Truth to power: Pete Seeger vs HUAC


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Poking at paranoids, jingoists, and sanctimonious blowhards makes you a better American and a greater lover of freedom than being a paranoid, jingoist, or a sanctimonious blowhard.

But for some reason the latter categories make a better living.


He had to fight this battle for 7 years. 7 years.


Just listened to an old interview with him on Fresh Air. He noted that history has been much kinder to those who sat on his side of that table. At one point he was grilled about a specific song he had performed and he offered to sing it before the committee (who refused his offer). Bravo.


i wish there was video of this. just reading it is amazing, but seeing it would be amazing. RIP Pete.


What you noted kinda sums it up right there. People need to decide which side of the table they’d like to be remembered for. They know which one is right.


Agree. The House Un-American Activities Committee is just about the most un-American thing I could imagine.


Great American. Fantastic human being.

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Exceptional musician and songwriter. And the HUAC was (hmmm, hard to come up with the right words for just how bad it was, perhaps unamerican is the best). But Pete Seeger danced to Stalins tune, and never really seemed to regret it (for instance, changed song lyrics from anti war to pro war when Hittler invaded the USSR). Also very fond of Mao. I do like his music, but the man was flawed. He will be missed.

Go read Bloodlands ( ) if you don’t think anyone who was pro Stalin should apologize for supporting him.


“MR. SEEGER: I continued singing, and I expect I always will.”

Right on, brother.


Interesting: The trolls who feel they need to slam Seeger all seem to be posting variations on the same boilerplate factoids of stuff that happened 70 years ago.

A lot of idealistic people were commies in the 30s, when capitalism was thrashing and western democracies seemed unable to get their heads above water. Frederik Pohl wrote about that scene first hand; he went to communist party meetings to meet girls. Got out when the cognitive dissonance got too great.


That photo looks uncannily like Jello Biafra.


Lots of people were small “c” communists in the '30s and I don’t hold that against any of them.

There was a rather smaller group, though, who were pacifists up until the day that Hitler invaded the USSR and who became militarists the day after. Not much respect for that crowd from me. Or from a few others on the left, either.


You mean . . . he changed his tune the same way most of America did at the time?

It’s not a moral flaw to be opposed to war, especially when WW1 (“The War to End All Wars”) was still fresh in the memory-- whatever his flaws, Seeger still comes out smelling like roses compared to the Americans (like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh) who loudly supported Hitler before he invaded Poland.


Yes; Pohl was one of the latter. It was in his autobiography that I first read the quote (paraphrased) “If you aren’t a socialist when you are 20 you don’t have a heart; if you are still one when you are 50 you don’t have a brain.”

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I’d like to add that many of the young CP members and fellow-travellers of the CP in the early to mid-30s (until the Show Trial of '38 and the Hitler-Stalin Pact) were worried about what seemed the much bigger elephant in the room, Hitler’s well-oiled Reich. Hitler was only one of many, many Fascist organizations and governments operating and ruling in Europe during this time.

As the attitude of the British and French governments were to appease Hitler and ignore the rest of the egregious Fascist aggression in Europe: the formation of strong Fascist parties in virtually every European nation including Britain and France; Hitler leaving the League of Nations and refuting the Versailles Treaty; Italy invading Abyssinia; Metaxas liquidating thousands; Franco over-throwing the elected Spanish government with the material, soldiers, strategists and strategy of Hitler and Mussolini; Hitler liquidating millions of religious, centrist and left Germans; Hitler implementing the Nuremberg laws along with 1000+ laws that terrorized the Jews of Germany, while the United States and European countries continued to make money from Hitler and other Fascist govt.'s while making light of his oft-stated (and broadcast) plans to invade and control Europe, many young anti-Fascist humanists saw the Communist Parties (outside of the Soviet Union) as the only group active and willing to take on Fascism.

In that, they were right. They also had not visited the USSR to see the direction of totalitarian destruction, lies and then, the Terror after Kirov’s murder. It was a choice between two until then inconceivable evils. But the early 30s were a much different time than now.


CHAIRMAN WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things.

One feels that the lack of coherent reaction, indicating an absence of a script for unanticipated situations, encourages hope that our lords and masters cannot anticipate everything, alongside a simultaneous concern that our lords and masters cannot anticipate everything.


Thank you and everyone else at boingboing for honoring this patriot with your posts, Cory. It’s very warmly appreciated.

Agreed, it’s almost eerie.