One of those books that keeps you thinking and dreaming for years after The book starts with a high profile case of the time, a jury trial where the defendant is found innocent of killing his boss at the auto plant not because he didn t pull the trigger, but because, in the eyes of the jury of peers, as well of the judge, the boss deserved it That s like, page 3, and it never lets up.
More utopian than Crimethinc could imagine, but unlike them or the equally vapid revolutionaries of the day , these folks had a PLAN, and you ll never believe how close it all was to coming down Unless you read the book.
if you read only one book about detroit in your lifetime, make it this one november 17, 2011, re reading right now because the world is on fire and we need to learn keep learning from those who came before us.
This proved to be an early example of how powerful the university could be this wasn t assigned I happened upon it while wandering through the stacks It isn t overly scholarly, it is largely an oral history It shocked the hell out of me.
The text by Georgakas and Surkin looks at the rise and fall of the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement DRUM which challenged both the Chrysler management and the UAW union leadership in the spirit of rising black nationalist militancy of the 1967 Detroit rising DRUM spawned the League of Revolutionary Workers as other RUMs sprung up at other plants in the Detroit area, which operated in a sort of old Wobbly style of wildcat strikes, pushing for worker control especially in places with majority black worker presence as Detroit became a majority black city , and linking outside the plant job discrimination, police brutality, and housing condition with inside the plant the worse jobs being reserved for blacks, increasingly dangerous conditions as Chrysler expected output from workers, and the UAW leadership which had little black leadership nor an interest in transforming relationships on the shop floor as long as the company gave the workers raise increases, vacation, and retirement benefits DRUM ran a slate of opposition in the UAW Dodge plant but the international rigged the elections, which fueled wildcats and organizing to bypass the class peace advocated by the UAW DRUM and the League are important dovetales to the story of Detroit, the Big 3, and the UAW, in that they were ultimately right, as the Big 3 launched a major offensive within a decade against the union that devastated its membership and reduced its power, long with Detroit itself losing and population and benefits The League pushed a militancy within and around the UAW leadership that had been without a major opposition since the late 50s when Local 600 had been reduced in power, as well as the international which hadn t seen real caucus infighting since the late 40s when the Socialists with a corporatist labor management cooperation focus pushed out the Communists with a syndicalist worker control focus The UAW leadership helped break the wildcats, which was shortsighted and reflected how the union was breaking down between the old guard Polish American leadership coming from the old left who usually weren t intimidated by corporate pressure with the younger militants who were African American, Arab, and Appalachian whites The League sadly split and disappeared as social militancy and Black Power receded into the mid 1970s, at a time when the union movement needed them The possibilities of the league are an episode that have been much written about in recent years, of building a black nationalist with socialist direction within the existing institutions, and outside of them The UAW for instance, did a poor job of listening to the concerns and demands of DRUM which served it poorly in the 70s 80s that saw corporate power unleash an assault on the autoworkers union that led it to need to majorly retool in the decades since for better and for worse.
The book title comes from a song in the movie about DRUM, Finally Got The News, in which the singer declares while he doesn t mind working, he does mind dying Much of the organizing happened around Wayne State University in Detroit, which had a huge UAW presence as many of its workers went there, and as such a perfect place for rank and file black workers to organize, as well as matching with growing national campus organizing Though the league ended in infighting and dissolving, it presents an episode of putting politics into practice by black workers in other ways than the Black Panthers and SNCC and others.
It had the flow of a lot of counter cultural and revolutionary books of the late sixties and early seventies High on action, engaging, and real, and low on theory and talk of dead philosophers Also like the books of that period, it leaves you in awe in what these dedicated folks were able to pull off.
This book was on my to read list for a long time Too long really It is a tremendous contribution to a rich history of radical organizing that goes beyond the typical paradigm of the panthers and white radicals on one end and conventional labor organizing on the other The focus of the book is the Revolutionary Union Movements RUMs that were the product of the League of Black Revolutionary Workers in Detroit throughout 70s 80s Not having been there, it is hard to say how honest a look it is, but the book doesn t seem to pull any punches It lays out the pros and cons within the struggle One of the most powerful lines from the book that stays with me actually comes from the introduction and can be applied to all forms of organizing even the Occupy Wall street phenomena going on today We need to get out of this casino mentality I don t have the book with me so it may not be an exact quote, but what it speaks to is that we need to not think that succeeding within the system for some is a way out That it should not be the goal that get a seat at a table for a small handful and pat ourselves on the back when those token slots get filled That is not winning for all, that is hitting the lottery for a few.
Intro Detroit 1970s The city of problems The New Detroit Committee was self appointed committee of Ford, GM, Chrystler, gas and department store chairmen Intended to put an end to urban unrest by replacing inner city squalor with new office buildings, banks, condos, etc Poor people, blacks, and appalachians, were removed from the city core and replaced with upper class representatives Stopgap anti poverty programs were used as short term responses to street violence Black politicians and businessmen were given roles The police was desegregated and strengthened In first 6 years of NDC Detroit sunk to all time low Homes were destroyed as a result of corruption in public and private lending institutions Homicide rates dramatically increased Detroit revolutionaries worked to control the economy the real term of power This meant controlling the shop floor at the point or production James Johnson auto worker at Eldon Avenue Gear a plant of Chrystler He was suspended after refusing to speed up He came into work and shot 2 foremen and a job setter Kenneth Cockrel was his lawyer Fought an all white jury getting a sexually and racially mixed jury Jury found him not responsible for his acts after hearing testimony of his experience at the plant and a tour of the factory They claimed responsibility was in the hands of Chrystler Further, the Motor City Labor League demanded he get paid worker compensation for the injuries done to him by Chrystler successfully He gets paid 75 a week since the day of the killing Chapter 1 Inner City Voice a radical and militant newspaper, not meant to be alternative culture paper but as one principled in opposition to dominant culture Used the paper as a vehicle for political organization and education Founders included people from SNCC, Freedom Now Party, RAM, UHURU, etc Style was deliberately provocative Characterized as having ability to present complicated ideological analyses of capitalism in a popular style made leap from theory to practice seem automatic