Given that most of you have already written blog posts on your end of year projects already, I thought I would share a little bit about how mine is progressing so far.

For those of you who do not know (or have forgotten!) what my project is about, I am going to research the global anti-Communist organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). The CCF was set up in West Berlin in 1950 with the intention of promoting Western ‘democratic’ culture at the expense of authoritarian Communist culture. Moreover, it was primarily intellectuals who wrote the publications for the CCF, ran the conferences and undertook much of the work.

Importantly, much of the funding for the CCF came undercover from the CIA to subsidize the publication of various journals such as the British cultural magazine Encounter (see the picture below). However, in 1966-7 the funding from the CIA was exposed and the CCF was renamed and no longer received funding from the CIA. There was still some continuity after 1967 as some of the magazines (e.g. Australian Quadrant, China Quarterly and Soviet Survey) and personnel continued their work even after the connection with the CIA ended.

So for my project, I want to investigate the extent to which we can call the CCF a transnational organization. On the one hand, it could be viewed as a national attempt by America to promote its ideological interests onto Europe in order to prevent the spread of Communism. This perspective argues that America used European intellectuals for its own ends. Historians such as Volker Berghahn and Frances Stonor Saunders argue for this view.[1]

Michael Josselson: supposed to direct encounter, but the publishers did not listen to him much.

But on the other hand, the impression I get so far is that the different intellectuals within the CCF acted independently of American involvement. Indeed, I will examine the transnational background of the various actors and show how their views were shaped by their experiences and not by American indoctrination. The CIA provided the funding, and not much more. Even when the CIA funding ceased in 1967, various CCF intellectuals still continued publishing in much the same way and the same journals persisted.

You may be thinking by now about how I actually intend to tackle these ambitions. So far, my intention is to focus on a couple of transnational networks within the CCF as a way of demonstrating how the actors within these networks acted independently of CIA involvement. I will then use the QGIS mapping software to produce two or more maps to track these actors in order to understand the transnational movements within the network a bit better. As we discussed in class, I intend to use the maps for more than just illustrative purposes but to more use it to help me form conclusions about the effects of the transnational movement of these actors. In addition, the networks that I will examine will be based mostly around the various journals of the CCF and the actors associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, I will look into the actors surrounding two CCF magazines: Encounter and Soviet Survey. The first of these, Encounter, was a British publication which promoted a European-wide ‘modernist’ idea which argued that Western life was superior. The authors were part of a European-wide community whose views were shaped by ‘modernism’ and not by the CIA because Michael Josselson (see picture above) was mostly ignored by Encounter’s editors.

The second is Soviet Survey which was published as a way of criticizing the countries of the Soviet Union for their totalitarian nature. This was based on a pre-existing network of transnational actors, such as Walter Laqueur, Leo Labedz and Richard Krygier who then formed the journal by taking advantage of available CIA funding. Laqueur even set up a journal before Soviet Survey, so his intentions predated the CIA involvement and was more based on his negative experiences with Communism which he experienced firsthand whilst in Eastern Europe.

Much of this research will involve looking firsthand at the journals published by these actors and then trying to determine how influenced they were shaped by the CIA’s intentions, or alternatively from their own experiences. This is just one way to broadly reinterpret the idea of the Cold War being, say, America vs Russia. Rather, these networks show that anti-Communism was far more transnational and far less statist than this.

[1] Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London, 1999), p. 5; Volker Berghahn, America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe: Shepard Stone between Philanthropy, Academy and Diplomacy (Princeton, 2001), pp. 108-115.

Final Year Project: Congress for Cultural Freedom