Review Essay

The Politics of Cold War Culture
by Tony Shaw

Journal of Cold War Studies, 3:3, Fall 2001, pp. 59-76

Steve Nicholson, British Theatre and the Red Peril: The Portrayal of Communism 1917-1945 . Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1999. 195 pp. £42.50.

Christopher Mayhew, A War of Words: A Cold War Witness . London: I. B. Tauris, 1998. 148 pp. £25.00.

Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, Britain's Secret Propaganda War 1948-1977 . Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1998. 223 pp. £25.00.

Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War . London: Granta Books, 1999. 509 pp. £20.00.

Scott Lucas, Freedom's War: The U.S. Crusade Against the Soviet Union 1945-56 . Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1999. 301 pp. $45.00.

Richard M. Fried, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Pageantry and Patriotism in Cold-War America . New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 220 pp. $35.00.

James Chapman, Licence to Thrill: A Cultural History of the James Bond Films . New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. 325 pp. $16.95.

All wars, especially cold wars, are fought in part through words and images. Propaganda--the design, production, and dissemination of these words and images--was central to the forty-year battle fought between East and West after the Second World War. As the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals increased in the 1950s and 1960s, a direct military clash between the superpowers was generally considered to be suicidal. The resulting psychological and cultural conflict--an alternative to "real" war--was unparalleled in scale, ingenuity, and power. In a period of information and entertainment overload stretching from the golden age of radio to the birth of satellite television, it seemed almost impossible not to be touched in some way by the barrage of official and unofficial Cold War publicity. Virtually everything, from sport to ballet to comic books and space travel, assumed political significance and hence potentially could be deployed as a weapon both to shape opinion at home and to subvert societies abroad.

Politics and culture had of course been inextricably intertwined in the Soviet Union from 1917 onward. Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, had related the success of Communism to its ability to achieve a complete upheaval in the cultural development of the masses. Accordingly, scientists, artists, writers, painters, and musicians became active fighters on the ideological front, fostering the principles of Soviet patriotism and proletarian internationalism. As early as 1921 Lenin was promoting the sale of Soviet films to overseas visitors. He and the other Bolsheviks were aware of, on the one hand, the tremendous international propaganda potential of cinema and, on the other, the role that Soviet cultural diplomacy could play generally in undermining the position of the "capitalist-imperialist" powers and spreading the Soviet regime's ideas about world revolution. 1

The Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe during and after the Second World War provided a firmer base for this international propaganda campaign, and, with the start of the Cold War proper, a greater need to infiltrate the West culturally. Orchestrated by Agitprop (the Department of Agitation and Propaganda of the Communist Party Central Committee) and Cominform (the Communist Information Bureau, set up in 1947), the campaign grew more sophisticated and diverse. "Front" organizations, such as the World Peace Council, joined with sympathetic journalists, trade unionists, and academics in the West in trumpeting Moscow's quest for disarmament. These and other "agents of influence" were on hand to exploit any propaganda opportunities that should arise, such as the allegations of germ warfare made by Kim Il Sung's regime against the United States during the Korean War. 2 According to some estimates, by 1960 the Soviet Union was spending the equivalent of 2 billion dollars on Communist propaganda worldwide. 3 Détente brought a further expansion rather than contraction of overseas cultural activities, sport being the best example. In 1975 the Soviet Union maintained sports contacts with sixty-seven countries, and 32,000 Soviet athletes traveled abroad. During that year sports accounted for one-third of all Soviet cultural contacts with other countries, a reflection of the officially declared credo that "sports is a valuable means of strengthening friendship and cooperation between young people." 4

The degree to which culture was used as an instrument of state propa- ganda in the West, as opposed to the East, during the Cold War has recently been the subject of considerable scholarly and public interest. In the United States much of the discussion has revolved around the dark days of cultural and political absolutism associated with Senator Joseph McCarthy. Witness, for instance, the soul searching prompted among many Americans in 1998 by the granting of an honorary award at the Oscar ceremonies to Elia Kazan, the celebrated film director who had gained notoriety for "naming names" in his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. Similar cries of "betrayal" were heard in the British press in 1996 when the opening of Foreign Office files revealed that George Orwell had secretly presented the British government with a list of "crypto-Communists" in the arts and media shortly before his death in 1950. 5 This news not only provoked a re-evaluation of Orwell's iconic left-wing status, but also cast doubt on the independence of other Western intellectuals and commentators during the Cold War. If even George Orwell had succumbed to the blandishments of the "Big Brother"-like agencies, some asked, was there anyone who wrote, painted, acted--even thought--truly freely? Was all culture, on both sides of the Cold War, merely an extension of politics? If so, how should this alter our perception of the conflict?

All of the books under review in some way shed light on the specific episodes and general questions mentioned above. All of them focus on aspects of American and British Cold War culture, particularly during the period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. One or two of the books make only a limited contribution to Cold War historiography, but the others--Scott Lucas's Freedom's War and Frances Stonor Saunders's Who Paid the Piper? in particular--add significantly to our understanding of how foreign policy making, domestic politics, propaganda, and culture intersected during the conflict.

In British Theatre and the Red Peril, Steve Nicholson examines the portrayal of Communism in plays written for the British theater between 1917 and 1945. Film historians for over a decade now have been emphasizing the politically conservative nature of British cinema during the 1920s and 1930s. Directors, producers, and censors combined to manufacture "escapist," consensus-building entertainment at a time when Europe was ideologically polarized and millions of British movie-goers were suffering the effects of The Slump. 6 Nicholson has performed the admirable task of "exhuming" many long-forgotten plays of that period. After examining their political outlook, he reaches similar conclusions about the theater. Nicholson demonstrates how, at a time when the capitalist system seemed to be on the verge of collapse, plays like The Bolshevik Peril (1919), set in a Lancashire mill-town, warned British theater goers of the terrible consequences of Communist rule, including sexual depravity, the abolition of marriage, and the collapse of the Empire. Other plays focusing on life in post-revolutionary Russia depicted Communist ideals as impractical and socialists as inherently corruptible. For example, The Forcing House, which was written by the political philosopher Israel Zangwill, portrayed revolutionary leaders who admitted in the final act that socialism is unworkable because "it presupposes a quality which is not in human nature." Coming from the pen of one of the principal artistic opponents of the British government's support for the White Russians in the aftermath of the First World War, Zangwill's play was naturally seized upon by the fervently anti-Bolshevik press when it was published in 1922. One journal even described it as "the profoundest and curtest criticism Russia has been subjected to." When the play was eventually staged in 1926, a Conservative member of Parliament (MP) from Sheffield judged it so persuasive that he booked an entire theater for a performance and invited fellow MPs from all parties to attend at his expense.

Such productions, Nicholson persuasively argues, are at odds with the supposed absence of political theater from British mainstream culture in the interwar years. A look behind the scenes also reveals the extent to which officialdom played a part in encouraging texts that demonized left-wing ideology. Far from turning a blind eye to politics, as some writers have claimed, the Lord Chamberlain's Office, which was responsible for theatrical censorship, consistently passed plays only if they endorsed the political and social status quo. As with cinematic treatments, scripts for plays were occasionally sent to the Home Office and Foreign Office when the censors needed further advice. 7 During the Second World War, after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, British theater duly performed the necessary political volte-face and encouraged public support for the Anglo-Soviet alliance. Like many Fleet Street journalists, however, a number of playwrights went well beyond what the Ministry of Information wanted in extolling not only the bravery of "Uncle Joe" Stalin's Red Army but also the virtues of Russia's political system. 8 Nicholson goes so far as to claim that the changed theatrical representations of the Soviet Union--via the likes of Tyrone Guthrie's Old Vic production of Konstantin Simonov's The Russians in 1943--contributed to the desire for a more equitable and planned society in wartime Britain, and in so doing helped bring about Labour's landslide victory at the polls in 1945.

Nicholson might have noted how many seemingly apolitical plays performed during this period also carried anti- or pro-Communist connotations, not least because, as he admits, the plays he examines accounted for only a small fraction of total theatrical output. In addition, he might have told us more about the theater's switch-over from the "Beastly Hun" stereotype during the First World War to that of the "Bolshevik Devil" afterward. Did this cause problems for writers, directors, and official propagandists, or were the autocratic characteristics of Imperial Germany and Communist Russia easily conflated despite the very different political goals that their leaders espoused? Had Nicholson made more of an attempt to gauge the impact of the plays on their audiences and the public generally (admittedly a difficult exercise), rather than concentrating on the views of professional critics, we would be in a better position to measure theater's power as an instrument of propaganda relative to the other entertainment media. These shortcomings aside, British Theatre and the Red Peril lends significant weight to other books like Victor Allen's The Russians are Coming and Anthony G. Cross's The Russian Theme in English Literature in cataloging how anti-Sovietism in cultural terms became, in Allen's words, "an essential element of capitalist ideology" well before the Cold War even started. 9

Christopher Mayhew's A War of Words: A Cold War Witness and Paul Lashmar and James Oliver's Britain's Secret Propaganda War 1948-1977 also look at Britain and take us forward into the post-1945 Cold War. The books should be read as a pair. Mayhew was the driving force behind the establishment of the Information Research Department (IRD) at the British Foreign Office in 1948, a unit dedicated to preparing briefing material on Soviet policy, tactics, and propaganda in Britain and overseas. As such, Mayhew was one of the architects of Britain's Cold War propaganda strategy. Paul Lashmar and James Oliver have made the first attempt to outline the IRD's multifarious propaganda activities in Britain and overseas throughout the organization's existence. Together, the books offer keen insights into the perceived "menace" of Communism in Britain and the Empire during the "first" Cold War and the measures taken by the information and intelligence bodies to combat that threat.

With the possible exception of Denis Healey, the former Labour minister, few politicians or officials involved in the formulation of British policy in the early years of the Cold War have published noteworthy memoirs. 10 Unfortunately, Mayhew's A War of Words, published the year after his death, along with his earlier autobiography, Time to Explain (London: Hutchinson, 1987), continues the disappointing trend. Mayhew was a Labour, and later a Liberal, MP from 1945 to 1981 and held ministerial posts at the Foreign Office in the late 1940s and the Ministry of Defence in the 1960s. As a constant visitor to the Soviet Union throughout his political career, Mayhew demonstrated the importance that he and others attached to cultural diplomacy as part of the Cold War propaganda conflict. His memoir provides useful information on how bodies such as the British Council and its offshoot, the Soviet Relations Committee, used "friendship" as a political weapon behind the Iron Curtain. Mayhew also was an accomplished television presenter in the 1950s and thereby was able to strengthen the firm relationship between the IRD and the BBC. However, it is Mayhew's role in setting up the IRD that is of greatest interest to historians of the Cold War, and it is in this area that we might have expected some exciting, new material. Mayhew is at least able to draw on recently released IRD papers to substantiate his eyewitness account of working under Ernest Bevin between 1946 and 1950, and his analysis benefits from the editorial guiding hand of Lyn Smith, whose article on the IRD in the journal Millennium in 1980 was one of the first to reveal the organization's existence. 11 But Mayhew adds little of any consequence to the findings hitherto reached by scholars in relation to either the IRD specifically or British Cold War propaganda policy generally. 12

As investigative journalists, Paul Lashmar and James Oliver are in some senses well equipped to write about the IRD. For thirty years the organization waged a vigorous campaign against Communism across the world using gray propaganda disseminated without attribution via politicians, academics, trade unionists, and, mainly, the mass media. Knowing the daily practices of journalists, and being aware of how governments today distribute or "leak" confidential information to the media, Lashmar and Oliver have been able to cast a discerning eye over the IRD's manipulation of newspapers, magazines, news agencies, and radio stations from the 1940s to the 1970s. Indeed, they tell a fascinating--if at times overly sensationalist--story of a unit that was kept secret from the British public during its lifetime and of which relatively few historians are fully aware nearly a quarter of a century later. At the start of the book they discuss the origins of the Cold War and how the British government preceded the American government in entering the propaganda fray. The book then concentrates on the IRD's different "spheres of influence." The authors cover the agency's ground-breaking activities during the Korean War, its intimate links with the BBC and the international news agency network, its attempts to prop up the Empire against the threat from "Communist terrorists," and its discreet sponsorship of publications intended for distribution on both sides of the Iron Curtain--including George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Toward the end of the book, Lashmar and Oliver focus on the IRD's pro-European Common Market publicity, its role during the Northern Ireland conflict in conjunction with the British Intelligence and Security Services, and the decision eventually taken by Labour Foreign Secretary David Owen in 1977 to disband the organization--partly, it would seem, because it had dangerously and unaccountably overextended its sphere of operations and partly because its "hawkish" operatives were out of touch with the prevailing atmosphere of détente.

Britain's Secret Propaganda War draws impressively on a range of documentary material from the Public Record Office, the BBC Written Archives Centre, and private papers. The research is marred, however, by the numerous inaccurate or missing references, faults compounded by a disconcerting reliance on oral testimony. The authors acknowledge the unavailability of most IRD documentation beyond the early 1950s, and it might be argued that they have performed an admirable task in piecing together fragments of evidence taken from other Foreign and Colonial Office releases and interviews with former IRD personnel (including, intriguingly, the best-selling novelist Fay Weldon). But to base so much of a study about official influence on the media and other target groups on tidbits of information gleaned from recently written newspaper articles and unnamed "private sources" might seem worryingly paradoxical to many scholars. Without doubt the book contains some very sound and highly revealing sections. The chapters on the IRD's trade union and church links, its broadcast propaganda during the 1956 Suez crisis, and its use of news agencies as suppliers of "facts" to Asian and Middle Eastern media outlets are outstanding. We also get a full account of Orwell's list of "crypto-Communists," which he gave to an IRD official, Celia Kirwan, Arthur Koestler's sister-in-law, in 1949. Nonetheless, despite the denials in the introduction, one cannot help feeling that the book is somewhat premature. Its numerous typographical mistakes and spelling errors give the impression that the book was hastily produced to capitalize on the recent revelations about the IRD in the British press.

Frances Stonor Saunders's background also lies in journalism, and her prose style, like that of Lashmar and Oliver, makes her book accessible to the general reader as well as the historian. However, Who Paid the Piper? is very different from Britain's Secret Propaganda War. It is an excellent, in-depth analysis of the cultural front organizations secretly funded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from the end of the Second World War until the late 1960s. Parts of this story have been told before, either by former CIA operatives such as Howard Hunt (of Watergate fame) or by historians, notably Peter Coleman and Pierre Gremion in their work on the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). 13 Saunders has scoured the archives in Britain and the United States for official and private documentation relating to the CCF and other bodies linked to the CIA and has conducted interviews with "survivors" of the cultural crusade, among whom are the literary and intellectual luminaries Stephen Spender, Melvin Lasky, and Arthur Schlesinger. The overall result is a richly colorful and deeply penetrating account of an extraordinary system of covert cultural patronage established in the West at the height of the Cold War.

In 1966 a series of articles in The New York Times exposed a wide range of covert activities undertaken by the American intelligence community, causing a storm of protest and embarrassment in the United States and overseas. These included details of how the American government had reached into cultural affairs at home and in Western Europe with the aim of lending intellectual weight to the West's actions and way of life. In 1967 the California-based left-wing magazine Ramparts triumphantly revealed the CIA's funding of various respected and apparently autonomous institutions, including Radio Free Europe and the CCF. Saunders sets out to challenge what she terms the "myth of altruism" (p. 4) that today surrounds the CIA's cultural investments of the 1950s and 1960s. She disputes the notion that the agency's support for artists, musicians, magazines, and scientists came with no strings attached and that the CIA was merely interested in extending the possibilities for free and democratic cultural expression. She succeeds in her task by outlining in great detail how the agency's objectives fitted within the American government's wider Cold War propaganda strategy, how creative activities were tailored and distorted to meet official needs, and how the complex system of covert sponsorship benefited some while acting to the detriment of others.

Saunders concentrates on the intellectual figures at the center of the so-called "consortium"--the tight network of intelligence personnel, political strategists, business executives, and alumni of Ivy League universities--who ran the CIA's cultural campaign: the writer Arthur Koestler; the composer Nicolas Nabokov; the editor of the German monthly magazine Der Monat, Melvin Lasky; and the head of the CCF from 1950 to 1967, Michael Josselson. The chief aim of this group of former radicals and leftist intellectuals was to hold together and act as the voice of the non-Communist Left in the struggle between East and West. Saunders painstakingly delineates the links between the CCF and a variety of "philanthropic" bodies, media outlets, and Cold Warriors, including the London-based journal Encounter, Hollywood's Walt Disney and Darryl Zanuck, Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York, Gardner Cowles, the president of the Cowles publishing group, and the Farfield and Ford Foundations. Arguably her most controversial material is the evidence she has unearthed indicating that the CIA was an active component in the machinery that promoted Abstract Expressionism, the dominating Western art form of the 1950s. Saunders goes a few steps further than others who have written on this subject by suggesting that the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York under the tutelage of its president, Nelson Rockefeller, was the agency's front organization. 14 The fact that MOMA was buying this kind of art before the CIA was even created in 1947 casts doubt on her argument, without necessarily taking away from the more general point that the work of radical left-wingers like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock served to contrast Western diversity and artistic flamboyance with Soviet totalitarianism and the rigidity of Socialist Realism. Like Britain's Secret Propaganda War, Who Paid the Piper? should have been footnoted more accurately and more fully, and some scholars may chafe at the author's predilection for the biographical rather than organizational or thematic approach. But it seems safe to say that historians would benefit if more books of this quality were published by Granta to augment its strong reputation for literary fiction.

In Freedom's War, Scott Lucas covers some of the same territory trodden by Saunders. Lucas, like Saunders, has rifled through declassified CIA material (and much more besides) to explore the U.S. government's policy vis-à-vis cultural propaganda during the Cold War. His prime objective, however, is to examine the network of government and private groups (from labor unions to women's organizations to academics) that formed part of the U.S. government's attempts to "liberate" Eastern Europe in the period from 1948 to 1956. In this regard his work complements Walter Hixson's excellent Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War, 1945-1961 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997). Freedom's War is also explicitly intended to stimulate new assessments of the Cold War. Lucas argues that "the Cold War was presented, first and foremost, as a clash of cultures and ideologies" (p. 2) rather than, as many would have it, a geopolitical or economic struggle. By bringing to the fore what he refers to as the "State-private network," and through it the notion of a broadly-conceived "ideological" U.S. foreign policy, Lucas offers a direct challenge to historians of the "national security" school like John Gaddis who, Lucas believes, have given only token acknowledgment to a U.S. ideology and "reduce[d] the Cold War to a struggle in which the United States pragmatically defended itself and the Free World against the Soviet menace" (pp. 3-4).

Lucas's starting point is the Truman Doctrine. He disagrees with historians like Gaddis who maintain that the Doctrine was devised merely as a reaction to the domestic political situation. Instead Lucas instead stresses Harry Truman's ideological vision. The president's missionary outlook and his crusade for freedom necessitated a revival of the propaganda machine that had been activated during World War II, with necessary adjustments for the special demands of the Cold War. Beginning with the establishment of the Citizens' Committee to Defend the Marshall Plan in 1947, the Truman administration forged links with a network of private individuals in the media, business, public relations, the trade unions, and the financial world to promote U.S. ideology at home and overseas. A year later, during the campaign to secure a victory for the Christian Democrats against their Communist opponents in the first postwar Italian elections, the U.S. National Security Council further strengthened the use of private publicity. A host of celebrities-- including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others--were recruited to broadcast their commitment to Italian democracy. Bodies such as the National Catholic Welfare Council worked in support of the "letters to Italy" campaign, warning people not to vote to become "the slaves of atheistic Russia." Lucas demonstrates how a subtle shift from defensive to offensive propaganda (a transition that mirrors Lashmar's and Oliver's account of the British government's approach to Cold War propaganda during the same period) converged with changes in foreign policy thinking to move U.S. strategy beyond "containment" toward "liberation." The incorporation of the National Committee for Free Europe (NCFE) in 1949, with Hollywood mogul Cecil B. DeMille on its board, confirmed the shift from a limited geopolitical strategy to a global ideological crusade in which all Americans were encouraged to participate.

Lucas documents the staggering success of the CIA's dual strategy of (1) securing funds from established organizations such as the Advertising Council and the Ford Foundation for the cultural crusade; and (2) setting up and funding private ventures in the United States and abroad. "Liberation" committees modeled on the NCFE targeted Asia and the Soviet Union itself, U.S. Olympic athletes allegedly received subsidies in 1952, and CIA money was even funneled to the Communist Daily Worker in order to keep a check on its activities. Lucas might have taken greater care on a few occasions in the midst of his sophisticated analysis to distinguish between the individuals and groups who actively (and perhaps secretly) cooperated with the U.S. government and those who were engaged in activities that happened to coincide with official views. For example, in the opening chapters he rightly emphasizes the significance of the American press's overall support for the Truman Doctrine in 1947 but without making clear the extent to which this support should be attributed to the close relationship that existed between some newspapers and the Truman administration. We need to know this in order to gauge whether the anti-Soviet consensus that emerged in the United States after the Second World War evolved naturally or was in some ways officially manufactured, as some scholars claim was the case in late-1940s Britain. 15

Lucas's previous work on Anglo-American relations prior to and during the 1956 Suez crisis emphasized the complex nature of U.S. foreign policy making under Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and, in particular, the need to appreciate how at times the State Department, the White House, and various intelligence agencies pursued different, even competing, policies. 16 Lucas shows that these actors generally agreed on the broad outlines of the "liberation" strategy in the early and mid-1950s, but he finds that there was a considerable degree of bureaucratic in-fighting over the control and direction of propaganda. Although this turf warfare is obviously important, some readers might feel that Lucas devotes too much space to it at the expense of other matters. It would have been preferable if he had focused more on the actual content of propaganda disseminated behind the Iron Curtain and how it was digested in countries as diverse as Czechoslovakia and Albania. That said, Lucas is surely right when he stresses the "persistent ambiguity" (p. 251) that dogged the Eisenhower administration's policy of liberation. Although U.S. propaganda and covert operations continually proclaimed the right of the peoples of Eastern Europe to independent governments of their own choosing, policy makers emphasized evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. "At no point," writes Lucas, "did Eisenhower and his advisers address the obvious question: How could the East Europeans demand free elections and independence within a totalitarian system without 'revolutionary' change?" (p. 251). This inherent contradiction in U.S. policy was cruelly exposed during the abortive Hungarian uprising in late 1956, when a number of Radio Free Europe broadcasts falsely implied an American armed intervention to save the rebels from the Soviet Army's tanks. For many years historians have debated the motives and consequences of this rhetoric. 17 Lucas sees it as the logical result of long-term policy ambiguity combined with the nature of the network for propaganda and "psychological strategy," which meant that at key stages the administration had little operational control. Given the activism of prominent members of the CIA and Radio Free Europe, "it was hardly surprising that the distinction between endorsement of reform and endorsement of revolution was blurred if not obliterated" (p. 259).

The notion of a State-private network helping to drive and sustain American actions overseas is of course not new. But in documenting the vast range of organizations and individuals drawn under the State Department's and CIA's umbrellas during the 1950s (the core of which, Lucas argues, survives to the present day), Freedom's War goes further than the narrower military-industrial complex theory or other economic-based theories propounded by the New Left thirty years ago. It remains to be seen whether Lucas's reinterpretation of the role of ideology in U.S. foreign policy will have the impact on future Cold War historiography that he hopes it will. But it would be desirable if those who choose to explain U.S. foreign policy mainly on geopolitical, economic, or military grounds would at least address his line of argument.

Richard Fried's The Russians are Coming! considers how the government-private partnership in Cold-War America from the 1940s to the 1960s created public pageants to generate support for the conflict with the Soviet Union. The book therefore ties in well with Who Paid the Piper? and Freedom's War by recreating how grassroots American culture--as opposed to high art or cultural diplomacy--affected and was affected by the Cold War. Fried describes various forms of pageantry that were organized, mainly in the late 1940s and early 1950s, for the purpose of bolstering patriotism and, like Abstract Expressionism, celebrating American freedom in contrast to the sterility and repressiveness of Communism. One pageant was the Freedom Train, a traveling exhibition displaying the most revered documents in American history, including the Bill of Rights and German surrender articles from the Second World War. The exhibition visited over 300 U.S. cities from September 1947 to January 1949. Fried describes how the train was greeted with enormous respect wherever it stopped and that it even took on sacred attributes. Visitors reportedly stepped off it as if having been to church, little boys doffed their caps unbidden, and Irving Berlin's song "The Freedom Train" cheered its "precious freight." Pageantry could also be used explicitly to condemn the Soviet Union. The most dramatic example of this took place in Mosinee, Wisconsin, on 1 May 1950, when the town suffered a Communist "take-over" for the day. Prompted by zealous American Legionnaires, citizens acted as commissars and captives and ate from "Soviet-style" sidewalk soup kitchens before gathering in "Red Square" in the evening to end Communist rule with a bonfire and a rally. Fried shows how such small-scale, bizarre events could capture the imagination of the country in the media age (even the Soviet TASS news agency sent a reporter to the town), and he also explains that these events served as a reminder of the visceral nature of at least some elements of U.S. anti-Communism during the early Cold War, in this case prior to McCarthy's arrival on the scene.

Given Fried's previous work on the Red Scare and McCarthyism, The Russians Are Coming! is disappointingly thin in places. 18 He succeeds to some extent in illustrating how ordinary Americans were persuaded to see connections between their daily lives and the global struggle with the Soviet Union. He also rightly shows the relatively minor impact these pageants had on American opinion in comparison with events like the Korean War and the threat posed by Soviet nuclear weapons. But he fails to incorporate this local (or "soft," as he terms it) side of American Cold War political culture into the national (or "harder") actions and pressures that brought about a remarkable degree of cultural and ideological conformity in the United States in the 1950s. Perhaps this criticism is somewhat unfair in light of the large amount of scholarship that has already been done on political, cultural, and intellectual anti-Communism in 1950s America. The Russians Are Coming! does cover fresh ground in places, and it draws on a healthy mixture of national, regional, and private sources. It is also fun to read, especially for those whose taste in humor lies on the black side.

The "invasion" of Mosinee was an extreme manifestation of genuinely held fears of Communist subversion in the United States and Britain in the early Cold War. Such anxieties built on the Soviet Union's quest for worldwide revolution, on the cases of Klaus Fuchs, Julian and Ethel Rosenberg, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and others, and, it might be argued, on a well-established tradition for spy stories in both countries. In many ways the Cold War provided the perfect setting for the creative exploration of the literary genre of espionage. The subject of spying in the nuclear age, when the theft or relinquishment of military secrets could make the difference between life and death for millions, was at once both frightening and thrilling. In a series of fourteen novels published from 1953 to 1966, the Old Etonian Ian Fleming (who died in 1964) managed to exploit this mixture of fear and excitement more successfully than any other author during the whole of the Cold War. In James Bond, Fleming invented a glamorous twentieth-century icon. In Licence To Thrill, James Chapman has written the first cultural history of the James Bond films.

Having previously conducted a fine study of the relationship between the cinema and the state in Britain during the Second World War, Chapman is well equipped to examine the propagandistic role that the Bond movies played during the Cold War. 19 Yet he is keenly aware of the dangers of a reductive approach to what is the most popular and enduring series of films in cinema history. The Bond phenomenon, which encompasses the novels, films, magazines, toys, exhibitions, fan clubs, and so on, has been justifiably analyzed from a variety of angles over the past forty years. The Bond films themselves have been read as Westerns dressed up in modern clothes, fairy tales, twentieth-century folk epics, adult comic strips, even supernatural fantasies. 20 Chapman realizes that he must pay due service to this smorgasbord of interpretations and consequently casts a far wider net for his quarry than the strictly political approach adopted by Steve Nicholson in his examination of interwar British theater.

There is one thing on which all Bond commentators (Chapman included) can agree: that the films are less anti-Soviet in tone than Fleming's novels. This of course does not mean that the films were shorn entirely of Cold War connotations, despite regular statements to that effect by their creators, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. 21 The Soviet military counter- intelligence service SMERSH, which was very much at the center of events in Fleming's books, was pushed into the background by the international crime cartel SPECTRE in Dr. No, the first Bond movie, directed by Terence Young in 1962. Yet, as Chapman points out, the film's plot still operated within Cold War tensions, revolving as it did around the eponymous madman's attempts from a secret missile base in the Caribbean to divert American rockets launched from Cape Canaveral. Few people in the audience could have missed the parallels between this scenario and the Cuban missile crisis, which had reached its critical stage when the film was released in Britain in late October 1962. Other movies that, according to Chapman, located Bond firmly within the political and ideological coordinates of the Cold War include From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and You Only Live Twice (1967), together with those produced during the early stages of the "second" Cold War in the early 1980s: For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), Never Say Never Again (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985).

Rather than looking at Bond's appearances on the big screen from a narrow East-West perspective, Chapman urges us to place them in four generic contexts: the British imperialist spy thriller, the cliff-hanger adventure serial, the modern Hollywood action movie, and the "Bondian" (a production ideology that constitutes a set of expectations about what a Bond movie should be like, what it should contain, and how it should be made). He then moves chronologically through the series, charting the ways in which the films negotiated a path through the social, cultural, and political changes that Britain experienced from the 1960s to the 1990s. Along the way Chapman skillfully teases out the films' varying visual styles and explains their construction of a fantasy world of beautiful women, exotic locations, easy sex, and consumer affluence, in which the decline of British power has never taken place. Licence to Thrill is not, in other words, yet another celebratory and anecdotal run-through of the Bond movies for Bond fans. It is a book that asks us to take the Bond phenomenon seriously and to appreciate the complexity of its ideological contours. It also helps explain why British authors such as Fleming, Len Deighton, and John Le Carré maintained a steady superiority in espionage fiction for most of the Cold War, thereby "compensating for their country's decline in the world of real power," as Eric Hobsbawm has wryly suggested. 22

Conclusion

Certain brief observations arise from a consideration of these recent books on the politics of Cold War culture in British and American societies. With regard to the state's appreciation of the importance of culture as a weapon in the Cold War, there seems little difference between East and West. If Britain and the United States are anything to go by, Western governments were prepared to spend considerable amounts of money, time, and energy creating and shaping the cultural landscape that acted as a backdrop to their diplomatic and military actions at home and overseas. This is not to say that culture and its purveyors were controlled as tightly in the West as they were in the East. For all of the political pressures imposed on Hollywood during the McCarthy years, for instance, American filmmakers enjoyed far greater freedom than did their counterparts in the Soviet Union, where all scripts and productions had to go through several stages of heavy-handed censorship to ensure compliance with the Kremlin's dictates. 23 Even so, official influence in the West could be and was exerted on cultural affairs and output in many ways, some far more subtle than in Communist countries. This should not surprise us given the lessons all governments had learned during the Second World War about the need to use culture as a form of political persuasion and the even greater onus placed on propaganda during the Cold War. The point is nonetheless significant, if only because cultural diversity and artistic independence were what helped to set democratic capitalism apart from Communism and what made the "Free World," for all its faults, so obviously free.

At the same time it would be a mistake to take too cynical or conspiratorial a view of Western Cold War culture. What most of the books show is the voluntary nature of many participants' contributions to the cultural conflict with the Soviet Union. Artists, poets, actors, intellectuals, and philanthropists may or may not have been aware of the state's behind-the-scenes involvement in their activities--many members of the CCF or the recipients of IRD material certainly were not. But the fact that so many people and groups were prepared, unprompted, to write an essay or perform in a play that extolled democracy's virtues or condemned the Communist way of life is one of the main reasons that official propagandists in the West in the long run held the whip hand over their Eastern competitors. Indeed, one can identify far more of a two-way process at work in the relationship between official and unofficial cultural warriors in the West compared with the East, each reinforcing the other's fears and missionary zeal. That said, James Chapman's analysis of the Bond movies makes clear that it would be erroneous to view Western culture solely through a Cold War prism. His book, more than any other under review here, demonstrates that culture is very rarely merely an extension of politics.

Owing to the inherent difficulty of assessing the effectiveness of propaganda, we can only speculate when it comes to gauging precisely the impact of the state's cultural activities on public opinion during the Cold War in both East and West. What is beyond doubt, however, is the central role of cultural activities in helping many people internalize the Cold War. Books, films, paintings, and sporting events might passively reflect but also actively project political and ideological meanings. As these books show, propaganda could not work miracles, but it could be effective when disseminated slowly, almost imperceptibly over time. In this regard the West's greater ability to spread its message, owing to its more powerful financial and communications resources, is surely crucial. In Freedom's War and Who Paid the Piper? we learn just how vast the CIA's spending power and global reach were. When these strengths were combined with the increasing ubiquity of American popular culture in the world after 1945, it might be argued that in the Cold War competition for hearts and minds the Communist world never stood a chance. As Peter G. Boyle puts it in a recent review of Cold War historiography:

The Hollywood film, rock 'n' roll music, television soap operas, Coca-Cola, blue jeans and McDonald's hamburgers had much greater influence in undermining communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, it might be suggested, than the deterrent power of SDI or Pershing missiles. 24

 

Tony Shaw is a senior lecturer in the Department of History, University of Hertfordshire.

Notes

1. Baruch Hazan, Soviet Impregnational Propaganda (Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis Publishers, 1982), p. 53. For more on the propagandistic role of Soviet cinema see also Dmitry Shlapentokh and Vladimir Shlapentokh, Soviet Cinematography, 1918-1991: Ideological Conflict and Social Reality (New York: A. de Gruyter, 1993); and Peter Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society 1917-1953 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

2. Milton Leitenberg, "New Evidence on the Korean War Biological Warfare Allegations: Background and Analysis," Cold War International History Project Bulletin, No. 11 (Winter 1998), pp. 185-199; and Kathryn Weathersby, "Deceiving the Deceivers: Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, and the Allegations of Bacteriological Weapons Use in the Korean War," Cold War International History Project Bulletin, No. 11 (Winter 1998), pp. 176-185.

3. P. M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995), p. 256.

4. V. Ivonin, Vice Chairman of the USSR Committee on Sports, "Sport and Physical Culture," Moscow News, No. 31 (1972), p. 5, cited in Hazan, Soviet Impregnational Propaganda, p. 40.

5. Richard Norton-Taylor and Seamus Milne, "Orwell Offered Writers' Blacklist to Anti-Soviet Propaganda Unit," The Guardian, 11 July 1996, p. 1; and Ross Wynne-Jones, "Orwell's Little List Leaves the Left Gasping for More," Independent on Sunday, 14 July 1996, p. 10.

6. See Jeffrey Richards, The Age of the Dream Palace: Cinema and Society in Britain, 1930-1939 (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1984); Tony Aldgate, "Ideological consensus in British feature films, 1935-47," in K. R. M. Short, ed., Feature Films as History (London: Croom Helm, 1981), pp. 94-112; and Stephen C. Shafer, British Popular Films, 1929-1939: The Cinema of Reassurance (London: Routledge, 1997).

7. On cinematic treatments, see Jeffrey Richards, "The British Board of Film Censors and Content Control in the 1930s: Foreign Affairs," Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Vol. 2, No. 1 (March 1982), pp. 43-45; and Jeffrey Richards, "The British Board of Film Censors and Content Control in the 1930s: Images of Britain," Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Vol. 1, No. 2 (June 1981), pp. 95-116.

8. See P. M. H. Bell, John Bull and the Bear: British Public Opinion, Foreign Policy, and the Soviet Union, 1941-45 (London: E. Arnold, 1990).

9. Victor L. Allen, The Russians Are Coming: The Politics of Anti-Sovietism (Shipley, UK: The Moor Press, 1987), p. 308; Anthony G. Cross, The Russian Theme in English Literature (Oxford: W. A. Meeuws, 1985).

10. Denis Healey, The Time of My Life (London: Michael Joseph, 1989).

11. Lyn Smith, "Covert British Propaganda: the Information Research Department, 1947-77," Millennium, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring 1980), pp. 67-83.

12. See W. Scott Lucas and C. J. Morris, "A Very British Crusade: the Information Research Department and the Beginning of the Cold War," in Richard Aldrich, ed., British Intelligence, Strategy, and the Cold War (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 85-110; Richard Fletcher, "British Propaganda Since World War Two--A Case Study," Media, Culture, and Society, Vol. 4, No. 2 (April 1982), pp. 97-109; Wesley Wark, "Coming in from the Cold: British Propaganda and the Red Army Defectors, 1945-52," The International History Review, Vol. 9, No. 1 (February 1987), pp. 48-72; Susan L. Carruthers, "A Red Under Every Bed? Anti-Communist Propaganda and Britain's Response to Colonial Insurgency," Contemporary Record, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Autumn 1995), pp. 294-318; and Tony Shaw, "The Information Research Department of the British Foreign Office and the Korean War, 1950-1953," Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 34, No. 2 (April 1999), pp. 263-281.

13. Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Post-War Europe (New York: Free Press, 1989); and Pierre Gremion, L'Intelligence de L'Anticommunisme: Le Congrès pour la liberté de la culture à Paris, 1950-1975 (Paris: Fayard, 1995).

14. See, for instance, Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

15. See, in particular, Peter Weiler, British Labour and the Cold War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988) and Tony Shaw, "The British Popular Press and the Early Cold War," History, Vol. 83, No. 269 (January 1998), pp. 66-85.

16. W. Scott Lucas, Divided We Stand: Britain, the U.S ., and the Suez Crisis (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991).

17. See, for instance, Lászl, 1991).

ress, 1988) and Tony Shaw, "The British Popular Press and the Early Cold War," 953," y," Cold Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3 (Fall 1999), pp. 67-110; Csaba Békés, "The 1956 Hungarian Revolution and World Politics," Working Paper No. 16, Cold War International History Project, September 1996; and James David Marchio, "Rhetoric and Reality: The Eisenhower Administration and Unrest in Eastern Europe, 1953-59" (Ph.D. diss., American University, Washington, DC, 1990).

18. Richard M. Fried, Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

19. James Chapman, The British at War: Cinema, State, and Propaganda, 1939-1945 (London: I. B. Tauris, 1998).

20. On the myriad interpretations of James Bond, see, for instance, John Brosnan, James Bond in the Cinema (London: The Tantivy Press, 1972); Kingsley Amis, The James Bond Dossier (London: J. Cape, 1965); and Open University Audio Tape, James Bond Case Study (Milton Keynes, UK: Open University, 1977).

21. Janet Woollacott, "The James Bond Films: Conditions of Production," in James Curran and Vincent Porter, eds., British Cinema History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983), p. 218.

22. Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London: Pantheon Books, 1994), p. 228.

23. On the constraints placed on the Soviet film industry during the final period of Stalin's reign see Kenez, Cinema and Soviet Society, pp. 209-246; and Graham Roberts, "A Cinema of Suspicion or a Suspicion of Cinema: Soviet Film 1945-53," in Gary Rawnsley, ed., Cold-War Propaganda in the 1950s (London: Macmillan, 1999), pp. 105-124. On American cinema and McCarthyism, see Nora Sayre, Running Time: Films of the Cold War (New York: Dial Press, 1982); Larry Ceplair and Steven Englund, The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-1960 (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980); and Patrick McGilligan and Paul Buhle, Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997).

24. Peter G. Boyle, "The Cold War Revisited: Review Article," Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 35, No. 3 (July 2000), p. 488.