100. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mr. Jay Lovestone, AFL–CIO
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Soviet Union.]

Dr. Kissinger: Can you hold the labor movement here together in regard to foreign policy?

Mr. Lovestone: As long as Meany2 is alive. I don’t think anybody can make a sharp turnabout. We are going to go much further than the Jackson amendment on MFN to Russia.

Dr. Kissinger: My feeling is I think it is wrong to make American foreign policy dependent on one minority.

Mr. Lovestone: I look at it as tit-for-tat. We see certain things we want. Tear down that wall, and self-determination. We can say that. You can’t.

Dr. Kissinger: We can’t. We will have to oppose you.

Mr. Lovestone: Tomorrow night Meany is making a very strong speech.3 It will not be anything insulting; it is a tightly reasoned speech.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you writing it?

Mr. Lovestone: It doesn’t matter, it is already written.

Dr. Kissinger: [Smiling]4 The trouble with you fellows is that you are soft.

[Page 323]

Let me tell you my analysis. I have no illusions about the Soviets. If I were a member of the Politburo I could make a great case against Brezhnev in regard to the détente. He has received nothing.

Mr. Lovestone: Yes, he has gotten some things.

Dr. Kissinger: He has the long-term trend in Europe going for him. But the economic situation is bad.

Mr. Lovestone: They are in a serious situation; they are not bankrupt, but they have serious problems. Their productive capacity in comparison to ours is 40 percent.

Dr. Kissinger: Their system doesn’t work. It is impossible to run a modern economy by state planning.

Mr. Lovestone: They are not stopping or reducing their armament production. The ideological drive in the army has been stepped up a little.

I think the most heroic people in the world today are the Jews in Russia. The President has stood up well. He is very popular over there.

Dr. Kissinger: For them to abrogate the head tax in a formal communication to another government is incredible.5 They can keep people from emigrating in other ways.

Mr. Lovestone: In November they warned people to talk discreetly over the telephone. There is the problem of tapping over there too.

We are sending Brown6 from Africa to Europe to step up our European work.

Dr. Kissinger: Right now we are trying to get a little breathing space and get the Vietnam war agitation quieted down and to manipulate the Chinese-Soviet situation.

Mr. Lovestone: The Chinese will help you.

Dr. Kissinger: They will work with us. By the way, Woodcock7 wants to see me.

Mr. Lovestone: I’ll tell you why, it is the old issue [the promise to Russia]. We will fight it.

Dr. Kissinger: Shall I see him at all? Can I take the position that we will be going by what the AFL–CIO says?

Mr. Lovestone: Say that it has always been the position of the American party. If you turn him down, he won’t shed any tears. He doesn’t really believe in it himself. They don’t even have any money to pay dues, they are in bad shape financially.

[Page 324]

Dr. Kissinger: Why?

Mr. Lovestone: The strike. This is a crazy country. General Motors helped them while they were on strike against them. Our warfare is civilized warfare. You saw the steel and rubber agreements. The trade union movement is a solid, practical, living union.

Tomorrow in his speech Meany is going to ask why people poke fun at patriots.

Dr. Kissinger: Good. I don’t know what we would do without you. The businessmen in this country are a disgrace. Look at Kendall of Pepsi Cola,8 he would sell the country for a contract. You people in the labor unions, we could not have gotten through Vietnam without you. Should I come by sometime and talk to Meany?

Mr. Lovestone: By all means. He would like to see you.

Dr. Kissinger: I will see him. I just want him to know that I saw you.

Mr. Lovestone: He knows. I was late because we were going over the manuscript and I told him I had an appointment with you. We will bring in Lane Kirkland, the Secretary of the Treasury. He is number one in the running as his successor.

Dr. Kissinger: How old is Meany?

Mr. Lovestone: 79.

Dr. Kissinger: And you?

Mr. Lovestone: I am going on 73. I have lived through Lenin, I have spent a weekend with Hitler. I have seen a lot.

Dr. Kissinger: I would like to be in touch with you. If you have something on your mind, will you call me? I am a very busy man, and sometimes I don’t have the time.

Mr. Lovestone: I know, and I hate to bother you. Generally I am not here on Monday or Friday. On Monday and Friday I usually am in my office in New York.

This week there is a meeting at the U.N. of Latin American countries. One gets up and says, “I am a Mexican, and I am proud of it.” If you listen to them they are happy.

Dr. Kissinger: Do they do anything after you listen to them?

Mr. Lovestone: They should not have the feeling that they are kept people. Now the Europeans are trying to come in.

Dr. Kissinger: From a leftist position?

Mr. Lovestone: No.

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When Brandt is here he wants to discuss AFL–CIO/DGB relations. State replied correctly that this was a concern of the organizations and not of theirs. Now they want us to come over. Vetter9 is coming here and wants to talk to Mr. Meany. Meany sent them a short note saying fine for a brief meeting and they blew the whole thing out of proportion.

They are going to welcome Shelepin10 and I am going to publish at the same time an indictment of Shelepin as a murderer. And they are going to be in trouble for that one. They are going to call him a diplomat. He can’t come into Germany without risking arrest.

Dr. Kissinger: For more than 50 years, more like 100 years, they have destroyed the peace of the world. The Germans are not vicious, they are stupid. Brandt thinks he can play Brezhnev against Nixon, and also play a little with the Chinese. He thinks he can conduct a foreign policy that even we find hard to do.

Mr. Lovestone: Leber11 is a good man. Before I go let me say one more thing. We have made three proposals. The first is to have a meeting with all the parties. We then wanted the DGB to declare a moratorium for one year in the exchanges with the Iron Curtain countries. But they wouldn’t buy this. Finally, we proposed to bring here as our guest the head of the metal trades. They bought this, but wouldn’t buy the others.

Dr. Kissinger: I would like to stay in close touch with you. We are going to have a rough four years.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Memcons, April–Nov. 1973. Secret. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office in the White House.
  2. George Meany, President of the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO).
  3. See “Meany Charges ‘Lies’ on Economy,” The New York Times, April 27, 1973, p. 77.
  4. These and following brackets are in the original.
  5. See Documents 89, 95, and 96.
  6. Not further identified.
  7. Leonard Woodcock, President of the United Automobile Workers (UAW).
  8. Donald Kendall, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo.
  9. Heinz Oskar Vetter, Chairman of the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB), an umbrella organization of German trade unions.
  10. Alexander Shelepin, head of the KGB from 1958 to 1961 and member of the Politburo from 1964 to 1975.
  11. Georg Leber, West German Minister of Defense.