During the Cold War, the United States was doing anything it could in an effort to gain the upper hand over the Soviets. As a result, some very strange scientific research, studies and experiments were conducted. Such experiments include the likes of Project Acoustic Kitty, MKULTRA, and the Star Gate Program.
These programs are only a small sampling of the studies conducted with the mindset to overpower the Soviets. However, it seems that one doctor took Art of War’s “know your enemies” to heart when dealing with Communists. In 1947, a proposal was made to the US Navy to conduct a psychiatric study on what makes a communist tick.
Psychological Makeup of Communists
As the result of an FOIA request, it has been discovered that a proposal was submitted to the United States Navy to conduct research into why the human mind would be open to communism. The proposal states that the study wanted to “elucidate the psychological reasons and conditions which produce the acceptance by certain individuals of the Communist Doctrine”.
Not only did the study want to know the psychological reasons behind accepting communism, but it also set out to determine why people remain communists. However, there are some other very interesting purposes listed out in the proposal that provide some hints as to why the government would conduct such research.
Aside from trying to figure out the psychological makeup of a communist, it seems that the author of the proposal, Dr. Possony of Georgetown University, viewed communism as a psychological vulnerability that could be exploited.
The other purposes of the study seemed to focus on how America could use this vulnerability to their advantage by studying why many communists seemed to be immune to the United State’s counter-propaganda.
Similarly, the study also proposed to research the psychology behind the defection of a communist. The addition of these purposes to the study makes it fairly clear that the U.S. government was looking for way to beef up their PSYOP program against the Soviets.
The CIA’s Thoughts
Attached to the proposal is a list of suggestions made by the CIA. One of the more interesting suggestions made by the agency was:
“A comment to be made is that a communistic individual is an altogether different personality in respect to the so called fellow traveler or opportunists. Consequently, the Psychiatric and Psychoanalysis Tests should be different in each case.”
With this suggestion, it seems that the CIA agreed with the notion that communism was less of a political ideology and more of psychological condition. Notwithstanding, it seems that this proposal caught the eye of several high ranking government officials.
Though interest was shown, the memorandum states the such research was outside of the Navy’s scope. However, in with the CIA suggestions, the agency also showed keen interest in the study. The CIA stated:
“The suggestions submitted by Dr. Possony for the development of a workable reasearch to analyze Communists are interesting and very important to consider especially in the case of the Communists party being outlawed in the near future.”
Though the FOIA document does not specifically state that the proposal was accepted by the CIA, it certainly seems that the research more than likely lived on within the CIA.
During the Cold War, the United States was researching a wide variety of subjects in an effort to fight communism. However, this little-known document sheds some very important light on just how vast that research extended.
Futhermore, it also provides some insight on how many of America’s scientists, government officials and entire agencies viewed communism. If this document is accurate, that view was that communism was more than a political ideology; it was seen as a psychological disorder.