Cold War Propaganda: Radio, Culture, Anti-communism and the CIA





Cold War and Anti-Communism


Attitudes of US/CIA etc to Communism and Soviet Union + Satellites


McCarthyism – central or peripheral to cold war Propaganda system?


Radio Liberty/Free Europe


The opposition: Radio Moscow et al.


Aims of propaganda: Political, Economic, cultural


Culture in democracies and totalitarian systems


Committee for Cultural Freedom (CCF)


The Encounter Affair


Wider sponsorship of anti-communist culture and the New Left.







Reading: here and here




The image we have of the US and moreover their security services from the OSS through to the founding of the CIA is one of implacable anti-communism. However historically, idea of the US as socialism free is variable.


Brief over view of US rels to anti-leftism:


Indeed the question of why socialism was so weak or had such a chequered career in the US had been the subject of books and debate despite various anarchist, socialist and communist movements from the late19th century onwards


Werner Sombart: Why  there is no soc in the S 1906.



Before the WW1 socialism had been strong within the 3 main unions: Knights of labour, IWW, American Fed of Lab and the struggles and strikes for better conditions led to big companies to pressure the authorities and the police to break strikes and spy on the trouble makers.


The Socialist movement was able to gain strength from its ties to labour. "The [economic] panic of 1907, as well as the growing strength of the Socialists, IWW, and trade unions, speeded up the process of reform." However, corporations sought to protect their profits, and took steps against unions and strikers. They hired strikebreakers and pressured the government to call in the national militia when workers refused to do their jobs. A number of strikes dissolved into violent confrontations.


In June 1917, President Woodrow Wilson’s Espionage Act which included a clause providing prison sentences for up to twenty years for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty… or willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment of service of the United States” The Socialists’s war-opposition, led to their being the target of persecution Those who struck in war-related industries were seen as subversives and IWW especially were prosecuted  under the Esp Act.


This combined with Lenin’s invite for the SP to become part of the 3rd International led to the first real Red Scare in the US and to Attorney General Palmer’s organising a special anti-communist security org led by J Edgar Hoover. Hoover soon amassed a card-catalogue system with information on 150,000 individuals and 60,000 groups and publications. Palmer and Hoover both published press releases and circulated anti-Communist propaganda.


Equally immigration fears across the 20s and 30s of people from Eastern Europe was inevitably linked to the idea of communists entering America. Also suspicion of left wingery in the hungry 30s and old-time capitalist free market ideologues who saw Roosevelt use of the state to create work e.g. Tennessee Valley Authority as state socialism.


So the US across the 20th C saw an escalation and more importantly an embedding of anti-communism in both official as well as populist circles promoted by the corporate capitalist and the state interests along with a state run anti-C intelligence gathering operation under the almost paranoiac anti-C future head of the FBI who held that post from the founding of the FBI n 1935 to his death in 1972.


Largely the FBI used intelligence gathering and harassment of leftists from the 30s through to the 60s and beyond.  As such propaganda was not their thing - the CIA went in for that - but the FBI were a  backbone of anti-C activity.




But what you had in the 20th C is not only a struggle to suppress left wing social movements in the US but the rise of an intellectual struggle between socialism and capitalism that came from the myriad of organisations, pressure groups, think tanks and parties especially emergent after the 2nd WW


If left wing ideas were largely emergent from left pol parties and organised labour movements that were drifting, you got a new-con right that emerges. As George Nash puts in his classic


“In 1945 no articulate, coordinated, self-consciously conservative intellectual force existed in the United States. There were, at most, scattered voices of protest, profoundly pessimistic about the future of their country. Gradually during the first postwar decade these voices multiplied, acquired an audience, and began to generate an intellectual movement. In the beginning one finds not one right-wing renascence but three..


First, there were “classical liberals,” or “libertarians,” resisting the threat of the ever expanding State to liberty, private enterprise, and individualism. Convinced that America was rapidly drifting toward statism (socialism), these intellectuals offered an alternative that achieved some scholarly and popular influence by the mid-1950s.


Concurrently and independently, a second school of thought was emerging: the “new conservatism” or “traditionalism” of such men as Richard Weaver, Peter Viereck, Russell Kirk, and Robert Nisbet. Shocked by totalitarianism, total war, and the development of secular, rootless, mass society during the 1930s and 1940s, the “new  conservatives” urged a return to traditional religions and ethical absolutes and a rejection of and produced an intolerable vacuum that was filled by demonic ideologies.


Third, there appeared a militant, evangelistic anti- Communism, shaped decisively by a number of influential ex-radicals of the 1930s, including Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and many more. These former men of  the Left brought to the postwar Right a profound conviction that the West was engaged in a titanic struggle with an implacable adversary—Communism—which sought nothing less than conquest of the world.”


Through a proliferating network of journals, books, organizations, and political alliances, the intellectual Right steadily approached maturity and recognition— until, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it achieved its long-sought breakthrough.” (Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945) and see here a critique of Nash that argues that Anti-C was not the cement that held together a neo-Com movement in the 50s onwards



Many of these neo-Con organisations that emerged were sponsored or funded by wealthy businessmen and corporations and small payments from supporters and students who bought the magazines and pamphlets, especially in the 60s ad 70s.


Perhaps the odd thing is that the Neo-Cons of the 50s/60s/70s did not seem to be covertly supported by anti-communist orgs incl CIA. That was left to the formation of sponsored cultural fronts.


Arguably the reason for this was that there were at least three politico-psychological tendencies in the new right of the post-war years.


1)      the intellectual conservative right: somewhat of a European cast of mind, often from Euro-parentage or university training, or exiles – Leo Struass, Voegelin, Viereck et al. Disliked US liberalism, endorsed traditional academic and con social values, elitists, anti-Lockeian individualism. Cons but very academic



2)      the libertarians: individualists, isolationists, anti-statists and thus anti-war radicals, some were anarchists, disagreed with big Govt and this with the very idea of US as a global anti-commie force. Rothbard, Chodorov, encouraged by exiled ultra-liberal Austrian economists – von Mises and Hayek



3)      hard statist right – the anti-commie brigade who did see a post-war global America that needs to protect capitalism and some idea of the American way of life; sympathetic to corporate US; thought McCarthyism was basically right even if found McCarthy’s populism an embarrassment. Some were caught up in the middle of a-c of McCarthyism – Whittaker Chambers (the Alger Hiss affair). Quite a few were ex Socialists and Communists e.g. Chambers, James Burnham et al and grew to hate the in-fighting and walked away the Right. Many writers and pamphleteers who engaged in a lot of rightist a/c propaganda. Many were a/c populists who disliked the agencies of the state for being liberal east coast weak on commies. Were even suspicious of CIA! Again CIA did not really link to these groups. (William Buckley/Nat Review).




So the first two of these types were not really interested in the Cold War politics of the new post-war globalising order in which America would the central player. The latter type were but too suspicious of the corporate liberal state descending into socialism – so wanted hard anti-soviet stance at same time as did State tax& spend.

This in many ways the US post-war a/c was a domestic biz for a peculiar assortment of writers, academics, ex-leftists, hard anti-commie cold war warriors, public intellectuals, pamphleteers, journalists, and serial founders of propagandist organisations


Curiously anti-C in Britain e.g. Brian Crozier’s Institute for the study of Conflict which was very plainly an anti-commie front had good links to the establishment..and this was typical of such orgs in the UK across the 60s and 70s. Fearful of liberalism and the new Left, odd characters from academia, politics, security services and army intelligence, ex-SAS etc organised and produced serious semi-academic pamphlets and held well-funded conferences on their concerns. But they were not notably propagandist in any large sense of creating widespread public interests. It was always slightly under-cover. Link to IRD and alter a more open public debating org The Freedom Association (McWhirter bros) tended to attract ex-MI5/6 officers.



Suspicious or paranoiac?

By the 40s you had the FBI on the prowl for evidence of right and left subversion but of course you had no real US intelligence service other than the Office of Strategic services that was the forerunner of the CIA. Created in 1942, reorganised in 1945 turned into CIA 1947.


The closeness of the Allied powers mean that OSS spying on what the soviets were up was problematic yet it was precisely this that let the OSS and then the CIA get a grip on extensive soviet activities in the US in the late40s and 50s.



It would perhaps be a mistake to see the US after the war as cohesively anti-commie and looking for red under the beds – FBI  yes; part of the neo-con movements – yes; the public yes in terms of a general attitude/feeling, but OSS/CIA not especially- that took some time to get a grip as a definite ideological conviction as opposed merely one of operational matters and functions that CIA did.





Culture, Propaganda and the CIA


In many ways the strategy for Cultural propaganda esp that funded by the CIA was to engage in non-propaganda  that is to say, covertly fund the production and exhibition of cultural works – literature, music, art, intellectual debate that holds to an art for arts sake idea  the classic liberal position that distinguishes it from the agit prop view of the soviets or from Gramsci’s idea of culture as either being on the side of the hegemony or the counter-hegemony.


The ke agency hat was CIA funded was the Congress for Cultural Freedom which emerged in 1950 holding its inaugural conference in…West Berlin.


Key to the idea of the true intellectual rather than one at their party’s call were the ideas of dependence from politics and commitment to you art so tat it does not pander to popular taste. Thus elitism and a kind of isolation from the world sets up a image of the pure artist untainted..


The participants in Europe and the US within the CCF were when they realised untroubled by the propagandistic aims of CCF, the took the position of Gramsci’s traditional intellectual which saw herself as doing honest work if they were left to express themselves how they wanted.

Arthur Schlesinger one of the great post-war US historians and writer who was aware of CCFs link to CIA argued that is was right because culture fostered a sense of belonging to their society in a critical liberal fashion and this opposed the meaninglessness of obedience to the state found in soviet style socs.


The Congress for Cultural Freedom functioned as a clandestine endowment for the arts that promoted cultural, intellectual, and artistic endeavors “in the West, for the West, in the name of freedom of expression” (p. 2). The CIA pumped tens of millions of dollars into the Congress for Cultural Freedom and related projects, making the  agency, “America’s Ministry of Culture” (p. 129). The Congress maintained offices in thirty-five countries and employed dozens of persons, including writers, poets, artists, historians, and scientists. It published over twenty prestigious magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and feature service, organized high-profile international conferences, and sponsored public performances by musicians and artists.


Saunders details CIA funding and promotion of a long list of noted intellectuals,

including Melvin Lasky, Isaiah Berlin, Sidney Hook, Dwight MacDonald, Hannah Arendt, Vladimir Nabokov, Arthur Koestler, Raymond Aron, George Orwell, and many others. Among the magazines funded by the agency were Survey, Preuves, Der Monat, Partisan Review, and the highly respected Encounter. She also shows how the CIA covertly funded and distributed hundreds of books. For example, the influential compendium of liberal anti-Stalinist confessions, The God That Failed, “was as much a product of intelligence as it was a work of the intelligentsia”


The CIA also promoted traditional art forms. It subsidized symphonies, art exhibits, ballet performances, theater groups, operas, and jazz musicians to undermine the negative stereotypes prevalent in Western Europe about the cultural barrenness of the United States. Working in cooperation with the Museum of Modern Art, the CIA also promoted Abstract Expressionist painting as a counter to Socialist Realism and explicitly political art. To fund the cultural Cold War, the CIA maintained an  elaborate network of dummy foundations, which were created expressly for the purpose of channeling CIA funds into various covert projects. Many of these foundations existed only on paper. The Fareld Foundation, for example, was a CIA front that became the principal conduit for CIA subsidies to the Congress for Cultural Freedom.


Other foundations that served as conduits for CIA funds included Ford, Rockefeller, and J. M. Kaplan. CIA money also flowed through Time, Inc., the Metropolitan Opera, the Museum of Modern Art, Harper & Row, theModern Languages Association, and the American Council of Learned Societies.


Beyond the mere act of subsidizing artistic creations the CIA also worked to influence the content of cultural products shipped overseas. For example, CIA agent Carleton Alsop worked undercover to introduce specific themes into Hollywood films and to remove images that might evoke a negative response abroad. In two examples Alsop convinced casting directors to mute racial stereotypes in their pictures by including “well dressed negroes” as part of the American scene. At Alsop’s request, blacks were planted in crowd scenes in the Jerry Lewis comedy “Caddy.” Saunders comments sarcastically: “At a time when many ‘negroes’ had as much chance of getting into a golf club as they had of getting the vote, this seemed optimistic indeed” . A more blatant case of CIA manipulation of film content occurred with the animated cartoon film of Orwell’s Animal Farm. The agency rewrote the ending of the ªlm to mute Orwell’s symbolic connotation of capitalist exploiters and Stalinist revolutionaries. These examples aside, the extent of CIA control over the intellectual freedom of the authors and artists on its payroll is unclear. The CIA exerted tight political control over the intellectual agenda of the writers and artists it subsidized, but she offers scant evidence to support this conclusion. One example of outright censorship—that of an article submitted by Dwight MacDonald attacking American mass culture and materialism—though the CIA intervened to remove founding members Melvin Lasky and Arthur Koestler from their official positions in the organization’s leadership. Wisner personally intervened to remove Lasky.


Koestler was sidelined for being too passionate in his anti-Communism; the CIA believed that a moderate tone was needed to “win over the waverers”.  In general, however, the CIA mostly provided the funds, not the ideas. The agency preferred to subsidize ideas rather than censor them. Still, regardless of the degree of intellectual freedom afforded the artists subsidized by the agency, it is clear that the CIA operatives who ran the programs saw themselves as propagandists involved in a war of ideas. CIA operatives spoke frankly about harnessing the energies of “intellectuals who were disillusioned, [or] who could be disillusioned” with Communism. The Congress for Cultural Freedom and numerous other intellectuals, artists, and non-profit foundations were described by CIA operatives as “propaganda assets”. Tom Braden, who ran the CIA’s International Organizations Division, was unapologetically vocal in defending the agency’s mission to support the non-Communist left—as his 1967 article “I’m Glad the CIA Is Immoral”