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Thu Jan 30, 2014, 02:51 AM

 

Pete Seeger, American Communist



When the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger passed away Monday at the age of 94, remembrances of him unsurprisingly focused less on his music and more 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 Pete 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 counter-intuitive 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.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/pete-seeger-american-communist/

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 02:59 AM

1. He regretted that he hadn't renounced his membership in the party sooner than he did.

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Response to elleng (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 03:10 AM

2. A lot of people joined because they were the only outfit against the rise of fascism

and most of them quit when they realized what Stalin was all about.

McCarthy was chasing a largely defunct American party.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 03:13 AM

5. Yes

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Response to Warpy (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 03:57 AM

7. More people joined because of the Depression. Seeger joined the Young Communist League in

 

1936, and subscribed to their paper for 4 years before that.

And the government-instigated red scare that began immediately following the war was the most important cause of people leaving and renouncing the CP, not revelations about Stalin -- which were only confirmed under Kruschev.

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Response to El_Johns (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 04:02 AM

8. My mother went to the meetings but never formally joined

She was completely out of it by the late 30s but still watched the McCarthy hearings with white knuckles.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #8)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 04:49 PM

14. The weirdest thing in the blacklist era was the way they treated Larry Parks.

 

He "named names"...and they blacklisted the poor schmuck ANYWAY. Go figure.

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Response to Ken Burch (Reply #14)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 05:22 PM

16. You couldn't win with the HUAC

I always thought their main purpose was to clear all the real talent out of show business to make room for schmucks like Reagan. Now there was a schmuck.

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Response to elleng (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 03:12 AM

3. Nevertheless, the good he did he did as a communist & a Communist.

 

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Response to El_Johns (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 03:13 AM

4. The good he did was as a compassionate member of society.

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Response to elleng (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 03:16 AM

6. It was as a communist.

 

Their commercial success was dampened, however, when “Red Channels,” an influential pamphlet that named performers with suspected Communist ties, appeared in June 1950 and listed Mr. Seeger, although by then he had quit the Communist Party. He later criticized himself for not having left the party sooner, though he continued to describe himself as a “communist with a small ‘c.’ ”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/arts/music/pete-seeger-songwriter-and-champion-of-folk-music-dies-at-94.html?_r=0


His reason for wishing he'd left the Party sooner was the gulag, etc.

He didn't stop characterizing himself as a communist.


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.


http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/1/peet-seeger-communistpartyactivism.html


Seeger joined the Young Communist League in 1936, when he was 17. Without his involvement in the CP, there is no Pete Seeger as we knew him.

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Response to MADem (Reply #9)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 04:47 PM

13. Maybe she was the "Red, with red hair" that Firesign Theater was singing about

 

in the "Porgie and Mudhead" song.

(this also might explain why she married a Cuban).

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 11:02 AM

10. Nothing wrong with being a communist -



Not all of us are statist - some of us feel very strongly about libertarian communism as a potential model (sort of like the Paris Commune as an historical example).

Pete was a good and a great man in my book.

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Thu Jan 30, 2014, 11:14 AM

11. Well let's haul him in front of HUAC again

Let's try and force him to turn informant. Let's make his life a living hell. Deny him the means to make a living. Ignore him. Denigrate him. Whatever. He was right and they were wrong. And they are still wrong.

If living a life like the one Seeger lived makes me a communist, so be it. I think it makes Jesus one too. Not the worst examples to follow.

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 04:45 PM

12. Pete stopped being an "actual Stalinist" in 1950, when he quit the Party.

 

The real reasons the Right wouldn't ever let up on him were that:

A) Pete wouldn't "name names" when called before HUAC. "Naming names" was never a practical necessity...the FBI already KNEW who all the Party members were...it was just done to expose those people to public shaming and the destruction of their lives. Pete just didn't want to destroy people he knew and cared about, especially since the overwhelming majority of American communists never did anything that was personally evil.

B) Pete refused to appease them Right by becoming a professional anti-leftists, or by becoming(as those bastards also seemed to feel entitled to demand) an unquestioning supporter of the capitalist system and our blood-soaked foreign policy tradition.

He should have denounced Stalin(they ALL should have)and realized that, but even if he and all of the other former CP'ers had done that, it wouldn't have changed anything in the Soviet Union or "Eastern Europe". Stalin was completely impervious to outside pressure.

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Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 04:57 PM

15. Pete Seeger did good because he was Pete Seeger.

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Response to spanone (Reply #15)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 06:29 PM

17. Right, some people are just born with the "good" genes.

 

Nothing to do with his dad's influence (CP member), his mother's influence (CP member), the left-wing environment he was raised in, 14 years spent in the CP himself.

No, he was just "Pete Seeger". That's why he did what he did.

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Response to El_Johns (Reply #17)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 06:32 PM

18. now you're catching on.

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Response to spanone (Reply #18)

Fri Jan 31, 2014, 06:34 PM

19. Too bad you're not.

 

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