In recent years quite a lot has been written about American backing for ‘state-private networks’ (eg Saunders 1999, Scott-Smith and Krabbendam 2003, Laville and Wilford, 2006, Wilford 2008) during the Cold War so I was intrigued to come across a new working paper from the Cold War International History Project on the West German supported Comité International d’Information et d’Action Sociale (CIAS). This was network of mostly European organizations that came into being in 1956 as an effort to adapt the earlier Paix et Liberté network to the post Stalin evolution of the Cold War. The German Volksbund für Frieden und Freiheit (VFF) was one of the strongest components of the CIAS, in part because it had support from multiple parts of the West German government. The key source for this paper by Torben Gülstorff are the reports from the CIAS to the Auswärtige Amt.
During the decade covered in the paper the CIAS was one of three major anti-Communist networks, the other two being Asian People’s Anti-Communist League (APACL) and the Confederatión Interamericana de la Defensa del Continente (CIADC).* One of the things that I found most interesting about the paper was the comparison of the three organizations albeit from the perspective of the VFF. The OPACL revolved around an axis between Taipei and Seoul (although this created a tension between the relatively pro-Japanese Republic of China and the anti-Japanese Republic of Korea), and had a policy line that called for the eradication of Communism in Asia as such it was closely aligned with governments. The CIADC was more moderate ideologically but enjoyed little government support. The VFF/CIAS line was intended to keep an opening to the left and was concerned to warn against the lures of Communism (and keep tabs on Communist sympathisers) but did not embrace the kind of ‘eradicationist’ line taken by the APACL. One of the roles that the VFF filled within the CIAS seems to have been to keep more hard line elements under control. A particular issue for the VFF was the degree of anti-Americanism that existed within anti-Communist networks, here Gülstorff points to the lasting legacy of Nazi anti-Bolshevism. These three organizations merged in 1965 to form the World Anti Communist League (WACL) which reflected the ascendancy of the hard line OPACL despite the resistance of the VFF.
From the point of the view of the West German government one of the roles of the VFF/CIAS link was to keep the struggle against East Germany on the agenda of the world anti Communist movement.
The creation of the WACL in 1965 seems to have been a success for the OPACL radicals.
There’s a lot material in the paper and also a lot of loose ends but it helps to broaden the agenda in thinking about Cold War networks beyond the CIA.
*The absence of the USA is an interesting question.Gülstorff points to the fragmentation of anti-Communism within the US and suggests that J.Edgar Hoover might have hand in producing this state of affairs.
Laville H and Wilford H, eds (2006) The US government, citizen groups and the Cold War : the state-private network. London: Routledge.
Saunders FS (1999) Who Paid the Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War. London: Granta.
Scott-Smith G and Krabbendam H, eds (2003) The Cultural Cold War in Western Europe, 1945-1960. London ; Portland, OR: Frank Cass.
Wilford H (2008) The mighty Wurlitzer : how the CIA played America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.