- 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
- Blamed U.S. policies for the 9/11 terrorist attacks
- Died in October 2016
In 1960, Hayden was a principal organizer of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which became the leading radical organization of its day. He 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 and economic system as the cause of international conflict and a variety of social ills — including racism, materialism, militarism, poverty, and hunger — both domestically and abroad.
During the early Sixties, Hayden was a Freedom Rider in the Deep South. In 1964 he worked as a door-to-door community organizer in Newark, New Jersey, as part of an effort to create a “poor-people’s campaign for jobs and empowerment” across the United States. All told, Hayden spent four years in Newark.
From 1965-67, Hayden was editor of Studies on the Left, a publication whose mission was to help “revive radical scholarship in the United States,” “create a new radical understanding of the American political economy,” and “contribut[e] to the consciousness and ideological development of the New Left.”
In 1967 Hayden said the following about the potential efficacy of — and necessity for — violent activism: “Perhaps the only forms of action appropriate to the angry people are violent. Perhaps a small minority, by setting ablaze New York and Washington, could damage this country forever in the court of world opinion. Urban guerrillas are the only realistic alternative at this time to electoral politics or mass armed resistance.”
In an article he wrote in the August 24, 1967 issue of The New York Review of Books, Hayden issued perhaps his most explicit endorsement of violence, saying:
“The actions of white America toward the ghetto are showing black people that they must prepare to fight back. The conditions are slowly being created for an American form of guerrilla warfare based in the slums. The riot represents a signal of this fundamental change…. The role of organized violence is now being carefully considered. During a riot, for instance, a conscious guerrilla can participate in pulling police away from the path of people engaged in attacking stores. He can create disorder in new areas the police think are secure. He can carry the torch, if not all the people, to white neighborhoods and downtown business districts. If necessary, he can successfully shoot to kill. The guerrilla can employ violence effectively during times of apparent ‘peace,’ too. He can attack, in the suburbs or slums, with paint or bullets, symbols of racial oppression. These tactics of disorder will be defined by the authorities as criminal anarchy. But it may be that disruption will create possibilities of meaningful change…. Violence can contribute to shattering the status quo, but only politics and organization can transform it.”
In 1968 Hayden was arrested as a member of the anti-American, anti-war “Chicago Seven” for inciting a riot at that year’s Democratic National Convention. In a speech he delivered in Grant Park), Hayden said: “Let us make sure that if our blood flows, it flows all over the city.” Then-SDS member Mike Klonsky subsequently stated that Hayden had plotted to create chaos by spreading nails on a highway; another SDS leader said that Hayden had encouraged fellow activists to firebomb police cars.
On the campus of UC Berkeley in 1969, Hayden co-founded the International Liberation School (ILS) as a training center for revolutionaries. Among other things, the ILS produced a basic instructional manual titled Firearms and Self-Defense: A Handbook for Radicals, Revolutionaries and Easy Riders. Specifically, ILS provided training in combat medicine, martial arts, and “political education” — the latter of which encompassed such topics as American politics, power-structure analysis, and a history of the Cold War.
One Sunday evening in October 1969, Hayden joined Mike Klonsky and Mark Rudd in addressing a student gathering at the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall. During his remarks, Hayden told the audience that “the generation gap is a new form of class struggle” and that Chicago was the “pig capital” of the United States.
Along with such notables as Bernardine Dohrn and Jeff Jones, Hayden attended a December 1969 Weatherman “War Council” at a black-owned concert hall in Flint, Michigan; he gave a karate demonstration at that event. By the time it was over, the War Council had yielded two major decisions: The first was that Weatherman, rather than attempting to organize the masses, would now go underground and wage a violent, armed struggle against the United States. Indeed, the Council ended with a formal declaration of war against “AmeriKKKa,” always spelled with three capital K’s to signify the country’s allegedly ineradicable white racism. The War Council’s second decision was to dissolve SDS.
As American Vision president Gary DeMar has observed: “Hayden’s anti-government, revolutionary rhetoric bordered on the fringes of sedition and treason. His speech inflamed so many radical extremists that some blame him for agitating fragile race relations in Newark, causing nearly a week of rioting in the summer of 1967. While Hayden was not directly involved, he seemed to approve of using violence as a way of ‘shattering the status quo.’” In the August 24, 1967 issue of The New York Review of Books, Hayden wrote:
“The role of organized violence is now being carefully considered. During a riot, for instance, a conscious guerrilla can participate in pulling police away from the path of people engaged in attacking stores. He can create disorder in new areas the police think are secure. He can carry the torch, if not all the people, to white neighborhoods and downtown business districts. If necessary, he can successfully shoot to kill. The guerrilla can employ violence effectively during times of apparent “peace,” too. He can attack, in the suburbs or slums, with paint or bullets, symbols of racial oppression. These tactics of disorder will be defined by the authorities as criminal anarchy. But it may be that disruption will create possibilities of meaningful change…. Violence can contribute to shattering the status quo, but only politics and organization can transform it.”
Hayden’s Anti-War Activism (1960s-1970s)
Throughout the Vietnam War era, Hayden was among the most visible and outspoken American mouthpieces of the pro-Communist camp. He organized — along with Jane Fonda (whom he married in 1973 and divorced in 1980), John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy — an “Indochina Peace Campaign” (IPC) to cut off American aid to the existing governments 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. Some of IPC’s funding was derived from the profits Fonda was earning from her bestselling exercise videotapes.
During the war, Hayden traveled numerous 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. On one occasion, he and Jane 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, for the purpose of persuading viewers that the Communists were going to create an ideal new society based on justice and equality.
Hayden came back from Hanoi proclaiming that 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 also offered tips on how to conduct psychological warfare against the U.S. Moreover, he arranged trips to Hanoi for Americans who were perceived as friendly to the Communists, and he blocked entry to those seen as unfriendly, like the sociologist Christopher Jencks. When reports surfaced that American soldiers were being tortured by their Communist captors, Hayden attacked the reports as “propaganda.” He labeled American POWs returning home as “liars” when they described the brutal treatment they had received in Communist prisons — most notably the Hoa Lao prison, which the POWs dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton.”
It should be noted that the torture the POWs were forced to endure was not solely physical; it was also psychological. Each afternoon, their Communist captors piped in propaganda-filled radio broadcasts that featured American leftists accusing their own country of horrific war crimes. Both Hayden and Jane Fonda were regular speakers on these broadcasts.
On June 4, 1968, Hayden penned a letter wishing “Good fortune!” and “Victory!” to the North Vietnamese colonels whose troops were killing Americans on the battlefield.
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 while advocating support for the Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia. Then the Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1974 and ushered in a new group of Democratic legislators. Even after America withdrew its troops from Indochina, Hayden lobbied the Democratic Congress to end all aid to the anti-Communist regimes in Vietnam and Cambodia. When that cutoff came, the Communists conquered South Vietnam and Cambodia and proceeded to systematically slaughter 2.5 million Indochinese peasants.
Not only did Hayden and Fonda celebrate the Communist victory, but they remained uncritical of a Stalinist North Vietnamese regime that was even more repressive than its Soviet sponsors. When anti-war activist Joan Baez later protested the human-rights violations and genocidal activities of those North Vietnamese victors, Hayden called her a tool of the CIA.
The “Red Family”
On the domestic front, meanwhile, 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.
Supporter of the Black Panthers
In the 1970s Hayden organized the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED), which identified “Corporate Capitalism” as “the source of our ills” — i.e., “racism and sexism and joblessness and wars and inflation and [the] sugar-coated poisonings of our minds and bodies.” For additional information on CED, click here.
After making an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1976, Hayden served in both the California State Assembly (1982-92) and the California State Senate (1992-2000). 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 Sixties radicals, led the “Crack the CIA Coalition” in a march on Los Angeles City Hall. Among their 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.
In April 1998 in Berkeley, California, Hayden spoke at a three-day conference titled “Making Trouble: Building a Radical Youth Movement,” which featured workshops on such topics as Environmental Justice, Art and Revolution, Immigration, Third World Organizing, Economic Globalization, Affirmative Action, and Reproductive Rights. Among the other speakers were such notables as Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta, Barbara Lee, and Cornel West.
During the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle in late 1999, Hayden made a speech in support of the chaotic anti-globalization demonstrations which devolved into violent riots and ultimately caused the meetings to shut down.
9/11 and the War on Terror
According to Hayden, the principal “root cause” of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was the ill will that U.S. imperialism had bred overseas. “In the aftermath of September 11,” he wrote, “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” were “seeking to take advantage of America’s understandable fears to push a right-wing agenda that would not otherwise be palatable,” and in essence were “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.”
Over the years, Hayden scheduled 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 2004 Hayden endorsed a protest against the “Endless War & Repression” of the “Bush Team,” held in New York City during the Republican National Convention from August 29 to September 2.
Addressing the International Socialist Conference
In 2004 as well, Hayden was a guest speaker at an International Socialist Organization event, along with such notables as Noam Chomsky, Marian Wright Edelman, Daniel Ellsberg, Alice Walker, and Howard Zinn.
Hayden’s Book, Street Wars
Also in 2004, Hayden published Street Wars, a book about urban gangs. In his own words: “This book is about what I call inner-city peacemakers. Instead of fighting each other, they could fight the power aggressively but nonviolently.” Hayden’s basic premise in Street Wars was that merely attacking the problem of violent street gangs with law enforcement was ineffective, and that the spread of such entities was a result of factors like the Vietnam War, the failures of the radical movements of the 1960s, the intransigence of poverty, the triumph of neo-conservatism, the spread of globalization, and the corruption of police forces that actually wanted to increase gang violence in order to justify paramilitary measures.
To address the problems posed by gangs, Hayden’s book called for the creation of a government program that would identify gang leaders and employ them as “detached workers” to go out into their neighborhoods and act a peacemakers and truce brokers. In the author’s words, “those responsible for the violence should be the ones to end it.” As Hayden envisioned it, this approach would be accompanied by the provision of public-sector jobs for gang members, guaranteed living wages for any gangster who promised to go straight, and the construction of schools that would educate at-risk youth about their “cultural heritage” and teach them how to transform local street gangs into political activist groups. For examples of how such an approach had already been tried in the past and failed miserably, click here.
Calling for U.S. Withdrawal/Surrender in the Iraq War
In late November 2004, Hayden penned an article titled “How to End the War in Iraq,” outlining a strategy to ensure that the U.S. war effort would ultimately fail. The opening sentence stated: “The anti-war movement can force the Bush administration to leave Iraq by denying it the funding, troops, and alliances necessary to its strategy for dominance.” “If members of Congress balk at cutting off all assistance and want to propose ‘conditions’ for further aid,” he added, “it is a small step toward threatening funding. If only 75 members of Congress go on record against any further funding, that’s a step in the right direction towards the exit.”
To ensure movement in that direction, Hayden reasoned, the Democratic Party would have to emphatically and unambiguously become the anti-war party: “The progressive activists of the party should refuse to contribute any more resources, volunteers, money, etc. to candidates or incumbents who act as collaborators.” “Instead of assuming that the Bush administration has an ‘exit strategy’, Hayden added, “the [peace] movement needs to force our government to exit…. Ending this bloodbath is the most honorable task Americans can perform to restore progressive priorities and our respect in the world. We have passed the point for graceful exit strategies.”
Hayden’s article was scattered with references to Vietnam and Cambodia, and he desired a similar outcome. As the author pointed out: “Though most discourse on Vietnam ignores or underplays the factor of dissent within the American armed forces, it was absolutely pivotal to bringing the ground war to an end.” In other words, an important tactic was to foster dissent, disobedience, and — hopefully — desertion in the American military. “The movement will need to start opening another underground railroad to havens in Canada for those who refuse to serve,” added Hayden, “but for now even the most moderate grievances should be supported.”
In an August 2005 editorial which he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Hayden called for what amounted to an American surrender in the Iraq War. Pronouncing the entire endeavor ill-advised, unjustified, and immoral, he declared that “the Iraq war is not worth another minute in lost lives, lost honor, lost taxes, lost allies.” Going on to propose a number of exit strategies, Hayden advised the U.S. to “shift from a military model to a conflict-resolution model, then to a peace process that ends in a negotiated political settlement alongside a U.S. withdrawal.” 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 [al-] Sadr have shown interest in the political process by collecting a million signatures for American withdrawal,” said Hayden. “The U.S. should request,” he added, “that the United Nations, or a body blessed by the U.N., monitor the process of military disengagement and de-escalation, and take the lead in organizing a peaceful reconstruction effort.” Finally, Hayden wrote, “the president should appoint a peace envoy … [to] encourage and cooperate in peace talks with Iraqi groups opposed to the occupation, including insurgents, to explore a political settlement.”
In late September 2005, Hayden traveled to London to meet with the self-identified members of the resistance in Iraq, including the terrorist henchmen of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army that fought against American troops on the battlefields of Iraq. Hayden went so far as to embrace Al-Sadr. “They see themselves as the political wing of the resistance, which they define on three levels: the armed resistance, the political resistance, and the community resistance against sectarianism,” Hayden enthused. In a letter reporting on his meeting, published in the left-wing website CommonDreams, Hayden omitted all mention of the murder spree that his admired allies had perpetrated. Instead, reprising his 1960s-and-1970s-era assurance that the Communists sought only to “liberate” South Vietnam and Cambodia, he now claimed that the jihadists in Iraq aspired only to “cross ethnic and sectarian lines in order to rebuild a nationalist and united Iraqi state.”
On November 11, 2005, Hayden was the main attraction at a “strategic planning session” against the Iraq War. The event was organized by the Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), a self-styled “spiritual” and “progressive” group claiming that the situation in Iraq was “symptomatic of the racism, imperialism and supremacy of corporate America, which continue to define America.”
Movement for a Democratic Society
In 2006, Hayden seved as an original board member of the Movement for a Democratic Society.
Addressing the Peace Action National Congress
Delegation to Iraq
In August 2006, Hayden was part of a 12-person delegation — which included also such notables as Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans, Judith LeBlanc, and Cindy Sheehan — that traveled to Jordan to meet with eleven members of the Iraqi parliament. The goal of this delegation was, as Medea Benjamin put it, “for the U.S. peace movement to meet directly with Iraqi parliamentarians working on a peace plan” and “to return to the U.S. to build support for their plan.” Columnist and political analyst Ben Johnson noted, at the time, that “such a trip may well be illegal, violating the prohibition for private citizens to conduct their own foreign policy.”
Among the Iraqi VIPs with whom the delegation bargained was Sheikh Ahmad al-Kubaysi, a Baghdad-based, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated cleric who: (a) lauded the “very brave” young men “who came … from other Muslim countries to defend Iraq” and “protect fellow Muslims”; (b) claimed that because those same “Mujahideen” were performing “the most important form of Jihad,” they “are guaranteed Paradise”; (c) gave some $50 million to terrorist leader Muqtada Al-Sadr — who, in turn, offered to work with him; and (d) headed the Association for Muslim Studies in Iraq, which explicitly condoned armed “resistance” against U.S. forces and condoned the murder of civilian hostages as collaborators.
The prime sponsor of Hayden and the rest of his 2006 delegation was the Iraq National Dialogue Front, a coalition led by Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Sunni who led the charge against the Iraqi constitution when it guaranteed that the Shi’ites would be granted an autonomous region of their own. Like al-Kubaysi, al-Mutlaq favored armed “resistance,” offered to join the “insurgency,” and regularly called upon the United States to disarm itself in the face of terrorism. In a May 18, 2006 op-ed in Asharq Alawasat, entitled “Our Problem with America,” al-Mutlaq wrote: “The biased people are trying to shuffle cards to brand as terrorists the honorable national resistance movements, which should have a peaceful role in building the country and preserving its economy, unity, security, and the dignity of its people. We cannot give peace, because someone cannot give what he does not have.”
Wishing for the “Nonviolent Disappearance of the White Race”
When Hayden’s and Jane Fonda’s son, actor Troy Garity, married actress Simone Bent in 2007, Hayden made a few public remarks regarding the couple’s union. Among other things, he happily stated that his son’s decision to marry a black woman was “another step in a long-term goal of mine: the peaceful, nonviolent disappearance of the white race.”
Progressives For Obama
In 2008 Hayden was a founder and organizer of Progressives For Obama (now known as Progressive America Rising), along with Carl Davidson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher Jr. (a Democratic Socialists of America member who also co-founded the Black Radical Congress), and Danny Glover.
Praising the Occupy Wall Street Movement
When the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement was launched in 2011, Hayden lauded it as an ideological descendant of the old Students for a Democratic Society. He encouraged OWS to help lead a new “splendid bedlam of participatory democracy” that could promote a “vision of the state as an instrument that can sometimes be bent to the popular will.”
An ardent environmentalist, Hayden at various times joined with such eco-activist groups as the Earth Island Institute, and the Rainforest Action Network in endorsing legislation to ban all logging in old-growth forests.
Applauds Obama’s Normalization Deal with Cuba
In December 2014, Hayden celebrated President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize American relations with Communist Cuba, a deal in which the U.S. agreed to release three convicted and incarcerated Cuban spies (members of the so-called Cuban Five), in return for the release of U.S. foreign-aid worker Alan Gross (imprisoned in Cuba in 2009) and an intelligence agent who had been held in Cuba for nearly 20 years. In a December 21 op-ed piece, Hayden wrote: “I first went to Cuba in January 1968, during the height of revolutionary aspirations…. I returned to the island five more times, beginning in the 1990s…. The Cuban Revolution has achieved its aim: recognition of the sovereign right of its people to revolt against the Yankee Goliath and survive as a state in a sea of global solidarity.” Elsewhere in the piece, Hayden said: “After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a decade of American triumphalism based on the mistaken belief that the Cuban state would collapse like East Germany. We underestimated Cuban nationalism.” Asserting that Alan Gross “was a covert agent, not a home appliance distributor,” Hayden claimed: “The Cuban Five were protecting Cuba’s security from us, not acting as terrorists.” (In reality, Fernando Gonzalez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, and Ramon Labañino were all tried and imprisoned in the United States for spying on U.S. air bases. They also infiltrated the anti-Castro group Brothers to the Rescue and provided the Castro government with intelligence that enabled the regime to shoot down one of the Brothers’ unarmed planes, killing four people.)
Support for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton
In April 2016, Hayden wrote in The Nation that he had initially supported Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for his potential to “legitimize democratic socialist measures, and leave an indelible mark on our frozen political culture,” but was now supporting Hillary Clinton.
Possessing no scholarly publications and no academic training beyond a BA degree, Hayden taught numerous courses on social movements at Pitzer College, Scripps College, Harvard University‘s Institute of Politics, UCLA, and Occidental College.
At Occidental, Hayden was an adjunct lecturer in politics at the school’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute. There, he made his experiences as a longtime activist the organizing theme of his “Politics and Protest” class, which, according to the course description and syllabus, “focus[ed] on such protest issues as human rights, fair trade, racial and gender justice, the environment, immigration, war and militarism, and poverty.” Required readings for the course were drawn overwhelmingly from left-wing authors (mainly Hayden himself) who hailed the Marxist guerrillas in Chiapas and incited opposition to “globalization” and “American Empire.” Moreover, the course included a special section on SDS, for which students were required to read a single article from The Nation magazine: “The Port Huron Statement at 40.” Co-authored by Hayden and Dick Flacks in 2002, the piece was an exercise in nostalgia in which the two authors of the SDS manifesto celebrated their own handiwork.
Hayden viewed another course that he taught at Occidental, “The Politics of Globalization,” as a training ground for future leftwing activists. Hostile towards free-market capitalism, the course praised 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 were anarchism, Marxism, and other forms of radicalism.
Progressive Democrats of America
The author and editor of twenty books, Hayden was also a columnist and editorial board member with The Nation magazine. In addition, his writings appeared regularly in such publications as the Boston Globe, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Denver Post, the Guardian, the Harvard International Review, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of weekly alternatives.
Hayden died on October 23, 2016, of complications from a stroke he had suffered 18 months earlier.