Congress for Cultural Freedom

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Congress for Cultural Freedom
Founded26 June 1950
Dissolved1979 (as International Association for Cultural Freedom)
OriginsCentral Intelligence Agency
Area served
Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, Latin America, Australia
Methodconferences, journals, seminars
Key people
Melvin J. Lasky, Nikolai Nabokov, Michael Josselson
EndowmentCIA to 1966; Ford Foundation to 1979

The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was an anti-communist propaganda group founded on June 26, 1950 in West Berlin, and was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency and its allies. At its height, the CCF was active in thirty-five countries. In 1966 it was revealed that the CIA was instrumental in the establishment and funding of the group.[1][2] The congress aimed to enlist intellectuals and opinion makers in a war of ideas against communism.

Historian Frances Stonor Saunders writes (1999): "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."[3] A different slant on the origins and work of the Congress is offered by Peter Coleman in his Liberal Conspiracy (1989), where he talks about a struggle for the mind "of Postwar Europe" and the world at large.[4][further explanation needed]

Origins, 1948–1950[edit]

The CCF was founded on 26 June 1950 in West Berlin, which had just endured months of Soviet blockade. Its stated purpose was to find ways to counter the view that liberal democracy was less compatible with culture than communism. In practical terms it aimed to challenge the post-war sympathies with the USSR of many Western intellectuals and fellow travellers, particularly among liberals and the non-Communist Left.[citation needed]

Formation of the CCF came in response to a series of events orchestrated by the Soviet Union: the World Congress of Intellectuals in Defense of Peace in Wroclaw (Poland) in August 1948; a similar event in April the following year in Paris, the World Congress of Peace Partisans;[5] and their culmination in the creation of the World Peace Council, which in March 1950 issued the Stockholm Appeal.[6] As part of this campaign there had also been an event in New York City in March 1949: the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was attended by many prominent U.S. liberals, leftists and pacifists who called for peace with the Soviet Union.[7] Prominent participant on the communist side was Dmitri Shostakovich. The opposing anti-communist side included Benedetto Croce, T. S. Eliot, Karl Jaspers, André Malraux, Bertrand Russell and Igor Stravinsky.[8]

The founding conference of the Congress for Cultural Freedom was attended by leading intellectuals from the U.S. and Western Europe. Among those who came to Berlin in June 1950 were writers, philosophers, critics and historians: Franz Borkenau, Karl Jaspers, John Dewey, Ignazio Silone, Jacques Maritain, James Burnham, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Bertrand Russell, Ernst Reuter, Raymond Aron, A. J. Ayer, Benedetto Croce, Arthur Koestler, Richard Löwenthal, Melvin J. Lasky, Tennessee Williams, Irving Brown and Sidney Hook. There were conservatives among the participants, but non-Communist (or former Communist) left-wingers were more numerous.[9] Irving Kristol, who would become known as the "godfather of neoconservatism," was also present.[3][10] During the Berlin conference, Nicolas Nabokov proclaimed: "With this Congress we must build a war organization".[11]

The Manifesto of the Congress was drafted by Arthur Koestler, with amendments added on a motion proposed by historian Hugh Trevor-Roper and philosopher A. J. Ayer.[12]

Executive Committee and Secretariat[edit]

An Executive Committee was elected in 1950 at the founding conference in Berlin, with seven members and six alternate members: Irving Brown (Haakon Lie), Arthur Koestler (Raymond Aron), Eugen Kogon (Carlo Schmid), David Rousset (Georges Altman), Ignazio Silone (Nicola Chiaromonte), Stephen Spender (Tosco Fyvel) and Denis de Rougemont who became President of the committee.[13]

The management of the CCF was entrusted to its secretariat, headed by Michael Josselson.[3] By the time Josselson joined the Congress of Cultural Freedom in 1950 he was "undoubtedly a CIA officer".[14] A polyglot able to converse fluently in four languages (English, Russian, German and French), Josselson was heavily involved in the CCF's growing range of activities – its periodicals, worldwide conferences and international seminars – until his resignation in 1967, following the exposure of funding by the CIA.[15]

Activities, 1950–1966[edit]

At its height, the CCF had offices in 35 countries, employed dozens of personnel, and published over twenty prestigious magazines. It 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][3]

Between 1950 and 1966 the Congress sponsored numerous conferences. A selective list describes 16 conferences in the 1950s held principally in Western Europe but also in Rangoon, Mexico City, Tokyo, Ibadan (Nigeria) and South Vietnam: the Founding Conference in Berlin was followed in 1951 by the First Asian Conference on Cultural Freedom, held in Bombay. A further 21 conferences over an even wider geographical area are listed for the first half of the 1960s.[16]

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 but he was also published in Mundo Nuevo, a CCF-sponsored periodical.[17] Other prominent intellectuals targeted by the CCF were Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Thomas Mann who was becoming increasingly pro-Soviet.[18] From 1950 to 1969, the CCF financed German writers such as Heinrich Böll and Siegfried Lenz.[8]

CIA involvement revealed, 1966[edit]

In April 1966, The New York Times ran a series of five articles on the purposes and methods of the CIA.[19][20][21][22][23]

The third of these 1966 articles 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."[24] The New York Times cited, among 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,[25] and a foreign-aid project in South Vietnam run by Michigan State University.[26]

In 1967, the US 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.[27] 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.[28] The CIA website states that "the Congress for Cultural Freedom is widely considered one of the CIA's more daring and effective Cold War covert operations."[7]

That same year in May, Thomas Braden, head of the CCF's parent body the International Organizations Division, responded to the Ramparts report in an article entitled "I'm Glad the CIA is 'Immoral'", in the Saturday Evening Post, defending the activities of his unit within the CIA. For more than ten years, Braden admitted, the CIA had subsidized Encounter through the CCF, which it also funded; one of the magazine's staff, he added, was a CIA agent.[29]


In 1967, the organization was renamed the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF) and continued to exist with funding from the Ford Foundation. It inherited "the remaining magazines and national committees, the practice of international seminars, the regional programs, and the ideal of a worldwide community of intellectuals." There was also, until 1970, "some continuity of personnel".[30]

Under Shepard Stone and Pierre Emmanuel the dominant policy of the new Association shifted from positions held by its predecessor. No "public anti-Soviet protests" were issued, "not even in support of the harassed Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov". The culmination of this approach was a vast seminar at Princeton on "The United States: Its Problems, Impact, and Image in the World" (December 1968) where unsuccessful attempts were made to engage with the New Left. From 1968 onwards national committees and magazines (see CCF/IACF Publications below) shut down one after another. In 1977 the Paris office closed and two years later the Association voted to dissolve itself.[31]

Certain of the publications that began as CCF-supported vehicles secured a readership and ongoing relevance that, with other sources of funding, enabled them to long outlast the parent organisation. Encounter continued publishing until 1991, as did Survey, while the Australian Quadrant and the China Quarterly survive to this day. While the revelation of CIA funding led to some resignations, notably that of Stephen Spender from Encounter, outside Europe the impact was more dramatic: in Uganda, President Milton Obote had Rajat Neogy, the editor of the flourishing Transition magazine, arrested and imprisoned. After Neogy left Uganda in 1968 the magazine ceased to exist.

The European Intellectual Mutual Aid Fund (Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne) set up to support intellectuals in Central Europe, began life as an affiliate of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. In 1991 it merged with the Open Society Foundations, set up and supported by financier and philanthropist George Soros.[32]

The records of the International Association for Cultural Freedom and its predecessor the Congress for Cultural Freedom are today stored at the Library of the University of Chicago in its Special Collections Research Center.


The Congress founded, sponsored or encouraged some publications for propaganda purposes.[33] Some of them are the following:

Name Region Date Notes
Aportes Latin America closed 1972 Produced by the Latin American Institute for International Relations (ILARI), established in 1966, which was closed by IACF in 1972.[31]
Black Orpheus Nigeria 1957–1975 Founded by German expatriate editor and scholar Ulli Beier, Black Orpheus has been described as a powerful catalyst for artistic awakening throughout West Africa.[34]
Cadernos Brasileiros Brazil 1959–1971 A quarterly (until 1963), later bi-monthly, literary magazine.[35] ICAF subsidy ceased in 1971.[31]
Censorship United Kingdom 1964–1967 Edited by Murray Mindlin the six issues dealt with censorship around the world. (In 1972 Index on Censorship, a publication covering the same themes, was founded by Stephen Spender.)[36]
China Report India 1964–1970s Established at the New Delhi bureau of the Congress, China Report became a bimonthly journalistic enterprise.[37] After its IACF subsidy ended in 1971 it found other sources of funding.[31]
The China Quarterly United Kingdom 1960 to present Became a leading journal on Communist China (and also Taiwan) by reason of its lack of rivals in the field and the scholarly standard of its articles.[38] When its IACF subsidy ceased in 1968 it found other sources of funding.[31]
Cuadernos del Congreso por la Libertad de la Cultura Paris, intended for distribution in Latin America 1953–1965 Edited by Julián Gorkin, assisted by Ignacio Iglesias and Luis Mercier Verga – a cultural quarterly magazine that reached 100 issues.[39]
Encounter United Kingdom 1953–1991 A literary-political magazine founded by Stephen Spender and Irving Kristol. By 1963 its circulation had risen to 34,000[40] and that year the magazine secured independent funding.[41] Edited from 1958 onwards by Melvin J. Lasky.
Examen Mexico 1958–1962 A cultural magazine.[42]
Forvm Austria 1954–1995 A political and cultural magazine in founded by Friederich Torberg and others. In 1965 it was taken over by Gunter Nenning and became Neues Forum, a publication devoted to Christian-Communist dialogue.[43]
Hiwar Lebanon 1962–1967 A bi-monthly literary and cultural magazine published in Beirut, and focusing on the Arab world.[44]
Informes de China Argentina 1960s Set up to provide Latin America with information about China.[45]
Jiyu (Freedom) Japan 1960 to present One of the most heavily subsidized of all the CFF magazines.[3] Edited by Hoki Ishihara.[46] The chief editor Isihara found other sources of funding when subsidies from Paris and the national committee ceased to exist.[47]
Kulturkontakt Sweden 1954–1960 Bimonthly political and cultural magazine, published by Svenska kommittén för kulturens frihet (Swedish Committee for Cultural Freedom).[48] Publishers were Ture Nerman (1954–57) and Ingemar Hedenius (1957–60). Edited by Birgitta Stenberg, Kurt Salomonson and Bengt Alexanderson.[49]
Minerva United Kingdom 1962 to present A quarterly started by sociologist Edward Shils to address issues relating the "worldwide intellectual community", and particularly the growth in universities.[50]
Der Monat Germany 1948–1987 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. ICAF subsidy ceased in 1968.[31] It continued as a quarterly until 1987.
Mundo Nuevo Latin America 1966–1971 Successor to Cuadernos (see above). It published established and political writers, holding a variety of views such as Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges,[17] ceasing to exit when IACF funding ended in 1971.[31]
Perspektiv Denmark 1953–69[51] Described itself as "a magazine for politics, science and culture". Published by Hans Reitzel, edited by Henning Fonsmark[52] and H.C. Branner. Entered a partnership with Selskabet for Frihet og Kultur (Association for Freedom and Culture), the CCF's Danish counterpart, in 1956. Directly funded by the CCF from at least 1960, when the organization established an office in Copenhagen.[53]
Preuves France 1951–1975 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.[3]
Quadrant Australia 1956 to present A literary journal published by the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, edited by Catholic poet James McAuley, had an "anticommunist thrust".[3][54][55] ICAF subsidy of the Association and of Quadrant ceased in 1972.[31]
Quest India 1955–1958 English only.[3] In 1971 IACF stopped supporting New Delhi and Calcutta offices.[31]
Sasangge South Korea 1953–1970 [34]
Science and Freedom 1954–1961 Edited by Michael Polanyi. Biannual bulletin with "a tiny readership"[3] of 3,000. In 1961 the Congress Executive replaced it with Minerva (see above).
Social Science Review Thailand[56] ICAF subsidy ceased in 1971; the Review found other sources of funding.[31]
Solidarity Philippines 1960s & 1970s A cultural, intellectual and literary monthly magazine.[34] After its IACF subsidy ended in 1971 it found other sources of funding.[31]
Soviet Survey (became Survey) 1955–1989 At first a monthly newsletter edited by Walter Laqueur, the CCF's official representative in Israel. After 1964 became a quarterly journal, edited by Leopold Labedz, focused on Soviet bloc. IACF subsidy ceased in early 1970s; the magazine found other sources of funding.[31]
Tempo Presente Italy 1956–1967[31] Edited by Ignazio Silone and Nicola Chiaromonte.[3]
Transition Magazine[34] Uganda 1961–1968[57] Editor Rajat Neogy.[57] Sales reached 12,000 in early 1960s (a quarter of them in the US) but the arrest, detention and subsequent emigration of editor Neogy in 1968 marked the end of this controversial literary-political magazine.[58]

Although The Paris Review was co-founded by novelist and CIA operative Peter Matthiessen, who was affiliated with the CCF, the magazine was reportedly a cover for Matthiessen, and not part of the CCF's operations.[59] However, The Paris Review often sold interviews it conducted to CCF-established magazines.[60]


  • Bahr, Ehrhard (2008). Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520257955.
  • 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).
  • Andrew N. Rubin,: 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.
  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Frances Stonor Saunders, "Modern Art was CIA 'weapon'", The Independent, October 22, 1995.
  2. ^ Scionti, Andrea (2020-02-01). ""I Am Afraid Americans Cannot Understand": The Congress for Cultural Freedom in France and Italy, 1950–1957". Journal of Cold War Studies. 22 (1): 89–124. doi:10.1162/jcws_a_00927. ISSN 1520-3972. S2CID 211147094.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, The New Press, 1999.
  4. ^ Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for Mind of Postwar Europe, The Free Press: New York, 1989.
  5. ^ Milorad Popov, "The World Council of Peace," in Witold S. Sworakowski (ed.), World Communism: A Handbook, 1918–1965. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1973, p. 488.
  6. ^ Suslov, M., The Defence of Peace and the Struggle Against the Warmongers, Cominform, 1950.
  7. ^ a b Origins of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1949-50
  8. ^ a b "Frances Stonor Saunders: Wer die Zeche zahlt .... Der CIA und die Kultur im Kalten Krieg". (in German). Retrieved 2022-04-08.
  9. ^ K. A. Jelenski, History And Hope: Tradition, Ideology And Change In Modern Society, (1962); reprinted 1970, Praeger Press.
  10. ^ Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, Random House LLC, 2009. ISBN 0307472485
  11. ^ Winock, Michel (1999). Le Siècle des intellectuels (in French). Paris. p. 603.
  12. ^ See The Liberal Conspiracy, Appendix A, pp. 249–251, for the text of this Manifesto.
  13. ^ Coleman, pp. 37–40.
  14. ^ Coleman, p. 41.
  15. ^ Coleman, p. 232.
  16. ^ Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy, pp. 253–257.
  17. ^ a b Coleman, p. 194.
  18. ^ TWERASER, FELIX W. (2005). "Paris Calling Vienna: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and Friedrich Torberg's Editorship of "Forum"". Austrian Studies. 13: 158–172. doi:10.1353/aus.2005.0002. ISSN 1350-7532. JSTOR 27944766. S2CID 245850463.
  19. ^ "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", The New York Times, April 25, 1966, p. 1.
  20. ^ "How C.I.A Put an 'Instant Air Force' Into Congo to Carry Out United States Policy", The New York Times, April 26, 1966, p. 30.
  21. ^ "C.I.A. Operations: A Plot Scuttled, or, How Kennedy in '62 Undid Sugar Sabotage", The New York Times, April 28, 1966, p. 28.
  22. ^ "C.I.A Operations: Man at Helm, Not the System, Viewed as Key to Control of Agency", The New York Times, April 29, 1966, p. 18.
  23. ^ Hugh Wilford, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune? Studies in Intelligence; Routledge, 2013. ISBN 1135294704.
  24. ^ "C.I.A Is Spying From 100 Miles Up; Satellites Probe Secrets of the Soviet Union", New York Times, April 27, 1966, p. 28.
  25. ^ "M.I.T. Cuts Agency Ties", New York Times, April 26, 1966.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ Hilton Kramer, "What was the Congress for Cultural Freedom?" The New Criterion, Volume 8, January 1990, p. 7.
  28. ^ Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy, Free Press, Collier Macmillan, 1989.
  29. ^ Thomas Braden Archived September 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Coleman, pp. 235–240.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Coleman, p. 240.
  32. ^ 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. doi:10.1007/s11024-006-9014-y. JSTOR 41821373. S2CID 144219865. – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)
  33. ^ Laetitia Zecchini (2020). "What Filters Through the Curtain. Reconsidering Indian Modernisms, Travelling Literatures, and Little Magazines in a Cold War Context". Interventions. International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 22 (2): 176. doi:10.1080/1369801X.2019.1649183. S2CID 201380822.
  34. ^ a b c d Andrew N. Rubin, Archives of Authority: Empire, Culture, and the Cold War
  35. ^ Kristine Vanden Berghe: Intelectuales y anticomunismo: la revista "Cuadernos brasileiros" (1959–1970), Leuven University Press, 1997. ISBN 90-6186-803-3.
  36. ^ Coleman, p. 193.
  37. ^ Coleman, p. 196.
  38. ^ Coleman, p. 195.
  39. ^ Ruiz Galvete, Marta: Cuadernos del Congreso por la Libertad de la Cultura: anticomunismo y guerra fría en América Latina Archived 2006-02-14 at the Wayback Machine en "El Argonauta español ", Numéro 3, 2006 – retrieved October 19, 2009.
  40. ^ Coleman, p. 185.
  41. ^ Coleman, p. 221.
  42. ^ Ocampo, Aurora M. (ed.), Diccionario de escritores mexicanos, Siglo XX, UNAM, Mexico, 2000 (Volume V, p. xviii).
  43. ^ Coleman, p. 186
  44. ^ Scott Lucas, Freedom's War: The US Crusade Against the Soviet Union, 1945–56.
  45. ^ Coleman, p. 196
  46. ^ Solidarity, Volume 9
  47. ^ Coleman, p. 188.
  48. ^ "USA paid for propaganda in Sweden in the 1950s?". Sveriges Radio. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  49. ^ "Kulturkontakt". Libris. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  50. ^ Coleman, p. 197.
  51. ^ "Historiske tidsskrifter". Archived from the original on 3 June 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  52. ^ Scott-Smith, Giles; Krabbendam, Hans (2003). The Cultural Cold War in Western Europe, 1945–60. London: Frank Cass Publishers. p. 245.
  53. ^ "Kold kulturkamp". Dagbladet Information. 25 August 1999. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  54. ^ The Michael Josselson Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
  55. ^ Pybus, Cassandra, "CIA as Culture Vultures", Jacket, July 12, 2000.
  56. ^ "Opinion: Pondering the Problems". Time. 13 December 1968. ISSN 0040-781X. Archived from the original on 11 July 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2021. This is the American way of doing things, to expect to solve all the world's problems in four days", complained Sulak Sivaraksa, editor of Bangkok's Social Science Review. Crumped U.S. Economist Carl Kaysen: "Everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen." The occasion for their disgruntlement was a four-day meeting last week in Princeton of some 90 international intellectuals assembled for a look at "The U.S.—Its Problems, Impact and Image in the World.
  57. ^ a b The Salisbury Review, Volumes 9–10.
  58. ^ Coleman, p. 192.
  59. ^ Celia McGee (January 13, 2007). "The Burgeoning Rebirth of a Bygone Literary Star". The New York Times. Retrieved December 24, 2022.
  60. ^ von Aue, Mary (January 4, 2017). "How the CIA Infiltrated the World's Literature". Vice. Retrieved December 24, 2022.

External links[edit]