Workingmen's Party of California

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File:Dennis Kearney.jpg
Denis Kearney, founder of the Workingmen's Party of California.

The Workingmen's Party of California was an American labor organization led by Denis Kearney in the 1870s.

Organizational history

The party took particular aim against Chinese immigrant labor and the Central Pacific Railroad which employed them. Its famous slogan was "The Chinese must go!" Kearney's attacks against the Chinese were of a particularly virulent and openly racist nature, and found considerable support among white Californians of the time. This sentiment led eventually to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Their goal was to "rid the country of Chinese cheap labor."

Kearney's party should not be confused with another party based in the east of the United States called the Workingmen's Party of the United States, launched in 1876 and later known as the Socialist Labor Party of America. Kearney's racism was also not echoed by this organization, which blamed racism on the competition for jobs among the multicultural American workforce, and thus one of the many evils (along with crime, poverty, sexism, etc.) which they saw capitalism as being responsible for. Unlike Kearney's organization, this party was never politically powerful.


Further reading

Books and pamphlets

  • George W. Greene, The Labor agitators, or, The Battle for Bread: The Party of the Future, the Workingmen's Party of California: Is Birth and Organization. Its Leaders and Its Purposes: Corruption in Our Local and State Governments. Venality of the Press. San Francisco: George W. Greene, n.d. [c. 1879].
  • Denis Kearney, The Workingmen's Party of California: An Epitome of Its Rise and Progress. San Francisco: Bacon, 1878.
  • Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion. New York: Jesse Haney & Co., 1878.
  • Neil Larry Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest and the Workingmen's Party of California. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.

Journal articles and dissertations

  • Frank Michael Fahey, Denis Kearney: A Study in Demagoguery. Ph.D. dissertation. Stanford University, 1956.
  • Roger William Hite, The Public Speaking of Denis Kearney, Labor Agitator. M.S. thesis. University of Oregon, 1967.
  • Helen Havens Ingalls, The History of the Workingmen's Party of California. M.A. thesis. University of California, Berkeley, 1919.
  • Charles Herzl Kahn, In-group and Out-group Responses to Radical Party Leadership: A Study of the Workingmen's Party of California. M.A. thesis. University of California, Berkeley, 1951.
  • Carole Carter Mauss, The San Jose Branch of the Workingmen's Party of California, 1878-1880. M.A. thesis, San Jose State University, 1997.
  • Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., "The Demagogue and the Demographer: Correspondence of Denis Kearney and Lord Bryce," Pacific Historical Review, vol. 36, no. 3 (August 1967), pp. 269–288.
  • Mary Gabriel O'Connor, Denis Kearney, Sand-lot Orator: A Chronicle of California. M.A. thesis. Dominican College of San Rafael [CA], 1937.
  • Robert Dean Potter, Denis Kearney: A Reappraisal. M.A. thesis. Chico State University, 1969.

Newspaper articles