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Sunkara writes: "It's not that Seeger did a lot of good despite his longtime ties to the Communist Party; he did a lot of good because he was a Communist."

Pete Seeger sings with fellow activists at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963. (photo: Adger Cowans/Getty Images)
Pete Seeger sings with fellow activists at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963. (photo: Adger Cowans/Getty Images)

In Defense of Pete Seeger, American Communist

By Bhaskar Sunkara, Al Jazeera America

29 January 14


Like his party associates, Seeger was consistently on the right side of history

hen the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger died Monday at the age of 94, remembrances of him, unsurprisingly, focused less on his music than on his social activism. All the better - Seeger, the epitome of tireless commitment to "the cause," would have liked it that way.

Some comments were laudatory, praising every aspect of his advocacy. But most of them struck the balanced tone of The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews, who tweeted: "I love and will miss Pete Seeger but let's not gloss over that fact that he was an actual Stalinist."

Such attempts at balance miss the mark. It's not that Seeger did a lot of good despite his longtime ties to the Communist Party; he did a lot of good because he was a Communist.

This point is not to apologize for the moral and social catastrophe that was state socialism in the 20th century, but rather to draw a distinction between the role of Communists when in power and when in opposition. A young worker in the Bronx passing out copies of the Daily Worker in 1938 shouldn't be conflated with the nomenklatura that oversaw labor camps an ocean away.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, time after time American Communists such as Seeger were on the right side of history - and through their leadership, they encouraged others to join them there.

Communists ran brutal police states in the Eastern bloc, but in Asia and Africa they found themselves at the helm of anti-colonial struggles, and in the United States radicals represented the earliest and more fervent supporters of civil rights and other fights for social emancipation. In the 1930s, Communist Party members led a militant anti-racist movement among Alabama sharecroppers that called for voting rights, equal wages for women and land for landless farmers. Prominent and unabashedly Stalinist figures such as Mike Gold, Richard Wright and Granville Hicks pushed Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal to be more inclusive and led the mass unionization drives of the era. These individuals, bound together by membership in an organization most ordinary Americans came to fear and despise, played an outsize and largely positive role in American politics and culture. Seeger was one of the last surviving links to this great legacy.

"Stateside Communists were the underdogs, fighting the establishment for justice - the victims of censorship and police repression, not its perpetrators."

American communism was different during those years. It wasn't gray, bureaucratic and rigid, as it was in the U.S.S.R., but creative and dynamic. Irving Howe thought it was a put-on, a "brilliant masquerade" that fought for the right causes but in a deceptive, opportunistic way. But there was an undeniable charm to the Communist Party - an organization that hosted youth dances and socials, as well as militant rallies - that first attracted Seeger. One need only reread the old transcripts from his 1955 run-in with the House Un-American Activities Committee to see the difference between the stodginess of the interrogators and the crackling wit of the young firebrand.

Stateside Communists were the underdogs, fighting the establishment for justice - the victims of censorship and police repression, not its perpetrators.

Seeger, like other party members, came to regret the illusions he held about the Soviet Union. He apologized for thinking that "Stalin was simply a 'hard-driver' and not a supremely cruel misleader." But he never abandoned his commitment to organized radical politics. Along with Angela Davis and other prominent former Communist Party members, he helped form the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a democratic socialist group, in 1991.

Remarking on Seeger, Bruce Springsteen once said that "he'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament to the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends."

In stark contrast to the role played by state socialists abroad, that's a good way to describe the legacy of the Communist Party at home, a legacy Seeger never recanted.

See Also: Here's the Amazing Transcript of Pete Seeger Pissing Off the House Un-American Activities Committee your social media marketing partner


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+170 # Jingze 2014-01-29 14:28
Pete Seeger was a far greater patriot than most members of congress. He cared about the quality of life of all people. Most members of congress don't care a whit for anyone beyond their greedy selves. Rest in peace, Pete. You made a difference.
+103 # Billsy 2014-01-29 14:49
Some comments were laudatory, praising every aspect of his advocacy. But most of them struck the balanced tone of The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews, who tweeted: "I love and will miss Pete Seeger but let's not gloss over that fact that he was an actual Stalinist."

I fail to see anything "balanced" in Matthew's petty character assassination. Referring to Pete Seeger as a "stalinist" is a vulgar cheap shot. There is a big difference between associating a man with amythical ideal of economic & governing policy like "communism" or "socialism" and associating him with a despot. The once great Washington Post is a caricature of its former self.
+130 # Larry 2014-01-29 14:52
Pete Seeger was a beacon of courage, morality, and humanity. His selfless, tireless efforts to improve the lot of working men and women, and to protect the environment, including the Hudson River, from industrial ruin, transcend all of the political "isms" with which he has been labeled. This man is a true American hero, and an inspiration to the generations that followed him. Thank you, Pete Seeger.
-52 # randyjet 2014-01-29 17:03
I hope that you will remember Seeger advocating and helping to MURDER Trotsky. He did not want peace and love for all. He cheered and supported FDR putting the leaders of the SWP in prison for their political views. That totally destroyed the CPUSAs credibility when the guns were turned on them for the same "crime". In fact, the whole labor movement was repulsed by him and the CP craven attitude towards others. That is part of what allowed the witch hunting to succeed.
Then we can certainly NOT forget their alliance with HITLER after the Stalin Hitler pact was signed. The CP from 1939 to 1941 was against the US re-arming and sending any aid to Britain when they were fighting Hitler alone. They even had a cute slogan, The Yanks are NOT coming. Overseas all the CPs in the world defended the Nazis, and in France, when Hitler marched into Paris, the Nazis allowed the CP newspaper to keep on publishing. Then we cannot forget Seeger endorsing the imprisonment of Japanese Americans by FDR after Pearl Harbor. They also kicked them out of the party as well. Seeger sure as hell did not care for the rights of the Japanese Americans who were the underdog. They also fought against Philip Randolph's proposed march on Washington to demand equality for black Americans in the military and war industries. Seeger and the CP fought against strikes by unions because of the poor working conditions and pay. They even tried to extend the no strike pledge AFTER the war was over! That killed the CP.
+27 # Cassandra2012 2014-01-29 17:43
EVIDENCE? Guilt by association is/was the trite claptrap used by HUAC and other unsavory self-laudatory organizations.
+36 # ericlipps 2014-01-29 18:14
Well, for what it's worth, heroic capitalists like Henry Ford and IBM's Thomas Watson allied themselves with the Nazis. Ford had to be forced, in 1942, to stop selling military vehicles to the Third Reich, while Watson sent the Nazis tabulating machines they used to help keep the trains running on time to the death camps and keep track of those camps' work.
+2 # mjc 2014-01-30 11:05
As did the senior Kennedy by supporting the Nazi industrializati on of Germany...durin g the period just before WWII.
+6 # RLF 2014-01-30 11:01
I have a hard time believing this because the Nazi were killing and jailing communists.
+64 # jsheats 2014-01-29 14:58
An excellent article, reminding (or educating, for many younger people) us of how organizations change and that history is made by individual and what they actually do, not by labels or abstractions. The Communist party which Seeger joined is the same one Robert Oppenheimer was at least friendly to (and his brother Frank, founder of the S.F. Exploratorium, was openly a member of).

The communist party in Italy used to be (in the days when the Soviet Union was still alive) the only significant opposition to the essentially corrupt "establishment" . So it was not only in Asia and Africa where it played a constructive role.
+55 # wrknight 2014-01-29 16:29
A point to be learned here is that organizations not only change in time (witness the Republican Party - the so called Party of Lincoln), they also differ from place to place (Communists in the U.S. were totally unlike Communists in the U.S.S.R.). Organization names can be very misleading and one must be very careful in using and interpreting them to avoid miscommunicatio n.
+86 # DavidtheLiberal 2014-01-29 15:00
Pete Seeger needs no defense. He is his own defense. He cared about people. He was selfless, tireless, in his work to help the working man. That he had affiliation with the communists of the time is utterly immaterial to his legacy. He is as American as Lincoln, Washington, and a hell of a lot more so than too many of the present bunch in Washington, including both parties. Disclaimer: I'm a Democrat.
-105 # Penn 2014-01-29 15:57
He died a 1%'er. Still like him now?
+81 # dickbd 2014-01-29 16:20
I think your statement is wrong. But having money doesn't make you bad. It's how you got it and what you do with it that determines that!
+55 # Texas Aggie 2014-01-29 16:28
So? You do a lot of projection. For you and many right wingers, group is all that counts. For the rest of us, a person's legacy is what he did.

Unlike many of the rest of the 1%, assuming that this isn't something you made up on the spur of the moment like Rand Paul's figures on women in law and medical school, Mr. Seeger contributed more to society than he took. His legacy is one of helping the helpless, not walking all over them.

When A. Lincoln, the torchbearer that the republicans love to claim, said, "It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it," he was talking about the modern republican party.
+40 # Cassandra2012 2014-01-29 17:46
Quoting Penn:
He died a 1%'er. Still like him now?

Evidence for such an assertion? And do artists like Seeger need to be 'starving' to be appreciated?
+6 # Even 2014-01-31 11:31

IGNORE Penn, he (or she) only lives if you react to his provocation. That is the only reason he writes the crap that he writes. JUST IGNORE HIM (or her).
+6 # RLF 2014-01-30 11:03
evidence asshole? Take your crap back to Fox. This guy is a troll...plant from the Kochs.
+72 # randrjwr 2014-01-29 15:06
Re: "...The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews, who tweeted: "I love and will miss Pete Seeger but let's not gloss over that fact that he was an actual Stalinist."
Such attempts at balance miss the mark."

I believe THIS particular attempt at balance misses the mark by light years. Pete Seeger was NOT a "Stalinist". He would never have considered murdering 20 million of his own (or anybody else's) people. He abhored violence--check out his song "Who Killed Davey Moore", for example. His Communism was along the lines of Trotsky, seeking equality and justice, not repression. Listen to his songs and judge for yourself. As for me, I am with gsemsel; he was a great patriot (for what America should and could be) and he made a difference. Wherever he went, I hope I go there too, and am allowed to bring my banjo (which I took up after attending a concert of his as a college freshman).
-106 # Penn 2014-01-29 15:56
um, YES he would consider killing 20 million or more people. You just don't want to "believe" it, but this is not about your faith.
+45 # dascher 2014-01-29 16:47
?? you know that Pete Seeger would consider murdering 20 million or more people ?? Were you his confessor? On what is this highly dubious assertion based?
+37 # Cassandra2012 2014-01-29 17:47
Again, Penn, where is your EVIDENCE? Or, do you, like most Teapuglicans think simply stating something for the hell of it, makes it 'true'???
+15 # backwards_cinderella 2014-01-30 04:07
would you PLEASE shut up already?

WHO is paying you to troll here?
+2 # RLF 2014-01-30 11:05
Maybe he should have if they were all as smart as you!
+79 # Farafalla 2014-01-29 15:36
Let's not forget that other greats like Nelson Mandela and Mexico's artists Freida Kahlo and David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera were also all communists. This article is a great reminder that in the mid 20th century, many, many conscious intellectuals in capitalist countries were communists.
+55 # Dust 2014-01-29 15:54
I wonder if Dylan Matthews would have said the same thing about the early Church: "Yes, I'll miss Peter, Paul, and Stephen, but we should not forget that they, like their teacher, were communists".

+48 # Mainiac 2014-01-29 16:10
The leaders of China operate a fascist government under the heading of the Communist Party. In Mao’s era, it was. But it is certainly bears no resemblance to a Communist Party today.

US governments falsely claim to be spreading democracy and freedom around the world. The kind of governments that we have helped establish and have supported are dictatorships. And we have the dictatorship of the one percent here at home so we are no longer a democracy.
+73 # ganymede 2014-01-29 16:16
The death of Pete Seeger is almost on the level of importance as the death of another great 'communist', Nelson Mandela. It's also an opportunity to do some history correction.
The Communist Party was one of the few places in the 1920's and 30's where high spirited, talented activists could go and be effective. Obviously, most of these western Communists would never condone what was beginning to happen in the Soviet Union as the murderous Stalin consolidated power by eliminating the liberal communists along with many innocents, and then came the Hitler/Stalin pact and the Second World War when everything changed.
Seeger's music and message had a profound effect on all people of good will and will be remembered much longer than our wonderful anti-communists who used their anti-communism as a cudgel to wreak havoc on the world and almost bring our country to its knees. However, any country that can produce a Pete Seeger will eventually deal with its reactionaries and flourish as a real democracy.
Very few will agree, but I believe that's what's beginning to happen in the United States as we watch and encourage the downsizing and delegitimatizin g of the rightwingers.
Thanks Pete for all your wonderful music and political activism.
+61 # witchyny 2014-01-29 16:29
This is America and you can be a Communist if you want to be.

Besides, anyone who was Anyone in the 30's in America was a Communist. It was considered the next progressive political thing that was going to happen.
Perhaps we need a published list of all the Great American Communists. Just to set the record straight.
Goodbye Pete. Good Job, and Thanks!
+33 # dascher 2014-01-29 17:17
"This is America and you can be a Communist if you want to be"

Historically, this is not accurate. Members of the Communist Party were convicted of violating the "Smith Act" and many were fined, jailed, and/or deported.

There are multiple instances of communists being attacked by mobs while law enforcement officials stood by and watched.

So what you should have said is "This is America and you can be a Communist if you are willing to be jailed, beaten, and otherwise denied your rights as a citizen."
+23 # Cassandra2012 2014-01-29 17:50
And preferable to being a self-serving hypocritical fascist like Appleton, WI's Joe McCarthy, surely!
+46 # juancho 2014-01-29 17:00
Howard Zinn, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Healey and now Pete Seeger. Seems to me that there is no one left with a social conscience. This is a great article by a person who understands that American communists in the thirties and forties were some of the finest people that the country ever produced. They were committed to making the country a more just place for everyone. If you can find it, get a copy of the documentary Seeing Red. After seeing that documentary, no sane person can view early American communists as anything but dedicated, caring people who believed they could make the country a better place.
+9 # backwards_cinderella 2014-01-30 04:10
"seeing red" is a GREAT book. it should be required reading, along with "a people's history of the united states" & "democracy for the few" but few kids ever see these books.
+2 # RLF 2014-01-30 11:07
Sorry...What'd you say? I was looking at my iphone.
+38 # shgo 2014-01-29 17:04
Pete Seeger doesn't need anybody defending him. His life was his message and it was the best message anyone could give in this perverted country of Amerika - thanx for everthing you did to teach us all about loving thy neighbor and how stupid war is and all the rest. RIP.
-61 # David Macko 2014-01-29 17:07
Here is a contrary view from The Great Tomato Bubble, "Pete Seeger, Obama Loving Communist" I could almost forgive him for supporting Stalin decades ago. Many stupid, brainwashed leftists did so. But I cannot forgive him for supporting Obummer.
+34 # dascher 2014-01-29 17:28
Given the choice of doing business with Hitler (like IBM, Joe Kennedy, Lindbergh, etc) or opposing fascism (also opposed by Stalin despite his pact with Hitler to divide Poland), Seeger and other commies did the right thing.

They also did the right thing opposing the racists in the Democratic Party (Eastland, Strom Thurmond, etc.) and organizing unions, campaigning for the minimum wage, campaigning for women's rights, etc. In all these instances, the movements in which they were involved or leading, were denounced by self-described 'real American patriots' as if while, of course, these were all noble causes, they were implicitly illegitimate because of the involvement of 'reds'. Then these real American patriots organized violent attacks against the participants in the movements.

Which side looks like it was wrong now?

And his support of Obama is what upsets you most? That sounds somewhat disingenuous.
+11 # norman markowitz 2014-01-29 17:31
There is a serious flaw in this tribute. Peter Seeger continued to sing at CPUSA functions and work with CPUSA organizations. He was a Communist with a small c but he never denounced big C Communists and he always understood that the CPUSA since its founding as been vital force to educate, organize and coordinate working class struggles. The majority Communist movement supported the Soviet Union as a bulwark against fascism and imperialism, which it was and also as the first revolutionary socialist state in history. The demonization of Joseph Stalin as an individual, making him into a Red Adolf Hitler, became a central ideological weapon in the cold war through the world. The Communist parties of France, Italy, China, Vietnam, and South Africa, to name but a few, supported the Soviet Union and continued to do so because its role in the world. The CPUSA, like the SACP, faced with political segregation and outright persecution(the SACP of course at a much higher level) when faced with both institutional racism and institutional anti-Communism, refused to kow tow to their enemies signing the equivalent of an "anti-Stalinist loyalty oath." The various left factions who attacked "Stalinism"(mos tly Trotskyist groups) were unable to gain or accomplish anything much in the U.S.(some later became neoconservatives)
Pete Seeger belongs to the whole left, the broad left. The article in that sense does him a disservice
+37 # newsmom 2014-01-29 17:37
I have carried a pocketful of sadness with me all of today today and yesterday. I had the joy of meeting him several times as a student. when pete seeger visited our campus at antioch college in the late 1950s, we would bring our guitars and banjos and play and sing with him on the patio outside our dorm which was dubbed "red square." it was a magical time with this tall, thin, wiry, gentle soul. It is easy for people to malign a person who has quietly gone through decades of campaigning for peace and justice instead of investing time and energy in spewing bigotry and ignorance.
+28 # cabotool 2014-01-29 17:58
I had the great luck for myself and my wife, Marion, to meet Pete Seeger in 1956, when I was 21. My wife, Marion, was very feisty and she protested at the HUAC meetings in San Francisco, the same year.

I saw the movies of the California Highway Patrol, dragging young college girls down the courthouse steps as if they were sacks of potatoes.... more like the Nazi Gestapo than American citizens.

I believe that we face an even worse situation today. I am much too old to fight at age 78; but I hope that the young people of today stand up to the authorities of today.
+17 # nightwolfboy 2014-01-29 18:19
"Many stupid, brainwashed leftists did so." Hmmmmmm. This comment from Macko makes more sense if the "M" in his name is inverted.
+21 # Skippydelic 2014-01-29 18:50
It's not the PARTY, it's the PERSON!

True, Pete Seeger belonged to the Communist Party, but at the same time, the Communist Party in America was as much a group of people that believed in social justice as in any ideology!

Consider: The Declaration of Independence says that "all men are created equal"; equality was ALSO the aim of the social justice that Seeger and his cohorts promoted.

So should we call the Founding Fathers 'communists'?

Of course, that depends on how you *define* 'communist'; if we're talking about the economic theories of Marx and Engels, maybe not, but if you look at the *ideals*, they're a LOT closer than you might think!

Rest In Peace, Pete Seeger; you've more than earned it!
+13 # DaveM 2014-01-29 19:06
Why should anyone apologize for using his rights as an American citizen? The rest of us have the right to agree or disagree. That's the neat thing about America, as Pete Seeger said many times in many ways.
-11 # Junius 2014-01-29 19:51
That communist Russia and nazi Germany were allies in 1939 is simple fact. Communist parties everywhere followed the party line, supporting the Russian-German allies against France and Britain. We may assume that Pete, young and naive, followed the party line. Still, he was a national treasure, as were many communists.
+7 # Jude 2014-01-30 01:49
I believe you will find that Russia was on our side during the Second World War.
+5 # stannadel 2014-01-30 04:09
We were neutral (pro-British) before December 1941 and the USSR was allied with Nazi Germany from the signing of the Hitler Stalin pact until the German invasion in June 1941. Only after the invasion was "Russia on our side."
+5 # cabotool 2014-01-30 09:07
When I was in the third grade in 1943, we were taught a Russian Army song that you can hear on U Tube with the English translation at The melody and the words haunt me today... 60 years later.
+8 # cabotool 2014-01-30 08:46
When I was in the third grade in 1943, America was an ally of Russia and we were taught a Russian army song with the words, "Onward, fight onwards". I now speak some Russian. the the Russian name of the song is "Over the fields" You can find the song on You Tube under Russian folk songs. How many people are aware that Russia lost some 50 million people in the second word war. Consider that if it were not for Russia, we might all be speaking German today. My friend, Irina, from Saint Petersburg, told me that of the 42 homes in her village North of Saint Petersburg; only two had a man in the house.
+7 # polfrosch 2014-01-30 15:52
What you write is true. I just want to correct the number, while saying: what your friend Irina told you fills the laconic digits with meaning.

It was 20 million (10 million soldiers and 10 million civilians) Soviets who were killed because of the german invasion. It was a war of extermination.
St. Petersburg had to endure a siege until early 1944 with 500.000 dead soldiers and 1 Million dead civilians, people died from hunger, just collapsing dead in the streets.

The USA lost 292.000 soldiers on the european and pacific front. The commonwealth lost 340.000 soldiers and 60.000 civilians due to german bombing and rockets.

Americans should honour the price Russia had to pay to defend, Stalin or not.

I have been several times in Russia after 1989 and although I am german, I never met hostility, only careful examination from veterans how much nazism was in me, and that mostly ended in a huge dinner, buckets of vodka and lots of toasts: we Russians and Germans had been friends for centuries, we should have always been friends, and now we will be. Never again war, never again cruelty, we will find a way together.

It did not mean former communists and nazis united, we were just humans with a heart who want to see their kids grow up in peace. As I wrote before on RSN: Since that experience I take great care what I say about Russians. The good will I encountered left a deep mark.

You have a Russian friend too. You know, there´s hope...
+7 # revhen 2014-01-29 20:46
Marx was a better diagnostician than a healer.
+7 # polfrosch 2014-01-30 16:19
He never wrote a prescription.

And especially in his early writings there is much the same spirit you can find in the writings of the American revolution: a burning desire for freedom and justice.

And that is not exactly "soviet". A very similar spirit is in George Orwells writings.

Being a communist in the USA is pretty similar to being a dissident in the USSR or printing resistance leaflets in occupied France.

And I bet there is not much difference between servile career officers in the CIA and KGB and Gestapo torture squads.

We should admire those who rule gentle and civilized and honour and protect those who speak up when they see injustice.

It´s Snowden and Seeger who are heroes, not the NSA apparatchiks. It´s Sacharov - and Gorbachev.
+6 # John S. Browne 2014-01-29 21:20

Pete Seeger was obviously a believer in what I call, "utopian socialism or communism"; a non- totalitarian form of communism that is a far cry different from what Russian "communism", and the communism of other countries, degenerated into. Were utopian socialists duped into believing that Russian "communism" was and would remain utopian, kind of like most "liberal" Americans were duped into supporting, and far too many of them still support, "Barack 'Totalitarian' Odrona"? Yes, they were. But they came to realize that what Russian communism became was not what they believed in and supported. So, to compare them with totalitarian socialism is completely unjust.

Would I agree with all of Pete Seeger's political views? Probably not. But I don't agree with most peoples' political views. So my disagreement with Seeger's political views means nothing except that we're all supposed to be free individuals, with free thoughts and beliefs, even if they differ from some peoples', or the majority's, beliefs; and, if we aren't violent, as clearly Pete Seeger was not, then that is perfectly alright and should not be outlawed or criminalized like it was during the communist blacklisting, and how it is being now.


+11 # John S. Browne 2014-01-29 21:21

Totalitarian control freaks can't stand individualism, and want everyone to conform to their narrowminded, robotic, conformist, terrorizing, torturing, brutal, violent, mass-murdering collectivism where no one else, no matter how harmless and/or defenseless, is tolerated, and everyone is supposed to think alike in an extremely narrow, brainwashed mindset. That is not at all what the U.S. is supposed to stand for in any way; and it is the exact opposite of what the U.S. is supposed to stand for, without fail.

-11 # jubileeshine 2014-01-29 21:43
wheres your defense of American communist Amiri Baraka? or only defend white guys who were red 60 years back..
+11 # eosheawyatt 2014-01-30 07:46
No one should ever have to apologize for being a member of the Communist Party in the U.S. They did more to move this country towards a more inclusive democracy than any other organizationn then or now. Pete Seeger gave voice to the struggles that the Communist Party fought for. He was one of many decent caring people who saw capitalism destroying the lives of working people and they tried and did make life better for working people. Whether they were Stalinist or not they never had the power to act like a Stalin.
Pushing the Communists out of the labor movement is why we have have a bureaucratic ineffective labor movement today. Never apologize for belonging to the Communist Party. We owe them a thank you
+6 # rhgreen 2014-01-30 09:09
Two thoughts: (1) It was not illegal to be a Communist and there was never any threat of overthrow of the US govt from American Communists (only a threat of voters abandoning the mainstream corporate backed political parties), but there were corporate backed forces which made you pay for any connection with the leftists; (2) Why does it take Al Jazeera to point out these things? Why doesn't our "free press" ever do it? Read James Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States".
+6 # oakes721 2014-01-30 16:09
With all of the attention leaning toward his politics, be mindful that Pete was a long time Quaker Friend. Quakers have the long tradition as the Peace religion, actively pursuing the avenues that bring people together to promote understanding and tolerance among us.

Certainly a leader of a generation, all the stories
about just how down-to-Earth Pete has always been begin flooding back
to me now. The memory of over a hundred people passing pumpkins onto the Clearwater will
always stand to remind me how many hands CAN work
together to achieve good things in this life. I've often wondered who
he might pass his light onto. Despite all of the democratic resolve to
work together, there is a great need for such leadership as he lent to
us. Hope insists that others will emerge.
+1 # anarchteacher 2014-01-30 22:05
I am astounded by the willful ignorance displayed here concerning the history of Communism, both in the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R.

Dr. John Earl Haynes is an American historian who is a specialist in 20th-century political history in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. He is known for his books on the subject of the American Communist and anti-Communist movements, and on Soviet espionage in America (many written jointly with Harvey Klehr).

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union during the first years of the 1990s, previously closed sensitive archives in Russia began to tentatively be opened to scholars. In 1993 in his capacity with the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, Haynes became the first American scholar to examine the records of the Communist Party USA housed in the former archive of the Communist International in Moscow.

Haynes was later instrumental in helping to forge a December 1998 agreement between the institutional forerunner of today's Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), keeper of the Comintern documents, and the Library of Congress which led to the microfilming of the CPUSA collection and its sale to academic institutions.

Utopia in Blood: Red Delusions and Nightmare Reality - an Amazon book list
0 # anarchteacher 2014-01-30 22:21
Since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new historiography has emerged that has relied on Soviet archival primary sources and declassified American decrypted documents not available to previous generations of researchers.

We now know Roosevelt’s New Deal was indeed a hotbed for hundred of spies for the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s. The Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) was a ripe recruiting ground for espionage, from the top leadership cadre down to the rank and file Party membership. Courageous Americans who broke with the Party, such as former CPUSA General Secretary Benjamin Gitlow, author of The Whole of Their Lives: Communism in America: A Personal History and Intimate Portrayal of Its Leaders, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948, have been vindicated in their warnings to the American people of this Trojan Horse within our country.

The shocking new revelations of factual evidence unearthed by these researchers has not always been welcomed in the larger scholarly community. Two of the most intrepid of these historians, John Earl Hayes and Harvey Klehr, have documented this on-going Battle of the Books in their celebrated, definitive work, In Denial: Historians, Communism & Espionage, Encounter Books, 2003.
+1 # anarchteacher 2014-01-30 22:41
Many commenters on this RSN website have not let go of Cold War mythology and ideological distortions, and have actively sought to deny the new truths that emerged from the clandestine cloisters of the former Soviet Union archives and decrypted VENONA transcripts. They refuse to believe that a new post-Cold War historiographic al paradigm has emerged, and hold naively fast to an outdated interpretative status quo. Their skewed perception of agitprop folk singer Pete Seeger and his seminal role in the story of Communism's cultural front are shaped by these distortions.

The Red Decade - an Amazon book list
+1 # polfrosch 2014-02-06 10:57
Very interesting books, thank you for posting them.

I know you are right about the facts you state, e.g. Venona and the use of foreign communist organisations by the soviets. (The civil war in Spain is a "his-story" of betrayal by the soviets)

I don´t think what you say is wrong, I just think you overestimate the effectivity and outcome of these soviet plans - and you don´t mention the US plans.

We don´t know very much about them, as the USA is no failed empire with (a period) of open archives containing the really dirty and important and accessible files - they were to an astonishing degree accessible in Russia until Putin came to power.

If everything is secret, as it was in the USSR, any change of that policy was so unbelievable it created turmoil, and the next step was "nothing is secret" rather than "this still needs to be secret".)

We now know quite a lot about the intelligence-co mmunity-driven- secret-policies of the USSR, but not about those of the USA.

I think both are underestimated. But especially the US version, because:

Who won the cold war? And how?
+4 # lilluc2 2014-01-31 08:36
Pete Seeger never strayed from his convictions. Wether you agree with them or not is not really the point.
He united people through his music. He played his old banjo and sang his songs anywhere and every where. He took his music and his message to the streets, to the people and he made us smile. He gave us hope that maybe there could be a better world. He never gave up or gave in, he just played and sang and always encouraged us to sing along.
How beautiful is that!
0 # RICHARDKANEpa 2014-01-31 18:31
Let's take a moment to reflect on the joy Pete Seeger expressed, and the joy he spread especially in the midst of hardship both his own and of others,

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