Congress for Cultural Freedom

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Commemorating its tenth year, the opening of the CCF's second Berlin conference in June 1960 featured (left to right): George F. Kennan, Raja Rao, Willy Brandt, Jacques Maritain, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was an anti-communist advocacy group founded in 1950. In 1962, the World Marxist Review published an article entitled, "Who Financed Anti-Communism?" by Ernst Henri that revealed the CIA, and also the Ford Foundation, as the secret financial backers of the CCF. In 1966, The New York Times published an article exposing the CIA as secretly funding the CCF's British magazine Encounter.[1] Finally, in 1966, it was revealed (first by The New York Times and later by Ramparts as well as other mainstream news outlets) that the United States Central Intelligence Agency was instrumental in the establishment and funding of the group (through organizations such as the Ford Foundation), and it was subsequently renamed the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF). At its height, the CCF/IACF was active in some 35 countries.[2]


The Congress was founded at the Titania Palace 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. Some of the leading lights attending the Titania Palace 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, Jacques Maritain, Arthur Koestler, James T. Farrell, Richard Löwenthal, Robert Montgomery, 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.[5][6]


The Congress managed to obtain enough funding to permit it to operate offices in 35 countries,[2] maintain a large staff, sponsor events internationally, and produce numerous publications. 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.

Involvement of the CIA[edit]

In April 1966 The New York Times ran a series of five articles on the purposes and methods of the CIA.[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]


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:

  • Quadrant (1956-present) - a literary journal published by the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, edited by James McAuley, noted for its "anticommunist thrust".[17][18]
  • Encounter (1953–91) - a literary magazine founded by Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol, published in the United Kingdom
  • FORVM (1954–95) - a political and cultural magazine in Austria, founded by Friederich Torberg and others
  • Der Monat (1948-87) - 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.
  • Solidarity - a cultural, intellectual and literary monthly magazine in the Philippines
  • Preuves - a cultural, intellectual and literary monthly magazine in France
  • Cuadernos del Congreso por la Libertad de la Cultura (1953–63), published in Paris, edited by Julián Gorkin, assisted by Ignacio Iglesias and Luis Mercier Verga - a cultural quarterly magazine intended for distribution in Latin America that reached 100 issues.[19]
  • Cadernos brasileiros (1959–70) - a quarterly (until 1963), later bi-monthly, literary magazine published in Brazil.[20]
  • Examen (1958–62) - a cultural magazine published in Mexico.[21]
  • The China Quarterly (1960-present) - a leading scholarly journal on contemporary China including Taiwan.


  • Peter Coleman, 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).
  • Volker R. Berghahn: 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.
  • Wellens, Ian (2002). Music on the Frontline: Nicolas Nabokov's Struggle against Communism and Middlebrow Culture. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-0635-X


  1. ^ Hugh Wilford, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? Studies in Intelligence; Routledge, 2013. ISBN 1135294704
  2. ^ a b Frances Stonor Saunders, "Modern Art was CIA 'weapon'", The Independent, October 22, 1995.
  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. ^ Saunders, F: The Cultural Cold War, The New Press, 1999, p. 419.
  6. ^ Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, Random House LLC, 2009. ISBN 0307472485
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "C.I.A. Operations: A Plot Scuttled, or, How Kennedy in '62 Undid Sugar Sabotage", New York Times, April 28, 1966, p. 28.
  10. ^ "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.
  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. ^ The Michael Josselson Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
  18. ^ Pybus, Cassandra, "CIA as Culture Vultures", Jacket, July 12, 2000.
  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. ^ Kristine Vanden Berghe: Intelectuales y anticomunismo: la revista "Cuadernos brasileiros" (1959-1970), Leuven University Press, 1997. ISBN 90-6186-803-3.
  21. ^ Ocampo, Aurora M. (ed.), Diccionario de escritores mexicanos, Siglo XX, UNAM, Mexico, 2000 (Volume V, p. XVIII).

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