Alan Haber and other founding members of SDS call on the young Socialists of today to put aside their political purity tests, consider the threat Donald Trump poses to our republic, and back Joe Biden’s campaign for president

Earlier this week, as you can read in the above Twitter post, the Democratic Socialists of America announced that they would not be following in the footsteps of progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and endorsing Joe Biden for President. Well, this didn’t exactly sit well with some members of the old left. And, to their credit, they decided to speak up. What follows is an open letter signed by some 65 former leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, including Ann Arbor’s own Alan Haber, the first president of the organization. [SDS was born on the campus of the University of Michigan in 1960, having evolved from the socialist League for Industrial Democracy’s youth program.] Here’s the letter.

On April 13, 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to vote for the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. Writing as founders and veterans of the leading New Left organization of the 1960s, Students for a Democratic Society, we welcome Bernie’s wise choice—but we are gravely concerned that some of his supporters, including the leadership of Democratic Socialists of America, refuse to support Biden, whom they see as a representative of Wall Street capital. Some of us are DSA members, but do not believe their position is consistent with a long-range vision of democracy, justice, and human survival.

Now it is time for all those who yearn for a more equal and just social order to face facts. All of us have charged for years that Trump is the leader of an authoritarian party that aims for absolute power, rejects climate science, embraces racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence, holds the democratic process in contempt, bids to take over the entire federal judiciary, represses voting rights, and violates plain human decency on many fronts. These are the grounds for our solemn determination: a common effort to unseat him is our high moral and political responsibility.

In our time, we fought—for a time successfully—against the sectarian politics of the Cold War. We were mindful then of the cataclysm that befell German democracy when socialists and communists fought each other—to death—as Hitler snuck by and then murdered them all.

Now we fear that some on the left cannot see the difference between a capitalist democrat and a protofascist. We hope none of us learn this difference from jail cells.

We have dedicated much of our lives to the fight to extend democracy to more people, more institutions, more places. We continue this work in diverse ways motivated now as then by a spirit of community and solidarity. But now the very existence of American democracy is in jeopardy.

Some of us think “endorsing” Joe Biden is a step too far; but we who now write this open letter all know that we must work hard to elect him. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.

In 1919, in the midst of the brief German socialist revolution, the great sociologist Max Weber addressed left-wing students about politics. He urged upon them that the best politics must be painfully aware of the consequences of action, not just intentions. Speaking to young men, he prophetically warned them that the cost of ignoring consequences might be their deaths.

We salute Bernie Sanders and our friends and comrades in DSA and in the diverse movements for social justice and environmental sanity that enabled them to rise. We look forward to joining together to build on and defend our accomplishments. And now we plead with all: get together, beat Trump, and fight for democracy—precious, fragile, worth keeping.

For those who want to know more about Haber and the history of SDS, I’d encourage you to listen to my interview with him from a decade ago or so, which is really fascinating. I know, over the past few years, he’s made more of a local name for himself as an outspoken critic of downtown development and density in Ann Arbor, but it’s good to be reminded on occasions like this that he can still be a force for good. It made me incredibly happy to see his name on the list of signatories accompanies this letter, and to know that he’s on the right side of this fight.

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  1. Posted April 16, 2020 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    The letter reprinted in this post ran today in The Nation. The following quote from Thomas Paine ran right in front of it.

    “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country…

    …[L]ay your shoulders to the wheel; …Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it. Say not that thousands are gone, turn out your tens of thousands; throw not the burden of the day upon Providence, but “show your faith by your works…”

    —Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

  2. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    So the big radical turns out to be an establishment dupe. Wayne Kramer is another 60’s communist who ended up in lockstep with the (corrupt and wicked) political mainstream today. Talking about that “vile man in the white house”. These people are sooo far behind the times it’s insane. Do they like the CIA now? Just too caught up to notice the President is at war with them.

  3. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Aloha some of Trumps supporters at yesterday’s rally

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Context: Uncle-Boonmee posted the picture on Reddit. Funny conversation. Enjoy Wobblie:
    GoodMoGo 9570 points 7 hours ago
    I seriously don’t know if they are for or against those two.

    Uncle-Boonmee[S] 96 points 6 hours ago
    100% against

    Finn_3000 130 points 6 hours ago
    Not too sure about that

    Uncle-Boonmee[S] -43 points 6 hours ago
    And you base that on what? Your intuition? I grew up in Michigan, around people who waved the confederate flag while hating Jewish people, African Americans, and Mexicans. What makes you think I’d support hate speech? I’m genuinely curious

    CarienHEID 52 points 6 hours ago
    I think they meant the person in the picture and not you

    Finn_3000 39 points 6 hours ago
    What? Im saying that the guy waving this stupid flag is a nazi, i dont really understand what you are trying to say.

    Finn_3000 39 points 6 hours ago
    What? Im saying that the guy waving this stupid flag is a nazi, i dont really understand what you are trying to say.

    Uncle-Boonmee[S] 31 points 6 hours ago
    Sorry, I’m newish to commenting on Reddit and admittedly get confused by the comment set up

    Finn_3000 14 points 6 hours ago
    Im pretty sure the “they” is refering to the guys in the picture and the “two” is refering to trump and pence

    Uncle-Boonmee[S] 26 points 6 hours ago
    You’re correct. Sorry, I read that wrong for sure. People saying this is a Democrat trying to make these people look bad, had me all turned around for a second

    derrida_n_shit 1 point 5 hours ago

  5. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s ok Wobblie. You don’t even need to address the other two false flags you promoted today either. Just carry on about your day. Really.

  6. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    What is wrong with your eyes? They are open but they can’t see a thing.

  7. Sad
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    It’s easy to deceive

  8. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 16, 2020 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Punk Rock!

  9. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Aloha FF , I see you have decided to join HW and deny reality. I suppose you are also waiting for Trump tp use those secret indictments. How many antifa were convicted of crimes in Charlotteville? How many of your buddies? I remember your forensic video analysis. Total bullshit.

  10. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Aloha FF , I want to be sure I understand your position. You do not believe there were any racist/fascist provocateurs/agitators at the Lansing rally?
    I know what I saw watching WDIV morning coverage. I find it interesting that the only clips on the web are the evening news clips.

  11. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Aloha, it was so obvious that Whitmer was asked about it.


  12. Bob
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Wayne Kramer was never a communist dum-dum. He was always watching the money.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I’m happy to see Haber step up and say what needs to be said, which is that the political purists on the left are putting the future of our nation in grave danger.

  14. L.
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “Now we fear that some on the left cannot see the difference between a capitalist democrat and a protofascist. We hope none of us learn this difference from jail cells.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. Here’s hoping those who supported Bernie in the primary are listening.

  15. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    He said himself he used to carry a Red Book, dick.

  16. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Wobblie: My thesis has always been Boise is not Lansing. It sounds like you have a better memory than me though. Can you remind me? What was DeAndre Harris doing off camera at 5:33 of the “Duerst the Worst” video?

  17. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I also have this theory that a Bernie supporter is not a Trump supporter.

  18. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I have been kicking around the idea that Feb 2017 is not April 2020.

  19. Frosted Flakes
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I must confess these are all just my half-baked ideas. I have been feeling pretty uncertain about a lot of things lately. I only know one thing for sure: If Wobblie doesn’t fill out the form soon he might not get his bumper sticker.

  20. Bob
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Like you’d recognize a book, HDubs. You’re hilarious.

  21. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I bet I’ve read more than you. Even if I didn’t it wouldn’t erase that you are wrong as always. He said it himself in A True Testimonial.

  22. Sad
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    You are an intellectual HW

    No doubt

  23. Demetrius
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Joe Biden hasn’t even lost the election yet, and still it seems some people are already blaming Bernie supporters and other leftists for Trump’s second term.

  24. Posted April 17, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Although I rightly blame Bernie and some of his supporters for Trump’s first term, I can already see that there is a difference among them this year. Oh sure, some are talking about how they can’t vote for Biden and how they think that somehow another candidate can be picked at the convention but it is many fewer and without the hate. Is it because Biden is a man or is it because they learned their lesson? I don’t care. I am happy that Sanders isn’t going all the way to the convention. I am happy that he is going to back Biden wholeheartedly. The few Sanders supporters I know who voted for Trump in 2016 have already said that they’ll vote for Biden this time (again not sure if it is because they learned their lesson or because Biden is a man). If Biden selects a progressive VP as he may do, (e.g Warren or Abrams), I think it will be even easier for some to vote for him especially if they have learned their lesson and can bring themselves to vote for a ticket with a woman on it.

  25. John Brown
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The Stochastic Terrorist in Chief is busy tweeting rebellion at them gunned up trumptards from Kalkaska and Hillsdale. Still more blood on his hands to come, no doubt.

  26. Demetrius
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    The ones who haven’t “learned their lesson” are the Democratic Party establishment hacks who actually think Uncle Joe is the best choice to beat Trump in 2020.

  27. Posted April 17, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Demetruis, perhaps. I learned MY lesson and didn’t vote for Sanders in 2020 like I did in 2016! That turned out to have been a big mistake.

    However, the particular lesson I am talking about is one of accepting that the person who gets the most votes in the primary is going to be the nominee and the choice is to either support that person (in this case, Biden) or let Trump win. That is just a reality. Biden isn’t my choice either but he is what we got and imho, he is much better than Trump despite his flaws. As much as I might not have wanted to, I also would have supported Sanders if he had been able to motivate enough people to vote for him in the primary that he got the nomination.

  28. Demetrius
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I feel compelled to add – my feelings about this have nothing to do with being a bitter “Bernie Bro,” and they certainly have nothing to do with sexism.

    I knew, when Hillary Clinton became the nominee in 2016, that she was a terrible choice, and that she was likely to lose to Trump.

    I’m sad to say that having Biden as the nominee in 2020 feels like “deja vu all over again.”

    Unfortunately, as long as the Democratic Party keeps choosing corporate-friendly, war-mongering, status-quo, establishment “centrists,” as their nominees, they’re going to keep on losing presidential elections.

    (And I say this as someone who supported Bernie, and will ultimately end up voting for Biden)

  29. Posted April 17, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I know that a lot on the far left believe that but it doesn’t feel true to me. If Sanders (or in hte case of my favorite, Warren) was unable to get the most votes in a primary, how would he possibly get the votes in a general election? I don’t have reason to believe that independents tend to vote for progressives in a general election necessarily. Trump was able to inspire people to vote for him in the primary and that was a sign that he was going to get them to vote for him in the general election. I mostly think that those who feel that Sanders might have won in 2016 are wrong. Sure, he could have counted on the votes of “the establishment” who tend to be more loyal to the party and he wouldn’t have had the sexism working against him but I have seen no evidence that he would have won against Trump. Sanders clearly has a problem with getting people out to vote. Biden is better at it obviously. Clinton too. I think that whole narrative that if only Dems would pick someone with very progressive ideas, they would win. I think it is just as likely that Sanders’s influence on the party platform where it became the most progressive platform the Dems ever ran on is part of why Clinton lost. Who knows? All we know is that Sanders can not win a primary and Clinton could not overcome the electrical college disadvantage to become president even though she did get more votes than Trump.

  30. Posted April 17, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I also think that a lot of people stayed home in 2016 or voted 3rd party because they thought it was a done deal that Clinton would win. I hope that is a lesson people have learned. Nothing but the final results matter. It is always important to get out and vote if you have a preference in an election.

  31. Bob
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Lynne and Jean are still blaming Bernie for Trump. Because he was also on the ticket and took votes I guess. Or because he urged people not to vote for her. Or because he had no right to run for president after decades of public service in government. He should have gone the more admirable Clinton carpet bagger route of moving to state where there was a Senate seat open so he could serve a term while preparing the presidential run he was planning all along. And hey, why not vote for some shit we don’t believe in along the way? Like a couple wars that are obviously republican disasters, but will play better in the presidential run. Lord knows you don’t want anyone to call you a weak female unfit for the office.

  32. iRobert
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink


    If you actually reviewed what has actually been happening in presidential elections over the past 30 years, you’d know 2000 and 2004 were both rigged to flip a number of states, just enough to narrowly flip the electoral college outcome.

    Trump’s 2016 win is the only legitimate win for the GOP in a presidential contest since Bush Sr. won in 1988. And Trump only won because Hillary’s voter ID and GOTV operations were shut down in at least 5 key rust-belt states. Hillary had 3 million more votes than Trump.

    So you’re suggestion that Dems are “going to keep on losing presidential elections” just demonstrates your complete ignorance on the subject.

  33. iRobert
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I should have said 4 key rust-belt states. Those were Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Though Florida also showed there was a similar thing happening there as well.

    The electoral map has increasingly favored Democrats since the 80s. Only through very massive rigging operations in a handful of key swing states in 2000 and 2004 was the final outcome flipped to Bush Jr.

    The details of these were discussed extensively here and in countless other public accountings.

    If you payed attention, you’d be aware of demographic trends bringing Virginia, North Carolina and now even possibly Georgia and Texas into swing-State status.

  34. Posted April 17, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Bob, I blame Sanders because he stayed in the 2016 race way too long and encouraged animosity towards Clinton with some pretty nasty strategy towards the end. Then he sort of phoned it in while campaigning for Clinton (which at least he DID do). He was mostly writing his book though. He is being much more enthusiastic about Biden than he was about Clinton and I am grateful for that. I don’t know if it is easier for him because Biden is a man or if he is smart enough to see how his own failures last time affected the outcome. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume that it is mostly the latter. He isn’t a stupid guy.

  35. Jean Henry
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Since no one here has said they aren’t voting Biden and the rest is just speculation about alternate realities, how about we all move forward and start talking about all the progressive policies on which we agree?

    I personally am not willing to wait for Bernie to win an election,
    or for the patriarchy to get blown up,
    or for capitalism to fall,
    to start implementing the change we need now.

    It never has been more apparent and we are mostly in agreement and yet we just seem to want to bicker.

  36. Jean Henry
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Fuck it. I’m going to copy paste because I know you all never open anything:

    1– It is extremely difficult to significantly change the composition of the electorate via an inspiring campaign or a killer field operation. It has been tried many, many times and almost always ends in failure.

    2– There is a way to change the composition of the electorate: by changing laws. Legal and structural reform that focuses on a) making it easier to vote (e.g. automatic voter registration) or b) giving people something valuable to protect (e.g. Medicaid expansion) works.

    3–The left’s theory of class politics is grounded in the idea that lower-income, less-educated rural white voters are the likeliest constituency for a left agenda. But those voters, in reality, are much more conservative than the college-educated suburbanites the left often dismisses.

    4–The trifecta of progressive policy issues that resonate most with these voters (and voters in general) are 1) aggressive pharmaceutical reform, 2) a job-creating clean energy agenda, and 3) ambitious paid family leave.

    5–The way that progressives can build institutional power within the Democratic Party is not by trying to flip red districts but by ousting moderate Democrats in relatively safe blue seats.

    6– Incremental legislative victories are an important though often overlooked way of shifting public opinion. In order to pass a major, structural change like Medicare-for-all, you need to prove your theory of the case to voters who are skeptical of change by showing that smaller, incremental changes like Medicaid expansion or lowering prescription drug costs can pass and work when implemented. Those smaller victories are like an investment in the future — they build public confidence in reform that can be cashed in for bigger reform later.

    7– Running on a maximalist policy agenda creates a massive expectation gap between what you can achieve and what you say you can achieve. When you promise something and deliver, you build power. When you promise something and bring home half or a quarter, you deflate hope and create cynicism.

  37. Posted April 17, 2020 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I don’t disagree with any of that, Jean.

  38. Posted April 17, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I like Bernie. As I’ve said here before, I can remember seeing him in Ann Arbor, right before the 2016 election, stumping for Hillary Clinton. He knows what’s at stake. It may be true that he’s not the most effective of legislators, but he’s helped move the party to the left, and I appreciate him for that. The things that Biden is running on aren’t the things he ran on in 2008, and Bernie is largely responsible for that. The Democratic Party is enormous, and there are a lot of factions. My favorite candidate didn’t win. It sucks, but we move on. The objective should be defeating Trumpism. And I intend to fight like hell for Biden.

  39. iRobert
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Nobody is campaigning harder for Biden than Trump. He should get a medal for it when this nightmare is over.

  40. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Aloha JH, thanks for your thoughtful contribution.
    Number 1 ignores the reality that it was through motivating constituents (primarily black but also many non or only occasional voting poor whites as well) that put Obama in the White House. Failure to inspire and keep those voters led to Trumps win.
    Number 2 ignores same day voter registration laws like in Michigan, allowing returning citizens to vote in Florida also see number one above.
    Number 3) Dont know when that became the lefts policy ( I think it is just a straw dog). Rural workers are no different than urban. Basically agree about “Southern” strategy, but is Florida, Virginia, N. Carolina and Texas lost?
    4) yes but you left out Medicare for All
    5) Quite right
    6) Exactly. Medicare for All through a gradual phase in, is the INCREMENTAL change you preach about. Medicare 1965, Medicaid to provide health care for children and the poor 1965 (55 years ago) Medicare begins to include drug coverage (2003). Medicaid expansion (2010). The obvious expansion of coverage for 26 yo and 64 yo the first year, and then an INCREMENTAL closing of the gap over another decade. It will only have taken the US three generations to get to universal health care.
    7) We saw how a minimalist strategy worked in 2016.

    And of course never ever mention the elephant in the room of our endless wars. Advocating a massive job plan, moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, debt forgiveness might also be very timely policies soon.

  41. Jean Henry
    Posted April 17, 2020 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie love to ignore data in favor if ideological stump speeches.

    I didn’t make that list Wobblie.
    Election data analysts did.
    I’m sorry if reality doesn’t Lomé up with your preferred world view, but who here is really surprised?

  42. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 18, 2020 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Aloha JH, I guess I should have realized this was not the product of your analysis. But thanks for sharing anyway.
    Got to wonder what you really mean when you say you are in favor of incremental change.

  43. bet HW that McCabe wouldn’t be fired and all I got was this stupid name
    Posted April 18, 2020 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Aloha, JH attribution is an important concept. Who’s ideas did you cut and paste?

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