‘Aliens’ – a divide-and-conquer target throughout U.S. history
Many people new to the United States are confused when they are attacked. After all, isn’t this “a nation of immigrants”?
That’s true. What’s also true is that politicians and capitalists have attacked immigrants as a way to divide and conquer the working class for at least two centuries.
After dividing workers into black and white – based on the history of slavery in the U.S. South – dividing “native-born” and “immigrant” is perhaps the second most common ploy of the powers that be.
In the decades before the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), when U.S. industrialists recruited labor in Europe, politicians attacked immigrants with much the same rhetoric that Trump uses today – “criminals,” “rapists,” “carriers of disease.”
Then, as now, they were the hardest working, most law-abiding, and highly moral part of the working class. German immigrants were among the leaders of the anti-slavery movement – even as the political parties of the day tried to keep them powerless and marginalized.
Between that war and World War I (1914-1918), as U.S. industry became the most massive in the world, millions of immigrants from a multitude of European countries streamed into every region but the South.
Struggling to build multi-ethnic labor unions, they were attacked as “un-American aliens” by the industrialists, their politicians, and the press.
During World War I, they briefly became “Americans,” as the government called on them to contribute their blood and cash to the war effort. But when the war was over, they quickly became “aliens” again.
The two world wars effectively ended immigration from Europe. So U.S. industrialists drew labor into the fields and factories from Mexico and the U.S. South, making blacks and Latinos their divide-and-conquer targets.
Whether they are targeting Latinos, African-Americans, or ethnic Europeans purpose has been to keep people divided who would otherwise unite – the working class.
Knowing the working class history of the United States is important for every member of that class, immigrant and native-born alike. Read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” available in English and Spanish.