image Workers Unite! Cold War Chronicles and Reflections on the Prague Spring, Part 2 [Lima Charlie News]
Workers Unite! Cold War Chronicles and Reflections on the Prague Spring, Part 2 [Lima Charlie News]

Workers Unite! Cold War Chronicles and Reflections on the Prague Spring, Part 2

Part 2 of a 2 part series. On the 50th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia after the failed Prague Spring, Dr. Gary K. Busch reflects on the Cold War and old East-West rivalries fought not on the battlefield, but in factories, ports, schools, universities and cultural centres across the world. Continued from Part 1.

The Cold War has been described as a game of tactics and coercion conducted by nation states under the umbrella of Mutual Assured Destruction where nuclear attacks were the ultimate weapons. While this interaction by sovereign states may, indeed, be the vital component of the Cold War struggle, it was not really the arena in which most of the Cold War interactions took place. The Cold War was rarely conducted on a battlefield with soldiers.

The real battlefield was in the factories, ports, schools, universities and cultural centres across the world where the covert forces of the U.S. and the Soviets were pitted against each other, occasionally with deadly consequences. It involved the most important elements of our societies: political parties; labour unions; national unions of students; organisations of cultural freedom; organised criminal structures; and organised religious groups. These were the battlefields of the real Cold War and the loci of competition and coercion by the KGB, the GRU, the CIA, MI6, the BND, the Stasi and many others.

The International Labour Movement

The activities of intelligence and security agencies, along with the role of the international labour movement in national politics, has been crucial to any understanding of the actual engines of change in many countries. Yet this dimension has always been hidden by the invisibility of these processes to the public. It is not taught in schools, universities or the press.

The types of interactions have changed somewhat from Cold War objectives where international labour movements were the battlefields of many conflicts between East and West. Now there are subtler conflicts over the effects of globalisation, the impact of the Arab Spring, the rising self-determination of a Chinese working class, the resurgence of Arab unions and a host of domestic challenges in Africa and Latin America between competing labour movements and their outside sponsors.

Throughout the history of this movement, particularly during the Cold War, governments and political parties used the international labour movement as a principal vehicle for covert interactions with political parties and governments in foreign nations. The international trades union movement has been, and continues to be, a vital tool of governments in the shaping of the political destinies of foreign political parties and states and has been an important part of most nations’ foreign policy system. [i]

Image ["The victory of communism is inevitable", 1969 propaganda poster][Konuhov]
[“The victory of communism is inevitable”, 1969 propaganda poster][Konuhov]
At one time the U.S. had around sixty people in the CIA (working out of Cord Meyer’s shop) tasked with interacting and reporting on the international labour movements (now there are only two and one is part-time). Starting in the 1960’s, the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, under the leadership of Jay Lovestone (former Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States) and his right-hand man, Irving Brown engaged in the subversion of labour movements around the world for the AFL-CIO, with the assistance of millions of dollars of US government / CIA cash, passed through a web of private foundations.

The Soviet Union, meanwhile, had hundreds of people engaged within the international labour movements around the globe, especially in the satellite states of Eastern Europe. The KGB had a special section of the First Directorate active in the labour movement. Alexander Nikolayevich Shelepin, head of the KGB and at one time considered a possible successor to Nikita Khrushchev, would eventually become the head of the AUCCTU (the Soviet labour federation) while still a member of the Politburo and Chairman of the Council of Ministers. It was a serious business.

The British Government has funded major programmes in the international labour movement with specialists in this field seconded to the Trades Union Congress (TUC). British Occupation forces in post-war Germany brought in British trade unionists to reorganise the German labour movement. Indeed, the British were among the first to introduce Labour Attaches to colonial territories to monitor and guide local unionists. The 1929 Colonial Development Act created funds for overseas assistance and provided that colonies eligible for receiving these funds must insure that fair labour standards were created in the colony. The Colonial Development Act of 1940 went further stating that to be eligible for development funds territorial governments had to provide for and maintain a local trades union movement. Trades union national centres sprang up across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. These were under the close tutelage and control of the labour attaches sent out by the Colonial Office.

The West Germans established two government funded labour-oriented foundations to do its international work; the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Most nations had similar, if smaller scale, projects. Even Argentina, under Peron, had a Pan-American Labour program. In some countries, like Nigeria, there were three national labour centres, each supported by different international donors.

The use of labour movements as agents of change was a theatre of interaction worldwide which received practically no publicity or international comment.

Trades Union – A Key to Politics

A principal reason behind the importance of the trades union movement in the political process has been the weakness of political parties. For most nations, political parties are not strong. They frequently lack funds, manpower and organisation. They can generate interest and support from their constituencies during the electoral campaigns but soon after, their continuity and direction is left in the hands of their parliamentary parties. The maintenance of their continued interaction with their membership is most often left to the activities of the voluntary organisations with whom they are associated. These voluntary organisations (trades unions, corporate groups, civic associations or religious groups) maintain the continuity of contact at national level between the members and the parties between elections.

Most often the trades unions have been linked with Labour, Socialist, Social Democratic, Communist or Christian Democratic parties. Indeed, for many years, membership in most of the parties of the Left was based on affiliation to the party through the trades union or co-operative movements. These parties only rarely permitted direct personal affiliation. The trades union movement acted as a surrogate for a national party structure between elections.

Because of this close relationship between the political parties and the trades union movement, the work of the national centres (that is a labour organisation whose membership consists of national unions, not sectoral unions – AFL-CIO, TUC, DGB, etc.) has been almost exclusively political. Trades union leadership at the national level has been deeply involved in sustained interaction with the processes and offices of government. There has been a flow of trades union leaders away from the national centres into high political posts, especially when their party has assumed the responsibility of office.

In the Third World the route to national power was often through the trades union movement. As national economic and political developments broadened the opportunities for employment, these trained and experienced union officials were often tempted to leave the labour movements for better opportunities elsewhere. Throughout Asia and especially Africa the trades union movement has served as the training ground and starting-point for innumerable prominent politicians. Among these were Tom Mboya, Sekou Toure, Siaka Stevens, Rashidi Kawawa, Cyrille Adoula, Joshua Nkomo and many others. Right now, the new President of South Africa is the former head of the Mineworkers Union and the late Morgan Tsvangarai of Zimbabwe moved to be Prime Minister from the Zimbabwean labour movement. Others, like Gandhi or Nehru in India or a succession of PhD economists in Sri Lanka, held important union posts.

These men, often coming from the highest social castes or classes in their respective societies, found many doors open to them. With a few exceptions, these leaders left the labour movement for other careers. This turnover in leadership has posed long-term problems for the development of effective unionism. In many colonial societies, during the campaign for independence, local political parties were banned. Trades unions acted as their surrogates and often became the vehicle for national political dissent and the struggle for liberation.

It is precisely because the trades unionism practised by the national centres was so intimately involved with the political forces of the state that there has been such an interest in the growth of security agencies in international trades unionism. The strategic role of the trades union movement within the political and economic life of the nation has proved to be a tempting target for outside interests seeking to intervene in or influence the parties of government or opposition.

The most important rule for the success of Western intelligence organisations within the international labour movements is that, unlike the Soviets who physically occupied many of the countries in Europe which gave them direct and coercive control of the organisations, the Western intelligence organisations found that the art of building a successful intelligence operation did not lie in coercing or blackmailing into service unwilling agents: it consisted of finding agents already committed to a goal shared by the intelligence operatives and providing them with the resources in order for them to achieve their goal. If, for example, there was a trades union or political party faction opposed to a key policy or programme of the targeted national party or government, intelligence operatives would be very foolish to try and start their own opposition movement against this policy. It was wiser and more useful to offer to the dissident faction their covert assistance by providing funds, printing presses, media access, training courses and subsidised travel so that they could achieve their goals.

This has been a traditional method of operation. No intelligence organisation or government ever had to coerce European social democrats to build anti-communist factions in post-war France or Italy. No intelligence body ever had to force Eastern European trades unionists to resist being placed under the control of Soviet-trained political commissars intent upon eradicating collective bargaining in Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia or Poland.

During the Cold War, no Eastern European intelligence service had to put undue pressure a Latin American urban guerrilla to continue his opposition to the government hunting him. What is serendipitous about this type of operation is its long-term utility. Once an intelligence service has provided the needed assistance to a key unionist or political group it is then capable of using that fact to ensure a longer-term loyalty through the threat of exposure.

Another useful aspect of utilising allies in the trades union movements is the access it gives intelligence agents to parallel organisations which they seek to penetrate. Through its strength within sections of the trades union movements in Britain, Sweden, West Germany and Holland the intelligence services of the East were able to build contacts and influence in the variety of ‘peace movements’ which have grown to such prominence; first in the anti-Vietnam campaign and then in the renewal of the unilateral disarmament movements.

The Czech Metalworkers

In many cases the unions came on their own volition to their estrangement from their government as a result of policies the Soviets had forced on their governments. For example, the first problem raised by the Czech Metalworkers who had become the leading opponents of the Soviet occupation and control of the country and the ROH was that of shortfalls of revenue to their employers. The Czech factories had no money to give. Their government kept them short of cash so increased quotas at lower pay became the rule.

The Czech Metalworkers sent out messages to the non-Soviet European and North American labour movements for assistance in their struggle. When the Soviets took control of Czechoslovakia they had taken control of the Czech labour movement.

In 1949, the post war international labour movement, the World Federation of Trade unions (based in Prague) split over the issue of Marshall Plan aid. A new federation was formed, the International Confederation of Free Trades Unions (‘ICFTU’) based in Brussels. The Soviets had firm control of the WFTU and the European Social Democrats had control of the ICFTU. One of the U.S. national union centres, the AFL, was part of the ICFTU but was far more anti-communist than the Europeans, having run a long program with European labour during the Second World War with funds and directions from the OSS and the Allied Military Government in Germany. The other U.S. national centre, the CIO, had its own office in Paris, under Elmer Cope and then Victor Reuther. The CIO, formed primarily of industrial workers, was less ideological than the AFL and worked with the European Social Democrats once the Communists were purged from the CIO. The two merged in 1955 into the AFL-CIO, but two parts were in continual conflict over the role of labour in European assistance.

Each of the two mega-internationals (WFTU and ICFTU) had within them, international federations of unions operating a specific trade (metalworkers, food and plantation workers, public service workers, transport workers, et al.). The Czech Metalworkers issued an appeal to the ICFTU and the International Metalworkers Federation (‘IMF’) for assistance. They needed support for their struggle against the ROH and the Soviet operators of the WFTU. The United Auto Workers, led by the Reuther brothers, agreed with the IMF to provide assistance to the Czechs.

As Research Director of the UAW International Affairs Department, I was enlisted as part of a team seeking to assist the Czech Metalworkers.

When we made contact with the representatives of the Czech Metalworkers they told me that a good part of their unhappiness was the result of the inability of the Czech Government to make enough money available to the Czech plants to maintain a liveable wage policy for workers in these plants. They said it wasn’t the fault of the Czech Government, but it was because the Soviets refused to pay their bills.

One of the largest and most important industries in Czechoslovakia was the company Omnipol. Omnipol was a state trading company that traded military equipment produced in Czechoslovakia to the rest of the world. It represented the marketing arm of many Czech factories, like Zbrojovka Brno, and others producing arms, tanks, artillery pieces, and aircraft for customers worldwide. In 1948, with the defeat of the Egyptian Army in its battle with Israel, Omnipol supplied some replacement equipment to the Egyptians whose payment was guaranteed by the Soviet Army. These payments were not paid. In 1956, after Suez, the Soviets ordered Omnipol to resupply the Egyptians again, to the tune of US$35 million which the newly formed Warsaw Pact ordered and guaranteed to Omnipol. Omnipol was reluctant but went ahead and supplied (and to the Syrians as well).

The Warsaw Pact never paid Omnipol. Then, in June 1967, with the outbreak of the Six-Day War the Warsaw Pact ordered Omnipol to urgently resupply the Egyptians. The Czechs refused. They demanded payment up front or they wouldn’t supply the Egyptians. In addition, the Soviets had been supplying the Federal troops in Nigeria who were putting down the Biafran War (using Egyptian pilots in Soviet aircraft) and took the Czech Warsaw Pact contribution out of Omnipol stores.

Alexander Dubček, first secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, had facilitated the supply of Omnipol products to the Biafrans and, despite a vote in the Warsaw Pact to stop, continued as they paid cash for their purchases. Whenever Dubček and his ministers met with the Soviets they demanded payment for their prior deliveries or a loan in the equivalent amount owed to Omnipol so they could pay the factories from which Omnipol derived its sales. Much of this missing money was a goad to militancy in the Czech metal workers.

As we were trying to assist the Czech unions in their struggles it became clear they had no money. The AFL-CIO had denounced the Czech unions and the Dubček Government because they were still communists, even if dissidents.

The CIA mined their contacts for information but refused to put in funds to the Czech unions. They concentrated on funding Czech student movements through the National Student Association and the intellectual elites through the Congress for Cultural Freedom.

[President of Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubček]
There was also the ongoing battle for Slovak autonomy which weakened and divided the union efforts. It was clear that the dissident unionists needed funds to buy paper and ink for propaganda and organisation; a stipend for key organisers to travel between plants and to Prague; and an allowance for travel for delegates to attend meetings and conferences. The funding for this came mainly from the Swedish and Norwegian LO, the United Autoworkers, and the British TUC (although not announced publicly for fear that the London Branch of the CPGB would block it). Some of the money came from the Czechs as well. The Czech unions’ funds were under the strict control of the Ustredni Rada Odboru (URO), so they were not immediately available for dissidence.

We worked out a scheme which was below the radar. There were a number of Austrian Socialists who had left the Communist Party over their revulsion over the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. Among them was an important philatelist with ties in Prague. These stamp dealers arranged to buy many thousands of dollars’ worth of rare postage stamps in Prague. These were easy to transport to Austria, sewn into lapels and panels. This released cash in Austria which could be used for organisational needs in Czechoslovakia. Many stamps went to London where they were auctioned in stamp auctions.

A prominent U.S. stamp dealer made the initial arrangements for the transactions. As an amusing aside, the second lot of stamps sent from Prague was primarily Egyptian overprints. They were sold through the chain until they ended in the collection of a high-ranking CIA officer who specialised in them. Years later I had the chance to tell him of their origin in the Prague Spring.

The Prague Spring would take place in the confluence of major changes in the structure and unity of the international socialist and communist movements; the battle for the Left.

The Battle for the Control of the ‘Left’

 The struggle to support and control trades unions was very much a part of the battle to control the Left. For years the Socialists, Social Democrats, Christian unionists and the Communists fought for dominance in the labour movement. They were, and remain, competitive movements.

All may have sought to speak as the voice of the working class and the ‘oppressed masses’ but they took different paths towards achieving their goals. Despite periods of temporary unity, like the Popular Front, they clashed in the battle for control of the Left.

The main point raised against the Communists was that they were controlled by Moscow Stalinists and the aims of the Soviets took precedence over the pursuit of the class struggle. There were several key flashpoints when this conflict became obvious and extremely divisive. One of the most memorable of these was the role of the Communists in the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish Republic had been dominated by the Socialists and anarchists and the ant-Stalinist factions of the Communist Party. When the war broke out the Spanish Republicans rallied to the fight against the Fascists. They formed battalions under the control of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, POUM, which united the Left; except for the hard-line Stalinists of the Spanish Communists. Despite the fact that the two were both fighting against Franco, the Spanish Communists, bolstered by Soviet cash and weapons (and guidance from the NKVD) turned against the POUM and attacked them. This betrayal has never been forgiven by the non-Communist Left across the world.

However, the greatest betrayal of the Stalinists in the struggle for control of the Left, one which has left its lasting mark in the political history of Europe, was the Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 23, 1939, where Germany and the Soviets signed a mutual non-aggression pact allowing them to carve up Europe. Germany started by invading Czechoslovakia and Poland, while the Soviets attacked Finland. The romantic view of “international socialism” lay in ruins. The Left was outraged that Stalin would enter any kind of league with Hitler.

The result of the Pact was that Communists across the globe turned against the Socialists, Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and anarchists. They collaborated with the Germans in jailing unionists, politicians and subverting their own national governments.

In France, the CGT unionists sabotaged French war production, militated against national defence, and sought to assist the Nazis even when France itself was occupied. When the Nazis occupied Paris and suppressed the free operation of political parties and trades unions, the PCF-CGT won the right to resume publishing their daily paper L’Humanite which the French government had banned in 1939. The German occupying power in France published its decrees and directives in the French Communist newspaper. The Communists attacked the Resistance and killed many of its leaders.

This bizarre activity continued until that magical day of 22 June 1941 when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. After that the Soviets did a volte face and engaged themselves in supporting the Allied forces. They weren’t allowed to join the Resistance until 1943. “Uncle Joe” turned to the Allies for assistance.

The continuing conflict between the Communists and others on the Left in Europe was not made easier by the efforts of the European Communists to play an important role with the military occupation forces which controlled post-war Germany, Austria. They soon fell out with these forces and began a period of opposition leading, finally, to the refusal of Stalin to allow the Marshall Plan to work. The battle for this took place mainly in the labour movements.

Death to Fascism
[“Death to Fascism”]

Titoism & Eurocommunism

By 1968 there had been many changes in the façade of unity in the Soviet control of Eastern Europe. To a large extent these changes were precipitated by Stalin’s decision that none of the countries under its control would be allowed to participate in the massive program of rebuilding the infrastructure and economies of Europe by the Marshall Plan. Not only did the Soviets act to prevent their satellites from participating in the Marshall Plan, they created a plan to use their strength in the ports and dockworkers unions to prevent or delay Marshall Plan aid from arriving in Europe.

The key hub of contention was France. The French union centre was the CGT, firmly under the control of the French Communist Party (‘PCF’). Until 1946-1947 the PCF followed the Moscow line of co-operation with the French efforts at increasing production; but with the political polarisation in the struggles in Greece, Austria, Turkey and Iran, they became more militant and hostile to the French and Allied powers. With the proposed advent of the Marshall Plan the unions were ordered to oppose any such efforts. Irving Brown, of the AFL-CIO, was tasked with splitting the French Socialists (‘SFIO’) and the Catholic Mouvement Republican Populaire (‘MRP’) away from the PCF control of the CGT. He was successful and formed a new national union, the CGT-Force Ouvriere (FO). This was enabled by the receipt of funds passed through the AFL-CIO’s Free Trade Union Committee from sources outside the labour movement. These funds, coming from the CIA, amounted to around two million dollars a year according to Tom Braden who disbursed them.

On the other hand, massive sums of money were made available to the CGT through the PCF from the Soviet Union and the nations in communist-controlled Eastern Europe. These funds were delivered to the party and union treasuries as credits and deposits to the Banque Commerciale pour I’Europe du Nord (‘BCEN’), the French bank owned by the Soviet state banks. 99.7 per cent of the shares were owned jointly by the Gosbank and the Vnestorgbank of Moscow (the State Bank and the Foreign Trade Bank, respectively). The party and the union kept numerous accounts at the BCEN as did the several industrial trading companies run by the PCF and the CGT. As necessary, the accounts of the PCF and the CGT were credited with new funds. Massive overdrafts were written off by the Moscow shareholders when the party and the union required cash for operating.

After following Molotov’s lead at the Marshall Plan talks to cause industrial havoc, the CGT called a number of general strikes. When the Truman Doctrine was announced in March 1947 the Cold War intensified. The PCF leaders were removed from their posts in the French Government on 5 May 1947 and the French labour movement split; Irving Brown’s CGT- FO was formed in April 1948. The PCF-CGT received massive assistance from the forces of the newly formed Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) through the BCEN. The French Minister of the Interior, Jules Moch, stood up to denounce the funds pouring into the BCEN from Romanian, Polish and Hungarian unions for the CGT.

IMage Soviet propaganda

The Czech unions supposedly donated the equivalent of one month’s wages to their comrades in the French mineworkers. The Czech miners sent 250 million francs to the mineworkers. The Romanians sent more than 10 million. The Minister declared that all these funds were really sent by the Soviet Union to promote a policy of opposition to the European Recovery Programme (ERP) and to disrupt France. Jacques Duclos, for the PCF, denied that these funds, amounting to over 68 million francs in two months, were anything but friendly assistance from brother unionists.

Under the guidance of Irving Brown, the FO unions began a campaign to contain the CGT and to keep French industry operating. The severest battles occurred on the docks where PCF unionists, determined to block the entry of Marshall Plan aid, refused to unload American ships. Using money supplied by Braden, Brown hired a squad of strong-arm men, under the control of the Corsican mob leader (‘Union Corse’), Pierre Ferri-Pisani, who attacked the dock unionists and forced the opening of the ports to US aid. This group, known as the Mediterranean Committee, broke the CGT strike and took control of the French ports. This was not an unmixed blessing for the French port authorities as these Corsicans tended to stay on and run the ports long after the political battles were over, exchanging their political activity for a more traditional form of endeavour: gun-running, drug smuggling and the protection business.

This was the pattern followed in Italy where the communist national centre, the CGIL, was split into three national centres following De Gasperi’s co-operation with the ERP. The costs of this split were borne by both the CIA and Moscow.

The only real exception to this pattern was in Yugoslavia, where Marshal Tito led the Yugoslavs to a form of exceptionalism, distancing his country from the Soviets after the assassination of General Zhdanov by Stalin. Although Tito was, himself, an ardent Stalinist, killing thousands of his former Chetnik allies and collectivising Yugoslavian agriculture, he posed as a ‘freewheeling’ autocrat and received aid and assistance from the West. He later helped form the Non-Aligned Movement. His sin of exceptionalism was referred to as ‘Titoism’ or the “Third Way” and formed the basis of many show trials in Eastern Europe whenever a communist nationalist politician, tangled with the USSR.

The events of 1968 in France, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere in Europe and North America radically changed the perceptions of the European trades union movements and political parties towards the disappointment at the role of the communist parties of Western Europe in participating in the democratic process. The challenge to the communist parties of Europe posed by the radicalisation at the bases of their power, and the simultaneous need to distance themselves from their traditional close linkages with the policies of the Soviet party in the aftermath of the general world-wide revulsion following the Soviet repression of Czech communism, led these parties to a reappraisal of their strategy and tactics. The development of what became ‘Eurocommunism’ was a direct result of these upheavals.

If the term Eurocommunism has meant anything it has meant the development of what Palmiro Togliatti called ‘polycentrism’: the admissibility in party policy that there were different roads to communism, not only the road decreed by Moscow. This was not a new discussion. Indeed, the battles of Yugoslavia in 1948, the Polish Spring, the Hungarian uprising and the Sino-Soviet rift were largely about the same question. The split in the US communist party over the question of ‘American exceptionalism’ dated from the late 1920s. What was new, and important, was the willingness of European communist party leaders to take a public stand in favour of national autonomy and to promote the image of these Western European communist parties as genuinely committed to parliamentary democracy with all the re­sponsibilities this entailed. This role was expanded by the formation of the European Common Market in 1957 and the opportunities it created for acceptance by the European states as legitimate partners in European unity.

The reasons for the development of Eurocommunism are not only to be found in ascribing to the Western European communists cynical and opportunist motives relating to their changed circumstances – although this was certainly true in part. The reasons lay deeper in the very nature of the communist movement.

When a political party or trades union is described as ‘communist’ this label is a useful and convenient shorthand for a political movement of far more convoluted complexity. It is convenient to say that the French CGT is a communist national centre, or the CGIL represents the Italian communist trades union arm. In fact, in both cases there exists within the CGT and the CGIL numerous non-communist trends and leaders. Traditionally both these movements have drawn their primary leadership cadres from the ranks of their national communist party and have been in debt for resources to the party and to the international communist movement. Nonetheless, both the French and Italian national centres dominated by the communists have substantial and influential non-party members. Party membership and discipline is not the only requirement for office.

However, membership in the communist party is not a static thing. People join the party and leave it with surprising regularity in response to the policies of the party, its electoral successes and even the opportunities it offers its members to win and maintain attractive jobs. Every turn and change in party policy wins it new members and loses it others. Unlike Eastern Europe where party membership was considered a privilege, party membership in Western Europe has frequently been a liability. In order to attract new members, the party has had to continually offer its members incentives to join and remain in the party. An additional factor which concerned Western European communist parties was the rising generation gap between the party leaders and the young workers it sought to attract to membership. The ‘evenements’ in France in 1968 showed this well.

Image Berlinguer

Throughout the world’s communist movements, not only in France, the defeat of the Dubček communist government by the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact was seen as a major break with the illusion of socialist unity. The Warsaw Pact forces dramatically proved to the European communist leaders that a gradual decentralisation of international communism was not going to be tolerated by the Soviet policy-makers. As in the case of Hungary twelve years earlier, communist party members left the party in substantial numbers. They also drifted away from activities within the communist-led unions. For most of the Western European parties the blow of Czechoslovakia came at a time when they, like their comrades in France, were already crumbling at the base. The inexorable propensity of the Left, and especially the communist Left, to form an intricate kaleidoscopic pattern of factionalism was boosted by this clear division over the justification for the Soviet invasion of a fellow communist state. These parties publicly had to declare their position on Czechoslovakia to retain any credibility with their followers; a declaration which inevitably led to more splits and factions.

It wasn’t only the disappointment over the handling of the Prague Spring which emboldened the communist party and union leaders of Italy and France to abandon their traditional leftist stance and to declare themselves in favour of seeking power through the ballot box. There were a number of factors; but, by far, the European communists were deeply shaken by the downfall of Allende in Chile. Berlinguer and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) theoreticians felt that the events in Chile proved that even if the PCI were to win 51 per cent of the Italian vote against the Christian Democrats it would not be allowed to take office. A military coup, supported by the US and its NATO allies, would almost certainly rob the PCI of the fruits of its victory. For the PCI to attain power, a historic compromise with the Christian Democrats would be the only safe route. To achieve this goal the PCI had to be recognised as a party fully accepting the rigours of parliamentary democracy. They became Eurocommunists.

The spread of Eurocommunism and the commitment to developing Euro-unions reached even to the socialist strongholds of Scandinavia after their own minor upheavals in 1968.

In Sweden, for example, the Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SAP) had governed Sweden as its majority party from September 1932 to October 1976. There was a marked radicalisation of the union base of the party in 1968. Traditionally the base of support for the SAP derived from the party’s organic links with the Swedish national centre, the LO. This LO organisation represented about 98 per cent of the organised workers in Sweden, with the rest affiliated to the white-collar TCO organisation or to the tiny group of unions affiliated to the Swedish Communist Party (VPK). The close links between the LO and the SAP always provided the SAP with a solid majority for almost forty-five years. The frustration at the economic and political weakness of the SAP among LO members drained away a substantial portion of the electoral base of the SAP. They, too, became more ‘European’.

The Cold War Battle for Cultural Freedom

The Cold War industrial battlefield was hardly the only area of contention between the U.S. and the Soviets. The battle for control of the Left was also a battle for control of the intellectual underpinnings of the separate ideologies. The co-operation between the Allies and the Soviet Union during the later stages of the Second World War enticed many of the U.S. and European literary and intellectual elites to believe that Communism was more congenial to cultural development than was bourgeois democracy.

“In March 1949, New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel played host to one of the strangest gatherings in American history. Less than four years after Allied troops had liberated Hitler’s concentration camps, 800 prominent literary and artistic figures congregated in the Waldorf to call for peace at any price with Stalin, whose own gulag had just been restocked with victims of his latest purge. Americans, including Lillian Hellman, Aaron Copland, Arthur Miller, and a young Norman Mailer, joined with European and Soviet delegates to repudiate “US warmongering.”[ii]

Playwright Clifford Odets denounced the “enemies of Man” and claimed the United States had been agitated into “a state of holy terror” by fraudulent reports of Soviet aggression. Composer Copland declared “the present policies of the American Government will lead inevitably into a third world war.”

It was clear that the newly-formed Cominform, which paid all the bills for the conference, was making a pre-emptive play to ensure the co-operation and participation of the leading intellectuals of the Left in the Soviet “peace initiatives”. Their theme was that the United States and the Allied Western democracies were the war-mongers and were opposed by the Kremlin and its satellite peace-loving democracies. The Waldorf Congress outraged many of the intellectuals and cultural icons in the U.S. and Europe, especially those on the Left who were abandoned and victimised by the pre-1941 Communist alliance with the Fascists. Their anger was channeled by a handful of liberal and socialist writers, led by philosophy professor Sydney Hook, who saw their chance to steal a little of the publicity expected for the Waldorf peace conference. A fierce ex-Communist himself, Hook was then teaching at New York University and editing a socialist magazine called The New Leader. Ten years earlier he and his mentor John Dewey had founded a controversial group called the Committee for Cultural Freedom, which attacked both Communism and Nazism. He now organized a similar committee to harass the peace conference in the Waldorf-Astoria.[iii]

Image I married a communist

In Washington, members of Frank Wisner’s Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) formed inside the CIA saw the value and urgency of using groups like Sidney Hook’s ad hoc group to counter the Cominform’s push into cultural affairs and the Soviet peace offensive. He chuckled at the news reports from New York and wondered how a group like the Americans for Intellectual Freedom could help OPC and the CIA in countering the Soviet peace offensive. Wisner’s aide, Carmel Offie, took over control of countering the Soviet interest. She was personally responsible for supervising the National Committee for Free Europe, which was the conduit for OPC money to Irving Brown for his work in the European labour movements and tried to build a coherent program for the April 1949 cultural meeting in Paris. Offie requested that Wisner ask for additional funds to be made available. Wisner cabled Averell Harriman head of the Economic Cooperation Administration (the managers of the Marshall Plan) seeking 5 million francs to fund a presence at the Paris meeting.

The April meeting in Paris was not a major success as many of the French intellectuals were very anti-American and were part of the Waldorf group. Plans were made for a second meeting, in West Berlin. Berlin was, by then, surrounded by the Red Army and rescued from starvation by the U.S. Air Force’s delivery missions to Tempelhof Airport. The Soviet blockade had been lifted in May 1949, but the future was unsure.

In August 1949, a meeting took place in Frankfurt. American journalist Melvin J. Lasky, together with a pair of ex-Communists, Franz Borkenau and Ruth Fischer, hatched a plan for an international conference of the non-Communist Left in Berlin the following year. Offie was contacted but wasn’t immediately forthcoming with cash or assistance.

In October, Michael Josselson was put forward as a candidate to lead the new organisation to be formed in Berlin. Josselson was a cultural officer for the American occupation government in Germany. He was introduced to Michael Lasky. Together they contacted several prominent Berlin academics to promote the conference and invited many American and European thinkers to create a permanent committee to be called “the Congress for Cultural Freedom.” The Josselson proposal reached Washington in January 1950 and Offie and Wisner agreed to a regular subsidy of clandestine funding.[iv]

The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) was funded by the OPC through the Farfield Trust. This type of funding was the principal method of transferring cash to ‘worthy’ institutions. President Johnson created a committee to study this phenomenon when the National Student Association held a press conference to announce that the CIA had been funding its activities. These findings were released in the Congressional Quarterly. [v]

Press reports indicated that the CIA probably had used at least 46 foundations in an involved method of funneling funds to certain organizations. Under a method of transfer known as a “triple pass,” the usual procedure was for the CIA to convey funds to “dummy” foundations established by the CIA to act as fronts for its activities. The “dummy” foundations then made grants to legitimate foundations. The legitimate foundations, which also handled other funds made the payments to the organisations supported by the CIA as part of its Cold War program.

A partial list of the recipients included:

  • African American Institute
  • American Council for the International Commission of Jurists
  • American Friends of the Middle East
  • American Newspaper Guild.
  • American Society of African Culture
  • Asia Foundation
  • Canadian Union of Students.
  • Committee of Correspondence.
  • Congress for Cultural Freedom
  • Fund for International Social and Economic Education.
  • Independent Research Service.
  • Institute of International Labor Research lnc
  • International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
  • International Cooperative Development Fund
  • International Development Foundation Inc.
  • International Federation of Petroleum and Chemical Workers
  • International Marketing Institute.
  • International Student Conference
  • National Council of Churches
  • Notional Education Assn.
  • Operations and Policy Research Inc.
  • Pan American Foundation
  • Public Services International
  • Radio Free Europe
  • Retail Clerks International Assn
  • United States National Student Assn.
  • United States Youth Council
  • World Assembly of Youth
  • World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession

The annual total of payments was between US $12 and $14 million. There were additional grants for special tasks. The fund details were public knowledge as the Russell Sage Foundation provided detailed accounts for all U.S. foundations. Once one of the CIA foundations was exposed it was a matter of tedious work going through the Russell Sage records to make the connections of the funneling.[vi]

Although the sums received by the CCF were relatively modest it sponsored lectures, conferences, books, magazines and several scholars who provided the intellectual support for the anti-communist battle. There were several strange results of the support for cultural freedom.

“The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years”. The Congress for Cultural Freedom also gave the CIA the ideal front to promote interest in Abstract Expressionism. It would be the official sponsor of touring exhibitions; its magazines would provide useful platforms for critics favourable to the new American painting; and no one, the artists included, would be any the wiser.[vii]

Frank Wisner, the CIA officer in charge of this giant Cold War propaganda machine called the program his “mighty Wurlitzer” on which he could play any propaganda tune. This machine was described in detail in Hugh Wilford’s book, The Mighty Wurlitzer, How the CIA Played America. The book provides a comprehensive account of the clandestine relationship between the CIA and its front organizations. It traces the rise and fall of America’s Cold War front network from its origins in the 1940s to its Third World expansion during the 1950s and ultimate collapse in the 1960s.[viii]

The CCF broke down in acrimony as several of its leaders, notably led by Bertrand Russell, used their positions to attack the U.S. for pursuing policies antithetical to the core beliefs of the CCF. Congress cut off funding for the CCF in November 1957. By then it was not a serious blow as the Hungarian Uprising had polarised the anti-communist policies in Europe and radio stations like Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe were blasting the airways with anti-communist commentary; both funded by the International Organisations Division of the CIA which had replace the OPC in late 1954.

The Cold War & Students

In March 1967, the journal “Ramparts” published an exposé of the close relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Student Association (NSA); the leading American organization representing college students, with branches on about 400 campuses. Bob Scheer and Mike Ansara of Ramparts had found out from several friends in the NSA that the U.S. participation in the international student movement had been funded and directed by the CIA, using witting and unwitting U.S. student leaders of the NSA. These students had received their funding from one or more of the CIA’s covert foundations. The rationale for this relationship was to promote a counter-balance to the efforts of the Soviets to create a worldwide student movement which would support the Soviet policy positions through agitation in the peace and disarmament movements. A collateral gain was the ability to garner information on students from other countries, their views and contacts, and their possible willingness to co-operate with the CIA. It paralleled the structure of the CCF.

The first moves towards engaging students in the Cold War battles began in Prague in August of 1946, when some 300 students from 38 countries had assembled in the flag-bedecked Artists’ Hall for the first World Student Congress. Among them, there were 24 American students, many of them World War II veterans, representing various youth and student organizations and ten prominent universities. [ix] The Communists were in the majority at the Congress. The delegates agreed to form an international umbrella organisation for the world students, called the International Union of Students (IUS). American delegates, who came to be known as the Prague 25, returned home, fully convinced that a new, truly representative U.S. national organization had to be created which could fittingly represent the U.S. student community in the international student world.[x]

The need for support and structure for creating a U.S. response to the Communist-led IUS was a perfect match for the capabilities of the International Organisations Division of the CIA who soon contacted the Prague 25 and enlisted the assistance of student organisations across the U.S. academic world. Karen Paget’s new book, Patriotic Betrayal, is the most detailed account yet of the CIA’s relationship with the National Student Association.

In the summer of 1947, a new body known as the United States National Student Association (NSA) was formed in Madison, Wisconsin. After the 1948 communist coup in Czechoslovakia, the IUS demonstrated a greater bias in favour of Soviet policies and showed a hostility towards the U.S. and its introduction of the Marshall Plan. As a result, the IUS broke apart into two rival camps. Finally, in 1950, NSA met in Stockholm with 18 other national student groups to form a new international student body, International Student Conference (ISC). The ISC grew quickly. By the middle 1950s, over 55 national student unions were participating, more than half of which were from the “Third World”. The ISC had a huge budget which provided many programs of technical assistance, education and student exchanges. The dominant force in the ISC was the NSA. The funds for this were provided from a number of foundations.

The list of NSA Presidents and officers who were witting of the CIA-NSA relationship included many who later went on to fame and prominence in other fields. They were among the best and the brightest. They were not coerced into this relationship with the CIA but realised that, without the funds, they could not present their views to a worldwide audience. There was a synergy in their relationship with the CIA. They were part of the day-to-day Cold War effort which engaged much of the political struggles between the U.S. and the USSR.

The Cold War & Organised Crime

On a slightly different tack, the CIA found that it had a natural ally in the forces of organised crime. There is probably no group which is more anti-communist than that of organised crime.

During the 1920s and 1930s the Italian mob had infiltrated many factories and ports, with the agreement of the managements, to suppress dissent. In some cases, the mob had taken over the local unions. They grew powerful in the days of the Depression. Mobsters like Albert Anastasia (a founder of what was later the Gambino Family) had made an alliance with the “Moustache Petes” (the first round of Mafia leaders) like Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, Salvatore Maranzano, Joey Adonis, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello. The U.S. government was concerned that Axis spies and saboteurs would freely operate along the U.S. north eastern seaboard ports, support wartime labour union strikes, and open the doors to a burgeoning black market and illicit theft of vital war supplies and equipment. The government decided to enlist the forces of the mob on behalf of the war effort.

The mob was predisposed to assist, both because they were patriotic and because Mussolini had cracked down on the Mafia in Italy. The U.S. embarked on Operation Underworld, the code name for the cooperation of Italian and Jewish organized crime figures from 1942 to 1945.

The mob was powerful on the East Coast. After the fraternal Castellamarese War which wiped out most of the Moustache Petes, Charly “Lucky” was in charge. Meyer Lansky and Louis “Lepke” Buchalter (the chief labour union racketeer) had joined up with a united Five Families and together they controlled most of the major crime scene in the East. By January 1943, the Allies were on the offensive in the Mediterranean. They had held and defeated the Germans and Italians in North Africa and were now looking to open a second European front. At the Casablanca Conference the Americans agreed to support Churchill in his desire to invade Mussolini’s Italy. To do this, they would first have to attack Sicily in an operation that would go by the code name “Husky.”

It was clear than any invasion of Sicily would benefit from support and guidance from people who knew the area well, had many friends and supporters in the region, and who were strongly opposed to Mussolini. In a nutshell, that was the mob. Using contacts in Naval Intelligence the U.S. contacted Luciano in prison. He jumped at the chance to support the U.S. in the retaking of Italy from the Fascists. He arranged for Sicilians in the mob to meet with naval intelligence. The naval officers wanted everything they knew about the shape of the coastline and major landing points. They wanted all the pictures they could possibly get of every port of Sicily, of every channel and men that were in Italy recently and had knowledge of water and coastlines. Meyer Lansky and Socks Lanza brought them all to Navy headquarters.

IMage Charles "Lucky" Luciano
[Charles “Lucky” Luciano]
Luciano was let out of jail and volunteered to go to Sicily to co-ordinate the war effort. He went and played an important role in the quick takeover of Sicily. Anastasia guaranteed that there would be no strikes in ports during the war and Luciano guaranteed the safety of all vessels in the ports of the East Coast. Operation Husky was a big success and the Mafia moved with the Allies to mainland Italy as they crossed the Straits of Messina. The skills and contacts of the mob were a big help in distributing aid and supplies during the war and in its aftermath; particularly fighting the Communists as they tried to prevent Marshall Plan Aid from landing at Italian ports.

The most important contact between the CIA and the Mafia was James Jesus Angleton. Jim Angleton became head of Counter-Intelligence in the CIA and ran, even in that position, the Israeli account and the Vatican account in the CIA. He was X-2 for all of Italy at the end of the war and remained in Italy, using his political, Mafia and religious contacts to promote the Christian Democratic Party against the PCI in the 1948 election.

It wasn’t only the Mafia that engaged the CIA in its international activities. As mentioned earlier, Irving Brown and the Paris station had engaged the Union Corse to fight the Communists in French ports to allow the Marshall Plan goods to flow into France. This had the unforeseen consequence that the Union Corse was also heavily represented in the French colony of Indo-China and continued its relationship with the CIA in its dealings there, particularly as part of the Phoenix program.

At the end of the Second World War the Chinese Nationalist forces of the Kuomintang (KMT) were driven out of Yunnan Province by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and returned to Taiwan. The PLA shut down the cultivation of the opium poppy in Yunnan. However, several elements of the KMT remained in Thailand and the Burmese Shan states (mainly the remnants of the 997th Brigade). They settled down in the Golden Triangle and expanded the cultivation of the opium poppy there.

By this time the war in Vietnam had started and South-East Asia was host to U.S. advisors and trainers of local forces, both the ARVN and the Montagnards. These numbers grew. As the Viet Cong developed the Ho Chi Minh Trail as a supply route south via the Laotian border the U.S. created the Raven Forward Air Controllers (the ‘Steve Canyon Program’) at Long Thieng home base of Laotian Hmong leader, General Vane Pao. There was a desperate need to supply these bases in the Golden Triangle with food, medicines and ammunition.

The U.S. created its own airline, Air America, which would act as a delivery service to and from the Golden Triangle (mainly Long Thieng, Siam Reap, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai). They flew in full and had to fly back empty, so it was agreed that Air America would fly back the local produce to an eager market. They flew back with planeloads of opium base, and later heroin. The late president of Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Ky was a pilot on the route for a while. [xi]

Contacts between the CIA and organised crime in framing U.S. policy towards Cuba continued as well. It was Meyer Lansky and several of his associates who operated the casinos and hotels in pre-Castro Cuba. The rise of Castro deprived them of one of the most profitable businesses they had. The mob worked closely with the CIA in combatting the rise of Castro and in deposing him once he took office. Momo Giancana’s assassination attempt against Castro was the tip of the iceberg in the co-operation between the mob and the CIA in combatting Communism.

The CIA & Organised Religion

One of the most committed forces in the battle against Communism is the Catholic Church. Much of their beliefs are antithetical and they have struggled in countries like Spain, Poland, and Portugal in particular. These struggles against the forces of Soviet and Eurocommunist interests engaged the U.S. in their defence.

The Catholic Church is not only a religious body. It owns vast land holdings around the world. It has owned various corporations and acted as a principal shareholder in others. Perhaps the most famous was Società generale immobiliare di lavori di utilità pubblica ed agricola (“General Building Society of Works of Public and Agricultural Utility”). It was the largest real estate development and construction firm in Italy. In the media, the firm was usually identified as either Società Generale Immobiliare or by its initials, SGI. The largest single shareholder in the firm was the Vatican. Four of the 12 directors had close ties to the Curia. It was the SGI that owned the Watergate complex. The Church had a revenue stream of over US$11 million in unvouchered cash from collections each weekend. The Church is a ‘player’. In addition to its adventures with P2, the Banco Ambrosiana and Project Gladii, it maintains an enduring relationship with the CIA and operates its own intelligence body.

While this Cold War battle was going on in U.S. labour (the UAW disaffiliated from the AFL-CIO on July 1, 1968 over the virulent anti-communism of the AFL-CIO) there were other players emerging on the labour scene. One of the most powerful and active was Father Felix Morlion, founder of a European Catholic intelligence service known as Pro Deo. When the Germans overran western Europe, the head of the OSS (precursor to the CIA), “Wild Bill” Donovan helped Morlion move his base of operations from Lisbon to New York. From then on, Pro Deo was financed by Donovan.

In 1944, Morlion re-established his spy network in the Vatican. From there he helped the OSS obtain confidential reports provided by apostolic delegates in the Far East, which included information about strategic bombing targets in Japan. Father Morlion was supported by Donovan initially, but the liaison with Vatican intelligence was taken over by James Jesus Angleton, the head of CIA Counterintelligence. Angleton personally ran the Vatican account as well as the Israel account from Langley.

Morlion became, among other things, the Vatican’s man on labour. The Vatican’s tone was set as extremely anti-communist by the involvement in Vatican Intelligence of Bishop Alois Hudal, a friend and supporter of Hitler and the Nazis., After World War II, Bishop Hudal helped establish the ratlines, which allowed prominent Nazi German and other European former Axis officers and political leaders, among them accused war criminals, to escape Allied trials and denazification. He brought to Rome his colleague, Monsignor Karl Bayer, a priest who was as a high member of Admiral Canaris’ Abwehr (the German military intelligence service). He came to the Vatican to run Caritas, a part of Vatican intelligence charged with international aid and assistance.

Image [Felix Morlion, founder of European Catholic intelligence service known as Pro Deo]
[Felix Morlion, founder of European Catholic intelligence service known as Pro Deo]
Many of the other survivors of the Abwehr were gathered together by the CIA in Pullach, Bavaria, where they set up Germany’s Foreign Intelligence Service (BND). They played an active role in directing the results in Italian and French elections and maintained a close link between James Angleton and the Catholic nuncios in Eastern Europe who sent regular reports to the Vatican of Pope Paul XII and passed funds to dissident Eastern European unionists. One of the liaison organisations was Catholic Action, an Italian lay organization headed by Luigi Gedda, a prominent right-wing ideologue. It was funded by the Rome station in an effort undertaken by the CIA and the Vatican to “barricade the Reds” in the 1948 Italian election and split the Italian labour movement. During the 1950s and the early 1960s, relations between the U.S. and the Vatican were conducted largely through Francis Cardinal Spellman, an ultra-conservative ideologue who served as the right arm of Pope Pius XII and was a vocal supporter of U. S. military involvement in Vietnam.

This relationship changed in the early 1960s when the new Pope, John XXIII took major steps to liberalize the church and to open a dialogue with the East. By doing so, he tried to move Vatican policy away from the strictly anti-Communist line of his predecessor, Pius XII. John XXIII felt that the Vatican had to adopt a more flexible posture to allow the Church to endure as a relevant institution. His attempts at rapprochement with the Soviet Union caught everybody by surprise and disturbed the Vatican desk in D.C.

In May 1963, John McCone, director of the CIA, received a memorandum from Italy about the new Pope’s policies, “Change the Church”. The Church was asked to adopt a new approach toward Italian politics which was permissive rather than positive. This was seen as dangerous with the Left’s success in the 1963 Italian election. They said it was attributable to Pope John’s conciliatory attitude toward the Communists. This was the first election in which the Christian Democrats were not officially endorsed by the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

The pope had insisted upon maintaining a neutral stance so as not to jeopardize his Soviet initiative. There was great concern in the CIA over the liberal turn of the Pope, especially among the members of the Roman aristocracy and the papal nobility who had lost many of their traditional privileges when Pius XII died. The CIA station chief in Rome, Thomas Kalamasinas, was charged with opening a line of contact with Cardinal Montini in Milan when the Pope died in 1963 and Montini became Pope.

The biggest challenge for the Cold Warriors was the Papal approval of the new “liberation theology” which put the Church as a supporter of economic and political reform, especially in Latin America. With the distancing of the U.S. from the Vatican’s support of liberation theology it looked for support elsewhere. It found it in the rising ultraconservative Spanish lay religious group, the Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (“God’s Work”).

Image [Pope Pius XII]
[Pope Pius XII]
The Opus Dei was founded in 1928 by Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, a young Spanish priest and lawyer. Escriva demanded complete obedience to church dogma. As of 2016, there were 94,776 members of the Prelature, 92,667 lay persons and 2,109 priests of the order in 87 countries. Only a small percentage are priests. The rest are mostly middle- and upper-class businessmen, professionals, military personnel and government officials. The members contribute regularly to the group’s financial coffers and are encouraged to practice “holy shrewdness” and “holy coercion” in an effort to win converts. In Spain, they represent some of the highest levels of government officials, civil servants and captains of industry. They have substantial investments in banks and holding companies which control several important industries. They are a major, if unsung, force in Spanish politics.

When Opus came to prominence in the late 1960s it was found that Franco’s cabinet contained a remarkably large number of Opusdeistas. It was the Opus Dei’s top leaders who were involved in negotiating the handover of power after Franco’s death to the then Prince Juan Carlos, rather than to his father, Don Juan. This move towards the restoration of the monarchy was supported by the U.S. and its allies in Vatican intelligence without the blessing of the Pope. The restoration of the monarchy was opposed by the socialists, anarchists and democratic forces in Spain (and the majority of Western European governments) but the power of the Opus Dei, supported by the U.S. won the day. The Carlists of the Basque country supported the father, but the Opus Dei supported the son. A major campaign was waged on behalf of the restoration of the Spanish monarchy in the U.S. with the support of leading political figures.

There were many in the U.S. and Europe who thought that recreating a monarchy in Spain was absurd and anti-democratic, but when Franco died, the U.S. was worried about the possibility of the new Spanish government blocking the U.S. naval base at Rota. Its influence among the PSOE and the other democratic Spanish national parties was limited as they were engaged in European pursuits. The U.S. joined up with the Opus Dei to lobby for the monarchy. They had the support of the AFL-CIO but not the support of the UAW and other unions in America. They sent Father Morlion (of Pro Deo) to meet with the UAW to try to gain its support.

When I met with Morlion he told me that the U.S. had decided that the best solution for Spain was to restore the monarchy when Franco died to fight against the PCE and its control of the CCOO. He specified that the AFL-CIO had agreed, and, despite our differences, he expected our support. He said that there was a public meeting scheduled for the University of Maryland and he would like me to be on the panel.

At the University of Maryland, the head of the meeting was Allard Lowenstein. I knew of Al as an activist friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. He later became a Congressman before he was shot and killed. He was a civil rights and anti-war activist, but there was another dimension to him. Al, while president of the National Student Association in the early 1960’s set up a direct connection with the NSA for the CIA. He had reported suspected Communists in the civil-rights movement in Mississippi, he received financial support from Harry Oppenheimer, the white South African mining magnate, and he consulted for the C.I.A. in southern Africa, Spain and Portugal, reporting to Frank C. Carlucci, a C.I.A. deputy director from 1978 to 1981.[xii] Later, when the UAW sent Esteban Torres to the Dominican Republic to assist Juan Bosch, Lowenstein arrived, held a press conference and destroyed all the work that had been done to help Bosch restore order.

At the conference in Maryland, Lowenstein recited his impeccable liberal credentials and asserted that the only solution to promote order in Spain would be to restore the monarchy under Juan Carlos.

When it was my turn to speak I said that it was not the business of a democracy to insist on the restoration of any monarchy and that the socialist, democrats and anti-Fascists in Spain deserved the right to self-determination. It was wrong for labour and wrong for the independent regions of Catalonia and Asturias, whose miners had fought so long against fascism, that they should have to decide to go backwards to have a king. We, and most of the American labour movement, could not reasonably call for a monarchy when we would never accept that for the US.

It was a bit embarrassing as I had to drive Al back to D.C. after the meeting. It was interesting for me that the next week we had a visit from Sr. Beitia of Santander, a local Basque politician who represented the Basque country (and ETA) who assured me that the royal family was supported by the Carlists of the Basque country, they were further to the Right than Charlemagne, and there would be an ETA uprising if a Carlist was put back on the throne of Spain.

[Former New York Congressman Allard K. Lowenstein, (R), and Paul Schrade, (L), at a news conference to urge reopening of the investigation into the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, December 19, 1974]
As expected, the Opus Dei had its wish and Juan Carlos became King and the tie-up between the U.S. and Opus Dei became even stronger, despite major financial scandals in Spain with the order. Opus Dei controls a wide range of media assets (600 newspapers, 52 radio and TV stations, 12 film companies and 38 news agencies) and sponsors educational and social programs in various countries. Opus Dei has emerged internationally as one of the most powerful and politically committed of the Catholic lay groups.

Detractors have likened the organization to a “saintly Mafia,” for its members control many banks and financial institutions, including Rumasa, the largest conglomerate in Spain’s private sector. In the latter stages of the Franco regime, ten out of nineteen cabinet officers belonged to or were closely allied with Opus Dei. [xiii] This closeness of purpose between Opus Dei and the U.S. was augmented when Karol Wojtyla became pope. The Polish pope was sufficiently anti-Communist and the relationship was renewed.

A great deal of the current controversy over Catalan autonomy has been coloured by the support for Opus Dei. The major Spanish trade union body, the UGT, and its parent political party (PSOE) are a national party in Spain. They have been in power for years and aspire to regain control of the nation. They cannot and will not support the independence of Catalonia although they have been supportive of is autonomy. They are integrated into the labour and political apparatuses of the European Union and its committees and have no desire for Spain to leave the EU. They support Spain’s role in NATO and the UGT has no wish to split the forces of the democratic left in the labour movement to leave the way clear for the Stalinists of the CCOO or the radicals of the United We Can (Unidos Podemos, UP).

The Opus Dei has regained its support from the U.S. and that is making all the difference.


The Prague Spring was a major turning point in the Cold War, even in in areas far from Czechoslovakia. The complexity of the battles in the several levels of the Cold War are often forgotten. Perhaps this review will make them seem real again, and timely.

Dr. Gary K. Busch, for Lima Charlie News 

[Edited by Anthony A. LoPresti]

Dr. Busch has had a varied career-as an international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political intelligence consultant. He was a professor and Head of Department at the University of Hawaii and has been a visiting professor at several universities. He was the head of research in international affairs for a major U.S. trade union and Assistant General Secretary of an international union federation. His articles have appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Wall Street Journal, WPROST, Pravda and several other news journals. He is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations


[i] For a detailed discussion see Busch, G.K. The Political Role of international Trades Unions, Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press and Busch, G.K. Political Currents in the International Trade Union Movement (vol 1 and 2) Economist Intelligence Unit.
[ii] See the comprehensive study of the CIA and the cultural Cold War, Frances Stonor Saunders “Who Paid The Piper”, Granta 1999.
[iv] Ibid
[v] “The CIA Report”, Congressional Quarterly, 24 February 1967
[vi] Frances Stoner Saunders “Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’, Independent 2/10/95
[vii] Ibid
[viii] Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer, How the CIA Played America, Harvard University Press 2009. Also see Joel Whitney, How The CIA Tricked The World’s Best Writers, Or Books 2016
[ix] Sol Stern, “Ramparts” March 1967
[x] The full story of the relationship between the National Student Association and the CIA is described in depth in Karen M. Paget, Patriotic Betrayal The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism, Yale 2015.
[xi] Alfred A McCoy, “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade”, Harper & Row 2003 and Douglas Valentine, The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World,, Clarity Press 2017
[xii] Richard Cunmmings, The Pied Piper: Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream,” Grove Press 1985
[xiii] Martin A. Lee ,”The CIA and the Vatican’s Intelligence Apparatus”, Mother Jones, July/August 1983

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