[Marxism] Was there ever a movement of "the 'white' U.S. working class"?

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Sun Aug 19 19:48:53 MDT 2007

The American working class movement was, from its inception, a mix that
reflected the complex and diverse nature of the American work force put
through the special prism in which privileges and the chance to participate
in such a movement were always very stratified.

Immigrants were always and everywhere integral to the movement.  Not only
the famously German source of directly Marxist ideas, but the almost
invisible immigrant groups like the British and Canadians.

Let me add that, although some labor organizations have been racially
exclusive, I don't think the American labor movement, as such, ever really
was.  That is, I don't think there was any point in our history where there
were not some black participants, including during the days when half of the
country held them as slaves.  Black voters seemed to have switched their
voting pattern in NYC to vote for the Workingmen's Party in the late 1820s.
There were some black members of labor unions that were predominantly white,
as well as black participants in the workingclass political movement for
land reform.  However, there were also some all-black labor unions because
they were functioning in trades that were entirely black--hotel waiters in
NYC in the 1850s, for example.

Hispanics participated very early.  There were organizations of Cubans
(including black Cubans, apparently) in the 1850s, collaborating with
various émigré veterans of 1848-49.  There are some vague sources indicating
that there were essentially Mexican strikes in the Rio Grande valley during
the Civil War period.

Given this background, it can't be much of a surprise that immigrant groups
were always present in the later years....

And I think a good hard look at the immigrant experience...the reality of it
more than the romanticized fantasy of eventual assimilation and
success...provides an excellent starting point for a look at issues of
racial and national identity today....

Mark L.

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