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An Exception to De Mortuis Nihil Nisi Bonum

Pete Seeger

 

 

The troubadour of totalitarianism Pete Seeger passed away last week.  Historian Ron Radosh, who himself was a red diaper baby, growing up in a pro-communist family, and for years was a man of the left, in 2007 recalled Seeger’s allegiance to Communism:

 

Some will argue that Mr. Seeger deserves such praise. But our country has more than made up for the 17 years Mr. Seeger was blacklisted from both radio and TV. In the past decade, Mr. Seeger has received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton and has been fêted at the Kennedy Center. A recent profile in the Washington Post style section proclaimed him a “national treasure” and America’s “best-loved Commie.” A few years ago, Mr. Seeger was invited to speak at the National Press Club. Just two months ago, the Library of Congress held an all-day tribute to him. After all of this, shouldn’t a new documentary give its audience an accurate and honest account of his life?

In Mr. Brown’s film, Bruce Springsteen calls Mr. Seeger a great “citizen-activist” on camera. There are more accolades from all the usual suspects — Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Manes of the Dixie Chicks, Joan Baez, and Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers. But when it comes to specifically addressing Mr. Seeger’s politics, whom do we see on camera? First comes Charlene Mitchell, a former Communist Party leader and Presidential candidate, and then Henry Foner, a union official and lifelong fellow traveler.

The film’s most egregious moment comes when it tells us that Mr. Seeger joined the Communist Party in 1939, and drifted out of it a decade later. It relates how in 1941 he joined the first folk music group, the Almanac Singers, which sang for the labor movement and the CIO. Next the film mentions that Mr. Seeger entered the Army during World War II, another sign of his patriotism.

Nowhere does this documentary describe the Almanac Singers’ very first album, “Songs for John Doe.” As readers of this newspaper know, in August 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed a pact and became allies. Overnight the communists took a

180-degree turn and became advocates of peace, arguing that Nazi Germany, which the USSR had opposed before 1939, was a benign power, and that the only threat to the world came from imperial Britain and FDR’s America, which was on the verge of fascism. Those who wanted to intervene against Hitler were servants of Republic Steel and the oil cartels.

In the “John Doe” album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, “I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won’t be safe till everybody’s dead.” Another song, to the tune of “Cripple Creek” and the sound of Mr. Seeger’s galloping banjo, said, “Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain’t a-gonna send us across the sea,” and “Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me.”

The film does not tell us what happened in 1941, when — two months after “John Doe” was released — Hitler broke his pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union. As good communists, Mr. Seeger and his Almanac comrades withdrew the album from circulation, and asked those who had bought copies to return them. A little later, the Almanacs released a new album, with Mr. Seeger singing “Dear Mr. President,” in which he acknowledges they didn’t always agree in the past, but now says he is going to “turn in his banjo for something that makes more noise,” i.e., a machine gun. As he says in the film, we had to put aside causes like unionism and civil rights to unite against Hitler.

For years, Mr. Seeger used to sing a song with a Yiddish group called “Hey Zhankoye,” which helped spread the fiction that Stalin’s USSR freed the Russian Jews by establishing Jewish collective farms in the Crimea. Singing such a song at the same time as Stalin was planning the obliteration of Soviet Jewry was disgraceful. It is now decades later. Why doesn’t Mr. Seeger talk about this and offer an apology?

According to the film, one of Mr. Seeger’s greatest accomplishments was his tour with third-party Presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace in 1948. Viewers are told only that Wallace was a peace candidate opposed to the America-created Cold War, and that he was falsely accused of being a communist. Nowhere do we learn that Wallace’s campaign was in fact a Communist Party-run affair, and that had he been elected, Wallace announced he was going to appoint men to his Cabinet who we now know were bona fide Soviet agents. Instead, we are asked to assume that every position taken by the old pro-Soviet left wing has been proved correct.

When the blacklist came to an end — of course the film concentrates on his victimization in those dark years — Mr. Seeger finally reached millions of Americans who, during the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam, came to believe there was never any merit to anti-communism, that it was the same as McCarthyism. Mr. Seeger went to visit North Vietnam in 1972, and came away ecstatic about the beautiful country and the peace-loving people there. We hear nothing about the political prisoners, the boat people, or about Ms. Baez’s lone protest after the war’s end against political oppression on the part of those she called “aging Stalinist leaders,” a protest that Mr. Seeger, for once, took no part in. Instead we see the video of him singing his anti-war hit, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”Supporters of Communism like Mr. Seeger are on the same moral level as supporters of fascism and it speaks volumes about the dedication of many on the left in this country to democracy that he was constantly lionized as a hero on the port side of our politics.

 

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

9 Comments

  1. That guy is serenading Stalin in . . .

    I saw, on-line, that in his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he compared himself to Jesus before Pontius Pilate.

    More proof for the old adage, “Only the good die young.”

    “Supporters of Communism like Mr. Seeger are on the same moral level as . . . “Catholics for Choice”/supporters of abortion.

    This is WHY we (my generation) fought.

    ” . . . .the beautiful, peace-loving people of Vietnam . . . ”

    In March 1973 (so-called Paris Peace Accords), the U.S. withdrew its troops from Vietnam, as Messrs. Clinton, Kerry , Seeger, et al had urged.

    In December 1974, the Democratic Congress I call the post-Watergate Congress the VietCongress) ended military aid to South Vietnam.

    In April 1975, Saigon fell.

    According to a 2001 investigation by the Orange County Register, Hanoi’s communist regime imprisoned a million Vietnamese without charge in “re-education” camps, where an estimated 165,000 perished. ‘Thousands were abused or tortured: their hands and legs shackled in painful positions for months, their skin slashed by bamboo canes studded with thorns, their veins injected with poisonous chemicals, their spirits broken with stories about relatives being killed,’ the Register reported.

    “Laos and Cambodia also fell to communists in 1975. Time magazine reported in 1978 that some 40,000 Laotians had been imprisoned in re-education camps: ‘The regime’s figures do not include 12,000 unfortunates who have been packed off to Phong Saly. There, no pretense at re-education is made. As one high Pathet Lao official told Australian journalist John Everingham, who himself spent eight days in a Lao prison last year, ‘No one ever returns.’

    “The postwar horrors of Vietnam and Laos paled next to the “killing fields” of Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge undertook an especially vicious revolution. During that regime’s 3 1/2-year rule, at least a million Cambodians, and perhaps as many as two million, died from starvation, disease, overwork or murder. The Vietnamese invaders who toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 were liberators, albeit only by comparison.

    “In the aftermath of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. According to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, between 1975 and 1995 more than 1.4 million Indochinese escaped, nearly 800,000 of them by boat. This does not include “boat people” who died at sea, 10% of the total by some estimates.

    A while back, you posted a piece on a Vietnamese bishop/priest. We had a Vietnamese priest in our parish. I was never able to get up the guts to apologize for not saving his country.

  2. Notwithstanding Pete Seeger’s political views, on July 9, 2013 I suspect his heart broke when he lost his wife of 60 years, Toshi.
    .
    Just six months later, on January 27, 2014, when he breathed his last breath and shed his mortal coil, his soul comprehended its immortality.
    .
    And on that very day in the presence of the beatific vision, Pete Seeger’s Communism finally died.
    .
    May his soul and that of his wife Toshi, all the faithful departed, rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them.

  3. Yes. Serenading Lenin and Stalin in Heaven:

    “In 1932-33, the Ukraine, formerly the breadbasket of Russia, was turned into a desolate wasteland during the ‘Holodomor.’ Malcolm Muggerage wrote in his book, War on the Peasants, ‘On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bellies often swollen from lack of food; on the other, soldiers, members of the GPU (secret police) carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locusts and taken away everything edible, they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages, they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.’ More than 7 million people died so that their farms could be collectivized by Moscow.

  4. T. Shaw writes..”Yes. Serenading Lenin and Stalin in Heaven:…”

    I believe we allwill witness the beatific vision as we stand before God in judgment; whether we get to stay there for eternity or are remanded elsewhere is for God alone to judge.

  5. Back to history, this article shows again that as far as leftists were concerned, World War Two was all about saving the USSR from Germany. One wonders: had Hitler not invaded the USSR and had Pearl Harbor still happened, would the leftists have demonstrated in support of the poor Japanese?

  6. TomD: Seeger and all the other useful idiots were on orders from their handlers(just as they were during the Vietnam war) extreme peace advocates. See, it was Hitler and Stalin against the World, until Hitler invaded Russia.
    .

    Yes. Yes. Serenading Lenin, Mao, and Stalin in Heaven…
    .
    “The policies of the Communist Party in China caused more than 76 million people to starve between 1958 and 1961. Called the Three Years of Great Chinese Famine, the government had ruled that changes in farming techniques were the law. People were not allowed private plots to grow their own food and all farms were arranged into communes (collectivism strikes again). Yang Jisheng, a Chinese historian wrote in his book Tombstone, ‘In Xinyang, people starved at the doors of the grain warehouses. As they died, they shouted, “Communist Party, Chairman Mao, save us”. If the granaries of Henan and Hebei had been opened, no one need have died. As people were dying in large numbers around them, officials did not think to save them. Their only concern was how to fulfill the delivery of grain.’ To this day, Yang Jisheng’s book about the famine is banned on Mainland China.”

  7. Seeger sings L’internationale and it is so appropriate. Nixon is said to have asked Chou En Lai what he thought was the impact of the French Revolution on Western Civilization and Chou was said to reply that it was too soon to tell. The story may be misconstrued. Perhaps Chou thought Nixon meant the recent student riots in France. Nonetheless, the answer would be right even if the Nixon story is flawed. Is there a more discernible track in the forest of history than that which leads from the French Revolution to communism and beyond? The beast evolves and mutates but the taxonomy is doubtless. The revolutionary Red Cap of Liberty led to the death of perhaps a hundred million people in the Twentieth Century and the virtual enslavement of vastly more unfortunate souls. How did the troubadour of totalitarianism internalize such a ghastly fact? Only God knows and is competent to judge him. We recoil in horror because it is the only decent human response.

  8. Pete Seeger is a person that I never paid any attention to during my lifetime. He has shown he was one of Lenin’s useful idiots. Interesting…and apt that the overrated blowhard Bruce Springsteen would praise Pete Seeger.

    Bob Seger…..now that’s another story. Bob Seger is over 60 and still rocks. Sunspot Baby is one of the greatest breakup songs ever. Seger could not have known that the lyrics are an ad for Life Lock.

    She packed up her bags and she took off down the road
    Left me here stranded with the bills she owed
    She gave me a false address
    Took off with my American Express
    Sunspot Baby
    She sure had me way outguessed

    She left me here stranded like a dog out in the yard
    Charged up a fortune on my credit card
    She used my address and my name
    Man that was sure unkind
    Sunspot Baby
    She sure has a real good time

    I looked in Miami
    I looked in Negril
    The closest I came was a month old bill
    I checked the Bahamas and they said she was gone
    I can’t understand why she did me so wrong

    But she packed up her bags
    And she took off down the road
    Said she was going to visit sister Flo
    She used my address and my name
    Put my credit to shame
    Sunspot Baby
    I’m gonna catch up sometime
    Sure had a real good time

    That’s a lot better than anything Pete Seeger sang.

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