“Labour’s” tragic triumph in Australia
“Labour” Prime Ministers and “Labour” leaders of Australia have been prominent in Great Britain of late, owing to the Imperial Conference and the Coronation. They have fraternised with the Lords of Capitalism and rejoiced at the progress of the “greatest Empire (read vampire) the world has ever seen.” All the enemies of Labour have gathered together to do honour to “these men who have risen from the plough.” Amidst the eulogies of Asquith, Balfour, and the rest of the holy capitalist family, they have toured the country urging the propertyless wage slaves to emigrate to the scene of “Labour’s triumphs,” and so escape from the suffering they encounter here.
The fact that a “Labour” Party controls the “Commonwealth,” and is supreme in at least two States, has misled some into following their advice. But these unfortunate workers will have a rude and rapid awakening.
The Labour Government in the Australian Privatewealth have a platform which includes the conversion of trusts into State monopolies. Already in the Antipodes, although the population is sparse and the land to a great extent uncultivated, the great industries and services are becoming trustified. That is eloquent of the speed with which the newer lands ore influenced by developments in the old.
The State ownership of such services as are already nationalised has been a mixed blessing to the toilers. New South Wales is the State of Labourism’s greatest advance, yet the capital (Sydney) will be remembered as the centre of the great strike of State employed tramway men for “a living wage.” State ownership is the refuge of the business men being crushed by the trusts.
“A White Australia” is another plank in the Labour platform. They have always had a particular preference for “White Slavery” as opposed to other hues. Yet a “White Australia” hasn’t saved the workers from the ills that affect them in “open door” countries. Sydney, for instance, boasts of slums as hideous as the classic ones of the East End of London. The homeworkers of Sydney are a frightful example of how capitalism crushes women, as well as men, “in the land beyond the seas.”
Employment in “White Australia” is precarious. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of May 26 contains the following news:
“Mr. A Rickard, of Messrs. Arthur Rickard & Co., admits he received a surprise yesterday morning. He advertised for forty-one general labourers in the Telegraph, and before noon he had several hundred applicants. When the office opened at nine o’clock there were dozens waiting and the number increased rapidly; they ran over the premises inside and jammed the door outside. Judging the men as a whole they were of the average hard-working type, and were mostly eager to accept the offered 8s. a day. We engaged 59 men and could have had as many more had we wanted them.” This in a country where the cost of living is more than double that in Britain, and where the rise in prices in the last decade bas been phenomenal and is still advancing.
The Taxation of Land Values is a prominent feature of the Labour programme. Its existence in the Commonwealth has led to it being boomed here, and in view of Australia being the pet example of the “good” effects of land taxes, it would be well to show their real character and influence.
The great merit of land taxes is said to be the releasing of the land and bringing it within the means of the poor man. But the Labour Premier, Mr. Andrew Fisher, told a deputation from the London Chamber of Commerce that “land sold at prices quite as high as, if not higher than, those realised before the tax was passed,” and the report (Manchester Guardian, 14.6.11) goes on to say that “he asserted that since the tax was passed Australian credit had been higher than for many years before.” In face of the criticism of land financiers he “denied that the tax was intended to he vindictive against anybody.” Plaintively he asked: “Could anything be more offensive than to charge his Government with class legislation?”
Whether offensive or not, it is but true to charge them with legislation benefiting the capitalist class. Their tax on land values been warmly welcomed by the merchants and store keepers of Australia (for it means a reduction of taxation to them), whilst the capitalist nature of their rule has been shown to all by their institution of compulsory military service to protect the property of Australian plutocrats from seizure by other nations. Conscription! How well it makes for the liberty of the worker in the “land of the free”! Liberty for the employer but continued slavery for the employed – that is the guiding principle of the Labour policy.
The brutal attitude they adopt towards workmen on strike is an instance of this. The Labour Party have control of the State legislature in S. Australia, and they have had many opportunities to show how they stand toward struggling Labour. At the present time down at Renmark, in the agricultural portion of the State, a fight is being waged by the fruit pickers in the endeavour to make their wages cover the increased cost of living. They have been met with the most bitter opposition of the Growers’ Association – the organisation of the masters. The Government have helped the blacklegs and sent down armed police to protect them. The Adelaide Advertiser published an interview on May 11 with Mr. Verran, the Labour Premier, who said: “There is no doubt whatever about the policy of our Government regarding industrial disputes. We stand straight for Compulsory Arbitration. We have no sympathy with Unions that profess a revolutionary tactical policy. Labour in our State has said the strike is a barbarous, out-of-date method of deciding differences between employers and employees”.
“Then what are you going to do to prevent trouble like that being experienced at Renmark just now?” he was asked.
“Unfortunately we have no power now,” was the reply. “But since the Federal Referenda have decided that local disputes are to be a State matter, my Government has decided to introduce a Compulsory Arbitration Bill. The principal provision of the measure will be to make every union and every association of employers register under the new law, and the Wages Board’s decision must bet be observed, just as any other law is abided by. Once the two Houses of Parliament say all industrial disputes must be decided by law the striker will be treated as any other law breaker.”
“What about the Right to Strike?” “There is no Right to Strike recognised,” said Mr. Verran. “When a Labour Government is in power it is just as necessary to have law and order observed as at any other time.”
“Then why does not your Government prevent lawlessness at Renmark?”
“We have taken every precaution to see that the law as we find it is carried out. It is not true that we hesitated regarding action at Renmark. The police authorities there have not asked for additional help. Indeed, they have reported that the police are sufficient to cope with any trouble. In spite of that, when we heard that there was likely to be something special happening there on a certain date, we sent two additional mounted police to Renmark. We do not fear any legitimate unionism, but the leaders in the Renmark strike are men with revolutionary intentions, who make no secret of their opposition to Labour. We have no necessity to pander to them in any way and we attack them openly. This class of opposition causes us no embarrassment.”
In the same paper Mr. J. Murphy, the men’s union organiser, says: “The police action is the result of bias against the workers. Ever since the Hon. J. P. Wilson (Labour Minister) took up his well-known attitude against the workers and the Hon. C. Vaughan (Labour Treasurer) backed him up, the Growers (masters) and ‘scabs’ have been very aggressive, as they know the Government are behind them.” Speaking of the suppression of the men’s meetings he said: “Our men are prepared to continue holding meetings of protest there against what we regard as the Russian tyranny of the Labour Government over this Free Speech question.”
The employers’ representative (Mr. R. Young), interviewed, said: “In future the employers’ association will not employ any but non-union men or free labourers, as they are called. It appears to me that the Growers can get plenty of non unionist hands. My impression is that the Renmark Growers will always win, as they have won three times already, easily beating all opposition.”
The damning indictment of Labourism these facts contain should make the workers ponder over the actions of the British Labour Party. The latter’s praise of their Australian colleagues, in spite of their open hostility to struggling toilers, is but another of their many crimes. The workers of Australia are in the same abject condition that the English toilers stood in in the time of the Tolpuddle martyrs – the days before the Combination Acts.
The Labour Parliament offer the workers Compulsory Arbitration – a method by which the capitalist arbitrator lets the wage-slaves down every time. Compulsory Arbitration is such an overt fraud that the miners of Broken Hill and Newcastle (Australia) suffered imprisonment rather than agree to it.
The lesson for the working class is well pointed by these facts. They can hope for little while means of living are owned by the capitalist class and controlled by their henchmen, “Labour” or otherwise. At the 1911 Annual Conference of the Political Labour Leagues of New South Wales Mr. Verran (who attended) voiced the following sentiment :
“They must be exceedingly careful not to be intoxicated by their own success, and to remember that they were pledged to carry on the same social order as had developed up to the present time”.
(Socialist Standard, August 1911)