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Workers of the world

Today, the Australian working class are workers of the world: in the sense that we are a predominantly immigrant working class (or the descendants of relatively recent immigrants); and in the sense that workers from so many of the world’s nations, languages and cultures have made their homes here.

The British colonial conquest of Australia forcibly incorporated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into a world of commerce, exploitation and racial oppression. Their resistance to this led many to involve themselves in the predominantly white trade unions and political left.

Australians are workers of the world in a second sense, as globalisation and the liberalisation of international trade and commerce has made more of our daily work part of an international division of labour. A large number of Australian citizens now work overseas, some temporarily, some permanently; making us both an immigrant and an emigrant people.

The 15th biennial labour history conference invites papers that address these histories.

We would like to invite papers that address the massive challenges globalization is posing for the labour movement. How can our unions and political organisations deal with this challenge? What can we learn from the history of earlier periods, such as the first wave of globalisation in the decades before the First World War?

The year 2017 also marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and we invite papers that reflect on the massive impact it had on both the Australian labour movement and labour movements around the world.

We would like to invite papers that address the politicised internationalism that the Russian Revolution stimulated in the labour movement, where many now identified as “workers of the world”, people whose fate was inextricably linked with others. How did that internationalism shape labour movements in Australia and elsewhere?

Others may choose to address controversies over whether we are now, or have long been, part of a global class? Or what is happening in other labour movements? How are workers of the world fighting for their rights? To what extent is our history a transnational history?

We also invite presentations, formal papers and proposals for panels on the traditional concerns of labour history. Presentations by labour and social movement activists are particularly invited. Labour History has always benefitted from the interaction between the academy and the movement.

We also seek the input from scholars in related fields, such as Indigenous history, migration studies, politics, international political economy, sociology, geography, area studies etc.

We also invite people to propose panels to address debates within Labour History or any related field, including the future of Labour History as a coherent field of study.

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