The League for Industrial Democracy (LID) was founded by as a successor to the Intercollegiate Socialist Society in 1921. Members decided to change its name to reflect a more inclusive and more organizational perspective.
In the spring of 1921, the ISS held a vote regarding the name and goals of their organization. Harry Laidler announced: "the members of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society had declared themselves in favor of the change in name and purpose." In November, the organization assumed its new name and enlarged its scope to addressing society at large. They also presented their new guiding principle: ""Education for a New Social Order Based on Production for Public Use and Not for Private Profit."
In its early years, the LID addressed societal problems such as poverty, child labor, work conditions, and poor housing conditions, under the leadership of notable activists: Robert Morss Lovett, Charles P. Steinmetz, Florence Kelley, and Stuart Chase. It became the base for leftwing intellectuals, otherwise known as Muckrakers. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the LID organized radio stations and broadcasts centered around the New Deal. Throughout its history, the LID has called itself a proponent of the labor movement. The group saw this movement as a progressive force that is misunderstood by intellectuals. The goal of this is to break down these perceived boundaries and to promote "education for increasing democracy in our economic, political, and cultural life"
Today's affiliates are mostly anti-communists and focus their energy on democracy building in places such as Eastern Europe, Africa, and Central America, while paying very little attention to its domestic program.
Its campus presence waned until the Great Depression of the 1930s led to an increase in radical student activism. The collegiate section was reorganized into an autonomous Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) in 1933. This merged with the Communist National Student League in 1935 to create the popular front American Student Union. LID activity on campus remained somewhat dormant until 1946, when the Student League for Industrial Democracy was reconstituted.
The LID has been actively supporting the Solidarity movement in Poland since 1980, providing financial, moral and political support. Furthermore, in 1986, the LID coordinated efforts on a campaign to protest the crackdown on Polish universities by the government. The LID, in conjunction with Poland Watch Center and Committee in Support of Solidarity, publishes a quarterly bulletin Solidarnosc. The Brussels-based Committee in Support of Solidarity (CSS) is a group heavily supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a U.S. government-funded organization that sponsors anticommunist,"democracy-building" projects around the globe. In a three-year period, CSS received over a million dollars from NED.
The League is a membership organization. Fees range from $5 to $25 per year, while lifetime memberships are $500.
On January 1, 1960 the SLID changed its name to the Students for a Democratic Society and began to take a more radical direction. At Port Huron in 1962, Tom Hayden clashed with Michael Harrington and Tom Kahn over the Port Huron Statement's