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16962Re: Racism and early Australian labour

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  • Nick Fredman
    Apr 19 5:49 AM
      Alan B wrote:

      >Nick Fredman wrote:
      >> Unions initiated or participated in mass meetings against ...
      >> Melanesian indentured labour,

      >You might want to clarify the nature of these particular meetings.
      >After all, the trade in Melanesian indentured labour was unpleasantly
      >close to being a slave trade.

      This was a careless summary. The Ray Markay article mentions mass
      meetings against Chinese immigration, but doesn't mention the form of
      the campaign against Melanesian indentured labour (relevant quotes
      below, just found it online). From his evidence this campaign was both
      directed against slavery-type conditions, and had a racist content.
      Whatever the genuineness of the former aspect, the latter aspect
      definitely weakened the class struggle, both in the sugar industry and
      overal, by the refusal to organise the Melanesian workers.

      From the article:

      "The First (1879) Intercolonial Trades Union Congress unanimously
      called for a heavy poll tax on Chinese residents and for immigration
      restrictions, a policy that was reiterated at the succeeding congresses
      of the 1880s.(9) ...

      "In 1880 the TLC and the Seamen's Union commenced a public campaign. A
      TLC conference, held to coincide with the intergovernmental meeting,
      called for restrictions far harsher than those suggested by any
      government representatives. In April 1881 the campaign intensified.
      "One of the largest assemblies ever gathered in the Masonic Hall" in
      Sydney was repeated a week later, followed in May by gatherings in
      Newcastle, Yass, and various Sydney suburbs and by a TLC demonstration
      of at least 10,000.(11)"


      "After its effectiveness against the Chinese through the restrictive
      legislation of 1888, Labor's racism in the Australian colonies shifted
      its focus. The Queensland labor movement campaigned against the
      importation of indentured Melanesian, or "Kanaka," laborer ... The
      unions likened the Kanaka system to slavery. Despite government
      regulation, abuses continued in recruitment, and both working and
      living conditions were primitive. The Kanaka death rate was three times
      that for whites. Overt racism also lurked alongside these
      considerations. Labor men and liberals saw Kanakas as "inferior" and
      "uncivilized." As with the Chinese, the Kanakas were assumed unsuitable
      for union organization.(23)"

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