The FBI’s 1,800-Page Obsession With Peace Activist Pete Seeger

It may not be surprising that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) snooped on renowned singer-songwriter Pete Seeger for decades and even that the bureau’s file on Seeger runs to nearly 1,800 pages. After all, Seeger was a high-profile opponent of the Vietnam War, and war is the health of the state. But, Seeger was targeted by the FBI before his singing and songwriting gained widespread attention. About twenty-five years before Seeger sang “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers national television show in 1968, Seeger drew the attention of the FBI by writing a letter to the California chapter of the American Legion.

The year was 1942, and the 23-year-old Seeger, who had been drafted into the United States Army, wrote a short letter to the American Legion chapter expressing his opposition to the chapter’s vote supporting action, as Seeger put it, to “1) deport all Japanese after the war, citizen or not, 2) Bar all Japanese descendants from citizenship!!” Seeger characterized the vote as expressing “narrow jingoism” and noted that he “felt sick at heart to read of this matter.”

The American Legion chapter forwarded Seeger’s letter to the FBI, and the decades-long investigation and surveillance commenced. By 1943, a report sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, characterized Seeger as “potentially subversive” and “an idealist whose devotion to radical ideologies is such as to make his loyalty to the United States under all circumstances questionable.”

The investigation and surveillance continued with US government agents secretly reading Seeger’s mail, questioning friends and acquaintances of Seeger including fellow singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, and even sending a military intelligence agent to search for school records at a grade school Seeger had attended. The FBI also asked the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to share with the FBI any information the CIA had related to Seeger. In 1961 Seeger was convicted and sentenced to a year of incarceration – a sentence later overturned while Seeger was free on bail – for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding his political associations.

Read here David Corn’s detailed report on the Seeger file that Mother Jones obtained recently in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Notably, Corn relates that the US government withheld 90 pages of the file. While the government spared no expense in snooping into the most private of Seeger’s affairs, it acts vigorously to protect its own secrets.

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

10 thoughts on “The FBI’s 1,800-Page Obsession With Peace Activist Pete Seeger”

  1. Pete joined the Communist Party USA in the 1930's. During the Hitler – Stalin Peace Pact he was ordered by the Party to support Hitler as a "new form of socialism". The reason the Party could dictate to it's members what to say and think without allowing members to question it is the discipline they used called, "democratic centralism", in theory allowing for debate on issues within the Party while presenting a united front in public. In reality, there was no discussion and party members were told what to say and do. Hardly an argument for free speech.
    Prior to this he and Paul Robeson had done a series of benefits to send fellow capitalist haters to the Soviet Union to help build the worker's state. After those thousands of people were milked for publicity Stalin ordered them sent to the gulags. For decades family members wrote Red Pete and Paul asking to help find their relatives whose communications had stopped. Neither he nor Robeson ever put two and two together. When Robeson was told by the Russians while visiting Moscow what happened to all those people he attempted suicide. He never spoke or sang "for the workers" again. Unlike Red Pete, he had a sense of honor and shame.
    To join the Communist Party one took an oath to work to make the United States part of the Soviet Union and to abandon all our legal protections to live like everybody else under Stalin. This is hardly a civil liberties group.
    Then you had Marx and Engels own words until shortly after World War 2. Both called for the mass extermination of Jews who refused to renounce their religion. They both called for the annihilation of all Slavs to make way for the glorious German worker. All these quotes were removed from their writings by both socialists and communists after the second world war. Gee, I wonder why.
    During the years the party supported Hitler they worked with the German American Bund on strikes against the defense industry meant to stop the U.S. from building its military up, preaching that Hitler was a man of peace. The refusal to speak to HUAC and other hearings of the time was the fear the collaboration with Hitler's agents would come out and ruin the party's narrative that they were "premature anti-fascists".
    He put out an album, SONGS FROM JOHN DOE denouncing FDR but the second Hitler invaded parts of Poland that were supposed to be Stalin's he put out DEAR MR. PRESIDENT urging in every song America go to war. SONGS FROM JOHN DOE disappeared There was no discussion in the party. Members were ordered to do this.
    Now, Mr. President
    You're commander-in-chief of our armed forces
    The ships and the planes and the tanks and the horses
    I guess you know best just where I can fight …
    So what I want is you to give me a gun
    So we can hurry up and get the job done!

    Some anti-war activist.

    Decades later when Pete The Red was up for national honors he came close to an apology for wanting Stalin to take over America and the mass murder of slavs and Jews by saying:

    I'll apologize for a number of things, such as thinking that Stalin was simply a 'hard driver' and not a supremely cruel misleader. I guess anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian should be prepared to apologize for the Inquisition, the burning of heretics by Protestants, the slaughter of Jews and Moslems by Crusaders. White people in the U.S.A. could consider apologizing for stealing land from Native Americans and enslaving blacks. Europeans could apologize for worldwide conquests, Mongolians for Genghis Khan. And supporters of Roosevelt could apologize for his support of Somoza, of Southern white Democrats, of Franco Spain, for putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps. PETE THE RED

    What makes this "apology" unethical and immoral is that no one stands in front of a church yelling at Christians that they burned witches at the stake, or yells at Mongolians for the actions of Genghis Kahn. What Seeger supported, which included at the time rounding up Japanese Americans was ongoing. His apology sounds hollow when he supported not only famine in the Ukraine, show trials in Moscow, but he also helped send fellow reds to their deaths.
    Lenin called people like Red Pete "useful dupes". So are writers who repeat the old KGB line that opposition to the Communist Party was a civil rights issue. No it wasn't.

    1. You probably could have saved us all a lot of time by simply announcing your single digit I.Q. and apologizing for your total inability to understand the world around you.

      Get a grip, Bircher and stop polluting the internet with your half-baked McCarthyite nonsense.

      1. I have spoken to the Threat Assessment Group, numerous colleges including the Navy War College. I use declassified files for my information. Files I am guessing you haven't read. No need to. Just Google CIA THE POND, the last 1/3rd of the article you will find a complete confession by the CIA that they knew the names on the TWO lists were correct ( by the way, anyone who doesn't know there were two lists knows nothing but the propaganda of the era). They not only tell how they derailed Joe BUT NAMES WHO DID IT. The person responsible for all the nonsense about Joe was named Michael Straight. (google him) A KGB spy who was a speechwriter for FDR. He went to the notorious State Department to work and then became editor of THE NEW REPUBLIC which became ground zero for libel and slander against Joe. Carefully avoiding the role of all Communist Party's during the Hitler Stalin Peace Pact. Something to this day reds refuse to talk about. Straight also was ordered by Stalin to go after Wilhelm Reich for his book, THE MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF FASCISM which concluded there was zero difference between national and international socialism. It remains the only political book not only banned by the government but copies of the book were burned. I would just like to say I enjoy much of the information here at ANTI-WAR, but it is time to re-examine the Cold War and stop spreading old Stalinist propaganda. Put another way, everything you know about Joe is dead wrong. By the way, I was an SDS organizer and became one of the heads of the group. I was never a Bircher. They don't even know this.

        1. I even gave this talk in front of the Communist Party USA members- Interesting thing happened when I did my RED HOLLYWOOD talk. Members of the Communist Party USA showed up!

          They were quite sure they were about to hear their propaganda, which sadly is what we teach as history. You should have seen their faces when I quoted Dalton Trumbo saying, "Hitler was the savior of the Jewish people."

          After about 20 minutes of showing the links between the German American Bund and CPUSA, with the support of the Hollywood 10, one woman began shouting at me. In their entire life, no one had ever confronted them with the truth.They were all visibly shaken. But since the Communist Party does not admit this alliance with Hitler supporters happened, they could not acknowledge or denounce it specifically either.

          One said I was the new Goebbels. The focus of my talk was why the ten had refused to answer the question, were they communists? They did so to derail the hearings, to keep from answering the questions, didn't you support Hitler before the war? Didn't you work with the German American Bund to do a series of strikes against "FDR and his war machine" aimed at crippling our efforts to build up our military?They could not answer. The Communist Party has never been confronted with any of this, and has never told party members how to react to these charges. They came to believe their own spin.

          As they stormed out I asked them, was it right to accept without question the Hitler-Stalin alliance? Was it right to not allow members of the party to discuss it? Is it right to call themselves premature anti-fascists when they backed Hitler? Should they have derailed manufacturing before the war started without the workers being allowed to vote on the strikes?

          They made it clear I am now their enemy. But after they left something remarkable happened. People from the packed room gathered around me and began thanking me for the talk. Shaking my hand and congratulating me. They were all leftists, some even socialists, but there was absolutely no way they could support the Nazi-CPUSA-Hollywood 10 alliance. An alliance that has been hidden in history.

          This keyboard kills nazi lovers.

          1. I've never heard that Hitler was in bed with the Communists. Not from any credible source that is. The NSDAP was formed largely to battle the very real Communist threat that existed in Germany post WWI. I don't know where you get your information but it sounds very suspect. I pay attention and this all smells of a huge hoax to me. In other words, a pile of BS. You claim the alliance has been "hidden in history". Maybe that's because it never existed to begin with?

  2. Its so typically for the
    Government to get scarred
    Of artists because they
    Have a cnfluence on the
    Way young thinks

  3. So I suppose all this is noted in J. Edgar's files but isn't mentioned in this piece? But why? Or maybe it's part of those missing 90 pages?

    I don't know if Paul Robeson ever met Seeger but he didn't strop singing out of fear. He was blackballed. Ca you give us the date and details of one of those 'benefits ' they did together?

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