Dora B. Montefiore August 1913

The Rebellion Down Under


Source: Daily Herald, 25 August, 1913, p.6;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.


The Australian Socialist Party has recently, through its Brisbane Branch, issued a manifesto in which the so-called “Labour” Party, which is still in power in New South Wales, is shown up as being absolutely useless as far as any revolutionary attack on wage-slavery is concerned. Its opening sentences support absolutely what all honest lookers-on report as being the conditions of the Australian working class, in spite of the misleading nonsense talked by political globe-trotters on comfortable salaries of 400 a year. And, as a group of these politicians have lately started on a very pleasant little world tour, in order to investigate at first hand – through the political telescope, of course – the social and economic conditions existing in various parts of the Empire, it may be of interest to rebel workers in England to learn from first-hand information what the rebel workers in Australia think about their own share in the present-day scramble called civilisation.

“No intelligent member of the working class is satisfied with his or her position in society. The lives of the workers are made up of worry, anxiety, insecurity, and hardships. There is the monotonous grind of uninteresting work, the constant pinching to make ends meet, and the continual necessity of learning to do without things. ... As long as the wages system continues, part of the wealth which the workers create will be kept back from them. The share which is withheld from the workers is the larger share, and, as machinery increases and improves, the share will grow larger. ... The things necessary for the production of wealth must be made the common property of the ‘workers, and must be controlled by them,

“To bring this about the is the object of the Australian Socialist Party. The A.S.P., therefore, advocate the organisation of the workers, both on the political and industrial field, for the purpose of taking control of the means of production.

“There exists in Australia a Labour Party, which is often considered a working-class party. The majority of its supporters are drawn from the workers, but this party is fast losing any working-class spirit it ever possessed. It has never understood the make-up of capitalist society. The Labour Party thought that all that was necessary was to get into power and administer the various departments of the State. This party has been in power in three of the States, and in the Commonwealth, and no noticeable improvement has taken place in the condition of the workers. It has administered the various departments very economically and efficiently in the interest of the class for whom these departments exist. Every Government department was called into being by some need of the capitalist class, and by continuing to administer these departments Labour Ministers are serving the interests of the owning class.

Sentiment Kills Solidarity.

“This Labour Party has curtailed the right to strike; the solidarity of the workers has been destroyed by Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts; the workers of one trade find themselves tied down by the awards for a certain length of time, and thus they are not free to support or back up Unions in industrial disputes. By the Commonwealth Defence Act a force has been created which can, and will, be used to defeat the workers in their wage wars. Sons of the working class are being compelled to train to defend the property of the capitalists. Jingoism is fostered and race prejudice encouraged. .... The solidarity of the working class is ruthlessly sacrificed to the cultivation of ‘An Australian National sentiment.’ This sentiment, with the famous catch cry, ‘Support Australian Industry!’ reflects with great clearness the interests of the Australian manufacturers. The industrial capitalists are being aided at the expense of working-class solidarity.

The Labour Party is no longer a working-class party; it is the party of the rising Australian manufacturers. Proof of this is to be found in their various Bounties Acts, their Manufacturers’ Encouragement Act, their Australian Industries Preservation Act, etc. This party cannot, and will not, free the workers; the workers must free themselves.”

The manifesto goes on to point out that “The Australian Socialist Part is not a political party in the sense that other parties are .... it has no reform to advocate.

Being a member of the A.S.P. and also a member of the owning – and, therefore, governing class in Australia, where money, as elsewhere, talks all the time – I am extremely interested in this manifesto. The more I have travelled, the more I have compared programmes and parties the world over, the more I incline to the opinion (though I have fought myself on the subject now for some time) that no real revolution can come about through the agency of a political party. A Socialist, or a group of Socialists, in any capitalist Parliament, could, only by refusing to take the oath on entering Parliament, call attention to the fact that he or they did not intend to conform in any way with the present constitution of society; and that their only object in getting into the political machine was to clog the works and stop the smooth running machinery on every possible occasion.

The real “Education for Revolution,” of which William Morris wrote, must come from revolutionary unionism; under whatever name it may be called. The workers who would be free must organise in their industries for the general strike, must educate themselves to obtain the technical knowledge which will enable them before long to take over those industries; and must get out of their heads all idea that men to whom the capitalist State pays 400 a year to misrepresent the workers will ever do the revolutionary work necessary to change the era of wage-slavery into the era of the Co-operative Commonwealth.

DORA B. MONTEFIORE.