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Raymond Aron, the Atlantist prosecutor.

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211004 - Denis Boneau - Red Voltaire - During the Cold War, Raymond Aron was one of the main intellectual intermediaries of American cultural diplomacy in France. For more than thirty years, he actively participated in a number of interfering operations led by the United States secret services. Thus, he contributed with the ideological success of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. As Friedrich von Hayek`s friend and Kissinger`s advisor, he left, in the trail of his intellectual action, a true school of liberal, anticommunist and Atlantist thought, one manifestation of which is the Saint-Simon Foundation.

Raymond Aron was born in 1905 to an old Jewish family from Alsace (in the eastern region of France). A distant relative took care of Louis 16th health. His family tree reflects a relationship with Emile Durkheim, founder of French sociology, and with his cousin, anthropologist Marcel Mauss. He studied at the Teacher Training College and graduated together with Sartre, Canguilhem and Nizan. Raymond Aron was both a socialist and a pacifist.

During the 1920s he participated, almost unnoticed, in the students`s political life at the Latin Neighborhood (in Paris). He went to Germany where he worked as reader at the Cologne University and was recruited by the French Institute in Berlin. He witnessed the intensification of anti-Semitism and Adolf Hitler`s seizing of power. In 1933, he returned to France and joined the Social Documentation Center run by Celestin Bouglé. By chance, he became the successor of Marcel Déat, future founder of the National Popular Regrouping, a collaborating movement under German occupation. The Center, located in Ulm Street, received credits from the Rockefeller Foundation.

There, Raymond Aron met Robert Marjolin, an economist trained in the United States thanks to a scholarship arranged by Rist and Bouglé, the two permanent contacts of the Rockefeller Foundation in France [1].

The first steps in London

After the demobilization, Aron left France and settled down in London. Since the very beginning, he established contact, through his friend Robert Marjolin, with Jean Monnet`s team. Right away, he was recruited by André Labarthe, to whom General de Gaulle had entrusted the mission of creating the Resistance`s magazine - La France Libre. Aron would become one of the most dynamic editors of this magazine.

The magazine allowed him to develop ideas which would be the leitmotiv of his political commitment during the Cold War. In an article published in 1944, Raymond Aron injected a primitive form in the antitotalitarian rhetoric that turned into nearly the official discourse of anticommunist intellectuals. Thus, the three main “pagan” trends were presented as three representations of the ideal type of “secular religion”.

Aron was mainly outstanding for his open criticism to General de Gaulle, especially in his article published in 1943 entitled “L’ombre de Bonaparte”. His relationship with Labarthe was cordial. What Aron did not know yet was that the man in charge of La France Libre was later on considered, especially by Atlantist Henri Freney, suspect of working as Soviet agent for the Harry Robinson network. In London, Raymond Aron met future Cold War allies. He frequently attended the “Reform Club” whose hosts were Lionel Robbins and Friedrich von Hayek -the one who prepared the creation of the Mont Pelerin Society. Karl Mannheim then proposed him to work at the London School of Economics and Political Studies, a prestigious bastion of liberals (Mises and Hayek) financed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

During the war, Aron`s commitment to General de Gaulle`s movement was not noticeable enough so as to win him the General`s favors, who did not appreciate the young intellectual`s criticism. Aron, who considered the Vichy collaborating regime as a «parenthesis in history» never condemned the National Revolution. Throughout his life, he sometimes defended Petain`s followers, especially during the controversy derived from the book by Bernard-Henri Lévy entitled L’idéologie française. Let`s see Aron`s opinion in this regard: «That collaborators are traitors? Yes. That advocators of the National Revolution are traitors? Of course not. Those who now regret, calmly, that the purge has not reached all advocators of the National Revolution are acting as instigators of a civil war. Not even in 1941, I let myself be swept along by such mean passions» [2].

Journalism and politics

At the time of the Liberation (when the nazi troops were expelled from France during the Second World War), dismayed by his own University failures, Raymond Aron devoted himself to his journalistic and political activities. He wrote in Point de vue, Combat and, above all, in Le Figaro, run by Pierre Brisson, former collaborator of Lucien Romper who died, this latter, after his appointment as Minister of the French State [3] in 1943.

The political line of the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro was openly in favor of the United States. Raymond Aron, anticommunist and advocator of the Atlantic Alliance and the European construction, gained an indisputable legitimacy in the columns of this newspaper. He was one of the main four columnists, together with André Siegfried, professor of the Institute of Political Studies in Paris; François Mauriac, who followed him to the Congress for Cultural Freedom; and André François-Poncet, who replaced General Koenig as head of the occupation authorities and was, later on, appointed Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany.

At the same time, Raymond Aron had his first political experience when appointed, during the Liberation times, as cabinet director of André Malraux, Minister of Information. He worked with Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Manès Sperber and Jean Lecanuet. He entrusted the IFOP, recently created by Jean Stoetzel, veteran of the Alexis Carrel Foundation [4], to carry out opinion polls.

In 1947, he became member of the RPF. During the Lille Congress, he was asked to present a paper on what General de Gaulle called «the association»(the capital/labor division in the core of a company), the key concept of the «third economic way» predicted by de Gaulle.

Cold War and political reflection.

Raymond Aron`s political thinking is deeply rooted in the historical context of the Cold War. The main objective of his publications was to attract neutral intellectuals, that is, those who did not belong to the Communist Party but showed some kind of sympathy for Marxist ideology, what Aron described as “a favorable prejudice towards the Soviet Union”, in a work submitted to the Mont Pelerin Society. His work entitled L’Opium des intellectuels constituted a testimony of his will to convince the non-communist left.

 

Raymond and Suzanne Aron with the responsable of the CIA Michael Josselson, and Denis de Rougemont.

In that piece, Aron, inspired in the thesis of the New York Intellectuals, announced the end of ideologies and urged intellectuals to brake up with socialism.For the author, the United States, as champion of world freedom in front of communist parties that «with or without the International, with or without the Kominform, represented a permanent conspiracy aimed at opening a road to Russian-Soviet imperialism», represented the Grand schisme, the benevolent empire struggling for freedom: «The American leading class did not want the hegemony vested on it when the industrial power of the American Republic became a military force [...] Soviet diplomacy has provoked a containment will as a reaction, the attempt to stop its rival`s expansion has not provoked a domination will, save when that term is used to design efforts to extend the free trade open zone» [5].

Raymond Aron acted as the intellectual intermediary of American diplomacy in France. Friend and advisor of Henry A. Kissinger, who considered him as his guide, [6] and of George Kennan, father of the «containment» doctrine, Aron represented, undoubtedly, the best support available to American cultural services in France.

Raymond Aron, the French ringleader of the Congress for Cultural Freedom

In June 1950, in Berlin, Melvin Lasky organized the first internacional meeting of what would become the Congress for Cultural Freedom [7]. The initiative was supported by anticommunist intellectuals gathered in «a non-official and independent committee», being Raymond Aron one of its members. The Berlin meeting resulted in the creation of an organization embryo: Arthur Koestler wrote The Manifest for Free Men and a text drafted by Henri Freney proposed the creation of an international committee made up by a permanent secretariat and national committees. In November 1950, five substitute members were appointed to complete the membership list of the Executive Committee.

This time, Raymond Aron was in a leading place within the Congress for Cultural Freedom and rapidly became one of the most influential personalities. He collaborated with Michael Josselsion [8].

the intermediary between the CIA and the intellectuals, and his books -essentially Le Grand schisme, L’Opium des intellectuels and Les Guerres en chaîne- constituted reference works for anticommunist intellectuals. Aron soundly created the Congress in France and contributed with the dissemination of the New York Intellectuals thesis, thus promoting the translation of the book entitled L’Ere des organisateurs, the organization manifest drafted by his friend James Burnham. He was asked to organize and participate in the different meetings sponsored by the Congress.

In 1954, during his Study Days in Nice, he submitted a work entitled “Rostros del comunismo en Francia e Italia”. Completely absorbed in the activities of the Internacional Secretariat controlled by Josselson and Nabokov, two former officers of cultural services in the US army in Berlin, Raymond Aron coordinated the Hamburg Conference together with Sidney Hook and Jacques Enock.

During this meeting, Aron submited a paper on “The concepts of class truth and nacional truth in social sciences” and was appointed member of the Science and Freedom Committee, an agency subordinated to the Congress and composed by fourteen personalities. Immediately after his appointment, he organized the Milan Conference entitled “The future of freedom” together with Josselson, Nabokov, Polanyi, Jouvenel and Bristol.

The year 1955 was decisive to Aron since he was one of the intellectuals who played a key role in the Milan Conference and because that same year he was also appointed at the Sorbone and published L’Opium des intellectuels, a true charge against pro-Soviet thinkers. This Conference brought about the emergence of a new Congress organization, the Seminar Committee, being Aron his main architect. During a first phase, Daniel Bell, a sociologist from the Columbia University who had just arrived in France, coordinated the activities of the Committee also composed by Aron, Jouvenel, Polanyy and Edward Shils (from the London School of Economics).

Raymond Aron replaced Bell as head of the Seminar Committee and launched the Rheinfelden colloquium project. The publication of papers presented during the September 1959 colloquiums was guaranteed by Jean-Claude Casanova, future head of the ultra-Aronian Commentaire magazine, and Pierre Hassner.In Naples, Aron presided over the international colloquium and submitted a reflection on the “Social and economic development of the Mediterranean countries”. The Tenth Anniversary of the Congress, symbolized by the 1960 meeting, evidenced the success of the ideological conquering strategy devised by Raymond Aron.

The interventions made by new participants, like Edgar Morin, Georges Friedmann or Jean-Marie Domenach, revealed the victory of this antitotalitarian rhetoric [9]. In 1967, the scandal revealing that the CIA was financing the Congress, resulted in the sudden interruption of Raymond Aron`s attendance. Nevertheless, far from condemning it, Aron agreed to supervised the creation of a new organization financed by the Ford Foundation: the Association for Cultural Freedom [10]. But, due to the magnitude of this scandal in France, he finally rejected the offer.

François Furet, Michel Crozier and other intellectuals replaced Aron who, after the scandal, would only preside over two seminars -one in Venice, “The historian between the ethnologist and the futurologist”, and another one in Bonn, “International politics and the future of European-American relations”. Despite his rejection, Raymond Aron accepted his appointment as Honorary President of the Committee for the Free World, a project supervised by Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz`wife, editor in chief of the Commentary magazine, and financed by the conservative foundations Olin, Scaife and Smith Richardson.

Going back to the Congress question, Raymond Aron, in his Memoires, indicated that, since the end justifies the means, this was a required and positive political experience : «Would we have tolerated the CIA funds if we knew it? Probably not, though such a rejection would not have had any sense after all [...] The Congress was not able to comply with its mission, and it only complied with it thanks to masking or even, if you want it, to lies and omissions» [11].
 

A conservative university graduate.

In line with this intense political activity, Raymond Aron climbed up in dominant positions within the university. In 1955, he was appointed to the Sorbone. In 1961, thanks to the financial support given by the Ford Foundation, he created and headed the European Sociology Center together with his assistant, a man named Pierre Bourdieu. The young sociologist organized the research work of Education and Culture Sociology. The rupture between Bourdieu and Aron took place after the publication of the book entitled Les Héritiers, which four years after became a reference work for rebellious students.

Pierre Bourdieu`s betrayal did not prevent Aron from consolidating his control over liberal intellectuals who crowded his seminars at the Sorbone, at the School of Social Science Higher Studies and at the European Sociology Center: Pierre Hassner, Jean-Claude Casanova, Jean Baechler, Annie Kriegel, Alain Besançon, Pierre Manent, François Bourricaud, Georges Liébert and Jerome Dumoulin. In May 1968, Aron mobilized this network to counteract the “two-bit revolution” and, then, to replace Preuves, the official magazine of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. During the May-June 1968 events, Raymond Aron symbolized the hostile conservative reaction to the “students`carnival” and managed to regroup a conservative group from which he was the core.

In May 30, Aron welcomed the end of the riots with a «Long Live de Gaulle» of relief and paraded across the Champs Elysees together with Kostas Papaioannou, his friend and ally. In June 11, he launched an appeal in Le Figaro newspaper to put an end to the strike and to resume classes. In June 19, he published a number of articles entitled “The university crisis” and created a Committee for the Defense and Renovation of French Teaching in charge of organizing the resumption of classes and the examinations. In its inception, this improvised Committee included a small team of collaborators close to Aron. Former members of the Communist Party, like Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Annie Kriegel momentarily joined together with Alain Besançon, Kostas Papaiannou and Jean Baechler...

In July 21, the Committee met for the first time. François Bourricaud, Michel Crozier (at that time professor of the Nanterre University), Raymond Boudon and Julián Freund were his main spokesmen within the Parisian university. According to Aron, the power must not retreat in the face of what he himself called “the students`power terrorism”.

 

Jean-Paul Sartre, André Glucksman and Raymond Aron, 1979

Due to his hostile attitude against the students`protests, Aron was forbidden to take the floor in Ulm Street and, sometimes, the students interrupted his thesis defense... Being the predilect target of “furious” demonstrators, Aron was also criticized by his former classmate at the Teacher Training College, Jean-Paul Sartre, who called for the destruction of “Aron`s La Bastille”. In August, the latter published “La Révolution introuvable”, a violent attack against the protagonists of May 1968 riots.
 

Raymond Aron`s heirs

Late in the 1970s, Raymond Aron broke up with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, whose official magazine, Preuves [12], was already agonizing. The old liberal tried to build a new academic tribune. From 1970 to 1976, the Contrepoint magazine run by one of his followers, Georges Liébert, gathered a number of disciples from the Aronian school, like Pierre Manent. But the publication turned into the ideal tribune for Aron was the Commentaire magazine.

This magazine, created in 1978 and supervised by Jean-Claude Casanova, was the honorable successor of the Preuves. The translations of articles entitled “Encounter” and “Commentary” evidenced the work Commentaire, which distributed some of its copies in eastern Europe. In 1981, the convergence between intellectuals from Commentaire and intellectuals from Le Débat magazine and the impulse given by François Furet and Pierre Rosanvallon resulted in the creation of the Saint-Simon Foundation, a true think tank in favor of the United States after the Cold War [13].

On October 17, 1983 testified as witness in favor of his friend Bertrand de Jouvenel, charged of “nazism”. The old philosopher declared: «It is true that we, men of this generation, felt desperate before the weakness of democracies. We considered that the war was approaching. Some dreamed of another way, something that could put an end to that weakness». In effect, during the 1930s, Jouvenel dreamed with a new regime. Considering Hitler as a new economic guide, he joined Doirot`s French Popular Party [14]. Recruited by the intelligence services, he later on spied Otto Abetz his former friend. During the Liberation times, he founded the ultraliberal Mont Pelerin Society [15] together with Rueff and Hayek and intensely participated in activities held by the Congress for Cultural Freedom [16].

The defense he made for his friend Jouvenel was the last public statement delivered by Raymond Aron who died as a result of a heart crisis in his car waiting for him out of the court building.


[1] In 1927, French Julien Benda published his pamphlet entitled: «La trahison des cleros» where he stigmatized the resignation of intellectuals in their search for the truth. Instead of sacrificing themselves for this cause many of them preferred to defend their political or partisan commitment

[2] Raymond Aron, Memoires, 50 ans de réflexion politique, Julliard, 1983, p. 175

[3] «L’État français» is the name given by French Philippe Pétain to the administrative dictatorial regime he created after declaring the abolition of the French Republic and when he was collaborating with the Nazi occupation of his country during the Second World War

[4] «Uriage, l’école des cadres de la Collaboration», by Denis Boneau, Voltaire, April 23, 2004

[5] Raymond Aron, Le Grand schisme, Gallimard editions, 1948. p. 25, France

[6] «Nobody has intellectually influenced more on me than he himself. He was a benevolent critic when I was holding official posts. His approval encouraged me, the critics he sometimes made to me stopped me», Henry Kissinger`s quote, in website Catallaxia, Libéralisme alternative

[7] «Quand la CIA finançait les intellectuels européens», by Denis Boneau, Voltaire, November 27, 2003

[8] «Michaël Josselson, born in Estonia, created the Congress [...]. He deceived us, we could say, and he himself would have agreed on this if we could have discussed the bottom of this problem [...]. I still feel consideration and friendhip for him [...]. He was more than an agent of the secret services, he was something else. As an intellectual gifted with a sense of action, he is responsible for both the success of the Congress and the original lie ». Raymond Aron, Mémoires, p. 238-239

[9] Pierre Grémion, Intelligence de l’anticommunisme, Le Congrès pour la liberté de la culture à Paris, 1950-1975, Arthème Fayard editions, 1995

[10] «La Fundación Ford, fachada filantrópica de la CIA», Voltaire, January 31, 2005

[11] Raymond Aron managed to impose in France that interpretation of his commitment to the Congress for Cultural Freedom. It should be pointed out that the American version of Frances Stonor Saunders`work entitled, La CIA y la guerra fría cultural (editorial Debate, Madrid, 2001), is more affirmative. There, she indicates that «Aron felt deeply compromised by the exposure of the Congress as a CIA front, though it is alleged he had been in on the secret for years»

[12] From 1951 to 1966, Raymond Aron published some fifty articles in Preuves, François Bondy`s magazine, and about thirty translations for Der Monat and Encounter

[13] «La face cachée de la Fondation Saint-Simon», by Denis Boneau, Voltaire, February 10, 2004

[14] Doriot was a French communist leader. When France was invaded and occupied by the nazi army, Doriot became in one of the main collaborators of the nazi enema. When the war ended with Hitler`s defeat, Doriot was tried and shot for treason

[15] «Friedrich von Hayek, el padre del neoliberalismo», by Denis Boneau, Voltaire, January 30, 2005

[16] His main legacy is the Futuribles group, an international organization for economic forecasts created with funds of the Ford Foundation.

 


 

 

 

 

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