RecensionsBook Reviews

American Labour’s Cold War Abroad: From Deep Freeze to Détente, 1945-1970, By Anthony Carew (2018) Edmonton: AUPress/Athabaska Press, 510 pages. ISBN: 978-1-77199-211-4[Record]

  • Jeffrey Muldoon

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  • Jeffrey Muldoon
    Associate Professor, School of Business, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA

The Cold War remains a focal point in intellectual discourse. This is rather remarkable considering the Cold War ended about 30 years ago. Few remember the various incidents in 1962 and 1983 that nearly turned the war hot; the original participants have been dead for years; and we are at about the last members of a generation who were alive when the Soviet Union and the United States were allies and the hope during the Second World War that this friendship would remain a permanent arrangement in promoting world peace. Many of the later participants of the Cold War are now gone, including Reagan, Thatcher, Bush and Yeltsin. It appears that George Shultz and Mikhail Gorbachev remain the last men standing, but for who knows how much longer. There are now two generations that were too young or were not even alive. Yet, the Cold War continues to define our politics. The emergence of the Soviet Union transformed world politics, a fact that friend and foe of that regime recognize and agree with. Despite the various amount of literature, there are still more areas to research. One important area of work done has been on unions and the Cold War. Anthony Carew has written an exhaustive account of the interplay between various American Union officials and international unions, noting how both the Cold War and American power played key roles in shaping the destiny of international trade unionism. His newest research is a capstone of this work. The level of research conducted for this book is staggering. He conducted archival research in 12 different libraries; in four different countries, interviewed (sometimes more than once) 39 different participants and used six previously conducted interviews. This is clearly a product of a mature and talented scholar. Perhaps the largest measure of Carew’s ability as a mature scholar is that it is difficult to determine his politics. When most scholars write about the Cold War, it is clear where their sympathies lie. This is not the case for Carew. He avoids mostly the politics and the passions of the past, writing mostly in a detached manner. That is not to say that from time to time that his passions rise, for example using terns such as “hardliners” and “obsessive” to describe some of the anti-communists. However, one could forgive him noting that Carew is a lifelong British trade unionist who probably did not admire the Americans getting involved in limiting the solidarity of the movement. Carew also notes when the AFL-CIO had a sterling record of promoting anti-colonialism revealing him to be very even-handed. The basic thesis of the book is to note how trade unions shaped and were shaped by the ongoing Cold War starting around 1945. The level of animosity between “anti-communist” and “anti-anti-communists” was already apparent. What makes this even more remarkable was that this was before the Stuttgart speech and the Iron Curtain speech. The reason was that the anti-communists were already concerned with this movement and they used money and contacts provided by the Central Intelligence Agency and America unions. The nature of this work was undemocratic, but I believe it would have been supported by the rank and file. The interplay and dynamics between Jay Lovestone, Irving Brown, George Meany and Walter Reuther forms a major portion of the book. The decision guided by American influence and money to form the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and to promote the concept of “free trade unionism”. The intersection between the CIA, anti-colonial movements and the power of the United States takes what should be a basic …