Guido Baracchi August 1920
Source: "Reason in Revolt", Source documents of Australian Radicalism;
First Published: in The Proletarian Review, Editorial “Proletarian Comment” by the Editor (Guido Baracchi), August 1920;
Transcribed: by Chris Clayton.
THE release of ten out of the twelve imprisoned I.W.W. men certainly calls for proletarian comment. They have emerged from a narrower into a wider bondage, from the wage-slave’s prison into the prison of wage-slavery. On that they are to be congratulated. But, beyond congratulations, certain facts in connection with their case must needs be stressed. In the first place, we invite our readers to consider the combined circumstances of the trial and conviction of the twelve men and of the two subsequent commissions arising out of their case, as well as the facts elicited by these. If they do so, they cannot any longer retain the least vestige of respect for bourgeois law as they know it to be administered in Australia. Henceforth they may comply with that law so far and so long as this may be necessary, but respect it they never will again. In the second place, we hope that no one will be misled by the release of ten out of the twelve men into revising his estimate of the futility of the Labor Party. Rather should its ultimate futility be confirmed by the fact that two out of the twelve remain in gaol. Had a revolutionary Communist party the same support from the working class as the Labor Party now enjoys, and not ten but twelve I.W.W. men would have emerged, not into the wider bondage of capitalism, but into the comparative freedom — for them — of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But a revolutionary organisation will only rally the mass of the workers over the dying body of the Labor Party. Unfortunately, the Labor Party still flourishes; nevertheless, Communists must use the means at their disposal in the attempt to secure the release of Reeve and King.
A CATHOLIC priest has been deported from Australia. In an effort to prevent this, the crew of the “Nestor” refused to work the ship if she carried Father Jerger, nor would the waterside workers have handled the “Kyber” had they known he was to be placed on board. We have here an example on a small scale of that extra-parliamentary political action which ensues when the proletariat uses its industrial might to accomplish political purposes, to bring pressure to bear upon the bourgeois state. As such, it is welcome enough. It is only a pity that waterside workers and seamen did not make use of the same weapon in the past, when members of their own class were being deported during the war. We hope that in the future, in the event, for instance, of the Commonwealth Government attempting to deport any of the released I.W.W. men, it will not have to be said against the workers concerned that those who resisted the deportation of a priest, traitorously assisted in the deportation of a wage-plug. We should point out this. The American authorities recently jailed the Irish working class agitator, Jim Larkin, for his effort in behalf of the American proletariat. Although both Dr. Mannix and De Valera were on the spot, we have yet to learn that either of them has uttered a single word in behalf of Larkin. We do not blame them for that; on the contrary, we commend their attitude to the proletariat. They have their own interests, to which they closely adhere; we advise the workers to do likewise. By all means let them develop the political strike, let them develop it into that broader mass action which in due season will lead the proletariat along the road to power; but let them use such action in their own class interests, and let them leave matters which lie outside those interests well enough alone.
THAT the period of the strikes which the Australian proletariat has entered is by no means ended, the brewing trouble among the coal miners clearly proves. Apart from the mere wage demands of the Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation, a more sweeping claim is reported by the daily press — whether correctly or not we cannot say — to have been made by one of the officials of that body. As reported, the substance of this claim is that there can be no peace in the coal industry until the miners are given an “equal economic partnership.” We are bound to say that if this demand means an equal partnership between the coal minders and the di-nothing capitalists who own the mines, it is at once monstrous and absurd. It is monstrous that the miners should go into partnership with the robbers who fleece them. It is absurd because, in the words of Lenin, exploiters and exploited cannot be equal. If what is intended is that the mines should be owned by the State, and the industry controlled by the Union in a sort of partnership with it, the case is nothing better. So long as the State represents the class power of the capitalists (and the existence of a “Labor” Government in no way alters this), it is a mere playing with toys for some group of workers to have something to do with the management of their industry. At the most it might mean the entrenchment of this particular group within the scheme of State capitalism. No such “schemes” will stead. The first step towards the emergence of the coal miners from wage slavery must be the seizure of political power by the working class, the shattering of the existing bourgeois machinery of the State, and the setting-up of a new State machine fashioned to the needs of the proletariat. Then, and not before, will the coal miners be able to proceed to the reorganisation of their industry along Communist lines.
IF we have felt bound to criticise adversely the reported “partnership” talk of a representative of the coal miners, we are at least heartily in accord with his simultaneous repudiation of the Industrial Peace Bill introduced into Parliament by the Prime Minister. The Arbitration Court being in a fair way to suffer shipwreck on the jagged rock of irreconciliably antagonistic class interests, Mr. Hughes proposes to supplement it by Commonwealth and district councils, special tribunals and local boards, each of these to be composed of representatives of employers and of workers, together with a chairman. The Industrial Peace Bill plainly reveals the bankruptcy of bourgeois statesmanship. Its remedy for the failure of conciliation is more conciliation. if anyone imagines that industrial peace can be attained by such means, he is sadly mistaken. As well try to appease a hungry man by inviting him to sit at table after you have finished the meal. The Bill offers the working class the forms of class conciliation upon the economic basis of class antagonism. It invites the proletariat to come and forget, in the happy and peaceful atmosphere of Mr. Hughes’ councils, its indignation at being mercilessly exploited. We hope the working class will lose no time in kicking the bottom out of these councils. Industrial peace can only be achieved through class war and the victory of the workers therein. The councils these need do not contained employers; the are of the form of Soviets, and constitute the mechanism of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
We have been informed by George Washington, hon. secretary of the Relief Committee of the dependents of the I.W.W. men, that the fund for the relief of these is almost exhausted. Although ten of the twelve men have now been released from gaol, our readers will realise that it will be extremely difficult for them to find employment, and that in consequence the need for the relief of their wives and children remains as great as ever. The Relief Committee has accordingly sent out an urgent call for funds, and it asks that all contributions be forwarded to the treasurer, John B. Steel, Box 1656, G.P.O., Sydney.