When even Daily Mail writers begin to repeat leftie shibboleths without bothering to think first, you know it’s the end of the world.
Witness Tom Leonard’s hagiographic obituary of the American folk singer and communist activist Pete Seeger who died at 94 on Monday, and I didn’t even know he was sick, or indeed still alive.
“Whatever you might think of Seeger’s sometimes sanctimonious politics,” writes Leonard, “they weren’t some marketing gimmick but a way of life and, so he believed, a tool for change.”
That’s all right then. But of course neither Lenin’s nor Stalin’s politics were marketing gimmicks either. They too were a way of life and a tool for change. Nevertheless our assessment of their politics is based not on the two chaps’ sincerity but on our view of their lives and the kind of change they brought about.
This isn’t to suggest that Seeger was a comparably evil figure – only that Leonard’s eulogy is somewhat lacking in intellectual rigour. It gets worse though.
“[Seeger]… had his career almost wiped out by a vengeful establishment after he stood up to the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunts in the fifties.”
On the basis of this passage, what colour hats do you suppose the opposing parties wore? It’s obvious. White-hatted Seeger suffered for his deeply felt and implicitly commendable political convictions at the hand of the black-hatted ‘establishment’ and the witch-hunting McCarthy.
No doubt that’s exactly how Seeger himself felt, along with assorted communists and Soviet fellow travellers the world over. But one was under the impression that The Mail is a conservative paper, and the defining feature of conservatism is its commitment to truth.
After the Venona intercepts and some archival data were finally published in the late ‘90s, and then only partially (can’t offend the Soviets even retrospectively, it’s awfully un-PC), the truth was established beyond a shadow of doubt: in his accusations Sen. Joseph ‘Tailgunner Joe’ McCarthy erred only on the side of caution.
The upper echelons of the US governing elite were indeed thoroughly infiltrated by Soviet sympathisers, agents of influence and downright spies. In fact, at least 500 of them were in government, including President Roosevelt’s immediate entourage.
Among his closest advisers, Harry Dexter White (in effect top man at Treasury) and Alger Hiss (one of the top officials at State) definitely, and America’s second most powerful man Harry Hopkins almost certainly, were Soviet spies.
These and hundreds of other men not only provided information to Stalin but also steered US wartime policy to serve Soviet, rather than Western, or even more narrowly American, interests. It was they who talked the rapidly declining FDR into a potentially suicidal landing at Normandy – rather than attacking southern Europe from the already existing stronghold in Italy, something favoured by Churchill.
Had that not been the case, the Soviets would have been unable to establish post-war control over Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania – or indeed other countries of Eastern Europe. Moreover, Stalin-inspired demand for unconditional surrender, coupled with the Allies’ failure to develop the Italian beachhead, prolonged the war by at least a year, causing millions of unnecessary deaths. (Those interested in the subject ought to read American Betrayal by Diane West, an exceptionally well-researched if sloppily written book.)
It was also thanks to Soviet agents in the higher reaches of the American ‘vengeful’ establishment that the Soviets got the atom bomb approximately 18 months sooner than they would have otherwise. That emboldened them to provoke the Korean war, which they otherwise wouldn’t have dared to do. Not only did the war cost horrendous casualties, but it also entrenched the communist regime in the North, and we all know how lovely that is.
McCarthy found himself on one side of the watershed, and Seeger and his friends (Lillian Hellman, Dalton Trumbo, Dashiell Hammett and thousands of others, whose name is legion) on the other.
Those on the McCarthy side deplored Soviet activities in the USA and wanted them stopped and prevented. Those on the other side, you know, the chaps who shared Seeger’s “sometimes sanctimonious” politics, wanted exactly the opposite. So who wore the white hats?
Leonard’s take on this? “…The wide-eyed Seeger became an apologist for Stalinism. Unlike many of those targeted by Senator McCarthy’s hysterical Red-baiting campaign, Seeger made no secret of his communist sympathies.”
Right. McCarthy was a hysterical Red-baiter unleashing unfounded invective on good folk, whose only fault was concealing their implicitly commendable “communist sympathies”. By contrast to both McCarthy’s hysteria and his opponents’ stealth, Seeger was an honest communist and therefore a good man.
So he honestly joined the Communist party and later honestly insisted that he was only ever a communist with a small ‘c’. Whatever that means.
Leonard doesn’t go as far as some other fans, those who compared Seeger to “St Francis of Assisi and even Jesus.” Nor does he match the putrid effluvia by Billy Bragg (whoever he is) in the Times. But then he did publish his piece in a supposedly conservative paper.
“If I had a hammer,” to quote one of Pete Seeger’s songs, I’d hammer Tom Leonard on the head (figuratively speaking, as I hope you realise – I harbour no murderous animus). “I’d hammer every morning, I’d hammer every evening, all over this land.”
Pete Seeger, RIP.