Mr. Keir Hardie is reported as having said in the Berlin “Sozialistische Monats-Hefts” that “In England Socialism appears to be a decaying force. Even the working men can scarcely be said to believe in its doctrines.” This may or may not represent the view Mr. Keir Hardie intended to convey, but it is easily conceivable that the man who would render lip homage to the “obsolete Marxian dogma” of the class struggle which he repudiates at home—in order to secure admission to the councils of the international working-class assembled in Conference, would also endeavour to represent that Socialism as a decaying force through the Continental Press which here in England he is interested to hail as the exact opposite. Mr. Hardie seems to be either a much misunderstood person, or a person playing a double game.


“To no section of the industrious working-class are we under deeper obligation than to the miners …. The Kingdom and Empire of which it is the heart, owe much to Welsh coal. … No deed of valour on the battlefield can surpass the splendid but quiet and unostentatious bravery which these rough workers display . . .” Yes, according to the capitalist press the whole world stands agog at the heroism of the miner in times of catastrophe similar to the recent explosion which took such a fearful toll of working-class life in a Welsh mine. But let these same heroes take a stand in order to secure a few of the comforts of life to set off against the dreadful hazards that they daily face; let them organize to fight the capitalist class for some improvement in the unmitigated hardships of their condition ; let them so much as hint a threat against the liberty of their masters to take the whole product of mine labour less that diminishing quantity necessary to the maintenance of the physical effectiveness of the miner, and this same Press will send such a howl of indignation up to high heaven at the unutterable selfishness that would reduce profits, and the crass stupidity whose insistent demands can only be satisfied at the risk of driving trade out of the country, that the workers in alarm cease their agitation or reduce their request by one half or (which amounts to the same thing) hasten to agree to the appointment of a conciliation Board, under the impression that they have done a wicked thing, or, with the idea generally fostered by their leaders, that they must do nothing to alienate public sympathy.

“Heroes” they are when they suffer suffocation without protest; endure hardships without complaint. “Bulwarks of the Empire” they, when they return to work without hesitation even while their comrades’ mutilated bodies are being brought out of the bowels of the earth. But let them organize for some amelioration in what is ironically designated their “lot” and they are scum to be flouted or children to be wheedled or dogs to be shot as at Featherstone—shot ruthlessly, unhesitatingly, with the calculated approval of capitalist hacks misnamed Labour Leaders who, having mounted to position upon working-class backs, betray the trust and sell the interest confided to their keeping. The line between working-class heroism and working-class imbecility is, in the eyes of capitalism, thin indeed. And seeing that, however small the demand, capitalist good opinion (the preservation of which to the unenlightened working-class mind is so important) is alienated; however feeble the protest capitalist love is turned into hate, capitalist bullets take the place of capitalist benevolence, it does seem to the casual observer that workers in the mine and factory stand to lose nothing by increasing their demand from the present absurdly ineffectual ha’penny or penny an hour advance in wages or the establishment of the status quo ante Farwell, to the demand for the full result of their labour and the abolition of an altogether useless and unnecessary capitalist class.


“There is a lamentable increase in the number of those who are only casually employed and the difficulty is increasing every year for elderly and even middle-aged men to obtain work. God help the labouring man when he gets old.”

Thus Mr. Thomas Holmes, one of the best known of police court missionaries. But for that matter God help the labouring man when he is young. And God help the labouring man’s wife and the labouring man’s children whether the labouring man be young or old. If God can help he may as well help all who require it, and if abject want justifies helpful intervention, then many a million of the working-class of any and all ages of this and other countries have qualified.

So we might pray if prayers could avail. But Mr Holmes has been appealing to his God for 21 years. Before him countless multitudes raised their voices in supplicatory chorus to the same supposititious personage in the same nebulous region. “God help all poor folk” they cried but God was deaf, or God was dumb or God was impotent for no response came and has not to this day. So that the poor have tired of appealing and those only pray who desire a cheap salve for their souls and an easy road from a difficult position, or those who, sufficiently educated to be conscious of their helplessness, are not sufficiently educated to have severed themselves from beliefs of fetiches born in the childhood of the world.

We are concerned that all poor folk should know why they are poor so that they may apply the remedy for their poverty which collectively they have the power to do. And the first thing they will appreciate in the day when they understand is, that neither gods nor devils nor heavens nor hells can help them into their own ; that upon themselves and themselves alone must they rely for any change they may desire in the poverty that environs them, that eats into their lives and against which they protest and sometimes actively rebel. They will understand then that prayers will not prevail against the robbery of which they are the victims ; they will understand that they must work out their own salvation and achieve their own emancipation. Mr. Holmes must pray if he will. We know a more excellent way.

(Editorials, Socialist Standard, August 1905)

Leave a Reply