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American Labor Federations AFL And CIO Break Cooperation With OWI Over Communist Influence At Voice of America

Former Office of War Information (OWI) journalist Julius Epstein explaining how the AFL and the CIO American labor federations broke their cooperation with the Voice of America because of communist influence over VOA broadcasts.
Cold War Radio Museum

Cold War Radio Museum

Julius Epstein[ref]“How a refugee journalist exposed Voice of America censorship of the Katyn Massacre,” Cold War Radio Museum, April 16, 2018,[/ref], a Jewish refugee journalist from Austria who himself had a brief infatuation with Communism during his student days in Germany, wrote after the war that when in 1942

[he] entered the services of what was then the “Coordinator of Information” which became after a few months the O.W.I., I was immediately struck by the fact that the German desk was almost completely seized by extreme left-wingers who indulged in a purely and exaggerated pro-Stalinist propaganda.

Stalin was then our “gallant ally,” Epstein, who became a fierce critic of the Voice of America, explained in his 1951 article calling for reforms to improve countering of Soviet propaganda and disinformation.[ref]Julius Epstein, “The O.W.I. and the Voice of America,” a reprint from the Polish American Journal, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1951.[/ref]

Epstein told congressional investigators in 1952 that

One of the greatest OWI scandals broke when Frederick Woltman published his article “AFL, CIO Hit OWI Radio As Communist.” Woltman article appeared in the New York World Telegram of October 4, 1943. It showed that the AFL as well as the CIO, the two great American Labor Organizations, which nobody but the Communists ever accused of being reactionary, withdrew their cooperations with the OWI labor desk because of the latter’s outspoken Communist attitude. Woltman, in an excellent expose, revealed that the CIO as well as the AFL had already in December, 1952, [sic – should be 1942] jointly protested to Elmer Davis that the OWI’s New York Overseas Branch [Voice of America] had been regularly broadcasting communist propaganda in its daily shortwave radio programs.[ref]Julius Epstein, Executive Session, September 19, 1952, Hearings Before the Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, 25-16.[/ref]

According to Julius Epstein, even communists who were not on the OWI payroll managed to attend agency planning meetings and spied on legitimate American journalists, including famous radio broadcaster Dorothy Thompson who in 1934 was expelled from Nazi Germany and in 1939 was recognized by Time magazine as being equal in influence to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mr. Mitchell.  Did you attend those meetings?

Mr. Epstein.  Very seldom.  I attended one or two and I met Mr. Budzislawsky.

Mr. Mitchell.  Who is he?

Mr. Epstein. He was editor in chief in Europe of the one hundred percent [sic – presumably communist] periodical called Die Neue WeltbuehnNew World State. I asked a friend of mine how is it possible that this party member comes to the OWI? He told me, “Well he had an OWI badge; he has some position as an adviser.”  And he was at that time the Secretary of Dorothy Thompson.  And Mr. Budzislawsky left and went back to Germany and is now professor at the University in Leipzig, the Soviet Zone, and Dorothy Thompson wrote an article about him, entitled “How I Was Duped by the Communists” [sic – actual title was “How I Was Duped By A Communist.”]  This article appeared a few years ago in the Saturday Evening Post.[ref]Julius Epstein, Executive Session, September 19, 1952, Hearings Before the Select Committee to Conduct An Investigation of the Facts, Evidence and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre, 47-48.[/ref]


Ted Lipien is the online Cold War Radio Museum's principal volunteer editor. He is an independent journalist, writer, and media freedom advocate. He was Voice of America’s Polish Service chief during Poland’s struggle for democracy and VOA’s acting associate director. He also served briefly in 2020-2021 as RFE/RL president in a non-political and non-partisan role. His book “Wojtyła’s Women” was published in 2008 by O-Books, UK. E-mail him at: