Dora Montefiore Justice 1910

On Burnley

Source: Justice, Our Women’s Circle, p. 5, January 22, 1910;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

I had hoped this week to have been able to send a message of joy to my women comrades — a. greeting from Burnley telling them that the veteran interpreter and teacher of Socialism, H.M. Hyndman, had been returned to Parliament. But the people of Burnley have not been found worthy to make history; there have not been found them enough “righteous” men voters for the city to be saved! And surely if any town ever stood in need of salvation that town is Burnley. A town of mills, weaving sheds, belching chimneys, monotonous rows of mean, two-storied houses, where the better class among the workers are housed, and a tangle of squalid kennels where the poorest of all find shelter; an atmosphere that drops indiscriminately rain, snow, and oozing black; a clatter of clogs on the pavement between five and six in the morning — and you have an impressionist sketch of the surroundings of the people who have rejected the man standing for the revolutionising of the capitalistic conditions which breed workers merely as the wage-slaves of a privileged class, and who have chosen a man whose programme consisted in taxing their food!

It is a comfort to feel, anyhow, that as far as our side was concerned the election has been fought absolutely and purely on Socialist teachings; the Budget has been attacked and riddled and ridiculed as far as the plea of its being a “poor man’s Budget” is concerned. There has been no truckling to any “restricting the veto of the Lords”; but we have pointed again and again to our programme, which demands the “abolition of the House of Lords.” Whilst detailing the few immediate palliatives which must be conceded in order to mitigate the terrible sufferings entailed by capitalism, we have spoken ever of Revolutionary Socialism as being the only hope of the workers; and they have responded with a cheer for Social Democracy, and with a shout of “Hyndman for Burnley.” Night after night the schoolrooms in the different wards have been packed to suffocation, whilst the Countess of Warwick, Marklew, Claude Taylor, and others have kept the ball rolling till the candidate looked in, gave them a rousing broadside of Socialism, a rapid criticism of adversaries, and was then whisked off to another part of the town to repeat the performance. But the enthusiasm culminated in the final meeting on the Friday night, at the Palace Hippodrome, when 3,200 crowded into a theatre which holds normally 2,600. Grayson came over from Colne Valley and gave one of his brilliant and quaintly witty speeches. Irving was in the chair, jocular, but imperturbable; keeping the enormous and excited crowd in check with admirable generalship, Lady Warwick spoke well and feelingly, and Hyndman surpassed himself in a speech which closed his campaign, and gave a synthesis of the propaganda and ideals which had given the keynote to that campaign. The crowd outside the theatre was almost as huge as that inside, and if shouting could have gained the election Hyndman ought to have been at the top of the poll. Perhaps the lesson we Socialists have to learn is that we must not shout until victory is assured.

Upton Sinclair on the Present-Day Conditions of the Workers.

And now let us reason together and see what it is that the workers of Burnley have decided, as far as they are concerned, shall continue. Upton Sinclair, the author of “The Jungle,” has delivered an address lately in the States on Socialism, in the course of which he said: “I have been in towns in the State of West Virginia where they mine soft coal, and where boys of thirteen and fourteen years of age lie down on their sides and wield a pick in veins of coal which are very narrow; they work continuously lying on one side before they have attained their full growth, and consequently they become hopelessly deformed. They breathe the dust of this soft coal, and contract various lung diseases, and when they die you cannot tell their lungs at a distance from a piece of coal. .... I have been in some of the cotton-mill towns in New England where girls work in the cotton factories; they get from four to five dollars a week when the mills are running full time — but they are very seldom running full time. I have talked to girls who have been receiving from two to three dollars per week for the greater part of the year, and have been trying to live on it. The result is that, as a young fellow phrased it to me, ‘You can buy a girl for five cents.'” What is going on in one capitalistic State is going on with more or less intensity in every other: Napoleon looked on all men with an eye to their being chair--canon (“flesh for the cannon”). Capitalism looks upon all working men, women, and children as being flesh for making profits. 4,948 voters in Burnley understood the question at issue between the classes; the other 11,437 voted for the continuance of class oppression and an intensified form of the degradation of the workers. There is only one small crumb of comfort for us who worked side by side for the cause for which Hyndman stands; we have succeeded in keeping out the unspeakable Maddison, and to that extent at least we have purified the atmosphere of Westminster.