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New Left Review I/124, November-December 1980


Mike Davis

The Barren Marriage of American Labour and the DemocraticParty

On the eve of the New Deal’s inauguration in the winter of 1933 the auto industry in Detroit was stunned by an energetic and well-planned walkout at the Briggs Auto plant. [*] I wish to thank John Amsden, Perry Anderson, Bob Brenner, John Laslett, and Brigid Loughran for their helpful comments and suggestions. Following three and a half years of nearly catastrophic unemployment and paralyzed inaction by the American Federation of Labor, the Briggs strike signaled the revival of industrial militancy. This ‘Lexington and Concord of the auto rebellion,’ as it was later typed, was fought for two demands that would be central in most early New Deal strikes: company recognition of rank and file controlled shop committees and the limitation of the authority of foremen and line supervisors. [1] For the Briggs Strike see Roger Keeran, ‘Communists and Auto Workers,’ University of Wisconsin, PhD Thesis, 1974, pp. 102–15.

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