People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 05

February 02, 2014


Pete Seeger


THE Communist Party of India (Marxist) mourns the demise of Pete Seeger, a singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music, who died on January 27. He was a simple man, who prided in calling himself as a “communist with a small 'c'”.


Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919 and was 94 at his death. He performed and recorded for six decades, and was still an activist: as recently as October 2011, he marched in New York City as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests.


Pete Seeger sang topical songs, children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American Left: He sang for the labour movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and anti-war causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Seeger adapted, became a civil rights anthem.


During the McCarthy era Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. Seeger was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison, but the next year an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty. After the indictment, Seeger’s concerts were often picketed by the rightist groups, which he commented as had “brought lots of publicity to him”.


Pete Seeger continued singing with an eternal optimism about the future of the world and its people.


He mentored many young artists of those times, prominent among them being Bob Dylan. He was never after stardom and commercial benefits. He would always like to donate his earnings from the concerts to various labour, social and environmental causes that were dear to him.


His death is not only a loss to the world of arts and culture, but is a loss to the working class, the progressive and the anti-war movements. The CPI(M) pays its homage to Pete Seeger and offers its condolences to his family members in this hour of grief.

(January 28, 2014)