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Cold War to dominate thinking

The New York Intellectuals and the invention of neoconservatism

Since 1945, American and British propaganda services have been recruiting intellectuals, usually from Trotskyite media, to invent and promote an “ideology capable of competing with communism”. The New York Intellectuals, headed by Sidney Hook, efficiently and zealously complied with several missions entrusted to them by the CIA, thus becoming first-class agents of the cultural Cold War. Key theoreticians of this movement, like James Burnham and Irving Kristol, devised the neoconservative rhetoric used nowadays by Washington “hawks” as their foundation.

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Arthur Kœstler (British IRD agent), Irving Brown (CIA agent in charge of European and African left-wing) and James Burnham (CIA agent in charge of intellectual media).

In 1945, Soviet strategists wanted to be recognized by eastern European popular democracias. Supporting themselves in the secret services, they launched an international campaign for peace. The objetive was to keep their control over the "defensive glacis" and prevent a number of armed conflicts with the Anglo-Saxon coalition.

British governments especially that of Clement Attlee, tried to break the war propaganda which, between 1942 and 1945, justified the alliance with Moscow. Within this framework, in February 1948, Attlee created, within the Foreign Office, the Information Research (IRD), a true "Cold War Ministry" financed with secret funds and in charge of producing false information to discredit communists.

In the United States, the situation was more favorable. The Communist Party had been greatly damaged by developments in Moscow, the exile of Trotsky -Lenin’s former right arm - and the German-Soviet pact. In this context, Marxists massively joined the Trotskyite wing of the radical left, one faction of which made a pact with the CIA, thus betraying the Fourth International. After a number of disastrous failures, Soviet services renounced to any kind of influence in the United States and gave priority to eastern european countries, especially France and Italy.

British and American secret services then tried to devise a quite credible and universal thinking so as to compete with Marxism-Leninism. Within this framework, the New York Intellectuals - Sidney Hook, James Burnham, Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell...- would become especially efficient cultural fighters.

The first "punches below the belt"

The New York Intellectuals had no need to penetrate communist media: they were already inside and defined themselves as Trotskyites. The CIA, by recruiting men like Marxist philosopher Sidney Hook, gathered useful information on the American radical left and tried to sabotage international meetings sponsored by Moscow. A «scientific and cultural conference for world peace» was held in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York, in March 1849.

The conference was attended by communist militants and secretly monitored by the Kominform, but the hotel was controled by the CIA who set up its headquarters on the tenth floor. Sidney Hook, acting as a repentant communist, met alone with some journalists to whom he explained "his" strategy against "Stalinists": to intercept the Waldorf mail and disseminate false information.

The CIA, taking advantage of Sidney Hook’s Trojan Horse position, carried out a media intoxicating campaign which even revealed publicly the political affiliation of some participants, thus unleashing Senator McCarthy’s "witch hunting". With zeal and spirit, Hook led his team of agitators, informers and manipulators, who drafted panphlets and promoted disorder in the Round Tables... Simultaneously, across the Waldorf Hotel, tens of extreme-right militants were demonstrating with banners denouncing the Kominform’s interference. The operation was completely successful and the conference failed.

The book by Frances Stonor Saunders, an Oxford University graduate, is one of the best researches on the CIA involvement in the cultural war. By drawing lessons from the "Waldorf blow", the American CIA and the British IRD systematized the recruitment of Trotskyites for the secret struggle against Moscow, so much, so that it was a constant in the "psychological war" launched against the USSR [1].

Sidney Hook, leader of the New York Intellectuals

Sidney Hook, born in a poor Brooklyn neighborhood in 1902, registered in the Columbia University in 1923, where he met John Dewey, his first professor of thinking. Once he concluded his doctorate, he was granted a scholarship at the Guggenheim Foundation that allowed him to study in Germany and visit Moscow. Like many other intellectuals, he was fascinated with Stalin and the Soviet regime.

When he returned to the United States, he began his career as professor at the New York University, in the Department of Philosophy. In 1972, he quit his job to join Stanford after an intellectual evolution leading him from communism to neoconservatism. At the end of the First World War, after marrying a communist militant, Hook joined a trade union of professors close to the Party. He translated Lenin and published a noticeable book: Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx.

Being a typical radical leftist intellectual, he participated in demonstrations against the execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. Early in the 1930s, Hook broke up with communists and joined the Trotskyite clan gathered in the American Workers Party, founded in 1938. He then organized the "Commission to investigate the truth of Moscow’s processes" whose objective was to declare Trotsky’s innocence, aside from Stalin’s power.

Since 1938 he definitely abandoned the revolutionary ideal. In 1939, he founded the Committee for Cultural Freedom, an anti-Stalinist organization that, after the war, became one of the basis for the Congress for Cultural Freedom [2]. More than a rupture, this «betrayal» - when Hook was watching his former friends for the CIA - constituted a very attractive political and financial opportunity for him.

When Hook recalled his conversion, he mentioned "Stalinists " like Brecht who, during a debate in New York in 1935, joked about the arrest of Zinoviev and Kamenev: «Those two, the more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot». This is a well-description of Hook’s methods, who did not hesitate to quote critical words out of context to turn them into despicable words.

Within this environment full of denunciations, the initiative presented by the Wisconsin Senator McCarthy, was discreetly supported by Hook, who published two articles: "Heresy, yes! Conspiracy, no" and "The dangers of cultural vigilantism" where, in a pretended criticism to McCarthy, he encouraged spionage and denunciation of officials, intellectuals and politicians close to communists.

Later on, Hook stated that he had never supported the Wisconsin Senator, a statement rejected by philosopher Hannah Arendt, though she was Hook’s natural ally. In "Heresy, yes!", he describes the ideological position of "realistic liberals" and the "guilt by frequency". He pointed out that the State must implement the "witch hunting" while protecting its liberal regime appearance. For this purpose, the government, more than blaming communist officials, should force suspicious ones to resign. Concerning the professors, Hook said that a communist professor «practices a true professional fraud» [3].

Finally, Hook considered that «witch hunting» constituted a political mistake, not because of the fascist nature of this denunciation campaign, but rather because McCarthy’s initiative was very indiscreet, and placed both Soviet and American violence at the same level. In "The dangers of vigilantism", he advocated other means, more discreet, to persecute communists: for example, to entrust professional bodies with investigations concerning loyalty.

Certainly, Sidney Hook prefered discreet actions. His ties with several Cultural Cold War operations, like the Congress for Cultural Freedom, evidenced his concept of democracy, conceived as a required facade of the NATO bloc headed by the United States. In 1927, he abandoned New York and became one of the main theoreticians of the Hoover Institution until his death [4].

By frequenting the secret diplomacy circles, Sidney Hook became a conservative respected by rulers. In 1985, Ronald Reagan gave him the highest American civil award, the Medal of Freedom, after having decorated, that same day, Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Stewart. He died in 1989 and Bush offered his wife his sincere condolences: «Throughout his life, he was a brave champion of Freedom. (...)». Though he always said that there is nothing absolute in life, irony wanted to demonstrate the opposite with he himself, if there was something absolute in life, that was Sidney Hook, always willing to bravely struggle for «intellectual honesty and truth».

The conversion of Trotskyites

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Sidney Hook’s "betrayal", which made it possible for the Waldorf campaign to succeed, is the starting point of the conversión movement of a Trotskyite faction. The CIA and the IRD trusted on repentant Marxists to launch an important operation: the orchestration of an "ideology capable of competing with communism", according to the expression used by Ralph Murray, first IRD head, which was the main promotion instrument of the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

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Daniel Bell

Thus, the CIA and IRD tactic was, first, to "convert" Trotskyite militants and ensure their obedience. For this purpose, they invested one part of the secret funds available to them to "save" radical magazines from total bankruptcy. That is how the Partisan Review, under the domain of the New York Intellectuals, former Orthodox Communist and then Trotskyite tribune [5] received its funds.

In 1952, the head of the Time-Life empire, Henry Luce, through Daniel Bell, transferred 10 000 dollars to prevent the disappearance of this magazine. That same year, Partisan Review organized a symposium whose main topic can be summarized as follows : «Today, America is the patron of Western civilization». Since 1953, while the New York Intellectuals dominated the Congress for Cultural Freedom, Partisan Review received a subsidy from the "Festival account" of the US Committee for Cultural Freedom, nurtured by the Farfield Foundation ... with CIA funds.

Likewise, New Leader, led by Sol Levitas, was "saved" thanks to Thomas Bramen’s financial intervention ...with CIA money. Now, we can better understand how the Agency gained the loyalty of some radical leftist groups. Aside from "having saved" the Partisan Review, the CIA collaborated with British services in the creation of an anti-communist magazine. So it recruited Irving Kristol, executive director of the US Committee for Cultural Freedom. In 1936, Kristol began in the City College where he met two future Cold War colleagues, Daniel Bell and Melvin Lasky.

Being an anti-Stalinist Trotskyite, he worked for the Enquiry magazine. After the war, he was recruited by the American services and returned to New York to run the Jewish magazine Commentary. Directly financed by Farfield (CIA) credits, he was in charge of inventing the Encounter under Josselson’s supervision. The «X magazine» he ran together with primitivist Stephen Spender would become the spearhead of the American neoconservative ideology.

The struggle against communism in the Congress for Cultural Freedom

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As expected, the New York Intellectuals and other repentant communists were contacted by Josselson (who was subordinated to Lawrence de Neufville) who, at the expense of the CIA, was entrusted with the task of creating the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The objective was to organize the "psychological war" in eastern Europe, according to Arthur Koestler’s expression, against Moscow. Arthur Koestler, born in 1905 in Budapest, was an active communist militant for many years. In 1932, he visited the Soviet Union and the International financed one of his books. After denouncing his Russian girlfriend to the secret police, he abandoned Moscow and traveled to Paris. During the war he was arrested and deported as political prisoner.

Once the war ended, Koestler wrote his book entitled Le Zéro et l’infini, where he described and denounced the Stalinist crimes. The meeting with the New York Intellectuals, through James Burnham, allowed him to frequent the places where secret cultural operations were decided. After a number of meetings with CIA agents, he supervised the drafting of a collective work entrusted by the Agency. "Le Dieu des ténèbres" (André Gide, Stephen Spender...) constituted a harsh condemnation of the Soviet regime. Then, Arthur Koestler was hired to organize the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

Koetsler wrote the "Manifeste des hommes libres" after the meeting of the Kongress für Kulturelle Freiheit in Berlín, organized in 1950 by his friend Melvin Lasky. In his opinion, "freedom has taken the offensive". James Burnham was the main responsible of Koestler’s recruitment, who soon became too unpleasant to conspirators within the Congress due to his enthusiasm.

James Burnham, Koestler’s godfather, was born in Chicago in 1905. As professor at the New York University, he collaborated in several radical magazines and participated in the creation of the Socialist Workers Party [6] Some years later, he organized the split of the Trotskyite group. In 1941, he published "The Managerial Revolution", the future manifest of the Congress for Cultural Freedom which was translated in France under the title "L’Ère des organisateurs". Burnham’s conversion was particularly spectacular. In only a few years, after his meetings with the head of the Stay-behind network [7], Franck Wisner, and his assistant Carmel Offie, he became an ardent champion of the United States that, in his own opinion, was the single wall of contention for communist barbarism.

He stated: «I am against the bombs currently stockpiled in Liberia or in the Caucasus which are designed to destroy Paris, London, Rome (...) and the western civilization at large (...), but I am in favor of the bombs stockpiled in Los Alamos (...) which, for five years now, have been the defense, the single defense, of liberties in western Europe». Fully aware of the Stay-behind network task, Burnham, Raymond Aron’s close friend, changed from Trotskyism to conservative right, thus becoming one of the main intermediaries between the Congress intellectuals and the CIA.

In 1950, when stormy Melvin Lasky received funds diverted from the Marshall Plan, Burnham, Hook and Koestler were undoubtedly aware of everything. Thanks to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, Burnham was able to disseminate his book The Managerial Revolution across western Europe.

An ideology capable of competing with communism

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Raymond Aron [8] was the main architect who imported the thesis of the New York Intellectuals to France. In 1947, he went to Calmann-Lévy publishing house to publish the translation of The Managerial Revolution. At the same time, Burnham defended his new book entitled Struggle for the World in the United States.

The book L’Ere des organisateurs was immediately interpreted (quite rightly) as an apology to "technocracy" by professor Georges Gurvitch. In an attempt to discredit the analysis in terms of class struggle, Burnham stated that the directors were the new owners of world economy. According to the author, the Soviet Union, far from implementing socialism, was a regime dominated by a new class made up by (the "technicians" ( burocratic dictatorship)).

In western Europe and in the United States, technocrats have taken power to the detriment of Parliamentarians and the traditional board. Thus, the dictatorial era meant a double failure: the failure of communism and the failure of capitalism. Obviously, Burnham’s main objective was a Marxist-Leninist analysis whose principle, the historical dialectics, heralded the advent of a world communist society. In fact, "socialism will not succeed capitalism"; the means of production, partially nationalized, will be put in the hands of a management class, the single group capable of running the contemporary State due to its technical competence.

Léon Blum understood quite well the essentially anti-Marxist scope of James Burnham’s technocratic thesis. After the war, as Washington ally, the former strong man of the People’s Front was supposed to write, not without sorrow, the prologue to the French edition: «If I were not certain of the sympathy of some and the friendship of others, I would have considered this request as a malevolence (...) no one could imagine a work thay might provoke such an unexpected and disconcerting reaction in the mind of a socialist reader» [9]. With a godfather like Raymond Aron and a prologue writer like Léon Blum, L’Ere des organisateurs had a remarkable success.

Close to Sidney Hook, with whom he supported the "witch hunting", Daniel Bell published La Fin des idéologies in 1960, a selection of articles published in Commentary, Partisan Review, New Leader and the papers submitted to the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The prologue to the French translation was written by Raymond Boudon, who spent his whole life struggling against the theories of the French School of Sociology represented by Émile Durkheim and Pierre Bourdieu, with the purpose of imposing an Americanized concept of social sciences.

La Fin des idéologies, as its name indicates, retakes the favorite thesis of the New York Intellectuals, namely, the extinction of communism as an ideal. Daniel Bell, active member of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, who contributed to the dissemination of his book, also announced the emergence of new ideological conflicts: La Fin des Idéologies predicted the disintegration of Marxism as a faith, but it did not say that every ideology comes to its end. «I see that intellectuals are frequently eager for ideologies and that new social movements will continue breeding others, either the Pan-Arabic, the reaffirmation of a color or nationalism» [10].

Sidney Hook, Norman Podhoretz, Hans J. Morgenthau and H. Stuart Hughes, during a symposium of the Commentary magazine entitled Western Values and Total War in 1961.

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Sidney Hook, Norman Podhoretz, Hans J. Morgenthau and H. Stuart Hughes.
during a symposium of the Commentary magazine entitled «Western Values and Total War» in 1961.

From anticommunism to neo-conservatism

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The New York Intellectuals, engaged in multiple infiltration operations, revealed very late their true ideological position when they massively joined the neoconservative ranks whose main bastions were already in the hands of repentant Marxists. Irving Kristol, whose relations with Josselson were conflicting, runs Commentary from 1947 to 1952. Another outstanding representative of neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz, was appointed as head of the nearly official Congress for Cultural Freedom magazine from 1960 to 1995. In France, Raymond Aron created the Commentaire in 1978 [11]. Irving Kristol’s son, William, is the director of the highly neoconservative Weekly Standard.

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William Kristol

Contrary to a disseminated thesis, there was no Trotskyite infiltration, but a recovery of Trotskyite elements, in the American right wing, firstly as an objective alliance against Stalinism and, secondly, to put its dialectic capacities at the service of pseudoliberal imperialism.

Burnham and Shatchman abandoned the Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International in 1940 to form a splitting party. Max Shatchman rapidly predicted the emergence of the Democratic Party. He joined the democratic hawk Henry "Scoop" Jackson, whose fierce support to the military-industrial complex won him the "Senator Boeing" nickname. He reorganized his party as a trend within the Democratic Party under the name of United States Social Democratic Party (SD/USA).

During the 1970s, Senator Jackson hired brilliant assistants like Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Richard Perle and Elliot Abrams [12]. Max Shatchman, trying always to preserve his extreme left discourse, turned the SD/USA into a CIA workshop capable of discrediting the extreme left formations while becoming one of the main advisors of the anticommunist trade union organization, the AFL-CIO [13].

The SD/USA Political Bureau included personalities like Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who will become symbols of the Reagan era. In the midst of a total gender confusion, the extreme right theoretician Paul Wolfowitz intervened as speaker in extreme left party congresses. Carl Gershamn was appointed president of the SD/USA and he is currently executive director of the National Endowment for Democracy [14].

In general, members of this party, whose organs are the Commentary magazine and the Committee for the Free World, were rewarded for their manipulations as soon as Ronald Reagan took power. The New York Intellectuals not only developed a leftist criticism against communism, but also invented a «leftist» disguise for the extreme right ideas whose final maturing stage was neoconservatism. Thus, the Kristols and their friends can introduce George W. Bush as an «idealist» who is determined to “democratize” the world.

[1] Frances Stonor Saunders, «La CIA y la guerra fría cultural», Editorial Debate, Madrid, 2001

[2] «Quand la CIA finançait les intellectuels européens», by Denis Boneau, Réseau Voltaire, November 27, 2003.

[3] Bernard Genton, «Une passion anticommuniste», Sidney Hook (1902-1989), IEP Strasbourg

[4] La Hoover Institution, « archivos reservados a los republicanos», Réseau Voltaire, February 3, 2005

[5] Terry Cooney, The rise of the New York Intellectuals, Partisan Review and its circle, University of Wisconsion press

[6] See the resignation letter by James Burnham in Marxists.org

[7] Stay-behind: «Las redes estadounidenses de desestabilización y de injerencia», by Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, July 20, 2001

[8] Raymond Aron, « abogado del atlantismo», by Denis Boneau, this article will be soon published by Red Voltaire

[9] James Burnham, L’Ere des organisateurs, Calmann-Lévy Publishing House, France 1947

[10] Daniel Bell, La Fin des idéologies, Presses Universitaires de France, France, 1997, p. 212

[11] «La face cachée de la Fondation Saint-Simon», by Denis Boneau, Réseau Voltaire, February 10, 2004

[12] «Las raíces históricas del neoconservadurismo: un ataque difamatorio contra el trostkismo», World socialist web site, May 23, 2003

[13] «AFL-CIO ou AFL-CIA?», by Paul Labarique, Réseau Voltaire, January 19, 2005

[14] «Las redes de la injerencia democrática», by Thierry Meyssan, Red Voltaire, November 21, 2004

Denis Boneau

French journalist, member of the French section of Voltaire Network.

 
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