“Tom Hayden fought harder for what he believed than just about anyone I have known.”- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
By Doug Porter
Tom Hayden died on Sunday.
The movement he played a role in inspiring lives on. A movement for racial and economic justice; for democracy; for peace; for the planet. A movement against injustice; against imperialism; against cruelty; against repression.
Hayden was smart: book smart and street smart. His gift in politics stemmed from an ability to connect the dots between small events and their place in the broader political picture.
His life was dedicated to activism. He was beaten up as a Freedom Rider for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His role in Students or a Democratic Society and in drafting its foundational Port Huron Statement opened the doors for a student-led protest movement in the 1960s.
From the Chicago Tribune:
At a moment in history – June 1962 – before U.S. escalation in Vietnam, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the civil rights March on Washington and the awakening of the environmental and feminist movements, Hayden emerged as one of the most articulate spokesmen of youthful angst.
At 22, a year out of college in Michigan, he drafted the Port Huron Statement, an expansive Utopian manifesto that extolled “participatory democracy” as an antidote to the complacency and conformity of the Eisenhower decade.
The ideological lodestar of Students for a Democratic Society, which became the largest and most influential organ of the 1960s New Left, the Port Huron Statement was credited with drawing hundreds of thousands of idealistic, restless youths into an anti-authoritarian movement that rocked society at its foundation.
Hayden spent four years in the mid-sixties living and working in Newark, New Jersey, with impoverished inner-city residents as part of the Newark Community Union Project.
From the Los Angeles Times:
A longtime target of government surveillance, Hayden took pride in his history of dissent. A photo from the late 1970s shows him pondering, with apparent satisfaction, his 22,000-page FBI file, stacked about 5 feet high.
After the deadly 1967 riots in Newark, N.J., where Hayden had spent several years organizing poor black residents to take on slumlords, city inspectors and others, local FBI agents urged supervisors in Washington to intensify monitoring of Hayden.
“In view of the fact that Hayden is an effective speaker who appeals to intellectual groups and has also worked with and supported the Negro people in their program in Newark, it is recommended that he be placed on the Rabble Rouser Index,” they wrote.
Hayden’s account of the Newark riots, written for the New York Review of Books, seems eerily modern-day:
As if to prove its inevitability, the Newark riot began with an ordinary police-brutality incident against a man with an ordinary name: John Smith, driver of Cab 45, in the employ of the Safety Cab Company. Early Wednesday night, Smith’s cab drove around a police car double-parked on 15th Avenue. Two uniformed patrolmen stopped the cab. According to the police story given to the Star-Ledger of July 14, Smith was charged with “tailgating” and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Later they discovered his license had expired. The officers charged that Smith used abusive language and punched them. “They only used necessary force to subdue Smith, the policemen asserted.”
This “necessary force” was described more fully by Smith at his bail hearing on July 13. “There was no resistance on my part. That was a cover story by the police. They caved in my ribs, busted a hernia, and put a hole in my head.” Witnesses on the stoops saw Smith dragged, paralyzed, to the police station. Smith was conscious, however: “After I got into the precinct six or seven other officers along with the two who arrested me kicked and stomped me in the ribs and back. They then took me to a cell and put my head over the toilet bowl. While my head was over the toilet bowl I was struck on the back of the head with a revolver. I was also being cursed while they were beating me. An arresting officer in the cell-block said, ‘This baby is mine.”‘
He became nationally famous as one of the Chicago 8 following disruptions and clashes with police during the 1968 Democratic Convention.
From NBC News:
In 1968, he helped organize anti-war demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that turned violent and resulted in the notorious Chicago 7 trial. It began as the Chicago 8 but one defendant, Bobby Seale, ultimately received a separate trial.
After a circus-like trial, Hayden and three others were convicted of crossing state lines to incite riot. The convictions were later overturned, and an official report deemed the violence “a police riot.” The trial became the subject of books, a play and Hayden’s own reflections in “Voices of the Chicago 8: a Generation on Trial.”
Hayden spoke about the Chicago days in a 1993 interview with NPR:
“The Democratic Party was running the country, and so you had a bipartisan Democratic and Republican war policy that seemed to be escalating without end … the Democratic Party was controlled from the top by traditional bosses who chose their nominees and their parties platforms in smoke-filled rooms. And so the goal of the protest was not only to protest the war, but to protest the disenfranchisement that was so deep. Here we were, if you were 18, you could be drafted and sent to war, but you couldn’t vote for Eugene McCarthy.”
The Peace Pledge
In the 1970s, he was a high profile anti-Vietnam War activist. From an essay by Tom Hayden published in the Huffington Post in 2011:
During 1971, the embryonic Indochina Peace Campaign [IPC] was formed, based on a strategy of mobilizing anti-war pressure to divide Congress from the executive branch. If remembered today at all, the IPC is associated with the Tom Hayden-Jane Fonda speaking tour in 100 cities in fall 1972, but it was much more than that. The public figures included singers [Holly Near, for example], former American POWs, and a Frenchman once imprisoned by Saigon. One million educational pamphlets were distributed by hand in 1972. Slide shows and films were produced and circulated everywhere.
A staff lobbyist, Larry Levin, was sent to Washington DC. Activist offices were operating in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Oregon and Arizona. Coalitions were formed with Medical Aid to Indochina, the Indochina Resource Center, the American Friends Service Committee, Clergy and Laity Concerned, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Women Strike for Peace, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Peoples Committee for Peace and Justice, SANE, the War Resisters League, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and perhaps most importantly, exiled Vietnamese student groups inside the US. Though initiated in 1972, the IPC was formalized at a Dayton, Ohio, meeting of 200 representatives of activist groups.
The emphasis was on campaigning as action, not a permanent bureaucracy competing with other groups. The tool was an “Indochina Peace Pledge” for organizing pressure on elected officials to cut off aid to the dictators in Saigon and Pnomh Penh. Building a power base in key states and congressional districts was the strategy.
A significant part of his anti-war activism over the years involved trips to Vietnam and Cambodia, starting in 1965. His marriage to actress Jane Fonda, condemned to infamy on the right after her Vietnam visit in 1972, contributed to an image that inspired protests against him throughout his political career.
The Politician Emerges
He became more active in mainstream politics for the rest of Twentieth Century.
From the New York Times:
Later, with the war over and the idealisms of the ’60s fading, Mr. Hayden settled into a new life as a family man, writer and mainstream politician. In 1976, he ran for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate from California, declaring, “The radicalism of the 1960s is fast becoming the common sense of the 1970s.” He lost to the incumbent, Senator John V. Tunney.
But focusing on state and local issues like solar energy and rent control, he won a seat in the California Legislature in Sacramento in 1982. He was an assemblyman for a decade and a state senator from 1993 to 2000, sponsoring bills on the environment, education, public safety and civil rights. He lost a Democratic primary for California governor in 1994, a race for mayor of Los Angeles in 1997 and a bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council in 2001.
He was often the target of protests by leftists who called him an outlaw hypocrite, and by Vietnamese refugees and American military veterans who called him a traitor. Conservative news media kept alive the memories of his radical days. In a memoir, “Reunion” (1988), he described himself as a “born-again Middle American” and expressed regret for “romanticizing the Vietnamese” and for allowing his antiwar zeal to turn into anti-Americanism.
In recent years Hayden served as director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center, a nonprofit progressive think tank devoted mainly to analysis of continued US military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, drug policy and global poverty.
Writing in The Guardian in 2012, Hayden called the Occupy Wall Street protests a “new force in the world”.
“The Occupy movement, and kindred spirits from the Middle East to China, is driven by young people who feel unrepresented by the institutions, disenfranchised economically, and threatened by an environmental catastrophe,” he said.
“The direct action movement of the early 1960s was similar in nature.”
Despite having a stroke in 2015, Hayden remained politically active. He started out the primary season as a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, but switched over to backing Hillary Clinton and explaining the decision in a Nation essay:
I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial.
What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am? That would be a transgression on my personal code. I have been on too many freedom rides, too many marches, too many jail cells, and far too many gravesites to breach that trust. And I have been so tied to the women’s movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president. When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary—for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento’s Latino caucus—that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie’s increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie’s campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.
Bernie comes from a place that is familiar to me, the New York culture of democratic socialism. From the Port Huron Statement forward, I have believed in the democratic public control of resources and protecting the rights of labor. My intellectual hero is C. Wright Mills, a Marxist who broke with what he condemned as the stale “labor metaphysic” of the communist and socialist parties, embracing instead an international New Left led by young middle-class students around the world. Mills was fresh, honest, and always searching. The 1962 Port Huron Statement declared that we needed liberals for their relevance in achieving reforms, and socialists for their deeper critique of underlying systems. We did not declare ourselves for socialism but for a massive expansion of the New Deal, combined with an attack on the Cold War arms race. We called for a basic realignment of the Democratic Party through the force of social movements, but not through a third party. We even went “part of the way with LBJ” in the face of the 1964 Goldwater threat. From there the Democrats divided over race and Vietnam, eventually leading to Nixon. Even in the ’80s and ’9os, our campaign for “economic democracy” chose not to identify as a socialist movement. With the coming of the 2008 Wall Street crash and Bernie’s campaign, our political culture has changed profoundly in its tolerance of socialist ideas. But is it enough after this truly divisive primary season?
I only met Tom Hayden once, back in my OB rabble-rouser days when we thought the GOP Convention was coming to San Diego. And I remember three things about him: he was incredibly well-read, listened well, and knew how to make a really tasty salad.
NYT Trump Insult List
This is amazing. The New York Times devoted a two-page spread today of all the people and things Donald Trump has insulted since he started running for president:
Key Dates for the November 8, 2016 General Election –> pic.twitter.com/uEQEgPKHRk
— CA SOS Vote (@CASOSvote) September 12, 2016
On This Day: 1940 – The 40-hour workweek went into effect under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed by President Roosevelt two years earlier. 1929 – U.S., investors dumped more than 13 million shares on the stock market. The day is known as “Black Tuesday.” 1962 – James Brown recorded “Live at the Apollo, Volume I.”
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