Irving Brown (Bronx, 1911 – Paris, July 14, 1989) was an American trades-unionist, member of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and then of the AFL-CIO, who played an important role in Western Europe and in Africa, during the Cold War, in supporting splits among trade-unions in order to counter Communist influence. While he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent,[1] he founded in 1962 the American Institute for Free Labor Development along with former Communist Party of America member and CIA agent Jay Lovestone.


Born in Bronx, New York in 1911,[2] he became a boxer before joining a trade union, where he clashed with the Teamsters. He studied at New York University and at the University of Columbia.[3]

As a lieutenant of the US Army, he was charged in 1944 by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in works concerning the preparation of Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily), and then concerning the landing in the south of France, in Provence.

In 1987, Brown received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[4]

Cold War

He arrived in Paris in November 1945 and organized anti-Communist unions, supporting in particular the creation of the French Force ouvrière (FO) union (which he subsidized [3]) by André Bergeron and Léon Jouhaux, in 1947, and the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions (CISL), created in 1950.[3] Until 1986, Brown was present at all of the annual congresses of FO. The AFL-CIO's Free Trade Union Committee subsidized FO [5][6][7] and other anti-Communist unions in Europe.

In 1949, alongside Jay Lovestone, he supported the spin-off of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) from the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).[7] The ICFTU included the AFL-CIO, the British Trades Union Congress, the FO, the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions and the Spanish Unión General de Trabajadores. Thereafter, the WFTU represented the Eastern Bloc while the ICFTU represented the so-called "free world". As a friend of W. Averell Harriman, who was in charge of the Marshall Plan, Brown easily diverted funds from the Marshall Plan to support anti-Communist organizations.[2][7]

The following year, on June 26, 1950, Brown was part of the American delegation at the founding meeting of the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Berlin.

By 1952, his activities were already well known: he was the subject of an article by Time magazine, titled "The Most Dangerous Man." According to Time, he was charged of this mission by the AFL Free Trade Union Committee.[3] Brown gave financial support to anti-Communist movements which broke the 1947 strikes in Italy and France.[3] He also helped organize the anti-Communist coalition of free trade unions in Greece, as well as the Mediterranean Port Committee, which wrested control of French, Italian and Greek ports from the Communists.[3] In Marseille, he gave his support to Pierre Ferri-Pisani, a former municipal counsellor.[3]

Established in France, he headed the international relations of the AFL-CIO from his offices at 10, rue de la Paix in Paris. From 1951 to 1954, the CIA division headed by Thomas Braden provided $1 million a year to Brown and Lovestone ($1,600,000 in 1954).[7]

In 1952 he was in Helsinki, supporting the unionists who had decided to vote to quit the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), then mainly composed of Communist unions.[3]

During the Algerian War, he subsidized the Algerian National Movement (MNA), founded by Messali Hadj to oppose the National Liberation Front (FLN).

He also participated, in Chile, in the CIA's efforts to destabilize the country during Salvador Allende's presidency. In 1984, he organized demonstrations which accompanied Mikhail Gorbachev's worldwide meetings.

In the 1980s, following the election of the Socialist Party candidate François Mitterrand to the presidency in 1981, while the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) foundation subsidized, alongside the AFL-CIO, the right-wing National Inter-University Union (UNI), Irving Brown considered that "France... is threatened by the Communist apparatus.... It is a clear and present danger if the present is thought of as 10 years from now." [8]

Irving Brown started suffering from serious health problems in 1986. He was decorated by US President Ronald Reagan in 1988 of the Presidential Medal of Freedom,[2] and died the following year.


  1. ^ Wilford, Hugh, The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune?, p.39, 78, 93, Routledge, 2003.
  2. ^ a b c Harry Kelber, « AFL-CIO’s Dark Past », 22 November 2004, on laboreducator.org
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h The Most Dangerous Man, Time, 17 March 1952.
  4. ^ http://www.jeffersonawards.org/pastwinners/national
  5. ^ Roger Faligot and Rémi Kauffer, Eminences grises, Fayard, 1992.
  6. ^ Georges Walter, Souvenirs curieux d’une espèce de Hongrois, Taillandier, 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d Frédéric Charpier, La CIA en France. 60 ans d'ingérence dans les affaires françaises, Seuil, 2008, p. 40-43. See also Les belles aventures de la CIA en France Archived 2007-04-20 at Archive.is, 8 January 2008, Bakchich.
  8. ^ Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy, Cato Institute.
Political offices
Preceded by
Ernie Lee
Director of AFL-CIO International Affairs Dept.
Succeeded by
Tom Kahn

External links