IT IS becoming an accepted cliché that organized labor plays an important part in international affairs, but the idea it expresses is often misunderstood. Some circles both at home and abroad think that the interest taken by American trade unions in foreign relations is confined to devising ways of increasing the production of European industry. Now the experience of American unions is undoubtedly useful in helping achieve that special purpose, but American labor has far wider interests than that. Its work abroad is intended to help create, often against heavy odds, institutions which will enable masses of mankind to rise above the level of subsistence and participate fully in free and democratic societies.
The concern of the Congress of Industrial Organizations in international affairs was well summarized in a statement issued to the press in January 1951, when a small C.I.O. committee, headed by Victor Reuther, left for Europe. Mr. Jacob Potofsky, Chairman of the C.I.O.'s International Committee, explained that the group would study union problems particularly in France, Italy and Germany, and would consult with the leaders of all the non-Communist trade unions. "The consultations," he said, "will be directed toward the objective of finding methods by which the C.I.O. can most effectively further the programs of the non-Communist unions in the three countries to build their organizations, improve their collective bargaining functions and strengthen themselves generally as bulwarks of democratic society." The committee met hundreds of European trade unionists at all levels of administration, and in its report, which was accepted by the C.I.O. International Committee in March 1951, stated that it had not limited its contacts to any faction or movement, but had met with representatives of all the chief tendencies and unions. It concluded:
We are more convinced than ever, against the background of personal observation of these past several weeks, that the free labor movement of Western Europe is that continent's most reliable and most important bulwark against the
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