When Tom Hayden died on October 23, the mainstream-media obituaries made him sound like a prince among men. The Associated Press called him “an enduring voice against war” and “a prolific writer and lecturer advocating for reform of America’s political institutions.” The Washington Post’s Elaine Woo described him as “one of the most articulate spokesmen of youthful angst” and as the “ideological lodestar of Students for a Democratic Society.” Hayden, Woo maintained, was a man of “deep social conscience.”
Some people would argue with that. Take Hayden’s position on the Vietnam War. He has routinely been described as an antiwar activist. In truth, he wasn’t against the war – he was on the other side. So fervently did he support the enemy, in fact, that he made multiple trips to Paris and elsewhere to meet with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders, to whom he offered strategic and tactical advice – an unequivocal act of treason.
There’s more. He wrote a letter to a North Vietnamese officer, Colonel Lao, that closed with the words: “Good fortune! Victory!” While in North Vietnam, he and his then wife, Jane Fonda, recorded radio broadcasts consisting of nothing but Communist propaganda, knowing that these broadcasts would be used to try to brainwash captive GIs. When American POWs returned home and claimed to have been tortured, Hayden branded them liars. Then there was his and Fonda’s ardently pro-Communist film, Introduction to the Enemy, in which they confidently asserted that a win by the North Vietnamese would usher in a veritable utopia.
The fact that the enemy’s victory led not to utopia but to genocide didn’t shake his Communist faith in the least. On the contrary: after the war, when antiwar songstress Joan Baez condemned the brutality of the victorious Communist regime, Hayden labeled her a CIA stooge. So trapped was he in his own ideological prison that when he returned to Vietnam decades after the war, Hayden was crushed to find that the Vietnamese people he met were drawn far more to American-style capitalism than to Marx.
When he wasn’t committing treason by promoting the cause of the enemy, Hayden was up to no good at home. His New York Times obit, by Robert D. McFadden, stated that Hayden “opposed violent protests.” This is sheer revisionism, betraying either ignorance or mendacity on McFadden’s part. In fact Hayden spent much of the 1960s fomenting armed revolt in American cities. He championed the savage, cop-killing Black Panthers. “Perhaps the only forms of action appropriate to the angry people are violent,” Hayden said in 1967. “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.”