Alan Haber on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement with a new manifesto for the Occupy era

Yesterday, I shared three videos that were shot over the weekend with Alan Haber, the founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In those videos, Alan and I primarily discuss the past. We talk about Ann Arbor in the 50’s, Haber’s initiation into revolutionary politics during the McCarthy era, the founding of SDS, and the drafting of their manifesto – The Port Huron Statement. I have three more videos to share this evening. While Alan and I discuss history to some extent in these, the majority of our conversation revolves around next steps. Specifically, we discuss Alan’s desire to mark the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement by bringing together former members of SDS, as well as activists from the Occupy movement, and others, to draft a new manifesto – one that speaks to the concerns of people today.

What follow are three short video segments, each of which are preceded by my rough notes on the material covered within.

VIDEO ONE: The drafting of the Port Huron Statement

In this video… Alan notes that SDS had been around for three years prior to the drafting of the Port Huron Statement. The process, he says, wasn’t terribly contentious. There was a fellow from the Communist Party youth group who showed up, but they didn’t let him vote. Alan believes there were 43 people. Others, he says, maintain that there were as many as 70. Tom Hayden is working on a book about the drafting of the Port Huron Statment. It should be out shortly… We also talk more about his being fired by the League of Industrial Democracy, for being too soft on Communism, and for pursuing a movement model, instead of a trade union model of organizing. In April of 1961, he was rehired, and began work on the planning of their 1962 convention. It was at a meeting at the Guild House in Ann Arbor, where SDS members had gathered to plan the convention, that someone said, “Let’s make a manifesto.” (Other groups, as Haber notes, were publishing manifestos at the time.) So, they put the word out, in December of 1961, asking people from all of the SDS chapters for their input. Then, later, they compiled all of the suggestions that they had received in a newsletter, which was sent out, along with a request for further feedback. And, in this way, the document began to take shape. Tom Hayden volunteered to assemble all of the material, as he’d wanted to write a manifesto. The final document was completed in June of 1962… The group, according to Haber, had no idea, just ten days prior to leaving for Port Huron, where they’d be meeting to finalize the document. At the last minute, though, the mother of an SDS member, who had ties to the United Auto Workers, offered use of the organization’s camp in Port Huron. Once there, the 43 to 70 attendees divided into groups, and addressed the various segments of the document. Haber was on the section on Communism, which was the most controversial. (His LID handlers wanted them to be more overtly anti-communist.)… When the LID officials saw the final document, they were pissed off, and tried to kill it. Haber and company were essentially biting the hand that fed them. (In addition to not taking a hard line on Communism, they also made the case that unions were deserving of some amount of blame.) And, he got fired again. LID officials had the lock changed on the office in New York. He picked the lock, though, and moved back in… A major theme, as expressed in the document, was the need to force the so-called Dixiecrats out of office. Their goal, according to Haber, was to fix the Democratic party, which they wanted to rebuild around liberal, progressive values. And, they had people in Congess encouraging them. Some in the House and Senate wanted for them to keep pushing for progressive change, in hopes that it would lead to the the removal of obstructionist Dixiecrats, and the passage of Civil Rights legislation. In fact, he was in D.C., discussing the Port Huron Statement with friendly legislators, when he got the call from LID. They wanted him to repudiate the document, which he refused to do. And, as a result, SDS and LID spent the summer in negotiations. (It was during this time that he was able to pick the lock on their office and move back in.) Eventually the LID changed their mind, and let them stick around for a couple of more years. Their office, however, moved from New York to Chicago. (He was making $75 a week at the time.)… We end our conversation by discussing the retrospective on the Port Huron Statement that U-M professor Howard Brick is planning to commemorate the 50th anniverary.

VIDEO TWO: U-M’s retrospective on the Port Huron Statement, and the need for something more

I ask Haber about the retrospective event being planned at U-M for the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement, and whether he still believes, as he’s stated to me previously, that, while an academic retrospective is nice, what he’d prefer to have is an event that’s revolutionary prospective. He indicates that Brick, since he and I have last spoken, has agreed to make the event more forward looking. The event was going to be called, “Port Huron at 50.” Now it’s going to be, “The New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement Then and Now.” So, there will be opportunities to look forward. We still need something else, though, says Haber. We need a multi-day working session, on the actual anniversary of the Port Huron gathering, during which people can explore the relevant questions of the day. (Brick’s event won’t be until October – several months after the actual anniversary.) The findings of this group, accord to Haber, could then be further refined by the attendees of the event at U-M in October… Speaking of changes made by Brick, Haber also notes that the professor has reconfigured panels, making one strictly about the women of SDS. At this point in the conversation, Haber and I talk about the role of women in the early days of SDS. While Haber concedes that the language of the Port Huron Statement was sexist, as was everything else written at the time, he believes that the women of SDS contributed a great deal, even though all of their words flowed though the pen of Tom Haden. He doesn’t deny, however, that sometimes they had a difficult time having their voices heard. He notes that, at an SDS meeting in Champaign, in 1965, the woman, at one point, went off to meet by themselves. This, he says, was happening elsewhere, as well. He notes that the women of SNCC were also coming to the realization that the political is personal, and that women’s rights were worth fighting for as well.

VIDEO THREE: The drafting of an new manifesto

Haber intends to send the word out to everyone who have been invited to the U-M event, asking for their contributions to this new manifesto, just has he did 50 years ago, when he sent work to the SDS branches, asking for their input… He first floated this idea two years ago, at a SNCC meeting in Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, things have been slow to get off the the ground. But, Haber doesn’t seem concerned. As he points out, ten days before they gathered to work on the Port Huron Statement, they didn’t know who would be coming, or where they would be convening. And, as he says, he’s flexible. Even if only twelve people show up, he says, and they don’t develop an entire manifesto, at least they’ll be moving things forward. The best case scenario, however, is that a manifesto is completed, and it’s taken to the big upcoming Occupy event in Philadelphia, and shared with the participants… As for where we meet, Haber is agreeable to exploring options in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. (He’s looking into securing space at both EMU and Hathaway’s Hideaway in Ann Arbor.) Now, he plans to start getting the word out to the Grey Panthers, the folks at WCAT, members of the newly reformed SDS, the various Occupy groups, and anyone else who might have constructive ideas as to how we might move forward… He also says that he may dust off the work that he did years ago, as part of his campaign for the Union Party… We discuss the fact that, 50 years ago, he had legislative support, but now, given the state of politics in the United States, it’s likely that wouldn’t. He acknowledges that this initiative will have to be outside of the system. The Democratic party, in his opinion, needs to be left in favor of an independent movement… We discuss the fact that, thanks to the Supreme Court, a single-payer health care system may be a possibility once again… Finally, we talk about how, in the 60’s, people didn’t have a plan concerning the transition of power. They thought about revolution, but they didn’t envision what the transition would look like if/when it happened. That, he says, is what’s appealing about his “Union” plan. He’d worked out not only the vision, but a plan as to how we’d transition from here to there. And he thinks that might be a useful conversation to have…

Those of you who are interested in helping Alan realize his vision of creating a new manifesto, can reach him at: A public meeting will be taking place tonight (Tuesday), and I’m sure that he’d love to have representatives from SDS, Occupy Ypsilanti, Occupy U-M, Occupy Patriarchy, local progressive community groups, WCAT, and organized labor, among others.

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  1. Edward
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve been fired for biting the hand that feeds me before, but it’s never occurred to me that I could just refuse to leave my office. You’ve got to respect a guy who would do that.

  2. Knox
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    As someone mentioned yesterday, I take come comfort in the fact that SDS took three years to put pen to paper and declare to the world what they believed. As much as I’d like to see Occupy codify their beliefs, and put a stake in the ground, announcing what it is that they’re willing to fight for, it’s probably a good think that they’re taking their time. And setting the process in motion on the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement would carry a lot of power. I think the stars might be aligning. Also, I wrote to Rachel Maddow, suggesting that she have Haber on to discuss this.

  3. Elf
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    It would be great for Ypsi to host an event like this.

  4. anonymous
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    If it wouldn’t be too hot, it would be great to have this take place on the Water Street Commons. Another option could be the Freighthouse, if it will be open by then. Dreamland Theater could also work, if it’s a small crowd.

  5. Greg Pratt
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    I’m typing up notes from the meeting last night. I Won’t be able to get to this until later this afternoon/evening. I’ll post them here for anyone who is interested in getting involved in the conversation. We are going to build a wiki.

  6. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    So the “movement” spiraled out of control with the Socialists fighting the Communists, with the Weathermen and other Anarchists breaking off in a violent faction, and with the large numbers of college students smoking weed, dropping acid, and “hooking up”. What was accomplished? Why do you think publishing a manifesto is a means for changing a constitutional republic?

  7. mark k
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Like watching a old man buy a corvette, that was hard to watch.

  8. Edward
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    What exactly was painful about it, Mark? Are you suggesting that he doesn’t have the mental faculties to keep up with the Occupy movement?

  9. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I’m asking, seriously. What is the expected outcome of publishing another manifesto?

  10. Tommy
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    What is the expected outcome of publishing another manifesto? Perhaps to organize the chaos.

    Wasn’t there a book written many years ago in a couple of testaments that sought to do the same thing?

    Oh wait, those are the true words of god and god jr. written by a bunch of people who shit in caves. Obviously a much more important undertaking.

  11. Brainless
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    EOS, lemme edit that for you:

    So the “movement” spiraled out of control with the [Catholics] fighting the [Eastern Orthodox Church], with the [Lutherans] and other [Protestants] breaking off in a violent faction, and with the large numbers of college students [in heavy bacchanal]. What was accomplished? Why do you think publishing a manifesto is a means for changing [the church]?

    Why indeed? Why does anybody do anything? Why even get up in the morning? Better just to sit back and sheeple our way to the grave, eh?

  12. anonymous
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Why did Ayn Rand write Atlas Shrugged? Why does anyone write anything?

  13. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Tommy and Brainless –

    Do you think that in 2000 years, the Port Huron Statement or the Occupy Ypsi Statement will be the most widely read books in the world? Will reading these manifestos and putting their ideology into practice alter the lives of millions and lead to eternal life? Will the leaders of this movement perform miracles? Die and be resurrected? Will the manifestos contain hundreds of prophecies that come true? Do you really think that anything man can write is able to attain the status of Holy Scripture and have the impact on culture that Jesus Christ has?

  14. Mr. Y
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    So, there’s only value in books that are widely read, EOS? When the texts that comprise your Bible were written, how many people read them? Should they have bothered? No one knows, when they write a book, what kind of impact that it will have. What’s the alternative, though? Do you keep your ideas inside, where they’ll never have a chance? No, you release them into the world, and see what happens. It’s what human beings do. That’s how society advances. And what business is it of yours if Mr. Haber wants to publish something? By your reasoning, we’d only have books written by people who have risen from the dead, who know, in advance, that they’d sell millions.

    And I’m looking forward to your notes, Greg. Thank you.

  15. Greg Pratt
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Haters gonna hate. Skaters gonna skate.

    Which side are you on?

    Are there more than two sides?

    I know whose side I am on.

    Those are the people I know.

    The people in my neighborhood.

    Who else is in my neighborhood?

  16. Tommy
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Do you really think that anything man can write is able to attain the status of Holy Scripture and have the impact on culture that Jesus Christ has?

    Let me correct you on one thing, the bible WAS something that man DID write! When either of them show up in Saline or Ypsi let me know and I will ask them about wars, suffering, poverty, deadly diseases, natural disasters, corporate greed, etc., etc. and why such great and powerful beings that are supposedly the best things since the iPod seem so indifferent to the flock. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  17. Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Oh man, EOS is railroading another thread down some irrelevant path to nowhere.

    Look at the little troll… how cute.

  18. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Actually, Tommy and Brainless took it down this path. I merely responded to their conflating the Bible with a man made document. I still want to know. Does anyone think that a manifesto is going to cause the masses to rise up and overthrow our government? Is the hope of those who are meeting to start a new political party? Do you hope to create a socialist state? Does anyone think that socialism motivates people to put forth their best effort?

    I read lots of books for many different reasons. Most are written by a single author with a specific purpose in mind. Would the collaborators on this manifesto want to just throw it out there and see what happens or are they writing with a specific purpose in mind. If you want to organize the chaos, how do you want it organized? Is there a consensus as to what you want to accomplish, or will the group be led towards a predetermined outcome?

  19. Brainless
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    EOS, we’re all just making fun of you because it’s so damned easy. Your utter lack of self-awareness and strange desire to hang onto ridiculous beliefs is amusing. But I’m sure your little book is comforting on cold nights. It makes great kindling.

  20. mark k
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The “manifesto” is nothing more then a irrelevant pathic old man trying to relive his youth. I find it hard to watch, and question why mark would do this, other then to make the old man feel important one last time.

  21. Tommy
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    No conflating the Bible with a man made document – both were man made. For that matter so was your sky wizard and Jr. Sky wizard.

    Will the group be led towards a predetermined outcome? Like the Apocalypse?

    You’re right Brainless, it is pretty easy pickins’ !!

    Your point about starting a new political party as a goal? Interesting. Predetermined outcome? Another interesting point. Don’t get the socialism infatuation as that is a right wing scare tactic that has run its course. Social Democracy? Now we’re talking. From what I have seen, organization / clarity is not a strong suit.

  22. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    “Don’t get the socialism infatuation..???”

    Did you read Mark’s post or at least watch the videos? The League for Industrial Democracy (LID), Haber’s group, was formerly known as the Intercollegiate Socialist Society.

    “Social Democracy?” That’s a laugh. Once the State owns all the means of production there’s no further need for the Democracy label. It’s a tyranny.

  23. Edward
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Watch the videos, EOS. Haber is quite clear that LID was angry with him for including Socialists in his activities.

    And, Mark K, you should look up the meaning of the word irrelevant. This guy built a nation-wide organization from the ground up and contributed toward the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the ending of the Vietnam War. And he’s still contributing today….. By the way, what do you do? Are there videos of you being interviewed anywhere on-line?

  24. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    LID was angry with him for including Communists in his activities.

  25. mark k
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Really Edward, I googled his name and this was the best I can up with.
    No mention of building nation-wide organization from the ground up, nothing about him being a contributed toward the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and not one thing about him ending of the Vietnam War. The only real thing I could find was he was first president of Students for a Democratic Society. Maybe his memory is fuzzy at best. Your hero seems to have pumped himself up a bit. LOL! I come up with more when I google my own name.

  26. Edward
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    SDS grew out of an organization that he started as an undergraduate at U-M. It grew to include tens of thousands of students across the country, and lead the way for an unprecedented society-wide push for reform. To say that SDS wasn’t influential is to show yourself to be incredibly uninformed. As Haber notes, it may have happened anyway, but anyone in existence during the 60s knew SDS. I know I should ignore you, but I think it’s important that others coming to this thread know that not every reader of this site is an angry tea-partying moron with an inflated sense of his own importance.

  27. mark k
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Edward do you have anything to back that up. I’m asking because I’ve been searching and not finding anymore then what I posted. Surely with all the good you say Alan has done I’d be able to find something on the net. And why the insults? Do you think that give you more credibility?

  28. Elf
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    “Why the insults?” he says.

    This, he says, after calling Haber an “irrelevant pathetic old man.” (He misspelled pathetic too.)

    If you don’t know the significance of SDS you have no credibility.

  29. EOS
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    The League for Industrial Democracy (LID) and Tom Hayden were associated with NSA – the National Student Association. During the 50’s and 60’s, some of its activities were underwritten by clandestine support from the Central Intelligence Agency. So, Alan Haber, the son of an economics professor, just happens to come to campus as a freshman and gets heavily involved in a student protest group that is infiltrated by CIA operatives. So the plot thickens… Was Haber encouraging the inclusion of the communists merely to gather information for the CIA??? What was his role then and what is his role today? Who is Alan Haber??? And what part is Mark M. playing in this current operation??? Why can’t Mark K. find any information about Alan on the Internet??? This thread is getting interesting.

  30. Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Come on, you guys. I’m sure that Mr. Haber has donated to some organization or another that supports abortion ri–er, the slaughter of millions of children and to read this article makes me culpable in that massacre. If nothing else, I’m sure he’s not out saving babies as I type…CHILDREN ARE DYING, MOTHERFUCKERS!

  31. Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I just realized that the comment makes no sense if you haven’t read the last comment on the Beer with Bloggers post. It probably makes no sense even if you have. I tried :)

  32. Greg Pratt
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

  33. EOS
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 5:07 am | Permalink

  34. Knox
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Greg, that’s not the coverage of the meeting that you promised, is it? (Insert smiling emoticon.)

  35. Greg Pratt
    Posted May 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Nope, Knox. But here is the link:

    This is just a start. Someone posted some links to articles about the Port Huron Statement. The notes from our Ann Arbor meeting this past Tuesday are being constructed and the first draft is posted at the bottom of the field (as of right now).


    Or Scoff.

    Or go away.

    Or Join us!

  36. Meta
    Posted May 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Occupy Ypsilanti is hosting a discussion of the Port Huron Statement.

    When: Wednesday, May 30, 7-9PM

    Where: Michigan Ave Ypsi Library

    The Port Huron Statement was composed by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1962. This famous manifesto is particularly relevant for us to study now for at least three reasons: its 50th anniversary is in June; SDS got its start in Michigan, and its first president was local activist Alan Haber; and it grapples with problems that still exist today, including how the working and so-called middles classes can make common cause to change a society whose priorities are upside down.

    As part of the discussion,we would like to think about how the analysis contained in the Statement relates to Peter’s in “Ypsilanti Vampire Mayday.” In what ways is the Statement still relevant? How do we need to rethink it, fifty years later?

    The Port Huron Statement is available here:

    For more info, contact Charles Cunningham:

  37. WPA
    Posted June 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know what, if anything, came of this? Was a new manifesto drafted?

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] with Haber, for those of you who are interested, can be found elsewhere on this site (Part I, Part II).HAYDEN AND I BEGIN BY DISCUSSING THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN IN 1957. He doesn’t mention it […]

  2. […] SEVERAL TIMES DURING MY DISCUSSION WITH HAYDEN, I reference an earlier conversations with Alan Haber, the founder of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the organization responsible for the production and disseminated the Port Huron Statement, which, as most of you know, was primarily authored by Hayden. Video of my discussions with Haber, for those of you who are interested, can be found elsewhere on this site (Part I, Part II). […]

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