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CIA and the Congress for Cultural Freedom in the Early Cold War : The Limits of Making Common Cause
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This book calls into question the conventional wisdom about one of the most controversial episodes in the Cold War, and tells the story of the CIA's backing of the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
For nearly two decades of the early Cold War, the CIA secretly sponsored some of the world’s most feted writers, philosophers, and scientists as part of a campaign to stop Communism from regaining a foothold in western Europe and Asia. By backing the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA subsidized dozens of prominent magazines, global congresses, annual seminars, and artistic festivals. When this operation—QKOPERA—became public in 1967, it ignited one of the most damaging scandals in CIA history. Ever since, the prevailing assumption has been that the CIA, as the Congress’s paymaster, manipulated a generation of intellectuals into lending their names to pro-American, anti-Communist ideas in exchange for prestigious bylines and plentiful grants. Even today, a cloud hangs over the reputations of many of the intellectuals associated with the Congress.
This book tells the story of how a small but determined group of anti-Communist intellectuals in America and Western Europe banded together to fight the Soviet Union’s cultural offensive. They enlisted one of the CIA’s earliest recruits to their cause—and they persuaded the CIA to foot their bill with virtually no strings attached. The CIA became a bureaucratic behemoth with an outsized influence on American foreign policy, but it began as a disorganized and unconventional outfit desperate to make inroads on all fronts against a foe many believed would ignite a nuclear war by 1954. When Michael Josselson, a recruit from the CIA’s Berlin office, pitched a proposal for what became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, senior officials were thus willing to gamble $50,000 on the venture. And when the Congress proved effective in enlisting some of the twentieth century’s most prominent intellectuals, senior CIA officials championed QKOPERA as the centerpiece of the Agency’s efforts to woo the non-Communist left.
This book will be of much interest to students of the CIA, Cold War History, intelligence studies, US foreign policy and International Relations in general.