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The legacy of Pete Seeger

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 10, 2014

How are we to think of Pete Seeger, who died recently at a ripe old age?  The left, of course, lauds him as a man led astray in his youth but ever a friend of the working man.  Leftists either do not speak – or, more likely, simply do not know – of the salient part of his life, the period in which Seeger and other communists stood beside Hitler against the West.

As I chronicle extensively in my book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie, during the twenty-two months between August 1939 and June 1941 there was a stark difference between those in free democracies who were loyal communists and those who were not. The latter group encompassed a broad spectrum of America.    Consider, for example, two famous Americans often portrayed as soft on Nazism, Charles Lindberg and Joseph Kennedy. 

But consider the overlooked parts of Lindberg's famous speak at Des Moines:  

"It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race. No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany…I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people.  Both races, I admire."

Or Joe Kennedy's equally famous 1940 speech on the imprudence of intervention:

"Hitler, the man who wanted war, has slammed the door on peace.  To all the world he has proclaimed that he, Hitler, wages total war for a new order – a new world where our society of justice according to law cannot exist... [England] is waging a war against a force that seeks to destroy the rule of conscience and reason, a force that proclaims its hostility to law, to family life, even to religion itself."

Who in America was arguing that the free democracies were the cause of war or that Britain did not hold the moral high ground over Germany?   The only two groups taking that perverse position were the tiny and despised pro-Nazi Bundists and communists like Pete Seeger.  The vast majority of Americans quite correctly saw in Communism a great evil indistinguishable, except for rhetorical nonsense, form Nazism.  This included every, except for communists, on the American Left.

In 1937 Max Eastman, once the most important American communist, wrote that the Soviet Union was "…a totalitarian state not in essence different from that of Hitler."   German exile Erica Mann, daughter of Thomas Mann, in her 1938 book, School for Barbarians, stated that the evil of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were same.   Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University and President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in his 1939 book against intervention, Why War? wrote that: "Communism and Fascism are fundamentally one."  Marcel Fodor in 1940 wrote that the rivalries of Nazis, Bolsheviks and Fascists were reminiscent of gangsters during the Prohibition Era in the United States. 

The communists in America who did not abandon their malignant religion after the non-aggression pact worked tirelessly to cripple the ability of Britain and America to oppose Hitler. Many key armaments factories were closed by wildcat strikes forced by communist goons terrorizing union members.  Communists like Betty Friedan picketed the White House to oppose aid to Britain and communist Dalton Trumbo, who in 1940 wrote Johnny Got His Gun, an anti-war book that described the horrors of war, abruptly ended publication of the book when Hitler invaded Russia.   Communists worked directly with the American Bund to oppose rearmament. 

Louis Budenz, once editor of the Daily Worker, noted later that this periodical "was given strict instructions by the ninth floor [offices of the Party's bosses] not to deride Hitler in cartoons, but to open both barrels on Britain."  Pete Seeger was right in the middle of this support for Nazis in their war with democratic nations.  His communist folksingers, The Almanac Singers, composed a viciously anti-Roosevelt album, Meet John Doe, which savagely attacked Roosevelt for trying to aid Britain in its fight against Hitler.

Communists immediately after the invasion of Russia began to parrot the new party line:  Stalin had been biding his time.  This is not true.  Stalin had done everything in his power to insure Nazi victory.  Soviet icebreakers created a path for German commerce raiders.  German soldiers were allowed transit through Russia to Norway.  The Soviets passed on to Hitler intelligence on British air defenses during the Battle of Britain.  Until Barbarossa, communists were loyal allies of Hitler and the whole world saw it so. 

How could Pete Seeger side with Hitler against Churchill then and be considered good today?  This is possible only if Seeger made the same mea culpa of repentant communists like Budenz, Chambers, Eastman, Kazan and Koestler.  Seeger never did that.  He and communists like Trumbo and Friedan swept this vast moral crime – overt complicity with Hitler when Hitler seemed unstoppable – as if it was all some misunderstanding.  Moreover, Seeger heaped contempt upon those ex-communists, like Elia Kazan, who "named names" by telling America about how deeply communists penetrated our nation.  That is the awful legacy of Pete Seeger: villain and in no sense hero. ESR

Bruce Walker is the author of book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life and a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right.





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