I began the discussion with a call to remember our networks, and proposed we undertake together to make the “a political association adequate to our needs in these times.”
Such an association is social, and radiates along lines of affinity, love and affiliations of heart. One person proposed and read a text for a new membership card. International SDS was proposed. Many readings of “s” were offered — seniors, survivors, et al. — and coming back to students, our needs, at whatever age or occupation, to study, to be students of life and to learn, what else are we here for?
Those interested in the next next meeting of SDS, call 734-761-7967, write post office box 7213 Ann Arbor, MI 48107, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org