The big news, for those who keep track of such things: Tom Hayden, New Left enfant terrible, never dropped acid.
“Marijuana was another matter,” he writes, “although I came to believe that it made no sense to be stoned when under police surveillance.” This salvo of a book is only incidentally about drugs and their counterculture users. Instead, it is about what Hayden calls the “coming ‘battle over memory’ ”—though that battle has long been here, as witness the swiftboaters of the 2004 presidential race and the furor over Weather Underground veteran Bill Ayers in 2008. Even though the ’60sare not yet over, Hayden notes that one aspect of Barack Obama’s presidency has been a clear desire to move beyond the messy issues of the time. Not so fast, the author writes. Afghanistan and Iraq have uncomfortable similarities to Vietnam, and though the sitting president didn’t get us into the mess, he seems to be having a hard time getting us out of it. Hayden updates the protest movement of old to what he calls a “movement against Machiavellians.” He admits, however, that the term is both a little “gimmicky” and a bit unfair to Machiavelli, whose work was more subtle than the decidedly unsubtle adjective for “power technicians...who represent the institutional hierarchies of business, government, the military, the intelligence agencies, the media, and organized religion.” The movement to elect Obama, Hayden writes, was one such anti-Machiavellian endeavor, and highly reminiscent of the movements of old, which accomplished quite a bit, not least “the fall of two presidents.” What the current one needs, says Hayden, is a new New Left to keep things moving.
With elements of a new Rules for Radicals and knowing takes on such old New Left moments as The Port Huron Statement, Hayden’s book could be a worthy foundational document.