By Ted Lipien for Cold War Radio Museum
Recently I bought on eBay a pamphlet titled “The Technique of Soviet Propaganda” published in 1960 by the United States Government Printing Office. It is described as a study presented by the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-Sixth Congress, Second Session.
The study’s author was Mme. Suzanne Labin (6 May 1913 – 22 January 2001) whom today’s Wikipedia describes as “a French Socialist writer and political scientist, known particularly for her anti-communism, anti-totalitarianism and pro-democracy writings.” In the study published at the request of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate, Suzanne Labin noted that “one of the main tasks of Communist propaganda is to maintain a constant denigration and criticism of consistent anticommunism,” thus making anticommunism in the Western world “often regarded as a greater evil than communism.”
While she is not widely remembered today in France or in the United States, Suzanne Labin was an influential anti-communist and pro-democracy activist during the Cold War. In reviewing one of her books, The Secret of Democracy, Time magazine wrote in 1956:
Suzanne Labin writes with a hatpin. This young (thirtyish) French political scientist impales totalitarian myths and neutralist delusions, prods lukewarm intellectuals who rarely rise to the defense of democracy, or if they do, praise it with faint damns. Author Labin has small use for so-called thinkers who don the smoked glasses of a spurious objectivity and report that they can see no difference between Western freedom and Eastern tyranny except “shades of grey.” She believes that it is worth restating the great central truth, or “secret,” of democracy, i.e., that it is the first, last, best and only hope of 20th century mankind.“Liberty is a Lady,” Time , February 27, 1956
In her study, Labin analyzed some of the techniques of Soviet propaganda designed to discredit critics of communism and critics of Soviet Russia which are not dissimilar to some of the techniques used today by Russian propagandists working for the government of President Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB officer, as well as by those who may unwittingly help to spread such propaganda outside of Russia.
“An important task of Soviet propaganda,” Labin wrote “is not only to circumvent the gullible, but also to reduce those who clearly realize the danger and zealously proclaim it to a state of powerlessness. Against these people are launched campaigns limitless in intensity as in ignominy.”
Labin pointed out that “Communists attempt to make lepers of them, to develop veritable reflexes in public opinion so that a halo of hatred will be instinctively associated with their name.”
The struggle is marked by the use of a vocabulary including such terms of abuse as “Rightist,” “Fascist,” “negative element,” “dim wit,” “police informer,” “systematic anti-Communist.”86th Congress 2d Session, “THE TECHNIQUE OF SOVIET PROPAGANDA,” A STUDY PRESENTED BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE INTERNAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERNAL SECURITY LAWS OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, UNITED STATES SENATE. UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON : 1960
Labin also noted:
When intimidation does not succeed in crushing the counter-propaganda of some particularly prominent anti-Communists, the Soviets do not shrink from crime to silence their voices. They murder them (Trotsky, Krivitsky, Non, etc) or kidnap them (Trushnovitch).86th Congress 2d Session, “THE TECHNIQUE OF SOVIET PROPAGANDA.”
Trotsky was a communist Marxist but not of the Stalinist variety.
In the foreword to Labin’s study Senator James O. Eastland (D-MI), Chairman of the Internal Security Subcommittee, wrote that “Abraham Lincoln is credited with the observation that ‘you can’t fool all the people all the time.’ The Soviet Union is paying around $2 billion a year to prove him wrong.”
Senator Eastland described Mme. Labin as a graduate of the Sorbonne, a journalist and author whose paper is “the best exposition of the subject.” He added that it should be “read and studied by all Americans, so that it might strengthen their resistance to all the forms of propaganda it discloses.”
The study does not devote a lot of attention to international broadcasting, but in discussing the use of radio programs for spreading Soviet propaganda, Labin wrote:
This propaganda channel is too well known to need emphasizing. We shall only remark that in this sphere, where the United States have made an exceptional effort, the Soviets still surpass them by a ratio of 4 to 1 in broadcasting time. France, on whom half-a-dozen Soviet stations pour out French-language programs, has not a single Russian-language broadcast.86th Congress 2d Session, “THE TECHNIQUE OF SOVIET PROPAGANDA.”
Labin also included a description of deceptive Soviet-sponsored radio broadcasts in the 1950s, a technique similar to today’s surreptitious use of social media and media in general by Putin’s operatives who rely on less sophisticated Western journalists to pick up and reuse their messages.
The Soviets do not merely fill the air with their broadcasts; they set up crypto-Communist radio stations whenever they can. Thus engineers of the East German Radio are installing a powerful transmitter in Conakry so that Soviet propaganda may radiate from the very heart of Africa.86th Congress 2d Session, “THE TECHNIQUE OF SOVIET PROPAGANDA.”