William Morris

Waste, as reported in Justice

South Salford Branch

On Sunday, March 11th we had our old comrade William Morris with us. In the morning at Trafford Bridge he delivered an interesting and instructive address, which was listened to by an enormous crowd. A strong wind prevailed, and thus militated against effective out-door speaking, the the "Grand Old Man" of the Socialist movement had previously stipulated that he should address one meeting outside, and he was evidently determined to stick to his arrangements and defy the elements. The highly successful meeting will doubtless afford him some compensation for his kindly sacrifice.

In the afternoon comrade Morris addressed a public meeting in the large Free Trade Hall, Manchaster. There was a large attendance, the hall being well filled. John Trevor, the founder of the Labour Church, accepted the chair, and he took the opportunity of expressing his high regard for the work of the S.D.F. He was deeply indebted to the work of the Federation himself and above all to a few members of the South Salford Branch. He found that there was no work too hard for the members of the S.D.F. to do, and they never asked to be put in show places in order to gratify their ambition. He was hopeful that the various organizations which had the Socialist end in view would endeavour to work in harmony together, and he wished to indicate that they of the Labour Church were anxoiuus to work along with all who had in view the harmonious development of manhood and womanhood. He hoped they would long have comrade Morris with them to guide them on, the cheer them, and to inspire and help them. He had pleasure in asking comrade Morris to deliver his lecture on "Waste".

Comrade William Morris was received with loud and prolonged applause on rising to give his address. He thought it must be apparent to all of them that life under present conditions was carried on with a great amount of waste. There were many people who wanted work and could not get it. That was an evident sign of waste. This country, which was the richest in the world, was not yet wealthy. There was a great difference between the words "rich" and "wealth". A prominent form of waste was the number of men employed in making things which were not utilities. Use things were those things which the whole community used. Those made for the few were not utilities. That did not necessarily include the fine arts. What was the use of a picture, however, after it was painted, if not to be seen by the people? The whole of the commercial system of our land was carried on with great waste, and it could not be changed until the basis of our social system was revised. Take advertisements, for instance. They deface the earth, and were a nuisance, and yet they were told that if they put a stop to their issue it would cause a number of men to be thrown out of employment. And it would be so; but yet it should not be so; although it would have to be so under present conditions of life. Workmen whon had to serve their masters were slaves, voluntarily it was true, but still slaves, and the forced slaves in past history had not always been by any means uncomfortable. He should consider that the slaves of Greece and Rome were no worse off than some of the farm labourers that he knew in this country to-day. The praises of our present system of inequality had been sung by many. Some said it was providential, but he did not know anything about Providence, yet he knew a state of inequality was unnecessary. The richer the country in modern times the poorer were the greater part of its people. The signs of the times showed that we were on the road to equality. The privileges of birth had gone, and the privileges of wealth had come in. Any man that had more wealth than he required for his own purpose could provide work for the people and pay less for it than it was worth, and thereby earn more wealth. Men with wealth were obliged to do this or or get other people to do it for them. As far as actual conditions went, we were in a worse state than men were in the ancient or classical world, We had become conscious, however, in the present day, that there were in the system of society the seeds of coming equality. The triumphs which we had gained over nature should be used for the general good. The workers had too long been employed in producing toys for the few instead of useful things for the many. Religion nowadays hampered us but little. The political conditions of the people had so changed that the old parties were all confused, and the confessedly reactionary party had no real function beyond trying to keep in power. The party which professed democracy and refused to recognise the guardianship of the people's liberties were only masquerading in the cast-off clothes of Oliver Cromwell. The middle-class democracy was now beginning to see that it had to turn its face to a new condition of things, and that the working classes could not be kept out of their real rights. They had found out that a great mistake had been made all along about property. He did not condemn property. A slave, as W. Cobbett said, was a man without property. If a man had no property, what was he to do? He could neither eat nor drink nor marry whom he pleased. He could not eat bread, except the bread of slavery—that was, to sell himself to somebody who could make a profit out of him. The mistake that had been made was to confound property by calling it private property. They had to take care that there should be no private property. It should all be public property. Socialists, who could once be counted on the fingers of a man's hand, now numbered thousands. In the coming age men should be allowed to do the work for which they are most fitted. They must try to make the people Socialists. They must also get hold of the executive of the country, and get a sufficient amount of legislation, which would enable them to bring about a practical state of Socialism or Communism. When they had taken the first practical initial step in Socialism there would not be a vast change before the country was converted into perfect Socialism. By the abolition of the monopolies of production, and the total abolition of classes, the would practically become Socialists. Emulation would take the place of competition, and men would be able to live without shame, and die without fear.

In reply to a question put by one of the audience, he said that he thought there would still be the incentive to work, only it would not be an artificial but a real and obvious necessity, natural necessity he might almost call it. What they looked forward to was not the government of men but the administration of things. There was a good amount of discussion after the lecture, in which Councillor Charles Mowbray (a Liberal) joined. Comrade Morris acquitted himself nobly. The meeting lasted nearly two hours.

On the Sunday evening James Leatham lectured, William Morris also being present.

On Saturday evening next, the 17th inst., we celebrate the anniversary of the Paris Commune. Leo Milliet (the Mayor during the Commune), Herbert Burrows and others will assist in the festival.



Waste (as reported by Justice)


  1. 12th October 1893, to the Burnley branch of the SDF, in support of Hyndman's candidature for the seat
  2. 3rd November 1894, to the South Salford branch of the SDF


Justice, March 17, 1894. Morris's original notes have been lost.