I just posted the following message on the e-mail list of the North American-based United Association for Labor Education (UALE), but I thought it might be of international interest, so I'm reposting it on Union Book.
One of the most heartening things to me about our [March 23-26, 2011] conference in New Orleans was the attention paid to building international labor solidarity. I think this is really great stuff, and I hope it expands exponentially.
However, one part of building international labor solidarity is making sure OUR labor movement, especially the AFL-CIO, is not undermining others'. People seem much less willing to take this on.
Despite efforts to reassure us that the Solidarity Center's work is "good," it is STILL connected to and is an essential part of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED was established in 1983 to do overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly. Being part of NED puts our labor movement in bed with the international wing of the US Chamber of Commerce (along with the international wings of the Republican Party--led by that stalwart humanitarian John McCain--and the Democratic Party--led by the stalwart humanitarian Madeleine Albright). We really don't know what the Solidarity Center is doing around the world, or why--an honest report of their activities has NEVER been given--and we're not allowed to discuss the fact that over 90% of the funding for the Solidarity Center comes from the US Government (under both Democratic and Republican administrations).
All of this, in great detail and with extensive documentation, is contained in my recent book, AFL-CIO's Secret War against Developing Country Workers: Solidarity or Sabotage? (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010). I'm not going to repeat arguments I've made previously, but just encourage people to read my book, consider my arguments, examine my documentation, and decide for yourself if what I say makes sense: if it does, let's address the issue; if it doesn't, ignore what I write. It's that simple. (I would also encourage everyone to check out the arguments in my recent article in Working USA, "Why Labor Imperialism? AFL-CIO's Foreign Policy Leaders and the Developing World," December 2010: 465-479.)
However, while the AFL-CIO has not responded to my book--despite a copy being sent directly to President Trumka--other people ARE taking it seriously.
Michael Barker, a researcher located in the UK, has obviously taken my book seriously. He has referenced it more than once in a paper he has just published on-line titled "Reporting on Egyptian Workers: Solidarity in the Name of Capitalism." Barker's article is at www.swans.com/library/art17/barker75.html
Barker, as he has written, "has not examined particular Solidarity Center activities in Egypt--despite their receiving over $319,000 for them in 2009 [from NED-ks]--but has instead focused on a major report regarding Egyptian workers that has been produced for the Solidarity Center" (p. 6).
In fact, this article by Barker is a critical examination of the Solidarity Center's "Justice for All" report, published in February 2010, by Professor Joel Beinin. I'm not going to comment further on Barker's article, but I encourage each of us to read and consider the arguments. I think it is a serious critique of Beinin's report. It certainly raises a number of issues that I think that need to be explained. It strongly argues that there are a number of issues that are relevant to the report and the situation that have not been included.
Let me be clear: the Solidarity Center's work is considerably better than that of AIFLD, et. al., under George Meany and Lane Kirkland. At times--as I note in my book--their work has been quite helpful to workers' struggles. But at other times, it has not been such. We don't know what they have been doing in Egypt, and it may be years before we get definitive accounts: we know what they've told us, but it will probably be a while before we get documented Egyptian accounts either confirming or rejecting Solidarity Center accounts.
Nonetheless, Barker certainly raises concerns that I think all of us should consider. I hope each of you will take time, read it, and consider whether it makes any sense to you or not. I still think these are issues we need to seriously confront if our efforts to rebuild the US labor movement and build international labor solidarity.