I received an email yesterday from “The Network of Spiritual Progressives,” a group run by the left-wing Rabbi Michael Lerner and devoted to spreading love a peace throughout the world. The Spiritual Progressives can be counted on to join anti-war demonstrations and to criticize almost anything Israel does to protect its citizens from Palestinian terror. This particular email was concerned with the raging political crisis in Venezuela.
The email contained an essay on Venezuela by Tom Hayden, one of the most important activists of the 1960s. Hayden drafted the Port Huron Statement in 1962, which launched the New Left and inspired a generation whose politics were stamped by the civil rights and anti-war movements, and who embraced utopian ideals like “participatory democracy.” They are today’s Democratic Party leaders and mainstream media gatekeepers.
Hayden, like many of the leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, became more and more radical, visiting North Vietnam and the like. But Hayden never quite left mainstream politics, and became an important leader among California’s Democrats, serving in both houses of the state legislature over nearly two decades. He was married to Jane Fonda and remains a progressive icon. His views both reflect and inspire others’ on the left.
Rabbi Lerner introduced Hayden’s comments on Venezuela as “an important perspective on the current conflict in Venezuela that you won’t get from NPR or most of the media.” (Evidently taxpayer-and-donor-funded NPR is as bad as the corporate-owned media, you see.) The gist of Hayden’s argument was that a shadowy government, beyond the control of President Barack Obama, wants Nicolás Maduro, Hugo Chávez’s successor, overthrown.
Hayden shows no concern whatsoever for the erosion of democracy under Chávez and Maduro, no compassion for unarmed demonstrators murdered in the streets, no shock at the Venezuelan’s utter destruction of the oil-rich economy. This icon of “participatory democracy” shows no outrage at the arrest of Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the opposition, no concern about widely-reported torture of demonstrators in Venezuelan prisons.
He is concerned, Hayden writes, that U.S. foreign policy is being run by a “state within a state,” dating back to “the CIA’s operations against Cuba.” He is not concerned in the slightest that Cuba itself is running a “state within a state” in Venezuela, openly assisting the Maduro regime in suppressing opposition and protest as millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil are shipped to Cuba to prop up the brutally tenacious Castro brothers.
Hayden gives Obama the benefit of the doubt: after all, “a friendly Obama shook the hand of Hugo Chavez [in 2009] before Obama’s top adviser tried to sabotage the warming of relations,” after all. Yet he is worried that Obama’s friendship towards Venezuela’s government will be undermined by “a secret network that works tirelessly to undermine any Latin American threat to the dominance of American capital and military power.”
It is not shocking that a 1960s radical would believe such stuff. It is, however, rather surprising that a group that prides itself on its embrace of non-violence would circulate Hayden’s views with approval, shamelessly excusing any and all violence and tyranny by the Venezuelan state. The next time you hear these progressive Democrats complain about the U.S. military or about Israeli occupation, remember their support for murder in Venezuela.