In fact, SDS didn’t represent defections from anything, nor were its members “mainstream.” Defections from the mainstream happened later, as a result of the military draft, when college students reluctant to risk their lives in battle came scurrying into its ranks. In 1962, SDS was pretty much a collection of red diaper babies and political fellow travelers trying to jumpstart a left whose collusion with Communism had brought it into disrepute and decimated its ranks. That’s why the pivotal concept of the manifesto they adopted — and the idea that Hayden and Flacks are most eager to celebrate — is “participatory democracy” (because it promised freedom from the stigma).
“Participatory democracy sought to expand the sphere of public decisions from the mere election of representatives to the deeper role of ‘bringing people out of isolation and into community’ in decentralized forms of decision-making. The same democratic humanism was applied to the economy in calls for ‘incentives worthier than money,’ and for work to be ‘self-directed, not manipulated.’”
Who do Hayden and Flacks think they’re fooling at this late date? Anyone even faintly familiar with the history of the left will instantly recognize these ideas as quintessential communist doctrines. (Indeed, what economy do the authors have in mind based on “incentives worthier than money” — Cuba?) Workers Councils to the anarchists, “Soviets” to the Russians — these are other names for “participatory democracy.” But the idea is the same: the political enforcement of an equality of condition, the destruction of due process and all hierarchies — professional, scientific, meritocratic, traditional — in the name of “social justice,” which is itself another name for totalitarian rule. The never changing leftist idea of social justice is that the state should act as if it were God, arranging a perfectly ordered world, or at least one that conforms to the prejudices of the left.