Index | Homepage | Good Links | Bad Links | Search | Guestbook/Forum

Videos | CCF | Infowar | NUJ | CIA | BBC | Censored | NewLabour | Product

Culture, Communication and Control

The Congress for Cultural Freedom

CIA Covert Operations in the 1950's/60's European Arts Scene

Cultural cold war

America's Secret Weapon

CIA Culture Wars


Cultural cold war

Origins of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1949-50(1)

Give me a hundred million dollars and a thousand dedicated people, and I will guarantee to generate such a wave of democratic unrest among the masses--yes, even among the soldiers--of Stalin's own empire, that all his problems for a long period of time to come will be internal. I can find the people. Sidney Hook, 1949

The Congress for Cultural Freedom is widely considered one of the CIA's more daring and effective Cold War covert operations. It published literary and political journals such as Encounter, hosted dozens of conferences bringing together some of the most eminent Western thinkers, and even did what it could to help intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain. Somehow this organization of scholars and artists--egotistical, free-thinking, and even anti-American in their politics--managed to reach out from its Paris headquarters to demonstrate that Communism, despite its blandishments, was a deadly foe of art and thought. Getting such people to cooperate at all was a feat, but the Congress's Administrative Secretary, Michael Josselson, kept them working together for almost two decades until the Agency arranged an amicable separation from the Congress in 1966.(2)

The Congress for Cultural Freedom--despite the embarrassing exposure of its CIA sponsorship in 1967--ultimately helped to negate Communism's appeal to artists and intellectuals, undermining at the same time the Communist pose of moral superiority. But while CIA sponsorship of the Congress has long been publicly known, the origins of that relationship have remained obscure, even to Agency veterans who worked on the project.

The Congress itself sprang from a conference of intellectuals in West Berlin in June 1950, a gathering that itself marked a landmark in the Cold War. By a lucky stroke, the conference opened just a day after North Korea invaded the South. This coincidence lent unexpected timeliness and urgency to the conference's message: that some of the best minds of the West--representing a wide range of disciplines and political viewpoints--were willing to defy the still-influential opinion that Communism was more congenial to culture than was bourgeois democracy. Historians have surmised that this event had some CIA connection, but the handful of CIA officers who knew the full story are dead, and scholars today tend to skirt this issue because of the lack of documentation. | Agency files reveal the true origins of the Berlin conference. Besides setting the Congress in motion, [the Berlin conference in 1950] helped to solidify CIA's emerging strategy of promoting the non-Communist left--the strategy that would soon become the theoretical foundation of the Agency's political operations against Communism over the next two decades.

A Conference in New York

In March 1949, New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel played host to one of the strangest gatherings in American history. Less than four years after Allied troops had liberated Hitler's concentration camps, 800 prominent literary and artistic figures congregated in the Waldorf to call for peace at any price with Stalin, whose own gulag had just been restocked with victims of his latest purge. Americans, including Lillian Hellman, Aaron Copland, Arthur Miller, and a young Norman Mailer, joined with European and Soviet delegates to repudiate "US warmongering." Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich told the delegates that "a small clique of hatemongers" was preparing a global conflagration; he urged progressive artists to struggle against the new "Fascists'' who were seeking world domination. American panelists echoed the Russian composer's fear of a new conflict. Playwright Clifford Odets denounced the ``enemies of Man'' and claimed the United States had been agitated into ``a state of holy terror'' by fraudulent reports of Soviet aggression; composer Copland declared "the present policies of the American Government will lead inevitably into a third world war." The Waldorf conference marked another step in the Communist Information Bureau's (Cominform) campaign to shape Western opinion. A series of Soviet-sponsored cultural conferences beginning in September 1948 called for world peace and denounced the policies of the Truman administration. The conference at the Waldorf-Astoria, however, was the first to convene in a Western country and, not coincidentally, was also the first to meet organized and articulate opposition.

The Cominform could hardly have picked a riskier place than New York City to stage a Stalinist peace conference. New York's large ethnic neighborhoods were filled with refugees from Communism, and its campuses and numerous cultural and political journals employed hundreds of politically left-leaning men and women who had fought in the ideological struggles over Stalinism that divided American labor unions, college faculties, and cultural organizations before World War II.

Stealing the Show

A handful of liberal and socialist writers, led by philosophy professor Sydney Hook, saw their chance to steal a little of the publicity expected for the Waldorf peace conference. A fierce ex-Communist himself, Hook was then teaching at New York University and editing a socialist magazine called The New Leader. Ten years earlier he and his mentor John Dewey had founded a controversial group called the Committee for Cultural Freedom, which attacked both Communism and Nazism. He now organized a similar committee to harass the peace conference in the Waldorf-Astoria.

Hook's new group called itself the Americans for Intellectual Freedom. Its big names included critics Dwight MacDonald and Mary McCarthy, composer Nicolas Nabokov, and commentator Max Eastman. Arnold Beichman, a labor reporter friendly with anti-Communist union leaders, remembered the excitement of tweaking the Soviet delegates and their fellow conferees: ``We didn't have any staff, we didn't have any salaries to pay anything. But inside of about one day the place was just busting with people volunteering." One of Beichman's union friends persuaded the sold-out Waldorf to base Hook and his group in a three-room suite (``I told them if you don't get that suite we'll close the hotel down,'' he explained to Beichman), and another union contact installed 10 phone lines on a Sunday morning.

Hook and his friends stole the show. They asked embarrassing questions of the Soviet delegates at the conference's panel discussions and staged an evening rally of their own at nearby Bryant Park. News stories on the peace conference reported the activities of the Americans for Intellectual Freedom in detail. ``The only paper that was against us in this reporting was The New York Times," recalled Beichman. ``It turned out years later that [The Times reporter] was a member of the Party.''

Covert Action Prospect

In Washington, members of Frank Wisner's fledgling Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) chuckled at the news reports from New York and wondered how a group like the Americans for Intellectual Freedom could help OPC and the CIA in countering the Soviet peace offensive. OPC was the Agency's new covert action arm, a bureaucratic hybrid formed only a few months earlier and still struggling to establish a mission and identity. (It comprised only a handful of staffers in the spring of 1949, and it looked to the State Department and private contacts for operational ideas). Soviet operatives, on the other hand, had a wealth of experience to draw from, having learned from the late Willi Mnzenberg before the war how to build front groups that were ostensibly non-Communist--and thus attractive to liberals and socialists--but were still responsive to Soviet direction. OPC had no such expertise, but it did have a cadre of energetic and well-connected staffers willing to experiment with unorthodox ideas and controversial individuals if that was what it took to challenge the Communists at their own game.

The day after the Waldorf congress closed, Wisner's flamboyant and ubiquitous aide Carmel Offie asked the Department of State what it intended to do about the next big peace conference, scheduled for Paris in late April. Offie was Wisner's special assistant for labor and migr affairs, personally overseeing two of OPC's most important operations: the National Committee for Free Europe, [and other operatives who] passed OPC money to anti-Communist unions in Europe. Offie dealt often with Irving Brown, who had extensive Continental contacts. In response to Offie, the Department of State cabled Paris proposing a US-orchestrated response to the conference, but Wisner in Washington and Brown in New York thought the suggested steps too weak. OPC took matters into its own hands in the bold but ad hoc manner that marked the Office's early operations. A series of meetings and conversations over the next few days resulted in a new plan, which OPC communicated through at least three separate channels. At the time there [were few] OPC station[s abroad, and various officials acted] as the Office's representative[s. One of them] soon heard from Brown and Raymond Murphy of State's Office of European Affairs. Wisner himself cabled Averell Harriman of the Economic Cooperation Administration (the managers of the Marshall Plan) seeking 5 million francs (roughly $16,000) to fund a counterdemonstration. Murphy graphically explained the need for a response to the Communist peace offensive:

Now the theme is that the United States and the Western democracies are the war-mongers and Fascists and the Kremlin and its stooges the peace-loving democracies. And there is a better than even chance that by constant repetition the Commies can persuade innocents to follow this line. Perhaps not immediately but in the course of the next few years because there is a tremendous residue of pacificism [sic], isolationism and big business [sic] to be exploited. For example, a recession in the United States might cause people to lose interest in bolstering Europe .... I think you will agree that this phony peace movement actually embraces far more than intellectuals and that any counter-congress should emphasize also that the threat to world peace comes from the Kremlin and its allies.

Working with Brown, [OPC's representative] contacted French socialist David Rousset and his allies at the breakaway leftist newspaper Franc-Tireur, which in turn organized a meeting called the International Day of Resistance to Dictatorship and War, inviting Sidney Hook and other prominent anti-Communists. OPC covertly paid the travel costs of the German, Italian, and American delegations. The latter included Hook and novelist James T. Farrell; both were unwitting of OPC's involvement.

Disappointment in Paris

The Paris counter-conference on 30 April 1949 disappointed its American backers. Although it attracted prominent anti-Stalinists and provoked blasts from the French Communist Party, its tone was too radical and neutralist for Hook and Farrell. OPC and State agreed with Hook's assessment. The main problem, Offie noted, was the barely concealed anti-Americanism of the Franc-Tireur group and many of the intellectuals it had invited. This flaw was aggravated by the loose organization of the meeting itself, which at one point was disrupted by a noisy band of anarchists. Offie did not believe that OPC had to rely on Franc-Tireur to reach European anti-Stalinists. Wisner added a pointed postscript to Offie's memo:

We are concerned lest this type of leadership for a continuing organization would result in the degeneration of the entire idea (of having a little DEMINFORM) into a nuts folly of miscellaneous goats and monkeys whose antics would completely discredit the work and statements of the serious and responsible liberals. We would have serious misgivings about supporting such a show [emphasis added].

One small forward step was taken in Paris, however. Hook had chatted with a former editor of The New Leader named Melvin Lasky about the prospects for a permanent committee of anti-Communist intellectuals from Europe and America. This idea would soon take on a life of its own.

Considering Berlin

Several people in Europe and America almost simultaneously decided that what was needed was a real conference of anti-Communists. Paris would have been the logical choice, but, as was demonstrated in April, Paris seemed too ethereal, evanescent, and neutralist in the struggle between liberty and tyranny. Parisians who cared about world affairs were often Stalinists; novelist Arthur Koestler quipped that from Paris the French Communist Party could take over all of France with a single phone call.

Berlin was much better. Surrounded by the Red Army and just recently rescued from starvation by the US Air Force's heroic resupply efforts, West Berlin was an island of freedom in a Communist sea. The Soviet blockade of Berlin had been lifted in May 1949, but morale in the Western sector had flagged over the summer as the proud but exhausted West Berliners wondered what would befall them next.

In August 1949, a crucial meeting took place in Frankfurt. American journalist Melvin J. Lasky, together with a pair of ex-Communists, Franz Borkenau and Ruth Fischer, hatched a plan for an international conference of the non-Communist Left in Berlin the following year. Lasky, only 29, was already prominent in German intellectual circles as the founding editor of Der Monat, a journal sponsored by the American occupation government that brought Western writers once more into the ken of the German public. Borkenau too had been in Paris the previous April as a disappointed member of the German delegation. Fischer--whose given name was Elfriede Eisler--was the sister of Gerhart Eisler, a Soviet operative dubbed in 1946 ``the Number-One Communist in the US'' and convicted the following year for falsifying a visa application. She herself had been a leader of the German Communist Party before her faction was expelled on orders from Moscow, leading her to break with Stalin (and with her brother Gerhart). Ruth Fischer mentioned the plan to a diplomat friend[:]

I think we talked about this plan already during my last stay in Paris, but I have now a much more concrete approach to it. I mean, of course, the idea of organizing a big Anti-Waldorf-Astoria Congress in Berlin itself. It should be a gathering of all ex-Communists, plus a good representative group of anti-Stalinist American, English, and European intellectuals, declaring its sympathy for Tito and Yugoslavia and the silent opposition in Russia and the satellite states, and giving the Politburo hell right at the gate of their own hell. All my friends agree that it would be of enormous effect and radiate to Moscow, if properly organized. It would create great possibilities for better co-ordination afterwards and would also lift the spirits of Berlin anti-Stalinists, which are somewhat fallen at present.

Fischer hoped to talk to ``a few friends in Washington'' about the idea during her trip there that fall. [OPC's representative] pouched the Fischer proposal to Offie in mid-September. [OPC] officers seemed unimpressed with the Berlin conference idea, but Offie still thought the proposal was worth a closer look. Offie's interest notwithstanding, the Berlin congress idea remained in a bureaucratic limbo for the next two months. No one apparently seemed to know quite what to do with it. American occupation authorities in Germany probably knew that the proposed conclave would have little credibility among European intellectuals if it were obviously sponsored by the US Government. At the same time, Truman administration officials were not exactly looking for motley bands of former Communists to sponsor at a time when the White House was already taking flak at home for being soft on Communism.

An Ideal Organizer

The answer was covert funding. Michael Josselson stepped forward to promote the proposal late in 1949. Josselson had witnessed the shaky beginnings of the anti-Communist counteroffensive in New York and Paris that spring while he was still working as a cultural officer for the American occupation government in Germany. He told his composer friend Nicolas Nabokov that Berlin needed something similar. At some point that autumn Josselson talked with Melvin Lasky about the Berlin conference idea.

Josselson was the perfect man for the job of putting together such an event. Born in Estonia in 1908, his father, a Jewish timber merchant, moved his family to Berlin during the Russian Revolution. As a young man Josselson attended the Universities of Berlin and Freiburg, but he took a job as a buyer for the American Gimbels-Saks retail chain before he earned a degree. Gimbels eventually made him its chief European buyer and transferred him to Paris in 1935, and then on to New York before the war. Josselson became an American citizen in 1942. Drafted the following year, he made sergeant and served as an interrogator for the US Army in Europe. Like Melvin Lasky, Josselson stayed on in Berlin after demobilization to work with the American occupation government. Berlin was an ideal post for Josselson, who spoke English, French, German, and Russian with equal ease.

The drama and intrigue of postwar Berlin awakened something in Josselson and gave him scope to exercise his considerable talents as an operator, administrator, and innovator. His enthusiasm was boundless, his energy immense. In Josselson's capable hands the still-amorphous Fischer plan took specific shape. Where Fischer had proposed an essentially political gathering, the self-taught Josselson sensed that an explicitly cultural and intellectual conference, to be called ``the Congress for cultural freedom,'' could seize the initiative from the Communists by reaffirming "the fundamental ideals governing cultural (and political) action in the Western world and the repudiation of all totalitarian challenges."

With the backing of several prominent Berlin academics, a committee of American and European thinkers would organize the event and invite participants, selecting them on the basis of their political outlook, their international reputation and their popularity in Germany. In addition, the congress could be used to bring about the creation of some sort of permanent committee, which, with a few interested people and a certain amount of funds, could maintain the degree of intellectual and rhetorical coordination expected to be achieved in Berlin. The Josselson proposal reached Washington in January 1950. Michael Josselson's interest in the congress idea gave Lasky all the encouragement he needed. Lasky, unwitting of OPC's hand in the plan, forged ahead while official Washington made up its mind. He sent a similar proposal of his own to Sidney Hook, his old boss, who liked the idea. In February, Lasky enlisted Ernst Reuter, Lord Mayor of West Berlin, and several prominent German academics, who endorsed the plan and promised their support. Together these men formed a standing committee and began issuing invitations.

Lasky's freelancing, however, was not all for the good. As an employee of the American occupation government, his activities on behalf of the congress struck more than a few observers, both friendly and hostile, as proof that the US Government was behind the event. This would later cause trouble for Lasky. OPC officers also liked Josselson's plan. Headquarters produced a formal project proposal envisioning a budget of $50,000. Time was of the essence, although OPC soon realized that the congress would have to postponed to May or even June. Wisner approved the project outline, which essentially reiterated Josselson's December proposal, on 7 April, adding that he wanted Lasky and Burnham kept out of sight in Berlin for fear their presence would only provide ammunition to Communist critics of the event.

Enthusiastic Response

It was already too late to rein in Lasky. He had appointed himself the driving force behind the event, inviting participants and organizing programs. Josselson defended Lasky when informed of Wisner's comment. Josselson explained that Lasky's name on the event's masthead as General Secretary had been largely responsible for the enthusiasm that the congress had generated among European intellectuals. ``No other person here, certainly no German, could have achieved such success,'' cabled Josselson. The congress in Berlin rolled ahead that spring gathering sponsors and patrons. World-renowned philosophers John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Benedetto Croce, Karl Jaspers, and Jacques Maritain agreed to lend gravitas to the event as its honorary chairmen. OPC bought tickets for the American delegation, using [several intermediary organizations] as its travel agents. Hook and another NYU philosophy professor named James Burnham took charge of the details for the American delegation. The Department of State proved an enthusiastic partner in the enterprise, arranging travel, expenses, and publicity for the delegates. Indeed, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Jesse MacKnight was so impressed with the American delegation that he urged CIA to sponsor the congress on a continuing basis even before the conclave in Berlin had taken place.

Dramatic Opening

The Congress for Cultural Freedom convened in Berlin's Titania Palace on 26 June 1950. American delegates Hook, James Burnham, James T. Farrell, playwright Tennessee Williams, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., actor Robert Montgomery, and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission David Lilienthal had been greeted on their arrival the previous day with the news that troops of North Korea had launched a massive invasion of the South. This pointed reminder of the vulnerability of Berlin itself heightened the sense of apprehension in the hall. The Congress's opening caught and reflected this mood. Lord Mayor Reuter asked the almost 200 delegates and the 4,000 other attendees to stand for a moment of silence in memory of those who had died fighting for freedom or who still languished in concentration camps.

The time had come to choose sides. Austrian physicist and Congress panelist Hans Thirring dramatized this feeling by repudiating his own prepared remarks, which were essentially neutralist in tone, because the Korean invasion had betrayed his trust in Stalin's peaceful aspirations. German writer Theodor Plievier made a spectacular entrance after flying in from hiding in West Germany, defying the danger that he might be kidnapped by the Soviets or East Germans while visiting Berlin.

Leadership of the Congress sessions spontaneously devolved on two eloquent Europeans with very different views: the Italian socialist Ignazio Silone and the Anglicized Hungarian writer Arthur Koestler. Although both had penned autobiographical essays about their breaks with the Party for a new book titled The God That Failed, they represented the two poles of opinion over the best way to oppose the Communists. Koestler favored the rhetorical frontal assault, and his attacks sometimes spared neither foe nor friend. Silone was subtler, urging the West to promote social and political reforms in order to co-opt Communism's still-influential moral appeal.

These competing themes lent a certain dramatic tension to the Congress, but their rivalry by itself helped to make the point that debate in the West is truly free, with room for all shades of anti-totalitarian opinion. In the end, it was liberty that really mattered. "Friends, freedom has seized the offensive!" shouted Koestler as he read the Congress's Freedom Manifesto before 15,000 cheering Berliners at the closing rally on 29 June. The irony was subtle but real; Koestler had once worked for Soviet operative Willi Mnzenberg managing front groups for Moscow, and now he was unwittingly helping the CIA's efforts to establish a new organization designed to undo some of the damage done by Stalin's agents over the last generation.


Having set the Congress in motion, OPC sat back and watched while events played themselves out. The men that OPC brought together in Berlin needed no coaching on the finer points of criticizing Communism. Josselson kept out of sight, although he kept track of everything that transpired. In Josselson's eyes, Silone seems to have won his debate with Koestler; Josselson personally eschewed the frontal assault in favor of the subtle approach. Indeed, Josselson's Congress for Cultural Freedom would later be criticized (by American anti-Communists, in particular) for tolerating too much criticism of America's own shortcomings by figures on the anti-Communist left. And thus was born not only the Congress for Cultural Freedom but also one of its most controversial features.

Reactions in the US Government to the Berlin conference initially ranged from pleased to ecstatic. Wisner offered his "heartiest congratulations" to all involved. OPC's political sponsors were also gratified. Defense Department representative Gen. John Magruder deemed it ``a subtle covert operation carried out on the highest intellectual level" and "unconventional warfare at its best'' in a memo to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. American occupation officials in Germany sensed the Congress had given a palpable boost to the morale of West Berlin, but believed the event's most important effect would ultimately be felt by Western intellectuals who had been politically adrift since 1945. Although Congress delegates had argued over strategies for combating Stalinism, their spontaneous and sincere unanimity in denouncing tyranny of all stripes had "actually impelled a number of prominent cultural leaders to give up their sophisticated, contemplative detachment in favor of a strong stand against totalitarianism."

Almost before the last chairs were folded in Berlin, [at least one OPC officer] began campaigning for covert backing for the Congress on a permanent basis. Wisner agreed that a standing Congress could pull European opinion away from neutralism, but ordered Lasky and Burnham removed from prominent positions in any ongoing project. Burnham was happy to step aside, agreeing that he made an easy target for Communist critics of the Congress.

The unwitting Lasky was another matter, at least as far as [one OPC officer] was concerned. Josselson had defended Lasky in April, and OPC's new Eastern Europe Division (EE) agreed with Josselson that Lasky had been a key to the Congress's success. This apologia infuriated Wisner because it betrayed ``an unfortunate tendency, apparently more deeprooted than I had suspected, to succumb to the temptation of convenience (doing things the easy way).''

In a scathing memo to EE, Wisner declared himself "very disturbed" by the "non-observance" of his April command to have Lasky moved to the sidelines of the project; Lasky's visibility was ``a major blunder and was recognized as such by our best friends in the State Department.'' Wisner made himself clear: unless the headstrong Lasky was removed from the Congress for Cultural Freedom, OPC would not support the organization. He tempered this bitter pill a little in a postscript. According to Wisner, Secretary of Defense Johnson was so impressed with the Berlin conference that he had sung its praises before President Truman, who was reported to be ``very well pleased.''

EE had no choice but to cable Wisner's instructions to Germany. [The OPC officer who received it exploded] and cabled back a histrionic protest, but there was nothing to be done. Lasky had to go, and OPC contrived to have him removed from the project. With Burnham and Lasky gone, the Congress's steering committee established the organization as a permanent entity in November 1950 (CIA support, under a new project name, had already been approved by OPC's Project Review Board). Josselson swallowed his pride and went along, resigning his job with the American occupation government to become the Congress's Administrative Secretary for the next 16 years.


(1)This article is an excerpt from a larger classified draft study of CIA involvement with anti-Communist groups in the Cold War. The author retains a footnoted copy of the article in the CIA History Staff. This version of the article has been redacted for security considerstions (phrases in brackets denote some of the redactions).

America's Secret Weapon By Josef Joffe

A review of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters.
By Frances Stonor Saunders. New York: The New Press.

Imagine the United States government providing export subsidies not just to peanut farmers or aircraft makers. Imagine also a secretary of culture, financing operas, orchestras and painters especially to promote them abroad. Most card-carrying members of the intelligentsia would vigorously applaud so splendid an idea while bemoaning its utter unreality. Not for us, they lament, the C-word that stands for ''state-sponsored culture'' and recalls the feudal follies of Europe's princes and potentates.

Yet there was a time when Washington was guilty of such un-American activities in spades. With $166,000 (worth more than a million of today's dollars), the American taxpayer in 1952 dispatched the Boston Symphony to Europe on a glorious tour that helped establish the Bostonians as among the best in the world. Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, David Smith -- artists of the school that came to be known as Abstract Expressionism -- were thrust into global fame with help from the feds. Except that the funds were supplied indirectly and clandestinely, with the Congress for Cultural Freedom the main channel and the Central Intelligence Agency the ultimate donor.

The congress, a club of scholars and artists founded in 1950 and subsidized by ''the Company'' until the late 1960's, encompassed some of the most eminent intellectuals in the West. It published journals and was the host of dozens of conferences while helping writers and thinkers behind the Iron Curtain. The C.I.A. connection is not a new tale; it was first told in 1967 and later embellished in many books and articles. Now, Frances Stonor Saunders, a young British writer and filmmaker, serves up the story again. Wisely, her American publisher has dropped the British title, ''Who Paid the Piper?,'' in favor of the more neutral ''Cultural Cold War.'' For these 500-plus pages do not bear out what the defamatory label insinuated: that some of the greatest in the world of arts and letters were varlets and curs who sold out to the C.I.A. or were manipulated into servitude by the minions of American imperialism. ''Abstract Expressionism was being deployed as a cold war weapon,'' Saunders jauntily asserts. That might be true for Socialist Realist kitsch extolling the kolkhoz. But Jackson Pollock's ''Number 6'' or Mark Rothko's ''# 18'' cannot be reduced to anti-Communist artillery pieces. [yes they can, ed.] Langley's Ivy-trained spooks did what no intelligence service has ever done, or will ever do again: they bankrolled the avant-garde. Obiter dicta like Saunders's pronouncement above highlight her irreducible problem. It is not that she has written a trashy book; her cultural history is entertaining, even witty (if you like ''Yanqui Doodle'' as a heading for the chapter on Abstract Expressionism). She has spent years wading through the files and interviewing both protagonists and critics -- though her project might have benefited from more rigorous spelling and footnotes.

[This dreadful review gets even worse I'm afraid - but the book is brilliant.]

CIA Culture Wars

Scott Sherman

New York Foundation for the Arts

The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. Frances Stonor Saunders. The New Press (April 2000). ISBN: 156584596.

Some of us remember Tom Braden as the co-host of CNN’s Crossfire, where, on a nightly basis in the 1980s, he supposedly held down the left side of the political spectrum against Robert Novak. In the early 1950s, however, Braden, a dashing young intellectual who had previously taught English at Dartmouth, was engaged in more clandestine methods of political combat. As a high-ranking CIA official, he coordinated the CIA’s "cultural cold war" against the Soviet Union, which is the subject of Frances Stonor Saunders fascinating but frustrating new book. (Only in America can a former CIA agent become a liberal talk show host.)

To fight the cultural cold war, the CIA created the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which flourished from 1950 to 1967. "At its peak," Saunders writes, "the Congress had offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and feature service, organized high-profile international conferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances." The mission, according to Saunders? "To nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism and Communism toward a view more accommodating of ‘the American way.’"

The main actors in the CIA’s cultural crusade were certainly not Western Europe’s conservative politicians and landowners, many of whom fell into disgrace after the war. Rather, in an ingenious stroke, the CIA cultivated disillusioned leftist intellectuals, individuals like André Malraux, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, and Stephen Spender, many of whom knew the Communist movement from the inside, and all of whom, by the late 1940s, were shattered by Stalin’s deceptions and betrayals. (Their American counterparts—ex-radicals like Sidney Hook, Dwight Macdonald, and Irving Kristol—were also drawn into the Congress.) These men were steely combatants in the intellectual wars; some, like Arthur Koestler, who spent several harrowing months in a fascist prison during the Spanish Civil War, nearly gave their lives to the Communist cause. By the late 1940s, they were weary and directionless but still full of fire; all they required was direction and funding. "We all felt that democratic socialism was the most effective bulwark against totalitarianism," Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. tells Saunders.

It is to Saunders’ credit that she captures the enormous range and subtlety of the agency’s cultural strategy in Europe. On one level, the Congress, headquartered in Paris, endeavored to bolster the image of the United States abroad—"to undermine the negative stereotypes prevalent in Europe, especially France, about America’s perceived cultural barrenness." To that end, the Congress brought America’s top musical and artistic talent to Berlin, Paris, and London for an endless series of performances and exhibitions. On another level, the Congress offered direct financial aid to beleaguered artists in need: When the Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik emigrated to London and arrived in the city penniless, Braden and Co. arranged for a yearly fellowship of $2000. (One Congress official recorded Panufnik’s response: "He declared himself entirely ready to cooperate and collaborate with us for he is entirely sold on the ideals of the Congress for Cultural Freedom.")

But the Congress (and its CIA backers) never lost sight of the central mission: to win the hearts and minds of intellectuals, and to blunt the impact of the men and women who challenged U.S. foreign policy. Saunders makes it clear that the CIA was particularly concerned about those European intellectuals—like Jean-Paul Sartre—who advocated a neutralist position in the Cold War, a position that condemned the United States and the USSR with equal vigor. In 1951, the Congress launched a Paris-based magazine entitled Preuves, whose main purpose was to undercut and attack Sartre’s influential journal Les Temps modernes. "The left bank intellectuals were the target," one Congress insider told Saunders.

The Cultural Cold War has many virtues. Saunders, who has done prodigious amounts of research on an extremely murky and difficult subject, evokes the shadowy universe in which the Congress for Cultural Freedom existed, a universe filled with interlocking networks of OSS agents, rightwing millionaires, and dummy foundations created by the CIA. She raises tough questions about the behavior of individuals like Arthur Schleslinger Jr., Dwight Macdonald, and Stephen Spender, and enlivens the narrative with some mordant humor, as in this passage about William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, one of the chief architects of the CIA: "He was a lifelong anti-communist," she writes, "keeping vigil right up to the moment of his death in 1959, when he reported spotting Russian troops marching into Manhattan across the 59th Street Bridge outside his window."

Yet the book’s strengths are nearly offset by its flaws. Saunders’ chapter on the CIA’s links to the New York art world—wherein she asserts that "the CIA was an active component in the machinery which promoted Abstract Expressionism"—has already been challenged as simplistic and overstated by reviewers in The Nation, Artforum and ArtNews. Where The Cultural Cold War excels is in delineating the vast number of organizations that received CIA money—magazines, symphony orchestras, foundations. But that is only half the story. One is left with a deeper question: how (if at all) did those CIA dollars influence specific cultural products?

Take the world of small magazines, which were a direct link to the cosmopolitan intelligentsia the Congress had in its sights. According to Saunders, an astonishing number of journals accepted Congress money, including Encounter, Transition, Partisan Review, Kenyon Review and many others. But she never systematically analyzes the content of those publications to show what, precisely, the CIA got for its money. In the case of Encounter, she quotes Braden as saying: "[Encounter] was propaganda in the sense that it did not often deviate from what the State Department would say U.S. foreign policy was." Fair enough. But she also admits that a "leftish agenda" was allowed to survive at Encounter. How, then, did that "leftish agenda" co-exist with CIA imperatives? Other questions, too, come to mind. Were the editors of those journals pressured to attack figures like Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Pablo Neruda, who was held in contempt by the CIA? Did essays, stories, and poems by Russian and East European writers predominate in CIA-backed magazines? Did the editors downplay or ignore U.S. meddling in Iran, Guatemala, and Suez? One suspects the process of co-optation was far more subtle and ambiguous than Saunders suggests.

In one passage Saunders refers intriguingly to the writer Peter Matthiessen as a "CIA agent," without telling us when he signed up, what he did, and when he departed. Another passage notes that, at the height of the Cold War, CIA agents used Fodor’s travel guides as a front organization, but nothing more is said on this subject. Finally, since The Cultural Cold War reads like a who’s who of postwar intellectual history, names come and go much too quickly. For instance, we get strong hints that Lionel Trilling, Daniel Bell, Robert Lowell, and Mary McCarthy were cognizant of the CIA’s activities in the cultural sphere, and approved of them; but Saunders never fully clarifies the question of what they knew and when they knew it. For all these reasons, Saunders’ book is not so much a definitive account of the CIA’s role in the world of arts and letters, but rather a valuable roadmap to a subject that requires further investigation.

The late 1950s marked the apex of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The Vietnam War, and the critical spirit it engendered in the U.S., eventually consumed the Congress. In 1967, Ramparts magazine published a long expose on the CIA’s relationship to cultural front organizations, and many of those details were subsequently confirmed by other publications. Braden himself joined the fray with a critical essay in The Saturday Evening Post in 1967, which outlined, in great detail, the agency’s support for magazines, trade unions, art exhibitions, etc. Why did Braden turn on his masters? Saunders speculates that he was simply following orders from CIA brass, who felt that the agency’s romance with the anti-communist left had outlived its usefulness. Many of those intellectuals, energized by Vietnam, finally emerged from their Cold War torpor. At a White House dinner in 1965, Robert Lowell, Edmund Wilson, and Dwight Macdonald turned on Lyndon Johnson with a vengeance. The intellectuals, in a sense, were now obsolete, and Braden’s article, Saunders suggests, was "an operational decision to blow the Congress . . . out of the water." In the wake of his article in The Saturday Evening Post, Braden launched a second career, as a writer of TV sitcoms. Saunders notes drily that he "wrote Eight is Enough, a happy series about an all-white American family."


MI5 officer Cathy Massiter was instructed to carry out the phone-tapping operation by Tony Crasweller, who also supervised the agency's F4 and F6 sections, which ran agents inside political parties and organisations. At the same time, CND member Stanley Bonnett, a former editor of the CND magazine Sanity, was recruited as an informant by Special Branch, on the instructions of MI5. Bonnett gave the intelligence services minutes of meetings and lists of CND activists throughout the country - lists which the officers told him "would be used for political purposes."

Cathy Massiter gathered material on any left-wing affiliations of CND's leaders. A report was then passed to civil servant John Ledlie, who was seconded to DS19, and he passed it on to Michael Heseltine and Sir Peter Blaker MP, Heseltine's lieutenant in the propaganda campaign. Blaker, in turn, passed the information on to the local Conservative Association of Ray Whitney, former head of the Information Research Department.

As the general election campaign was getting under way, the Blaker/Whitney letter was circulated to prospective Tory candidates. The Daily Mail ran an article entitled CND Is Branded a Tool of the Kremlin, which drew from MI5 smears of the organisation and included allegations attributed to Stanley Bennett. In the same period, the private anti-Communist propaganda group Common Cause, which monitors subversion in industry and the unions, published a pamphlet, The Communist Influence on CND, which had been written under the direction of Charles Elwell, head of MI5's F Branch. Elwell was also responsible for targeting the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL) as a subversive group.

"Officers of MI5 have no prerogative to justify any of their actions." - LORD DENNING

MI5 officer Cathy Massiter, who quit the service in disgust over its illegal activities against the left.


On leaving MI5, Charles Elwell went to work for Brian Crozier as an editor and researcher on an anti-Communist news sheet, Background Briefing on Subversion, later known as British Briefing. Echoing MI5's line of action, British Briefing's technique against left-wing Labour MPs was to establish "Communist" guilt by association. Its tone was best expressed with this editorial: "The march of Communism through the trade unions, the Labour Party, local government, religion, education, charity, and the media under the leadership of Communists who may or may not be members of the Communist Party, is what BB is all out. BB seeks to provide those who have the means to expose a Communist threat with clear evidence of its existence."

Among the Labour politicians targeted by British Briefing were Neil Kinnock, shadow health secretary Robin Cook, spokesman for social services Michael Meacher and spokesmen for local government David Blunkett (an ironic list of names considering those MPs' right-wing credentials today). The Labour MP Chris Mullin was singled out for his "perpetual vendetta against British security arrangements", while Derbyshire MP Harry Barnes was labelled as "quite a vigorous Stalinist underminer of British parliamentary democracy". Other organisations were tarred with the Communist brush, notably the charity Shelter (for its "Communist affiliations"), the Institute for Race Relations ("effectively controlled by revolutionary socialists") and the World Council of Churches.

The newsletter was printed by the anti- Communist Industrial Research and Information Service (IRIS), whose parent body had been Common Cause. Copies were circulated to "political leaders, MPs, journalists and others", who were requested to treat it as confidential. British Briefing was funded to the tune of £270,000 over a three year period by Crozier's friend Rupert Murdoch.

The 61 was active in attacking the Labour Party in the run-up to the 1981 general election, with Douglas Eden writing a series of articles for the Daily Telegraph alleging Communist penetration of Labour. Tony Kerpel, a Tory councillor in Camden, designed for the Coalition for Peace Through Security a poster of Neville Chamberlain on his return from Munich in 1918 with his piece of paper signed by Hitler, alongside a picture of Labour leader Michael Foot with a piece of paper. The captions under the pictures read: "1938, Neville Chamberlain" and "1981, Michael Foot" with the wording at the foot of the poster stating: "Don't let appeasement cause another World War". The poster was published by Norris McWhirter's Freedom Association.

On February 26th 1985, Crozier met again with Thatcher, when the prime minister asked him to help with a propaganda campaign against the municipal councils, including the Greater London Council (GLC); Crozier suggested a full counter- subversion programme. Also present was the CIA's William Casey, who proposed a "suitably substantial budget" for this rapid expansion of Crozier's UK operations.

Crozier planned action on several fronts, which he called: "penetration, legislation, influence and publicity". An organisation called Campaign Against Council Corruption (CAMACC) was set up, whose director Tony Kerpel was later appointed to the post of special adviser to Kenneth Baker, secretary of state for the environment. In Parliament, CAMACC's main activist was The 61's Edward Leigh MP. CAMACC briefed various peers and drafted speeches for them in relevant debates in the House of Lords. Letters and news coverage were secured in national papers and the councils were branded in much of the British public's imagination as "loony lefties" who were misusing public funds.

With Thatcher's approval, Brian Crozier liaised with Keith Joseph in "certain psychological actions" in the election year of 1987. One move was to brief the television presenter David Frost for a proposed interview with Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Frost met with Crozier at the Connaught Hotel on 6th January, where Crozier supplied a detailed background paper on Kinnock's "views, activities and personal relations in politics". The interview took place on May 24th during the election campaign and Crozier reported that a number of his points were raised by Frost; the interview "made a considerable impact" against Labour.

The 61 produced a booklet The Vision of St. Kinnock, which satirised and slandered the Labour leader. It was distributed to hundreds of Conservative candidates who made "good use" of it in their speeches or election pamphlets. The 61 also supplied to the Liberal Party details of a list of 130 supposedly "hard Left Labour MPs". Liberal leader David Steel published the list under the title Labour's 101 Damnations. For months in the run-up to the election, The 61 continued to provide propaganda material to politically compliant columnists in the national media, including Woodrow Wyatt of the News of the World and The Times, Frank Chapple of the Daily Mail, Bernard Levin and Lord Chalfont.

On 12th June 1987, Margaret Thatcher won her third consecutive term as Prime Minister.

CIA director William Casey, who funded Brian Crozier's activities in Britain. Behind Casey is an aerial photo of the CIA's headquarters at Langley, Virginia.


The CIA works systematically to ensure that the socialist parties of all Western countries toe a line compatible with U.S. interests. In Britain in the 1950s, the CIA's manipulation of the right wing of the Labour Party swung the party away from its pledge to nationalisation (enshrined in the celebrated Clause IV), away from nuclear disarmament and back towards a commitment to NATO. This decisive intervention by the Agency could be said to have changed the course of modern British history….

Following the end of World War II, the Labour Party was elected on a platform of extensive domestic social reform, and of peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union in Europe. Fearful of the spread of Communist influence, the right wing of the party, under the new Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, organised themselves around the journal Socialist Commentary, which became their most important mouthpiece. Throughout the post-war period, Labour's Gaitskellite right wing worked closely with MI5, Special Branch and a variety of CIA front organisations to advance its cause and keep the left at bay. Channelled with massive CIA funds, the right grew in confidence and influence, and vigorously campaigned against left-wingers like Aneurin Bevan, whom they denounced as "dangerous extremists".

Socialist Commentary set out to alert the British labour movement to the "growing dangers of international Communism". It was supported by David Williams, the London correspondent of the New Leader, an American anti-Communist publication backed by the CIA. Williams made it his business to join the British Labour Party and to take an active part in the Fabian Society.

In America, the New Leader provided a focus for weekly meetings of professional anti-Communists in the unions, universities and government service. It had a large staff and a world-wide network of overseas correspondents. New Leader began openly to advocate the infiltration of foreign socialist parties. In 1949, it carried a piece by CIA chief Allen Dulles advocating "a commission of internal security to examine subversive activities in the US and to use the institutions of democracy to destroy them"; this was rather like the head of MI5 writing for The Guardian.

In 1954, Denis Healey MP became the New Leader's London Correspondent.

CIA covert financing of the international student movement also began about this time. The student movement was diverging into two factions: those on the left, who supported the Soviet-funded World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) constituted the most organised section and there was no home for right-wingers and social democratic organisations. To aid the right, MI6 and the CIA helped organise and fund the World Assembly of Youth (WAY).

WAY's initial membership was quite broad and included a number of left-wing socialists with no alignment to Moscow. However it was not long before the right asserted itself in the organisation, turning the student movement into an acceptable stamping ground for those wanting to make their name in preparation for parliamentary politics. Labour backbencher and Sunday Mirror columnist Woodrow Wyatt (who had received many IRD funds in the past) described WAY as "an organisation which does extremely valuable propaganda for the free world, without looking like a propaganda organisation" .

WAY was in contact with major establishment figures: a Friends of WAY Society included Conservative prime minister Sir Anthony Eden, ex-Labour prime minister Clement Atlee, Viscount Chandos (ex-colonial secretary) and Lord Mountbatten's wife Edwina. CIA officer Joseph Burkholder-Smith revealed that 10 (the CIA division which handled front groups) was in liaison with MI6 on all its world-wide front operations, in WAY in particular, and that the CIA were manipulating WAY student leaders.

WAY worked through the Colonial Office to extend its influence in Africa, setting up National Committees in Kenya, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Seychelles and Uganda. The Colonial Office brought WAY events to the attention of the African colonial governments, arranged for WAY film shows and helped pay the travel expenses of the generally poor African delegates.

During the 1950s, WAY's European Youth Campaign received over £1,300,000 of CIA money, the largest proportion of which went to the British affiliate.

Meanwhile, in June 1950, the New Leader's Melvin Lasky helped set up the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a body whose declared purpose was "to defend freedom and democracy against the new tyranny sweeping the world" - namely Communism. Given massive CIA funding, the CCF launched political seminars, conferences, newspapers, periodicals, news services and a wide range of political and cultural activities throughout Western Europe. The CCF was one of the CIA's conduits for funding Brian Crozier's Forum World Features.

CCF also organised world-wide student exchanges and conferences in support of the new anti-Communist youth organisations which were promoted by the CIA.

In 1953, the CCF launched Encounter, a joint Anglo-American monthly journal involving MI6 agent C.M. Woodhouse, a covert action veteran who had been involved in Operation Ajax in Iran (a joint CIA/MI6 plot to overthrow the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq). The magazine exchanged facilities with Socialist Commentary and used many of the same staff and writers. Encounter became one of the most influential liberal journals in the West.

As the CCF network grew, it embraced many prominent figures in the Labour Party - among them Anthony Crosland, who began attending CCF seminars along with Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey, Rita Hinden, Daniel Bell and a bevy of American and European politicians and academics.

Crosland's book The Future of Socialism was a major new political thesis which had been influenced by CCF conferences, in which he argued that growing affluence had radically transformed the working class in Europe and thus Marx's theory of class struggle was no longer relevant. The book was immediately adopted as the gospel of Labour's new leadership under Hugh Gaitskell.

During the 1950s, Gaitskell and his friends in the Socialist Commentary group adopted the argument forcibly put in the New Leader that a strong united Europe was essential to prevent the West from Russian attack. They received support from a New York-based group called the American Committee on United Europe, whose leadership included General Donovan, wartime head of the OSS (the fore-runner of the CIA), George Marshall, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Allen Dulles of the CIA.

This high-powered CIA-funded pressure group financed the so-called European Movement, headed by a friend of Hugh Gaitskell's, Joseph Retinger, who promoted select gatherings of European and American politicians, businessmen, aristocrats, top civil servants and military leaders. Founder members of the movement were Hugh Gaitskell and Denis Healey, along with such diverse characters as the president of Unilever and Sir Robert Boothby.

There were also U.S. labour attachés based in the London American embassy. One of them, Philip Kaiser, described his years in London in his memoirs: "The labour attaché is expected to develop contacts with key leaders in the trade union movement and to influence their thinking and decisions in directions compatible with American goals...."

The CIA ran the anti-Communist international trade union movement, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and its various spin-off groups, such as the trade secretariats. The TUC itself helped fund the ICFTU through its affiliation fees. By the mid 1950s, nearly a quarter of the TUC's annual budget was going to the ICFTU.

No-one has yet assembled the full data of trade union officials and Labour politicians who took advantage of the education programmes and freebie trips run by American intelligence for sympathetic people in the labour movement, but it probably runs into thousands. In other words, much of the international political landscape of the post-war era in Britain consisted of U.S.-funded or directed political propaganda/psychological warfare projects. And this was on top of the formal military-diplomatic-financial influences of NATO, the IMF, World Bank, GATT, the UN, etc.

By the late 1950s, Anthony Crosland was acknowledged as the Labour Party's chief theoretician and his role in the CCF was expanded to "encourage sympathetic people" to participate in CCF-sponsored seminars, congresses and private gatherings all around the world. Hugh Gaitskell and other Labour politicians travelled to CCF functions in Europe, New Delhi, Rhodes, Australia and Japan, where they lectured on the theme that traditional socialism was irrelevant in a modern capitalist society. They spent years working to remodel European socialism in the image of the American Democratic Party, and this was backed up by the fullest publicity in Encounter, Socialist Commentary, Preuves, Der Monat and other CCF journals.

The day after Labour's defeat in the 1959 general election, Roy Jenkins, Anthony Crosland and Douglas Jay were among a small group who met with Gaitskell to propose that Labour drop its old commitment to traditional socialism, particularly Clause IV which pledged "common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange".

In February 1960, William Rogers, general secretary of the Fabian Society, set up a steering committee with Crosland, Roy Jenkins, Patrick Gordon Walker, Jay and some sympathetic journalists. This group started to work on a manifesto to be released in the event of Gaitskell's defeat in the defence debate at the party conference that year.

Gaitskell was indeed defeated and CND won its campaign of committing the Labour Party to a neutralist programme. With widespread press coverage, Rogers and his friends immediately released 25,000 copies of their manifesto, which appealed to Labour Party members to rally behind Gaitskell and "fight and fight and fight again". The group set up the Campaign for Democratic Socialism (CDS)and with large sums of CIA money channelled through the CCF, they were able to take a permanent office and appoint paid staff. Given the full support, resources and unlimited financial backing of the CIA, the CDS had great advantages over their opponents in the party, who had to rely entirely on unpaid volunteer workers. At the CDS's disposal were field workers in the constituencies and unions, whom it supported with travelling expenses, literature and organisational support, as well as supplying tens of thousands of free copies of the manifesto, pamphlets and other CDS publications, plus a regular bulletin, Campaign, which was circulated free of charge to a large mailing list. All of this was produced without a single subscription-paying member.

CDS achieved its objectives: the trade unions cracked under the pressure and the Labour Party returned to its support for NATO at the party conference in 1961. The Campaign for Democratic Socialism - with its CIA backing - was the most effective pressure group the Labour Party had ever seen. Its influence was out of all proportion to its original support among party members and its financial backers could justly claim to have changed the course of British politics.

George Thomson - a pillar of the CDS, who later resigned from Labour's front bench with Roy Jenkins to form the more right-wing Social Democratic Party (SDP) - said of Rita Hinden: "In the 50s, her ideas were greeted with outraged cries of "Revisionism!" But by the mid 60s, the revisionism of Social Commentary had become the orthodoxy of the Labour Movement".

The Labour Party apparatus remained firmly in Gaitskellian hands over the following decades, particularly the International Department of which Denis Healey had been head until he won his seat as an MP. In 1963, The Labour Party's Organisation Subcommittee was chaired by George Brown, one of the CIA's sources in the Labour Party.

In 1965, Healey's old post was taken over by J. Gwyn Morgan, who had been elected President of the National Union of Students on an anti-Communist ticket. Morgan became General Secretary of the International Student Conference, in charge of finance, in which capacity he negotiated with the CIA's foundations which supplied the bulk of the organisation's funds, and supervised expenditure of the several million dollars devoted to world-wide propaganda.

Morgan visited over 80 different countries in five years and got to know personally many heads of government and leaders of the world's principal social democratic parties. In 1965, he became head of Labour's Overseas Department and two years later he became Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party.

Around this time, a group of Labour leaders, including Hugh Gaitskell and George Brown, made a direct approach to MI5 for records of tapped telephone conversations of Labour left-wingers, bank-account records of payments from Soviet organisations, or names of East European contacts which could be used to smear their left-wing opponents in the party. Informal flows of information between MI5 and Labour's right-wing became more common, and over the years MI5 recruited freely in Labour's headquarters and among the parliamentary party.

The Labour Party, moulded by American and British intelligence in the Gaitskell image, with its policies firmly rooted in Crosland's manifestos, became the programme of the next Labour government under Harold Wilson.

Michael Stewart, foreign secretary in the Wilson government during the escalation of U.S. military action in Vietnam, and Sam Watson, the powerful Durham miners' leader and ally of Gaitskell, were among those who have since been identified as CIA "agents of influence."

Charles Clarke, who was Neil Kinnock's closest political adviser throughout his years as labour leader, had a background as chair of the World Youth Council, which had well-documented CIA links.

The CIA was also involved in ensuring Labour's commitment to Britain's entry into the Common Market through the afore-mentioned European Movement, the elite international pressure group secretly funded by the CIA, which took most of the credit for the founding of the Common Market. The European Movement wanted a United States of Europe and the rearmament of Germany, which the U.S. government saw as a key to winning the Cold War with Russia.

The European Youth Campaign (EYC) was set up as the most active component of the European Movement in 1951. In one year alone it organised 1,899 sessions and conferences, 900 cinema shows, distributed 1.8 million brochures, staged 21 exhibitions and secured 2,400 minutes of radio time for the cause of European unity. The secretary of the British section of EYC was Maurice Foley, later a Labour MP and minister. Virtually every penny he, and the campaign's other organisers spent, came from the CIA. In eight years, £1.34 million of covert funds were passed on to the EYC by the CIA's American Committee on a United Europe.


American intelligence played a major hand in the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The inspirers of the SDP were Labour's Douglas Eden (who had previously worked for Brian Crozier's Shield as a researcher) and Stephen Haseler (who taught politics at the City of London). Both met with Crozier at his office while he was running the ISC and afterwards. The three agreed with the creation of a new political party in Britain, with the objective of attracting Labour's right-wing, thereby isolating the left and "cutting it down to size".

Eden and Haseler founded the Social Democratic Alliance (SDA), which had some 700 members, mostly municipal councillors, all over the United Kingdom. Crozier gave financial assistance to the SDA and arranged with Eden and Haseler to approach Roy Jenkins to lead their proposed new party. At the end of February 1981, four Labour right-wingers - Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and William Rodgers -announced the creation of a Council for Social Democracy and left the Labour Party to form the SDP. Crozier lays the blame for the failure of the SDP to fully achieve his aims on Roy Jenkins' policy of aiming not so much to split Labour as to attract moderate anti-Thatcher MPs from the Conservative Party. In any case, the SDP experiment could be regarded as succeeding in the CIA's designs because it divided the anti-Tory vote at the following elections and contributed to the Conservatives' retention of power.


In 1967, investigations in the U.S. revealed that the CIA had manipulated the National Student Association since the early 1950s, with the active connivance of the Association's elected officers, and that CIA money had been channelled through a group of dummy foundations, such as the Fund for Youth and Student Affairs, which supplied most of the budget of the International Student Conference, which in turn was found to have been set up by British and American intelligence to counteract Communism.

Michael Josselson of the Congress for Cultural Freedom admitted that he had been channelling CIA money into the CCF ever since its foundation - at the rate of about $1 million a year - to support some twenty journals and a world-wide programme of political and cultural activities. After these disclosures, the CCF changed its name to the International Association for Cultural Freedom. Michael Josellson resigned but was retained as a consultant and the Ford Foundation agreed to pick up the bills.

The exposure of CIA financial aid to WAY headquarters led to the organisation becoming discredited and the British National Committee was disaffiliated in 1977. The revelation of its network of front organisations persuaded the CIA that its future lay in more discrete operations with better cover. Lots of covert psychological warfare and propaganda think tanks began to appear on the scene; Brian Crozier's Institute for the Study of Conflict was a pioneer in this field.


CIA-backed fronts such as the Labour Committee for Transatlantic Understanding (LCTU) continued to attract right-wing trade union and Labour Party figures well into the 1980s. LCTU was formed "in order to develop a better understanding of the objectives and democratic values of the Western Alliance in the ranks of socialist and trade union movements in Europe and their counterparts in the United States"; it distributes a news service amongst the trade union movement and provides regular seminars and conferences for senior trade unionists and politicians. Speakers at LCTU's conferences have included Dr John Reid MP (later to become Tony Blair's armed forces minister) Peter Mandelson MP, and George Robertson MP (Blair's defence secretary).

Another example of infiltration into the Labour Party was the case of MI6 officer Margaret "Meta" Ramsay. She had attended Glasgow University and had been elected President of the Scottish Union of Students. In 1962, she became associate secretary of the CIA-front the International Student Conference at Leiden, Holland. From 1965 to 1967, Ramsay was secretary of the Fund for International Student Co-operation, which was later identified as another recipient of CIA funds. She became an active member of the Labour Party, attending conferences where party officials were "unaware" of her intelligence connections. In late 1981, she was even on the short-list to become the new chief of MI6. (In the event, Sir Colin McColl, who was due to retire as chief in September 1992, was asked by John Major to stay on for another two years). In August 1992, Margaret Ramsay was appointed to the position of foreign policy adviser to Labour leader John Smith, who was a friend of hers since university days. As well as raising a few eyebrows, this appointment begs the question: What was the leader of the Labour Party doing employing a known high-ranking MI6 agent in such a senior position?

With friends like these, the opportunities that the intelligence services have had for manipulating Labour politicians have plainly been many and varied.

Today, Tony Blair maintains the CIA's designs for the Labour party, with a commitment to the largest military budget in Europe and an unswerving allegiance to NATO. The assortment of transatlantic study trips, scholarships, trade union "fellowships" at Harvard and seminars paid for by U.S. agencies and the CIA continue to mould and influence Labour Party policies. For example, both Gordon Brown and John Monks (an important Blair ally as head of the TUC) were welcomed by the secretive Bilderberg Group (one of the key organisations of the European-American elite.) Brown and his economic adviser Edward Balls were both at Harvard. David Miliband, Blair's head of policy, was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1986, Tony Blair went on one of the myriad of U.S.-sponsored trips to America that are available for promising MPs and came back a supporter of the nuclear deterrent. In 1993, he went to a meeting of the Bilderberg Group.

Jonathan Powell, Blair's foreign policy advisor, used to work in the British embassy in Washington and is suspected by some of having been the liaison officer between British intelligence and the CIA. In 1976, Peter Mandelson was Chair of the British Youth Council, which began as the British section of the World Assembly of Youth, which as we have seen, was set up and financed by the CIA. By Mandelson's time in the mid-1970s, the British Youth Council was said to be financed by the Foreign Office, though this was thought to be a euphemism for MI6.

A variety of senior Labour politicians - Peter Mandelson, George Robertson, Mo Mowlam, Chris Smith, Elizabeth Symons, George Robertson and Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell, were members of the British-American Project for the Successor Generation (BAP), a little-known but highly influential transatlantic network of "chosen" politicians, journalists and academics. The fingerprints of British and American intelligence are everywhere to be found amongst the network of BAP members; regular attenders at BAP meetings are defence and security specialists, NATO advisers, Defence Ministry think-tank people and counter-insurgency experts. Also included is Jonathan Powell, the career diplomat who now runs Tony Blair's No. 10 office as chief of staff. Powell is the youngest of the Powell brothers, of whom Charles, the eldest, was Margaret Thatcher's foreign policy specialist. At BAP conferences, subjects discussed include such titles as 'Sharing the Defense Burden' and 'The Welfare State on Trial'.

The first recorded mention of the need for a "successor generation" came in 1983 when President Reagan spoke to a select group, including Rupert Murdoch, Sir James Goldsmith and senior CIA officers, in the White House. Reagan told them: "Last June, I spoke to the British Parliament, proposing that we - the democracies of the world - work together to build the infrastructure of democracy. This will take time, money and efforts by both government and the private sector. We need particularly to cement relations among the various sectors of our societies in the United States and Europe. A special concern will be the successor generations, as these younger people are the ones who will have to work together in the future on defense and security issues."

BAP is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia, which was established in 1985 by the billionaire J. Howard Pew, a devoted supporter of the Republican Party and other right-wing groups. These include the far-right Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a foundation which was set up by former CIA head William Casey to sponsor books "widely regarded as influencing Reagan Administration economic and social thinking." One such book was Losing Ground by Charles Murray, the extreme-right inventor of the term "underclass" and advocate of the abolition of welfare.

In the records of the foundation of its "successor generation", BAP describes regular meetings of "24 Americans and 24 Britons aged between 28 and 40 who, by virtue of their present accomplishments, had given indication that, in the succeeding generation, they would be leaders in their country and perhaps internationally."

In its 1997 newsletter, BAP warmly welcomed the elevation of its members to the Blair Cabinet: "Congratulations from all of us!"

All of Blair's new political appointees at the Ministry of Defence, including Defence Secretary George Robertson, have been members or associated with the Atlantic Council and its labour movement wing, the Trades Union Committee for European and Transatlantic Understanding (TUCETU), which formed from the afore-mentioned Labour Committee for Transatlantic Understanding (LCTU), organisations that are backed by the CIA.

TUCETU's membership has included Doug Mc Avoy (general secretary of the National Union of Teachers), Lord Richard (Labour leader in the House of Lords), Lord (John) Gilbert (Tony Blair's defence procurement minister), right-wing trade union leaders such as Bill Jordan (head of the International Confederation of Free Trade Union, the CIA's chief labour movement operation), Lord (Eric) Hammond and Lord (Frank) Chapple, and former Portuguese president Mario Soares (recently revealed to have been a CIA asset).

TUCETU also incorporates Peace Through NATO, the group central to Michael Heseltine's covert MoD campaign against CND in the 1980s. It receives over £100,000 a year from the Foreign Office, as well as payments from CIA-backed trusts. TUCETU chair Alan Lee Williams was a Labour defence minister under Callaghan, who defected to the SDP. He now describes himself as a "defence consultant".


This is just some of the complicated network of British and U.S. intelligence's efforts to infiltrate and manipulate the right-wing of the trade union movement and the Labour Party in recent decades, and there are grave lessons here for the left.

Under the pretence of a media with freedom of expression, the intelligence services have spoon-fed the British public a carefully-controlled political diet of "news" which controls their attitudes and responses to strikes, protests, wars and general elections, while the broad domestic and foreign policies of the Labour Party that the CIA helped establish (pro-NATO, pro-free market economy, anti-socialist etc.) have remained in place to this day.

Robin Ramsey of Lobster magazine, which has uncovered much of Blair's clandestine transatlantic intelligence connections, describes New Labour as just the latest manifestation of the party's social democratic tendency, which has existed since the Cold War, running from Hugh Gaitskell through Roy Jenkins and the SDP and which should more properly be called the American Tendency:

"The people round Blair are all linked to the United States…. And here is the source of the tension between so-called Old and New Labour. For who are the Labour Party's traditional constituencies? British domestic manufacturing and British public sector workers. Old Labour is the domestic economy; New Labour is the overseas British economy; in other words, the multinationals, the City of London, and the Foreign Office which represents their interests."

It would be foolish to underestimate the influence of the intelligence services on Britain's political map. We know that the intelligence services never stand idly by and watch events happen. Brian Crozier is but one CIA operative in Britain whose activities have come to light. During the mid-1970s, renegade CIA agent Philip Agee revealed a list of ten CIA officers working in London; MI6 later confirmed to a group of MPs that this was correct. We have seen CIA operatives attain senior positions of influence under successive Labour governments. How deeper does the infiltration of the Labour Party go than has so far come to light, and to what extent are the intelligence services able to manipulate the party's policies?

The whole purpose of trade unions is to be independent workers' organisations standing up for the interests of their membership. The Labour Party itself was originally founded to represent the interests of the working class against the exploitation of capitalism. We have seen a concerted, massively-funded and far-reaching campaign by the intelligence services and other state agencies to covertly manoeuvre the labour and trade union movements in this country to total compliance with the interests of the ruling class. This is not merely undemocratic; it is the mark of totalitarianism.

"Like the United States, Britain has become a single-ideology state with two principal, almost identical factions, so that the result of any election has a minimal effect on the economy and social policy." - JOHN PILGER

"It is not surprising that more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the ballot box is no longer an instrument that will secure political solutions…. They can see that the parliamentary democracy we boast of is becoming a sham." - TONY BENN

the index