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Conflict Within the ICFTU: Anti-Communism and Anti-Colonialism in the 1950s

  • Anthony Carew

Summary

Formed as an anti-communist labour international, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) nevertheless experienced internal conflict over the appropriate approach to communism. The different perspectives of the two largest affiliates, the British TUC and the American AFL-CIO, caused disharmony and ultimately near organizational paralysis until it forced a change of leadership. Caught between these rival positions, the ICFTU secretariat's relations with the AFL-CIO were initially the most strained, but as the International extended its activity in Africa, in a bid to outflank communist organization among labour, relations with the TUC also deteriorated over the correct stance on nationalism and colonialism.

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References

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1. See, for example, the examination of the International Transport Workers Federation in Koch-Baumgarten, S., “Geschichte der Internationalen Transportarbeiterfoderation 1896–1993: Ein gewerkschaftlich-wissenschaftliches Kooperationsprojekt”, Internationale Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (06 1994) and Reinalda, Bob (ed.), The Fimm0en Years 1917–45: Contributions to the ITF Inter-War History (forthcoming, 1996).

2. The shortcomings of the International Secretariat of Trade Union Centres have been explored inMilner, S., “The International Labour Movement and the Limits of Internationalism: the International Secretariat of the National Trade Union Centres 1901–1913”, International Review of Social History, 33, 1 (1988). The internal problems besetting the IFTU initially chronicled byLorwin, L., The International Labour Movement (New York, 1953) are currently being reappraised by Geert Van Goethem in a forthcoming study conducted under the aegis of the IISH. The fissures in the WFTU that ultimately led to the schism of 1949 have been the subject of historical analysis by Weiler, P., “The United States, International Labour and the Cold War: The Break-up of the World Federation of Trade Unions”, Diplomatic History, 5, 1 (Winter 1981); Carew, A., “The Schism Within the World Federation of Trade Unions Government and Trade Union Diplomacy”, International Review of Social History, 24, 3 (1984) and McShane, D., International Labour and the Origins of the Cold War (Oxford, 1992).

3. The early development of the ICFTU has been chronicled byWindmuller, John, American Labour and the International Labour Movement 1940–53 (Ithaca, 1954). A series of articles by Windmuller, , often reporting on the ICFTU congress, updated periodically this initial account “The Stockholm Congress of the ICFTU”, Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 7, 3 (04 1954); “The Vienna ICFTU Congress”, Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 9, 2 (1956); “ICFTU After Ten Years: Problems and Prospects”, Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 14, 2 (January 1961); “Leadership and Administration in the ICFTU: A New Phase of Development”, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 2 (June 1963); “Cohesion and Disunity in the ICFTU: The 1965 Amsterdam Congress”, Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 17, 3 (April 1966); “Internationalism in Eclipse: The ICFTU After Two Decades”, Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 23, 4 (July 1970) and “Realignment in the ICFTU: The Impact of Detente”, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 14, 3 (1976). The major sources for the present article are the Presidential Papers of AFL-CIO President, George Meany, International Files Series 9 (hereafter “Meany Collection”) located at the George Meany Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland; Archives of the Trades Union Congress, Modern Record Centre, Warwick University, Coventry; Archives of the ICFTU, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam; UK Ministry of Labour Papers (Series 13), Public Record Office, Kew; United Automobile Workers (UAW), International Department Collection (Reuther-Carliner 1956–1962) and Victor Reuther Collection, Walter Reuther Archives, Detroit; Archives of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

4. The AFL had wanted the ICFTU to create a department for trade unionist refugees from the Soviet bloc which would be responsible for organizing infiltration of the Soviet satellites. American Federationist (July 1949), pp. 6–8.

5. On CIA funding of the Free Trade Union Committee see A. Carew, “The Lovestone-Brown Connection: Labour's Covert Operations”, forthcoming. US government-funded training of foreign labour leaders was a particular feature of the Marshall Plan. See the author's Labour Under the Marshall Plan: The Politics of Productivity and the Marketing of Management Science (Manchester, 1987).

6. Brown to Meany, 16 August 1950, Meany Collection, Box 57 (21).

7. Brown to Lovestone, 2 December 1951, ILGWU Archives, Box 261 (6a), Catherwood Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

8. Lovestone to Meany, 1 April 1952, Meany Collection, Box 57 (22).

9. Green to ICFTU Affiliates, 2 May 1952, CLC Collection, vol. 257.

10. Brown to Meany, 21 October 1952, Meany Collection, Box 57 (21).

11. Report from Irving Brown, 23 May 1953, Meany Collection, Box 56 (2).

12. Message from Lovestone to Dubinsky, 7 July 1953, ILGWU Archives, Box 261 (6a); Proceedings, ICFTU Congress, July 1953, p. 208.

13. Omer Becu had been a leader of the Belgian Seamen's Officers Union. In the course of his career he succeeded Oldenbroek twice, first as general secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation in 1950 and secondly as ICFTU general secretary in 1960. Initially a close associate of Oldenbroek, he became critical of him during the years 1951–1957 when he was the president and Oldenbroek the general secretary of the Confederation. Like Oldenbroek, Becu was originally the Americans' preferred choice for ICFTU general secretary but, also like Oldenbroek, he later lost Meany's confidence. His health broke under the pressure of work in the ICFTU and he retired early in 1967.

14. AFE Convention Proceedings, 1953, p. 59.

15. Report on the Stockholm Conference of the ICFTU of July 1953, Labour Attaché (Brussels), 15 July 1953, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 996.

16. This was, in effect, an attempt to swing the ICFTU behind a covert project that the AFL had been engaged in through the FTUC with CIA funding since 1950.

17. The truth was that Brown and Lovestone were no more admirers of Senator McCarthy than Deakin was of Bevan.

18. Report from Irving Brown, 24 June 1954, Meany Collection, Box 57 (23).

19. Notes on ICFTU Executive Board meeting, 1 December 1953, Meany Collection, Box 57 (22).

20. Lovestone to Meany, 1 August 1955, Mcany Collection, Box 56 (6).

21. Brown to Meany, 19 March 1955; Irving Brown Memorandum on International Relations, 18 November 1955, Meany Collection, Box 57 (24) and Box 56 (8).

22. Victor Reuther to Walter Reuther, 6 February 1956, UAW International Department Collection (Reuthcr-Carliner 1956–1962), Box 83 (24).

23. Greenhough to Braine, 14 May 1956, USA Labour Attachés: Trade Unions 1955–1656, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAD 13 1218.

24. Meany to Oldenbroek and Becu, 25 June 1956, CLC Collection, vol. 257 (14).

25. Lovestone to Meany, 3 August 1956, Meany Collection, Box 56 (13). The labour attaché, Joseph Godson, was more than a mere diplomat reporting on the British labour scene. He was part of Hugh Gaitskell's circle, a close friend of Labour Party power broker, Sam Watson, and had actually been present at Gaitskell group meetings where the proposed expulsion of Bevan from the Labour Party had been discussed. See Carew, Labour Under the Marshall Plan, p. 129.

26. Brown to Meany, 7 March 1956. Meany Collection, Box 56 (10).

27. Braine to Myrrdin-Evans, 5 October 1956, USA Labour Attachés: Trade Unions 1955–1956, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1218.

28. Lovestone to Meany, 10 September 1956, Meany Collection, Box 56 (14).

29. Letter from Irving Brown, 8–15 September 1956, Meany Collection, Box 56 (14).

30. Proposals for Action, Respectfully Submitted by the AFL-CIO to the ICFTU Executive Board meeting, November 1956, 23 October 1956, Meany Collection, Box 56 (15).

31. Lovestone to Meany, 1 December 1956; Brown to Lovestone, 12 December 1956, Meany Collection, Box 56 (16). Jay Krane was Millard's assistant and a close supporter of Oldenbroek. As an American who had close contacts with the CIO, he was deeply distrusted by Lovestone and his associates.

32. Brown Report on Executive Board meeting, 26–30 November 1956, Meany Collection, Box 56 (16).

33. Lovestone to Meany, 1 December 1956.

34. Braine to Greenhough, 4 February 1957, USA: Trade Unions 1957, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1270; Lovestone to Meany, 11 April 1957, Box 56 (19); Brown Report, 17 May 1957, Meany Collection, Box 56 (20). Millard's position here was interesting and reflected the sensitivity with which the whole question of communism in the labour movement had to be handled, especially in developing countries. As a democratic socialist, Millard had earned a reputation in the Canadian labour movement as a scourge of the communists. Yet, like Deakin and others in the British labour movement, he found the AFL's brand of anti-communism altogether too strident.

35. Braine to Greenhough, 27 February 1957, USA: Trade Unions 1957, LAB 13 1270.

36. “Discussions in International Workers Organization”, The Times, 18 March 1957.

37. Millard to Margo, 11 March 1957, Margot Thompson Collection 9, National Archives of Canada.

38. Lovestone to Meany, 22 March 1957, Meany Collection, Box 56 (18); Meany, George, “Conflicts of Policy”, The Times, 12 April 1957.

39. Irving Brown Report, 17 May 1957; Brown to Meany, 18 May 1957, Meany Collection, Boxes 57 (25) and 56 (20).

40. Greenhough to Wilson and Treganowan, 20 June 1957, USA: Proposed Contacts, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1271.

41. ICFTU Tunis Congress, Bulletins nos 4–5 & 8, 6 and 10 July 1957.

42. Lovestone to Meany, 5 April 1957, Meany Collection, Box 56 (19).

43. Tom Mboya had assumed the leadership of the Kenyan labour movement in 1953 aged 23. By 1956, following a year's leave to study at Ruskin College, Oxford, he had gained an impressive reputation in the international labour movement. As his relationship with the British labour movement and government became more prickly, he was wooed by the American labour movement. In 1957 he became the first African elected to the Kenyan legislature and thereafter combined his trade union and political roles. As a leading figure in the Pan-African movement, he led the Kenyan delegation at the independence conference with the British government in 1960 and in 1962 became Minister of Labour in Kenya's first independent government. He was assassinated in 1969.

44. Treganowan to Greenhough, 22 May 1957, USA Proposed Contacts, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1271.

45. Report to the President on the Vice-President's Visit to Africa, 5 April 1957, FRUS, XVIII (1989), pp. 57–66; Irving Brown Report, 17 May 1957.

46. Oldenbroek to Millard, 16 September 1957, JHO Personal 0/12, ICFTU Archives; Marsh to Greenhough, 11 September 1957, USA: Trade Unions 1957, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1270.

47. Morgan to Wilson, 13 December 1957, USA: Trade Unions 1957, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1270.

48. Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs to Twining, 12 November 1957, USA Proposed Contacts, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1271.

49. Irving Brown Report, 2–4 March 1958, Meany Collection, Box 57 (1); Millard to Margo, 1 January 1958, Margot Thompson Collection 12.

50. Lovestone to Deverall, 12 and 31 December 1957, Victor Reuther Collection, Box 31(7).

51. Irving Brown Report, 1 March 1958, Meany Collection, Box 57 (1); “Relations Between TUC and AFL-CIO”, undated, USA: Trade Unions 1958, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1324.

52. Notes by Walter Hood, 29 April 1958, ICFTU 1958–1960, TUC Archives 292 919.66/2.

53. Millard to Jodoin and MacDonald, 11 July 1958, CLC Archives, microfilm reel H191. A. Philip Randolph was the black leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and had been centrally involved in devising the AFL-CIO training programme for Africa. He was opposed to the concessions required of the AFL-CIO in the Atlantic City accords.

54. Morgan to Wilson, 29 May 1958; Wilson to Morgan, 3 June 1958, USA Proposed Contacts, UK Ministry of Labour Papers, LAB 13 1271.

55. Report on All-African People's Congress, 5–14 December 1958; letter from Irving Brown, 16 December 1958, Meany Collection, Box 57 (26) and (3).

56. Lovestone to Meany, 22 December 1958, Meany Collection, Box 57 (3).

57. Statement by the AFL-CIO Executive Council on Africa, 20 February 1959, TUC Archives 292 901/15.

58. Bert Lewis, the TUC appointee on the Kampala College teaching staff, for example, wrote of the “non-British [i.e. American and Swedish] staff” of the College “not under-standing African society”. Undated Report on ICFTU African Labour College by Mr A.E. Lewis, c. March 1959, TUC Archives 292 901/15.

59. The Conception of Pan-Africanism and Other Influences Affecting Trade Union Organization in Africa, TUC, CAC/IC 2/1, 9 March 1959; Bowers to Woodcock, 14 April 1959, TUC Archives 292 901/15 and 919.66/2.

60. Geijer to Reuther, 6 July 1959, Victor Reuther Collection, Box 26 (10).

61. Reuther to Geijer, 22 July 1959, Victor Reuther Collection, Box 26 (11).

62. The Times, 7 December 1959.

63. Irving Brown Report on Closed Session of ICFTU Executive Board, 28 June 1960, Meany Collection, Box 58 (2).

64. Millard to Becu, 21 October 1960, Jay Krane Collection, Box 17 (34), Walter Rcuthcr Archives.

65. Krane to Victor Reuther, 10 December 1960, UAW International Department Collection (Rcuther-Carliner 1956–1962), Box 123 (13).

66. Brown to Ross and Lovestone, 14 November 1960, Meany Collection, Box 58 (2).

67. Krane to Victor Reuther, 10 December 1960.

68. Millard to Eileen and Bert, 29 November–3 December 1960, Margot Thompson Collection 23; Personal Notes Dictated by Walter Reuther, 8 March 1961, Victor Reuther Collection, Box 31 (11).

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Conflict Within the ICFTU: Anti-Communism and Anti-Colonialism in the 1950s

  • Anthony Carew

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