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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

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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 II Working Together -79

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Part iI Working Together Chapter Four “Fertile Fields:” The Free Trade Union Committee in France In 1946, a State Department of ficial wrote in a memorandum, “The world drama of Russian expansion is being played in miniature on the stage of France.”1 During the late 1940s, Communists took control of the major confederation of trade unions in France, thus gaining considerable power in French politics. The American Government and the American Federation of Labor sought to remove the Communist domination. The ensuing French “drama” featured a lengthy list of characters, including United States government agents, wary ex-Communists, fervid French and American anticommunists, French Socialist union leaders, Communist labor lead- ers and millions of organized Frenchmen. To American Federation of Labor leaders like Jay Lovestone, the story-line of the conf lict seemed simple: American trade unionists would support anticommunists within the French labor movement, hoping that a split of the main trade union would prevent Communists from gaining political power. Historians, however, have harshly disagreed about the protagonists and antagonists of this dramatic situation. In one interpretation, championed by Ronald Radosh in American Labor and United States Foreign Policy (1969), the American Federation of Labor, funded heavily by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, worked closely with the American government to undermine and divide the legitimate French labor move- ment. Another interpretation described the American Federation of Labor as an independent agent, working to further the cause of democracy by encouraging the work of non-Communist trade unionists in France in...

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