the Interviews: a time-line

      late 19th century           1927------1944                           1975--77                                               2013-
      family histories                    events                              the interviews                        listening to the interviews
elementary particles
habitae (plural of habitus)
genetic ontologies
emergent structures
field of action: hegemony
a map of the territory (Williams-Henson; Emergence; (also Fagan or Jenkinson Pontiac) (sociocultural regions: northernized southerners; michiganders vs. wisc, Minn etc; MESA split: two kinds of tool rooms

General Remarks

We proceed immanently, inductively, drawing from the dialogic unfoldings the necessary conce
pts.  Some of these--habitus, ressentiment, bildung, übermenschen--are well-known.  Nevertheless, they are not merely applied to the interviews but renewed in the context of reviewing the interviews.  These interviews are not mere digital files of transcripts, reminiscences of events of the 1930s spoken in the mid-1970s.  In reviewing them now [spring 2015] in the double context of all I have read and experienced since then and all that has happened in the world since then (the wreckage of socialism, the persistence of fascism, and the triumph of nihilism) they come alive, not as fixed objects, but as part of thinking now. 

These interviews are a set of dialogic unfoldings that
form a lens through which to examine the ontologies and events, the transformations and reactions, that are subsumed under the term unionization.  The factories, meeting halls, and neighborhoods of southeastern Michigan are laboratories in which to investigate the play of forces: first, the deep structures, the genetic ontologies (the principles of the production of practices) that dominate the manifold areas of human activity; and second, the irruption of forces of an entirely different kind, referred to variously as bildung and the will to power--aufheben, emergence, praxis, agency--these concepts are entangled in a common vitalist sensibility.  In this context the concept of the übermensch is widely applicable to the understanding of Bolshevism in Russia and the UAW in Michigan--and the Keynesian elite in the New Deal state.  Indeed, the more I read of Russian history* while simultaneously digitalizing and listening to my 1970s interviews (while having already internalized and made my own the discursive praxis of the Keynesian Elite), the more apparent it is to me that what is called bolshevism is a more generic (if short-lived) phenomenon of modern times.  Bear in mind Hobsbawm's concept of the short twentieth century (1914-1991) defined as a chain of events:     
But if we characterize the singular feature of this era as the inner logic of the revolutionary process (rather than the outward chain of events): bildung and the will to power, then the 1890s, when the various Progressivisms emerged, is a likely beginning of the era, and the defeat of bildung as historical praxis, in the Soviet Union in the Great Purges of the 1930s (not the 1920s), and in the United States in the Great Purges of the late 1940s and early 1950s, is the terminus.

Zelnick, Haimson, Rabinowitz, Fitzpatrick, Kanatchikov

His Immanence, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The short 20th century, originally proposed by Iván Berend (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) but defined by Eric Hobsbawm, a British Marxist historian and author, refers to the period between the years 1914 and 1991. That period begins with the beginning of World War I, and ends with the fall of the Soviet Union. The chain of events represented such significant changes in world history as to redefine the era.
This is not a history of the UAW, or labor, or of the New DealThis page emerges out of the interviews of the {in search of a word} . . .  Vanguard?  This usually means: vanguard of the working class, or some other such construction where an ontologically given social formation produces its leadership, or a leadership is provided from the outside--the old Leninist
 ttdiscussion of the relationship betweeen the revolutionary intelligentsia and the working class.  Both of these formulations are subverted by the evidence.  They are also hopelessly Platonic.  Right now I am still looking for a term that will adequately characterize the spirit that emerges in these interviews.  At the moment, I will make do with this iconic representation, the matrix of creators.  Actually, Nietzsche's description of these people, written half a century before their appearance on the stage of history, is still the best: übermenschen.

Friederich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil,  242

The very same new conditions that will on average lead to the leveling and mediocritization of man--to a useful, industrious, handy, multi-purpose herd animal--are likely in the highest degree to give birth to exceptional human beings of the most dangerous and attractive quality.    

Friederich Nietzsche, The Will To Power, Book IV, 960

From now on there will be more favorable preconditions for more comprehensive forms of dominion, whose like has never yet existed. And even this is not the most important thing; the possibility has been established for the production of international racial unions whose task will be to rear a master race, the future "masters of the earth"; a new, tremendous aristocracy, based on the severest self-legislation, in which the will of philosophical men of power and artist-tyrants will be made to endure for millennia -- a higher kind of man who, thanks to their superiority in will, knowledge, riches, and influence, employ democratic Europe as their most pliant and supple instrument for getting hold of the destinies of the earth, so as to work as artists upon "man" himself.  Enough: the time is coming when politics will have a different meaning.

Joe Adams excert

. . .  an example:

PF.  In 43 44 did you support the No Strike Pledge?

Adams.  Everybody did.  [UAW conventions]

Adams.  In '44 I was put in the Army.  We had a no strike pledge, and the company could do any goddamned -- and a lot of times they was runnin roughshod, they was overstepping their bounds.  'Cause I was a steward at that time, and at that time remember the day steward was boss over 3 shifts.  That was the setup we had here, like a plant committeeman over an area.  And the agreements we had verbally--and a verbal agreement, to me, is worth more than this goddamned stuff you put in a paper.*  And the company would say no, we didn't say this, we didnt say that, in front of the FBI guy.  They would deny every godamned thing and they would just change the goddamned work schedule.  Work 'em out of seniority.  They tried everything goddamned thing when they had a no strike pledge in.

PF.  Were there any strikes at Dodge?

Adams.  Yes.  I was kicked in the Army [unclear probably during] strike.

PF.  Did you lead one of those strikes?

Adams.  Yeah.  I was steward . .

PF.  You didn't follow the no-strike pledge?

Adams.  Well, I'll tell ya.  Let me say this.  If they fire a couple of your workers, and you're a chief steward--in them days, if you don't back them guys you're a goddamned shit___ [heel?]

PF. . . .

Adams.  Frankesnteen was a vice president at that time and he had us at Cass Tech, and Frankensteen couldn't get us back to work.  I had three kids at that time and when you had three kids you didn't have to go into the service.  They put me in.  Work or fight . . . that's all.  . . . .

Art Piner . . . .

PF.  Let's go back to thirty six . .

Adams/Piner.  Let me finish my story.  There was 32,000 people ??? and they got in a pissin match . . . . ???  The guy that was a president of the local his name Capone.  He was not related to the one in Chicago.  So this General comes down you know [they made a platform?] and all the guys . . there must have been 8 or 9 thousand people, and the general says, "Either work or fight.  I'm telling you if you don't get back in that plant in 20 minutes you're gonna all be in the Army."  And what did Capone say?  "Everybody line up in a group of four.  Allright.  Follow . .  One two three four."  Then he looked up at the General and said "OK General.  I have about 9,000 here, where do we report?"  That General shit in his Goddamned pants! . .  Johnson [the General?] said to Capone, "Let's reason this thing out."  And the only thing Capone said was "that's only one part of the place.  We'll have thirty two fuckin thousand people lined up into columns of four down there in that recruiting . .

PF.  So what happened?  The union won that one?

Adams/AP.  Oh you aint shittin ????? back in a half an hour . . .  they got everything.  EVERYTHING.  . . .He said 'whatja get?'  WE GOT IT ALL!

*See Lloyd Garrison to FF

The standard narrative: oppressed workers, the election of FDR, early efforts (1933-36), the great sitdown strike of 1937.  After that: factionalism, the GM tool and die strike of 1939, the Ford strike of April 1941--but the standard account is that in 1937 the union is established, and the rest, while of interest, is secondary.

I am not offering an alternative narrative; I am abolishing the very concept of a narrative.  Why?  Because a narrative presupposes ontological stability: workers, unions, strikes, government actions.  But--shades of E. P. Thompson--the transformations of the subject--the making of the "working class"--is the central issue (not the only issue).  Except that it is not the making of the working class; it is the unfolding of praxis, bildung and the will to power (on the left); and the manipulation of the vast reservoir of resentiment within society . . .  within the workforce of the auto industry and the residents of Flint, P
ontiac, and Detroit.  And also the unforseen consequences, the combinatorials that would emerge that no one could anticipate and that could not be reduced to the expression of a single input.  Could not be reduced? . . .  Stalinism is one such combinatorial that can hardly be reduced (that is, derived from) the sayings of Marx or the cunning of Lenin.  Mein Gott!  What nonsense (if taken at face value); but what a glorious symptom of man's wretched condition.  Full Professors writing treatises on the Evil One.  (This is the Field Effect.) 

Michigan Steel Tube (UAW Local 238):


occupational classifications

work flow

workers (socio-cultural characteristics)


contexts (for management)

contexts (for workers)
Abolish narrative?  Of course--but not sequential development, not change over time.  Dodge Main is a case in point.  I interviewed Joe Adams (trim department), Earl Reynolds (trim),  Joe Ptaszynski, and Charles Watson.  I also interviewed Tony Podorsek, who was the supervisor of the body-in-white department at Dodge Main, then at Cadillac, then at Dodge Main again.  Paul Silver, president of UAW Local 351 (see photo) provided information on the Flying Squadron of Dodge Main.  Many narratives could be constructed out of these interviews, none of which would be about the union (which is an ontological fiction), but the two that stand are the stories the bildungsproletarians, on the one hand, and the story of fascism, o the other.

Midland Steel (UAW Local 410):

The Dodge local began as a company union, then as the AIWA under the tutelage of Charles Coughlin, then as a UAW local (#3).

Richard T. Leonard


Networks: Jenkins on Pontiac


Tool and Die: MESA's two cultures
Shipping & Receiving
Metal Finishing
Machine Shop


Trim Dept: Joe Adams
Incident on welding line; Frank Fagan
Variations on White: Williams-Henson
Metal Finishing: Podorsek
Dodge Main, center.  Midland Steel, lower right.  Detroit Steel Products just out of sight, lower left.  Michigan Steel Tube about five blocks north of Dodge.  Murray Body two block east of Dodge.
Chrysler Highland Park is just to the north west of Dodge.  Packard is just out of sight at the
lower left of this photo.

Cleveland Convention March 27, 1939

GM Tool and Die Strike: July 5, 1939
NLRB elections

Packard  8-17-39
Chrysler  9-28-39
Midland  12-12-39
Flint & Pontiac  4-17-40
Ford  5-21-41
Report of  George F. Addes, Secretary-Treasurer, UAW-CIO, Covering Activities and Progress of the Last Three Months (April through June, 1939) [Zaremba, Box 6]

Plan for Organizing Competitive Plants, Submitted by Walter P. Reuther to the UAW Executive Board at May, 1938 Meeting, Detroit [Addes, Box 9]

Wildcats--1937, Convention proceedings  and President's Report
(Aug 1937) [PF Folder]

Simons and Francis, Fisher Body #1, Flint: Oral Histories [PF Folder]

Lichtenstein, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit ()

GM, Pontiac: Williams and Henson
Yellow Cab (Yellow Truck and Bus)
Pontiac Motors
Fisher Body

Clifton Williams (Aug. 16, 1974)

on sociotechnical characteristics

no organization, except for little skilled group (Matt Smith had some of them)
Yellow Cab in South East part of Pontiac on South Blvd
Fisher Body on Baldwin Ave, 7 miles north of yellow cab
Fisher Body made bodies only, just a big press room, trim, metal finishing, cushion building, etc.
FB had large tool and die, plant only employed less that 4000
met fin Polish probably dominated, the rest just people who came up from the south
quite a lot of Polish metal finishers, no Hungarians, a few Italians in Yellow Cab, greater number in Fisher Body, thatis as metal finishers
large contingent of Italisns in prod (in Yellow Cab) they seemed to just center on YC
(most of Poles here born in old country, moved from Detroit
Pontiac Motors had some metal finishers, dingmen, dingmen mostly Polish, born in old country

Cartesian illusions

Paul Russo
Leon Pody
Francis Everett
Bud Simons
Harry Ross
Adam Poplewski

Great granfaterh born in england, father born in England, came to us youg, father born in Tenn, married, wife died, then married Williams's mother
mother was an educated woman, went to college.  Father could hardly read.  Father a farmer, born in this country.  Left Tenn as 16, cane to Ky, was farming sharecropper, accumulated quite a bit of land by time he died, worked for Swedish famioy as sharecropper.

on union

Most of the people from the early days of our union came not from mich but from minn and wisc.  We  had SP of which I became a member very young.  Those were people who became leaders in union: minn wheat, wisc dairy, farm bcg  They supplied leadership and the base (about 1934)

Tyce Woody, person whose talents were wasted
Black Legion strong here, Tyce Woody advertised in for mass meeting in Pointiac High School, made ref to BL exposing it, they did in some of our people, Walter Hardy, negro, for his day very advanced and political minded, they took him and beat him . . . he never recovered his thinking