The Brothers Reuther and the Story of the UAW (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
In The Brothers Reuther, Victor Reuther has written a memoir of his illustrious family, an informal biography of his older and more famous brother Walter, and a short history of the United Automobile Workers’ Union (UAW). The death of Walter at the age of sixty-two in an airplane accident in 1970 ended the proposed collaboration on a book based upon their personal experiences as labor leaders. As a personal reminiscence, the book is instructive and evocative. But as biography and history, it adds little to the facts that have already been presented by labor historians and biographers such as Jean Gould, Lorena Hickock, Irving Howe, and B. J. Widick.
The four Reuther brothers were from Wheeling, West Virginia, sons of a poor German immigrant, Valentine, who had been a staunch supporter of the Socialist Eugene V. Debs. After Walter and Victor moved to Detroit, they followed in their father’s footsteps and became members of the Socialist Party. In 1932, when Walter was given a pink slip by the Ford Motor Company for campaigning for Socialist Norman Thomas for President, the brothers toured Europe. After visiting relatives in Germany and witnessing the evils of Naziism, the brothers worked for a year in the Gorky Auto Works in the Soviet Union. This Wanderjahr was an important educational experience for the brothers; years later this sojourn would be used by enemies of the Reuthers as proof of their Communist sympathies.
(The entire section is 1989 words.)
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