Racism and class in Australian history

Work by Phil Griffiths. Back to home page: Australian history: Towards a Marxist analysis

(See also: Footsoldiers for capital: The influence of RSL racism on interwar industrial relations in Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill by Sarah Gregson)

The White Australia policy was the foundation for Australian nationalism; and the Immigration Restriction Act was the first substantial piece of legislation debated and passed by the new Federal Parliament. Fear of China and then fear of Japan profoundly shaped Australian politics for most of the twentieth century. White Australia racism was a key element used by the ruling class and the right wing within the Labor party, in their battle against working class militancy and socialist politics.

Since 1999 I have been working on a PhD on: White Australia: the ruling class agenda, 1875-1888. I will progressively add articles and papers coming from this research to this website.

The road to White Australia: Economics, politics and social control in the anti-Chinese laws of 1877-88 (rtf file) is a draft of a chapter I have written for a proposed book on the history of Chinese communities in Australia and New Zealand. I have put it on this site in the hope of getting some comment, criticism and feedback. It represents an early overall summary of my thesis as to the development of the White Australia policy.

The spectre of slavery and the shadow of Mill (rtf file) is the paper I presented to the conference of the Australian Historical Association in Britsbane, July 2002. It summarises one part of my argument.

I have also written in the past on Australia's fear of and rivalry with Japan. The most substantial piece is: Australian perceptions of Japan: The History of a Racist Phobia, in Socialist Review (Melbourne), no 3, Summer 1990, pp 5-72.

The roots and consequences of Australia's fear of Japan is a summary of this analysis.

Immigration, racism and Australian capitalism is an early attempt (1988) to understand these issues.

Email me at phil at philgriffiths.id.au. THis page updated September 2010.