The CIA and the War Against Socialism By Raúl Antonio Capote

16 March 2019 — Internationalist 360°

After the Second World War with the creation of the ideological front to dominate the world, Allen W. Dulles, director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961, conceived of culture as the stage for a long-term war in the devastated post-war Old Continent.

After the Second World War with the creation of the ideological front to dominate the world, Allen W. Dulles, director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961, conceived of culture as the scene of a long-term war in the destroyed post-war Old Continent.

Standardizing and disseminating the American culture and way of life throughout Europe and undermining sympathy for socialist ideals were the CIA’s first tasks. Building consensus on the advantages of the “American dream” in Europe and defeating the ideas of socialism would be the priority of American special services.

“We must ensure,” said James Jesus Angleton, head of counterintelligence at the CIA between 1954 and 1975, “that the majority of young people in Europe from the United States and elsewhere would be able to take advantage of the American dream”.

This dream of American cuisine, cars, skyscrapers, canned goods, pop music, Mickey Mouse, nylon stockings, cigarettes, washing machines, supermarkets, Coca-Cola, whiskey, leather jackets and cosmetics.

The American way of life quickly seduced Europeans, based on individual consumption of goods (cars, telephones, household appliances), driven by advertising and sustained by easy credit and installment sales.

Mass entertainment, interest in fashion, new musical trends (jazz, charleston, blues) became objects of consumption and fed an entire industry that until then had not been significant.

Opulent America was sold to the world as the paradigm of freedoms, of the possibilities of enrichment and well-being. The values promoted were those of success, entrepreneurship and individual effort.

U.S.A. The United States was projected through the mass media (cinema, advertising, etc.) as the Mecca of dreams for those who went in search of fortune.


The Congress for the Freedom of Culture (CLC) was the central instrument of the CIA’s ideological operation. The Congress was instituted as an organization based in Paris with support from the French and British intelligence services.

The CLC had offices in 35 countries, had permanent staff, ran its own news service, organized international events and high-level conferences with the participation of prestigious intellectuals.

The prospect of success overshadowed any other consideration. The vanity that every creator carries within themselves was cleverly exploited by CIA experts.

Many of the brightest minds in the Old World were at the service of the United States. The cultural crusade was financed mainly by secret Marshall Plan funds; money flowed.

The best museums in the United States and Europe, the major publishing houses, the symphony orchestras of the West, magazines, film and television studios, radio stations were mobilized for the crusade. The CIA functioned as a great Ministry of Culture, with the entire Western cultural industry at its service.

The Agency tricked and used the European intelligentsia for more than two decades. Some with full knowledge of the cause, others attracted by the enormous possibilities provided by the CLC; some by ideological alignment and many confused by the libertarian rhetoric of its sponsors and spokespersons.

Cinematographic versions of George Orwell’s books were made and the Return of the USSR was reproduced: Zero and Infinity, by André Gide, and The White Book of the Hungarian Revolution, by Melvin Lasky, among many others.

The CIA applied the principle of direct influence, mainly in American cultural sectors, to involve them in their anticommunist propaganda projects and events, stimulating disillusionment with cultural policy in the socialist field, exploiting its errors and deviations to the maximum.

To that end they founded and promoted networks of screen institutions for their operations, supported international congresses, created prizes and literary competitions and financed the race and bought journalists, media and intellectuals, although some of them were not aware that they were being used.

Unlike espionage, in which the actor is aware of who he works for, in the cultural war an intellectual, an artist, can reflect in his works opinions of social impact favourable to political interests, without knowing that he is the target of different forms of influence. On the artist one works on their values and weaknesses, studies their psychological characteristics to be able to manipulate them adequately for a certain purpose.

This strategy was perfected over time through multidisciplinary teams covering all artistic disciplines: cinema, music, visual arts, dance, literature, theatre, etc. The experiment was extended over time.

When the CIA needed for its work a certain author or artist consciously or unconsciously at its service, the entire great apparatus created by them for the cultural crusade was put into action. If it was a book, it was published in a large publishing house and immediately promoted on a grand scale.

For other artists, or for those who were behind the success, the signal was clear: imitating the winner was the key, and this strategy, in effect, moved strongly into the USSR and the broader socialist camp. An obvious example was the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, beyond literary merit, it was criticism of the system and other extraliterary factors that caught the attention of the West and the CIA and motivated the deliberate promotion of the author. Writing like Solzhenitsyn became a sure way to success. The mechanism also worked in the opposite direction: silence awaited the “wrong”, the “uncompromising” critics of capitalism.


One of the first television series created with a direct cultural war objective was Music in the Twenties, according to the CIA this series was to be the epitome of the American dream to diminish anti-American feelings in the 1960s and 1970s in Europe.

The Dallas series, in the 1980s, is another example. In the article entitled How Dallas Won the Cold War by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch of Razón Magazine, the authors state:

“It was the booze-and-sex-soaked caricature of free enterprise and executive lifestyles that proved irresistible not just to stagflation-weary Americans but viewers from France to the Soviet Union to Ceausescu’s Romania….Dallas wasn’t simply a television show. It was an atmosphere-altering cultural force. helped define the 1980s as a glorious “decade of greed,” ushering in an era in which capitalism became cool, even though weighted with manifold moral quandaries.” (Link)

The program premiered on April 2, 1978 as a miniseries on CBS. The producers initially had no expansion plans, however, due to its popularity, the show later became a regular series that lasted 14 seasons, from September 23, 1978 to May 3, 1991.

The popularity of the initial miniseries in countries such as Poland, the GDR and Czechoslovakia had a lot to do with increasing the budget for the directors. The CIA channelled millions of dollars to finance Dallas.

The cultural war left no gaps: during the inauguration in Moscow of the American National Exhibition on July 24, 1959, presided over by Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon, there was a debate on the presumed virtues of capitalism and its alleged superiority.

The so-called kitchen-debate took place in the middle of a kitchen of a prefabricated house built expressly for the occasion by All State Properties, to present to the Soviets “the house that every American can have”.

Inside the ideal kitchen, a blonde, slender, smiling model was diligently working in the sight of observers, deftly manoeuvring all the latest generation electronic equipment. The impact of this staging was devastating.

Radio played an important role in the cultural struggle against East-European socialism. Radio Libertad transmitted from Pals beach, in Girona, Catalonia, to the Soviet Union and other countries in the socialist bloc.

The first broadcast took place on 23 March 1959, under the name Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty of the American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia. For many years and until its closure it was the most powerful radio station in the world.

Similar stations were stationed all over the world. In Portugal there were two, in Germany three, and others in Greece, Morocco and elsewhere.

All of them were short wave and directed the broadcasts towards the USSR. None had the power of the former, but they had similar objectives.

In the symbolic battle between the two systems that characterized the 60s, 70s and 80s, an idealized vision of the cultural life in capitalism shaped the imaginations of many, especially the youth.

Translation by Internationalist 360°

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