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

Nick Fredman srcsra at scu.edu.au
Sun Aug 19 23:06:07 MDT 2007

From: "Joaquin Bustelo"
> was what is considered a "white" working class
> stratified in some sense, either by ethnicity,
> or date of arrival, or native versus immigrant,
> or which part of the British isles they were
> identified with (Ireland/Scotland/Wales/England)?
> Was it simply, in terms of ethnicity/immigration,
> one homogeneous mass?

The categorisation of whiteness and national belonging were (and are)
contradictory here as elsewhere, with on the whole immigrants gradually let
into the tent after fighting for a few decades.

Key to the majority of the labour movement supporting the strength of the
White Australia Policy was the Australian Workers Union in the 1890s-1900s,
based on shearers and rural workers, many of which were also land owners or
wanted to be and were strongly influenced by a petty bourgeois/frontiersman
type mentality, as discussed by labour historians e.g. Ray Markey. If I
recall right from one of his articles, the AWU although hysterically
anti-Chinese and anti-Kanacky, had Indigenous and a few African American

Not that many urban unions were much better, I think the same Markey article
discussed a campaign to prevent Chinese cabinet makers in Melbourne either
joining the existing union or forming their own. MarKay's key book is /The
Making of the Labor Party in NSW 1880-1910/. Others to write about all this
include Humphrey MacQueen (/A New Britannia/) and Verity Burgmann (/'In our
Time¹: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905/).

There was opposition from the small socialist groups and the particularly
and most consistently the IWW, which had a high profile from about 1905-20
if only at the most 2000 members. Burgmann has also written  a great book
about the Aussie IWW, /Revolutionary and Industrial Unionism/.

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

There was an overlapping ethnic/religious/political divide, roughly Poms +
Scots/Protestants/Conservatives vs Irish/Catholic/Laborites, with a lot of
exceptions all around of course, up to I suppose the 50s or maybe even the
60s by when mass immigration from southern and eastern Europe had created
new ways to divide the working class (as repeated several times since). Part
of the genesis of 'official multiculturalism' was a co-option and dilution
of the 'working class multiculturalism' fought for by immigrant worker
groups and the radical left in the 60s and 70s.

Re the old divide, it's still remarked regularly that the current ministry
has a lot of Catholics c.f. any previous conservative government.

The Proddies moving to the area where I live in north NSW didn't want to
settle in Catholic Lismore (named after an Irish town), and set-up a nearby
village called Clunes. There's an old building there that's still got
'Orange Hall' over the door. Apparently there were mini versions of the
reactionary Orange parades, marching on Lismore, and Feinian/Catholic
counter attacks. 

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