Santa Monica, Calif.; Olivebridge, NY

Max Holland’s comparison of Jim Garrison to Joseph McCarthy [“Letters,” Sept. 2/9] shows he lacks a fundamental understanding of McCarthyism. The essence of McCarthyism was that a member of Congress or a witness before a witch-hunting Congressional committee could throw accusations around about Communists and spies in the State Department or in Hollywood or in labor unions without ever having to produce any evidence. They were not accountable, because they were protected by Congressional immunity. Those accused did not have the right to scrutinize the evidence or to confront or cross-examine their accusers. In other words, McCarthy never operated under the rule of law.

Garrison, as a prosecutor, brought his accusations through the legal process. Clay Shaw was indicted by a grand jury of twenty-two, received a pretrial hearing before three judges and a full trial. The evidence was available to him. He could confront his accusers and cross-examine them. That Garrison lost the case does not make him a McCarthy. Prosecutors bring cases all the time that do not win convictions.

Holland persists in his theory that Garrison came to believe the CIA was involved in the JFK assassination solely because of an article in the Italian newspaper Paese Sera. Despite the entry in a Life reporter’s diary that Holland cites as his proof, it is simply not believable that a man with Garrison’s conservative background–two decades in the military, former FBI agent, district attorney–would jump to such a radical conclusion solely on the basis of one foreign article.

Garrison offered a more plausible explanation. In private conversation he told us he underwent a gradual transformation of consciousness based on an accumulation of evidence he did not initially understand or connect. These included Oswald’s fake defection to the Soviet Union; Oswald’s connection to Guy Banister, who was involved in the CIA’s Operation Mongoose, and to David Ferrie, who was flying missions over Cuba for the CIA; Garrison’s discovery of a CIA munitions raid in Houma, Louisiana, etc. This evidence pointing to the CIA included Garrison’s reading of the Paese Sera series, but the process had begun long before.

Holland is correct about the date of the Greek coup. But the basic point we were making remains true: Editors of Paese Sera, an independent left-wing paper, have made it clear that their series had nothing to do with a purported KGB disinformation operation. Holland has offered no credible evidence to the contrary.



Woburn, Mass.

Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers’s June 24 “Proposal to American Labor” contains a curious omission, several factual errors and a large dose of wishful thinking. The authors correctly criticize most AFL-CIO affiliates for failing to open themselves up “to a wider range of members” or offer support to any group of workers “struggling to build power.” In a sidebar, “Unions on the Net,” the authors cite several positive examples of workplace organizing “in arenas not yet amenable to the standard collective-bargaining model,” which involves majority support, legal recognition of the union, employer deduction of dues from workers’ paychecks, etc.

What do voluntary membership organizations like the [email protected], WashTech in Seattle and WAGE (Workers at GE) all have in common that the authors failed to mention? All were formed with strong organizational and financial backing from the Communications Workers of America and continue to receive it.

CWA has been experimenting with “minority unionism” at major private-sector firms for more than a decade. If the authors had bothered to pick up the phone and talk to anyone directly involved in past or present efforts of this type, they might have learned that these initiatives are quite different and hardly defined by their websites (although Internet networking certainly played a role in IBM workers’ spontaneous rebellion against pension cuts several years ago).

WAGE, for example, has been built face-to-face among blue-collar workers in nonunion GE plants. Members are not part of “virtual communities” but actual ones that, we hope, represent the nuclei of future union majorities in these plants. Very little of its recruiting is done via the Net, and WAGE is not a project embraced by “fourteen cooperating international unions.”

Finally, I’m puzzled by the authors’ claim that “what we need in America today is a labor movement that workers can join easily, without going to war with their employers.” This implies that US unions suffer from an overly aggressive approach vis-à-vis management and that millions of unorganized workers would join them if cooperation, rather than conflict, was emphasized more. I’ve somehow failed to notice the AFL-CIO’s propensity for class warfare in my thirty years as a labor activist. But if the authors are right, unions that never strike, readily agree to concessions (to avoid strife) and busy themselves with labor-management partnership schemes should be teeming with new members. Freeman and Rogers are unable to cite a single union whose pacific qualities have been so rewarded.

Communications Workers of America


London; Madison, Wisc.

For all his sound and fury, Steve Early fails to engage our main point–that limiting union membership to workers with majorities and collective bargaining agreements fails to harness the support for labor available from workers who don’t easily fit those terms. Labor should be rethinking membership in light of this and thinking about how modern technology can facilitate new membership definitions and structures. We recognize that the Net, while very useful in circumstances like those just considered, is not sufficient to build strong solidarity; the computer network needs the human network too.

As for what he does say: (1) CWA’s support for Alliance, WashTech and WAGE is duly noted in the longer version of our article, in Working USA, which also thanks the many organizers to whom we did indeed talk and who helped us in the piece; (2) WAGE gets Net hosting on the home page of GE Workers United, which consists of the fourteen unions mentioned; we don’t see why that hosting does not qualify as “support”; (3) our argument that workers ought to be able to join a union without going to war with their employer was not a bid for labor quiescence but the opposite: A worker supporting the union but in a setting where workers aren’t willing to go head to head with a hostile employer should still have a way to be a union member.

We greatly respect Early’s longstanding contribution to the labor movement and find it unfortunate that years of fighting employers have made him so prickly he misses our point. Opening union membership to millions of workers without majorities or exclusive bargaining rights is potentially a source of massive growth in the power of labor–more members, a more disciplined base, a wider reach in the economy. The employers against whom Early rails would join him in opposing even the exploration of this potential, but other friends of labor should not.