To counteract the Soviet influence in Europe, at the end of WWII the United States created a network of pro-American elites. Thus, the CIA financed the Congress for Cultural Freedom in which many European intellectuals participated. Among the most distinguished ones were Raymond Aron and Michel Crozier. Responsible for designing an anti-communist ideology welcomed by the conservative right as well as the socialist and reformist left of Europe during the Cold War, these networks were reactivated by the Bush administration. Today, they are the European sounding board of American conservatives.
- Raymond y Suzanne Aron, Michael Josselson and Denis de Rougemont
- (c) Diana Josselon
In 1945 and ruined by WWII, Europe became the target of influence of the United States and the Soviet Union which both wanted to control the continent. Since 1947, the American administrations implemented an interventionist policy backed up by the secret services and the CIA in particular, aimed at preventing the development of Communist Parties in Europe
The purpose was to develop a pro-American elites group through the Marshall Plan supported in France by the Commissariat du Plan and to finance the anticommunist intellectuals. This project of cultural diplomacy took shape with the foundation of the Kongress für Kulturelle Freiheit (Congress for Cultural Freedom) which gathered personalities usually involved in different activities of American interference in Europe (modernization commissions, project for a federal Europe…)
Secretly financed by the CIA during 17 years until the 1967 scandal, the Congress for Cultural Freedom was the spearhead of the postwar American cultural diplomacy. Intellectuals, writers, journalists and artists met to design a diplomatic program aimed at ideologically defeating Marxism. Magazines, media seminars, research programs, university scholarships and the development of informal relational networks allowed the organization to have a real impact on university, political, artistic, etc… circles.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom recruited intellectuals for 25 years to found long-lasting interference networks in Europe, especially in France, country targeted as on of Washington’s priorities. Such networks survived the dissolution of the organization and have been reactivated by the Bush Administration.
Today, they are the European sounding board of the cultural diplomacy designed by American neoconservatives and neoliberals who came from the Congress for the Cultural Freedom themselves.
The origin of the Kongress für Kulturelle Freiheit
The Kongress für Kulturelle Freiheit was founded in 1950 in Berlin, specifically in the American occupation zone. The secretary general of the meeting, Melvin Lasky, was a New Yorker journalist that lived in Germany since the end of the war. A militant of the anti-Stalinist left, he became editor in chief of Der Monat (The Month), a magazine founded in 1947 with the support of the Office of Military Government of the United States and General Lucius Clay in particular, “proconsul” of the American occupation zone in Germany.
- Melvin Lasky
Supported by a “non-official and independent” committee, Melvin Lasky tried to gather liberal and socialist intellectuals in only one organization, an anti-communist “international”. The support committee included personalities such as German philosopher Karl Jaspers, French socialist Léon Blum, French writers such as André Gide and François Mauriac, university professors like Raymond Aron and American intellectuals such as James Burnham and Sidney Hook, leading theorists of the New York Intellectuals. Although the Congress gathered personalities of the whole world, including the Third World, its field of operation was exclusively European.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom was controlled by American intellectuals, mostly New Yorker Trotskyites like Sol Levitas, the man who encouraged the publication of the New Leader, and Elliot Cohen, founder of Commentary  as well as the supporters of the Federal Europe (Altiero Spinelli, Denis de Rougemont…).
Behind the public façade, the Congress’ leading authorities had multiple connections with the post-war American interference networks: the Administration of the Marshall Plan and the American Committee for United Europe (ACUE).
Founded during the fall of 1948 with the support of governmental personalities (Robert Paterson, Secretary of War, Paul Hoffman, Head of the Administration of the Plan Marshall, Lucius Clay) and financed by the CIA, the ACUE was in charge of promoting the construction of a Federal Europe in accordance with the interests of Washington .
This improvement of relations was publicly acknowledged in 1951 when Henri Freney, on behalf of ACUE, met officially with those in charge of the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
A Manifesto: The Era of James Burnham’s Organizers
The Congress for Cultural Freedom was based on a manifesto, James Burnham’s work published in 1941: The Managerial Revolution . This book explained the origin of a new ideology: the technocratic rhetoric.
Opposing History’s Marxist philosophy and based on the class struggle, James Burnham made emphasis on the economic and ideological failure of the Soviet Union and announced the advent of the “managers’ era”. For him, a new leading class had the control of the State and the companies in the East and the West. Such class, labeled as managers’, had a different view of the distinction between capital and work.
Therefore, James Burnham indirectly rejected the Marxist theories of history’s philosophy (by affirming that the dichotomy capital/wage was obsolete already) and the perspective of the victory of parliamentarian democracies (by hoping that decisions were no longer made by the Parliament but by the offices). Actually, politicians and traditional owners were gradually replaced by a new kind of technician, of managers.
With this theory, that must be kept in mind is that of the “Synarchist” technocratic movement of the 30s, Burnham became the advocate of an alternative vision about a “neither-the-right-nor-the-left” future, as Raymond Aron expressed. And that was the purpose, precisely: to recruit conservatives, and above all, the non communist left-wing intellectuals for the anti-communist crusade. Such theses were part of the author’s social career.
The son of a chief in a railroad company, after studying in Oxford and Princeton, James Burnham became famous with the foundation of magazine Symposium. After abandoning the Thomistic philosophy, he studied the translation of Trotsky’s first work: The History of the Russian Revolution. He met Sidney Hook and focused on Trotskyist political activities with the foundation of the Socialist Workers Party in 1937.
After being a militant for some time (he participated in the IV International) a controversy with Trotsky marked the beginning of his political conversion. Thus, in 1950 he participated in the foundation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Berlin where he held important posts until the end of the 60s. But, in spite of his involvement with the Congress’ networks, and “marked” by his revolutionary past, James Burnham lost his university post during the McCarthyism.
It was in the middle of this political turn –from Trotskyism to anti-communist struggle- that James Burnham wrote The Managerial Revolution which was a useful tool for conversion (that of the author and of the other members of the Congress who often came from Trotskyist circles, particularly the New York Intellectuals ).
The rhetoric importation-exportation of the Third Way
The rhetoric of the Third Way (“the end of ideologies”, “the leaders’ technical competition”) brought together in all Western Europe the political groups that participated in the activities of the Congress, a real think tank [a usually political research center devoted to propaganda and the spreading of ideas] in charge of designing an anti-communist ideology welcomed by the conservative right as well as the socialist and reformist left of Europe.
In France, three political trends collaborated with the Congress: the militants of the exRDR (Roussy and Altman), the Gaullist intellectuals (supporters of famous French General De Gaulle) of French magazine Liberté de l’esprit as well as French writer Malraux, and the European federalists.
The official doctrine of the Congress was mainly designed by the New York Intellectuals. Its publications were spread in European countries by transatlantic “liaisons” (pasadores) that guaranteed the transmission of that information as in the case of Raymond Aron who, since the beginning, was involved in the translation of book L’ère des organisateurs; Georges Friedmann, who picked up Daniel Bell’s thesis, author of The End of Ideology published in 1960…
In France, these “liaisons” (pasadores) were mainly intellectuals who had been ostracized from university circles; the Center for Sociological Studies (CSS) was the Congress’ recruiting reserve supported by the Commissariat du Plan .
- Edgar Morin
Actually, the planners have given most of the research credits to economists and sociologists who wanted to enlist themselves with the purpose of legitimating their decisions. Thus, CES’ researchers Edgar Morin, Georges Friedmann, Eric de Dampierre were present in the anniversary Congress of 1960.
The French intellectuals of the Congress published their ideas in magazine Preuves, the French copy of Der Monat. The recruiting was guaranteed by the Parisian delegate to the Congress, a post that was occupied by New Yorker intellectual Daniel Bell, who granted research credits and scholarships (in the United States) to young European intellectuals in return for their collaboration in the anticommunist struggle.
This effective recruiting strategy culminated in the “demarxization” (according to the term used by Domenach, director of Esprit) of certain circles of intellectuals which were related to the Communist Party somehow.
Raymond Aron: an intellectual of the first generation
Raymond Aron, involved in the French activities of the Congress until the 1967 scandal, was the importer of the New York Intellectuals’ theses. In 1947, he made his friend James Brunham’s book to be translated (socialist Léon Blum wrote the prologue to the first edition of L’ère des organisateurs) and decided how the Third Way theories’ were going to be spread.
After the publication of L’homme contre les tyrans in 1946 and the Grand schisme in 1948 –real manifestos of French conservatives-, Raymond Aron joined the Congress’ networks since their foundation in Berlin in 1950.
As involved as Michel Colliny and Manès Sperber in its decision making structures, Raymond Aron was also recognized as one of the main theorists of the anti-communist “International”.
In the International Conference of Milan in 1955, he was one of the 5 speakers of the opening session (along with Hugh Gaitskell, Michael Polanyi, Sidney Hook and Friedrich von Hayek ).
Also in that year, he published L’opium des intellectuels, a text inspired by James Burnham’s ideas where the neutrality of leftist and non communist intellectuals was denounced. In 1957, he wrote the preface of Melvin Lasky and François Bondy’s La révolution hongroise, Histoire du soulèvement who were two important personalities of the Congress.
Born in 1905 of “a middle class family of French Judaism” , Raymond Aron, a primary school teacher (1924) and senior teacher (1928) began to study philosophy just before WWII. In 1948, despite the success of the phenomenological-existentialist theses, he was not selected to replace Albert Bayy in Sorbonne and was forced to accept not very prestigious posts in governmental schools (ENA, IEP Paris).
At the same time, he had important posts in the press (he was editorialist of Parisian journal Figaro from 1947 to 1977; he also worked in magazine L’Express until his death in 1983) and in political circles (in 1945, he was a member of General De Gaulle government).
This conversion to the “right” (before the war, Aron was a socialist intellectual) in moments in which Sartre dominated the intellectual circles, was intensified by his involvement in the Congress’ networks and his active participation in the modernization commission of the French Association of Productivity, founded in 1950 and annexed to the Commissariat du Plan.
The Making of a “pro-American” intellectual: Michel Crozier’s political career
- Michel Crozier
Michel Crozier, another member of the group, could be considered a product made by the networks of the Congress to which he joined at the end of the 50s; his career is an example of how young intellectuals were used by the American cultural diplomacy.
At the beginning of the 50s, Michel Crozier was a young intellectual known due to the success of an article published in Les temps modernes, the magazine directed by Sartre. In this text, titled “Human engineering”, the author attacked the New Deal in a virulent way, condemned the recruiting of scientists and denounced the methods of patronage.
The article was mainly “anti-American” and “left-wing-extremist”. Michel Crozier was also involved in “Socialisme et Barbarie”, a group directed by Cornelius Castoriadis, and founded La tribune des peuples, a third world magazine. This action was supported by Daniel Guérin, a French Trotskyist
In 1953, Michel Crozier broke with the networks of French Trotskyism and joined the Esprit group, with which he published an article criticizing the leftist intellectuality. Such breaking was reinforced by the meeting with Daniel Bell in 1956 who was the Parisian delegate to the Congress. He gave Crozier a scholarship in Stanford. .
In 1957 he participated in the Congress of Vienna. His intervention in French unionism was published in Preuves.
As part of the liaison networks, Michel Crozier was a member of the modernization commissions and turned to be, along with Raymond Aron, one of the main ideologues of the Third Way. He wrote a part of Club Jean Moulin’s manifesto , an association of personalities quite closed to the planners (Georges Suffert, Jean Ripert, Claude Gruson). Such text summarized faithfully the propaganda guidelines of the Third Way: end of ideologies, political rationality, participation of workers in enterprise management, devaluation of parliamentary activity and promotion of technocrats…
In 1967, thanks to the support of Stanley Hoffmann (collaborator of Esprit and founder of the Center for European Studies), Michel Crozier was recruited in Harvard. He came into contact with Henry Kissinger and Richard Neustadt, foreign adviser to Truman, author of best-seller The power of presidency. Through a club organized by Neustadt, Michel Crozier met with Joe Bower regularly, MacGeorge Bundy’s protégé, head of Kennedy and Johnson’s General Staff and chief of staff of the Ford Foundation.
After the 1969 scandal, Michel Crozier, a pro-American intellectual fabricated by the Congress, was one of the most requested personalities to rebuild the anti-communist organization.
From the Congress for Cultural Freedom to the International Association for Cultural Freedom
The scandal of the hidden fundings of the Congress for Cultural Freedom broke in 1967. It was made public during the Viet Nam war by a press campaign. However, since 1964, the New York Times published an investigation on the Fairfield foundation, the most important official loans suppliers of the Congress, and its financial ties with the CIA.
By that time, the American intelligence agency, through James Anglyon  tried to censure the references to the Congress.
The leaders of the Congress made a purge in the organization with the assistance of the Ford Foundation that, since 1966, was in charge of all fundings. Motivated by that reorganization, MacGeorge Bundy proposed Raymond Aron to chair the reconstruction of the Congress; however, in 1967 he rejected the proposal because of the scandal broken in Europe.
That year, and despite a slanderous campaign organized by the secret services  , an article published in magazine Ramparts provoked a wave of unprecedented scandals in the history of the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
Thomas Braden (enlisted to the CIA in 1950 and head of the International Organizations Division (IOD) confirmed the hidden fundings of the Congress in an article with a very provocative title: I’m glad the CIA is amoral.”
After May 1968 events, Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, one of the main figures of Jean Moulin Club, author of an essay known on the other side of the Atlantic (best-seller Le défi américain published in 1967, went to Princeton as “quasi-head of state” […] accompanied by a retinue that surprised more than one person” .
Michel Crozier was the person in charge of writing the conclusions of the Princeton seminar (it was the first meeting of the International Association).
From 1973, MacGeorge Bundy reduced gradually the activities of the Ford foundation in Europe. The International Association lost its influence and disappeared (despite the creation of parallel organizations) in 1975, the date of the signature of the Helsinki Agreement.
As well as the Marshall Plan, the ACUE and the military branch of the stay-behind, the Congress for Cultural Freedom helped to establish, in a stable way and in the context of the cold War, the elements that depended on American credits and who were in charge of implementing the interventionist diplomacy of Washington.
This collaboration is still active in France through the assistance provided to the intellectuals of the French Third Way by the American foundations.