A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why It Failed by David Barber

By David Barber

Through the spring of 1969, scholars for a Democratic Society (SDS) had reached its zenith because the biggest, so much radical circulation of white adolescence in American history-a real New Left. but under a 12 months later, SDS splintered into warring factions and ceased to exist.

SDS's improvement and its dissolution grew without delay out of the organization's family with the black freedom move, the circulation opposed to the Vietnam warfare, and the newly rising fight for women's liberation. For a second, younger white humans might understand their global in new and progressive methods. yet New Leftists didn't reply as a tabula rasa. to the contrary, those younger people's consciousnesses, their tradition, their identities had arisen out of a heritage which, for centuries, had privileged white over black, males over girls, and the United States over the remainder of the realm. this type of background couldn't support yet distort the imaginative and prescient and perform of those activists, reliable intentions even though.

A difficult Rain Fell: SDS and Why It Failed lines those activists of their relation to different activities and demonstrates that the hot Left's dissolution flowed without delay from SDS's failure to damage with conventional American notions of race, intercourse, and empire.

David Barber is assistant professor of historical past on the college of Tennessee at Martin. His paintings has seemed in magazine of Social historical past, Left historical past, and Race Traitor.

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Extra resources for A Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why It Failed

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Demonstrators again and again surrounded outnumbered police, demoralized them, and made them ineffective. ” For the first time demonstrators, unarmed, saw police lines retreat in front of them. It was our first taste of real victory. . We had taken and held downtown Oakland. . We had seen the cops back away from us. . ”51 On the following day, October 21, 1967, and on the other side of the continent, New Leftists again broke from traditional models of protest at the Pentagon. Radicals at the Pentagon demonstration, like their counterparts in Oakland, wanted and did take the demonstration beyond the liberal “witness” politics that had dominated the movement in the past.

Second, some activists directly repudiated the demands that black activists were making on them. PL, a faction that was growing in significance within SDS, became in this period the Old Left standard bearer in its response to Black Power. According to PL, the United States had two fundamental classes: a tiny ruling class and an immense, multiracial working class. Race (and empire) had no reality outside of this class construct. Black people were simply superexploited workers, and racism was merely a trick that the ruling class foisted on the working class in order to keep it divided and powerless.

In contrast, SDS had taken a better approach to SNCC: “We have followed SNCC’s evolution for years, learning from it, adapting its approaches in our own organizing efforts, and acting as allies when called upon to assist the struggle in the South. ”22 By identifying SNCC with “the struggle in the South,” Booth continued to view SNCC within SDS’s framework of social change. SNCC’s principal base of operation indeed may have been the South, but even in 1965 and early 1966 SNCC clearly identified itself as an organization that The New Left and the Black Movement, 1965–1968 | 25 represented the aspirations of black people throughout the nation.

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