The Workingmans Paradise: An Australian Labour Novel
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Skip to content. Perusall turns often-skipped solitary reading assignments into engaging collective activities students don't want to miss. Students collectively annotate each reading — asking questions, responding to each other's questions, or sharing other perspectives or knowledge. Perusall's novel data analytics automatically grade these annotations to ensure that students complete the reading, and as an instructor, you get a classroom of fully prepared students every time.
Judge Harding gaoled twelve of the unionists for three years imprisonment each; Harding's attacks on the police for failing to fire on assembled unionists, his bullying of the jury for three days until it came up with a verdict of guilty, and his contemptuous refusal to consider the jury's recommendation of clemency, made the trials notorious. William Lane wrote The Workingman's Paradise to raise funds for the families of the imprisoned unionists, and to draw out the socialist message of the strike.
Alec Forrester, one of the twelve gaoled for conspiracy, recited extracts from the novel in St Helena prison and was sentenced to seven days on bread and water for his troubles. Lane uses the phrase with bitter irony for his title. It is a resounding phrase; and it is the exposure of the ideology embodied in the phrase that is Lane's subject in his novel, an exposure effected by revealing the economic and social realities of the workers' life in this antipodean paradise.
The Workingman's Paradise does not deal with the detail of the shearers' strike. There was a considerable response to the strike in the writing of the time, as Clement Semmler has shown; and Lane appears as a character in Vance Palmer's play about the events, Hail Tomorrow! Vance Palmer, Hail Tomorrow! But when Lane wrote, the strike had been defeated.
He was concerned to widen the issues from a specific defeat into a socialist analysis of the society that generated the confrontation. His intention was to expound the basic ideas of socialism and communism in a readable and accessible form, to raise his readers' consciousness for the next round in the battle. The novel's protagonist, Ned Hawkins, begins with a very moderate position.
How dared he talk as he did about only wanting what was fair, she thought! How had he the heart to care only for himself and his mates while in these city slums such misery brooded! And then it shot through her that he did not know. With a rapidity, characteristic of herself, she made up her mind to teach him. And the political education of Ned is Lane's political education of his readers. Hergenhan ed. He was able to draw on these detailed accounts of inner-city living for the novel. The lack of any specifically industrial material indicates the Brisbane basis of his explorations; Brisbane did not have Sydney's industries, and this makes the novel present a somewhat distorted picture of working-class life in Sydney.
The stress is on the housing, the living conditions, on cottage industries and on domestic and service employment. Leon Cantrell ed. Other commentators have stressed Lane's English literary sources. Yet both of these scenes, intended to typify working-class life in London and Sydney, can be contrasted to the chapter in Louis Stone's Jonah which almost enviously evokes the pleasurable shopping and eating of the Saturday night crowd at Paddy's Market.
Kingsley's street-market is discussed in P. Keating's The Working Classes in Victorian Fiction : Kingsley's sole intention is to describe to the reader the horrors of working-class life; to recreate the feeling of repulsion experienced by himself … he makes no attempt whatsoever to present it from a working-class viewpoint … This kind of slum description is the most common in Victorian fiction before the eighties. They are not incidental but hold a central place in the novels, in that they are being used to grip the reader and stir his conscience.
Almost everything else that happens in the novel depends upon such scenes for its vitality. But Lane had a political, didactic purpose. After the market, Nellie takes Ned to visit a group of intellectuals, bourgeois bohemians interested in the labour movement. The episode has been variously interpreted. New Literature Review , 6, p. The opposed responses are not accidental. Lane saw the contradictions: they were the dialectic of his argument, from which Ned's final commitment to the working-class movement through radical action issues.
After leaving the Strattons Nellie takes Ned through the Domain where the homeless sleep out. Being natural, he took it for what it was, an outburst of genuine feeling. Arthur Rae, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and a vice-chairman of the New Australia Association, had a more practical complaint about the episode. When the prostitute woke up she wouldn't know that she had been kissed by a girl.
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Nellie should have left half a crown in her hand—that would have been practical Socialism! Lane, Dawn to Dusk, p. Robert Louis Stevenson, who visited Sydney four times between and , described the plight of the homeless sleeping out in Sydney's Domain in The Wrecker. The long day and longer night he spent in the Domain, now on a bench, now on the grass under a Norfolk pine, the companion of perhaps the lowest class on earth, the Larrikins of Sydney. Morning after morning, the dawn behind the lighthouse recalled him from slumber; and he would stand and gaze upon the changing east, the fading lenses, the smokeless city, and the many-armed and many masted harbour growing slowly clear under his eyes.
His bed-fellows so to call them were less active: they lay sprawled upon the grass and benches, the dingy men, the frowsty women, prolonging their late repose … Yes, it's a queer place, where the dowagers and the kids walk all day, and at night you can hear people bawling for help as if it was the Forest of Bondy, with the lights of a great town all round, and parties spinning through in cabs from Government House and dinner with my lord!
When Ned sleeps in the Domain there is no prolonging any late repose. A grinning gorilla-faced constable kicks him in the ribs and threatens to run him in for indecent exposure. Ned's rude awakening occurs in part two of the novel. Between the two parts came the defeat of the Maritime Strike, the worsening of the situation of the working class. The baby born in the first chapter of part one, dies in the first chapter of part two. The child's bush death became a familiar theme in Australian fiction and painting.
Lane shifts it back to the Dickensian urban milieu. Humphrey Osmond remarks I am pretty sure no modern author has to remind himself not to introduce that incomparable tear-jerker, the dying child. Unlike the Victorian author, who could be certain of a large and deeply involved readership who had experienced the loss of brothers and sisters in the home, and who had lost a child or two as parents themselves, the modern author cannot expect such a predictable response.
With Lane, the death of the child is firmly related to the slum housing conditions and working-class poverty. Between the two parts Ned's consciousness has changed — through the experience of the Maritime Strike, in which the Queensland shearers were involved for one week in September , and through the education from Nellie and Geisner.
In Part I Nellie seizes every opportunity to propagandize. By Part II Ned similarly recruits the unemployed youth in the cheap lodging house. The capitalist Strong, whose appearance Ned likes in Part I, is encountered in Part II and revealed as the intransigent, unscrupulous power worshipper. The individual episodes of the novel have the force of illustrative vignettes; but they are all part of an ongoing dynamic, a process of revelation and commitment. The beauty is there, the setting for what could become a just society, a paradise. The progressive stages of Lane's own political development all find their place in The Workingman's Paradise.
Dawn to Dusk, p. The first English translation of Capital did not appear until William may have possessed it untranslated, or John may have placed Will's certain later acquaintance with Capital back in time a little. William certainly arrived in Brisbane radicalized. Ernie Lane recalls to my horror I discovered that Will had evolved into a radical or worse. I reminded him of this. And you won't some day when you know better. Jeremy Brecher, Strike! Henry George and Edward Bellamy, both Americans, were influences on his social thinking until he discovered Marx.
And Lloyd Churchward notes that William Lane had spent some time in Detroit before he settled in Brisbane and he had a high regard for the achievement of the Knights of Labor in the United States before he joined the Sydney-based Eureka Assembly of the Knights of Labor in The Knights of Labor had been founded in The Knights were opposed to strike action; strikes distracted from the programme of creating producers' co-operatives and of controlling monopoly through government, and strikes threatened to generate revolutionary disorder.
Henry George's Progress and Poverty which Will brought with him to Australia, had already been serialized in a Sydney newspaper in , the year of its publication in the U. And, as Churchward points out, land taxation and land nationalization theories were already widespread in England and America before George's book. Coghlan's Wealth and Progress of New South Wales revealed that while , selections were sold in New South Wales over twelve years, —88, individual holdings of one acre upwards had increased only from 39, to 46, In persons held 25 million acres comprising 53 per cent.
These facts caused the early Australian interest in progressive land taxation. Land nationalization leagues were widely established through eastern Australia in Lane wrote in The Boomerang Land nationalization would do more in a single day than protection will do in a century towards adjusting and keeping perpetually adjusted that distribution of wealth, the present mismanagement of which is the cause of all poverty, nearly all crime, and most vice.
William Lane and the Australian Labor Movement , p. The novelist Catherine Spence was active in the single-tax movement in South Australia, and the poet and story writer John Farrell in N. Churchward argues that the influence of Henry George on the Australian Labour movement was a general rather than a specific one. More generally still his visit in helped arouse the sections of the middle class to the claims of labour and served to strengthen the optimism of the workers which was so marked in the early strike struggles of Historical Studies , V, p.
In The Workingman's Paradise Geisner explains to Ned George's is a scheme by which it is proposed to make employers compete so fiercely among one another that the workman will have it all his own way. It works this way. You tax the landowner until it doesn't pay him to have unused land. He must either throw it up or get it used somehow and the demand for labour thus created is to lift wages and put the actual workers in what George evidently considers a satisfactory position.
He recommends Social Problems , defining its limitations at the same time that he acknowledges its propagandistic strengths. It is readable from beginning to end. It is short. It is George at his very best, that phase of George which all who seek better things love and admire and respect. Every man and woman who can read can wade through it easily and if they do so they will feel, when they put it down, that they are better and truer and nobler than when they picked it up.
George may be out on interest.
He may be wrong in maintaining that population, the illimitable quantity, cannot get to the limits of land the limitable quantity. He may be not quite logical in assuming that competition is a great thing. But apart from that, I object to the Single Tax idea from the social point of view. It is competitive. It means that we are still to go on buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest. It is tinged with that hideous Free Trade spirit of England, by which cotton kings became millionaires while cotton spinners were treated far worse than any chattel slaves.
It is not an utterly hostile placing. The iconoclastic puritans of the English revolution, the millenarian visionaries, were the transmitters of a radical consciousness as much as the Single Taxers. They were all progenitors of socialism. Hancock, Australia , Benn, London , p. The communism of the radicals of the English revolution not confined to Sussex was transmitted into the nineteenth century through radical, independent religious groups.
At the Strattons, Ford tells of his childhood in the west of England and how his elder brother took to going to the Ranters' meetings instead of to church. My mother and father used to tie him up on Saturday nights and march him to church on Sunday like a young criminal going to gaol … It was the deadliest of all sins, you know, to go to the Ranters. The Ranters were an anarcho-communist sect, adherents of the medieval doctrine of the Free Spirit. Morton and Christopher Hill have traced their role during the English revolution, and Jack Lindsay has indicated the transmission of their beliefs into Blake's milieu.
Their beliefs were straightforward. Lane continually refers back to the English revolution. The recurrent paradise image of the novel's title, with Ned as Adam, Nellie as Eve, and Geisner as Satan, associates him with that seventeenth century focus on Eden for radical propaganda that we find in Winstanley's True Leveller's Standard and Milton's Paradise Lost. In the tradition of the Ranters and Blake, the conventional story is inverted.
Geisner's temptation is the positive force of Socialism. Lane also shares the doctrine of the Norman Yoke, which Christopher Hill has shown was a central myth of the Cromwellian revolutionary period. Before the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of this country lived as free and equal citizens, governing themselves through representative institutions. The Norman Conquest deprived them of this liberty, and established the tyranny of an alien King and landlords. But the people did not forget the rights they had lost.
They fought continuously to recover them. Writing in The Worker the week the shearers' strike was called off Lane declared: Class governance is a usurpation, a tyranny which has its roots in the ages when armed robbers, military castes, ground the peaceful tillers of the soil into slavery. Our parliamentary system, of which the very opponents of one-man-one-vote profess to be so proud, is only a degenerated survival of the assembly at which in primitive times our Teutonic forefathers gathered, free and equal, to make for themselves laws for their common governance.
Daily Mail Brisbane , 18 February Lane wrote in the Boomerang , Australia is not a sect or a section, it is not a caste or a class, or a creed, is not to be a Southern England nor yet another United States. Australia is the whole white people of this great continent. The Boomerang , 19 November The stress on the Aryan tradition, the Germanic heritage, the Anglo-Saxon, provided, too, an ideology for the racism of the early socialists.
Philip S. Foner ed. Certainly racism is a major component of his thinking. Lane correctly saw that the pastoralists were eager to import Chinese or kanaka indentured labour as a way of undercutting and destroying the unions. Lane's first novel, White or Yellow? A story of the Race-war of A. The alliance is destroyed by white, working-class unionists taking up arms and fighting.
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The Chinese are driven up to the northern tip of Queensland and then deported. The economic predictions may yet come true; but over and above that there is a racism. Instead of seeing the Chinese or kanakas as equally oppressed peoples and forging an alliance with them, Lane believed that blacks and orientals were inferior races, decadent, doomed to extinction.
Though in his pessimistic projections of industrial capitalism, he speculated that perhaps in the decadence of these last days of capitalism, the Chinese were destined to survive better than the Celtic-Saxon Aryan. Nellie speculates this yellow man and such men as he were watching them all slowly going down lower and lower, were waiting to leap upon them in their last helplessness and enslave them all as white girls were sometimes enslaved, even already, in those filthy opium joints whose stench nauseated the hurrying passers by.
Perhaps under all their meekness these Chinese were braver, more stubborn, more vigorous, and it was doomed that they should conquer at last and rule in the land where they had been treated as outcasts and intruders. He tried opium and noticed that the world seemed to move back a peg or two and that it seemed as though there was getting to be nothing but friendliness in it and that the jarrings of life were getting covered with india-rubber shields.
The Boomerang , 21 January , p. An intractable hostility to the Chinese and to their use of opium was another feature of the American Labor movement that Lane brought with him to Australia. The Chinese were seen as a threat to organized labor since they were held to work harder for longer hours at lower wages than white workers, and their opium usage was held to help them work harder for less. The labor unions' campaign against the Chinese resulted in legislation prohibiting the importing of opium by Chinese to the U.
Concerted anti-opium campaigns, directed against the Chinese, began in Melbourne and Sydney in When Lane established his communist settlements in Paraguay in , he was adamant that there should be no contact with the native guarani. Of course there was contact. The fear of interbreeding, the sex-fear is exploited by Lane in his Lucinda Sharpe column.
Lane's racism is blatant; but it is important to realize it was a racism shared widely by his fellow communists and socialists. In other words, the Labor Party was racist before it was socialist. A New Britannia , pp. In this context it is a mistake to see Lane as in any way exceptional in his racism.
It is a contradiction that was endemic to the labour movement. Lane recognized the economic advantages to the capitalists in using cheap coloured labour; he failed to realize that a racist reponse merely supported the capitalists in dividing the working classes. In , recalled Ernie Lane, My brother started a Bellamy society. Looking Backward was just then in the boom. We met regularly on the closed-in balcony of George Marchant's hop beer factory in Bowen Street [Brisbane], and there were about a dozen of us used to attend.
Dawn to Dusk , p. Bowman ed. The novel was somewhat abridged for serialization. Woman, too, has won her equality, and shares fully with man in the abounding wealth and marvellous opportunities of a great community, where all are workers, and where no man robs another, where crime is unknown and immorality unthought of, where the dreaming of the good and great is realised at last… Ibid. An immensely influential work for the labour movement, Bellamy's novel lies behind the portrayal of Australia in The Workingman's Paradise.
Sydney in its slums, its poverty, its inequalities and its exploitation is the counter-type of Bellamy's utopian city. Bellamy's industrial army of socialism may have been in the background of the New Australia movement. New Australia , I, 1, 19 November , p. But the industrial model was never developed in New Australia or Colonia Cosme. Looking Backward postulated that socialism would be established with absolutely no violence, by the natural process of take-overs and monopolization, culminating in one big, state monopoly. The final episode appeared in The Worker for 13 December The next issue, 10 January , carried the first reports of the beginnings of the shearers' strike.
Events undercut Bellamy's theory of social change.
The defeat of the maritime strike of and of the shearers' strike of made it quite clear to Lane that monopoly capital was not going to happily surrender its power and wealth to a socialist ideal. In his earlier political writings he had preached moderation and co-operation; See Radical and Working Class Politics , p. Historians have calculated that by about half the pastoralists of N. It is Power that is worth having and to have power one must control capital.
In your wildest ranting of the power of the capitalist you have hardly touched the fringe of the power he has. But any sentimentalism about Strong as the noble gentleman warrior is immediately dispelled as Strong, having shaken Ned's hand, sends a coded telegram to arrange for Ned's arrest on his way back to Queensland. Power, not honour, is Strong's characteristic. Lane was to have his own experience of agents-provocateurs in Paraguay; they were not a concept foreign to his world. But he rejects utterly Bellamy's identifying the anarchists with the instruments of repression.
Ned's education is continued by Geisner. He explains I freely admit it is the only form of Socialism possible among true Socialists. But the world is full of mentally and morally and socially diseased people who, I believe, must go through the school of State Socialism before, as a great mass, they are true Socialists and fit for voluntary Socialism.
Unionism is the drill for Socialism and Socialism is the drill for Anarchy and Anarchy is that free ground whereon true Socialists and true Individualist meets as friends and mates, all enmity between them absorbed by the development of an all-dominant Humanity. But his own programme is a conventional communist programme, accepting the necessity for the period of state socialism, the transitional stage before the withering away of the state.
The extent of Lane's knowledge of and commitment to Marxism has always been a matter of dispute. William Lane and the Australian Labor Movement , pp. Thousands of leaflets were distributed to all its branches. Grant Hannan G. Quotations in this paragraph are all from this article. For we workers are all Socialists nowadays, though some of us are so ignorant that we don't know it. We follow Marx in the contention that Labour's rightful share of Production is all. But Marx is a recondite writer, a man who reasons algebraically and with pitiless disregard for the dryness of mathematical demonstration.
I doubt if there are a thousand men who have Marx at their finger's ends in the whole world. Yet Marx sways the world. From his epoch-making work all modern economic writers draw as from a well of learning, pure and undefiled. From the time when he safely gave his two immortal volumes to the thinkers the cause of the toilers was won. It is mainly because of Marx that the world sees its way to a remedy for the social ills that oppress us — and Marx, also , was a Jew. Lane was also in communication with the Morris circle. John Lane recalls One of the most highly-placed educationalists then in Queensland was a friend and correspondent of William Morris, the English socialist, poet, and reformer.
He used to meet Lane in secret, and with him discuss politics and literature. Another contact was A. Yewen, as E. Hyndman … Owing to ill health Yewen was ordered to go to Australia. He had a letter to W. Yewen stayed with John for six months and in improved health, went to Sydney. There he threw himself into the work of the Australian Socialist League, of which McNamara was secretary. Yewen, W. Marxist ideas were current. Griffith wrote an exposition of Marx's theory of surplus value. In order that additional wealth of capital might come into existence, labor must be applied to raw material in such a manner that the value of the resulting product is greater than the value of the raw material together with that of the things consumed in the process of production … Such new value created should, however, belong not to the employer nor to the owner of the raw material, but to the labourer himself.
In practice, the employer expropriated a large proportion of the new value created; hence arises the unequal distribution of wealth within the community. The Boomerang , December In The Workingman's Paradise Geisner explains to Ned how the employer expropriates the new value created. The worker must bargain for the owner of machinery to take the product of his labour for a certain price which of course isn't its full value at all but the price at which, owing to his necessities, he is compelled to sell his labour. Therefore, the value of labour-power, and the value which that labour-power creates in the labour process, are two entirely different magnitudes: and this difference of the two values was what the capitalist had in view, when he was purchasing the labour-power.
He cannot take the one without giving the other. A reading of The Workingman's Paradise in the context of Capital and The Manifesto of the Communist Party indicates the extent to which Lane used his novel to expound some of the basic principles of Marxism. Geisner explains to Ned that unionism is no answer to the system. How can you get what you want by unionism?
The evil is in having to ask another man for work at all—in not being able to work for yourself. Unionism, so far, only says that if this other man does employ you he shall not take advantage of your necessity by paying you less than the wage which you and your fellow workmen have agreed to hold out for. You must destroy the system which makes it necessary for you to work for the profit of another man, and keeps you idle when he can't get a profit out of you.
The whole wage system must be utterly done away with. Wage labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. Competition amongst wage labourers is inevitable under the capitalist system. Geisner points out The fits of industrial briskness and idleness which occur in all countries are enough to account for the continual tendency of wages [to keep] to a bare living amount for those working, as many of those not working stand hungrily by to jump into their places if they get rebellious or attempt to prevent wages going down.
Manifesto , p. Engels explains them in Socialism Utopian and Scientific. Since , when the first general crisis erupted, the whole industrial and commercial world, production and exchange among all civilized peoples and their more or less barbarian appendages, have broken down about once every ten years.
Trade comes to a standstill, markets are glutted, products lie around in piles as massive as they are unsalable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are idle, the working masses lack the means of subsistence because they have produced too much of them, bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy, forced sale upon forced sale.
From the increasing pool of the unemployed, strike breakers and non-union labour are recruited by the Queensland pastoralists. Lane's suspicion of the urban proletariat and lumpenproletariat and his preference for the bushmen had its Marxian analysis behind it. Geisner elucidates the developing monopoly stage of capitalism. As the Manifesto put it The lower strata of the middle class … sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production.
It is not only in Geisner's dialogue with Ned that Marxism is expounded. The language of a Marxist mode of thinking runs through the novel—capital, capitalists, working masses, labour, even scum. And the leitmotiv of prostitution has its specific Marxist resonance. Prostitution is specified as one of the direct consequences of the capitalist exploitation of Australia.
Capital , I, p. This realistic observation also has its iconographical significance. The Communist Manifesto declares On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution. It is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.
Prostitution turns up metaphorically at the Strattons in a discussion of journalism under capitalism. It is a traditional analogy, but it takes on a force here from the literal prostitution shown before and after the Stratton episode. The Victorian fear that venereal diseases were transmitted by such contact as kissing provides the frisson of horror here for Nellie's gesture. Later, in Nellie's account of the fate of her sister, prostitution is never named but it is implied throughout the story. Part of a realistic portrayal of urban life, prostitution, as the stress on it in the Communist Manifesto makes clear, is one of the central expressive emblems of industrial capitalist society.
Lane was one of the major advocates of women's rights in the Australian labour movement, and one of those pressing for womanhood suffrage. These female impersonations have led P. But Freudian interpretations cannot depoliticize Lane's radical vision. Geisner tells Ned of the two great reforms which must come if Humanity is to progress. The other is the Recognition of Woman's Equality. These two are the practical steps by which we move up to the socialistic idea. As Geisner stresses, it is a practical and a political issue. Nellie expounds the women's movement at the Strattons.
The tour she gives Ned is one that emphasizes the situation of women—the struggle of the housewife and the mother in the slums, the exploitation of women workers in the garment trade, in restaurants, and in prostitution. Lane is in advance of most of his contemporaries in his awareness of and stress on the women's issue. And he recognizes that it was for women to determine their future role in society, not for men to interfere yet again. It is in the combination of the reorganization of industry and the women's movement that Lane sees the achievement of socialism.
It is a radical, working-class women's movement that Lane stresses, a women's movement committed to the socialist ideal. And it is to women that the book will chiefly appeal. There are magnificent passages in it which will wring every fibre of a true woman's nature; passages where the writer plays on the chords of slumbering maternity with the touch of inspired genius, where he reveals to woman her own love-nature and love-power as she herself seldom sees it. And the revolution? Lane was writing his novel after the defeat of the unions, the gaoling of strike leaders, and the mobilization of troops.
The expression of revolutionary sentiments had to be carefully done. But revolution was what Lane expressed. This small, narrow socialism means only the state regulation of the distribution of wealth.
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It has as its advocates politicians who seek to modify the robbery of the workers, to ameliorate the horrors of the competitive system, only in order to prevent the upheaval which such men recognise to be inevitable if things keep on unchanged. And when they are enough you will see this Old Order melt away like a dream and the New Order replace it.
That which appears so impregnable will pass away in a moment. Lane's position on armed revolution has been misrepresented by historians. But Lane's editorial continued: but because we should endure to the utmost for the sake of the Humanity which shrinks from violence even against the violators of human rights and which realises all the horrors and misery of civil war, and which sees how our real enemies — the absentee capitalists—escape mostly while those who have wronged us ignorantly or by compulsion suffer, with ourselves, the most.
Once let us win a fair franchise, once let the bushmen march up with us all to the ballot-box, once let the plural vote and the revision-trick be abolished, and there will be none to blame but ourselves if the Law is wrong … And if they persistently refuse the ballot to us as they have persistently refused it in the past: if Parliament refuses to do us justice and scorns our demand to be made full citizens; then we shall have full justification for any action we may adopt, even if that action is revolution. Lane at no point rejects the use of force.
But force for him is a last resort. Bloodshed is no proof of ideological correctness. The real enemy—the absentee capitalists, for instance,—are not the ones who suffer the most in any violence. Peaceful means of change are always preferable to violent means. And if violent means are used, they must be successful; an unsuccessful revolution is counter-revolutionary. Kenway, Prelude to Power, p. For Lane to have recommended violence at this point would have been suicidal. The shearers were not adequately armed. They were not ideologically organized. Lane was concerned to avoid provocation that could lead to the excuse for a judicial massacre on the United States' model.
The strike collapsed in June. In a Worker editorial in October Lane brooded on the situation, repeating the conclusion of his March editorial. Once or twice, in these columns, I have alluded to the inevitable necessity for violent reform where peaceful efforts to secure what is just and right are ignored and derided and suppressed by the brutal Force of class governments. I have said, as I say now and at all times, that a time always arrives, sooner or later, where tolerance of Wrong becomes itself a Wrong, and where those alone have rights who dare to maintain them.
For this, it is alleged that the WORKER preaches sedition, as if one had to preach submission to oppression and injustice in order to be law-abiding. A time always arrives. He expected it within thirty years. The interim was to be used preparing for it. His early beliefs in class collaboration had vanished by the time of the shearers' strike.
He saw the class war in these confrontations. And it is not the class struggle, as many Marxists phrased it, but class war. By the novel's end, the pretences of civilization are dropped in Ned's vision of Apocalypse. All the world over it was the same, two great ideas were crystallising, two great parties were forming, the lists were being cleared by combats such as this for the ultimate death-struggle between two great principles which could not always exist side by side. The robbed were beginning to understand the robbery; the workers were beginning to turn upon the drones; the dominance of the squatter, the mine-owner, the ship-owner, the land-owner, the shareholder, was being challenged; this was not the end, but surely it was the beginning of the end.
His stress is on the achieved good society, not on the violence to be gone through to reach it. He accepts that a violent confrontation will occur but until the appropriate time any confrontation would be adventurism. In the interim there is the battle of ideas, the need to reveal the truth of communism to the world, to workers and bourgeoisie alike. In New Australia he would train the consciousness of a socialist army, and propaganda would be disseminated round the world. And perhaps a change of consciousness could avert the need for a violent confrontation; or at least make the inevitable socialist victory quick and over-whelming.
When he took a strong, militarist anti-German line in World War I he was not in conflict with his earlier principles. Militarism, like racism, was never rejected in Lane's socialism. How militant were the striking shearers? At the beginning of the novel Ned's unionism is naive, unpolitical. The man who told me vowed it would be a long time before he'd do policeman's work again.
The Workingman's Paradise: An Australian Labour Novel by John Miller - Free Ebook
He said that for him Government might keep its own order and see how soon it got tired of it. At least nothing serious. Some of the fellows may start to buck if the Government does try to break up the camps and it might spread a little, but there are no guns and so I don't see how it could. There seems to be a lot of talk everywhere but that's hard fact.
Ten thousand bushmen with rifles wouldn't have much trouble with the Government and the Government wouldn't have much trouble with ten thousand bushmen without rifles.
The workingman's paradise, an Australian labour novel, by "John Miller" (William Lane)
Lane had good reason for playing down any armed militancy of the shearers now that the strike had ended. A Peculiar People , p. The Courier alleged of the strike that The details had all been considered and arranged not by the ignorant men now languishing in gaol, but by wiser men, of whom the chief plotter is a resident in Brisbane. His plans were at one time on paper, and possibly might have been secured; but it is certain that since the arrest of the first conspirators in Barcaldine they existed in black and white no longer.
It was the rash precipitancy of these bush leaders which brought to confusion the carefully-planned scheme of the arch-conspirator in Brisbane. Ned sets off for Queensland at the end of the novel and is clearly going to be one of those gaoled. But the movement of the book suggests that gaoling will only raise his militancy.
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