William Morris

Speech Seconding George Lansbury

George Lansbury moved:- "That this meeting of Social-Democrats, assembled at the beginning of the New Year, send fraternal greetings to their fellow-workers in the cause of humanity in all lands; enter their earnest protest against the efforts of filibusters and financiers to stir up strife among the people of the different countries; and pledge themselves to work steadfastly forward for the overthrow of the infamous capitalist system, and the realization of that time when international concord shaqll replace competition and strife.". He said it seemed to him that we had middle-class cant and humbug in excelsis in the Transvaal just now. In the name of British patriotism and of England's honour they have been invited to save a set of filibusters who were there to make money, He hoped that if there were any conscience at all left in England the workmen of England would, at any rate, not allow the jingo fever to seize them again as in the past, and that they would remember that all the cant and humbug about expansion only meant expansion for the benefit of capitalists. The Chartered Company had practically massacrd Lobengula's people, and now that they had attacked people who could stand up to them, a howl was going up from the capitalist press that they hoped the Boers in the moment of victory would have mercy. (Laughter.)

William Morris, who was received with tremendous applause, seconding the resolution, said that he had to congratulate those present on their meeting and on the work which the Social-Democratic Federation had done and was doing. This at any rate they of the S.D.F. had always done: they had always kept the revolutionary principle before them, had always made it clear that they understood that no amelioration was any good, that no patching up was possible, that nothing could be accomplished till the workers were really free, until they had control of their own means of life. The condition of things into which the present Government seemed to have got itself was due entirely to the general position of labour and capital throughout civilzation. (Cheers.) As far as America was concerned they were in that position that at any time a quarrel might arise, and we could not face it because we chose to hang on with such desperation to the colony we happened to have over there. If it were not for Canada what should we care about America? He had never believed in any solid danger with reference to America at the present moment. In some way or another we should "back down," and they would do the same, because we were each other's customers, and we could not afford to go out and buy "shooting-irons" to kill our own customers. (Cheers.) As far as Africa was concerned, there was a kind of desperation egging on all the nations to make something of that hitherto undeveloped country; and they were no doubt developing it with a vengeance. (Laughter and cheers.) When he saw the last accounts about the Transvaal he almost wished he could be a Kaffir for five minutes in order to dance around the "ring". He thought it was a case of a pack of thieves quarrelling about their booty. The Boers had stolen their land from the people it had belonged to; people had come in to help them develop their stolen property, and now wanted to steal it themselves. (Laughter and cheers.) The real fact, however, that we had to deal with was that we lived by stealing—that was by wasting—all the labour of the workmen.

Title

Speech Seconding George Lansbury

Source

Justice, 11 January 1896

Notes

George Lansbury's motion was to the Annual New Year's Meeting of the Social-Democratic Federation, held in Holborn Town Hall. He was at the time the full-time National Organizer for the SDF. The resolution was 'carried with acclamation'.