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Confronting America

The Cold War between the United States and the Communists in France and Italy

Alessandro Brogi

Publication Year: 2011

Fierce and cunning in their Cold War anti-American propaganda, the French and Italian Communists identified capitalist oppression with American domination. Pressed by this resilient internal opposition from within two core Western allies, the United States did not limit itself to tactical countermeasures. It also constantly reassessed the very meaning of American liberal capitalist culture and ideology. CONFRONTING AMERICA looks not only at Italian and French Communist resistance to Americanization, but also at an America that confronted itself, its own foreign policy, social structure, and overall culture. This psychological impact was particularly intense because the French and Italian Communist parties (PCF and PCI) were deeply rooted in Western culture, and, given their strength, they could not be dismissed simply as anomalies. At crucial junctures, America’s struggle with Western European Communism took on the same universal and sometimes apocalyptic connotations as its conflict with the Soviet Union. Using new archival evidence from Communist archives in France and Italy, as well as repositories in the US, this study emphasizes the interconnection of political, economic, and diplomatic aspects with cultural and ideological constructs.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: The New Cold War History

Cover and Front Matter

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pp. 1-5

Contents and Illustrations

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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-ix

At first, I thought I could write this book quickly and without much aid. Of course, like most academics caught in the passion of discovery, I was mistaken. The scope of the research would not have been possible without the assistance of several institutions and individuals. I have also benefited from the critical insights of colleagues...


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pp. x-xii

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pp. 1-12

At the onset of the Cold War, Palmiro Togliatti and George F. Kennan shared a particular vision of America. The leader of the fastest growing Communist Party in the West and the architect of America’s containment strategy against Soviet Communism, from their opposite points of view, nurtured a similar pessimism about...

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pp. 13-52

America’s confrontation with Western European Communism was as meaningful as its clash with Soviet Communism. Although the postwar growth of the French and Italian Communist Parties highlighted economic distress and quickly induced American policy makers to seek economic solutions, the leftist appeal was broader than...

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pp. 53-86

The absolute and overreacting nature of the struggle between the United States and Western European Communism after World War II soon became apparent to most American officials. The self-assigned identity and role of the French and Italian Communist Parties clashed profoundly with the self-image and international role...

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3. POLARIZED CONFRONTATION: U.S. Aid and Propaganda versus Cominform in France and Italy, 1947–1950

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pp. 87-121

America’s “permanent revolution,” which, according to a 1951 propaganda book with that subtitle, envisioned a land of ultimate emancipation for every individual and “for all human spirit”1 on Earth, had a compelling premise in another revolution, that of “rising expectations.” This was how U.S. economic advisor Harlan Cleveland...

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pp. 122-156

The Cold War communist peace campaign officially began in August 1948 with the Wrocław World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace. But the PCF had already mobilized a few months earlier under the drive of Resistance leader Charles Tillon, who, through contacts with prominent French intellectuals, helped found Combattants...

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5. THE CULTURAL COLD WAR AT ITS PEAK: Mass Culture and Intellectuals, 1948–1956

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pp. 157-200

The Cold War struggle over ideas and mass culture was as crucial as the confrontations in the political, economic, and military arenas. This is now a widely accepted conclusion. The United States strove not only to demonstrate cultural superiority over the Soviet Union but also to defuse widespread anti-Americanism in Western...

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6. DIPLOMATIC MANEUVERING: Communist and American Interplay of Foreign and Domestic Policies during the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations

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pp. 201-243

As U.S. permanent representative at the United Nations, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. found himself in a privileged position to detect shifts in the climate of world opinion. As a seasoned former senator and convinced internationalist, Lodge also understood the interconnection between the diplomacy and the domestic politics of America’s...

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7. REDEFINING OPPRESSION: The 1960s, from Affluence to Youth Protest

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pp. 244-301

Europe’s economic miracles were not only about growth, prosperity, and full employment. With the arrival of mass consumption, the diffusion of visual media, and the shaping of a new social order that privileged the private sphere over communal life, the “miracle” also heralded a profound cultural transformation. Starting in the...

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8. REDEFINING INTERDEPENDENCE: The Eurocommunism of the 1970s and the U.S. Response

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pp. 302-346

Affluence and protest in the 1960s, under an apparent revival of collectivist ideologies, marked in fact the beginning of an era mostly defined by individualist sensibilities and desire for personal fulfillment. At the same time, the Prague Spring contributed to the dismantling of ideological certainties. And yet the convergence...

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EPILOGUE: Cultural and Political Decline

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pp. 347-381

In the face of sharp economic downturns, the radicalism and optimism of the 1960s gave way to anxiety. Most radicals, it has been widely recognized, “abandoned ‘the Revolution’ and worried instead about their job prospects.” This retrenchment did not necessarily mean a loss for the Communists. They still profited from the general...

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pp. 382-397

Communist strength in France and Italy was a pivotal threat to U.S. interests for most of the Cold War. In itself, it warranted attention and carefully crafted strategies in Washington. But, seen in the context of European anti-Americanism, the threat transcended the confines of French and Italian politics. From the point of view of...


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pp. 399-472


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pp. 473-507


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pp. 509-533

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602950
E-ISBN-10: 1469602954
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834732
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834734

Page Count: 552
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The New Cold War History
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 762324820
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Confronting America

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- France.
  • France -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Italy.
  • Italy -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1989.
  • Communism -- France -- History -- 20th century.
  • Communism -- Italy -- History -- 20th century.
  • Anti-Americanism -- France -- History -- 20th century.
  • Anti-Americanism -- Italy -- History -- 20th century.
  • Parti communiste français.
  • Partito comunista italiano.
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