Congress for Cultural Freedom

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The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was an anti-communist advocacy group founded in 1950. In 1967, it was revealed that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was instrumental in the establishment of the group, and it was subsequently renamed the International Association for Cultural Freedom (IACF). At its height, the CCF/IACF was active in some thirty-five countries and also received significant funding from the Ford Foundation.

Creation of the CCF

The Congress was founded at the Titania Palace in West Berlin on 26 June 1950 to find ways to counter the view that liberal democracy was less compatible with culture than communism. It may have been started in response to a March 1949 peace conference at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City at which many prominent US leftists and pacifists urged for peace with Stalin's Soviet Union. Some of the leading lights attending the Titania Palace conference included Franz Borkenau, Karl Jaspers, John Dewey, Ignazio Silone, James Burnham, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Bertrand Russell, Ernst Reuter, Raymond Aron, Benedetto Croce, Jacques Maritain, Arthur Koestler, James T. Farrell, Richard Löwenthal, Robert Montgomery, Melvin J. Lasky, Tennessee Williams and Sidney Hook.

International Organizations Division

When the CIA's International Organizations Division was created in 1950, the Congress was one of the projects which came under its purview. Two agents in the congress, Michael Josselson and Lawrence de Neufville reported via several layers of bureaucracy to IOD head Tom Braden.

The real objectives of the Congress were clarified. It was not to be a centre for agitation, but a beachhead in western Europe from which the advance of communist ideas could be halted. It was to engage in a widespread and cohesive campaign of peer pressure to persuade intellectuals to dissociate themselves from Communist fronts or fellow travelling organizations. It was to encourage the intelligentsia to develop theories and arguments which directed not at a mass audience, but at that small elite of pressure groups and statesmen who in turn determined government policy.[1]


The Congress managed to obtain enough funding to permit it to operate offices in thirty-five countries, maintain a large staff, sponsor events internationally, and produce numerous publications. In the early 1960s, the CCF mounted a campaign to discredit the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, an ardent communist. The campaign intensified when it appeared that Neruda was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in 1964.

Exposure of CIA involvement

In 1967, the magazine Ramparts and the Saturday Evening Post reported on the CIA's funding of a number of anti-communist cultural organizations aimed at winning the support of Soviet-sympathizing liberals worldwide. These reports were lent credence by a statement made by a former CIA covert operations director admitting to CIA financing and operation of the CCF. Today, the official website of the CIA ( states that "[t]he Congress for Cultural Freedom is widely considered one of the CIA's more daring and effective Cold War covert operations." [2]

Theories about the Australian arm of the IACF have abounded since 1975, when then Australian Governor-General John Kerr, an IACF member and -- according to William Blum, as cited by John Pilger -- a member of the executive board of the Australian branch, dismissed the government of then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. This move has been described by some as a coup d'etat engineered from the United States.

In December 2005, the Washington Times published a commentary by Paul Greenberg, in which Greenberg praised the activity of the CCF and equates it with the recent activities of the Bush administration, where government money was used to purchase the services of Iraqi and American journalists and editors, in order to publish stories favorable to the US invasion of Iraq.[3]

Greenberg freely admits that the CCF was funded through CIA fronts, and singles out for praise the role of Professor Sidney Hook, who founded the US predecessor to the CCF, Americans for Intellectual Freedom. Greenberg also notes that at the founding conference of the CCF in Berlin, the honorary chairmen included John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, Benedetto Croce, Karl Jaspers and Jacques Maritain.


Today, records of the International Association for Cultural Freedom and its predecessor the Congress for Cultural Freedom are stored at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago's Library.

People associated with the CCF

CCF/IACF-funded publications

Some of the Congress publications include:

Features Services


  • Aronova, E. (2012). The Congress for Cultural Freedom, Minerva, and the quest for instituting “Science Studies” in the age of Cold War. Minerva, 50(3), 307-337.
  • Laura A. Belmonte, Selling the American Way: U.S. Propaganda and the Cold War (2008).
  • Coleman, P. (1989). The liberal conspiracy: the Congress for Cultural Freedom and the struggle for the mind of postwar Europe. Free Press.
  • Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (2008).
  • Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (2000).
  • Peter Finn and Petra Couvée, The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book (2014).
  • Vincent Giroud, Nicolas Nabokov: A Life in Freedom and Music (2015).
  • Matthias Hannemann, 'Kalter Kulturkrieg in Norwegen?: Zum Wirken des "Kongreß für kulturelle Freiheit" in Skandinavien', in: NordeuropaForum (2/1999), S. 15-41 [on the regional structure of the CCF's work and the commitment of Haakon Lie and Willy Brandt]
  • Harris, S. M. (2016). The CIA and the congress for cultural freedom in the early cold war: The Limits of Making Common Cause. Routledge.
  • Michael Hochgeschwender, Freiheit in der Offensive? Der Kongreß für kulturelle Freiheit und die Deutschen, München 1998 [comprising academic study on the origins, in German]
  • Holt, E. M. (2013). “Bread or Freedom”: The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA, and the Arabic Literary Journal Ḥiwār (1962-67). Journal of Arabic Literature, 44(1), 83-102.
  • Patrick Iber, Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America (2015).
  • Karen M. Paget, Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade against Communism (2015).
  • Philipsen, I. (2003). The congress for cultural freedom in Denmark. Intelligence and National Security, 18(2), 237-253.
  • Scott-Smith, G. (2000). ‘A Radical Democratic Political Offensive’: Melvin J. Lasky, Der Monat, and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Journal of Contemporary History, 35(2), 263-280.
  • Scott-Smith, G. (2003). The Politics of Apolitical Culture: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Political Economy of American Hegemony 1945-1955. Routledge.
  • Scott-Smith, G. (2002). The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the End of Ideology and the 1955 Milan Conference:Defining the Parameters of Discourse'1. Journal of Contemporary History, 37(3), 437-455.
  • Scott-Smith, G., & Lerg, C. A. (Eds.). (2017). Campaigning Culture and the Global Cold War: The Journals of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Springer.
  • Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War, 1999, Granta, ISBN 1862070296
  • Frances Stonor Saunders, USA: The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, 2000, The New Press, ISBN 156584596XBacklist
  • Penny M. Von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (2004).
  • Wilford, H. (2000). ‘Unwitting Assets?’: British Intellectuals and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Twentieth Century British History, 11(1), 42-60.
  • Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008).

External links


  1. Who Paid the Piper, The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Francis Stonor Saunders, Granta Books, 2000, pp98-99.
  2. Origins of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, 1949-50, CIA website
  4. Peter Coleman, Supporting the Indispensible, New Criterion, September 1999.
  5. Brian Crozier, Free Agent: The Unseen War 1941-1991, Harper Collins, 1993, p.15.
  6. Brian Crozier, Free Agent: The Unseen War 1941-1991, Harper Collins, 1993, p.52.