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Soviet 'Unionists'

October 30, 1988

Harry Bernstein's Oct. 11 column, "It's Time to Ease Ban on Visits to U.S. by Soviet Unionists," misrepresents the nature of the AFL-CIO bar against the Soviet bloc's self-styled "unionists" and misconstrues its purpose.

The selectively screened and tightly controlled delegations that purport to represent Soviet workers are, in fact, rulers over counterfeit imitations of unions that are appendages of the Communist Party. Acknowledging these counterfeits as genuine, and thereby giving them legitimacy and credibility, would convey a false message to Soviet bloc workers who may be groping for some vision of hope.

Further, it would be a violation of a fundamental principle: Unions are democratic organizations of social struggle for the empowerment of workers. The Soviet bloc counterfeits do not meet even the most rudimentary standards for acceptance as unions.

That this is no semantic quibble is demonstrated by the very real crisis in Poland. There, the Communist regime is trying to force workers into "official" unions to destroy Solidarity, the authentic dissident democratic mass labor movement that has proven so resistant to repression.

What if the "official" group's leaders seek to visit us? In common American labor parlance they are "scabs" and "strikebreakers." And worse, they are part of the machinery of totalitarian oppression that the regime is trying to restore. Should AFL-CIO meet with them in a labor exchange program? What will that mean to the Polish workers?

MAX MONT

Los Angeles

The writer is the regional director of the Jewish Labor Committee in Los Angeles.

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