Thursday, September 06, 2007

60 years later, Seeger is denouncing Stalin

I nearly spit out my coffee today when America's preeminent communist folksinger, Pete Seeger, finally admitted that, perhaps, Josef Stalin was more of a cruel tyrant than he was an enlightened socialist leader. I congratulate Pete for his bravery in denouncing Josef Stalin a mere 51 years after Stalin's own successor, Nikita Khrushchev, did. I guess he finally decided it was either safe, or non-controversial enough, to finally do so. Good show, Pete.

I name dropped "Stalin's Songbird" back in my post about dictator chic over a year ago, but never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that Pete Seeger would not only apologize for lionizing Stalin, but actually wrote a song daring to criticize Stalin. During the 1940's and early 1950's, Seeger stuck to the Kremlin's party line without error. When Stalin and Adolf Hitler forged their infamous non-aggression treaty, Seeger put out a strongly anti-war record, Songs for John Doe. Needless to say, when Hitler double-crossed Stalin, Seeger's mood and artistic outlook mysteriously changed in perfect accord with the party line. Songs for John Doe was withdrawn by the label, and Seeger joined the imperialist, capitalist, bourgeois American army. Who could have foreseen it?

In fairness to Seeger, he broke with the communist party in 1950, but oddly, he's had almost nothing to say for the past 50 years about the "paragon of humanity" he praised to the heavens and back during his years in the Communist Party of the USA. We heard a lot of singing about Vietnam, Selma and Lyndon Johnson, but not so much about Katyn or Kolyma. Seeger blames the Soviet emphasis on Leninist party discipline for his rigid adherence and continued silence, but let's face it: Seeger was also probably fairly embarrassed. Seeger's most enthusiastic support for Stalin came at the same time as Stalin was occupying himself with the starvation of the Ukraine and unleashing a reign of terror.

Now the octogenarian Seeger is attempting to make good with his usual tool - song. Included is a snippet of the "Anti-Joe Blues"

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe
He ruled with an iron hand!
He put an end to the dreams
Of so many in every land

He had a chance to make
A brand new start for the human race
Instead he set it back
Right in the same nasty place

I got the Big Joe Blues
Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast
I got the Big Joe Blues
Do this job, no questions asked
I got the Big Joe Blues

OK, so it's a little on the obvious side, but I suppose it's better late than never, right?

1 comment:

Ed Darrell said...

I think that, to anyone paying attention, it was clear Seeger didn't cotton to Stalin much longer ago -- say, the 1960s at the latest.

But then, one would have to pay attention to figure that out.