The AFL-CIO’s Revolutionary Activist

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

The AFL-CIO is making headlines by running ads promoting “Occupy Wall Street.” One seriously doubts that members of the working class have much in common with the left-wing professional agitators running these protests and the tent cities they are erecting illegally in private and public parks in New York, Washington, D.C. and other cities. The most interesting part of this story, however, is that one of the AFL-CIO affiliates behind the campaign, the Working America group, is headed by a veteran of the Venceremos Brigades to Cuba, a progressive activist by the name of Karen Nussbaum. Equally significant, her husband works for the public relations firm that represented billionaire hedge fund operator George Soros.

The Venceremos Brigades, which are actually still in operation, were the orchestrated “tours” of the communist island, conducted under the authority and supervision of Castro’s intelligence service. They were designed to create a communist cadre on the soil of the United States. The Brigades were organized in 1969 by Bernardine Dohrn and other members of the Weather Underground terrorist group.

“I learned about revolution in Cuba,” Nussbaum has said. Now, she is practicing revolution in the streets of the U.S., armed with the millions of dollars that the AFL-CIO forcibly extracts from unsuspecting workers.

“Making the connection between the Occupy Wall Street protests to working class people all over the country will be vital to determining the power of this movement,” Nussbaum says, in an article being distributed by Soros-funded media. “We offer our support and encouragement to Occupy Wall Street and to this growing movement because it’s finally forcing the political, media and financial elites to take notice of what’s really happening.”

Liberal blogger Greg Sargent of The Washington Post is absolutely ecstatic over this development. He wonders, “what if working class white voters actually like and agree with Occupy Wall Street’s message, if not always with the cultural and personal instincts of its messengers?” He quotes Nussbaum in his piece as saying that Working America has signed up 25,000 “new recruits” as a result of the protests in one week alone. It claims three million members.

If “working class white voters” already have a problem with the “cultural and personal instincts” of the protesters, an apparent reference to their hygiene problems, anarchistic tendencies, and penchant for Marxist-style “solutions,” what do you think the reaction is going to be when they find out that Nussbaum herself, the executive director of the AFL-CIO’s Working America affiliate, is someone who traveled to Cuba to sing the praises of Communist dictator Fidel Castro?

But don’t count on Greg Sargent or any other mainstream media reporter to reveal this information. They probably consider it McCarthyism to document someone’s communist connections or affiliations. But a radical in a crowd at a Tea Party event? That’s a scandal worth covering.

I have been writing about Nussbaum for several years now, running into total silence or stonewalling when I have challenged her personally to talk about her trip to Cuba, which included a personal meeting with Fidel Castro. In 2009, when asked about the matter, she turned and walked away.

The broader question is: what has happened to the AFL-CIO, which was once an anti-communist organization?

My latest attempt to interview Nussbaum about this controversy came during the “Take Back the American Dream” conference in Washington, D.C., where she said the issue was “not relevant” and a press aide, Joel Payne, intervened to save her from more questioning. All of this was captured in a video that can be seen on YouTube. This progressive conference is an annual affair and Nussbaum has appeared before it in the past. She is clearly a major figure in the labor movement and has been so for many years.

Since Castro has outlawed independent labor unions in Cuba, as well as freedom in general, Nussbaum’s fascination with the communist system on the island is a relevant line of inquiry for those concerned about the dangers of socialism and totalitarianism here and the current direction of the AFL-CIO. Does her support for Castro and Cuba have anything to do with her support for the “Occupy Wall Street” movement?

An August 10, 1970, New York Post article about her trip to Cuba quoted Nussbaum as saying that she “was impressed with Castro and with Cuban socialism.” The story said that Nussbaum, then 20 years of age, had met with Castro, then 43, during dinner in Havana. “How I Cut Cane And Met Fidel” was the headline. Cutting sugar cane in Cuba was the ostensible reason for the trips, although Nussbaum acknowledged engaging in “self-criticism” or brainwashing sessions to assess the state of the communist revolution on the island.

The Venceremos Brigades came under scrutiny by the investigative panels of the Congress of the United States—panels which have since been abolished or dismantled by liberals. One of the main concerns was that some of the Americans going to Cuba were being trained in guerrilla warfare, insurrectionary tactics, and explosives.

The violence at Columbia University in 1969 was instigated by Mark Rudd after his trip to Cuba. Rudd was a leader of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and then the Weather Underground. In addition, three members of the “Chicago 7,” the group charged with sparking riots in the city during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, had been to Cuba.

Another traveler to the communist island was Kathy Boudin, a member of the Weather Underground who had also been to Moscow. Her father, Leonard Boudin, was equally notorious, having been a member of the Communist Party USA and an official representative of the Castro government.

Kathy Boudin, Cathy Wilkerson and Ted Gold, two other Weather Underground members who had been to Cuba, had established a bomb-making factory in a New York City residence in 1970 when one of the bombs went off, killing Gold and Weather Underground members Diana Oughton and Terry Robbins. Boudin and Wilkerson managed to escape. The bomb was intended for an officers’ dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Although Nussbaum doesn’t want to talk to me about her trip to Cuba, she did some talking, in the form of an “oral history” of her involvement in the feminist movement and radical activities. In this interview, conducted in 2003 and published in 2004, Nussbaum talked about her involvement in the communist movement, noting her exposure to groups like the Young People’s Socialist League and the SDS at college. She became a member of the Black Panther Support Committee, a group in support of the black militants who targeted police officers as “pigs,” before going to Cuba as a member of the Venceremos Brigades. Nussbaum admits, “There were a lot of Weathermen who were in the Brigade” and a “huge array of young leftists.”

What’s more, she found Cuba exciting and wonderful. “It was thrilling,” she said. “It was a society that was combating racism, that had provided free health and educational care to every person on earth…” On and on it goes.

But Cuba wasn’t her only stop on the communist world tour. She became a member of a local “peace organization” opposed to American involvement in the Vietnam War and traveled to Hanoi in 1973. Nussbaum assures her interviewer that the visit was safe, “though illegal.”

Nussbaum became a friend of “Hanoi Jane” Fonda, who was photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft gun used to shoot down American aircraft and is still regarded as a traitor. Fonda’s website features a photo of them together. Nussbaum’s husband, Ira Arlook, who is also in the photo, works for Fenton Communications, the firm that has represented George Soros, the communist Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and others of that ilk. Arlook, chief of “advocacy campaigns” for the firm, handles the account of the Soros-funded

In the interview, Nussbaum talks about how John Sweeney, then chief of the AFL-CIO, and Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer under Sweeney, had worked to “open up” the labor federation to “new constituencies” and had become “more aggressive.” Nussbaum was brought into the AFL-CIO as part of this effort, becoming an assistant to Sweeney and running the Working America affiliate under Sweeney and now Trumka, the current president.

It is fascinating that Nussbaum will talk about these things with another radical but closes her mouth when asked for an explanation from those critical of her involvement in communist and anti-American causes.

How did a Castro sympathizer come to “occupy” a top position in the AFL-CIO? The terrible truth is that the anti-communism of this once-great labor federation has been snuffed out, first under Sweeney, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and now under Trumka. Today they’re literally in bed with the Reds and conducting street actions and protests to bring the revolution that Nussbaum saw firsthand in Cuba to America.

Because the police are being restrained in most cases from closing down the illegal protests, which are growing in response to support from President Obama and his backers, the fear is that the Marxist violence of the 1960s and 1970s will return. Most of the young people and “workers” in the protests are, whether they know it or not, mere cannon fodder. They will be sacrificed for the revolution when the inevitable confrontation with law enforcement occurs.

The media can stop this catastrophe before it happens, but only if they blow the whistle on those like Nussbaum at the AFL-CIO and elsewhere using the protests for their own purposes.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at


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4 thoughts on “The AFL-CIO’s Revolutionary Activist

  1. Another key AFL-CIO communist was Karen Ackerman, a Venceremos Brigade member on the same trip as Nussbaum’s. She had a long history of affiliations with the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) including the W.E. B. DuBois Clubs of America and possibly its’ successor, the Young Workers Liberation League (YWLL). She was also connected to a CPUSA founded and longtime controlled Local 1199, United Hospital Workers Union (it has changed its name and national affiliations over time).

    Nussbaum was the leader of a “feminist” national organization known as “9 to 5”, taken from the movie of the same title

  2. Note that Kathy Boudin and her husband David Gilbert are serving three consecutive 25 year prison terms for the killing of three Brinks guards in a 1981 robbery meant to fund their Weather Underground, SDS, Black Liberation Army, and Black Panther Party activities. Their son Chesa Boudin was adopted by Bernardine Dohrn and William Ayers—who hosted the initial political event for Obama that led to his being elected to the Illinois State Senate. Both William Ayers and Chesa Boudin serve on an education advisory board of Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez.

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