Nativists vs Angloists

Australia’s late colonial history saw a drawn out conflict between Native Australians and newly-migrated Britons.  This is a multi-layered and culturally significant conflict which truly went to the roots of Australian identity, our political developments and our current development as a nation.

Nativists are those who believe in a political, social and cultural order which is unique and born from the Australian soil, people and circumstance.  Angloists are those who firmly identify themselves as ‘English’ or ‘British’ ; holding firm to retaining that identity and with it the cultural, political and social norms of the old world.

Nativists historically did affirm that Australian people are predominantly of British ancestry; and Natives have always been proud to be the inheritors of British systems of law and socio-cultural norms. However the nativist takes the position that over the course of many hundreds of years of Colonial history – Australia as a nation has developed its own cultural and political worldview which serves its own people and interests.

Angloists are at minimum disinterested in native Australian culture and are primarily interested in continuing old-world British culture within Australia; this means being culturally in tune with British politics and social norms; directly importing the precious cargo which is ‘Britishism’ – most commonly under the Tory-Conservative milieu

Historically the Nativist believes that the Eureka Rebellion was the first spark of ‘Australianism’ – that it was among the first times that many people considered themselves to be ‘Australians’ – people of the soil which they toiled, and thought to see to the enactment of political reform which served their own interest as Australians and not the interests of the British Empire; the Colonial rulers or otherwise.

Nativists believe in a social-political movement we call the ‘Australian Workingman’s Movement’ which started in Eureka, extended to the movements in Buckland River, Clunes and Lambing Flat The Great Shearers Strike, The 1890 Maritime Disputes among other great strikes and union movements of the 1890s.  Spreading forward towards Federation and the first and glorious early Australian parliaments.

The Native political idealism was established by this workingman’s movement ( a phrase honoured by William Lane’s book ‘The Workingman’s Paradise’ ) was a firmly racial-nationalist, trade unionist populist movement which fought for a White Australia and a socialist-producerist agrarian proletarian nation.

Australia’s great writers like Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson were firm believers in the ‘Bush Mythology’ and Pioneering Australian milieu which professed an Australian identity rooted to the country soil as Banjo Patterson writes ‘For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know. ‘  – Nativist idealism had far-reaching and extreme affects on society,  the cultural romance for the Bush lead Australia’s earliest parliaments to fight against what called the ‘Drift to the Cities’ George Reid a Prime Minister candidate said “The truest wisdom in the world is to encourage men not to settle in the comfortable luxuriance in the cities of civilisation, but to go into the wilds, where your fathers went before you, and laid the foundation in hardship, suffering and toil of the prosperity you are enjoying today.” it was the collaborative efforts of the Labor Party and Protectionist Parties that lead in early Australia an economic policy encouraging sparse development of rural Australia and to encourage migration from the cities out to the bush to become closer to the land and Australia’s native colonial ancestry.

W. G. Spence the founder of the Australian Workers Union wrote:  “The squatters had cut wages. This was bad enough, but when they were going to fill white men’s places with Chinese, and further insisted on “freedom of contract,” shearers and shed hands had no alternative but to go on strike.” this circumstance which Spence writes of has been a persistent battle for Australian natives since the gold-rush. It is for the cause of high standards of living, ethnic solidarity and national community that the Nativist union and political movements fought hard for the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 ; commonly known as the ‘White Australia Policy’ which had far-reaching implications for Australian society, as it effectively became a racially homogeneous national community which could strive for higher social standards of living, unhindered by the threat of competing with cheap, non-unionised Asian labour.

Jack Lang the Labor premier of NSW once wrote: “White Australia must not be regarded as a mere political shibboleth. It was Australia’s Magna Carta. Without that policy, this country would have been lost long ere this. It would have been engulfed in an Asian tidal wave. ” Nativist idealism undeniably had far-reaching affects on society as it successfully directed national development towards an agrarian white working man’s utopia.

Economically the nativist workingman’s union was enshrined by the Harvester case which called for men’s wages to be at minimum sufficient to support a wife and three children.  Our Arbitration system which saw to a peaceful solution to disputes over working conditions and ultimately Labor’s Full Employment White Paper which directed Australia’s post-war economy to maximise meaningful employment for all workingmen.

Angloism was often represented by the ‘Conservative’ / ‘Tory’ forces in politics.  It has most commonly taken form in a Classical Liberal, Civic Nationalist urbanised socio-political force.  Advocating for utmost loyalty and self-sacrifice to the British Empire at large. The British aristocracy at the time of Australia’s development was almost entirely interested in their own private fortunes, taking upon large swathes of Government land and importing cheap foreign labour from within the empire (India, Pacific Islands etc) to work sugar plantations, build railways, factories and mines.

Angloism had far-reaching impacts on Australia’s economic development, with its often Laissez Faire outlook on markets it promoted the development of large industrial cities like Melbourne and Sydney in which Australians and freshly important Europeans would be piled into tall buildings, townhouses and small bungalows surrounding the smoke-stack industrial city areas.  Banjo Patterson records the urban experience ‘I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy  Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,  And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city  Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all. ‘  Angloism is believed to desire to replicate the industrial society seen in London, a tightly packed urban environment with urban employment, entertainment and culture.

Angloism generally had a tolerant view of other races, so long as they were subjects of the Empire.  When Australia was developing the Immigration Restriction Act; The Britisher Joseph Chamberlain wrote “We ask you also to bear in mind the traditions of the Empire, which makes no distinction in favour of or against race or colour, and to exclude, by reason of their colour, or by reason of their race, all Her Majesty’s Indian subjects, or even nil Asiatics, would be an act so offensive to those peoples, that it would be most painful, I am quite certain, to Her Majesty to have to sanction it.” – Separate to political fight against a White Australia – the financial elites of Britain persistently saw to the employment of non-unioned Asian labour.  The Colonial Sugar Company being a key proponent of using Islanders in nearly slave labour in Queensland, this having firm affects on Tropical Queenslander society with a large influx of Pacific Islanders and the resulting racial tension and unemployment of White Australians.

Angloist pastoralists saw to the mass employment of Chinese shearers during the 1890s after trying to cut the wages of Australian natives from a fall in the price of wool. This starting off  the Great Shearers strike which fought against ‘Freedom of Contract’ the reduction and wages and principally the introduction of Chinese labour; ultimately strengthening the resolve of the Australian union movement.

The biggest summary societal impact of the Angloists is what is commonly known as the “cultural cringe” ; where many un-assimilated peoples living in Australia have a lack of understanding of Australian culture or dislike Australian culture and ultimately thereby establishes a sense of cultural inferiority to other nations, most commonly the United Kingdom.

The term “cultural cringe” was coined in Australia after the Second World War by the Melbourne critic and social commentator A. A. Phillips, and defined in an influential and highly controversial 1950 essay of the same name.  It explored ingrained feelings of inferiority that local intellectuals struggled against, and which were most clearly pronounced in the Australian theatre, music, art and letters. The implications of these insights potentially applied to all former colonial nations, and the essay is now recognised as a cornerstone in the development of post-colonial theory in Australia. In essence, Phillips pointed out that the public widely assumed that anything produced by local dramatists, actors, musicians, artists and writers was necessarily deficient when compared against the works of their British and European counterparts. In the words of the poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe (quoted by Peter Conrad),  Australia was being made to rhyme with failure. The only ways local arts professionals could build themselves up in public esteem was either to follow overseas fashions, or, more often, to spend a period of time working in Britain.

As Henry Lawson continued in his 1894 preface: “The same paltry spirit tried to dispose of the greatest of modern short-story writers as ‘The Californian Dickens’, but America wasn’t built that way – neither was Bret Harte!” The cultural cringe of Australians and the cultural swagger of Americans reflects deep contrasts between the American and the Australian experiences of extricating themselves from English apron-strings. Dealing specifically with Australia, Phillips pointed out that sport has been the only field in which ordinary people accepted that their nation was able to perform and excel internationally. Indeed, while they prided themselves on the qualities of locally produced athletes and sportsmen, whom they invariably considered first rate, Australians behaved as if in more intellectual pursuits the nation generated only second-rate talent. 



Nativist Herald