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Defunding the Myths and Cults of
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Cold War Canada
Table of Contents
Canada’s anti-Red, Cold War
propaganda in context
Handsomely funded by the CIA, the Council of Free Czechoslovakia (CFC) also enjoyed support from the US State Department which pushed for its creation "as a means of coordinating exile activity."1 In 1949 this fractious mix of ex-politicians met in Washington to form a "government in exile." Despite their conflicts, CFC members shared a malignant hatred of communism. This made them extremely valuable assets in the US campaign to destroy their common enemy, the USSR.
Britain also saw the CFC’s Cold War value. In 1948 a top UK Foreign Office official wrote: "if we do not intend to use Czech refugees for propaganda and intelligence purposes, we would not be wise to open our doors to these Czech MPs."2
CIA funding and support
By 1950, the CFC was getting US$8,900/month (Cdn$1.5 million/year in 2020 funds) through the CIA’s National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE). Some CFC leaders also got CIA "stipends" of US$400/month.3 (Cdn$53,000/year in 2020.) In return, CFC gave the CIA priceless ammo for its political warfare. As US historians Michael Cude and Ellen Paul noted, the CFC
pursued a steady program of anti-Communist propaganda, ran campaigns to gain support from Western leaders and populations, and released ... political pamphlets, histories, and serials.4
The CFC’s "most effective tactic in the fight against Communism," said Czech-American historian Francis Raška, was its use of Radio Free Europe (RFE). Aimed at destroying the USSR, RFE was the CIA’s largest propaganda outlet. The RFE’s Czechoslovak section was led by CFC cofounder Ferdinand Peroutka, a Czech journalist. Between 1951 and 1976, says Raška, "Peroutka wrote more than one thousand commentaries for listeners in Czechoslovakia." Most of these RFE broadcasts "focused on international events and presented and defended the interests and policies of the United States."5
In promoting US "interests and policies," the CFC allied with other CIA-funded groups like the Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN). A co-founder, chair and later CFC president, Stefan Osuský, cofounded the ACEN.6 In 1954 he led the CFC’s "first delegation to the ACEN and was an active contributor to its meetings and programs," as were other CFC leaders.7 From 1949 to 1962, Osuský worked closely with the CIA’s NCFE. He also belonged to the International Commission of Jurists, which whistle-blowing, ex-CIA officer Philip Agee said was "set up and controlled by the CIA for propaganda operations."8 Osuský worked for the CIA’s RFE and Voice of America from 1949 til 1973.9
In 1958, the CFC had a delegate at a Mexico-City meeting where leading fascist and Nazi-linked groups, such as the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), helped form the World AntiCommunist League. The ABN reported that the CFC delegate was Vaclav Laska.10 After Czechoslovakia’s elected communist government consolidated power in 1948, Laska resigned as its ambassador to Mexico. Until 1958, he taught history at Mexico City College (a.k.a. "Gringo College"). As a soldier in 1918, Laska fought with the Czechoslovak Legion in Russia.11 With 60,000 troops, this unit of the Russian Imperial Army formed about 25% of the armed forces—from the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Italy and seven other countries—that invaded Soviet Russia to crush its revolution (1918-25).
CFC leaders fled to Canada
When the CFC formed in 1948, Canada’s press promoted one of its top leaders, Vladimír Krajina. Taking refuge in Canada he avoided his trial in Czechoslovakia where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Instead, he began a 24-year career at the University of BC.12 After fighting in Czechoslovakia’s non-communist resistance in WWII, he was Secretary-General of National Socialist Party which won 55 seats in the 1946 elections. Though not a fascist party, its main enemy was the Communist Party, which formed the government with 114 seats.13
Over the decades, Krajina’s anticommunist bias was channeled through the CFC and its affiliate, the Czechoslovak National Association of Canada, CNAC (now the Czech and Slovak Association of Canada). In a 1970 letter to PM Pierre Trudeau, Krajina gave strong CNAC backing for the Vietnam War. The media, he wrote, had a "deliberate overemphasis of antiwar protests" that were "mostly organized under the influence of Communist or pro-Communist elements either in Europe or in North America." Krajina voiced CNAC fears that the media’s "continuous brain-washing of the Canadian public"14 would undermine support for this noble war against communism. He even told Trudeau to pressure the media to be more supportive of this war. Krajina and CNAC were so captivated by Cold-War psychoses that US war crimes in Vietnam were blissfully ignored. As Canadian historian Jan Raska put it: "CNAC members could not understand why so many individuals opposed the American presence in Vietnam."15
In 1978, as CNAC vice pres. and CFC vice chair, Krajina had a letter to the editor published. While vilifying communism, he gave blind-eye support for Western militarism by calling for the "increased participation of Canada in the NATO alliance."16 In 1982, Krajina received the Order of Canada from the Governor General.17
Another CFC cofounder who fled to Canada after WWII was Czechoslovakia’s envoy to Ottawa, Frantisek Nemec. Over the decades he was quoted in many news stories that pushed the CFC’s anti-Red phobias. For example, a Canadian Press story in 1956, "Warn Against Red Agents," noted that he had just become CNAC president. It cited CFC warnings "to be on guard against Red agents who may try to intimidate you" because "Communist infiltration into Canadian life has risen ‘very dangerously.’"18
Nemec’s career in Czechoslovak politics began with work for an anti-communist union. He continued along this path in Cold War Canada. A 1960 article about "Brave" Nemec, "Labor’s Crusading Czech," described his family’s hardships in 1948. Resigning as Czechoslovak envoy to Canada, they had to leave their spacious mansion (now Armenia’s embassy) in Ottawa’s Golden Triangle district. After 1952, the article said, Nemec wrote "political commentaries from the point of view of the free Canadian trade union movement for the CBC IS [International Service]." Nemec "worked a good deal in the international field" for a union "affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions [ICFTU]."19 Created in 1949 to fight the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which included communist-led unions, the "ICFTU owes its existence in large part to early CIA labor operations designed to split the WFTU," said National Security Agency whistleblower Perry Fellwock. The ICFTU’s "early history," he said, was "replete with projects ... influenced or directly controlled by the CIA."20
Blind-eye, double standards
The corporate press and CNAC used one-sided Cold-War rhetoric. In 1956, when Nemec was CNAC president, the Montreal Gazette cited its "greetings to the subjugated people in the old country." Cheering their "courageous struggle" in the "fight against Soviet colonialism and imperialism" and their "yearning for national independence," it ended with fearful cries about "the brutal terror of international Communism."21
Although the US waged anticommunist wars killing millions, CNAC and CFC were silent. In fact, although they cheered struggles for independence from the USSR, they vilified opposition to Western "colonialism and imperialism." For example, in 1967, the Ottawa Citizen printed a letter from Ota Hora, a CFC and CNAC leader. He juxtaposed two responses to the Vietnam War. While decrying what he called "a small, noisy group of obviously Communist-inspired demonstrators against the war in Vietnam [who] plagued Prime Minister Pearson," Hora quoted this CNAC resolution:
"We agree with the Canadian government’s policy supporting the defence of democracy in Vietnam by the U.S. and her allies. We consider today’s conflict in Vietnam as one of the characteristic symptoms of the deterioration of Communism which poses as a liberator of the world, but which reveals its unchanging aggressive objective. We are grateful to the US and the American people for their tremendous effort and sacrifices in the fight against Communism which, through Asia, wants to conquer the world."22
Hora, said Jan Raska, "regularly broadcast to Czechoslovakia on Radio Free Europe." This CIA propaganda was part of his work as "an influential member" of the CFC.23 As a youth, just before his election as a National Socialist, Hora was "president and founder of the Anticommunistic Youth Movement of Czechoslovakia."24 He was arrested by Czechoslovakia’s communist government in 1948 for aiding a violent revolt, and charged with "incitement of police" regarding their "military service" and "the crime of mutiny."25
Hora's obituary which describes him as "a
fervent anticommunist [and] tireless freedom fighter," recounts how he was aided
in evading police in 1948 by the parents of Vaclav Havel, who later became the
extremely proUS leader of Czechoslovakia. (Havel was instrumental in breaking up
the Warsaw Treaty Organization, helped lead the expansion of NATO into Eastern
Europe and launched the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and
Communism.) Hora's obituary also notes that after fleeing communism to
Germany, Hora "simply resumed his crusade" by coming to Canada, "a free
country." In 1990, "Hora fulfilled his dream, returning triumphantly to
Prague ... [and] addressed a massive prodemocracy rally." His "crowning glory"
however came two years later when President Havel's government awarded Hora with
the Order of Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's "highest honour."26
In analyzing Cold War Canada’s anti-Red "moral panic," Jan Raska said
Czech newcomers ... capitalized on this political climate and used their anti-communist identity to meet existing social and cultural norms.
Raska notes a Czech paper in Trenton, Ontario, that began with CFC support in 1949. Its founder, Jan Doèkálek, used it to
demonstrate his loyalty to Canada and seek social and cultural citizenship within an anti-communist Cold War consensus that supported his efforts.29
Raska notes Czech émigrés’ beneficial relations with Canada’s Cold War government:
Canadian authorities further legitimized
the Czech refugees’ anticommunist agenda and increased their influence in
Czechoslovak institutions. In turn, these organizations supported Canada’s
Cold War agenda of securing the state from communist infiltration.30
References and notes
2. Francis Raška, "Council of Free Czechoslovakia, 1949-1956," Prague Social Science Studies, 2006, p.6. http://bit.ly/Raska2006
3. Ibid., p.10.
4. Cude & Paul, op. cit., p.120.
5. Raška, op.cit., p.13.
6. Štefan Osuský papers http://bit.ly/S-Osusky
7. Cude & Paul, op. cit., p.121.
8. Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, 1975, p.611.
9. Štefan Osuský..., op.cit.
10. "The Common Front of the Fight for Freedom and Liberation," ABN Correspondence, July/Aug. 1958. http://bit.ly/ABN-Laska
11. "Laska speaks on Czech Anabasis," Mexico City Collegian, Apr. 26, 1951, p.3. http://bit.ly/Laska1918
12. "Free Czechs form council," Leader-Post, Sep. 24, 1948, p.8. http://bit.ly/CFC-Krajina
Vladimir Krajina, UBC. http://bit.ly/Kraj-UBC
13. Dieter Nohlen and Phil-ip Stöver, Elections in Europe: A data handbook, 2010, p.471. http://bit.ly/CS-1946
14. Letter, Krajina to Trudeau, May 11, 1970, in Jan Raska, Freedom’s Voices: Czech and Slovak Immigration to Canada during the Cold War, 2013, p.304. http://bit.ly/CFS-Viet
15. Raska 2013, ibid.
16. "Czechoslovaks recall some sad memories," Vanc. Sun, Jul. 2, 1978, p.5. http://bit.ly/CFS-NATO
17. Order of Canada http://bit.ly/OrdCda
18. "Warn Against Red Agents," Star-Phoenix, Oct. 23, 1956, p.1. http://bit.ly/CFS-Reds
19. Phyllis Wilson, "Labor’s Crusading Czech: Anniversary for a ‘Brave’ Man,’" Ottawa Citizen, Mar. 3, 1960, p.7. http://bit.ly/Nemec-CBC
20. Winslow Peck [Perry Fellwock’s pseudonym], "CIA Target: Labor," Counter-Spy, Fall 1974. http://bit.ly/ICFTU
21. "Czechs Mark Anniversary of Republic," Gazette, Oct. 27, 1956, p.10. http://bit.ly/RedTerror
22. Ota Hora, "Czech Support," Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 6, 1967, p.6. http://bit.ly/Hora1967
23. Jan Raska, Czech Refugees in Cold War Canada: 1945-1989, 2018. http://bit.ly/Hora-RFE
24. Letter, Dr. A.A.Sterns, Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 11, 1959, p.7. http://bit.ly/HoraYouth
25. "Czech Communists Crack Down on Opposition Party," El Paso Herald-Post, Mar. 3, 1948, p.1. http://bit.ly/HoraCrime
26. "Ota Hora: Anti-communist fought for human rights,"
Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 7, 1997, p.9.
27. "Czechs Plan Loyalty Demonstration," Citizen, Oct. 11, 1950, p.4. http://bit.ly/CFS-loyal
28. "Liberation may come from within Pickersgill tells Czech Meeting," Ottawa Citizen, Apr. 1, 1957, p.3. http://bit.ly/CNAC-Libs
29. Raska 2018, op.cit.
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