[Documents menu] Documents menu
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 22:48:48 -0500 (CDT)
From: Steve C Zeltzer <united@igc.apc.org> (by way of Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>)
Subject: The CIA, Irving Brown & The AFL-CIO
Article: 67667
Message-ID: <bulk.19420.19990617121550@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Ben Rathbun, The Point Man: Irving Brown and the deadly post-1945 struggle for Europe and Africa

Minerva Press (London - Washington), 1996

Reviewed by Lenni Brenner <BrennerL@aol.com>
17 June 1999

This book is singular. The British publisher, Minerva Press, is, at least in part, a vanity house for books that can't get real publishers. Thus it released this crude manuscript, with its surrealist "Swedish-Polish border," and compounded its felony by incompetently indexing it. Nevertheless it is of some use because its fanatic author documents the level of AFL-CIO cohabitation with the CIA.

Rathbun places himself politically with his 1st paragraph : "Irving Brown and Lane Kirkland are the stars of this tale. Lane was mugged in a mindless way by...his AFL-CIO brethren before he stepped down as the AFL-CIO president." The Introduction is by Albert Shanker, who wouldn't shake John Sweeney's hand after he had to swear him in as Kirkland's successor.

Brown (1911-89) became an AFL organizer in the 30s. His wife was Jay Lovestone's secretary. It was as the protege of the ex-General Secretary of the Communist Party turned International Ladies Garment Workers Union bureaucrat, that Brown played his role on the world stage. He was made the Federation's European representative in 1944 by Lovestone (1897-1990) and George Meany, then AFL Secretary-Treasurer, in charge of the union's foreign affairs.

His central role in the AFL's CIA-funded post-WWII organizing fight against the French Stalinist Conféderation Géeneral du Travail has long been known. In 1967 Ramparts magazine exposed secret CIA cash to the National Student Association. The educated public was outraged. The 2/21/67 NY Times carried the expose further. Meany, then AFL-CIO President, was asked by the press if the AFL-CIO took secret money? "Absolutely not." This provoked Tom Braden, the former director of the CIA's foreign operations division, to write, "I'm Glad the CIA's Immoral," for the 5/20/67 Saturday Evening Post. Braden proudly wrote of passing on the funds Brown used "to pay off his strong-arm squads in Mediterranean ports, so that American supplies could be unloaded against the opposition of Communist dock workers."

The Point Man confirms that Meany lied. Rathbun interviewed Braden in 1990. The old covert op vet "recalled one occasion in 1953 when AFL President George Meany was asked by...Allen Dulles, for help on reports of use of CIA funds by Brown's boss, Jay Lovestone." Braden insisted on an accounting. "Finally, I went to Dulles, by then the CIA Director....(H)e did agree to ask Meany....The two met at 6:15 one evening in 1953 at the Dulles mansion."

AFL-CIO international perfidy continued on after Meany retired. In 1982 it publicly identified with Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Rathbun admits that "Buthelezi had a special link with the Botha government." Journalists are unanimous: Botha and Kirkland's man whipped up his murderous Inkatha warriors against the African National Congress and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the fighters against apartheid. The only thing about South Africa that Brown and Kirkland cared about was the fact that pro-Soviet Stalinists were in the ANC/COSATU leadership.

The Forward, the weekly English version of the Forverts, the Yiddish daily identified from day one with the ILGWU, Lovestone's base, reviewed this weird tome in 1996. Today owned by fanatic militarist capitalists, the paper made a hero of Brown. Now Random House has released Ted Morgan's A Covert Life, a bio of Lovestone. Needless to say it got raves from the Forward and Commentary, organ of the arch-right American Jewish Committee. However it also received a favorable write-up in the March 28 New York Times Book Review.

Lapsed Democratic Socialist reviewer Paul Berman maintains that "the great untold story of the 20th century...is the story of the heroic anti-Communist left...and radical trade unionists who recognized that Communism was a catastrophic byproduct of their own movement. And in that great untold tale, surely no one played a...more dramatic role than the slightly scary Jay Lovestone."

This is monkey-chatter. Many movements fought Stalin, including the Nazis. None is approved of for that alone. Each is judged by the totality of their organizational 'politics,' internal and external, not by their opposition to Stalinism alone. Re the AFL and then the merged AFL-CIO, many unions were bastions of bureaucracy, mafia control and primordial American racism.

It took 4 years of demos and legal action by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to make the ILGWU end race discrimination in 1965. It had to open the well paid cutters local to Blacks. According to Herb Hill, then the NAACP's white labor secretary, today a Wisconsin U. professor, "the union found it necessary to cancel its financial support for the ILGWU wing of the Workmen's Circle Home in the Bronx...which did not admit black and Puerto Rican members." (Race Traitor, Winter 96)

There is nothing new in Berman's panegyric. He sees himself as the ideological heir of the Shankerite wing of the CIA's working class collaborators. Democratic Socialists of America evolved out of the Socialist Party, known for decades for its perennial presidential candidate, Norman Thomas, and it gives out Debs-Thomas awards. However Thomas was exposed as on the take from the CIA in a 2/22/67 Times. article, "Thomas Upholds CIA-Aided Work." This was later confirmed by Sidney Hook in the July 1982 Commentary. He had been Thomas's colleague in the American Committee for Cultural Freedom. "When it was unable to pay its rent...Thomas...telephoned Allen Dulles of the CIA and requested a contribution."

Although a growth industry is emerging, praising CIA collaborators, there is a jagged hole in the record. Meany's lie became the AFL-CIO's line. It does nothing to educate its present members about the decades of secret government subvention of their unions. Few in the AFL-CIO's ranks read the review, fewer yet have read Morgan's book. The members and the public should have the right to see all AFL-CIO and CIA files dealing with its CIA affiliation, howsoever disguised, from the initiation of the links, to the present.

Resolutions to this effect, with sufficient documentation, should be presented at every union level. Additionally, Sweeney is a member of DSA. As their award self-identifies them with a CIA 'asset,' and as Sweeney, their prestigious member, is the head of an indisputably past-collaborationist union movement, it is mandatory that we alert their youth, located on several campuses, to this infamous aspect of their organization's history. Public exposure of the AFL-CIO's record, in the work-places and campuses of America, is obligatory if there is ever going to be a renaissance of the labor and student movements.

[World History Archives]     [Gateway to World History]     [Images from World History]     [Hartford Web Publishing]