Clayton Van Lydegraf
(1915 - 1992)
Clayton Van Lydegraf, a long-time political activist in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, was an important figure in the development of the New Left in the 1960s, first in Seattle and eventually on a national level. He was one of very few veteran activists of the Old Left who early-on understood the importance and vitality of the new generation of activists coming up in the mid-1960s, young people who were influenced and inspired by the Civil Rights movement and who were motivated by opposition to the Vietnam War. He developed friendships and working relationships with young activists in Seattle at least as early as 1966, perhaps earlier, informally teaching Marxism-Leninism, strategic thinking, and lessons from his decades of activism dating to the 1930s. His ideas were later important in influencing the development of the politics of Weatherman and the Weather Underground Organization. Meanwhile, many other Old Left activists failed to grasp the significance of the young activists and held to their 1930s-based political concepts.
Van Lydegraf had been a leader in the Communist Party through the 1950s, but he left by the early '60s over political differences. He later joined the Progressive Labor Party, but quit as it descended into dogmatism and sectarianism. He was unaffiliated when he came into the circle of New Left activists, but he joined numerous groups, including Draft Resistance–Seattle and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
Two of his articles listed below, "The Movement and the Workers" and "The Object is to Win" were particularly significant in their influence upon New Left activists.
For other biographical information click here.
Comments, feedback, articles to contribute:
Van Lydegraf's papers dated 1944-91 are housed at the University of Washington Special Collections Library.
Excerpt from appearance before House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearing, December 13, 1956, Seattle, WA.
U.S. Imperialism and the Fascist Danger 1967. Second edition, 1969. Not as useful as the other papers listed here.
The Object is to Win 1967. Third edition, 1971. This paper was especially noteworthy in its influence upon the new movements of the late 1960s. While some of the material is obviously dated, the article is of historical value in understanding the development of the ideas of the Weather Underground. Also, it is masterful in defining and describing concepts of revolutionary strategy.
The Movement and the Workers 1969. Second edition, 1972. A helpful treatise on the role of the U.S. working class and the relationship of revolutionaries to it. This article had an impact on some segments of the New Left.
Statement to the San Francisco Grand Jury January – February 1973.
Our Constitutional Rights A written statement submitted to the San Francisco Grand Jury, January - February 1973. This statement is particularly valuable in tracing the centuries of struggle that preceded the adoption of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Two articles on the Progressive Labor Party, PLP (The articles were distributed by Van Lydegraf and surely written by him at least in part. He had been a member of the Central Committee of the national party. They were printed in the Old Mole, Boston, July 4-17, 1969)
Brief History of PLP Excerpts from a statement by the Washington State PLP to the National Committee of PLP on July 1, 1967. (PDF)
Letter from the Washington State PLP to the National Committee (excerpts), July 1, 1967 (PDF)
visitors to date