October 24, 2016

Passings: Tom Hayden

NPR - Tom Hayden, a radical activist and advocate for progressive causes, died Sunday at the age of 76.

In the early 1960s, Hayden was a freedom rider in the South and a community organizer in Newark. He became famous for his anti-war efforts and made several high-profile (and later controversial) trips to Vietnam. He was a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society and wrote the first draft of the influential activist group's manifesto, the Port Huron Statement.

After helping organize protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he was prosecuted in the "Chicago Seven" conspiracy trial for allegedly inciting a riot. Hayden was convicted, but the charge was later overturned.

Hayden was married several times. Most famously, he was married to Jane Fonda — whom he met through their shared anti-war activism — for 17 years.

An icon of the anti-establishment protest movement for years, Hayden later became a politician. He made an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1976, and was later elected to the California state Legislature, where he served for 18 years. He was also an author, publishing books about the Chicago Seven (originally the Chicago Eight, until one defendant had his trial severed) as well as political manifestos and memoirs.

In 1993, Hayden spoke to NPR about the tensions on the streets of Chicago in 1968, and the violence between police and protesters at the Democratic National Convention that led to his trial.

"By 1968, the Vietnam War was claiming tens of thousands of lives, Indo-Chinese and American," he said in that interview. "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."

He said some things had improved in America over the course of 25 years, but that the country had far to go:

"I would hope that we learned something about how to deal with dissent and protest — that having an inclusive process where you open the doors is a lot better than sending in the police. ... What was not learned, however, is the lesson that prevention and getting ahead of our problems is uppermost.

"We still disenfranchise racial minorities in economic terms. Young people still feel they're not listened to. ... I think the environmental issue has begun to eclipse everything else because our population has doubled and the resources of the world have been cut in half since I was born and there's very little focus on those issues on the political agenda.

"So I don't know on the balance sheet whether to mark myself as an optimist or pessimist, but we've got to go on."

Go on he did — serving several more years in office and writing more than a dozen other books. He faced censure from some on the left who accused him of joining the same establishment he once criticized, as well as those on the right who objected to his protests in the '60s.

But as the decades passed, Hayden remained a prominent voice on progressive causes, including environmental issues, economic policy and continued anti-war efforts.

Guardian -  In 1960, while a student at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, he was involved in the formation of Students for a Democratic Society, then dedicated to desegregating the south. By 1962, when he began drafting the landmark Port Huron Statement, SDS and Hayden were dedicated to changing the world.

“We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably at the world we inherit,” began the statement, which outlined a plan for a revolutionary campus social movement.

Hayden was fond of comparing the student movement that followed to the American revolution and the civil war.

In 1968, he helped organise anti-war demonstrations during the Democratic national convention in Chicago that turned violent and resulted in the notorious Chicago seven trial. It began as the Chicago eight trial, but one defendant, Bobby Seale, was denied the lawyer of his choice and 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”.

In 1965, Hayden made his first visit to North Vietnam with an unauthorised delegation. He found out later that his movements were being tracked and recorded by the FBI, as they would be from then on. In 1967, he returned to Hanoi with another group and was asked by North Vietnamese leaders to bring three prisoners of war back to the US. With the prisoners suffering medical problems, the US state department thanked Hayden for his humanitarian action.

Firmly committed to the anti-war movement, Hayden participated in sit-ins at Columbia University, then began travelling the country to promote a rally in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic national convention.

1 comment:

LarryC said...

Another icon of civi rights, social justice, environmental justice, anti war hero, and right to privacy gone we will likely never see the likes of again. Its sad we have no students and faculty picking up the burdened he carried. Few of his generation remain, with no one replacing them. So sad.