Workers' Liberty recently began compiling a series of recollections and reflections from activists who had been involved with the “third camp” left in the USA — those “unorthodox” Trotskyists who broke from the SWP USA in 1939/40 to form the Workers Party, and the tradition they built (the Independent Socialist League, and later the Independent Socialists and International Socialists). Here, we include a specially-written contribution from Dan Gallin, discussing his involvement with the third camp left and the way in which it informed his later work in the international labour movement.
Dan Gallin joined the Socialist Youth League, the youth wing of the Independent Socialist League, in 1950. He was a contributor to its journal, New International, and its paper Labor Action, until it ceased publication in 1958. He went on to contribute to New Politics. He was General Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant and Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) from 1970 until 2007, and is currently the Chair of the Global Labour Institute. He joined the Swiss Socialist Party in 1955 and remains a member to this day.
This is a longer version than in the printed paper.
I was not the typical recruit to the Independent Socialist League (ISL) or its youth organization, the Socialist Youth League (SYL).
My family came from Czernowitz, as it was known in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Cernăuţi in Romania after 1918, Chernivtsi in the Ukraine after 1939). My father was a senior civil servant in the Romanian foreign service, a conservative nationalist but a democrat, who saw himself as a servant of the nation, by which he meant the people. My mother had no time for Romanian nationalism, or any other nationalism for that matter, she grieved over the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Emperor Franz-Joseph, who died when she was sixteen, remained her father figure. Later she became enthusiastic about the early Pan-European movement.
In 1943 my father was stationed in Berlin and my parents sent me to Switzerland to get me out of the way of the war. In the summer of 1944, my mother had joined me in Switzerland and my father, through an unbelievable piece of luck (nobody ever believed he hadn't received advance notice, but he hadn't) came to join us for a week's vacation in the week where Romania changed sides in the war. There was no way he was going to go back to Germany (later we heard that the Gestapo had been waiting for him). So my father was reassigned by the Romanian foreign service to Bern and Switzerland became our home.
I finished high school in Switzerland in a cadre school for the kids of the ruling class. My family had destined me to follow my father in the Romanian foreign service but history decided otherwise. In 1945/7 Stalinism took control of Romania. My father resigned from the Romanian foreign service in December 1947, was called back and refused to return. In 1949 he and his family lost the Romanian citizenship (as well as his income, which led to an existential crisis for my parents, of which I was blissfully unaware until much later).
So here I was, young, stateless and without family pressures. I may have been the only person in the world who experienced the Stalinist take-over in Romania as a liberation, even without realizing it. Meanwhile, I had developed other interests. I had been brought up as a highly political person in an unpolitical sort of way, aware of world politics through my father's bedtime stories about the Balkan wars (of the early 20th century) and his own experiences as a commander of an armoured train in the Romanian army during the first world war.
By the time I was eighteen I had come to the conclusion that the only worthy aim in life was to serve the community and the only struggle worth fighting was the fight for justice. Exactly how to do this I had no idea, the socialist parties seemed boring, Stalinism was out of the question (although some of Gletkin's arguments in Koestler's "Darkness at Noon" seemed uncomfortably cogent). I had discovered surrealism and was enthralled by the radical revolt it expressed, in literature and in painting. I had also discovered existentialism, and devoured Camus, Sartre, de Beauvoir, as well as Malraux and Koestler (later Sperber, Serge, Orwell).
In my last year in high school I had a brilliant philosophy teacher, a Frenchman, who once dropped in passing a reference to La Vérité, the French Trotskyist journal,. That registered. Here was an unknown shore yet to be explored (in the event, much later).
After highschool, I did not really know what to do with myself but, through an accidental meeting, I got a scholarship at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, where I arrived in August 1949. After a while, I found my milieu: it was the student co-ops, mostly inhabited at this time by veterans on the GI-Bill some of whom had been active in the Progressive Party campaign of 1948 to get Henry Wallace elected president. There was also an Italian who had been with the socialist resistance movement Giustizia e Libertä. Contrary to the other student housing, the co-ops were integrated: in ours, the only Black was a lone member of the Socialist Party.
I had been co-opted to the editorial board of upstream a small student magazine with literary ambitions and liberal-left politics. Through exchanges between student publications in different universities, I came across Anvil & Student Partisan, the student magazine of the SYL, which looked really interesting, so much so that I decided I wanted to meet the editor. A trip to New York, in the summer of 1950, gave me the opportunity to do so. This was my first meeting with Julie Jacobson. We talked at length; he also introduced me to Hal Draper and Gordon Haskell, the Labor Action team, at the Long Island office, as they were packing crates for moving to 14th Street.
This was a vision of socialism, at the same time revolutionary and democratic, that I could accept. My world view suddenly clarified, history was falling into place. There was only one thing I couldn't accept, I told Julie, and that was the theory of the Third Camp. It seemed obvious to me that a liberal democracy like the United States was preferable in every respect to a totalitarian police State like the Soviet Union, and should therefore be supported in the global power struggle, albeit critically. We talked some more and finally Julie said: "OK, why don't you write an article for Anvil explaining your position, I'll write an answer setting out our position, and we'll have a discussion." Fair enough, I thought, and went back to Kansas.
Back in front of my desk, a remarkable thing happened: I found I could not write that article. My arguments seemed shallow, not thought through. I began to have an inkling of what I later fully realized: actually, there is no Third Camp, only two camps, "them" and "us". The "Third Camp" was a slogan for a world polarized between two super-powers, but its profound meaning was different. Later, when I started to give courses in the trade union movement, I explained it this way: the fundamental line of cleavage in today's world is not the vertical one separating the two blocs, it is the horizontal one separating the working class from its rulers, and that one runs across both blocs. We are not "East" or "West", I would add, we are "below", where the workers are.
In the event, I wrote Julie that I could not write that article and that I was joining the SYL.
The following months were hectic. I threw myself into activity with the zeal of the neophyte, stopped studying and flunked the university, became very visible and attracted the attention of the authorities (FBI and Immigration) who arrested me and released me on bail on condition that I should show up at the Immigration headquarters in New York and "show cause why I should not be deported."
Being stateless, with an expired student visa, having flunked university and no money, my bargaining position was not as strong as I could have wished, so I went to New York, with Liz, a Chicago SYL comrade who was to become my wife.
We stayed in New York about six months waiting for my hearing. In the meantime we had both found jobs at the New York Public Library and organized a local of the CIO Government and Public Employees Organizing Committee (which in 1955 merged with an AFL union to become AFCSME). This AFCSME local still exists and it is the only union I ever organized directly so I feel sentimental about it. When we left New York, another SYL comrade took a job at the Library and continued organizing.
Eventually I got my hearing at Immigration and the officer in charge had a stack of reports in front of him documenting my subversive activities. He had a long look at me, no doubt figured that I was less of a threat to the security of the US than I had hoped, and said, after joining his hands in a prayer-like gesture, that he was "granting me the privilege of voluntary departure" – a more lenient measure than deportation, which would have made it nearly impossible to return to the US.
So in March 1953 I was back in Switzerland, with Liz. I thought there were two ways I could help the ISL I had left behind: by reporting on European developments for its press and by strengthening its network of international relations. After consulting with Hal Draper, that is what I did.
Meanwhile, we had to organize our new life in Geneva. We stayed with my parents, and relations were tense. Nothing in their life had prepared them for a return of the prodigal son as a Trotskyist activist, with a wife they hadn't vetted (they thought she was my "control"). Eventually Liz got a job, we were able to move out and life became more normal. I was looking for an apprenticeship as a printer, to join the proletariat.
Then, through ISL German contacts, I met Henry Jacoby and his wife Frieda, they had been close comrades of Otto Rühle, the leader of the German council communists, and had escaped to the US through Czechoslovakia and France, in 1940. They had become US citizens and were living in Geneva where Henry was director of a FAO office at the UN. He knew everything I knew and much, much more, and became my mentor. Don't be silly, he told me, finish your university studies and get a degree, you will need it. After I got my MA in 1958 he hired me in his office in the Geneva UN.
Henry Jacoby wrote as Sebastian Franck for Funken. a small review published in Frankfurt by survivors of various revolutionary Marxist organizations sharing the Luxemburgist tradition. It was one of a number of groups and individuals that I contacted throughout Europe, corresponded with and worked with to build an international network of the independent socialist Left, between 1953 and 1958.
Some were old ISL contacts with a long history of relations going back to the London Bureau, such as the British ILP, the POUM, Marceau Pivert, who was again active on the left of the French SFIO, the syndicalists of Révolution prolétarienne, Dimitri Yotopoulos of the Greek Archeo-Marxists. Others were new contacts, like the Danish syndicalist Carl Heinrich Petersen, the Norwegian Orientering group, an anti-NATO left split from the Labour Party, the Italian Unione Socialista Indipendente, which originated in a Titoist split in the Italian CP in 1951, Socialist Review, which became the International Socialists, where Bernard Dix was already writing for Labor Action, and Walter Kendall of the Voice publications, in Britain. There were many others – broadly speaking, the Third Camp constituency in Europe.
I also reached out to the "official" Trotskyist groups in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland, but they had of course a different agenda and were allied to the American SWP, sectarian and hostile to "centrism". Nothing came of any of these contacts.
My networking activities did not lead to any form of permanent co-ordination, the differences of political cultures and traditions were too great and the organizations too weak to sustain a major international joint effort. What emerged was a more active co-operation between publications and some lasting bilateral relations.
In May 1960, an International Conference of Socialist Publications and Reviews was convened in Brussels by the Imre Nagy Institute, a center of political research founded by exiled Hungarian socialists who were associated with the "revisionist" tendencies in the Hungarian Communist Party before 1956. Fourteen publications were represented, from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain (in exile) and the US. I represented New Politics. Mike Kidron represented IS, Wilebaldo Solano represented Tribuna Socialista, the review of the POUM.
The conference adopted two resolutions: in one, the participating reviews stated their intention to extend all possible practical assistance to each other, in the form of exchanging articles, addresses, publicity, distribution facilities, information on the working program and activities of each participating review. It was also decided to publish a liaison bulletin twice a year. In another resolution, the conference singled out two themes: the independence of the working class was one, and the nature and perspectives of the Cuban revolution was the other.
Although its outcome was modest, this conference was the high water mark of co-operation of the independent Left milieu in that decade. Unfortunately, it was also decided that the follow-up would be the responsibility of the Imre Nagy Institute, which proved too frail a vessel to carry that load: it folded in 1963 for lack of funding. No other international meetings were convened and the upheavals of 1968 created a new situation for the independent Left.
From 1953 I had started writing for Labor Action, mostly as André Giacometti, and reporting most of the time on developments in France. Why "Giacometti"? – because I was, and still am, an admirer of the great Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti (his most famous sculpture, the "Man Walking" can be seen on the Swiss 100 Franc bill).
I contributed to Labor Action until it ceased publication in 1958, when the ISL dissolved into the Socialist Party. I also contributed to The New International, in particular "The Working Class Movement in Tropical Africa", a survey of the African labour movement South of the Sahara, which appeared in 1956 and 1957 in three instalments, at a time when virtually nothing was known about Africa and its unions in the American Left. After the ISL disappeared, I kept contact with Hal Draper and with Julie and Phyllis Jacobson who had started publishing New Politics, to which I also contributed, and later, when the Socialist Party split in 1972 over the Vietnam War, with comrades from DSOC. I contributed to The New International Review which Eric Lee was editing at the time, kept in touch with Bogdan Denitch and others. In 1955 I joined the Swiss Social-Democratic Party (called Socialist Party in the French and Italian language regions), where I am still a member.
In 1954 the Algerian war broke out and most of my reporting had to do with this war. My position, which became the ISL position, was of course for the independence movement, but not for the winning side. I supported the Algerian National Movement (MNA) led by Messali Hadj. I had met Messali, and I was impressed by the modest dignity of the founder of the Algerian independence movement, but my main contacts were the trade unionists of the Messalist Union of Algerian Workers (USTA), founded n February 1956, and I recognized in them the revolutionary determination, the internationalism and the spirit of independence that is always what is best in the labour movement. These were the qualities that ensured their destruction.
The uprising which started the Algerian war was initated by a group of dissidents from Messali's party who called themselves the National Liberation Front (FLN) and immediately challenged his authority, including by military means. A civil war developed within the Algerian independence movement. The FLN had the support of Nasserist Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, of the French CP and, among others, of the Fourth International. Within a week of the USTA having registered, the FLN had registered the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA).
The MNA and the USTA had the support of one of the three branches of French Trotskyism (Pierre Lambert's PCI), the Révolution prolétarienne group, the anarcho-syndicalists in Force Ouvrière, the POUM, the anarchists, some scattered socialists - and of course the support of at least one hundred thousand Algerian workers in France, where the UGTA and the FLN represented nothing. But they had their bases in the municipalities controlled by the CP, and their had their killer teams.
In Algeria, the FLN had a military superiority and quickly wiped out the MNA partisan units. In France, where the MNA had a massive working class constituency, this was not so easy, but the MNA was facing at the same time repression by the French State and a terror campaign by FLN death squads supported by the infrastructure of the CP municipalities, to which it was unable to respond on the same scale. The casualties of the civil war of the Algerian independence movement in France are estimated at approximately 6,000 dead. By 1961, most of the USTA leadership had been assassinated or was in jail and the FLN had established its hegemony.
The campaign of assassinations was accompanied, in the best Stalinist tradition, by a campaign of slander, representing Messali and his followers as collaborators of the French State – a very effective campaign since even experienced comrades like Jim Higgins of IS, who should have known better, were taken in by it.
The last general secretary of the USTA, Abderrahmane Bensid, sought refuge in Switzerland in 1961, with his wife and young son. They stayed for six months in my home, then returned to his home town of Tlemcen. By then, he was seriously ill with a neurological disorder. He died in Tlemcen, in 1978, at the age of 46.
In 1960 my life had taken another turn. In 1956 I had been sent by the Sociology Department of the University of Geneva to participate in a conference of the European Productivity Agency in Rome, a technocratic exercise, boring in the extreme. There I had met another bored and rebellious participant, Charles Levinson, then Assistant General Secretary of the International Metalworkers Federation. We remained friends, and in 1960 Levinson told me that Juul Poulsen, the general secretary of the food workers' international, the IUF, was looking for an assistant.
I jumped at it. My job at the UN was well-paid and convenient, with plenty of free time for political work, but it was a dead-end. Meanwhile I had also decided that between the political and trade union wings of the labour movement, the last one was my preferred option. I had no interest in a political career and I saw the trade unions as the first and last line of resistance of the working class under attack, and that's where I wanted to be. In fact, not long before Julie Jacobson had darkly accused me of syndicalist deviations, not without reason. So in August 1960 I started work in the secretariat of the IUF as chief cook and bottle washer.
All went well for a while. At that time the IUF, like most other International Trade Secretariats, was little more than a contact point of the leadership of the affiliated unions and its main function was organizing the exchange of information. Juul Poulsen, the general secretary, thought that an international trade union federation could do better than that. He was a solid social-democrat and, even though this was the heyday of social partnership in the industrialized capitalist world, he sensed that future trade union struggles would inevitably be international, and that therefore building the International had to be a priority. Such skills and experience I had acquired by this time proved useful. Through research and correspondence I started the expansion of the IUF into Asia and the Pacific, edited a monthly bulletin, etc.
In 1962 I was contacted by Dan Benedict, who had been appointed Assistant General Secretary of the IMF and moved to Geneva. Benedict had been a member of the Workers' Party, then of the ISL. In the IMF, his field of activity encompassed mainly Latin America and the Mediterranean Region. We soon became close friends and comrades.
The following year Benedict warned me that we had been infiltrated by the CIA in Latin America. What had happened was that in 1959 the IUF Managing Committee (the smaller governing body, composed at the time entirely of European members) had accepted an offer by the AFL-CIO to provide an Inter-American regional representative free of charge, to help build IUF presence in Latin America. This regional representative, who took control of IUF Latin American activities in 1960, turned out to be Andrew McLellan, an operator without a serious trade union background who co-operated closely with American government agencies (the CIA and perhaps military intelligence) and used the IUF as a cover to build a network of agents, mostly in Central America, who were reporting to him, not to the IUF secretariat.
Poulsen and I did not immediately realize what was happening, we only noticed increasing difficulties in relations with the Interamerican Office. Its activities and priorities did not reflect IUF policies, queries and instructions from the general secretary were ignored, activities were initiated that made no trade union sense, etc. There were also Latin American reactions. The Mexican Sugar Workers' Union, our major Latin American affiliate, had stopped co-operating with the IUF. When Poulsen enquired what the problem was, the answer came: its either that lot, or us, you can't have both.
When Benedict gave me the background and told me what was happening all over Latin America, it all fell into place. I went to Poulsen and briefed him. In fact, the IUF had lost control over its regional work in Latin America, with regard to staffing, policy objectives and activities.
We realized then that there was no alternative: we had to end this operation to protect the integrity of the organization. We also realized that this could not be done without a major conflict with the AFL-CIO.
The IUF was lucky: its two largest American affiliates were left-wing unions: the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen were headed by Pat Gorman, an old-time socialist who despised George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO, and his policies; the United Packinghouse Workers' president was Ralph Helstein, a knowledgeable and tough radical trade unionist without a specific affiliation, mainly to be able to arbitrate between factions. Both unions had executive committees with strong radical representation, ranging from the CP to the IWW. So at least we had the backing of our two largest US affiliates for what we had to do.
When Poulsen made a quick trip to Chicago to explain the situation to Gorman and Helstein and to ask for their advice, their reaction was immediate and unanimous: kill that operation! So my next assignment was to prepare a position paper for the IUF Managing Committee that was to meet in Hamburg in October 1965. The Committee studied the paper carefully and, without much discussion, unanimously decided that by the end of the year all regional offices had to be closed down and all regional staff dismissed. When we proceeded to implement that decision, we found that we were firing more people we even knew about: in Colombia, we thought we were firing two people and in fact fired twenty-three we didn't know existed.
The next question we had to deal with was how to continue. We had to find a way to rebuild our activities in Latin America in a way that would guarantee that it could never again be hijacked by an outside operation. The solution to this problem was simple: give democracy a chance. Poulsen convened a regional conference in 1966 with a proposal: the IUF would create a Latin American region (no more "Interamerican" with North American domination); all affiliates in that region would elect a regional committee which would be the de-facto governing body of the regional organization; they would also elect a regional secretary (no more pro-consuls appointed from Washington or Geneva or anywhere else).
The proposal was accepted with enthusiasm and relief (at long last the IUF got it) and implemented immediately. There were two candidates for regional secretary. The conference elected Enildo Iglesias, from the Tobacco Workers' Union of Uruguay, the son of a Spanish immigrant who had been a member of the CNT. Enildo's approach to trade unionism was in the same spirit.
This regional organization became the model of all other regional organizations of the IUF: Asia/Pacific, Africa, Europe and, for a time, North America. In Latin America, it successfully fought on three fronts: the CIA and its trade union fronts, the WFTU and the CPs, the CLAT (the regional organization of the WCL). And of course the transnationals. And of course, worse than anyone could have imagined, the military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. The regional organization resisted, fought and ultimately prevailed in every one of these trials, because it was and remains rooted democratically in its affiliates, much deeper than the leadership level. It commands a level of loyalty and support I have rarely seen in any labour organization.
But of course the Empire would strike back. The drastic action the IUF had taken to terminate a program previously agreed with the AFL-CIO had stunned the AFL-CIO International Department, headed at the time by Jay Lovestone and his main enforcer Irving Brown. How could something like that happen? (This was before the exposure of CIA operations in civil society organizations by Ramparts and the New York Times in 1966 and 1967). There had to be an enemy at work. Eventually they found my FBI file and then they knew who the enemy was.
The crunch came in 1967, at the IUF congress held in Dublin. Poulsen had reached retirement age and a successor had to be elected. I was at that point the natural successor and I was a candidate. But at the congress, Max Greenberg, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, speaking for the American unions, and popping tranquillizer pills as he was speaking, declared that I was unacceptable and if I was elected the American unions would disaffiliate.
Congress had a problem. After Greenberg's statement, a German and a Swiss candidate appeared, but Congress would not have them. The Scottish Bakers' Union advised me to fight, the Turkish Food Workers came to me and said: "Fear not, the Turks are with you". I took a gamble, and to the disappointment of my supporters, I agreed that the decision should be taken out of Congress and referred back to the Executive Committee of 1968; in the meantime, Poulsen would continue another year. I thought I needed to play for time.
The rest of 1967 was a strange year. I had come down with a bad case of sciatica, requiring a month in extension. Back home, I received the visits of people who had obviously been sent to profile me. There was this professor from Michigan State University, who had conducted anthropological studies in Chile, who wanted to know what I thought of General De Gaulle. I just laughed at him and told him: "Look, we are just a small organization, and we cannot change the world by ourselves, but there is one thing I can tell you: wherever and whenever we find the CIA in our organization, we will throw them out at once."
In the IUF office, I had the visit of a Pole from the Carnegie Foundation who put his attaché case on my desk and then asked me why I was never to be seen at parties of the international set. He was doing a survey of the social habits of Geneva international civil servants. When he left my office he noticed a portrait of Andreu Nin, turned to me and said: "Pretty controversial, this?" (he knew) - to which I replied: "Like so many things" and closed the door.
Meanwhile, Pat Gorman had woken up to what was going on, so when the Executive Committee met in 1968 they had before them a lengthy telex praising my qualities and stating that if I was not going to be elected, the Amalgamated would disaffiliate. The Europeans got the message and the Executive elected me as Acting General Secretary with only Greenberg dissenting.
The next IUF congress met in Zurich in 1970. At that point I was the only candidate for general secretary, but the candidate for president was Dan Conway, the president of the American Bakers' Union. Before the congress, Conway invited me for lunch in Geneva and said: "You will probably be elected general secretary and I might be elected president, we will have to work together. What have you got against the CIA?" I knew he had been organizer for his union in the Western States and I asked him: "When you get to a new town to organize a bakery, what is your first obstacle?" and he said: "The sheriff". I said: "Exactly. The CIA is the world sheriff. And I don't like cops". After that, we got along perfectly. Conway was not a left-winger, and in fact not very political, but he was a totally honest trade unionist and a decent human being.
The 1970 IUF congress unanimously confirmed my election as general secretary (the year before I had been granted Swiss citizenship) and the election of Dan Conway as president (after the US caucus had decided to propose Conway rather than Max Greenberg who was also a candidate, as I later found out). When Conway returned to Washington he got a call from Jay Lovestone who told him that now that he had been elected IUF president he had to "clean up the place". Conway told him he was not going to do any such thing and consequently was never offered a seat on the AFL-CIO Executive Board.
The AFL-CIO International Department and its allies continued to make war on the IUF in Latin America through another International Trade Secretariat where they had some influence, the International Federation of Commercial and Clerical Workers, known by its French acronym FIET, which had cobbled together a food and allied workers' department from a half-dozen small unions with leaders who were hoping to be properly rewarded for their loyalty to the "free world".
That operation never got anywhere and became an embarrassment to the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union (UFCW), a big union which had been formed through the merger of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and the Retail Clerks in 1979 (the Retail Clerks International Association, very supportive of the AFL-CIO's international policies, eventually got tired of being called the "Retail CIA" and renamed itself Retail Clerks International Union). The UFCW had continued both the FIET and the IUF affiliation and wanted to end the conflict. Its Vice President Tom Whaley called a meeting of all parties concerned in Brasilia which ended with an agreement by which FIET gave up all its claims to the food and allied industries, including hotels and restaurants, and disbanded its food department in Latin America. In exchange, the IUF agreed to stop calling it a CIA front.
FIET disappeared in 2000 through a merger with the internationals of communication workers, graphical workers and media and entertainment workers to form Union Network International (UNI), where its tradition lives on.
I have not said much so far about the WFTU and the WCL although I said that the IUF, in Latin America, had to fight on three fronts, of which these were two. The reason for this is that there is not much to say. The WFTU regional organization CPUSTAL, with Cuba as its main affiliate, and its food workers' department, functioned as an amplifier of international Stalinist policies but was totally incompetent as a trade union organization, not to be seen on the ground, much less in any conflict with a transnational company. They were never a serious competitor nor ever a potential ally, just a time-waster. Much the same can be said of the WCL and its regional organization CLAT, which had plenty of money from European Catholic institutions, but no members, conservative policies cloaked in radical rhetoric. Time wasters.
Another battle, not in the IUF this time, was looming in the 1970s. At the IMF Congress in Stockholm in 1974, Benedict was a candidate to suceed Ivar Norén as General Secretary. He was opposed by Herman Rebhan, an official of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) in Chicago, who had done a stint in the IMF as co-ordinator of world councils in the automobile industry before returning to the US. Rebhan, like Benedict, had been a member of the ISL, but by that time had gone much further right than even Shachtman, becoming a co-opted member of the Lovestone/Brown team. I took very publicly Benedict's side.
Rebhan had the active support of President George Meany and Director of International Affairs Jay Lovestone of the AFL-CIO, who organized a campaign without precedent in the international trade union movement, combining threats, blandishments and flattery to get Rebhan elected. Even though they managed to line up only three major countries (all US affiliates except the IUE, the German IG Metall and the Japanese affiliates), these, plus a few lesser client unions, tallied 7 million votes at congress. The rest of the world, voting for Benedict, only reached 4 million votes.
The fight between Benedict and Rebhan was a fight between two ex-ISLers: a socialist who was acting on the principles of what the ISL had always stood for, and a cynical renegade. The sense of the Rebhan campaign was to line up the IMF in the US Cold War camp, but mostly and principally to prevent Benedict becoming general secretary and moving the IMF towards a radical agenda, perhaps in alliance with the IUF and ICF. In the event, Rebhan was not able to do his worst: the IMF remained basically honest through organizational inertia. What he was able to do, was to create a culture of political conformism which continued after his retirement with new general secretaries. Neutralizing the IMF as a progressive force was no mean achievement.
Benedict remained IMF Assistant General Secretary but it became quickly apparent that he would be unable to exercise his function under the Rebhan regime. In 1977 he left the IMF and moved to Canada to join the United Auto Workers (UAW-Canada) education department. In 1981 Benedict became a Canadian citizen, and felt “very comfortable” as such. He formally retired from the CAW in 1982 but remained active in the labor movement until his death in 2003.
Charles Levinson, my other ally, had become general secretary of the International Chemical Workers (ICF) in 1964, fought memorable and pioneering battles with transnationals, and had written several brilliant books about international trade unionism .
One of his historical merits was to destroy the International Federation of Petroleum and Chemical Workers (IFPCW). Unlike nearly all other ITSs which had a social-democratic identity and a history going back to the 19th century – and some of which had been infiltrated by the CIA – the IFPCW was a total creation of the CIA from its inception. Founded in 1954, it established its headquarters in Denver, with the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers' Union (OCAW) of the AFL-CIO. Its first president (O.A. Knight) and its general secretary (Loyd A. Haskins) were OCAW officials.
Any trade union activity it was able to develop until its demise in 1975 was incidental to its true mission: to line up oil workers' unions, mainly in the Middle East and in Latin America, with the US bloc in the Cold War. The disclosures in 1967 about the covert CIA funding of civil society organizations blew the IFPCW's cover: several of the CIA conduits appeared in the IFPCW's public audit records and it became clear that the organization was entirely dependent on these subsidies for its existence.
In 1963 the then IFPW had decided to expand its jurisdiction to the chemical industry, thus becoming IFPCW, and creating a jurisdictional conflict with the ICF. After 1967, Levinson became unrelenting in his attacks. As long as Lovestone was still director of the AFL-CIO International Department, the IFPCW continued to receive funding through the AFL-CIO regional institutes (themselves also funded by US government agencies including the CIA) but it gradually lost support.
In 1973 the IFPCW opened merger talks with the ICF, proposing that the ICF become the European regional organization of the merged International – a deal not unlike that which the International Federation of Plantation Workers (founded 1957) proposed to the mainly European-based International Landworkers' Federation (founded 1920), which led to the creation of the International Federation of Plantation, Agricultural and Allied Workers (IFPAAW) in 1959. The IFPAAW was from the start as dependent on external funding as the IFPCW and collapsed, as the IFPCW had, when the principal source of its external funding was withdrawn (in this case, the ICFTU). The remnants of IFPAAW merged with the IUF in 1994.
In the case of the IFPCW, the merger talks failed when the ICF demanded that it cease accepting financial aid from the AFL-CIO. However, in July 1974 Ernest Lee had replaced Lovestone as director of the International Department and the AFL-CIO on its own initiative stopped supporting the IFPCW, advising its affiliates in February 1975 to join the ICF. The same month the OCAW, under a new leadership, disaffiliated and ceased funding the IFPCW. In September, the IFPCW Executive Board dissolved the organization.
The ICEF, as it had become, was now a powerful organization, but Levinson lost it by a stupid mistake. He had to retire in 1983 under pressure, after having improved his pension plan without going through the approved procedure. Bad luck: a foolish leftist on the staff thought of himself as a whistle-blowing hero, the German pharmaceutical industry was watching, and pounced. The president of the German Chemical Workers' Union, later also president of the ICEF, Hermann Rappe, a strong believer in "social partnership" and a reliable defender of the interests of the German transnationals, made sure Levinson had to resign. He was succeeded by several general secretaries who were unable to stabilize the organization and to preserve it as the effective fighting force it had become under his watch.
Meanwhile, as from 1980, the IUF had become involved in one of its major battles, getting Coca-Cola to use its enormous influence to stop its Guatemalan franchise from assassinating union organizers and to recognize the union. No one believed we could do it, but we did. By 1984, the plant had a new owner, a new contract and union recognition. This story has been told elsewhere (see GLI website: www.global-labour.org) and does not need to be told again here. Suffice it to say that beyond and aside of the ideological and political battles internal to the international trade union movement, the IUF was of course principally focused on building an effective fighting machine to take on even the biggest transnational corporations. The two-stage campaign against Coca-Cola in 1980 and 1982 proved that we had in fact reached that point.
There was, however, one more defining political battle which started in the 1970s, this time in Europe. The obvious issue was European separatism, but the fundamental, underlying issue was no different from that we had to deal with in Latin America: the independence and the integrity of the trade union movement as the independent movement of the working class.
The creation of the European Economic Community (the Common Market) in 1957 led to the establishment of committees of trade unions from the six EEC member States, also in the IUF. Such committees were accepted everywhere because it was recognised that within the EEC trade unions had special concerns that required mutual consultation and co-ordination. The situation changed as the EEC became the EU with increasing powers and ambitions. At that point the EU became intent in building a "European" identity at all levels, including civil society, and where such institutions did not exist, they had to be created. Thus, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) was created in 1973, leading to the dissolution of the European Regional Organization of the ICFTU.
The ETUC defined itself from the outset as independent of any international trade union organization. It included all European affiliates of the ICFTU and of the WCL, without any institutional links to either International. It was not, however, to be independent of the EU: on the contrary, rather than being a trade union lobby in the EU, it quickly became a EU lobby in the labour movement, with 70% of its budget coming from EU subsidies.
At the industrial branch level, it created European Trade Union Federations which were an integral part of its structures, but not necessarily linked to the International Trade Secretariats (ITS) of their branch. Where the ITS had had a European regional organization, it became, in some cases, the European TUF, but where no regional organization had previously existed the ITS were suddenly confronted with an independent European body created out of their own affillates with EU subsidies. This was the case in the International Transport Workers' Federation and in the IUF, where the former EEC committee (now the ETUCF) declared itself to be an ETUF with exclusive authority over all European matters. In their view, the IUF would henceforth deal with Asia, the Americas and Africa, whereas they alone would be responsible for Europe.
There was no way, as IUF general secretary, I could accept this. I was shocked at the staggering arrogance of the leadership of this European faction (at that time, the German, Belgian and Dutch affiliates), at their contempt for the concept of an international interest and identity of the world working class and their readiness to commit themselves instead to what I saw as a grubby little club of European nationalists.
Since the CIA operation in the 1960s, the IUF had not faced such a fundamental threat to its integrity. There were three obvious threats: the threat to the organization's independence as EU funding would start weighing in; the exclusion of the IUF from dealing with the European-based transnationals (as happened in the IMF); the longer term threat to the financial stability of the IUF and to its ability to support its weaker members in other parts of the world.
Fortunately not all European affiliates subscribed to this new wisdom of EU-funded trade unionism. Some because their countries were not part of the EU, some because, even though they were in the EU, they were not prepared to abandon an internationalist perspective and their commitment to the IUF and to all its members, and some for both reasons. The non-European members were of course appalled at what was happening in Europe.
There was only one way to stop this: create a European regional organization of the IUF, under IUF rules, and declare this to be the legitimate representation of the European affiliates of the IUF. The Executive Committee of the IUF decided (by a large majority) to do this by creating the Euro-IUF, running in parallel with the existing ETUCF. The Euro-IUF now applied for recognition as a food workers' ETUF, as the ETUCF had already done, with the result that neither received recognition from the ETUC. Stalemate.
What followed was a seven-year civil war in the IUF in Europe, with shifting line-ups. Because this was largely bureaucratic infighting, we were able to keep it at the margins, with the serious IUF activities developing anyway. It came eventually to an end by a change in the leadership of the German union: the new president believed that the IUF interest had to be safeguarded over European regional concerns, and the other Europeans fell into line.
The result was a merger of the ETUCF and the Euro-IUF to create the European Committee of Food, Catering and Allied Workers’ Unions within the IUF (ECF-IUF), both a European regional organisation under the IUF rules and an ETUF of the European Trade Union Confederation. Much the same had happened, more or less at the same time, in the ITF.
That was pretty much the end of the story in Europe, although traces of European separatism linger on: the organization changed its name once again, to European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) with a new logo, effacing any reminder of an IUF connection, and continues to work in a bureaucratic style, heavily influenced by a "social partnership" ideology that the IUF does not share. However, these are now irrelevancies. That story is over.
My final years in the IUF were dominated by the need to deal with the fall-out from the collapse of the Soviet empire, for which we were theoretically well prepared, but practically not at all. That is another story.
So what about Third Camp Socialism?
I do not know whether, had I not joined the ISL, absorbed its political culture and understood its insights and its specific brand of socialism, I would have been able to contribute to the international labour movement in the way I did for over fifty years. What I do know, is that I was able to do this thanks to comrades like Hal and Ann Draper, Julius and Phyllis Jacobson, others like Max Shachtman, Al Glotzer, Herman Benson, Gordon Haskell, Ernest Rice McKinney, Saul Mendelson, Debbie Meier, Don Chenoweth, Sam Bottone, others yet I hardly knew, like Joe Friedman (Carter), Paul Bernick, Jack Rader, Carl Shier, or only knew through their writings, like Lewis Coser, Ernest Erber, Stanley Plastrick, Irving Howe, B.J. Widick - and many others.
To all of them, I owe many hours of conversations, correspondence and reading. What I learned was that the "Third Camp" was really another name for the world's working class in the broadest sense of the term, including the informal workers, mostly women, the landless peasants of the "Third
World", itself another outmoded term since the two other worlds have gone the way of the two other camps. In contemporary terms, what was our "Third Camp" is now the 99% of the Occupy movement.
As I see it, the core of the 99% is the organized working class, and our duty, overriding all other considerations, has to be to defend the integrity and the independence of the movement of the organized working class: the trade union movement or, more generally, the labour movement, against all threats, from anywhere, regardless of their many guises. At any rate, that's what I thought it meant to be an independent socialist in the labour movement in the last half century. Or, the way Marx put it in his time: "Considering, That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves …"
The ISL's brand of socialism also provided me with a very useful theoretical framework to help me understand my hatred of Stalinism and, for that matter, of any brand of authoritarianism, including those which were not actual criminal conspiracies like Stalin's operation. The ISL was not blind to the dangers of the various brands of Third World authoritarianism, and none of us ever went on those ridiculous quests for a promised land which would proclaim any tin-pot dictator with a radical discourse as the latest shining beacon of socialism.
Nor was the ISL blind to the bureaucratic and authoritarian traditions in social-democracy which, combined with opportunism, cowardice and obtuse stupidity – never to be underestimated - would inflict enormous damage on the labour movement, leading to its worst historical defeats. Even at the best of times, those traditions would cultivate conformity and passivity, wear down the activists, lead the movement into blind alleys. The ISL taught me, and others, to resist all this.
Finally, the ISL taught me to take the long view. It never proclaimed a terminal crisis of capitalism, nor declared a revolutionary situation every five years or ten years. Most of us knew we were in for the long haul, and that we would not live to see our long-term goals. All we can ever do is the best we can, where we are, while we are there.