So it’s official: the CIA fostered even communist sympathisers – artists and the rest of that desultory bunch of alcoholics – in its culture war with the USSR and global communism. At one point,
Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations.
Agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America’s anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.
This was the “long leash”. The centrepiece of the CIA campaign became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a vast jamboree of intellectuals, writers, historians, poets, and artists which was set up with CIA funds in 1950 and run by a CIA agent. It was the beach-head from which culture could be defended against the attacks of Moscow and its “fellow travellers” in the West. At its height, it had offices in 35 countries and published more than two dozen magazines, including Encounter.
Pity it didn’t seem to alleviate the cultural desert of American capitalism. (ht sk)