Non-Communist Left

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The Non-Communist Left (NCL) was a designation used in the US State Department and CIA referring to left-wing intellectuals who took positions against the USSR under Stalin.[1] Arthur Schlesinger Jr. highlighted the group's growing power in a popular 1948 essay titled "Not Right, Not Left, But a Vital Center".[2] Another such publication was The God that Failed (1948), a collection consisting of six essays from former Communists who ostensibly remained on the left which was edited by R.H.S. Crossman.

Winning over and harnessing the power of the NCL became central to the US propaganda struggle against the USSR during the early Cold War. This strategy directly inspired the creation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), as well as international journals like Der Monat and Encounter; it also influenced existing publications such as the Partisan Review.[3]

Under these auspices and consequently in fashionable intellectual circles in the United States and Europe, anti-Stalinism became "almost a professional stance", "a total outlook on life, no less, or even a philosophy of history."[4] Prominent figures in this group include Arthur Koestler, Melvin J. Lasky, Dwight Macdonald, Sidney Hook, Stephen Spender, Nicolas Nabokov, and Isaiah Berlin. (The NCL notably excluded Jean-Paul Sartre because it could not accept his individualistic existentialist views.) Key organizers of the CIA's Non-Communist Left operation, titled QKOPERA, included Frank Wisner, Lawrence de Neufville, Thomas Braden, Charles Douglas Jackson and Michael Josselson.[5] Other supporters within the intelligence community included George F. Kennan, W. Averell Harriman and General Lucius D. Clay.[6]

The NCL began to lose its cohesion and its appeal to the CIA during the radicalism of the late 1960s. Opposition to the Vietnam War fractured the coalition, and 1967 revelations of CIA funding (by Ramparts and others) were embarrassing for many of the intellectuals involved. Soon after the story broke, Braden (with tacit support from the CIA) wrote an article in the Saturday Evening Post which exposed CIA involvement with the Non-Communist Left and organized labor.[7][8] Some argued that this article represented an intentional and final break of the CIA with the NCL.[9]

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  1. Sarah Miller Harris (2016). 'The CIA and the non- Communist left' in The CIA and the Congress for Cultural Freedom in the Early Cold War: The Limits of Making Common Cause (1st ed.).
  3. Saunders, Cultural Cold War (1999), pp. 162. "The headquarters of 'professional' anti-Stalinism was the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, and the magazines whose editors who sat on its board, namely Commentary, the New Leader and Partisan Review."
  4. Philip Rahv, quoted in: Saunders, Cultural Cold War(1999), pp. 161–2.
  5. Saunders, Cultural Cold War (1999), pp. 99
  6. Saunders, Cultural Cold War (1999), pp. 66.
  7. Saunders, Cultural Cold War (1999), pp. 401–402. "Richard Helms, who was now director of the CIA, was, according to Rostow's memo, aware of the article, and conceivably of its contents also. The CIA had ample time to invoke its secrecy agreement with Braden, and prevent him publishing the piece."
  8. Braden, Thomas (20 May 1967). "I'm glad the CIA is 'immoral'". Saturday Evening Post. pp. 10–14. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  9. Saunders, Cultural Cold War (1999), pp. 398–399.