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Congress for Cultural Freedom

John Simkin

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The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was an important feature of Operation Mockingbird and therefore in the media cover-up of the assassination of JFK.

In August 1949, Arthur Koestler, Melvin Lasky, Ruth Fischer and Franz Borkenau, met in Frankfurt to develop a plan where the CIA could be persuaded to fund a left-wing but anti-communist organisation. This plan was then passed onto Michael Josselson, who was chief of its Berlin station for Covert Action. Finally it reached Josselson's boss, Lawrence de Neufville. He later recalled: "The idea came from Lasky, Josselson and Koestler and I got Washington to give it the support it needed. I reported it to Frank Lindsay, and I guess he must have taken it to Wisner. We had to beg for approval. The Marshall Plan was the slush fund used everywhere by CIA at that time, so there was never any shortage of funds. The only struggle was to get approval."

The proposal reached Frank Wisner, the head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), in January 1950. Wisner was in charge of "propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world". Wisner accepted the proposal on 7th April and gave it an original budget of $50,000. Wisner put Michael Josselson in charge but insisted that Melvin Lasky and James Burnham should be "kept out of sight" for the time as they were too well known for their anti-communism. Wisner said he "feared their presence would only provide ammunition to Communist critics".

The first meeting of the Congress for Cultural Freedom took place in Frankfurt on 25th June, 1950. People who attended included Arthur Koestler, Arthur Schlesinger, James Burnham, Sidney Hook, Franz Borkenau, George Schuyler, Melvin Lasky, Hugh Trevor-Roper, James T. Farrell, Tennessee Williams, Ignazio Silone, David Lilienthal, Sol Levitas, Carson McCullers and Max Yergan.

Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999) has argued: "During the height of the Cold War, the US government committed vast resources to a secret programme of cultural propaganda in western Europe. A central feature of this programme was to advance the claim that it did not exist. It was managed, in great secrecy, by America's espionage arm, the Central Intelligence Agency. The centrepiece of this covert campaign was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, run by CIA agent Michael Josselson... At its peak, the Congress for Cultural Freedom had offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and features service, organized high-profile international conferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances. Its mission was to nudge the intelligentsia of western Europe away from its lingering fascination with Marxism and Communism... Membership of this consortium included an assorted group of former radicals and leftist intellectuals whose faith in Marxism and Communism had been shattered by evidence of Stalinist totalitarianism."

In 1966 the New York Times published an article by Tom Wicker that suggested that the CIA had been funding the Congress for Cultural Freedom. On 10th May the newspaper published a letter from Stephen Spender, Melvin Lasky and Irving Kristol. "We know of no indirect benefactions... we are our own masters and part of nobody's propaganda" and defended the "independent record of the Congress for Cultural Freedom in defending writers and artists in both East and West against misdemeanors of all governments including that of the US."

The story of CIA funding of Non-Communist Left journalists and organizations was fully broken in the press by a small-left-wing journal, Rapparts. The editor, Warren Hinckle, met a man by the name of Michael Wood, in January 1967, at the New York's Algonquin Hotel. The meeting had been arranged by a public relations executive Marc Stone (the brother of I. F. Stone). Wood told Hinckle that the National Student Association (NSA) was receiving funding from the CIA. At first Hinkle thought he was being set-up. Why was the story not taken to the left-wing I.F. Stone Weekly?

However, after further research, Hinckle was convinced that the CIA had infiltrated the Non-Communist Left: “While the ADA-types and the Arthur Schlesinger model liberal kewpie dolls battled fascism by protecting their right flank with domestic Red-baiting and Cold War one-upmanship, the Ivy League delinquents who fled to the CIA – liberal lawyers, businessmen, academics, games-playing craftsmen – hatched a master plan of Germanic ambition that entailed nothing less than clandestine political control of the international operations of all important American professional and cultural organisations: journalists, educators, jurists, businessmen, et al. The standing CIA subsidy to the National Student Association was but one slice of a very complex pie.” Hinckle even had doubts about publishing the story. Sol Stern, who was writing the article for Rapparts, “advanced the intriguing contention that such a disclosure would be damaging to the enlightened men of the liberal internationalistic wing of the CIA who were willing to provide clandestine money to domestic progressive causes.”

Hinckle did go ahead with the story and took full-page advertisements in the Tuesday editions of the New York Times and Washington Post: “In its March issue, Ramparts magazine will document how the CIA has infiltrated and subverted the world of American student leaders, over the past fifteen years.” For its exposé of the CIA, Ramparts received the George Polk Memorial Award for Excellence in Journalism and was praised for its “explosive revival of the great muckraking tradition.”

After the article was published Dwight Macdonald angrily asked Josselson: "Do you think I would have gone on the Encounter payroll in 1956-57 had I known there was secret U.S. Government money behind it? One would hesitate to work even for an openly government-financed magazine... I think I've been played for a sucker." Josselson was not impressed with this reaction. He claimed that they were all aware that it had been funded by the CIA. As he pointed out, MacDonald had asked him in 1964 if he could employ his son, Nick, for the summer. "This, at a time when anybody who was anybody had at least heard rumours connecting the Congress to the CIA."

On 20th May 1967 Thomas Braden, the former head of the CIA's International Organizations Division, that had been funding the National Student Association, wrote an article that was published in the Saturday Evening Post entitled, I'm Glad the CIA is Immoral Braden admitted that for more than 10 years, the CIA had subsidized progressive magazines such as Encounter through the Congress for Cultural Freedom - which it also funded - and that one of its staff was a CIA agent. He also admitted that he had paid money to trade union leaders such as Walter Reuther, Jay Lovestone, David Dubinsky and Irving Brown.

According to Frances Stonor Saunders, the author of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War? (1999): "The effect of Braden's article was to sink the CIA's covert association with the Non-Communist Left once and for all." Braden later admitted that the article had been commissioned by CIA asset, Stewart Alsop.

John Clinton Hunt, a CIA agent who worked very closely with Braden at the International Organizations Division, pointed out in a revealing interview: "Tom Braden was a company man... if he was really acting independently, would have had much to fear. My belief is that he was an instrument down the line somewhere of those who wanted to get rid of the NCL (Non-Communist Left). Don't look for a lone gunman - that's mad, just as it is with the Kennedy assassination... I do believe there was an operational decision to blow the Congress and the other programs out of the water."

The question remains, did the CIA through the Congress for Cultural Freedom control the reporting of the JFK assassination. Does this explain why left-wing journalists such as I.F. Stone, Carey McWilliams and Dwight Macdonald were hosile to the idea of a conspiracy to kill JFK. It also has to be remembered that Arthur Schlesinger was a key figure in the CCF.


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  • 6 months later...

If you liked the dynamics presented in the CCF, you might find Margaret Drabble's bio of Angus Wilson interesting.

Presented on pages 318-322; Without writing a bio of Angus Wilson, he had been the connect in an earlier post I had made regarding the latter meeting with Clay Shaw around the time the Garrison trial was gathering steam.

In August 1963, Angus Wilson, Jean Paul Sartre, Simon de Beauvoir, as part of a contingent of the European Community of Writers, (ie known as C.O.M.E.S. formed in 1958 by Italian writer Jean-Baptiste Angioletti;) for a conference, which took place in Leningrad and later Moscow; At least England, Germany, France, and Italy & probably other European countries were on hand.

Sir Angus Frank Johnstone Wilson, John Lehmann*, Jean Paul Sartre, Simon de Beauvoir and several others were invited to visit Nikita Khrushchev in his villa at Pitsunda in Georgia on the Black Sea. In contemporary terms Angus Wilson was an iconic writer as well as a member of the LBGT community.

The British contingent, Drabble writes, "flew to Hamburg and Helsinki, changing places twice."

She also points out that ".....The final press conference in Moscow, on Friday 9 August, took place as a nuclear test ban

treaty was being signed in the same city by the Americans, the British and the Russians."

* British representative of COMES

Wilson was also at Bletchley Park during World War II, and was acquainted with Ann Fleming, the widow of Ian Fleming.

August 13, 1964
Ian Fleming
James Bond's Creator Dies
-Ian Fleming, the novelist who found his way
to a mint of royalties by sending Operative
007 through a labyrinthe of intrigue,
died Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 56.
Stricken Tuesday night, the author, ex-journalist
and World War II intelligence agent
succumbed in the Kent and Canterbury
Hospital. With him went his creation,
Secret Agent James Bond - 007
in British intelligence. That number
ranked Bond fictionally as a man
with the right to kill an enemy
No man in official life ever has conceded
that such a man exists in modern spyfare.
Fleming suffered a coronary thrombosis in 1961.
He was a chain smoker and a chain worker
His James Bond novels “Dr. No,” “From
Russia With Love” and “Goldfinger”
have been made into movies. Sales of 007’s
adventures are in the millions throughout the world.
Peter Jansen-Smith, his agent,
estimated Fleming made more than $2, 800,000
from his books and films about James Bond
since 1953.
Fleming’s own life is reflected in the character of 007.
The author was a British intelligence officer with the rank
of naval commander. So is Bond. He attended Eton College
and Sandhurst, Britain’s West Point. Bond is educated
similarly. His recreations included skin diving, spear
fishing and cards. Bond has skin dived in several of his
battles against Communist agents, and in “Casino Royale”
cracked a mystery by slick card dealing at chemin de fer
The writer differed from Bond in one respect
he married Anne Geraldine, the former Lady Rothermere,
in 1952. She was divorced from Lord Rothmere,
the British newspaper baron, Bond for all his love affairs,
remains unattached.
In the book, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,”
married the daughter of the leader of a French
crime syndicate, but she was killed right after the wedding
in an attack by bad guys on Bond’s car.
Fleming’s latest book to hit the screen was “Goldfinger”
a story in which Bond breaks up an attempt
by Russian agents to loot Fort Knox.

Most JFK Researchers worth their salt, know about Oswald, microdots and Questioning Eyes, the Russian sentence
NSA's Blake searched for cryptographic significance. However, there is another connection that, 50 years later
would jolt even the most jaded of the former, at least it did for me.
The GHCQ at Bletchley Park was a very large part of the topic of Margaret Drabble's 1995 biography of Angus Wilson
[iSBN 0 - 312- 14276 -5].
I, as a favor to myself and to look into the credibility of Anthony Frewin [am told is a pseudonym]
had familiarized myself with his allegation that Drabble's, then to be released book on Wilson, that Clay Shaw
was connected to elite members of British society, Drabble's book does contain a passage which expounds on Angus Wilson's trip to the US in the era of the Shaw trial, Prewin seemingly does know of what he speaks, at least about Shaw's UK connections. Recently as part of a side project I have been working on, as a supplement to my JFK assassination research, I was perusing a couple of Warren Commission documents that detailed Lady Jeanne Campbell's "research" into the assassination, Campbell worked in Dallas with JFK researcher Jones Harris, according to Edith Whitworth see Oswald at the Furniture Mart, Campbell referred to herself as a "White House correspondent," and Campbell was the daughter of the roguish Ian Campbell, the 11th duke of Argyll, and the favorite granddaughter of the multimillionaire William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, one of the most powerful press barons in Britain. Acting was her passion, but Beaverbrook, a Presbyterian with certain strict ideas, dissuaded her from making it a career. Instead, she moved to America, where she became a correspondent for The Evening Standard. (Covering Kennedy’s funeral, she wrote that Jackie Kennedy had “given the American people from this day on the one thing they always lacked — majesty.”) In her late 20s she had a passionate five-year love affair with the much older Henry R. Luce, founder of Time and Life; the affair ended in 1961 when Jeannie met, and subsequently married, Norman Mailer.
Robert: When you consider Oswald's perusal of Ian Fleming's novels it is rather obvious there are still a lot of
unanswered questions regarding his universe or circle of persons in 1963 and before, however much of whether any of this important is arguably contingent on a persons belief that Oswald de facto assassinated JFK, which I am not among that circle.


Other persons at Bletchley Park or in England involved in codebreaking during WWII were William P. Bundy, & John Cairncross,

the Soviet spy. John F. Kennedy's appointee as US Amb. to Japan Edwin Reischauer was at Arlington Hall a key part of the US codebreaking contingent (see pg 91; My Life in Japan Edwin O. Reischauer)


Edited by Robert Howard
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