In May of 1967, a former CIA officer named Tom Braden published a confession in theSaturday Evening Post under the headline, “I’m glad the CIA is ‘immoral.’” Braden confirmed what journalists had begun to uncover over the previous year or so: The CIA had been responsible for secretly financing a large number of “civil society” groups, such as the National Student Association and many socialist European unions, in order to counter the efforts of parallel pro-Soviet organizations. “[I]n much of Europe in the 1950’s,” wrote Braden, “socialists, people who called themselves ‘left’—the very people whom many Americans thought no better than Communists—were about the only people who gave a damn about fighting Communism.”

The centerpiece of the CIA’s effort to organize the efforts of anti-Communist artists and intellectuals was the Congress for Cultural Freedom. 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. By purchasing thousands of advance copies that it…

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