Sunday, July 06, 2008

Letters to An Old Sell Out: Where's the honesty?

There is no 'movement' behind Barack Obama. There is only the eggheads in Panhandle Media and carefully staged events. But Tom Hayden decided to blog ("Obama's Position on Iraq Could Put His Candidacy at Risk," Aging Socialite's Cat Littler Box) on July 4th and shared this:

I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues. The excitement among African-Americans and young people, the audacity of their hope, still holds the promise of a new era of social activism. The force of their rising expectations, I believe, could pressure a President Obama in a progressive direction and also energize a new wave of social movements.

Well . . . sort-of. In his "Endorsing Obama" (January 28th, The Nation), he actually sounded more like The Ego(Maniac) Of Us All when she was forced out NOW (claiming she had them to history and now left them to make history):

But today I see across the generational divide the spirit, excitement, energy and creativity of a new generation bidding to displace the old ways. Obama's moment is their moment, and I pray that they succeed without the sufferings and betrayals my generation went through.

Actually, that's a bit more like Bette Davis' farewell note on the Warner Bros' lot where, after Jack Warner released her from her contract (provided she completed Beyond The Forest), she by-passed the studio's big moneymaker Joan Crawford by declaring her dressing room should go to Jane Wyman. But Tom-Tom's always had a huge ego.


What should worry you is this non-existent movement he can't stop yammering away about. Tom-Tom really doesn't tell the truth about his own time in the movement and that's not limited to his expulsion from the Berkeley commune (due to sexism) or to his repeated sell-outs once money bought him a seat in the state legislature in California or anything.

From time to time, we mention the violence in Chicago of 1969. Drive-bys e-mail to insist we mean 1968. Longterm readers know C.I.'s habit of floating something, allowing it to hang out there and then, if the person shows no improvement, returning to the topic.

We always meant the violence of 1969. And people today should be asking why Tom Hayden is allowed to present himself as a leader. He was part of the violence.

No, we are not referring to the Chicago Eight, the DNC 1968 convention in Chicago, et al.

Tom-Tom was involved with the conspiracy to commit violence n 1969.

It was well known in the movement in real time. It was seen as another craven act from anything-for-attention Hayden. In his own laughable Reunion: A Memoir (1988, Random House), Tom lies and omits. "The Trial 1969-1970" is the chapter to zoom in on (chapter fifteen) and Tom notes he was in Chicago for "the trial". The chapter begins on page 339. By page 355, he begins to write about things going outside the courtroom at the same time. SDS pops up on page 357. As do Bernardine Dohrn and Mark Rudd (who "adopted yet another communist doctrine, that of China's Lin Piao, who believed that the liberation wars outside the center of Western imperialism would bring about global revolution"). Tom-Tom being Tom-Tom, he gets in a few digs at Bernardine in the coming pages. He mentions Bill Ayers at the bottom of page 357. He's going through a revisionary history of SDS and the conflicts in it. He wants to be really clear (page 359) that the world know about a "difference between a Bernardine or Terry" Robbins and himself. They thought fascism was coming to the US. Tom says he thought it was only a possibility. (A lie, he was all into SMASH THE STATE and you should have heard him jabber on about the B-movie Wild In The Streets as if it were a Truffaut classic.) He writes, "After all my own liberty was at stake in persuading cautious middle-American jurors that our wild and irrerverent behavior was somehow justifiable" (359-360). He tells you that these people (meaning Bernardine and Terry) didn't believe in "changing American society" and saw themselves as "doomed executioners" (Karl Marx) who would bring about "wreckage, possibly a new Dark Ages". He plays as if he was apart from those people (plays in his book). He tells of hearing a Weather Underground person saying in the courtroom "Well, we offed the pig" meaning SDS. He really wants the reader (and the public and law enforcement) to believe that there was this big line between himself and Weather. (Hayden was a member of SDS -- as is known. Hayden was also involved with Weather -- as is known if you travel in informed circles -- then or now.) He was on trial for the violence in Chicago in 1968. That has been tried, that is over. But the trial took place in 1969 and placed him in Chicago during Days of Rage.

And when we say "1969," we mean it. On page 360, Tom-Tom still wants to draw that line and talks about the belief that "thousands of hard-core revolutionaries" were thought to be coming to "Chicago for Days of Rage" but the event ("prepared" by Weather) was a "failure;" how Weather blew up a statue in Haymarket Square, how some of the participants might "drop by" the court proceedings and Tom-Tom explains that he was afraid of what those radicals might do in the street but that his "ego won" out (he writes he was afraid of being "accused of cowardice" -- no, he was afraid of missing out on speaking to a crowd) so he went. He describes "nausea of fear," he describes regret ("Had I helped bring this on?"), he says he was handed a bullhorn and asked to speak (lie). We're on page 361 of his revisionary work:

I said something ambiguous and largely inaudible like, "The conspiracy defendants send their greetings; we welcome any effots to intensify the struggle" and handed the microphone back. Photographer lights were flashing. I quickly drifted into the shadows with John; I don't remember where Abbie went. We waited, and then, on some signal that eluded me, the group assembled itself quickly in formation and started half-trotting away from the fire through the darkness, toward the streets of the Gold Coast. I went back to the car and drove off.

Soon reports of a wild rampage started coming over the radio.

That's really cute, it's not what happened, but it's really cute. He was "inaudible" with a bullhorn or a microphone? And did you catch that change? Which was he handed? Tom goes on to describe what can only be shock (at the busted storefront windows, the damaged cars, the paralyzed city official, et al) and makes it very clear that he was appalled by it all ("where was the sanity?" -- page 362).

In 2001, another participant put his memories of that speech into print. His version jibes with what Elaine and C.I. were told over the phone and, later, in letters (they weren't in Chicago -- they were helping war resisters, not engaging in vandalism). You may be familiar with his name: Bill Ayers.

When the chanting slowed, Tom Hayden, on trial in federal court with seven others on conspiracy charges for leading the demonstrations at the Democratic Convention a year earlier, emerged from the crowd. When his trial had begun in late September a group of us had disrupted the proceedings, and now Hayden was bearing an echo of solidarity to us: I bring greetings from the Chicago Eight, he said. We love you! We are with you!

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, we sang in answer, and Hayden added, Anything that intensifies our resistance to this war is in the service of humanity. The Weathermen are setting the terms for all of us now. Tear this monster down! Tom was caught up in the spirit of the moment, and shedding his careful demeanor from court, became the old inciter. Our chants escalated again and swirled like fireworks into the air. As improbable as it all was, I felt giddy and newly emboldened. We were about to leap arm-in-arm into the inferno of the unknown, and I remember trembling with giddiness and holding on to Diana.

Elaine and C.I. know (and like) Bill and Bernardine but that's not why they say that's the way it happened. They say it because when they heard what had happened the night before in Chicago and called people to find out what was going on, they were told repeatedly about Tom Hayden's speech, about how it incited and fueled those gathered. It wasn't "inaudible" (and they can quote it at greater length than Bill does -- from letters written to them immediately after). Bill's telling the truth, they state clearly (and since we do have access to C.I.'s journals, we can say the letters preserved in them back that up), and he wrote a book to capture what really happened while Hayden, then in the California state legislature and dreaming of becoming president, rewrote history to make himself look far less involved than he was.

The 1969 Chicago Days of Rage were violent. Whether they were needed or not, we'll leave to others to judge. We don't endorse violence. We don't condemn it. We do expect people to be honest. Tom-Tom was significantly older than Ayers (and Dohrn), was standing trial charged with doing the very thing he did that night (inciting violence) and yet he wants to rewrite it and make it appear that he was a reluctant speaker, who just mumbled a few things, a few innocent remarks, when, in fact, he was egging on the violence and was the second most popular speaker at the rally.

It's important that the truth be told and Ayers' book is Fugitive Days (which did make it into softcover and did not fill the remainder bins the way Reunion did). But the truth is important not only in terms of the past.

What does Tom-Tom keep yammering on about today? The 'movement.' How that mythical 'movement' will hold Barack accountable. Check the archives and you'll find that around the time 1969 first gets floated, Elaine and C.I. (in roundtables) are also asking why 'leaders' are lying about Barack (he's a War Hawk, they know, they were face-to-face with the War Hawk when he was running as the 'anti-war' candidate and told them he did not support withdrawing troops from Iraq) and citing a 'movement.' They wonder, in those roundtables, if they're creating impossible expectations for Barack with the hopes that, should he get the nomination (Hillary and Edwards were still in the race) and then go on to the White House and not deliver, were these 'leaders' hoping to SMASH THE STATE? Were these 'leaders' actively laying the groundwork for violent upheaval in the US? Yes, as with 1969, they were referring to 'leaders' like Tom Hayden.

They well remember his SMASH THE STATE talk in Berkeley, before he got kicked out of the Red Family. (And became "Troi Garity.") They remember his attempting to get the Black Panthers to utilize violence on the police. (He was turned down with it being noted, by a Panther, that it was just like Tom-Tom to try to get a Black man to do the dirty work.) Berkeley was a safe haven for war resisters, Elaine and C.I. were in and out all the time. Someone didn't want to leave the United States? Well, would he like to go to Berkeley? They were always dropping off war resisters and knew most activists in Berkeley. They caught many of Tom's SMASH THE STATE's raps. They remember them. C.I. journaled on them. (Our favorite is: "Is Hayden nuts!!!! Not only is he asking others to risk their lives -- of course others, he won't dirty his own smooth hands -- but he's basing it on a Roger Corman flick!!! Bad ideas from bad movies and he calls it a 'plan'? Fortunately, most are too stoned to do anything and those who aren't say he's about to be ejected. Stand downwind of him for two minutes and you'll wonder why they're waiting on the ejection?")

So you need to be asking about this 'movement' and about Tom's past efforts to lie for Barack and make him into not just the Democratic Party Hope but also the End of The War Hope. You need to be asking that about a lot of these fringe radicals. (Make no mistake, when you can't get elected mayor of Los Angeles after being in the state legislature for years -- thanks to the spending more money on a state race than anyone else in the United States -- you're on the fringes.)

And you need to be asking when Tom-Tom's going to get honest about what he said that night to set off the Days of Rage. A number of statements show up in letters -- the same statements, the same quotes -- from different people who were present for the speech. Bill Ayers told the truth and also held his tongue. Bill's honest about his actions. You can judge them how you see fit and you can do that based on Fugitive Days. When does Tom-Tom plan to get honest about his own actions?

[Note: C.I. has a first edition, signed copy -- "I had to go to the book release party" -- of Reunion but neither C.I. nor Elaine have ever bothered to read it. Elaine's just flipped the pages and said, "Oh, Berkeley! I wonder what lies he tells here?" If there are enough of them, we may return to this topic at a later date.]

For "E-mail to An Old Sell Out" see "THIS JUST IN! TEACHING 'PROGRESSIVES' TO READ!" & "Teaching 'progressives'."
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