“When Joseph Weydemeyer and Friedrich Sorge, the pioneers of American Marxism, landed in the early fifties, the United States was undergoing a profound change in its ethnic make-up which particularly affected the working class. The transformation was noticed in 1851 by Herman Melville, enabling him to find a metaphor for American in a ship with a polyglot crew. “At the present time,” Ishmael declares in ‘Moby Dick’, “not one in two of the many thousand men before the mast employed in the American whale fishery, are American born, though pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with the American whale fishery as with the American army and military and merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the construction of the American Canals and Railroads”. In America’s new, foreign-born proletariat the Germans were a sizeable element, outnumbered only by the Irish. The relations between Irish and German immigrants gave American labor and socialist movements special problems and characteristics for decades. (…) Fortunately for the Germans, their skills got them jobs in light industries whose owners were too feeble politically and economically to keep the open shop. Small employers could not hire private armies on the scale of the Pinkerton force which Carnegie and Frick sent against the steel workers at Homestead, nor could they expect federal and state police action in their behalf of the sort which broke Debs’s American Railway Union at Pullman. As a result largely German trades, like brewing and cigar-making, were securely organized in the United States long before the country’s basic industries were penetrated by unions which survived. While German and other skilled workers in the second half of the nineteenth century slowly formed stable unions out of which grew the America Federation of Labor, a largely Irish  tidal wave of protest would occasionally loom up out of that ocean of misery that was the unskilled labor force. The urge to protest found expression in the terrorism of the Molly Maguires in the Pennsylvania coal fields in the seventies, the desperation of railroad workers in the St. Louis “Commune” of 1877, and the massive struggles of the AFL’s rival, the Knights of Labor (Friedrich A. Sorge, “Die Arbeiterbewegung in den Vereinigten Staaten”, Neue Zeit, XI, (1890), 198; Wittke, The Irish, p. 221; Commons, II, 181-91)”. […] The influence of Marx prevailed in the International’s General Council and was of varying effect from country to country, within its affiliates. It was weakest in the sections of the International in the Latin countries of Europe and was strongest in the German section. In the British affiliates, the Marxist influence, founded on the rapport of Marx and Engels with labor leaders who had grown up in the Chartist movement, declined as the force of the Chartist tradition declined. Next to Germany, the most strongly Marxist sections of the International were in the United States (G.M. Stekloff, History of the First International, London, 1928, pp. 76-78, 124-27, 249, 268). The Marxism of the International in America, to be sure, was pretty much limited to German Americans. When Sorge sought to carry Marxism outside the German-American community, he met difficulties in accommodating it to the indigenous radical tradition. Sorge first experienced these difficulties in the NLU (National Labor Union, ndr)” [D. Herrschoff, American Disciples of Marx: From the Age of Jackson to the Progressive Era, 1967, pag 26-27-28, pag 73-74]

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