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In August 1949, Arthur Koestler, Ruth Fischer, Franz Borkenau and Melvin Lasky met in Frankfurt to develop a plan where the CIA could be persuaded to fund a left-wing but anti-communist organisation. This plan was then passed onto Michael Josselson, who was chief of its Berlin station for Covert Action. Finally it reached Josselson's boss, Lawrence de Neufville. He later recalled: "The idea came from Lasky, Josselson and Koestler and I got Washington to give it the support it needed. I reported it to Frank Lindsay, and I guess he must have taken it to Wisner. We had to beg for approval. The Marshall Plan was the slush fund used everywhere by CIA at that time, so there was never any shortage of funds. The only struggle was to get approval."
The proposal reached Frank Wisner, the head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), in January 1950. Wisner was in charge of "propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world". Wisner accepted the proposal on 7th April and gave it an original budget of $50,000. Wisner put Michael Josselson in charge but insisted that Melvin Lasky and James Burnham should be "kept out of sight" for the time as they were too well known for their anti-communism. Wisner said he "feared their presence would only provide ammunition to Communist critics".
The first meeting of the Congress for Cultural Freedom took place in Frankfurt on 25th June, 1950. People who attended included Arthur Koestler, Arthur Schlesinger, James Burnham, Sidney Hook, Franz Borkenau, George Schuyler, Melvin Lasky, Hugh Trevor-Roper, James T. Farrell, Tennessee Williams, Ignazio Silone, David Lilienthal, Sol Levitas, Carson McCullers and Max Yergan.
Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999), pointed out: "Some delegates speculated who was footing the bill. The grand scale on which the Congress was launched at a time when Europe was broke seemed to confirm the rumour that this was not quite the spontaneous, independent event its organizers claimed. Hugh Trevor-Roper commented: "When I arrived I found the whole thing was orchestrated on so grandiose a scale... that I realized that... financially it must have been funded by some powerful government organization. So I took it for granted from the beginning that it was organized by the American government in one form or another. That seemed to be obvious from the start."
As Jason Epstein pointed out the objective of the group was to counter communism: "The Stalinists were still a very powerful gang... There was a good reason, therefore, to question the Stalinists right to culture." The conference was considered to be a success and an international committee was named, and included André Malraux, Bertrand Russell, Igor Straveinsky, Ignazio Silone, Benedetto Croce, T. S. Eliot and Karl Jaspers.
It has been argued by Frances Stonor Saunders that the Congress for Cultural Freedom was funded by the CIA as they wanted to promote what they called the Non-Communist Left (NCL). Arthur Schlesinger later recalled that the NCL was supported by leading establishment figures such as Chip Bohlen, Isaiah Berlin, Averell Harriman and George Kennan: "We all felt that democratic socialism was the most effective bulwark against totalitarianism. This became an undercurrent - or even undercover - theme of American foreign policy during the period."
Thomas Braden, the head of the International Organizations Division (IOD), was placed in charge of the Congress for Cultural Freedom.The objective of the IOD was to control potential radicals and to steer them to the right. Braden oversaw the funding of groups such as the National Student Association, Communications Workers of America, the American Newspaper Guild, the United Auto Workers, National Council of Churches, the African-American Institute and the National Education Association.
Braden later admitted that the CIA was putting around $900,000 a year into the Congress of Cultural Freedom. Some of this money was used to publish its journal, Encounter. Braden and the IOD also worked closely with anti-Communist leaders of the trade union movement such as George Meany of the American Federation of Labor. This money was used to fight Communism in its own ranks. As Braden said: "The CIA could do exactly as it pleased. It could buy armies. It could buy bombs. It was one of the first worldwide multinationals." Arthur Schlesinger has supported the role of the CIA during this period: "In my experience its leadership was politically enlightened and sophisticated."
The CIA funding of the Congress for Cultural Freedom remained a highly secret operation but in 1966 stories began to appear in the New York Times suggesting that the CIA had been secretly funding left-wing groups. This in fact, was not a new claim. Joseph McCarthy had made similar accusations in 1953. He had been given this information by J. Edgar Hoover who had described the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) as "Wisner's gang of weirdos". In August, 1953, Richard Helms, Wisner's deputy at the OPC, told Cord Meyer, who was Braden's deputy at the International Organizations Division, that McCarthy and the FBI had accused him of being a communist. The FBI added to the smear by announcing it was unwilling to give Meyer "security clearance".
In September, 1953, Meyer was shown the FBI file against him. It included allegations that his wife, Mary Pinchot Meyer, was a former member of the American Labor Party. It also listed several people linked to Meyer who had "supported pro-Communist policies or have been associated with Communist front organizations or organizations pro-Communist in their sympathies." The list included the publisher Cass Canfield, the president and chairman of Harper & Brothers. Canfield had indeed been receiving money from the CIA to help publish left-wing but anti-communist books. He was along with Jason Epstein of Random House, who had blocked the publication of Léo Sauvage's The Oswald Affair - an Examination of the Contradictions and Omissions of the Warren Report, a key figure in the CIA sponsored Congress of Cultural Freedom.
McCarthy's assistant, Roy Cohn, argues in his book McCarthy (1968) that they had discovered that communist agents had infiltrated the CIA in 1953: "Our files contained allegations gathered from various sources indicating that the CIA had unwittingly hired a large numbers of double agents – individuals who, although working for the CIA, were actually communist agents whose mission was to plant inaccurate data…. We also wanted to investigate charges that the CIA had granted large subsidies to pro-Communist organizations." Cohn complained that this proposed investigation was stopped on the orders of the White House. "Vice-President Nixon was assigned to the delicate job of blocking it… Nixon spoke at length, arguing that an open investigation would damage national security, harm our relations with our allies, and seriously affect CIA operations, which depended on total secrecy… Finally, the three subcommittee members, not opposed to the inquiry before they went to dinner, yielded to Nixon's pressure. So, too, did McCarthy, and the investigation, which McCarthy told me interested him more than any other, was never launched."
Allen Dulles refused permission for the FBI to interrogate Frank Wisner and Cord Meyer and Hoover's investigation also came to an end. Joseph McCarthy was in fact right when he said that the CIA was funding what he considered to be pro-communist organisations. He was wrong however in believing they had infiltrated the organisation. Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) has pointed out it was the other way round.
It might seem strange that the non-communist left should be paid to write articles and books attacking the Soviet Union. After all they would have done that anyway. However, the important aspect of this policy was to compromise these left-wing writers by paying them money or by funding their organisations. It also put them in position where they could call on their help in times of crisis such as the death of John F. Kennedy. The support of the Non-Communist Left was vitally important in the cover-up of the assassination.
Technically, Michael Josselson was subordinate to Lawrence de Neufville, but he rarely, if ever, tried to overrule him: "I saw Josselson every day, or if not, every week, and I would go to Washington with whatever he wanted to accomplish. If I agreed, which I usually did, I would try and help. I saw my job as trying to facilitate the development of Congress by listening to people like Josselson who knew better than I did. He did a wonderful job." Thomas Braden agreed: "Josselson is one of the world's unsung heroes. He did all this frenetic work with all the intellectuals of Europe, who didn't necessarily agree on much beyond their basic belief in freedom, and he was running around from meeting to meeting, from man to man, from group to group, and keeping them all together and all organized and all getting something done. He deserves a place in history." Arthur Schlesinger was another one who was impressed with the work Josselson did and described him as "an extraordinary man".
In October, 1955, Josselson, aged forty-seven, suffered a major heart attack. Cord Meyer decided to send recent CIA recruit, John Clinton Hunt, to work as his assistant to "lighten the load". In order to provide cover for Hunt, he officially applied for the job. Interviewed by Josselson in February 1956, Hunt was formally appointed to the Congress Secretariat shortly afterwards.
Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) has argued: "During the height of the Cold War, the US government committed vast resources to a secret programme of cultural propaganda in western Europe. A central feature of this programme was to advance the claim that it did not exist. It was managed, in great secrecy, by America's espionage arm, the Central Intelligence Agency. The centrepiece of this covert campaign was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, run by CIA agent Michael Josselson... At its peak, the Congress for Cultural Freedom had offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and features service, organized high-profile international conferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances. Its mission was to nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism and Communism... Membership of this consortium included an assorted group of former radicals and leftist intellectuals whose faith in Marxism and Communism had been shattered by evidence of Stalinist totalitarianism."
Josselson became disillusioned by the United States foreign policy in 1960s. He was especially critical of its involvement in the Vietnam War: "In the 1950s our motivation was buttressed by America's historic promises... in the second half of the 1960s our individual values and ideals had been eroded by our intervention in Vietnam and by other senseless U.S. policies." According to Frances Stonor Saunders Josselson now looked to move the Congress for Cultural Freedom "away from the habits of Cold War apartheid, and towards a dialogue with the East."
In 1966 the New York Times published an article by Tom Wicker that suggested that the CIA had been funding the Congress for Cultural Freedom. On 10th May the newspaper published a letter from Stephen Spender, Melvin Lasky and Irving Kristol. "We know of no indirect benefactions... we are our own masters and part of nobody's propaganda" and defended the "independent record of the Congress for Cultural Freedom in defending writers and artists in both East and West against misdemeanors of all governments including that of the US."
The reason is that most of these sponsored journalists refused to support the government policy on Vietnam. In the case of I. F. Stone, he found it to his financial advantage to oppose the policy. Stone had barely 20,000 subscribers to I.F. Stone Weekly before the outbreak of the war. By 1969 he had over 70,000.
The story of CIA funding of Non-Communist Left journalists and organizations was fully broken in the press by a small-left-wing journal, Rapparts. The editor, Warren Hinckle, met a man by the name of Michael Wood, in January 1967, at the New York's Algonquin Hotel. The meeting had been arranged by a public relations executive Marc Stone (the brother of I.F. Stone). Wood told Hinckle that the National Student Association (NSA) was receiving funding from the CIA. At first Hinkle thought he was being set-up. Why was the story not taken to I.F. Stone?
However, after further research, Hinckle was convinced that the CIA had infiltrated the Non-Communist Left: "While the ADA-types and the Arthur Schlesinger model liberal kewpie dolls battled fascism by protecting their right flank with domestic Red-baiting and Cold War one-upmanship, the Ivy League delinquents who fled to the CIA – liberal lawyers, businessmen, academics, games-playing craftsmen – hatched a master plan of Germanic ambition that entailed nothing less than clandestine political control of the international operations of all important American professional and cultural organisations: journalists, educators, jurists, businessmen, et al. The standing CIA subsidy to the National Student Association was but one slice of a very complex pie." Hinckle even had doubts about publishing the story. Sol Stern, who was writing the article for Rapparts, "advanced the intriguing contention that such a disclosure would be damaging to the enlightened men of the liberal internationalistic wing of the CIA who were willing to provide clandestine money to domestic progressive causes."
Hinckle did go ahead with the story and took full-page advertisements in the Tuesday editions of the New York Times and Washington Post: "In its March issue, Ramparts magazine will document how the CIA has infiltrated and subverted the world of American student leaders, over the past fifteen years." For its exposé of the CIA, Rapparts, received the George Polk Memorial Award for Excellence in Journalism and was praised for its "explosive revival of the great muckraking tradition."
After the article was published Dwight Macdonald angrily asked Michael Josselson: "Do you think I would have gone on the Encounter payroll in 1956-57 had I known there was secret U.S. Government money behind it? One would hesitate to work even for an openly government-financed magazine... I think I've been played for a sucker." Josselson was not impressed with this reaction. He claimed that they were all aware that it had been funded by the CIA. As he pointed out, MacDonald had asked him in 1964 if he could employ his son, Nick, for the summer. "This, at a time when anybody who was anybody had at least heard rumours connecting the Congress to the CIA."
Lawrence de Neufville later claimed: "Who didn't know (the Congress for Cultural Freedom was being funded by the CIA), I'd like to know? it was a pretty open secret." John Clinton Hunt added, "They knew, and they knew as much as they wanted to know, and if they knew any more, they knew they would have had to get out, so they refused to know." Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) has argued: "The list of those who knew - or thought they knew - is long enough". This included : Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer, Arthur Schlesinger, James Burnham, Sidney Hook, Melvin Lasky, Sol Levitas, George Kennan, Jason Epstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Dwight MacDonald, Willy Brandt, Stuart Hampshire, Edward Shils, Daniel Bell, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, Diana Trilling and Sol Stein.
On 20th May 1967 Thomas Braden, the former head of the CIA's International Organizations Division, that had been funding the National Student Association, wrote an article that was published in the Saturday Evening Post entitled, I'm Glad the CIA is Immoral Braden admitted that for more than 10 years, the CIA had subsidized progressive magazines such as Encounter through the Congress for Cultural Freedom - which it also funded - and that one of its staff was a CIA agent. He also admitted that he had paid money to trade union leaders such as Walter Reuther, Jay Lovestone, David Dubinsky and Irving Brown.
According to Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999): "The effect of Braden's article was to sink the CIA's covert association with the Non-Communist Left once and for all." Braden later admitted that the article had been commissioned by CIA asset, Stewart Alsop.
John Clinton Hunt, a CIA agent who worked very closely with Braden at the International Organizations Division, pointed out in a revealing interview: "Tom Braden was a company man... if he was really acting independently, would have had much to fear. My belief is that he was an instrument down the line somewhere of those who wanted to get rid of the NCL (Non-Communist Left). Don't look for a lone gunman - that's mad, just as it is with the Kennedy assassination... I do believe there was an operational decision to blow the Congress and the other programs out of the water."
During the height of the Cold War, the US government committed vast resources to a secret programme of cultural propaganda in western Europe. The centrepiece of this covert campaign was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, run by CIA agent Michael Josselson from 1950 till 1967. Its achievements - not least its duration - were considerable. Its mission was to nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism and Communism towards a view more accommodating of 'the American way'.
Drawing on an extensive, highly influential network of intelligence personnel, political strategists, the corporate establishment, and the old school ties of the Ivy League universities, the incipient CIA started, from 1947, to build a 'consortium' whose double task it was to inoculate the world against the contagion of Communism, and to ease the passage of American foreign policy interests abroad. The result was a remarkably tight network of people who worked alongside the Agency to promote an idea: that the world needed a pax Americana, a new age of enlightenment, and it would be called The American Century.
The consortium which the CIA built up - consisting of what Henry Kissinger described as "an aristocracy dedicated to the service of this nation on behalf of principles beyond partisanship" - was the hidden weapon in America's Cold War struggle, a weapon which, in the cultural field, had extensive fall-out. Whether they liked it or not, whether they knew it or not, there were few writers, poets, artists, historians, scientists or critics in post-war Europe whose names were not in some way linked to this covert enterprise. Unchallenged, undetected for over twenty years, America's spying establishment operated a sophisticated, substantially endowed cultural front in the West, or the West, in the name of freedom of expression. Defining the Cold War as a "battle for men's minds" it stockpiled a vast arsenal of cultural weapons: journals, books, conferences, seminars, art exhibitions, concerts, awards.
Membership of this consortium included an assorted group of former radicals and leftist intellectuals whose faith in Marxism and Communism had been shattered by evidence of Stalinist totalitarianism. Emerging from the Pink Decade of the 1930s, mourned by Arthur Koestler as an "abortive revolution of the spirit, a misfired Renaissance, a false dawn of history", their disillusionment was attended by a readiness to join in a new consensus, to affirm a new order which would substitute for the spent forces of the past. The tradition of radical dissenter, where intellectuals took it upon themselves to probe myths, interrogate institutional prerogative, and disturb the complacency of power, was suspended in favour of supporting "the American proposition". Endorsed and subsidized by powerful institutions, this non-Communist group became as much a cartel in the intellectual life of the West as Communism had been a few years earlier (and it included many of the same people)....
"Who didn't know, I'd like to know? it was a pretty open secret," said Lawrence de Neufville. The list of those who knew - or thought they knew - is long enough: Stuart Hampshire, Arthur Schlesinger, Edward Shils (who confessed to Natasha Spender that he had known since 1955), Denis de Rougemont, Daniel Bell, Louis Fischer, George Kennan, Arthur Koestler, Junkie Fleischmann, Francois Bondy, James Burnham, Willy Brandt, Sidney Hook, Melvin Lasky, Jason Epstein, Mary McCarthy, Pierre Emmanuel, Lionel Trilling, Diana Trilling, Sol Levitas, Robert Oppenheimer, Sol Stein, Dwight McDonald. Not all of them were "witting" in the sense that they were active participants in the deception. But they all knew, and had known for some time. And if they didn't, they were, said their critics, cultivatedly, and culpably, ignorant... John Hunt claimed, "They knew, and they knew as much as they wanted to know, and if they knew any more, they knew they would have had to get out, so they refused to know."
While the ADA-types and the Arthur Schlesinger model liberal kewpie dolls battled fascism by protecting their right flank with domestic Red-baiting and Cold War one-upmanship, the Ivy League delinquents who fled to the CIA – liberal lawyers, businessmen, academics, games-playing craftsmen – hatched a master plan of Germanic ambition that entailed nothing less than clandestine political control of the international operations of all important American professional and cultural organisations: journalists, educators, jurists, businessmen, et al. The standing CIA subsidy to the National Student Association was but one slice of a very complex pie.
On the desk in front of me as I write these lines is a creased and faded yellow paper. It bears the following inscription in pencil: "Received from Warren G. Haskins, $15,000. (signed) Norris A. Grambo."
I went in search of this paper on the day the newspapers disclosed the "scandal" of the Central Intelligence Agency's connections with American students and labor leaders. It was a wistful search, and when it ended, I found myself feeling sad.
For I was Warren G. Haskins. Norris A. Grambo was Irving Brown, of the American Federation of Labor. The $15,000 was from the vaults of the CIA, and the piece of yellow paper is the last memento I possess of a vast and secret operation whose death has been brought about by small-minded and resentful men.
It was my idea to give the $15,000 to Irving Brown. He needed it to pay off his strong-arm squads in Mediterranean ports, so that American supplies could be unloaded against the opposition of Communist dock workers. It was also my idea to give cash, along with advice, to other labor leaders, to students, professors and others who could help the United States in its battle with Communist fronts.
It was my idea. For 17 years I had thought it was a good idea. Yet here it was in the newspapers, buried under excoriation. Walter Lippmann, Joseph Kraft. Editorials. Outrage. Shock.
"What's gone wrong?" I said to myself as I looked at the yellow paper. "Was there something wrong with me and the others back in 1950? Did we just think we were helping our country, when in fact we ought to have been hauled up before Walter Lippmann?
"And what's wrong with me now? For I still think it was and is a good idea, an imperative idea. Am I out of my mind? Or is it the editor of The New York Times who is talking nonsense?"
And so I sat sadly amidst the dust of old papers, and after a time I decided something. I decided that if ever I knew a truth in my life, I knew the truth of the cold war, and I knew what the Central Intelligence Agency did in the cold war, and never have I read such a concatenation of inane, misinformed twaddle as I have now been reading about the CIA.
Were the undercover payments by the CIA "immoral"? Surely it cannot be "immoral" to make certain that your country's supplies intended for delivery to friends are not burned, stolen or dumped into the sea.
Are CIA efforts to collect intelligence anywhere it can "disgraceful"? Surely it is not "disgraceful" to ask somebody whether he learned anything while he was abroad that might help his country.
People who make these charges must be naïve. Some of them must be worse. Some must be pretending to be naïve.
Take Victor Reuther, assistant to his brother Walter, president of the United Automobile Workers. According to Drew Pearson, Victor Reuther complained that the American Federation of Labor got money from the CIA and spent it with "undercover techniques." Victor Reuther ought to be ashamed of himself. At his request, I went to Detroit one morning and gave Walter $50,000 in $50 bills. Victor spent the money, mostly in West Germany, to bolster labor unions there. He tried "undercover techniques" to keep me from finding out how he spent it. But I had my own "undercover techniques." In my opinion and that of my peers in the CIA, he spent it with less than perfect wisdom, for the German unions he chose to help weren't seriously short of money and were already anti-Communist. The CIA money Victor spent would have done much more good where unions were tying up ports at the order of Communist leaders.
As for the theory advanced by the editorial writers that there ought to have been a Government foundation devoted to helping good causes agreed upon by Congress - this may seem sound, but it wouldn't work for a minute. Does anyone really think that congressmen would foster a foreign tour by an artist who has or has had left-wing connections? And imagine the scuffles that would break out as congressmen fought over money to subsidize the organizations in their home districts.
Back in the early 1950's, when the cold war was really hot, the idea that Congress would have approved many of our projects was about as likely as the John Birch Society's approving Medicare. I remember, for example, the time I tried to bring my old friend, Paul-Henri Spaak of Belgium, to the U.S. to help out in one of the CIA operations.
Paul-Henri Spaak was and is a very wise man. He had served his country as foreign minister and premier. CIA Director Allen Dulles mentioned Spaak's projected journey to the then Senate Majority Leader William F. Knowland of California. I believe that Mr. Dulles thought the senator would like to meet Mr. Spaak. I am sure he was not prepared for Knowland's reaction:
"Why," the senator said, "the man's a socialist."
"Yes," Mr. Dulles replied, "and the head of his party. But you don't know Europe the way I do, Bill. In many European countries, a socialist is roughly equivalent to a Republican." Knowland replied, "I don't care. We aren't going to bring any socialists over here."
The fact, of course, is that in much of Europe in the 1950's, socialists, people who called themselves "left"-the very people whom many Americans thought no better than Communists-were the only people who gave a damn about fighting Communism.
But let us begin at the beginning.
When I went to Washington in 1950 as assistant to Allen W. Dulles, then deputy director to CIA chief Walter Bedell Smith, the agency was three years old. It had been organized. like the State Department, along geographical lines, with a Far Eastern Division, a Western European Division, etc. It seemed to me that this organization was not capable of defending the United States against a new and extraordinarily successful weapon. The weapon was the international Communist front. There were seven of these fronts, all immensely powerful:
1. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers had found "documented proof" that U.S. forces in Korea were dropping canisters of poisoned mosquitoes on North Korean cities and were following a "systematic procedure of torturing civilians, individually and en masse."
2. The World Peace Council had conducted a successful operation called the Stockholm Peace Appeal, a petition signed by more than two million Americans. Most of them, I hope, were in ignorance of the council's program: "The peace movement. has set itself the aim to frustrate the aggressive plans of American and English imperialists... The heroic Soviet army is the powerful sentinel of peace."
3. The Women's International Democratic Federation was preparing a Vienna conference of delegates from 40 countries who resolved: "Our children cannot be safe until American war-mongers are silenced." The meeting cost the Russians six million dollars.
4. The International Union of Students had the active participation of nearly every student organization in the world. At an estimated cost of $50 million a year, it stressed the hopeless future of the young under any form of society except that dedicated to peace and freedom, as in Russia.
5. The World Federation of Democratic Youth appealed to the non- intellectual young. In 1951, 25,000 young people were brought to Berlin from all over the world, to be harangued (mostly about American atrocities). The estimated cost: $50 million.
6. The International Organization of Journalists was founded in Copenhagen in 1946 by a non-Communist majority. A year later the Communists took it over. By 1950 it was an active supporter of every Communist cause.
7. The World Federation of Trade Unions controlled the two most powerful labor unions in France and Italy and took its orders directly from Soviet Intelligence. Yet it was able to mask its Communist allegiance so successfully that the C.I.O. belonged to it for a time.
All in all, the CIA estimated, the Soviet Union was annually spending $250 million on its various fronts. They were worth every penny of it. Consider what they had accomplished.
First, they had stolen the great words. Years after I left the CIA, the late United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson told me how he had been outraged when delegates from under-developed countries, young men who had come to maturity during the cold war, assumed that anyone who was for "Peace" and "Freedom" and "Justice" must also be for Communism.
Second, by constant repetition of the twin promises of the Russian revolution-the promises of a classless society and of a transformed mankind-the fronts had thrown a peculiar spell over some of the world's intellectuals, artists, writers, scientists, many of whom behaved like disciplined party-liners.
Third, millions of people who would not consciously have supported the interests of the Soviet Union had joined organizations devoted ostensibly to good causes, but secretly owned and operated by and for the Kremlin.
How odd, I thought to myself as I watched these developments, that Communists, who are afraid to join anything but the Communist Party, should gain mass allies through organizational war while we Americans, who join everything, were sitting here tongue-tied.
And so it came about that I had a chat with Allen Dulles. It was late in the day and his secretary had gone. I told him I thought the CIA ought to take on the Russians by penetrating a battery of international fronts. I told him I thought it should be a worldwide operation with a single headquarters.
"You know," he said, leaning back in his chair and lighting his pipe, "I think you may have something there. There's no doubt in my mind that we're losing the cold war. Why don't you take it up down below?"
It was nearly three months later that I came to his office again - this time to resign. On the morning of that day there had been a meeting for which my assistants and I had prepared ourselves carefully. We had been studying Russian front movements, and working out a counteroffensive. We knew that the men who ran CIA's area divisions were jealous of their power. But we thought we had logic on our side. And surely logic would appeal to Frank Wisner.
Frank Wisner, in my view, was an authentic American hero. A war hero. A cold-war hero. He died by his own hand in 1965. But he had been crushed long before by the dangerous detail connected with cold-war operations. At this point in my story, however, he was still gay, almost boyishly charming, cool yet coiled, a low hurdler from Mississippi constrained by a vest.
He had one of those purposefully obscure CIA titles: Director of Policy Co-ordination. But everyone knew that he had run CIA since the death of the war-time OSS, run it through a succession of rabbit warrens hidden in the bureaucracy of the State Department, run it when nobody but Frank Wisner cared whether the country had an intelligence service. Now that it was clear that Bedell Smith and Allen Dulles were really going to take over, Frank Wisner still ran it while they tried to learn what it was they were supposed to run.
And so, as we prepared for the meeting, it was decided that I should pitch my argument to Wisner. He knew more than the others. He could overrule them.
The others sat in front of me in straight-backed chairs, wearing the troubled looks of responsibility. I began by assuring them that I proposed to do nothing in any area without the approval of the chief of that area. I thought, when I finished, that I had made a good case. Wisner gestured at the Chief, Western Europe. "Frank," came the response, "this is just another one of those goddamned proposals for getting into everybody's hair."
One by one the others agreed. Only Richard G. Stilwell, the Chief, Far East, a hard-driving soldier in civilian clothes who now commands U.S. forces in Thailand, said he had no objection. We all waited to hear what Wisner would say.
Incredibly, he put his hands out, palms down. "Well," he said, looking at me, "you heard the verdict."
Just as incredibly, he smiled.
Sadly I walked down the long hall, and sadly reported to my staff that the day was lost. Then I went to Mr. Dulles's office and resigned. "Oh," said Mr. Dulles, blandly, "Frank and I had talked about his decision. I overruled him." He looked up at me from over his papers. "He asked me to."
Thus was the International Organization Division of CIA born, and thus began the first centralized effort to combat Communist fronts.
Perhaps "combat" does not describe the relative strengths brought to battle. For we started with nothing but the truth. Yet within three years we had made solid accomplishments. Few of them would have been possible without undercover methods.
I remember the enormous joy I got when the Boston Symphony Orchestra won more acclaim for the U.S. in Paris than John Foster Dulles or Dwight D. Eisenhower could have bought with a hundred speeches. And then there was Encounter, the magazine published in England and dedicated to the proposition that cultural achievement and political freedom were interdependent. Money for both the orchestra's tour and the magazine's publication came from the CIA, and few outside the CIA knew about it. We had placed one agent in a Europe-based organization of intellectuals called the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Another agent became an editor of Encounter. The agents could not only propose anti-Communist programs to the official leaders of the organizations but they could also suggest ways and means to solve the inevitable budgetary problems. Why not see if the needed money could be obtained from "American foundations"? As the agents knew, the CIA-financed foundations were quite generous when it came to the national interest.
I remember with great pleasure the day an agent came in with the news that four national student organizations had broken away from the Communist International Union of Students and joined our student outfit instead. I remember how Eleanor Roosevelt, glad to help our new International Committee of Women, answered point for point the charges about germ warfare that the Communist women's organization had put forward. I remember the organization of seamen's unions in India and in the Baltic ports.
There were, of course, difficulties, sometimes unexpected. One was the World Assembly of Youth.
We were casting about for something to compete with the Soviet Union in its hold over young people when we discovered this organization based in Dakar. It was dwindling in membership, and apparently not doing much.
After a careful assessment, we decided to put an agent into the assembly. It took a minimum of six months and often a year just to get a man into an organization. Thereafter, except for what advice and help we could lend, he was on his own. But, in this case, - we couldn't give any help whatsoever The agent couldn't find anybody in the organization who wanted any.
The mystery was eventually solved by the man on the spot. WAY, as we had come to call it, was the creature of French intelligence - the Deuxième Bureau. Two French agents held key WAY posts. The French Communist Party seemed strong enough to win a general election. French intelligence was waiting to see what would happen.
We didn't wait. Within a year our man brought about the defeat of his two fellow officers in an election. After that, WAY took a pro-Western stand. But our greatest difficulty was with labor. When I left the agency in 1954, we were still worrying about the problem. It was personified by Jay Lovestone, assistant to David Dubinsky in the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
Once chief of the Communist Party in the United States, Lovestone had an enormous grasp of foreign-intelligence operations. In 1947 the Communist Confèdèration Gènèrale du Travail led a strike in Paris which came very near to paralyzing the French economy. A takeover of the government was feared.
Into this crisis stepped Lovestone and his assistant, Irving Brown. With funds from Dubinsky's union, they organized Force Ouvrière, a non-Communist union. When they ran out of money, they appealed to the CIA. Thus began the secret subsidy of free trade unions which soon spread to Italy. Without that subsidy, postwar history might have gone very differently.
But though Lovestone wanted our money, he didn't want to tell us precisely how he spent it. We knew that non-Communist unions in France and Italy were holding their own. We knew that he was paying them nearly two million dollars annually. In his view, what more did we need to know?
We countered that the unions were not growing as rapidly as we wished and that many members were not paying dues. We wanted to be consulted as to how to correct these weaknesses.
I appealed to a high and responsible labor leader. He kept repeating, "Lovestone and his bunch do a good job."
And so they did. After that meeting, so did we. We cut the subsidy down, and with the money saved we set up new networks in other international labor organizations. Within two years the free labor movement, still holding its own in France and Italy, was going even better elsewhere.
Looking back now, it seems to me that the argument was largely a waste of time. The only argument that mattered was the one with the Communists for the loyalty of millions of workers. That argument, with the help of Lovestone and Brown, was effectively made.
By 1953 we were operating or influencing international organizations in every field where Communist fronts had previously seized ground, and in some where they had not even begun to operate. The money we spent was very little by Soviet standards. But that was reflected in the first rule of our operational plan: "Limit the money to amounts private organizations can credibly spend." The other rules were equally obvious: "Use legitimate, existing organizations; disguise the extent of American interest: protect the integrity of the organization by not requiring it to support every aspect of official American policy."
Such was the status of the organizational weapon when I left the CIA. No doubt it grew stronger later on, as those who took charge gained experience. Was it a good thing to forge such a weapon? In my opinion then-and now-it was essential.
Was it "immoral," "wrong," "disgraceful"? Only in the sense that war itself is immoral, wrong and disgraceful.
For the cold war was and is a war, fought with ideas instead of bombs. And our country has had a clear-cut choice: Either we win the war or lose it. This war is still going on, and I do not mean to imply that we have won it. But we have not lost it either.
It is now 12 years since Winston Churchill accurately defined the world as "divided intellectually and to a large extent geographically between the creeds of Communist discipline and individual freedom." I have heard it said that this definition is no longer accurate. I share the hope that John Kennedy's appeal to the Russians "to help us make the world safe for diversity" reflects the spirit of a new age.
But I am not banking on it, and neither, in my opinion, was the late President. The choice between innocence and power involves the most difficult of decisions. But when an adversary attacks with his weapons disguised as good works, to choose innocence is to choose defeat. So long as the Soviet Union attacks deviously we shall need weapons to fight back, and a government locked in a power struggle cannot acknowledge all the programs it must carry out to cope with its enemies. The weapons we need now cannot, alas, be the same ones that we first used in the 1950's. But the new weapons should be capable of the same affirmative response as the ones we forged 17 years ago, when it seemed that the Communists, unchecked, would win the alliance of most of the world.
It never had to account for the money it spent except to the President if the President wanted to know how much money it was spending. But otherwise the funds were not only unaccountable, they were unvouchered, so there was really no means of checking them - "unvouchered funds" meaning expenditures that don't have to be accounted for.... If the director of CIA wanted to extend a present, say, to someone in Europe - a Labour leader - suppose he just thought, This man can use fifty thousand dollars, he's working well and doing a good job - he could hand it to him and never have to account to anybody... I don't mean to imply that there were a great many of them that were handed out as Christmas presents. They were handed out for work well performed or in order to perform work well.... Politicians in Europe, particularly right after the war, got a lot of money from the CIA....
Since it was unaccountable, it could hire as many people as it wanted. It never had to say to any committee - no committee said to it - "You can only have so many men." It could do exactly as it pleased. It made preparations therefore for every contingency. It could hire armies; it could buy banks. There was simply no limit to the money it could spend and no limit to the people it could hire and no limit to the activities it could decide were necessary to conduct the war - the secret war.... It was a multinational. Maybe it was one of the first.
Journalists were a target, labor unions a particular target - that was one of the activities in which the communists spent the most money. They set up a successful communist labor union in France right after the war. We countered it with Force Ouvriere. They set up this very successful communist labor union in Italy, and we countered it with another union.... We had a vast project targeted on the intellectuals - "the battle for Picasso's mind," if you will. The communists set up fronts which they effectively enticed a great many particularly the French intellectuals to join. We tried to set up a counterfront. (This was done through funding of social and cultural organizations such as the Pan-American Foundation, the International Marketing Institute, the International Development Foundation, the American Society of African Culture, and the Congress of Cultural Freedom.) I think the budget for the Congress of Cultural Freedom one year that I had charge of it was about $800,000, $900,000, which included, of course, the subsidy for the Congress's magazine, Encounter. That doesn't mean that everybody that worked for Encounter or everybody who wrote for Encounter knew anything about it. Most of the people who worked for Encounter and all but one of the men who ran it had no idea that it was paid for by the CIA.
Melvin Lasky, who has died aged 84, was, as editor of the magazine Encounter from 1958 to 1990, and of Der Monat (the Month) for 15 years, a combatant in the struggle to keep western intellectuals in the United States' cold war camp. But in 1967, it was disclosed that both Encounter and Der Monat had been covertly financed by the US Central Intelligence Agency and Mel's reputation shrivelled...
Mel's origins in the anti-Communist Russian-Jewish community help explain why, at 22, he became literary editor of the New Leader, an organ of anti-Communist Jewish liberals. He held the post from 1942 to 1943. In 1944, Mel belatedly signed up, as a US Army combat historian in Europe.
Postwar, with the cold war, Der Monat was launched in Berlin in 1948 with Mel as editor, a job he did until 1958 and again from 1978 to 1983. His intellectual and linguistic abilities were never in question, and in 1958, as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament took off, Mel replaced Irving Kristol - co-editor since 1953 with poet Stephen Spender - on Encounter. At that time, many British intellectuals had clustered around Kingsley Martin's New Statesman, which tended towards a cold war neutrality. US government thinking was that if a Labour government were returned to power, dissident left-wing MPs would make it difficult for the US to retain Britain as a secure ally.
Encounter's function was to combat anti-Americanism by brainwashing the uncertain with pro-American articles. These were paid for at several times the rate paid by the New Statesman and offered British academics and intellectuals free US trips and expenses-paid lecture tours. There was no room for the objective-minded in this cold war to capture intellectuals.
Enormously industrious, Mel doubled up by running publishing houses for his masters. The premise was that they published pro-American books knowing that the bulk of each edition would be purchased by US agencies to donate to book-starved libraries in the third world.
Even at its peak Encounter had never claimed a circulation above 40,000. Its spider's web began to come apart in 1966-67 with publication of pieces in the New York Times and the radical magazine Ramparts. And Thomas Braden, previously a CIA divisional chief, confirmed in the Saturday Evening Post that, for more than 10 years, the CIA had subsidised Encounter through the Congress for Cultural Freedom - which it also funded - and that one of its staff was a CIA agent. (Lasky had been the CCF's sometime executive secretary). The magazine also covertly received British government money.
Mel's coeditor, Professor Frank Kermode, resigned, proclaiming he had been misled by Mel. "I was always reassured that there was no truth in the allegations about CIA funds."
Mel admitted breezily that "I probably should have told him all the painful details." Spender also quit the monthly and many contributors pulled out.
The CIA funds, had, in fact been replaced in 1964 by Cecil King's International Publishing Corporation - the then owners of the Daily Mirror - which bought the magazine. King's deputy, Hugh Cudlipp, sprang to Mel's defence, insisting that "Encounter without him [Mel] would be as interesting as Hamlet without the Prince".
Since the Second World War the American Government and its espionage branch, the Central Intelligence Agency, have worked systematically to ensure that the Socialist parties of the free world toe a line compatible with American interests...CIA money can be traced flowing through the Congress for Cultural Freedom to such magazines as Encounter which have given Labour politicians like Anthony Crosland, Denis Healy and the late Hugh Gaitskell a platform for their campaigns to move the Labour Party away from nationalisation and CND-style pacifism. Flows of personnel link this Labour Party pressure group with the unlikely figure of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who has for 20 years sponsored the mysterious activities of the anti-Communist Bilderberg group launched with covert American funds.
There is no suggestion that these prominent Labour politicians have not acted in al innocence and with complete propriety. But it could be asked how such perspicacious men could fail to enquire about the source of the funds that have financed the organisations and magazines which have been so helpful to them for so long. Nevertheless, they are certainly proud of the crucial influence their activities had in the years following 1959 when they swung the British Labour Party away from its pledge to nationalisation, enshrined in the celebrated Clause IV, and back towards the commitment to NATO from which the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament had deflected it. CIA operators take the credit for helping them in this decisive intervention which changed the course of modern British history.
The cloak and dagger operations of America's Central Intelligence Agency are only a small part of its total activities. Most of its 2000 million-dollar budget and 80,000 personnel are devoted to the systematic collection of information - minute personal details about tens of thousands of politicians and political organisations in every country in the world, including Britain. And this data, stored in the world's largest filing system at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is used not only to aid Washington's policy-machine, but in active political intervention overseas - shaping the policies of political parties, making and unmaking their leaders, boosting one internal faction against another and often establishing rival breakaway parties when other tactics fail.
In fact the CIA carries out, at a more sophisticated level, exactly the same sort of organised subversion as Stalin's Comintern in its heyday. One of its targets in the years since the Second World War has been the British Labour Party.
The Labour Party emerged from the war with immense prestige. As the sole mass working-class party in Britain it had the support of a united trades union movement whose power had been greatly enhanced by the war, and it had just achieved an unprecedented electoral victory. The established social democratic parties of Europe had been destroyed by the dictators, while in America all that remained of the socialist movement was a handful of sects whose members were numbered in hundreds. Labour was undisputed head of Europe's social democratic family.
But as the euphoria wore off, old differences began to emerge with prolonged post-war austerity. The Left wanted more Socialism and an accommodation with the Russians, while the Right wanted the battle against Communism to take precedence over further reforms at home. And those who took this latter view organised themselves around the journal Socialist Commentary, formerly the organ of anti-Marxist Socialists who had fled to Britain from Hitler's Germany. The magazine was reorganised in the autumn of 1947 with Anthony Crosland, Allan Flanders and Rita Hinden who had worked closely with the émigrés as leading contributors. And Socialist Commentary became the mouthpiece of the Right wing of the Labour Party, campaigning against Left-wingers like Aneurin Bevan, whom they denounced as dangerous extremists. Crosland, who ended the war as a captain in the Parachute Regiment, had been President of the Oxford Union, and a year later, in 1947, became Fellow and lecturer in economics at Trinity College, Oxford. Flanders was a former TUC official who became an academic specialist in industrial relations and later joined the Prices and Incomes Board set up by the Wilson Government. Rita Hinden, a University of London academic from South Africa, was secretary of the Fabian Colonial Bureau - an autonomous section of the Fabian Society which she had set up and directed since the early Forties. In this position she exercised considerable influence with Labour Ministers and officials in the Colonial Office, maintaining close links with many overseas politicians.
The new Socialist Commentary immediately set out to alert the British Labour movement to the growing dangers of international Communism, notably in a piece entitled Cominformity, written by Flanders during a period spent in the United States studying the American trade union movement. The journal's American connections were further extended by its U.S. correspondent, William C. Gausmann, who was soon to enter the American Government Service, where he rose to take charge of US propaganda in North Vietnam, while support for the moderate stand taken by Crosland, Flanders and Hinden came from David C. Williams, the London Correspondent of the New Leader, an obscure New York weekly specialising in anti-Communism. Williams made it his business to join the British Labour Party and to take an active part in the Fabian Society.
This close American interest in Socialism on the other side of the Atlantic was nothing new. During the war the American trade unions had raised large sums to rescue European labour leaders from the Nazis, and this had brought them closely in touch with American military intelligence and, in particular, with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), whose chief in Switzerland and Germany from 1942 to 1945 was Allen W. Dulles, later, of course, to become famous as head of the CIA in its heyday.
The principal union official in these secret commando operations had been Jay Lovestone, a remarkable operator who had switched from being the leader of the American Communist Party to working secretly for the US Government. And as the Allied armies advanced, Lovestone's men followed the soldiers as political commissars, trying to make sure that the liberated workers were provided with trade union and political leaders acceptable to Washington - many of these leaders being the émigrés of the Socialist Commentary group. In France, Germany, Italy and Austria the commissars provided lavish financial and material support for moderate Socialists who would draw the sting from Left-wing political movements, and the beneficiaries from this assistance survive in European politics to this day - though that is another story...
In 1953 the Congress for Cultural Freedom launched Encounter, an English language monthly which was an immediate success under the editorship of Irving Kristol, another of Levitas's New Leader protégés and an ex-Lovestoneite, and soon a bewildering range of publications in several languages had joined the CCF stable, with Encounter becoming one of the most influential journals of liberal opinion in the West.
As the CCF network grew it embraced many prominent figures in the British Labour Party -among them Anthony Crosland, who began attending CCF seminars, where he met Daniel Bell, who was at this period moving away from journalistic red-baiting in the New Leader towards academic respectability. Bell's thinking was later summarised in his book The End of Ideology, and it formed the basis of the new political thesis set out in the major work that Crosland was now writing and which was published in 1956 under the title The Future of Socialism. The book had also been influenced by the arguments put forward at the Conference of the Congress for Cultural Freedom held in the previous year in Milan, where principal participants had included Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey and Rita Hinden as well as Daniel Bell and a bevy of American and European politicians and academics.
Put at its simplest. Bell and his colleagues argued that growing affluence had radically transformed the working-class in Europe - and Britain - which was now virtually indistinguishable from the middle-class, and thus Marx's theory of class struggle was no longer relevant. Future political progress, they thought, would involve the gradual reform of capitalism and the spread of equality and social welfare as a consequence of continued economic growth.
Crosland's book, though not original in content, was a major achievement. In over 500 pages it clothed the long-held faith of Labour's new leader Hugh Gaitskell in the academic respectability of American political science and was immediately adopted as the gospel of the Party leadership. Labour's rank-and-file, however, still clung to their grassroots Socialism, and Gaitskell's obvious preferences for the small coterie of cultured intellectuals and visiting foreigners who met at his house in Frognal Gardens, Hampstead, alienated the Party faithful, and gave added bitterness to the internecine quarrels that were to follow Labour's defeat in the 1959 election.
In 1957 Melvin Lasky had taken over the editorship of Encounter which had, by then, cornered the West's intelligentsia through its prestige and the high fees it was able to pay. Lasky was a trusted member of Gaitskell's inner circle and was often to be seen at his parties in Hampstead, while Gaitskell became at the same time a regular contributor to the New Leader. Sol Levitas would drop in at his house on his periodic tours to see world leaders and visit the CCF in Paris.
It was during the Fifties furthermore, that Anthony Crosland, Rita Hinden and the other members of the Socialist Commentary group adopted the argument put forcibly in the New Leader that a strong united Europe was essential to protect the Atlantic Alliance from Russian attack, and European and Atlantic unity came to be synonymous in official thinking as Gaitskell and his friends moved into the Party leadership. They received transatlantic encouragement, furthermore, from a New York-based group called the American Committee on United Europe, whose leadership was openly advertised in the New York Times as including General Donovan, wartime head of OSS. George Marshall, the US Secretary of State, General Lucius D. Clay and Allen Dulles of the CIA...
But early in 1967 the US journal Ramparts revealed that since the early Fifties the National Student Association of America had, with the active connivance of its elected officers, received massive subventions from the CIA through dummy foundations and that one of these was the Fund for Youth and Student Affairs which supplied most of the budget of ISC. The International Student Conference, it appeared, had been set up by British and American Intelligence in 1950 to counteract the Communist peace offensive, and the CIA had supplied over 90 per cent, of its finance. The Congress for Cultural Freedom was similarly compromised. Michael Josselson admitted that he had been chanelling CIA money into the organisation ever since its foundation - latterly at the rate of about a million dollars a year - to support some 20 journals and a world-wide programme of political and cultural activities. Writing of Sol Levitas at the time of his death in 1961, the editor of the New Leader, William Bohm said "the most amazing part of the journalistic miracle was the man's gift for garnering the funds which were necessary to keep our paper solvent from week to week and year to year. I cannot pretend to explain how this miracle was achieved. We always worked in an atmosphere of carefree security. We knew that the necessary money would come from somewhere and that our cheques would be forthcoming."
The "Miracle" was resolved by the New York Times: the American Labour Conference for International Affairs which ran the New Leader had for many years been receiving regular subventions from the J. M. Kaplan Fund, a CIA conduit.
The CIA had taken the lessons taught back in the early Fifties by Burnham and the New Leader to heart. With its army of ex-communists and willing Socialists it had for a while beaten the Communists at their own game -but unfortunately it had not known when to stop and now the whole structure was threatened with collapse. Rallying to the agency's support, Thomas Braden, the official responsible for its move into private organisations, and Executive Director of the American Committee on United Europe, explained that Irving Brown and Lovestone had done a fine job in cleaning up the unions in post-war Europe. When they ran out of money, he said, he had persuaded Dulles to back them, and from this beginning the worldwide operation mushroomed.
Another ex-CIA official, Richard Bissell, who organised the Bay of Pigs invasion, explained the Agency's attitude to foreign politicians: "Only by knowing the principal players well do you have a chance of careful prediction. There is real scope for action in this area: the technique is essentially that of 'penetration' . Many of the 'penetrations' don't take the form of 'hiring' but of establishing friendly relationships which may or may not be furthered by the provision of money from time to time. In some countries the CIA representative has served as a close counsellor... of the chief of state."
After these disclosures the CCF changed its name to the International Association for Cultural Freedom. Michael Josselson resigned - but was retained as a consultant - and the Ford Foundation agreed to pick up the bills. And the Director of the new Association is none other than Shepard Stone, the Bilderberg organiser who channelled US Government money to Joseph Retinger in the early Fifties to build the European Movement and then became International Director of the Ford Foundation.
The Politics of Apolitical Culture: The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the cia , and Post-War American Hegemony
Michael J. Hogan, The Politics of Apolitical Culture: The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the cia , and Post-War American Hegemony, Journal of American History, Volume 89, Issue 4, March 2003, Pages 1594–1595, https://doi.org/10.2307/3092669
When Secretary of State George C. Marshall announced the famous Marshall Plan at the Harvard University commencement in June 1947, he was one of several distinguished guests to receive honorary degrees that day, the others being Robert Oppenheimer, head of the wartime Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb the D day commander, Gen. Omar Bradley and the poet T. S. Eliot. Although Eliot may have seemed out of place in that group, his presence, according to Giles Scott-Smith, actually symbolized the cultural dimension of America's postwar hegemony, just as the other honorees symbolized its economic, political, and military dimensions. Similarly, Scott-Smith, a postdoctoral researcher at the Roosevelt Study Center in the Netherlands, makes the case that the Congress for Cultural Freedom was nothing less than the cultural counterpart of the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It.
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This is the interview I just did with authors, Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald, who have written a definitive 4-part article on the origins and the history of the Neocon movement. The influence of the Neoconservatives has been catastrophic to the American government – and to much of the world, yet as they point out, it never seems to end. The authors describe it as an elitist cult a rabid ideology which doesn’t rely on facts to justify itself.
Senator J. William Fulbright identified the Neocons’ irrational system for making endless war in Vietnam 45 years ago, in a New Yorker article titled Reflections in Thrall to Fear: “Cold War psychology is the totally illogical transfer of the burden of proof from those who make charges to those who question them”, leading to “The ultimate illogic: war is the course of prudence and sobriety until the case for peace is proved under impossible rules of evidence [or never] – or until the enemy surrenders. Rational men cannot deal with each other on this basis…But these were not rational men and their need to further their irrational quest only increased with the loss of the Vietnam War.”
This same ideology drove the failed War in Iraq – and now, they’re at it again, with their foolhardy saber-rattling towards Russia.
The birth of the Neocon movement grew out of what had previously been known within the Eastern Establishment as “Team B”, in which official policies were tested by “competitive analysis”. The first Team B was created by George H. W. Bush, while he was Director of the CIA. This brought together very unlikely bedfellows, such as the ex-Trotskyite, James Burnham and Right Wing business interests, both of whom lobbied heavily for big military budgets, advanced weapons systems and aggressive action to confront Soviet Communism.
This Team B/Neocon doomsday cult managed to weather the defeat of the Vietnam War and their non-fact-based analyses continue to maintain a stranglehold on US policy.
James Burnham’s nihilist, elitist vision was criticized by George Orwell in his 1946 essay, Second Thoughts on James Burnham, in which he wrote, “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in the latter’s book, The Machiavellians] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud… Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.” In fact, George Orwell’s classic book, 1984 was based on Burnham’s vision of the coming totalitarian state, which he described as “A new kind of society, neither Capitalist nor Socialist, and probably based upon slavery.”
There are many well-known godfathers of the Neoconservative agenda of “Endless War”, the guiding principle of America’s foreign policymakers today but Gould and Fitzgerald identify James Burnham as by far its most important figure, although he is little-known today.
Burnham was born in Chicago, the son of an English immigrant father. He attended Princeton University and later Oxford University’s Balliol College. He briefly became a close advisor to Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, from whom he learned the tactics and strategies of infiltration, political subversion and dirty tricks. Gould and Fitzgerald note that the Right Wing Neocon cult of “Endless War” is ironically rooted in Trotsky’s permanent “Communist Revolution” and they describe how James Burnham helped to turn this into the permanent battle plan for a global Anglo-American empire. They write, “All that was needed to complete Burnham’s dialectic was a permanent enemy and that would require a sophisticated psychological campaign to keep the hatred of Russia alive for generations.”
In 1941, Burnham renounced his allegiance to Trotsky and Marxist idealism and he moved towards a cruel realism, with his belief in the inevitable failure of democracy and the rise of the oligarch. During the following years, he wrote several books and memos, predicting the rise of a technocratic elite. By 1947, Burnham’s transformation from Communist radical to New World Order American Conservative was complete, landing him smack into the loving arms of America’s Right Wing defense establishment during and after World War II.
In my own writings, I’ve noted that the use of the word “Freedom” by the US Government, whether it be “Freedom Fries”, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” or “They hate us for our freedom,” has completely mangled the significance of this F-word, certainly from a Constitutional perspective. Gould and Fitzgerald trace the bastardization of this word to James Burnham:
“Burnham’s Freedom only applied to those intellectuals (the Machiavellians) willing to tell people the hard truth about the unpopular political realities they faced. These were the realities that would usher in a brave new world of the managerial class who would set about denying Americans the very Democracy they thought they already owned. As Orwell observed about Burnham’s Machiavellian beliefs, in his 1946 Second Thoughts, ‘Power can sometimes be won or maintained without violence, but never without fraud, because it is necessary to use the masses.’”
With the CIA’s 1950 founding of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), Gould and Fitzgerald write, “By its own admission, the CIA’s strategy of promoting the non-Communist Left would become the theoretical foundation of the Agency’s political operations against Communism over the next two decades.”
Today, it appears that this strategy has been a smashing success, where we see the so-called Left in the US playing the role of fulminating, pro-Establishment Statists, a behavior formerly relegated to the Right. Never, in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the “tolerant Left” behaving like an army of Phyllis Schlaflys!
Prior to the catastrophe that was the Vietnam War, the Right was the establishment. The factual defeat of the ideals which drove this war was instrumental to the rise of the 1960s Counterculture movement, which was an even bigger disaster for the Neocons than losing the war. The Counterculture needed to be co-opted by any means necessary and I believe this has been successfully achieved.
Gould and Fitzgerald write that, “CIA’s control over the non-Communist Left and the West’s ‘free’ intellectuals [enabled] the CIA to secretly disenfranchise Europeans and Americans from their own political culture in such a way they would never really know it.”
Gould and Fitzgerald cite historian Christopher Lasch, who wrote in 1969 of the CIA’s co-optation of the American Left: “The modern state… is an engine of propaganda, alternately manufacturing crises and claiming to be the only instrument that can effectively deal with them. This propaganda, in order to be successful, demands the cooperation of writers, teachers, and artists, not as paid propagandists or state-censored time-servers but as ‘free’ intellectuals capable of policing their own jurisdictions and of enforcing acceptable standards of responsibility within the various intellectual professions.”
We see this very much today, in the Late Night comedy of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and SNL, the staff writers of which are largely hand-picked from the Harvard Lampoon, where young comedians are trained in a particular brand of comedy that deftly implants a fascist philosophy of extreme elitism and which fuses the ideals of the old Trotskyist left together with those of the right-wing Anglo-American elite, aka the Deep State.
The product of this fusion is called “Neoconservatism” – or its sneaky twin, “Neoliberalism”. The overt mission of this ideology is to roll back Russian influence everywhere. The covert mission is to reassert British cultural dominance over the Anglo-American Empire, maintained through propaganda. Traditionally, comedy has been used as a form of social and political criticism. Today, it cows the hapless consumer into submission to the hegemony.
Gould and Fitzgerald then inform us about the secret Information Research Department of the British and Commonwealth Foreign Office known as the IRD, which was funded by the CIA and served as a covert anti-Communist propaganda unit from 1946 until 1977. Gould and Fitzgerald cite Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, authors of Britain’s Secret Propaganda War, which describes how the IRD spread ceaseless disinformational propaganda (a mixture of lies and distorted facts) among top-ranking journalists working for major news agencies, including Reuters and the BBC and all other available channels. This was but one of many similar initiatives launched by the CIA’s Psychological Strategy Board, including Project Mockingbird and the abovementioned Congress for Cultural Freedom.
The mind is the ultimate battlefield. In my next talk with Gould and Fitzgerald, we will go into how the Deep State has designs on our dream life, in such figures as Robert Moss, a former assassin who now gives New Age workshops on “Active Dreaming.” (Incidentally, the New Age Movement was a CIA subproject of MK Ultra mind control programs). The soon-to-be-released 5G network will enable Virtual Reality, as predicted by Gould and Fitzgerald’s book, ‘The Voice: An Encrypted Monologue’, which takes the reader through the process of reclaiming one’s own narrative from the “noize” of unrelenting psychological warfare that saturates our environment.
Final Year Project: Congress for Cultural Freedom
Given that most of you have already written blog posts on your end of year projects already, I thought I would share a little bit about how mine is progressing so far.
For those of you who do not know (or have forgotten!) what my project is about, I am going to research the global anti-Communist organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). The CCF was set up in West Berlin in 1950 with the intention of promoting Western ‘democratic’ culture at the expense of authoritarian Communist culture. Moreover, it was primarily intellectuals who wrote the publications for the CCF, ran the conferences and undertook much of the work.
Importantly, much of the funding for the CCF came undercover from the CIA to subsidize the publication of various journals such as the British cultural magazine Encounter (see the picture below). However, in 1966-7 the funding from the CIA was exposed and the CCF was renamed and no longer received funding from the CIA. There was still some continuity after 1967 as some of the magazines (e.g. Australian Quadrant, China Quarterly and Soviet Survey) and personnel continued their work even after the connection with the CIA ended.
So for my project, I want to investigate the extent to which we can call the CCF a transnational organization. On the one hand, it could be viewed as a national attempt by America to promote its ideological interests onto Europe in order to prevent the spread of Communism. This perspective argues that America used European intellectuals for its own ends. Historians such as Volker Berghahn and Frances Stonor Saunders argue for this view.
Michael Josselson: supposed to direct encounter, but the publishers did not listen to him much.
But on the other hand, the impression I get so far is that the different intellectuals within the CCF acted independently of American involvement. Indeed, I will examine the transnational background of the various actors and show how their views were shaped by their experiences and not by American indoctrination. The CIA provided the funding, and not much more. Even when the CIA funding ceased in 1967, various CCF intellectuals still continued publishing in much the same way and the same journals persisted.
You may be thinking by now about how I actually intend to tackle these ambitions. So far, my intention is to focus on a couple of transnational networks within the CCF as a way of demonstrating how the actors within these networks acted independently of CIA involvement. I will then use the QGIS mapping software to produce two or more maps to track these actors in order to understand the transnational movements within the network a bit better. As we discussed in class, I intend to use the maps for more than just illustrative purposes but to more use it to help me form conclusions about the effects of the transnational movement of these actors. In addition, the networks that I will examine will be based mostly around the various journals of the CCF and the actors associated with them.
Without going into too much detail, I will look into the actors surrounding two CCF magazines: Encounter and Soviet Survey. The first of these, Encounter, was a British publication which promoted a European-wide ‘modernist’ idea which argued that Western life was superior. The authors were part of a European-wide community whose views were shaped by ‘modernism’ and not by the CIA because Michael Josselson (see picture above) was mostly ignored by Encounter’s editors.
The second is Soviet Survey which was published as a way of criticizing the countries of the Soviet Union for their totalitarian nature. This was based on a pre-existing network of transnational actors, such as Walter Laqueur, Leo Labedz and Richard Krygier who then formed the journal by taking advantage of available CIA funding. Laqueur even set up a journal before Soviet Survey, so his intentions predated the CIA involvement and was more based on his negative experiences with Communism which he experienced firsthand whilst in Eastern Europe.
Much of this research will involve looking firsthand at the journals published by these actors and then trying to determine how influenced they were shaped by the CIA’s intentions, or alternatively from their own experiences. This is just one way to broadly reinterpret the idea of the Cold War being, say, America vs Russia. Rather, these networks show that anti-Communism was far more transnational and far less statist than this.
 Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London, 1999), p. 5 Volker Berghahn, America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe: Shepard Stone between Philanthropy, Academy and Diplomacy (Princeton, 2001), pp. 108-115.
The cultural Cold War: corporate and state intervention in the arts
A look at involvement of governments and corporations attempting to push their interests in the world of art and culture since the middle of the last century.
State and corporate funding of the arts is well known as a way of supporting culture which reinforces the status of the political and corporate elite. In the US and UK, opera, symphony orchestras, the ballet, museums, art galleries, plus the infrastructure that supports them, all get significant funding from both sources. Usually targeted towards an upper or upper-middle class audience and serving both their taste and social interests.
What is less well-known is the systematic state subsidy of corporate sponsorship and philanthropy, which has been going on in some form or another since the 1950s. Direct state subsidy is quite easy to trace and quantify, but in the US, and to a lesser (though increasing) extent in the UK, the State has supported many forms of cultural activity either covertly via intelligence services, or indirectly via the tax system. This has made public art institutions dependent on corporate sponsorship for their existence, and allows companies to get a significant kick-back from the state for what is already a very targeted and cost-effective form of advertising.
During the Cold War in 1950, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)set up an organisation called the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which existed until 1967 as the main body of their cultural wing. Run by Michael Josselson, at its peak the Congress had “offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and features service, organized high-profile international conferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances”. It was originally set up with the primary purpose of funding cultural activity in Western Europe, one of its earliest major activities being the Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century festival in Paris, 1952. This month long festival included the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the West Berlin RIAS Orchestra, and works and appearances by as many composers as possible who's works had been banned or denounced by, or had physically fled, Nazi Germany and the USSR, including Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Hindemith, Berg, Debussy, and Copeland.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom wasn't set up to directly promote US foreign policy – to do so would have had no greater effect than US State Department sponsorship, which continued throughout the period, although with far less funding - and it would have been counter-productive if any of the people working for it or supported by it had realised it was a CIA initiative. Instead, its purpose was to build up the reputation of artists in the West who's work could in some way be viewed as supportive or at least uncritical of American foreign policy and free trade, and to show Western Europe as somewhere where the arts were both supported and allowed to flourish uninhibited by the ruling elite. Due to its secrecy (any detection of state intervention in the Arts on this scale would have made a mockery of the idea that the West allowed more cultural freedom than the Soviets), it managed to fund artistic activity which would never have received US State Department funding – the abstract impressionists, serialist composers, and many other “progressive” artists loosely aligned to the Non-Communist Left (NCL). “The CIA estimated the NCL as a reliably anti-Communist force which in action would be, if not pro-Western and pro-American, at any rate not anti-Western and anti-American.”
In order for all this to remain covert, CIA money had to be funnelled through private cultural foundations – notably that of Nelson Rockefeller who was for many years the president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). Money was deposited into the accounts of a number of real and front foundations, and eventually into institutions like MoMA to fund specific projects and exhibitions. One of the main focuses of the Congress for Cultural Freedom was Abstract Impressionism (described as “free enterprise art” by Nelson Rockefeller), which it supported with exhibitions and purchases for a number of years:
“We recognised that this was the kind of art that didn't have anything to do with socialist realism, and made socialist realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. So one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy handedly was worth support one way or the other”.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom was therefore characterised by two main approaches: channelling state money through private sponsorship in order to prevent any artists involved noticing the CIA's involvement, and funding “progressive” art, loosely aligned with the Non-Communist Left. Both to show how culturally progressive the West was, and to try to increase the status of artists aligned with the NCL over those who supported the Soviets. It also artificially inflated the power and prestige of “private” cultural institutions such as MoMA and the Guggenheim foundation, supplying them with ample support towards their already considerable resources.
The Congress was shut down quite quickly in 1967, after revelations came out about agents in its employ and its source of funding, mainly concerning the flagship Encounter magazine. Ironically it's major opponent following the revelations was the then president, Lyndon Baines Johnson - “[I ] won't have anything more to do with [the CIA intellectuals]. They all just follow the Communist line – liberals, intellectuals, Communists. They're all the same.”
However, since then, individual and corporate philanthropy and sponsorship have still been receiving significant state subsidy through the process of tax expenditure. Most large arts organisations, no matter how elitist, are registered charities, and donations to them are tax-deductible. In short, if a donor (private or corporate) pays a tax rate of 40%, £1 donated to a charity will give them a tax break of 40p, with only 60p of the donation coming out of pocket the state therefore contributes an additional 2/3rds over and above their out of pocket donation. If someone pays a tax rate of 20%, the state contributes 20p against their 80p, an addition of 25% to their out of pocket donation. Due to the graduated tax system in both countries which has been in place to a greater or lesser extent over the past 20-30 years, those on lower incomes get considerably less subsidy for their donations to arts organisations and charities in general. Corporate donations are similarly tax deductible.
This allows corporations and wealthy individuals to have considerable influence over the finances of cultural institutions, and more indirectly over what's represented in them, all with a considerable discount provided by the State. Direct state funding is slowly withdrawn (although the money is in reality still be spent), and either taken out of the Arts altogether, or channelled into new initiatives.
The common liberal or anti-corporate reaction to this sort of activity is that tax-loopholes should be closed up and the money spent directly by the state to make it accountable. All that would do would be to restore the bureaucratic elite to a central position of resource control for cultural activity instead of the corporate one. In fact, the same people with the same interests many politicians, ex-politicians and high-level civil servants serve on the boards of charities and non-profit Arts organisations in the same way they are often also company directors. Quangos and other government agencies are by no means accountable, and an attack on corporate sponsorship can very easily end up supporting them as an alternative.
Creative Industries Development Agencies, are one of the most recent ways that the State and Capital are co-opting art towards their interests. People have been well aware for some time that artists are often the first to move into deprived areas and start the process of gentrification – opening small galleries or craft shops, giving deprived areas a veneer of cultural and artistic activity, and taking over and renovating disused industrial spaces for workshops and studios. Usually this is an organic process, many artists are simply unable to afford to live or work anywhere else and are attracted by cheap rents and empty space. With the advent of Creative Industries Development Agencies, the State is now targeting areas (East London, Brixton, Yorkshire/Humber region for example) to actively support this process. The agencies use money from regeneration budgets (notably from Ken Livingstone's London Development Agency with support from the CBI), to provide business advice, accommodation, marketing, and other services to people involved in “creative industries” - already a loaded term for cultural activity of any kind, placing it firmly within enterprise culture and commodity exchange.
Rent and property value, at least in areas of East London, has overtaken the capacity of artists and even those in the new media industries (regarded as responsible for most of the gentrification) to afford accommodation easily. Many redevelopments, including those with “live/work” planning permission (often a thinly disguised excuse for massive luxury studio apartments instead of either affordable housing or viable work space) are aimed at City workers in the financial sector, with corresponding prices. This leads to a polarisation where local residents can clearly see the priorities of developers, and begin to mobilise against it - the State is therefore having to artificially inject artists into these areas in order to give some kind of cultural authenticity and public service veneer to the development process.
Projects include housing Arts projects in derelict spaces for short periods to prevent them being used for squatting before redevelopment, and generally trying to reduce the negative effects of gentrification for cultural workers in order to prevent them being pushed out along with the wider working class (the same can be said for key worker housing). Although this kind of activity temporarily ameliorates the difficulty of finding appropriate space for a small number of approved artists, and those artists are rarely in a position not to take advantage of them, it doesn't deal with the issues of private land ownership that cause those problems in the first place. It also serves as a means to divide the interests of the working class – local residents (quite rightly) point to the money being spent on “creative industries” development, which isn't being spent on repairs to council accommodation, building cheap general-use housing, or infrastructure, often ignoring the fact that many artists are also on low-incomes with low-paid casual day jobs in order to pay these higher private rents. This becomes a smokescreen for the true nature of gentrification, which will eventually push out both artists and local residents in favour of luxury residential and retail developments.
The only way that artists and musicians can gain control of their activity without reliance on the State or corporate sponsorship, is to develop self-managing structures to work towards a society which will not leave their livelihood dependent on the State, Capital, or patronage by the rich. This involves recognising that their interests lie with the wider working class, and building solidarity between themselves and their communities in order to further their interests outside bureaucratic and sponsorship mechanisms. It is in all our interests to work towards a society where we are not required to take low-paid work or rely on benefits and patronage in order to meet basic needs, and where all individuals are able to reach their full potential through the liberation of work and cultural activity from capital and commodity production.
1.Introduction to Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders, Granta 1999/2000
2.James Burnham, Notes on the CIA shambles, National Review, 21 March, 1967, cited ibid.
3.Donald Jameson (CIA), interview, 1994, cited ibid.
4.Quoted ibid. pg. 401
5.pp. 59 Privatising Culture, Chin Tao Wu, Verso 2002/2003
Funding from the CIA
As was first known in the second half of the 1960s and later confirmed, the Congress for Cultural Freedom was influenced by the CIA and financed through foundations in the USA (some established for this purpose) and returns from the Marshall Plan . The aim was to influence high-ranking European artists and writers as they see fit, to encourage pro-Western attitudes and to position them against the communist camp . Michael Josselson was a key liaison between the Secret Service and Congress .
The covert actions of the CIA were made public in 1967 through publications in the magazines Ramparts and Saturday Evening Post . The CIA executive officer and department head Thomas Braden , who had directed the congress in the background for years, confirmed in a film interview in 1999 the CIA's influence on the “Congress for Cultural Freedom”.
All Information (Except Text) for H.R.3928 - To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to reform the American History for Freedom program, and for other purposes. 117th Congress (2021-2022) |
As of 06/29/2021 text has not been received for H.R.3928 - To amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to reform the American History for Freedom program, and for other purposes.
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The Fight for Religious Freedom Isn’t What It Used to Be
The way the cause is now deployed drives a perception that conservative Christians, who are tightly linked to Republican politics, will be the beneficiaries of its expansion.
About the author: Andrew R. Lewis is an associate professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. He is a public fellow at the Public Religion Research Institute and the author of The Rights Turn in Conservative Christian Politics: How Abortion Transformed the Culture Wars.
In the legal battle between religious rights and gay rights, religious freedom gained a victory today. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment’s religious-freedom protections prevent the city of Philadelphia from refusing to contract with a Catholic foster-care agency that, based on its religious beliefs, does not place foster children with same-sex couples. The decision, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, is a victory for conservative Christians who have been arguing that the Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom protect religious organizations and individuals who wish to deny certain services to LGBTQ people.
The Fulton decision is substantial, but it is not the blockbuster outcome that some had expected. In a narrow ruling, the Court determined that Philadelphia’s policies were not neutral toward religion and thus violated the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause. Fulton is in line with the Court’s shift toward a broader interpretation of First Amendment protections, but the Court was divided about the bigger question, specifically whether to expand religious-liberty rights by replacing a 1990 legal precedent, Employment Division v. Smith.
The Smith decision was written by Antonin Scalia, the late conservative justice, and it limited the rights of a religious minority—Native Americans—stating that free-exercise rights could not exempt them from “neutral laws” (in this case drug laws) that did not target their religion. Smith’s circumscribed view of religious liberty has been the prevailing legal precedent ever since, but it has become controversial, especially among conservatives. Although the Court did not overturn Smith today, several justices signaled a willingness to do so. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a lengthy concurring opinion arguing that Smith should be “reexamined.” In her opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote that the arguments against Smith are “compelling,” but that Fulton did not require the Court to abandon it.
Thirty years ago, a potential reversal of Smith would have been celebrated, especially by liberals. Today, conservatives are leading the charge to expand religious freedom and overturn Smith. Understanding why reveals the contours of a major transformation that American society has undergone over the past three decades.
Two conversations about religious freedom are happening simultaneously, one legal and one political. The majority opinion in Fulton, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, emphasized the legal conversation, detailing how Philadelphia was not neutral toward religion. Alito’s concurring opinion, calling for the replacement of Smith, similarly emphasized the legal conversation. He argued that repealing Smith would protect religious freedom for everyone, including Orthodox Jews, Sikh men, and Muslim women. Such an approach is common among religious-freedom advocates, but it misses the political context that has developed alongside expansive religious-freedom claims. In politics, the way the religious-freedom cause is deployed drives a perception that conservative Christians, who are tightly linked to Republican politics, will be the beneficiaries of its expansion. This promotes division.
Not long ago, religious freedom used to cut across groups and cross partisan lines. The religious divide between the parties was less stark—evangelical Democrats such as Jimmy Carter were common—and liberal advocacy groups such as the ACLU defended the free exercise of religion before courts. Religious minorities, such as the Amish, Seventh Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, were frequent beneficiaries. After the Supreme Court limited religious-freedom rights with the Smith decision, opposition was nearly universal—and certainly bipartisan—though led by Democrats and progressive groups. Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 nearly unanimously to weaken Smith and restore broad religious-liberty protections. Bipartisan supermajorities in several states followed suit by enhancing their religious-freedom protections.
Within a decade, these bipartisan currents were changing. Republicans leveraged religious-liberty arguments to advance their position on cultural issues. They argued that Christians’ religious freedom was under threat, and emphasized cultural conflict. In doing so, Republicans adopted the cultural arguments for religious freedom that were championed by white evangelicals. Evangelicals had become a core part of the party’s activist base and electoral coalition, mobilized by a mixture of opposition to civil rights and abortion rights, as well as support for religious nationalism. Evangelicals had been emphasizing religious-freedom arguments for decades to push back against secularism and the sexual revolution, and to promote cultural conservatism, such as prayer in schools. When conservative Christians became integrated into the Republican Party, their religious-freedom messages gained broader appeal.
As conservative Christians were losing cultural and political ground, particularly in the area of gay rights, they turned to constitutional rights to advance their claims, making these appeals to courts and in public life. In the years following Smith and the RFRA legislation, advocates leaned on religious liberty to oppose nondiscrimination policies that protected the civil rights of gays and lesbians. Conservative Christian groups sought to weaken, if not overturn, Smith in order to maximize religious-liberty protections for private Christian actors who might run afoul of generally applicable laws.
Civil-rights groups objected and mobilized the broader Democratic coalition, and religious freedom became a culture-wars flashpoint. The ACLU opposed religious liberty being used to deny gays and lesbians access to housing. LGBTQ groups, after being silent about religious freedom for most of the 1990s, started warning that religious-liberty claims could be used to discriminate. As the conflict expanded and consolidated around the two poles of party politics, support for religious freedom on the left dwindled. Democrats and their allied groups withdrew their sponsorship of a sweeping religious-freedom bill in 1999, and hopes for a continued bipartisan religious-freedom coalition were dashed.
Over the next two decades, Republicans mobilized around religious freedom, particularly emphasizing the threats to conservative Christians. Republicans sponsored legislation in Congress and in state Houses, championed executive activity defending religious rights, and urged the Court to expand First Amendment protections. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision sided with conservative Christians and used the bipartisan RFRA legislation to limit a key piece of the Affordable Care Act—the contraception mandate. When the Court legalized same-sex marriage, in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, dissenters and conservative advocates warned about the decision’s impact on religious believers. Conservative Christians, once the junior partner in the conservative legal movement and the Republican Party, made religious freedom a central cause of the party’s cultural agenda.
Democrats resisted this mobilization. Throughout the 2000s, Democratic sponsorship of religious-freedom legislation diminished. In 2014, religious-freedom bills in five states garnered only four votes from Democrats. The ACLU, once a proud supporter of RFRA, announced that it could no longer back the legislation, and actively campaigned to modify it to prevent discrimination. The Equality Act, which has become a priority of the current Democratic Congress, would do just that. As Republicans rallied around religious freedom for Christians, Democrats changed their outlook as well.
As religious freedom has become polarized, surveys frequently show partisan divides over related policies. My research suggests that the divide is not merely about the actual details of any one policy, but about who is perceived to benefit.
In a survey conducted in October, I showed people a general statement supporting religious freedom, but randomized whether the statement was attributed to Joe Biden or Donald Trump. When it was attached to Trump, respondents’ support declined more than when it was said to come from Biden, and the responses were especially polarizing across party lines. If people believed that the statement was Trump’s, they were also more likely to assume that white Christians would benefit from the religious freedom in question.
Similarly, people seem to alter their opinions when religious freedom is linked to non-Christian groups. In other surveys I conducted, when people were exposed to non-Christian groups advocating for religious freedom—such as Muslim truck drivers arguing for a religious accommodation not to deliver alcohol—polarization of the issue decreases. The perception of who benefits from religious freedom matters for political support.
The Fulton decision, while securing a win for religious-liberty advocates, left open the potential to reverse the Smith precedent. A reversal of Smith has roots in historically bipartisan efforts to defend the rights of religious minorities, and many such groups would benefit from it. In the three decades since Smith, however, conservative Christians have mobilized the Republican Party to promote their religious-freedom interests while often refusing to grant religious-liberty rights to minorities, such as Muslims. Although these Christians have succeeded in getting the Supreme Court to grant them their religious-freedom rights, as with today’s Fulton decision, fusing religious freedom to their interest alone has come at the cost of bipartisan support. These alliances are not easily unwound.
Ultimately, politicizing religious freedom will hurt true civil-liberties claims. Conservative Christians are correct that religious freedom is under threat, but the threat comes as much from partisan politics as it does from legal precedents.
Archives of Authority: Empire, Culture and the Cold War
Combining literary, cultural, and political history, and based on extensive archival research, including previously unseen FBI and CIA documents Archives of Author ity argues that cultural politics—specifically America’s often covert patronage of the arts–played a highly important role in the transfer of imperial authority from Britain to the United States during a critical period after World War II.
Andrew N. Rubin argues that this transfer reshaped the postwar literary space and he shows how, during this time, new and efficient modes of cultural transmission, replication, and travel–such as radio and rapidly and globally circulated journals–completely transformed the position occupied by the postwar writer and the role of world literature.
Rubin demonstrates that the nearly instantaneous translation of texts by George Orwell, Thomas Mann, W. H. Auden, Richard Wright , Mary McCarthy, and Albert Camus, among others, into interrelated journals that were sponsored by organizations such as the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom and circulated around the world effectively reshaped writers, critics, and intellectuals into easily recognizable, transnational figures. Their work formed a new canon of world literature that was celebrated in the United States and supposedly represented the best of contemporary thought, while less politically attractive authors were ignored or even demonized. This championing and demonizing of writers occurred in the name of anti-Communism–the new, transatlantic “civilizing mission” through which postwar cultural and literary authority emerged.
Andrew N. Rubin is a Scholar in Residence at English at Georgetown University. He is also the coeditor of Adorno: A Critical Reader and The Edward Said Reader.
“This is a brilliant and highly original investigation of how Cold War politics shaped the emergence of world literature and new forms of cultural authority, literary consecration, and political surveillance in the aftermath of the Second World War. Eye-opening and provocative, Archives of Authority is indispensable reading for all serious scholars of world literature, Cold War cultural politics, and globalization.” —Anne McClintock, Simone de Beauvoir Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“This is an exciting exploration of important categories in world literature, a lucid explanation for its rise and fall, and an excellent argument for its careful reconsideration.” —Paul Bové, University of Pittsburgh
“Examining the period after World War II, when the United States took on an imperial role previously played by Britain, this remarkable book shows the ways in which Western cultural policies, in opposition to Soviet cultural-political efforts, helped literary culture establish certain authors, while excluding others from attention, leading to a new phase of world literature. The research is extensive and impressive.” —Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh
“Enacting a kind of literary archaeology, Rubin’s illuminating and necessary book traces the administration of literary culture and its shift from Anglo to American imperial power. Systematic without being sensationalistic, Rubin’s journey through the archive allows us to see the epochal changes of Cold War culture that are still with us in ever greater relief.” —Ammiel Alcalay, CUNY Graduate Center
“This rigorous, intrinsically interesting, and meticulously researched book is the academic equivalent of a Cold War spy novel, replete with intriguing archival findings and the implication of its author in the bureaucratic Kafkaesque structure of CIA document censorship. It is sure to appeal to a wide audience in literature, Cold War history, political science, and law.” —Emily Apter, New York University
The Berlin Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1950
Seventy years ago, in the last week of June 1950, the inaugural event of the Congress for Cultural Freedom was held in the ruins of the Titania Palace in Berlin. The Nazis had screened propaganda films at the Titania, which had just about survived allied bombardment. Now, many of Hitler’s refugees—including Franz Borkenau, Alfred Weber and Berlin mayor Ernst Reuter—were among the attendees determined to deliver a public rebuke to totalitarianism.
The week-long Congress was a costly undertaking. The organisers had to pay for the travel, accommodation and expenses of a fair number of the eminences of the Western intelligentsia. Among the delegation from the United States were Sidney Hook and Arthur Schlesinger Britain was represented by the famed author of The Last Days of Hitler, Hugh Trevor-Roper, the philosopher A.J. Ayer and the doyen of cultural criticism, Herbert Read. Jean-Paul Sartre was among those invited from France, but he predictably declined to have anything to do with condemning totalitarianism.
In a rather shadowy way, the money for the Berlin Congress was provided by the CIA, which continued to pay most of the bill for the activities and publications of the Congress for Cultural Freedom until the late 1960s. The story of the CIA’s clandestine financing of the organisation has been amply told. In fact, since 1967, when it broke in the Nation and the New York Times, it has been the major theme of almost all commentary on the Congress. And the general tone of that commentary—from The Agony of the American Left (1967) by Christopher Lasch, to Who Paid the Piper? (1999) by Frances Stonor Saunders—has been denunciatory. Implicit in the question posed by Saunders—and explicit in the text itself—was the accusation that several of the most recognised writers, artists, historians and sociologists of the mid-twentieth century were nothing other than hired hacks of the CIA. Every word they wrote was to be discredited by the association.
But the inauspicious story of the inaugural Congress in Berlin is one which, in my opinion, calls for an altogether different kind of approach. Clive James once questioned why so many Western intellectuals seemed to find it harder to despise Mao Zedong than Richard Nixon. To answer it, he recommended the study of an “untapped academic subject: the sociology of the international intelligentsia”. In a Jamesian vein, I wonder if the more intriguing question about the Congress for Cultural Freedom is not where the money came from, but why, at the height of the Cold War, the CIA felt compelled to spend such exorbitant sums to shield Europe from its own intellectuals?
The initial prompting for a pushback against Soviet propaganda—on both sides of the Atlantic—came from ex-communists and other non-communists on the political Left who had learned all about the totalitarian nature of Stalin’s Russia long before the Cold War. In the United States, the New Leader magazine, an endeavour of Menshevik emigres, had been waging a lonely war against Soviet communism since 1924. In Britain, George Orwell, famously chased out of Spain by the communists in 1937, tried in vain to launch a post-war League for the Rights of Man, but he complained to Arthur Koestler in 1946 that the intellectuals he approached were “timid” because they realised that such an organisation would, in practice, have to be “anti-Soviet”.
It was not until 1948, with the establishment of the Office for Policy Coordination (OPC), that the CIA began to take an interest in propagandising in Europe. By that time, the Americans were far behind the Soviets on that score. The USSR’s aggressive early Cold War foreign policy—which included the 1948 coup in Czechoslovakia and the Berlin Blockade—had been attended by a campaign to foment anti-Americanism throughout Europe. Three years before the Berlin Congress for Cultural Freedom, the Soviets had convened a Congress of German Writers in the same city, where a visiting Russian delegation had done most of the talking. Rather than literature, they focused their addresses on the stratagems of the Western imperialists. An International Writers’ Congress followed in Wroclaw (1948), with prominent Western intellectuals invited along to be lectured on the same subject. The Writers’ Congresses were part of an attempt to return to the successful Popular Front strategy of the 1930s, when European communist parties had taken advantage of liberals’ horror of Nazism to establish front groups through which they became an influential political force. Similar gatherings were held in Western cities—Paris, Stockholm and New York—in 1949. The communists hoped to gain from widespread pacifist sentiment in the aftermath of the Second World War. They advanced the notion that the Soviet Union sought only peace, but that its attainment was imperilled by Western warmongers. The Soviets established the World Peace Council (WPC), and Albert Einstein was among the well-intentioned pacifists tricked into collaboration with it. Concurrently, aided by intelligence procured from American spies the Rosenbergs, the Soviets developed their first nuclear weapons.
Such was the intellectual atmosphere in post-war Paris that the OPC’s first attempt to counter Soviet propaganda, with a Congress of its own in 1949, was an abject failure. Sidney Hook was among the prominent participants, and he reflected bitterly in Partisan Review about the Franc Tireur intellectuals who had turned the event into an anti-American demonstration. Things were different, however, in the American sector in Germany, where there was significantly more existential fear about a return to totalitarianism and a far greater determination to stand up to the Soviet Union. (Lali Horstmann’s memoir of the final months of the Second World War demonstrates that it was a matter of indifference to nobody in Germany which army showed up to liberate them, and under whose occupation they were subsequently to live. The existential fear that runs through her text was proved well founded when the NKVD showed up with the request to borrow her husband for a few friendly questions. The reader subsequently learns that he was never heard from again.)
In 1948, the American Military Government (OMGUS) had helped to establish the journal Der Monat, under the editorship of Melvin Lasky. The first issue featured an article in which Bertrand Russell argued that the life of the mind would be extinguished if the Russians won the Cold War. Such things had been unsayable before October 1947, as the Americans had faithfully observed the agreement made at Potsdam to refrain from criticism of other occupying powers. But the realisation had dawned that the Russians had been breaching it wantonly, and General Clay belatedly decided that all bets were off. When Der Monat finally arrived, it was gratefully received by Germans. Melvin Lasky, who was not yet thirty, had been schooled in the offices of the New Leader. He had made a name for himself when he had gone along to the Soviet-sponsored German Writers’ Congress in 1947, in order that there might be one dissenting voice to make the case for the free world. He subsequently took a leading role in organising the Berlin Congress.
Many of the luminaries of the Paris intelligentsia refused to come to Berlin. However, it was a Frenchman, David Rousset, who first suggested that a Congress in support of freedom against totalitarianism should be held in the Western half of the city. Rousset was a survivor of Buchenwald who had embarrassed the bien pensants of the Parisian Left when he proposed that a commission of former inmates of Nazi camps should investigate the Soviet labour camps. The aim of the commission would be to determine whether the regime’s designation of them as “educational facilities” was justified. When a communist newspaper responded by vilifying Rousset as a “Hitlerite” and accused him of lying about the camps, he sued for libel. It was an ingenious move because it forced the French courts to pass judgment on the nature of the Soviet Gulag system. Rousset was able to produce several survivors as witnesses.
His idea of holding the Congress in Berlin seemed, on the face of it, another inspired move. West Berlin was a lonely democratic enclave whose hungry citizens had resisted a year-long blockade in bombed-out surroundings. The city’s mayor, Ernst Reuter, who, like Rousset, was a veteran of Nazi camps, had famously addressed thousands of Berliners outside the crumbling Reichstag to urge resistance to the blockade. They had resisted—and successfully, too. Arguably, Berlin was the front line of the fight between the free world and Soviet totalitarianism.
In actual fact, the choice of host city for the Congress for Cultural Freedom only served to expose the fissures on the democratic front. The German and Central European delegates at the Congress—Reuter, Borkenau, Koestler and Alfred Weber among them—along with a handful of exceptionally brave intellectuals who had travelled from the other side of the Iron Curtain, were uncompromising in their condemnation of the slave labour system threatening to impose itself upon them. And from the American delegates, they received nothing but sympathy. Sidney Hook, for instance, was a battle-hardened veteran of the campaign against the Moscow Trials, which had been chaired by John Dewey in the 1930s. Arthur Schlesinger, author of The Vital Center, saw communism and fascism as twin extremisms. It is true that, also among the American contingent was the increasingly unhinged James Burnham, who was becoming an apologist for Joe McCarthy, and who seems to have been positively excited by the prospect of nuclear war. But the account of Hugh Trevor-Roper, who reported on the Congress in Britain’s leading liberal newspaper, the Manchester Guardian, revealed the chasm which separated the British intelligentsia from their German counterparts.
Trevor-Roper was incredulous at having had to bear so many ex-communists in Berlin. He concluded that the whole thing had been a political demonstration stage-managed by renegades. On the first count, he was right. The Congress was a political demonstration, and Arthur Koestler’s impassioned stand against neutralism was generally held to have been the highlight. But it had been advertised as a show of intellectual solidarity against totalitarianism. What did Trevor-Roper expect to hear? How could a defence of freedom be mounted, in Berlin, in 1950, in an apolitical manner?
It was the same story that Orwell had reported to Koestler in 1946. The British intellectuals were happy enough to support freedom in the abstract they were not prepared to make a show of opposition to those that threatened it. In any case, the British historian seemed to ignore the fact that most delegates—including the entire British contingent—had no history of communism that there had been no dissension, to cite one of many examples that contradict the accusation of stage-management, to Herbert Read’s paper about the decline of culture under capitalism and that part of the reason that Koestler’s opinions had not been balanced by any partisans of Stalin was that Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty had ignored their invitations.
The subjects of discussion had been advertised to all delegates in advance of the Congress, and one of them was “Science and Totalitarianism”. A biologist who had worked in Moscow delivered a paper on the errors of Lysenkoism—a wholly appropriate topic, which, given its dreadful impact on Soviet agriculture, captured exactly the baleful influence of totalitarianism upon science. Nevertheless, in Trevor-Roper’s submission, a discussion of the topic was beneath the intellectual level of serious scholars. Conveniently, since he had managed to avoid any mention of the world as it stood in 1950, Trevor-Roper preferred A.J. Ayer’s ivory-tower reflections on John Stuart Mill’s arguments for tolerance. The Oxford historian’s bitterest barbs, though, were aimed at the people of Berlin, whose temper he seemed completely unable to grasp. After questioning whether it was possible to discuss cultural freedom in a “city whose natives have never really believed in it”, he was provoked by the reaction of the 2000-strong audience to a short speech by Franz Borkenau to accuse them all of Nazi sympathies.
The opening session of the Congress had been held the day after the North Koreans launched their invasion of the South. By the final day, President Truman had announced that the US would aid the South Koreans. Borkenau expressed gratitude for Truman’s stand, and the audience broke into paroxysms of applause. Undoubtedly, the invasion of the non-communist half of a partitioned country by the communist half was a sinister portent for Germans—especially in the aftermath of the blockade. Nonetheless, Trevor-Roper portrayed the Berliners’ show of support for America’s Democratic President as “hysterical German applause” and declared it “an echo from Hitler’s Nuremburg”. With Borkenau’s speech, he suggested, an alliance had been cemented between the ex-communist orators and the ex-Nazis in the audience. To lend verisimilitude to this fantasy, he used the adjective hysterical three times. Never mind that Borkenau and Koestler both had Jewish backgrounds nor that Borkenau had been one of the best-known anti-Nazi publicists in Britain in the 1930s nor that the Congress was being hosted by the Social Democratic mayor, Ernst Reuter, who had spent a significant part of that decade in a Nazi camp nor, finally, that Alfred Weber had used the occasion of the Congress to make a public mea culpa on behalf of Germany for the atrocities of the Nazis—atrocities of which he had himself been a victim.
Responding to Trevor-Roper, Commentary’s correspondent, Francois Bondy, pointed out that the “contribution of Professor Borkenau shocked some of his hearers perhaps not so much by its lack of tact as by its essential truth”. Bondy observed that the “greater part of the Western European liberal and socialist intellectuals who were present … did not relish being confronted with a situation in which the issues of freedom and of peace [were] in conflict”. That was the very heart of the matter. The British intellectuals certainly believed in freedom, just not enough to stand up to its enemies. Another response came from Melvin Lasky, who questioned whether the author of The Last Days of Hitler knew anything at all about any of the days of the German dictatorship. Indeed, if Trevor-Roper’s misunderstanding were not wilful, the only explanation for it would be that he rarely got out of Oxford. Unfortunately, a reluctance to descend the ivory tower was a common affliction among British intellectuals. Ayer, too, took umbrage at the political atmosphere in Berlin. And it was on the strength of the Oxford dons’ combined accounts of the Berlin Congress that Bertrand Russell resigned his honorary role in the organisation (Sidney Hook persuaded him to reverse his decision, but Russell eventually resigned again).
Why relate the story of the Berlin Congress, seventy years after the event? Only to show that no amount of CIA money could have goaded the French intellectuals to abandon Stalin, nor roused the British intelligentsia from its splendid isolation.
Oscar Clarke is a British writer and a doctoral student at the University of Bristol. He is researching the political thought of Franz Borkenau.