Workers and revolutionaries : the breakdown of industrial relations in the plants of Detroit and Turin, 1947-1973
This thesis examines in a comparative perspective shop floor politics and
workers' struggles in the automobile industry of Detroit and Turin. Detroit and Turin
offer a lens into the dynamics of what Fredric Jameson has called "high" modernism, a
period in which Fordist and Keneysian tenets regulated the relation between wages and
productivity. The thesis puts forward the hypothesis that rank-and-file movements in
Detroit and Turin can be interpreted as part of a larger workers' uprising that struck
advancedin dustrial societiesi n the period of maturity of the Fordist-Keynesians ystem
and that heralded its crisis as a regime of accumulation.
Turin and Detroit were two poles in a continuous transfer of production
technology and managerials trategiest hat shapedt he point of production in a similar
fashion. SimilaAy-v ; the way automobile manufacturers'p racticeso f expansion,
recruitmenta nd restructuringb ecamet he main agento f urbanc hange.I n both cases,in
fact, the huge influx of Southerners( Meridionali and Southern Blacks) not only recomposed
the workforce, but also altered the social and, in Detroit, racial composition
of various working class neighbourhoods.
Competition for housing and resources caused tensions between newcomers
and established residents. The encounter between Northerners and Southerners,
reinforceda nd reconstructedc ultural (andi n America, racial) stereotypesI.n both cases,
tensions_-,, - -.! in the city eventuallye xploded inside the auto factories where unions
had been particularly inept in addressing the problems of the new protagonists of
industrial relations. In this situation radical groups, such as Lotta Continua in Turin and
DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) in Detroit, seized, for a while, -the
leaýof the struggle, by exploiting migrants' alienation from both the production process
and the traditional system of labour relations. This thesis looks at how migrants adopted
new tactics and forms of industrial action that involved an immediate, face-to-face
confrontation with the company and union hierarchy. It is arguý that the migrants'
behaviourc annotb e easily encapsulatedin any political ideology. Often, their struggle
representeda momenti n their path towardss ocial andi ndividual "recognition".