Car industry: reading guide

Libcom.org's reading guide on working life and struggles written by and about workers in the global automobile industry.

Submitted by Ed on March 24, 2017

Key texts

Key people, groups and publications

  • League of Revolutionary Black Workers – Organisation of African-American radicals from the late-1960s/early-1970s, largely organised into various ‘Revolutionary Union Movements based in the Detroit car industry.
  • Solidarity Motor Bulletins - Series of bulletins from UK libertarian socialist group, Solidarity, from the 1970s about the global car manufacturing industry, produced largely by and for car workers themselves.
  • Mechanics Educational Society of America - Union which pioneered the organisation of skilled autoworkers, refused to sign the no-strike pledge and fought against CIO incursions into their organized shops.
  • United Auto Workers - American labour union representing car industry workers.
  • Martin Glaberman - American Marxist and Detroit car factory worker associated with the Johnson-Forest Tendency. Wrote extensively on Detroit struggles, including criticisms of the unions and racism in the car industry.
  • Ken Weller - British libertarian socialist, member of Solidarity and car factory worker. He was heavily involved in producing the Solidarity Motor Bulletins and wrote many important texts on car industry workers’ struggles.

Companies

Important struggles

Workers’ stories

Managing the industry

  • The red rose of Nissan - John Holloway - Following the opening of a new Nissan factory in Sunderland in 1986, John Holloway analyses changes in the British car industry over the previous two decades, in particular how workers' organisation at British Leyland was broken up to usher in a new age of "harmony" and increased exploitation.
  • Workers' struggles and the development of Ford in Britain - Ferruccio Gambino – Interesting pamphlet looking at how the struggle between workers and bosses at British Ford factories shaped the company’s management strategies and development.
  • [URL=https://libcom.org/library/solidarity-motor-bulletin-08-chrysler-workers-beware] Chrysler workers beware! - Excellent Solidarity pamphlet from ex-ex-about struggles of Peugeot workers in France in the 60s and 70s and how management tried to contain them with paternalism and later a mercenary force.
  • The union-management GM strike, 1970 - Jeremy Brecher - A brief history of the interesting national strike of the United Auto Workers union at General Motors, organised in conjunction with management to allow workers to blow off steam.
  • UAW scab union - auto industry bulletin from 1974 looking at the UAW union and how it was sabotaging and scabbing on struggles of its members at the time.
  • 1980s-1990s: The Myths of the Toyota System - Nomura Masami - The myths of the Toyota system of management in the car industry, such as increased worker participation and ‘Just In Time’ production.
  • The Second Industrialization of the American South - Will Barnes - Essay detailing the deindustrialization and relocation of global auto capital to the US South.

Other recommended texts

Other media

  • Rivethead - Ben Hamper – Novel written by an American car factory worker during shifts on the shop floor, Rivethead details the down and out memoirs of a line assembly worker for GM Motors over the 1980s.
  • We Want Everything: A Novel - Nanni Balestrini - Nanni Balestrini’s fictionalized account of the Hot Autumn, in which a young worker from Italy’s impoverished south arrives at Fiat’s Mirafiori factory in Turin, where he finds himself in conflict with the bosses and the entire capitalist system.
  • Images from 1934 Autolite strike – Photo gallery of one of the most important and dramatic strikes in US history.
  • 1932: the Ford Hunger March massacre – Photo gallery of an autoworkers’ demonstration in Detroit, where police and Ford security guards killed 4 and injured 60 when they opened fire on a protest organized by the Communist Party USA's Unemployed Council.
  • Blue Collar – American crime drama starring Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor as two Detroit autoworkers who rob their corrupt union, finding themselves in conflict with both union and management.
  • The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La Classe Operaio Va in Paradiso) – Fantastic Italian film from 1971 depicting a car factory worker’s radicalisation after an injury at work, resisting his condition as a tool in the production process and, as a result, the politics of the trade unions.
  • Made in Dagenham – Film about the 1968 Ford sewing machinists’ strike by women workers in protest at the company’s sexual discrimination and demanding equal pay.

Steven.

5 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This is great!

Don't know if you saw but another reader recommended we do one of these for dockworkers' struggles, which I also think would be really good

rfovetz

5 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This is a great list but it's missing Bill Watson's fantastic "Counter-planning on the Factory Floor" in Radical America, May-June 1971 at https://libcom.org/library/radical-america-0503-labors-mayday