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The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) (otherwise known as the United Auto Workers) "is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy." [1]

Funding SNCC and SDS

"During the 1960s, American social democracy had been debilitated, almost discredited, by its advocacy of reform through the Democratic Party. The right wing of the old Thomasite Socialist Party, ‘Social Democrats USA’, had broken away to become courtiers of Scoop Jackson and lobbyists for military victory in Vietnam. Meanwhile, a centrist current led by Harrington and Howe formed a small circle around Dissent with negligible influence on a burgeoning New Left which spurned their faith in the transformability of the Democratic Party. Indeed, the key radical organizations of the 1960s, SNCC and SDS, understandably regarded the Cold War liberalism incarnated by the Humphrey/Jackson wing of the Democratic Party (to which both camps of social democrats oriented) as the enemy, primarily responsible for genocidal imperialism in Southeast Asia as well as for the repression of the Black liberation movement at home.

"From the McGovern candidacy of 1972, however, sections of the former New Left, together with a younger cohort of 1970s activists, began to slip back into Democratic politics, initially on a local level. At first there was no sharp ideological break with the sixties’ legacy. The ‘New Politics’, as it was typed, seemed just another front of the anti-war movement or another tactical extension of the urban populism espoused by SDS’s community organizing faction. By 1975, with the sudden end of the Vietnam War, a strategic divergence had become more conspicuous. On the one hand, an array of self-proclaimed ‘cadre’ groups, inspired by the heroic mold of 1930s radicalism, were sending their ex-student members into the factories in the hope of capturing and radicalizing the widespread rank-and-file discontent that characterized the end of the postwar boom. On the other hand, another network of ex-SDS ers and antiwar activists—of whom Tom Hayden was merely a belated and media-hyped example—were building local influence within the Democratic ‘reform movement’: the loose collocation of consumer, environmental and public-sector groups, supported by a few progressive unions, that had survived the McGovern debacle.


"Social Democracy’s surprising conquest of the New Left in the teeth of the old liberalism’s demise culminated in 1982 with the merger of the majority of the 2,500-member New American Movement with Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), largely on the basis of political conditions (support for Israel, centrality of the Democratic Party, etc.) dictated by the dsoc leadership. Any serious, detailed analysis of the rightward transformation of the Democratic Party and the new internal power balances that it entailed was completely obscured by the rhetorical intoxication that became a hallmark of the new organization. ‘Unity against Reagan’ and unqualified support for the AFL-CIO Executive became the twin motivating slogans for dsa ’s headlong rush, first to Edward Kennedy, and then to Walter Mondale.

"Reuther’s UAW, key proponent of a new liberal–labour alliance from the late 1950s, was in the forefront of efforts to reorient the AFL-CIO towards the reform forces in the Democratic Party who were pressing for a retreat from Vietnam and a greater sharing-out of power to minority and ‘new-middle-class’ constituencies. Through its generous financial support to SNCC and SDS community projects, the uaw attempted to coax the most serious organizers of the new left into the radius of liberal democracy. At the opposite extreme, of course, were the locals of the old AFL construction crafts. These last-ditch defenders of white job trusts in urban employment remained the foot-soldiers of bossdom and the mindless supporters of whatever regime in Washington was currently bombing Southeast Asia." [2]

"Despite warnings from some of its leaders, SDS soon took itself beyond the political and ideological reach of the UAW, which finally terminated its grants" in the late 1960s. (Walker 1983, p.403)

External Resources

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Secondary sources

  • Barnard, John. American Vanguard: The United Auto Workers during the Reuther Years, 1935-1970. Wayne State U. Press, 2004. 607 pp.
  • Boyle, Kevin. The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968 (1995)
  • Kornhauser, Arthur et al. When Labor Votes: A Study of Auto Workers (1956)
  • Goode, Bill. Infighting in the UAW: The 1946 Election and the Ascendancy of Walter Reuther (1994)
  • Lichtenstein, Nelson. The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor (1995)
  • Parenti, Michael and Peggy Norton. The Wonderful Life and Strange Death of Walter Reuther.(1996)
  • Zieger, Robert H. The CIO, 1935-1955 (1995)

Primary sources

  • Christman, Henry M. ed. Walter P. Reuther: Selected Papers (1961)
  • Ruether, Victor "The Brothers Ruether and The Story of the UAW: A Memoir" (1976)

External links