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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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Part I - Getting Together -9


Part I Getting Together Chapter One “In the Lead of the World:” From the Birth of the American Federation of Labor in the 1880s to Lovestone’s Expulsion from the CPUSA In 1989, after the death of labor leader and foreign policy expert Irving Brown, politicians and journalists rushed to eulogize a man many had reviled during his lifetime. One obituary author even suggested that “A wiser Stalin might have let Trotsky live out his days in exile and gone after Irving Brown instead.”1 The same could easily be said for many of the men and women such as Jay Lovestone, David Dubinsky and George Meany who were involved with Brown in the American Federation of Labor’s Free Trade Union Committee in the early years of the Cold War, as well as for older labor leaders such as Samuel Gompers who established the American Federation of Labor as the largest anticommunist labor organization in the United States. One of the primary lessons learned from research into the relationship between the American Federation of Labor and the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency is that key individuals signifi- cantly shaped the relationship, and that the course of history would have been altered dramatically without their involvement. If Samuel Gompers and Jay Lovestone represent the individual “char- acters” significant to the entwined stories which resulted in the early Cold War relationship discussed in this book, the primary institutional characters include the American Federation of Labor, the Communist Party of the United States, the...

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