A principal organizer of Students for a Democratic Society
Collaborated with North Vietnamese Communists during the Vietnam War
Organized riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago
Married Jane Fonda and organized with her a successful lobby to cut off U.S. aid to Cambodia and Vietnam
Former Democratic Assemblyman and Senator in California
Blames U.S. policies for 9/11 terrorist attacks
As a young man, Tom Hayden was a principal organizer of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which became the leading radical organization of its day. The then-22-year-old Hayden authored the SDS political manifesto, known as the Port Huron Statement, which the group’s founding members adopted in 1962. This document condemned the American political system as the cause of international conflict and a variety of social ills -- including racism, materialism, militarism, and poverty.
Among the most visible and outspoken mouthpieces of the pro-Communist camp during the Vietnam War era, in the early 1970s Hayden organized -- along with his wife Jane Fonda, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy -- an “Indo-China Peace Campaign” (IPC) to cut off American aid to the regimes in Cambodia and South Vietnam. The IPC worked tirelessly to help the North Vietnamese Communists and the Khmer Rouge (led by Pol Pot) emerge victorious. Hayden and Fonda took a camera crew to Hanoi and to the “liberated” regions of South Vietnam to make a propaganda film titled Introduction to the Enemy, whose purpose was to persuade viewers that the Communists were going to create an ideal new society based on justice and equality.
Assisted by radical Democratic members of Congress, Hayden established a caucus in the Capitol, where he lectured and agitated for an end to anti-Communist efforts in South Vietnam and advocated support for the Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia. When the Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency and ushered in a new group of Democratic legislators who cut off aid to South Vietnam and Cambodia, both regimes fell soon thereafter -- a turn of events that led to the slaughter of 2.5 million Indochinese peasants by the Communists. When some anti-war activists led by Joan Baez protested the human-rights violations of the Communist victors, Hayden denounced them as tools of the CIA.
During the Vietnam War, Hayden traveled many times to North Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, and Paris to strategize with Communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders on how to defeat America's anti-Communist efforts. He came back from Hanoi proclaiming he had seen "rice roots democracy at work." According to people who were present at the time, including Sol Stern, later an aide to Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein, Hayden offered advice on conducting psychological warfare against the U.S. He arranged trips to Hanoi for Americans perceived as friendly to the Communists and blocked entry to those seen as unfriendly, like the sociologist Christopher Jencks. He attacked as "propaganda," reports of the torture of American soldiers, and labeled American POWs returning home "liars" when they described the brutal treatment they had received in Communist prisons.
On the domestic front, Hayden advocated urban rebellions and called for the creation of "guerrilla focos" to resist police and other law-enforcement agencies. For awhile he led a Berkeley commune called the "Red Family," whose "Minister of Defense" trained commune members at firing ranges and instructed high-school students in the use of explosives. Hayden was also an outspoken supporter of the Black Panther Party, calling that organization "our Vietcong." In 1968 Hayden was arrested as a member of the "Chicago Seven" for inciting a riot at the Democratic National Convention.
Hayden later went on to a political career, serving in both the California State Assembly and the California State Senate. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Los Angeles in 1997, and four years later he was defeated in his bid for a Los Angeles City Council seat.
In February 1997 Hayden, along with Angela Davis and other 1960s radicals, led a march on Los Angeles City Hall organized by a group calling itself the "Crack the CIA Coalition." Among its demands were "Dismantle the CIA" and "Stop the media cover-up of CIA drug involvement," a reference to a discredited San Jose Mercury News story claiming that the CIA had flooded Los Angeles' inner-city communities with crack cocaine.
According to Hayden, the principal "root cause" of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was the ill will bred overseas by American imperialism. Writes Hayden: “In the aftermath of September 11, American conservatives launched a political and intellectual offensive to discredit any public questioning of the Bush administration's open-ended, blank-check, undefined war against terrorism. The conservative message ... was that dissenters from the Bush administration's war were those who allegedly 'blamed America first,' that is, dared to explore whether Bin Laden's terrorism was possibly rooted in Western policies toward the Islamic world, the Palestinians, and the oil monarchies of the Middle East.”
In Hayden’s view, “conservatives inside and outside the Bush administration are seeking to take advantage of America's understandable fears to push a right-wing agenda that would not otherwise be palatable. In short, they are playing patriot games with the nation's future.” “With the Cold War ended,” added Hayden, “these conservatives asked what the new enemy threat was that would justify the continuation of a growing military budget and an authoritarian emphasis on national security. The answer, brewing long before September 11, was the threat of ‘international terror’ -- sometimes described as Islamic fundamentalism, sometimes as the drug cartels -- but in any event suitably nebulous and scary to justify the resurrection of priorities not seen since the Cold War.”
Hayden, who has no scholarly publications and no academic training beyond a B.A., is currently an Adjunct Lecturer in Politics at the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, Los Angeles. He has made his experiences as a longtime activist the organizing theme of his course, “Politics and Protest,” which, according to the course description and syllabus, “focus[es] on such protest issues as human rights, fair trade, racial and gender justice, the environment, immigration, war and militarism, and poverty.” Required readings are drawn overwhelmingly from leftwing authors (mainly Hayden himself) who hail the Marxist guerrillas in Chiapas and incite opposition to “globalization” and “American Empire.” The course includes a special section on SDS, for which students are required to read a single article from TheNationmagazine: “The Port Huron Statement at 40.” Co-authored by Hayden and Dick Flacks in 2002, it is an exercise in nostalgia in which the two authors of the SDS manifesto celebrate their own handiwork.
Hayden views another course that he teaches, “The Politics of Globalization,” as a training ground for future leftwing activists. Hostile towards free-market capitalism, the course praises the “grassroots movements linking Americans and others around the world to address issues of economic justice, and issues of corporate social responsibility.” The movements praised are anarchism, Marxism and other forms of radicalism.
Hayden schedules frequent speaking engagements on university campuses nationwide. Appearing at the University of Wisconsin in 2002, he delivered a lecture entitled “Saving Democracy from the Globalization and from the War on Terror.” He took the occasion to claim that the U.S. government had no interest in putting an end to terrorism, and was only using the pretext of the war on terrorism to establish an empire in the Middle East.
In this connection, Hayden has claimed that the threat of terrorism is merely a propaganda invention of “conservatives inside and outside the Bush administration [who] are seeking to take advantage of America’s understandable fears to push a right-wing agenda that would not otherwise be palatable.” These conservatives, says Hayden, seek to “justify the continuation of a growing military budget and an authoritarian emphasis on national security.”
By 2004, Hayden was openly calling for the anti-war movement to sabotage the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq. “The strategy,” he explained, “must be to deny the U.S. occupation funding, political standing, sufficient troops, and alliances necessary to their strategy for dominance.” Beyond denying any further funding to American troops, Hayden insisted that “the movement will need to start opening another underground railroad to havens in Canada for those who refuse to serve.” He also called for opposition to America’s “puppet regime” in Iraq and stressed the need to defeat the U.S. strategy of “Iraqization” -- that is, devolving power to democratically elected Iraqi leaders.
In an August 2005 Los Angeles Timeseditorial, Hayden called for what amounted to an American surrender in the Iraq War. Deeming the conflict ill-advised, unjustified, and immoral, he said, “the Iraq war is not worth another minute in lost lives, lost honor, lost taxes, lost allies.” As a “confidence-building measure,” he urged, “Washington should declare that it has no interest in permanent military bases or the control of Iraqi oil.” “Even the militant Shiites led by Muqtada Sadr have shown interest in the political process by collecting a million signatures for American withdrawal,” said Hayden.
An ardent environmentalist, Hayden in the past has joined with such eco-activist groups as the Rainforest Action Network and the Earth Island Institute in endorsing the Heritage Tree Preservation Act, which seeks to ban all logging in old-growth forests.
For additional information on Tom Hayden, click here.
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