To the Editor:
I must correct a singularly unfortunate error which crept into Penn Kemble’s article, “Rediscovering American Labor” [April]. Mr. Kemble writes of AFL-CIO objections “when labor officials from Communist countries assume leadership positions in international organizations like the ILO and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.” I must point out categorically that no labor official from a Communist country, or from a Communist-controlled trade-union organization, has assumed a leadership position or any other position in the ICFTU. Nor could such a question arise because Communist-controlled trade unions or such organizations from Communist countries cannot be members of the Confederation. Nor, to our knowledge, has the AFL-CIO ever made such an allegation. As its name implies, the ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) is a confederation of trade-union organizations free from state-control and it has not hesitated to expel members—like the Greek Confederation of Labor—when they were taken over by their governments.
The situation of the ICFTU must not be confused with the International Labor Organization—a United Nations agency—whose members are nation-states represented by tripartite delegations (government, employers, workers).
To the Editor:
. . . On the basis of years of working with the leaders of organized labor and as Counsel to the New York State AFL-CIO, I can bear witness to labor’s deep concern with broad social issues and to its effectiveness both in legislation and in public administration. . . .
Penn Kemble’s thesis is sound beyond possible question. If intellectuals are to have effective influence they must win the mass support which only labor can furnish. And they can achieve such support only if they obtain labor’s confidence, something labor, quite understandably in light of past history, will not yield readily.
It will not be enough for intellectuals to recognize and acknowledge the Park Avenue anti-union bias of John Lindsay or the limited understanding of John Doar. The intellectuals will have to look within themselves and rid themselves of the sense of superiority which leads them to think and to act as anointed leaders whom the man on the street had best follow both in his own and in the general interest. Close association with academicians and with those who call themselves intellectuals for an even longer time than with union leaders has led me to regard with greater respect the views and judgments of the latter on issues of public concern. . . .
Herman A. Gray
Pine Plains, New York
Penn Kemble writes:
T. Barry-Braunthal is correct in pointing out that no Communist officials have assumed leadership positions in the ICFTU. I apologize if I gave the impression that the problems of AFL-CIO relations with the ICFTU are identical to the problems of AFL-CIO relations with the ILO.
In fairness, though, Mr. Barry-Braunthal is a bit too categorical in his denial of any difficulties over the question of Communist labor and the ICFTU. This is too complex a matter to discuss adequately in a letters column. But it should be said that differences between the AFL-CIO and at least some ICFTU affiliates have arisen from time to time, as the following quotation from an article by George Meany in the AFL-CIO Free Trade Union News (June 1965) may indicate:
The special efforts made by the WFTU [the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Communist labor federation—P.K.] to penetrate the International Trade Secretariats of the ICFTU have not been entirely unsuccessful. For example, the ICFTU Mineworkers Trade Secretariat has been maneuvered into cooperating with the WFTU’s so-called miners’ trade-union international. The International Graphical Federation (ICFTU trade secretariat) has decided to accept the application for affiliation by the Communist-dominated CGT printing workers’ organization.
Such actions hurt free trade-unionism everywhere and cannot be countenanced by the ICFTU. They are in crass violation of the decision of the ICFTU Executive Board (December 1964) that “it is the policy of the ICFTU to refuse to cooperate in any way with any ITS which may admit into affiliation any organization directly or indirectly affiliated to the WFTU.”