Connecting work identity and politics in the internationalism of 'seafarers ⋯ who share the seas'

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Journal Article
International Journal of Maritime History, 2017, 29 (2), pp. 307 - 324
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© 2017 International Maritime Economic History Association. 'We seafarers ⋯ who share the seas' is the expression of a collective identity and mutual responsibility. This article examines that collective identity among members of the Seamen's Union of Australia and asks, what did internationalism mean in practice to seafarers themselves? Employing an oral history method, coupled with a reading of the union's own printed media, it explores the seafarers' understanding of internationalism that they claimed was 'the language of seafarers'. It was grounded in the nature and reality of their work, and became their politics. The article takes as a case study the campaigns to restore democracy in Greece and Chile after military coups in 1967 and 1973 respectively, and the longer campaign against apartheid in South Africa, which began earlier, before 1960, and ended later, in 1990. These campaigns were conducted alongside many other trade unions, both in Australia and overseas, but maritime workers brought a unique inflection to activism as their internationalism expressed their connectedness across the oceans on which they sailed.
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