The United States has vast experience in the practice of cultural warfare against any alternative project to its hegemony on the international stage. The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, by Frances Stonor Saunders, is an indispensable book in this regard, offering the most thorough research on the subject, allowing for an understanding of this reality. This book demonstrates how, during the Cold War years, the CIA’s program of psychological and cultural warfare against the socialist camp was its most prized possession.
“A central feature of the Agency’s efforts to mobilize culture as a Cold War weapon was the systematic organization of a network of ‘private’ groups or ‘friends’ into an unofficial consortium. This was an entrepreneurial coalition of philanthropic foundations, business corporations and other institutions and individuals, who worked hand in hand with the CIA to provide the cover and the funding pipeline for its secret programmes in western Europe,” Stonor notes.
Cultural warfare is that which is promoted by cultural imperialism – especially the United States as the leading power of the capitalist system – in both the affective and cognitive fields of the human domain, with the intention of imposing values on certain groups and nations. It is a concept that, understood as a system, incorporates or relates to elements of other terms that have been more widely used such as political warfare, psychological warfare, fourth-generation warfare, smart power, the soft coup, unconventional warfare and political-ideological subversion.
Art and literature are not the main target of imperialism’s cultural warfare strategy against any particular country – although art and literature are used as instruments or as targets of cultural warfare. The terrain in which this cultural war is waged is mainly linked to lifestyles, behaviors, perceptions of reality, dreams, expectations, tastes, ways of understanding happiness, customs and everything that has an expression in peoples’ daily lives.
Achieving a U.S.-style homogenization in this field has always been part of the highest aspirations of the United States’ ruling class, especially since its elite understood the difference between domination and hegemony; and that the latter could not be guaranteed only through coercive means, but that it was essential to manufacture consensus.
The cultural war waged throughout history by Washington is not a hollow fantasy, but is based on concrete and proven facts, open and covert operations of U.S. government agencies, statements by the leaders of that nation and documents governing its foreign policy, both in the diplomatic and military spheres.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the leading imperialist ideologues, who served as National Security Advisor to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in his work The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, expressed:
“Cultural domination has been an underappreciated facet of American global power. Whatever one may think of its aesthetic values, America’s mass culture exercises a magnetic appeal, especially on the world’s youth. Its attraction may be derived from the hedonistic quality of the lifestyle it projects, but its global appeal is undeniable. American television programs and films account for about three-fourths of the global market. American popular music is equally dominant, while American fads, eating habits, and even clothing are increasingly imitated worldwide. The language of the Internet is English, and an overwhelming proportion of the global computer chatter also originates from America, influencing the content of global conversation.”
This is the same Brzezinski who in 1979, in a memorandum sent to Carter, recommended the following course of policy toward Cuba: “The Director of the International Communication Agency, in coordination with the Department of State and the National Security Council, should increase the influence of American culture on the Cuban people through the promotion of cultural trips and allowing the coordination of the distribution of American films on the island.”
Not long ago a document of extraordinary importance to understanding the current strategies of U.S. imperialism in the field of cultural warfare was presented: The United States Army Special Operations Command’s “SOF Support to Political Warfare White Paper,” dated March 10, 2015.
What this White Paper essentially sets out is that the United States should again take up the idea of George F. Kennan – a former U.S. expert on the Soviet issue and architect at the State Department of the policy of “containment” to prevent the spread of communism – regarding “the premise that rather than a binary opposition between ‘war’ and ‘peace,’ the conduct of international relations is characterized by continuously evolving combinations of collaboration, conciliation, confrontation, and conflict.” That is, that war is permanent, although it adopts multiple facets and can not be limited to the use of military resources. In fact, the document states that war can be waged without having been declared, and can even be waged while declaring peace.
“Political Warfare is a strategy suited to achieve U.S. national objectives through reduced visibility in the international geo-political environment, without committing large military forces,” the document emphasizes from the beginning. The text continues: “Political Warfare’s ultimate aim is to win the ‘War of Ideas,’ which is not conterminous with hostilities. Political Warfare requires ‘co-operation of the [armed] services, aggressive diplomacy, economic warfare and the subversive field-agencies, in the promotion of such policies, measures or actions needed to break or build morale.’”
This White Paper is only one among many studies and recommendations of doctrines and military strategies developed in Washington, which assign an increasing lead role to the cultural and ideological components of its hegemonic strategies.
THE CULTURAL WAR AGAINST CUBA
The cultural war against Cuba did not begin on December 17, 2014. Since Cuba’s revolutionary triumph, the island has faced both the impacts of the colonizing wave of global hegemonic industry and specific cultural warfare projects designed, financed and implemented by U.S. imperialism, its agencies and international allies, with the aim of subverting Cuban socialism.
In this regard Ricardo Alarcón, former Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power, pointed out: “Cultural aggression against Cuba (...) Does not only still exist but continues to grow. It maintains a covert, clandestine dimension, led by the CIA, but in addition, since the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century, it has another public, brazenly open dimension. The Cuban case is, for these reasons, absolutely unique, exceptional.
“It is also unique because what is done to us in the cultural field has always been an integral part of a broader aggressive scheme, which has included a cruel and permanent economic war, and military aggression, terrorism and other criminal acts, whose purpose, (...) detailed in an infamous Yankee law, is to put an end to our independence.”
A fundamental component of the cultural war waged by different United States governments against the Cuban Revolution has been the psychological and media war.
Jon Eliston’s book Psywar on Cuba: The Declassified History of U.S. Anti-Castro Propaganda, published in 1999, reveals how Washington practiced psychological and propaganda aggression against Cuba for decades, and that this included books, newspapers, comic strips, movies, pamphlets, and radio and television programs.
Another of the favorite fields of cultural warfare has been that of history. It manipulates and distorts our past, attacking its most sensitive and symbolic bases, precisely because it seeks to do away with the example of the Cuban Revolution from its very roots.
What are Radio and TV Martí, if not structures created for cultural warfare in the broadest sense against the Cuban revolutionary project?
There is a great difference between the public diplomacy that many countries espouse in the international arena, and the actions that different U.S. administrations have historically undertaken. Behind this “inoffensive” discourse, lies the hidden apparatus for the dissemination of U.S. political and cultural values, which ignore respect for the sovereignty of nations and the cultural diversity of peoples. This is not just about influence, but about covert and open interference in the internal affairs of other states.
When evaluating the challenges we face, we sometimes adopt triumphalist positions, based on a reductionist view of culture, understood strictly as art and literature. Of course, cultural influences and confluences have existed for more than two centuries between Cuba and the United States, thanks to which both peoples have been spiritually enriched, but the fundamental challenges lie in the field of lifestyles, political culture and social habits.
Faced with this reality, there is no better antidote than patriotism, a comprehensive Cuban identity – not limited Cuban attributes – anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and, together with the promotion of solid cultural referents, the development of a critical individual with a profound humanist education, capable of discerning what is really valuable for him or herself among the avalanche of cultural products with which he/she interacts.
This critical individual can only be forged from the earliest ages through training in the debate and challenging of ideas, with the active participation of the family, community, school, media and political and mass organizations. Of course, all the actions we carry out in the cultural field must be accompanied by specific events and achievements, for things to be done well in all spheres, and for the results of this work to be manifest in the daily lives of our people.