As government and corporate governance fails, we need a wide-spread social movement to address climate change, peak oil, and extinction. Where is it? How does it start?
Tom Hayden witnessed the beginning of a dozen social movements. We gather his insight from a new speech in Vancouver, an Alternative Radio program, and quotes from his 2008 book: “Writings for a New Democracy, The Tom Hayden Reader.”
The Reader begins with Hayden’s “Letter to a New Young Left” in 1961. There are selections from The Port Huron Statement, a founding document of the ’60s revolution in some ways. Hayden was a co-founder of the Students for a Democratic Society, which became fairly radical.
He was arrested at the Democratic Convention protests in Chicago in 1968 – where he was tried for conspiracy to subvert democracy as one of the famous Chicago Eight. They were acquitted by a jury after an amazing trial (beat poet Allan Ginsberg was one of the witnesses for the defense.) Now two movies, with Hayden as one of the characters, are coming out about the Chicago Eight trial, not to mention a stage play which almost anyone can mount.
In the early 70’s Tom Hayden met and married film star Jane Fonda. It was Hayden who first dared to visit North Vietnam during the awful war. When Jane accompanied him later, she was pilloried as “Hanoi Jane”. The marriage lasted 18 years.
In 1976, Hayden and a couple of dozen activists had to rethink the future. They had gathered in opposition to the Vietnam War. As that war ended, these men and women met to decide the next phase of social activism. From this group came several successful politicians, union leaders and environmental founders.
Tom himself took a run at the U.S. Senate. He was not successful, but the campaign document produced by his group, and reprinted in the Tom Hayden Reader, is still one of the best. It could serve as a platform for Obama. Hayden is a kind of rebel within the Democratic Party, always trying to haul them into social justice.
Tom Hayden did become a successful politician – as a California Senator. He became involved in environmentalism, visited the Amazon in a life-changing experience, and rediscovered his roots in Ireland.
All through this program, we visit the fabric of social activism, watching for signs of how they developed. We also explore Tom Hayden, not as an icon, but as a human who struggles, as we do.
Hayden also considers whether the decision to abandon the search for Peace, after the Vietnam War, was a mistake. He says, as an American trying to solve social ills, imperialist wars just keep on coming. They always drain away social capital – both tax money and social will – from real improvements at home. Just as the war in Iraq is doing now, in both the United States and Canada.
First I recorded a new speech by Tom, in Vancouver, as he traveled up to support a re-birth of the Students for a Democratic Society at the University of British Columbia. At the speech, Tom handed me a thick copy of his collected writings, The Tom Hayden Reader. That took me a month of Summer reading, taking notes, for you.
Then David Barsamian of Alternative Radio came out with a Tom Hayden special called “Movements and Machiavellians”. I’ve given you a few short clips on our topic, and instructions on how to order either the CD, or a cheap $5 download of the speech (well worth it!).
To add another sound viewpoint, Steve Bowell, producer of Ragbag Radio on CFRO in Vancouver, has lent his professional voice to a half dozen key quotes from the Tom Hayden Reader.
The whole project stretched out too long, over three months, but it’s finally ready. Enjoy!