From 1982 to 1999, the Saint-Simon Foundation was a true teacher in French intellectual and media life. During the continuation of the “Third Lane”, so expensive to Raymond Barre, Jacques Delors or Michel Rocard, the Foundation gathered a hundred personalities coming from the liberal and social-democrat circles and developed some sort of “neither-left-wing-nor-right-wing” speech [1], rated as “unique thinking” by its enemies.

Its founder and first president, historian François Furet, would not hide having established contacts with the CIA after breaking with the Communist Party. Besides, he would introduce himself as the one who carried on with the work of Raymond Aron, an anticommunist intellectual who led the Congress for the Freedom of Culture (CFC) - a gigantic operation of the CIA to manipulate Western Europe intellectuals and get them enlisted in the Cold War. Despite such pieces of evidence, the possible ties between the Saint-Simon Foundation and the U.S. service were never discussed. Our investigation made them public.

Reactivation of the Anti-Totalitarian “Third Lane” Networks

In order to understand how the Saint-Simon Foundation was created in 1982, it is important to recall the efforts made since the dissolution of the CFC in 1975 to stimulate the “Third Lane” intellectual trend.

Since the late 1970’s, anticommunist liberal and social-democrat intellectuals renewed their alliance with the purpose of fighting the Common Program submitted by François Mitterrand. That’s how, in 1978, Raymond Aron summoned Jean-Claude Casanova [2] Alain Besançon [3] and Kostas Papaioannou to his side with the aim of creating Comentaire - a magazine essentially focused on the critical analysis of the totalitarian experience [4]. It took its name Commentary after the monthly publication of the American Jewish Committee and included editors from its own editorial staff committee.

Following the steps of Contrepoint - a Georges Liébert y Patrick Devedjan’s magazine - and of Preuves - an almost official publication of the CFC, Commentaire got together anticommunist and pro-American intellectual and politicians. Its networks spread from the IEP [5] (Jean-Claude Casanova, Michel Crozier, Alain Lancelot) to the Sorbonne (Raymond Boudon, Pierre Chaunu), going through the EHESS [6] where François Furet implemented a true policy of political recruitment (however, he managed to call in Pierre Rosanvallon - a Business School HEC graduate).

The Steering Committee included two Aronians, Raymond Aron’s assistant at the French College Pierre Manent and Sorbonne professor Marc Fumaroli, who later joined the French College. The Editorial Staff Committee was presided over by Raymond Aron and was composed of personalities such as Annie Kriegel, Alain Lancelot, Jean-François Revel and Georges Suffer among others.

Tracing Raymond Aron’s footsteps, the CFC intellectuals were present in Commentaire: Manès-Sperber, Georges Vedel, Club jurist Jean Moulin and the planners official sociologist Michel Crozier. Preuves’ former chief François Bondy took part with the Editorial Staff Committee. Furthermore, the U.S. sponsorship was ensured through CFC figures such as Irving Kristol [7] and Norman Podhoretz [8].

During a period of relative calm in the East/West relations (which ended with the Reagan administration), the magazine was the intermediate link between the CFC and the Saint-Simon Foundation. Unquestionably pro-American, Commentaire’s members contributed to disseminate American liberal authors such as political philosophy professor in Chicago Allan Bloom, who announced the decline of L’Âme désarmée, pointing out students’ movements, and the renowned theoretician of the “end of history” Francis Fukuyama. In the CFC network logic, Commentaire dedicated a topic to the work of Friedrich von Hayek, founder of the ultraliberal Monte Peregrino Society - a think-tank that contributed to Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979.

Commentaire - born out of the networks built by Raymond Aron during the first two decades of the Cold War - regrouped anticommunist intellectuals of the first generation: CFC members, “Third Lane” Clubs elite(Jean Moulin club, Citoyens 60 club); and recruited young university professors such as Pierre Rosanvallon or François Furet. That way the magazine allowed the elders to convey a whole world of social relations to the new generation of pro-American intellectuals, who, upon the creation of the Saint-Simon Foundation in 1982, reformulated the political ideal of the “Third Lane” pioneers (Pierre Mendès-France, Jacques Delors).

In the late 1970’s, the Aronian School (Contrepoint, Preuves y Commentaire) was the object of “rivalry” by a new trend of reflection called “reformist”, composed of young people searching for academic acknowledgment. In 1980, Gallimard publications owner Pierre Nora and Michel Foucault’s opponent Marcel Gauchet, launched Le Débat - a magazine that became a tribune and a springboard for the new generation embodied by Alain Finkielkraut, Alain Minc, Gilles Lipovetsky, Luc Ferry... That team, who advocated a “new” liberal and social “left-wing”, joined the Saint-Simon Foundation in 1982.

The Founders

The creation of the Saint-Simon network resulted from the meeting of two major intellectuals of the anti-totalitarian current, historian François Furet and CFDT spokesman Pierre Rosanvallon, and of two financial world personalities, ultra-catholic Roger Fauroux and the French Council influential adviser Alain Minc.

François Furet

François Furet’s political schedule established the bonds linking the Saint-Simonians with the U.S. neo-conservatives who, by means of the Foundations, financed the careers of many French intellectuals. Backed by the ultraconservative Olin Foundation [9], François Furet launched a program for dismantling the Marxist historiography and at the same time denounced the alliance with the communists by creating, with the U.S. support, a think tank intended to fight the Common Program.

A communist militant until 1956 [10], he attained the title of professor of history in 1954 when he defended the orthodox Marxist thesis. Entered the CNRS in 1956 and then the EHESS. After breaking with the French Communist Party (FCP), he tried to formulate some sort of historiography designed to refuse the Marxist doctrine. He analyzed the French Revolution as an event that ended with the 3rd Republic and started to condemn the “communist totalitarianism” [11].

Upon leaving the FCP, François Furet became an intransigent liberal affiliated to Raymond Aron. On confirming such intellectual linking, he created together with Luc Ferry the Raymond Aron Institute, which he led until 1992. In his capacity as president of the EHESS from 1977 to 1985, he traveled to Chicago in 1982 when he created the Saint-Simon Foundation. On the occasion of the bicentenary of the French Revolution, the Olin Foundation granted him $470 000 [12] to finance his research program about the American and French Revolutions. In 1995, he published Le Passé d’une illusion, a work that allowed him to come back to the fascination which intellectuals feel for Marxism and to set communism up as a way of totalitarianism equivalent to nazism. Radically opposed to Mitterrand and an agent of the American neo-conservatives, François Furet has developed an intellectual work adjusted to the will of his sponsors.

Pierre Rosanvallon

His protégé, Pierre Rosanvallon, belongs to the new generation of “anti-totalitarians” shaped in the Aronian circles of Commentaire.

Pierre Rosanvallon is a graduate of HEC [School for Higher Business Studies]. A former leader of the JEC (Christian Student Youths), he entered the CFDT and together with Edmond Maire and Marcel Gonin, launched the CFDT-aujourd’hui magazine. Very close to Jacques Delors, with whom he created the Work and Society Center, he participated in many “Third Lane” experiences. He has written for Esprit, Le Nouvel observateur and Commentaire since 1978. François Furet helped him enter the EHESS, where he became Responsible for Political Studies until he fully dedicated to the French College. Author of sociological and historical intended essays [13], Pierre Rosanvallon was the Edmond Maire’s “eminent brain” at CFDT, then, Jacques Delors’ adviser. He is currently on a key post in the Saint-Simon network, representing the Foundation at the Steering Committee of the Hague Club.

Alain Minc

Alain Minc, Roger Fauroux’s close ally, is the treasurer of the Foundation. A finance inspector, first record of his graduation year at ENA [National Administration School], he acts as Saint Gobain’s Financier Director - a post provided by his friend Fauroux. Grateful after the losses caused by the failed operations in the Bull’s and Générale des eaux’s purchase, Alain Minc entered the Carlo de Benedetti’s group where his failures as Cerus vice-president wouldn’t stop him from pocketing 7 million in compensations. As a result of those experiences, he created the Alain Minc Conseil [14].

Simultaneously he would publish several books one of which earned him a sentence for plagiarism. With the support of the great employers, he organized the recap of the Le Monde daily in 1994, and later presided over its Supervision Council. He coordinated the editorial staff of the La France de l’an 2000 report (Plan’s Commission), at the request of Édouard Balladur of whom he was one of the most influential pillars.

A friend and adviser of the employers, Alain Minc has learned how to profit from his relations and has played a recruitment agent role, mainly in the employers’ field.

Roger Fauroux

The Foundation’s President Roger Fauroux is a personality in the center of many and wide networks. First of all, he regards himself as an employer, he was the president and general manager of Saint-Gobain where he discovered his friend Alain Minc. From the political viewpoint, he belongs to the “new left-wing” embodied by Raymond Barre and Michel Rocard. During his government the latter designated him Minister of Industry. He was ENA director, gave advice to Cardinal Lustiger and also managed to obtain unexpected speculative profits for the Catholic Church. An ultra-catholic employer, Roger Fauroux insured a good part of the Foundation’s funding by making companies such as Saint-Gobain or MK2 Production contribute their share.

Intellectuals and Employers Move Closer Together

The Saint-Simon Foundation has restored its linking role between “second left-wing” intellectuals and employers of many public and private companies. This vocation is reflected with the presence of François Furet y Pierre Rosanvallon in the Saint-Gobain’s Management Council. Such an alliance between public or business technocrats and the cultural elites gives a new shape to the “political dream” of the “Third Lane” embodied by the Jean Moulin Club in the 1960’s [15].

Saint-Simonians are high ranking planning officials (General Commissioner of the Plan Pierre-Yves Cossé), media journalists (Françoise Giroud from L’Express, Jean Daniel and Jacques Julliard from the Nouvel observateur, Franz-Olivier Giesbert from Le Figaro, Serge July and Laurent Joffrin from Libération), T.V. stars (Anne Sinclair, Christine Ockrent), philosophers (Alain Finkielkraut, Edgar Morin, Luc Ferry), company employers and bankers (Usinor’s General Manager Francis Mer, the President of the Bank of France Jean-Claude Trichet), editors (Pierre Nora from the Gallimard’s Publishing House, Yves Sabouret from Hachette), and politicians of course (Martine Aubry, Robert Badinter, Jean-Paul Huchon, Bernard Kouchner), etc.

Saint-Simon Foundation members, once in contact with the elites, are able to exchange symbolic and material services. Employers come to discuss with the philosophers in vogue and finance the Foundation’s activities, the funds of which are exclusively private. Members contribute symbolically (500 francs in 1997); the Caisse des dépôts, Suez, Publicis, SEMA, the Crédit local de France, the Wormser bank, Saint-Gobain, BSN Gervais-Danone, MK2 Productions, Cap Gemini Sogeti [16] finance the lunches and publications of the Saint-Simon Foundation (i.e. a 2 500 000 franc budget).

The financial collaboration among companies and intellectuals allow Pierre Rosanvallon, a close one of Jean Peyrelevade (one of the authors of the green notes of the Foundation together with other employers such as Raymond Lévy, Jean-Louis Beffa, Michel Bon), to create La République des idées thanks to the contacts with large companies like Lafarge, Altadis, AGF, EDF and Air France.

The Hidden Side of the Saint-Simon Foundation

In fact, since its creation and probably behind the majority of its members, the Saint-Simon Foundation is organically connected to the atlantist networks. Actually, it is part of a network of foundations directed by the CIA, then indirectly by the National Endowment for Democracy: the Hague Club.

In 1964, the Ford Foundation, playing the role of the CIA philanthropic hand, had organized a symposium in Berlin, which aimed at the creation of American-style foundations in Europe. Four international conferences later, the first European foundations were invited to a work seminar in 1969 under the auspices of the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in the Serbeloni de Bellagio village (Italy), at the end of which a permanent contact group was created: The Hague Club.

Since then, the Club organizes various meetings a year. The first meeting focuses on the search for funding and the following on the study of one or two propaganda themes to be later disseminated by each member foundation in their own country.

In 1982, the newborn Saint-Simon Foundation received The Hague Club in Paris. Two topics were dealt with: unemployment and the multicultural society.

The objects of next meetings were: the sense of work (Bunnik, 1983); favoring excellence at the University (London, 1983); emergence of a multicultural society in Europe (Brussels, 1984); excellence vs. egalitarianism in the multicultural societies (Jerusalem, 1986); implications of the world population growth (Athens, 1991); the civil society (Seville, 1992); financing higher education and research (London, 1993); and so forth. The matrix of the Saint-Simonian rhetoric can be sensed here where the multicultural society takes the place of secularism and equity substitutes equality just to mention some examples.

The member foundations send a delegate to each meeting of The Hague Club. The Saint-Simon Foundation is generally represented by its Secretary General Pierre Rosanvallon. There are also two “external” personalities who participate in the debates: the President of the U.S. Council of Foundations and Manager of the National Endowment for Democracy James A. Joseph, and George Soros’s representative Yehuda Elkana.

The 1995 Strikes: When It Comes Down to the Truth

The access to the mass media and the printing press is just another facet of the Saint-Simonians’ power. After the failure of Édouard Balladur’s candidature to the presidency of the Republic, the 1995 strikes put forth a real challenge to the Saint-Simon Foundation, which turned into the CFDT communication tool [17]. The Juppé project about the reform of the retirement system called forth a wave of demonstrations. The Union Secretary General Nicole Notat, decided to support the project after issuing some criticism (Notat project).

With a view to supporting the CFDT strategy, the intellectuals answered the call of the two main responsible persons of Esprit, Joël Roman and Olivier Mongin, who launched a request in order to back Notat’s proposals [18].

Esprit members contacted the Saint-Simon Foundation whose main theoreticians globally considered the Juppé reform to be an indispensable “revolution” (Alain Minc). Pierre Rosanvallon and Alain Minc established a media support plan to Notat’s proposals. The CFDT, in this context, defended its positions, mobilizing the scattered intellectuals of the union, basically on the Esprit network and on the Saint-Simon group. Thanks to the Foundation, the media growth was ensured [19].

Despite this action plan, which entailed important relational capitals, Notat’s supporters, who signed the Réforme call, came up against the movement, launched by Pierre Bourdieu in support of the strikers. The sociologist multiplied the initiatives (requests, public support to the strikers of the Lyon station...) in order to bring together the opponents of the Juppé project. In the TV studios, where Alain Touraine acted as spokesman of the reform supporters, some did not hesitate to point out with their finger to the Saint-Simon Foundation.

Alain Touraine - a Higher Teachers’ College student - began his career, after being to Harvard, as a “left-wing sociologist”, studying the work of the Renault factory workers. Friend and “rival” of Michel Crozier, with whom he created the Sociologie du travail magazine in 1959, Alain Touraine is an intellectual example of the left-wing “Third Lane” but dogmatically committed himself against communism.

He was linked to the planers who financed his research work through the Institute for the Social Science of Work (ISST). A dedicated intellectual, he backed the students movement in 1968 in Nanterre. However, the next year he was dismissed like Michel Crozier who, following the footsteps of their teacher Aron, rigidly opposed the “disorder” caused by the anti-establishment movement. During the 1995 strikes, Alain Touraine was unofficially nominated spokesman of the Saint-Simon Foundation.

His contacts at the media allowed him to be an ubiquitous guest of the political debates.
The media manipulation plan devised by Pierre Rosanvallon led to a double breakdown, which would justify the dissolution of the Saint-Simon group: on the one hand, the reforms Juppé and Notat advocated were blocked, which was a defeat for the CFDT intellectual leaders; and on the other hand, the Foundation lost its anonymity upon mobilizing its troops in the media framework.

The Dissolution of the “Unique Thinking Temple”

The Saint-Simon Foundation, called the “unique thinking temple”, is the object of numerous criticisms. Since 1992, Regis Debray gathered the opponents of Balladur creating the Phare & Balises Club. Along with Emmanuel Todd and Alexandre Adler, he attracted Chevènement’s and Chirac’s followers. The experience was renewed through the Marc Bloch Foundation, which became the March 2 Foundation (Philippe Cohen - a Marianne’s journalist, Régis Debray, Pierre-André Taguieff...). In 1996, a “call to get out of the unique thinking” brought together the opponents of the Saint-Simon Foundation. By materializing that alliance, the members of ATTAC, AC, unionized university professors (CGT, FSU) created, in 1999, together with historian Jacques Kergoat, the Copernic Club.

The Saint-Simon Foundation, which became too visible, broke up in 1999 [20]. Some Saint-Simonians entered the En temps réel Club, founded by Zaki Laidi and directed by Gilles Margerie (Crédit agricole deputy general manager); others headed for the reflection clubs reserved for the employers, such as the Business Institute led by Michel Bon. The majority of the Foundation intellectuals joined Rosanvallon’s La République des idées.

Continuance of Saint-Simonians Networks

In France, the Saint-Simon Foundation enabled the building of a sustained network of relations and mutual support among the cultural, political and financial elites. However, the failure to support Balladur’s candidature during the 1995 presidential elections did not discredit the Foundation members as was proved in the composition of Raffarin’s government with the presence of philosopher Luc Ferry and employer Francis Mer [21].

From the diplomatic standpoint, the Saint-Simon Foundation, which followed the steps of the Congress for the Freedom of Culture, allowed to coordinate, for almost twenty years, the pro-American network action in France. The neo-conservative positioning explained the anticommunist guidance at the beginning of the Foundation, right when the Reagan administration redefined the U.S. foreign policy, and the liberal postures were defended after the collapse of the Soviet Union, especially during the 1995 social events.

It can be rightful for politicians and intellectuals to have chosen, during the Cold War, to join the atlantist field against Stalin’s totalitarianism, but that compromise changed its sense after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s up to those who have extended such contacts to explain the sense of their choice.

[1Alain Minc, upon reformulating the Aronian rhetoric, he spoke about an alliance between “the smart left and the smart right”. Laurent Vincent, « Les architectes du social-libéralisme », Le Monde diplomatique, Septembre 1998

[2Jean-Claude Casanova, former member of the Raymond Barre’s cabinet. He was one of the most influential members of the Saint-Simon Foundation. A disciple of Raymond Aron, he cared about the neo conservative rhetoric disseminating authors like Léo Strauss and Allan Bloom

[3Alain Besançon is editor and manager of the Institut d’histoire sociale (IHS)

[4Rémy Rieffel, La tribu des clercs, Les intellectuels sous la Cinquième République, Calmann-Lévy, 1993

[5Paris Political Studies Institute, known as “ Po Paris Sciences”

[6Social Science University

[7Collaborator of the American Enterprise Institute, whose salary was financed by John M. Olin. Irving Kristol directed Commentary from 1947 to 1952. His son, Willian, current director of Weekly Standard, is one of the main theoreticians of the neo-conservatism. Along with Robert Kagan, he created the Project for a New American Century, the electoral think tank for George W. Bush, installed at the premises of the American Enterprise Institute

[8Norman Podhoretz led Commentary from 1960 to 1965. He presided over the Consultative Committee for the New Directives of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), controlling mainly the Voice of America. Currently he is a researcher at the Hudson Institute. His wife, Midge Decter, led the Committee on Present Danger. Later along with Donald Rumsfeld, led the Coalition for the Free World. His son, John Podhoretz is editorialist at the New York Post. His son-in-law, Elliot Abrams, is right now in charge of the National Security Council for the Middle East

[9The Olin Foundation was created in 1953 by businessman John Olin. Since 1977 it has financed political and university carers. Olin’s funds have thus allowed to finance the activities carried out by the American Enterprise Institute led by Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol, two former directors of Commentary. Philosopher Leo Strauss’s follower, Allan Bloom, author of The closing of the American mind, one of the “classic” of the neo conservative literature, has counted on the support provided by the Foundation, whose stronghold is the John M. Olin University (Chicago). On the other hand, the ultra conservative Olin Foundation contributed to train members of the Reagan Administration such as Murray Weidenbaum and Martin Feldstein University (Chicago). On the other hand, the ultra conservative Olin Foundation contributed to train members of the Reagan Administration such as Murray Weidenbaum and Martin Feldstein

[10At the FCP, he met Emmanuel Le Roy-Ladurie, Alain Besançon, Annie Kriegel and Jacques Ozouf

[11These two intellectual enterprises are very closely linked. The historic work of François Furet, compiled in the two volumes of La Révolution, tends, for example, to prove the totalitarian nature of the Convention, a reference regime for the French Communist Party. François Furet, upon describing the First Republic as a historic turning point, trailblazer of the contemporary totalitarian tendency, was opposed to Marxist historiographers and settled his debts with the allies of the past. It should be pointed out that such ambitious program of the anti communist historian was financed by the Olin Foundation

[12See Laurent Vincent, Les Architectes du social-libéralisme

[13L’Age de l’autogestion, 1976; La Crise de l’État-providence, 1981; La République du centre, 1988; La Nouvelle question sociale: repenser l’État-providence, 1995...

[14In 1999 Alain Minc was counsellor for Philippe Jaffré (Elf) Louis Schweitzer (Renault), Jean-Louis Beffa (Saint-Gobain), Philippe Bourguignon (Club Med), Gilles Pélisson (Eurodisney)... with 15 clients, Alain Minc Conseil made twenty million francs in 1999

[15The affiliation between the Jean Moulin Club and the Foundation was clearly vindicated by Roger Fauroux

[16Laurent Vincent, Les Architectes du social-libéralisme

[17French Democratic Labor Confederation, social democrat trade union

[18Among the intellectuals who signed the petition to support Notat proposals are Saint-Simons Jean-Baptiste de Foucault, Alain Touraine, Alain Finkielkraut, Jacques Julliard, Olivier Mongin, Pierre Rosanvallon, Daniel Lindenberg, André Wormser, Yves Linchtenberger...

[19Jean Drucker, M6 President, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach from Europe 1, Bernard Spitz from the Management of Channel +, Anne Sinclair, Christine Ockrent, among others, are members of the Saint-Simon Foundation

[20Pierre Rosanvallon declared: “In front of those who accused us of a unique thinking laziness, we have tried instead, to think freely and openly, remaining absolutely independent from all powers (sic)” Pierre Rosanvallon, “The Saint-Simon Foundation, a fulfilled history”, Le Monde, June 23, 1999

[21Relations between Jacques Chirac and the Saint-Simon Foundation were, however, difficult, mainly during the 1995 presidential campaign. On March 6th, 1995, Saint Simon followers welcomed Jacques Chirac and “a bitter argument took place” between the candidate and Alain Minc, who supported Edouard Balladur. See Weill Nicolas “Les "saint-simoniens" tournent la page“, Le Monde, Thursday, June 24, 1999