In his conclusion regarding U.S.-Mexican labor relations, the author states that:
Perhaps the most striking absentees in this story are the vast majority of union members on both sides of the border . . .. For the most part, international affairs were conducted by small groups of men acting on their own predilections. (p. 237)
This book is the story of those men and their predilections. The history of relations between labor organizations in the United States and Mexico is recounted as a series of actions among a small group of national labor leaders in each country. Luis Morones, Vicente Lombardo Toledano, Samuel Gompers, William Green, Jay Lovestone, and a few others emerge as the men whose outlooks and actions have shaped U.S.-Mexican labor relations since 1906. Professor Levenstein draws on the private letters and public statements of these men to find motivations for their actions and policies. He finds that motivations have included personal enjoyment of a feeling of international prestige (Gompers), a belief in Marxist solutions to international labor problems (Lombardo), and stridently ideological anti-communism (Lovestone).
Levenstein convincingly argues that few, if any, “bread and butter” benefits have accrued to either U.S. or Mexican workers from the efforts at cooperation of their national leaders. The issue of the status of Mexican braceros and “wetbacks” in the United States provides a detailed example of a shared problem which was little affected by international labor’s cooperative efforts to provide solutions. Although Levenstein himself does not go so far, the reader could conclude from the evidence presented in the book that the only real beneficiaries of U.S.-Mexican labor contacts have been the tiny group of labor leaders who have had their salaries paid, their travels financed, and themselves well-entertained while discussing international cooperation with their colleagues from other countries.
Levenstein concludes, as others have previously done, that the international policy of labor in the Americas is highly correlated with national foreign policy, and that domestic political concerns, not international labor solidarity, are the primary factors behind hemispheric attempts at labor cooperation. His book, with its focus on personal interactions rather than organization factors, is an interesting addition to the literature on the inter-American labor movement.