Congress for Cultural Freedom

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The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was an anti-communist advocacy group founded in 1950. At its height, the CCF was active in thirty-five countries. In 1966 it was revealed that the CIA was instrumental in the establishment and funding of the group.[1][2] Historian Frances Stonor Saunders writes (1999): "Whether they liked it or not, whether they knew it or not, there were few writers, poets, artists, historians, scientists, or critics in postwar Europe whose names were not in some way linked to this covert enterprise."[3] A different slant on the origins and work of the Congress is offered by Peter Coleman in his Liberal Conspiracy (1989) where he talks about a struggle for the mind "of Postwar Europe" and the world at large.[4]

The CCF was founded on 26 June 1950 in West Berlin, which had just endured months of Soviet blockade. Its stated purpose was to find ways to counter the view that liberal democracy was less compatible with culture than communism. In practical terms it aimed to challenge the post-war sympathies with the USSR of many Western intellectuals and fellow travellers, particularly among liberals and the non-Communist Left.

"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[5]

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  1. Frances Stonor Saunders, "Modern Art was CIA 'weapon'", The Independent, October 22, 1995.
  2. Scionti, Andrea (2020-02-01). ""I Am Afraid Americans Cannot Understand": The Congress for Cultural Freedom in France and Italy, 1950–1957". Journal of Cold War Studies. 22 (1): 89–124. doi:10.1162/jcws_a_00927. ISSN 1520-3972. S2CID 211147094.
  3. Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, The New Press, 1999.
  4. Peter Coleman, The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for Mind of Postwar Europe, The Free Press: New York, 1989.