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The CIA and the Cultural Cold War Revisited

Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London: Granta Books), £20.

This book provides a detailed account of the ways in which the CIA penetrated and influenced a vast array of cultural organizations, through its front groups and via friendly philanthropic organizations like the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. The author, Frances Stonor Saunders, details how and why the CIA ran cultural congresses, mounted exhibits, and organized concerts. The CIA also published and translated well-known authors who toed the Washington line, sponsored abstract art to counteract art with any social content and, throughout the world, subsidized journals that criticized Marxism, communism, and revolutionary politics and apologized for, or ignored, violent and destructive imperialist U.S. policies. The CIA was able to harness some of the most vocal exponents of intellectual freedom in the West in service of these policies, to the extent that some intellectuals were directly on the CIA payroll. Many were knowingly involved with CIA “projects,” and others drifted in and out of its orbit, claiming ignorance of the CIA connection after their CIA sponsors were publicly exposed during the late 1960s and the Vietnam war, after the turn of the political tide to the left  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 06 (November)
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The Road Not Taken

Paul Buhle, Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999), $18, 315 pp.; Mike Parker & Martha Gruelle, Democracy is Power: Rebuilding Unions from the Bottom Up (Detroit: Labor Notes, 1999), $17, 255 pp.

In a very well-known passage, Marx said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Elsewhere, he said, “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” These words of wisdom provide us with a good entry point into a review of these two exceptional books  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 06 (November)
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October 1999 (Volume 51, Number 5)

Many MR readers will remember when teaching the theory of evolution was prohibited by law in some U.S. states. This wasn’t just at the time of the infamous Scopes “monkey trial” in 1925 but still decades later. In the 1950s, during the McCarthy era, the anti-evolution law took on a new significance, symbolizing the suppression of intellectual freedom which was the hallmark of that grim episode in U.S. history. In 1955, the ACLU, which had initiated the original constitutional test of the Tennessee law that culminated in the Scopes trial, again called for repeal of the law, as a symbol of every attack on the freedom of thought. That same year, “Inherit the Wind” appeared on Broadway, presenting the “monkey trial” as a thinly disguised metaphor for McCarthyism  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 05 (October)
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Prison Sentences

Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing (New York: Arcade, 1999), 349 pp., $27.95, cloth.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s old adage, about measuring a civilization by reviewing its prisons, if followed in the U.S. context, is a condemnation of this nation’s own version of the gulag archipelago. A cross-section of prisoner’s writings submitted to the PEN writing contest for the past quarter-century reveals the cold, dark underside of the American dream. Men and women, denizens of both state and federal prisons, write brilliantly about trying to stay human in the midst of places of marked inhumanity, and indeed, places that only succeed if they dehumanize  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 05 (October)
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September 1999 (Volume 51, Number 4)

We’ve received three letters from readers complaining about our articles on Kosovo. While this isn’t a groundswell of opinion, we assume that there are other readers out there who share the concerns of these critics, and since this is an important issue, we think it’s worth returning to it. We won’t go over the same ground again, but we want to take up at least one larger question raised by the critics  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 04 (September)
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Powerful Compassion

It is worth the trip to Syracuse University just to see Ben Shahn’s sixty-by-twelve-foot outdoor mural, “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti.” Unveiled in 1967, the mosaic tile mural tells the story of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, executed in 1927 for a crime which they probably did not commit. Witnesses placed them miles from the crime scene when the murder of a paymaster occurred at a shoe factory in Braintree, Massachusetts  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 04 (September)
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July-August 1999 (Volume 51, Number 3)

In his article on the U.S. economy in this issue, Doug Henwood quotes from a piece by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times Magazine on March 28, and points to the connection between Friedman’s view of globalization and his support for the bombing of Yugoslavia. Well, we read that article and were very much struck by it too. Anyone who thinks we’re over the top when we say things like Ellen did in June’s Review of the Month about the “new imperialism” should just read Friedman’s “Manifesto for the Fast World.”  | more…

1999, Volume 51, Issue 03 (July-August)
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