Dora B. Montefiore 1909

Justice Articles


The following articles in Justice, the weekly organ of the Social Democratic Federation, by Dora Montefiore during 1909, were until March of that year from a section of the paper called “A Woman’s Point of View”, while from March onwards the women’s section was called “Our Women’s Circle”. The advertisements for publications on the Women’s page generally include August Bebel’s Women, Past, Present and Future, 1/-; Montefiore’s pamphlet Some Words to Socialist Women, 1d and, until June 1909, Woman Suffrage by Klara Zetkin also 1d,—all published by Twentieth Century Press. As far as I can see they are every item that she wrote under her name. If by chance I have omitted any I would be delighted to be informed via the Marxist Internet Archive.

The articles are of varying length but many are quite short and there are other contributors, both named and un-named, on the page. Some of the anonymous contributions may be Montefiore. All here are in date order with the date, and page number given. They give a more rounded view of her politics than has appeared hitherto in a variety of publications. She had a consistently socialist and class war point of view though it may well be that in private correspondence among bourgeois feminists “there were those who found her difficult”. Her sharpness and wit, as well as her accounts of a number of public meetings with such ladies are illuminating even if the accounts of her opponents about such meetings may not always be as detailed about her criticisms as one might wish.—Note by transcriber Ted Crawford

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Source: Justice, January 9, 1909 p. 5
Section: “A Woman’s Point of View”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


What Every Socialist Woman Should Know

I wanted to call the attention of English Socialist women to what is going on just now among Russian woman; and to point out that the conditions are exactly similar to those which have prevailed among women for some time in England, but that English working women have been lacking in the class-consciousness and clearness of reasoning which is nerving the Russian working women to resist the cajolery of their middle-class sister and is helping them, to stand side by side with their men comrades in the fight—not for crumbs of patronage, and grudging doles of charity, but for full access to the means of life. We have had in our midst for some years an organisation of middle-class women, (The International Council of Women) calling Congresses in various countries to discuss social, economic, and educational questions from the standpoint of privileged women seeking to improve conditions for the workers, in order that these workers may become more efficient wage slaves. This organisation has varied slightly in its outlook and programme in different countries, in accordance with the level of general education and culture among women; and in England, therefore, where the level of education among women is low, and where there is little respect for intellectual attainment, the National Council is an absolutely noxious, body over-ridden by Bishopesses, philanthropic “Great” ladies and “Little” Labour ladies, who would, if they could, abolish barmaids, and refuse State maintenance to the unmarried mother. This international organisation, when, it meets from time to time is not, therefore, an altogether happy family; for the Continental women, being better educated, and free from British puritanism, find it difficult to keep step with the English National Council, its Bishopesses and its Labour ladies. Lately, however, they have been struggling to form a National Council in Russia, where the “Haves” and the “Have nots” stand opposite each other in closer battle array than in other countries, because the great middle class, which helps elsewhere to confuse the issues, and gets blows and kicks from both sides, is there scarcely existent. In vain has the Women’s International Council spread its toils before the organised Social Democratic women of Russia. Madame Miliukoff and others, we are told by the correspondent of an English capitalist paper, “endeavoured to effect a reconciliation,” pointing out that “English women of all parties are uniting to obtain the franchise.” How idyllic that sounds, but how misleading that is, all English Social-Democrats know; but it is just as well, in order to help Russian Socialist women in their class-conscious protest, to state once m ore the truth of what is going on among English women, who are represented as being so united in their struggle for the franchise. To put the matter briefly, the English Conservative, Liberal and Labour women are united in the demand for a limited measure of franchise, which would increase the property vote and place about one and a-half million women on the Parliamentary register, in addition to the seven million men now on. The prominent and representative Labour women who are joining in the this Stuttgart Congress, where the resolution was passed forbidding such bourgeois alliances and undemocratic franchise demands; and they are now, in conjunction with Conservative and Liberal ladies, and in defiance of the above-mentioned resolution, agitating and working for a limited measure of political enfranchisement. The Socialist women of England are the only ones who are agitating for the full franchise for women on the basis of the Stuttgart Congress, and they are certainly not united, as Madame Miliukoff asserts, with the bourgeois women in their limited demand. Further, they welcome the fact that the Russian “women representatives of the working classes are refusing to co-operate with the delegates of the bourgeoisie, the former declaring that they are bound by the decision of the Social Democratic Congress at Stuttgart.” We English Social-Democratic, women marked the same line of cleavage when we helped last July organise, and attended, the Adult Suffrage Conference at the Holborn Town Hall, and joined with Socialist men in passing the resolution which was sent up to the Prime Minister That in view of the fact that two thirds of the adult population of this country is politically unrepresented, this Conference of Socialist and Labour organisations declares that no electoral reform will be satisfactory which does not extend the franchise to every adult man and women, and demands that the Government shall make this the basis of the Democratic Reform Bill foreshadowed by the Prime Minister. If the rank and file of the Labour women had been as class conscious as their Russian sisters they would have joined solidly in our Social Democratic demand; but, unfortunately, the majority of Labour women at the present juncture are no wiser than are the Labour men, and they still think that reform instead of revolution is going to enfranchise the workers economically and politically. As long as a majority of them are of that way of thinking, they are still playing into the hands of the capitalist, and putting off to a more distant date the coming of Socialism.

The protest of Victor Grayson was a symbolic protest, and stood emphatically for the line of cleavage and struggle between the “Haves,” who organise Parliamentary procedure, and the “Have nots,” against whom all the complexity of procedure and rules is directed. “Order, order!” cry Conservatives, Liberals and Labourites. “Can’t you be satisfied when we promise you a whole day’s debate in Parliament, either on the question of Unemployment or on that of Limited Franchise for women?” But the days of being satisfied with one day for an empty debate are gone by. It is no longer only ladies and Labourites who are knocking at the doors of Parliament. The hand of starving, disinherited Demos holds the knocker, and International Social-Democracy encourages the stout-hearted applicants.

In the same account of the Congress where the Russian Socialist women made their protest, I read that in the section dealing with the employment of women in factories the wages of the women range from 12s. to a month, while the rate of infant mortality among the children of female factory hands averaged 60 per cent. I happen also to know that many of the employers and foremen in Russian textile factories are Englishmen who, finding factory laws less stringent in a country where, industrialism is of later development than in England, remove their capital and energies to a country where sweated human labour can yield them a richer return. It is, therefore, more than ever necessary that the working woman in England, should learn solidarity with her working sisters in other lands, and should realise that it is not by alliances and compromises with the women of the master class that the hope of the workers will be realised, but by conscious and practical fellowship with the workers in other lands.

“Socialism is the hope of the workers,” but the hope will never be attained if the workers are turned aside from their purpose by those whose object it is to whittle away the Socialist programme, and unnerve the arm of the proletariat by crying “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace. Until all English women unite in demanding the political franchise as a human right for every adult man and women, neither Madame Miliukoff, nor any other onlooker has the right to say, “English women of all parties are uniting to obtain the franchise.” The lot of the majority of the women of England and of Russia is life-long poverty, crushing toil when in work, and starvation when out of employment; insanitary dwellings, physical deterioration, joyless childhood, and premature death. Their interest, therefore, in demanding the franchise is an interest entirely opposed to that of the privileged women, who are demanding a limited franchise which, if granted, would shut out more hopelessly than ever the unprivileged masses. The working women of Russia have been true to their class and their class interests, and in so doing have held out to the working women of England the hand of comradeship. Will English working-women grasp the outstretched comradely hand, or will some of them continue to compromise and dally with the organised privileged women, whose interests, under the present system of capitalism, must necessarily be opposed to those of the workers, on whose labour they live? This conscious and loyal decision of the Russian Socialist women to abide by the terms of the Stuttgart Conference should help to stiffen our backs over here in England in our agitation against the Reform measures offered by the Whigs, in which the political emancipation of women is not to be included, though it can be brought in as an amendment by a private member. We Social-Democratic women do not care for this sort of political juggling, which leaves the fate of half the community to pure chance. We are out for Adult Suffrage for every man and every woman; our policy is an international one, and we, as Internationalists, mean to see that it is carried out.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

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Source: Justice, January 16, 1909 p. 5
Section: “A Woman’s Point of View”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Two Finnish Women Who Speak for Adult Suffrage

At the meeting called by the Women’s Freodom League last week at the Queen’s Hall, the speeches of the two Finnish women were entirely for Adult Suffrage. Madame Malmberg is an excellent comrade of ours, and when in England last summer, spoke, under the auspices of the Adult Suffrage Society, one Sunday afternoon in Regent’s Park, and told how Socialist men and women, standing together in a well-organised general strike, had forced the hand of the autocrat Nicholas, and had wrested from him, not only Adult Suffrage, but the abolition of the Upper Chamber of Nobles, and had obtained the right for women to sit in the Diet on equal terms with men. Though Finland’s liberties are once more threatened by the reactionary counsels of those surrounding the bloodstained throne of Nicholas, and though the guns of the Fortress of Sveaborg are pointing their steel murderous mouths straight on to Helsingfors, the Finnish capital, yet the Finnish women are as determined as are the men to fight for their liberties, all the dearer to them now, because they all are full citizens, and have tasted the joy of freedom and of the power to make their own laws and administer their own affairs. There was a sob in her voice, but there was also supreme courage, as our Finnish comrade referred to the troubles ahead.

When, I wonder, will English men and women realise that though in their midst the people are not being hanged and beaten for daring to speak and spread the truths of Socialism, yet the people’s life blood is being slowly and inexorably drained from them in order that capitalism, the autocrat of England, may continue to exist? The horrible, prolonged torture of starvation is being applied to at least a third of the people, and our workers are cowed and downtrodden slaves, because they are not politically represented. Let us take example by the Finns, and learn solidarity in the struggle for the political weapon for every adult man and woman. Over 100 was subscribed the other day at the Queen’s Hall; but it was all given to help pass a Limited Woman Suffrage Bill. Where the wealthy can give their pounds, the workers can only give their pence; but the workers can do what the wealthy cannot do; the workers can bring the weight and mass of numbers to strengthen their demand. We shall call upon the working men and the working women later on to demonstrate for Adult Suffrage; meanwhile, we want every organisation of workers to affiliate to our society, so that when the time for the fight comes, we may have a strong, well-organised and well-disciplined army of revolt.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE
Hon. Sec. Adult Suffrage Society.

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Source: Justice, January 23, 1909 p. 5
Section: “A Woman’s Point of View”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Party and Adult Suffrage

DEAR COMRADE,—In order to make clear to the comrades what the attacks are, both outside and inside the Party against our policy in carrying out the Social-Democratic demand for Adult Suffrage, I shall be grateful if you will publish in “Justice” the enclosed correspondence. The letter signed “Frances Swiney” was published by the Women’s Freedom League (of which Mrs. Despard is President), in a paper called “Women’s Franchise,” the date, January 7, 1909; and my reply has been sent to the same paper. As, however, when going about the country, I often hear the complaint from comrades that they never know what the Adult Suffrage Society is doing, I thought it might interest them to know about these recent attacks on our work, and this knowledge may encourage them to carry on with ever-increasing zeal the propaganda for the cause of enfranchising politically every man and woman in the country.—Fraternally,

DORA B. MONTEFIORE,
Hon. Sec. Adult Suffrage Society.

The Outcast of Democracy

The mask has fallen, and also the cloven foot has appeared. What many shrewd minds have long suspected is proved by the most potent of arguments—action. Mr. E. Belfort Bax is one of the signatories to an invitation widely issued to form a man’s committee for opposing Woman Suffrage. Thus one of the leaders of Social-Democracy would, in his ideal state, still deny woman citizenship, and keep her the irresponsible dupe, tool, toy, and slave of the brotherhood. Surely, I dreamt when I thought I read in an Essay on Socialism in the “Westminster Review,” for September of this year, “every infant that came into the world,” say Morris and Bax, “would be born into full citizenship, and would enjoy all its advantages, whatever the conduct of its parents might be.” It appears, however, that the infant must be male to be thus endowed; strict inheritance in the male line will still reign supreme in the social paradise, and Eve, the mother and the wife, will find the doors of equal opportunity-shut in her face, as of old, under the most autocratic of Imperial Governments.

Adult Suffrage means for the Socialist of the Belfort Bax type, male supremacy of a more marked and sex-biased character than that under which women now suffer, to the detriment and degradation of the whole community. Under the aegis of the Social-Democratic Federation, their last state would be worse than their first, and the nation at large would be under the iron hand of a soulless materialism, controlled by a brute beast force. What a travesty of terms will this Belfort Bax Republic represent—social reform with a subject womanhood, democracy with half of the people deprived of political power, federation that only binds the brothers and ostracises the sisters! Man, in fact, has become so corrupt through the long-continued degradation of woman that his very ideals have no justice, logic, reason, or wholeness in them.

They are simply the low aspirations of a sensualist and a degenerate, craving for the flesh-pots of Egypt and the whip of a slave-driver. Women, therefore, have not much to hope from the gospel of Bax and Co.

FRANCES SWINEY.

SIR,—Kindly grant me space to explain in the columns of your paper that the attitude taken up by Mr, Belfort Bax on the subject of the political emancipation of women in no way affects the attitude or the action of the political organisation (the Social-Democratic Party) to which he belongs. At the International Socialist Congress, held at Stuttgart, in 1907, strong resolutions were passed, urging Socialists in every country to initiate an active campaign in favour of votes for all men and all. Women—in other words, for Adult Suffrage. In pursuance of the policy proclaimed in that resolution the English Social-Democratic Party published, in 1907, a Manifesto to the same effect, and in 1908 held a Conference of Labour and Trade Union organisations, at which a strong resolution was passed, and sent up to the Prime Minister, calling on the Government to frame their promised Political Reform Bill on the lines of Adult Suffrage for every man and woman. If, in the face of this, an unofficial member of the S.D.P. chooses to ally himself with reactionaries of other parties in order to throw obstacles in the way of one of the vital points of the S.D.P. programme, he will be dealt with by the organisation itself, in which he has proved himself a backslider. As a proof of the attitude towards Mr. Belfort Bax of the S.D.P., I enclose the copy of a resolution passed lately by the Willesden Branch of that body; and I beg that you will, in fairness to the Executive and rank and file of the S.D.P., give the same publicity to this letter as you have done to the one attacking us.—Faithfully,

Hon. Sec. Adult Suffrage Society:
DORA B. MONTEFIORE,
[The resolution of the Willesden Branch of the S.D.P. has already appeared in “Justice.”]

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Source: Justice, February 27, 1909 p. 6
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Politics and Prayers

On Monday, February 15, Lady Frances Balfour issued, through the press, an invitation to Women Suffragists to assemble in Dean’s Yard, Westminster, from whence they were to proceed to the Abbey, and there petition or supplicate the Ruler of the Universe to lend a favourable ear to their prayers for the political emancipation of the Women possessing the necessary property qualifications for exercising the franchise. This appeal, which was responded to by several hundred ladies, denotes a new phase in the public propaganda of the elder, and (until now) non-militant suffrage societies. They have, by this action, stepped aside from constitutional agitation, and have called to their aid the “Power” whose help was sought in the past by the Israelites, under the title of the “God of Battles,” and whom Kaiser Wilhelm personally invokes nowadays to bless his, destroyers, armoured cruisers, and severely-disciplined conscripts.

The ladies will, no doubt, argue that the same “Power” is daily invoked in Parliament assembled at Westminster, before its out-of-date, lumbering old machinery starts to work, weaving the warp and woof of legislation; which fact proves that His attention is not entirely taken up with military matters, but that He has time to occupy Himself with civil questions. It is even possible that they may argue He finds time (as did the late F. Myers) to read the “Daily Chronicle” and the “Review of Reviews,” and has His own opinions about political parties and “fancy franchises.” This, for all I know, may be the case; but, taking the precedent of the daily prayers at Westminster for what it is worth, I would still remind the new militant Conservative ladies that these daily supplications in the House are of a very general character, and do not take the form of attempting to commit the “Power” to any definite line of action. The Tariff Reformers, for instance, have no special form of prayer, asking a divine blessing on the Fiscal Reforms, or Preferential Treatment arguments used so astutely by Mr. Austen Chamberlain and his golden-tongued disciples, who preach so ably that fascinating doctrine to the son of man, who has no place but the slum, or Salvation Army Elevator, wherein to lay his head. Neither do the Irish Nationalists insist on a special liturgy, demanding with ceaseless iteration that Jehovah should live up to his credentials of being a non-respecter of persons, and should at once and for all time remove from the sacred land of Ireland the hated grasp of the English oppressor. Neither do the Labour Party—but why insist further on the point? Privileged Primrose Dames will at once understand, the Labour Party being so intimately allied with the Methodist Connexion, how dangerous to the Established Church it might be if Mr. Philip Snowden started the day’s Parliamentary work with a revival meeting, and the whole Party marched on to the Nationalisation of the Railways, singing—

“There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Lloyd George’s veins!”

I have written enough to show the danger of the precedent introduced by Lady Frances Balfour, and the Primrose Dames. All is fair, we know, in love and war—but is all desirable? The members of these older and more conservative suffrage societies have, up till now, shaken warning heads at the ladies who have to be filed away from railings, grilles and balconies, or on whose shoulders the hand of a common constable has fallen in a gesture of arrest; but are these head-shakers, I would ask, playing the game when they go outside “constituted authorities,” as represented by King, Parliament, Judges, Magistrates, Heads of Police, Inspectors and Constables, and at attempt to get on their side that “Power” who, according to the priests and ministers, who interpret His will, punishes by earthquake, famine, and pestilence? Mr. Asquith may well be asking himself, “What does this latest move in the game portend? Are my enemies praying that Downing Street and the Clock Tower may share the fate of Messina; or that Harcourt and I may catch smallpox, or that Grey be doomed to slow starvation in the ranks of the unemployed?”

One more word of warning. It is rumoured in influential and wealthy circles that St. Paul’s Cathedral has been specially engaged by the Anti-Suffragists for a day of national intercession against the granting of the franchise to women; and it has been explained to me by a prominent member of the “Antis” (now, do not think it is Mr. Belfort Bax, because I have never spoken to him on the subject), that as long as only the “ladies” were asking quite prettily for the vote, and were only petitioning that “to her that hath should be given more abundantly,” the rest of the “Classes” do not think it worthwhile to trouble the deity on the subject; but that now that the women living in the shuns had actually the impertinence demand the vote, besides asking that their children should be fed; “why, you know, that’s the limit, and something must be done.” Then, in awed tones, I was reminded an Adult Suffrage Bill was coming up for second reading this Session, and on March 19, by the terms of which Bill “Even domestic servants would get the vote, don’t you know?” I replied, I did know, and rejoiced at the fact, because the vote was highly educational, and the possession of it would teach domestic servants they must not remain domestic servants.

Taking all things into consideration, I begin to have my doubts whether the conveners of that prayer meeting at the Abbey were quite so bent on vanquishing through prayer the Anti-Suffragists as they were anxious to get the private ear of the deity, in order to tell Him how wrong and thoughtless it would be on His part if He allowed the Adult Suffragists to get the second reading of their Bill carried. Though the Ruler of the Universe is said to be omniscient, it would appear that He requires to be constantly reminded of His duty by those who shuffle the political cards!

D.B.M.

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Source: Justice, February 27, 1909 p. 12
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Adult Suffrage Report

The Executive of the Adult Suffrage Society sent early in February a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to receive a deputation on the subject of the Electoral Reform Measure outlined by him last Session. On February 6 they received a reply from one of his secretaries acknowledging the receipt of the letter, and adding that he regretted his public engagements would not admit of his receiving a deputation from the Adult Suffrage Society.

In reply to a letter from our society, Sir Charles Dilke writes a suggestion that we should ask some Member of Parliament to bring in this Session an Adult Suffrage Bill, formed by cutting out of his Franchise and Removal of Women’s Disabilities Bill, all except Franchise. He adds that he has such a Bill ready; and several Members of Parliament have asked for, and have seen it. Our society’s Parliamentary work this Session will be to find a Member prepared to bring in such a measure, which we, on our part, will help forward by every means in our power.

On February 16, the day of the opening of Parliament, several of the members of the Canning Town Branch of the Adult Suffrage Society walked in the procession of women of the unemployed, carrying “sandwich boards” asking for the right to vote, in order to obtain the right to live. These women, who suffer so keenly from the lack of work, with its accompanying lack of daily bread, and all that that involves, understand very clearly that the laws are at present made by a governing class who have so arranged the existing franchise on a property basis, that the mass of the workers are entirely shut out from any share in the government of the country. Their demand, therefore, for the democratisation of the franchise is an intelligent demand, striking at the root of privilege and of property rights.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

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Source: Justice, March 20, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


A Russian Woman Comrade

The March number of the “Tribune Russe” contains the news that our militant comrade Catherine Brechkovsky is dying in the fortress of Peter and Paul at St. Petersburg. She is now 68, and for the last 45 years has carried on a ceaseless struggle in Russia against the organised forces of autocracy, oppression and reaction. She it was who roused and organised the peasants, and who helped to carry on the most dangerous propaganda of all among the soldiers and sailors of the Czar. She has been more than once sentenced to hard labour in the mines of Siberia, and after one of her escapes she reached America, where she lectured for some months, and succeeded in collecting large sums to help the Russian revolutionaries in their struggle for freedom. But like all true propagandists in that seemingly endless struggle between the powerful and privileged on the one hand, and the proletariat on the other, she has not been able to keep away from the danger zone of spies, prison, torture, and death; and for some months now she has been a prisoner in that terrible fortress, whose walls are washed by the icy waters of the Neva. In Gorki’s novel, which has been translated into English under the title of “Comrades,” but to which he himself gave the name of “The Mother,” he describes in vivid language the trial of a Social-Democrat, and puts into his mouth these words, which are the cry of our comrades all over the world: “We are Socialists! That means we are enemies to private property, which separates people, arms them against one another, and brings forth an irreconcilable hostility of interests; brings forth lies that endeavour to cover up, or to justify this conflict of interests, and corrupt all with falsehood, hypocrisy, and malice . That very property, for the production and preservation of which it sacrifices millions of people enslaved by it—that very force which gives it the power over us—stirs up discord within its own ranks, destroys them physically and morally. Property requires extremely great efforts for its protection; and in reality all of you, our rulers, are greater slaves than we—you are enslaved spiritually, we only physically. You cannot withdraw from under the weight of your prejudices and habits the weight which deadens you spiritually; nothing hinders us from being inwardly free.” Gorki in that passage puts his finger on the immense reserve strength of the revolutionary Socialist demand in every country. Its members have stepped out from the ranks of the organised hypocrites, robbers, and slave-owners; and they are inwardly and spiritually free. It is only the man or woman who is inwardly free who can really fight for freedom for others; and Catherine Brechkovsky, as she lies dying in her cell in the Fortress of Peter and Paul, is still fighting the battle—not only of the oppressed Russian peasant, but of the sweated London and New York worker, the slum-dweller, the half-timer, and of the starving unemployed. That is why I dedicate the first paragraph in this column, to which I hope in time Socialist women of all nations will contribute, to a world-famed militant, who is prepared to seal her testimony with her life blood.

What Our Women’s Circle Stands For

The Editor of “Justice” is prepared to give us Socialist women a couple of columns to ourselves in the Party organ, so that we may concentrate on the special side of Socialist propaganda, as it affects women, and interpret everyday events from the standpoint of Social-Democracy. Women comrades must remember that we have a bourgeois Press, organised to misrepresent, and in order, therefore, to keep clear the vital issues of the class struggle, we need every week (would that we could have it every day) a re-statement and re-interpretation, from the point of view of the interests of the working man and woman. Now, in consequence of the miserable travesty mis-called “education,” which is offered to the half-starved children of the workers, they have too often failed to understand the conspiracy of vested interests hedging them around, and stifling the life out of them. As Thorold Rogers writes in his “Six Centuries of Work and Wages,” “It is no marvel that the worker identifies the policy of the landowner, the farmer, and the capitalist employer with the machinery by which his lot has been shaped, and his fortunes, in the distribution of natural wealth, have been controlled. He may have no knowledge, or a very vague knowledge, as to the process by which so strange, so woeful an alteration has been made in his condition. But there exists, and always has existed, a tradition, obscure and uncertain, but deeply seated, that there was a time when his lot was happier, his means more ample, his prospects more cheerful than they have been in more modern experience. But he has never dreamed of making war on capital or capitalist This extract explains why the same process is going on in the women’s movement for conscious political expression as went on in the men’s movement. The working woman is too often either apathetic because she has no knowledge of the economic and other forces which have shaped her lot, or, if she has a glimmering of better possibilities, she listens to the voice of her middle-class sister, and believes that she can improve her lot by joining forces with a sex instead of with a class. The insular position of England encourage this lack of class-consciousness both among men and women workers; and if English Socialist women are to join in the international demand of their American and Continental sisters, they must have the opportunity of enlarging their circle of knowledge about the doings of their comrades in those lands. We look forward, therefore, to making this Socialist Woman’s Circle a means of spreading information that will link up the endeavours of class-conscious working women in every country; realising, as we do, that in helping forward the development of women we are helping forward the development of the race.

Womanhood Suffrage

The question of Universal Suffrage, or votes for all women and all men, will be treated from time to time in this column as one of our stepping-stones towards the realisation of Socialism; and we shall endeavour to make it clear to Socialist women that the obtaining of the vote is not an end in itself—the gaining of more privileges for women as a sex; but it is desirable only as a means to an end—and that end is the revolutionising of Society for the benefit of all who are now exploited and oppressed. This restatement of what should be the aims of class-conscious working women is all the more necessary in view of the fact that the two militant organised bodies of women who are demanding a limited suffrage are avowedly organised, not only to obtain the Suffrage, but to hold together afterwards as a “Woman Party” for the purpose of promoting women’s interests, as opposed to those of men. Their large and daily accumulating funds, drawn from those who exploit both men and women workers, give them the power of the purse, and enable them, as I have already stated, to use the Press for purposes of misrepresentation. As an instance of this, I wish to draw the attention of working women to a report in “The Queen,” of March 3. “The Queen” is the paper that voices the interests of the wealthy women of the country; and in an article headed “The Demand for the Franchise,” an account is given of a meeting at the house of Viscountess Gort, where another Viscountess made “an interesting speech in favour of the removal of sex disability.” One of the speakers at the meeting said that “Working men had a great practical influence on legislation, and they were in many ways the rivals of working women, whose interests they could not, therefore, adequately protect. Chivalry to women was not traditional in this class of men, whose mercies to women were often cruel.” The inference is, of course, that working women had much better entrust their interests to the “kind,” aristocratic ladies gathered together in the drawing-room of Viscountess Gort than to the “cruel” working men who happen to be their fathers, husbands, or brothers. It would not be altogether inexcusable if working women took this point of view, for, as I said before, a certain number of working men seem to share it. We have Mr. Philip Snowden declaring in the pages of the “Englishwoman.” ”That he has no hesitation in saying that it is ludicrous to imagine that any Parliament likely to be elected in the near future would think of proposing Universal Suffrage as the first experiment in the enfranchisement of women . No; the women’s demand for the vote on the same terms as men betrays a careful survey of the whole situation, with special consideration of the form of demand which is most likely to arouse least political opposition, and to secure the largest, measure of support from men of all parties.” There we have the “reformist” gospel in a nutshell; but it will be interesting at the next election to see if Mr. Snowden’s constituents sent him to Parliament to support the political point of view of Lady Frances Balfour who has publicly stated that she counts on the demand for the limited measure of women’s franchise to keep back the demand for Adult Suffrage. The misleading formula of asking for the suffrage for women “on the same terms as men,” when on those terms, having a property basis, women cannot in any large numbers qualify, may “arouse least political opposition” (to quote Mr. Snowden’s reformist formula) among the two bourgeois parties; but it arouses, and will arouse still more and more opposition from the organised ranks Labour and of Socialism; and Mr. Snowden may find himself “up against” that opposition when the workers of Blackburn ask him what he and his wife are doing constantly on the same platform as the avowed enemies of the liberties of the people.

The Demands the Russian Working Woman

I have received through the International Socialist Women’s Bureau an account of the recent Women’s Congress in Russia, at which the Socialist women made their formal protest against the attempt of the middle calls women to mislead them, in the same way as Lady Frances Balfour and Mr. and Mrs. Snowden are attempting to mislead our working women. The Congress was the first Congress of Russian women which has received any wide advertisement in the Press; and as it was held with the avowed abject of forming a bourgeois women’s movement, the Socialist women who attended only used the opportunity as a platform for giving public expression to their principles. The Russian Trade Unions of St. Petersburg issued a manifesto before the opening of the Congress in which they called attention to the fact that, though the bourgeois women might bring their own grievances before the public, they could not represent the needs of the oppressed woman worker, with her small earnings, and her bad social conditions. The working women must, therefore, have their own representatives, and stand for the following demands:—

Legal protection of labour.
An Eight Hours Day.
Higher wages.
Insurance against illness, old and unemployment.
Care of pregnant women and of mothers.
Universal Suffrage for Men and Women.

The women workers must further declare that their only helpers were the men of the working class, and that with them they would work for the emancipation of Labour. There were five delegates from the Textile Workers who attended the Congress, three from the Printing Trades, one apiece from the India-Rubber, Tobacco and Sugar-making Trades, from the Domestic, Servants, the Women Tailors, the Clerks, and Shop Assistants, the Jewish semptresses, the Shop Assistants of Wilma, and the Moscow Tailoresses. These working-class delegates, not being satisfied with the way the Congress was conducted, nor the way in which the vote was taken on important resolutions, eventually left the Congress in a body, and have since published a declaration, in which they state that the action of the President was neither constitutional nor worthy, inasmuch as she gave a ruling that the Congress might vote on an important resolution which had never been discussed in committee, but was sprung on the delegates without previous discussion. Some of the delegates have been attacked inside the Party for attending the Congress at all; but they defend themselves by replying that the opportunity was a good one for giving an object-lesson to the women proletariat in the necessity for joining more closely with the men in the class struggle, instead of trusting to middle-class women, who are bound in their own struggle to maintain class privilege. Women comrades read papers at the Congress on “Factory Work for Women,” “The Home Conditions of Working Women,” Insurance Provision for Pregnant Mothers,“ “Women in the Printing Trade,” “The Budget of a Woman Textile Worker,” “The Unmarried Woman Textile Worker,” “The Working Women’s Clubs in St. Petersburg,” and on “Women in Commerce.” If in Russia, where there is no freedom of speech, the women can be so greatly daring, how much more might we not accomplish in England if we possessed the real inner and spiritual freedom which inspires the Russian women comrades?

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, March 27, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Women’s Circle Column

Our Editor has written me that he wants this Women’s Circle Column “to consist of the writings of as many women as can possibly be got to contribute ”; and that is exactly what I want also! I am the last person to wish to “spoon-feed” the women who read this Column I am only here to provide some sort of nourishment until they are “producing and distributing” for themselves. The Editor and I want news from the factory, and the workshop; news from the workhouse, and from those who fall under the tender mercies of the Relieving Officer; news from the prison (it is quite the fashion to go to prison nowadays, so no one need be shy about giving experiences); news from the Salvation Army shelters, where the destitute get much bible and little bread; news from the underpaid Post Office and telephone girls; news from the sweated East-End workers; and news from the domestic servants, the waitresses, the barmaids, and from any women workers who have a grievance against society as at present organised. Then we want reports from the secretary of the S.D.P. Women’s Educational Circles, and from the Socialist Women’s International Bureau, and from Secretaries of Women’s Trade Unions, telling us of their activities and of their growth. I hope, therefore, that before our next issue I shall have had communications from comrades in different parts of the United Kingdom, promising contributions and expressing interest in this new Column, which is to voice the demands and aspirations of Socialist women.

This Week’s News About Adult Suffrage

The fight between those who stand for the Limited Bill and those who are working for Adult Suffrage becomes every day more intense, and much light is thrown on the dark places of the “Limited propaganda” by the way in which they receive a practical measure for the enfranchisement of all women, as well as of all men. This Government, being pledged to Manhood Suffrage, Mr. Geoffrey Howard’s Reform Bill, granting the vote to women on the same terms as it will then be granted to men, is an interesting attempt to get a debate in the present House of Commons on what would be practically Adult Suffrage. It would appear only natural that those ladies who state constantly they are working for Women’s Suffrage “on the same terms as it is, or may be, extended to men,” would jump at this chance of a wider extension, and hasten to support a democratic measure. But, unfortunately, it would appear that where their “treasure” is, there must their principles also be, and that whoever it is who has paid the Suffragette piper demands that the tune they play shall be reactionary and non-democratic. A chorus of shrieks arises from Mrs. Fawcett, Miss Pankhurst, and their allies. “Mr. Geoffrey Howard has betrayed the women’s cause!” so say the militant suffragists. Mrs. Fawcett writes to the “Daily News” to say that “The whole body of women’s suffrage organisations repudiate the idea that this Bill is in the interest of Women’s Suffrage.” All this, being interpreted, means that Conservative ladies do not mean, if time, money, and influence can prevent it, to allow their working-class sisters’ enfranchisement. Mrs. Fawcett’s letter to the “Times” contains such gross misstatements that, as Secretary of the Adult Suffrage Society, I sent an answer to that paper, and asked them to insert it. This the “Times,” as representing property and privilege, refused to do, so I now publish my answer for the benefit of readers of the “Women’s Circle.”

Mr. Geoffrey Howard’s Reform Bill

Sir,—In Mrs.Fawcett’s letter on this subject in your issue of yesterday she makes the assertion, that “It is tolerably plain that there is no active demand for universal Adult Suffrage”; and she adds the astonishing information that “Any steady man, however poor, can get a vote now, if he wishes for one.” May I, as Hon. Secretary of the Adult Suffrage Society, traverse most emphatically both those statements. The demand for Adult Suffrage will naturally come from those who lack at the present time political power, and their demand is embodied in thousands of resolutions passed by Trades Councils, and. other Labour organisations (representing millions of workers) all over the country; which resolutions are being daily sent up to the Prime Minister, urging him to shape his promised measure of political reform on the lines of Adult Suffrage. The Adult Suffrage Society cordially welcomes Mr. Howard’s Bill as a measure brought, in by a private member to test the feeling of the House of Commons on the subject of Adult Suffrage, and hopes that all friends in Parliament in favour of a democratic extension of the franchise to women will be in their place at the House of Commons on March 19, and vote for the second reading.—

I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

DORA B. MONTEFIORE,
Hon. Sec, Adult Suffrage Society.
March 15, 1909.

“Any Steady Man”

Does not this expression throw a, searchlight on the way in which the propertied and privileged woman thinks of the workers? For her they are divide into two classes, “the steady” and “the unsteady.” The steady are useful to her as hewers of wood and drawers of water, as shopwalkers, coachmen, grooms, butlers, and men servants. The unsteady men are the reprehensible people, who have ideas of their own about the forces that rule their lot in life or who have a temperament which prevents them from choosing any of these parasitic occupations. But alas, misfortune may dog the footsteps of the most “steady” man under present conditions of society; and loss of work may force him to move his home from one place to another, or even to accept the loathed relief of the Poor Law Guardians; and then, in spite of his superlative steadiness, and in spite of Mrs. Fawcett, he loses his vote. Mr. Herbert Samuels wrote recently in his book on “Liberalism” “The present law relating to the suffrage is, to a large extent, a deceptive and sham law. It has removed indeed the great class barriers, but it keeps up a number of petty fences and divisions that exclude without reason and disfranchise without method . The balance of power is altered, and it is altered to the serious disadvantage of the working classes.” If the working classes are true to their own interests, they will see to it that the next Reform Bill removes these serious disadvantages of the workers, and that sex disability for all women shall go the same way as class disability for men.

“What Women Are Thinking”

Our comrade Robert Blatchford has opened in the “Woman Worker” an excellent column on “What Women are Thinking.” The subject he put before women last week was “How They Might Prevent War.” The answers appeared to me somewhat naive in their absolute belief that women as a sex are opposed to war. I only wish I could think this were the case; but I still have before me at present a recollection of the Khaki fever, which was epidemic among women of all classes quite as much as among men. Mrs. Despard writes: “Let our brothers free us that, while time is, with one voice we may protest.” Mrs. Philip Snowden remarks that “The women who desire universal peace should work for that ideal by securing complete citizenship for themselves.” And Miss Elizabeth Robins writes; “My conviction is that women should concentrate upon the franchise first. That won, peace will ultimately follow. Without that, never.” Now all these women are comparatively new-comers in the fight for the political enfranchisement of women, and, like most new converts, their horizon is filled with one idea and one only; they have either forgotten or overlooked the fact that the women of Australia and of New Zealand were fully enfranchised at the time of the Boer war; and that these women, living under free conditions themselves, deliberately voted to send Colonial contingents to help the Mother Country to crush out the existence of other free communities. They sent their men folk in hundreds and thousands to maim and kill the men folk of a white race in Africa with whom they should have had no quarrel; but only the community of interests that should link together all young, developing, and progressive communities. Neither must it be forgotten that Mrs. Fawcett, one of the leading workers for the Limited Bill, was the English woman who deliberately published a disgraceful report about the Concentration Camps, which libelled the Boer women, in order to save the face of English Imperialism. No! for ever no! The forms of freedom will never help enfranchised men and women to right thought and right action unless the love of freedom, not only for themselves but for others, is firmly planted in their breasts. Imperialism is daily crushing out of both English men and women that love of freedom which used to be their most precious inheritance. We Socialists desire the vote for all women and all men, because we realise in the past that women’s supreme indirect power has been unaccompanied with direct responsibility. We realise that power and responsibility should always go hand in hand, and we desire to make women think out for themselves, and apply their reasoning alike in economic, social, and Imperial questions. If we could get a preponderating number of working women to think soundly on these problems, it would not matter so much what the privileged women were thinking. Our object, therefore, as Socialists, must be to interpret for the working women the power that lies behind the vote in revolutionising economic conditions so as to put an end to the commercial necessity of modern warfare.

Special Items of Interest for Working Women.

On March 14 Mr. Massie, M.P., presented to the House of Commons a petition, signed by 243,852 women of all classes, praying for the rejection of any measure that had for its object the granting of the Parliamentary franchise to women.

The second reading of Mr. Geoffrey Howard’s Bill was carried on March 19, by a majority 35. Sir Charles Maclaren, who seconded the motion for the second reading of the Bill, stated that one organisation for obtaining the vote for propertied women had spent 20,000 this year on the agitation!

He is also reported to have said: “There was a great mass of female domestic servants, and he would be willing to exclude from the franchise those who are in a position of dependence in the house where they work.”

Lady Knightley, President of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, writes in a letter to the “Morning Post” “Such a reform (limited franchise for women) would not interfere with the existing basis of the franchise; but, on the other hand, would greatly strengthen the case against manhood or universal suffrage.”

Mrs. Bentley, the Secretary of the Women Anti-Suffrage League, states that 79 out of a 84 wardresses at Holloway Prison have signed the petition against granting votes to women! Is it possible that they fear, like Othello, that their “occupation may be gone”?

Clara Zetkin, our German comrade, will speak at the demonstration in favour of Adult Suffrage at the Holborn Town Hall, on April 2

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, April 3, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Anti-Sweating Bill

Like most Liberal measures, this so-called Anti-Sweating Bill is not even a half measure, it is less than a quarter measure. Its central idea is to establish district boards, which shall fix a minimum standard wage, and enforce that standard; but instead of making the Bill apply to all sweated industries and employments, it is only made to apply to five, which include:

Ready-made and wholesale tailoring;
Cardboard-box making,
Lace-making by machinery,
Net finishing,
Blouse making.

As it is 20 years since the Select Committee on Sweating made its report on the horrible evils that exist under capitalism, both among town and country workers, the Liberal-Tory Governments, whose duty it is to legislate in these matters, have had ample time for absorbing the information contained in the Committee’s Report, and for embodying their collective wisdom in a legislative measure. We are told by the Liberal press that “The Bill is carefully limited; it is experimental in scope, and its machinery is controlled by many checks. It thus exhibits those features of caution and moderation, which are in accord with the national character.” This being interpreted means that the lawyers have had a free hand in this “controlling by checks,” and, as generally happens, in English legislation, what is given to the people with one hand is taken away with the other. But when we come to think of it, how would it be possible for a Government, who themselves are accomplished sweaters, to deal effectually with an evil which is a necessary part of the economic system on which capitalist Governments flourish? The men workers at Woolwich Arsenal, and the women nurses at Woolwich Military Hospital, would be able to give some interesting facts about Government sweating of their employees. One feature of the promised Bill is that a “White List” will be published of employers who agree to be bound by the minimum wage. It would be interesting to know if a “Grey List” and a “Black List” might not also be published, and then the question would arise in which list the Liberal Government, as employers, would find themselves.

Report of the Adult Suffrage Society

Our branch at Hull is in a flourishing condition, and is doing good work under the able chairmanship of Mrs. Nelson (the wife of our comrade Dr. Nelson, who has been made to suffer professionally, and is still suffering, because of his advocacy of Socialist principles). Miss Penn is the new Secretary, and she organised on Sunday, the 21st, a mass meeting in the St. George’s Hall, Hull, where C.N. L. Shaw, of the Clarion Scouts, and the Hon. Secretary of the London Adult Suffrage Society were the speakers. Our usual resolution calling upon the Prime Minister to frame his promised Political Reform Bill on the lines of Adult Suffrage was passed unanimously. On the evening of Saturday, the 20th, the two London speakers were entertained at a very pleasant social at the A.S.E. Rooms, when Dr. Nelson presided, and excellent recitations and music were the leading feature in the programme. Hull comrades follow closely the agitation both for the limited and the full measure of enfranchisement for women; and there is no doubt that the majority of 53 in the division on Mr. Howard’s Bill, which is practically Adult Suffrage, has stirred up intense interest in our cause all over the country.

Items of Interest to Women

At the recent municipal elections at Copenhagen, two Socialist working women were elected on the Town Council, Social-Democracy is better organised in Denmark than in any other European country, and when comrades meet there at the next International Socialist Congress in 1910, they will find a striking object-lesson of what a class-conscious proletariat can do through the machinery of a united Social Democratic Party. On the occasion of the recent elections, out of 42 seats the Socialist won 20, and two of the permanent paid Town Councillors are Socialists.

In Mr. Galsworthy’s play. “Strife,” now being acted in London, the message for the workers is that in every case of a long, aggravated strike it is the workers who “pay in full.” There is strong and concentrated thought in almost every line of the piece, and its “leit-motif” or message appears to me to be the same as that of the Report on the Poor Laws—that our existing economic conditions must go.

According to Mr. Chiozzit Money, 700,000 persons die every year in the United Kingdom, but only 80,000 possess property worth the tax-collectors’ notice. That is to say, 600,000 people go to their graves every year practically propertyless. How did those 600,000 persons live is the vital question for us Socialist women. The presumption is that if they died without property they lived in economic serfdom, and in continual dread of what to-morrow might bring forth.

I really think that the good people who pray incessantly against “battle, murder, and sudden death,” should change the last part of the petition to “unemployment.” Sudden death is far more merciful than intermittent or prolonged unemployment, with its certain results of sickness, physical deterioration, loss of moral fibre and of self-respect, slow starvation, and too often suicide or a pitiful pauper’s death and burial.

Clara Zetkin writes that she will help to make our demonstration for Adult Suffrage on April 26 as international as possible by obtaining declarations of fraternal sympathy with our cause from American, Russian, Dutch, Swiss, and other women) I hope organised Socialist women in England are thinking out how to give our German comrade the welcome she deserves.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, April 10, 1909, p. 6
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Sublime Slanderer

Being a harmless heathen, I had never, till to-day, perused the pages of the “Christian Commonwealth.” But a comrade sent me a copy of this week’s issue, bidding me read the article on the front page. I found it was an article on the “Prospects and Policy of Women’s Suffrage,” by Mr. Philip Snowden; and I gathered from the dedication on the same front page that the paper stood “for the advocacy of Good, Right, and Truth”—all spelt with capitals. Such an exalted inspiration gave me courage to pick my way through what seemed a very stodgy and ordinary restatement of the agitation for votes for middle-class women, mingled with feeble grumblings at the success of the recent debate and division on Mr. Howard’s Bill for Adult Suffrage. My mind kept wandering away from the too-well-known “Labour attitude” on questions affecting democratic interests, as my eye was again and again caught by “the advocacy of the Good, Right, and Truth.” Here, indeed, was a new ideal in journalism! This surely must be known as White journalism, to distinguish it from the Yellow type, which offends because it wanders so frequently and wilfully from those virtues—with capital letters. But the sub-conscious thought at the back of my brain all the time I was attempting to absorb this concentrated essence of all the virtues was, Why should my comrade have condemned me to this unaccustomed Nonconformist douche? Why should I be asked to read this recreant reactionary hash of a Labour Member who, having got his Parliamentary foot firmly down on the neck of the people, can use his right hand, when not stabbing his fellow-workers in the back, to waste a sentence like the following: “The ideal of Adult Suffrage is one to which every democrat looks forward, but in a country of such conservative traditions and instincts, it is not going to come but by stages towards it.” There are limits to my patience, even when the “Good, Right, and Truth” are being advocated, and a sentence such as “It is not going to come but by stages towards it” is neither good nor right, and is, therefore, an abomination. I was just about to remove the “Christian Commonwealth” and its rank offence with the tongs when I observed my friend had marked a passage, and I read on: “To checkmate the women’s demand for votes on the same terms as men an attempt was made to start an Adult Suffrage Society. But it has been a ludicrous failure. Even the Anti-Suffrage Society has attracted more support, and aroused more interest. There is no doubt about it, that what little demand for Adult Suffrage does exist, is, to a great extent, an anti-woman movement.”

Then it dawned upon me why my comrade had sent me this very “Christian Commonwealth”! Then I realised what “Christian” advocacy of the Truth—with a big capital—meant! The Labour Member of Parliament who gossips with waiters at Westminster in order to collect what he considers damaging information against a Socialist M.P., who publishes categorical slanderous statements against this young Socialist M.P., and then, when these statements are categorically refuted, neither withdraws nor apologises, is now slandering a Suffrage Society, under the cloak of advocating “Good, Right, and Truth”! If this is a specimen of what is to be expected under the “Christian Commonwealth,” the workers will have to close up their ranks and fight all they know for the Co-operative Commonwealth.

I think it was Christ who coined that most valuable expression, as applied to this sort of hypocritical gentry: “Oh, generation of vipers!” There is something about a slander that always suggest a wriggling, slavering snake. But if one fact more than another encourages us of the Adult Suffrage Society in our agitation, it should be the knowledge we are so successful that we have called down upon us this attack of Mr. Snowden! The demand for Adult Suffrage, as the only logical and democratic way of enfranchising the women of the country, is growing daily in intensity; therefore, Mr. Snowden, whose domestic comfort is bound up in the advocacy of the limited demand, declares the Adult Suffrage Society is a “ludicrous failure.” Judged by the standards of the rich and powerful of the day, the life and death of the Galilean whose name gives the title to the paper in which Mr. Snowden traduces English Socialists, were “ludicrous failures.” It is for the workers to pronounce their verdict on our agitation, not the man who again and again, by allying himself with reaction and privilege, opposes the class interests of the workers. Year after year the organised workers of the kingdom have, at the instigation of the Adult Suffrage Society, rejected the resolution for enfranchising women on a limited basis, and have reaffirmed their demand for Adult Suffrage. Does this look like “ludicrous failure”? This year our Society has circularised every Trades Council and Labour and Socialist organisation, throughout the kingdom, urging them to send up resolutions to the Prime Minister demanding that the promised Political Reform Bill shall be on the lines of votes for every woman and every man. The response has been hearty and generous; and the Government can be in no doubt as to the attitude of the organised workers on this subject. Those workers would do well to study carefully the wording of the sentence I have quoted from Mr. Snowden’s article. If his position were not so dangerous to the class-interests of the workers it would really be a mixture of the comic and the pitiful. Here is a man of the people, sent to Parliament to push the interests of the people, who has so entirely caught the tone of the wealthy and dominant classes that to him the money-splutter of the anti-suffragists bulks larger and appears of more importance than the democratic agitation supported by the pence of the people. “Even the Anti-Suffrage Society,” he writes “has attracted more support and aroused more interest.” “Whose support, and whose interest?” the workers should ask. Is it not the support of the “Times,” the “Telegraph,” and the “Morning Post”? Is it not the support of the ladies and gentlemen in evening dress who flock to hear the platitudes of a Lord Curzon, whose principal reason for refusing the vote to women is that “A woman is not a man.”

Mr. Edgar Jepson, in the “New Age” of this week, exactly hits off this Labour person, who is using his Nonconformist platform in order to preach reaction. “The weakness of the Labour leader is that when he has got into the House, bought a pair of ivory glove-stretchers, attended a royal garden party, and is drawing a regular salary, he has attained the supreme height of his ambition; he only asks to sit in peace and bask in his own glory. That is why he is found selling, with a delirious joy, other people’s birthrights for a strawberry ice, and then getting completely fuddled on it.” Mr. Jepson should give us another article on the “supreme ambitions of the wife of a Labour leader. We should then have some interesting psychology for the edification of the workers whose pence pay the Parliamentary salaries of those elected persons who do such excellent business in the way of selling the people’s birthright. Even the “drink-sodden democracy”, may turn some day; and when it turns it may haply find it has no further use for Labour leaders who advocate “Good, Right, and Truth” in the same smug way as did the Scribes and Pharisees of old. Maxim Gorki, the Russian Socialist, does not write “truth” with a capital T; but his message to the people is: “Thus far truth is the sworn enemy to the power of the rich, an irreconcilable enemy for ever! Our children are carrying the truth into the world . thus far there are few of them; they are not powerful; but they grow in number every day. They put their young hearts into the truth, they are making it an invincible power. Along the route of their hearts it will enter into our hard life; it will warm us, enliven us, emancipate us from the oppression of the rich and from all who have sold their souls.” Let not the workers forget that an enemy, worse perhaps than the rich, are “those who have sold their souls.”

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, April 17, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws

I have been browsing among the 1,238 pages of the two Reports (Majority and Minority) of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, which has lately finished its work. All women who can should get a sight of this report (it must be obtainable at any local public library), and should study its pages; for there is much, very much in it that throws curious sidelights on the position of women generally before the law. One point in the Minority Report is especially remarkable. It would appear that under the Scotch Poor Law w an expectant mother, or a mother with infants, who is the wife of an able-bodied man, may not, however dire her necessity, lawfully be granted by the Destitution Authority, whether in the Poor House or in her own home, either medical or midwifery assistance, or food or other necessaries, so long as she is living with her husband . On the other hand, the expectant mother, or the mother with infants, who is unmarried, or whose husband has deserted her, may, if destitute, not only be granted adequate medical assistance and maintenance, but can actually claim it as a legal right, whatever the Parish Council may decide in the matter, and can force this claim by summary appeal to the Sheriff. The Report goes on to say that this law, as it exists at present, “deliberately puts a premium on illicit sexual intercourse, on permanent unions without marriage, and on the desertion of wives and children by their husband and father. The grave results of this law are, we are informed, familiar to those acquainted with the lives of the poor in the great cities of Scotland. One of the least of these is the simulation of wife desertion which is frequently practised, with the wife’s connivance, by respectable husbands, who find themselves unable to pay the expenses incidental to another birth.” Here is another choice extract: “Expectant mothers (in a workhouse) are not even allowed to prepare for the coming event by making any clothes for the infant”, still less are they instructed how to do so. “It is,” we were informed, “against the workhouse rules” for expectant mothers to make the baby clothes, which are made in the sewing room by the elder women. “No instruction or help of any kind,” observes a lady Guardian, “is given to young mothers. There is no one to give it.” And again, “It is not an uncommon thing to find suckling mothers acting as ward attendants, which means they rarely, if ever, get into the open air for exercise, and their infants rarely or never go out of the sick wards, except in the arms of a convalescent into the airing courts . In 64 workhouses, imbeciles or weak-minded women are entrusted with the care of infants as helps to the able-bodied or infirm women, who are placed in charge by the matron without the constant supervision of a responsible officer. When we remember that the Poor Law was instituted by the governing classes, and has been administered in the main by the governing classes up to the present time, the following description, in a few words, of that symbol of their united—wisdom and humanity—the Workhouse—sums up the accumulated responsibility of the privileged towards the unprivileged: “The moral atmosphere of a Workhouse is such that no young girl should be introduced into it, if we have any hope or wish to reclaim her.” And yet it is in this moral atmosphere that we have raked together indiscriminately the men, women and children whose misfortune it has been to fall into the hands of the administrators of our Poor Law.

Recommendations

Naturally, to revolutionary Socialists, who have made a study of the social and economic evils of the day, both inside and outside the Poor Law, the part of the Report to which we turn with eagerness is the Recommendations, both of the Majority and of the Minority Reports. But when we study these Recommendations we find but cold comfort. The Minority Report takes, it is true, a wider view of the reforms necessary for improving the system, which is absolutely, on its own showing, unimprovable. The most constructive part of the Minority Report recommendations is that on page 796, which deals with “The need for a unified service dealing with birth and infancy” but even in this respect those who sign the Report seem to pin their faith on a “continuous observation of the household, both before and after birth.” This is the usual bureaucratic idea of setting up machinery without providing means to help to, make that machinery effectual. We can quite imagine the “ubiquitous machinery of Health Visitors and house-to-house visitation, continuously observing the circumstances of the household, irrespective of temporary destitution.” And the ordinary person who is not a Fabian faddist may well ask: “Would it not be much simpler to give the members of every one of these “observed” households full access to the means of life, instead of keeping a board of Inspectors and Visitors, and a supply of “ubiquitous machinery” to spy on the expectant or suckling mothers, and to “continuously observe the circumstances of the household?” The workers of the United Kingdom, both its men and its women, must sweep on one side the majority of these fatuous recommendations, and must declare that they intend in future to have a direct share in the legislation which will set up new authorities for taking over the cruel chaos of the old Poor Laws; and the workers must furthermore show plainly that in the new administrative authorities to be set up in the future there shall be no co-opted, and so-called “specialist members,” but that those who sit on the Committees shall be placed there by the direct mandate of the people.

A New Women’s Circle

Comrade Alice Jones sends me the following from Camberwell:— “The women of Camberwell are up and doing, and they mean to make themselves felt. They opened their Circle on March 31, with a good number of keen and intelligent women. Comrade Mrs. Hendin read an interesting paper on the ‘Need for a Women’s Circle,’ there were plenty of questions and discussion, and all present spent a happy evening. We gave a very hearty invitation to all women, irrespective of their political opinions. Goodwill and comradeship prevailed.”

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, April 24, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Children’s Charter

If one fact more than another brings out both the lack of imagination and ingrained hypocrisy of the average Englishman, it is the gush in both Tory and Liberal papers over the advent of the first “Juvenile Court.” The Act provides that “A court of summary jurisdiction, when hearing charges against children and young persons . shall sit either in a different building or room from that in which the ordinary sittings of the court arc held.” The reporter of the “Daily Telegraph” lets himself go in rapturous ravings about the “rich gilded borderings, the escutcheons, heraldic blazonings of the room of the Guildhall,” where half-a-dozen “very much overawed” small boys were gathered together last week, charged before Sir William Treloar with various artificial offences. The correspondent of the “Chronicle” remarks, with evident disappointment, that “As it turned out, in not a single case was there any vestige of real crime on the part of the child.” It was evidently a shock to this reporter to find that poverty and crime were not synonymous, and he becomes almost lachrymose in his attempt to justify the arrest of these poor little waifs. “But the pity of it, the pity of it! Hardly a case but revealed untold depths of poverty and of despair. Only two kinds of offences were to be numbered on yesterday’s list. These were absence from school and begging.” Of course, the reason in almost every case for these children being found in the street by the police was unemployment on the part of the father, a long, weary struggle on the part of the mother to keep the home together, and, finally, either sickness in the home, or want of decent clothes preventing the children from attending school. Our Tory-Liberal opponents accuse us Socialists of wanting to break up the home and do away with home life; but this, it is evident, is to be some of the daily work of those who are administering. the Children’s Charter. The mother of two little boys who had been found wandering by the police, pleaded passionately against the sending of the elder one to an Industrial School. “I don’t think it is ’ardly fair,” she cried, “it was only because they were two days unwell that I kept them away. I can tell you, Sir, I ’ave to struggle my very ’ardest to exist. There was four months we ’ad to live without a penny.” The Industrial School inspector confirmed the young mother’s story only too surely .

Sir William tried in vain to assure her that it would be better for the boy to be sent to a school, which according to the official assurance was quite a pleasant place. What would a mother of the middle class or the aristocratic class think and say if her firstborn son was ruthlessly torn from her, and sent to an Industrial School? Yet this may happen to any working-class mother whose “crime” is poverty; and this is the justice meted out to the poor in “a gorgeous gilded chamber of the Guildhall.” As a mother, feeling in every fibre of my being the cruel wrong done to that mother, whose child is to be sent away against her wishes to an Industrial home, I fail to see where the mitigation of the cruelty comes in, because the tragedy takes place in “a beautiful rich room, the ceiling and walls glowing with the old gold of heavy gilt mouldings.” I repeat, it is the present system of capitalism, bringing unemployment, poverty, and. misery in its train, that is breaking up and destroying the homes of England; and which, through a Liberal-Tory Press organised and subsidised to mislead the people, slanders the Socialists who are attempting to interpret for the workers the causes and the results of their exploitation.

The Law as Godfather

This same Press, organised to mislead, tells the workers that the law is henceforth to appear in a new role towards their children—that of godfather. Stepmother would sure be nearer the mark. For how could anyone with imagination and sympathy believe that an Industrial home, with its mechanical surroundings, its herding together of children coming from decent and corrupted homes, its segregation of boys from girls, and its violation of that human atmosphere necessary to the right rearing of the young, can replace the love and care of the mother, even though that mother, through no fault of her own, may be sunk in the direst poverty. I often wonder whether the Scribes and Pharisees who plan this elaborate and artificial machinery of juvenile courts, benevolent magistrates and Industrial Schools for little boys and girls who have no trace of the criminal about them, do not know in their heart of hearts that the real remedy for all these imaginary crimes is work or maintenance for the parents of the children? None of these things would happen if the fathers of the poor little waifs were in regular work, and the mothers could make the real and comfortable home to which every child is entitled. But cant, makeshift, philanthropy, and bureaucracy still fill the bill; and the governing classes are determined to try everything in the gamut of gush before they consent to give the workers, who make the wealth of the nation, access to the means of life.

Items of Interest

Women comrades will have observed that the resolution before the recent Conference at Bristol, embodying the Women’s Educational Committee in the general organisation of the Party was carried by 72 votes to 13. The committee and officers will now be democratically elected, and will carry on under the new mandate more vigorously than ever their work of forming Circles, where women will be taught the principles of Social-Democracy.

The discussion on “Adult Suffrage” was opened by Mrs. Boyce, and the resolution in favour of this item in our programme was carried by 92 to 1. But women comrades will have to see to it that this vote is not a mere expression of opinion, but a serious intention on the part of the S.D.P. branches to forward by every means in their power the agitation for votes for all women and all men. When the Organising Secretary for the Adult Suffrage Society was lately in the North of England; she reported: “I think it is very; evident that we must in the future not expect to get anything like consistent help from the S.D.P., and my friend complains of the same apathy among the S.D.P. people in Scotland. They have given him little or no assistance; but, notwithstanding, he hopes to form a branch there shortly.”

There is no doubt that the writings and action of Belfort Bax have done much to prejudice in our organisation the woman’s part of the principle of Adult Suffrage. In future he will have to confine his activities to what comrade Pay in a speech at the recent Conference described a the “scurrilous language” of his articles, for the Conference passed a resolution: “That the E.C. be definitely instructed to require Belfort Bax to withdraw from membership of the Anti-Suffrage League.”

The “New Age,” of April 15 has an excellent article on the question of the enfranchisement of women, by G.R.S. Taylor. He points out what I have for a long time been urging, that at the present day the Limited Bill lacks democratic support, and he hints that the W.S.P.U. and W.F.L. are putting themselves, by their attitude, out of the running. “I venture to say that the reception of the Howard Adult Suffrage Bill was, to say the least, indiscreet. It is going a little too far to say that the people who wanted to enfranchise ten million women instead of two million, are traitors to the cause. Even the suggestion to amend the Limited Bill, by removing the marriage disqualification, has received a scornful reception. There is no use burking the fact that the Limited Bill will give the ‘fine ladies’ an undesirable start; and it is probable that their class bias will prevent their further help in extending the Bill later on. Whereas, if the leaders insist on a wider Bill, the fine ladies will have to drag their democratic sisters into the political paradise along with them.” Some of the leaders have been for some time demanding a wider Bill; and their reward has been misrepresentation and malignant calumny. But the tide is turning, and the working woman, at least, is beginning to understand that her friends, comrades, and leaders are inside the Adult Suffrage Society, and nowhere else.

A Russian woman comrade, Alexandra Kollontay, is coming over with Clara Zetkin, and will speak at the Holborn Hall, on the 26th April. The Adult Suffrage Society is also glad to announce that Lady Warwick, who has just returned from Italy, will be one of our speakers on that occasion, and is much interested in the subject of the working women being admitted to the franchise. Her name is not on the handbills, as her reply was delayed owing to her absence from England; but the advertisements in the papers all announce her as one of our speakers. The meeting will be of historic interest in the annals of the democratic extension of the franchise, and comrades who desire to be present should take tickets in good time. The Women’s International Socialist Bureau, and the S.D.P. Women’s Educational Committee are joining forces to organise a meeting at Chandos Hall on Wednesday April 28, at which comrades Zetkin and Kollontay will give accounts of the conditions of working women in Germany and Russia respectively. The Executive of the S.D.P. is tendering our Continental comrades a social welcome on the evening of April 25, at Anderton’s Hotel Fleet Street. All Socialists are cordially invited.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE

********


Source: Justice, May 1, 1909, p.7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Spring Musings

I went the other day to the exhibition of “Fair Women,” at the New Gallery, where are collected the works of French and English artists, who have given us their impressions of women of different classes, different temperaments, different colourings and different psychology. One of the most interesting pictures is a portrait be the late G.F. Watts, of Ellen Terry as an eager, fair-haired girl, rushing impetuously, as it were, across the threshold which divides childhood from youth. Another portrait that attracted me strangely was “Golden Girl,” little Connie Gilchrist, who used to skip in a music hall, and then became, through marriage, a member of the British aristocracy. Whether Whistler paints the portrait of his mother, or of a child in a white frock, or of a girl skipping, he is always “The Master,” and always compels and arrests attention. The thought of his many-sided work, his etchings of London, his nocturnes and symphonies of London’s mystic atmospheric effects, led me the other day towards Chiswick Churchyard, where both The Master and Hogarth lie buried. I passed the massive monument in eighteenth century taste that covers Hogarth’s resting place, glancing as I passed at the pompous panegyric commencing:

“Farewell, great painter of mankind,”

and wended my steps towards the sunlit spot near a warm brick wall, where I remembered three or four years ago looking at the great modern painter’s new-made grave. North of the wall old Jacobean and Georgian houses stand guarding the picturesque past; while south, between the quaint old cemetery and the river runs a ragged fringe of blackened, corrugated iron sheds and buildings—the shipbuilding works of Thornycroft, marking the hideous inroads of modern Industrialism. Only the garden of the dead, starred with spring flowers, divides the sleeping past and the urgent present. The contrast is abrupt and poignant. So also is the contrast between the tomb of Hogarth and the grave of Whistler. I had a difficulty in finding it, for there was not even a headstone recording the painter’s name. A low wooden railing made in simplest fashion and painted the blue of a blackbird’s egg, surrounds the spot where he lies, and the little mound of earth is bright with crocuses. It was good to find no crushing stonework, no hollow phrases, no cast-iron and monumental masonry. Colour, sunlight and spring life; those seemed to be the symbols and the emblem of the Master, whose work being done, whose life message being given, now sleeps beneath the sod. We Socialists have not only to beautify and simplify our lives, we have also to break down the monumental hideousness that surrounds everything connected with death; and the teaching at the simple graveside of the great artist, who knew so well how to paint life is an excellent hint of the beautifying protest of his message from the beyond.

Items of Interest

During this week there will be women from many lands in London, working and speaking for the political emancipation of women; but those who will be working definitely on the basis of a class war, as opposed to a sex war, will be grouped on the platform of the Adult Suffrage Society, the Holborn Hall. On that platform comrades from Germany, Russia, and Finland will have given their message to the workers of England; while fraternal messages from Holland, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark, all couched in the same spirit will have been given to the international audience assembled at Holborn. Internationalism is the supreme strength of our Socialist movement, and is the touchstone on which all national propaganda must be based. It was the failure to ring true in this international chord that caused the recent split at the I.L.P. Conference at Edinburgh. “The chimera of Socialism” was the jarring note; and the jangling discord that phrase has made will ring through the air until we obtain once more the full, clear, resounding chord of revolutionary Socialism here and now.

The Women’s International Socialist Bureau (British) has taken up the subject of “Women and War,” and five of its members have promised to write short articles on the subject from different points of view, and send them to the American paper the “Progressive Woman,” so as to let international comrades know what English Socialist women are thinking on the subject. The Fabians, Clarion Scouts, S.D.P. Women’s Educational Committee, and other Socialist bodies will be represented in this symposium; and if “Gleichheit” is interested in publishing the result, the German women, and, through them, women in many other European countries, will be also put in touch, and the feeling of solidarity among Socialist women will be strengthened.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, May 8, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


[See the translation of report of the conference below in “Die Gleichheit” of 7th June, 1909 in Justice 3rd July 1909, p. 7—Note by transcriber ERC].

LADIES and the Suffrage

If anything were needed to prove that the struggle between those who are working for a limited measure of Women’s Suffrage and those who are working for the enfranchisement of all women is a real class struggle, the recent sittings of the congress of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance would be a conclusive form of evidence. England, being the stronghold of privilege and of property, the English ladies who organise the Congress were able to wire-pull and arrange resolutions in agreement with their particular line of policy; and it was as a protest against the preponderating influence of property and privilege that the four members of the Adult Suffrage Society left the Congress on the fourth day of its sitting, Thursday, April 29. The question arose as to what new National Societies should be admitted in future into the Alliance, and under the heading of “What the objects of the new society should be,” a discussion took place as to whether these societies could stand for the franchise of both men and women. It was admitted that a Russian society was organised on those lines, and Dr. Augsburg, one of the vice-presidents of the alliance, pointed out that their German National Society stood for the suffrage for all adult men and women; we of the Adult Suffrage Society then asked what our position would be, as we were the only National Society in Great Britain organised to agitate for votes for all women and all men. The astute ladies who were managing the Congress at once saw that there might be a chance in the future of the English Adult Suffragists getting into the Alliance and changing its policy to a real democratic one; therefore, to the resolution stating that the sole object of the new national societies seeking for admission was to be woman suffrage, an amendment was carried that the “sole object” should not apply to societies already in the Alliance. Several reactionary speeches were at this point made on the subject, “The result of men and women being organised together for obtaining political rights.” It was stated by several delegates that when men gained them they left the women in the lurch. It was also attempted to restrict the words to “gaining suffrage for women”; but I pointed out that if these words remained in the resolution they did not include eligibility to Parliament, and narrowed down our demand. Mrs. Chapman Catt, always an enlightened and impartial chairman, saw the point at once, and the wording of the resolution was altered to “political enfranchisement.” I then asked for a right to reply to the misleading speeches that had been made by various delegates, but the wire-pullers were ready; they did not intend, to have our position for adult suffrage as the only reasonable position both in England and on the Continent, put before the Congress, and the closure was moved by an American delegate, and was carried in face of a protest from Germany and several other countries. I then explained to the president that, as the right to reply was refused us and as it was evidently the intention of a majority of the Congress to exclude any new adult suffrage society from the Alliance, the Adult Suffrage Society of England withdrew its members from the Congress as a protest against the action of the ladies present. Working women will see in this action that it is the intention, at least of the English ladies, to shut them out from political privileges.

May-Day Demonstration in Hyde Park

Adult Suffragists are in a curious position, they have one day in the week to fight reactionary women and another day to make a stand against apathetic and hostile Socialist men. In response to an invitation from the May-Day Demonstration Committee we sent a delegate to its deliberations and paid our affiliation fee, only to discover some few weeks ago that we were refused, as a society, the separate platform that we were granted in 1908; not understanding the reasons of the refusal (as we knew that other organisations were to have their own separate stands, where their banners and devises could advertise their organisation); we protested again and again through our delegate against the treatment we were receiving, and when no satisfaction could be obtained, we arranged to have our own separate platform. As a result the May-Day Demonstration Committee took no notice of our presence, either in its programme of the proceedings, or in its report of our part of the demonstration. This certainly confirms the members of the Adult Suffrage Society in their impressions that where there is not apathy on the part of the rank and file of the S.D.P. there is too often hostility to the agitation for adult suffrage as a political reform here and now. As further evidence of this apathy I feel bound to state that our organising secretary, Miss Hope, wrote me yesterday that as a result of her recent visit to Manchester, “The Manchester people are forming their branch of the Adult Suffrage Society on Friday next without the support of the S.D.P.” Adult Suffragists all over England will be glad to hear that, in spite of our discouragement on May-Day, we held a most successful meeting in Hyde Park, Miss Vance taking the chair. The speakers were Comrades Zetkin from Germany, Kollonty from Russia, Malmberg from Finland, and Boyce, Kough, Montefiore, Macpherson, Shaw, and Murray for England. The usual Adult Suffrage resolution was put to a huge crowd from the platform of the second Clarion van, and enthusiastically carried.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, May 15, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Items of Interest

THE PROTECTION OF MOTHERHOOD,—I received from Germany this month two highly interesting papers, both containing the demands of the German women comrades for the protection of mothers employed in industry. The gist of their demands is an immediate eight hours day for women over 18, and six hours for girls between 14 and 18; the exclusion of women from employments which destroy their health or absorb their whole strength to such an extent that they suffer as child-bearers, and their babies are born unhealthy and weak (these employments include industries in which lead, quicksilver, phosphorus, and other poisonous chemicals are used, and trades that necessitate the lifting and carrying of heavy loads); the forbidding of women to use machines driven by foot power, as the long-continued use of treadle machines has a most injurious effect on the female organism. They further demand that pregnant women shall be forbidden to work within eight weeks of their confinement, and, if the child lives, within eight weeks afterwards. (As industrial insurance against sickness covers the child-bearing period, the woman worker in Germany, who is forbidden by law to work at such periods, gets her insurance money during these weeks.) The women comrades further demand free medical attendance in child-bed, and they ask the municipality to provide good and pure milk for children who have to be brought up by hand. They further wish the State to give special scientific teaching to women on the duties of motherhood and on the care and suckling of their children; and they end their list of demands with the reminder: “Women comrades, when the May Day celebration comes round, think of these demands!”

Important Statistics

The second gives statistics of the results of State insurance against sickness. Taking the various industrial occupations all round, we find that 35 per cent. of the men insured come on the insurance funds, and 32.1 of the women (this in spite of the fact that, with the women, the insurance includes childbearing periods); but in special trades, such as the building trade, where women lift and carry heavy loads, the invalidity among women is 47.3 per cent. Under the heading of the number of days absent from work in consequence of invalidity, the statistics show that, on an average, men are absent 18.5 days in the year, and women 23.4 during the same period. But the writer of the report points out that in the case of most of the women they have a double burden to bear in their work for their capitalist masters, and in the minding of the home and of the children. The strain on them is, therefore, greater, and it is not surprising that their absences from work are greater than those of the men. The last group of figures deal with 100 individuals, whose absences from work were specially noted. I reproduce the figures below; and it, will be observed that from the ages of 15 to 54 the absences of the women are more frequent than those of the men; but once the age of 54 is passed, the men’s working abilities seem to deteriorate rapidly, while those of the women show much less deterioration, and women over 75 still go on working fairly steadily.

Proportional absences from work in consequence of illness

Ages

Men

Women

Under 15 years

595.0

533.5

15 to 19

617.4

753.6

20 to 24

657.1

955.0

25 to 29

707.5

1,205.4

30 to 34

813.6

1,395.1

35 to 39

940.9

1,465.3

40 to 44

1,088.0

1,453.3

45 to 49

1,243.4

1,495.9

50 to 54

1,456.2

1,489.8

55 to 59

1,704.7

1,485.0

60 to 64

2,068.9

1631.7

65 to 69

2,710.3

2,376.0

70 to 74

2,456.3

2,530.5

75 and over

4,042.9

2,5124

A Challenge to Mrs. Despard and Mrs. Billington-Greig

I am informed by Madame Almo Malmberg, who is staying in my house, that she was requested by the Women’s Freedom League to write a pamphlet on the subject of “How the Finnish Women Gained Universal Adult Suffrage.” She complied with the request, and sent the manuscript of the pamphlet to the secretary of the League. No proof was sent to her for correction, but after, a certain lapse of time a copy of the pamphlet was sent her, when she found to her dismay that every historical allusion she had made in the pamphlet to the action of the Finnish Social-Democrats in their successful agitation for obtaining votes for all women and all men had been deleted. She is extremely troubled about the matter, as it places her in a very awkward position. The history of gaining Universal Adult Suffrage in Finland cannot be faithfully written without referring to the fact that the agitation of the Socialists was one of the factors in obtaining this political reform. The publication of this mangled pamphlet is, therefore, an impeachment of her intellectual integrity and of her historical accuracy. I can hardly believe that this unscrupulous “Bowdlerising” has been carried out with the consent of Mrs. Despard, the Chairman of the League, and of Mrs. Billington-Greig, its Organising Secretary, both members of Socialist organisations, and I challenge them to explain the action of someone in connection with their League who is evidently an anti-Socialist.

News from Social-Democratic Women in Finland

Hilja Parsinen, whom some of the comrades will remember to have met at Stuttgart, writes me from Helsingfors to confirm the telegram of congratulation sent by the working women of Finland to the Adult Suffrage demonstration on April 26; and she adds the information that the class struggle between the Social-Democratic women and the reactionary women is being carried on as fiercely in the Finnish Diet as it is in the political organisations. The middle-class women are struggling to make religious instruction obligatory in elementary schools, and the clerical party are urging on the middle-class women to oppose the disestablishment of Church and State, and also the new legislation for protecting women in industry. One point in her letter seems almost incredible, that women who already possess full political rights should be working for restricted municipal rights for women; but Parsinen assures me in her letter that an attempt is being made to grant municipal rights to women on a property basis only. I think it only right to call the special attention of Socialists to these points, because in the “Labour Leader” of April 30 there is a short paragraph headed “Female Suffrage in Finland,” in which paragraph it is stated that “in the last Diet there were twenty-five lady members, but it is expected that this year the record will be easily beaten.” The point for us Socialists to record is surely not how many “Lady members” there were or are in a National Parliament but how many Socialist women members have been elected, and to point out that the fight between the class interests of women Socialists and of all middle-class women is as keen inside Parliament as outside.

“Glelchheit” and the Socialist Women Movement in Germany

It has been a great help and refreshment to me to have our German comrade, Clara Zetkin, staying with me for a week. When not occupied preparing her speeches for the evening, she was writing and sending off matter for the pages of “Gleichheit,” of which she is the able Editor. That paper, which is the organ of the class-conscious Socialist women of Germany, and which is read in Austria, Scandinavia, Russia, Switzerland, Holland, and England, is an abiding monument of the energy and intelligence of the remarkable woman who guides its destinies. For some years it struggled along with a restricted number of readers; now it has such a circulation that it pays its Editor a salary, it pays several of its contributors from other lands, and it hands over every year a very handsome profit to the funds of the party Although pressed by leading commercial firms to accept advertisements of articles dear to the heart of women, it steadily refuses to take commercial advertisements; and in spite of this Spartan decision, it still continues to enlarge its circulation, to increase its appeal to Socialist women and to make a substantial profit.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE


Source: Justice, May 15, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Socialist Women’s International Bureau

The Socialist Women’s International Bureau held their monthly meeting at Chandos Hall on Wednesday evening, May 5. Reports were given by Mrs. Murray concerning the action of delegates from the Bureau at the Women’s International Alliance Congress; Mrs. Montefiore, of work going on among Social-Democratic women on the Continent; and by Mrs. Hendin and Miss Kough, of the joint meeting organised by the Bureau and the Women’s Educational Committee as a welcome to our comrades Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontay. The financial report showed a small balance in hand. Mrs. Townsend (Fabian Society) read a most instructive paper on State Nursery Schools, describing how Robert Owen, in 1816, in his evidence before the House of Commons on “the education of the lower orders,” foreshadowed the necessity for such schools, and experimented in them later on, both in New Lanark and in London. They were started in France in 1826, and are now a well-known institution in that country, known as “Ecoles Maternelles.” Belgium, Hungary, and some parts of Germany have followed this wise example, and it remains for England to make practical what its own idealist, Robert Owen, dreamt of and experimented in. Good and hygienic habits for life are inculcated in these nursery schools, and, as meals are provided and resting at mid-day is encouraged, the children of the workers get some of the training and advantages that are provided in the nurseries of the well-to-do. No reading or writing is taught, but games are played, interesting stories are told, and drawing at blackboards is encouraged. In France every child is expected to have a clean change of linen twice a week, and to come provided with a pocket handkerchief, the use of which is taught to the nurselings. Next month Miss Hicks will read a paper on the State’s responsibilities towards school children.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, May 22, 1909, p. 2
Section: “Special Articles Page”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The International Social-Democrats Greetings to the Russian Czar

WHEN HE VISITS ENGLAND IN 1909
Hark to the tramp of driven throng,
Dragging their weary way along
Snow bound Siberia’s road!
Hark to the clank of fettered limb,
To the wail of babe through the twilight dim,
To the crack of whip, and goad!

Five thousand miles of snow-bound track!
Five thousand tortures that rive and rack,
On the path to the dreaded goal;
Student and teacher, maiden and wife,
Writer and poet, the promise and life
Of the f1ower of Russia’s soul!

Herded with convict, tracked by spies,
Poisoned with filth in prison sties,
Victims of mad brute force;
Hark to the sob of the outraged girl,
To the thudding blow, and the lash’s whirl,
To the laughter loud and coarse!

Haunted by quivering, shrieking ghosts
Torn-from the bodies of exiled hosts,
Who have sunk on the blood-stained earth;
Shall million martyrs suffer in vain,
Shall Russia travail in fruitless pain
With the pangs of Freedom’s birth?

Shall the Powers of Darkness still prevail,
Shall “The People’s Will” prove of no avail,
’Gainst their “Little Father’s” might?
Shall not the shrieking ghosts be laid,
Shall not the price be fully paid,
Shall not the dead requite?

Hark! ’Tis the murmur of gathering hosts
Rising in millions to lay those ghosts,
To sweep away Cossack and Czar;
’Tis “Red Sunday” spreading from town to town,
’Tis the worker casting the idlers down,
’Tis the gleam of fair Freedom’s star!

’Tis the rising tide of “The People’s Will”!
’Tis the blast of the tempest stern and shrill,
That blood for blood demands.
’Tis the dream fulfilled of the millions slain
In mines and dungeons, on steppes and plain,
The dream that no power withstands!

For every crime against human right,
For every flogging, and curse and blight,
For every outraged maid;
For every genius maimed and slain,
For hecatombs of nameless pain
They demand the price be paid.

They demand that Freedom, the priceless boon,
Which bygone hosts have torn and hewn
With bare and bleeding hands
From the granite rock of tyrant power,
Shall fashion a sheltering beacon tower
Bound fast with human hands.

They demand the freedom that Westerns boast,
The Freedom won by France’s host
Through terror and guillotine;
They demand that East shall be as West,
That Progress shall neither pause nor rest
Till the end of the fight be seen.

Till eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,
Till blood for blood, and youth for youth
Shall have paid the bitter price;
Till Church, and Palace, and steps of the Throne
Be purged of those whose death shall atone
For the martyrs,’ sacrifice.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, May 29, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Socialist Women in Russia

In the May number of “La Tribune Russe,” there is an article by our Russian comrade, Vera Figner, on the position of women in Russia, parts of which I propose to translate this week for our Women’s Circle, as it throws a flood of light on the struggle for liberty going on in Russia at the present day, in which struggle women are taking an equal share of the risks and of the suffering with the men. Vera Figner is one of those who have undergone a long and painful imprisonment in the fortress of Schlusselburg, and as she is on a visit to England, this article from her pen should be of special interest to English comrades.

“Among the many questions brought to the front of late years by social life in Russia, is that of Political Rights for women. During the period preceding the movement for liberty in 1905 and 1906, absolutism stifled all manifestations of thought, and every aspiration, both of the people and of Russian society. This explains why, at that moment, neither the question of political rights for women, nor many other urgent questions could be considered; as some writer has well said, ‘The woman, in her absolute lack of every right, was the equal of the man.’ But the peculiar characteristics of Russian life exercised their influence on the lot of women, and during the last forty years created for her a special situation quite different from that occupied by women in other countries. If, on one side, this situation is more difficult than that of her sisters in Western Europe, and the burdens of responsibility are heavier, on the other hand, the Russian woman finds lying open before her wide and luminous horizons. The abolition of serfdom in 1861 not only emancipated the Russian peasant, but also caused a great upheaval in the whole spirit, and in the moral conceptions of the privileged classes. This reform was reflected in the family, which, till then, had had for basis on one side the despotism of husband and father, and on the other side the unlimited submission of the wife and mother. The severe military discipline which prevailed during the reign of Nicholas I. reflected itself in the family, and penetrated into the relations of father and children, of husband and wife. But once the serf was freed and the dignity of the human being was recognised, it was necessary to recognise also the human dignity of the oppressed members of the family. They had suffered so long that they hastened to seize the propitious moment, and planted the standard of revolt on the domestic hearth. The youth of both sexes protested in the name of human dignity, in the name of independence, and in the name of personal rights; and women, who until then had been dumb, openly defied the authority of father, husband and society, and braving traditional conventions, demanded the right to be independent. Inside the family, woman desired to be the equal of the husband and the father; as a member of society she demanded the right to higher education, the right to work, and to make for herself a position of economic independence.

“During the stormy period of economic and moral transformation of the nation, without troubling herself about the jesting and the calumnies falling like hail upon her from every side, the Russian woman won the first outposts of that frank comradeship, which have governed, since then, the moral relations of the sexes in Russian intellectual circles. Between the years 1860 and 1870 the political preoccupations of the educated classes were still feeble; the struggle against prejudices of the family, of society, and of religion, and later on the realisation of the reforms of the reign of Alexander II. (the abolition of serfdom, judicial reforms, Zemstvo, etc.) sufficed to absorb their activity: This period was followed by thirty years of reaction, during which time social energy not finding any legitimate expression, the whole of the activities of Russian youth were centred in the revolutionary movement. The Russian woman, who had only just escaped from slavery, took part in this movement with the same mandate and the same rights as did the man, her comrade in the struggle.

Vera Figner then shows in some detail the part that women played in the sixties in the Russian struggle for liberty; she tells of the long years of imprisonment, suffered by both men and women, when so many fell victims to disease, suicide and madness, the survivors only escaping with ruined health.

“Women played a preponderating role many cases; everyone who saw those young women and these young girls, well educated, rich, belonging to the privileged classes, but who voluntarily became industrial workers, submitting themselves in factory life to the hardest conditions, were struck with admiration for the purity and the grandeur of their aspirations. The speech of one of them, Sophie Bardina by name (a former student of Zurich), is a model of delicacy and of eloquence, and occupies an important place in the annals of those days.

“During the period between 1876 and 1885, the Socialist movement, which till then had been peaceful, gradually changed into an active revolutionary struggle directed against the political organisation of Russia. A series of attacks on Ministers, on the police, on the Emperor himself, kept, during ten years, the whole country in a state of unrest. In all these conspiracies the part played by the women was as active and energetic as that of the men. No danger, no peril stopped them . In 1877 the Petersburg Prefect of Police, Trepoff, having ordered a political prisoner to be flogged, Vera Zassoulitch took upon herself to avenge this outrage in the blood of the executioner; she fired on Trepoff. To the great joy of all Russian thinkers she was acquitted, and the name of Vera Zassoulitch is honoured as the symbol of revolt against outraged human dignity. In 1881, for the first time in Russian contemporary history, a woman was executed. She was the daughter of the ex-governor of the province of Pskow, Sophie Perovskaia; she met her death with the same serenity and the same courage as did her companions. Before and after this execution other women had been condemned to death, but their sentence has been commuted to hard labour, and they have been imprisoned in the fortress of Schlusselberg, the Bastille of Russia . During the last ten years of the preceding century there has been, throughout Russia, a prodigious agitation among students and workmen. The political struggle, having to a certain extent ceased, it was followed by a strenuous propaganda of Social-Democratic teaching, specially among the workers in the towns. Women participated actively in this propaganda, and took part in all revolutionary organisations and in all the committees for propaganda. Since 1902, two parties have been working in the field,: the Social-Democrats and the Revolutionary Socialists; in both parties women work with energy and devotion, and have accomplished an enormous share of work. It is not disputed that the propaganda carried on in the Army is in great part due to them. They mixed among the sailors of Kronstadt and of Sebastopol; they carried their propaganda among the soldiers both in the capital and in provincial towns, and succeeded in interesting those who till then seemed absolutely impervious to the light of Socialist doctrine, and totally unconscious of existing conditions . They took part in the military risings of Sveaborg, of Kronstadt, of Sebastopol, and of Vladivostock; they fought on the barricades of Moscow.”

The writer then retells the heroic stories of Spiridonova, of Bitsenko, of Schkolnik, of Konopliannikova, of Ragozinnikova, all of whom confronted alone, and in many cases succeeded in executing tyrants who had tortured peasants, burned villages and made the streets of Moscow run with blood. These women have suffered every degradation and torture which defenceless women in the hands of brutal gaolers and soldiers can suffer. In one case Mlle. Ismailovitch was shot immediately, and without trial, after her attempt to execute Admiral Tchoukhine; others were strangled by the executioner for having taken part in the conspiracies and in the terrorist acts during the two tragic years of struggle for the economic and political enfranchisement of the Russian people.

“This sacrifice of life and of liberty which Russian women have offered to the common cause, increases the feeling of profound respect with which they are already treated. Nevertheless, during all these years, the struggle going on was merely for civil and political rights for all, for the enfranchisement of the whole Russian nation. That was all the trouble! And all these demands have been rendered impossible by the exceptional nature of social life in Russia. But when quite recently, in 1904 and 1905, the country saw before it the possibility of free political organisation, of popular representation, etc., the question of rights of women immediately came to the front”

The rest of this article will be published in the June number of “La Tribune Russe” and I shall then hope to give English readers the story of the actual struggle being carried on now by Russian women for these political rights.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, June 5, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Blackburn S.D.P.

The Women’s Circle at this branch continues to do useful work, and we are glad to say the membership is gradually growing. Good attendances have been the rule at the Sunday afternoon meetings, which have been addressed during the month by Comrade Holden,. Blackburn I.L.P., Comrade Lund, delivered an excellent address on “Some of our poets: Shelley, Goldsmith, Hood,” which was much enjoyed. Comrade John Smethurst, an ex-town councillor, who has done valiant work on the Blackburn Education Committee, lectured on May 16 on “State Maintenance for School Children,” the illustrations to which were of great value in leading to a clearer understanding of the necessity for that measure. On Sunday, May 23, Comrade Mrs. Alice Hart read a splendid essay on “Work for Women Socialists,” at the close of which a very helpful discussion took place. At the S.D.P. DEmonstration on Sunday, May 2, our women turned out in full force, and their number caused many comments from the thousands of by-standers who lined the streets.

JENNIE TAYLOR.

I do not know what you think, women friends and comrades, about this little report from the Blackburn Women’s Circle, but I think it is a very excellent one, and, greedy person that I am, I want plenty more of the some sort from the other circles. Have you ever leant over a pond and dropped a stone into its still, unruffled surface? Immediately a circle is formed, and from that circle are born circles upon circles, until the eye fails to follow the thousand concentric ripples that soon cover the whole face of the once sleeping water. So it will be with our Social-Democratic Women’s Circles. Those who first ruffled the sleeping waters are now watching delightedly the growing, swirling circles of knowledge, of culture, of endeavour; and we know that nothing can stop their growth and development, nothing can bring back the dead apathy of the sleeping pool.

I want just to point out why I feel specially that the Blackburn Women’s Circle is on the right path, and why, as a consequence, the membership is growing. First, the subjects of the lectures have been particularly well chosen; our Women’s Circles are above all things educational. The girl child is supposed to receive elementary education up to the age of thirteen; she then usually begins to help to support the family to which she belongs, and continues this avocation with more or less success, until she marries and begins a family of her own. The feeble amount of reading and writing, attained with much difficulty between the age of five and thirteen, becomes feebler as the years go on; for of leisure for reading there is none, and of incentive there is also none The wife or sweetheart of the Socialist who would like to know something about the subject that proves of such supreme interest to her companion, finds herself often in a difficult position. If she takes up one of his Socialists books, the chances are—her vocabulary not being large, nor her mind developed in the direction of social and economic subjects—she will scarcely be able to understand two words, and will certainly not be able to follow the arguments. Too shy, or perhaps too proud to ask questions, she wraps herself in her mantle of ignorance, and either jeers or sneers at the whole subject. She certainly has often not the slightest idea that this subject of Socialism is one most vital to her everyday interests, and to the interests of little Tommy, Ada and the baby. A lecture, therefore (illustrated with lantern slides) on the “State Maintenance of School Children” to non-Socialist women, is of the greatest value, because it brings home to them in a practical way root principles of Socialism, Then the lecture on the poets is of great use in opening the mind and stimulating the imagination. Conventions bind women too often hard and fast; poets like Shelley were the supreme revolters against conventions, and it is necessary, in order to break up the ground for the seeds of Socialism, to make rebels and revolters of women. Then along comes Mrs. Alice Hart with a practical essay on “Work for Socialist Women,” with the result that when May Day came round, the women mustered in force to demonstrate and, I feel convinced, will have practical results before next May Day.

It. is also good, news that Mrs. Boyce has been appointed woman organiser for the circles; I have long been wanting a woman organise to match with her work some of our splendid men organisers. Mrs. Boyce is the first, and she will not allow the black surface of the pond of capitalism to lie sleeping if she can help it. But I want, before long, to record the fact that another and yet another woman organiser has been appointed, and later on I want a Woman’s Socialist Van with women vanners, taking round the good news to the women in the cottage and the field.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Extract from “Die Gleichheit.” 7th June, 1909
[Almost certainly by Zetkin.—Note by transcriber.]
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


[On the report of the conference below see the comment on the conference by Montefiore in Justice, p.7, May 8, 1909. Entitled “LADIES and the Suffrage” Note by transcriber ERC].


The London Congress of the International Alliance for Women Suffrage

Scarcely five years have passed since, in 1904, in Berlin, was founded the. International Alliance for Women Suffrage, and it has already fulfilled to an even greater degree than we at the time contemplated, the inevitable line of its development.

The Alliance throws off the veil of varying and fluctuating pretensions and reveals itself, I not as the harmonious image of God to the sisterhood of all women without distinction of class; it comes forth as the buttress of the possessing class against equal political rights for the whole of the female sex. The real self of the Alliance has been hidden behind a mask of pretence, and behind the business-like defenders of the bourgeoisie, and has made a false show. In naked ugliness it now stands, as the embodiment of narrow class interests, and as the aspiration of propertied women for a political monopoly.

The congresses of the Alliance—Copenhagen 1906, Amsterdam 1908, and new London—each marks a degree of self-revelation, in each case the latter surpassing those which have gone before in giving a clearer knowledge of these middle-class individuals and their aims.

The movement of the women for equal political rights cannot accomplish itself satisfactorily in the idyllic, narrow, sphere of an International Alliance in which the shadowy phantasy of the “well-meaning” advocates of women’s rights are able, as a will-o’-the-wisp, to lead astray, without waiting for the “unethical,” who thrust forward the vulgar theory of the distinction of classes, and the class struggle. It is proceeding in the midst of the powerful reality of busy life, whose “history is the history of the class war,” and is in itself a most important phase and manifestation, intelligible only as part of the class war.

Only a small group of so-called “fraternal delegates,” invited guests, were anxious that this most important signification of the tendency of the congress should be publicly emphasised. This was the group of representatives (male and female) of the Adult Suffrage Society and of the English section of the Socialist Women’s International Bureau.

Our readers know under what peculiarly difficult circumstances a minimum of valiant English comrades of both sexes struggle continuously and, definitely for the democratisation of political rights. Both the before named organisations thought; therefore, make use of the Woman’s Rights his Congress to bring forward the demand for universal adult suffrage.

Under the leadership of comrade Mrs. Montefiore, their delegations took part in the congress with the definite object only of compelling the Alliance to give a decisive and clear declaration on the issue, “Women’s or Ladies’ Franchise,” so that there could no longer remain, any doubt as to its aim; also to direct general attention to the reactionary character of the organisation for rights for women, and to the counter movement thereto, the struggle for the franchise for all adult men and women.

As guests, the Socialist delegation could put forward no proposals. Comrade Mrs. Montefiore was obliged, therefore, to be satisfied with one question to the president, Mrs. Chapman-Catt. She desired to know whether the Adult Suffrage Society would be able to take part in the proceedings of the Alliance. The application was refused by the unanimous decision of the congress. Comrade Mrs. Montefiore protested against this, stating that on the most important question which would engage the attention of the Congress for the day, and on which a decision would be arrived at, the discussion would be closed without the possibility of a hearing being granted to the practical advocates of the definite demand for equal political rights; without the delegates even having perceived the foundation of this demand, which corresponded with it in importance.

In its incarnate bourgeois essence, the Congress had raised a matter against political dignity and prudence, which had to be heard, and on which it was obliged to decide with some courtesy and justice; whether expressly invited guests should be allowed to speak.

The protest of the small delegations (under which were included the German and the Dutch delegations) in favour was closured in order to prevent Mrs. Montefiore from speaking. The feeling of the meeting was made, thereby, still more patent, taking into consideration the fact that comrade Mrs. Montefiore has—as the leaders of the Alliance well know—originally raised and advocated, in Australia, the demand for womanhood suffrage.

The delegation of the Adult Suffrage Society and the International Bureau gave the only right answer to this doubtful kind of “hospitality”; they indignantly left the congress. But they had accomplished their main point. The reactionary limits of the Alliance, with its rights for women, and its malevolent opposition to the political interests of the plundered masses, had been more sharply defined than they could have been by the sharpest speech.

Near the English women were the “free daughters” of the great republic on the other side of the ocean. It merits special consideration that the delegates from the United States were remarkable for the fanaticism with which they opposed the universal adult suffrage and freedom of speech for Mrs. Montefiore, even in the reactionary company of the congress.

The president of the Alliance, Mrs. Chapman-Catt, had, in Berlin, shortly before the congress, spoken in quite an edifying manner, and waxed warm over the claims of all working women to equal political rights. Now, however, she declares that in no State dare the Alliance defend the rights of these women; furthermore, that its champions in the Congress could not be allowed a hearing.

More revolting still were the old reactionary stock arguments set forth by the Methodist preacher, Anna Shaw, who, thanks to her calling, is the particular pride of the advocates of international women’s rights. Was this deliberately insulting denier of the rights to the masses. (who showed not a vestige of understanding of them, and who, directly the women of the have-nots urgently demanded political rights, the desire of the unnumbered millions, in whose oppressed, needy souls the idea of woman contrasts strangely with that of feminine goldsacks huddled together, breathed not a breath of sympathy for their interests), was she actually one and the same with the minister from whose lips in the pulpit flowed forth oily speeches about “the one shepherd and the one flock”? By their fruits ye shall know them. “Clothes do not make the monk,” says an Italian national proverb. The priesthood of the professors of moderation has ever been the league of the fellow conspirators of the plundering and governing classes.

(Translated by Daisy BRIDGMAN.)

Letters and reports held over.

********


Source: Justice, June 12, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Items of Interest from Other Countries

From the United States of America we have news of a gigantic demonstration in favour of women’s suffrage, held early in this year. At the suggestion of the National Committee, the Socialist Party, throughout the entire country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, held what was called a National Women’s Suffrage day. Over a thousand enthusiastic meetings were organised, and an enormous amount of Socialist propagandist literature was distributed. The New York “Volkszeitung” and the “Evening Call,” the “Chicago Daily Socialist,” and the “Progressive Woman,” appeared in special women’s suffrage numbers, and the whole demonstration was organised not by any special women’s society, but by the whole Socialist Democratic Party, which counts a membership of five hundred thousand men and women. The Socialist demand for Women’s Suffrage has made a great sensation in America, and the entire capitalist Press, which ordinarily boycotts Socialist meetings, was forced to take notice of these demonstrations.

GERMANY.—In Weimar the Socialist group in the Landtag has demanded for all women the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament; this demand cannot fail to show up the Government and the bourgeois parties in their true light as reactionaries.

HOLLAND.—The first annual conference of the Federation of Social-Democratic Women’s Clubs in Holland took place at Easter. The agenda included the discussion of “State maintenance of mothers,” and the question of the enlargement of the Socialist women’s newspaper, to which it was suggested a children’s page be added. The report shows that the federation has grown in numbers and in influence, and consists now of sixteen groups; it has kept up during the year a vigorous agitation for suffrage for all adult women, for legal protection for women’s labour, and against all proposals to prohibit women’s labour. The federation has had for its principal aim the awakening of class consciousness among working women, and they have succeeded not only in this, but in dispelling a good many of the old bourgeois prejudices which prevailed, even among comrades, against the participation of women in public life. Unfortunately, the split in the party has lost them many valuable members, among others Comrade Memsing, the International correspondent.

HUNGARY.—The third congress of the Social-Democratic women in Hungary was held in Budapest at Easter, and the reports show that a class-conscious working women’s movement in Hungary is of quite recent growth, the reason for this being that organised industry is only in its infancy, and agriculture is still the principal means of livelihood of the greater number of the workers. Education is also in a backward state; the first propaganda, therefore, was made on the lines of economic interest, but of late years the political rights of women have also been advanced. Men have been fighting for universal suffrage, and that aroused the interest of the women and drew them into the struggle for equal political rights.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, June 19, 1909, p. 2
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Latest Play of the Stage Society

Personally I am grateful to the Stage Society for having given their two performances of Mr Hamilton Fyfe’s play “A Modern Aspasia”. It evidently puzzled the audience on Monday’s Matinee, and from the criticisms in the “Morning Post” and “Daily Telegraph” it has no less puzzled the critics. They fretfully repine because Mr. Hamilton Fyfe has “not solved the problem,” and has left the situation as vague at the end as it was at the beginning evidently expected Mr. Fyfe to out-bishop the bishop, and have an ethical platitude or a biblical tag for every situation in modern life. The great force and charm of the play, to my mind, was that it boldly tackled one of the complicated situations of modern sex relations, that it showed how futile to meet such situations were the ordinary sanctions and taboos of conventionality, and gave the audience something to think about as to how and where the new sanctions were working. The quite delightful bishop of Patagonia, sitting perilously between the two stools of divinely inspired authority and economic and social necessity, made, with the help of Mr. Walter Bretherton, the society man of much money but little brains, a most appropriate Greek chorus, as they flitted in and out among the three real actors in the drama, Edward Meredith, his wife Muriel (the Modern Aspasia), who had married him for companionship and for position, not meaning to undertake any intimate duties as wife or mother, and the young girl living in a Surrey village whom Meredith had married without church or legal rights, in order to satisfy the other side of his nature, and who had become the mother of his two children. The problem for the dear bishop, primed with pleasant platitudes and simple solutions, was, which woman had the greater moral claim on Meredith, and, consequently, which woman should be honoured with the title of wife? Bretherton is scandalised with the situation because it reverses the “immoralities of life,” the man who can afford to do so usually shares his attentions between the legal domesticated wife, the mother of his children, and the companionable non-domesticated Aspasia, to whom he turns in moments of recreation. That, according to the Walter Brethertons of this world, is a natural and understandable position—“Most fellows do it, don’t you know.” What it seems to me Mr. Hamilton Fyfe was laying before his audience with the skill of an artist who looks on but who does not “take sides,” is the fact that the position of the sexes is being to a certain extent reversed. Men have for centuries looked upon women as something created for their convenience, their entertainment, to be their “helpmates”; they are wakening up with a shock, to find that at least some women are looking upon them somewhat in that light. Nietzsche wrote, “Man should be trained for war and woman for the warrior’s hours of relaxation. All else is foolishness.” Under capitalism, we might paraphrase this: “All men should be trained for commerce, and women for the spending of the unearned increment appropriated by the merchant. All else is foolishness.” It is this having given woman power, the power of money, without responsibility, which has destroyed moral character in too many of them, and, produced types like that of Muriel Meredith. Fortunately, she is more or less a rare type, and Margaret Warren, the mother of Meredith’s children, is a much more common one. She is the type of girl who yearns passionately for children and droops disconsolately when she feels what little chance there is for the average moneyless girl to compete in the marriage market, which is ruled, like every other market by economic considerations. When the chance of motherhood, of self-expression through her children is offered her, she cannot resist the temptation, once she has tasted of its joys, she realises that given economic independence, the world and its judgements are well lost if she can keep her children entirely for her own. In this respect, as I have more than once pointed out, the unmarried mother stands in a much better position to her own children than does the married mother under English law. The children of the unmarried mother are hers entirely, the children of the married mother have only one parent in law, and that parent is the father. All these points and many others bearing directly and indirectly on our present marriage muddle, Mr. Hamilton Fyfe has, with rare art and restraint, placed before the public in “A Modern Aspasia”; and what we, who appreciate the play, are most grateful to him for, he has refrained from dogmatizing or preaching. He has thrown his sketch on the canvas, and has left men and women, who are in the thick of life’s struggle, to judge of its reality, its vitality, and its truth.

Labour Junketings in Germany

The capitalist Press has been kept well informed as to the entertainments, junketings, and bean-feastings of the Labour members and their ladies, offered recently in Germany by the enemies of Labour in that country. Some of the M.P.’s have even added substantially to their incomes by florid accounts of industrial expansion and capitalist forethought, as exemplified in the rapid rise of new industrial centres in Germany. The “Koelnische Zeitung” publishes a telegram from Berlin saying they “Note with satisfaction that, unlike the German Social-Democrats, the Labour men and women did not adopt an attitude of aloofness, but willingly intermingled with all ranks and classes.” We have yet, as Social-Democrats, to learn which are the occasions for either German or any other Social-Democrats to refuse to “intermingle with all ranks and classes.” The only thing we insist upon, as Social-Democrats, is that there shall be no doubt in the minds of those with whom we are intermingling about our attitude on the class struggle, which class struggle, as waged by the employers, shuts out at the present time the mass of the workers from access to the means of life. It would appear that the little group of non-class-conscious Labour members and their ladies has not insisted on this point, and they, therefore, have been taken at their own valuation by our German Socialist comrades as reformers, not revolutionisers of the present economic and social system. Our comrades in Geri many have appreciated an interesting Lib-Lab. situation, and their silence in “Vorwaerts” is full of meaning.

Notes on the Life History of Vera Figner

Vera Figner was the daughter of cultured parents in easy circumstances of life. At seventeen she finished her studies at the High School, and at eighteen she married a magistrate, a man with whom she was neither in intellectual nor spiritual sympathy—for she was always at heart a revolutionary, and he, as magistrate, was on the side of law and convention. It was not long, therefore, before a separation was arranged, and Vera continued her studies at Zurich in 1872, where she followed a course of medical instruction. Here she came in contact with Socialists and Revolutionists, and shortly afterwards began her work of propaganda among the peasants in Russia. For the next ten years this highly intelligent and beautiful young girl spent her time either in out-of-the-way Russian villages, or in travelling about from one end of Russia to the other, working indefatigably in the cause of the social revolutionaries. One after another her comrades were arrested, and many were executed. Naturally, executions on the part of the revolutionaries was the reply again and again to the bitter persecution of the official party. This culminated in the successful throwing of a bomb at the Russian Emperor, which execution placed on the throne the father of the present Nicholas the Bloody. Vera Figner, though one of those intimately associated with the conspirators, escaped for some time arrest, though she in no way sought to hide herself from the police, neither did she, during her trial, attempt to mitigate her offence. She was condemed to death, but the sentence was commuted to hard labour for life, and at thirty years of age the doors of the Schlusselburg fortress closed on this Russian heroine of freedom. If anyone wishes to know what the life of a prisoner. in Schlasselburg is, let him read the recently-published “Russian Bastille,” by Youvatshew, translated from the Russian by Dr. Rappoport. Youvatshew describes his cell as 5 ft. by 4 ft., and tells how one of the generals who visited the prison once said to one of the prisoners: “No one ever walks out of these precincts, but is carried out, either to the cemetery or into the lunatic asylum.”

Thirty-one years Vera Figner lived in this inferno, and her moral courage did much to strengthen the character of the other prisoners, and helped them to resist the terrible conditions under which their gaoler forced them to live, After some years of solitary confinement, so many the prisoners went mad or died, that an order was issued to allow them to take exercise in the prison yard, and even to cultivate vegetables and flowers. There are many documents in existence describing historically the Russian revolution under Alexander II., and alluding constantly to the life led by the prisoners of Schusselburg. The name of Vera Figner appears constantly in these documents and is everywhere mentioned with the respect and affection which she inspired among all those who came in contact with her. When, during the recent few months of liberty which succeeded the declaration of a constitution in Russia, an amnesty was granted to all prisoners, Vera Figner’s long martyrdom in Schlusselburg came to an end, and at the age of fifty-two she was set at liberty. She still devotes what energy is left to her in helping forward the cause of Russian freedom, and in showing to the world the horrors that exist in the twentieth century in the Empire of the Czar. As Vera Figner is invited as the guest of the evening to the monthly dinner of the Central Branch of the S.D.P. this short account of her life may be of interest to comrades who intend to be present and hear her speak on the present condition of Russian exiles in Siberia.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, June 26, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Municipal Laundries

Comrade Marguerite Stubbings’s article has opened up an interesting subject on which Socialist women can concentrate at the forthcoming municipal elections in November. Every London borough should have its municipal laundry, and the larger industrial boroughs should have one in every ward. I have not the details by me now, but I know there is at least one London borough where working women can, on Saturdays, or after school hours, take not only their clothes, but their children to the public laundry and baths. Whilst the children take their baths, the mother, with the help of up-to-date processes and drying rooms, does her week’s washing, including the clothes the children have taken off whilst having their baths. If any comrade can give me information as to the exact locality in London in which this municipal enterprise is situated, I will go and visit it and give my readers a more detailed account, because, as L. Scarlett writes, “There is nothing more likely to arouse the interest of working women and help to bring them to the movement than this idea of publicly-managed laundries.” The borough council election campaign meetings are just now beginning; and Socialist women comrades who desire to arouse a spark of interest and imagination in the minds of their less developed neighbours, should talk to them about municipal milk-supply for the children, coal supply for the long, dreary winter, and municipal laundries for relieving working-class mothers from some of their drudgery.

Degrees of Comparison in Cleanliness

In Dr. Hogarth’s book, “The Medical Inspection of Schools,” he tells us that “50 per cent. of our elementary school-children are affected with vermin or other parasitic conditions.” And then we talk of “dirty foreigners”! In the course of my travels I have often philosophised on this question of cleanliness, and have come to the conclusion that every country but England has its favourite or popular or democratic form of cleanliness. One of the happy, charming sights in Italy is that of the outdoor public laundries, where, under spreading shelters, the women and girls scrub, and wring, and rinse, and chatter, sometimes in sunshine, and sometimes in storm. I never saw either man, woman or child in dirty or torn clothes in Italy, and the patching of old garments was carried out to such an immoderate extent that one sometimes wondered which was the original part of the blue “pants,” or the orange-coloured petticoat displayed on the clothes lines.

In Holland, a spring clean, I was told, took two months, and, as everyone knows, they wash the outside of their houses once a week. I made special investigations into their dairies and cowhouses, and at the latter found, besides glazed brick gutters, which were constantly swilled down in order to carry away everything offensive, that the cows’ tails were tied to rings in the ceiling so as to prevent them from dirtying themselves by swishing their tails about. Most of the cowhouses had spotless muslin curtains in the windows.

In Sweden I found most excellent hot and cold baths and steam baths attached to all the elementary and secondary schools.

In France, the ecole maternelle for infants exacts two changes of linen per week for the children, and expects each child to bring a pocket handkerchief. In France also, the authorities constantly wash down the side walks of towns with a powerful jet of water from a hose—a specially necessary form of cleanliness nowadays, when dogs, driven from the roads by motor traffic, defile our pavements and spread disease. We really have, it seems to me, a good deal to learn in the way of cleanliness from the “dirty foreigners.”

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, July 3, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Socialist “Help”

As this column is intended as a means of communication between women comrades, I want, this week, to tell of the needs of a young German woman comrade who, as she is annoyed and persecuted by her family in consequence of her professed Socialism, wishes to find a situation as useful help in England. She does not speak English, but is a “splendid cook and housekeeper”; her age is twenty-nine. If any comrade can offer her a situation over here, I shall be glad to put her in communication with the young woman.

Lord Rosebery on the Budget

To us Socialist women Lord Rosebery’s recent letter on the Budget is very humorous reading. The Budget is a question that should interest every woman, because we all have to contribute towards it, but we have no control over the way our money is spent. We are not particularly lost in admiration over this particular Budget of Lloyd George’s, but it evidently opens a way along which, in the future, some of the “haves” may be forced to return land and other accumulated wealth to the “have-nots.” This arouses the ire of Rosebery and Co., and he writes to the papers about the danger the Budget is to “our constitution as at present understood and enjoyed.” I have no doubt Lord Rosebery does “enjoy” our constitution, because he holds all the trumps in the game, and has a seat in the Upper House, where he, and others similarly placed, are able to shuffle the cards so that the trumps may continue to get into their hands, and they may go on “enjoying.” But the unenfranchised women and men of this country do not “enjoy” the constitution at all. They are outside it, and, though they have to pay for the benefits, they must continue to stand outside, and watch those who are “enjoying.” His lordship then goes on to state, in quite pathetic language, the case of the thne enfranchised and unrepresented, though he does not apply it to us, who never vote, but, by some subtle interpretation of his own, applies it to those who, at the last general election, returned the present Government to power. “British citizens,” he writes, with a sob in his pen, “will have no more control over them (the majority in the House) than if they were Tartars or Japs.” I feel quite elated to think that one man, at least, in England, realises what it is to have to live in this country year after year, and to be forced to feel like “a Tartar or a Jap.” I thank thee, Rosebery, for giving me that word. The disfranchised women and men of England are getting tired of having no more control than “Tartars or Japs,” and they mean, in the near future, when statesmen talk pompously about “the country having a voice in the matter,” to see to it that it is the country that shall be appealed to and not bricks and mortar. By the by, why did his lordship go so far afield as “Tartars and Japs,” when he required a striking example? A more homely simile would have been: “British citizens will have no more control over them than if they were British women.” “Surely,” writes Lord Rosebery further on, “the country must begin to see that there are vast flaws in the constitution.” Some of us do see it, my lord, and have been trying for some time unsuccessfully, to make you and your friends see it. Our political machinery is 200 years behind the times, but both Liberals and Tories are always too busy looking after their own interests and those of their friends to attend to these “serious flaws in the constitution.”

Electoral Reform

Sir Charles Dilke has sent me a copy of his Paper on Electoral Reform, which he read recently at the National Liberal Club. One of his conclusions runs thus: “In Australia and New Zealand, adult suffrage made no difference; no party difference; no difference upon any question—only the great social differences of interesting women in public affairs.” When describing some of the conditions under which men at present get their vote, he quoted from the Revising Barrister’s examination of Mr. Pemberton, the son of the Vicar of Kensal Town:-

“You say you have the separate use of your room. Does your mother never come into it?”

“Certainly she does. She comes in to visit me just as does our domestic cat.” Vote allowed.

After rehearsing some more of the absurd existing electoral anomalies, Sir Charles Duke sums up: “Franchise is to be dealt with democratically, and an amendment is to be carried by the House to let in women on terms enjoyed by men, and extended by the Bill. Plural voting is to be abolished. Redistribution is to be faced.” All this sounds well, but is seriously discounted by concluding sentence of the paper. But the block of “The Lords” must be dealt with before we can hope for real and lasting “electoral reform.”

Cleanliness and Sanitation

I have had two or three appreciative communications on the subject of my last week’s article on “Cleanliness as practised in England and on the Continent,” and a friend has sent me a copy of a paper read before the Royal Sanitary Institute Congress on the use of spray baths in elementary schools. The writer shows the advantages of spray baths over slipper and plunge baths, where large numbers of children have to be cleansed, and tells how Germany and Scandinavia have, for the last thirty years, passed through a regularly developing process of school bathing, the present installations being “well lighted and ventilated, provided with tiled troughs and marble or tiled walls. The douching apparatus is of the most modern and most perfect description.” After showing how Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland have followed Germany’s example in the matter of spray, baths for its elementary scholars, the writer turns to England, and chronicles the fact that “The sole spray bath installation for the 780,000 London school children is one of four douches at the Pulteney School, Shaftesbury Avenue, but, small as it is, it manages to provide some 6,000 or 7,000 baths per annum.” As a matter of fact, no child should be allowed to use a swimming bath without first having a soap down and a warm spray for cleansing purposes; this is provided for on the Continent, but at present our English authorities have not taken up the matter. There is a fine field here for Socialist women working on education boards.

D. B. M.

********


Source: Justice, July 10, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Central Branch Dinner

Over thirty comrades met at the monthly dinner on Wednesday evening, the 30th ult., to welcome our Russian comrade Vera Figner, who, after dinner, read a paper on the actual conditions under which some of the exiles in Siberia spend their lives. Comrade Green was in the chair, and told how, again and again, when lecturing on the movement in Russia, he had spoken of the heroine Vera Figner, and had shown her portrait on the screen, little thinking he would ever have the privilege of introducing her to an English Socialist audience. What Vera Figner told us of the lives of 300 among the 100,000 exiles to Siberia revealed a calculated refinement of cruelty which, alone, without any other indictment against “the Hanging Czar,” would be sufficient to provoke a protest from every decent-minded person against the autocrat responsible for such callous cruelty. The spot chosen for the “home” of these 300 exiles (among whom are children and young people from 15 years of age) is a group of villages inhabited by fur-clad aborigines in the extreme north of Siberia. During two out of the nine months of winter the sun never rises, and the ground is frozen so hard during the greater part of the year, that none but the rudest form of agriculture is possible. No preparation is made for the exiles; they have either to herd together in a room in a peasant’s hut, or build themselves rough shelters of logs, or in some cases to burrow in the snow. The thermometer stands frequently at 40, 50, or 60 degrees below zero. The majority of these exiles have no private means, and their friends in Russia are not sufficiently well off to send them money. The Government allows them seven farthings a day wherewith to provide themselves with food, firing and shelter. They are not allowed to work in order to add to their means of subsistence, and their constant preoccupation therefore, is how to get food and how to keep warm. Vera Figner, who, after her twenty-two years’ imprisonment in Schlusselburg was sent to Archangel, is in constant communication with these unfortunate exiles, and had many photographs to illustrate her story. She sometimes wished, she said, when she heard of these long drawn out cruelties, that she were back in her cell at Schlusselburg, where, at least, she was unconscious of what was going on.

It is proposed to hold a women’s demonstration against the reception in England of the Czar. I hope all Socialist women will give it their hearty support, and let there he no doubt as to what English women think about the blood-stained tyrant, Nicholas II.

The Co-operative Women

I am glad to be able to report that at the recent congress of the Co-operative Women’s Guild the following resolution was passed after a strenuous and interesting debate “That this congress considers the time has arrived when the suffrage should be granted to all women, and pledges itself to work for and support a measure on the lines of the Adult Suffrage Bill introduced into the House of Commons last session. That this congress, desiring the enfranchisement of women by the present Parliament, declares itself in favour of adult suffrage as being the method most consistent with the democratic principles of this Parliament, and the form of enfranchisement by which equality is established between men and women, married and single, rich and poor.” The passing of this resolution means that the franchise policy of one of the largest and most intelligent working women’s organisations has been reversed. In her speech in support of the resolution, Miss Llewellyn Davies said: “The abolition of the sex disqualification would take place in an Adult Suffrage Bill much more so than in a Limited Bill . The Government were in favour of adult suffrage, and they wanted to combine a great force of opinion in order to compel them to move in that direction. The time had come for a new agitation—for working women to unite and demand the vote for women without any class distinction at all.”

Thus slowly but surely class-conscious working women are learning where their true interests lie, and are realising that a measure of limited woman suffrage initiated forty years ago is not the democratic measure that will enfranchise working women, neither is it in touch with the teachings and aspirations of the twentieth century.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, July 17, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


“The Englishwoman”

I have been looking through the July number of this publication, which contains a special preface setting forth the fact that it is “intended to reach the cultured public and bring before it in a convincing and moderate form the case for the enfranchisement of women.” As the Lady Frances Balfour is one of the editors, the end of this sentence this should doubtless read, “the enfranchisement of some women,” for has she not definitely put it on record, when expounding the case for the limited Women’s Suffrage Bill: “Many of us, however, have the greatest objection to adult suffrage”? Miss Isabella Ford has a sympathetic and detailed article on “Women Workers in the Wholesale Clothing Trade,” describing the sweated conditions of both factory workers and home workers. I shall quote no detail of wages and prices paid, for have we not had exhibitions of sweated industries both at the east end and west end of London, and what has been the effect on legislation? These exhibitions, and these restatements of horrible and disgraceful facts are really part of the sensationalism of the age; they are scenes in the Pageant of Poverty which idle and callous people gloat over, or make use of to stimulate their jaded imaginations. As with Lady Frances Balfour, so with Miss Ford, I feel bound to criticise her attitude in working and speaking for a measure which would only enfranchise bricks and mortar inhabited by some of the women of the nation, when she is able to appreciate the real need of the propertyless working woman of the vote by writing as she does: “The wife fighting for bread for her sick husband and her children is often a most impressive person, and represents some of the very best material of the nation. Would not, therefore, her opinion about how to deal with the change in woman’s home life be of immense value to the nation?” And again: “The widow and unmarried women of responsible age are mostly as capable as their male co-workers of exercising the franchise, and they are certainly in far more need than anyone else of the protection that a Parliamentary vote would give them.” Yet Miss Ford, and many others in the I.L.P., continue to work for a measure which, on their own showing, will enfranchise about a million and a quarter women as against seven million men. Where, then, will be the majority of these underpaid and sweated married women, widows and spinsters of the working class?

“Am I my Brother’s Keeper?”

If anyone wants to test the effect of what I have already written of as the sensationalism of the age, which must have a pageant, even though it be the horrible pageant of poverty, let him or her stand for five minutes in front of the picture in the Royal Academy of this year, which has for its title, “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?” The artist has reproduced on the canvas one of the nightly scenes on the Thames Embankment, a seat crowded with the half-clothed outcasts of the great city. The murk and mist of a November evening blur the lights of the street lamps, and soak the sorry sleepers snatching a few minutes of oblivion from the endless tramp of city pavements, and the reiterated “Move on, now” of the police constable. To Londoners there is nothing new in the sordid scene, but the genius of the artist makes this bit of realism poignant and arresting. Tens of thousands of wealthy and of well-to-do people pass that picture during the season, and it arouses callousness in some, flippancy and cynicism in others, discomfort in a few. Yet these outcasts depicted in the Academy picture are the scapegoats driven out into the wilderness for the sins of society. The land of England has been taken from them, the food and wealth which England produces is shut away from them behind shop windows, where they cannot obtain it; and the right to work and earn money to provide themselves with necessaries is denied them, because under the system, of capitalism, which is the real religion of this country, man is not his brother’s keeper.

“Larry Loads of Fish Sent to Manure Works”

This is the heading of a paragraph in a Liberal paper of this Week, and we are told that the spectacle of a procession of lorries conveying loads of good fresh fish to the manure works can be seen daily in Hull. I hope this fact will appeal to the imagination of some housewives, who are not Socialists yet, but will, through this object lesson in wilful capitalist waste, see the force of our argument of “producing for use and not for profit.” Why was this good fish, which would have fed thousands of hungry people, practically thrown away? It was for one reason, and one reason only. No one could snake a profit out of distributing it. Nature produces this excellent food lavishly, and modern science and knowledge have taught men more of nature,s secrets, and where her great stores of food provisions lie. So these newly discovered plaice fishing grounds off the coast of Lapland have given to England what is called by capitalist papers “a glut of fish,” and we are told that the demand is unequal to the supply. Both these statements are incorrect. There are millions in England going short of food, to whom this fish, used by capitalists for manure, would have been a boon. But the essence of capitalism is waste: waste of food, and of clothing, and (of what is of much more importance) of human life. Unless capitalism can see a profit to be made out of food, clothes or life, it has no use for them; the food can be turned into manure, and the human life can be rotted out in slum or on the Thames Embankment. But under Socialism these new discoveries of food supplies would all add to the well-being of the community, because things would then be produced and distributed for use instead of for individual profit, and the real profit to the community would work out in a better physical and intellectual race. These facts should specially be taken to heart by women, who are the purchasers of food, and who know that whatever “glut” of fish or other good food there may be, it does not help the wife of the working man in laying out her few shillings in necessary food for the family.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, July 24, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


“Women’s Work and Wages”

By Edward Cadbury, M. Cecile Matheson and George Shann, (T. Fisher Unwin.) 1s. net.

This book, based on facts and statistics about women’s work in Birmingham and the neighbourhood, gives a wide and suggestive survey of women’s place in industry at the beginning of the twentieth century, and points out in conclusion that, though much may be done temporarily in palliation of existing evils attending the employment of women and girls in industry, “the trend of things seems to indicate that the hope of the future lies in a wise collectivism.’ The opening chapter deals with the legislation affecting women’s work from the year 1847, when the Ten Hours Act, amending those of 1850 and 1833; was passed, up to the present time, and sets forth evidence from employers, employees, and inspectors as to the effect of special legislation for women, on their wages and on their actual employment. Tables of the wages of women and of girls are given for 1865 and for 1908”; proving that the wages for females in most trades have increased, though in the making of plated wares and of nails the wages have decreased from an average of “7s. to 20s.” to “7s. to 18s.,” and from “6s. to 15s.” to “6s. to 12s.” respectively, while “wrappers up” in the brass trade are paid a shilling a week less, and the wages in the lamp trade have changed from averages of “10s. to 12s” to “6s. 6d. to 24s.” As regards the hours of men’s work, legislation respecting women’s work, we are told, “did not have much direct effect, since in most cases women’s work is so well marked off from men’s. They do not work together on the same job in the same way as in the textile factory.” From what I have seen in my study of women in industry, it is not so much that men and women do not work at the “same job,” but the employer arranges that though the “job” is practically the same, they work in different departments. For instance, both men and women work at cleaning entrails at the slaughter yards at Deptford; the women and girls stand at slate-covered tables for ten hours a day for a wage that rarely exceeds ten shillings a week. The men, who do just the same work, but who can also be put to other work in the yards outside, earn 18s. to 1 a week. In the lace making trade in Norwich, men and women use the same sort of machinery, but the men’s machines are heavier. The men’s wages are more than double those of the women. Nothing is said about the effects on men’s wages of the employment of men, but it stands to reason that the fact of women accepting such low wages must keep down the wages of men. The writers show how difficult it is to get women to combine, and give us various reasons for the difficulty. Among these reasons, as many of us know, are the apathy and lack of solidarity among the girls and women themselves; the low wages, which make it very difficult for women to afford the weekly contribution; the hostility of employers to women’s trade unions, and the opposition of men workers to women’s unions. As regards this opposition on the part of men workers, the writers, however, add “There are some exceptions, however, and some of the more enlightened working men were seriously concerned at the demoralising effect on the women of dirty and heavy work.” The Shop Assistants’ Union is mentioned as enrolling women “in greater numbers proportionately each year,” and its appeal for membership is quoted on the following grounds: “It is the only organisation in existence which includes all the workers in the distributive trade, and which is managed and paid for by the workers themselves.” Its national membership is 16,500, and the reserve fund is 15,000. This union is much more on the lines (as far as women’s membership is concerned) of continental trade unions, where, in most cases, women workers are admitted on the same terms as men.

The writers suggest wages boards and a minimum wage as among the palliatives for putting an end to the sweating and unde-paying of women workers, and for raising their standards of life, Mrs. Bosanquet, in her book, “Strength of the People,” has tried to prove that enforcing a minimum wage would raise the price of the goods produced, and that, “as the great majority of wage earners are engaged in, producing for the benefit of other wage earners,” the price of commodities would be seriously raised for the workers. This fallacy of Mrs. Bosanquet’s the authors very justly refute. “The idea that low-priced goods make up to the worker for bad conditions of work and for low wages is one of the most fallacious of popular beliefs. Those who think like this must look upon the worker merely as a wealth-producing machine, and so mistake the whole end of economic effort.” And further on: “Again, it can hardly be correct that the great majority of wage-earners are engaged in producing for the benefit of other wage-earners, and have no direct connection with the non-wage-earning classes. In this connection we must remember that 5,000,000 people out of our population of 43,000,000 take half the national income each year. We can see what this means, for example, when we make a rough comparison of the demand for clothes by the rich and poor respectively.”

In summing up the present wage-earning system and its results, more especially on women, the writers acknowledge that all the palliatives they have suggested, “even the drastic one of a national minimum fixed by legislation, do not fill us with very great hopes that they will give a final and adequate solution of the problem . More and more strongly it has been borne upon us that just because the problem of women’s wages is part of the problem of remuneration of wage-earners generally, any adequate treatment of the subject must go much wider and deeper than we have gone.” That is why we Social-Democrats all over the world, though we welcome such books as this because they show in detail the economic disease from which society is suffering, realise that we alone possess the prescription the use of which will cure the disease, and that that prescription is the socialisation of the means of production and distribution.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, July 31, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The National Service League

I have had given me some leaflets of this league, which is being strongly supported by Army people, clergy and landed proprietors. Some of the remarks in leaflet are extremely interesting reading. “British Military history is one long story of unreadiness, and of makeshifts, the natural fruit of unreadiness. Makeshifts are never efficient, and always costly, which is perhaps the reason why we delight in them. For we are a purse-proud people, and when we are confronted with warnings from the sensible and prudent men, men who have studied history and pondered over the lessons that it teaches, we delight to jingle the money in our pockets and say that a little expenditure will sort everything right. But money will not purchase time, nor redeem lost opportunities; and hence it has happened again and again that advantages gained in war have been sacrificed just at the moment when a little more perseverance would have finally secured them. We have become suddenly frightened at the expense, which, owing to our carelessness and improvidence has certainly been enormous, and we have shrunk from seizing the prize at the moment when it was within our grasp. The Treaties of Utrecht in 1713, and of Paris in 1763, are cases in point, and to these possibly might even be added the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902.” Thus do the “purse-proud people” strike themselves on the breast, and cry “peccavi,” when they desire to draw towards the net of conscription the young men of our country, the majority of whom they have systematically neglected and degraded in their youth and early manhood! It is certainly difficult to recall the occasions when “we have shrunk from seizing the prize at the moment when it was within our grasp,” and this suggestion of wars of aggression seems somewhat out of place in a leaflet written in the course of a national effort to form an army of defence. But the cloven hoof of speciousness and deceit peeps out more glaringly in one of the latter sentences of the leaflet. “From the National Reserve so formed we must trust that, in case of great national emergency, an ample supply of trained men would come forward voluntarily to provide the power of expansion which the experience of the South African war showed to be necessary.” Herein lies the sting; our young men are to be trained ostensibly for home defence, but when the possessing and governing classes choose to have a small or large war on hand, some form of economic or other compulsion will be put upon these trained young men to force them to join the regular army. This is a question that affects Socialist women very closely, and they can use their influence in the right direction by pointing out to young men that nothing but a citizen army is of any use to the democracy. Officers must be appointed from the ranks,—men must own their own rifles, as they do in Switzerland, and the commissariat, clothing and ambulance departments must be organised by experienced and disinterested men and women.

Health of the Children

The Health Congress that has been sitting lately at Leeds, held one day a joint meeting of the Child Study and Preventive Medicine Sections for the discussion of questions relating to the control of infectious diseases among school children. Dr. Ralph Williams criticised severely the present system of paying government grants on the basis of school attendance, to which was closely allied the prize system for attendances, the result of which was that frequently children were sent to school while in the early stages of infectious disease. Dr. James R. Kaye, Medical Officer to the West Riding County Council, said that “there could not be, at the lowest computation, less than 4,800,000 children out of the 6,000,000 attending school in England and Wales, who could not be described as sound in body and mind. The amazing thing was that the infirmities were largely removable if dealt with sufficiently early; and were even preventable.” This is exactly what we Social-Democrats have been saying for a long time. Give the masses of the people the same housing conveniences, the same warmth, good feeding and clothing, as are enjoyed by the privileged few; teach scientifically the benefits of temperance (not abstinence) both in food and drink, and half the hospital beds will soon be unneeded, and we shall have a healthier and a happier race. In this connection I must quote once more from the National Service League leaflet.

“The proportion of men who died from disease to the total number of deaths in the Franco-Prussian war was 35.5 per cent. (Prussian); South African War, 62.6 (British); Russo-Japanese, 25 per cent. (Japanese). When men of poor physique are exposed to the hardships of war, the deaths from disease form a large percentage of the totals number of deaths.”

This is the commentary of “the purse-proud people” on the sacrifice in South Africa by disease of the rank and file. Whose fault is it, we Social-Democrats ask, that the physique of the men is poor? Is it not the fault of those who deny them access to the means of life?

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, August 17, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Czardom, and What It Means to the World

So the little Czarevitch has played in safety on the sands of the Isle of Wight, and the whole bourgeois Press has risen to record the fact, and to gush about little grand duchesses in white muslin frocks, and about a shower of gewgaws scattered broadcast among official flunkeys by the police-guarded father of these unfortunate children! And what is the cost in the life blood of his people of this five minutes’ freedom of the young heir to the Russian throne, and of the “secret landing” at Osborne of his father and mother? In order that the five children and their guilty parents may enjoy a summer cruise, and may continue, in fact, to live in some sort of freedom, tens of thousands of other children have, during the last ten years, been bereft of fathers and mothers; thousands of young children have suffered terrible tortures; some of the best blood, intellect and. spirituality of the nation have been driven beyond its borders, and the lash, the gibbet, and loathsome typhus have been the daily bread distributed by the “Little Father” to his distraught children. That is what has made possible this holiday in summer waters; it is those sighings of the prisoners, those sobs of tortured, those curses of the dying, which are the zephyrs that have wafted the Standart and its freight of cringing, terrified royalties to the shores of the Isle of Wight!

And the governing classes in England cannot understand the protest of the English people; they marvel at the insolence of the masses in daring to assert, and re-assert an opinion contrary to that of the classes; in a bemused sort of way, they wonder what it means that the “divine” countenances of a sovereign should be anywhere unwelcome. In the same way there must have been those who marvelled and wondered when the Divine Right of Kings was first called into question.

They of the governing classes fail to see and understand that Nicholas II. is a symbol for arbitrary brutality and dishonesty, just as John of England and Charles Stuart were symbols and that just as the people wrung new liberties from these evil rulers, so will the Russian peoples wring new liberties from the blood-stained despot whose tainted presence is now fortunately removed from our shores. The Russian people asked for a Constitution, and suffering under the terror of defeat at the hands of the Japanese, a pretence of a Constitution was granted them. Since then, the Russian people have learnt something about their Czar, and his ideas of honour in the keeping of his word. Those who know Russian literature know the springs of intellectual and spiritual forces lying latent in that strangely sleeping Russian Folk.

But the slumber of ages is being disturbed, and the Russian giant is stretching its limbs and awaking to “consciousness”. The same awakening inspiration is laying its spell on the proletariat of Europe, of America, and even of England, and the “sensitives” among the young men and the young women are yielding to its impelling force. A letter lies before me from a Russian girl exile now in Paris, who, after telling me how the other exiles are starving all round her, adds: “Yet they grow so used to living from hand to mouth that they lose all capacity of being afraid of anything. So have I! All the winter I gave lessons and kept, with my small earnings, and some money sent me by my mother, as many workless people as I could . A new and powerful current is coming from the depths of the suffering classes. It does not constitute itself into a centralised party; it does not preach `organisation for organisation,’ but it is a natural organisation of class-war. The political people count for little in this new stream, and they often repeat that the people have betrayed them because the ‘have nots’ did not choose to support them in their fight for a Constitution. But the fact is the starving classes do not care a straw for the Constitution, and if a national civil war ever becomes possible in Russia, it will no doubt be fought on social lines.” That Russian civil war will, I believe, before long, be the answer to the bemused and puzzled bourgeoisie of Europe. And as nations are now, to a large extent, socially and politically interdependent, a spark from Russia’s fires of freedom may reach our shores and kindle anew that age-long struggle, which finally will give all folk access to the means of life.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, August 21, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Professor Lester P. Ward

One of my most delightful recollections about the gathering at the new Labour College, Oxford, is my meeting in the flesh with Lester Ward, Professor of Sociology, at Brown University, Rhode Island. He has been travelling in Europe, and on his way back to the States was induced to spend a couple of days at Oxford, and address some of the young students, who have, under Mr. Dennis Hire, been using his works as text books in their sociological studies. Ever since some two years ago, our American comrade, Corinne Brown, brought to my notice Professor Lester Ward’s “Pure Sociology,” and “Dynamic Sociology,” I had longed to meet the man whose learning and whose fearless honesty had given us such a wide, profound and scholarly interpretation of the social facts and conditions that surround us, and of the evolutionary changes that have led up to them. And here he was, a tall, grey-haired man of 70, telling these eager-faced young men how inevitable educationally, socially, and politically was the rise of the people. Pointing out that in their struggle they were meeting with precisely the same difficulties, the same prejudices, the same stupidities as did the middle class in their struggle; and that the same inevitable result must crown their efforts as crowned those, centuries ago, of the middle classes. A cultured voice with a slight American accent, a restrained eloquence, a mass of facts, quotations, authorities, a dignity of scientific conviction, thus was the form of the vital message handed down to the spell-bound youths who are preparing for their life work in the helping of labour to free itself from the toils of capitalism. Those women and men who were not privileged to hear the verbal message on that memorable occasion, should read “Applied Sociology” (Macmillan), which deals with the doctrine of “Intellectual Egalitarianism,” showing that brains or intellect are confined to no special class, but only need opportunity. A writer in “Plebs” Magazine considers that among Lester’s works, the best textbook for beginners is the “Text-Book of Sociology,” price 6s.; and the Professor himself told me he considered his “Pure Sociology” a synthesis of all his former writings and studies. It is of special interest to women, because the fourteenth chapter sets forth in detail his famous theory, based on scientific investigation, of “female superiority” in the slow evolutional process of the development of the sexes. The writer in the “Plebs” Magazine finishes in these words his sketch of this most genial and simple-mannered great man: “When our leaders have time to master his philosophy; there will be room to hope that this earth will become a fit habitation for human beings, for its civilisation will be guided by reason and flooded with beauty.”

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, August 28, 1909, p. 7
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Universal Suffrage

On Sunday, September 19 the members of the Dutch Federation of Shop Assistants will take part in a great demonstration organised by the Socialist Party in favour of Universal Suffrage for all men and women. The demonstration will take place at the Hague and there will be open-air meetings and processions with music and bands. It is evident that Dutch Socialist candidates for Parliament desire to be elected in future on a democratic and not a property basis; and the Dutch women comrades, feeling that they are really being helped by the Socialist Party in their struggle for political enfranchisement, are making converts to Socialism among women in large numbers.

Workers’ Demonstrations and the Bourgeois Press

I was much struck the other day with an article in the “Westminster Gazette” headed “The Workers’ day at Stockholm.” We know too well the scornful and trivial comments passed by the English daily Press on the annual May gathering of the workers in Hyde Park, and the scoffing undercurrent of jibes at the ideals that gathering typifies. We know that the majority of the smart young pressmen who prepare the daily journalistic menu of the British public would think it beneath their dignity to try and understand those ideals or break down the intellectual park palings that divide fustian, marching under its brave banners, from shrinking fastidious broadcloth contemptuously asking what all the noise is about? But distance lends picturesqueness and atmosphere to the scene, and as Stockholm is just now engaged in a labour war, a capitalist paper finds it worth while to quote rather fully from the Socialist novel writer Gustaf of Geijerstarn, who “has his finger on the pulse of modern life, and whose sympathy with and insight into the condition of the masses are keen and true.” The novel quoted from is called “Dangerous Powers,” and in it the author throws light on some of the more or less hidden powers of the day which are helping to cast out the old order of things and give place to new. Among educated classes, it is, he considers, the marriage question, and the changing relations between husband and wife; then there is the awakening of the workers, and all that means to the drones, and the wage masters. The great union of which the Freemasons dreamt in times past that they were creating from a chosen few, the toilers have now created for the masses. It is no longer a fairy tale. It has become a reality. The magic power by means of which this has been brought about goes by the name of inter-communication; steam is the name of the visible power which is about to change the world; steam and its sister electricity: With the rapidity of the electric spark, and with the power of steam, the idea of union is spreading. It is no longer confined to any one nation. It is a thousand-fold more wide and bold and daring. The truths which are being uttered here to-day are taking wings and fly over the earth, igniting fires which crackle like the white sparks seen in the net of telegraph wires. Wherever you go you hear a sound in the air as of a trembling whisper, for wherever human hands are at work the wires are stretching in the air, and where the great steamers sail there they lie buried in the depths of the ocean, Their aim is union, They are like living beings who join what wicked persons would divide.

“There is something in the air of this idea of union; it is palpable, understood by all, and, open to all. The workers standing about have received the idea and carried it further. Perhaps it has appealed to them so powerfully because they possess so little of the treasure of this world which prevent people from hearing. Perhaps some future day, when more of the treasures of this world have fallen to their share, their ears also will be less keen and they will forget that which called to their fathers long ago with so mighty a voice. Who shall condemn them, since the words which in the past stood for country, faith, and future are now almost forgotten? Things once obtained begin to petrify. Things which mankind holds in its hands are soiled by use. Only the things beckoning from afar are worth striving after.

“That is why on May-Day the flags are flying, why the air is blue and cold, breezy and sunny, why the sound of the footsteps of tens of thousands of people mingles with the voices of the birds and the voices singing the workers’ song. It is a magnificent procession; no one is missing. Fathers carrying their children in their arms, children who cannot be left at home on a day when the mothers also want to be in the procession in order to breathe the air which to-day more than on other days is filled with hope of better times to come. The women lead children by the hand, lead them among the grown-up people, in order to accustom them in good time to the idea that they are all bound together by a sacred link which will enable them to build up the future, the sacred, dreamt-of future which the eyes of the present generation will not live to see . “There is no undue haste; section after section marches up to the platforms; the banners form a group by themselves; the bands play once more; and from the various platforms the words fly over the listening multitude which has assembled in order to strengthen these words by its presence. It is a great day, a day sacred to universal peace, to the reconciliation of the strife of yesterday with the peace of to-morrow, to the abolition of war, the brotherhood of mankind . They believe that they can forge ahead. That is why they dare. That is why all things are possible to them .”

Geljerstarn is a poet, and he has seen in a poet’s vision the writing on the wall which tells the privileged classes (who to-day look on at the long lines of labour wending its slow way towards the flower crowned altar of freedom) that in the future there shall be no privilege, that in the future the aspirations of the people shall not be mocked.

“These things shall be; a nobler race
Than e’er the world hath known shall rise,
With flower of freedom in its soul,
And light of science in its eyes.”

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, September 4, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Evolution of Sex

One or two comrades have written me asking for more detailed information about Professor Lester Ward’s writings, and more especially about that theory of the evolution of the sexes, which he sets forth in the fourteenth chapter of “Pure Sociology.” It is somewhat difficult to summarise within the space of an article this “Gynaecocentric Theory,” which Professor Ward takes over 150 pages to unfold; but as I do not wish to disappoint the inquiring comrades I will do my best; only adding that I hope later on, in pamphlet form, to do greater justice to and help to popularise what is such an important addition to our sociological knowledge. Professor Lester Ward opens the subject with some introductory statements about the reproductive forces such as: “No fact in biology is better established than that reproduction represents a specialised mode of nutrition, through the renewal of the organism . If we recognise only two forms of nutrition, natural selection determines which form shall be employed. Individual nutrition will be continued so long as there is no danger of the individual being cut off. Ultra-individual nutrition will begin as soon as there arises a chance of the individual being cut off, and it will be emphasised by any direct threat to the life of the individual. Hence reproduction is not possible in animals to the young that are growing rapidly, not to plants that are over nourished . Reproduction is not only ultra-nutrition, in going beyond the individual, but it is altro-nutrition, in carrying the process to and into another. It is as we shall see the beginning of altruism.”

In a later part of the chapter we read: “The introduction of fertilisation in connection with reproduction was gradual, and was not at first at all necessary to it. It came in at the outset as an occasional resort for infusing new elements after a long series of generations through normal reproduction. This occasional fertilisation is called the alternation of generation . So great was the advantage of fertilisation that in the animal kingdom it first came to accompany each separate act of reproduction itself. From the fact that such is the case in all the higher animals, which are the ones best known to all, the error arose that fertilisation is an essential part of reproduction, and that sex is necessary to reproduction, an error difficult to dislodge.” These postulates granted, Professor Ward goes out to prove that the female sex in evolution has always been the important sex, because it is the female sex only that reproduces, and carries on the species or race. “The fertilising organ or miniature sperm sac was the primitive form of what subsequently developed into the male sex, the female sex being the organism proper, which remained practically unchanged . The selection by females of the best specimens among males and rejection of the inferior ones caused the male to rise in the scale and resemble more and more the primary organism or female. But other qualities were also selected than those that the female possessed. This was due to the early development of the aesthetic faculty in the female, and these qualities were in the nature of embellishments. The male, therefore, while approaching the form and stature of the female, began to differ from her in these aesthetic qualities . When the human race finally appeared, through gradual emergence from the great Simian stock, this difference in the sexes existed, and sexual selection was still going on . Neither sex had any more idea of the connection between fertilisation and reproduction than have animals, and therefore the mother alone claimed and cared for the offspring, as is done throughout the animal kingdom below man. So long as this state of things endured the race remained in the stage called gynmcocracy, or female rule. That this was a very long stage is attested by a great number of facts . As it was brain development alone which made man out of an animal by enabling him to break over faunal barriers and overspread the globe, so it was brain development that finally suggested the casual nexus between fertilisation and reproduction, and led to the recognition by man of his paternity and joint proprietorship with woman in the offspring of their loins. This produced a profound social revolution, overthrew the authority of woman, destroyed her power of selection, and finally reduced her to the condition of a mere slave of the stronger sex, although that strength had been conferred by her. The stage of gynaecocracy was succeeded by the stage of androcracy, and the subjection of woman was rendered complete.”

As will be readily seen by these quotations, Professor Lester Ward has linked up the many threads of knowledge obtained from biological and ethnological studies, and has woven therefrom an important sociological theory that “life begins as female,” and that the male was evolved much later “for the sole purpose of securing, a crossing of ancestral strains, and the consequent variation and higher development; that the male sex began as a simple fertiliser, assuming a variety of forms; that for reasons hereafter to be considered, the male in most organisms gradually assumed more importance, and ultimately came to approach the size and general nature of the female; but that throughout nearly or quite the whole of the invertebrates, and to a considerable extent among the vertebrates, the male has remained an inferior creature, and has continued to devote its existence to the one function for which it was created.”

It is almost needless to point out now why the story of Eve being made from Adam’s rib was invented, why woman was taught that her function of reproduction was something unclean, and she could only be cleansed after childbirth by religious ceremonial, why female infanticide was universally practised, and why, more especially, any form of learning was denied to the mass of subject women. It had taken many generations and untold suffering to reduce woman to the necessary state of subjection, where she ceased to exercise selection, but was now fought for and forced to the uses of men. Every form of pressure, therefore, from tradition, from religious belief, from fear, from public opinion, and from convention, must be brought to bear on sex relations, family life, and what is known to the elect as “woman’s sphere,” in order to ensure that subjection, and keep the balance of power in life outside and inside the home on the side of the man.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, September 11, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Future of Woman

I will now state in Professor Lester Ward’s own words the two theories to account for the existing relations between the sexes—theories to which he has given the name of Androcentric and Gynaecocentric. “The androcentric theory is the view that the male sex is primary and the female secondary in the organic scheme, that all things centre, as it were, about the male, and that the female, though necessary in carrying out the scheme, is only the means of continuing the life of the globe, but is otherwise an unimportant accessory and incidental factor in the general result.” “The gynaecocentric theory is the view that the female sex is primary and the male secondary in the organic scheme, that originally and normally all things centre, as it were, about the female, and that the male, though not necessary in carrying out the scheme, was developed under the operation of the principle of advantage to secure organic progress through the crossing of strains.”

This latter theory is worked out in great detail, and with calm, scientific precision, by the Professor; and, though he sets out also with absolute impartiality all the data that support the androcentric theory, he accounts for the prevalence of that theory by “the superficial character of human knowledge of such subjects, chiefly influenced by the illusion of the near, but largely, in the case of man at least, by tradition, convention and prejudice.”

Why the statement of these theories is of such immense importance to Socialists is that the gynaecocentric theory is a striking corroboration of the correctness of the Marxian interpretation that the economic independence of women will be one of the most important phases of the Social Revolution. As to the future of Woman, Professor Ward writes:-

“This topic does not, of course, properly belong to pure sociology, except in so far as it can be reduced to a scientific prediction.” It is here the Socialist holds the key of the mysteries, and can interpret the auguries. Woman, economically independent, will once more control her own sex life, and will exercise freely in natural selection the choice that that implies. Woman, having been once taught to read and write, all knowledge is open to her, and having once eaten of the tree of scientific knowledge, and drunk at the fountain of Liberty, she is for ever a free woman at the bountiful table of life, and is no longer forced to gather among the dogs the crumbs that fall from the table. Under a socialised form of society, the struggle for life being removed to the plane of the struggle for the higher life, things will once more “centre, as it were, about the female”; for life, being recognised as the only wealth, the sex that consciously carries on selection towards the perfecting physically, intellectually, and spiritually, of the life of the race will be held in equal honour, and “with the completion of a revolution both man and woman will find themselves on a far higher plane, and in a stage that, for want of a better term, may be called gynandrocratic, a stage in which both man and woman shall be free to rule themselves.”

This is a very brief and imperfect apercu of an epoch-making, scientific theory, but it may be sufficient to induce others to study “Pure Sociology” in detail, and find therein numberless confirmations of the truths interpreted for us by the teachings of Socialism.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, September 18, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Ten Disciples

Sir William Bull (so we learn on the authority of the “Daily Express”) has taken unto him ten lady disciples, who, when duly imbued with the epoch-making principles of anti-Socialism, are to go out into the naughty world and preach its gospel to all who will listen to it. The deepest fibres of our nature are stirred as we picture to ourselves the genial Unionist Member for Hammersmith, sitting like a modern Buddha under his Bo tree in Uxbridge Road, letting fall into the ears of ten beauteous Unionist maidens and matrons the pearls of wisdom and guile that go to make up the wisdom of anti-Socialism. We know there are misguided people who still say, ”A woman’s place is the home”, but far be it from us to echo such a reactionary cry. A woman’s place in the twentieth century is being the helpmate of the statesman or politician who has political wares to sell; her place is at the foul street corner, in the stuffy and overcrowded meeting hall, in the house-to-house canvassing of a slum or back street. Women are much cheaper as propagandists than are men; they should be proud and pleased to do the dirty work of politics. We can imagine the shorter catechism that these clear devoted ladies will be called upon to learn before they can be confirmed in the anti-Socialist faith, and, be dedicated to their high calling by the laying on of Cecil hands.

Q.—What is Socialism?

A.—It is the wicked doctrine that teaches that everything, and all forms of wealth, must be divided up among everyone.

Q.— Would such a course of action help the poor?

A.—Nor; because if things were divided up on Monday, some would have lost their share by Saturday, and others would have gained several shares.

Q.—Do not some—and those the worst among Socialists—say that Socialism will come as a Revolution?

A.—Yes; and though they say that they mean, if possible, it shall be a bloodless Revolution, yet, there is no doubt, when one listens to their speeches, that they mean to defend themselves if the possessing classes attack them.

Q.—You appreciate, I observe, the difference between some Socialists and others; need we attack or show up those who are allied with Liberal Trade Unionists, and who support Liberal measures?

A.—No; because all they are working for is Social Reform, which will improve the physique of the workers, by giving them better houses, better conditions of labour, better food and education for their children, which after all is one of the best investments the landlord and employer can make, for they assure thereby a better race of workers and soldiers. Whereas the extreme Socialists in England, like their comrades on the Continent, are fighting to abolish altogether landlords and employers, masters and servants, wage payers, and wage earners, and to establish a Co-operative Commonwealth in which the whole community shall own and use the means of life.

Q.—Is not this a very profane and ungodly teaching; and are not those who propagate it the outcasts of the earth?

A.—Yes; because we are told on the highest authority that, “The poor we have always with us”; and how will Christians in future be able to exercise Christian charity, if there is no one who needs soup and blankets in the winter, or a country holiday in the summer?

Q.—Quite so; I am glad you appreciate the seriousness of this pernicious teaching. And, as you mentioned the word country, I would have you remember that though the landed gentry do not care in the usual way to have small holdings or cottages about their estates, still “Back to the land” is not altogether an unwise cry in order to distract attention from the industrial pressure in the towns. There is still a good deal of inferior land which the workers amuse themselves by cultivating with spade husbandry. Put down, therefore, among your notes the useful formula of “Back to the land.”

A.—We will put it down; but when one of us the other day attempted a trial lecture at Hammersmith Broadway, and told the audience that the thrifty worker could now, if he denied himself, and his wife and children, everything but the bare necessaries of life, get, some day, “back to the land,” and cultivate his own little holding, we were greeted with cries of “The earth is the landlord’s and the fulness thereof!” and “Not the people back to the land, but the land back to the people!”

Q.—This is very sad and disappointing; but only shows the urgent necessity of our propaganda. Are you not also aware (I blush to have to mention the fact to you) that these Socialists are immoral people, and preach the doctrine of “free love”?

A.—Yes; we know that they have the audacity to say that a married woman should no longer be the property of her husband, but should belong to herself; that all children should be State maintained; that pregnant and suckling mothers should have State maintenance, and that all women should have economic independence.

Q.—And would not all these ungodly teachings, pushed to their ultimate logical conclusion permit women to be as free in sex matters as men are now, instead of making them afraid to leave their lawful husbands, who under our present wise system represent their only means of economic support?

A.—Yes; that is so. Besides we, as ladies, feel that such teaching would, if understood by the women of the people, stop altogether the supply of domestic servants; and that is an unthinkable position for people of our class.

At this moment a telephone call rings loud and persistently. Buddha Bull rushes to the telephone, and when he returns to the teachable “ten” confides to them that he must motor off at once to Westminster, where Mrs. Spankfirst, disguised as a waiter, has poured boiling soup over Mr. Winston Churchill, and one of the little Spankfirsts has doubled up Inspector Scantlebury with a hit below the belt. “I go to bail them out,” beamed the genial Member for Hammersmith. “I own their conduct is not what I should admire in Lady B.; but we must not be too hard on them; we must remember they are fighting our battles when keeping to the front this political measure for extending the power and prestige of property qualification for the vote. Meanwhile, dear ladies, write an essay on ‘Free Love under Capitalism and under Socialism,’ and send your MS.’s in to Lord Robert Cecil, The Chapter House, Westminster .”

The “ten” break up in elegant confusion.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, October 2, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Plot Thickens

“A little army of eighty eager women” gathered at the offices of the Anti-Socialist Union in Victoria Street; this, according to the “Daily Express,” is what the teachable “ten” have already grown into, and the genial member for Hammersmith hopes by January to have 100 women speakers to take the platform against the teachings of Socialism. Just imagine 500 Mrs. Partingtons armed with brooms of bulrushes, tied up with Tariff Reform colours, endeavouring to stop the incoming tide of social and economic revolution! Shivering on the beach stand landlords and capitalists, clutching musty deeds and bulging money-bags. Drawn up in a line to protect them stand their parasitic henchmen, the lawyers, who hear in the boom of the breaking surf, and feel in the surging swirl of the spray, the imminent doom of the capitalistic castle, and of the spiders that infest it. Pushed forward in the front rank of danger are the 500 Mrs. Partingtons at thirty shillings a week, sweeping away for all they are worth, poor souls, at the white, curdling foam flung up by the resistless ocean of the people’s will. An inspiring picture, is it not? And one to make old Satan shake his sides with laughter!

Mr. F.E. Smith, K.C., M.P., and “dear Arthur” are for making the issue a straight one between Socialism and Tariff Reform. By all means let it be so; only let it be SOCIALISM, and not Labourism, or Social Reform. For every 100 paid “women of leisure,” and broken down hospital nurses, thankful to get a soft job, we can put 5,000 voluntary working women, who, can tell the Mrs. Partingtons why they want Socialism, and mean to have it; how they want Socialism, and mean to have it; and when they want Socialism, and mean to have it. Let the brooms and the ladies come on; the ocean is waiting for them.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, October 23, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Report of Women’s Socialist Bureau (British)

The first autumn meeting of the delegates from the various Socialist bodies affiliated to this Bureau was held at Chandos Hall on Wednesday, October 13. The secretary, Mrs. Hendin, read various correspondence, and resolutions were passed on the subject of the proposed Socialist Pageant, in which we mere asked to co-operate; on the subject of the forthcoming “Special Numbers” of “The Progressive Woman”; and on the subject of the Formal Reports (covering a period of two years) of the work of the Bureau. This report will be presented at the next meeting of the Bureau in November, and copies will be sent round to the various organisations sending delegates to the Bureau meetings. Mrs. Townsend’s paper on “The Case for School Nurseries,” which has been published by the Fabian Society, was laid on the table, and a vote of thanks to her for her valuable contribution in information bien documentée was passed by the Bureau. Mrs. Montefiore, as reporter for the Bureau, told of the information constantly supplied to her by Clara Zetkin on the work of Socialist women in the various countries of Europe, which information was now published in the woman’s page of “Justice,” where it had a wider circulation than could be obtained through the Bureau meetings. Miss Hicks then read the third, and concluding, paper of the series on “The State’s Responsibility Towards the Children of the Community,” her special side of the study being “The State’s Responsibility Towards Its School-children.” She had collected valuable information on this subject from all the European countries, showing how they dealt in different ways with the problems of feeding, clothing, bathing, and medically attending, besides providing with school books, etc., the indigent among their scholars. Summing up, she told how an agitation, carried on for twenty years by Socialists in England, had at last resulted in permissive feeding of schoolchildren from the proceeds of a ½d. in the rate, and how we Socialists had still to work to make it everywhere compulsory. Little State responsibility seemed to be felt in America towards its poor school-children; and Colorado (where women have the vote) was the only State that supplied free books, etc., to indigent schoolchildren.

A vote of thanks to Miss Hicks for her exhaustive paper was passed by the Bureau, coupled with the suggestion that the Twentieth Century Press should be asked to publish the result of her studies in pamphlet form, as a corollary to Mrs. Townsend’s paper. The first paper of the series was read by Miss Murby on the “State Maintenance of Mothers.” As an outcome of these studies on the responsibility of the community towards its children, both in pre-natal and post-natal conditions, a special resolution is being drafted by the British Women’s Socialist Bureau to be sent on to the Copenhagen International Socialist Congress next June.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.

Woman Suffrage in Prussia and the Bourgeois Parties

The introduction of universal, direct, and secret suffrage for both sexes for the Prussian Landtag, as well as a just system for fixing the electoral districts, has been demanded in a petition which the Radical women suffragists, under Frau Cauer, have presented to the now existing Three-Class Parliament. Only the representatives of the Social-Democratic Party in the House supported the motion whole-heartedly, as supporters of woman suffrage. The orator, comrade Liebknecht, demanded that the petition should be handed over to the Government for consideration. The bourgeois Radical members of the Diet behaved miserably. In their name, Rosenow demanded that the House should hand the petition over as material to be studied. According to German Parliamentary Customs, that means nothing, but that the petition will be allowed to grow musty on the shelves of the Government offices. This manner of dealing with a question is called “a pauper’s burial.” The Deputy Rosenow declared still more explicitly that his party would have been in favour of the petition had it not contained the demand for Woman suffrage, which was not practicable in the near future. That we can well believe, if adult suffrage, woman franchise included, had no better champions than these bourgeois wishy-washy heroes. The betrayal of woman suffrage is the more disgraceful, as the gentlemen were unable to justify their conduct by any of the well-known pleas of tactical wisdom. They knew that the Chamber would reject the petition with or without the question of woman suffrage. And that was what happened. The motion of the Social-Democrats only received their own votes; the motion of the Radicals was rejected by the Conservatives and a portion of the Catholics. With a motion to proceed to the order of the day, the Prussian pseudo-Parliament declared the petition settled. It had one good result. It showed up the caricatures of Radical representatives of woman suffrage.

Adult Suffrage Society Social

The Adult Suffrage Society held a very successful social at the Emerson Club, 18, Buckingham Street, Strand, on Friday evening, October 15. Comrade Thorn, from New Zealand, told how, before the enfranchisement of women, the New Zealand Government was threatened by quaking Conservatives with every evil that could befall a young and hopeful colony; among other things, it being confidently asserted that the financial credit of the Colony would be hopelessly ruined. But the women—all of the women—were enfranchised, and the heavens did not fall, and the financial credit of the Colony stood firm! Then it was that the priests and ministers of the Churches said, “This is the moment, when the women have a say in government, to do away with secular education and bring back Bible-teaching into the schools.” But the women would not listen, and replied, “We are satisfied with our State schools as they are, and we have no desire to see the priests and ministers of any denomination in the schools during school hours.” So the priests and ministers were discomfited, and the children of New Zealand were saved from much tribulation. Comrade Thorn also read a remarkable quotation from an interview with Sir Robert Stout, of New Zealand, reported by a “Daily Chronicle” interviewer, in which the Colonial statesman, who is a well-known Conservative, advocates the granting of Adult Suffrage in England, and points to its success in the Colonies. Songs, recitations, and music were given between the speeches, and comrade Macpherson, who presided, spoke of the five years’ continuous work of the society in keeping before the country the ideals of the human, as opposed to the property, qualification, for the vote.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, October 30, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Franchise Fancies

Mr. Philip Snowden, M.P., must feel that he has not lived in vain, since the result of his researches, placed at the disposal of Mrs, Henry Fawcett and other Conservative ladies, helps to bolster up their demand for the limited franchise Bill, and enabled Mrs. Fawcett to announce to a meeting of City gentlemen at the Cannon Street Hotel that investigations by Mr. Philip Snowden had shown that between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent, of the women who would get the vote under the Bill that asked for it on the same terms as men “would be poor women.” Let us see how this works out in relation to other statements made by the ladies themselves, who are supporting this limited demand for the enfranchisement of women. Lady Frances Balfour and the leaders of the W.S.P.U. estimate that about a million and a half women would be enfranchised under the limited Bill. We will take 85 per cent. as being the average between the 80 and 90 quoted by Mrs. Fawcett. According, therefore, to Mr. Snowden, if the limited Bill, for which his wife and other ladies are standing, became law, 1,285,000 “poor women” would be enfranchised, and only 215,000 well-to-do women. This in spite of the fact that the lowest qualification under the present franchise is four shillings a week rent for an unfurnished room The average wage of a working woman in this country is admitted by experts to be 7s. 6d. a week; how many “poor women,” we may well ask Mr. and Mrs. Snowden, could hope to qualify under the lodger franchise, with its four shillings a week test, or the joint occupancy, with its 10 a year test? But I would put it to the “poor women” of the country—do they believe, judging by the usual attitude of privileged and wealthy women towards their poorer sisters, that this agitation for the limited Bill (on which one Suffrage Society alone spends 20,000 a year) would be carried on with the object of enfranchising only 215,000 well-to-do women, whose votes would be swamped by the votes of the 1,285,000 “poor women,” whom, Mr. Snowden tells us, these philanthropic ladies are working to enfranchise? The thing is so incredible that I leave the question in the hands of the working woman, who has been taught in the priest-ridden schools of England to “order herself lowly and reverently to all her betters,” and “to do her duty in that state of life into which it has pleased God to call her.” When writing to the “Daily Mail” of June 13, 1908, Miss Pankhurst stated “we do not expect to obtain votes for married women unless they happen to possess a distinct qualification of their own.” That qualification, let me remind working women, is not devotion to their homes and families, not self-sacrificing toil from early morning till late at night, not the rearing of sons and daughters for the Empire, but the paying of a certain rent to a landlord, who only exists, as such, because the people have been robbed in the past of the land and other means of life! Having all this in his mind, comrade Macpherson, of the Shop Assistants’ Union, moved at Mrs. Fawcett’s City meeting an amendment of their “on the same terms as men” resolution, to the effect that “As on the present franchise basis only one out of every three adults in the United Kingdom possesses any Parliamentary representation, we call upon the present Government to make their promised Reform Bill on the basis of a three months’ residential qualification for all adult women and men.” In moving this amendment he pointed out how the claims of “poor women” would be entirely neglected under the limited Bill, and instanced the statement of Mrs. Fawcett in her letter to the “Times” of November 23, 1907, when she practically rejected Mr. Lloyd George’s promise—that “Woman Suffrage must come as a great scheme of Adult Suffrage,” and wrote that she and others did not wish for Adult Suffrage. Because comrade Macpherson interpreted this, and interpreted it rightly, to mean that she did not really want the “poor women” to be enfranchised, she interrupted his speech, and appealed to the audience against the misrepresentations of the speaker. Again I again I appeal to the verdict of the “poor woman,” and I ask her what she understands by the hostility of Mrs. Fawcett and Lady Frances Balfour to Adult Suffrage but the fact that they desire to keep out the “poor woman” from political representation? Lady Frances Balfour (not quite such an astute politician as Mrs. Fawcett) has gone a step further, and has confided to a pressman that “Woman Suffrage would almost certainly act as a barrier against some of the extreme measures which are the hope of the ultra-Radicals—Adult Suffrage, for example.” This is the lady with whom Mrs. Snowden tours the country making woman Suffrage speeches! She and Mr. Snowden must be proud of the logical outspokenness of their ally!

But the real joke of the Fawcett City meeting was that the title of the lecture was announced as “Women and the Budget”; this, of course, drew a hundred or two of City men, who are always interested in anything that concerns finance, and who came to hear, as they hoped, a criticism by a Unionist woman on a Radical Budget. What they did hear was ten minutes’ “piffle” from Mrs. Fawcett on the supertax on incomes over 5,000 a year. Her point was really, screamingly funny, and is worth giving to the people by Socialist speakers. Supposing the case of a man having 4,900 a year who marries a woman with 150 a year. Their joint incomes, being over 5,000, would be subject to the super-tax of 6d. in the . Now, in the case of two friends living together, or of a brother and sister living together, even if their joint incomes were over 5,000 a year, the incomes would be assessed separately, and there would be no super-tax. Would it not be wise, therefore—she appealed to the audience as practical business men—not to do anything to penalise marriage, as Mr. Lloyd George was doing by his Budget proposal on this point? The audience did not laugh; very few of them realised what Mrs. Fawcett was talking about, for her voice scarcely reached even those who were near her; but if the Socialists had been there they would have “rocked” at the appeal for unfortunates with an income of 5,000 a year. Gravely, very gravely, and with shakings of the head, Mrs. Fawcett reminded the hard-baked City men that there were such things as “free unions,” and these poor persecuted people with combined incomes of 5,000 a year might, in desperation at the thought of the super-tax, be driven into a free union instead of into legal marriage. The prospect was blood-curdling, and we feel that after this appalling disclosure the Budget is doomed! By-the-bye, it never seems to have occurred to Mrs. Fawcett that her cherished limited Bill penalises marriage. An unmarried woman voter would, under the limited Bill, lose her vote on marriage, and regain it when she became a widow. That, it appears to me, is not only penalising marriage, but is putting a premium on spinsterhood and widowhood. Perhaps Mrs. Fawcett will explain!

DORA B. MONTRFIORE.

********


Source: Justice, November 6, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


“A Dismal Warren of Social Wretchedness”

This is the description of Bermondsey—the scene of the recent triangular election fight, as given in a Unionist paper of renown and repute, the “Observer” of Sunday, October 31st. In another part of the article from which I am about to quote it speaks of “the constituency of mean streets,” and its tone, throughout its three columns of turgid triumph over the return of Mr. Dumphreys, is naturally “What Bermondsey thinks to-day Britain will think to-morrow”. To a Socialist, therefore, it seems an opportune moment to ask these crowing cocks of Tariff Reform—Who is responsible for Bermondsey, being “a dismal warren of social wretchedness”; and whose fault is it that “this constituency of mean streets” exists? It must obviously be the fault of preceding and existing Governments, who have allowed this state of things to come to pass; and these Governments have been always and without exception either Unionist or Liberal Governments! Why, the inquiring Socialist may well ask, have these Governments, both of whom profess such care for the interests of the people, allowed “a dismal warren of social wretchedness” to grow up and develop its mean streets in the heart of the richest Empire of the world? And the answer comes as a capital impeachment of both Unionist and Liberal Governments, that they have only cared for the people in so far as they could use them for making riches and power for themselves; and that, whether the false prophets and the unworthy shepherds cry “Free Trade” or “Tariff Reform,” those cries are only for self-interest and self-aggrandisement; but for the people at large who hearken to those cries they will continue to live in their mean streets, they will go on heaping up for others riches and honours, they will for ever wallow in “dismal warrens of social wretchedness.”

But in this Bermondsey contest a man made a bid for the votes of the dwellers in the mean streets who does not belong to either of these parties who are responsible for the social dunghill of Bermondsey, on which the Tariff Reform cocks are crowing. He stood as the Labour candidate for the Labour Party, which has never yet held power, but which backs up Liberal measures in Parliament, and advocates certain measures of Social Reform. Because of this Progressive programme the “Observer” (as well as other Unionist papers) persist in calling Labour candidates “Socialists,” although they differentiate between the various Labour men by writing of Mr. Snowden and Mr. Jewett as “Socialist thinkers,” meaning thereby men who believe in some vague and future form of a Socialist State. The writer in the “Observer” even acknowledges that members of the Labour Party are prepared to take office under a Liberal Prime Minister, and thereby lose entirely the “Independence” of their position, when he adds: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer may generously borrow financial ideas from Mr. Philip Snowden, but Mr. Snowden would rather be a Chancellor of the Exchequer himself.” This being the case, the Labour Party, until it gets rid of its Liberal entanglements, and stands for straight revolutionary Socialism, can be of little real use to the people. If Mr. Snowden was partly responsible for the Budget, which leaves all the taxes on the people’s food, and further taxes their modest luxuries of tobacco and beer, without raising the tax on the rich man’s cigars and champagne, then the people need not look to Mr. Snowden to save them from their “dismal warren of social wretchedness.” If Dr. Salter and his friends, whilst standing for “free primary, secondary, and university education,” do not demand at the same time that the school age shall be raised, and that all education shall be secular, then we shall have the same edifying spectacle for a few more generations of this ignoble squabble in our schools between church and chapel, whilst the real interests of the children are lost sight of in the din of the theological battle. Let Unionists open their General Election campaign now . “Let them fight for the souls of the people,” exclaims in a burst of bathos the writer in the “Observer.” They have been fighting over the souls of the children for some centuries now, and the result may be seen in the stunted, half-starved, ragged, verminous little ones, who swarm out of “the dismal warrens of social wretchedness” into the Council schools, where their poor little anaemic brains are tortured with abstract doctrinal teachings about heaven and hell. “The soul of the people,” forsooth! Why, all that either landowners or capitalists, either Unionist or Liberal employers, care for is the labour of the people—that labour from which they extract all their unearned increment. For the sake of a speedy bursting of the capitalistic bubble, for the sake of the real enlightenment of the people, for the sake of revolutionary Socialism, we wish nothing better than that a succession of Mr. Dumphreys may be returned to Parliament at the next General Election. They may then set to work on “the dismal warren of social wretchedness,” and see what sort of a job they can make of cleaning out the warren with the Tariff Reform broom. If only half a dozen real Socialists get into Parliament at the same time to watch and criticise the process, the public should be kept well informed as to the rate at which the work is being carried out. Does any thinking working man or woman in Bermondsey imagine, however, that, given five or ten years of a Tariff Reform Government, “the dismal warren of social wretchedness” would be replaced by a decent suburb, inhabited by well-clad, well-nourished, self-respecting men, women and children?

That is the question for the men and women of England to take to heart. They can see everywhere for themselves the failure of Free Trade without social ownership of the means of life; do they imagine that Tariff Reform, with the means of life still in the possession of a governing privileged few, can move one burden from off their back, or improve one jot or tittle the “dismal warren” in which Tariff Reformers themselves acknowledge the people live? The people do not require their souls to be fought for; they require their bodies to be better fed, better clothed, better housed, and their minds better developed. They will then look after their own souls, and do it perhaps more nobly and effectually than could either Tariff Reformers, or Free Traders. Professor Lester Ward, in his first chapter in “Pure Sociology,” writes: “It is, however, becoming more and more apparent that the spiritual part of civilisation is at least conditioned upon material civilisation . It may therefore be regarded as innate in man and potential everywhere, but a flower so delicate that it can only bloom in the rich soil of material prosperity. As such it does not need to be specially fostered. No amount of care devoted to it alone could make it flourish in the absence of suitable conditions, and with such conditions it requires no special attention. It may therefore be dismissed from our considerations, and our interest may be centred on the question of material civilisation, and this will be understood without the use of the adjective.” I commend this paragraph to those who are sending in the million shillings for the Anti-Socialist fund, which is to help to “fight for the souls of the people.”

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, November 13, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Feeding of School Children

I want to call attention to the excellent propaganda in this direction being carried on by our women comrades in Bristol, as what they are doing may encourage comrades in other parts of England to keep up the agitation for the proper and wholesome feeding of school children during the coming winter. At a meeting in the Haymarket, Bristol, of the “Necessitous Children Right to Live Committee,” Mrs. Ben Tillett, who was in the chair, stated “that inquiries had elicited the information that in some feeding centres the children’s meals consisted of half-baked dough, washed down by cold water; and in many cases the children were forced to drink out of the same utensils. These conditions instead of instilling a knowledge of cleanliness, and manners among the children operated quite reversely, and, in addition to this, might result in the dissemination of disease.” Comrade James Thorn, from New Zealand, stated that he had that morning visited one of the feeding centres, where the food supplied to the children consisted of a plate of porridge, a piece of bread, and a cup of cold water. This meal, so he understood, might probably be all that those particular children would get in the day. “If he were a citizen of Bristol he would not hesitate to say that if Society demanded that men should be unemployed, and that married women should be withdrawn from the home-life for purposes of factory production, Society should be made to realise that it had grave responsibilities with at least the children of these people.” Another meeting with the same object was held under the chairmanship of Miss V. Flood, when Mrs. Murray, of the Women’s Educational Committee, was the chief speaker, and resolutions were passed on both occasions calling upon the education authority to provide adequate and properly-cooked food for all children requiring it. A correspondence on the subject has also been carried on in the newspapers by various comrades, and in these ways public opinion is being educated and formed. Women comrades everywhere can help in this way. Don’t forget that on the base of one of the statues in Paris to a great French revolutionary is inscribed the words: “The first duty of a State towards its children is to provide them with bread, and the second duty is to give them education”.

Adult Suffrage

At a recent Executive meeting of the Adult Suffrage Society a resolution on the subject of election policy was passed, and will be submitted to the special general meeting called for November 12: “That the policy of the Adult Suffrage Society at a general or any bye-election shall be to support only such candidates as pledge themselves to work for and to vote for electoral reform on a three months’ residential qualification for all adult women and men, and to further pledge themselves not to support any measure of electoral reform based on a property qualification.” A copy of this resolution was sent to Dr. Salter, of Bermondsey, and as in his reply he did not pledge himself not to support any measures of electoral reform based on a property qualification the Adult Suffrage Society did not officially support his candidature. The Executive feel that in view of the half-hearted and unsatisfactory way in which most Labour Members support Adult Suffrage, and the eagerness with which they vote in Parliament for the Limited Bill, some binding pledge on the subject must be exacted from them if the Adult Suffrage Society is to go out of its way to support their candidatures. Mr. Snowden writes in the most “Christian Commonwealth” of Adult Suffrage being some dream of the future; we, of the Adult Suffrage Society, are out, with our comrades all over the Continent, for making it an immediate issue at every Parliamentary contest. I hope Comrades will note that what I have already written regarding the Anti-Suffrage Society having only come into being since the threat of the democritic extension of the franchise to women has been confirmed by one of their own speakers at the recent annual meeting of the Kensington Branch. Mayor Frank Johnson remarked “If the vote could be confined to women of education and property he would not be at that meeting; but, unfortunately, under present conditions it could not stop there, and other women are claiming the right to vote.” That is the secret of the whole anti-suffrage agitation! Just think of domestic servants, shop-girls and poor married women claiming the right to vote! Why the thing is monstrous! Exclaim the mayors, the duchesses, and the whole privileged class who live on the proceeds of the surplus-value of the labour of these working women. So, as they have plenty of surplus cash, derived from the surplus-value of the labour they are exploiting, they pour in subscriptions to an anti-suffrage society; they flood the country with “frigid and calculated (especially calculated) lies”; and they meet once a year to congratulate each other on the successful way they are hoodwinking and keeping in subjection the people. Mr. Lloyd George talks melodramatically of “going to the country on the Budget.” There are in the country 2 million adult men and women, and he is going to a third of that number—a privileged third—who do not bear the worst burdens of the Budget, the 48 per cent. of the increased revenue which is raised by indirect taxation of the food and the small luxuries of the workers, and they will be consulted about the vital interests of the whole of .the people. Next week I will tell my women comrades something about the Anti-Socialist Society and its up-to-date methods. Why, Ananias and Sapphira were decent truth-respecting people in comparison with the anti-Socialist firm that distributes literature in Victoria Street, in the wealthy West End of London, whose East End and whose slums under capitalism are a bye-word in the cities of the world.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, November 20, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Wiles of the Anti-Socialist

It is interesting to learn that the articles which appeared lately in this column on the evolution of sex were characterised by a bourgeois Town Councillor of Wimbledon as “disgraceful,” because it proves the abysmal ignorance of science common to most of the “elected persons” placed in positions of power by an illiterate and unscientifically-trained electorate. What can you expect from a member of the porcine family but a grunt; and what can you expect from a pushing ignoramus “on the make” through the short cut of civic honours but a tendency every time he opens his mouth to put his foot into it? What is disgraceful is the standard of English education, which keeps the workers in such ignorance that they become the dupes of equally ignorant but cunning party wire-pullers; and which prevents the light of science and of reason from piercing the fog created by the ground mists of clericalism and the smoke of theology.

It was on the occasion of a visit to 60, Victoria Street, Westminster, where I made a collection of anti-Socialist literature, published with the intention of misleading and deluding the workers of England, that some of these reflections were forced home upon me. I had just been reading of the splendid achievements of our comrades in Germany—almost double the number of Social-Democratic representatives returned to the Landtags; and even such old fortresses of reaction as Cologne being sapped and undermined by our propaganda; and then I turned to the rubbishy bundle of cheap lies published by the Anti-Socialist Society, and thought to myself how useless they would be if only the workers were really educated, possessed some ground-work of real knowledge; were able to form judgments that were of value! Here was one leaflet, headed “Socialism and the Family.” Four little boys, with numbers pinned to their backs, are in the foreground of the illustration. The scene takes place inside the Municipal School No. 4,276. A lady, with tears in her eyes, is speaking to a man in uniform. Agonised Mother: “Which—oh, which is my child?” State Schoolmaster: “Very sorry, comrade, but they’ve been changing their collars, and the numbers have all got mixed up.”

This leaflet is supposed to teach the workers what will be the fate of their children when the means of life are socialised instead of being shut away for the use of the privileged few. The privileged person who designed that leaflet knew perfectly well that when mothers under capitalism go to visit their children in boarding-schools there is no difficulty in identifying them, and there is no reason why there should be any difficulty under Socialism. But what the privileged person does resent is the idea that under Socialism there will be no privileged schools; and that as there will be one class only the children of that one class will go to school together. That was the trouble at the back of the mind of the person who drew that untruthful illustration to the anti-Socialist leaflet; and the artist traded on the ignorance and lack of class-consciousness of the ordinary worker, who, in England, positively believes that his little Tommy at the County, Council school is of some sort of inferior clay to the little Algernon at Eton. Another leaflet is addressed to agricultural workers, and begins with the catechism:—

“Who are your worst enemies?—The Socialists. Why?—If Socialism comes you will lose your home, your wages, and the help of your children.”

The leaflet then goes on to enlarge on these lying misrepresentations:-

“If you try to work an hour in your own time you will be punished . Suppose you have a strong boy of fifteen years old, who could earn a few shillings a week for you. Socialists say that boy shall not work for you. If you allow him to work for you, under Socialism you will be put in prison. Socialists say you shall never have your own piece of land or your own cottage.”

All this wilful lying because the man or woman who wrote that leaflet cannot bear to think of himself or herself working for the community under the same conditions and with the same reward as the agricultural worker. The writer carefully abstains from saving that there will be no necessity for the boy of 15 to work, because he will be maintained by the community till he attains wage-earning age. That the wage-system for some will be replaced by full access to the means of life for all who do their share of work for the community. That there will be no necessity to work overtime for the community, but that when the necessary day’s work is over the individual will be free to use his time as he chooses. The “calculated lie” is published and scattered broadcast in order to make the worker believe in some rigid penal and mechanical system which will take his life, his time, his home, his leisure into a vice-like grasp, and squeeze remorselessly his small amount of individuality out of him. In the leaflet headed “The Schemes of Socialism” the worker is told that all the means of production and distribution, the shops, houses, capital and savings “are to be handed over to the Government.” These anti-Socialist writers can only think in terms of capitalism, and it is under capitalism that a dominant governing class or “government” exploits and degrades the majority of the governed. The ideal of Socialism is administration of the affairs of the community, not government of the individual; and, as a matter of fact, “the free individual in the Socialised State” is what we Socialists are working for. Lord Rosebery, Mr. Balfour, and the more intelligent among the governing classes know, and understand, very well what are the aims of International Socialism, but it suits their purposes for their underlings to publish and scatter abroad these untruths, for they frighten the unenlightened “lumpen proletariat,” and make them vote alternately for Free Trade or Tariff Reform, for Liberalism or Unionism, for Tweedledum or Tweedledee. I would strongly advise Socialist speakers to lay in a stock of these anti-Socialist leaflets; they make splendid texts whereon to hang a Socialist speech.

D.B.M.


Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Report of Socialist Women’s Bureau (British), from November, 1907, to November, 1909.

Arising out of the Congress of Socialist women at Stuttgart in June, 1907, at which Conference an International Socialist Women’s Bureau was founded by Clara Zetkin, the editor of “Gleichheit,” the Socialist women of England convened a meeting at Chandos Hall to consider the lines on which a Socialist Women’s Bureau (British) should be formed. Mrs. Hendin, of the Women’s Committee S.D.P., convened the meeting, and it was decided that the immediate object of the Bureau should be “he establishment of regular communication between the organised Socialist women of all countries.”

It was agreed that the Bureau should consist of two delegates from the Fabian Society, two from the Social-Democratic Party, two from the “Clarion” Scouts, two from the Women’s Committee S.D.P., two from the Adult Suffrage Society, and two from the Teachers’ Socialist Society. Mrs. Hendin was appointed hon. sec., and Mrs. D.B. Montefiore reporter to the Bureau.

The Bureau undertook to be agents in England for the sale of the “Socialist Woman,” an American publication appearing once a month.

On May 27, 1908, a public meeting was held at Chandos Hall, at which Miss Murby (Fabian) gave a paper on “The Common-Sense of the Woman Question.” This paper has since been published by the Fabian Society.

It was decided at a meeting of the Bureau on April 29, 1998, that a series of papers on the Responsibilities of the State towards its Children should be read on different occasions at Bureau meetings, and on Sept. 30, 1908, Miss Murby read the first paper of the series on “The Endowment of Motherhood.” On October 28, 1908, Mrs. Townsend (Fabian) read the second paper on “Nursery Schools, or Ecoles Maternelles,” and in October, 1909, Miss Hicks (S.D.P:) read the final paper of the series on the State feeding and medical attendance of school children. Mrs. Townsend’s paper is already published by the Fabian Society, and the Bureau hopes that the other two papers will be published shortly so as to make the series complete, sand put before the public a valuable collection of facts in relation to the responsibility of the State towards its children in various countries.

On the occasion of the meeting of the Bureau on April 5, 1909, the following resolution was passed by those present and forwarded to Paris: “This meeting of the International Socialist Women’s Bureau (British) sends fraternal greetings to the women Post Office employees in Paris who showed such courage and determination when standing solidly for their men comrades through the recent strike, and congratulates their women comrades on the success of the strike.”

On April 28, two, a meeting of welcome was offered by the Bureau to comrade Clara Zetkin, at Chandos Hall, on the occasion of her visit to England in order to help forward the cause of Universal Suffrage. The Women’s Committee of the S.D.P. assisted in this welcome. In June, 1908 Mrs. Montefiore and Mrs Murray attended as “fraternal delegates” the Conference of the “Woman’s Suffrage Alliance.” Our comrade, Clara Zetkin has kept the Bureau well-supplied with most interesting and helpful information from the women Socialists in the various countries of Europe. At the earlier meetings of the Bureau these reports were read by Mrs. Montefiore, the reporter, but latterly, as they have most of them been published in the “Woman’s Circle” column of “Justice,” where they obtain wider publicity, it has not been thought necessary to read them first at the Bureau. When the Bureau was first convened, the women of the I.L.P. and the Women’s Labour League were asked to send delegates, but they did not see their way to do so. Since the “Socialist Woman” was adopted as the organ of the Bureau it has changed its title to “The Progressive Woman,” a change which the Bureau much regrets.

Resolutions are now being prepared by the Bureau for the agenda of the International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen in 1910.

—On behalf of the Bureau,
CLARA S. HENDIN, Hon. Sec.
DORA B. MONTEFIORE, Reporter.

This report was presented to the full quarter Executive of the Social-Democratic Party on November 14, 1909, and was accepted with a vote of congratulation on the educational work successfully carried on by the Women’s Bureau.

********


Source: Justice, November 27, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Report of Adult Suffrage Society

On November 12 the Adult Suffrage Society held a specially convened general meeting at its headquarters, 122, Gower Street, to consider the question of affiliation with the newly formed People’s Suffrage Federation; and also to pass a resolution on the subject of election policy. As the result of the meeting a resolution was passed, with one dissentient: “That the policy of the Adult Suffrage Society at a general or at any bye-election shall be to support only such candidates as pledge themselves to work for and to vote for electoral reform on a three months’ residential qualification for all adult women and men, and who further pledge themselves not to support any measure of electoral reform based on a property qualification.”

It was further decided, by a practically two to one vote, not to affiliate with the People’s Suffrage Federation. As the pending General Election will bring the question of Adult Suffrage before the country in an acute and practical form, the interest in the subject is growing by leaps and bounds, and applications for educational literature and for speakers versed in the subject are coming in from all sides. Branches of the Women’s Liberal Association, of the Women’s Cooperative Guild, and even of the old original Suffrage Society, ask for speakers on the question of Adult Suffrage, and begin to show an open mind on the subject; and there is very little doubt if a real democratic lead can be obtained from men’s political organisations we may be able to pull over many of those who now hesitate. Just in the same way as statesmen declare the issue of the coming contest is to be between Tariff Reform and Socialism, so the issue in electoral matters is going to be between the Unionist offer of household franchise to a few propertied women and the democratisation of the franchise by basing it on a three months’ residential qualification for all adult women and men.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, December 4, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


DEAR WOMEN COMRADES,—I have the honour to take the chair to-day for an American comrade, Eugene V. Debs, who will speak to you on the subject of an article that appeared recently in our English capitalist weekly, “The Saturday Review.” Now, this review is read by the educated and cultured people of our land, but not one of them, as far as I know, raised a voice against the monstrous doctrine that “might is right”; that to dominate, oppress, and degrade a weaker fellow-creature is to prove oneself a superior being. I am proud of the fact that it is a Socialist who nails to the counter this reactionary lie. I am glad in my heart that it is an American-born Socialist who has hurled back at the super-ape writer in the “Saturday Review” his aspersion on evolved, conscious, aspiring humanity; because we Socialists are first of all and always internationalists, and our business is to mind the business of the world, wherever oppression and exploitation is being carried on. There is no need for me to introduce comrade Eugene V. Debs to a Socialist audience. Hear the message that comes to us across the Pacific, and tells us women what Socialism, as interpreted by one of its ablest exponents, holds in store for the women of the future.

D.B.M.

Woman—Comrade and Equal

Eugene V. Debs, writing in the “Progressive Woman,” says:—

The London “Saturday Review” in a recent issue brutally said: “Man’s superiority is shown by his ability to keep woman in subjection.” Such a sentiment is enough to kindle the wrath of every man who loves his wife or reveres his mother. It is the voice of the wilderness, the snarl of the primitive. Measured by that standard, every tyrant has been a hero, and brutality is at once the acme of perfection and the glory of man.

But it is a lie and a libel. The author of it is an unnatural son striking his mother, a brutal husband glorying because he is able to fell his faithful wife to the earth, a beastly father beating his daughter with fists, and gloating as she falls because he is stronger than she.

Real men do not, utter such sentiments. He who does so prostitutes his powers and links himself once more to the chattering ape that wrenches the neck of the cowering female, glorying as he does so in the brute force that is his.

Yet the sentiment is not confined to a moral degenerate who writes lies for pay, or to sycophants who sell their souls for the crumbs that arrogant wealth doles out to its vassals. It is embodied and embedded in the cruel system under which we live, the criminal system which grinds children to profits in the mills, which in the sweatshops saps women of their power to mother a race of decent men, which traps the innocent and true-hearted, making them worse than slaves in worse than all that has been said of hell. It finds expression in Premiers hiding from petticoated agitators, in Presidents ignoring the pleading of the mothers of men, in the clubbing and gaoling of suffragettes, in Wall Street gamblers and brigands cackling from their piles of loot at the demands of justice. It is expressed in laws which rank mothers; and daughters as idiots and criminals. It writes beside the declaration that men should rebel against taxation without representation, that women must submit to taxation without representation. It makes property the god that men worship, and says that woman shall have no property rights. Instead of that, she herself is counted as property, living by sufferance of the man who doles out the pittance that she uses.

Woman is made the slave of a slave, and is reckoned fit only for companionship in lust. The hands and breasts that nursed all men to life are scorned as the forgetful brute proclaims his superior strength, and plumes himself that he can subjugate the one who made him what he is, and would have made him better had his customs and institutions permitted.

How differently is woman regarded by the truly wise and the really great! Paola Lombroso, one of the deepest students of mind that time has ripened, says of her:—

“The most simple, most frivolous and thoughtless woman hides at the bottom of her soul a spark of heroism, which neither she herself nor anybody else suspects, which she never shows if her life runs its normal course, but which springs into evidence and manifests itself by actions of devotion and self-sacrifice if fate strikes her or those whom she loves. Then she does not, wince, she does not complain nor give way to useless despair, but rushes into the breach. The woman who hesitates to put her feet into cold, placid water throws herself put into the perils of the roaring, surging maelstrom.”

Sardou, the analytic novelist, declares: “I consider women superior to men in almost everything. They possess intuitive faculty to an extraordinary degree, and may almost always be trusted to do the right thing in the right place. They are full of noble instincts, and, though heavily handicapped by fate, come well out of every ordeal. You have only to turn to history to learn the truth of what I say.”

Lester F. Ward, the economist, the subtle student of affairs, gives this testimony:

“We have no conception of the real amount of talent or of genius possessed by woman. It is probably not greatly inferior to that of men even now, and a few generations of enlightened opinion on the subject, if shared by both sexes, would perhaps show that the difference is qualitative only.”

I am glad to align myself with a party that declares for absolute equality between the sexes. Anything less than this is too narrow for twentieth century civilisation, and too small for a man who has a right conception of manhood. I declare my faith that man, like water, cannot rise higher than his source. I am no greater than my mother. I have no rights or powers that do not belong to my sisters, everywhere.

Let us grant that woman has not reached the full height which she might attain—when I think of her devotion to duty, her tender ministries, her gentle spirit, that in the clash and struggle of passion has made her the saviour of the world, the thought, so far from making me decry womanhood, gives me the vision of a race so superior as to cause me to wonder at its glory and beauty ineffable.

Man has not reached his best. He never will reach his best until he walks the upward way side by side with woman. Plato was right in his fancy that man and woman are merely halves of humanity, each requiring the qualities of the other in order to attain the highest character. Shakespeare understood it, when he made his noblest women strong as men, and his best men tender as women.

Under our brutal forms of existence, beating womanhood to the dust, we have raged in passion for the individual woman, for use only. Some day we shall develop the social passion for womanhood, and then the gross will disappear in service and justice and companionship. Then we shall lift woman from the mire where our fists have struck her, and set her by our side as our comrade and equal, and that will be love indeed.

Man’s superiority will be shown, not in the fact that he has enslaved his wife, but in that he has made her free.

********


Source: Justice, December 11, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The Political Comedy

During the present political crisis I begin to be almost glad that I am a woman and haven’t got a vote, because lookers-on, don’t you know, see most of the game. A vote makes men so fussy; they think they must use it; and when I am speaking at a political meeting I get faced with questions of this sort: “Would not the lady advise the Socialist voter, in a constituency where there was only a Tory and a Liberal candidate, to vote for the lesser of the two evils?” (which, of course, in the mind, of the questioner meant Liberalism.) The lady retorted by asking why vote for an “evil” at all? Then she went on to point out that she, if she had a vote, would look upon it as a weapon, and if she used it anywhere against Socialism she would consider herself as a traitress to the Socialist cause. Whereat the questioner looked depressed, and evidently thought the lady unsympathetic. If voters who have not the opportunity of voting for a Socialist candidate feel they insist do something with their ballot papers, I should advise them to write across them, “A plague on both your houses!” “Here’s to the Social Revolution!” When the number of spoilt ballot papers is reckoned up some idea will be gained of the number of real Socialist votes cast. Likewise, if I were a voter, I would not stand being lectured by Mr. Philip Snowden, M.P., on the whole and sole duties of an elector. Mr. Snowden is shouting in the “Christian Commonwealth” for the Budget and the “Down with the Lords” sham fight war cry; and from his lofty Olympian eminence remarks, in his most detached style: “It would, I think, be a mistake to introduce into the coming fight questions of the detailed method by which the House of Lords is to be deprived of its power of mischief. We want the issue to be as simple as possible.” (These working men are so drink-sodden, don’t you know—it’s so difficult to make them understand what is so plain to us superior beings.) “It is not the business of the electors to express opinions on details and methods. Their sphere is to decide broad questions of principle, and it is for the statesmen to carry out in detail the general instructions they have received from the country.” If after that any Socialist “issues general instructions” to any Labour candidate, I regret to say I shall not have much respect for that Socialist’s intellect! It seems to be a case of “Open your mouth and shut your eyes, and see what we good and wise Liberal and Labour deities in the shape of statesmen are going to send you!” And this idea makes me, as a disfranchised woman, looking on at the whirling waltz of Tariff Reform and the “set to partners” of Liberalism and Labour, burst forth into song; and I beg all women comrades, when they feel in a sentimental or high-strung mood, to sing—

THE LOST LORDS
(Sung by Mr. Lloyd George with a finger to his nose with harmonium obbligato by Mr. Philip Snowden.)

I was seated facing my typist;
I was weary and ill at ease
As I watched her fingers gliding
Over the clicking keys;
I knew not how best to bamboozle
The tiresome elector hordes,
Till a sudden bright thought struck me-
“I’ll go for the House of Lords!”

I flooded the crimson twilight
With a word that was not a psalm,
But which eased my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.
“I’ll make of the Lords a bogey
To work up the coming strife;
use them to scoop in the taxes
Which shall give my Budget life;
They shall link up perplexing compacts
Of Liberal and Labour alliance,
Which shall make Labour M.P.’s tremble
If ever they dare defiance .”

I had sought, but had sought it vainly,
That cry that would catch the vote;
But now that once I have caught it,
Let Liberals and Labour note;
No matter how stale the war-cry,
We’ll shout it with might and main, .
Though we know—that this time next year
The Lords will be “ at it again”!

D.B.M.

Women Workers in Italy

“The Confederation of Labour” (La Confederazione del Lavoro) of Turin of October 9 gives the following statement with regard to the organisation of women in Italy:—

“We find as a result of our investigation that 41,186 women are organised, though, as some of the organisations sent us no return, we presume that our figures are below the real total.

“Separating the women engaged in agriculture from those engaged in other industries, we find that by far the greater number belong to the former class. Thus, as against 30,575 women engaged in agricultural work, only 10,611 are engaged in commercial industries.

“Of these organised Women 29,224 of those engaged in agricultural pursuits belong to the General Confederation of Labour (Confederazione Generale del Lavaca), and 7,944 of those engaged in other industries.

“Taken in individual organisations, they may be divided as follows: Peasants 30,571, textile workers 3,008, nurses 360, in printing works 456, in tobacco factories 592, dressmakers 190, straw workers 1,447, [*]general labourers 94, skin workers 3, metal workers 10, teachers 95, milliners 2,002, clerks 85, different industries 2,269.”

[*]  It seems, in Italy, women may be bricklayers’ labourers, and even do navvying work.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, December 18, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Adult Suffrage

The Executive of the Adult Suffrage Society has issued a leaflet, from which we extract the following:—

“Fellow Citizens,— The Government has decided to dissolve because the Lords have thrown out the Budget, and Mr. Lloyd George says ‘they are going to the country’ on the two questions of the Veto of the Lords and the Finance Bill.

“But, under the present electoral system (where property of some form is the only qualification, and from which one sex is entirely excluded), can the appeal in any real sense be made ‘to the country’?

Under our present electoral system only one in every three of the adult population has the right to vote.

“Mr. Asquith has promised electoral reform on a democratic basis, but according to Sir Charles Dilke, who is the greatest authority on the subject, the block of the Lords’ must be dealt with before we can hope for real and lasting “electoral reform.” This block can now be removed, if you, fellow citizens, will insist that at the General Election in January adult suffrage shall be one of the main issues at the polls.

“The Adult Suffrage Society has formulated the following election policy, and will submit it to all Liberal and Labour candidates ‘That the policy of the Adult Suffrage Society at a general or at any bye-election shall be to support only such candidates as pledge themselves to work for and to vote for electoral reform on a three months’ residential qualification for all adult women and men; and who further pledge themselves not to support any measure of electoral reform based on a property qualification.’”

It can be obtained in any quantity required from the office of the Society, 122, Gower Street, W.C. A postcard stating requirements will be at once attended to.

The meetings of the W.S.P.U. are being more and more constantly interrupted and broken up; and though we Socialists stand for free speech and deprecate these violent tactics on either side, still we realise that the people of England when once they understand what is going on, will not allow this sex war to be preached to the bitter end by a body of middle-class women, having working-class women in their pay. I was induced, when in Bristol lately, to attend an “At Home” of the W.S.P.U. at the Victoria Hall in that town, and was astounded and disgusted to hear Annie Kenney, the former mill-girl, stand up and state that if manhood suffrage ever became law in England there would be no chance for the enfranchisement of women. I had heard this said before by a middle-class woman, but never by a woman of the people. It would seem that Annie Kenney, when she puts on her “Liberty” silk gown, puts on also the habits of thought of her paymasters! And this is the organisation which, when it started under democratic auspices, sang at all its first meetings at Caxton Hall “England, Arise!” and “The Red Flag.” But the singing of that sort of songs does not run to “Liberty” gowns and motor-cars; so the programme has been altered, and those who pay the piper call the tune! When Annie Kenney had finished her speech from the chair, I rose in the audience and challenged her to name one country, or colony, where women had gained their enfranchisement in which men had not first obtained manhood suffrage. Of course, she could not do so; for in New Zealand, Australia, the four States of America and Norway manhood suffrage was won before women were enfrancised! In Finland, adult suffrage, which the wise among us are claiming here in England, was won simultaneously for men and women; so there is absolutely no ground for Annie Kenney’s misleading statement that manhood suffrage would endanger the enfranchisement of women. This is not to say that we are working in any shape or form for manhood suffrage alone; that is another of the “frigid and calculated lies” spread abroad by the supporters of the Limited Bill. Our “object,” as set forth in our literature, is to “Agitate for Adult Suffrage as being the only democratic way of reforming the existing franchise laws, and granting votes to women.” Again, I wish to point out to women comrades and others that the Socialists are the only Party which has the enfranchisement of women on their programme. The Tories, we know, will give no pledges; the Liberals, we know only too well, have a coward for a Prime Minister, who, on this subject, hides behind words and phrases; and even to his own devoted Liberal women followers will pledge himself to nothing! Listen to him at the Albert Hall last Friday, when he was outlining the future policy of the Party to a great meeting of men. On the burning subject of the enfranchisement of women could anything be less statesmanlike; could anything be more devious and unsatisfactory? “Our friends of the Women’s Liberal Federation have asked me to say that my declaration survives the expiring Parliament, and that their cause, as far as the Government is concerned, shall be no worse off in the new Parliament than it would have been in the old. I have no hesitation in acceding to that request . It is clearly an issue upon which the new House of Commons ought to be given an opportunity of expressing its views.” If “our friends of the Women’s Liberal Federation” are able to extract political nourishment from that cryptic utterance, why they are in good training for the “hunger strike,” for they can evidently subsist on the smell of a Liberal oiled rag! So, comrades, we shall have to depend after all on the “manhood” of England (so despised by Miss Kenney) to enfranchise us, and not on any Party politician. We have all the organised working-class manhood of the country behind us in our demand for adult suffrage, and every day the feeling is growing stronger in the country that it is adult suffrage, and adult suffrage alone, which will enfranchise British women.

Democracy

“Oh, Democracy, I shout for you!” writes Edward Carpenter. But, lack-a-day, how misused is the word when it is used to catch groundlings! The National Union of Suffrage Societies (which attempts the impossible in stating that it represents all Parties) called a meeting the other night at the Scala Theatre to propound their election policy. Mrs. Fawcett, who generally pulls the strings that make the puppets dance, had the sort of “cold” that afflicts Mr. Balfour at times, so the Unionist note was lacking; and the Liberal ladies, who are inclined to get the bit between their teeth, had it all their own way, and spread themselves out on the subject of the “democratic” basis of their organisation! A few minutes later, when our comrade Quelch rose to put an amendment to the audience, he was told the chairman did not “allow” an amendment. This did not seem to be quite a “democratic” way of conducting a public meeting, and our comrade naturally protested; but was again told no amendment was allowed. It is evident there are various brands of democracy; and this brand is one for which we Socialists decline to shout.

D.B.M.

********


Source: Justice, December 25, 1909, p. 5
Section: “Our Women’s Circle”
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


To Men and Women Comrades

As it is of extreme importance that men voters should not be misled at the forthcoming election to sign petitions in favour of enfranchising women on any basis but that of adult suffrage, I have asked the editor of “Justice” to allow me to address my remarks in the column this week to both men and women comrades, begging them to make the information they contain as widely known as possible. It was by attending last week the meeting at the Scala Theatre of the National Union of Suffrage Societies that we heard they were collecting a sum of 5,000 for their election campaign, which campaign is to consist in going down to every constituency; and getting the voters to sign petitions in favour of the limited Bill for the enfranchisement of women. This move must be countered by Socialists and Labourists who are pledged by Conference resolutions to support nothing short of adult suffrage and to oppose any extension of the franchise based on a property qualification. The petitions that will be offered to the voters for signature will be worded in the well-known but misleading phraseology of “on the same terms as men.” Social-Democrats, however, know that under the existing franchise laws men are not qualified because they are men; it is the property that qualifies; and they know, moreover, that very few women of the working class possess the necessary amount of property to qualify them. I spoke last night to a branch of the Shop Assistants’ Union, most of the members of which Union are forced by economic conditions to “live in.” Not one of these, either men or women, could qualify under the present basis of the franchise. When I pointed out to them that it was the Labour Party in our Australian and New Zealand Colonies which had pushed forward and kept to the front the question of Womanhood Suffrage, they naturally saw the advantage it must be to the working classes to double their voting power; and how disastrous, on the other hand, it would be to let in a fresh accession of voters, possessing in many cases plural votes, and representing property and privilege.

Mrs. Fawcett writes in the December number of “The Englishwoman”: “Fortunately for Woman Suffrage, there is no general demand for Adult Suffrage; such whipped-up demand for it as has made itself audible is endeavouring to get motive power from the exuberant vitality of the Woman Suffrage movement. It has none of its own . Agitation for Adult Suffrage would postpone Woman Suffrage for an indefinite period, perhaps for ever.” I trust the workers will note the whole of this quotation. As the middle-class demand has no force behind it from the people, the “exuberant vitality” is only a matter of .s.d., collected from the middle and upper classes, and spent lavishly in order to organise demonstrations which will be reported in the press, and thus keep their agitation before the public. Further, let workers note that if they agitate in earnest for Adult Suffrage, they will, in the opinion of Mrs. Fawcett, kill the limited demand. This should be most encouraging to those who are supporters of the Adult Suffrage Society, and should make them redouble their efforts to get all women enfranchised, instead of allowing a few who have property to increase the class and industrial pressure on their poorer sisters.

The Adult Suffrage Society is sending out packets of their election leaflet to all secretaries of branches of the S.D.P., asking them to distribute them among voters, and they will send packets of the leaflet to any organisation which encloses a postal order for sixpence for postage.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE,
Hon. Sec. Adult Suffrage Society.
122, Gower Street, W.C.