Hayden Perry: Long-Time Socialist Action Journalist


Hayden Perry, a founder of the Socialist Workers Party and of Socialist Action-and a long-time contributor to Socialist Action newspaper-died on Aug. 2. He was 86.

Hayden died in the hospital shortly after he had collapsed on the lawn of the Oakland, Calif., apartment facility where he lived.

Until his last moment, Hayden was noted for his indefatigable energy. He participated in more meetings and rallies, staffed more literature tables, and wrote more articles and letters to the editor than almost anyone you could name. His regular mode of transportation was by bicycle.

One of Hayden’s traits was a reluctance to talk much about himself. Generally, he preferred to discuss politics and events.

He was especially interested in what young people were doing and saying. He was often critical of what he saw as the younger generation’s relative lack of interest in political involvement-though he never gave up hope in the youth. He told me he thought that mobilizations of young people in Seattle and other places were a good sign for the future.

Hayden was born in England in 1914 of working-class Irish parentage. When he was seven, he moved to the United States, settling with his family in the New York area.

In Southern California, in 1934, he was introduced to left-wing political activity through the “Ham and Eggs Party,” which backed the campaign of Upton Sinclair for governor. He soon met members of the Trotskyist movement and was convinced by their revolutionary program.

In 1936, the Trotskyists entered the Socialist Party in order to influence and recruit the many young workers who were joining the party. Hayden, who was living in San Francisco, also joined the SP at that time.

Soon afterward, however, the reformist leadership of the Socialist Party expelled the Trotskyist-led current-who had insisted, among other “transgressions,” on the need to discuss party policy in regard to the ongoing revolution in Spain. In 1938, the expelled revolutionaries founded the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Hayden was among them.

During World War II, Hayden was drafted into the Army and served in the South Pacific. Following the war, he lived for a time in Chicago and in Akron and Youngstown, Ohio.

During this period he married his wife, Esther, and he perfected his trade as a printer. In Akron, he printed a series of pamphlets for the labor party clubs that had sprung up throughout the Midwest during the post-war working-class upsurge.

In the 1950s, Hayden and Esther returned to San Francisco. At the end of the decade, however, the SWP asked Hayden to come to New York City in order to set up a print shop. Together with Bob Chester, a SWP leader from Philadelphia, Hayden was able to accomplish the task-allowing the party to print its own books for the first time.

This was a significant aid to the Trotskyist movement when, in the 1960s, a new generation began to seek out revolutionary literature. During that period, Hayden and Esther returned to the West Coast.

Despite their activity and commitment, however, both Hayden and Esther were summarily expelled from the SWP at the end of 1983 in a political purge organized by the clique around Jack Barnes, which had taken control of the party.

Hayden and Esther soon joined Socialist Action, which was formed by Socialist Workers Party members who had also been purged from the party and who adhered to the SWP’s historic revolutionary program.

Hayden was involved with many aspects of producing Socialist Action newspaper; he wrote for the paper, proof-read it, and then sold it on the streets. As a journalist, Hayden had a knack of being able to write on current issues in a highly engaging and popular manner.

Ten of Hayden’s Socialist Action articles from the late 1980s are collected in the pamphlet, “Everyday Life in Capitalist America” (Walnut Publishers, 1996). The articles-concerning health care, education, homelessness, civil rights, and other topics-show the broad range of his interests.

In 1985, Hayden and Esther moved to England. Hayden hoped that, as a British subject who had retired from his job, he might receive some of the benefits of the country’s (admittedly decayed) social welfare and health care system.

On a trip to England, I visited them in the flat they had rented far in the outskirts of London. They had just gone through an unusually cold and dreary winter, which had made it difficult to travel into the city very often. Hayden felt isolated from political activity-and Esther had become ill.

After the better part of a year in Britain, they returned to California. Esther largely recuperated, but dropped out of political activity. She died in 1994.

Around that time, Hayden also dropped from membership in Socialist Action, expressing political differences with the majority. But he was entirely non-sectarian and continued to write articles for Socialist Action newspaper and to attend our activities as well as those of other left groups. Three years ago, he joined Solidarity.

The last time I spoke with Hayden, at a Mumia demonstration in San Francisco, he told me that he was planning to write a letter to Socialist Action-and I should look out for it. But he evidently didn’t have the time.

Hayden was such an active member of the Bay Area political scene that, for me, it has not quite sunk in yet that he’s gone. He will be deeply missed.

Related Articles

Call for solidarity: FBI raids African People’s Socialist Party and Uhuru Movement

The specter of a Biden administration-authorized Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated McCarthy-era witch hunt was posed in bold relief last week as FBI agents took aim at a Black liberation organization that has been a sharp critic of the U.S./NATO-backed war in Ukraine and a defender of poor nations threatened with U.S. sanctions, coups, embargoes and blockades. These include Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Iran.

Lessons from Vietnam for Ukraine

There are similarities today with the US and NATO pouring tens of BILLIONS of dollars in weapons into Ukraine to counter the Russian military intervention. The US and western allies are providing additional support in intelligence and military advice.