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

By Nelson Lichtenstein | Go to book overview

16
DEMOCRATIC DILEMMAS

There is nothing wrong with the American labor movement excepting that we haven't mobilized it. The rank and file are ready.

— Walter Reuther, 1959

The labor movement is trapped by its affiliation with the Democratic Party.... It has little independence of action left.

— Hobart Rowen, The Free Enterprisers, 1964

At the end of the 1950s Reuther's booming popularity overseas had fewer echoes at home. His steadfast anti-Communism in Europe and Asia had long since been discounted on the domestic political battlefield. The recession of 1957-58 demonstrated the limited capacity of the Treaty of Detroit to address structural imbalances within the economy; at the same time a more vigorous, right-wing politics at odds with Dwight Eisenhower's brand of "Modern Republicanism" came to reject the settled character of the New Deal state and the bipartisan internationalism that linked ADA liberals to State Department conservatives. Unlike Joe McCarthy, Republican Senators Barry Goldwater of Arizona and William Knowland of California were as hostile to industrywide collective bargaining and trade union political influence as they were to the tattered remnants of the old Popular Front. Such ideological combat soon gave rise to a popular conservative movement whose very first initiative put "right-to-work" referenda banning the union shop on the ballot of six states, including Ohio and California. 1

Naturally Reuther came in for a terrific drubbing as a "labor boss." The attack hit its stride when Michigan Republicans invited Barry Goldwater to address a Jan

-346-

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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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