Perhaps the most important legacy of the Port Huron Declaration is the fact that it introduced the concept of participatory democracy into the discourse and practice of the people. It made sense for ordinary people to write history and not wait for traditional parties or organizations. The term has been used to define modes of organization (decentralization, consensus methods of decision-making, rotation of leadership and avoidance of hierarchies) that would lead to social transformation, and not just to the concessions of existing institutions. It turned out to be a contagious idea that spread from its academic origins to the subsequent call for women`s liberation, to the movement`s decision-making process. These participatory practices, which had their roots in City Hall, in meetings of Quakers, anarchist collectives and even in sensibility training, continue today in basic movements such as the one against corporate globalization. The strength of organizations such as the SDS or SNCC or the current Seattle-style direct action networks or ACT UP is catalytic, not bureaucratic. They reinforce the passion for spontaneous, municipal revolts, continue for a few years, succeed in reforms and nevertheless have difficulty being institutionalized. But while mass hierarchical organizations have more perseverance, they struggle to attract the personal creativity or energy of ordinary people who are gaining power over their lives. Participatory democracy offers a lens to criticize all hierarchies and not consider them inevitable. Perhaps the two strands – the radical democratic orientation on the ground and the need for an organization with a program – can never be merged, but no one can live without the other. But in the New White Left, Jews continued to be out of all measure with their numbers in the American population, just as in Marxist parties from the 1920s to the 1950s. Tom Hayden, Paul Potter, Jane Adams, Greg Calvert and Diana Oughton, all raised as Christians, were outnumbered by people like Dick Flacks, Todd Gitlin, Paul Booth, Heather Booth, Paul Berman, Mark Rudd, Bernadine Dohrn, Robin Morgan, Abbie Hoffman, Karen Nussbaum and Mike Klonsky, not to mention middle-aged Jewish mentors like Arnold Kaufmann, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. This ethnic continuity could explain why its historical survivors found much to praise after the implosion and disappearance of the SDS in the tradition of the old left they wanted to bury.
I recently saw the same spirit I experienced 50 years ago in the South — the spirit that inspired the Port Huron Declaration — in the actions of undocumented students who risked deportation to defend the Dream Act. La Dude`s high standard of glory is undoubtedly recognized at the top. And while the Port Huron Declaration was indeed a real document, I hope That The Dude will respect a small correction – only a draft declaration is known. But since The Dude thought it was important enough to mention, we should probably at least know the basics. Have we achieved this and, if so, how? The fortieth anniversary of this year`s Port Huron Declaration is an opportunity to ask whether its importance today is above all symbolic and nostalgic or whether, as we believe, the core of the declaration is still relevant to all those who are trying to create a world where every human being has a voice in decision-making, that affect his life. It remains, as we described it at the time, “a living document open to the transformation of our time and experiences.” Occupy Wall Street insists that 1% of the population should not control such a large part of the population: “An imperative task for these publicly disinhered groups is therefore to demand a Democratic Party accountable for its interests.