A lot of the clamor around the emergence of the new SDS obscures one important fact: thousands of extremely young students coming into social justice movements is a good thing. What seems to be the problem is that there are plenty of movement veterans who want this very positive development to validate their own personal take on the history of the old SDS, past or present politics, and in some cases grudges.
To saddle the youngsters not only with the task of galvanizing their own generation but unpacking the baggage of the previous one is a recipe for unmitigated disaster.
Or rather, in the language of the younger generation, it is bullshit.
Yet history provides a healthy example of how not to walk the path of eventual burnout, cynicism and sectarianism. When the students who would later become the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) first intiated their brave lunch-counter sit-ins, many elders wished to see them brought under the discipline of the established organizations. It was Ella J. Baker who encouraged the youth to simultaneously seek counsel from the older generation and plot their own independent course.
Baker's legacy isn't something that easily fits on a T-shirt, but should be revisited before trying to hoist the entire weight of the past on this generation.
San Francisco, CA
May 31 2007 - 5:22pm