League for Industrial Democracy
Last updated: January 10, 1989
Published by the International Relations Center / Interhemispheric Resource Center.
League for Industrial Democracy
Background: The League for Industrial Democracy (LID) was founded in 1905 by Jack London, Upton Sinclair and other socialists for the purpose of "educating Americans about the need to extend democracy to every aspect of our society."(1,2) Originally called the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, the LID educated college students about the labor movement, socialism, and industrial democracy. (2) In 1921, the group shifted to its current name and opened its memberships to society-at-large. In 1922 Norman Thomas, the many-times presidential candidate from the Socialist Party, joined Harry Laidler as co-executive director of the LID. (2)
In its early years the LID addressed serious societal problems such as child labor, poverty, inadequate housing, the working conditions in factories, and the growth of monopolies. It became the home for those leftwing intellectuals known as the "Muckrakers."(2) During the depression of the 1930s, the LID initiated radio broadcasts and conferences to discuss the programs of the New Deal. At that time the LID numbered among its members such influential intellectuals and labor leaders as Roger Baldwin, John Dewey, David Dubinsky, Sidney Hillman, Reinhold Neibuhr, and Walter Reuther. (2) In the 1950s and 1960s, it was an active supporter of the civil rights movement. (2)
Throughout its history the LID has called itself a proponent of the labor movement, seeing it as a progressive force that is misunderstood by students and intellectuals. Its stated goal is to break down these perceived barriers by conducting "education for increasing democracy in our economic, political, and cultural life."(3)
LID’s literature portrays the organization as a progressive, socialist labor group. However, in recent history LID shifted from its progressive roots. In the 1950s the LID’s pro-labor activities took on a different slant when the group became involved with the CIA in efforts to combat communism. (9) Today the organization is dominated by anticommunists. (10) It focuses its energies on "democracy building" programs in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Central America, and gives little energy to its domestic program. Its board is composed mainly of neoconservatives associated with the Social Democrats, USA and the international divisions of the AFL-CIO. The latter, the Free Trade Union Institute (FUTI) and its subsidiaries, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), the African American Labor Center and the Asian American Free Labor Institute, receive the vast majority of their funding from the U.S. government and are considered by many to be quasigovernmental organizations that carry out U.S. foreign policy. (10)
Funding: The LID has received two grants from the Joyce MertzGilmore Fdn for a total of $15,000. (4,5) One in 1985 for $5,000 was to assist an LID project exploring how assistance could be given to third world countries by U.S. citizens. (4) The second in 1986 for $10,000 was for general support. (5) In 1985, the National Endowment for Democracy gave LID $75,000 "for a study on the interrelationship between democratic trade unions and political parties, with special emphasis on socialist and social democratic parties, to examine their attitudes toward U.S. labor, foreign-policy, economic issues, etc."(13)
The LID is a membership organization, with membership fees ranging from $5 to $25 a year, and a lifetime membership fee of $500. (7) Its current membership is 1500. (3)
Activities: In the 1950s, a rabidly anticommunist era in the United States, the LID’s Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) was an associate member of the CIA-financed International Union of Socialist Youth. SLID received funds to maintain its international contacts from the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs, a major CIA conduit for funds. (9)
The LID has been actively supporting the Solidarity movement in Poland since 1980, providing financial, moral and political support. (11) Among other things, in 1986, LID coordinated efforts on a campaign to protest the crackdown on Polish universities by the government. (11) The LID, in conjunction with Poland Watch Center and Committee in Support of Solidarity, publishes a quarterly bulletin Solidarnosc. The Brussels-based Committee in Support of Solidarity (CSS) is a group heavily supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a U.S. government-funded organization that sponsors anticommunist,"democracy-building" projects around the globe. In a three-year period, CSS received over a million dollars from NED. (12,13,14)
In South Africa the LID has been active in the defense of imprisoned black trade unionists. It cooperated with another AFL-CIO affiliate, the A. Philip Randolph Educational Fund, to work on a civil rights defense group in South Africa. (11) A. Philip Randolph, a labor group closely associated with the AFLCIO, received funding from NED for this project. (12) Black union members across South Africa are suspicious of the AFL-CIO and its affiliate the AALC. According to a report in the American Labor magazine, black workers feel that the AFL-CIO promotes the same position as the white government and big corporations. (15) The Johannesburg Sunday Tribune charged that the AALC spoke against apartheid but had the approval of the South African government to conduct activities within the country with U.S. government funds. (15) In 1986, the AALC was approached for funding by friends of the UWUSA, a union federation associated with Inkatha leader Gatsha Buthelezi. (16) UWUSA opposes U.S. economic sanctions and competes with the non-racial Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). (16) However, Michael Lesko of AALC stated that financial aid had never been given to UWUSA, and that the AALC does not work with Buthelezi’s group in any way. (6)
Nontheless, a spokesman for COSATU said,"We believe that certain sections of the AFL-CIO have been very divisive in their relation to the worker movement in South Africa… According to the information we have, key individuals within certain of their deparments have very suspicious links with the US State Department and intelligence circles"(16)
In its literature, the LID states it has been active in supporting the union movement in Nicaragua. It hosted Alvin Guthrie, the Secretary-General of the Confederation of Trade Union Unity (CUS), at its annual conference. (11) The CUS had a good working relationship with the Somoza government and was considered pro-business and pro-U.S. government. It has a longstanding relationship with AIFLD. (10) In 1988, CUS received $150,000 from NED through FTUI. (14) Since the overthrow of Somoza in 1979, most of Nicaragua’s new union members have joined the two unions affiliated with the Sandinista government. CUS is not affiliated with the current government of Nicaragua. (11) In 1989, the LID continued to work with AIFLD to protest the treatment o
f independent trade unionists in Nicaragua. (37)
The LID sent letters to Chile protesting the sentence of internal exile against trade unionists Manuel Bustos and Arturo Martinez. (37)
The LID conducted an exchange program between the Young Guard (the youth wing of the Israeli Labor Party) leaders and their American counterparts. Many of the Israeli youths are also active in Histadrut, an Israeli union group that receives funding from the AFL-CIO. (10)
Within the U.S. , LID publishes papers and pamphlets in support of unions and labor. These papers often opposed the anti-labor, anti-union policies of the Reagan administration. Examples of some recent titles are: "A Hidden Agenda: The National Right to Work Committee," "The New Anti-Union Crusade," and "The Minimum Wage Muddle."(17)
In March 1989, LID, along with APRI, Freedom House, and the Bayard Rustin Fund, sponsored a roundtable discussion on "The Changing Economy: Its Social Impact and Policy Implications." The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the effects of a shifting labor market on the inner-city black underclass. (37)
Government Connections: Penn Kemble was on the advisory committee of the USIA’s Voice of America. (47) Arch Puddington worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (26)
Bruce McColm served as a consultant to the U.S. Senate’s Central American Monitoring Group and has taken congressional representatives on fact-finding tours in Central America. (25)
Private Connections: This is where the real strength and importance of the LID lies. The overlapping board memberships between LID, the Social Democrats, USA (SD/USA), the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), the AFL-CIO, Freedom House, and the (now defunct) Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA) are numerous. Between SD/USA and LID there are 20 overlapping board members; 12 between APRI and LID; 10 between FH and LID; 9 with the AFL-CIO; and 6 with PRODEMCA. (1,10,18,19,20) These overlaps place the LID in the midst of the neoconservative, anticommunist groups that played an important role in the Reagan administration.
The A. Philip Randolph Institute is a labor organization that provides the link between organized labor and blacks. (21) APRI’s original purpose was to broaden the civil rights movement begun by Martin Luther King to one that would demonstrate a national unity for political, economic, and social justice for blacks. Today, APRI is funded primarily by the AFL-CIO and follows the political philosophy of the Social Democrats, USA. (22,23)
The Social Democrats, USA (SD/USA) is group with socialist roots that shifted in the 1970s to a philosophy of neoconservatism. (24) Members of the Social Democrats dominate the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO which includes FTUI, AIFLD, the AALC, and AAFLI. These groups played an important role in carrying out the foreign policy of the Reagan administration. (24)
Freedom House is a human rights organization that studies governments and countries around the globe to determine whether or not they qualify as "democratic." It defines civil liberties and democracy within the neoconservative, anticommunist framework. (25) Freedom House receives major funding for its work from NED. (12,13,14,43) The Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA) received funding from a conduit for money and arms in the Iran-Contra network. (26) PRODEMCA also received major funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for support of anti-Sandinista political and media groups inside Nicaragua. (13,24,43)
Tom Kahn is the executive director of the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO. The International Affairs Department operates around the world in support of "democracy" and "free" trade unions. However, it is the U.S. government’s foreign policy that defines the terms "free" and "democratic."(10) The International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO draws its operational philosophy from SD/USA. (10) Kahn is on the board of FTUI. (31) Kahn is also on the board of SD/USA. (18) He is also on the board of directors of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a group established to assist refugees of communist oppression. (45) The IRC receives funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID). Its operations historically have reflected the policies and followed the interests of the U.S. government. (46)
Norman Hill is president and executive director of APRI. (27) Hill is currently on the boards of Freedom House and SD/USA. (18,20) He also serves as vice president of the Bayard Rustin Fund, a fund set up in honor of the long-time chair of APRI and SD/USA. (22)
Sol Chaikin, vice president of LID, is also on the boards of SD/USA, Freedom House, and APRI. (18,20,27) Chaikin was a founder of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) and is on the board of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM). Both groups, influential in U.S. policy in the 1970s and early 1980s, are anti-Soviet, opposed detente, and lobbied for a strong military. (28) Chaikin was or is a member of the advisory board of the conservative think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (29)
Albert Shanker is president of the American Teachers Federation (AFT), a national teachers union considered by many to be the most progressive teachers union in the U.S. (22) On the international scene, however, the AFT’s activities are more conservative. The AFT conducted a project entitled "Teachers Under Dictatorship," a study revolving around teachers in Chile, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Poland. The funding for this project came from NED through FTUI. (44) Shanker currently serves on the boards of Freedom House, APRI, CDM, FTUI, AIFLD, the AFLCIO, and NED. (20,27,30,31,10,32,33) He is on the Advisory Council of SD/USA. (18) He also serves or served on the boards of the other AFL-CIO international affiliates, the AALC and the AAFLI. (34) Shanker was a founder of the CPD. (28) He served on the advisory board of the Cuban American National Foundation, an anti-Castro lobbying group which has received funding from NED. (35,36) He also serves on the boards of The American Foundation for Resistance International and the IRC. (37,45)
Jay Mazur, president of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, is a vice president of the AFL-CIO and on the boards of AIFLD, FTUI, AALC, and AAFLI. (32,10,31,34) He served or serves on the board of the National Committee for Labor-Israel Histadrut, another affiliate of the AFL-CIO. (10) Mazur also serves on the boards of AFL-CIO allies SD/USA, APRI, and CDM. (18,20,30)
Midge Decter is another major player in the neoconservative network that came to the political forefront after Reagan’s electon to the Presidency. She is the founder and executive director of the stridently anticommunist Committee for the Free World. (51) Decter was a founding member of the CDM and is a member of the CPD. (28) She was on the board of directors of the rightwing think tank Heritage House. (51)
Ben Wattenberg is on the board of Freedom House and is chairman of the CDM. (20,30) He is a senior fellow at the rightwing think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. (38)
William Doherty is the executive director of AIFLD. He is a staunch anticommunist who has stated that the primariy concern in Latin America is whether or not it moves towards communism. (10) Doherty was identified by Philip Agee, former CIA agent, as a "CIA agent in labor operations."(10) He is on the advisory board of the Inter-American Foundation, a quasi-private foundation that uses AID funds for development programs in Latin America. (10) He served on the Bi-Partisan Commission on Central America (the Kissinger Commission) in 1984. (42) He was on the board of PRODEMCA and is on the board of Freedo
m House. (20,19)
John Roche was a founding member of the CPD in 1976 and serves on its current executive committee. (28,39) He is on the advisory committee of the CDM and on the boards of SD/USA and APRI(30,18,27) Roche also serves on the board of the IRC. (45)
John Joyce is on the boards of Freedom House and APRI. (20,27) He is a vice president of the AFL-CIO and on the boards of FTUI and AALC. (31,32,34) He is also on the board of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Democratic Party’s conduit for NED funding. (40,41)
Rachelle Horowitz is the wife of Tom Donohue, the head of AIFLD. (10) She is on the board of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. (40) Horowitz is on the boards of APRI and the Bayard Rustin Fund. (20,22) She was on the board of the American Federation of Teachers, and was a founder of the CPD. (52,28)
Penn Kemble was the organizer of the "Gang of Four"–four young progressive democrats who became "Reagan Democrats" in the early 1980s. Kemble and his crew played a key behind-the-scenes role in obtaining congressional support for aid to the Nicaraguan contras. (26) Kemble was the founder and president of the board of PRODEMCA. (19) He was the co-founder of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), an organization with the goal of "restoring democratic values" to churches. (48) The IRD targeted progressive religious organizations active in third world countries and charged them with aiding communism. (49) The IRD has received funding from AID. (48) Kemble was a founder of the CDM and currently serves on its executive committee. (28,30) He is also on the boards of NDI and SD/USA. (40,18) Kemble’s sister, Eugenia is the executive director of FTUI. (10)
Michael Novak is a syndicated columnist and is the Director of Social and Political Studies at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. (38,48) Novak was a cochair,with William Simon, of the Nicaragua Freedom Fund (NFF). The NFF was founded by the Unification Church’s Washington Times newspaper to raise funds for the contras after Congress failed to pass a contra funding bill. (50) Novak and Penn Kemble cofounded the IRD. (48) Novak was on the board of PRODEMCA. (19) He currently serves on the board of the CDM. (30)
Lynn Williams serves on the boards of SD/USA and APRI. (18,27) Williams is a vice president of the AFL-CIO and serves on the boards of FTUI, AALC, and AIFLD. (32,31,34,10)
Donald Slaiman was the first SD/USA director to exert influence on the AFL-CIO. He also brought Tom Kahn of SD/USA in to head the AFL-CIO’s Department of International Affairs, even though Kahn had no previous labor experience. (10) Slaiman also serves as vice chair at SD/USA and is on the board of APRI. (18,27)
Bruce McColm is the executive director of Freedom House. (20) He is the only North American to serve on the Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. (25) He served on Freedom House’s presidential election obeserver teams in Haiti and Surinam. (25)
Misc:Comments: The LID spends little time or money on its domestic programs. The composition of its board indicates that it is an important player in the network of labor organizations that work in third world countries to carry out U.S. foreign policy.
U.S. Address: 815 15th St NW, Suite 511, Washington, DC 20005
Principals: The current officers are: Tom Kahn, chairman; Albert Shanker, tres; Judy Bardacke, chair of the executive committee; Rita Freedman, Washington program director; and Kirsten Crane, administrative director; Sol C. Chaikin, Charles Cogen, Midge Decter, and Sidney Hook, vice presidents. (1)
Arch Puddington has been the executive director. (7) Eric Chenowith has been acting executive director. (8)
The current board members are: Steve Bieringer, Kenneth Blaylock, Charles Bloomstein, Rony Bauman, George Cadbury, Eric Chenowith, Edward J. Cleary, Daniel Curtin, Wilbur Daniels, William C. Doherty, Jr, Sandra Feldman, Rita Freedman, Morris L. Fried, Samuel H. Friedman, Walter Galenson, Roy Godson, Msgr. George G. Higgins, Norman Hill, Velma Hill, Thomas Y. Hobart, Rachelle Horowitz, David Jessup, Gilbert Jonas, John T. Joyce, Penn Kemble, Joel Klaverkamp, Harvey Klehr, Israel Kugler, Irena Lasota, Seymour Martin Lipset, Harry Lopatin, Leon Lynch, Herbert Magidson, Ray Marshall, Jay Mazur, R. Bruce McColm, Bruce A. Miller, Joyce D. Miller, Emanuel Muravchik, Michael Novak, Frederick O’Neal, Michael S. Perry, Arch Puddington, Seymour Reisin, John P. Roche, Paul Seabury, Bert Seidman, Donald Alaiman, Jessica Smith, Irwin Suall, John J. Sweeney, Ludmilla Thorne, Gus Tyler, Armando Valladares, Ben Wattenberg, Lynn R. Williams, William Julius Wilson. (1)
The National Council for 1989 is Robert J. Alexander, Jervis Anderson, Shelley Appleton, Jack Barbash, Gregory J. Bardacke, Solomon Barkin, Arnold Beichman, Jacob Clayman, Bernard J. Englander, Paul Feldman, Harry Fleischman, Benjamin A. Gebiner, Feliks Gross, Donald Harrington, Julius Manson, Henock Mendelsund, Amicus Most, Morris Novik, James G. O’Hara, Paul R. Porter, Herman Rebhan, Frank Riessman, Vera Rony, Eugene V. Roston, Rebecca C. Simonson, Jacob Sheinkman, William Stern, Monroe Sweetland, Harold Taylor, J. C. Turner, Rowland Watts, Mina Weisenberg, and Morris Weisz. (1)
Sources:1. Letter from Kirsten Crane, League for Industrial Democracy, July 24, 1989.
2."The L. I. D. –A Brief History," LID, undated, received July 24, 1989.
3. Encyclopedia of Associations, Section 9, Public Affairs Organizations, 1989.
4. Foundation Grants Index, 16th edition, 1987.
5. Foundation Grants Index, 17th edition, 1988.
6. Phone conversation with Michael Lesko of the African-American Labor Center, Nov 20, 1989.
7. League for Industrial Democracy, membership card, undated.
8. Letter from Eric Chenowith, acting executive director, League for Industrial Democracy, Sep 30, 1986.
9. Ellen Ray, William Schaap, Karl Van Meter, and Louis Wolf, Dirty Work, The CIA in Africa (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, Inc, 1979).
10. AIFLD in Central America: Agents as Organizers (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1987).
11. League for Industrial Democracy, program summary 1985-1986.
12. National Endowment for Democracy, Annual Report, 1984.
13. National Endowment for Democracy, Annual Report, 1985.
14. National Endowment for Democracy, Annual Report, 1987.
15."Which Side Are You On?," American Labor Education Center American Labor, No. 27.
16."Winning Friends," International Labour Reports, No. 33, May/June 1989.
17. League for Industrial Democracy, LID Publications, undated.
18. Letter from Rita Freedman, Social Democrats, USA, received in July 1989.
19. PRODEMCA, Annual Report, 1986.
20. Freedom House, letterhead, received July 24, 1989.
21. The A. Philip Randolph Memorial Fund, an APRI brochure, undated.
22. A. Philip Randolph Institute,"25th Anniversary Commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," Aug 25, 1988.
23. Phone conversation with Norman Hill, president of APRI, Aug 17, 1989.
24. Michael Massing,"Trotsky’s Orphans," The New Republic, June 22, 1987.
25. Freedom House, Freedom House: Committed to Democratic Principle and Action, 47th Year, 1987-1988.
26. Michael Massing,"Contra Aids: Why Four Democratic Operatives Enlisted in Ollie North’s Crusade," Mother Jones, Oct 1987.
27. A. Philip Randolph Institute, letterhead, received Aug 1989.
28. Jerry Sanders, Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on
the Present Danger and the Politics of Containment (Boston,MA: South End Press, 1983).
29. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1987-1988, 1987.
30. Coalition for a Democratic Majority, letterhead, received July 1989.
31. Free Trade Union Institute, list of board of directors, updated by phone conversation with FTUI, Aug 1989.
32. AFL-CIO Handbook, 1988.
33. National Endowment for Democracy, Annual Report, 1988.
34. United Food and Commercial Workers Intl Union, Fact Sheet, undated, received Aug 1989.
35. Cuban American National Foundation, brochure, 1986.
36. John Spicer Nichols,"The Power of the Anti-Fidel Lobby," The Nation, Oct 24, 1988.
37. League for Industrial Democracy, Program Summary, 1988-1989.
38. American Enterprise Institute, Complete Catalog of Books, 1989.
39. Phone conversation with the Committee on the Present Danger, Aug 1989.
40. National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, list of board members, May 1989.
41. Holly Sklar,"Washington Wants to Buy Nicaragua’s Elections–Again," forthcoming in Zeta Magazine, Dec 1989.
42. The Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, March 1984.
43. National Endowment for Democracy, Annual Report, 1986.
44. Free Trade Union Institute, Quarterly Report to NED, July 31, 1988.
45. Letter from the International Rescue Committee, received Dec 6, 1988.
46. Private Organizations with U.S. Connections in El Salvador (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1988).
47. USIA,"Volunteers for International Communication: Reports of USIA Private Sector Committees," 1984.
48. The New Right Humanitarians (Albuquerque, NM: The Resource Center, 1986).
49. Alan F. Wisdom,"On the Peace Watch: IRD Visits Churches in Central America," Religion and Democracy, Jan 8, 1988.
50. Michael Isikoff,"U.S. Ex-Officials Lead ‘Contra’ Fund Drive," Washington Post, May 9, 1985.
51."The Neocon Family Tree," Mother Jones, July/Aug 1986.
52. Profiles of Board Members, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 1984.
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. www.irc-online.org.