CIA Involvement in Academia, or How the West Usurped the Cultural Revolution – aerdil – Sep 11

This has been brought up before and undoubtedly a lot of you are familiar with the now infamous Wikipedia article about the Cultural Revolution that delves into a hilariously sickening level of anti-communist blood libel. However, what I find deeply interesting are the sources quoted in the article and academic articles written that treat such absolutely ludicrous accusations as fact without batting an eye. Otherwise “respected”, well-funded, and high-positioned Western academics routinely write anti-communist screeds wherein Mao and other Chinese Communists are vilified as essentially Hitler-like figures that promoted not only the killing but bloodthirsty cannibalization of counter-revolutionaries.

And so I just spent a few hours researching and tracing back the citations used in their original primary sources to suss out their validity – and discover who exactly originally “researched” or “reported” on such grotesque events – while at the same time accidentally discovering the inevitable CIA involvement and funding of the whole academic environment.

Here is the relevant portion of the wikipedia page:

Some of the most extreme violence took place in the southern province of Guangxi, where a Chinese journalist found a “disturbing picture of official compliance in the systematic killing and cannibalization of individuals in the name of political revolution and ‘class struggle’.” Senior party historians acknowledge, “In a few places, it even happened that ‘counterrevolutionaries’ were beaten to death and in the most beastly fashion had their flesh and liver consumed .” Not even the children of “enemies of the people” were spared, as more than a few were tortured and bludgeoned to death and dismembered. Some of their organs – hearts, livers, and genitals, were eaten during “human flesh banquets”. According to Mao: The Unknown Story, an estimated 100,000 people “lost their lives” in Guangxi during this period.

Let’s take a look at the first source, Zheng Yi Scarlet Memorial: Tales Of Cannibalism In Modern China. Westview Press, 1998. There’s not much information on Zheng Yi, but from what I could find out, he traveled to Guangxi province in the late ’80s as a journalist, and supposedly interviewed some of the local residents. The interviews and claims seem either extremely shoddy or highly questionable. I’ve been unable to find reviews for it outside of the China Quarterly (see below) or the “Taiwan Review” which obviously loved it.

In any case, the author is an anti-communist now “living in exile” in the United States.

The second source brings us to one of the leading Western scholars on Orientalist studies: MacFarquhar, Roderick and Schoenhals, Michael. Mao’s Last Revolution. Harvard University Press, 2006. Printed in the Harvard U. Press, the book has an air of credibility. This is the relevant page from the book that was quoted in the wikipedia article:

Ouch, those commies were pretty sick dudes! Let’s check out the sources for those.

The first thing that sticks out, I’m sure, is the heavy reliance on Zheng Yi’s book Scarlet Memorial. It’s important to note the heavy reliance most of these articles and books have on the same few pieces of “evidence”, and ultimately incestuous relationship all of this research contains.

Jin Chunming’s book Wenhua dageming (A Draft History of the Cultural Revolution) is apparently a post-Deng quasi-state endorsed history of the Cultural Revolution, but unfortunately I can’t find an English copy of it. The real shitty pun at the end makes it slightly difficult to take serious. but nonetheless it’d be interesting to see it in context, and its own source.

Ding Longjia’s book “Kang Sheng and the Unjust Case of Zhao Jianmin” is also similarly written in Chinese as far as I can tell, and I can not find any reference to author or article beyond references to it in MacFarquhar articles. If anyone can track this down I’d appreciate it.

Now, this is where it starts to get interesting. Roderick MacFarquhar is a Harvard university professor, and as well as his numerous books about the Cultural Revolution, edited the China Quarterly where many of these anti-communist and anti-Mao articles appear in the first place (that he often sources).

However, it had an interesting source of funding, as we hear from from his own mouth:

Bruce Cumings (LRB, 15 December 2005) mentions the late Karl August Wittfogel’s part in a debate in the 1960 inaugural issues of the China Quarterly, of which I was then the editor. It was not, as Cumings states, Wittfogel’s ideas on Oriental despotism that were at issue but rather Benjamin Schwartz’s theory about the originality of Mao’s revolutionary strategy, as laid out in Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao. Wittfogel had long preached his dissenting views and the debate provided an opportunity for Schwartz to refute them for the first time in a public forum to which all China scholars had access, and which would also be accessible to the wider community. Wittfogel’s article attacked the theory as ‘the legend of Maoism’, and Schwartz then countered with a piece entitled ‘The Legend of “The Legend of Maoism”’.

Cumings reminds readers that secret moneys from the CIA (from the Farfield Foundation via the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the parent of the CQ, Encounter and many other magazines) provided part of the funding for the CQ – something I did not know until the public revelations of the late 1960s. His implication is that the CIA was behind the debate, and aimed to rehabilitate Wittfogel and his theories in the eyes of the academic community. I trust that this letter will dispel any such notion. The debate was my idea. It was not about Wittfogel’s theories, which had already received considerable academic scrutiny, but was designed to bring his allegations about Schwartz into the public arena so that they could be rebutted. I made sure that Schwartz, my former teacher, would welcome participating in such a debate before asking Wittfogel to submit his article.

Roderick MacFarquhar
Harvard University

The article he’s referencing is pretty pro-read actually, and Cumings gets another burn on MacFarquhar when he responds to that letter, but you can read it all here:

Anyway, the take home is that The Farfeld Foundation was a CIA front organization that funneled money to cultural projects they deemed anti-communist and a valuable propaganda weapon against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The rationale behind this covert philanthropy was that American avant-garde culture that was both leftist and anti-communist could be an effective foil against Stalinist Communism’s rise in Western Europe, post World War II. It was not just the CIA that directed the flow of money, it was also some very influential and wealthy Americans with names that included Rockefeller, Ford, and Dodge. Although they were not CIA fronts, many other foundations have been implicated as having received CIA monies.

The primary beneficiary of the Farfield Foundation’s philanthropy was another CIA front, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, and its US Chapter, the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, which in turn funded groups and individuals through themselves. Even early neoconservative thinkers received funding from covert CIA sources for journals and freelance authorship.

MacFarquhar’s letter mentions that the Congress for Cultural Freedom was the parent of CQ. It also was, as mentioned, a CIA front organization (this is the same group that funded & promoted the Abstract Expressionism movement in order to compete against Socialist Realism in the art world, among many other efforts).

The Congress for Cultural Freedom was “an anti-communist advocacy group founded in 1950. In 1967, it was revealed that it was established and funded by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and it was subsequently renamed the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF). At its height, the CCF/IACF was active in some thirty-five countries and also received significant funding from the Ford Foundation.”

What we are left with is a concerted effort by the CIA to fund magazines and academic journals that specifically endorse anti-communist views, drowning out or pushing out competing viewpoints.

Here is the effort in the CIA’s own words, via an unclassified (but still slightly redacted) report:

The Congress for Cultural Freedom is widely considered one of the CIA’s more daring and effective Cold War covert operations. It published literary and political journals such as Encounter, hosted dozens of conferences bringing together some of the most eminent Western thinkers, and even did what it could to help intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain. Somehow this organization of scholars and artists–egotistical, free-thinking, and even anti-American in their politics–managed to reach out from its Paris headquarters to demonstrate that Communism, despite its blandishments, was a deadly foe of art and thought.

On a quick conspiracyish (but not really) note, many of these articles and books, and authors, are physically located in Australian institutions. William Blum and John Pilger have written about (see the Australia chapter of Killing Hope) John Kerr’s high level involvement with the CCF especially during the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis when he dismissed the Labour PM and assigned the center-right liberal opposition candidate to its position. Certainly, at least, the largest offshoot of the CCF is found in Australia and its academia.

Anyway, backing up to MacFarquhar, his first position at Harvard was as Director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies from 1986-1992. The Fairbank Center, by the way, was started by John King Fairbank, another famous and respected Chinese historian, who, according to Robin W. Winks’ book about academic spies Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961, worked for the OSS:

Reviews of his book, predictably, are absolutely abhorrent jokes that serve only the heap lavish praise on his work. The most ridiculous example I found is in the peer-reviewed “Journal of Cold War Studies”.

It asks for commentary from five different “preeminent” scholars, all of whom absolutely love MacFarquhar. These two excerpts from two of the professors reflect the tone of all of them:

Mao is shown here to be a nearly perfect Machiavellian prince, hiding his intentions from those he chooses as enemies and lying to them until he can spring traps on them. Clearly he enjoyed such fights. Any semblance of moral principle in the effects of his actions was purely incidental. The book quotes a characterization of Mao’s police operative, Kang Sheng, as “a man with a heart of stone, who did not know how to cry.” The same could be said of Mao. The information base on which the authors drew for this book is spectacular.

If the Cultural Revolution were a video game, it might seem so detached from reality that even fantasy addicts would be hard-pressed to take it seriously. Unfortunately, the joystick that Mao Zedong manipulated was the lever of power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the results of the Cultural Revolution, his all-too-real fantasy game, were chaos, destruction, violent death, and cruelty on a scale fathomable only in the context of Chinese history.

Expect this book to be a staple in college history classes for years to come.

The third source mentioned in that wikipedia excerpt is probably the most absurd (other than Mao: The Unknown Story): Steven Bela Vardy and Agnes Huszar Vardy. Cannibalism in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. Duquesne University, East European Quarterly, XLI, No.2, 2007. It’s linked for your reading pleasure at – some Zionist & Anti-Communist site.

It’s own paltry list of sources quote from mainly themselves, The Black Book of Communism, Anne Applebaum (Washington Post anti-communist ‘journalist’), Robert Conquest, the usual suspects. This is more hard right anti-communist than the liberal establishment/social democratic anti-communism that the CCF fostered. East European Quarterly is now defunct, and unfortunately not much information remains about their funding, etc.

A quick tangent before I end: Let’s not forget the insane amounts of funding by American elites to make all of this possible by the way! One of the primary sources of CIA funds was the Ford Foundation, as mentioned in a few of those sourcewatch articles. According to Harvard’s Asia Quarterly:

Only after the establishment of a Communist regime in 1949 did the U.S. government, foundations, and academic institutions begin to appreciate the desirability – indeed the necessity – of developing expertise in the study of contemporary China. The Ford Foundation’s decision to contribute $30 million to build up the field of East Asian studies was a key stimulus in this regard…

Obviously the CIA funding universities and cultural avenues is nothing new or groundbreaking, but seeing the final results of their effort on a small-scale like this is pretty damn interesting. Also I just wanted to get a lot of this down in one place. For a more general overview of CIA involvement on campuses and academia, take a look at this great Counterpunch article:

If anyone else has other examples, or an actual background in Chinese history, I’d love to hear from you. Also, I typed entirely too much shit and was too lazy to find all of the hilarious excerpts from the ridiculously slanderous and stupid Mao: The Unknown Story which is essentially a Murdoch tabloid in book form; if someone can post a few that’d be great. Thanks to the two people that bothered to read this entire thing and remember to