Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS)

Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS)


* Seeks to bring about radical social change
* Its leadership consists of many former 1960s radicals.
* Worked in support of Barack Obama’s presidential aspirations in 2008

* See also: Students for a Democratic Society *

Founded in Chicago in August 2006, the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) describes itself as “a global association of people on the left” that “seeks to create a sustained community of educational and political concern and actions.” “[B]ringing together liberals and radicals, activists and scholars, students, faculty and workers in all trades,” MDS’s “continual focus” is “to effect change at the most basic levels of economic, political, and social organization” by means of “a radical, democratic program counter-posed to authoritarian movements.” MDS acts as both mentor and financial support for the newly revived Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the ideological descendant of the 1960s organization bearing that same name. Many MDS members are veterans of the New Left whose heyday was the Sixties and Seventies.

Key players in MDS’s founding included the historian Paul Buhle, communist-turned-anarchist Thomas Good, and former SDS and Weatherman member Bruce Rubenstein.

MDS’s original board members in 2006 were: Elliott Adams (a board member of Veterans For Peace); Senia Barragan (a student representative); David Barsamian (a contributor to The Progressive magazine); Noam Chomsky; Carl Davidson; Bernardine Dohrn; Bill Fletcher Jr. (executive editor of and a leading member of the Democratic Socialists of America); Bert Garskof (member of the Green Party USA); David Graeber (anarchist and anti-globalization activist); Tom Hayden; Gerald Horne (former Black Studies Department chair at UC Santa Barbara); Mike James (longtime political activist who in the 1960s was affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and SDS); Robin D.G. Kelley (affiliated with the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party and the Communist Workers Party); Michael Klonsky; Ethelbert Miller (board member of the Institute for Policy Studies); Charlene Mitchell (member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and the Communist Party USA); Michael Rossman (a key planner of UC Berkeley’s historic Free Speech Movement in 1964); Mark Rudd (a former leader of the Weather Underground); and Howard Zinn.

By early 2007, the MDS board had been joined also by such notables as Tariq Ali, Stanley Aronowitz, Paul Buhle, Angela Davis, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jeff Jones, Rashid Khalidi, Manning Marable, Leonard Weinglass, and Cornel West, among others.

The former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers is also involved with MDS, though he has not been officially listed as a board member. In November 2007 Ayers spoke at an MDS “Convergence” in Chicago, and he has referred to MDS’s activities as “our work.”

One of MDS’s major goals in 2008 was to help Barack Obama win the U.S. presidency. That year, the Progressives For Obama (PFO) Internet website (which later changed its name to Progressive America Rising) was run by MDS board member Carl Davidson and was endorsed by fellow MDS board members Paul Buhle, Thomas Good, Michael James, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Mark Rudd. Other supporters of both PFO and MDS included Marilyn Katz and Frances Fox Piven.

Also in 2008, MDS drafted an “Iran Pledge of Resistance,” calling on Americans to oppose any plans the Bush administration might have had to invade Iran for the purpose of destroying its nuclear-weapons production facilities. The pledge read, in part:

“The Bush regime lied knowingly, openly and repeatedly in order to justify waging aggressive war against Iraq and its subsequent occupation. Hence, its current propaganda campaign attempting to demonize and justify war with Iran has no credibility and is a source of great concern. Past U.S. governments are guilty of a long series of assaults on Iran.”

MDS has worked closely with such anti-war groups as Peace Action, the War Resisters League, and World Can’t Wait.

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