Ronald Radosh: Satisfied Pete Seeger has denounced Stalin, but it wasn't the first time

Historians in the News

A front-page article in The New York Sun yesterday trumpeted what seemed to be a striking fact: Pete Seeger, the quintessential leftist balladeer and a former Communist, had denounced Stalinism.

The article centered on a letter from Mr. Seeger to the writer, Ron Radosh, a historian and adjunct senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. “I think you’re right I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in U.S.S.R.,” Mr. Seeger wrote.

He also included the lyrics to a song he wrote several months ago called the “Big Joe Blues”:

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.

Mr. Radosh, who once studied banjo with Mr. Seeger, said in an interview that he had idolized him, but he has become a dogged critic of Mr. Seeger’s politics. Mr. Radosh wrote that he was “deeply moved” that the singer, “now in his late 80s, had decided to acknowledge what had been his major blind spot opposing social injustice in America while supporting the most tyrannical of regimes abroad.”

But in fact, Mr. Seeger, 87, made such statements years ago, at least as early as his 1993 book, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” In the book, he said in a 1995 interview with The New York Times Magazine, he had apologized “for following the party line so slavishly, for not seeing that Stalin was a supremely cruel misleader.”

But Mr. Radosh said that Mr. Seeger’s comments before had been little noticed and had never gone as far. And Mr. Seeger had never written a song condemning Stalin until now, Mr. Radosh said....
Read entire article at NYT

comments powered by Disqus