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AFL and AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, Jay Lovestone Files

 Collection 0073-LBR-RG18-003

Jay Lovestone was an major leader of the international labor movement through his work with Free Trade Union Committee, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, among many others. This collection contains a portion of Jay Lovestone's records for the years he worked most closely with the AFL and AFL-CIO. Types of materials in the collection include correspondence, reports, financial records, clippings, publications, photographs, and audiotapes.


  • 1939-1974

Language of Materials

A substantial portion of the material is in German, French, Spanish, or Italian; other languages that appear include Japanese, Greek, Arabic, Danish, Swedish, Hindi, Chinese, and Finnish.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


119 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection contains a portion of Jay Lovestone's records for the years he worked most closely with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Known as the Jay Lovestone Files, these papers span 1939-1974 but mostly cover the period 1949-1969. The collection consists mostly of correspondence and reports but also includes financial records, writings, clippings, pamphlets, publications, photographs, and audiotapes. The records mainly document Jay Lovestone's activities as an executive of the Free Trade Union Committee (FTUC), the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department.

Lovestone created these records through his activities at the ILGWU, the Free Trade Union Committee, and the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department. They consist of Lovestone's extensive correspondence with overseas representatives of the Free Trade Union Committee, many of whom reported for the Free Trade Union News, and the office files associated with the Free Trade Union Committee.

The collection is of interest for research on the anti-Communist movement in America, Cold War labor union activities in other countries (particularly Asia, Europe, and South America), relief activities in the post World War II era through CARE (Cooperative for American Remittances Everywhere), the Free Trade Union Committee, The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and AFL and AFL-CIO's involvement in international affairs of this period.

Biographical / Historical

Born Jacob Liebstein in Lithuania on December 24, 1898, Jay Lovestone immigrated to the United States with his family in his first year. As a teenager in the New York City public schools, Lovestone embraced Socialism and, in 1919, a year after graduating from the City College of New York, helped found the American Communist Party. In 1921, he became editor of The Communist, the American Communist Party's official publication and in 1922 assumed the position of national secretary for the party. Lovestone, an active participant in the factional disputes within the Communist Party during the 1920s, was ousted from leadership of the American Communist Party in 1929 by Joseph Stalin for his anti-Stalin views and for his support of Nicholai Bukharin in the Comintern. That same year, Lovestone and his followers founded the Communist Party of the United States, later known as the Independent Labor League of America. This anti-Stalin group was widely known as "Lovestonites." The group disbanded in 1940.

Jay Lovestone began his relationship with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in the late 1930s. In 1943, he accepted his first major position in the labor movement when he became the director of the International Ladies' and Garment Workers' Union's (ILGWU) International Affairs Department.

By 1940, Lovestone had concluded that the Communist movement, which he once had considered the salvation of the working class, was a totalitarian conspiracy devised by a Soviet leadership intent on world conquest. In the early 1940s Lovestone was a leader of the Committee to Defend America, an organization supporting England and other allies. In 1943, he accepted his first major position in the labor movement when he became the director of the International Ladies' and Garment Workers' Union's (ILGWU) International Affairs Department. The following year he became the executive secretary of the Free Trade Union Committee, an organization that was directly opposed to the Communist-influenced World Federation of Trade Unions.

By 1944, Lovestone had left his position at the ILGWU to become the executive secretary of the AFL's newly formed Free Trade Union Committee (FTUC). Established as a sub-committee of the AFL's Labor League for Human Rights (LLHR), the FTUC worked to provide assistance to groups and individuals around the world who expressed an interest in establishing "free democratic trade union movements."

In 1949, many Western labor organizations formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and Lovestone assumed the title of executive secretary and worked there until 1963.

From 1958 to 1963, he was international publications director and assistant international affairs director of the AFL-CIO. Throughout this period, Lovestone acted as an advisor to the AFL and later the AFL-CIO on foreign affairs' matters.

In 1963, Lovestone was named director of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department (IAD), a position he held until his retirement in 1974. The AFL-CIO formed the IAD after the 1955 merger to promote what it termed "free trade unionism" throughout the world. IAD tried to encourage cross-cultural understanding, cooperation, and awareness among international labor groups and assisted developing countries and their nascent labor unions through educational exchange programs. Succeeding George Brown (1955-1958) and Michael Ross (1958-1963), Lovestone served as the IAD's director from 1963 until his retirement in 1974.

During his tenure, he helped establish the AFL-CIO's reputation as one of America's staunchest anticommunist organizations. He cooperated with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in its European and Latin American anticommunist activities ; participated in the organization of the American Institute for Free Labor Development in 1961 and developed its program to counter Communist influence in Latin America, train labor leaders, and promote American-style union programs; and organized the African-American Labor Center, AIFLD's African counterpart.

Upon his retirement, Lovestone acted as a consultant to the AFL-CIO and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. He died in 1990.


Washington Post, Saturday, March 10, 1990.

Tony Carew, Labour Under the Marshall Plan: The Politics of Productivity and the Marketing of Management Science (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), pp. 59-69; Burton Hersh, The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992), pp. 238-39, 295-97.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into seven series:

Series 1
Subject Files, New York Office
Series 2
Subject Files, Washington, D.C. Office
Series 3
Financial Records
Series 4
Printed Materials
Series 5
Series 6
Oversize Materials
Series 7

For the most part, the materials are arranged alphabetically by name, organization, and subject. Materials from organizations are filed under the full name in the organization's original language; CISL, for instance, is filed under Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori" rather than "Italian Confederation of Labor." CARE materials, most of which were originally filed under their country of concern, were united under "CARE." Researchers should be aware that many names, organizations, and subjects that have their own files also appear in alphabetical "general correspondence" files.

See also: Processing Note

Custodial History

The files in this collection were in the custody of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department since at least 1981. The papers arrived at the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1989 as part of the International Affairs Department's regular records transfer. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.

Related Materials

Lovestone sold some of his papers to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and those papers are now open for research. The papers that came to the George Meany Memorial Archives in a transfer from the AFL-CIO, and are now located at the University of Maryland, appear to closely complement the portion of Lovestone's papers of Hoover.

Related collections in the University of Maryland AFL-CIO Archive include:

AFL and AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, Country Files, 1945-1971;

Office of the President, George Meany, 1952-1960;

AFL-CIO Office of the President, George Meany papers, 1935-1960;

Office of the President, International Affairs, International Affiliations, 1949-1967 (Microfilm Collection 31);

AFL Office of the Secretary-Treasurer, George Meany records, 1940-1953;

CIO International Affairs Department, Michael H. S. Ross files, 1920-1963.

Related collections at other repositories include:

Elly and Leo Borochowicz Papers, 1913-1985, 6 lin. ft., and the papers of Alexander Bittleman, 1963, 10 lin. ft., at New York University Tamiment Institute Library;

The Papers of Richard L. G. Deverall, 1928-1959, 12 lin. ft., Department of Archives and Manuscripts, Catholic University of America;

Theodore Draper research files, 1919-1990, 58.25 lin. ft., at Emory University Library, Atlanta, Georgia;

Sidney Jonas Papers, 1934-1938, .25 lin. ft., at the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives in the New York University Libraries;

Serafino Romualdi Papers, 1936-1968, 10.5 lin. ft. and the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union records, approx. 1910-present (as of 1995) with the last 20 years closed, approx. 1300 lin. ft., at the Labor-Management Documentation Center, Cornell University;

The papers of the International Relief Organization, correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1933, 1 item, in Special Collections, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania;

Jay Lovestone papers, 1904-1989, 896 ms. boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 3 sound tape reels, 1 map, at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University.

Separated Materials

Photographs and audiotapes were placed in the photograph and audiotape collections. Please contact the collection curator for additional information.

Processing Information

David Brandt, Jodi Bunnell, David Onkst, and M. Lee Sayrs at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 1995. When the records arrived at the George Meany Memorial Archive, they were in some degree of disarray, but an original alphabetical-chronological order by name or subject was evident. Processing consisted of reconstructing the original arrangement as much as possible. This resulted in Series 1, a very large series arranged alphabetically by name, organization, and subject. Six other series include subject files from Lovestone's Washington office, financial records, printed material, photographs, oversize material, and audio tapes. Duplicate correspondence and non-essential financial records were discarded, reducing the size of the collection by approximately one-third. Some rearrangement united related subjects, particularly those from particular countries and organizations.

Processors at the Meany Archive also noted that Lovestone and his staff kept his files in one long alphabetical sequence. That original order was maintained with some adjustments to folder titles to bring common material together. Researchers should be aware, particularly, that Lovestone was not completely predictable about where he filed records. Correspondence could be filed in part under a personal name and in part under an alphabetical range. Reports that Lovestone received from overseas representatives were very frequently retyped in multiple copies. Duplicates were removed when they were filed together, however researchers may well find the same report in several other places within the collection series.

The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2018, at which point Rebecca Thayer updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Rebecca Thayer also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.

Guide to the AFL and AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, Jay Lovestone Files
This collection was processed by David Brandt, Jodi Bunnell, David Onkst, and M. Lee Sayrs at the George Meany Memorial Archive.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742