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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 III Falling Apart -131


Part III Falling Apart Chapter Seven “AFL Stooges:” The Unraveling of the Relationship between the Free Trade Union Committee and the National Committee for a Free Europe Unfortunately, relations between the trade unionists and Radio Free Europe did not remain rosy. The National Committee for a Free Europe soon dis- covered that the use of labor personalities and exiled leaders as sources and commentators posed unique problems for Radio Free Europe. Precisely because the exiles often held prominent positions in their homelands, the potential impact of exile commentators upon citizens of those countries was significant. Exiles needed to be carefully screened in order to make sure that their message would be received positively, not negatively, in their homelands. This issue was particularly problematic because exiles tended to divide into sects that hotly disputed the veracity and impor- tance of the others. Radio Free Europe also had to choose between more recent exiles, who often had compelling stories to tell, and older émigrés, who boasted greater moral authority. Some members of the Radio Free Europe Committee argued that the stories of rank-and-file exiles should take precedence over those of national leaders. Finally, Committee mem- bers believed that all expatriates needed to understand that the American staf f of NCFE had final editorial authority over the material presented on Radio Free Europe. This was not always an easy lesson for the hotheaded and opinionated émigrés.1 Sacha Volman added to the NCFE’s headaches when he wrote a March 1951 memorandum to...

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