Detroit's Cold War
The Origins of Postwar Conservatism
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Title Page, Copyright
This manuscript marks the end of a long and intellectually arduous process. It began as a work on American anti-Communism during the early Cold War. However, at the suggestion of the editors of the Working Class in America series at University of Illinois Press, I rewrote the book to focus instead on the roots of twentieth-century American conservatism. Their suggestion made a great deal of sense at this...
One evening during the late 1940s, a Catholic housewife on the east side of Detroit knocked on the doors of the eighteen families on her block. This woman had decided that she could no longer stand idly by while Communism threatened the United States and the Catholic world. Vowing to fight godless Marxism with prayer, she asked all the families on her block to gather together once a week to pray the...
1. New Deal Detroit, Communism, and Anti-Communism
Anti-Communism, which became a key part of modern conservative ideology, was a central component in postwar political culture. In order to understand Cold War anti-Communism in Detroit, it is important to provide some context on the city of Detroit, New Deal labor, and the Communist Party. As late as 1900, fewer than three hundred thousand people lived in Detroit. However, mass production...
2. Labor and the Birth of the Postwar Red Scare, 1945-1950
On October 7, 1945, Detroit News reader Dorothy A. Riis wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the “general strike trend in this nation.” She argued that the 30 percent wage increase that the strikers wanted was part of a larger Communist campaign to convince the public to support “complete control by our Government over all private enterprise.” The Communist Party, in conjunction with...
3. Race and Anti-Communism, 1945-1952
In February 1952, Coleman Young, the executive secretary of the left-led National Negro Labor Council (NNLC), defiantly testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) when it came to Detroit to investigate Communism in defense industries. While many witnesses shrank before HUAC’s harsh light, Young attacked the committee for targeting local black leaders and for being led by...
4. Anti-Communism and Catholicism in Cold-War Detroit
On May 1, 1947, more than five thousand men met on a sidewalk in front of a church in downtown Detroit just as office workers were leaving for the day. At 5:00 p.m., the men knelt, despite the driving rain, and began to pray the rosary. These members of the Detroit Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men complained...
5. Business, Anti-Communism, and the Welfare State, 1945-1958
In January 1943 a group of top General Motors executives gathered together to discuss the corporation’s plans for the postwar period. Flush with their wartime profits and power, these businessmen might have been expected to gloat in victory. Big business, after all, flourished during the war, averaging a net income during the three years of war production of $22 billion before taxes. As a result...
During the 1940s, no organized conservative movement existed. Conservatives, as one scholar in the field has said, were “scattered, few in number, almost as philosophically divided as the predecessors from whom they drew inspiration.”1 Yet, as this work has shown, conservative ideas were gaining prominence in the United States. While national politics largely hewed to the principles of the New...
About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover