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Thread: The "White Australia" Doctrine

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    Post The "White Australia" Doctrine

    The Doctrine Of "White Australia"
    Socialists Comment Critically

    7/14/2004 12:37:08 PM
    World Socialist Website

    Commentary -- http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/ju...-j14_prn.shtml

    World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org

    WSWS : News & Analysis : Australia & South Pacific

    What is at stake in Australia’s “History Wars”
    Part 3: The doctrine of “White Australia”
    By Nick Beams
    14 July 2004

    Below we are publishing the third part in a series written by Nick Beams,
    national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party (Australia) and member
    of
    the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site. Part 1
    appeared on July 12 and Part 2 on July 13. Part 4 will be published on
    Thursday, July 15.

    For the new Australian ruling class, establishing a federated nation-state
    required more than forging a relationship with Britain and the Empire,
    laying
    out the legal basis for the federal government and delineating its
    jurisdiction. A national ideology, or identity, had to be developed that
    could
    command popular support. Herein lay the crucial role of the doctrine of
    “White
    Australia”. It provided the ideological cement to hold the new
    nation-state
    together, under conditions where deep class divisions had already started
    to
    emerge.

    The passage of the Immigration Restriction Act was to symbolise what has
    become known as the “Australian settlement”—the exclusion of non-whites,
    the
    protection of the home market through high tariffs, and the regulation of
    wages and living standards through an industrial arbitration system. The
    White
    Australia policy, as the leader of the Liberals in the new parliament,
    Alfred
    Deakin, made clear during the parliamentary debate, signified more than
    just
    the exclusion of Asians from the new nation. It was to provide Australia’s
    very foundation.

    “This note of nationality,” he declared, “is that which gives dignity and
    importance to this debate. The unity of Australia is nothing, if that does
    not
    imply a united race. A united race means not only that its members can
    intermix, intermarry and associate without degradation on either side, but
    implies one inspired by ideas and an aspiration towards the same ideals,
    of a
    people possessing the same general cast of character, tone of thought—the
    same
    constitutional training and traditions—a people qualified to live under
    this
    Constitution.... Unity of race is an absolute to the unity of Australia.
    It is
    more actually in the last resort, than any other unity. After all, when
    the
    period of confused local politics and temporary political divisions was
    swept
    aside it was this real unity which made the Commonwealth possible.” [1]

    For Deakin, the White Australia policy was related to far-reaching social
    questions. “It means the maintenance of social conditions under which men
    and
    women can live decently. It means equal laws and opportunities for all ...
    it
    means social justice and fair wages. The White Australia policy goes down
    to
    the roots of our national existence, the roots from which the British
    social
    system has sprung.” [2]

    White Australia, he was to explain in 1903, was not a surface phenomenon,
    but a “reasoned policy which goes to the roots of national life, and by
    which
    the whole of our social, industrial and political organisation is
    governed.”
    [3]

    Opposition to Indian and Chinese labour

    The prevalence of racism was not isolated to the Australian colonies.
    Throughout the nineteenth century, racism had become one of the key
    ideological weapons for the European bourgeoisie as it began to carve the
    world into spheres of influence and colonies. But what did distinguish
    Australia was that racism was to become the founding doctrine of the
    nation,
    backed by the claim that this was the only basis for social justice.

    From the early years of colonial settlement, and particularly as pastoral
    capitalism grew and wool exports to Britain expanded, racial issues played
    a
    central role. The very expansion into new regions of the continent—with
    the
    growth of the wool, and then the beef, industry—motivated the frontier
    wars
    against the indigenous population. The conflicts commenced in earnest from
    the
    mid-1820s and continued well into the twentieth century.

    The pastoral industry had no use for tribal Aborigines—they were simply to
    be cleared from the land, or “dispersed”, as the euphemism for shooting
    them
    put it. But labour still had to be found. Initially, it came from the
    convict
    population, which grew rapidly in the period after 1820. But as agitation
    against the transportation of convicts from England developed in the
    1840s,
    the pastoralists were forced to turn elsewhere.

    Initially, they sought to bring in indentured labourers from India, but
    this was opposed both in London and in the colony of New South Wales
    itself.
    In London, Sir James Stephen, the permanent under-secretary in the
    Colonial
    Office, insisted that the continent of New Holland was to be reserved “as
    a
    place where the English race shall be spread from sea to sea unmixed with
    any
    lower caste. As we now regret the folly of our ancestors in colonising
    North
    America from Africa, so should our posterity have to censure us if we
    should
    colonise Australia from India.” [4]

    Within the colony, opposition to Indian indentured labour emanated mainly
    from self-employed artisans and manufacturers, as well as from small
    landholders. These emerging colonial capitalists—none of them
    large—harboured
    two fears. On the one hand, if the large landholders had access to a ready
    supply of cheap Indian labour, their economic and political power would
    vastly
    increase, exerting pressure on the smaller urban-based bourgeoisie from
    above.
    On the other, Indian labourers would form an impoverished proletariat—a
    permanent underclass—that would increasingly threaten the social interests
    of
    the urban bourgeoisie from below.

    In the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions in Continental Europe and the
    rise
    of the Chartist movement in the 1840s in Britain, the so-called social
    question was never far from the surface. There were many who feared that
    conflicts such as these would emerge in the colonies. In January 1857, a
    leading article in the Melbourne newspaper the Argus noted that in
    England,
    the contrast between wealth and poverty had created a “dangerous class”,
    as
    had the tyranny of the European rulers.

    “In these old countries arguments are not wanting in favour of a gradual
    and cautious extension of equal political rights to all citizens. But the
    social condition of this colony is, thank Heaven! widely different. Here
    we
    have no ‘dangerous class’. The number of paupers bears an insignificant
    proportion to the mass of the community. Every Australian citizen is
    interested in defending the just rights of property, and the smallest
    freeholder will as earnestly maintain those rights as the large capitalist
    who
    has invested tens of thousands in the soil. The wealthy classes have
    nothing
    to fear from manhood suffrage. It will prevent them from abusing their
    power,
    but there is no danger of its encroaching upon their rights.” [5]

    The arguments against Indian labour were applied with even greater force
    to
    the Chinese, especially after the gold rushes of the 1850s. If the Chinese
    were allowed to enter the colony, they would “degrade” the European
    population. According to the colonial liberals, the establishment of
    freedom
    and liberty required a “shared outlook”, and that was not possible if the
    Chinese population grew. Henry Parkes, later to become one of the
    “founding
    fathers” of federation, regularly proclaimed that the Chinese threatened
    “our
    very existence as a nation”. In the late 1850s there were three
    unsuccessful
    attempts to pass legislation restricting Chinese immigration, with a
    fourth
    eventually proving successful in the wake of the anti-Chinese riots at the
    gold diggings at Lambing Flat in 1861.

    As Parkes’ remarks indicate, the nation was, from the outset, defined in
    exclusionary, racialist terms. These tendencies were to intensify over the
    next period as class antagonisms deepened. By the end of the 1860s, with
    the
    end of the gold rushes and the entrenchment of the power of the large
    landholders, small-scale manufacturing industry was taking root, with a
    consequent growth in the urban working class. A local patriotism
    emerged—with
    calls for the use of home brands and the consumption of locally produced
    goods. The Australian Natives Association was established in 1871 to
    promote
    the claims and virtues of colonial men of importance, over those of
    immigrants.

    At the heart of the emerging nationalist ideology was the conception that
    a
    new society, free of the class antagonisms and conflicts of old Europe
    could
    be constructed in Australia, with prosperity and social justice for all.
    But
    for this to take place two conditions had to be met: the population had to
    share a common outlook and values and there could be no possibility for
    the
    establishment of a “degraded” cheap labour force, which could be used by
    the
    wealthy capitalists and landowners to undercut social conditions. This was
    how
    racial exclusion became the cutting edge of developing Australian
    nationalism.

    In 1887 the Bulletin magazine, one of the most prominent voices for the
    emerging Australian nationalism, defined Australian identity as follows:
    “All
    white men who come to these shores—with a clean record—and who leave
    behind
    them the memory of class distinctions and the religious differences of the
    old
    world ... are Australian. In this regard all men who leave the
    tyrant-ridden
    land of Europe for freedom of speech and right of personal liberty are
    Australians before they set foot on the ship which brings them hither ...
    No
    nigger, no Chinaman, no lascar, no kanaka, no purveyor of cheap coloured
    labour is an Australian.” [6]

    White Australia and the labour movement

    White Australia racism was to become the ideological foundation of the
    alliance between the manufacturing bourgeoisie and the leadership of the
    growing trade union and Labor movement that was to form the basis of the
    first
    Commonwealth governments.

    The small manufacturers, whose interests centred on the home market,
    desired protection from overseas competition on the one hand, and the
    curbing
    of the economic and political power of the large-scale pastoral and
    financial
    interests on the other. They opposed Asian immigration because it would
    undermine their own position by augmenting the wealth of the large-scale
    capitalists.

    According to one liberal spokesman, the parliamentarian Dr William
    Hobbs, “cheap servile labour, particularly non-European labour, would
    prejudice the development of a progressive democratic society.” [7]

    Such arguments were buttressed by social Darwinist ideology, which
    asserted
    the supremacy of the white race. The one-time education minister of
    Victoria,
    C. H. Pearson, claimed in his book National Life and Character that a
    struggle
    existed between the “higher” and “lower” races of men.

    “The fear of Chinese immigration which the Australian democracy
    cherishes,”
    he wrote, “and which Englishmen at home find it hard to understand is, in
    fact, the instinct of self-preservation, quickened by experience. We know
    that
    coloured and white labour cannot exist side by side; we are well aware
    that
    China can swamp us with a year’s surplus of population.... We are guarding
    the
    last part of the world in which the higher races can live and increase
    freely,
    for the higher race.” [8]

    According to the Bulletin magazine, which maintained the slogan “Australia
    for the White Man” on its masthead until 1961, the “instinct against race-
    mixture” was rooted in evolution. “Once a type has got a step up it must
    be ‘selfish’ in its scorn of lower types, or climb down again. This may
    not be
    good ethics. But it is Nature ... the Caucasian race, as a race has taken
    up
    the white man’s burden of struggling on towards ‘the upward path’, of
    striving
    at a higher rate of evolution.... If he were to stop to dally with races
    which
    would enervate him, or inflict him with servile submissiveness, the scheme
    of
    human evolution would be frustrated.” [9]

    For the leaders of the newly-formed Labor Party and trade unions, the
    struggle for democracy was inseparable from the establishment of a “White
    Australia”. A frequent theme of Labor and radical publications was that it
    was
    the wealthy capitalists who supported the entry of “Asiatics” in order to
    undermine the trade unions and impose poverty on the workers. White
    Australia,
    the Brisbane Worker claimed in 1901, was the greatest question that could
    be
    placed before the people. The process of federation could give birth to a
    white nation or a “mongrel nation torn with racial dissension. Blighted by
    industrial war, permeated with pauperism, and governed by cliques of
    lawyers
    and bankers and commercial and financial adventurers.” [10]

    From the outset of the movement for federation in the early 1890s,
    discussion on the character of the political institutions that would form
    the
    new state was linked to the question of White Australia. At a meeting in
    Sydney in 1893, convened to establish a Federation League, leading members
    of
    the Labor Party proposed a series of amendments to the proposals of the
    meeting organiser, Edmund Barton, for a federated nation. Their amendments
    included establishing a democratic republic, a federal parliament
    consisting
    of only one chamber, one man one vote in all states, the nationalisation
    of
    all land, and the abolition of legislative councils (the reactionary state
    upper houses). They concluded with a call for “the total exclusion of all
    Asiatics and other aliens whose standard of living and habits of life are
    not
    equal to our own, and whose entering into competition with Australian
    wage-
    earners is a direct menace to the national welfare.” [11]

    At the 1901 election, the Labor Party presented itself as the foremost
    defender of White Australia. In the words of the Labor paper, the Worker:
    “If
    you are convinced that it is a wrong thing to have a horde of Kanakas and
    Chows and Afghans coming into this country insulting your wives and
    daughters,
    and taking the bread out of white men’s mouths, then do not fear to march
    up
    to the ballot-box and plump for the Labor candidate.... If you let this
    chance
    pass you of getting rid of the Chow and the Kanaka it will be many a long
    day
    before you will get another.... Let us remember that the white electors of
    Australia are at our backs cheering us on. Let us go to the polls like
    Trojans
    and win in the name of White Australia.” [12]

    In 1905, when the federal Labor Party came to formulate its objectives,
    White Australia nationalism occupied the central place. Labor’s primary
    objective called for: “The elevation of an Australian sentiment based on
    the
    maintenance of racial purity and the development in Australia of an
    enlightened and self-reliant community.”

    White Australia involved not only the exclusion of immigrants from Asia.
    It
    was, as the Labor objective made clear, a doctrine of racial purity. The
    existing Chinese population, consisting largely of males, was not expected
    to
    be able to reproduce itself, while Pacific Island labourers, brought in to
    work in the Queensland cane fields, were deported. As for the Aborigines,
    it
    was anticipated that they would die out, in accordance with the laws of
    social
    Darwinism. They constituted, after all, a “lower” race, and, accordingly,
    were
    written out of the constitution.

    Section 51 of the constitution gave the Commonwealth parliament the power
    to make laws for peace, order and good government, and provided for the
    making
    of special laws with respect to “the people of any race, other than the
    Aboriginal race in any state.” When population was being calculated in
    order
    to determine the size of the various electorates, the decision was
    that “Aboriginal natives shall not be counted.” This meant that Aborigines
    would not be included in the census. Nor would they be entitled to
    Commonwealth pensions and benefits.

    White Australia was not simply a racial policy. It lay at the very heart
    of
    the social and economic policies of every political party within the new
    nation-state. And the set of relationships that were thus
    established—later
    dubbed the Australian settlement—formed the foundation for the writing of
    Australian history. The “Australian story” was presented as the
    transplanting
    of British ideals and institutions to the other side of the world, the
    successful passage from colonial status to the achievement of nationhood,
    and
    the establishment of advanced social conditions. The Aborigines, who had
    been
    the subject of nineteenth century historical accounts, were largely
    ignored,
    just as they had been written out of the constitution and the Australian
    population itself.

    To be continued

    Notes:
    1) cited in J. A. La Nauze, Alfred Deakin, pp. 280-281
    2) cited in Myra Willard, History of the White Australia Policy, p. 204
    3) cited in Stuart Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia, p. 148
    4) cited in Ann Curthoys, “Liberalism and Exclusionism in Jayasuriya” ed.,
    Legacies of White Australia, p. 13
    5) see R. N. Ebbels, The Australian Labor Movement, pp. 39-40
    6) cited in Richard White, Inventing Australia, p. 81
    7) cited in Kay Saunders, “Conceptualising Race and Labour, 1890-1914” in
    Mark Hearn and Greg Patmore ed., Working the Nation, p. 81
    8) cited in Andrew Markus, “Immigration and some ‘lessons’ of Australian
    history” in Markus and Rickelfs ed., Surrender Australia? p. 11
    9) cited in Richard White, Inventing Australia, pp. 81-82
    10) cited in Leanore Layman, “Fighting Fatman Fetteration: Labour Culture
    and Federation” in Hearn and Patmore, op cit, p. 68
    11) cited in Stuart Macintyre, “Federation and the Labour Movement” in
    Hearn and Patmore, op cit, p. 16
    12) cited in Andrew Markus, “Immigration and some ‘lessons’ of Australian
    history” in Markus and Ricklefs, op cit, p. 35

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    Post Re: White Australia Doctrine

    On one level, this article is deeply-flawed in the manner that all Marxist theory on ideology is deeply-flawed; it presumes that ideas are never anything more than a function of material interests, and so denies the independent causal influence of ideas on political behaviour. In that vein, I would suggest that a very significant reason Australia promoted a pro-White policy a century or so ago (and even more recently than that) is that the vast majority of White people, including those in the elite, sincerely believed in the superiority of the White race (as well as of "British" culture, I imagine, in the case of Australia), and did not want to see either corrupted by non-White immigration. That was simply received wisdom at that time. The relentless Marxist attack upon racialist ideas over the past century that has turned them from common sense into anethema amongst university-educated elites is very largely responsible for the development of a permissive immigration policy in Australia, as in other countries.

    Having said that, the article is not wrong to point to the fact that material interests have played (and implicitly are playing) an important role in immigration policy as well. Everyone knows that modern large corporations, for instance, favour an open-door immigration policy as a means of providing a lower-cost labour force and inflating their own profits. And of course, the design of political institutions leads to politicians to pander to 'ethnic lobbies' in order to gain their votes in elections.

    But, such material interests and political/institutional design issues have to be seated alongside ideological influences in order to understand why immigration policy has taken its current shape.

    Bottom line; ideas matter, racialism lost the war of ideas in the post-WWII era, and that is a fundamental reason why we are imperiled by the brown tide of immigration today. And Marxists (or Marxist-influenced liberals) are very largely responsible for that.
    Last edited by Telperion; Thursday, July 15th, 2004 at 02:59 AM.

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