Writings For A Democratic Society
The Tom Hayden Reader
Book News, Inc.
"Tom Hayden is perhaps most famous as a leader of the Students for a Democratic Society and for standing trial as one of the Chicago Seven together with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin because of his activities during the protests of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, but he has remained involved in politics and activism to the present day and currently serves as a member of the advisory board for the Progressive Democrats of America. This political reader thus collects materials of his spanning from the Port Huron Statement of SDS (excerpts) to writings against the Iraq War. It also contains Hayden's thoughts on the Vietnam War, electoral politics (he served in the California legislature and ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate and the Mayor of Los Angeles), gang violence, Irish politics, the environment, foreign policy, the legacy of the 1960s, the WTO protests and the global justice movement, and his own personal life."
"In Writings for a Democratic Society, Tom Hayden has collected many of his articles, essays, and book excerpts from a prolific career . . . he demonstrates how gut-wrenchingly wrong America's leaders can be . . . . Hayden's book deals with far more issues than the 1960s, Vietnam, and Iraq. He writes about the super-predator myth of our inner cities; the destruction of our environment; his 20 years as a state legislator; the protests against the World Trade Organization over the adverse effect of 'free' but not 'fair' trade on small, poor communities in other countries; and his own personal journey to discover his Irish ancestry. Nothing he writes about is easy. There are no pat answers or resolutions. But one theme persists throughout: what he calls 'radicalism' . . . . This, Hayden acknowledges, is an extremely difficult task. But his book, with harsh insights into prevailing American views, is one place to start."
—Robert Milo Baldwin
"Former California State Senator Hayden (Ending the War in Iraq) has a long history of activism and politics, much of which has been chronicled in his writing; this collection pulls together more than four decades of work tackling vital social issues, from civil rights and Vietnam to genetically modified foods, Iraq and the global justice movement.
Hayden writes in a clear and heartfelt manner, turning spotlights not just on problems, but on the commonsense, and often overlooked, implications of those problems: 'A country that fails to provide living wages for so many of its young is more committed to its present privileges than its future potential'; 'American empire seeks American independence by plunging other nations, cultures, and classes into dependence, which in turn triggers a spiral of resentment and resistance.'
These grim pronouncements are balanced by a sense of optimism and a clarion call for action: 'The times are too hard for us to respond simply as comforters of the oppressed… we must move ahead concertedly with our goal—the changing of society.'
Dense and wide-ranging, this is a thorough survey of an important thinker and activist. "
“It isn’t the size of the book that makes it monumental; it’s the life that has gone into the writing and that is reflected by it. …Not many Americans have done so much making of history while, at every juncture, taking the time to be a ‘participant observer’ of the scenes and events one is helping to shape. The writings so produced…are remarkably moving and insightful…suggest[ing] that Tom Hayden could have been one of the great journalists of our time, given his ability to combine a penetrating style, keen eye and an unusually sharp theoretically informed mind. …these ‘Writings’ don’t tell stories or express ideas for their own sake; each of them is making a point in an ongoing debate with the powers that be and reflects a persistent effort to challenge the complacent and the passive. But some of these pieces are deeper and more durable than topical advocacy. Tom has had, from his earliest work, something to teach both activists and intellectuals about the tensions and connections between them. …But ’60s oldsters now are stirring themselves to new action rather than reflection. Tom Hayden himself has been tirelessly speaking, writing and organizing in hope of mobilizing grass-roots opposition to the war in Iraq. Some of the pieces in “Writings” express his excitement on encountering the street-level global justice movement. He and other ’60s veterans are even more excited by the Barack Obama youth surge. It inspires hope for social regeneration in some of the ways the youth revolt of the 1960s offered.”
This review can also be found on Znet at:
Smoky Mountain News
"Written in a layman’s hand and with a voice that is at once intelligent, honest, deliberate and forthcoming, Hayden’s Writings for a Democratic Society celebrate and affirm an alternative American experience, while constituting nothing less than a history of our times.
Just knowing there are people like Tom Hayden working vigilantly to improve and revitalize our flawed political system gives me grounds for hope. So, if you are one of those who have given up on any hope for a progressive United States of America, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Writings for a Democratic Society and treat yourself to the kind of social and political idealism that truly has made America great."
—Thomas Rain Crowe
Los Angeles Times
"Tom Hayden reveals a more personal side in this collections of nearly 50 years of his writing on social activism. . .Writings offers a considerable counter-record to official misrepresentations such as Tonkin Gulf and 'Mission Accomplished'—as well as a surprisingly personal account of how one activist has tried to remain consistent, relevant and truthful across his own long, strange trip. . . Well into his own 60s, Hayden continues to call for economic democracy and against policing the world. Perhaps he's come full circle: 'Our gains will be modest, not sensational. It will be slow and exhaustingly complex, lasting at the very least for our lifetimes.' Hayden wrote that—in 1961."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Hayden's 'Democratic' '60s ideals relevant now. . .As an anthology by a '60s activist, this book is probably the best there is. . . Hayden's voice is probably more important than ever. . . In many ways, his book shows how large a shadow the '60s cast on the present. For anyone caught up in the tug-of-war of the presidential election, Writings provides a means to measure McCain, Clinton and Obama, all of whom owe a great deal to the '60s, in one way or another. Organized chronologically, Writings for a Democratic Society includes essays, pamphlets, op-ed pieces and excerpts from previously published books. The writing is crisp, clear, provocative and inspiring."