American Labour's Cold War Abroad
From Deep Freeze to Détente, 1945-1970
During the Cold War, American labour organizations were at the centre of the battle for the hearts and minds of working people. At a time when trade unions were a substantial force in both American and European politics, the fiercely anti-communist American Federation of Labour–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO), set a strong example for labour organizations overseas. The AFL–CIO cooperated closely with the US government on foreign policy and enjoyed an intimate, if sometimes strained, relationship with the CIA. The activities of its international staff, and especially the often secretive work of Jay Lovestone and Irving Brown—whose biographies read like characters plucked from a Le Carré novel—exerted a major influence on relationships in Europe and beyond.
Having mastered the enormous volume of correspondence and other records generated by staffers Lovestone and Brown, Carew presents a lively and clear account of what has largely been an unknown dimension of the Cold War. In impressive detail, Carew maps the international programs of the AFL–CIO during the Cold War and its relations with labour organizations abroad, in addition to providing a summary of the labour situation of a dozen or more countries including Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Greece, and India. American Labour’s Cold War Abroad reveals how the Cold War compelled trade unionists to reflect on the role of unions in a free society. Yet there was to be no meeting of minds on this, and at the end of the 1960s the AFL–CIO broke with the mainstream of the international labour movement to pursue its own crusade against communism.
Anthony Carew has unlocked the secrets long held fast by Jay Lovestone, George Meany, and the CIA. In masterful fashion, he brings to light the complex skullduggery, the myriad rivalries, and the geopolitical impulses that propelled key leaders of American labour to collaborate with the US government at the depths of the Cold War and even afterwards. This is a fascinating book that commands the attention of all those, on both sides of the Atlantic, who seek to illuminate a hidden history vital to labour’s fate in the second half of the twentieth century.
Drawing on decades of original research, Anthony Carew’s magisterial survey provides the definitive account of American labour’s role in the Cold War. Spanning the origins of the East-West conflict, its expansion into the Third World, and the dawn of détente, American Labour’s Cold War Abroad profoundly deepens and extends our understanding of both the ‘global Cold War’ and modern labour history.
Much of the relevant data and documentation of the American labour leadership’s response to the onset of the Cold War was buried in tightly guarded archives until Carew’s prodigious patience and persistence won him access. His American Labour’s Cold War Abroad is an absorbing and indispensable contribution to any informed understanding of the activities and mindsets of those febrile times.
The product of archival research conducted over four decades, American Labour’s Cold War Abroad is meticulously documented, compellingly argued, richly peopled, and vividly written. It will become the definitive text on organised labour’s role in the Cold War conflicts that dominated global politics from 1945 into the 1970s.
This is outstanding research that uses entirely new archival sources. Moving us through the corridors of political influence in Europe and America during the east-west Cold War, Carew reveals the intrigues, arguments, and double-dealing between labour activists who could be characters in an espionage novel. An important contribution to our understanding of international relations in this period of recent history.
Twenty years ago, Tony Carew proved American labor depended upon CIA subsidies to finance its Cold War foreign policy operations. Now, with American Labour’s Cold War Abroad he tells the full, gripping story from the end of World War II to 1970. Combining drama, character studies, and hard facts, Carew shows the reader how American unions moved from early efforts in Europe to interventions around the ‘Third World.’ Seldom has a book combined such rich detail with careful attention to the overall arc of history, scrupulous fairness, and a notable flair for bringing out the drama of real life.
Anthony Carew has written a thoroughly researched history which is likely to be the definitive account of a now largely forgotten but crucial episode in American labour history, and which raises many questions of contemporary relevance.
Anthony Carew is a lifelong trade unionist and is currently an honorary visiting reader in international labour studies in the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester. Carew began work in the Canadian labour movement where became research director of the largest railway brotherhood. Later, he was a research fellow at the University of Sussex Centre for Contemporary European Studies focusing on European trade unionism, and for twenty-six years he taught industrial relations and labour history at the University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology. Widely published, his books include Labour Under the Marshall Plan, The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy 1900-1939 and The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, (with co-authors Dreyfus, Van Goethem, Gumbrell-McCormick, and van der Linden).
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