Port Huron at 50: Still Communist After All These Years

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Hayden’s invocation of OWS was very much intentional. One of the conceits of the conference was that the protestors who hijacked lower Manhattan last fall were the political heirs of SDS and the Port Huron Statement. The connection is credible enough. With their class warfare-rallying claims of representing the “99 percent” against the “1 percent,” OWS’s slogans almost precisely echo the Port Huron manifesto’s attacks on the “wealthiest one percent of Americans.”

But the exact nature of the connection was made most explicit by an OWS protestor who took part in a conference panel that was billed as an “intergenerational dialogue” between SDS veterans and OWS protestors. In a rare moment of honesty at the conference, the protestor explained that what united SDS and OWS was their shared commitment to certain ideals, specifically those expressed in works like the Communist Manifesto. Hayden, who took part in the panel, did not dispute the point. Instead, Hayden encouraged to OWS protestors to become even more extreme. Asked for his advice to OWS, he counseled: “Don’t rule out any tactic. Whatever weakens the one percent is useful.” Once again, the clear implication was that violence was justified.

The fact that SDS’s legacy lives on primarily in the fringes of OWS is one sign that it has been relegated to the margins of politics. But it would be a mistake to conclude that the radicalism of the 60s has had no shaping role on American culture. Perhaps its greatest legacy is in the politicization of the American university, which the left has come to dominate.

This takeover was foreshadowed in the Port Huron Statement, which bemoaned the passive conformity of college life in the early sixties and praised radical students “restoring a small measure of controversy to the campuses.” The left’s attacks on the traditional role of the university continued under the Berkley Free Speech movement of the 1960s, which turned academic freedom into a byword for political activism, and ultimately transformed the universities as the student radicals came to command the academic bureaucracy of which they once despaired, shaping the curriculum to conform with their political agendas.

A case in point is the Port Huron Statement itself. Once an attack on the university, it is today taught in universities across the country, including by Tom Hayden himself. At UCLA, Hayden teaches a class on the Port Huron Statement as part of the school’s UCLA “Labor and Workplace” Minor.

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  • Ken

    I never knew that the town I was born in was a host to such a group of anti-American morons!! Now I know why the state of Michigan is in such a bad state. I really find it interesting that they cannot take responsibility for all the damage and chaos they caused with they vile charter. Kind of sounds like our present leader. Not able to take responsibility for his failed policies. Typical.

    • guest

      yes, you figured it out. Michigan is in a bad state because a a small group of student radicals gathered there 50 years ago for a few days. You are a sharp cookie, you betcha!

  • Jim

    The Communists are atheists and there for under Islamic law must either convert or be beheaded.

    • flyingtiger

      All moslem countries, including Arabia, have an active communist party. The Moslems see communism as a political philosophy that has much in common with Islam and can be useful to advancing the cause of Islam.

  • Robert Pinkerton

    Acknowledged that this is a symptom of a dirty mind, the article suggests to me an intentional misspelling — or revision of the spelling? — namely the ,,Port Urine Statement;" for it is fermented stale urine that makes outhouses truly stink.

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ JasonPappas

    It is frightening that these people have a captive audience for four years during the most important part of a person's intellectual development. The fact that the left controls the universities and subjects our children to propaganda is an advantage that is difficult to counter.

    Our only hope lies in the internet. The internet will be to our revolution what the printing press was to the Protestant Reformation. That is one of the reasons I support this venue and "Discover the Networks". Great work David, Jamie, Jacob, etc.

  • clarespark

    One of the less trumpeted achievements of the anti-anticommunist New Left was its interest in and support for China's communist dictatorship. HBO will air a film on the marriage of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway next week that will include the supposed "spy mission" to China in 1941. Here is the review essay I wrote about present-day support for Chinese Communism: http://clarespark.com/2011/06/30/links-to-review-…. It has four segments, and includes some pictures, for instance of Hemingway with Fidel Castro.

  • H&R_ Barack

    Ever since the left wing captured the universities and media, putative conservatives desiring media favor and intellectual respectability have been apologizing for conservatism's most popular and effective figures.

    Democratic Society and Port Huron – http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/11/conservati

    Beginnings of another Radical.

  • kasandra

    Yeah, the SDS was pro-democracy. I guess that's why in 1967, my college roomate and SDS'er had a picture of Leon Trotsky taped to the ceiling above his bed.

  • isabelle

    Tom Hayden lives in the 90049 zip code of Los Angeles…one of the richest area's of Los Angeles, with the most expensive real estate in the country.
    Hayden is a two faced, phony.

  • idealart

    I'm a little surprised at the line that the country rejected radicalism and Port Huron. The US has moved far to the left since 1962. Part of mind-bending by the entertainment software industry (media, political, sports, etc.) is to pretend the US is "right-center." But if the goalposts are constantly moved left naturally most people will be right-center. The Democratic Party IS Port Huron.

    • Jacob

      That's a good point, and certainly arguable. By reject I meant in the narrower sense that the New Left's vision of a participatory democracy — i.e., communism — never gained any real purchase and indeed that rejection was one reason why SDS ultimately became more radical. Having convinced themselves that the country wouldn't listen to reason, they figured bombs would do the trick. I think it's true that the Democratic Party has drifted to the left, but then it's also true that the Republican Party has moved right, and the country is broadly right-of-center, so I don't know that the goal posts have been moved all that far. At any rate, the New Left doesn't think so. At the conference, Hayden said voting for Obama would be the least bad option but that seemed to be an unrepresentative take; most of the audience seemed to favor a pox on both their houses view of the two parties. In their judgement, at least, the modern Democratic Party was nowhere near what the Port Huron statement had in mind.

      • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

        the GOP has NOT 'moved right'
        Mitt Romney is proof.

  • tagalog

    From the photo at the head of this article, Tom Hayden is sure one depressed-looking shlub. I guess that comes from having been a leftie in America and married to Jane Fonda. Some things money can't fix, I guess.

    • Questions

      Well, he's in his 70s now. That might have something to do with it.

  • Bill Befort

    Didja know that the radical left of 1962 was all in favor of nuclear energy? Have a look at the Port Huron Statement, where it figures as the low-cost energy source for SDS's reorganized society of the future:

    "Our monster cities, based historically on the need for mass labor, might now be humanized, broken into smaller communities, powered by nuclear energy, arranged according to community decision. These are but a fraction of the opportunities of the new era: serious study and deliberate experimentation, rooted in a desire for human fraternity, may now result in blueprints of civic paradise."

    When the PHS was written in 1962, popular environmentalism as we know it now scarcely existed. Left politics didn't adopt Green camouflage till much later; when it did, support for nuclear power was dropped. I think this illustrates the arbitrary and accidental nature of some of the political labels we assign to various technologies.

  • Ronald Johnston

    Why does our country allow these people to exist here!!! They are preaching subversion, treason and sedition. We have laws which provide severe penalties for this kind of behavior!!!!

    • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

      Well, you are a man! Do something!

    • Questions

      Dissent, however much I may disagree with it, is still legal in the U.S. the last time I checked.

      • JakeTobias

        But what is it they are dissenting from?

        Would you have a problem if the Nazi party took over our universities?

        Or if the MSM made excuses for Hitler? (wait. some of them do) How about if "Mein Kampf," was taught to children as a great vision of the future?

        If only more of us had realized sooner, those are the exact comparisons, we wouldn't be in this mess.