Ed Driscoll

This Crony Socialism Is Your Crony Socialism

Yes Virginia (and the NYT) Woody Guthrie was a Commie, Ronald Radosh writes at PJM. Plus, the Woody Guthrie/Solyndra connection, revealed!

Yesterday’s Arts section of the New York Times contained an interesting report about the status of Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl balladeer, in his native Oklahoma. Reporter Patricia Cohen writes that “Oklahoma has always had a troubled relationship with her native son Woody Guthrie. The communist sympathies of America’s balladeer infuriated local detractors.” Note that word, “communist sympathies;” evidently, Guthrie had some kind of innocuous sympathies, perhaps those of a naïve fellow traveler, but not those of a self-proclaimed hard-nosed Red.  As one resident of Guthrie’s hometown Okemah, who loved Guthrie told Cohen, Guthrie had been “kind of taboo because some influential people thought Woody Guthrie had communist leanings.” The implication, as you can see, is that those attitudes were the ill-informed opinions of old school Red-baiters from the ’30s.

Now, after years of denial, Oklahoma is ready to welcome Woody home. The story reports on how The George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa has bought Guthrie’s archives from his children, and are “building an exhibition and study center to honor his legacy.” It will include his notebooks and diaries, art work, letters, scrapbooks, and the like, including the lyrics of 3000 songs to which he never had the chance to write music. It cost George Kaiser some $3 million to undertake the project. We also learn that Kaiser is, as Cohen reports, “one of the richest men in Oklahoma,” a man who made his millions from the Kaiser-Francis Oil Company.

Kaiser, in other words, is just the kind of capitalist the Communists always yell about — an exploiter of both the workers and our country’s natural resources. If you read the Wikipedia entry about him, you will find that his net worth in 2008 was some $12 billion, although his  current net worth has dropped to a paltry $9 billion in today’s downward economy. He is still the richest man in Oklahoma (who also lives half time in San Francisco) but no longer one of the 20 richest in America, having slipped only to a tie for the 43rd richest person in the world!

Yes, Kaiser does good things with his wealth. He gives his money to causes like childhood education and the Oklahoma Jewish community. But he is also evidently part of the left-wing of the Democratic Party, a man who argued before Oklahoma’s legislature that tax incentives for the oil and gas industry should be eliminated or reduced, and the money be used instead for health care, education and tax cuts for regular people. (He did not, as you might expect, make that argument as he was accumulating his riches.) As you might expect, Mr. Kaiser was also one of Barack Obama’s “bundlers” in the 2008 election campaign, as well as a major investor in — you guessed it — Solyndra! (A bundler, as the Wikipedia entry explains, is “an individual who collects contributions to a candidate from others that are then simultaneously given to the candidate.”)

Incidentally, note this six degrees of Soviet separation moment later in Ron’s article:

In the ’50s, when I took banjo lessons from Pete Seeger, his banjo case would be stuffed full of issues of the Communist paper. Why, I asked Pete, did he have a week’s supply of The Worker in the banjo case? He told me that while he was in the city, he would go visit Woody in the hospital where he was confined because of his Huntington’s disease, and would read him the issues aloud so he could keep up with the Party news and positions. Later, in a TV documentary made for British TV, Pete said proudly that “Woody and I were Communists.”

This is no big secret anymore, except evidently, for those who still believe that unless one makes it clear he or she is a Communist to identify the person as one is Red-baiting.

Of course, as James Lileks noted a decade ago, that’s long been SOP at the NYT:

On Wednesday, James Lileks wrote:

Nowadays, if you point out that someone’s a Communist, you might well be accused of – dum dum DUMMMM – McCarthyism. The term has morphed from its original meaning. It no longer means falsely accusing someone of being a Communist. It now includes correctly identifying someone as a Communist, or ascribing a taint to someone because they don’t reject the Communists in their midst. (I’ll admit there’s a significant difference between the two.)

Yesterday’s New York Times has finally gotten around to reporting on A.N.S.W.E.R.’s communist ties, almost a week after several other publications on both sides of the aisle did. The Times’ article has these lines, printed without comment or dissent by the reporter who wrote the article:

In an interview today, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a spokeswoman for Answer, said questions raised about the group’s role were “classic McCarthy-era Red-baiting.””When you select out the Socialists or Marxists,” she said, “the point is to demonize and divide and diminish a massive, growing movement.”

In reply, Glenn Reynolds writes:

It’s not McCarthyite to call people who are communists, communists. Communists, as devoted followers of murderous totalitarianism, deserve to be called to account every bit as much as their Nazi colleagues. And in the 21st century, they can hardly pretend to be ignorant of their ideology’s true nature.

Sure they can — just ask The Nation, which at the end of 2011 is busy attempting to rehabilitate the rep of the Soviet Union.