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Winning the Cold War: Anti-Communism, Informal Diplomacy, and the Transnational Career of Jean Violet

Johannes Großmann
From the journal New Global Studies


The multifaceted career of the French lawyer, political advisor, voluntary intelligence officer, and anti-communist “freelancer” Jean Violet illustrates the growing importance of “informal diplomacy” during the second half of the twentieth century. In highlighting the decisive steps in Violet’s political life, aimed at defeating the communist regimes and “winning the cold war”, this paper discusses the role played by private and non-state actors in the development of a transnational European and transatlantic policy after World War II as well as the extension and professionalization of the informal diplomatic sector since the 1960s which was accompanied by an increasing lack of democratic legitimacy.


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  1. 1

    This paper is the by-product of extensive research for a doctoral thesis: Großmann (2014, see especially 437–96 and 533–54). It is based on primary sources taken from German, British, and US archives.

  2. 2

    In line with Pierre Bourdieu, this paper understands symbolic capital as an individual resource being expressed in values such as honor, prestige, or recognition. Apparently, symbolic capital arises from the negation of “economic capital”. It can therefore be characterized as “a form of power that is not perceived as power”. At the same time, symbolic capital functions as an umbrella concept conditioning and legitimizing the use of “economic”, “cultural”, or “social capital”. See Swartz (1997, 90–3, here 90).

  3. 3

    See Péan (1984, 34–40; 1993, 389). Péan does, however, not cite any documents proving his allegations.

  4. 4

    Jean Violet, “Exposé sommaire de mon activité d’avocat à la Cour de Paris sur le plan professionnel et sur le plan politique”, typescipt, 1986, 1. A copy of this document has been given to the author by Jean Violet’s daughter. See also Lebec (1997, 120–22).

  5. 5

    Violet, “Exposé sommaire”, pp. 2–3, here p. 2. The ILERI still exists.

  6. 6

    See the note of the French President Vincent Auriol about a conversation with Pinay, 13 December 1952, in: Auriol (1978, 793). For the historical context, see Thomas (2001).

  7. 7

    Violet, 4. The Spanish press presented Violet as the secretary-general of an (unknown) organization called Consejo Internacional para el Orden Cristiano, who had met the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alberto Martín Artajo, and the President of the Spanish Cortes, Esteban de Bilbao Eguía. See Audiencia del ministro de Asuntos Exteriores, ABC, 6 June 1952; Visitas al presidente de las Cortes, La Vanguardia Española, 7 June 1952. On the bilateral diplomatic relations between France and Spain after the Second World War, see Dulphy (2002).

  8. 8

    On the EDC project, see Bitsch (2008, 81–96).

  9. 9

    See, for example, Adenauer’s note on a conversation with Strauß, 9 August 1954, in Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, II series, Vol. 4 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2003), 3–5.

  10. 10

    Frank (1982, 370–71). See also Strauß (1989, 206–07 and 216).

  11. 11

    On de Gaulle’s political comeback, see Thomas, Le Béguec, and Lachaise (2010). The cautious reactions of Adenauer and the German federal government are described by Lappenküper (2001, 1204–18).

  12. 12

    Stiftung Bundeskanzler-Adenauer-Haus, Rhöndorf (StBKAH), III/56, Minutes of Adenauer’s conversation with Violet, 15 July 1958, secret.

  13. 13

    StBKAH, III/87, Minutes of Adenauer’s conversation with Pinay [and Violet], 21 August 1958, secret.

  14. 14

    Violet, 5–7.

  15. 15

    Archiv für Christlich-Soziale Politik, Munich (ACSP), private papers of Franz Josef Strauß, BMVg (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung) 852, “Note sur un projet d’action psychologique dans le cadre du Nato” [spring 1956].

  16. 16

    See Krop (1994, 544–48).

  17. 17

    “Un ‘livre rouge’ sur l’Église persécutée”, La Liberté, 23 May 1956; Pio XII recibe el “libro rojo de la Iglesia perseguida”, ABC, 23 May 1956; “Libro rojo sobre la Iglesia perseguida”, La Vanguardia Española, 24 May 1956; “Il libro dei perseguitati”, L’Osservatore Romano, 22 May 1956. See also Lebec (1997, 140–41).

  18. 18

    “Aux Organisations de secours à l’Église du Silence, aumôneries de réfugiés, etc…”, Témoins 1 (1963), 3–4.

  19. 19

    “Un Apostolat fascinant”, Témoins 2 (1963), 1–20, here 1.

  20. 20

    Editorial, Église-Témoin 9 (1964), 1–3, here 2.

  21. 21

    Jean Violet, Opération Helsinki, typescript and documentation, n.d. [ca. 1996], 1. A copy of this document has been given to the author by Jean Violet’s daughter.

  22. 22

    Ibid., 1–2.

  23. 23

    Violet, Opération Helsinki, appendix No. 1: “Conférence sur la Sécurité Européenne. Réflexions et Propositions” [1970], handwritten title “Le Document Vert”, 1–5. A copy of the “Document Vert” can be found in: Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik, Sankt Augustin (ACDP), 01-403 (private papers of Alois Mertes), 098/2(b).

  24. 24

    Ibid., 5–20.

  25. 25

    Pour une vraie “sécurité européenne”, Le Monde Moderne 2 (1972), 197–200.

  26. 26

    See, for example, Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone (CKS), U2332 (private papers of John Rodgers), OP23/14, booklet of the Académie Européenne de Sciences Politiques [spring 1970].

  27. 27

    Violet, Opération Helsinki, 4.

  28. 28

    On the CSCE and the Helsinki Process, see Wenger, Mastny, and Nuenlist (2008).

  29. 29

    See also Krop (1994, 550–51); Lebec (1997, 196–209).

  30. 30
  31. 31

    On the activities of Peter Sager see Frischknecht et al. (1987, especially 585–99).

  32. 32

    National Archives and Record Administration, College Park (NARA), Nixon Presidential Materials (NPM), National Security Council (NSC), Country Files, Europe 732, “La subversion dans l’Église d’Amérique latine” n.d. [1969], secret. For the historical background, see Smith (1991).

  33. 33

    See ACSP, private papers of Franz Josef Strauß, BMF (Bundesministerium der Finanzen) 180, two letters of Violet to Strauß, 7 September 1969 and 22 September 1969.

  34. 34

    See the testimony of de Marenches, Assemblée Nationale (1984, 632–33).

  35. 35

    See, for example, the exhaustive compilation of publicly available information on the Cercle made by Teacher (2011). Teacher’s accurate documentation deserves respect. His interpretations are, however, unbalanced, often unsound and inspired by conspiratorial views.

  36. 36

    Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge (hereafter CAC), private papers of Julian Amery (hereafter AMEJ), 33/1, short description of the Cercle, n.d. [ca. 1987], strictly confidential.

  37. 37

    CAC, AMEJ, 33/2, short description of the Cercle [end of 1989], confidential.

  38. 38

    CAC, private papers of Margaret Thatcher (hereafter THCR), 2/1/1/4, Amery to Thatcher, 9 December 1975, confidential.

  39. 39

    ACSP, private papers of Franz Josef Strauß, Fam (Familie) 178, Rockefeller to Strauß, 20 March 1969.

  40. 40

    “Franz Josef sein Milljöh”, Der Spiegel, 3 March 1980.

  41. 41

    “‘Victory for Strauß’. Wie ein Rechtskartell den Kanzlerkandidaten Strauß unterstützte”, Der Spiegel, 13 September 1982.

  42. 42

    For a criminal sociological analysis, see Lascoumes (1997, 81–112 and 135–80, 1999).

Published Online: 2014-4-5
Published in Print: 2014-3-1

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