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«In the Interest of Democracy»

The Rise and Fall of the Early Cold War Alliance Between the American Federation of Labor and the Central Intelligence Agency


Quenby Hughes

Until recently, there has been little concrete evidence linking the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In this book, based upon recently opened archival collections, the author investigates this controversial and complicated early Cold War relationship. Contrary to arguments that the AFL’s international activities were entirely controlled by the U.S. government to the detriment of the independent international labor movement, or that the AFL acted on its own without government involvement to foster legitimate anti-communist trade unions, the author’s examination of the archival sources reveals that the AFL and the CIA made an alliance of convenience based upon common goals and ideologies, which dissolved when the balance of power shifted away from the AFL and into the hands of the CIA.
In addition to tracing the complicated historical threads which resulted in an apparently unlikely relationship, three specific examples of how the AFL worked with the CIA are investigated in this book: the development of the anti-communist trade union federation Force Ouvrière in France; the AFL campaign against the Soviet Union’s use of «slave labor» at the UN; and labor’s role in the activities of the National Committee for a Free Europe, including Radio Free Europe and the Free Trade Union Center in Exile.


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Introduction -1


Introduction In 1967, former Central Intelligence Agency of ficer Thomas Braden revealed in a Saturday Evening Post article entitled “I’m Glad the CIA is ‘Immoral’” that he had personally provided funds to the American Federation of Labor’s foreign policy branch to assist their work overseas.1 Braden stood by his actions proudly, but within the explosive context of the 1960s, this article, as well as other reports associating the covert intelligence branch of the government with cultural, labor and academic institutions, sparked a heated debate about the appropriate role of the Central Intelligence Agency within American society. Allegations connecting the American Federation of Labor to Central Intelligence Agency, however, were not new to the 1960s. In the early 1950s, newspaper pundit Westbrook Pegler continuously harped on the Free Trade Union Committee’s foreign policy endeavors (“clandestine politi- cal activities of the American boss unioneers”), and made direct references to the connection between the Committee and the CIA.2 Unlike later journalists and scholars who suspected that the CIA corrupted the labor movement, however, Pegler argued that the AFL corrupted the CIA. Jay Lovestone, executive secretary of the Committee, complained irritably that “Inestimable damage has been done to the Free Trade Union Committee, AFL, both here and abroad, as well as to the interests of the United States by recent attacks of Pegler, inspired by CIA of ficials, according to Pegler’s 1 Thomas Braden, “I’m Glad the CIA is ‘Immoral,’” Saturday Evening Post, 20 May 1967, 10–14. 2 Westbrook Pegler, “Fair Enough,...

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