Monday, September 7, 2015

Socialist Literary Journals and the CIA

While the FBI spent untold amounts of money spying on Ray Bradbury because they thought he might be a Communist (see previous post), the CIA kept itself busy spending untold amounts of money funding influential socialist literary journals.  Ah, yes, the strategy of tension, indeed....

According to Patrick Iber's 8-24-15 article entitled "Literary Magazines for Socialists Funded by the CIA, Ranked," throughout the 1950s the CIA was responsible for "secretly financing" the work of "a large number" of socialist organizations, particularly the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Here are some choice excerpts from Iber's essay:

"Established in 1950 and headquartered in Paris, the CCF brought together prominent thinkers under the rubric of anti-totalitarianism. For the CIA, it was an opportunity to guarantee that anti-Communist ideas were not voiced only by reactionary speakers; most of the CCF’s members were liberals or socialists of the anti-Communist variety. With CIA personnel scattered throughout the leadership, including at the very top, the CCF ran lectures, conferences, concerts, and art galleries. It helped bring the Boston Symphony Orchestra to Europe in 1952, for example, as part of an effort to convince skeptical Europeans of American cultural sophistication and thus capacity for leadership in the bipolar world of the Cold War [...].

"Through the CCF, as well as by more direct means, the CIA became a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War—the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture. This left a complex legacy. During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between 'totalitarian' and 'free' societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument—including the magazines on this left—were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more 'revolutionary' in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest."

You can read the entirety of Iber's article by clicking HERE.

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