30 JUNE 1950, Page 5

Hot Air in the Cold War

The Congress of Cultural Freedom which is being held this week in the American sector of Berlin is intended as a kind of riposte to similar but less blameless rallies which have been organised at various times by the Communist " Partisans of Peace." A large number of more or less distinguished delegates from the free coun- tries of the world have assembled (their expenses being paid by the organisers) to discuss matters relating to the maintenance of cultural freedom, long extinguished behind the Iron Curtain and not entirely immune from threats on this side of it. This impeccable project, launched with a feu de joie of oratory, may possibly achieve some- thing ; but its chances of doing so are being, as might 'have been foreseen, prejudiced by the idiosyncrasies which intellectuals in- variably display on these occasions, The themes for discussion are vast and profound, and the delegates are having their usual difficulty first in agreeing exactly what it is that they are talking about ; secondly, in talking about it and not about something else ; and thirdly, in not talking for much too long. It is, for instance, ques- tionable whether the cause of cultural freedom is materially furthered by transporting Mr. Herbert Read to Berlin so that he can make public his contention that the Marxists are perfectly right in everything they have said about the decline of culture under capitalism. But the bickerings, the longueurs and the irrelevancies were no doubt allowed for in advance by the organisers of the Conference ; for

" Things like this, you know, must be During a Culture jamboree."