RIP Tom Hayden.
Thomas Emmet Hayden was born in Royal Oak, Mich., on Dec. 11, 1939, the only child of John Hayden, an accountant, and the former Genevieve Garity, both Irish Catholics. His parents divorced, and Tom was raised by his mother, a film librarian.
He attended a parish school. The pastor was the Rev. Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio priest of the 1930s and a right-wing foe of the New Deal. . . .
In 1961, Mr. Hayden joined the Freedom Riders on interstate buses in the South, challenging authorities who refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings banning segregation on public buses. His jailhouse draft of what became the 25,000-word S.D.S. manifesto was debated, revised and formally adopted at the organization’s first convention, in Port Huron, Mich., in 1962.
“We are people of this generation,” it began, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” It did not recommend specific programs but attacked the arms race, racial discrimination, bureaucracy and apathy in the face of poverty, and it called for “participatory democracy” and a society based on “fraternity,” “honesty” and “brotherhood.” . . .
In 1968, Mr. Hayden helped plan antiwar protests in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. Club-swinging police officers clashed with thousands of demonstrators, injuring hundreds in a televised spectacle that a national commission later called a police riot. But Mr. Hayden and others were charged by federal officials with inciting to riot and conspiracy. The Chicago Seven trial became a classic confrontation between radicals and Judge Julius Hoffman, marked by insults, angry judicial outbursts and contempt citations. . .
His personal papers, 120 boxes covering his life since the 1960s, were given in 2014 to the University of Michigan. Besides troves on civil rights and antiwar activities, they included 22,000 pages of F.B.I. files amassed in a 16-year surveillance of Mr. Hayden.
“One of your prime objectives,” J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, said in one memo, “should be to neutralize him in the New Left movement.”
In April, Hayden explained why he was switching his vote from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton in the California Democratic primary.
There are two Hillary Clintons. First, the early feminist, champion of children’s rights, and chair of the Children’s Defense Fund; and second, the Hillary who has grown more hawkish and prone to seeking “win-win” solutions with corporate America. When she seems to tack back towards her roots, it is usually in response to Bernie and new social movements. She hasn’t changed as much as the Democratic Party has, responding to new and resurgent movements demanding Wall Street reform, police and prison reform, immigrant rights and a $15-an-hour minimum wage, fair trade, action on climate change, LGBT rights, and more. . .
Voting on June 7 is a personal responsibility for myself and other Californians, just as it is for my friends and colleagues in New York on April 19. What is to be done in this agonizing situation? I still believe a united front against the Republicans is the best and most necessary strategy. But I can’t vote for a united front on June 7.
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 wish our primary could focus more on ending wars and ending regime change too, issues where Bernie is more dovish and Hillary still harbors an inner hawk. Both Bernie and Hillary call for “destroying” ISIS, whatever that might mean—but it certainly means we are moving into yet another “war presidency.” At least there is strong bipartisan opposition to the open-ended deployment of troops on the ground. But Hillary’s penchant for intervention and regime change can only be thwarted by enough progressive Democrats in Congress and massive protests in the streets and online. Neither candidate so far is calling for the creation of a new peace movement, but that’s the only way to check the drift into another war.
So here we are, at the end of one generation on the left and the rise of another. Both camps in the party will need each other in November—more than either side needs to emerge triumphant in the primary. We still need the organizing of a united front of equals to prevail against the Republicans. It will take a thorough process of conflict resolution to get there, not a unilateral power wielding by the usual operatives. It’s up to all of us.
Hayden was subsequently a delegate at the Democratic national convention this summer. He fell ill there and never recovered.