Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Woody Guthrie: Consummate Coward and Fraud

This year is the centennial marking 100 years since the birth of folk singer, Woody Guthrie. Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music is bringing in Guthrie's 62 year old daughter, Nora and a gaggle of other lefty folk musicians for a June 30th 100th Birthday celebration concert.

Other commemorations are taking place elsewhere in the country throughout the year.
Woody Guthrie did everthing he could
to avoid military service during WWII
In the popular American mind, the Oklahoma born guitar picker has something of a benign image. After all, he wrote nice tunes, some of which have been sung by generations of elementary student school chorales.

He wrote simple tunes extolling the simplicity of the American West like, On the Trail of the Buffalo and Oklahoma Hills, not to mention the ever popular folk classic, This Land is Your Land.

But the fact is, Woody Guthrie was a coward who did everything possible to shirk his military obligation during the perilous time of World War II.

And he was a fraud who while cowering in the face of an 1-A draft classification, went sashaying around with a guitar proclaiming "This machine kills fascists."

Some tough guy, that young Woody.

And while it was never definitively proven that he was a member of the Stalin-era Communist Party of the USA, he wrote a regular column for their newspaper, The Daily Worker, and played and partied with just about every card-carrying American communist in sight.

Guthrie wrote a regular column for the
American Communist Party's Daily Worker
In 1939 and 1940, while brave young men from England were actually off killing fascists and putting their young lives on the line, Guthrie was living in a Greenwich Village commune with the execrable Pete Seeger and a group of other lefties who called themselves the Almanac Singers.

Initially Guthrie helped write and sing what the Almanac Singers termed "peace" songs; while the Nazi-Soviet Pact was in effect. Until Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the Communist party line was that World War II was a capitalist fraud and Woody and Seeger dutifully echoed that sentiment in song.

But they changed their tune overnight, when in June 1941, Hitler pulled a fast one on his pal, ally and fellow mass murderer, Josef Stalin and invaded Communist Russia.

After Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, gone were Guthrie and Seeger's "peace" songs. These intellectually dishonest and dissembling frauds -- friends of International Communism all, turned on a dime, and then began churning out anti-fascist songs, beating the war drums for US military involvement.

And fearless young Woody Guthrie began parading around with a guitar emblazoned with the phrase, "This machine kills fascists."

After the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on the US (funny Woody never geared up his fearsome guitar to kill Japanese imperialists) the call up of American young men to serve in the armed forces began in earnest.

And young able-bodied Guthrie did everything imaginable to avoid having to serve his country in the military where he actually might have had the opportunity to kill fascists. That, you see, might have been hazardous to young Woody's health.

Besides, in 1941, 29 year old Woody Guthrie was pulling down $180 dollars a week (the equivalent of $144k a year in today's dollars) hosting a radio show for the Model Tobacco Company. Anti-capitalism is one thing in theory, but that's a lot of scratch to pass up to go out killing fascists.

So fearless Woody tried to persuade the USO to take him on as an entertainer so that his fascist-killing guitar could do its deadly work.
Woody Guthrie (L) and Pete Seeger (R) wanted peace
with Hitler until he attacked Communist Russia

The USO and his draft board said nuts to that.

So faced with the scary prospect of having to don Army green, grab a rifle and actually go out where fascists might be shooting at him with live ammo, the fearless Woody signed on as a cook for the Merchant Marine.

To be sure, there was some marginal danger in slinging hash in a warm ship's galley. You could always slip on a greasy kitchen floor and break something. But it was a far cry from freezing in the foxholes of Bastogne while dodging Nazi bullets or wading ashore on a tropical beach into the face of torrid Japanese machine gun fire.

That is what other young men of Guthrie's generation were doing. They were the ones who honestly and often fearlessly fought fascists. And many of them did not come home.

It is quite amusing to read the comments posted on the YouTube videos of Woody Guthrie's songs. They seem to be home to mostly neo-Communists who extol Guthrie's fearless defense of the oppressed American worker. Some comments overtly extol the International Socialism with which com-symp Woody Guthrie was so enamoured.

Parroting the "Occupy Wall Street" line the comments invariably trash American corporations.

But in the early 1940s, it was the Chrysler corporation who made the tanks, GMC who made the tanks and the trucks, the the Ford Motor Company who made the aircraft, tanks and jeeps, Remington who made the guns and a variety of smaller American corporations who made everything from gloves for aviators to electronics for radar.

Those corporations, so maligned by Woody Guthrie's leftist idolaters, were the ones who made the machines which killed fascists.

Not the makers of Woody Guthrie's guitar.