On 4th April I was a delegate at the B.S.P. Conference at the Bethnal Green Town Hall, where our comrade Vaughan was Mayor; and on 22nd June was a delegate from the B.S.P. to the Labour Party Conference at Scarborough. It was on 8th May of this year (1920) that I spoke for the last time at a May Day Demonstration in Hyde Park; for my throat was already beginning to give me trouble, and my doctor advised me to do as little outdoor speaking as possible.
On 30th July a convention was held at the Cannon Street Hotel for the purpose of forming a Communist Party composed of members of the British Socialist Party, the Socialist Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party, and the East End Workers’ Federation. A provisional constitution was agreed on, in which stood the clause: “IMMEDIATE ACTION. The Communist Party will devote itself to the immediate work of educating the masses in Communism. It will conduct an unflinching campaign against the power of capitalism, and will relentlessly strive by organisation and agitation to stir the fervour of the working class towards revolution.” As I had, during and since my political work in Australia consistently interpreted, both in the Labour Press, and in all my speeches, that reforms of an outworn system were of little use to the workers in the amelioration of their lot, but that a social revolution must be their goal and objective, I was glad to serve the cause of the workers by becoming a member of an avowedly revolutionary body linked up with the newly-formed Workers’ Republic in Russia. I was elected a member of the Executive of the British Communist Party, and served on that body for a year. On 5th August the Party issued a manifesto against Poland’s threatened attack on Russia, an attack which was not looked on unfavourably by the Allies. A “Hands Off Russia” Committee was formed, and the nucleus of working-class solidarity on this point was organised. In November, Delia Larkin came to spend a few days with me at Crowboro, when we discussed ways and means for helping in the release of Larkin, who was still kept in prison in the States. Eventually I got some articles on the subject into the American Labour Press, and helped to remind other comrades to keep up the agitation. On 23rd December I, at the wish of the Communist Party Executive, went to Tours as the British delegate to the first French Communist Congress, which lasted from the 25th to the 30th, and was a memorable one, for, on the 28th, Clara Zetkin made her dramatic appearance on the platform of the Congress, and gave the Moscow message with which she was entrusted. When her brilliant speech, which lasted for more than an hour, was over, she walked down the hall, stepped into a closed motor, and was driven rapidly away. From the time she entered the hall till twenty minutes after she had left, all doors were closed, and they and telephones were strictly guarded, so that no breath of what was going on inside should reach the outside, and the police knew nothing of the “peaceful raid” until our comrade was safely on her way to the frontier. It was a great achievement for a woman close on seventy, and not in the best of health, and we all felt that Lenin knew how to choose his emissaries.
Before the Congress closed each of us delegates from other countries gave our fraternal greetings, and spoke of our respective countries from the angle of possible revolutionary conditions. As unemployment was increasing very rapidly in England, when it came to my turn to address the Congress at two o’clock in the morning, I gave the figures, and spoke of the conditions, which even at that time caused some astonishment to my audience. As is well known these unemployment conditions became, later in the year, acute. On my return to Paris I was taken ill, and wired for a friend to come and nurse me at the hotel where I was staying. When recovering, the doctor ordered me to the Riviera, and forbade me going on to Livorno as delegate to the Italian Communist Congress to be held on 15th January. After resting in the South of France for a few weeks, I returned to Paris, and on my way through visited Loriot and Souveraine at the Santé Prison.
On my return to England I was constantly occupied with Communist Party Executive business, and it was during this period that our Theses were published, which eventually was the cause of our comrade Inkpin undergoing six months’ imprisonment. On 11th May I was notified at my home in Crowboro, by a comrade sent down from headquarters, that I, as a member of the C.P. Executive was to disappear for a time, as there was going to be trouble over the Theses. Not being able to consult my colleagues I rather demurred, as I thought we, who were responsible for the Theses ought to stand by them— but I was reminded that obedience was a Communist virtue, and I had that night to leave my home and “go into hiding,” a thing I had never done before. It took me a day or so to think out how to do the thing with some sort of personal dignity, at the same time remaining useful to the Labour movement. Finally I hit on the plan of buying a nurse’s uniform, adopting my mother’s maiden name, and turning up at Abertillery, where I knew my secret would be safe among the comrades, and where I could be useful on the feeding committees that were being organised for the purpose of feeding the miners’ children during the lock-out of 1921. My little plan worked out well. I lived in a worker’s family in one of the houses provided by the local Council, and the iron of what was considered good enough for the workers entered into my soul. The house, one of a row, was surrounded by grey refuse dumps, which, when the wind blew, covered everything with a thick coat of grey dust and dirt. The house had four rooms, the front parlour, the kitchen, in which was the bath, and two bedrooms approached by a steep flight of stairs without a handrail. It was agreed I was to pay my hostess two guineas a week, and for that she looked after me well and faithfully, but when I found she had a young baby, besides a little boy about six, I told her I had not come to her to increase her work and troubles, and that I would myself look after my own bedroom. It was then I discovered that the workers’ houses had no water laid on upstairs, nor any sink down which slops could be emptied. To carry a heavy slop-pail down steep stairs without a handrail is a difficult task for any but the strongest young woman, as is also the business of carrying water for washing purposes upstairs. When I spoke to my hostess about it she told me that in her recent confinement, her mother, who had come to help her, complained bitterly of the danger and difficulty of the stairs. At the sink in the kitchen the “crocks” were washed up, the vegetables prepared, the family washing, including the baby’s napkins, had to be done (and this meant a daily wash). As the kitchen was used constantly as a passage to the front parlour, the bath it contained was of little use, and the whole plan of what I was told was considered an up-to-date worker’s home, was entirely lacking in any consideration for the work which the worker’s wife had daily to carry on. While staying at Blaina, the next village to Abertillery, I visited the very well-built and organised small hospital, the property of the miners of the district. The money had been obtained by a levy on their wages, and they were justly proud to show me over the various wards for men, women and children, the operating room, and the well-organised kitchens. It was a foretaste of what could be done by the mining industry if nationalised and organised for the benefit of all concerned. I shall always look back with the greatest pleasure to my all too brief stay among these hospitable and musical Welsh miners, some of the finest among British workers.
In June of this year came the devastating news of the death from the effects of poison gas of my dear and only son. This was a crushing blow, from the effects of which I have never recovered, and my health which was already compromised by frequent attacks of bronchitis, began seriously to fail. In February, 1922, I was operated on for appendicitis, and though I was out of the nursing home in four weeks’ time, I took many months to recover from the shock to the system, and it was decided that in December I should go out to Sydney to see my son’s widow and my two little grandchildren. There were also certain business transactions that had to be gone into, for my income was derived from Australian investments in the hands of a trustee company. But when it came to getting my passport visé d for Australia (there was never any question of Australian passports before the war to end war), I was told at Commonwealth House I could not get a visa because I belonged to the Communist Party, and they allowed no Communists out there. As by marriage I was an Australian, and as I was going out on private business connected with the death of my son, this seemed to me and my friends a most illogical position for Australia House to take up. However, after much correspondence it was agreed that if I did not undertake Communist propaganda while in Australia, I could get my visa, and on 5th December, 1922, I left for Sydney with two friends in the Commonwealth steamer Esperance Bay. I was out there a year, and found in Sydney the nucleus of a Communist Party— mostly the remains of the old International Socialist Party, in which Holland and I had worked before the war. Many old comrades welcomed me, turned up the files of the International Socialist, and referred to my revolutionary articles, which were as applicable then as the day they were written. One great pleasure was meeting once more Adela Pankhurst that was—now Adela Walshe, for she had married Tom Walshe of the Seamen’s Union. When I was speaking and working with the Pankhursts, I found her far and away the most intelligent of that family. We had been to prison together, and it was interesting to talk over old times and old fights. Tom Walshe, when she married him, was a widower with three girls growing up. Adela mothered them, and, in a climate which is very trying in summer for white women to work in, she cooked and washed and did the usual daily duties of a workman’s wife, besides carrying on a never-ceasing anti-war and Socialist propaganda. Then came year after year her own little family of three babies, following close on one another, and still she kept the home and carried on propaganda. I was told by a Communist woman comrade, who had been to see her when she was in bed after one of her confinements, how she was sitting up in bed writing for and editing the Seaman’s Journal, with the baby lying by her side. She came over to see me first with the two little toddlers, and a baby at the breast; the most real, the most plucky little mother that I think I had ever come across. All honour to Adela Walshe, school teacher, suffragist, wife, mother and Communist. Her husband, Tom Walshe, is a delightful, resourceful Irishman, with whom I always enjoyed a talk. In Brisbane I found in their magnificent Trades Hall, which, built on an eminence, dominates the city, and is an emblem of Labour coming into its own, a good Communist study centre, and a growing group of sympathisers; and in Western Australia, when on the way home the ship stopped at Perth, I was entertained by an enthusiastic group of Communists, who remembered well my work when I was editing the International Socialist. The leading women’s organisation at Perth also entertained me, and the Labour Party held a Social for me at their headquarters. It was again pleasant meeting old comrades and friends in Australia, and feeling that the work one had been privileged to put in the past was now bearing fruit in a better understanding of the international solidarity of Labour. Australia is so remote that it is difficult for the ordinary trade unionist, who certainly has better conditions than his comrades in Europe, to realise the necessity of absolute solidarity, and I never failed in my propaganda to quote from and to give away copies of the original Communist manifesto, which, to my mind, is more to the point, where the workers’ interests are concerned, than anything that has ever been written. On the voyage home from Australia I was so dangerously ill with bronchial pneumonia that the doctor advised me when landing on 22nd December at Plymouth to winter at Bournemouth, so I took a flat there in which to spend the nine months of English winter, and get back some semblance of health.
But my public work for Labour was not yet completed, and in the summer of 1924 I received my credentials from the Australian Communist Party to represent them at the Moscow International Congress of that year. The journey to Leningrad was made in the Arcos ship Tobolsk, which left Hayes Wharf, London, on 4th June, and we steamed through the Kiel Canal on Whit Sunday. I was very impressed with the numerous and magnificent bridges that spanned the Canal, linking up the railways and other means of communication on either side. It being the great summer holiday of the year, all the German ships and boats carried branches of greenery tied to the bows. Numerous family picnic parties lined the banks of the Canal, and the voices of happy children resounded on all sides. On 12th June we tied up alongside the quay at Leningrad, and on landing passed into a waiting room for passports to be examined. Comrade Larkin and I had been fellow-passengers on the Tobolsk, and were the only two delegates on board bound for the Soviet Congress. A young Russian woman comrade was on the look-out for us, and as she spoke German all was well. She packed us with our luggage into a motor-car, and drove us to an hotel, where we rested until it was time to leave by the night train for Moscow. At the station our tickets were given us, and we were shown into the compartment of a very fine new international sleeping car, which the young comrade explained was reserved for Larkin and myself. Then Auf wiedersehens were said, and we started off on the last stage of our journey. When the car attendant came round to make up the beds, I, as an old traveller, took the situation as a matter of course, when he pointed out the lower berth as my sleeping place, and the upper one as comrade Larkin’s; but when the arrangements were explained, Larkin, with true Irish chivalry, refused to inconvenience me by sharing the compartment, though I assured him it was the ordinary arrangement in Russia, and that I had expected to come up over here against what are fixed conventions in Great Britain. But Larkin wandered off into the night— that is, into some distant third-class compartment, and told me the next day that he did not find a place to lie down till after one o’clock in the morning. As a matter of fact, I found the Russian train sleeping arrangements far more comfortable for my sex than are those obtaining in. America, where one has a berth in a long sleeping car, shared by both men and women, and where the attendants are coloured men. To reach the ladies’ toilet room for dressing and undressing, one has to walk down a long corridor of curtained berths, and run the gauntlet of these coloured men, whereas in the Russian cars each compartment has its own well-fitted washing room. Of course the real point of difference is that in Western Europe certain compartments would he reserved for women and others for men; but in Russia that has not in the past, and is not now considered necessary. I will tell later my really quaint experience on the return journey to Leningrad.
On reaching Moscow at 9.30 a.m., a comrade from the Comintern met and drove us to the Lux Hotel, where we had a cup of tea in the room of some Scotch friends, who later took us down to our own hotel, facing the entrance to the Red Square. This entrance is a triple archway, the centre arch for the passage of vehicles, and the two smaller arches on either side for foot passengers. As one enters the square by the left hand side archway one sees along its whole length an enormous arcade of shops and offices, where, under cover and sheltered from the elements, much business is carried on. The first part of the time I was in Moscow the heat was intense, and we used sometimes to be glad to escape from the cobble pavements and the glare of the Red Square to the friendly shade of the Arcade. Along the right hand side of the Square runs the crenelated wall of the Kremlin fortress, and blocking the further end stands the extraordinary church, designed by an Italian architect by command of Ivan the Terrible. The whole Red Square seems redolent of the memory of this Ivan (a contemporary of our Queen Elizabeth, and, according to some historians, a suitor at one time for her hand), and in the centre of the Square there is a round stone platform, surrounded by wrought iron railings, which was the place for the tortures and executions for which his reign was famous. On the corner of the Kremlin wall nearest to this platform, Ivan caused a covered seat to be constructed, from which spot he could in safety watch the prolonged tortures of his boyars (nobles) and other victims. In order that the architect who designed the sort of perverted orientalism of the Christian church I have already mentioned on the Red Square, should never build for anyone else, Ivan had the Italian’s eyes put out; and later on, when his son offended him, he struck the lad down with a blow, from the effects of which he died shortly afterwards.
At the present time, on the right hand side of the Kremlin wall, facing the Square, lie the bodies of those who died defending the Revolution, and standing foursquare in the midst of their graves is the dark, solid wood structure, very simple and beautiful in outline, where lies the embalmed body of Lenin. Red army soldiers keep the gates of the Kremlin, and only those with permits pass in or out. My first attempt to get in was the morning after my arrival, when, after telephoning to Clara Zetkin, I took a droshky and drove down to one of the entrances, but not being able to speak Russian, and not having yet obtained my delegate’s pass, I was refused admission. Several kindly Russians, some speaking a little German, tried to help me, but it was of no avail, and I realised the soldiers had received their orders, and were only doing their duty. In the afternoon a Russian comrade kindly drove down with me, and after many questions at the guichet I obtained a pass, and we drove inside the Kremlin along a fine wide terrace overlooking the river, and past the huge cracked bell standing in one of the courts, to Zetkin’s apartment, which, was at the side of the palace on the first floor, approached by its own flight of stairs. I remained with her to tea, and it was a great joy to talk over our work in the past, and our hopes for the future, saddened though these hopes were for the moment by the recent death of the great leader. In him Zetkin had lost not only a comrade, but a personal friend; and all my regret was that I had never known him in the flesh, though I felt his spiritual influence on every side.
The opening ceremony of the Congress took place in the great Theatre where tier upon tier of gilded boxes and balconies were filled to overflowing with cheering workers. Greetings in every western and eastern language were hung on the sides of the theatre, and the young pioneers (the boy scouts of the Soviet Republic) ran back and forth with messages from platform to audience, and saluted the International, as it thundered from floor to roof. The following day the first session of the Congress was held in one of the two great front halls of the Kremlin Palace, from the balconies of which one looks out over the renowned gilded spires and domes of Moscow. Heavy gilding seems to be the keynote of both inside and outside decoration in this former stronghold of autocracy; but this particular palace in which the Communist delegates now met had only been built and used for state functions, such as coronations and weddings. The walls of these two front state rooms were hung with pale green watered satin, each panel being framed in gilt, while the gilded chairs matched the colour scheme of the walls. All art treasures, whether here or elsewhere, are respected and well cared for. On this occasion, and in honour of the dead leader, the huge gilt chandeliers and the front of the platform were draped in a very fine black crepe. The second great hall was used by the typists and stenographers, whilst in a large dining room two or three hundred delegates dined everyday at three o’clock. We were also free to roam through the other state and throne rooms, where it appeared to me the Russian autocrats understood much state, but very little comfort.
On the afternoon of this first session the delegates filed out of the Congress hall, and walked in silence, four or five deep along the terrace, through the narrow Kremlin gate on to the Red Square, our goal being a visit to Lenin’s tomb. As we approached the tomb the procession lengthened out, for we could only enter two at a time the red-lined passage and stairs, dimly lit with shaded lamps, leading down to the death chamber, where lay, as if sleeping after an exhausting day’s work, the embalmed body of the great leader, who had the imagination and the will to found a Workers’ Republic. Ave and vale were the two words that seemed to express what I felt, as I looked for the first and the last time at the face of the man whose thought and whose deed had changed the world.
In the intervals of attending the Congress and listening to the reports and speeches of the delegates from the various countries, I was preparing my report on the work and outlook of the Australian Communist Party, which I was to read to the Congress on 25th June. My desire was not only to give a skeleton report of Australian Party doings, but to make my statement interesting to international Communists, and helpful eventually to the small Australian groups by linking up the workers’ outlook and interests of the various countries bordering on the Pacific. Herzen, the well-known Russian socialist and author, who lived in exile in Siberia, in continental countries, and in England, during the last century, had realised, even then, that the axis of modern life was undergoing a change of position in consequence of increased facilities of transport and of traffic; and he made in his Memoirs, written in the last century, but published in Berlin in 1921, the prophecy that the Pacific Ocean would be the Mediterranean of the future. In other words, that the trading, the rivalries, the imperial jealousies, the wars of the future would all centre round the Pacific, just as for centuries they had centred round the Mediterranean. The making by Great Britain of a fortified naval base at Singapore had brought the Pacific problems into renewed prominence, and rival imperialisms were jealously watching one another’s successes in the exploitation of coloured labour. Australia, who would admit none but white races to her shores, hoping in that way to assure her aristocracy of labour conditions, had been given by the Versailles Treaty a mandate over New Guinea, a country full of undeveloped wealth, and inhabited by a virile population with established laws and social customs of their own. How was Australia, with its Labour Government in power in several States, prepared to carry out its mandate? It was the duty of the Communist groups in Australia to keep these and similar questions always before the eyes of the Labour Party, and to get them ventilated in the Labour Press; and it would be exceedingly helpful in carrying out a united Communist policy if Communist representatives of each of the Pacific countries could meet yearly in consultation and thrash out future policy in the interests of both white and coloured labour. These were some of the points I laid before the international delegates at the Moscow Congress, and as an immediate result I had many interviews with correspondents of Soviet Russian newspapers, who were greatly interested in obtaining facts about the social and economic conditions of the Australian continent.
Unfortunately for me, when the spell of hot weather broke, and rain and wind prevailed, the Congress hall with its many open windows was very draughty, and I caught a bronchial cold, which meant two or three days in bed. As no food, not even milk, could be obtained in the hotel where I was staying, it was almost impossible to get the light nourishment I required, and the doctor from the Kremlin, who attended me, suggested I should go into the Kremlin Hospital. He could speak German, so I got on with him, but as the nurses in the Kremlin would only be able to speak Russian, I dreaded to make the move. Comrades were very kind in coming in to see me, and bringing me supplies of milk, so I struggled through till I was up again and then asked permission of the Comintern to return home, as I was feeling too ill to go on with the strain of the Congress work. The matter was kindly arranged for me by comrades, and I left Moscow for Helsingfors, where I found a Finnish steamer that brought me home. Among my pleasant recollections was a Sunday afternoon spent in the Old Palace of Peter the Great, at the back of the new Kremlin Palace. Some Russian comrades of the name of Fischer, who had spent nearly twenty years in exile in England, and who told me they had for years followed my writings and speeches, introduced themselves to me and invited me to spend an afternoon in their apartment in the Old Palace, promising me to show me over it, as it was full of historical interest. I visited with them the sort of harem-like apartments set aside till the time of Peter the Great for the women of the Court. Their rooms had no direct access to the outside air, but opened on to ventilated galleries where they could take exercise. A large dark church, lit only by artificial light, and situated, it seemed to me, in the very bowels of the Palace, was reserved for their devotions; and we looked in through an iron grating on this semi-tomb of enshrined cruelties and superstitions, and speculated on the narrowness of the lives of these mewed-up eighteenth-century women. It would appear that Peter the Great, after his travels in the west of Europe, cast down many of the barriers that had hedged in till then the life of Russian women, and opened the door to some degree of education and of culture. I also visited the Club of the “Old Guard,” that is of those who had actually taken an active part in the Revolution. They have the use of a great curiously vaulted room on the third storey of the Palace. Trotsky has his apartment in the same old Palace, as also Lenin’s brother; and in most of the apartments I entered there were only two or at the most three rooms allotted to each family. Everywhere I noticed beautiful old empire furniture, which was in most cases very carefully treated. I was much interested in meeting at the Congress Anna Louise Strong, the American journalist, whose book, “The First Time in History,” gives such lucid accounts of the energetic reconstruction going on throughout Soviet Russia. She herself is a delightful personality, thoroughly enjoying the unconventionality of life under the Soviet regime. If I had been a younger woman and in better health I could have desired nothing better than to spend two or three years studying conditions in Soviet Russia, where social and economic problems are being tackled from the workers’ instead of the exploiters’ point of view.
On my journey back from Moscow to Leningrad I found I was to share my sleeping compartment with a Russian man, so I slipped on a dressing gown and lay down on my berth, for the night. Quite early I got up, went into the washing room, dressed, and then sat on my berth and read. Bye and bye two men friends of the gentleman overhead came and stood in the open doorway of the compartment and chatted with him as he lay in his bunk. There was a good deal of what appeared to me to be giggling, and when they left one of the train attendants who had evidently learnt some English in America, came and remarked to me: “Ma’am, the gentleman say he want to clothe himself. He ask if you stay there, or if you come out?” “By all means,” I replied, “I will go out while the gentleman clothes himself, but where do you suggest I should go?” Eventually it was decided I should sit with the two train attendants in their compartment, and later on return, when the clothing operation was completed. I was then able to return to my seat and my book.
At Leningrad I was helped by the same Russian girl, who had put Larkin and myself on the way before; she was just a type of some of the very fine youth who are helping so enthusiastically to change the spiritual and material outlook of a country whose evolution in the past has been— if I may so express it—lop-sided. Every outward form of progress except that which ministered to the luxuries of a Court, and a comparatively small aristocracy, had been brutally repressed; but this repression could never touch the inner spirit of those who were in intellectual revolt against the autocracy and all its works. Russian literature, censored and garbled though it has been, testifies to the living fact that “Iron bars cannot a prison make,” and, with the exception of Dostoiefsky, an epileptic who crouched beneath the lash, Russian writers have stood up as men against the autocrats, and have returned blow for blow. They, and the women and men martyrs of pre-revolutionary times helped to make 1917 possible, and as I trod the soil of Russia I felt it was holy soil, and that the blood of the martyrs was the seed, sown plentifully here, of the Revolution, which in the end will transform the world.
Since my return from Soviet Russia the bronchial asthma from which I suffer has increased every winter, and I have to live much indoors with my books and my thoughts. But whether I am reading, or listening to music, or, as an occasional treat witnessing a play of Chekoff’s, I feel myself more in sympathy, more vitally interested in Russian thought and psychology than I am in anything else. The inner life I have lived since beginning political work has been better and more understandingly described by a Russian than by any other writer I have ever come across. Naturally the inner evolution and the outward actions implied in a change that drew me gradually, but inevitably from the standard of bourgeois values to that of proletarian values, were not accomplished without painful breaks. “It was not in a book, nor through a book that she found her freedom, but through living and clearness of vision. Unimportant incidents, bitter experiences, which for many would have passed without a trace, left a deep imprint on her soul, and were enough to arouse her mind to immense activity. A slight hint was sufficient for her to pass from one deduction to another, till she reached that fearless grasp of the truth which is a heavy burden, even for a man to bear. Mournfully she parted from her shrine in which stood so many holy things, bathed in tears of grief and joy; she left them without blushing, as big girls blush at the sight of their doll of yesterday. She did not turn away from them, she let them go with anguish, knowing that she would be the poorer, the more defenceless for the loss; that the soft light of the glimmering ikon lamp would be followed by the grey dawn, that she must make friends with harsh callous forces, deaf to the murmur of the prayer, deaf to the hopes of immortality. She gently put them from her bosom like a dead child, and gently laid them in the grave, respecting in them her past life, their poetry and the comfort they had given at some moments. Even later she disliked touching them coldly, just as we avoid wantonly stepping on a grave.”
But as the shadows close in over my own life, it seems to me that the dawn is breaking for the workers of the world. Imperialism, that ultimate outcome and organising directorate of capitalism, has been found out and is being denounced and fought wherever it turns its exploiting gaze. The war has unmasked its competing lusts; and the strong walls of Tradition, Social life, and Capitalist Finance which surrounded it show great cracks and breaches. In proportion as Force, wielded by a handful of politicians, breaks out into class war, the opposing gathering force of mass action is bound to develop in intensity and dynamic power. It appears to be a sociological law that in proportion as the possessing and governing class oppresses, so the driving power of the oppressed, when their hour arrives, becomes dangerous. Recent examples are not wanting in Russia and China. As I helped recently in the re-clothing of some miners’ children from Somerset, who had been adopted during the lock-out into working-class families, and saw that under the poor shoddy coat and knickers of the boys there was nothing (except in some instances the remnant of a shirt) to keep out the bitterness of an English winter, I felt that these little ones must be the constant symbols to their parents of the class war; and in that sign, in that symbol, the parents of all the unprivileged must one day conquer.
These are some of the thoughts for the future that come into my heart, because with my heart I live through the sufferings and oppressions of the people; but with my mind I know, because I am fortunate in having the economic interpretation and analysis of our present social system, that evolution is hastening on into revolution, just as gestation ends in birth. We women know that physical birth is accomplished with agony and the spilling of blood, and many of us realise that the birth of a new social era may demand like sufferings. When in process of time the world revolution shall have been accomplished, when the hungry have been filled, and the rich have been sent empty away— then I can see the struggle for existence being removed from the material to the spiritual plane, so that the life of the spirit and of beauty can be deepened, strengthened and developed in ways it is not possible for us to imagine during the stress of the present disorganised scramble for the barest necessities of life. So intense is this existing struggle and scramble under the economic and social disorder now prevailing, that only the privileged few can glimpse the spiritual beauties of literature, art and music; and it is only when the material problem of the provision of food, shelter, warmth and clothing for everyone is solved that we can begin the real struggle for the higher life of the spirit. It is in this struggle that it is the high privilege, the great adventure of the workers to lead; and it is in the faith that the workers will eventually accomplish their mission that I have lived and done my days’ work in the world.