Uttalelse fra Rødts landsstyremøte 14. – 16. oktober:
Norge er på full fart dypere inn i stormaktenes kamp om innflytelse i Midtøsten. Det gjør verden mer utrygg, både i Norge og Syria. Rødt krever at planen om å sende norske styrker til Syria skrinlegges, og av Norge avslutter bidragene til USA-koalisjonens krig i Irak.
Etter fem år med krig i Syria fortsetter lidelsene for sivilbefolkninga med uforminsket styrke. Over 300.000 drepte og millioner av mennesker på flukt er fasiten. De rettferdige protestene mot diktaturet til Bashar al-Assad ble, som i Libya, raskt utviklet til en intervensjonskrig. I dag støtter USA, Tyrkia, Saudi-Arabia og andre Golfstater sine foretrukne opprørsgrupper, mens Russland og Iran står sammen med Assad-regimet. Det syriske folket blir forsøkt gjort til brikker i stormakter og regionale makters kamp om innflytelse i Midtøsten. Samtidig fører Tyrkia krig mot kurderne i både Tyrkia og Syria.
Som i Irak og Libya har IS og Al-Qaida vokst fram som betydelige aktører som følge av krigen og nedbrytinga av den syriske statsstrukturen. USA, og flere av deres alliansepartnere ikke bare latt jihadistiske grupper styrke seg i Syria, men også aktivt bidratt til dette, med et mål om å svekke Assad.
Norge har fra starten av stått på USAs side politisk og bidratt med våpeneksport til flere av USAs allierte. Nå er Norge i ferd med å gå inn i krigen også med soldater, som kan havne i direkte kamp med styrker fra Syrias regjering eller Russland. Norske soldater i Syria er et brudd på internasjonal lov.
New Syrian Army, som Norge trener opp, er en del av Free Syrian Army. Free Syrian Army er i Aleppo del av en opprørsfront hvor Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham,tidligere Nusrafronten, altså Al-Qaida, er hovedaktør. Det dette betyr, er at Norge dermed trener allierte av Al-Qaida.
28. september kom det fram i en FN-rapport lekket via nettstedet The Intercept at sanksjonene mot Syria er til hinder for nødhjelpsarbeidet og forverrer situasjonen til sivile syrere. Begrunnelsen for sanksjonene var å hindre Assads maktbruk mot egen befolkning. Det har sanksjonene ikke ført til. Som en del av fredsprosessen bør derfor sanksjonene oppheves.
1. Planen om å sende norske styrker til Jordan og Syria for å trene opprørere som vil sloss mot IS og Assad må skrinlegges. Norge må jobbe for å fremme folkeretten, ikke undergrave den.
2. Norge må stanse sine bidrag til USA-koalisjonens krig i Irak. Soldatene må hentes hjem.
3. Alle våpenleveranser til landene innblandet i konflikten, også Tyrkia, må stanses.
4. Norge må kreve at USA og Russland stanser sin kamp om kontroll over Syria og at de bidrar til å få sine krigspartnere til forhandlingsbordet. Bare slik kan IS og Al Qaidas innflytelse undergraves.
5. Rødt støtter FNs arbeid for å opprette våpenhvile og forhandle fram en politisk løsning på konflikten.
Please review this statement issued by the newly-formed Hands Off Syria Coalition. It follows a lengthy round of discussions among several antiwar and social justice organizations and leading individuals about the urgent need for a broad coalition to confront the escalating war in Syria. International Action Center- IACenter.org is supportive of this process and a signatory to this statement. We invite you to join the rapidly growing coalition and encourage others to join.
Solidarity, Sara Flounders for IAC
We raise our voices against the violence of war and the enormous pressure of war propaganda, lies and hidden agendas that are used to justify this war and every past U.S. war.
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, endorse the following Points of Unity and will work together as an Ad Hoc Coalition to help put an end to the regime change intervention by the United States, NATO and their regional allies and the killing of innocent people in Syria:
The continuation of the war in Syria is the result of a U.S.-orchestrated intervention by the United States, NATO, their regional allies and reactionary forces, the goal of which is regime change in Syria.
This policy of regime change in Syria is illegal and in clear violation of the United Nations Charter, the letter and spirit of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This policy of forced regime change is threatening the security of the region and the world and has increased the danger of direct confrontation between the United States and Russia, with the potential of a nuclear catastrophe for the whole world.
War and U.S. and EU sanctions have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. Half the Syrian population is now displaced. A UN ESCWA report reveals these U.S. sanctions on Syria are crippling aid work during one of the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II. The one third of Syrians refugees in surrounding Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have been hit hard by U.S. cuts to UNICEF. This forces desperate refugees to struggle to reach Europe.
No foreign entity, be it a foreign government or an armed group, has the right to violate the fundamental rights of the Syrian people to independence, national sovereignty and self-determination. This includes the right of the Syrian government to request and accept military assistance from other countries, as even the U.S. government has admitted.
Only the people of Syria have the inalienable right to choose their leaders and determine the character of their government, free from foreign intervention. This right cannot be properly exercised under the conditions of U.S.-orchestrated foreign intervention against the Syrian people.
Our opposition is to forced regime change in Syria by U.S.-backed foreign powers and their mercenaries. It is not our business to support or oppose President Assad or the Syrian government. Only the Syrian people have the right to decide the legitimacy of their government.
The most urgent issue at present is peace and putting an end to the violence of foreign intervention that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of Syrians both internally or as refugees abroad.
Based on these Points of Unity, we, as individuals and organizations-in an Ad Hoc Coalition-agree on the following demands and commit ourselves to working together to help achieve them:
An immediate end to the U.S. policy of forced regime change in Syria and full recognition and compliance by the U.S., NATO and their allies with principles of international law and the U.N. Charter, including respect for the independence and territorial integrity of Syria.
An immediate end to all foreign aggression against Syria, and serious efforts toward a political resolution to the war.
An immediate end to all military, financial, logistical and intelligence support by the U.S., NATO and their regional allies to all foreign mercenaries and extremists in the Middle East region.
An immediate end to economic sanctions against Syria. Massive international aid for displaced people within Syria and Syrian refugees abroad.
Only in a peaceful and independent Syria, free of foreign aggression, can the people of Syria freely exercise their sovereign rights, express their free will and make free choices about their government and their country’s leadership.
We invite all supporters of peace and peoples’ right to self-determination around the world to join hands of cooperation in this effort to achieve these most humanitarian demands.
Though the hawkish stance of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has been too often ignored this election season, new reporting on Thursday highlights how her presumed win in November will likely usher in a more aggressive, bipartisan foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond.
“The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House,” the Washington Post‘s White House correspondent Greg Jaffe reports.
One such study, published Wednesday by the Center for American Progress (CAP)—which is run by president Neera Tanden, policy director for Clinton’s presidential campaign—recommends the next administration step up its “military engagement” amid a more “proactive and long-term approach to the Middle East.”
“D.C. foreign policy elite are giddy that hawkish Barack Obama will be replaced by much more hawkish Hillary Clinton.”
—Zaid Jilani, The Intercept
This includes, among other things: building “on the Obama administration’s campaign to defeat the Islamic State and Al Qaeda militarily by deepening multilateral cooperation with regional partners and taking steps to help create a regional security framework;” as well as being “prepared to use airpower to protect U.S. partners and civilians in certain parts of Syria.”
The latter recommendation is seemingly a direct regurgitation of Clinton’s repeated call for a “no-fly zone” in that region—one she reiterated during Wednesday’s presidential debate.
Jaffe also highlights an upcoming report by the Brookings Institution, due out in December, which has been produced by a “team of top former Clinton, Bush, and Obama administration officials,” as well as one authored by a bipartisan group led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on behalf of the Atlantic Council.
“Taken together,” Jaffe reports, “the studies and reports call for more-aggressive American action to constrain Iran, rein in the chaos in the Middle East and check Russia in Europe. The studies, which reflect Clinton’s stated views and the direction she is likely to take if she is elected, break most forcefully with Obama on Syria.”
“Virtually all these efforts,” he continues, “call for stepped up military action to deter President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in Syria.”
Jaffe further notes that “in the rarefied world of the Washington foreign policy establishment, President Obama’s departure from the White House—and the possible return of a more conventional and hawkish Hillary Clinton—is being met with quiet relief.”
Or, as The Intercept journalist Zaid Jilani put it, “D.C. foreign policy elite are giddy that hawkish Barack Obama will be replaced by much more hawkish Hillary Clinton.”
Indeed, Jaffe’s attempt to paint Obama as “doveish” was ridiculed by journalist Glenn Greenwald and others who have worked to highlight the president’s ongoing secret drone war and military operations across the Middle East and Africa.
Jaffe writes that “[t]he disagreement over Syria policy reflects a broader rift between the Obama White House and the foreign policy establishment,” of which Clinton is a member.
The reporting comes in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, during which Obama has campaigned aggressively on behalf Clinton, turning his back on any of these tensions. But Jaffe quotes a “senior administration official who is involved in Middle East policy” who said of the call for a no-fly zone: “You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians.”
The following is an edited version of an address given by John Pilger at the University of Sydney, entitled ‘A World War Has Begun’.
I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, “Where is that?” If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini”, they say, “You mean the swimsuit.”
Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo”. The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.
On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine calledWomen’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini swimsuit, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I had interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies”; each had suffered thyroid cancer and other life-threatening cancers.
Unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower that is today more dangerous than ever.
I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government”.
How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.
In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in the centre of Prague, in the heart of Europe. He pledged himself to make “the world free from nuclear weapons”. People cheered and some cried. A torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. Obama was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was all fake. He was lying.
The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone rose higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.
A mini nuclear bomb is planned. It is known as the B61 Model 12. There has never been anything like it. General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, “Going smaller [makes using this nuclear]weapon more thinkable.”
In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two – led by the United States – is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.
Ukraine – once part of the Soviet Union – has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that is next door and hostile to Russia: a regime rotten with Nazis, literally. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian speaking minority.
This is seldom news in the West, or it is inverted to suppress the truth.
In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – next door to Russia – the US military is deploying combat troops, tanks, heavy weapons. This extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power is met with silence in the West.
What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China.
Seldom a day passes when China is not elevated to the status of a “threat”. According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea”.
What he is referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of a dispute with the Philippines – a dispute without priority until Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation”.
What does this really mean? It means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China. Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.
I made a film called The War You Don’t See, in which I interviewed distinguished journalists in America and Britain: reporters such as Dan Rather of CBS, Rageh Omar of the BBC, David Rose of the Observer.
All of them said that had journalists and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; had the lies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion of Iraq might not have happened, and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.
The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” – a Dan Rather equivalent, say – asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea.
The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, nuclear-armed bombers.
This lethal arc extends from Australia to the islands of the Pacific, the Marianas and the Marshalls and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America has hung a noose around the neck of China. This is not news. Silence by media; war by media.
In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, known as Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca and the Lombok Straits, that cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.
In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist. He is certainly odious; but he is also a media hate figure. That alone should arouse our scepticism.
Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It is not Trump who is the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.
According to one prodigious liberal commentator, Trump is “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them?
This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people.
No country can equal this systemic record of violence. Most of America’s wars (almost all of them against defenceless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.
In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image”. The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans. Or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared or crushed.
Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn’t want to go to war with Russia and China. The danger to the rest of us is not Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of asystem whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.
As presidential election day draws near, Clinton will be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies – just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope”. And the drool goes on.
Described by the Guardiancolumnist Owen Jones as “funny, charming, with a coolness that eludes practically every other politician”, Obama the other day sent drones to slaughter 150 people in Somalia. He kills people usually on Tuesdays, according to the New York Times, when he is handed a list of candidates for death by drone. So cool.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”
One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State, who has attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary”. This is the same Madeleine Albright who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it”.
Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she is about to be ordained the women’s candidate, to see off the evil Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists: the likes of Gloria Steinem in the US and Anne Summers in Australia.
A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported – such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton; such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.
Self-absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies and signalled the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality, racism and sexism.
Today, the long sleep may be over. The young are stirring again. Gradually. The thousands in Britain who supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are part of this awakening – as are those who rallied to support Senator Bernie Sanders.
In Britain last week, Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally, his shadow treasurer John McDonnell, committed a Labour government to pay off the debts of piratical banks and, in effect, to continue so-called austerity.
In the US, Bernie Sanders has promised to support Clinton if or when she’s nominated. He, too, has voted for America’s use of violence against countries when he thinks it’s “right”. He says Obama has done “a great job”.
In Australia, there is a kind of mortuary politics, in which tedious parliamentary games are played out in the media while refugees and Indigenous people are persecuted and inequality grows, along with the danger of war. The government of Malcolm Turnbull has just announced a so-called defence budget of $195 billion that is a drive to war. There was no debate. Silence.
What has happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?
Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?
John Pilger is a regular contributor to New Matilda, and an award-winning Australian journalist and documentary film-maker. Some of his more famous works include Secret Country, Utopia and Cambodia: Year Zero.
The newly released emails include campaign staff exchanges on handling media queries about Clinton “flip-flopping” on gay marriage, galvanizing Latino support and locking down Clinton’s healthcarepolicy.
The organization had already published over 12,000 Podesta emails online by Sunday. This latest release brings the number of Podesta emails now in the public domain to over 15,200.
Previous email drops have produced numerous revelations about Hillary Clinton and her campaign, including strategies to court black voters and billionaire donors, full transcripts of Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs in which she avoided criticizing Wall Street and discussions about how to “frame” information for “news hyenas.”
The aftermath of a Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen that killed 140 people at a funeral last week. (Photo: Reuters)
The United States, Britain, and the U.N. peace envoy to Yemen called Sunday for an unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to take place “within hours.”
The two nations are trying “to seize on outrage caused by the killing of 140 people in a Saudi airstrike,” the Guardian reports.
The newspaper describes the details of the proposed ceasefire:
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said if Yemen’s opposing sides accepted and moved forward on a ceasefire then the UN special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, would work through the details and announce when and how it would take effect.
“This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table,” Kerry said after a brief meeting with the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and other officials in London. “We cannot emphasize enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen.”
Kerry said he, Johnson and Cheikh Ahmed were calling for the implementation of a ceasefire “as rapidly as possible, meaning Monday, Tuesday.” Kerry and Johnson also met the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.
The brutal Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels has lasted for over 18 months, and the U.S. continues to sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia despite repeated reports that the kingdom has been targetingciviliansites.
Johnson’s and Kerry’s ceasefire call “came after meetings in London with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and senior UAE officials,” Reuters reports. “Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday in Switzerland on the sidelines of Syria talks.”
Reuters quotes Kerry’s statements on the ceasefire at length:
“It is a crisis now of enormous proportions with an increasing economic, increasing humanitarian and health crisis, and obviously the military components are troubling to everybody,” Kerry said.
He added that the release of two American prisoners by Yemen’s Houthi and the evacuation of Yemeni civilians wounded in a Saudi airstrike were “an important humanitarian gesture by the Saudis to address the humanitarian concern”.
Kerry did not appear to mention the United States’ most recent $1.15 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, nor address the U.S. airstrikes that struck Yemen Wednesday.
The conflict in Yemen “has killed almost 6,900 people, wounded more than 35,000 and displaced at least three million since March last year, according to the United Nations,” AFP notes, adding that civilians “have paid the heaviest price in an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.”
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The Abstract Expressionists emerged from obscurity in the late 1940s to establish New York as the centre of the art world – but some say they became pawns of US spies in the Cold War.
By Alastair Sooke
4 October 2016
In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, something exciting happened in the art world in New York. A strange but irresistible energy started to crackle across the city, as artists who had struggled for years in poverty and obscurity suddenly found self-confidence and success. Together, they formed a movement that became known, in time, as Abstract Expressionism. It is currently the subject of a major exhibition, featuring 164 artworks by 30 artists (including Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko), at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
One of the most remarkable things about Abstract Expressionism was the speed with which it rose to international prominence. Although the artists associated with it took a long time to find their signature styles, once the movement had crystallised, by the late ‘40s, it rapidly achieved first notoriety and then respect. By the ‘50s, it was generally accepted that the most exciting advances in painting and sculpture were taking place in New York rather than Paris. In 1957, a year after Pollock’s death in a car crash, the Metropolitan Museum paid $30,000 for his Autumn Rhythm – an unprecedented sum of money for a painting by a contemporary artist at the time.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York acquired Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm for an unprecedented sum in 1957, a year after the artist’s death (Credit: Metropolitan Museum)
The following year, The New American Painting, an influential exhibition organised by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, began a year-long tour of European cities including Basel, Berlin, Brussels, Milan, Paris, and London. The triumph of Abstract Expressionism was complete.
Before long, though, the backlash had begun. First came Pop Art, which wrested attention away from Abstract Expressionism at the start of the ‘60s. Then came the rumour-mongers, whispering that the swiftness of Abstract Expressionism’s success was somehow fishy.
Pollock was a heavy drinker who lived a reclusive life, cut short by a car accident at the age of 44 (Credit: Getty Images)
In 1973, in an article in Artforum magazine, the art critic Max Kozloff examined post-war American painting in the context of the Cold War. He claimed to be reacting against the “self-congratulatory mood” of recent publications such as Irving Sandler’s The Triumph of American Painting (1970), the first history of Abstract Expressionism. Kozloff went on to argue that Abstract Expressionism was “a form of benevolent propaganda”, in sync with the post-war political ideology of the American government.
Pollock said that everyone at his high school thought he was a ‘rotten rebel from Russia’
In many ways, the idea seemed preposterous. After all, most of the Abstract Expressionists were volatile outsiders. Pollock once said that everyone at his high school in Los Angeles thought he was a “rotten rebel from Russia”. According to David Anfam, co-curator of the Royal Academy exhibition, “Rothko said he was an anarchist. Barnett Newman was a declared anarchist – he wrote an introduction to Kropotkin’s book on anarchism. So here you had this nexus of non-conformist artists, who were completely alienated from American culture. They were the opposite of the Cold Warriors.”
Despite this, however, Kozloff’s ideas took hold. A few years before they were published, in 1967, the New York Times had revealed that the liberal anti-Communist magazine Encounter had been indirectly funded by the CIA. As a result, people started to become suspicious. Could it be that the CIA also had a hand in promoting Abstract Expressionism on the world stage? Was Pollock, wittingly or not, a propagandist for the US government?
A number of essays, articles and books followed Kozloff’s piece, all arguing that the CIA had somehow manipulated Abstract Expressionism. In 1999, the British journalist and historian Frances Stonor Saunders published a book about the CIA and the “cultural Cold War” in which she asserted: “Abstract Expressionism was being deployed as a Cold War weapon.” A synthesis of her argument is available online, in an article that she wrote for the Independent newspaper in 1995. “In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years,” she wrote.
Rothko’s No 15 Dark Greens on Blue with Green Band dates from 1957 (Credit: Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London)
The gist of her case goes something like this. We know that the CIA bankrolled cultural initiatives as part of its propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It did so indirectly, on what was called a “long leash”, via organisations such as the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an anti-Communist advocacy group active in 35 countries, which the CIA helped to establish and fund. It was the CCF that sponsored the launch of Encounter magazine in 1953, for instance. It also paid for the Boston Symphony Orchestra to travel to Paris to participate in a festival of modern music.
It is possible that important British abstract painters were shaped by America’s spymasters
According to Saunders, the CCF financed several high-profile exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the ‘50s, including The New American Painting, which toured Europe between 1958 and 1959. Supposedly, the Tate Gallery couldn’t afford to bring the exhibition to London – so an American millionaire called Julius Fleischmann stepped in, stumping up the cash so that it could travel to Britain. Fleischmann was the president of a body called the Farfield Foundation, which was funded by the CIA. It is therefore possible to argue that important British abstract painters, such as John Hoyland, who were profoundly influenced by the Tate’s exhibition in ’59, were shaped by America’s spymasters.
Nelson Rockefeller was the president of MoMA in the 1940s and 1950s and had close ties with figures in US intelligence (Credit: Getty Images)
Saunders also highlighted links between the CIA and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which was instrumental in promoting Abstract Expressionism. Nelson Rockefeller, the president of MoMA during the ‘40s and ‘50s, had close ties with the US intelligence community. So did Thomas Braden, who directed cultural activities at the CIA: prior to joining “the Company”, he was MoMA’s executive secretary.
‘Shrewd and cynical’
Even today, however, the story of the CIA’s involvement with Abstract Expressionism remains contentious. According to Irving Sandler, who is now 91, it is totally untrue. Speaking to me by phone from his apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, he said: “There was absolutely no involvement of any government agency. I haven’t seen a single fact that indicates there was this kind of collusion. Surely, by now, something – anything – would have emerged. And isn’t it interesting that the federal government at the time considered Abstract Expressionism a Communist plot to undermine American society?”
America was the land of the free, whereas Russia was locked up, culturally speaking – David Anfam
David Anfam is more circumspect. He says it is “a well-documented fact” that the CIA co-opted Abstract Expressionism in their propaganda war against Russia. “Even The New American Painting [exhibition] had some CIA funding behind it,” he says. According to Anfam, it is easy to see why the CIA wished to promote Abstract Expressionism. “It’s a very shrewd and cynical strategy,” he explains, “because it showed that you could do whatever you liked in America.” By the ‘50s, Abstract Expressionism was bound up with the concept of individual freedom: its canvases were understood as expressions of the subjective inner lives of the artists who painted them.
Franz Kline’s works are more rigorously composed and less spontaneous than those of other Abstract Expressionists (Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago)
As a result, the movement was a useful foil to Russia’s official Soviet Realist style, which championed representative painting. “America was the land of the free, whereas Russia was locked up, culturally speaking,” Anfam says, characterising the perception that the CIA wished to foster during the Cold War.
This isn’t to say, of course, that the artists themselves were complicit with the CIA, or even aware that it was funding Abstract Expressionist exhibitions. Still, whatever the truth of the extent of the CIA’s financial involvement with Abstract Expressionism, Anfam believes that it was “the best thing the institution ever paid for”. He smiles. “I’d much rather they spent money on Abstract Expressionism than toppling left-wing dictators.”
Alastair Sooke is art critic of The Daily Telegraph.