POLITICS VERSUS ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN THE ECOLE LIBRE

Created: 8/23/1944

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of Justice in making tnis raquest was also taking into account thein spite of the Ecole L'bre's primary functionniversity,frequently sponsored eventsolitical nature, and alsoof its French faculty members were at trie same timeorganizations designed directly to foster the cause of

in the ensuing feud, which in the end hadatter of concern botii lo th^French Delegation and to authorities In Algiers, the directing figures at the Ecole Ubre became roughly divider! into two factions- One grcug. including the president, the philosopher Jec^ueajMaritain. was chiefly interested in defending the principle of academic freedom and was if. favo> o* eliminating any members and activities which would require the school nublic'y to be labeled an'agent of the French Committee; their Owocnents desirtd on the contrary to"register outright under the Foreion Agar.ts Registration Act in order to be able to continue, and even totheir poJit'Cal activities- By many of the scholars involved it was felt that the Questions that had arisen concerned not only thefate of th& Fcoie Libre, but also its whole futureeans of Franeo-Airerican intellectual i'aison after the war.

A compromise formula *as finally found whkn proved acceptable toartfl*nt as wall as to Dr. Aivirtjlohnsori. director of theftew School for Social Research, of which the Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudesart. Wicther tie comtromifle solution will orove to be stable remains to be seen, Although their aims were yreatly modified, it is the more politically minded group that is nowontrol of the administration. Many of their colleagues are still far from aopeased, and such depends on whether the

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Paul Wivet, at oresent cjltural attache of the FCH io Mexico, who was chosen to succeed Britain as president of theLibre,gree to accent the post. arger question, which, however, ,wUt probably not alter the main lines of- the conflict, is of course now posed by the possibility that many of those involved will shortly be able to return to their own country.

far-poseperscwlttlda of the /cole Libre

The Ecoie Libre was founded In2 in conjunction with the New School, asermanent institution of higherroup of French and 8elgian professors living in the Uniled States-ItC0 grant from the Belgian Governrnent-in-Exile, and shortly afterwards beganonthly subsidy of SI,COOnow raisedrom the^Fighting French- Its first president was the eminent educator and art historian Henri Focillon, wno died later in the year ond was succeeded by vice president Jacques Maritalm The two other original vice oresidents were the Belgian Byzantine scholar, Henrr^Gregcire,

and the Russian-born French historian,*

The school, which by2 already -had close to ore thousandsoon expanded frcm its original three faculties of Literature, Law. and Sc'ence, headed respectively by Professors Gustave^Cohen, Borisuetievitch, and Jacques^Ha^amard- ft alsoeoartment of Art and Dramatics under the direction or the well-bnown irovie producer, jean 3cnoit-Levy. To these have now been added various departments and sections Including an institute ofepartment of Oriental and Slavic Studies, and several 'study centers- devoted to Latin-American affairs. The present faculty consists of ninety-nine members, although some of

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such as ttenri/|laugior, rector of the University of Algiers,nnet, Ccmissioner of Information in the French Cornmittee, are purely honorary.

A few of the facultyncluding seme of those who have been most convicuous in the Ecole L'bre's affaii'S. enjoyediocre reputation in academic circles, and haveertain amount of criticise to te leveled at the school as being run byevere! mamfcers of the faculty, however, have been among the most universafly respected of contemporary European scholars, as well as men devoted to the principle of free intellectual endeavor. This sp;rlt, and the high academic tradition representedarge part of the faculty, have been responsible for the Eco'e libre's success and also for the widely held hope that the institution would be permanent.

The Ecole Libre was from the beginning frankly

The De GohllUn of

the Ecoiein favor of de Gaulle, an attitude that

has come in for more criticism lately thanhen the great majority of the French intellectuals who had come here0 were in sympathy with de Gaulle. In any case, most of the founders of theibre did not confuse their support of the righting French with the aooroach ofurely political organization as France Forever, ano at least in theory made opposition to Vichy the only political reauirement for mt^bershlo on tne faculty. Thlsmsant thewo of the Frenchmen then associated with the Newo made no secrat of his symoathy for Petain, androfessor Oflaw- piiard could perhaps have joined if he had cared to; he is not

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generally considered toichyite and has denounced the Vichy regime in writing (pour la rtctotrt,une. although he was recently charged by the de Gaullisteuly) withgal assistance to the Vichyite directors of the 8anlc of France. The only prominent anti-de Gaullist whoember of the Ecole Libre facultythe medieval scholar and Christian trade unionist, Paul Vignaiut, an ardent opponent of Vichy. However, there have always been important differences In the attitude of theGaullist" members toward de Gaulle, and toward the general problem of tho relationniver-

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sityolitical movement-

One issue which brought these differences into olay and elicited accusations of undue political control was the requirement, formulated bydirectors at the time of the founding of the Ecole Libre, that faculty members shouldtatementhy and declaring their loyaity to the Fighting French. With thisarge oart of tne faculty com;ilied- Vignaux, hcvever, refusedn the statement, giving as his reasons^ first, his objection to the introductionolitical issue in the administrationniversity, and secondly his opposition to certainof the de Gaulle movement. Others of the faculty, although they did not share the second of Vignaux's reasons, refused to sign the statement on principle, and after some heated discussions of the matter, all. wereto remain.

. interrupted by its conversations with the

political Activities

andof Justice, the Ecole Libre engaged in

various activitiesolitical or semi-oolittcal. nature in sunoort of the de Gaullist cause. Among the first of these

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extracurricular activities 'was its collaboration with three other de Gaullist organ!zations^ra/iceForayer, ihe]can'Cltib. and the ^fsree French Reliefn the organizationree French weekS8 in New York'. 3 the Ccole Ubre sponsoredastille Day meeting at the Mew School which'caaibaved JntelJeetua? discourses on the literature and history of Bwiilla Day, withleas' for the recognition of the French Committee by several orators, inc'udino Henri Gregorre and Henry Torres ofAnother ivghiy successful political event fieid under the auspices of there was its anniversary aeetSng last February, which wasby the address of the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax, and which was much* publicized in the de Gaullist press hereelebration of British frlendOiip for the French Committee*

Aside from its official connection with such events, the Ecoie L'bre is considered to have been involved'in political affairs through the affiliation of inany of its members with ether French organizations 'in this country, sc<ne of tnem official. Until the recent crisis, those sc affiliated incljKted Robert Valaur, head of the-French Press and Information Service; jyigiiiJn of the' freran Delegation; professor Lcvis^fctnkine who heads .confidential "Scientifichose Quarters are in .the French Delegation in Hew York; and Francis^Perrin. now deputy to the Provisional Consultative Assembly in Algiers. Professors Hadamard and Gilbertjfchinard. others, ere directors of France Forever; "and Jeajjraenoit'^evy, also

a director of the Franco-American Club, has been extremely active inIIm de Gaullist Cause in radio and movie circles, through thef the French press and Information Service. The most direct

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political Influence on the Ecole Libre has been that exerted by the cultural attache of the FOIL, Menri^eyrlg, oho has to approve all the funds received by the Ecolc fro* the French Committee. Of the Belgians, the most prominent eolitical flgu'e Is former premier Paul van Zeeland.

Others of. the Ecole Libre faculty are connected withwhich, while primarily cultural, heve served

Indirectly to create sympathy for the FCHL* The^rench Republican Ccmnlttee, whose one entrance into the political scene was the holdingeception for Minister Henri^oppe-ot shortly after hishere, fs made up almost entirely of Ecole Libre members, as is tne editorial hoard of theebll(iuB *mncr*Ise, which la financed by the art dealer, Fel Ix^lldenstein. Although the magazine has no wideIhe Informal weekly patherings which it sponsored at thealleries during the wintererw attended by many outstanding representatives of the French colony, as well as of other European exile groups; the impromptu ta'ks given at these meetings under the chairmanship of Bcris Virklne-Guetzevhch were for the most part intellectual rather than exhortatory, but all1 derivedotwnon approval of the Algiers regime.

A similar atmosphere prevailed at the "Pontiony" sessions held at Ht. Holyoke College during the surrraers23 under the direction of Daari Gustave Cchen and other Ecole Libre scholars. Founded in imitation of the famous Cntretlens de Pontlgny in pre-war France, where close to one hundred cf.the leading Intellectuals of Europe used to assemble annually at tha Abbaye de Pootigny, country place of the philcsooher Paul Oesjardins, the Mt. Holyone sessions consistedix Keeks' syeoosrura on literature and tne nodal sciences. Tney were attended by most ofm6ers of the Ecole Libre and

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by French scholars connected with other institutions, as well as by many outstanding American intellectuals. Although the discussions were for the most oart not directly oolitical in content, and were sometimes highly abstruse, the gatherings quite naturally served as an occasion forand usually ardent colitical talk, whicn by the nature of thewas mostly de Gaullist in tenor. eading figure in this as in other activities peripheral to the Ecole Libre was Mirklne-Guetzevitch. whoso ubiquity tn the New York French intellectual scene has been much resented, and who was deposed at the end of last summerirector of the Mt. Hclyoke Pontlgny, The meetings are being held again this sunrer but, presumablyesult of the Ecole's recent vicissitudes, are being confined to cultural discussions.

, . , proceeded more or less serenely in this

the rtorltotn paction col itico-academic fashion for two years, many of

'French members of the Ecole Libre were stunned

by the suggestion that they were functioning asof the French Committee of National Liberation. This appellation seemed to them tolur on their Intellectual integrity, and touggestion of political control which they insisted was not warranted by the fact that the Ecole Libre received funds from foreign oolitical sources; in all their work at the school, they said, they had been left entirely free, and they were indignant at what they took to be the implication that they would have acceotedon any other condition,

A further embarrassment wasood many of the Ecole Libre scholars had never considered themselves *de Gaul lists* in any narrow sense, and some of them in private had lately begun to wonder if democratic processes were

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uaranteed by the French Ccrtrnittse. Thisritiea' attitude on the partection nf the Ecole Libre faculty has been particularly noticeable since General de Gauivisit to this country In July." but, even before the visit, was so pronounced as to heighten the distaste of such scholars as Jacques Maritain at theofolitical label attached to them.

Until the meeting of ths board of the Ecole Libre in June, this wing, which had the support of all the Belgians on the faculty, was in control of the administration. -Being determined at any cost to preserve theppearance as we I* as the fact of academic'freedom (an attitude in which they were moralw supported by.several American educators including President tobarvflutchins of the I'r.lversity ofhey undertook to satisfy the conditions necessary -for an exemption under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,'agreeing to abstain from po!itical activity and to drop from the 'acuity all those officially connected with the FCNL. Some of them ever, discussed the possibility of finding private funds for the supoort of the Eccle Libre so as to sever their financial dependence on the French Committee and the Selgianxi1e.

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'On the other side of the conflictroup led by Professors Claude^evi^trauss, Louis RapMne.and Jean 8enoit-LPvy, and considered to be dominated behind the scenes by theattache of the FCNL, Henri Seyri-:. ole was particularly resented, by the."academic freedom" wing, since they felt thot he had no

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OFFICE OF L!TIIS BH4HCH

riant to interfere In che Ecole Libre'* affairs and especially no mandate to discuss those affairs with the Department of Justice.

The Seyrig faction, which was sharply attacked in two articles in the anti-de Gajllsst four Inune,bjected to the compromise agreed to by Karltain and Mirkine. They maintained that it would be better to announce themselves openly as an arm of the French Committer, and accused those who preferred not to register of "lack of patriot;am." In pour lehe efforts of the Seyrig group were described as aiming to transform the Ecole Libre intoeritableand&he paper expressed "consternation* atpectacle of French 4pi ritual deterioration, and praised the Belgians and others on the faculty who were trying to keep the school free of "politicalhe moderate de Gaul lists agreed for once withtctotre. All of them, as well as all of the Belgians and the few Italians on the faculty, were ready to resign if the proposals of the Seyrig wing were adopted. This would have leftandful of the original faculty, and not the most distinguished in the academic field.

factor which the group favoring outright regis- 1

Tne outcov*

tration was obliged to consider was that Professorhnson was unwilling to have the Ecole Libre continue under Vew School auspices unless it were purged of political influences. At the board meeting in June, Waritain resigned as president (which he had wanted to do on personal grounds in any easel and tfirkine-Suetrevitch and Alexandre Njpyre, secretary general of the Ecole Ltbre, were ousted from thewhich was taken over by Levi-Strauss, RapkSne, and Beooit-Levy. Thedirectors, however, could not carry out their original proposals,

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since Dr. Johnson, who attributed the unfortunate aspects of the situation largely to the activities of Seyrig, was by then prepared to dissolve the Ecole Libre if necessary andew group laterifferent name. Although the Ecole Libre might have been able to continue on its own. most of the directors felt that their connection with the New Schoolital consideration.

The solution finally reached provided that an exemption formula would be granted to the Ecole Libre if no more than twentycent of its faculty and of its board had political affiliations. This compromise was accepted by the "academic freedom" wing as well as by the Belgians, who ore now represented on the board by professor Marcel/^errin. Dr. Johnson has also agreed to the arrangement, although Paul Rivet is still iheate for president and Johnson had previously expressed doubt as to whether Rivet, although he might technically forfeit his connections witn the French Committee, would actually divorce himself from politics on coming to the Ecole Libre. By de Gaullists, on the other hand. Rivet has sometimes been considered to be rather too critical of the French Comatttee, an attitude which has been ascribed to his staunchly Socialist convictions and connections*. He is in any case, widely respected as an anthropologist and as the founder of the Musee de I'Howme, and it.is felt that hiswhich aopears to be satisfactory to all factions of the Ecole Libre, will helo to-restore the now somewhat damaged orestige of the institution.

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