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Frontiers of LaborComparative Histories of the United States and Australia$
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Greg Patmore and Shelton Stromquist

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041839

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041839.001.0001

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Harry Bridges’s Australia, Australia’s Harry Bridges

Harry Bridges’s Australia, Australia’s Harry Bridges

(p.328) Harry Bridges’s Australia, Australia’s Harry Bridges
Frontiers of Labor

Robert Cherny

University of Illinois Press

Harry Bridges, longtime leader of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU, representing Pacific Coast workers), was born in Australia in 1901 and came to the United States in 1920. Bridges brought Australian concepts of labor and politics to the docks of San Francisco in the early 1930s and injected Australian examples into his discussions of US working conditions and politics thereafter. When faced in 1939-1955 with deportation for being a Communist, he always attributed his political outlook to his early experiences in Australia. Bridges was frequently demonized in the US press, and a similar process occurred in Australia as the press there drew upon the US press in presenting Bridges. Just as business groups and conservatives in the United States saw Bridges as a dangerous radical, so too did conservative Australian politicians let their fear of Bridges carry them into a Quixotic campaign to prevent him from sneaking into their country. However, the Australian dockworkers’ union, the Waterfront Workers’ Federation, looked to Bridges and the ILWU as inspiration and exemplar, and Bridges and the ILWU worked closely with their counterparts in Australia. With the thaw in the Cold War aecline in anticommunist rhetoric in both nations, Bridges could be celebrated in both places as a “labor statesman.”

Keywords:   Anticommunism, Australian Labor Party (ALP), Australian Seamen’s Union (ASU), Harry Bridges, Communist Party of Australia (CPA), conscription referenda (Australia, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), Waterfront Workers Federation (WWF)

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