Movement for a Democratic Society

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Movement for a Democratic Society is a multi-issue activist organization affiliated with the newly revived New Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Many of its members are veterans of the New Left in the 60's and 70's. The goal of MDS is the creation of a more egalitarian society in both the political and economic spheres.

MDS believes in participatory democracy, the expansion of human rights, universal healthcare, the rejection of discrimination based on race, gender or sexual preference, the preservation of the earth's environment, the expansion of workers' rights, a more equitable distribution of wealth, and the rejection of militarism and war as a way of resolving differences among peoples and nations.

MDS Constitution preamble 2009

Movement for a Democratic Society is a global association of people on the left. It seeks to create a sustained community of educational and political concern and actions: one bringing together liberals and radicals, activists and scholars, students, faculty and workers in all trades. It maintains a vision of a democratic society, where at all levels the people have control of the decisions which affect them and the resources on which they are dependent. It seeks a relevance through the continual focus on realities and on the programs necessary to effect change at the most basic levels of economic, political, and social organization. It feels the urgency to put forth a radical, democratic program counter-posed to authoritarian movements[1].


In early 2006, a group of former Students for a Democratic Society members and sympathisers, led by Democratic Socialists of America activist Paul Buhle joined with some a new generation of college students to re-found Students for a Democratic Society. The movement now has over 130 chapters across the USA.

Also Buhle and others founded an SDS support group for older activists-Movement for a Democratic Society .

MDS founders/Weatherman controvesy

Paul Buhle, Thomas Good and Bruce Rubenstein played key roles in founding the Movement for a Democratic Society in 2006.

According to an article on Movement for a Democratic Society and the new Students for a Democratic Society in The Nation April 2007;

Power has resided largely with three figures: historian Paul Buhle, once editor of the original SDS journal Radical America; Thomas Good, a 48-year-old Communist-turned-anarchist who created the new SDS website and Bruce Rubenstein, a Connecticut personal-injury attorney.

The Nation went on to comment on tensions within MDS caused by the dominance of the Weatherman clique;

The Weather controversy blew up when former Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn, was invited to speak at the first new SDS conference, held in Providence, Rhode Island, in April 2006. Dohrn received a rousing welcome, but when Bob Ross, an early SDS leader, used his talk to lament that "the largest legal and unarmed movement in the history of the West" turned "ineffectually violent and useless," he was received coolly.

At the first new SDS national convention in Chicago, in August, Good opened the proceedings by reading greetings from Dohrn. Moreover, Bruce Rubenstein, MDS's treasurer, was unapologetic about his Weather history and says that if it were 1969 he would "do it all over again...[2]"

Known members

MDSers Paul Krehbiel, Tom Good, Jay D. Jurie, Paul Buhle and Jim Zarichny, Ann Arbor, new SDS convention 2006

Known MDSers members include Paul Krehbiel, Tom Good, Jay Jurie, Paul Buhle and Jim Zarichny.[3]

2006 MDS Board

Original members of the 2006 Movement for a Democratic Society board included[4];

Elliott Adams, Senia Barragan (Student Representative), David Barsamian, Noam Chomsky, Carl Davidson, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Bert Garskof, David Graeber, Tom Hayden, Gerald Horne, Mike James, Robin D G Kelley, Mike Klonsky, Ethelbert Miller, Charlene Mitchell, Michael Rossman, Mark Rudd, Howard Zinn.

2007 MDS board

MDS 2007 board, Mark Rudd far left, Jeff Jones, second from right

On February 17, 2007, the Movement for a Democratic Society held a well attended conference[5]at New York City’s New School University.

The event was held in the Graduate Center, 65 Fifth Avenue, and about 100 participants were in attendance. The meeting featured several speakers who are well known figures on the U.S. Left and an agenda that centered around electing a board of directors for MDS, Incorporated – the non-profit arm of MDS that was founded last August in Chicago, at the national SDS convention.

Its purpose is to provide SDS’ student activists with a legal defense fund, monies for the Radical Education Project and a general fund for meetings, conventions and other SDS functions.

Manning Marable was elected as Chair of the new Board.

The new board, elected by acclamation, included: Mark Rudd, David Graeber, Judith Malina, Jesse Zearle, Kate Khatib, Roderick Long, Al Haber, Manning Marable, Muhammed Ahmad, Charlene Mitchell, Starhawk, John O’Brien, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gideon Oliver, Jeff Jones and Bert Garskof.

Elected as officers, in addition to Marable as Chair, were three Vice Chairs: Paul Buhle, Judith Malina and Jesse Zearle[6].

The business portion of the meeting followed with each board nominee introducing themselves to the conference. The board, a very diverse group, was voted in by acclamation...

Board nominees where were not able to attend the conference were included in the appointment by acclamation. The list included Elliott Adams, Panama Vicente Alba, Tariq Ali, Stanley Aronowitz, David Barsamian, Rosalyn Baxandall, John Bracey, Jr., John Brittain, Robb Burlage, Noam Chomsky, Jayne Cortez, Carl Davidson, Angela Davis, Bernardine Dohrn, Barbara Epstein, Gustavo Esteva, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Stephen Fleischman, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Tom Hayden, Gerald Horne, Florence Howe, Mike James, Robin D G Kelley, Alice Kessler Harris, Rashid Khalidi, Mike Klonsky, Betita Martinez, Ethelbert Miller, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Barbara Ransby, Patricia Rose, Michael Rossman, Studs Terkel, Charlene Teters, Jerry Tucker, Immanuel Wallerstein, Cornel West, Leonard Weinglass and Howard Zinn.

November 2007 "Convergence"

Mds con.jpg

In November 8-11 2007, Movement for a Democratic Society held a "Convergence" in Chicago[7];

Speakers included Manning Marable, Mark Rudd, Marilyn Katz, Mike James, Paul Buhle, Al Haber, Franklin Rosemont, Thomas Good and Muhammad Ahmad-formerly Max Stanford;

Carl Davidson, Mike Klonsky and Bill Ayers were also present.

MDS, Incorporated

"The derision and disrespect for criticisms (going back to Banning Brigade disregard of democratic decisions made for the 2006 SDS Convention and the controversy which arose following the 2006 convention's decision to approve the formation of MDS, Inc.) which the Banning Brigade has dished out, and the crude insults they introduced into our sds/mds conversation have predictably resulted in more of the same, escalation of anger and frustration."[8]

"In February [2007] MDS held a daylong public meeting to announce a nonprofit corporation, MDS, Inc., that will raise funds for SDS. One of the selected speakers, former Weather leader Mark Rudd, delivered a piercingly honest self-criticism, stating that Weather “did the work” of the FBI by “killing off” the original SDS. Rudd urged the new SDS to recognize violence and property destruction as politically self-defeating in the United States...

"The newly elected board of MDS, Inc., is broadly representative of the whole left, but its biggest names–Tom Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Angela Davis and Noam Chomsky–are symbolic luminaries, not actively involved. Much hinges on whether the new chairman, Manning Marable, a distinguished African-American historian at Columbia University, can guide MDS, Inc., beyond its present contretemps to “assist and promote the development of activism among young people,” as he envisions."[9]

External links