Parallel to Radio Free Europe, the short-wave international radio network that became known as Radio Liberty was covertly financed by the CIA from its beginning. Eventual financial support from U.S. Government funds for Radio Liberty would amount to $160 million.
The American Committee for Freedom for the Peoples of the USSR was founded in the United States on January 18,1951, as a private corporation in the state of Delaware. Reader's Digest editor Eugene Lyons was the first president of the organization. In August 1951, the name was changed to American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, Inc. The Committee would undergo name changes to Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism (AmComLib) in March 1953, and, for the last time, in 1964, to Radio Liberty Committee (RLC). I will use the latter to symbolize the various committee names associated with broadcasting to the USSR.
William H. Chamberlin, one of the original members of RLC, succinctly described the major difficulty it faced:
Emphasis was on trying to promote a united organization of Russian and non-Russian émigré groups (Communists, Fascists and extreme reactionaries excluded), which would carry on radio broadcasting and other anti-Communist activity in the name of a united politically conscious emigration.
This attempt was frustrated by the atmosphere of suspicious hostility, which prevails among the Russian and non-Russian political groups and also by personal feuds among leaders of the groups.
|Patch and Family 1949|
Patch joined RLC in Munich as "director of émigré relations" or "political coordinator," in a failed attempt to unite the émigré groups. In his memoirs, he wrote,
My job as émigré relations advisor had run its course. Although I had been unsuccessful in bringing the Russians and non-Russians together in a committee to serve as its sponsor, I did help in recruiting people for the various Radio Liberty desks.
Patch then took over the Special Projects Division that published a newspaper and quarterly journal for the Russian emigre community. In 1956, Patch transferred to RLC headquarters in New York to begin The Book Project. He has written that the purpose of The Book Project was, "To communicate Western ideas to Soviet citizens by providing them with books -- on politics, economics, philosophy, art, and some technology -- all denied them by the Soviet dictatorship."
Howland Sargeant was president of RLC. He heartily endorsed Patch's program and presented it to the CIA for financial support. The CIA responded with an initial grant of $10,000. To give cover to the book program, The Bedford Publishing Company was initially created as a "private venture" to publish Western books that had not been previously translated into Russian. The Bedford Publishing House remained physically separate from Radio Liberty operations. Patch, although no longer officially associated with Radio Liberty, attended its regular staff meetings in New York.
The Bedford Publishing Company had offices in London, Paris, Munich and Rome. Book translations were made in France and England and publishing was done in Italy. Soviet visitors to cities such as London, Paris, New York and Rome were given books, as were Western travelers to the Soviet Union. In the 14 year-long book program associated with Radio Liberty, over one million books were delivered to the USSR this way. In his memoirs, Patch broke down this number:
35 percent were given to Soviet travelers to the West:
- Students and
- Teachers and
- Engineers10 percent were mailed to people authorized to receive book packages from the West
Although CIA funding for The Bedford Publishing Company, as a unit of the Radio Liberty Committee, ceased in 1970, support continued for it until the program was consolidated with the International Advisory Council (IAC) into the International Literary Center (ILC) in July 1975.
Patch has written that, "There was no evidence that the Soviet government made any concerted attempt to disrupt our efforts." He added,
The Book Program was a rewarding endeavor for me and everyone else who was involved. Americans in the Department of State approved of the project, and Walt Raymond, who was my liaison with CIA, told me years later that the Book Program was highly regarded by his agency. It was great fun dealing with books and ideas and working with other book lovers who enjoyed searching for titles and translators. Those of us working on the Program were thrilled to think that those hundreds of thousands of books perhaps helped to broaden Soviet minds and horizons toward democracy and western economic ideas.
Ike Patch celebrated his 99th birthday in June 2011.
For more information:
Isaac Patch, Closing the Circle: A Buckalino Journey Around Our Time, Wellesley College Printing Services, 1996. (Published privately in a limited edition that can be found in selective libraries in the USA).