Sunday, May 10, 2009

LRC and The Chinese Labour Question

The Chinese Labour Question

This issue of the use of Chinese Labour in South Africa was a major issue for progressives in the early 1900's.

Sir Alfred Milner, Governor of the Cape Colony, South Africa, who along with Cecil Rhodes was one of the main architects in provoking the land grab in Southern Africa which led to the Boer war.

Milner's plan for encouraging British migration to South Africa (to counter the Boer influence) necessitated huge amounts of subsidise to companies and potential migrants. To fund this Milner needed to exploit the numerous gold mines of South Africa.

Given a shortage of cheap native African workers to work in the gold mines, Milner persuaded the British government to sign a treaty with China for the importation of 60,000 indentured Chinese labourers on three year, so called "licences", between 1903 and 1907 .

These indentured Chinese labourers were kept in almost slave conditions and treated brutally, with corporal punishment being handed out at will.

Ironically, Milner started out on the left, in 1885 even standing as the Liberal parliamentary candidate for Harrow. He ended up as Chairman of Rio Tinto Zinic Mining Company and calling himself a "British Race Patriot".

It was around the issue of the Chinese labour question that the early Labour Representation Committee in Ealing mobilised.
On 7th May 1904 the Ealing & District Labour Representation Committee Sunday afternoon demonstration against indentured Chinese labour on Ealing Common . William Piggott - Secretary.


West Ham and Poplar were the first Councils to fall to Labour in London at the turn of the century and in 1907-1908 at Camberwell and Bethnal Green

The Fulham and Hammersmith Labour Part developed from the South West London Labour Representation Committee, The Secretary and candidate was George Belt a member of the Social Democratic Federation. (circa 1903)

Hammersmith Social Democratic Federation was affiliated to Hammersmith Labour Party (Circa 1903)

By 1914 The British Socialist Party had 55 branches in London with 2,500 members and was the largest socialist organisation in London