Observation four: Finally, I cannot refrain from ending on one reference to Dreier’s profile of Pete Seeger. As PJM readers know, I have written about him on this site far too many times. All you have to do is Google my name and that of Seeger and all I’ve written will come up. Those who have read my entry, or my memoir Commies (the section in which I discuss Seeger I’m glad to report is being reprinted, believe it or not, in a new book titled The Pete Seeger Reader, which will come out next year), know that I have made one major criticism about Seeger. A straight CP Party-liner, during the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Seeger and the Almanac Singers recorded their album of anti-interventionist and anti-war songs titled “Songs for John Doe.” The lyrics of the songs attacked foreign war, FDR as a warmonger, and any alliance with Great Britain as an imperialist policy. When Nazi Germany broke the pact and invaded the U.S.S.R. in 1941, overnight Seeger and the Almanac Singers recalled the records and quickly began to sing pro-war songs calling for an alliance with the Soviet Union against Fascism.
So what does Peter Dreier, who knows the facts, say about this? The simple answer: nothing! All he writes is that the Almanacs “wrote their own songs to advance the cause of progressive groups, the Communist Party, the Congress of Industrial Organizations unions [he does not mention that they stopped their pro-union songs during the war, since the CP endorsed a no-strike pledge and urged high productivity for workers without wage increases], the New Deal, and, later, the United States and its allies (including the Soviet Union) in the fight against fascism.” Rather than deal with any of the obvious contradictions and Seeger’s clear Stalinism, he writes only that the Almanacs were “part of a broader upsurge of popular progressive culture during the New Deal.” He complains that they were “hounded by the FBI, got few bookings,” even though that came during the Cold War, and it was their own sectarianism that got them few gigs. No mention, of course, the song he used to sing during the early Cold War, “Put My Name Down Brother, Where Do I Sign?,” which urged his audiences to endorse the so-called Stockholm Peace Petition, the pro-Soviet cause of the day which favored unilateral Western disarmament and said nothing about Soviet defense policy and development of their own “socialist” atomic weapons.
So, to sum up, what The Nation and Peter Dreier have produced is not a list of the last century’s greatest Americans, but rather those whose activities and lives can be molded into Dreier’s Howard Zinn-like understanding of the American past. And of course, all his entries are pro-Communist. He has to praise the founder of the UAW, the late Walter Reuther, but rather than comprehend that this trade union leader fought hard to eliminate Communists from the union since he understood that they were a real threat to free labor, he only can explain that “Reuther shared some of the blame” for labor’s decline as well as the AFL chief George Meany, since “as part of the Red Scare, Reuther had expelled many of the most radical and experienced organizers and leaders from labor’s ranks.” It never occurs to Dreier that Reuther knew that the Communists’ loyalty was to Moscow, not to the rank-and-file of his own union.
Anyone who wants to see how leftist intellectuals define heroes will learn from this book about their distorted view of the United States. Those who want to learn about real American heroes will simply waste their time if they even take one look at it.