Each of the essays in this volume focuses on an organization or activity funded through the National Committee for a Free Europe, Inc. (NCFE was known as the Free Europe Committee, Inc. after 5 March 1954) during the war of ideas and ideals in which the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged that came to be known as the Cold War. This US government sponsored organization existed between 1949 and 1971 and was but one aspect of United States policy arising from the policy of containment and an aggressive stance against Soviet Expansionism. Archival information on the NCFE offers a rich source of information that has not yet been thoroughly mined by scholars. The NCFE’s original charge, as outlined in 3 May 1948 by George Kennan to the National Security Council in a policy paper titled “The Inauguration of Organized Political Warfare”, was to wage “organized political warfare” which became the ideological basis for US policy during the Cold War. In large part this effort involved the U.S.-based exiles from the nations of Central and East Europe that had become Soviet satellites after World War II. The NCFE organization was developed and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Policy Coordination. The first chairman of NCFE’s Executive Committee was Allen W. Dulles, and it was operated and funded covertly through American intelligence channels throughout its twenty-two year existence as an ostensibly private, not for profit entity funded by donations from the American public.
Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty are the two most well known divisions of NCFE, with RFE having the highest profile. As the two radio divisions’ archival records were acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University in 2000, those divisions have been the focus of most NCFE-related scholarship. Additional archival material documents the much wider range of Cold War activities which the NCFE established, sponsored and funded, but until now, these have received little attention and research on the non-radio aspects of its operation has been minimal—due in part to the fact that, as of this writing, a portion of the primary archival material relating to the parent organization remains classified. Despite this challenge, each of this book’s contributors has successfully researched an activity or organization sponsored by the NCFE or its later incarnation the FEC or Free Europe, Inc.
Of primary interest to scholars will be the histories of the Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish and Baltic States national councils or committees, which represented the U.S.-based exile leadership of those satellite nations. These nationalities’ groups and their leaders were intended by the NCFE’s founders to lead the propaganda battle against the growth of world-wide communism. Kennan outlined the mission of the NCFE and the nationalities committees in the following manner “encourage the formation of a public American organization which will sponsor selected refugee committees so that they may act as the focus of national hope and revive a sense of purpose among political refugees from the Soviet World; provide an inspiration for continuing popular resistance within the countries of the Soviet World; and serve as a potential nucleus for all –out liberation movements in the event of war.” The nationalities committees were provided with operational funding for their domestic and international offices, publications and activities as well as funds for salaries to their leadership. However, NCFE sponsorship was not limited to these groups, its organizations numbered well over one hundred and circled the globe, represented not just in the United States but in Europe, Latin America and Asia as well. The major sponsored organizations ranged from the Assembly of Captive European Nations, the Free European University in Exile, the Crusade for Freedom, and the International Peasant Union to various propaganda programs including those that sponsored cultural and sports activities and organizations. The history of the Assembly of Captive European Nations and that of the Free Europe University in Exile, Inc. are addressed in this volume.
The NCFE and its Cold War campaign of “organized political warfare” activities remains one of the last aspects of U.S. Cold War policy that has not been thoroughly researched, and Cold War scholarship will not be complete until this history is made available. This volume takes the first step in that direction but there is still much more material that is to be uncovered.
Katalin Kádár Lynn