During the 1950 college students and young people were largely not involved in politics, they were called a “silent generation”. Colleges and universities had been very conservative institutions with wealthy people attending them. That changed in 1960. By 1968 students became one huge sector of the population, due to the generation of the baby-boomers, with over 7 million attending colleges. These people, even though raised in affluence, were discontent with existing social mainstream, created by their parents, as it did not provide for authenticity, which they viewed as a crucial element of personal freedom. Thus the children of middle class became part of what came to be called the New Left. They called for democracy and equality for everyone, using rhetoric based on discontent with the “establishment” which generates things like loneliness, isolation, alienation, powerlessness, unification. Their main inspiration was the black freedom movement which intensified in 50s.
The above processes that came about within the growing population of students led to the emergence of organisations like SDS, the phenomena of the counter-culture of the sixties and laid the foundation of the left political ideas for decades to come.
SDSers gather outside the Smithsonian in Washington (Photo: Thomas Good)