[Marxism] Re: Marxism Digest, Vol 34, Issue 35

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Thu Aug 10 19:39:56 MDT 2006

> Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 14:39:14 -0400
> From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
> Subject: Re: [Marxism] Iranian labor and US trade union "support" -
> 	was	"Winning and Losing" etc.

> Lou Paulsen wrote:
>>In international affairs, it has pretty much played the role of a CIA
operative.  Therefore, it seems to me that statements from the AFL-CIO
>> are
>>just about as "supportive" as statements by George W. Bush, and just
>> about
>>as unlikely to impress the government or working people of Iran, and, to
use an overused old Bolshevik phrase, "support them the way a rope
supports a hanged person."
> No, this is wrong. The AFL-CIO is a working class institution. The American
> government is a bourgeois institution. They are on opposite sides of the
class struggle, even when the trade union bureaucracy misleads. For more
information on this, I suggest Lenin's "Ultraleftism, an infantile

Sorry Lou (Pr.): you're wrong about this.  Remember AIFLD? It is true that
in the U.S. the AFL-CIO is "nothing more" than a bureaucratized union
federation (although check out the recent talk by Mumia Abu-Jamal
(http://www.prisonradio.org/GMWorkersCEOMumia.htm)). But, in its foreign
operations, the AFL-CIO, through AIFLD and its successors like the
American Center for International Labor Solidarity, serves as an arm of
the state department.

A May 3, 2002 WSWS article titled "The AFL-CIO’s role in the Venezuelan
coup" spells out the details of the AFL-CIO's role in the attempted coup
against Chavez and provides a history of its anti-labor and
counter-revolutionary role throughout Latin America (not to mention in
post-war Europe, Poland, etc.). What is noteworthy is not just that they
go around setting up scab unions, but that their operation is integrated
with state department (CIA, etc.) operations, through funding, personnel
and leadership.

The article reports that "The AFL-CIO involvement took place through an
outfit called the American Center for International Labor Solidarity
(ACILS), which has provided aid and “technical advisors” to the
Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV)."

"CTV President Carlos Ortega was one of the main participants in the coup

"During the same period, the ACILS had expanded its operations in
Venezuela in conjunction with three other “non-governmental
organizations,” representing the Democratic and Republican parties and US
big business."

"All are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency founded
in 1983 by the Reagan administration with the aim of providing a legal
framework for operations that had previously been carried out covertly by
the CIA. Among the founding directors of the agency were Henry Kissinger,
Nixon’s secretary of state and national security adviser, as well as
then-AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland and American Federation of Teachers
President Albert Shanker, two of the labor bureaucrats with the closest
ties to the State Department."

"Over the past two years, the NED has quadrupled its funding for
Venezuelan operations to nearly $1 million. Out of this, $154,377 was
given to the ACILS for its activities with the CTV, which included help in
organizing internal elections that were forced on the labor bureaucracy by
the Chavez government. The AFL-CIO, which has enjoyed the closest
relations with the corrupt bureaucracy of the CTV, worked to ensure that
its top officials retained power."

"In addition, the ACILS worked in conjunction with a fourth NED-sponsored
group representing US big business to organize “an informed democratic
debate on legislation that affects economic reform, taxes and private
property.” Both US and Venezuelan business interests have strongly opposed
limited reform measures implemented by the Chavez government to
redistribute unused land and limit foreign control of the country’s
extensive petroleum resources."


"Previously, the AFL-CIO carried out its operations in Latin America
through an outfit known as the American Institute for Free Labor
Development, or AIFLD. Through decades of collaboration with the US
government, AIFLD became internationally known as the CIA’s “labor front,”
dedicated to subverting independent militant unions and provoking “labor”
unrest against governments targeted by Washington."

"In Guatemala it helped organize a union approved by the United Fruit
Company and the military to enforce labor peace on the banana plantations.
In Guyana in the early 1960s, the AIFLD instituted a series of strikes and
stoked racial tensions between East Indian and Afro-Caribbean workers in
order to bring about the overthrow of the nationalist regime of Cheddi
Jagan. In Brazil, AIFLD-trained communications workers’ union leaders
aided the military in the seizure of power in 1964, and in Chile the AIFLD
served as the conduit for CIA funding for professional and managerial
employees, as well the truck owners’ “unions” that carried out strikes to
cripple the economy and set the stage for the military’s seizure of power
in September of 1973."

"During the US-backed “dirty war” in El Salvador, AIFLD advisors flooded
the country, working to build a pro-military peasants’ association and
engineering a “land reform” modeled on the counterinsurgency programs
developed during the war in Vietnam."

"With the end of the Cold War and the subsequent change in leadership in
the AFL-CIO itself, the federation’s incoming president, John Sweeney,
sought a cosmetic change in the international front, thus creating the
ACILS, which inherited the network of international offices as well as the
personnel of the AIFLD and three other regional organizations maintained
jointly by the labor bureaucracy and the government."

"The ACILS still receives the lion’s share of its funding from government
sources, to the tune of roughly $15 million a year. This includes a $45
million, five-year grant from the Agency for International Development, $4
million from the NED, $1 million over two years from the State Department
and $300,000 from the Labor Department. The AFL-CIO itself chips in
another $1 million a year."

"What does the US government get for its money? Job notices recently
placed by the ACILS advise candidates that their responsibilities will
include providing “information on country conditions and labor issues as
requested by Washington-based US government offices.”

"While ACILS continues the AIFLD’s role as an arm of US imperialist
foreign policy, including the counterrevolutionary intrigues of the CIA,
the union bureaucracy has tried to portray it as a new organization,
dedicated to international labor organizing against sweatshops. In
reality, it promotes a protectionist, “buy American” form of chauvinism
with a “human rights” window dressing."

"The ACILS executive director is Harry Kamberis, a veteran of the Asian
American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI), the AIFLD’s Asian counterpart.
Before that, he worked for many years as a State Department operative,
posted in Greece, Bangladesh and Pakistan."

"Kamberis’ chief “labor” experience was in the Philippines, where the
AAFLI’s efforts were dedicated to propping up the Trade Union Congress of
the Philippines (TUCP), an outfit created by Ferdinand Marcos to defend
his dictatorship. Between 1983 and 1989, when Kamberis was active in the
Philippines, the AAFLI gave the pro-Marcos labor federation nearly $6

"The TUCP used these funds to oppose the emergence of more militant
unions, particularly those under the wing of the KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno)
Labor Center. To this end, and under the direction of its US “advisors,”
the TUCP allied itself with the dictatorship, the employers, police and
right-wing death squads."

"Having failed to mount any opposition to the theft of the 2000 election
by Bush and the Republican right, the Sweeney leadership of the AFL-CIO
has over the past year-and-a-half drawn closer to the Republicans. In
part, this merely recognizes the political fact that the Democratic Party
provides no alternative to the Republicans’ unabashed defense of corporate
interests. However, the AFL-CIO also welcomed the Bush administration’s
turn toward unrestrained militarism as an opportunity to prove its worth
as a loyal defender of US imperialist interests."

"Now the US labor bureaucrats are working intimately with a cabal of
ultra-right-wing conspirators, veterans of the Reagan administration’s
illegal conspiracies in Central America in the 1980s. Pulling the strings
in the Venezuelan coup plot and ultimately directing the activities of the
ACILS “labor front” are men such as Otto Reich, the undersecretary of
state for Latin American affairs. A rabidly anticommunist Cuban émigré,
Reich formerly served as the head of an illegal government effort to
spread false propaganda against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and in
support of the CIA-backed contra mercenaries."

Michael Friedman
Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior
City University of New York

Molecular Systematics Laboratory
Department of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
79th Street and Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Office: 212-313-8721

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