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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.

«Hughes’ Buch ist der Beweis dafür, dass einfache, aber fleissige Quellenstudien nach wie vor am ehesten zu beachtenswerten neuen historischen Erkenntnissen führen. Ebenso zeigt die Autorin, dass man solche Erkenntnisse auch darstellen kann, ohne end- und planlos zu zitieren und dicke Bände zu füllen. Und last but not least bietet ‘In the Interest of Democracy’ eine hoch interessante Lehrstunde zum Thema Pragmatismus und Integrität von Gewerkschaften.» (Wolfgang Kaufmann, Das Historisch-Politische Buch 61, 2013/1)