ON STRIKE AT
The fight of the General Motors workers is a fight to save truly-free enterprise from death at the hands of its self-appointed champions.
— Walter Reuther, January 1946
Three days after the UAW executive board voted to squash the Kelsey‐ Hayes wildcat, the New York Times Magazine published a major essay under Reuther's byline. "Our Fear of Abundance" neatly summarized his postwar economic program in a set of lively propositions strikingly different from the laborite worldview embodied in his struggles against General Motors in the 1930s or in the "500 Planes a Day" plan of 1940. Reuther's themes were both Veblenite and Keynesian, combining a sanguine faith in the perfection of Fordist production technology with a piercing critique of capitalism's apparent failure to make the transition from the warfare state's command economy to the consumer-driven market of the postwar era.
"We suffer," Reuther wrote in the Times, "from what Thorstein Veblen called the 'inordinate productivity' of the machine. We have mastered technology and possess a complex, high-octane B-29 production machine. But our productive genius has always been stalemated by our failure at the distributive end. We have found it impossible to sustain a mass purchasing power capable of providing a stable market for the products of a twentieth century technology." Or, as Reuther would put it in a speech just a month later, "The war has proven that production is not our problem; our problem is consumption." 1