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Mixed up in power politics and the Cold War: the Americans, the ICFTU and Singapore's labour movement, 1955-1960.

The Cold War divided not only international politics, but also contributed to the polarisation of the international labour movement. Created in 1945 by unions from countries such as the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) had originally aspired to unite and advance the international labour movement's cause. As Cold War tensions escalated, however, policy disagreements and opposing ideological beliefs combined to eventually split the institution, resulting in pro-western unions leaving the WFTU to found the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in 1949. (1) Backing and working with the ICFTU, Washington acted thereafter to advance the cause of 'free labour' across the globe. (2) Among the many places where the United States intervened was Singapore. The episode has not been extensively examined. This article is an attempt to illuminate the American involvement in Singapore's labour affairs during the 1950s.

No work has studied the subject in detail. Leong Yee Fong has explored the rivalry for influence between the competing labour internationals and their backers in Malaya. The contest prompted the colonial authorities to implement policies that sought to circumscribe the influence of the pro-communist WFTU and the Malayan Communist Party on Malaya's workers. Leong's article, however, contains little focused discussion on the situation in Singapore. Also unanalysed is the specific nature of the respective Soviet and American support for the endeavours of the WFTU and ICFTU on the island. (3) If Leong neglects the Singapore side of the story, another historian has attempted to document the operations of the ICFTU on the island. Yeo Kim Wah notes the arrival of ICFTU officials in Singapore in 1950 and accentuates their plan to encourage the establishment of a confederation of noncommunist labour unions that could 'counter an expected offensive by the World Federation of Trade Unions in all colonial territories'. Yeo, however, does not develop the story into the late 1950s and makes no mention of American assistance to local non-communist unions through the ICFTU. (4) Unlike Yeo and Leong, another scholar has offered some insight into the American attempt to use the ICFTU to strengthen Singapore's non-communist unions. Jim Baker notes that 'the ICFTU funneled support to Lim Yew Hock's Trade Union Congress in the hope of stemming the leftward shift of the trade union movement'. (5) But Baker gives only fleeting attention to the American undertaking, providing no additional details on how the support was carried out. Baker's work, while laudable, also does not make extensive use of American or other archival materials to detail US government activities on the island. Nor does he examine the British and local responses to the American endeavours.

Indeed, little is known about the role that external actors such as the Americans played in Singapore's labour affairs. Scholars who have studied the history of Singapore's labour movement during the 1950s typically set it within a narrow national context. The actors are local. They are nationalists, political opportunists or subversives. And the examination of trade unionism characteristically rests on uncritical assumptions about the ideological inclination of the labour institutions and their constituencies. Conventional wisdom thus holds that labour groups of similar ideological proclivities invariably flocked together; these groups also supported the political parties that shared their assumed politics. In generating such institutional narratives, the writers expound on the politics of the unions but give short shrift to the history of the Singaporean worker or unionist. A narrow political perspective of the labour movement is thus obtained in such works. (6)

Bucking conventional trends and informed by new approaches in social history, another group of scholars has begun to pay more attention to the unionists and workers, making them the object of investigation rather than their institutions. They expose the limitations of the more conventional institutional narratives, which tend to describe labour developments, in simplistic binary terms, as a struggle between moderation and extremism. The new scholarship accentuates and renders the idealism of the unionists and the workers, and their everyday resistance to social oppression and empire in more complex narratives. Greater insights have thus been gained into the colourful lives and times of unionists Lim Chin Siong and Jamit Singh, and the labourers at the dockyard--insights that belie the extremist labels that have been pinned on them and their activities. (7)

Despite enriching the study of Singapore's labour history, the recent historiography nevertheless shares one drawback with the body of work that it seeks to qualify: its narrow focus on local actors as the sources of conflict and development within the labour movement. As noted, apart from a few limited accounts, the involvement of external actors like the Americans in Singapore's labour movement has received little extensive study from scholars of the island's history. Nor can one find published works on the subject in the literature on US-Southeast Asia relations during the 1950s. Apart from Baker's single-chapter survey of US activities in Singapore between 1945 and 1960, the scholarly literature on the American involvement in Singapore is practically non-existent. Reflecting popular interest and the availability of archival documents, publications on American interventions in Southeast Asia have focused particular attention on Washington's endeavours in countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaya, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The studies illuminate the American attempts to bolster the non-communist governments in these countries with economic and military aid. They also highlight Washington's attempts to undermine leftist regimes through covert operations. (8) Still, for all the attention that historians pay to the efforts made by American policymakers, diplomats and military officials to further US Cold War policy in Southeast Asia, organised labour's anti-communist operations in Singapore have not been fully explored. The intention of this article, then, is to begin filling the lacunae in the existing literature.

This paper examines the US involvement in Singapore's labour affairs between 1955 and 1960. It brings into sharp focus peoples and institutions other than those from Singapore who were concerned about and actively involved in the cosmopolitan island's domestic affairs. If the American cultural, diplomatic and economic presence in Singapore spans over a century, it would be during the 1950s when Cold War tensions were high that the US government intensified its activities on the island. (9) New attention to how external actors like the Americans had affected Singapore's labour affairs and how locals had reacted to the Americans can open up new avenues of debate on the US involvement in Southeast Asia. The undertaking also renders the historiography of Singapore more multifaceted, and more in conformity with the historical evidence and lived experience. Transnational flows of capital, ideas, people and products have, after all, converged on the island throughout its history, influencing domestic developments. (10) And in the US intervention, one would find the Americans, operating through the ICFTU, having a hand in shaping Singapore's labour affairs.

In arriving at that finding and in investigating American activities in Singapore, the article draws on the declassified records left behind by the very agencies and peoples that attempted to influence the island's labour developments. Documents generated by the US State Department and its diplomats, and the private papers of American labour official George Weaver who was active in Singapore, are invaluable primary sources for reconstructing in detail the US involvement in Singapore's labour affairs. Apart from illuminating the motivations and nature of the US endeavours, the archival materials, particularly the memoranda of conversations transcribed by American diplomats, also provide insight into the thoughts of Singaporeans. These memoranda contain verbatim or paraphrased notes on myriad subjects discussed in private conversations between US diplomats and numerous locals. The frank opinions advanced by discussants in the course of a tete-a-tete shed light on the views of locals toward labour developments as well as the social and political drama unfolding in Singapore during the 1950s. The candid comments rendered in the comments by a local about another local also bring into sharp focus the rough edges or the admirable strengths of a personality. In using these sources, care has been taken to account for biases. Where a description volunteered in one dialogue is consistently corroborated by others, communicated in different settings and times, the cloud of uncertainty about the veracity of the information can be more confidently lifted and the portrayal of a character verified or debunked.

Where gaps in the narrative remain, though, this study has used other declassified documents from archives in Britain and the Netherlands to corroborate, elaborate on or qualify the American sources. The British Colonial Office and Labour Ministry records, and the ICFTU papers help link research and strengthen interpretations. They have been drawn to assess the impact and efficacy of American actions. They have also been utilised because the public record is essentially silent on the subject studied in this article. (11) Although local newspapers covered many labour issues during the 1950s, journalists did not file much of what Americans such as Weaver did in Singapore. This was because the Americans were keen to keep their activities hidden from the public eye. They wanted to ensure that their activities were not given prominent coverage by the local media because first, they did not want the ICFTU, which had provided cover for Weaver's activities, to be discredited as an American pawn; second, they were attuned to British sensitivities about their interference in a British colony's affairs; and third, they did not want the local population to be impressed with the notion that a foreign power was taking sides in Singapore's domestic affairs and aiding one against another. Weaver, therefore, had to conduct a low-key campaign. Operating among the working class, he was, of course, known to those who had dealings with him and the local labour movement. But Weaver stayed out of the public limelight, and in doing so, little of his activities had been captured by the local press. Significantly, it is also hard for one to find references to the American's work with the labour movement in the rich oral history collection at the National Archives of Singapore. The question unasked, none of the interviews that were consulted mentioned Weaver or the ICFTU. Notwithstanding the dearth of data in oral histories and the public record, international multi-archival research can still yield new perspectives on Singapore's labour history during the 1950s. This article, through that multi-archival approach, makes such an attempt.

The article consists of five main sections. First, it examines the impetus for the US intervention in Singapore. It then provides background information on the establishment of the ICFTU office in Singapore, and how the Americans used it to cover a fact-finding mission, led by a US labour official named George Weaver, on the island. The third section describes the activities Weaver and his ICFTU associate, Thomas Bavin, embarked upon, and the problems that they encountered, in seeking to strengthen the main local non-communist labour institution, the Singapore Trade Union Congress (STUC). The fourth scrutinises how Weaver, Bavin and US State Department officials resolved a labour dispute at the Ford motor factory and prevented the local disagreement from stoking more serious anti-American sentiments in Singapore. Finally, the paper details the impact of the US activities on the STUC and ICFTU.

Labour unrest and US concerns

American officials were greatly alarmed by the social unrest in Singapore and the apparent inability of the newly elected Singapore Labour Front (SLF) government to crack down on labour radicalism. Between March and June 1955, about 129 official and sympathy strikes involving some 31,000 workers brought many industries to a standstill. (12) But the new government, which was led by SLF politician David Marshall, was reluctant to impose harsh measures on the strikers. Personally concerned about labour's welfare as well as his standing among the working class, Marshall preferred a softer approach. (13) To distressed US officials, however, Marshall's response smacked of appeasement. They feared the chief minister's actions might cost the 'free world' dearly. The Americans believed that communist agents, operating through the unions, intended to exploit the new administration's inexperience and the unrest to subvert Singapore. Fearing that communist gains in Singapore would trigger a domino effect and encourage communist subversion elsewhere in Southeast Asia, policymakers in Washington decided that the United States should intervene to 'shore up the situation' on the island. Permitting Singapore to fall to communism was not an option as that eventuality would gravely frustrate US Cold War policies and undermine US efforts to contain communist expansion into Asia. (14)

US officials were particularly unnerved by the growing strength of the radical unions located at Singapore's Middle Road. Consul William Anderson of the US consulate-general in Singapore reported that the so-called 'Middle Road' unions had successfully brought scores of labour organisations, comprising about 35,000 of the 120,000 blue-collar workers, under their influence. To Anderson, Middle Road appeared to have an extensive sway over the operations of Singapore's 'strategic industries' as its unionists managed the Singapore Factory and Shop Workers' Union (SFSWU), Singapore Bus Workers' Union, Civil Airport Employees Union, Singapore Harbour Board, Naval Base Labour Union and the Postal and Telecommunications Uniformed Staff. Anderson postulated that if the Middle Road organisers ordered their union members to collectively stop work, Singapore's communications infrastructure could grind to a halt. Security at the British naval base could also be compromised. Altogether, the leftist unionists could potentially bring Singapore's economy to its knees, stir unrest and enable communists to subvert the island. (15)

Anderson's grim assessment moved interim US Consul-General Eric Kocher to write to the US State Department in October 1955, urging American assistance to local non-communist unions. He advised that US officials should be deployed to Singapore to aid the STUC--Singapore's most prominent non-communist labour institution--against the leftist unions. Washington should also lobby the anti-communist ICFTU to channel financial and technical support to the STUC. With external help, Kocher believed a strengthened STUC would be able to stand up to Middle Road and stabilise the labour situation in Singapore. (16)

As will be seen, Kocher's recommendations would be implemented primarily by an American labour official named George Weaver, working through the ICFTU office in Singapore. In entering the fray, US officials evidently thought they were confronting communist agents rather than a spontaneous movement from below. There was a communist underground operating in Singapore, to be sure. (17) But the island's labour situation was not a straightforward good-versus-evil conflict between western-oriented and pro-communist workers that was portrayed in the Americans' reports. Rather, it was a complex struggle for social uplift and self-respect among labourers. It was a radicalism that was nourished by socio-economic difficulties rather than mere communist ideology. As historian Tim Harper has noted: 'The very idea of a "Communist United Front" is perhaps a misnomer: most of the groups caught up in leftist popular radicalism, the Jacobinism of the day, were neither communist, united, nor a front for anybody but themselves.' (18) But the American labour operations would be invoked with international communism and the Cold War in mind. They would reinforce divisions within the local labour movement. And they would lead paradoxically to the demise of the influence of the United States' chief labour ally in Singapore: the ICFTU.

The ICFTU and Weaver's mission

The ICFTU focused its attention on Asia in the early 1950s after its leaders decided in December 1949 to organise the institution's activities on a regional basis. ICFTU teams were subsequently deployed to Asia to lay the groundwork for the plan. (19) An ICFTU delegation arrived in Singapore in August 1950. After conferring with local labour leaders, the mission recommended that the labour international establish an office in Singapore. (20) A high-level ICFTU committee endorsed the proposal, and on 4 February 1951, Dhyan Mungat, ex-General Secretary of the Indian Maritime Union and the first head of the Singapore office, formally announced the opening of the ICFTU Information and Advisory Centre for Asia in Singapore. (21)

Located at 143 Orchard Road, the Singapore bureau was one of many nodes in a network of ICFTU agencies spread across Asia. It provided locals with data on the activities of the ICFTU. It likewise offered professional advice to local unions on organisation and negotiation. The ICFTU's endeavours were designed to advance working relationships between the ICFTU and local unions. Most important, they were also initiated to discourage the local labour movement from aligning itself with pro-communist labour internationals like the WFTU. (22)

To deepen ICFTU-local union cooperation, Mungat recruited affiliates. He succeeded first in Malaya, with the Malayan Trades Union Council (MTUC) being the first labour institution in Southeast Asia to affiliate with the ICFTU. (23) Mungat hoped the second would come from Singapore, but a similar umbrella organisation had yet to come into being. Its establishment, nevertheless, had notably been encouraged by the ICFTU delegation, which visited the island in 1950. The delegates had maintained that the institution would enhance the vigour of Singapore's free unions and advance the interests of the local workers at international forums. Such contentions resonated with local unionists like Lim Yew Hock who had been pushing for the institution's establishment since 1949. Obtaining support from Mungat and after cajoling fellow unionists, Lim eventually helped bring the STUC into being on 30 September 1951. Following its formation, the STUC promptly affiliated with the ICFTU. (24)

With the establishment of an office in Singapore, the ICFTU would work closely with the STUC to further the non-communist unions' interests on the island. American officials, in turn, would operate through the ICFTU to further US interests on the island. US officials were in fact instructed by Washington to collaborate with the ICFTU in 'the strengthening of [Singapore's] non-Communist labor organizations'. (25) Yet official US support for and involvement in the ICFTU's operations were never overt. American officials had endorsed the opinion of their British counterparts that the ICFTU must be seen to be institutionally independent. George Thomson, the public relations secretary of the Singapore government, warned an American official: 'if the ICFTU is merely looked on as a propaganda pawn played as part of the Anglo-American strategy, its value will be gravely and adversely affected'. (26) The US consulate-general agreed, deciding that the ICFTU bureau would be offered US assistance, but there would be no overt collaboration. (27)

In the event, apart from the odd intelligence exchange, ICFTU-Singapore sought little American help during its initial years in Singapore. This was because Mungat was mostly away at conferences overseas or the ICFTU headquarters in Brussels. (28) The ICFTU official, in fact, hardly captured the imagination of his American allies or the unionists in Singapore. Neither did his successor, G. Mapara, the ICFTU representative from India. 'Mapara was regarded locally as of no use to the labor unions', US Vice-Consul Ralph McGuire noted, 'because his attitude was to sit in his office waiting for people to come to him'. Bowing to local criticisms, the ICFTU soon recalled Mapara to India on an 'extended "holiday"'. (29) Although Mapara and Mungat would return to Singapore, it was their British colleague, Thomas Bavin, and the American official from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), George Weaver, who would leave behind a more indelible imprint on the island's labour history.

Bavin arrived in Singapore on 7 November 1953, deployed from Ceylon where he had been working with agricultural workers. He was initially focused on the labour affairs of Malaya. The specialist organiser for both the ICFTU and International Trade Secretariats of Land, and Food and Drink Workers had sought to improve plantation labour's welfare in Malaya. The 1953 Korean armistice had caused the global demand for Malayan rubber and tin to drop drastically, and the resulting plunge in commodity prices adversely affected the pay and job security of large numbers of plantation workers. To protect them, Bavin helped establish the National Union of Plantation Workers. Bavin subsequently served as the union's adviser and succeeded in preserving the workers' interests while improving labour-capital relations. By 1955, Bavin had stabilised the situation in Malaya, freeing him to pay more attention to Singapore. (30)

Like Bavin, Weaver was pulled from an existing assignment to help address the labour problems in Singapore. He was occupied with the 1955 AFL-CIO merger when Labour Minister Lim Yew Hock and the US State Department requested his assistance. Weaver was highly regarded in union circles. An African American, Weaver started out as a humble railroad porter lugging bags in Chicago during the 1930s. He was a member of the black-led anti-communist United Transport Service Employees Union before joining the CIO, where he rose up the ranks overseeing mainly domestic civil rights issues. (31) Weaver's interest in Malaya began in the early 1950s. He was a member of the US Government Tin Study Mission that visited Malaya then to evaluate the potential of the territory's tin industry. Weaver met, befriended and won the confidence of Lim Yew Hock when he was in Singapore. He was the organiser Lim approached for advice when Chief Minister Marshall agreed in 1955 to seek the assistance of 'experienced labor leaders from abroad' to tackle the problem of local worker restiveness. Lim subsequently wrote to the US consulate-general for assistance and by September, Weaver had arrived in Singapore consulting with unionists and workers. (32)

Although Washington funded Weaver's mission, the latter identified himself as an ICFTU representative in Singapore. Believing that his ability to communicate with Middle Road and other unions would be limited if he turned up as a US government agent, Weaver sought Mungat's permission to identify himself as an ICFTU officer. Mungat was initially uneasy about the US government's backing for Weaver's activities but he eventually acceded to the request. Weaver and the AFL-CIO, after all, were affiliated to the ICFTU. Lim had also appealed to Mungat on Weaver's behalf. The latter was thus allowed to wear an ICFTU hat in his meetings with locals. (33)

Weaver conversed with government officials, colonial officers, unionists and the business community about the local labour situation following his arrival in Singapore. In October 1955, he collated his findings and submitted his report to ICFTU headquarters and the US State Department. Overall, he determined that the workers were right to strike. He found most industrial actions were motivated by the workers' desire to seek redress against the wretched conditions under which many laboured and the miserable wages that many earned. Desperate and angry workers tried to use the more open political environment to their advantage when voicing their grievances against the prevailing order. (34)

The issue for Weaver, though, was not that unionists were actively stepping into industries to help the workers. The issue was that the unionists helping the workers appeared to be motivated by Chinese communism. Weaver commented that while union leaders like Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan and lames Puthucheary 'served their members promptly and efficiently', and that the Middle Road unions which they led or were affiliated with were well organised, vibrant and well financed, they appeared to be sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party. The unionists also seemed to be closely affiliated with a dynamic leftist political organisation called the People's Action Party (PAP). Betraying his Cold War-coloured perspective on local matters, Weaver stated grimly: 'In order to save Singapore from domination by the PAP party [sic]--which in reality means a further extension of Peiping's power--the non-communist labour unions must be rapidly built up and strengthened.' Opposing Middle Road was the ICFTU-affiliated STUC. But it was weak and lacked competent leaders and adequate funds. Unless the problems of the STUC were fixed, Weaver believed Middle Road would eventually dominate the local labour movement and threaten US interests. (35)

Weaver consequently proposed three steps to aid the non-communist organisers. First, a skilled ICFTU staff should be deployed to Singapore to help reform the STUC. Second, Weaver planned to channel a grant (US$5,000), with the ICFTU appointed to administer the money's disbursement, to the STUC to enable it to employ three full-time staff for a year. Finally, he suggested that 'a team of American experts' be dispatched to advise Labour Minister Lim Yew Hock on labour policy. (36) Significantly, at a meeting with State Department officers convened to discuss his recommendations, Weaver specified that the US labour experts should be based in Singapore for three to six months. (37) After considering the proposals as well as Kocher's October 1955 report, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and the consulate-general in Singapore decided to back Weaver's plan. (38)

Implementing Weaver's proposals

One of the first proposals that was addressed was Weaver's suggestion that an ICFTU staff be deployed to aid the STUC. US Labour Attache Irvin Lippe, who was based in Singapore, supported the suggestion, but counselled that the person should not be white. 'With the racial factor in Singapore considered', Lippe wrote to the State Department, 'the most effective type of individual would probably be a West Indian or our American Negro, Filipino or carefully choosen [sic] Indian or perhaps a Chinese-American, and the least effective, an European or white American'. (39)

It is unclear whether Lippe's advice was forwarded to the ICFTU office in Brussels. But Weaver's was, and his report persuaded the ICFTU leadership to act. So did an appeal by the British Colonial Office's O.H. Morris. In November 1955, Morris met and told ICFTU General Secretary J.H. Oldenbroek in Geneva 'rather bluntly' that Singapore's labour movement was in crisis. The British 'looked to I.C. F.T.U. to step into the breach'. Oldenbroek agreed, stating the ICFTU would deploy a special representative to Singapore for three months to aid the STUC against Middle Road. He chose an old hand, Dhyan Mungat, who had become the ICFTU's Asian Regional Secretary, to carry the ICFTU's torch in Singapore. (40)

British officials in Singapore welcomed the news. (41) So did Elbridge Durbrow who had taken over from Eric Kocher in October 1955 as US Consul-General in Singapore. Durbrow noted, nonetheless, that there was still the question of whether a team of American labour leaders should be deployed to Singapore. Writing Dulles, Durbrow supported the idea. He admitted that the arrangement could be politically awkward for Lim. Political adversaries might accuse the chief minister of being an American puppet. The British might also oppose the US interference in their colonial affairs. But Durbrow believed that the Lim government might find US labour specialists useful. Prevailing British policies, which had evidently generated labour restiveness, should be reviewed and an external party would be best positioned to offer fresh ideas. Durbrow advised that the United States could use the ICFTU as a front for American operations, providing cover to two American labour officials who would act 'as collaborators of Mungat'. (42)

After detailing his plans to Dulles, the US Consul-General decided to discuss his ideas with British officials in order to gauge their interest and support for the American initiative. He first raised the issue with British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia, Sir Robert Scott, proposing that 'two well-qualified CIO organizers, both negroes', be appointed labour advisers to the chief minister. Scott was noncommittal. Stating he was not qualified to judge the proposal's merits, the British official told Durbrow to consult his labour adviser. T.M. Cowan, however, discouraged the American. He remarked that with Mungat and other British labour officials 'studying the situation' in Singapore, US help was unnecessary. Still, if the US advisers insisted on operating in Singapore, Cowan said the Americans must function as ICFTU emissaries rather than US labour agents. (43)

The responses from Scott and Cowan evidently suggested that the colonial authorities wanted to restrict American activities on the island. It seemed the British feared that the Americans might exacerbate labour-management tensions. More important, the British signalled they did not fancy the Americans undercutting British influence in Singapore. The desire to preserve Anglo-American accord, however, had dissuaded Scott and Cowan from brusquely keeping the Americans at bay. Cowan's eventual ploy, however, was to devolve power to Mungat, who had returned to Singapore in March 1956, for a decision as to whether or not the two American organisers should be admitted to Singapore. (44)

If Cowan hoped Mungat would check the American involvement in Singapore, he partially got his wish. Mungat flatly rejected the American offer to base two US organisers at ICFTU-Singapore. Due to poor health, however, which limited his ability to advance ICFTU-Singapore's work, Mungat did propose that Weaver return to help Bavin--who was still on the island--steady the STUC ship. (45) Given the dearth of better options, the Americans endorsed the proposal. Instead of two US unionists, then, Singapore got one. Weaver arrived as an official ICFTU representative on 11 June 1956 for a mission of approximately six months. He would return on another occasion in July 1957 to carry through unfinished matters. (46) Ironically, therefore, Weaver would be asked to deliver on the proposals he had advanced in October 1955.

On arrival in June 1956, Weaver promptly arranged for the US$5,000 grant, which he eventually obtained from the CIO, to be disbursed to the STUC and used for its reform. (47) His immediate aim was to make the STUC administratively more efficient and financially self-sustaining. (48) Weaver, together with Bavin, first paid attention to the offices of the STUC as they 'regarded a smoothly running and alert office as an all-important first step toward building confidence in the STUC'. Prior to their intervention, the STUC's workplace lacked rudimentary office appliances and even proper furniture to file documents. On Bavin's advice, the STUC leased a new office at 3 Allenby Road. With the CIO grant, Weaver bought office equipment. The STUC could also finally afford its own telephone. (49) Bidding to free up time for STUC President S. Jaganathan to concentrate on more strategic tasks, Bavin and Weaver used the CIO funds too to hire clerks, an organising secretary named K.C. Thomas, and a personal assistant to the STUC leader. The financial assistance was gratefully accepted by Jaganathan. (50)

Second, the ICFTU advisers addressed the finances of the STUC. They reviewed the decision made earlier by STUC leaders to improve the institution's financial standing. In October 1955, the top decision-making body of the STUC, which comprised leaders of affiliated unions, attempted to generate more income for the organisation by increasing the annual subscription fee for every individual member from 10 cents [Malayan] to M$1.00. Each affiliated union would pay the STUC on behalf of its members. But the STUC leadership curiously set a limit of M$2,000 on the annual dues a union paid the umbrella body. Large affiliated unions like the 15,000-strong Army Civil Services Union (ACSU) consequently paid only a small fraction of their income to the STUC. For smaller and less institutionalised unions that had problems generating a steady income, their ability to meet the annual dues was remote. In fact, the STUC leaders recognised those unions' problems and practically wrote off their contributions. Altogether, the decision-makers' policy meant that the STUC's sorry financial woes persisted. Thus, while the SFSWU could rake in some M$30,000 in dues monthly, the STUC's total income between October 1955 and June 1956 was merely M$6,000. The chief reason for the strange ineffectual arrangement, according to Lippe who interviewed STUC policymaker Chew Seng, was that most of the STUC's leaders had little faith in Jaganathan's leadership and capacity to use the STUC's money prudently. They had thus decided to restrict their unions' financial contributions to the STUC. (51)

Weaver dealt separately with the leadership issue, but in addressing the finances of the STUC, his solution was to readjust the subscription fees. Instead of charging MS1.00 per member annually and only up to M$2,000 per affiliated union, he suggested to the STUC leaders that a flat yearly fee of M$0.50 for all members be paid to the STUC. Such an arrangement would persuade members of smaller unions to be more forthcoming with their dues. The larger unions would also be making more substantial contributions to the organisation. In all, the adjustment would enrich the coffers of the STUC by M$40,000 annually, thus strengthening the organisation financially. (52)

Weaver's proposal was debated at a special delegates' conference in November 1956. Prior to the conference, Bavin and Weaver had assiduously lobbied the ACSU and other large unions to support the plan. Weaver also obtained Lim Yew Hock's assistance in convincing the unions under his influence to agree to the reform; this was notably obtained after the unions were assured that their position of influence in the STUC would not be overshadowed by the more sizeable and financially more powerful service unions. Thus, when the vote was called in November, it appeared that Weaver's endeavours had finally bore fruit: the delegates accepted his proposal. (53)

Ultimately, however, although Weaver managed to convince the STUC delegates to endorse his plan, he could not compel the union chiefs to fulfil their pledges. The unionists evidently remained sceptical of Jaganathan's leadership. Six months after the conference, Lippe reported that the STUC, despite representing roughly 65,000 workers, was 'broke'. Not only was the CIO grant exhausted, but only nine out of 60 affiliated unions had actually bothered to pay their membership fees. The organising secretary had also left the bankrupt STUC to join a bank. The clerks were retrenched because of the lack of funds. And the STUC office 'appeared to be back where it was just prior to the visit of AFL-CIO's George Weaver'. The whole episode especially embittered Bavin. He indicated to Lippe that while he would be prepared to channel financial aid to other local non-communist unions, he would baulk at the prospect of giving more money to the STUC 'under present leadership conditions'. (54)

Although Bavin and Weaver failed to strengthen the STUC's finances, they nevertheless sought to reform the STUC in other ways. A third area that they worked on was STUC cohesion. They believed that a more united STUC would be better able to prevail against Middle Road. To that end, the ICFTU officers negotiated the merger of scores of smaller affiliated and more independent-minded unions into larger and more cohesive entities. A national seamen's union was formed by merging 10 to 12 smaller unions. Weaver was aided in his efforts by M.A. Majid, the Indo-Pakistani Seamen's Union's general secretary. He won over the unionist to the scheme by deftly negotiating for Majid's appointment as chairman of the new institution. (55) The ICFTU representatives further arranged for the International Transport Federation to recognise the union, and facilitated the latter's registration by the Lira government. (56) Besides negotiating mergers at the waterfront, Bavin and Weaver also focused their attention on unions in the financial sector. By September 1956, they had orchestrated the amalgamation of smaller unions representing workers from the insurance and banking industries into the STUC-affiliated Business Houses Employees' Union. (57)

Fourth, the ICFTU representatives, believing that a merger of the two groups could undermine the non-communist labour movement, blocked attempts by STUC organisers to forge partnerships with Middle Road. Following the 1955 riots, Lira Chin Siong and his allies had curbed their confrontational tactics and attempted to reach out to other unions. Observers advanced several reasons for the new policy. Weaver thought the unionists wanted to find strength in numbers. (58) Lim Chin Siong's upfront explanation was the need for 'consolidation', which one British official interpreted as Lira's way of seeking to mollify workers who were disillusioned by the excesses of 1955. (59) Another reading maintained that the move was a grand communist scheme to dominate Singapore. (60) Whatever the exact reason, Middle Road's message of labour solidarity was so persuasive that it convinced some STUC members to advocate the union of Singapore's working class under one banner. (61)

The STUC members' initiative prompted Bavin to intervene. He thwarted an attempt by the STUC faction to change the STUC's constitution to facilitate a SFSWU-STUC merger. (62) Weaver also did his part. At an August 1956 luncheon meeting of Rotarians, he accused Middle Road of being undemocratic and subversive. He also stated that employers would do well to discourage labour radicalism by instead dealing fairly with the STUC, 'which accepts the democratic way and is attempting to develop responsible trade unionism along these lines'. When word of his talk reached SFSWU unionists, it roused them into accusing Weaver of attempting to 'destroy the unity of workers in the Colony'. (63) Undeterred, Weaver would continue to attack Middle Road throughout 1956. His condemnations would provoke SFSWU activists into verbally assailing the STUC, Weaver and the ICFTU. Appraising the labour official's efforts, Lippe remarked that the strident criticism sowed a palpable discord between the SFSWU and STUC, 'creating a rift that would be unlikely if not impossible to breach'. As SFSWU officials 'lashed out bitterly against Weaver, the ICFTU, American labour and the STUC', talk of a SFSWU-STUC merger swiftly subsided. (64)

Fifth, the ICFTU representatives sought to strengthen the STUC leadership. Bavin was not alone in complaining about the quality of the STUC's leaders. Mapara, Lippe and Cowan also blamed the fallings of the STUC on Jaganathan's poor performance. (65) An insecure and vainglorious individual, Jaganathan headed the STUC primarily because of the patronage of Lim Yew Hock. The fact that Jaganathan owed his job to Lim and the fact that he was the organiser of the comparatively small Air Ministry Local Staff Union contributed to the rickety personality of the STUC chief. (66) But there was no hiding his brusqueness and lack of charisma, which alienated many unionists. Still, although Jaganathan was regarded as a liability, no suitable alternative could be quickly identified. The ICFTU representatives therefore decided to support Jaganathan until a more acceptable personality could be found. As Bavin told US officials, 'he's all we've got for the time being, and we've got to hold him up'. (67)

Jaganathan, however, constantly exasperated Bavin and American officials. His flirtation with Middle Road caused particular concern as it ran completely counter to what the ICFTU and Americans aspired to achieve in Singapore: pit a strengthened STUC against Middle Road. Yet Jaganathan appeared to be entertaining the leftists' conciliatory overtures. In March 1956, Jaganathan informed a flabbergasted Lippe that he had accepted the SFSWU's invitation to address a combined May Day commemoration ceremony. He believed the move would enhance his stature among workers and enable him to bring members of the leftist-controlled unions over to the non-communist side. Stupefied by Jaganathan's naivete, Lippe warned the STUC chief against collaborating with the leftists. But Lippe's efforts were in vain. (68) Likewise, Bavin was unable to dissociate Jaganathan from the joint May Day gathering. It was not that Bavin did not try. When a disagreement arose over the convention venue, Bavin 'pleaded' with the STUC president to exploit the dispute to withdraw from the proceedings. Jaganathan, however, refused, maintaining his reputation would be damaged if he made a dramatic volte-face. (69)

To the utter dismay of Lippe and Bavin, Jaganathan eventually shared the stage with unionists from Middle Road. As the conference chair, he was also made to deliver a May Day greeting from the Beijing-based All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which extolled the virtues of the international and Chinese socialist movement. Jaganathan, to be sure, also read out an ICFTU message, which Bavin had hastily prepared for him. The STUC leader discovered 30 minutes before the meeting's commencement that he was due to deliver the pro-Beijing speech and had frantically asked Bavin for a statement. Bavin agreed, but was subsequently disconcerted to discover that Jaganathan distorted his text when the latter stepped on stage. Although Bavin's original draft contained references to 'slave labor and oppression in Communist countries, and mentioned China and Russia', Jaganathan decided to deliver only the non-provocative sections. To Lippe, Jaganathan's actions served merely to enhance Middle Road's prestige at the expense of the STUC. Jaganathan's cringe-worthy performance also critically damaged his relations with Bavin who angrily told Lippe that he 'will work to replace Jaganathan as soon as a leader can be found'. (70)

Initially, Weaver did not share Bavin's opinion of Jaganathan. Although he recognised Jaganathan's liabilities, Weaver did his best to shore up the position of the STUC chief. Yet the ICFTU representative also supported Bavin's suggestion that new STUC leaders should be identified and nurtured. On one hand, therefore, Weaver endeavoured to improve Jaganathan's standing. He vetted Jaganathan's speeches, minimising the likelihood that the latter would make embarrassing public statements. During the Lira Yew Hock administration's crackdown on Middle Road unions in September and October 1956, for example, Weaver's contribution was signal. Jaganathan's comments about the government action were not only uncontroversial but also supportive. (71) Conversely, Weaver, along with Bavin, sought to train and identify future STUC leaders. They conducted training programmes for STUC decision-makers, imparting skills and techniques related to labour organisation and collective negotiation. (72) Whether or not the efforts of the ICFTU agents would pay off remained to be seen. It was clear, nevertheless, that they recognised leadership renewal was vital for the STUC to prevail against Middle Road.

Sixth and finally, Bavin and Weaver provided practical support to Jaganathan and his staff in their attempts to notch up collective bargaining victories for workers under their charge. In so doing, they aimed to restore the confidence of the working class in the STUC and its leaders. (73) In that connection, one of the more significant labour-management disputes that tested the ICFTU officers' skills and endurance involved a disagreement at the Canadian Ford motor assembly plant.

Dispute at Ford

Three parties were involved in the dispute at the Ford factory, which built cars and trucks for the British and Commonwealth markets. Since 1955, the STUC-affiliated Ford Salaried Staff Union (FSSU), the SFSWU and the Ford management had been locked in a disagreement over wage increments, leave entitlements and working conditions. After downing tools and creating a ruckus, 300 SFSWU-affiliated workers managed to secure an agreement with the Ford management on wage and working concessions. The more docile and conciliatory FSSU, which represented 80 employees, got nothing. To restore the workers' belief in the STUC and steer them away from militancy and the SFSWU, Bavin took a first stab at the problem by convening negotiations with the Ford employers on the FSSU's behalf. But in April 1956, while discussions were ongoing, the Ford managers unilaterally altered the salary structure, which proved unfavourable to the workers. The management also fired one of the FSSU unionists and demoted the union secretary on the flimsy reason of incompetence. Additionally, on the pretext of conceding to the demands of the FSSU, the managing director, E.A. Sully, humiliated the FSSU and its members by issuing a non-binding note rather than a legal contract to settle the issue. Sully's conduct greatly embarrassed Bavin who was negotiating on the behalf of the FSSU. Weaver, who had joined Bavin at the negotiating table after June 1956, also found Sully's conduct intolerable. He decided to seek the assistance of the president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), Walter Reuther, in settling the dispute as the UAW had a sizeable presence in Ford. (74)

To Weaver, the actions of the Ford managers threatened to further upset an already uneasy relationship between western business interests and organised employees in Singapore. Capital's exploitative behaviour could lead more workers to attack capitalism and embrace communism. As he wrote to Reuther, exploitative capitalists were 'proving more effective organisers for the Communist cause than the Communist [sic] themselves'. Further, Weaver warned that if the FSSU and STUC called for a 'world-wide boycott of all Ford Products', the American company and its subsidiaries would suffer significant losses. If the Ford managers continued to deal harshly with 'responsible democratic trade unionism' and abet its demise, Weaver predicted that western capitalists would one day find themselves confronting predominantly uncompromising and violent communist labour institutions in Singapore. (75)

Weaver had the support of American diplomats in Singapore. Consul-General Durbrow not only concurred with Weaver's analysis, but stated that 'US political interests' were also in the balance. Although the subsidiary in Singapore was managed by the Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ford was ultimately an American corporation. (76) Durbrow further maintained that if the issue was not resolved amicably, it would undermine the ICFTU's standing and confirm the Asian belief that labour internationals such as the ICFTU served only western interests and would not stand with Asian employees against western companies. (77) Given the stakes, the US consulate-general urged the State Department to aid Weaver and the STUC. (78)

The appeals of Weaver and Durbrow had their intended effect. Committed to and viewing social justice as ultimately serving the cause of anti-communism which he supported, Reuther was keen to ensure that an amicable agreement was reached. Upon receiving Weaver's note, he directed a UAW negotiator to sound out the Ford management in Detroit, Michigan, on the dispute in Singapore. The American managers, who were 'extremely responsive' to Reuther's initiative, subsequently persuaded their counterparts in Canada to negotiate a fair deal with the workers in Singapore. The executives of Ford, Canada, pledged that they would. (79) Similar assurances were obtained by State Department officials who agreed to assist Weaver and the STUC. On 26 September, US State Department officials Philip Sullivan, Eric Kocher and Rufus Smith discussed the Singapore situation with Joseph Frank of the Ford Motor Company's International Affairs Office in Washington, DC. They articulated the concerns of Weaver and Durbrow about the political significance of the dispute. Frank said he appreciated the gravity of the situation and pledged to look into the matter. Revealing that American Ford owned 68 per cent of Canadian Ford's shares, he said American Ford would lean on the Canadian subsidiary to produce an equitable settlement. (80) Shortly after the meeting, Frank informed Kocher that his office had contacted the Canadian office and received word that discussions over a new deal would resume in Singapore. Frank said '"good results" may be expected'. (81)

A positive outcome for the workers, however, did not immediately occur. Talks stalled in November as both sides could not agree on the unionisation of factory supervisors and watchmen. Sully wanted the supervisors and watchmen to remain non-unionised. The unionists thought otherwise, with Bavin expressing his displeasure with 'Sully's continued "paternalistic obtuse" attitude'. (82) With Durbrow also complaining to Secretary Dulles about Sully's demeanour, the State Department raised the matter again with American Ford. So did Weaver, who had returned to the United States in November, leaving Bavin to hold the fort in Singapore. The Ford management again assured the State Department and Weaver of its intentions to settle the dispute. (83) But in Singapore, Sully refused to yield. Consequently, with Weaver's endorsement, Bavin launched a boycott of Ford products on 15 December 1956. (84)

The action of the STUC soon inspired others to support the boycott. Indeed, the anti-Ford movement roused a stirring working-class camaraderie that was noteworthy for the number of groups it mobilised. Jamit Singh of the Singapore Harbour Board Staff Association promised to mobilise his unions to block Ford's products at Singapore's ports. SFSWU remnants who were spared arrest during the September and October 1956 government crackdown on Middle Road proposed a joint strike, which Bavin accepted on condition that they associated themselves with the STUC. Calls also went out to unionists in Indonesia and the MTUC to mount a coordinated anti-Ford boycott. (85)

The labour action eventually forced the Ford management to resume negotiations. In response, the STUC ended the sanctions against Ford's products on 31 December. The contending parties negotiated and finally settled the controversy over the unionisation of employees in January 1957. They agreed to permit all foremen to join unions except those designated by management and union as 'management employees'. All watchmen would also be unionised, though those who subsequently chose to join the auxiliary police force, responsible for providing another layer of security to the factory, would have to leave the union. Finally, although this remained unwritten in the new contract and might be subjected to change, each worker won a M$15.00 pay raise. (86)

It was a mixed victory, then, for the ICFTU and STUC. Although they did not obtain a written contractual guarantee on the wage structure, they did resolve the supervisory and security staff's employment statuses. More important, Bavin and Weaver, with assistance from the US State Department, managed to enhance the prestige of ICFTU and STUC by securing the concessions. Following the resolution of the Ford case, Lippe noted 'the increasing number of unions which have been turning to the ICFTU for advice'. (87) The STUC, moreover, managed to retain its members and prevent their migration to more militant leftist unions. Furthermore and notwithstanding the Lim administration's blitz against the SFSWU and other Middle Road unions in September and October 1956, the presence of Bavin and Weaver in Singapore made it doubly difficult for any attempts by Middle Road to incorporate the ostensibly weaker STUC into its ranks. The assistance rendered by Bavin and Weaver to Jaganathan, their toughening of the STUC's stance against amalgamation with Middle Road, and Weaver's arrangement of the CIO financial grant to the STUC had given the STUC a new, albeit fleeting, lease of life. Lippe's assessment of the impact of Bavin and Weaver was noteworthy: they '1) kept the STUC alive; and 2) paved the way for hopeful action by free labor in the future'. (88)

So exceptional were the accomplishments of Bavin and Weaver that they were consistently singled out for praise (or disparagement if one was an adversary) from across a broad spectrum of people in Singapore. (89) T.M. Cowan called Weaver 'the very excellent American negro' who 'made a considerable impression during his few months' in Singapore. This was unquestionably not an easy judgement to make given that Cowan was at the same time lamenting the fact that the American was outshining his British labour colleagues and undercutting British influence in the labour field. (90) Yet, apart from the British official, British businessmen also commended Weaver for his attempts to strengthen the non-communist STUC. N. Lewis of the beverage company Fraser & Neave noted that Weaver 'was outstanding' while Bavin 'did some sterling work'. (91) K.H. Simpson of the trading Borneo Company agreed, stating he heard nothing but 'first class comment' on Weaver. (92) The consensus among several local unionists on Bavin and Weaver was likewise positive. Bavin had established a reputation among locals as an effective negotiator through the Ford operation. (93) For Goh Sin Tub of the Seamen's Industrial Office, Weaver's return to the United States in November 1956 spelt disaster for Singapore's free labour movement. He told Lippe that Weaver should return to the island for a second stint; since Weaver's departure, an unrestrained Jaganathan was back to his 'faltering and foolish' ways. (94) Like Goh, Seet Leong Seng, the STUC's treasurer, testified that Bavin and Weaver were '"tops" and have made significant contributions to the STUC and Singapore labor'. (95)

In Singapore's combative labour environment at that time, then, Bavin and Weaver not only managed to strengthen the STUC, they also earned the respect of a noteworthy number of workers, unionists, business people and colonial officials. Of the two, Weaver unmistakably received a disproportionate share of the accolades. His reputation and work, in turn, provided US business interests a reprieve from sterner labour action. This could be seen in the local response to the Ford dispute. Weaver's repute and involvement in the row helped prevent the anti-Ford boycott from degenerating into a broader anti-American movement. A call by a local activist to broaden the sanctions to all American products did not materialise. (96)

Yet Weaver's efforts also left a trail of bitter opponents who became hostile not only toward him, but also the ICFTU and those within the STUC who supported his work. Informed and motivated by Cold War concerns that Middle Road's victory would result in a triumph for Beijing and a defeat for Washington, Weaver clashed with Lim Chin Siong's band. He provoked outrage among unionists in Middle Road by publicly denouncing the group. His confrontations roused Middle Road's indignation against the ICFTU, which Weaver represented. And his interventions hardened the divide between Middle Road and STUC. The institutions and individuals allied with Weaver would ultimately pay a price for their activities and association with the American labour official.

Still, there was admittedly a limit to what Weaver could do in Singapore. No matter how compelling his leadership, it was not immediately transferable to the STUC president and the institution's leaders upon which the fate of the organisation ultimately hinged. Weaver was buying time for the STUC to reorganise and consolidate itself as Singapore's premier non-communist labour institution. If the failure of the STUC's financial reforms was indicative, however, it appeared that the short-term accomplishments of the STUC could not be sustained in the long.

Divisions within the STUC and marginalisation of ICFTU-Singapore

After an eight-month hiatus, Weaver returned to Singapore in July 1957 at the request of Lira Yew Hock as well as the US State Department. With Bavin's approval, he would again assume the identity of an ICFTU representative. (97) Weaver, however, found that he had little to cheer about. For one, the STUC could not decisively dominate Singapore's labour scene despite Middle Road's problems. The beheaded Middle Road unions were adrift after the arrest of Lim Chin Siong and his chief partners in 1956 by the Lim Yew Hock government. But the STUC could not strengthen its position at Middle Road's expense. Jaganathan was not a charismatic leader who could harangue SFSWU members into transferring their allegiance to the STUC. (98) The STUC was also hampered by the fact that it was closely associated with the SLF government and Lim Yew Hock, whose operations against the SFSWU and other unions were suspiciously regarded by many workers as anti-labour rather than anti-communist. (99) Nonetheless, it was still possible for the STUC president to follow through on a methodical grassroots campaign to win over Middle Road's followers. He could have also implemented and enforced fiscal reforms to strengthen the financial base of the STUC. Yet none of these, which were initiated by Bavin and Weaver, were followed through.

The cause of the STUC was not helped by Jaganathan's lack of organisational skills. K.H. Simpson, a British employer at the Borneo Company who witnessed the STUC president in action at one of his factories, attested to this. Many of his factory workers were members of a SFSWU-affiliated union, but were leaderless after the 1956 counter-subversion operation. At Lim Yew Hock's urging, Jaganathan attempted to recruit the workers for the STUC. According to Simpson, the factory managers were 'leaning over backwards' to accommodate the STUC. Even then, Jaganathan seemingly possessed 'only the sketchiest ideas' on the process of recruiting the leaderless workers. The STUC president carelessly submitted many unsigned application papers, purportedly from the employees, seeking STUC membership. If any recruitment did occur, Simpson said this was due in large part to management overlooking Jaganathan's incompetence and directly sanctioning the workers' affiliation with the STUC. (100) In short, Jaganathan's organisational skills did not strengthen the confidence of many.

Unsurprisingly, many STUC members became disillusioned with Jaganathan's uninspiring leadership. The disaffection manifested itself in threats made by some affiliated unions to withdraw from the STUC if Jaganathan continued in office. The ACSU was one important union that expressed such sentiments. (101) Led by N.S.N. Nair, the ACSU vocally attacked the STUC leader's vanity and ineffectiveness. Between June and July 1957, Nair indicated that the ACSU might break with the STUC and endorse a 'Workers Party [sic]' that was in the process of being established then. (102) Leaders of other STUC-affiliated unions such as the Admiralty Local Staff Union, the Bank Employees Union and the Commissioner General's Employees Union were also 'solidly against' Jaganathan. By the first half of 1957, therefore, a consensus had been reached among most observers that Jaganathan could no longer manage the STUC. (103)

Weaver concurred. Although Jaganathan managed to hold the STUC organisationally together--at least outwardly--during his presidency, Weaver recognised that the STUC chief was administratively challenged and was no longer the best person for the job. Weaver thought that K.C. Thomas, the former STUC organising secretary and Secretary of the Singapore Bank Employees Union, had better administrative skills and possessed a more agreeable personality than Jaganathan. Yet Weaver recognised that a Chinese STUC leader would be more appealing to Chinese workers who formed the majority of the workers' movement. His choice for STUC President was Ang Liong Sing, Secretary of the STUC and the Commercial and Industrial Workers Union, who was not only anti-communist, but also a well-regarded unionist. Weaver had declared his endorsement of Ang and Thomas for STUC President and General Secretary respectively when he was asked for his views by the STUC leadership and Chief Minister Lim. They noted his proposal, but furnished no assurance that it would be adopted. (104)

As Weaver departed for the United States in October 1957 and with new leaders poised to be elected to manage the STUC, distinct factions within the institution began to emerge and clash openly. Chinese- and English-speaking groups quarrelled. Factions identifying themselves with the socioeconomic programs of the SLF, PAP and Workers' Party (formed in November 1957) also jostled for influence. The divisions unnerved US observers as they had hoped that the STUC would unite free labour behind a stable and representative local government; 'a split in the STUC could benefit only the extreme left-wing and pro-communist unionists in Singapore'. (105)

Disconcerting to American observers, moreover, was the ICFTU's incapacity to project a decisive influence on STUC developments. One reason for this was the undisguised partiality of Mapara, who was redeployed to Singapore following the departure of Bavin and Weaver, toward Indian unionists. Mapara's behaviour irked and alienated the Chinese members of the STUC. (106) With the departure of Bavin and Weaver, ICFTU-Singapore also lost two personalities with perhaps the best standing and practical ability to broker unity within the STUC. Nor were they expected to return to Singapore any time soon. Since 1957, the ICFTU had adopted a policy of fielding Asians in Asia; it declined to redeploy Bavin to Singapore. (107) This was ironically carried out on Weaver's advice as he believed that Asians should oversee their own affairs. (108) Although American and some British officials would have appreciated his redeployment to Singapore, Weaver had also decided to shift his focus from Asia to US domestic issues. In 1958, he joined the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers as an assistant to its President, James Carey. He also became the union's Director of the Political Action Program, with plans to mobilise American labour to support the Democratic Party in the 1958 congressional and 1960 presidential elections. (109)

With Weaver and Bavin either unavailable or unwanted for the tasks in Singapore and with Mapara outstaying his welcome, the ICFTU pinned its long-term hopes on G. Kandasamy. The latter had been involved with the STUC before he joined the civil service. He then identified himself with the PAP after the party won a majority of seats in the 1957 City Council elections. Kandasamy's dalliances with the STUC, the government and a leftist political party provoked T.M. Cowan into calling the nominee to head ICFTU-Singapore an 'opportunist'. (110) For officers at the US consulate-general, their chief concern was the Kandasamy-PAP relationship. If Kandasamy was appointed ICFTU representative, PAP leftists might eventually control ICFTU-Singapore. The Americans were understandably baffled by the ICFTU's decision to nominate the unionist to manage ICFTU-Singapore. (111) In offering the job to the local, however, it appeared the ICFTU found its candidate's elastic beliefs to be a virtue rather than a shortcoming. While Cowan criticised Kandasamy's behaviour as unprincipled, the ICFTU believed that the ideologically pragmatic local could unite the workers' movement, and advance the ICFTU's work in Singapore. (112)

In early 1958, however, the newly appointed ICFTU representative declared his intent to contest the elections at the STUC's March 1958 Annual Delegates' Conference. Kandasamy would run against K.C. Thomas for the position of General Secretary. The announcement stunned ICFTU officials and Lim Yew Hock, as Kandasamy had earlier assured them that he would focus on ICFTU-Singapore's affairs if he was appointed to manage it. As the unionist informed Weaver, whom he also lobbied to plead his case, in November 1957, 'I have today written to Yew Hock expressing my desire to serve the ICFTU and the PTTI [Postal and Telecommunications International Secretariat] and seeking his help to get my release from the Civil Service [sic]'. (113) The ICFTU would not have sanctioned Kandasamy's appointment had he declared his intention to fight for a seat in the STUC secretariat. The ICFTU and the chief minister would also have refused to aid Kandasamy in negotiating for his early discharge from the civil service if they had known about his plans. Obligated to serve the local government for five years after accepting a government scholarship, Kandasamy would not have been able to assume the local ICFTU post until he was released from his official duties. Responding to Kandasamy's request and to facilitate his ICFTU appointment, however, the ICFTU and Lim had approached the office of the Chief Secretary, which was in charge of the civil service, in February 1958 and successfully negotiated for his release. (114)

But frustrated ICFTU officials realised that Kandasamy's aspirations lay elsewhere. With help from pro-PAP activists who brokered a deal with SLF-affiliated unionists, Kandasamy defeated Thomas at the STUC elections by 68 to 23 ballots, and was voted STUC's General Secretary. Although Lee Chew Lim, a SLF sympathiser, was elected as STUC President, Kandasamy had finally given the PAP a strong foothold in the institution. Since much executive and administrative power was vested in the general secretary, there was no stopping Kandasamy from using the STUC to further the political plans of the PAP. In assessing the election outcome, an American observer gravely reported that the development had 'set back trade unionism several years'. (115) Meanwhile, C.H. Millard, an ICFTU director, exasperatedly wrote to Kandasamy, demanding an explanation for his actions. (116) The latter replied that his exploits were calculated to 'persuade many of the neutral and pro-PAP unions to affiliate' with the STUC. The explanation, however, failed to convince indignant ICFTU officials. (117)

Although the ICFTU lost Kandasamy's services, the ramification of the STUC elections for the STUC, ICFTU and Americans were more profound. For one, the STUC became more divided than ever. If under Jaganathan the STUC contained cantankerous members and uncooperative unions, the institution at least had an outwardly cohesive leadership. While Thomas occasionally disagreed with Jaganathan's methods, the organising secretary did not air his differences in public or attempt to split the organisation. (118) Kandasamy did just that, by openly defying the SLF-friendly STUC bosses and the SLF government. The clash was especially visible during a disagreement over a strike initiated by petroleum workers in November 1958. Kandasamy acidly criticised and challenged the chief minister's opposition to the industrial action. (119) Eventually, two groups, with separate offices, emerged. The faction that was partial to the Lim administration remained at Allenby Road while the Kandasamy-led group moved to Towner Road. Within a year after the 1958 conference elections, the STUC had institutionally and physically come apart. (120) In the words of an ICFTU official, 'the STUC has been reduced to a rump of its former self'. (121)

The influence of the ICFTU in Singapore also retreated sharply after March 1958. The organisation took a long time to recover from Kandasamy's actions and appeared to have difficulty summoning up enough courage to trust another local to head the Singapore office. As the ICFTU leadership vacillated between one candidate and another, the ICFTU-Singapore office was left vacant for more than a year after Weaver departed in October 1957. (122) The British were so disturbed by the development that they appealed directly to the ICFTU headquarters in Brussels to send a representative to Singapore. In November 1958, they were pleasantly expectant when ICFTU representative Jay Krane informed British official W.H. Marsh that attempts had been made to bring Weaver back to Singapore. (123) But the plan failed to materialise. Weaver had done excellent campaign work for Democratic Senator Stuart Symington during the 1958 congressional elections and was refused leave to represent the ICFTU given his value to the Democratic Party's bid for the presidency in 1960. (124)

Following another round of British appeals, the ICFTU finally appointed J.F. Soares, Director of the International Transport Workers Federation, Asian Office, to lead the Singapore bureau in mid-1959. (125) By then, however, the PAP had been elected to power and the ICFTU's past association with Weaver had finally caught up with the organisation. (126) Rumour had it that Weaver remained influential within the ICFTU and was providing '"American" money' to undermine the ruling regime. (127) Against the backdrop of that hearsay and the history of the ICFTU-Weaver connection, Kandasamy and his STUC staff greeted Soares with suspicion and 'hostility' when the latter assumed his post in Singapore. (128) Kandasamy further hinted to Soares in October 1959 that the STUC might soon disaffiliate from the ICFTU. (129) S. Woodhull, a prominent Middle Road unionist who became a member of the STUC secretariat after the PAP entered government, also accused the ICFTU of being a subversive influence in Singapore. He attacked Weaver while conversing with Soares, categorising 'Weaver's role [in Singapore] as interference and a "hindrance"'. (130)

In a radio broadcast in May 1960, Woodhull eventually announced the termination of the STUC's affiliation with the ICFTU. The decision was made on the grounds that the STUC no longer wished to identify itself with a labour organisation 'which has got itself unfortunately mixed up in power politics' and 'the cold war'. (131) Speaking to Kandasamy a few days before the public announcement, Soares, who was joined by Mapara, failed to convince the STUC General Secretary to maintain the STUC's affiliation with the ICFTU. Instead, the ICFTU representatives were treated to criticisms about the American manipulation of the ICFTU. (132) With its disaffiliation from the STUC, a chapter in the ICFTU's involvement in Singapore's labour affairs had come to an end.

From Washington's perspective, the STUC's disaffiliation from the ICFTU and the triumph of the pro-PAP faction within the STUC constituted setbacks to US Cold War policy. The US government was ultimately unable to bolster the standing of its preferred non-communist labour groups. Not only were the groups that were sympathetic to the ICFTU marginalised following the ascension of the PAP to power, the strong American association with the ICFTU also dealt a blow to Soares's efforts to maintain the labour international's affiliation with the STUC. Washington's attempt to exploit its ties with the ICFTU to develop and strengthen Singapore's non-communist labour movement proved counterproductive in the end.


Overall, then, although US labour activities eventually did not pay oft" for the Americans, they initially showed promise in creating conditions for US objectives to be furthered in Singapore. US policymakers were shrewd in determining that an African American would be more acceptable to local workers who might otherwise have been suspicious of white American representatives. Indeed, the decision turned out to be astute as Weaver managed to maintain an impressive hold on the imagination of many local unionists and workers. Supranational commonalities such as a shared regard for workers' rights and welfare undoubtedly enabled both sides to connect with one another. Local sympathies for Afro-Asianism would also have moderated, if not eliminated, any sense of unease generated by an African American working in close quarters with the island's working class. (133) More tangibly, by acting to advance their interests in disputes like the one at the Ford factory, Weaver was able to build up goodwill among those locals for the ICFTU, STUC and the United States. Yet the American labour official was ultimately unable to single-handedly make local labour developments conform fully to American preferences. Once the adversaries Weaver sought to undermine assumed power, moreover, they would set out to undercut and isolate the local institutions, factions and personalities that he, Bavin and other American officials endorsed and supported. The labour landscape in Singapore would be altered in ways that dismayed the Americans. It was ironically a product of their meddling in the island's affairs. The outcome underscores the counterproductive consequences of the American intervention in Singapore's labour movement. It also accentuates the significant fact that external actors as much as local individuals played historically critical roles in affecting the way domestic developments within cosmopolitan Singapore eventually took shape.

By casting a wider net and investigating the foreign actors' pursuits and the repercussions of their endeavours on Singapore, this study has opened another window into previously obscured aspects of the island's labour history. It has also provided further insight into the STUC's history and its disaffiliation from the ICFTU in 1960--subjects not covered by the existing literature. Weaver's work and appeal among sympathetic local unionists and workers also attest to the complex interactions the American had with the locals. In recent years, the coercive manner in which US economic and military power was wielded to shape developments in the developing world has come under renewed scrutiny. (134) The manner of Weaver's involvement in Singapore's affairs, however, suggests that the US intervention in societies undergoing decolonisation was not entirely about unilateral domination and control. The American labour official persuaded and advised while locals were free to accept or reject his advances and counsel. The phenomenon serves as a reminder that the US involvement in late-colonial societies assumed many forms and dimensions, and there were limits to how far a superpower and its agents could impose their entire agenda on others.

Yet, for all the American attempts to shape labour developments in Singapore, Weaver's endeavours also bring to light one potentially significant aspect of Southeast Asian history that scholars have hitherto not looked at in great detail. This is where the region's history and African American history intersected, where labour activism and notions of social justice converged. If the history of the 'Black Atlantic' witnessed the thought and cultures of the blacks of Africa, Europe and the Americas shaped by the ideas and cultures they encountered while crisscrossing the Atlantic, the black encounter with sociopolitical conflicts across the Pacific in Asia would also impact on the movements for social emancipation and cultural identity in the Americas. (135) Indeed, inasmuch as some Singaporeans had credited Weaver for inspiring their endeavours in the local labour movement, Weaver's private allusion to Asia's struggles for social justice animating his own politics in the United States is suggestive of that cross-Pacific influence. (136)

Finally, the question must be asked whether the American intervention in Singapore's labour movement had any long-term impact on the psychosis of the PAP regime. The adverse effect that some American activities had on the PAP government is easy enough to see when, for example, the American Central Intelligence Agency attempted to subvert the Lee Kuan Yew government during the early 1960s and when US officials attempted to aid opposition figures in Singapore in 1987. The meddling by Americans in Singapore's domestic affairs has been recounted and criticised in Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs and public speeches. (137) Yet, without solid evidence, it is difficult to judge the precise long-term impact of the US involvement in Singapore's labour movement on the mindset of the PAP state. On one hand, the American attempt to undermine Middle Road's influence might have spooked the PAP. On the other hand, it is possible that Lee and his faction in the PAP might not have been too displeased to see the influence of their leftist comrades in the unions curbed. It is true that the STUC leaders ultimately disaffiliated the STUC from the ICFTU because of the perception that the organisation had been used by the Americans to intervene in Singapore's domestic affairs. But it is another thing to suggest that Weaver's activities might have contributed to the security psychosis of the Lee regime and its familiar refrain in The Singapore Story, which harps on the actual and possible interference of foreign powers in Singapore's politics and how Singaporeans should always be vigilant against such unwelcome meddling. Until more direct evidence is uncovered on this score, more modest conclusions can only be drawn about the immediate impact of the American labour pursuits in Singapore during the 1950s.

If the American activities ultimately contributed to the marginalisation of a number of local unionists and groups in Singapore, the number of competing labour organisations active on the island after 1959 would shrink further as the PAP government led by Lee Kuan Yew resolved to bring the movement under its control. Matters came to a head following a split in the PAP and STUC. Disaffection with Lee's policies and leadership resulted in Lim Chin Siong and his associates breaking away to form the Barisan Sosialis and a new labour arm, the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU), in 1961. The Kandasamy-led faction, meanwhile, dissolved the STUC and established the pro-government National Trades Union Congress. As the conflict between the two sides escalated, many Barisan politicians and SATU unionists would be incarcerated on charges of being involved in subversive activities. If the arrests paved the way for the Lee government to dominate the state, they would also enable the PAP regime to further extend its influence over the workers' movement. (138)

(1) Peter Weiler, 'The United States, international labor, and the Cold War: The breakup of the World Federation of Trade Unions', Diplomatic History, 5, 1 (1981): 1-22.

(2) Refer to Edward Taborsky, 'The class struggle, the proletariat, and the developing nations', Review of Politics, 29, 3 (1967): 370-86; and Robert W. Cox, 'Labor and transnational relations', International Organization, 25, 3 (1971): 554-84.

(3) Leong Yee Fong, 'The impact of the Cold War on the development of trade unionism in Malaya (1948-57)', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 23, 1 (1992): 60-73.

(4) Yeo Kim Wah, Political development in Singapore, 1945-55 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1973), pp. 232-3. The quotation is from p. 232.

(5) Jim Baker, The eagle in the Lion City: America, Americans and Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2005), p. 200.

(6) For example, refer to the treatment of Singapore's labour unions in John Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for success (Singapore: Times Books International, 1984), pp. 175-6, 182-5; and Lee Ting Hui, The open united front: The Communist struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996), pp. 62-3, 79-92, 126-32, 135-7, 206-9. See also Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Times Editions, 1998).

(7) Refer to T.N. Harper, 'Lim Chin Siong and the "Singapore Story"', in Comet in the sky: Lim Chin Siong in history, ed. Tan Jing Quee and K. S. Jomo (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001), pp. 3-55; C.J.W.-L. Wee, 'The vanquished: Lim Chin Siong and a progressivist national narrative', in Lee's lieutenants: Singapore's old guard, ed. Lam Peng Er and Kevin Y.L. Tan (St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1999), pp. 169-90; Liew Kai Khiun, 'The anchor and the voice of 10,000 waterfront workers: Jamit Singh in the Singapore Story (1954-63)', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 35, 3 (2004): 459-78; and Liew Kai Khiun, 'Labour formation, identity, and resistance in HM dockyard, Singapore (1921-1971)', International Review of Social History, 51, 3 (2006): 415-39.

(8) For Burma, refer to John Cady, The United States and Burma (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). For Cambodia, refer to Kenton Clymer, The United States and Cambodia, 1870-1969: From curiosity to confrontation (London: Routledge, 2004). For Indonesia, refer to George and Audrey Kahin, Subversion as foreign policy: The secret Eisenhower and Dulles debacle in Indonesia (New York: The New Press, 1995). For Laos, refer to Timothy Castle, At war in the shadow of Vietnam: U.S. military aid to the Royal Lao Government, 1955-1975 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). For Malaya/ Malaysia, refer to Pamela Sodhy, The US-Malaysian nexus: Themes in superpower-small state relations (Kuala Lumpur: Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia, 1991). For the Philippines, refer to Nick Cullather, Illusions of influence: The political economy of United States-Philippines relations, 1942-1960 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994). For Thailand, refer to Daniel Fineman, A special relationship: The United States and military government in Thailand, 1947-1958 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997). For Vietnam, refer to David Anderson, Trapped by success: The Eisenhower administration and Vietnam, 1953-1961 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

(9) The century-long American presence in Singapore has been examined by Baker, Eagle in the Lion City.

(10) Refer to T.N. Harper, 'Globalism and the politics of authenticity: The creation of a diasporic public sphere in Singapore', Sojourn, 12, 2 (1997): 261-92; Harper, 'Lim Chin Siong and the "Singapore Story"', in Cornet in the sky: Lim Chin Siong in history, pp. 6-13; and Sunil Amrith, 'Asian internationalism: Bandung's echo in a colonial metropolis', Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 6, 4 (2005): 557-69.

(11) Parenthetically, the public record can also be misleading. A column in The Straits Times ('Jaganathan says "no" to U.S. aid', 7 Apr. 1956) reported a local unionist emphatically stating he would accept no financial aid from anti-communist labour organisations in the United States. But as the declassified documents reveal and this article shows, money did change hands.

(12) Robert Black to Alan Lennox-Boyd, 20 June 1955, CO 1030/366, The National Archives, London, UK (hereafter TNA).

(13) James Low, 'Kept in position: The Labour Front-alliance government of Chief Minister David Marshall in Singapore, April 1955-June 1956', Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 35, 1 (2004): 46-50. Marshall was elected into office in Apr. 1955.

(14) Frank Wisner to Nelson Rockefeller, 1 June 1955, Foreign relations of the United States, 1955-1957, vol. 22 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1989), p. 736 (hereafter FRUS with year and volume number); and William Anderson to US Department of State (hereafter DOS), 21 June 1955, Record Group 59 (hereafter RG 59), 746F.00/6-2155, National Archives, College Park, Maryland, USA (hereafter NACP).

(15) Anderson to DOS, 19 Aug. 1955, RG 59, 746F.00/8-1955, NACP.

(16) Eric Kocher to DOS, 14 Oct. 1955, RG 59, 746F.00/10-1455, NACP.

(17) Refer to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] [Fang Zhuangbi], [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] [The plenipotentiary from the Malayan Communist Party: Memoirs of Fang Zhuangbi] (Selangor: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2006), who notes, nonetheless, that the underground had been critically enfeebled by local security forces.

(18) Harper, 'Lim Chin Siong', p. 13.

(19) See General Secretary's Report, ICFTU, Asian Regional Conference, 28-31 May 1951, ICFTU Papers, Folder 1236, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands (hereafter IISH); and William Langdon to DOS, 14 June 1950, RG 59, 846F.06/6-1450, NACP.

(20) Langdon to DOS, 6 Sept. 1950 and 5 Oct. 1950, RG 59, 846F.062/9-650 and 846F.00/10-550 respectively, NACP.

(21) D. Mungat Memoranda, 4 and 28 Feb. 1951, ICFTU Papers, Folder 1236, IISH.

(22) A. Bland Calder to DOS, 13 Nov. 1950, RG 59, 846F.06/11-1350, NACP.

(23) Langdon to DOS, 15 Jan. 1951, RG 59, 846F.06/1-1551, NACP.

(24) See Langdon to DOS, 21 Sept. 1950 and 15 fan. 1951, RG 59, 846F.06/9-2150 and 846F.06/1-1551 respectively, NACP; John Goodyear to DOS, 2 Oct. 1951, RG 59, 846F.06/10-251, NACP; and Yeo, Political development, p. 232.

(25) Operations Coordinating Board Outline Plan, 27 Feb. 1957, FRUS, 1955-1957, 22: 792-3.

(26) George Thomson to J.J. Halsema, 5 Feb. 1951, attachment to Langdon to DOS, 27 Feb. 1951, RG 59, 846F.062/2-2751, NACP.

(27) Langdon to DOS, 27 Feb. 1951, RG 59, 846F.062/2-2751, NACP.

(28) Goodyear to DOS, 2 Oct. 1951, RG 59, 846F.06/10-251, NACP.

(29) Ralph McGuire to DOS, 17 Nov. 1953, RG 59, 846F.06/11-1753, NACP.

(30) See ibid.; Philip Clock to DOS, 11 Dec. 1953, RG 59, 846F.06/12-1153, NACP; and H.A. Bulpitt to W.H. Braine, 2 Sept. 1955, LAB 13/1121, TNA.

(31) See 'Obituaries', The Washington Post, 18 July 1995.

(32) The quotation is from Walter Robertson to Robert Murphy, 29 July 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/7-2955, NACP. See also Mungat Memorandum, Aug. 1955, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3772, IISH; Robert Murphy to James Carey, 2 Aug. 1955, RG 59, 511.46F3/8-255, NACP; George Weaver to W.B. Campbell, 16 Aug. 1955, George L.-P. Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 23, Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA [hereafter WPRL]; and C. Thayer White to DOS, 10 Oct. 1955, RG 59, 846F.06/10-1055, NACP.

(33) Mungat Memorandum, Aug. 1955, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3772, IISH.

(34) George Weaver, 'Report', Oct. 1955, attachment to Philip Sullivan to Kenneth Young, 19 Oct. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/10-1955, NACP; and 'Report on the Singapore Labor Movement', undated, attachment to George Weaver to J.H. Oldenbroek, 27 Oct. 1955, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3772, IISH.

(35) Weaver, 'Report', Oct. 1955, attachment to Sullivan to Young, 19 Oct. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/10-1955, NACP.

(36) Ibid.

(37) Memorandum of conversation involving Weaver, Young, Sullivan, Rockwood Foster and Rufus Smith, 24 Oct. 1955, RG 59, 846F.06/10-2455, NACP.

(38) See Irvin Lippe to DOS, 28 Nov. 1955 RG 59, 846F.06/11-2855, NACP; and John Foster Dulles to United States Consulate-General in Singapore (hereafter USCGS), 1 Dec. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/12-155, NACP.

(39) Lippe to DOS, 28 Nov. 1955, RG 59, 846F.06/11-2855, NACP.

(40) O.H. Morris to A.M. Mackintosh and H. Bourdillon, 16 Nov. 1955, CO 1030/367, TNA. See also, A. M. Mackintosh to Robert Black, 17 Nov. 1955, CO 1030/367, TNA.

(41) J.D. Higham to A.M. Mackintosh, 2 Dec. 1955, CO 1030/367, TNA.

(42) Elbridge Durbrow to John Foster Dulles, 6 Dec. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/12-655, NACP.

(43) Durbrow to DOS, 23 Dec. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/12-2355, NACP.

(44) Nicholas Feld to John Foster Dulles, 3 Mar. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/3-356, NACP.

(45) Lippe to DOS, 24 Apr. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/4-2456, NACP.

(46) See Lippe to DOS, 28 June 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/6-2856, NACP; and John Holdridge to DOS, 26 Sept. 1957, RG 59, 846F.052/9-2657, NACP.

(47) Refer to Memorandum of conversation involving Weaver, Young, Sullivan, Foster and Smith, 24 Oct. 1955, RG 59, 846F.06/10-2455, NACP; Thomas Bavin, 'Singapore--Present situation', 24 Jan. 1956, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3772, IISH; and White to DOS, 14 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/9-1456, NACP.

(48) See Lippe to DOS, 7 Feb. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/2-757, NACP.

(49) The quotation is from White to DOS, 14 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/9-1456, NACP; see also Lippe to DOS, 3 Nov. 1955, 28 Nov. 1955, and 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/11-355, 846F.06/11-2855, and 846F.06/3-857 respectively, NACP.

(50) Lippe to DOS, 28 June 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/6-2856, NACP.

(51) Lippe to DOS, 3 Nov. 1955 and 28 June 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/11-355 and 846F.062/6-2856 respectively, NACP.

(52) Lippe to DOS, 28 June 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/6-2856, NACP; and George Weaver, 'Report on the Singapore Trade Union Congress', 19 July 1956, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 26, WPRL.

(53) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/3-857, NACP.

(54) Lippe to DOS, 24 May 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/5-2457, NACP.

(55) Lippe to DOS, 28 June 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/6-2856, NACP; and Weaver, 'Report on the Singapore Trade Union Congress', 19 July 1956, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 26, WPRL.

(56) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/3-857, NACP.

(57) White to DOS, 14 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/9-1456, NACP.

(58) See 'Report on the Singapore labor movement', no date, attachment to Weaver to Oldenbroek, 27 Oct. 1955, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3772, IISH.

(59) 'Labour situation and possible future developments', no date, attachment to Black to Mackintosh, 28 Feb. 1956, CO 1030/367, TNA.

(60) See Feld to Dulles, 3 Mar. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/3-356, NACP; and White to DOS, 14 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/9-1456, NACP.

(61) White to DOS, 14 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/9-1456, NACP.

(62) Lippe to DOS, 24 Apr. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/4-2456, NACP.

(63) The quotations are from Lippe to DOS, 9 Aug. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/8-956, NACP. See also, Weaver to Thomas Posey, 7 Aug. 1956, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 15, WPRL.

(64) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/3-857, NACP.

(65) Refer to Memorandum of conversation between Mapara and Lippe, 7 Dec. 1955, attachment to Lippe to DOS, 13 Dec. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/12-1355, NACP; and Durbrow to DOS, 23 Dec. 1955, RG 59, 846F.062/12-2355, NACP.

(66) Refer to Memorandum of conversation involving K.C. Thomas and Lippe, 15 May 1957, attachment to Lippe to DOS, 16 May 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/5-1657, NACP.

(67) Lippe to DOS, 24 Apr. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/4-2456, NACP.

(68) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/3-856, NACP.

(69) Lippe to DOS, 4 May 1956, RG 59, 746F.MAY DAY/5-456, NACP.

(70) Ibid.

(71) Memorandum of conversation involving Lira Yew Hock and Holdridge, 16 Oct. 1956, attachment to Durbrow to DOS, 22 Oct. 1956, RG 59, 746F.00/10-2256, NACP. Lim Yew Hock had assumed the chief ministry after David Marshall resigned in June 1956.

(72) White to DOS, 14 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.06/9-1456, NACP.

(73) Ibid.

(74) See Durbrow to Dulles, 6 Sept. 1956 and 22 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-656 and 846F.062/9-956 respectively, NACP; and Weaver to Walter Reuther, 6 Sept. 1956, attachment to Lippe to DOS, 12 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-1256, NACP.

(75) Weaver to Reuther, 6 Sept. 1956, attachment to Lippe to DOS, 12 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-1256, NACP.

(76) Durbrow to Dulles, 6 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-656, NACP.

(77) Durbrow to Dulles, 9 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-956, NACP. See also, Lippe to DOS, 12 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-1256, NACP.

(78) Lippe to DOS, 12 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-1256, NACP.

(79) See Victor Reuther, Assistant to UAW President Walter Reuther, to J.H. Oldenbroek, ICFTU General Secretary, 2 Oct. 1956, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 13, WPRL.

(80) Memorandum of conversation, 26 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-2656, NACP. See also, Dulles to USCGS, 28 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/9-2856, NACP.

(81) Eric Kocher Memorandum, 1 Oct. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/10-156, NACP. See also, Dulles to USCGS, 1 Oct. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/10-156, NACP.

(82) Durbrow to Dulles, 7 Nov. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/11-756, NACP.

(83) Herbert Hoover to USCGS, 15 Nov. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/11-1556, NACP; and Weaver to Bavin, 30 Nov. 1956, attachment to Oliver Peterson to DOS, 31 Dec. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/12-3156, NACP.

(84) See Bavin to Oldenbroek, 10 Dec. 1956, attachment to Peterson to DOS, 31 Dec. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/12-3156, NACP; Durbrow to Dulles, 12 Dec. 1956; and 20 Dec. 1956; RG 59, 846F.062/12-1256 and 846F.062/12-2056 respectively, NACP.

(85) See Durbrow to Dulles, 20 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/12-2056, NACP; and Peterson to DOS, 31 Dec. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/12-3156, NACP.

(86) See Durbrow to Dulles, 2 Jan. 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/1-257, NACP; White to DOS, 3 Jan. 1957, RG 59, 746.00(W)/1-357, NACP; and Sterling Cottrell to Dulles, 28 Jan. 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/1-2857, NACP.

(87) Lippe to DOS, 7 Feb. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/2-757, NACP.

(88) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/3-857, NACP.

(89) For disparaging remarks articulated by the PAP unions, see White to DOS, 10 Sept. 1956, RG 59, 746F.00(W)/9-1056, NACP.

(90) T.M. Cowan to A. Greenhough, 15 Mar. 1957, CO 859/1146, TNA.

(91) N. Lewis to K.H. Simpson, 31 May 1957, CO 859/1146, TNA.

(92) K.H. Simpson to E.M. Hyde-Clarke, London, 3 July 1957, CO 859/1146, TNA.

(93) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/3-857, NACP.

(94) Memorandum of conversation, 17 Apr. 1957, attachment to Lippe to DOS, 10 May 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/5-1057, NACP.

(95) Memorandum of conversation, 25 Oct. 1957, attachment to Holdridge to DOS, 29 Oct. 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/10-2957, NACP.

(96) See Durbrow to Dulles, 20 Dec. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/12-2056, NACP; Dulles to USCGS, 28 Dec. 1956, RG 59, 846F.062/12-2056, NACP; and Durbrow to Dulles, 2 Jan. 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/1-257, NACP.

(97) See Robert Murphy to George Meany, 19 Feb. 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/2-1957, NACP; Lim Yew Hock to Weaver, 19 Mar. 1957, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 27, WPRL; and Action taken on OCB Plan, 31 July 1957, RG 59, 611.46F/7-3157, NACP.

(98) For a critical assessment of Jaganathan's personality and impact on the labour movement, see 'Labour situation and possible future developments', no date, attachment to Black to Mackintosh, 28 Feb. 1956, CO 1030/367, TNA.

(99) Lippe to DOS, 8 Mar. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/3-857, NACP.

(100) K.H. Simpson to E.M. Hyde-Clarke, 3 July 1957, CO 859/1146, TNA.

(101) Cottrell to DOS, 26 June 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/6-2657, NACP.

(102) Holdridge to DOS, 20 Aug. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/8-2057, NACP.

(103) Memorandum of conversation, 15 May 1957, attachment to Lippe to DOS, 16 May 1957, RG 59, 846F.062/5-1657, NACP. See also Lippe to DOS, 7 Feb. 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/2-757, NACP.

(104) Memorandum of conversation involving Weaver, Cottrell, Holdridge and R. Katrosh, 23 Sept. 1957, attachment to Holdridge to DOS, 26 Sept. 1957, RG 59, 846F.052/9-2657, NACP.

(105) Holdridge to DOS, 27 Feb. 1958, RG 59, 846F.062/2-2758, NACP.

(106) Holdridge to DOS, 27 Feb. 1958, RG 59, 846F.062/2-2758, NACP.

(107) Lippe to DOS, 21 Jan. 1958, RG 59, 846F.062/1-2158, NACP.

(108) Weaver to Lim Yew Hock, 5 Nov. 1957, attachment to Weaver to Charles Millard, 26 Nov. 1957, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH.

(109) See Weaver to Jay Krane, 4 Mar. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH. The US consulate-general's positive sentiments toward Weaver were expressed in Lippe to DOS, 21 Jan. 1958, RG 59, 846F.062/1-2158, NACP. For the views of the British, see A.M. Mackintosh to Selwyn Lloyd, 30 Aug. 1958, LAB 13/1204, TNA.

(110) Cowan to Greenhough, 22 Feb. 1958, CO 859/1146, TNA.

(111) Holdridge to DOS, 27 Feb. 1958, RG 59, 846F.062/2-2758, NACP.

(112) See Weaver to Lim Yew Hock, 5 Nov. 1957, attachment to Weaver to C.H. Millard, 26 Nov. 1957, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH.

(113) G. Kandasamy to Weaver, 30 Nov. 1957, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 2, WPRL.

(114) See Weaver to Lira Yew Hock, 5 Nov. 1957, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 27, WPRL; Kandasamy to Weaver, 4 Feb. 1958, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 2, WPRL; Jay Krane to Weaver, 4 Feb. 1958, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 3, WPRL; and Mapara to Millard, 18 Apr. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH.

(115) John Holdridge to DOS, 18 Mar. 1958, RG 59, 846F.06/3-1858, NACP. See also, Joseph Soares to Mapara, 11 Mar. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(116) Millard to Kandasamy, 28 Mar. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(117) See Kandasamy to Millard, 12 Apr. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH. For the ICFTU's scepticism toward Kandasamy, see Mapara to Millard, 18 Apr. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH.

(118) See Lippe to DOS, 7 Feb. 1957; and 16 May 1957, RG 59, 846F.06/2-757 and 846F.062/5-1657 respectively, NACP.

(119) See Millard to Kandasamy, 18 Nov. 1958; and Kandasamy to Millard, 1 Dec. 1958, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(120) See J.E. Galsworthy to S.A. Priddle, Singapore, 6 Feb. 1959, LAB 13/1266, TNA; and Graham McKelvey to DOS, 3 Apr. 1959, RG 59, 846F.062/4-359, NACP.

(121) J.F. Soares to Weaver, 3 Apr. 1959, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 12, WPRL.

(122) See Galsworthy to Priddle, 6 Feb. 1959, LAB 13/1266, TNA; and T.M. Cowan, 'Labour Review, 1951-1958', 18 Aug. 1958, LAB 13/1204. TNA.

(123) W.H. Marsh to A.G. Wallis, 17 Nov. 1958, LAB 13/1266, TNA. For Krane's attempt to bring Weaver back to Singapore, see Krane to Weaver, 14 Nov. 1958, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 3, WPRL.

(124) See Weaver to Krane, 21 Nov. 1958, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 3, WPRL; and Marsh to C. Marshall, 29 Jan. 1959, CO 859/1146, TNA.

(125) See G. Foggon to Walter Hood, 14 Feb. 1959, CO 859/1146, TNA; and S.A. Priddle, 'Labour Review, September, 1958--June, 1959', 22 July 1959, LAB 13/1204, TNA.

(126) In the 1959 polls organised to elect Singapore's self-governing administration, the PAP won 43 of the 51 seats it contested and entered office.

(127) J.F. Soares to O. Becu and J.H. Oldenbroek, 30 June 1959, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3778, IISH.

(128) Priddle, 'Labour Review', 22 July 1959, LAB 13/1204, TNA.

(129) Soares to Becu and Oldenbroek, 7 Oct. 1959, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(130) Soares to Oldenbroek, 4 May 1960, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(131) Soares to Becu and Oldenbroek, 4 and 18 May 1960, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(132) Soares to Becu and Oldenbroek, 17 May 1960, ICFTU Papers, Folder 3780, IISH.

(133) For local expressions of Afro-Asianism during the 1950s, refer to Amrith, 'Asian internationalism', pp. 557-69.

(134) Refer to the recent treatment of the issue by Odd Arne Westad, Theglobal Cold War: Third World interventions and the making of our times (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), and the debates it has provoked: 'Global Cold War roundtable', ed. Thomas Maddux, H-Diplo Roundtable Review, 8, 12 (2007): (last accessed on 12 Jan. 2009).

(135) On the notion of the 'Black Atlantic', refer to Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and double consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). For the African American engagement with Asia, refer to George Lipsitz, '"Frantic to join ... the Japanese army": The Asia Pacific war in the lives of African American soldiers and civilians', in The politics of culture in the shadow of capital, ed. Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 324-53.

(136) For Weaver's impact on locals, see also Nellie Hoang to Weaver, 14 Dec. 1960, Weaver Papers, Box 4, Folder 6, WPRL. For Asia's impact on Weaver, see Weaver to Loke Wan Tho, 18 Aug. 1958, Weaver Papers, Box 3, Folder 31, WPRL; and Frank Flori, 'Eyes of world on U.S. civil rights, says official in labor department', Portland Reporter, 12 Mar. 1964, attachment to Memorandum for Weaver, 18 Mar. 1964, Weaver Papers, Box 8, Folder 1, WPRL.

(137) Refer to Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First: The Singapore story: 1965-2000 (Singapore: Times Media, 2000), pp. 149-50, 500-2, 543-4; and 'Speech by Senior Minister at the Tanjong Pagar GRC National Day Dinner', 12 Aug. 1995, National Archives of Singapore.

(138) Harper, 'Lim Chin Siong', pp. 25-48.

S.R. Joey Long is Assistant Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: The author would like to thank Tim Harper and this journal's anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this study.
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Author:Long, S.R. Joey
Publication:Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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