Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Arthur Rae: A ‘Napoleon’ in Exile

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2004), 87, (1), 103–121.

Abstract

Arthur Rae (1860-1943) was a New Zealand shearer and labourer who moved to Australia in 1889. The son of a long-serving official in the New Zealand railway’s union, he became an organiser and later a prominent leader in the Australian Workers Union (AWU) during the 1890s and into the early years of the twentieth century. In 1891 he began his somewhat sporadic career in Labor politics as one of the first Labor members to be elected to the New South Wales Parliament in 1891. Rae’s activism was informed by his deep commitment to late nineteenth socialist ideals and to ameliorating the condition of working people. His commitment to these socialist ideals and his refusal to compromise them were the determining factors in his labour movement career. It eventually cost him his career in, and membership of, his union and relegated him to the periphery of Labor Party politics. Rae’s struggle was to find the ways to proselytise his socialist vision for Australian workers despite his marginalisation within mainstream labour institutions. That he was able to do this over a period of almost three decades is a testament to the powerful role individuals can play making labour history.

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Details

Author details

Knowles, Harry

Table of Contents

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