Against American Chauvinism: SDS Go Home!

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Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is an American multi-tendency student organization started in 2006, which is roughly based off of the organization with the same name from the 1960s. While they have many chapters and affiliates within the United States, recently SDS has branched out and gained an affiliate in British Colombia: a high school student organization called the BC Student Alliance.

The Revolutionary Student Movement denounces the spread of SDS into Canada. We think it is entirely inappropriate for an American organization to organize in Canada: a distinct country, with a distinct political history and tradition. SDS has virtually no knowledge of the material conditions in Canada, nor do they understand the context of student organizing and student politics: they simply have not done the social investigation. SDS has no ability to support any organization or any struggles that are in Canada, and their leadership has even admitted that they are not able to focus on Canada due to a lack of resources. In this sense, they do a disservice to the student and revolutionary movements in Canada by organizing in Canada.

The fact that SDS believes that they bring forward a unique perspective, or have unique insights into the Canadian situation –insights and perspectives that other organizations in Canada do not possess – reeks of American exceptionalism and national chauvinism. The Canadian left has a long history of perspectives gained through trial and error, as the left has responded to the conditions as they exist in Canada. SDS is totally ignorant of this history. Proof of this is the fact that organizers from SDS have actually reached out to RSM organizers, and have asked us to clarify the conditions on the ground and the practice of their own affiliate, the BC Student Alliance!

These actions by SDS show SDS’s complete lack of respect for revolutionary organizations in Canada, and our struggles here in building a revolutionary movement. For instance, when the RSM first approached SDS (in private) about our concerns, the SDS suggested that the RSM become the Canadian section of SDS! Such a condescending, national-chauvinist approach to international relations has no position on the left, let alone coming from a self-described anti-imperialist organization like the SDS.

By approaching organizing in Canada in such a haphazard, uninformed, and amateurish way, SDS actually harms the construction of a revolutionary movement among students in Canada. Furthermore, SDS wastes the time of organizers in Canada by bringing them into an organization that SDS openly has said they are not able to support. SDS has no place in Canada.

The RSM demands that the Students for a Democratic Society disaffiliate from all of their international sections, including the BC Student Alliance.

The RSM demands that the Students for a Democratic Society not organize outside of the United States.

The RSM demands that the Students for a Democratic Society issue a public self-criticism of their chauvinistic political line and actions.

The Revolutionary Student Movement will continue to build the revolutionary movement in Canada, with respect to the unique conditions faced by proletarian students across Canada. The RSM will not take orders from, nor will it affiliate to, American organizations.

The Revolutionary Student Movement stays dedicated to the struggles of working class students and the broader working class in Canada. While we disagree with the BC Student Alliance in affiliating to SDS, we remain dedicated to continued joint-work and line struggle with the BC Student Alliance as a means of building greater unity in Canada. 

  • A Statement of the Pan-canadian MER-RSM Coordinating Committee

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