The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor

By Nelson Lichtenstein | Go to book overview

12
"UAW AMERICANISM
FOR US"

"Against Outside Interference"

— Reuther campaign slogan, 1946

It's not a question of right or left in this union. It's whether you are for or against Reuther.

— R. J. Thomas, 1946

Walter Reuther was elected president of the United Automobile Workers on March 27, 1946, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at the union's tenth convention. After a roll call that took more than four suspenseful hours, the margin was paper-thin: just 124.388 votes out of a total ballot of some 8,765 delegate votes. 1 Reuther would spend the next twenty months of his life in a brutally fought campaign to transform this narrow victory into an anti-Communist mandate, but in early 1946 his margin accurately reflected both the balance of forces within the auto union and the fragile equilibrium that structured the politics of the CIO, the labor movement, and the liberal community. Across almost the entire spectrum of liberal and laborite opinion, the fear of a postwar depression at home remained far stronger than fear of Communist aggression abroad. Both Reuther and his adversaries wanted the U.S. government to reach an accommodation with the Soviets in Central Europe and to push France, Britain, and Holland to decolonize their empires. They expected American liberalism to help unionize the

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The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Father and Sons 1
  • 2 - Life at the Rouge 13
  • 3 - Tooling at Gorky 25
  • 4 - Radical Cadre and New Deal Union 47
  • 5 - The West Side Local 74
  • 6 - General Motors and General Mayhem 104
  • 7 - Power under Control 132
  • 8 - 500 Planes a Day 154
  • 9 - Faustian Bargain 175
  • 10 - Patriotism and Politics in World War II 194
  • 11 - On Strike at General Motors 220
  • 12 - Uaw Americanism for Us 248
  • 13 - The Treaty of Detroit 271
  • 14 - An American Social Democracy 299
  • 15 - Reuther Abroad: "Production Is the Answer" 327
  • 16 - Democratic Dilemmas 346
  • 17 - Uneasy Partners 370
  • 18 - A Part of the Establishment 396
  • 19 - From 1968 to Black Lake 420
  • Epilogue - What Would Walter Do? 439
  • Notes 447
  • Index 551
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