The Truth About the Late Tom Hayden—Whitewashed by the MSM

tags: Tom Hayden

Ronald Radosh is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at The Hudson Institute, and a Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York. He is the author or co-author of 14 books.

The death of Tom Hayden last Sunday at the age of 76 produced obituaries and tributes in scores of newspapers throughout the United States, as well as notices of his passing on major network news programs. In the 1960s, Hayden helped define and popularize Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which garnered support on many college campuses. It was Hayden who made the phrase “participatory democracy” popular, by which he and the original author of the phrase, philosopher Arnold Kaufman, meant that individuals should have decision-making power in all decisions that affect their lives.  A new politics, Hayden believed,  would lead to “common participation” and put an end to apathy and the meaningless, corrupt politics of the mainstream political parties.

Newspapers now have produced glowing and inaccurate accounts of Hayden’s life and politics. Most egregious was The New York Times, which started incorrectly by writing that he “burst out of the 1960s counterculture as a radical leader of America’s civil rights and antiwar movements.” However, unlike the apolitical and culturally oriented counterculture leaders--such as contemporaries Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the so-called “Yippies”—Hayden always was political and committed to building a serious political movement, not one based on “tuning in, turning on and dropping out.”

The worst claim in the Times’ obituary is that Hayden was a “peace activist” who “opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations.” He could be called a peace activist only if one views someone who supported a Communist victory in Vietnam as a proponent of “peace.” As I have written in a past PJM column, Hayden “moved to create his own group, the Indochina Peace Campaign, which fought nationally for an end to the war in Vietnam. He and his wife, the movie star Jane Fonda, traveled to North Vietnam, where he took a camera crew and came back with a propaganda film: Introduction to the Enemy. Hayden would write after his first trip to Vietnam that the Vietnamese Communists had created a "rice-roots democracy." After the war’s end, when Joan Baez passed around a petition protesting the human-rights violations of the winning Communist side in Vietnam, Hayden denounced those who signed it as tools of the CIA.”

On foreign policy, Hayden always supported America’s enemies, be it North Vietnam  or Castro’s Cuba. He opposed what he termed the “cold war mentality,” his term for the bi-partisan policy of opposing Soviet expansionism. Hence he referred to the work of the AFL-CIO to fund labor unions in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, which opposed free labor unions, as part of CIA “covert operations” he claimed were run “through the AFL-CIO’s international affairs department.” It is no wonder he bragged to one and all that he opposed “the secret pro cold-war element within liberalism, directly and indirectly tied to the CIA.”  In making these claims, Hayden was using the exact terminology created by the Communists and pro-Soviet fellow-travelers of the Old Left.

As for being against violence, during the violent demonstrations by the New Left at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Hayden gave a speech in Grant Park, saying: “Let us make sure that if our blood flows, it flows all over the city.”  Hayden supported the Black Panther thugs led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale and was a member of the Berkeley commune called “the Red Family,” whose members engaged in target training to be prepared for the Revolution. ...

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