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PENETRATION OF THE VIETNAM ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT BY THE

SOVIET AND CHINESE INTELLIGENCE APPARATUS (1954-1973) AN ANALYSIS
Dr. Juan R. Cespedes, Ph.D.
Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship Studies, Steven J. Green
School of International and Public Affairs, Florida International University
supplementary class notes

1. BACKGROUND: PROPAGANDA AS AN ARM OF THE INTELLIGENCE
APPARATUS
1.1.

“Agitation” and “propaganda” are technical terms within Marxist revolutionary
theory. Agitation and propaganda as defined by Georgi V. Plekhanov and
supported by Vladimir I. Lenin are "value-free", which is to say devoid of
morality.

1.2.

Bolshevik leader and theoretician, Nikolai Bukharin, in his The ABC of
Communism wrote in 1919:

1.2.1.

1.3.

The State propaganda of communism becomes in the long run a means
for the eradication of the last traces of bourgeois propaganda...and it is a
powerful instrument for the creation of a new ideology, of new modes of
thought, of a new outlook on the world.

Marxist theoretician and first leader of the Red Army, LeonTrotsky, and a small
group of Communists regarded the nascent Soviet Union as doomed without
the spread of Communism internationally

2. “MASS LINE”/“PARTY LINE” IN PROPAGANDA
2.1.

The use of the “Mass Line” or “Party LIne” within agitation and propaganda

2.1.1.

The mass line is primarily a method of establishing world leadership. But,
secondarily, it is also a method of education and mobilization of the
masses in order to have them embrace the socialist cause.

2.1.2.

To be the leader in a world movement, one must also educate. Since the
primary tool for leadership is the mass line, it is therefore not surprising
that the mass line/party line is also of value in the work of political
indoctrination.

1

2.1.3.

2.2.

One way in which the mass line/party line is of value is in determining
what specific points to concentrate on in agitation (especially) and
propaganda.1

Communist propaganda was aimed towards influencing the attitude of the
western and “non-aligned” populations, advancing the ideology of Marxism,
the communist world-view, and the interests of the communist states.

2.2.1.

The mass line/party line of the communist states, led by the USSR and
PRC, during this period has these important common motifs:

2.2.1.1.

the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were the
supporters and natural allies of anti-imperialists and the working
classes throughout the world

2.2.1.2.

the USSR and PRC were the vanguard of a logical and irrepressible
world-wide socialist revolution

2.2.1.3.

the USSR and the PRC were peace-loving nations defending
themselves against an aggressive and expansionist capitalist
military alliance

2.2.1.3.1.

Ironically, the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (officially the
Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics, and also known as the Nazi–Soviet
Pact), was presented as a peace measure to the world.

2.2.1.4.

the United States and its allies were imposing their will on the
people of the world

2.2.1.5.

the struggle in Vietnam and Southeast Asia was a struggle against
neocolonialism and capitalist hegemony

2.2.1.6.

the struggle in Vietnam specifically, and Southeast Asia generally,
was essentially a civil war (akin to the US Civil War) that should not
be interfered with by outside interests

2.2.1.6.1.

The Viet Cong and NVA were grass-roots organizations
admired and backed by the oppressed Vietnamese peasantry

1

Agitation and propaganda, or “Agitprop” (Russian: агитпроп) consisted of stage plays, gatherings,
speeches, pamphlets, media, motion pictures and other art forms with an explicitly political message in
order to motivate the masses.
2

2.2.1.7.

the pro-western governments of South Vietnam and Southeast Asia
were unpopular authoritarian puppets of the United States

2.2.1.7.1.

The armed forces of the United States in South Vietnam
represented an occupying power feared and resented by the
South Vietnamese, who wanted reunification with Ho Chi
Minh’s communist North. They were engaged in a war that
was unwinnable.

2.2.1.8.

the pro-western governments of South Vietnam and Southeast Asia
did not represent the interests of their respective populations

2.2.1.9.

Additionally and incongruent to the policies of the USSR, the
propaganda machine of the People’s Republic of China sought to

2.2.1.9.1.

The PRC sought to be the leader of the communist world, and
increasingly saw the USSR s a rival (especially since the SinoSoviet split of the early 1960s). Mao Zedong proposed a more
belligerent attitude towards capitalist countries, initially
rejected all ideas of peaceful coexistence, and saw the Soviet
Union as a “revisionist”2 of Marxist principles.

2.2.1.9.2.

secure access to resources and energy throughout Southeast
Asia.

2.2.1.9.3.

build alliances and weaken Taiwan's (Republic of China)
relationship with the international community (and succeeded
greatly in this matter. On Oct. 25, 1971, the United Nations
General Assembly voted to admit the People’s Republic of
China and to expel the Republic of China [Taiwan]. The
Communist PRC therefore assumed the ROC’s place in the
General Assembly as well as its place as one of the five
permanent members of the U.N. Security Council).

2.2.1.9.4.

Promote a multipolar world and constrain or decrease US
global power. Like the Soviets, the Chinese sought to diminish
the United State's influence in Asia, but also to create its own
sphere of influence in Southeast Asia and underdeveloped
countries vis a vis the Soviet Union.

2

Within the Cold War communist world, to be a “revisionist” is to believe in an unwarranted altering of
fundamental Marxist premises. The term is a pejorative and indicates a "watering down" or abandonment
of true Marxism.
3

3. PROPAGANDA EFFORTS WERE INTERNATIONALIST IN NATURE
3.1.

Even before the Bolsheviks seized power, Lenin proclaimed that the
Revolution was the vanguard of a world-wide revolution, both international and
socialist. The slogan "Workers of the world, unite!" was constantly repeated.

3.2.

Lenin founded the Comintern to propagate Communism internationally. When
this became a difficulty in dealing with his Allies in World War II, the Comintern
was dissolved by Stalin. Other “front” organizations were used instead to
spread communist influence.

3.3.

Naturally, the existence of an antiwar/peace movement in the communist world
was impossible. All political activities, demonstrations, writing or speeches
which were counter to the foreign policies of the USSR/PRC were strictly
prohibited and ruthlessly suppressed.

4. SPOTLIGHT ON SOVIET INFLUENCE
4.1.

the CIA estimated in 1980s that the budget of Soviet propaganda targeted
abroad was between 3.5-4.0 billion dollars (approximately 7-8 billion in 2015
dollars).

4.2.

Propaganda abroad was partly conducted by Soviet intelligence agencies. The
GRU (Russian: ла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, or Main Intelligence
Directorate) alone spent more than $1 billion for propaganda and peace
movements in partnership against the Vietnam War, which was a "hugely
successful campaign and well worth the cost", according to GRU defector Col.
Stanislav Lunev3 . He claimed that "the GRU and the KGB helped to fund just
about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad".

4.3.

According to former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, "the Soviet intelligence was
really unparalleled. ... The KGB programs -- which would run all sorts of
congresses, peace congresses, youth congresses, women’s movements,
trade union movements, campaigns against U.S. missiles in Europe,
campaigns against neutron weapons, allegations that AIDS... was invented by
the CIA... all sorts of forgeries and faked material -- [were] targeted at
politicians, the academic community, at the public at large."

5. Soviet-run movements pretended to have little or no ties with the USSR, were often
seen as noncommunist, but in fact were controlled by USSR.
3

Highest ranking GRU officer to defect to the United States. According to Colonel Lunev, the Soviet
Union spent more money on funding of US anti-war movements during the Vietnam War than on funding
and arming the Viet Cong forces in that struggle. He remains in the FBI’s witness protection program.
4

5.1.

Most members and supporters, referred to as “useful idiots”, did not realize the
fact that they were unwilling instruments of Soviet propaganda.

5.2.

The organizations aimed at convincing well-meaning but naive Westerners to
support Soviet overt or covert goals.

5.2.1.

A witness in a US congressional hearing on Soviet covert activity
described the goals of such organizations as the: "spread [of] Soviet
propaganda themes and create false impression of public support for the
foreign policies of Soviet Union."

6. “FRONT” ORGANIZATIONS
6.1.

Much of the activity of the Soviet-run peace movements was supervised by the
World Peace Council (WPC)

6.2.

Other important front organizations which were critical of US foreign policy in
Southeast Asia included the

6.2.1.

World Federation of Trade Unions,

6.2.2.

World Federation of Democratic Youth,

6.2.3.

International Union of Students

6.2.4.

Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization,

6.2.5.

Christian Peace Conference,

6.2.6.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers

6.2.7.

International Federation of Resistance Movements

6.2.8.

International Institute for Peace,

6.2.9.

International Organization of Journalists,

6.2.10. Women's International Democratic Federation
6.2.11. World Federation of Scientific Workers.
6.2.12. There were also numerous smaller organizations and student groups in
colleges (such as the SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] who
waved Viet Cong flags and chanted “Mao, Mao, Mao Zedong”, and Ho,
Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Cong are gonna win” at their national

5

convention), the International Union of Students, the World Federation of
Democratic Youth, and the International Organization of Journalists, were
affiliated with the above fronts.
6.2.13. Among the groups targeted by the Soviets in the United States and
Canada was the Viet Nam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) which was
the subject of numerous FBI and CIA investigations for plots against US
leaders.
6.3.

Many of those organizations received (in total) more than $100 million from
USSR every year.

6.4.

Image: Members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) blocking
access to a university hallway.

7. THE HONEST DISSENTERS
7.1.

The aforementioned organizations undoubtedly also had members who
genuinely believed in world peace and studiously avoided contact with
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communists and their fellow-travelers, but who nonetheless were used by the
USSR/PRC propaganda machine to promote policies in sync with MarxistLeninist goals.
7.2.

“Useful Idiot”: In Cold-War political jargon a is a pejorative term for the
aforementioned honest dissenter, or people perceived as propagandists for a
cause whose real goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically
by the leaders of the said cause.

7.3.

Image: Dubbed “Hanoi Jane” by her critics, actress Jane Fonda sits wearing a
helmet in a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun emplacement (later mimicking it
firing at US aircraft for the cameras). She participated in nearly a dozen
propaganda broadcasts in Hanoi denouncing the American military as “war
criminals”.4

7.3.1.

“Useful Idiot”: A term often attributed to Vladimir Lenin.

4

The epitome of a “useful idiot”? Fonda was only a few blocks away from the infamous Hanoi Hilton
prison, where many American servicemen were being brutally tortured by the same North Vietnamese
she readily endorsed. Fonda continued to deny that the communists were torturing American POWs, and
called the POWs “snakes and liars.” She has refused to apologize to this day, refering to veterans
alternatively as “professional killers”, “self-righteous” and “war criminals”. Not surprisingly, many
Americans, especially military veterans, consider her a traitor and a fool.
7

7.3.2.

In the Russian language, the equivalent term "useful fools" (полезные
дураки) was already in use by 1941.

7.4.

Image: The Marxist theme of a rich/poor class struggle is evident in the "We
Won't Fight Another Rich Man's War!!!" banner held by these Vietnam
Veterans Against the War, circa 1970.

7.5.

The underlying accusation was that, despite the people in question thinking of
themselves as standing for a benign socialist or ideological cause, such as the
peace movement, and although they were de facto valued allies of the USSR/
PRC; they were actually held in contempt and were being cynically used by
the communists for political purposes.

8. “FRONT” ORGANIZATIONS SELECTIVELY CRITICAL
8.1.

“Front” organizations such as the WPC condemned western efforts in
Southeast Asia, armaments and weapons testing, and other policies of
western democracies, but refrained from criticizing the same or similar efforts
by the totalitarian USSR/PRC.

8.2.

Former SVR (Soviet Foreign Intelligence) officer Sergei Tretyakov said that the
Soviet Peace Committee funded and organized demonstrations in Europe
against US bases

8

8.2.1.

Often, during negotiations the Soviet side was not interested in
compromise with the US, calculating instead that peace movements in
the West would force the Americans to capitulate.

8.2.2.

Image: The ultimate canard: Students in Kezar Stadium, San Francisco,
1967, placing then President Lyndon Johnson in the same category as
the Nazi war criminals who engineered the Holocaust. The banner
underneath declares that the US is destroying Vietnam.

8.2.3.

As a result, some political and civic leaders saw no difference between
an antiwar activist and a Communist or Communist sympathizer/”pinko”5.

8.2.4.

US President Ronald Reagan said that the peace demonstrations in
Europe in 1981 were sponsored by the WPC.

5

“Pinko”: a slang term coined in 1925 in the United States to describe a person regarded as being
sympathetic to communist goals, although not a full “red” Party member.
9

8.2.5.

Soviet defector Vladimir Bukovsky6 stated that the peace demonstrations
were coordinated at the WPC's 1980 World Parliament of Peoples for
Peace in Sofia, Bulgaria, which was part of the Soviet Bloc.

8.2.6.

The FBI reported to the United States House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence that the WPC-affiliated U.S. Peace Council
was one of the organizers of a large 1982 peace protest in New York
City.

8.2.7.

Image: Students waving Viet Cong flags during Kent State antiwar
demonstrations in Ohio, 1970.

8.2.8.

Image: Anti-war demonstration near the White House, 1970. Hippies who
had been wading in a fountain to cool off cheer when a fellow
demonstrator managed to climb on top of a bus to wave a Viet Cong flag.

6

A writer, neurophysiologist, and activist for human rights, Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky is
celebrated for his part in the campaign to expose and halt the political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet
Union, where opponents of the communist system were deemed “insane” and confined to mental
institutions. Because of his opposition Bukovsky was confined to psychiatric hospitals from May 1963 to
July 1966 with a few brief months of release in 1965. Bukovsky would spend a further 12 years of periodic
confinement in Soviet psychiatric hospitals, labor camps and prisons.
10

9. TRULY NON-ALIGNED?
9.1.

Defectors from Soviet intelligence agencies and many Western analysts have
confirmed that the non-aligned peace movement was controlled by the Soviet
Union.

9.1.1.

In 1951 the House Committee on Un-American Activities published The
Communist "Peace" Offensive, which detailed the activities of the WPC
and of numerous affiliated organizations.

9.1.2.

In 1982 the Heritage Foundation published Moscow and the Peace
Offensive, which pointed out that non-aligned peace organizations
advocated similar policies on defense and disarmament which are
beneficial to the Soviet Union. It argued that "pacifists and concerned
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Christians had been drawn into the Communist campaign largely
unaware if its real sponsorship."
9.2.

Richard F. Staar (American political scientist and historian, who holds a
position of senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution) in his book
Foreign Policies of the Soviet Union, states that non-communist peace
movements without overt ties to the USSR were "virtually controlled" by that
totalitarian state.

9.3.

Lord Chalfont (British politician Alun Arthur Gwynne Jones, Baron Chalfont,
OBE, MC) maintained that the Soviet Union was giving the European peace
movement £100 million a year.

9.4.

The Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) alleged Soviet funding of
CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).

10. WESTERN INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENTS VARY
10.1. Official investigations during the Cold War turned up circumstantial evidence,
but little or no absolute proof of KGB involvement.
10.2. CIA: ''Political influence operations are the most important but least
understood of Soviet active measures,'' it said. ''They are difficult to trace and
to deal with because they fall into the gray areas...”
10.3. On the other hand, CIA case officer, Kent Clizbe, analyzes the
counterintelligence details to conclude that KGB covert influence agents in
American education and academia, Hollywood, and the media inserted antiAmerican sentiments.
11. THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN THE OPPOSITION TO THE VIETNAM WAR
11.1. The media also played a substantial role in the polarization of American
opinion regarding the Vietnam War.
11.1.1. For example, up to the year 1965 a majority of the media attention
focused on military tactics with very little discussion about the reasons
for the full scale US intervention in Southeast Asia.
11.1.2. Image: Protesting the war. The reasons for the military involvement by
the US in Southeast Asia are clearly not evident to this protestor.

12

11.1.3. After 1965, the media covered the dissent and domestic controversy, but
mostly excluded why the views of dissidents and resisters paralleled the
foreign policy goals of the USSR/PRC
11.1.4. Images of the US massacre at My Lai dominated the television, yet the
daily atrocities committed by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong rarely
made the evening news
11.1.5. Image: South Vietnamese exhume from mass graves the bodies of
innocent civilians murdered during the brief communist occupation of
Hue City during the Tet Offensive. Communist documents confirm the
intentional massacre. The Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) released
a list of 4,062 victims identified as having been either murdered or

13

abducted. Victims were found bound, tortured, and often buried alive.
Many victims were also clubbed to death.7

11.1.6. Image: One of many fatal days faced by the Vietnamese peasantry.
Sunday morning, 11 June 1967, sixteen innocent civilians were killed by

7

The North Vietnamese army set up a “provisional government” shortly after capturing Huế in the early
hours of January 31, 1968. It was a portent of things to come when the communists eventually took over
the entire country in 1975. Working from lists of undesirables previously developed by Viet Cong
intelligence officers, people were rounded up following the initial hours of the attack. These included
South Vietnamese Army soldiers, civil servants of all types, teachers, Americans and other foreigners,
and anyone suspect of being politically unreliable to the communists. Cadres called out the names on
their lists over loudspeakers, ordering them to report to a local school. Those not reporting voluntarily
were hunted down.
14

the Viet Cong near Tra Luong Hamlet north of Phu My.

11.1.7. The North Vietnamese Tet Offensive was actually a US victory with the
communists suffering enormous casualties. Television, however,
portrayed the attack as a brutal defeat for the US.
11.1.8. The percent of television stories in which journalists editorialized news
jumped from 5.9 percent before Tet, to 20 percent in the two months after
the offensive.
11.1.9. The most significant statement came from the "most trusted man in
America", Walter Cronkite. In a CBS news special, the anchorman
concluded, 'To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the
face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past, to
say that we are mired in a bloody stalemate seems the only realistic, yet
unsatisfactory conclusion".
11.1.9.1. After the Tet Offensive and Cronkite's statement, coverage of
American involvement in the war became predominantly negative.
11.1.9.2. Before Tet, journalists described 62 percent of their stories as
victories for the United States, 28 percent as defeats, and 2 percent
as inconclusive. After Tet, 44 percent of the battles were deemed
victories, 32 percent defeats, and 24 percent inconclusive
12. SPOTLIGHT ON SOVIET STRATAGEMS

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12.1. Active measures (Russian: активные мероприятия) was a Soviet
euphemism for the actions of political warfare conducted by the USSR’s
intelligence services to influence the course of world events
12.2. Active measures ranged "from media manipulations to special actions
involving various degrees of violence" (used both domestically and abroad).
12.2.1. “Active measures” included disinformation, propaganda, establishing
“front” organizations such as the Wold Peace Movement, counterfeiting
“official” documents, assassinations, political repression, penetration of
the churches and civic organizations, and persecution of dissidents.
13. TODAY IS NO DIFFERENT
13.1. The current goals of the Communist Party, USA:
13.1.1. “[We have a] need for a new kind of peace movement embedded in the
struggles for economic, social and racial justice and nurtured by a
proactive Communist Party and YCL [Young Communist League] and
left....Let us commit to..."long, persistent work" to build a new kind of
peace movement coupled with renewed efforts to increase the Party's
membership and multiply the readers of our online publications.”
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Clizbe, Kent (2011). Willing Accomplices: How KGB Covert Influence Agents Created
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---------continued below

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The New Global Threat: Transnational Crime

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