Pete Seeger

Note: This item appeared in the New York Times Magazine of January 22, 1995, on the occasion of Pete Seeger's seventy-fifth birthday.

"The Old Left"

As the Grand Old Party prepared to take over Congress last year, Pete Seeger, 75 banjo player, folk singer and so far left politically he has probably never been called a liberal - was honored for his singing and songwriting. He received a Kennedy Center Honors Award to add to his National Medal of Arts.

Q: How have your politics changed?

A: I like to say I'm more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other. My father, Charles Seeger, got me into the Communist movement. He backed out around '38. I drifted out in the 50's. I apologize [in his recent book] for following the parry line so slavishly, for not seeing that Stalin was a supremely cruel misleader.

I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it. But if by some freak of history communism had caught up with this country, I would have been one of the first people thrown in 'ail. As my father used to say: "The truth is a rabbit in a bramble patch. All you can do is circle around and say it's somewhere in there."

I've been trying to write a song for years on the general theme of "don't give up." Now I just quote the bumper sticker: "There's no hope, but I may be wrong." I've been saying it so much that people think it's mine, but it's not.


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Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:41:43 EDT