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Transplanting socialism: wealth, wages, and whiteness among Danes in Chicago, 1865-1895

It has been 125 years since the Danish labor leader Louis Pio died during the Pullman Strike in Chicago, but the transnational currents of social democracy, class solidarity, and white ethnic nationalism that shaped his late-nineteenth century world continue to form an uneasy bond between the United States and Scandinavia. The U.S. President idealizes Nordic immigration. His political opposition decries this as barely concealed appeal to domestic racism, while simultaneously exalting Scandinavian democracy’s socialist roots and achievements. Meanwhile, Scandinavian social democracy confronts its own uneasy relationship with racial and ethnic difference. The socialist world that Pio and other Scandinavians sought to build in Chicago and across the United States seems less like a long-ago experiment and more like a harbinger of the possibilities and perils of our own day.
Transplanting Socialism: Wealth, Wages, and Whiteness among Danes in Chicago, 1865-1895 will provide the first exploration of the role of the Danish socialist movement in America between 1865 and 1895.
 
Based in the rich newspaper and manuscript archives of a city that was home to the era’s most famous and important labor struggles (e.g., the railroad strike of 1877, the Haymarket “riot” of 1886, and the rise of May 1 as international workers day), this project proceeds from the hypothesis that the Danish labor movement in the United States benefitted from whiteness to such an extent that their conception of class solidarity became tied to an ideology of white ethnic nationalism which undermined the international socialist project they attempted to further.
 
Researcher
Anders Bo Rasmussen, lektor
Institut for Historie