The Worst Tribute Articles to Pete Seeger
So that is why he likes Pete Seeger, whom he calls “one of the last surviving links to this great legacy.” Moreover, he actually writes that there was “an undeniable charm to the Communist Party.” Read that again -- “an undeniable charm.” Is this man simply nuts? If Sunkara really believes this, he is more than ignorant. He simply does not know the truth, and responds to what Paul Berman accurately describes as Seeger’s appeal:
If you can persuade crowds of people that simple morality and a childlike vision of right and wrong can be summed up in a few phrases, there is nothing you cannot achieve, and some of what you might achieve could turn out to be disastrous in the extreme -- e.g., Stalin's idea of dividing up the world with Hitler.
I imagine that if Sunkara had been alive and heard Pete singing the songs on the "John Doe" album, he would have quickly run to the White House picketing against the idea of defense spending and war against Hitler.
Did Seeger eventually “regret the illusions he held about the Soviet Union,” as Sunkara says? Not really, despite his letters to me and his writing -- half a century too late -- his little ditty about Joe Stalin.
Indeed, speaking to theNew York Times, after that paper wrote an article about Seeger's controversial exchanges with me, Seeger said, referring to me and my books and article about the crimes of communism: “I’m sure there are more constructive things he could do with his life.”
I know Pete would not have said that if I had been writing books about fascism.
More than likely, he would have praised my doing so. Pete, like so many others on the Left, simply failed to realize that communism is fascism’s twin.
Some also take umbrage, as does Graham, with calling Seeger anti-American. In his Mother Jones article, David Hajdu, who spent time with Seeger before writing the article, called him “devoted to a few simple ideas, a nostalgist whose worldview often seems frozen in the era of his own coming-of-age.” He adds: “A strain of anti-Americanism has always run through Seeger's work.”
If you don’t think that is the case, listen to the Smithsonian Folkways CD “Pete Seeger Sing-a-Long,” recorded at the Sanders Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in 1980. In an impromptu remark, Seeger makes a comment about how if the people had guns, you better watch out, because you don’t know whom the people would use the guns against. The comment receives huge cheers. That is to be expected of from an audience in the People’s Republic of Cambridge.
Sunkara is right about one thing. He quotes Bruce Springsteen, who wrote that Seeger showed how song could “nudge history along.” Seeger did indeed help make communism more fashionable, and that is a tragedy, not something for which Pete Seeger should ever have received praise.