Congress for Cultural Freedom

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Congress for Cultural Freedom
Founded 26 June 1950
Origins Central Intelligence Agency

The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was an anti-communist advocacy group founded in 1950. In 1966 it was revealed that the United States Central Intelligence Agency was instrumental in the establishment and funding of the group. At its height, the CCF was active in thirty-five countries.[1]

Historian Frances Stonor Saunders wrote: "Whether they liked it or not, whether they knew it or not, there were few writers, poets, artists, historians, scientists, or critics in postwar Europe whose names were not in some way linked to this covert enterprise."[2]


The CCF was founded in West Berlin on 26 June 1950 to find ways to counter the view that liberal democracy was less compatible with culture than communism.[3]

It may have been started in response to a March 1949 peace conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City at which many prominent U.S. leftists and pacifists urged for peace with Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.[citation needed]

Some of the leading intellectuals attending this conference included Franz Borkenau, Karl Jaspers, John Dewey, Ignazio Silone, James Burnham, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Bertrand Russell, Ernst Reuter, Raymond Aron, Alfred Ayer, Benedetto Croce, Arthur Koestler, Richard Löwenthal, Melvin J. Lasky, Tennessee Williams and Sidney Hook. There were conservatives among the participants, but left-wingers were more numerous.[4] "Godfather of Neoconservatism" Irving Kristol was also a member of the Congress.[2][5]


The CCF was managed by Michael Josselson from 1950 until 1967.[2]


At its height, the CCF 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.[1][2]

In the early 1960s, the CCF mounted a campaign against the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, an ardent communist. The campaign intensified when it appeared that Neruda was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964.

CIA involvement revealed[edit]

In April 1966 The New York Times ran a series of five articles on the purposes and methods of the CIA.[6][7][8][9][10] The third of these articles from 1966 began to detail false-front organizations and the secret transfer of CIA funds to, for example, the US State Department or to the United States Information Agency (USIA) which "may help finance a scholarly inquiry and publication, or the agency may channel research money through foundations--legitimate ones or dummy fronts."[11] The New York Times cited, amongst others, the CIA's funding of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, Encounter magazine, 'several American book publishers', the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies,[12] and a foreign-aid project in South Vietnam run by Michigan State University.[13]

In 1967, the magazines Ramparts and The Saturday Evening Post reported on the CIA's funding of a number of anti-communist cultural organizations aimed at winning the support of supposedly Soviet-sympathizing liberals worldwide.[14] These reports were lent credence by a statement made by a former CIA covert operations director admitting to CIA financing and operation of the CCF.[15] The CIA web site states that "the Congress for Cultural Freedom is widely considered one of the CIA's more daring and effective Cold War covert operations."[3]

In May 1967 Thomas Braden, head of the CCF's parent body the International Organizations Division, responded to the Ramparts article by publishing an article entitled "I'm Glad the CIA is 'Immoral'", in the Saturday Evening Post, where he defended the activities of the International Organizations Division unit of the CIA. Braden admitted that for more than 10 years, the CIA had subsidized Encounter through the CCF, which it also funded, and that one of its staff was a CIA agent.[16]

The organization was then renamed the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF).

The Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne, an affiliate of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, merged to create Open Society Foundations, created by George Soros.[17]


Today, records of the International Association for Cultural Freedom and its predecessor the Congress for Cultural Freedom are stored at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago's Library.

CCF/IACF-funded publications[edit]

Some of the Congress publications include:

Name Country Date Notes
Cadernos Brasileiros Brazil 1959–70 A quarterly (until 1963), later bi-monthly, literary magazine.[18]
The China Quarterly United Kingdom 1960–present A leading scholarly journal on contemporary China including Taiwan.
Cuadernos del Congreso por la Libertad de la Cultura Paris, intended for distribution in Latin America 1953–63 Edited by Julián Gorkin, assisted by Ignacio Iglesias and Luis Mercier Verga - a cultural quarterly magazine that reached 100 issues.[19]
Der Monat Germany 1948 October - 1987 A German-language journal airlifted into Berlin during the 1948 Soviet blockade and edited by Melvin J. Lasky until 1978, when it was purchased by Die Zeit. It continued as a quarterly until 1987.
Encounter United Kingdom 1953–91 A literary magazine founded by Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol
Examen Mexico 1958–62 A cultural magazine.[20]
FORVM Austria 1954–95 A political and cultural magazine in founded by Friederich Torberg and others
Quadrant Australia 1956–present A literary journal published by the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, edited by Catholic poet James McAuley, had an "anticommunist thrust".[2][21][22]
Preuves France 1951 October A cultural, intellectual and literary monthly magazine. CCF's first magazine. Preuves means “proof” or “evidence” in French. Editor was François Bondy, a Swiss writer.[2]
Solidarity Philippines A cultural, intellectual and literary monthly magazine.[23]
Science and Freedom 1953 Edited by Michael Polanyi. Biannual bulletin with a tiny readership.[2]
Soviet Survey 1955 Monthly newsletter edited by the historian Walter Laqueur, who was also the CCF’s official representative in Israel. Laqueur wrote extensively on the Russian affairs under the pen name Mark Alexander.[2]
Tempo Presente Italy 1956 Edited by Ignazio Silone and Nicola Chiaromonte.[2]
Quest India 1955 August English only.[2]
Jiyu Japan One of the most heavily subsidized of all the CFF magazines.[2] Edited by Hoki Ishihara.[24]
Hiwar Lebanon [25]
Black Orpheus [23]
Sasangge [23]
Transition Magazine[23] Africa[26] 1961[27] Editor Rajat Neogy[27]
Social Science Review[26]
Informes de China[26] Latin America


  • Berghahn, Volker R.: America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe. Shepard Stone between Philanthropy, Academy, and Diplomacy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. Addresses links between Ford Foundation and CCF.
  • Coleman, Peter, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe, New York: Free Press, Collier Macmillan, 1989.
  • Michael Hochgeschwender, Freiheit in der Offensive? Der Kongreß für kulturelle Freiheit und die Deutschen, München, 1998 (comprising academic study on the origins, in German).
  • Rubin, Andrew N.,: "Archives of Authority: Empire, Culture, and the Cold War." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. Addresses the effects of CCF's activities on the visibility and canonization of writers.
  • Berghahn, Volker R.: America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe. Shepard Stone between Philanthropy, Academy, and Diplomacy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. Addresses links between Ford Foundation and CCF.
  • Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, 2000, The New Press, (ISBN 1-56584-596-X). Originally published in the UK as Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War, 1999, Granta, ISBN 1862070296.
  • Wellens, Ian (2002). Music on the Frontline: Nicolas Nabokov's Struggle against Communism and Middlebrow Culture. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-0635-X


  1. ^ a b Frances Stonor Saunders, "Modern Art was CIA 'weapon'", The Independent, October 22, 1995.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Saunders, F: The Cultural Cold War, The New Press, 1999.
  3. ^ a b Origins of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1949-50
  4. ^ K. A. Jelenski, History And Hope Tradition Ideology And Change In Modern Society, (1962); reprinted 1970, Praeger Press.
  5. ^ Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, Random House LLC, 2009. ISBN 0307472485
  6. ^ "The C.I.A.: Maker of Policy, or Tool? Agency Raises Questions Around World; Survey Discloses Strict Controls But Reputation of Agency Is Found to Make It a Burden on U.S. Action", New York Times, April 25, 1966, p. 1.
  7. ^ "How C.I.A Put an 'Instant Air Force' Into Congo to Carry Out United States Policy", New York Times, April 26, 1966, p. 30.
  8. ^ "C.I.A. Operations: A Plot Scuttled, or, How Kennedy in '62 Undid Sugar Sabotage", New York Times, April 28, 1966, p. 28.
  9. ^ "C.I.A Operations: Man at Helm, Not the System, Viewed as Key to Control of Agency", New York Times, April 29, 1966, p. 18.
  10. ^ Hugh Wilford, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? Studies in Intelligence; Routledge, 2013. ISBN 1135294704
  11. ^ "C.I.A Is Spying From 100 Miles Up; Satellites Probe Secrets of the Soviet Union", New York Times, April 27, 1966, p. 28.
  12. ^ "M.I.T. Cuts Agency Ties", New York Times, April 26, 1966.
  13. ^ Francis Frascina, "Institutions, Culture, and America's 'Cold War Years': The Making of Greenberg's 'Modernist Painting", Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1 (2003), pp. 71-97.
  14. ^ Hilton Kramer, "What was the Congress for Cultural Freedom?" The New Criterion, Volume 8, January 1990, p. 7.
  15. ^ Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy, Free Press, Collier Macmillan, 1989.
  16. ^ Thomas Braden
  17. ^ GUILHOT, NICOLAS (2006-01-01). "A NETWORK OF INFLUENTIAL FRIENDSHIPS: THE FONDATION POUR UNE ENTRAIDE INTELLECTUELLE EUROPÉENNE AND EAST-WEST CULTURAL DIALOGUE, 1957-1991". Minerva. 44 (4): 379–409. (subscription required (help)).  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)
  18. ^ Kristine Vanden Berghe: Intelectuales y anticomunismo: la revista "Cuadernos brasileiros" (1959-1970), Leuven University Press, 1997. ISBN 90-6186-803-3.
  19. ^ Ruiz Galvete, Marta: Cuadernos del Congreso por la Libertad de la Cultura: anticomunismo y guerra fría en América Latina en "El Argonauta español ", Numéro 3, 2006 - retrieved October 19, 2009.
  20. ^ Ocampo, Aurora M. (ed.), Diccionario de escritores mexicanos, Siglo XX, UNAM, Mexico, 2000 (Volume V, p. XVIII).
  21. ^ The Michael Josselson Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
  22. ^ Pybus, Cassandra, "CIA as Culture Vultures", Jacket, July 12, 2000.
  23. ^ a b c d Andrew N. Rubin, Archives of Authority: Empire, Culture, and the Cold War
  24. ^ Solidarity, Volume 9
  25. ^ Scott Lucas, Freedom's War: The US Crusade Against the Soviet Union, 1945-56
  26. ^ a b c d e William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II
  27. ^ a b The Salisbury Review, Volumes 9-10.

External links[edit]