Russian Labor Activists Still See CIA in AFL-CIO

IN the aftermath of the Soviet collapse, the unthinkable has become reality in many instances.

Such is the case for Tom Bradley, an AFL-CIO organizer who opened the organization's office in Moscow last year.

In the Soviet era it would have been impossible for the AFL-CIO to have a presence in Moscow, Mr. Bradley says, because Soviet propagandists accused the US labor organization of being a capitalist lackey. Now the AFL-CIO, at the invitation of the Russian government, is advising Russia's fledgling independent trade union movement.

But not everything has changed since the cold-war days, Bradley notes. In the eyes of Russia's trade union establishment - the successor of the former Soviet Union's official trade union movement - Bradley is a Central Intelligence Agency operative bent on destabilizing Russia.

"Annually between $7- and $10-million in CIA and US Information Agency funds are funneled, via the AFL-CIO, to the so-called `alternative trade union movement,' " read a bulletin signed by "a group of experts" of the Russian Federation of Independent Labor Unions, the main labor organization.

Accusations against foreign organizations, such as those leveled against the AFL-CIO, are not uncommon these days in Russia. Pressed by economic and political crisis, along with an epidemic of crime and corruption, a feeling among some Russian officials is growing that foreigners are stirring up problems.

IN recent weeks, top officials at Russia's Security Ministry have accused foreign agents of destabilizing the country, as well as attempting to influence policy.

"They [foreign agents] are helping forge links [for Russian organized crime rings] with international criminal organizations, which are distributing large amounts of forged foreign currency, firearms, and narcotics throughout Russia," Security Minister Viktor Barannikov said recently.

Bradley calls allegations of AFL-CIO collaboration with the CIA "xenophobic nonsense."

Meanwhile, Russian Prosecutor-General Valentin Stepankov says there is little evidence to support Mr. Barannikov's claim of foreign ties with Russian mobsters.

In the AFL-CIO's case, Bradley says apparatchiks' fear about losing their near total control of the trade union movement has prompted the allegations of CIA links.

In the past, trade unions in Russia were controlled by the Communist Party, Bradley says. Truly independent unions are relatively new to Russia, he adds, having appeared during the last years of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms.

"The top leaders see the monolithic trade union structure coming apart and they are looking for an outside force to blame," Bradley says.

"But the stronger the official union leaders criticize me, the more credibility I seem to gain in the eyes of workers."

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