Tom Mann 1905
Source: “Reason in Revolt”,
Source documents of Australian Radicalism.
First Published: Social Questions Committee, Collins Street, Melbourne. Tocsin Print, December, 1905.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Kevin Goins;
Proofed: and corrected by Nicole McKenzie;
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“Is there a Class War?”
“Will there be Revolution?”
“The revolutionary origin of the law and of the Governments of to-day, is still too recent for anyone to venture to claim for them legality. Not only the Government of France, but also the dynasties of Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, England, and Holland are of a revolutionary origin; the kings of Bavaria and Wurtemburg, the Grand Dukes of Baden and Hesse, owe not only their titles but also a considerable portion of their territories to the protection of the revolutionary upstart, Napoleon; the Hohenzollerns have risen to their present position on the ruins of thrones, and even the Hapsburgs made their submission to the Hungarian Revolution. Andrassy, who had been hanged in effigy in 1852 for high treason, became Imperial Minister in 1867 without being false to the ideas of the National Hungarian Revolution of 1848.” – “The Social Revolution,” p. 4, by Karl Kantsky.
“The Socialists have behind them a most imposing philosophic and scientific literature. They own illustrated magazines and reviews, high in quality, dignity, and restraint; they possess countless daily and weekly papers which circulate throughout the land, and single papers which have subscribers by the hundreds of thousands; and they literally swamp the working classes in a vast sea of tracts and pamphlets. No political party in the United States, no Church organization nor mission effort, has as indefatigable workers as has the Socialist party. They multiply themselves, know of no effort or sacrifice too great to make for the Cause; and Cause’ with them is spelled out in capitals. They work for it with a religious zeal, and would die for it with a willingness similar to that of the Christian martyrs.” – “War of the Classes,” p. 25. Jack London, of U.S.A.
On Sunday afternoon, November 26th, 1905, I delivered the concluding address of a series held over several months on Sunday afternoons at the Gaiety Theatre, Melbourne. The subject of the address was “The War of the Classes,” being the title of Mr. Jack London’s new book. Mr. London is an American, and the book referred to was published only a few months ago, and its purport is to demonstrate the existence of the Class War in America. It is a valuable production, most helpful to the student of Socialism, and I strongly recommend all who can to obtain a copy. The book is obtainable at the Tocsin Office, 23 Patrick Street, and from all Melbourne Booksellers.
On the following Saturday, December 2nd, the “Age” published a special article on “The War of the Classes,” which is here printed verbatim. The same day I wrote a reply thereto and handed in the same to the “Age” office. The few lines that appeared in the “Age” of Monday, December 4th, from my reply, are here given, from which the customary fair play of the “Age” will be seen. The whole reply, as sent to the “Age” is also given, as, anticipating the “Age” would not publish such a reply, I kept a copy of it. The reply would have been longer and dealt with each point raised in the article but for consideration of the space required.
It might be expected that Mr. Tom Mann, after his experience as paid organizer of the Political Labour Council, would have found some definite, practical aims to work for. Instead of that he delivers lectures of only two sorts, neither of which has any useful bearing upon Australian labour problems. The first sort is that devoted to moonshiny suggestion, such as the adoption of a six hours’ day by the employed to make work for the unemployed, or the proposal to nationalise the gold mines of Victoria, although it is a well-known fact that these are run at a loss. The other direction Mr. Mann breaks out into at intervals is a revival of the kind of Socialism which he might have heard of when he was a small boy in London in the parks on Sunday afternoon. The split between the Socialists and the Anarchists occurred in 1872, and resulted in the formal expulsion of the latter in 1880. Yet at this time of day Mr. Mann thinks this rejected old Anarchist raging good enough to rehash for the benefit of the Australian Labour party. His lecture of last Sunday on “The War of the Classes” is the latest instance of his serving up in a half-warmed condition the curry that was too strong for the Socialists of even 25 years ago. Take an instance or two from last Sunday’s harangue. We are solemnly assured – “It had been a curse of the English people that there had been an America and an Australia.” Here is all the incoherent contrariness of the old Anarchistic orations. The astonished reader, no doubt, wonders how Mr. Mann could have led up to such an extraordinary assertion. His own explanation is given in the following words: – “Had there been no America and no Australia, there would have been a revolution in England before this.” So it appears that, as far as Mr. Mann is concerned, it would have been better if America and Australia had been blotted out, that England, with a fearfully crowded population, might have been precipitated into a revolution. This is so unreasonable that there is absolutely no danger in it. Meant for the growl of a man-eating tiger, it has only the effect of the spitting of a kitten.
Why should Australian labour be summoned together to listen to such nonsense? Mr. Mann has on more than one occasion outlined his own hare-brained schemes of communistic colonies in the bush, which are to absorb all the unemployed of Victoria, and especially of Melbourne. Yet, because America and Australia absorbed Britain’s excess of population they are called by Mr. Mann the “curse of England.” Perhaps it is actually against Mr. Mann’s principles to do anything practical towards ameliorating the condition of labour in Australia, because any little improvements will only postpone the great social explosion, which to the Anarchistic variety of Socialist is the only thing worth living for. Yet it is instructive or amusing to follow the slender thread of Mr. Mann’s thought a little farther back. He complains that America and Australia have spoiled the great English revolution that failed to arrive, because they absorbed the energetic and spirited elements of Britain’s population, leaving the old country only the stale and flat drudges who have not enough kick in them to carry out a respectable revolution. One is inclined to wonder how Mr. Mann’s confreres in the English Labour party will like this theory of the British workman as a worm that has not sufficient strength to turn, or as beer so stale that it cannot send the cork flying and celebrate the event in an upheaval of revolutionary froth. But perhaps in England they know that Mr. Mann’s strong point is not consistency, and that if for oratorical effect he gives English labour away on an Australian platform, he will make things even by adroitly depreciating Australian labour from an English platform when he returns to it. Meanwhile Mr. Mann has plainly recorded that his own personal ideal is revolutionary. All the modern Socialist leaders are careful to explain that they can rationally hope to reach their ideals only by evolution, and not at all by revolution. Mr. Mann’s preference for the method of violence connects him with the crude minority that was expelled twenty-five years ago by the orderly Socialists. It would be interesting to learn how it came to pass that the Political Labour Council regarded this discredited and antiquated sort of doctrine as the suitable one on which to organize Victorian labour.
The very phrase, “The War of the Classes,” which Mr. Mann took for the tile of his last lecture, is borrowed from the early German Socialism, and is generally considered by the Socialistic leaders of the present day to embody one of the most serious of Marx’s mistakes. The more advanced Socialistic ideal now is to promote the co-operation of the classes. It is frankly recognized that they do co-operate now, but that the process might go on much more efficiently if more rational and more moral ideals became prevalent. It is perfectly idle to speak of a war of the classes as long as every worker who gets an opportunity of becoming wealthy avails himself of it. If the owners of property were rightfully regarded as the enemies of the worker, it could not possibly happen that all the workers who got a chance of making money would abandon their class. The working man who has smart and capable sons never thinks that he is making war upon his own class when he struggles to educate them so that they can rise. Until that wonderful day arrives when the wise workman with a clever family impresses upon them all that it would be a sin for any of them to become richer than he was, this talk about the war of the classes is mere cant. It would be a terrible indictment of labour if all its best men deserted and went over to the hostile classes on the slightest chance. The Labour member of Parliament never insists that he shall take only so much salary as he could earn at his trade. It is perfectly futile then to lecture about the war of the classes as though it were an actual primary social fact, whereas such friction as exists between the classes is mostly a secondary product of human nature. It would be almost as reasonable to talk of the war between the trades because the raising of wages in one trade means a rise in the cost of its products when sold to the other trades as consumers. Between buyers and sellers there is always a sort of conflict of desires, but it would be a logical absurdity to assert that therefore all trade is a war. “The War of the Classes” is a metaphor making for mischief, and ought to be dropped out of use in the discussion of social questions as long as the average individual does not feel it a personal sin to own more than his neighbours if he is able to do so.
The idea of the wars of the classes has a good deal to do with another fundamental mistake of the Socialist extremists, namely, that labour creates all value. Misdirected labour creates only a nuisance. An amateur cobbler takes ten times as long to mend a pair of boots as a smart tradesman, and makes a bad job of the attempt too. It is nonsense to declare that by putting ten times the labour into the repairing he has turned out a piece of work ten times as valuable as the professional. Labour which makes things that are not wanted is simply wasted, and the reduction of this sort of waste is one of our real social problems. But these receive little attention from Mr. Mann when he is busy proclaiming his regrets that American and Australia ever existed because they have balked him of the fine English revolution which would have now been due if Australians and Americans were still cooped up in the old country.
Seeing that Mr. Tom Mann is the official lecturer of Victorians Political Labour Council, it is time to inquire to what extent that body endorses the revolutionary teachings of its representative.
Mr. Tom Mann, whose recent extraordinary utterances in the course of a lecture delivered under the title of “The War of the Classes,” was criticised in our columns on Saturday last, writes stating that he is not now, and has not been for a year past, the official lecturer of the Political Labour Council. He adds:— “I am a member of a branch of the P.L.C., but I occupy no official position whatever, and consequently that body cannot be responsible for anything I may advocate. Probably many of the members of the P.L.C. are in agreement with me in what I advocate, and equally probably some are not in entire agreement. In any case, the lecture which is laid under criticism by the Age’ was given under the auspices of the Social Questions Committee, of which I am the organising secretary.”
Sir, — The article in to-day’s issue, entitled “The War of the Classes,” deals with myself in so direct a fashion that I doubt not you will allow me to reply to the same.
I make no complaint of the criticisms passed upon me and upon what I have advocated, and what I am alleged to have advocated; but as the writer of the article is apparently under a misapprehension as to my connection with the Political Labour Council, I have to inform you that I am not now, and have not been for a year past, the “official lecturer” of that body, so in fairness to the P.L.C. I shall be glad if you will make the correction. I am a member of a branch of the P.L.C., but I occupy no official position whatever, and consequently that body cannot be responsible for anything I may advocate. Probably many of the members of the P.L.C. are in agreement with me in what I advocate, and equally, probably, some are not in entire agreement. In any case, the lecture which is laid under criticism by “The Age” writer, delivered by me on Sunday last in the Gaiety Theatre, was given under the auspices of the “Social Questions Committee,” of which I am the Organising Secretary.
The “Age” writer refers to my “moonshiny” suggestion re a “six hours’ day,” and to my proposal to “nationalise the gold mines of Victoria, although these are run at a loss.”
Briefly, as to the six hours’ work day proposal, I have seriously advocated the necessity for a further reduction of working hours in Australia and all other countries. I have advised that before any attempt to secure a further reduction of working hours here be made, that negotiations be entered into with the workers of America and Europe, and, if possible, and agreement arrived at favourable to concerted action. Such a proposal carries all the necessary caution, and securely guards against indiscreet sectional or national attempts at limiting working hours.
Each country in turn has done something in the matter of reducing hours from the time when twelve hours per day was the all but universal rule, and the workers of every country testify to the fact that of all remedial agencies that have been resorted to for the purpose of improving the condition of the worker, none has been more potent for good than that of reducing the working hours; and no economist of any standing, no body of Social Reformers of intelligent repute, consider we have reached the limit of ameliorative effort in this direction. On the contrary, it is universally agreed that further changes in this direction must speedily take place. The ever increasing productivity of Labour renders this imperative.
As to the nationalisation of the mines of Victoria, the particular occasion when I dealt with the subject was an interview with an “Age” reporter who visited me buy instruction of his superior to get my views on Socialism. I consented, and rattled off on the spot what commended itself to me as the correct principle and policy to suit the times. That interview appeared in the “Age” on May 6th, 1904, and this is how I dealt with mining. Having made a definite proposal respecting an income tax, I said: “Concurrently therewith we should proceed with the gradual taking over, or preparations for taking over, the coal mines in the State. We would impose a royalty upon the precious metals taken out of the State. This would give us not only the requisite income for all measures I have hinted at, but the necessary income to proceed with a gradual policy of State resumption of land. After resumption the land would not be sold, but let. If I were responsible I should, right away, undertake control of the mines. Knowing that we could not nationalise or socialise them, as yet, I should at once exercise State control over them, so that all profits arising therefrom a certain percentage should be deducted for State purposes, for the further development of the mines. If that had been done to a reasonable extent during the life of this State, there would be enough wealth for the development of mines now lying idle.” I have no regrets or apologies to make for such proposals.
Respecting the title of the lecture criticised by the “Age,” “War of the Classes,” the “Age” writer displays a lack of knowledge of the subject when he declares that this “was too strong for the Socialists of 25 years ago,” and has ever since been discarded. Instead of this being true, the subject of my lecture was a review of Jack London’s latest book, entitled “War of the Classes,” written by an American, and published, not 25 years ago, and since discarded, but published in the year of grace 1905, and now commanding a rapid sale in Collins-street, Melbourne. The purport of the book is to describe the Class War as it is now literally obtains in that most successful of capitalist countries, the United States of America. The book is published for 2s. 6d., and I seize this opportunity to give it further publicity. Nothing can be more educative to Victorians than that they should know precisely the exploitation that is constantly going on in Protectionist America, that they should know precisely the degraded conditions under which millions of American residents exist, and that they should know, with some correctness, how bitterly the Class War is being waged there, and know, also, what has led up to it. Mr. London’s book enables one to understand this, and a wonderful eye-opener it is. The book absolutely demonstrates not only the existence of the Class War in America, but shows that its nature and meaning is clearly understood. Last year 435,000 Socialist votes were recorded for the Socialist candidate for the presidency of the U.S.A., and increase of nearly 400 per cent. in four years. “Ah,” it may be asked, “but what kind of Socialism?” This is the American’s up-to-date reply, not the European’s of 25 years ago. Says Mr. London:
“It is its (Socialism) purpose to wipe out, root and branch, all capitalistic institutions of present-day society. It is distinctly revolutionary, and in scope and depth is vastly more tremendous than any revolution that has ever occurred in the history of the world. It presents a new spectacle to the astonished world, that of an organised, international, revolutionary movement.”
Says the “Age” critic: — “It is perfectly idle to speak of a War of the Classes as long as every worker who gets an opportunity of becoming wealthy avails himself of it.” Mr. London deals with the subject for his country, and shows clearly that so long as the capable young men in the working class could lift themselves out of that class and join the exploiters, they did so with alacrity; but now the doors are closed. “Rockefeller has shut the door on oil, the American Tobacco Company on tobacco and Carnegie on steel. After Carnegie came Morgan, who triple locked the door. Those doors will not open again, and before them pause thousands of ambitious young men to read the placard, NO THOROUGHFARE.’ And day by day more doors are shut, while the ambitious young men continue to be born. It is they, denied the opportunity to rise from the Working Class, who preach revolt to the Working Class.”
The capitalists are shrewd enough to know that an outlet for such young men must be afforded, or internal social revolt will receive attention; and it is here that my remarks hold true upon the effects on English Working Class life that the opening up of America and Australia has had. When the energetic and capable young fellows at Home began to show signs of deep-seated uneasiness, what better could the monopolists do than advise, through their specially devised agencies, that in the newer world there was ample scope for all – at one time America, at another Australia, and later South Africa – always with the two-fold object of finding an outlet for energy which would be sure to make itself felt one way or another, and at the same time to develop new markets for further capitalist exploitation.
Even in Victoria after the boom period of a dozen years ago, many a demand would have been formulated and enforced had not Western Australia afforded scope for pent-up energy. Therefore it is that we Socialists rejoice that Empire building s drawing to a close. Empires exist not in the true interests of the whole people, but to enable a class to perpetuate its domination.
Says the “Age” writer again: “‘The War of the Classes’ is a metaphor making for mischief, and ought to be dropped out of use in the discussion of social questions.” We know full well it isn’t pleasant for the plutocracy to hear the naked truth set forth; but seeing that Socialists do not consider it necessary to propitiate the exploiting class, and are desirous of educating the workers, honesty of expression accompanies honesty of conviction, and although my critic claims to know what Socialists do and do not advocate, I may be permitted to direct attention to the view of revolution held by Socialists. The ”Age” writer may be excused for not being well posted in a subject not by any means his own. Anyone to read to-day’s article and stop at that would be seriously misled. Says the “Age”” – “All the modern Socialist leaders are careful to explain that they can rationally hope to reach their ideals only by evolution, and not at all by revolution.” This is from a non-Socialist. Now from a representative Socialist who has been in the English movement form its inception until this hour, Mr. H. M. Hyndman, of the English Social Democratic Federation, whose voice and pen have been persistently used for the past twenty-three years in the advocacy of Socialism. On page 4 of Mr. Hyndman’s volume on “The Economics of Socialism” is the following: — “Those who try to draw a distinction between evolution and revolution, or speak of evolutionary and revolutionary Socialism and Socialists, misunderstand the entire theory of sociological development as formulated by the whole scientific school. Revolution simply means that the evolution of society has reached the point where a complete transformation, both external and internal, has become immediately inevitable. No man, and no body of men, came make such a revolution before the time is ripe for it, though, as men become conscious instead of unconscious agents in the development of the society in which they live, and of which they form a part, they may themselves help to bring about this revolution peaceably instead of by violence. A successful revolution, whether effected in the one way or the other, merely gives legal expression and sanction to the new forms, which, for the most part unobserved or disregarded, have developed in the womb of the old society.”
Into the merits of the “Age” paragraph dealing with “misdirected labour creating a nuisance instead of value,” this is of so erudite a character that I let it pass; but I urge upon Victorians the necessity of studying Socialism. If it is wrong, reject it; but do not, for shame’s sake, allow the human suffering to continue without an honest effort to understand its cause and to find a cure.
Secretary Social Questions Committee.
Collins-street, December 2nd, 1905.