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

Alan Bradley alanb1000 at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 19 22:42:59 MDT 2007


A thought on the Irish in Australia:

I wrote: 
> On the other hand, the Irish have always been
> overrepresented in the Australian Left and
> workers' movement...

In fact, one of the key facts in early 20th Century
Australian history was that the Irish tended to buy
into the "British Imperial" side of Australian
nationalism a lot less than their British descended
counterparts. For example, the real driving force of
the anti-conscription (anti-war) movement during
1916-1918 was probably the identification of
Irish-Australians with the Irish republican struggle.

So the more militant side of the Australian "workers'
movement" was, to a considerable degree, driven by an
external nationalist identity, rather than by internal
economic struggles. The latter, however, were still
probably stronger and more consistent than their
equivalents in the US through most of this period.

Over time, of course, the radicalising impact of the
Irish struggle faded, effectively to non-existence.

---

A glaring absence in my post was any mention of the
non-English speaking workers. The main reason for that
is my relative ignorance of their history! However, I
can note that:
(a) A lot of the pre-1914 (and pre-White Australia)
German immigration was aimed at bringing farmers, not
workers, to Australia. Apparently experienced farmers
were difficult to find amongst the British and Irish
working classes...
(b) Pre-1914, there was a small but interesting
population of Bolshevik exiles, who had a fairly minor
impact on the Australian far left. The IWW and British
reformist socialists had a bigger impact. This group
largely returned to the Soviet Union in 1918-9.
(c) Pre-1939, there was an influx of strongly
anti-fascist immigrants from Italy.
(d) Post-1945, there was a larger influx of strongly
anti-communist immigrants from Eastern Europe.

All of these groups, and the others I haven't
mentioned, took shit from the existing British & Irish
population. However, those who stayed "became white"
within a generation or so.

All through this period, and continuing to the present
day, the majority of immigrants to Australia are
British or Irish. This includes *illegal* immigrants.

As could be seen from the eclectic list I included,
the political role of particular waves of "non-English
speaking" immigrants varied. Some were more open to
the left than others. None really became a driving
force in the Australian workers' movement in
comparison to the established layers of the class.

To reiterate, I am only discussing the period up to
about 1970 or so, when immigration was effectively
"white-only". (I'm not sure that there is a massive
difference after that point, despite the rantings of
racist demogogues, but this is a separate question.) 

---

The degree of buy-in to Australian nationalism did
matter early on, however. This tends to support
Joaquin's general argument, I suspect.

Alan Bradley


       
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