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Students for a Democratic Society 1962: The Port Huron Statement
"Institutions and practices which stifle dissent should be abolished, and the promotion of peaceful dissent should be actively promoted."
In June of 1962, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a national convention in Port Huron, Michigan, where it issued a political manifesto detailing the organization’s beliefs. SDS was a far left student movement founded in 1959 that believed it could reshape society and promote peace. It was closely aligned with the Free Speech Movement, which organized protests on college campuses in California and elsewhere around the country. Both of these groups were dubbed the “New Left” and became the backbone of the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Click here for a more detailed history.
Here is a relevant excerpt from the Port Huron Statement that highlights the SDS’s position on free speech issues:
3. Institutions and practices which stifle dissent should be abolished, and the promotion of peaceful dissent should be actively promoted.
The [F]irst Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, thought, religion and press should be seen as guarantees, not threats, to national security. While society has the right to prevent active subversion of its laws and institutions, it has the duty as well to promote open discussion of all issues—otherwise it will be in fact promoting real subversion as the only means to implementing ideas. To eliminate the fears and apathy from national life it is necessary that the institutions bred by fear and apathy be rooted out: the House Un-American Activities Committee, the Senate Internal Security Committee, the loyalty oaths on Federal loans, the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations, the Smith and McCarren Acts. The process of eliminating these blighting institutions is the process of restoring democratic participation. Their existence is a sign of the decomposition and atrophy of the participation.
Exit question: do you think left-leaning college students today would agree with this sentiment?