eventually prevailed and Finnish radicalism faded away Jewish immi grants

Eventually prevailed and finnish radicalism faded

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eventually prevailed, and Finnish radicalism faded away; Jewish immi- grants became shopkeepers and small entrepreneurs en masse, and their economic progress undermined any support for radical causes. Most European immigration during this period did not come from the cities but from rural areas, and it was not formed by skilled arti- sans but by peasants. Past political socialization among these masses had exactly the opposite effect as among the literate minority. Not only were party politics foreign to them, but they sometimes could not even tell what nationality they belonged to. Sicilian peasants identified with their village or, at best, with the surrounding region; in America they sought the comfort of fellow villagers: “Thus, in the Italian neighbor- hoods of New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1920s, it was pos- sible to trace, block by block, not only the region of Italy but also the very villages from which the inhabitants had come.” 18 Nationality to these immigrants came with their exposure to American society. In Max Ascoli’s apt description, “they became Americans before they were ever Italians.” 19 Lack of political consciousness among Italian, Slavic, and Scan- dinavian peasants proved to be a boon to many American employers who, as we have seen, used them as a valuable tool against domestic labor organizations. Nowhere was this “divide-and-rule” strategy more effective than in the Pennsylvania coal mines: “Beginning in 1875 and for at least a quarter-century thereafter, central, southern, and east- ern European laborers flowed steadily into the anthracite coal basin of Pennsylvania. . . . This new wave of immigrants doubled the labor supply, reinforcing competition for jobs with competition between cul- tures and organizational position. The new immigrants received lower pay, exacerbating cultural and occupational tensions, because mech- anization was simultaneously depressing the value of skilled career miners.” 20 The antiunion strategy of Pennsylvania collieries and freight railroads proved highly successful and was adopted by other employers. The diffi- culty in organizing peasant newcomers into labor unions owed much to
168 | From Immigrants to Ethnics the absence of relevant political socialization among these immigrants. In addition, peasant newcomers were, more often than not, sojourners whose ultimate goals were in their lands of origin. Although many were to settle eventually in America, this final outcome did not preclude their viewing their journey as temporary and instrumental. Commitment to American political causes, especially those of a radical sort, was not particularly attractive to Hungarian, Italian, or Norwegian peasants, whose goal was to save in order to buy land in their home villages. As Rosenblum notes: “Insofar as the late nineteenth and early twentieth century immigration was predominantly economic in orientation, such migrants were, to a large extent, ‘target workers’ initially seeking the

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