Dora B. Montefiore Justice April 1912

A Letter from Mrs Montefiore

Source: Justice, p. 12, 13 April 1912;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

P.O. Box 1639, Johannesburg,
March 1, 1912.

Dear Mr. Hyndman, – Your letter of January 29 cheered me much for I was so glad to hear you were both well were in good air at Hastings, and both preparing for the coming fight next year in Vienna.

It was good also to hear that the B.S.P. was getting on its legs, and getting ready also to put up some organised and efficient fight against political Labourism.

I read in-between the lines of MacDonald’s most shameless attack in the “Socialist Review” on the B.S.P. that he was standing at bay and snarling like an ill-conditioned cur. That phrase of his that we of the S.D.P. were all tinged with “blackguardism” should not be forgotten against the gentleman when the day of reckoning comes.

I had a wonderful reception at Perth on my way through. I had no idea there was any Party worth speaking of there; but comrades came on board, carried me off, and entertained the at an impromptu banquet in one of the public halls; my health was proposed by one of the old heroes of the Eureka stockade days. It is my work on the “International Socialist” which has warmed their hearts, and they have promised me that they will not rest till the order from their branch alone is 500 copies a week. A fortnight’s run across the Indian Ocean brought us to Durban, where another relay of comrades met me with another hearty reception, and on the Sunday I spoke in the gardens, and had a splendid audience. They were afraid of taking a hall, as when Keir Hardie came the capitalists packed it, and would not let him speak. My next stop was Maritzburg, which, as you know, used to be the capital, but is now on the down grade.

The comrades there had organised a meeting for me, but the place was not worth speaking in. I met there, however, a Dr. Vreundlich, the editor of a Dutch paper, who knew my work on the “New Age” years ago during the Boer War; and I feel the meeting was opportune, because he will dispose the Dutch population favourably towards my mission here.

It is an 18 hours’ train journey from Maritzburg to Johannesburg, all the latter part through veldt country, which reminds me of hundreds of miles of South Downs; then, as the journey nears its end one sees on the horizon the long line of the smoke and chimneys of the Rand, and one realises that one is approaching the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary of capitalistic exploitation. Crawford and a band of comrades met me outside Johannesburg, but my formal reception is to be held next week, and, I am told, is to be a real big affair. The Jews are storming the place for tickets. When I have had one or two talks with Crawford I will write you more about our plans for the Red International, which we are linking up round the world. He at present has a libel case on for publishing facts about a Russian spy. The Geneva Convention requested that the facts should be published, but no other paper would take it up; and, as you know in English law, “the greater the truth the greater the libel.” He has acted rightly, and in the end it will be good for the cause, but he may have to go to prison for two months. Dr. Krause is defending him. All that you write about the exploitation of the natives is true, but far below the truth. As soon as I can settle down to work, I am going to write a special article on the subject for the “British Socialist,” full of facts and data, which I believe will be extremely interesting, not only to comrades, but to the general public, who have little or no idea what is going on here in the development of the native. According to a Blue Book, which I am studying, “A Native Commissioner was asked: ‘Are you in a position to say whether the desire for education is keener among the natives or the poor whites?’ and replied, ‘Among the natives from my experience.’ “ And, further on the Report continues: “The result of this desire for education is that the native is rapidly qualifying himself to enter into competition with the white population in the skilled trades.” The natives have just had their first Congress at Durban, and have formulated resolutions, which the capitalist papers characterise as “insolent.” Then, as you see, the Defence Bill brought in by Smuts is intended to arm the white workers but not the coloured ones. All this the old game of setting workers against workers. At Easter we hope to inaugurate a united Socialist Party in South Africa. The Congress will be here, and we also shall throw down the gauntlet to the capitalists in a series of resolutions which no doubt they will also characterise is insolent. I wish you would from time to time put in a short line in “Justice” about my movements, so I may not be forgotten among the comrades with whom I have worked the longest.

Yours with affectionate remembrances to you both