The AFL Canadian: Labor, National Identity, and Transnational Discourse 1936-1955

1883 Words Jul 13th, 2018 8 Pages
The AFL Canadian: Labor, National Identity, and Transnational Discourse 1936-1955

“The American Federation of Labor is an American organization,” declared William Green, president of the AFL, in his 1947 keynote speech, “It believe[d] in American, the fundamental law of the United States, the Constitution, freedom, liberty and democracy. We will have nothing to do with Communism in any shape, or form ... This sixty-sixth convention will redeclare its opposition to Communism and to Communist philosophy, and ... to [those who would] attempt to establish it among the organized labor of our country.” Though Green declared “Communism abhorrent to American labor” not all the members of the AFL were American. Indeed, Canadians and their
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The AFL used anti-Communist ideology as method of furthering, their own, American economic interests. For all its supposed non-partisan domestic politics, the AFL leadership was invested in American economic supremacy. Economic and political spheres of power can not be so neatly decomposed. The expansion of U.S. economic power in the post-war period necessarily had politics embedded within it. The AFL’s associations with the CIA and State Department in order to defend American corporations, with, naturally, associated windfalls for American labor. In Canada, as Gary Marcuse points out, “the rebellious dissidents in the unions often voiced the emergent demands for greater national autonomy, and the purge of the dissidents was intimately linked with the suppression of that nationalism.” The AFL’s choice of discourse furthered their economic ends.

In order to appreciate the impact of these international developments, it is important to look at local causes and effects. It is the process of emergent nationalism and its relationship to economic action that interests me. I wish to examine, at a very local level, the relationship between economic sovereignty and cultural identity among the rank-and-file membership of the Toronto AFL locals in the W.W.II and post-war period. How do Canadians with a rising sense of nationalism understand themselves and their roles within a decidedly American institution? The relationship of the Canadian and the American is often

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