How the CIA Infiltrates Trade Unions


Photo: CIA

By Olav Boye

The CIA is the infamous, criminal intelligence agency which is the mastermind behind a long series of attacks on legal, elected political leaders and massive interventions to create chaos in countries are in the United States’ bad books. By creating conflicts with help of paid agents and assassinating political leaders, they have fomented violent regime changes in numerous countries, Now it has the reputation of being a violent organization which is in the service of the US political leadership. The list of its criminal activities is long, but no one is punished for these crimes.

The CIA is heavily involved in the area of organized labour. Their aim is to sabotage trade unions and to hinder their the battle against negative globalization and abuses from multinational corporations and global financial institutions. The main labour union in the United States, the AFL-CIO, is the backer of American Institute for Free Labor Development – AIFLD, an organization which has supported right wing unions and political organizations, especially in Latin-America. Amongst other things, the AFL-CIO cooperated with the CIA and AIFLD to subvert and overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president in Chile, and his leftwing government.

AFL-CIO is the backer of international ‘Solidarity Centres’ that exists in 60 countries around the world. My experience with this from Macedonia was an aggressive interpreter who misinterpreted and constantly interrupted my lecture to an assembly from the Cultural Workers Union. My lecture was an orientation on the market liberalism in the European Union and globalization, where my opinion was that this greatly harmed the trade union movement’s struggle for political and professional rights. The interpreter was employed by the Solidarity Centre in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, after her education in Florida. She claimed that people like me were communists and were destroying the labour movement. These claims were debated in the assembly, but the audience demanded a new interpreter. Solidarity Centres buy trust in the labour unions with amongst other things free computers and money grants. Here we can see the infiltration from the AFL-CIO – or the AFL-CIA, as some people like to call them.

During Ronald Reagan’s presidency the AFL-CIO was given substantial economic support from NED, the National Endowment for Democracy, one of CIA’s front organizations. In the Third World, they were better known for undermining activist trade unions than for their support of the labour movement’s professional and political struggle.

One example is the support to Lech Walesa’s Solidarity-movement in Poland. Human rights organizations both inside and outside of the US have accused the NED of «interference in other countries’ internal matters». There have also been accusations that entire organizations were created to legally continue the CIA’s support to political actors in countries where the agency was banned from operating, and that it therefore is the «heir» to CIAs covert work.

One fact frequently mentioned is that because the foundation is private, it is possible for it to operate freely where governmental agencies are bound by US laws. According to the Columbian journalist and writer Hernanado Calvo Ospina, this view was confirmed to a large extent by the foundation’s first director, Allen Weinstein, in an interview with Washington Post in 1991, where he stated that “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

Through my work with the international labour movement, I have on several occasion been approached by people who directly or indirectly tried to recruit me to their negative activities. By this I mean CIA-agents amongst labour leaders in ITUC based in Brussels, and Germans from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), which we know was, and possibly still is, financed by the CIA.

We can also look at the Ola Teigen-affair in the late 1960s, when money from the CIA went to The International Union of Socialist Youth, the international organization the biggest political youth organization in Norway, The Workers’ Youth  League, belongs to. Of course the money went via the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. It is commonly known that the George Soros’ Open Society Foundation is in the same business, to great harm for all communist and socialist trade unions.

After the so called Carnation Revolution in Portugal in the mid 1970s, when leftwing officers seized power from the fascist government, I was hired by the Worker’s  Educational Association AOF to run seminars in cooperation with Portuguese trade unions. I lived in Portugal for several months, arranging seminars and meetings, and afterwards we jointly selected people for further education at the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions’ own school in Sørmarka. During a seminar in Porto, I noticed that two guys were sitting in the back of the room. They were not participants, and during the break I asked them who they were. They represented the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), and had the same mission as I, to train trade unionist cadres.

When I arrived in Lisbon a few days later, I was contacted by a representative from the Norwegian embassy, who informed me that I had been taken off the mission and was going home. Later I got to know why. During the meeting in Porto, a construction worker had asked me if they should organize a broad trade union movement for all political groups, similar to the Nordic countries, or if they should have an ideological split like in Spain, where socialists, communists and Catholics each had their own trade union. My answer was that a broad union movement is preferable. The guys from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation did not like to hear this, since they were in Portugal to fight communists and radical socialist. It has long been well known that FES was financed by the CIA and that their mission was to make sure the labour movements in Germany and other places in Europe did not get radicalized or would become obstacles to the imperialist policies of the EU and the United States.

After the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I, as secretary for the Nordic Graphical Union, was sent to Sarajevo to strengthen the Graphical Trade Union in this war-torn country. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation was of course also active here, to steer the political direction of the Bosnian trade unions. Here it was not a matter of cooperation, but of diktat from FES and the global trade union ITUC. They had an admitted CIA-agent, Rudy Porter, in their headquarters in Brussels, supposedly representing American trade unions. The representative of FES in Sarajevo, who was under Porter, was highly critical of my negative attitude to globalization and the EU’s market liberalism, which I freely discussed with my Bosnian colleagues. He claimed I was dead wrong and wanted me to join his team, to stop communists and socialist from getting any power in the labour movement in the former Yugoslavia. On commission from the graphical unions in the Nordic countries, I continued our positive work to rebuild the Graphical Union Organization in Bosnia.

In December 1999, I received a phone call from the leader of LO, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, who asked me if I wanted to accept a mission in Montenegro. It was on behalf of the general secretary of the ITUC, Bill Jordan, an splendid British trade unionist whom I knew previously from my work as secretary general of the Graphical International Union IGF. He wanted me to do some work in cooperation with the trade union in Montenegro. I asked for some time to consider the offer and called an American friend of mine in the ITUC. He went out to a phone booth on the street to call me back and tell me that I would be working under the CIA and the same Rudy Porter who I had met in Sarajevo. He was now responsible for the ITUC’s entire work in the Balkans and still got his payslip from the CIA, according to my colleague. I told the Norwegian trade union leader about this connection, and declined the offer to work with the trade union in Montenegro under such conditions.

CIA and the organizations which collaborate with it organize political criminal operations in a number of countries, including Norway. The trade union movement is an important target for the CIA and their political masters.

Their target is that trade unions won’t fight against multinational corporations, global financial institutions, powerful lobby groups and other opponents of trade unions. There can be no doubt that the CIA works systematically to subvert trade unions and political parties on the left, as more people than me can document. They have to a large degree succeeded – globally, in Europe, as well as in Norway.

Olav Boye is former secretary general of the International Graphical Federation. Translated by Terje Maloy.The article is Creative Commons for non-commercial purposes.


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