The Port Huron Statement’s determined moral equivalency between the United States and the Soviet Union was, in the parlance of the left, no coincidence. Although Hayden did not mention it at the conference, many of SDS’s members were communists, and the movement’s refusal to condemn communist tyranny outright led to a split within the group, as anti-communists like socialist Michael Harrington broke with SDS over Port Huron’s refusal to unequivocally condemn the Soviet Union. The reason for the exclusion became apparent during the Vietnam War, when SDS, led by Hayden, embraced communist North Vietnam against America’s “imperial aggression.”
A habitual revisionist, Hayden insisted to the audience that his goal at the time had been only to end the war. In reality, he and much of SDS were openly cheering for and working toward a communist victory in Indochina. Such was their commitment to the communist cause that Hayden and his then-wife Jane Fonda even traveled to North Vietnam to show solidarity with Hanoi and to make a propaganda video in support in support of the communist war effort. Even when the war’s aftermath and the slaughter of South Vietnamese citizens made the brutality of communist repression undeniable, Hayden refused to withdraw his support for the Hanoi government. He and Fonda declined to condemn the communists’ human-rights abuses and denounced even those on the left who did so as pawns of the CIA.
If Hayden was conspicuously silent on this seemingly critical part of SDS history, he also had little to say about the terrorism that it spawned. In the late 60s, growing radicalism within the group gave rise to a splinter organization, the radical terrorist group the Weather Underground. Yet Hayden had little to say about this chapter of SDS history, and never mentioned the Weather Underground by name. He did however appear to justify SDS’s steady drift into violence, noting that Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dhorn “had to go underground” because the left “couldn’t wait” for its revolutionary goals to be embraced by the majority of the country.
If this seemed to shade into excuse-making for the Weatherman’s campaign of terror, Hayden went further still. He explained that, because of the violence of the 60s, today’s protest groups like Occupy Wall Street “didn’t have to commit desperate acts of violence.” That was, in effect, a claim that those earlier acts of violence had been justified.