Woody Guthrie is one of my musical heroes, but he was, alas, a hard-core Communist. "This Land Is Your Land" was not a sentimental song of American idealism; it pretty much presented the Stalinist view of land and property. Many leftists who came of age in the 1920s and 1930s, it is said, became party members or avid followers of the Soviet Union out of some misguided sense of collectivist altruism. For many, this was true. But so many on the left, especially in the artistic community, stuck with the Soviets long after the truth about the monsters was obvious, and they were never able to acknowledge their complicity. So, two cheers for Pete Seeger, a little late to the truth but willing to stand up for it:
I was deeply moved that Mr. Seeger, 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. Mr. Seeger rarely performs anymore. But if he does, and if he sings this song, I suspect that few in the audience would have any idea of what it is about. And I doubt that any other singer today would cover it. Only an audience composed entirely of the now-aging old left veterans would understand it instantly. Undoubtedly, many of them would be shocked.
Seeger thinks the song he wrote about Stalin and the gulags might have been written by Woody Guthrie if Guthrie had lived long enough to see "the death of the Communist dream." Nice thought, but it seems doubtful. Byt the time Guthrie died, there was ample evidence that that particluar dream -- depending on tyrants to end oppression -- was a nightmare.