Students for a Democratic Society South Africa formed in 2019 at Stellenbosch University. A group of students started a political philosophy reading group and decided to band together around their shared frustrations with local, national, and international society and politics. That group of students formed a prefigurative organisation with the goal of spreading political knowledge and literacy, and encouraging critical engagement about those elements of society we take for granted.
As a society, we hold the following values as central to our organisation and vision:
- Empathy: concern for our fellow humans and our surrounding ecology;
- Solidarity & Mutual Aid: the point of civilisation is to work together;
- Prefiguration: our current social relations must exemplify our ideals as closely as possible;
- Horizontalism: no human should be subject to any unjust hierarchy, we should have control over our own lives;
- Education: working towards a better future starts at sharing knowledge.
The members of SDS envision a future where society is structured to care for the individual, where individuals are not forced to adapt to a malignant social structure, and where everyone’s fundamental human needs are fulfilled. We envision a world where everyone can have compassion for their fellow humans, and for the environment in which we reside. We envision a society where damaging structures of society can be eradicated as fast as possible, as soon as they are identified. We strive towards a future where no human is valued more than any other, where inequality has been eradicated, and where no-one is subjected to any unjust hierarchy.
SDS aims to enable people to analyse and scrutinise their given preconceptions of society. We want to equip people with the necessary analytical tools to critically evaluate the function of different elements in society. We want to demystify academic concepts and make them accessible to the average student. We also aim to organise ourselves in a prefigurative horizontal manner, consistent with our vision.
The founding members of SDS came together with the following mutual goals, and formed the society around them:
- Conscientisation: education about the things we take for granted about society;
- Education: bridging the gap between academia and the general (student) population;
- Organisation: bringing like minds together, so we can work together on our mutual goals;
- Growth: to challenge our echo-chambers — self-crit;
- Outreach: to encourage campus and wider societal interaction.
We are not officially affiliated with the original SDS USA, but we aim to follow in their mission. We, for example, admire their staunch anti-war activism during the Vietnam War era, and their current stances against racism, sexism and homophobia. For more of their history, you can visit sds-1960s.org. A new incarnation of the organisation started in 2006, and you can read more about them at NewSDS.org.