Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 22:48:48 -0500 (CDT)
From: Steve C Zeltzer <firstname.lastname@example.org> (by way of Michael Eisenscher <email@example.com>)
Subject: The CIA, Irving Brown & The AFL-CIO
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
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
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
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
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.