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Billy Pilgrim • 3 years ago

Rest in peace, Pete. You did outlast the bastards. The problem is there are always new bastards to take the place of the old bastards, and it is up to us who are still around to not give in or give up the good fight until all the bastards are either consigned to the dustbins of history, or ridiculed to the point where they can no longer do any harm.

old911guy • 3 years ago

Well said Billy.

Nikola Trumbo • 3 years ago

This morning I am feeling bereft. Pete Seeger was one-of-a-kind and a personal hero. When my family was targeted during the forties and fifties and my father was blacklisted and imprisoned, I was just being introduced to folk music. Pete Seeger was traveling around the country participating in fund-raisers for the Hollywod Ten and countless other blacklisted people. To me he was family; a support, an unbending strong arm, and a powerful moral beacon in a very bad time. I think he must have meant all that and more to many, many of us and I never want to forget his lessons.

Diggitt • 3 years ago

Well, Nikola, your dad was a hero to a lot of us too.

petethebear51 • 3 years ago

Well said !

Gene • 3 years ago

Your father is one of my Heroes, and favorite authors!

Gemma Seymour • 3 years ago

The older I get, the more I get Pete Seeger. Never did better walk this Earth, and if you don't understand why, then I suggest that you have become trapped by your own arguments, unable to see beyond the boundaries your rhetoric has defined.

I believe in the equal dignity of all the living, a principle which demands equal respect for, and equal protection under the law of, the natural, common, inherent, and unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and an equal share in the gifts of Nature, which were never created by the hand of any individual. That is the only kind of patriotism worth having.

Our culture has devolved into abject neoliberal productivist selfishness, elevating self-interest, market worthiness, and acquisitiveness above all. Self-interest is only the lowest form of morality, a foundation, not a goal, upon which we build higher morality. As we form legitimate government powers based upon the sacrifice of certain rights of the people in order to protect others, so do we form higher morality based on the sacrifice of personal self-interest for the greater good of the group, the family, the community, the nation, and all of humanity.

We can choose to pretend that the United States of America is a shining beacon to the world, or we can choose to fulfill the grand dreams of our forebears. My committment to my country can best be described in the words of one of the greatest Americans in history, the Republican Senator from Missouri, Carl Schurz, who in his address on the floor of Senate in 1872 spoke these powerful words, much mangled by those seeking self-serving, jingoistic pablum: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be made right."

rolliesmith • 3 years ago

This is very, very well said.

Alpheus Williams • 3 years ago

Fascist and McCarthyists now run by the name of Tea Partiers, Libertarians and Corporatists. Pete Seeger was a brave and decent man...and we need his music and his legacy now more than ever.

aznative818 • 3 years ago

You will be sorely missed Mr Seeger, I've been singing your songs for at least 40 years, and I'm one of the young ones. Rest in peace, you have most assuredly earned it.

accordioncarol • 3 years ago

Through my tears all day today, I'm thinking of all the children whom I taught through the years and I'm hoping they remember some of those songs and the causes they stood for. There wasn't a group of kids or a children's choir who didn't know Pete's songs when I got through with them. Thank you,Pete for living the good life. My inspiration so many times.

Patrick O'Hara • 3 years ago

Thanks for all of the great music. A shining example of how to make a difference.
Rest in peace.

Guest • 3 years ago

Will President Obama mention Pete Seeger in the State of the Union address?
I absolutely believe he will.
Here are Obama, Springsteen & Seeger at 2009 inaugural:

Sumitra • 3 years ago

Falling in love with Pete Seeger's music and everything else he stood for was a thrill as a young student who came here in the sixties. My future husband and I would drive miles and miles to hear him sing. The American I respect most is Pete. Nobody comes even close.
John Nichols pays a lovely tribute to Pete. Grace is foremost in describing his persona. The last paragraph above says to beautifully.

Barbara Lyons • 3 years ago

I still listen to and love your music and your ideas. Thanks Pete

Gene • 3 years ago

Pete was very active with the Highlander Center in Tennessee, while I was organizing a workshop sponsored by the Highlander Center I sent Pete an invitation to attend. He sent me a letter with a check for $100.00. He could not come to the workshop but he wanted to show support. Great guy, I would really loved for him to attend. I'll never forger his generosity! The world was a better place because of Pete Seeger!

snh • 3 years ago

Moving post John. I spent the day listening to Pete --- on vinyl.

Roc RIzzo • 3 years ago

Thanks for the moving article John. We should remember that though Pete is not with us physically, his music, and his philosophy will live on forever. It is up to us to do Pete the favor and pay forward, all that he has taught us.

Here I thought that the oft-forgotten verses of This Land is Your Land were the ones that Pete told Woody, on Woody's dying bed that he would sing, and did sing. In my opinion, they are the most radical verses of the song, that we never hear.
They go as follows:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.


In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?


Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

pinionpiner • 3 years ago

Through my high school years in the late 50's and onward in life Pete Seeger has been a rock. He sang the song of the 20th Century consistently and truly. I miss him so much as well as his supportive wife. The political leanings of Pete Seeger make little difference, it's the music that counts.

Sumitra • 3 years ago

Sorry about the error in the message I just posted. I meant to say that Johns Nichols's last paragraph says it so beautifully

John Nichols • 3 years ago

Here's a perfect conversation between Pete Seeger and Studs Terkel, about railroad songs and a great deal more:


Annakis • 3 years ago

Pete Seeger and Studs Terkel. Now that's a pair. :)

lhfry • 3 years ago

Pete Seeger was a supporter of the Soviet Union under Stalin and remained an unreconstructed Communist until the end. Many young people today learn no history - I was surprised recently to encounter a graduate of a top US university who did not know about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact - that until the Nazis invaded the SU, Hitler and Stalin were pals.

Pete Seeger and his allies on the US left like to talk about how they fought for civil rights and against segregation, for improved schools, better salaries and working conditions, better living conditions for more people, and even free speech (for themselves, of course) but they engaged in these movements at the direction of the Soviets and they did it not because they believed in them, but because they could be used to criticize and undermine the SU's enemy - the United States. The hypocrisy of someone like Seeger claiming to fight for "social justice" in the US, while ignoring the murder and enslavement of millions of people worldwide by a collection of criminal despots is only exceeded by those who write for this magazine and choose to ignore it.

JakobFabian01 • 3 years ago

If Pete Seeger and his allies were all Soviet-directed, how do you explain that they kept on fighting for social justice – a term that needs no quotation marks – long after the Soviet Union collapsed?

Maybe it's because Terry Eagleton was right when he said: 'What perished in the Soviet Union was Marxist only in the sense that the Inquisition was Christian."

lhfry • 3 years ago

I don't think they were "fighting for social justice" where it was needed: USSR, China, N. Vietnam, Cuba, N. Korea, Venezuela, Angola, etc. They concentrated on the US because the US was the enemy of the Soviets. Just as the left today is mired in anti-Americanism and concentrates its wrath against the US instead of places where social justice is completely lacking. What happened to those who "fought for social justice" in the USSR? Gulag. Or happens today in N. Korea? Or in Syria or Saudi Arabia or Egypt, or other places where they cut off your hands for petty crimes? Or shoot you for demonstrating against the government? I don't see a lot of leftists running to places to fight for social justice where imprisonment or death is a risk. No, they would rather occupy public parks here where it's safe.
In the US we have not always lived up to our pretensions, but we make every effort to do so when it's pointed out. Places where Communism was imposed, not so much.

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

There was no way EVER to work for change in the Soviet bloc. Why should Pete have wasted his time on something that could only come to defeat?

The collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989 had nothing to do with anything anyone outside said or did...it was solely because of the courage of the people of those countries(many of whom did NOT want the restoration of capitalism but a humanist alternative to Stalinism)and the announcement by Gorbachev that he wouldn't send in the Red Army to save the Stalinist dinosaur regimes.
You don't really care about making anybody's life better...you just want all of us to focus on denouncing those countries that our leaders declare to be our "enemies"(never mind that many of our allies are just as repressive as the states you denounce)and to do nothing about changing life here. You want us to put off any struggle for change in THIS country until the countries on "the other side" meet your standards,
In other words, you want us all to buy into the "clash of civilizations" canard and check our humanity at the door.
Sorry, decent people can't do that.
If you want to be against repression, be against repression...and let go of the idea that it matters which country "wins".

JakobFabian01 • 3 years ago

They were fighting for social justice where they happened to be, and where they were most likely to make a positive difference. There is no virtue in hurling your head against a brick wall. Republics can be influenced and can improve under public pressure. Authoritarian governments are harder to change.

It isn't altogether safe to agitate for change, even in a republic, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. well knew, long before he was assassinated.

It's true that republican governments make every effort to improve when they are publicly shamed and criticized. But they don't shame and criticize themselves. That thankless task generally falls to progressives, who later have to endure the sneering, self-satisfied ingratitude of conservatives who themselves never lifted a finger to eliminate the injustices that progressive activism helped to abolish.

lhfry • 3 years ago

Well, I would have described those who shamed and criticized segregation and jim crow as ourselves. It's rumored that the left does not see itself as "ourselves," as Americans, but it's interesting to see an open admission of same. And some claim that the left sees itself as superior to the rest of us and indeed, the self-righteousness you express ("thankless task") indicates the rumor is true.

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

It isn't "rumored that the left doesn't see itself as 'ourselves', as Americans", because the left DOES see itself...OURSELVES, as just as American as you are. We just don't believe that being "American" means defending the privileges of CEO's and endless increases in the war budget. Nor that being "American" means hating and fearing gays, Muslims, people of other non-Christian faiths and people of no religious faith. We believe that being American includes having the right to be different, to be accepted without being made to conform, and being able to do something else with our lives other than simply struggle to survive each day,
We are American. And there's as many of us as there are of you, "Ihfry".

JakobFabian01 • 3 years ago

Conservatives, as a whole, did not shame and criticize segregation and Jim Crow. Only a creative fabulist of a mythical history could ever imagine that. Read a book or two by Rick Perlstein, and then we'll talk more substantively.

Self-righteousness is a moral fault only in those who are actually wrong.

lhfry • 3 years ago

Wow. More self-righteousness defending your earlier self-righteousness. And a self-referential citation - to The Nation, that is.

I would guess Barry Goldwater qualifies as a conservative and he ended racial segregation in his family department stores, and was instrumental in ending it in Phoenix schools and restaurants and in the Arizona National Guard.
However, the point I was making in response to your claims was that leftists do not see themselves as Americans - with which you appeared to agree. They (you) see themselves as somehow apart, and superior and, of course, always on the moral high ground. Engaging in, you know, "thankless tasks" - that of correcting the rest of us.

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

Barry Goldwater vowed to work for repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if elected president. Repealing the Civil Rights Act would have restored legal Jim Crow and probably restored it permanently...all in the name of the meaningless concept of "states' rights"-just as the totally unneeded "Voter ID" laws would effectively restore Jim Crow in every state they are passed in by making it unjustly difficult for nonwhite, nonmale(married women don't always have their married names on their id's)and other non-dominant people to vote.
And it's a lie to say that leftists don't see themselves as Americans...you don't have to give our country special deference and kid gloves treatment to prove you are loyal to it.
Loyalty to America means being loyal to your ideals...it doesn't mean being loyal to the status quo...the status quo is simply the temporary current situation, it isn't the country incarnate.
And change is never the enemy of "America". We exist as a country as a result of the wish to change the status quo...if everyone in the late 1770's and 1780's on this continent had seen the status quo as the only way be "loyal", we'd still be a British colony.

JakobFabian01 • 3 years ago

Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act, to his eternal shame. Apparently, he saw it as in his interest not to discriminate against Blacks, but considered it every other white person's right to continue to do so. In contrast, many liberal Republicans – and there was such a thing back in the Sixties - voted for the Civil Rights Act.

You don't even know what an American is, so I'm not going to engage your empty accusation that liberals aren't Americans.

lhfry • 3 years ago

Here is what you said: "....But they don't shame and criticize themselves. That thankless task generally falls to progressives...."
If members of a republic don't criticize themselves, but "progressives" do engage in that "thankless task" then who are those "progressives" who do criticize? Clearly outsiders and not part of "themselves" - aka Americans, in this case.
So you are the one who claimed that progressives are some group other than Americans. And progressives are not liberals - calling them liberals is a libel against liberals. Progressives are totalitarians - always have been.
I've entertained myself at your expense for some time now and I thank you for that. :)

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

He was saying the governments don't shame themselves...not that Americans don't shame themselves.
You can't speak of the government and the people in interchangeable terms.

lhfry • 3 years ago

No - he did not refer to governments, he specifically referred to groups of people - "liberals" and conservatives, claiming that "liberals" embarked on the "thankless task" of opposing segregation and jim crow and that conservatives did not. Conservatives therefore, logically, are the "themselves" that don't engage in self-criticism and "liberals" are not. Demonstrating the usual arrogance of the left, he defined "liberals" as a group apart that occupies the moral high ground. I use liberals here in quotes because the left are anything but liberal, although many, even many conservatives, describe the left that way.
And the government is not "....of the people, by the people, for the people...?"

JakobFabian01 • 3 years ago

"It's true that republican governments make every effort to improve when they are publicly shamed and criticized. But they don't shame and criticize themselves. That thankless task generally falls to progressives."

That's what I wrote. Whether you are proud that you can't understand it or that you can't remember it, either way, I don't see what you have to be so proud of. And you haven't even approached my challenge to demonstrate that you know what an American is. So I have to declare myself satisfied that you have proven to be more or less what a liberal expects every conservative to be: completely lacking in historical knowledge and self-awareness.

Kyle Brown • 3 years ago

Pals? I would not take so much exception to your ridiculous post but for somebody who is criticizing others of knowing no history, as you say, I'm sure the "graduate of a top US university" you mentioned probably at least knew that Hitler and Stalin were deadly enemies; the Pact was all about cynical Realpolitik and positioning for power in eastern Europe before the inevitable war Hitler planned to carry out. But I suppose your comic book knowledge or history and your secret decoder ring gives puts you on par with or makes you superior to the top academics in world history. What a moron. Correction, uneducated moron, reading your other idiotic posts.

lhfry • 3 years ago

Really? Bitter enemies? Stalin and Hitler were good enough pals to agree to divide up Europe into spheres of influence for each in the 1939 pact.
I will take you to task for your language. My Communist parents and my friends on the left today, always ALWAYS use insult instead of argument. Anyone who doesn't agree with them is an "uneducated moron" or an idiot or ignorant or whatever. That tells me that they have no genuine arguments to make nor do they wish to debate. And which "top academics in world history" are we talking about here - Eric Hobsbawm?

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

That was a momentary alliance. Two years later, the USSR was fighting like hell...with the loss of tens of millions of people...to stop Hitler. If it hadn't been for the USSR, Hitler WOULD HAVE WON. The Holocaust would have finished its work and the world would now be totally Judenrein.(and Romarein as well).

The U.S. would essentially be a fascist colony of a permanent Reich. We would no longer have elections and not only Jews, but leftists, gays, Native Americans, African Americans, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and anyone who wasn't a total kiss-up to Greater Germania would have been turned into a lampshade by now.
I don't defend the Pact...but the fight the USSR put up in 1941 more than makes up for it.

Kyle Brown • 3 years ago

You are a moron. That's not an insult. It's a fact. If you don't know that the Pact was a matter of mutual interest between two very cynical dictators rather than friendship, you are in bad shape. I can't help it if you have family, relatives that are more intelligent and educated than you. That's your problem.

lhfry • 3 years ago

Clearly you have no genuine arguments, so you substitute your opinion for facts and when those "facts" are questioned, you just shout louder.
Pete Seeger was an unreconstructed Communist and he ignored Stalin's crimes. Someone who ignored Hitler's crimes would be treated entirely differently by this magazine. Leni Riefenstahl doesn't get a pass just because she was a talented film maker.

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

Pete didn't ignore Stalin's crimes. It's just that there was nothing anybody could do about them and that neither Pete nor anyone else in THIS country was responsible for them.
It would have been useless for Pete to denounce Stalin. No foreign denunciations of Stalin ever changed anything that monster ever did. The only way that ever existed to have stopped Stalin would have been to back Adolf Hitler in World War II. A Nazi victory of Russia wouldn't have given us a world any non-psychopath would want to live in.

What matters is that Pete spent his life working for good here. It would have been useless and embarrassing for him to play at "Captive Nations" rallies(all of which were organized by right-wing nationalist extremists who had nothing but negative intent towards their home countries anyway).
Pete Seeger would have wasted his life and died mattering to no one if he'd become a professional anti-Red.

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

Pete quit the CPUSA in 1950. Thus, he was not "an unreconstructed Communist until the end".
He may have been a small-c "communist", but that has nothing in common with being a "large-c" Communist(I.e., a Stalinist).

And no...people in the CPUSA didn't fight against segregation and the exploitation of workers under Stalin's direction...they did so ON THEIR OWN, because the actually cared about those issues. Are you really implying that nobody in the CPUSA actually cared about ending Jim Crow, or about getting a decent shake for workers? They weren't automatons, for God's sakes.
And the reason the CP had a lot to do with those issues(particularly race)is that, in that era, the Democratic Party was too cowardly to deal with them. Almost none of the "anticommunist" Dems did anything to fight segregation(Yeah, Hubert Humphrey made that speech in '48, but he knew nothing would come of it...and if it hadn't been for kids getting killed on the Freedom Ride buses, all of the "safe" liberals would have been happy to let Jim Crow ride high until at least 1968, maybe later...and if the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts had come any later or been any more "moderate", they wouldn't have been worth having).
If you bash Pete, you put yourself on the same side of history as the segregationists, the blacklisters, the unionbusters, and the "bomb 'em back to the Stone Age" school of U.S. foreign policy. Don't embarrass yourself that way.

It's enough to say they were wrong to ever defend Stalin(any surviving CPUSA'er will now admit this). You don't have to act like none of their work was ever based on anything real.

Howard Graubard • 3 years ago

Some of the comments here are mind boggling. It is asserted that for Seeger to have criticized human rights violations in Communist countries would have somehow required him to abandon progressive causes. What arrant nonsense. Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers were activists against Soviet persecution of Jews. Joan Boaez criticized human rights violations in post war Vietnam, and none of them ever abandoned their progressive activism.

Joseph2237 • 3 years ago

Seeger's song and music denied the powerful their power and showed us a better way to live and a better future. He proved the pen is mightier than the sword, money can't be taken with you , but what you give to others lives forever. RIP Mr. Seeger

Bennett Muraskin • 3 years ago

Let's be honest. Pete did not even make a public comment in 1956 after Khrushchev blew the cover on Stalin! Or when Khrushchev sent in the Red Army to crush the Hungarian Uprising.

Finally, Burch has begrudgingly admitted that in 1968, Pete should have put in a good word for the Prague Spring. There goes his entire argument!

in 1982, Pete spoke out in support of Solidarity in Poland. So when did it become permissible for Pete to express support for human rights in that part of the world?

And it is not true that nothing said or done in the US could have helped promote human rights in the Soviet Union or its East European satellites. I am sure the spirits of the Soviet dissidents etc.would have been lifted to know that Pete was on their side.

What about the campaign to allow the immigration of Soviet Jews? That achieved some success without any participation by Pete.

The point is that Pete like Paul Robeson and many others could not bring themselves to criticize the Soviet Union because they sympathized its professed aims and chose not to see its repressive nature.

It was not a calculated political strategy. It was ideology.

Bennett Muraskin • 3 years ago

To be fair, it was not until 1982 that Pete said a negative word about Soviet communism. It was in that year that he came out in support of the Polish Solidarity movement.
That means he ignored decades of human rights violations in the Soviet bloc.

If I am wrong about this, someone please correct me.

Ken Burch • 3 years ago

It's enough that Pete quit the party in 1950. It wouldn't have made any difference, in practical terms, it Pete HAD denounced the USSR any earlier. The USSR was a horrible place, a complete betrayal of the ideals of socialism(so much so that we can clearly declare that socialism and socialists bear no responsibility for the crimes of Stalin and Brezhnev at all) but it was also a place in which outside criticism never ever made a positive difference. Soviet leaders didn't CARE what the rest of the world thought of them.
You're just mad because Pete didn't become a professional anticommunist-didn't devote the rest of his life after 1950 to changing the unchangeable.
Nothing the U.S. did in its foreign policy ever helped the victims of Stalin. Nothing we did and nothing our leaders did or said ever made any difference in the treatment of the people of Eastern Europe.

And if Pete had obsessed about the unchangeable to the degree you'd have wanted him to, he couldn't have taken part in the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War cause, or the building of environmental conscience.
What you wanted, Bennett, was for Pete to give up his humanity and give up working for a better world. That's what being an "anticommunist" means...it means being an enemy of dreams and hope.
Sorry, but having Pete join Bob Hope's Christmas Slaughter Specials and sing at Reagan rallies would only have made the world worse.

There is no way to be an "anticommunist" in the way you'd have demanded and still hold on to any progressive, humane beliefs at all.
But that's probably what you'd have preferred...a Pete who loved B-52's and nukes and agreed with George Wallace that the civil rights cause was a Commie plot.
In other words, a thinner Burl Ives.

Bennett Muraskin • 3 years ago

What did I do to deserve this abuse? I admire Seeger. He deserves all the accolades he has received. But he had his flaws. He was pro-Soviet for too long. He sung a lot of freedom songs for oppressed peoples around the world, but not for anyone in the Soviet orbit--until 1982. He admitted as much in his later years when he said that in visiting the Soviet Union in the 1960s, he should have spoken out against the prison camps. Eventually, Seeger even wrote an anti-Stalin song!

What does this have to do with George Wallace and Bob Hope?

Oscar Brand and Joe Glazer are examples of folkies from Seeger's era that were anti-communist, but still on the left.