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From the Archive: Tom Hayden Talks About His Cuban Comrade, Ricardo Alarcon

Ricardo Alarcon, former leader of Cuba’s National Assembly, UN Ambassador, and confidante of the Castro brothers, died in Havana on May 1, 2022.  Alarcon and the late Tom Hayden–leader of the anti-war movement who became a California state senator–were both inspired by C. Wright Mills.In this 2015 interview, Hayden recounts his connection to Alarcon, and the book that was based on their conversations.

I remain deeply disappointed, but not surprised, that Biden has continued the misguided policies of Trump related to Cuba.  Obama’s signal foreign policy breakthrough was with Cuba, and it’s tragic to see Biden squander that important re-opening with our Caribbean neighbor, extending failed policies dating back almost 60 years.

Here’s the original text posted with the podcast:

As embassies reopen in Havana and Washington, Tom Hayden returns for an in-depth conversation about his new book Listen Yankee: Why Cuba Matters, with some reverence for the Castro revolution and optimism about the future. Hayden’s new book is fascinating and engaging, and is largely based on conversations he had with Ricardo Alarcon, the Cuban revolutionary who served as President of the National Assembly and UN representative.

The book details the paths of 2 student revolutionaries:  Hayden at Ann Arbor, where he wrote the Port Huron Statement and was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society that led to his prosecution as a member of the infamous Chicago 8;  in the same time frame, Alarcon was a student leader at the University of Havana and an early supporter of Fidel Castro.  Separated by the Cold War and more, both Hayden and Alarcon were devotees of C. Wright Mills, an American sociologist and writer who spent 2 weeks in 1960 in Cuba with Castro and wrote a “Letter to the New Left” that influenced the Port Huron Statement and led Hayden to write his graduate thesis on Mills.

We learn much about Hayden, Alarcon, and the Castro revolt, and the book covers the JFK assassination, the Cuban Missile crisis, and offers new details about the Elian Gonzalez controversy in the 1990’s.

Hayden also praises Sen. Pat Leahy, Rep. Jim McGovern and Rep. Barbara Lee for their sustained efforts to reverse the failed blockade of Cuba.