RADICAL CADRE AND
NEW DEAL UNION
We really were not organizing the workers. We were just giving them a kind of constructive leadership.
Nineteen thirty-six may well have been the most important year in Walter Reuther's life, a turning point that divided a youth of hard work and adventure from an adulthood of politically engaged leadership and national prominence. He got married, won election to the United Automobile Workers (UAW) executive board, ran a successful strike, and established a powerful union base among the thousands of autoworkers on Detroit's West Side. A footloose world traveler and Socialist lecturer only a year before, Reuther had become, to use the title of C. Wright Mills's later book, one of the "new men of power" spawned by the eruption of the working class onto the New Deal's political landscape.
When Walter Reuther returned to Detroit after his trip to the Soviet Union, he was twenty-eight years old, no longer a youth, but part of that growing class of semiprofessional agitators and organizers engendered by the radicalization of the Great Depression and the opportunities opening up in the labor movement and left-wing politics. Immediately after landing in Los Angeles, Victor and Walter took the bus to Wheeling for a family reunion, then returned to Detroit to catch up with old