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

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.”