In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the Soviet Union published a journal, Soviet Military Review, aimed at English-reading military audiences in the developing world. The January, 1976, issue included an article, “Ideological Inroads of Imperialism in the Developing Countries,” that discussed Public Diplomacy.
Reading the article today recalls the contest of ideas during the Cold War; shows how Marxist-Leninist concepts (capitalism, exploitation, plunder) framed Soviet critiques;
- illustrated how they misunderstood, misinterpreted, and distorted political, economic, and social trends in the West;
- alleged Public Diplomacy ties with intelligence;
- measured development by the extent of heavy industry;
- maligned foreign assistance;
- and mixed critiques of Maoism and Zionism into their stew.
Public Diplomacy practitioners in the 1970s faced bald Soviet propaganda, disinformation, the suborning of foreign journalists, TASS (the Soviet wire service) reports in foreign newspapers, well-funded Soviet cultural centers, and active translation programs. It would have encouraged them to know the Soviets so credited and feared their work. Here are a few key quotes; the full text is here.
The imperialist states have created a tremendous propaganda machine for this purpose. Take, for instance, the widely ramified United States Information Agency and the “Voice of America,” the British Thompson Fund and the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Friedrich Ebert Fund of Western Germany. The scale of the propaganda services maintained by the Western powers is increasing with every year. It would be quite right to say that imperialism has launched an ideological offensive against the developing countries. It is flooding them with thousands of millions of copies of books, pamphlets and leaflets, conducting regular radio transmissions in the local languages at the rate of several hundred hours and supplying thousands of films. The “Voice of America” alone broadcasts for 845 hours a week in 38 languages. The overall volume of the BBC’s foreign broadcasts reaches 700 hours a week. The avalanche of information produces a stunning impact on radio listeners, televiewers and film goers.
The imperialists have been steadily building up their efforts in the ideological struggle against the ideas of socialism and social progress, and have been waging it with the help of increasingly sophisticated methods. Western reactionary propaganda has been poisoning the international atmosphere, it has been resisting the furtherance of detente and has been trying to thwart the solution of problems confronting the young African and Asian states in the field of economic and social development. . . .
(Providing the full text of the Soviet Military Review article, this updates the Public Diplomacy Council commentary of August 5, 2015.)
Donald M. Bishop is the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications in the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Bishop served as a Foreign Service Officer – first in the U.S. Information Agency and then in the Department of State – for 31 years.