Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Pete Seeger: “If I had a hammer and sickle”

America’s most famous, and most successful, Communist has just died.

Pete Seeger, folk singer, banjo player, successful communist recruitment tool – the man some dubbed Stalin’s Songbird – was 94.

The conventional wisdom holds that it was ever so—that American popular musicians have always been leftists, and that music-as-radical-politics has stretched across the decades, expressing the nation’s social conscience. The late New Left chronicler Jack Newfield, for instance, celebrated a “native tradition of an alternative America” that included not just such openly activist musicians as Woody Guthrie but also apparently non-political singers like Hank Williams and Mahalia Jackson.
    Yet this “native tradition” is a myth. Until quite recently, popular music’s prevailing spirit was apolitical … The politicisation of American pop … grew out of a patient leftist political strategy that began in the mid-1930s with the Communist Party’s “Popular Front” effort to use popular culture to advance its cause…
    Adopted at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935, the Popular Front tasked communists in the West with building “progressive” coalitions … The Popular Front sought to enlist Western artists and intellectuals, some of them not party members but “fellow travelers,” to use art, literature, and music to insinuate the Marxist worldview into the broader culture. The murals of Diego Rivera, the poetry of Langston Hughes, the novels of Howard Fast—all exemplified this approach…
    Thirty years after the Popular Front issued its call to transform culture through music, it had now become proper, even natural, for popular music to embrace leftist moral and political causes and for many young Americans to look to musicians for guidance on such matters…
    One figure stands out in this enterprise: the now—[deceased] singer, songwriter, “folk music legend,” and onetime party stalwart, Pete Seeger. Given his decisive influence on the political direction of popular music, Seeger may have been the most effective American communist ever…

As Mark Steyn said on the occasion of Seeger’s 90t birthday:

One must congratulate the old banjo-picker on making it to four score and ten, which is a lot older than many "dissenting artists" made it to under the regimes he's admired over the years…
    Yes, [his tunes are] dopey nursery-school jingles, but that’s why they’re so insidious. The numbing simplicity allows them to be passed off as uncontentious unexceptionable all-purpose anthems of goodwill..

Read more in this lengthy and well-argued 2005 piece at CITY JOURNAL: America’s Most Successful Communist; in this obituary of the old commie at HUFFINGTON POST: Pete Seeger, "Folk Music" and the Left; and in the title of this piece linked by Andrew Bolt: If only Leni Riefenstahl was a Communist like Pete Seeger...


  • “Until Pete Seeger’s death at 94 last night, he was perhaps the last man alive to say that he supported Hitler, Stalin, and Ho Chi Minh. That’s quite the totalitarian trifecta.”
    Pete Seeger’s Totalitarian Trifecta – Ed Driscoll,PJ MEDIA
  • “Americans have a great capacity to forgive and a small capacity to remember, which has been a great asset to the career of folk singer and national monument Pete Seeger. He was recently given two of the country's highest arts awards despite a life spent laboring on behalf of the most malignant political ideology ever put into practice.”
    America Honors Its Troubadour Of Totalitarianism – Stephen Chapman CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1995

Here, below, is one of his most lucrative tunes, and here the story of the dirt-poor shanty-town African stole it from and never acknowledged.


  1. That brings back memories about a more fun version in dutch:

  2. Most effective America communist ever? Come on: Barack Obama! Second: FDR.

    Or if you don't buy that: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (only because Klaus Fuchs was a Brit)

    Even then, I'd take Robert Zimmerman as more effective than Seeger at selling communism.

  3. You did know Seeger apologised, of course you did.

  4. @Mark: Have you heard the expression "A day late and a buck short?" Yes, of course you have.


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