[Marxism] Fwd: For Ex-Firebrand Tom Hayden, Days of Rage Are Ones for the Book

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 25 07:46:50 MDT 2016


For Ex-Firebrand Tom Hayden, Days of Rage Are Ones for the Book


At the end of a long, 14-hour day, a middle-aged man carrying a slight 
paunch pulls his Volvo into the driveway of his two-story Santa Monica 
home. The wife and kids are away for a few days, so he changes into 
jeans, settles down on a pastel floral sofa and flips on the big-screen 
TV. During a commercial, he pads out to the porch to feed the family 
rabbits, Bullwinkle and Whiskers. “I don’t mean to sound clichéd,” he 
says, “but I’m home almost every night. If I’m away a day or something, 
I start to lose my mind.”

The happy homebody is Tom Hayden, 48, the former student radical whose 
commitment to social revolution in the ’60s and ’70s led him into 
Southern jails, North Vietnamese villages, a Chicago courtroom and a 
Berkeley collective. He is also the husband of actress Jane Fonda, 50, 
whom he met at an antiwar rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1971. At the 
time, Hayden was speaking about Vietnam, and Fonda was touring the 
country supporting Black Panthers, feminists, American Indians and 
student radicals. That was then. This is now.

Tom, Jane and the kids—Troy, 15, and Jane’s daughter, Vanessa Vadim, 
19—have recently returned from a family holiday in New York, where they 
shopped, went to plays and enjoyed themselves like any other tourists. 
Not only is Hayden a family man these days, but he has become a 
respected Democratic Assemblyman from California’s 44th district, 
predominantly moneyed turf that includes Malibu, the Pacific Palisades 
and Santa Monica.

Given the sharp contrast between his past and present, he has for years 
pondered his transformation and yearned to write about it. The result, a 
539-page autobiography, Reunion: A Memoir, was published in May. 
Completing the book “may have something to do with the difference 
between youth and middle age,” he says. “As long as I thought of myself 
as a young person and ’60s activist, I couldn’t let go of my 
experiences, look at them, say what I felt then, what I feel now, and 
let the chips fall where they may, which is what a real writer has to do.”

The death of Hayden’s parents (his father in 1982, his mother four years 
later) “broke the dam,” he says. In emotional, sometimes rueful prose, 
Hayden deals with his own splintered upbringing, his fascination with 
radical politics and, finally, his rusted idealism. Reviewers have been 
generally enthusiastic, praising his evenhandedness and honesty. Hayden, 
concluded the New York Times critic, was perhaps “the single greatest 
figure of the 1960s student movement.”

Not everyone agrees. One of his most vocal critics has been Abbie 
Hoffman, 51, a co-defendant with Hayden in the celebrated Chicago Seven 
trial of 1969-70. Hayden regarded the trial as an inconvenience, says 
Hoffman, and “he slept through most of it. We called him Mr. Warmth. He 
was hard-edged and cold-blooded, and we considered him the Stalinist of 
the group.” Hoffman is outraged that Hayden’s book is getting good 
reviews and says that he won’t even read it. It is, he says, simply an 
example of Hayden’s opportunism: “You’re getting a view of the ’60s put 
through a filter. ‘Let’s make it so I look noble and respectable so I’m 
electable to office today by the Archie Bunkers.’ ”

Raised in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Mich., Hayden was schooled 
from the start in the values of Middle America. When he was 10, his 
parents divorced. His father, John, an accountant, moved to Detroit, 
while Tom and his mother, Genevieve, a film librarian, stayed in Royal 
Oak. Hayden visited his father often, accompanying him on fishing trips 
and to baseball, football and hockey games. In high school he planned a 
career as a foreign correspondent, but when he became editor of the 
University of Michigan student newspaper in 1960, his political vision 
began crystallizing. As a member of the Students for a Democratic 
Society one year later, he was arrested with other freedom riders in 
Albany, Ga., while trying to desegregate a railway station. He was 
thrown into a roach-infested jail cell with a puddle of urine on the 
floor and four drunks for company; the experience, he suggests, was 
enriching. “As the catacombs were to the early Christians, the jails 
were the places where a new faith was fortified,” Hayden writes.

Soon after the incident, he began working on what came to be known as 
the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of SDS radicals. Then in 1965 he 
made his first trip to Hanoi, a journey into enemy territory that 
prompted his father to sever relations with his son. The two didn’t 
speak for the next 13 years until John, then 70, initiated a 
reconciliation and assumed the role of attentive grandfather to Troy. 
“So stubborn was this man,” says Hayden, recalling the estrangement, 
“that when he remarried and had a daughter, he didn’t tell her she had a 

Hayden went on three missions to Hanoi in all and even helped gain the 
release of the first three American POWs. Back home, he looked 
increasingly to Robert F. Kennedy as his political hero and wanted to 
work with him during Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. When Kennedy 
was assassinated, Hayden tearfully stood vigil by his casket the night 
before the funeral. “I experienced the sensation of my own future being 
cut off and my own life being rendered meaningless,” he says. “I started 
to act out of defiance and anger, not out of the expectation that I 
would get anywhere.”

Later that year Hayden traveled to Chicago to lead antiwar marchers 
outside the Democratic National Convention. Arrested twice, he was 
indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to incite violence. At 
the circus-like trial of the Chicago Seven, presided over by 74-year-old 
Judge Julius Hoffman, the jury convicted five of the defendants, 
including Hayden, though the convictions were eventually overturned on 
appeal. “Through the riots and trial, I lived in an internal exile,” 
says Hayden. “The future was at best in doubt. I had fantasies of 
apocalypse, revolution, civil war, repression. I lost my confidence in 
the Middle America that I came from. And I lost it not out of logic, but 
out of despair, hate, frustration, furies, demons.”

After the trial, Hayden grew increasingly discouraged with the efficacy 
of protest, while the gradual shifting of public opinion against the 
war, the increasing political power of blacks and the burgeoning 
feminist movement provided little solace. “I saw the snow on the ground, 
but not the buds coming up,” he says. “There were all these 
achievements, but they were all marred by some grief. I don’t think I 
ever felt undiluted success. I didn’t want the human being hurt. I 
wanted the policy changed.”

He also wanted a home. Married briefly in his early 20s to fellow 
student activist Sandra “Casey” Cason, he now yearned for a more lasting 
marriage and a family. So, he discovered, did Jane Fonda. After meeting 
in Ann Arbor, the two met again in Los Angeles in 1972 and began seeing 
each other. On Jan. 9, 1973—with Troy three months on the way—they 
married and settled in Santa Monica, where Tom began teaching at nearby 
Pitzer College while continuing his efforts to halt public funding for 
the war. By 1976 he had decided to work within the political system by 
running for the U.S. Senate. “It was a way to visibly carve a role for 
myself and people like myself in American politics. I was saying, ‘We’re 
entitled to be in office,’ ” he explains. Though he lost to John Tunney, 
he turned his Hayden-for-Senate grass-roots network into the Campaign 
for Economic Democracy, which sponsored successful rent-control 
initiatives, conducted a no-nuke crusade and developed a statewide solar 
energy program.

In 1982 Hayden’s successes helped him to win a seat in the state 
assembly, where he survived two attempts by right-wing Republicans to 
have him expelled as a traitor because of his earlier antiwar efforts. 
“When he first came, everyone thought he would be this wild-eyed person, 
difficult to get along with,” says Tom Bates, a friend and fellow 
Democratic Assemblyman. “They found him to be easygoing, prepared and 
one of the best minds in the legislature.”

Hayden denies any aspiration for higher office for now, although he says 
he would like to live in Washington, D.C., at some point and continue 
his writing. In the meantime, he happily commutes home by plane from 
Sacramento most nights and throws himself into family life. He has 
coached Troy’s baseball team for the past six years and often goes 
jogging with Jane. Several times a year, Vanessa, who will be a senior 
at Brown University, meets her parents and Troy for a family vacation. 
Besides their recent New York jaunt, they have taken skiing trips to 
Aspen during Christmas and gone marlin fishing in Cabo de San Lucas in 

After 15 years of marriage, Hayden and Fonda are something of a show 
business oddity. The glue, says Fonda, is “trust, respect and we don’t 
make a lot of demands on each other. And Tom is very playful. It makes 
for enjoyable times.”

Hayden, for his part, seems remarkably comfortable living in a movie 
star’s shadow. “I see what problems women have being married to somebody 
who’s always introduced first, makes more money and has more clout,” he 
says, laughing. Still, “It isn’t like we went into this unaware. We have 
a positive relationship.” And, at least in some ways, an ordinary one. 
The two former radicals are already worrying about the empty-nest 
syndrome. “We’re counting on the high price of housing to force Troy and 
Vanessa to stay at home for the next 10 to 15 years,” says Hayden. “If 
they escape, it’s just me and Jane crashing around the house like Casper 
the Ghost and his wife.”

This night, at Hayden’s cozy home, there are many memories and few 
regrets. “We opened up a lot of closed systems; that was the 
achievement,” says Hayden, looking back on his years outside the 
mainstream. Now a self-described “born-again Middle American,” Hayden is 
perhaps the best proof of that point. Last month he traveled to Atlanta 
for another Democratic get-together, and this time, instead of dodging 
billy clubs outside the convention walls, he cast his ballot from 
within—as a Dukakis delegate.

—By Andrea Chambers, with Jacqueline Savaiano in Santa Monica

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