Abstract

The Port Huron Statement of Students for a Democratic Society, written fifty years ago this June, is the most ambitious, the most specific, and the most eloquent manifesto in the history of the American Left. It is also, at just over 25,000 words, undoubtedly the longest one. But it had to be lengthy to accomplish its aim—to propose an entire "agenda for a generation." Consider the variety of topics about which Tom Hayden and his fellow delegates to that SDS meeting held at the FDR Camp in Port Heron, Michigan, had intelligent and provocative things to say: moral values, American politics, the U.S. economy, the nation's intellectual and academic life, the labor movement, the cold war, the nu-clear arms race, the anticolonial revolution, and a vivid description of why the black freedom move-ment was so pivotal to the birth of a new Left. All this was informed by a sensibility attuned to what one might call the "national psychology." And that's just a summary of the first half of the statement.

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