[Marxism] Open Letter to the IPS by Fred Hirsch and Kim Scipes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 21 06:57:50 MST 2006

Open Letter to the Institute of Policy Studies:  It's Time to Take Off the 
Halloween Masks
Fred Hirsch and Kim Scipes

Dear Folks at IPS--

We received notice of the annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards 
program that took place on Wednesday, October 18 at the National Press Club 
Ballroom in Washington, DC.

We think you picked excellent awardees:  Maher Arar and the Center for 
Constitutional Rights for the International Award, and the Gulf Coast 
Renewal Campaign for the Domestic Award.  Our comments below are not meant 
to demean/belittle the awardees in any way.  In fact, we salute each of them.

We have long considered the Institute of Policy Studies a major progressive 
institution fighting for global economic and social justice in this 
country.  We value your work overall, and have learned much from your work 
over the years.  And we thank you for both.

However, we must state that we were outraged when we noticed that the 
Letelier-Moffitt Selection Committee included Barbara Shailor, who was 
identified as being from the AFL-CIO.

We are both long-time trade unionists.  Fred is a now-retired member of the 
United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, but currently serving as 
Vice President of UA Local 393 in San Jose, California, and Kim (formerly a 
member of the Graphic Communications International Union, the National 
Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers), is a 
member of the Chicago Chapter of the National Writers Union.

We have each been fighting the foreign policy program of the AFL-CIO for 
many years.  As far back as 1974, Fred exposed the involvement of the 
AFL-CIO's AIFLD (American Institute for Free Labor Development) in events 
preceding the September 11, 1973 coup in Chile.  Kim has been involved 
since the early 1980s when he learned about the AFL-CIO's foreign 
operations while visiting British trade unionists in the UK.

Both of us have remained active on these issues over the years, and have 
done specific work on the origins of Labor's foreign policy (beginning in 
the 19-teens under AFL President Samuel Gompers), and AFL-CIO operations in 
regions and countries including Central America, Chile, the Philippines, 
Columbia and Venezuela.  Kim has done extensive research and written 
widely-published material on the AFL and then AFL-CIO foreign policy 
program, both under former AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland and the current 
President, John Sweeney.  Fred played a key role in getting the California 
AFL-CIO to unanimously condemn the national-level AFL-CIO foreign policy 
leadership at the Cal Fed's 2004 Biennial Convention.  Both of us, along 
with others, worked to get the California resolution passed at the 2005 
AFL-CIO National Convention, where the AFL-CIO leadership directly 
sabotaged internal labor movement democracy to keep the California 
resolution from being supported on the floor of the National 
Convention.  We are both active in the recently-created Worker to Worker 
Solidarity Committee. (See our website at 
<http://www.workertoworker.net>www.workertoworker.net, and for materials, 
look under "Links."  For a more extensive listing of published materials on 
AFL-CIO foreign operations, please visit Kim's "Contemporary Labor Issues" 
on-line bibliography at 

In other words, we each have long-time, extensive and detailed knowledge of 
the AFL-CIO foreign policy program.

The AFL-CIO leadership's foreign policy program--done behind the backs, and 
without the consent, of members of affiliated AFL-CIO unions, although "in 
our name"--has been a program of labor imperialism.  Developed by the 
AFL-CIO foreign policy leadership--i.e., from WITHIN the labor movement, 
and not by the US Government, White House, or the CIA--the AFL-CIO has been 
involved in efforts to overthrow democratically-elected governments in 
Guatemala (1953, although still just the AFL), Brazil (1964), Chile (1973), 
and Venezuela (2002).  It has supported dictatorships in the first three 
countries (as well as in countries such as the Philippines, South Korea and 
Indonesia), worked to undercut progressive governments, undermined 
progressive labor movements, and (prior to 1986), actively worked to 
undermine the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Tied into all of these activities, the AFL-CIO was one of the founders of 
the Reagan-initiated but horribly misnamed National Endowment for Democracy 
(NED), which was founded in 1983.  The NED, initiated in response to 
exposure of CIA covert activities during the 1960s and '70s, was intended 
to do overtly what the CIA had tried to do covertly.  The AFL-CIO's Free 
Trade Union Institute was made one of the four core institutes of the NED, 
along with the international wing of the Democratic Party, the 
international wing of the Republican Party, and the international wing of 
the US Chamber of Commerce.  The NED was US Government initiated, and 
although ostensibly "independent," has been continually funded by the US 
Congress, and its Board has included top level actors in the US 
Government's foreign policy apparatus, including former Secretaries of 
State Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former National Security 
Council Chair Zbigniew Brzezinski, and current World Bank President Paul 
Wolfowitz.  The NED claims to be "promoting democracy" around the world, 
and it goes on ad nauseam about "free elections," but in reality, it's 
efforts have been to maintain or establish "polyarchal" or top-down 
"democracy" where people are free to choose between Pepsi and Coke--i.e., 
in other words, it has nothing to do with the one-person, one-vote form of 
democracy (popular democracy) that we in our country see as the essence of 
democracy.  The NED has been an incredibly reactionary force around the 
world, and continues as such.

When John Sweeney was elected President of the AFL-CIO in 1995--the first 
contested election in its first 40 years of existence--foreign policy was 
one of the factors that led to his election.  Sweeney used a language 
different from the traditional anti-communism of predecessors George Meany 
and Lane Kirkland, arguing for international labor solidarity.  He 
restructured the AFL-CIO's foreign policy apparatus, combining previously 
semi-autonomous operations under a centrally-controlled American Center for 
International Labor Solidarity, ACILS, or in popular terminology, the 
"Solidarity Center."  And he appointed a then-recognized progressive to be 
head of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department:  Barbara 
Shailor.  It looked to us that the foreign policy of the AFL-CIO had been 
transformed into something we could all be proud of.  (This, however, was 
still done behind the backs and without the knowledge of American trade 
unionists, and the link with the NED--the "Solidarity Center" now replacing 
the Free Trade Union Institute as one of the NED's four core 
institutes--was maintained.)

However, as we now know, the AFL-CIO's foreign policy program was NOT 
transformed.  The Solidarity Center was actively involved in events leading 
to the attempted coup in April 2002 against Venezuela's 
democratically-elected president, Hugo Chavez.  Not only that, but the 
AFL-CIO refused demands to "open its books" and "come clean" about the 
past, even when demanded by affiliated labor organizations--most 
importantly, by the California State AFL-CIO, whose 2.4 million members 
were one-sixth of the entire AFL-CIO.  Despite a more sophisticated 
operation since 1997, which HAS done good things where neither oil nor a 
transformation from the former socialist bloc have been central interests, 
the AFL-CIO has maintained its historical foreign policy program of labor 

Absolutely central to AFL-CIO foreign policy efforts since 1997--initially 
as head of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department (IAD), and then 
after the IAD was abolished in 2005, as head of the Solidarity Center--has 
been Barbara Shailor.  While obviously working for the AFL-CIO as the IPS' 
"Selection Committee" notes, the fact is that Barbara Shailor has been at 
the very center of the AFL-CIO foreign policy program and operations since 
1997, helping also to supply the labor leg of the four-legged National 
Endowment for Democracy.

Why the IPS would put ANYONE from the AFL-CIO's foreign policy apparatus on 
a Selection Committee to honor the memories of Orlando Letelier and Ronni 
Karpen Moffitt is simply beyond us:  as is well-known, the AFL-CIO, through 
its American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), was actively 
involved in events leading up to the 1973 coup in Chile, the aftermath for 
which Letelier and Moffitt gave their very lives.  In fact, Fred had a 
conversation with Orlando Letelier at a conference in Mexico City in 1975 
during which Mr. Letelier shared with him the opinion both he and President 
Allende held, that AIFLD had been a central factor in the US manipulated 
coup that delivered the people of Chile into the claws of the Pinochet 
dictatorship.  During that same conference, Fred talked with Luis Figueroa, 
Allende's Minister of Labor and leader of the Central Unico de Trabajadores 
(CUT, Chile's immense labor federation).  Figueroa stated that AIFLD was 
guilty of "fourteen years of treason."  In the thirty one years since then, 
there has been neither recognition nor apology by the AFL-CIO for the role 
it played.  To include anyone from the AFL-CIO's foreign policy apparatus 
on the Letelier-Moffitt Selection Committee is a very sick joke.  We hardly 
believe that Orlando Letelier would have tolerated such inclusive 

If that wasn't bad enough, to include Barbara Shailor--a person at the very 
at the very center of the AFL-CIO foreign policy apparatus, with the bloody 
history her position represents--on the Committee was even more 
obscene.  Do you plan to include Henry Kissinger on next year's Selection 

Additionally, compounding all of this, instead of noting her role as 
current head of the Solidarity Center, you allow her to hide behind the 
"mask" of identifying her as from the AFL-CIO.  In other words, it appears 
that by doing so, the Institute of Policy Studies was trying to sanitize 
Ms. Shailor's role and activities at the AFL-CIO.

This entire episode would be bad enough if IPS were simply "another 
organization."  It is not.  It has a long history of involvement and, at 
times, leadership of progressive work in this country.  It has a history it 
should be proud of.  And yet, in this case, it utilized some of its 
well-deserved reputation to sanitize the loathsome foreign policy program 
of the AFL-CIO, its unconscionable role within US foreign policy, and 
Barbara Shailor.  We are sickened.

We are writing this as an "Open Letter," because these issues not only 
involve a leading progressive organization, but we fear are a symptom of 
the current "left" in this country, broadly speaking.  Familiarity--within 
the Beltway, in this case--can lead to contempt as we all know, but it can 
also lead to collaboration.

We think this issue needs to be discussed within IPS specifically, and 
within the left more generally.  Actions like this can undermine 
progressive struggles for social and economic justice in the United States 
and around the world.

We hope the Institute of Policy Studies will forever refuse in the future 
to include any person in a leadership position of the AFL-CIO foreign 
policy program in their projects--or ANY imperialist.  We want the IPS to 
publicly respond to this letter--we eagerly await the public explanation 
for these events.  Shailor heads the so-called Solidarity Center and is not 
elected by AFL-CIO members.  And we want the Halloween mask pulled off one 
of the AFL-CIO's foreign policy leaders, and the mask to be pulled of the 
AFL-CIO foreign policy program as well.

In international labor solidarity,

Fred Hirsch
Kim Scipes



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