‘Swedes have forgotten leftist US sympathizers’

'Swedes have forgotten leftist US sympathizers'
The CIA invested heavily in propaganda in Sweden during the early years of the Cold War to counteract Soviet influence, confirms a new documentary that includes details about left-leaning Swedes who sympathized with the US.

Mikael Nilsson, historian at Stockholm University, claims in a Sveriges Radio (SR) documentary set to air on Sunday that Herbert Tingsten, the US-friendly editor-in-chief of Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, worked for an organization later revealed to be funded by the American intelligence service in the 1950s.

While Nilsson has not been able to determine whether Tingsten was on the CIA payroll, he believes that the writer remained active within the Congress for Culture Freedom organization for more than 10 years, despite writing off his initial meeting with them in 1950 as “boring” in his official memoirs.

His research has revealed that Tingsten was much more involved in the Congress than previously known, although the newspaper man’s political bent was never a secret.

Many of the details in the upcoming documentary are already known by academics, noted contemporary history professor Kjell Ostlund at Sodertorn University in a conversation with The Local.

But they are rarely discussed in public.

Ostlund said that given Sweden’s pro-western stance in general during the 1950s, the most noteworthy detail was perhaps how US-friendly many top names on the left were.

When the left-leaning paper Stockholmstidningen published a critique of the blockade against Cuba, the then-head of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), Arne Geijer, reacted angrily.

“He took them by the ear and forced them to apologize,” Ostlund told The Local.

“The embassy considered Geijer the USA’s best friend within the global workers’ movement.”

The US embassy in Stockholm also had an information bureau in-house called the United States Information Service (USIS) that offered free op-ed material to regional and local newspapers.

Mikael Nilsson’s research reveals that many local papers published the texts without even mentioning the source.

“That fact grabs our attention today but wouldn’t have been as noteworthy then, especially not for cash-strapped newsrooms hungering for content,” Östlund said.

“I wonder if unedited, unsourced material from USIS in a local paper would actually be much different in tone or content to an editorial in Dagens Nyheter written by Tingsten himself.”

There were also more left-leaning writers such as Goran Palm, Folke Isaksson, and Lars Forsell who wrote for the magazine Kulturkontakt, which was editorially monitored by the Congress for Culture Freedom.

The organization, it was later revealed, was supported by the CIA, although it being funded from the States was never a secret.

“It’s unclear if they knew where the money came from, but they may just have wanted to get published,” Ostlund told The Local, adding that many of the less liberal contributors went on to become outspoken Vietnam War critics.

“I don’t think they ever thought of themselves as foot soldiers in the Cold War.”

How long Tingsten, meanwhile, remained connected to the Congress is still not known, Nilsson told The Local.

“We know he joined in 1950, then the trail goes cold.

Nilsson said there was evidence Tingsten kept in touch with the CFF into the 1960s, but no specific date on which he was known to stop having an active role.

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

The original version of this article stated that Tingsten worked for CCF’s international secretariat. That information was subsequently refuted and has therefore been removed from the article.

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