1970s >> 1971 >> no-802-june-1971

Book Review: Chicago aftermath

Trial by Tom Hayden. (Jonathan Cape. Paperback. 70p.)

Television gave us almost the ultimate in exposure of the Chicago conspiracy trial. To anyone who saw the box’s account of the blatant partiality of Judge Hoffman, the gagging of Bobby Seale, the clowning of Rubin, can a book offer any more? Perhaps; the trial began a determined marketing of its personalities and here is another episode.

In truth Hayden’s account of the trial (a small part only of the book) is compellingly written with his anger flooding out of him. Gagging Seale, for example, was an obscene thing to do; now, says, Hayden, they are researching a plastic booth for troublesome defendants.

But apart from the anger what else is there? Well there is the predictable mysticism about youth, which has it that

   . . . “youth” is more important than “economic class” in analysing the American struggle.

(Note those quotation marks. Is “economic class” a reality of capitalism or not?) There is confusion over the uses of violence in politics, when the Nazis and the Klan and the Chicago police should have cleared it all up—Hayden writes admiringly of the Weathermen. And there is the customary, wearisome left wing preoccupation with “tactics”—tactics for everything, for the trial, for the day-to-day struggle, for the revolution except that we are so strung up with tactics that we never actually get there.

Hayden makes some suggestions which can only have originated in a left-winger’s private cloud-cuckoo land. This, after all, is capitalism; yet he whines that his lawyers should have been allowed to argue, not just about his guilt, but about the merits of the laws under which he was charged.

He is starry-eyed about the emergent capitalism of North Vietnam and about the patriotism of its people (as if that made them right) and thinks that it all has something to do with Socialism. There is a long, rambling section on the “New American Revolution” which talks about “self determination for our internal colonies” and “Free Territories in the Mother Country”, which Hayden elaborates as “liberated zones”—if that makes it any clearer or more feasible. One wonders why, when the simple sanity of Socialism gets hardly a mention, such crackpot ideas should be so popular.

And finally there is this statement, which Hayden considers sufficiently brilliant and penetrating to merit italics:

The chief contradiction in America is between a moribund, decadent system and all those people with a stake in the future.

Such vacuity is easily recognised by anyone who understands the contradictions of capitalism and who knows that they can be defined simply and undramatically. While there are people like Hayden to push for other forms of capitalism instead of Socialism, capitalism can hardly be described as moribund.

Read this book only of your boredom tolerance is pretty high, or if you have ever wondered what lefties mean when they talk about crap.