By Cynthia Chung

[The following is the third installment from one of the chapters from my book “The Empire on Which the Black Sun Never Set: The Birth of International Fascism and Anglo-American Foreign Policy”. For Part 1 of this series refer here.]

Burnham was a consultant to OPC on virtually every subject of interest to our organization…He had extensive contacts in Europe and, by virtue of his Trotskyite background, was something of an authority on domestic and foreign Communist parties and front organizations.”

– E. Howard Hunt’s Memoirs

In 1948, Joseph Bryan III, a former classmate of Burnham, joined the CIA where he headed the Political and Psychological Warfare Division of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC).[1] The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was created as a department of the CIA in 1948, but operated as a rogue operation until October 1950. Many of the agency’s recruits were so-called “ex” Nazis.

George F. Kennan, the director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, was the key figure behind the OPC’s creation. Frank Wisner, who worked as a Wall Street lawyer for the law firm Carter, Ledyard & Milburn, was former OSS and worked closely with Allen Dulles. He would be called in from the State Department as OPC’s first director. During the period of 1948-1950, Dulles and Wisner were essentially operating their own private spy agency, with the special blessing of George F. Kennan, as the OPC was actually more beholden to the State Department then the CIA during this period.

During WWII, Burnham would leave his teaching post at NYU to work for the OSS in 1944 and carried on to work for the CIA when the OSS was disbanded. Joseph Bryan III offered Burnham a consultantship with the OPC in February or March 1949[2]. Burnham worked with Bryan’s OPC unit, which included the notorious E. Howard Hunt[3], using the code names “Hamburn” and “Kenneth E. Hambley”.[4] This included campaigns to harass communist governments, such as the Carpathians based Ukrainian band that until the early 1950s waged guerilla war on the Soviet rule and ‘liberation’ offensives by militant émigré groups aimed at destabilising Soviet ‘puppet’ regimes.[5]

The focus of Burnham’s work was on propaganda. It included creating an image of the USSR threat for the Western public. It was thus decided that Soviet influenced countries, at Burnham’s instruction, should not be called ‘satellites’ but ‘colonies’, and that “In general…[the USSR should be linked] with all key retrogressive words: ‘reactionary,’ ‘imperialistic,’ etc.”[6] Propaganda, bribery, and disinformation should be employed to encourage factionalism, defections and transfers of allegiance to the United States. The ruin of the Soviet morale should also be sought by causing bewilderment in Moscow through apparently irrational U.S. actions, inciting revolt among Soviet labor camp inmates and projecting total confidence in Western victory.

Burnham met with his former NYU colleague Lev Dobriansky who served as a liaison between the Ukrainian Congress committee of America and the Republican Committee. This was done to help formulate a ‘rollback’ policy toward Eastern Europe as the GOP’s answer to the Democrat’s policy of containment.[7] One of Lev Dobriansky’s students was Kateryna Yushchenko[8]. Dobriansky was the chairman of National Captive Nations Committee, whose local committees often allied with the Banderite wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.[9] [10]

Burnham did a lot of work with the Ukrainian refugees in particular. This was Burnham’s polwar (political-subversive warfare). Burnhams’ enthusiasm for polwar brought him close ties with foreign anticommunists. When visiting Washington such people often stayed with the Burnhams as houseguests causing Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory to describe the Burnham home as “a mecca for iron curtain refugees.

Burnham’s single most important OPC effort was the creation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF). A body intended to counter Soviet propaganda among intellectual and cultural influencers by highlighting the contrast between communist repression and Western freedom within the domain of arts and literature.

On June 25th, 1950 in West Berlin’s Titania Palace under the patronage of the philosophers Bertrand Russell and John Dewey, among others, the Congress for Cultural Freedom held its opening session.[11] Burnham joined in preparation for the conference as an agent of the OPC which now became the major force behind the CCF and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom (ACCF).

Journalists Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould write in The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elite’s Takeover of America:[12]

The Congress for Cultural Freedom’s 14-point ‘Freedom Manifesto’ was to identify the West with freedom. And since everything about the West was said to be free, free, free, then it went without saying that everything about the Soviet Union wasn’t. Organized by Burnham and Hook, the American delegation represented a who’s who of America’s postwar intellectuals. Tickets to Berlin were paid for by Wisner’s Office of Policy Coordination through front organizations and the Department of State, which helped arrange travel, expenses and publicity. According to CIA historian Michael Warner, the conference sponsors considered it money well spent, with one Defense Department representative calling it ‘unconventional warfare at its best’.”

According to Frances Stonor Saunders, author of The Cultural Cold War, members of the British delegation found the rhetoric coming out of the congress to be a deeply troubling sign of things to come:[13]

There was a speech by Franz Borkenau which was very violent and indeed almost hysterical. He spoke in German and I regret to say that as I listened and I heard the baying voices of approval from the huge audiences, I felt, well, these are the same people who seven years ago were probably baying in the same way to similar German denunciations of Communism coming from Dr. Goebbels in the Sports Palast. And I felt, well, what sort of people are we identifying with? That was the greatest shock to me. There was a moment during the Congress when I felt that we were being invited to summon up Beelzebub in order to defeat Stalin.”

Burnham would become head of the ‘Psychological Strategy Board’ (PSB) division of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). The PSB D-33/2,[14] created on May 5th, 1953, laid out the strategy for how “free intellectuals” could be manipulated against their own interests to facilitate a CIA-dictated transformation of Western culture. In fact, as Frances Stonor Saunder’s makes the point in The Cultural Cold War, it was likely Burnham himself who was the one to draft PSB D-33/2.

Fitzgerald and Gould write:[15]

PSB D-33/2 foretells of a ‘long-term intellectual movement, to: break down world-wide doctrinaire thought patterns’ while ‘creating confusion, doubt and loss of confidence’ in order to ‘weaken objectively the intellectual appeal of neutralism and to predispose its adherents towards the spirit of the West.’ The goal was to ‘predispose local elites to the philosophy held by the planners,’ while employing local elites ‘would help to disguise the American origin of the effort so that it appears to be a native development.’

While declaring itself as an antidote to Communist totalitarianism, one internal critic of the program, PSB officer Charles Burton Marshall, viewed PSB D-33/2 itself as frighteningly totalitarian, interposing ‘a wide doctrinal system’ that ‘accepts uniformity as a substitute for diversity,’ embracing ‘all fields of human thought — all fields of intellectual interests, from anthropology and artistic creations to sociology and scientific methodology.’ He concluded: ‘That is just about as totalitarian as one can get’.”

Burnham writes in his The Managerial Revolution:[16]

Most of these intellectuals are not in the least aware that the net social effect of the ideologies which they elaborate contributes to the power and privilege of the managers and to the building of a new structure of class rule in society. As in the past, the intellectuals believe that they are speaking in the name of truth and for the interests of all humanity…Indeed, the intellectual, without usually being aware of it, elaborate the new ideologies from the point of view of the position of the managers.

What this means is that, according to Burnham, the intellectuals themselves do not understand who in fact will benefit in the end by the philosophies and theories they support and defend, they are mere instruments for the propagation of a new ruling class and hold no true power.

Though Burnham would resign from the CCF after just a few years, having failed in his intellectually grandiose endeavours to affect high brow culture and arts, he would effect something of more permanence in the domain of diehard war mongering and would come to be known in many circles as the father of neo-conservatism.[17]

The Original Proselytizer of Totalitarianism and the Father of Neo-Conservatism

The modern state … is an engine of propaganda, alternately manufacturing crises and claiming to be the only instrument that can effectively deal with them. This propaganda, in order to be successful, demands the cooperation of writers, teachers, and artists not as paid propagandists or state-censored time-servers but as ‘free’ intellectuals capable of policing their own jurisdictions and of enforcing acceptable standards of responsibility within the various intellectual professions.

– Christopher Lasch,[18] author of Britain’s Secret Propaganda War

William F. Buckley’s graduation from Yale in 1950 coincided with the advent of the Korean War that commenced that very summer. Buckley, who had served in WWII, was not eager to return to the field of war, however, was still interested in being of some service to his country during a time of war. Willmoore Kendall who had taught Buckley at Yale had also become his friend during this time. As an alternative to the military Kendall (who had CIA connections) suggested Buckley might join the OPC.[19] Kendall knew Burnham since the 1930s. Burnham met with Buckley and approved of his entry into the OPC.

Buckley’s polwar career was short. He was stationed in Mexico City under, none other than, E. Howard Hunt,[20] with whom Burnham had clearly a close relationship with in relation to OPC work. However, Buckley did not find his work in Mexico to his liking and wanted to stick to writing, however, they would maintain a close relationship with Buckley becoming godfather to Hunt’s first three children.

In 1955, Buckley launched the ultra-conservative National Review. One thing that was particularly striking about the National Review was the number of former leftists and communists it employed including Burnham, Schlamm, Kendall, and soon Meyer.[21] Priscilla Buckley, William’s sister, was a managing editor of the National Review, and had also worked for the CIA in the 1950s.[22] The National Review would become the voice of what would become the neo-conservative movement, a movement that Burnham had a leading hand in shaping.

Burnham’s National Review commentary reiterated his Struggle for the World thesis, that no matter how well conceived a policy might be, it would fail if it did not rest on a resolute will to power. In a crisis, the United States must be prepared to use force, even in violation of the sovereignty of other nations.[23] At the time Burnham was furious over Iceland’s newly elected government refusing to continue hosting a NATO base. Thus, Burnham argued, if the UN could not be made to accommodate U.S. needs, the U.S. would have no reason to stay in the UN “except perhaps to sabotage it.”[24]

When it came to black civil rights, Burnham and most of his National Review colleagues sided with the segregationists. As they put it in a 1957 editorial on black voting rights, Southern whites were entitled to take the steps they deemed “necessary to prevail politically and culturally” in places where they lacked a majority since “for the time being” they were “the advanced race”.[25] I wonder if they thought lynchings should be included as part of the necessary steps the Southern whites were entitled to in their ‘prevailing’. Burnham complained the State had bent over backwards to be ‘sensitive’ to world opinion and paid less attention to the interests of its citizens than to “the sensibilities of Kwame Nkrumah, Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba.”[26] Sounds very similar to the thoughts of Allen Dulles does it not?

In Burnham’s Suicide of the West (1964), he began seeing the American people as part of ‘the problem.’ “Whether most Americans were liberals was hard to gauge. What did seem clear was that liberalism, broadly defined, had now solidly entrenched itself as the standard ‘American public doctrine’ and this did not bode well for the future. For one thing, liberalism replaced reality with dreams, portraying human nature in a reassuringly rosy light and looking ahead to a future of infinite progress. Yet, a wealth of historical evidence contradicted this outlook, while geneticists agreed that in modern society those segments of the population with ‘inferior genetic assets – inferior, that is, from an intellectual, moral, and civilizing standpoint – [were] increasing, rather rapidly, relative to those with superior assets’.”[27]

Burnham in his writings for the National Review pushed that the U.S. had to pay much more attention to alternative weapon systems, such as those involving “Blanquist cadres, crowd manipulation, guerillas, psychological warfare, paramililtary operations, subversion, bribery, infiltration, with specialized, mobile, ranger-type units in supporting reserve – short, political warfare.” Burnham was not counting “foreign aid”, “truth campaigns” and “student exchange” which he thought of as “Boy Scout ideas”. True polwar employed “agitation, propaganda, subversion, economic manipulation, incitement of riots, terror, diversionary diplomacy, sabotage, guerilla and paramilitary actions, etc.” [28]

At this point in the book, I would imagine you have a fairly good idea of what that entails and that such campaigns are not aimed at the ‘bad guys’ for our protection. How can there be such a thing as ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ when there is no such thing as morality, truth or ideology in such a worldview? It is just about the usurpation of power and whoever gets in the way of this conquest by the ‘elite’ is fair game, including Western citizens. Even the American President is fair game if they dare to step in the way of that line of fire.

Burnham writes his The Managerial Revolution:[29]

The [artificial] ideology [for the masses] must ostensibly speak in the name of ‘humanity,’ ‘the people,’ ‘the race,’ ‘the future,’ ‘God,’ ‘destiny,’ and so on. Furthermore, in spite of the opinion of many present-day cynics, not just any ideology is capable of appealing to the sentiments of the masses. It is more than a problem of skilful propaganda technique. A successful ideology has got to seem to the masses, in however confused a way, actually to express some of their own interests.

…At the present time, the ideologies that can have a powerful impact, that can make a real headway, are, naturally, the managerial ideologies, since it is these that alone correspond with the actual direction of events…In place of the ‘individual,’ the stress turns to the ‘state,’ the people, the folk, the race…In place of private enterprise, ‘socialism’ [only by name] or ‘collectivism.’ In place of ‘freedom’ and ‘free initiative,’ planning. Less talk about ‘rights’ and ‘natural rights’; more about ‘duties’ and ‘order’ and ‘discipline.’ Less about ‘opportunity’ and more about ‘jobs’.

Burnham goes on to discuss in The Managerial Revolution, the need to change the meaning of words such as ’destiny,’ ‘the future,’ ‘sacrifice,’ ‘power,’ from the old ideologies of capitalism to suit the new ideologies of managerialism.

Burnham concludes:[30]

The new world political system based on a small number of super-states will still leave problems-more, perhaps, than a unified single world-state; but it will be enough of a ‘solution’ for society to keep going. Nor is there any sufficient reason to believe that these problems of the managerial world system, including the managerial wars, will ‘destroy civilization.’ It is almost inconceivable even what it could mean for civilization – to be literally destroyed. Once again: what is being destroyed is our civilization, not civilization.

[1] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 149.

[2] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 152.

[3] Recall Chapter 8.

[4] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 152.

[5] Ibid, pg. 151.

[6] Ibid, pg. 152.

[7] Ibid, pg. 155.

[8] Kateryna Yushchenko is the wife of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. She is a former U.S. State Department official. She worked as a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. She later worked in the White House in the Office of Public Liaison during the administration of Ronald Reagan. Subsequently, she worked at the U.S. Treasury in the executive secretary’s office during the administration of George H. W. Bush.

[9] Register of the Lev E. Dobriansky papers. Online Archive of California.

[10] Rosenberg, Paul. (March 18, 2014) SEVEN DECADES OF NAZI COLLABORATION: AMERICA’S DIRTY LITTLE UKRAINE SECRET. Foreign Policy in Focus.

[11] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 160.

[12] Fitzgerald, Paul; Gould, Elizabeth. (April 28, 2017) The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elite’s Takeover of America. Truth Dig.

[13] Saunders, Frances Stonor. (1999) The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. The New Press, New York, London.

[14] PSB D-33/2

[15] Fitzgerald, Paul; Gould, Elizabeth. (April 28, 2017) The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elite’s Takeover of America. Truth Dig.

[16] Burnham, James. (1941) The Managerial Revolution or What is Happening in the World Now. Putname and Company, Limited, London, pg. 74.

[17] Though Burnham proved to be a failure in influencing high-brow culture and arts, the CCF was by no means a failure but rather a gigantic success. For more on this refer to Matthew Ehret’s paper Why Must Aesthetics Govern A Society Worthy Of Political Freedom? Ask the CIA.

[18] Lasch, Christopher. (January 19, 2003) The Agony of the American Left. Long Pauses. Retrieved October 2022.

[19] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 212.

[20] Ibid, pg. 212.

[21] Ibid, pg. 218.

[22] Other Buckley members would end up working for the CIA or were closely linked. William F. Buckley’s father also named William F. Buckley, was a United States Army officer in the Green Berets and a CIA station chief in Beirut from 1984 to 1985.He was reportedly kidnapped by Hezbollah and murdered. James Buckley, William’s brother, married Ann Cooley who worked for the CIA. And as already mentioned his sister Priscilla worked for the CIA during the 1950s.

[23] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 220.

[24] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 220.

[25] Ibid, pg. 239.

[26] Ibid, pg. 246.

[27] Ibid, pg. 285-286.

[28] Kelly, Daniel. (2002) James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life. ISI Books Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 248.

[29] Burnham, James. (1941) The Managerial Revolution or What is Happening in the World Now. Putname and Company, Limited, London, pg.180.

[30] Burnham, James. (1941) The Managerial Revolution or What is Happening in the World Now. Putname and Company, Limited, London, pg. 273.

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