W. G. Spence

The Awakening Nation
and the Trade Union Nationalist

[including Labor's Objective]

The Roots of Australian Nationalism

The writings of William Guthrie Spence, visionary of working citizens, President of the Amalgamated Shearers Union, and Labor/Nationalist Member of Parliament remain an inspiration for National Republicans.

He was born in 1846, and came to the Victorian Goldfields with his parents in 1852, where he witnessed the turmoil of Eureka at Ballarat.

W. G. Spence was one of those idealists of Australia's "cultural springtime" [1880-1900], whose values were those that made up so much of the Australian character, and were fused into the Political Labor Leagues. He advanced the promise for the new Australian social order. Some aspects have been described as "electric" socialism and a form of elemental Christianity.

W. G. Spence, known as the "father "of the Australian Workers Union, compromised in accepting Australian Federation as part of the British Empire, as against independent national status. This compromise regrettably led to his support for conscription during WWI, and he was expelled from the Labor Party that he had helped forge.

National Republicans recall the social attributes Spence stood for.

Their is no nexus between the founding pioneers of the Labour movement and the Labor Party of today, which is now part of the traitor class serving international capitalism. Any concept for a unique new European civilisation, or pretext of social justice for Australians in a co-operative organic State has been discarded.

Aspects of his writings may have dated, but the general principles remain central tenets for National Republicans.

William Guthrie Spence, born in 1846 in the Orkney Islands off Scotland, had as his personal inspiration - the duel at Eureka Stockade. His family had moved to the Victorian goldfields and Spence as a child heard the engagement from a distance. Later he would maintain, Eureka stimulated an interest in the potential of Australia both as a New Nation and as a (to use William Lane's phrase) Workingman's Paradise.

Spence's career through Australian Unionism and the early Labor Party reveals to modern Australian Nationalists the promise and the weakness of these political movements. On the one hand there was the Vision Splendid of a new nationality occupying a Continent Nation and a New Social Order which guaranteed the fruits of labour to all producers. On the other hand, the movement was tempered by "penetration" by liberal notions of "world improvement", parliamentarism, party warfare and the parson's morality.

The Australian Nationalism of the Year 2000 however, would revere the Promise rather than the flaws; it would see such men as giants compared to the stunted trolls of liberal capitalist Australia. It would view the career of Spence as a clarion call to renew the worth of Australia.

Spence's Union Struggle

One historian dubbed Spence's struggles with the Miners' Association and later the Australian Shearers Union (1882 ff), as symbolic of the fight of Australian labour for justice. He was "the outstanding figure in Australian Unionism". Spence took charge of the Shearers Union and built it to a staggering 22,500 members by 1889 with thousands more in allied unions in remoter areas of Australia. In the great clashes of the 1890's between Australian labour and the internationalist pro-immigration commercial and pastoral classes, Spence was in the vanguard. When the Barcaldine shearers raised the Eureka Flag in 1891 and armed camps sprang up across outback Australia, Spence mobilized public support across the continent. His oratory and substantial popular following caused an "anarchist" author of some talent - Alexander Rosa - to author Oliver Spence: Australian Caesar, a fictional account of an authoritarian president acquiring political power through a mass people's movement. Spence did not abuse his popularity: if anything, he did too little with it. But he did put forward the Union as a starting point for the re-organization of Australian society.

The Union was not so much an instrument of a class struggle for wealth (ie. the marxist view) but a moral-political machine. In his 1909 Australia's Awakening: Thirty Years In The Life Of An Australian Agitator, Spence explained: "Unionism came to the Australian bushman as a religion. It came bringing salvation from years of tyranny. It had in it the feeling of mateship which he understood already and which characterized action of one "white man" to another. Unionism extended the idea so one man's character was gauged by whether he stood true to the union - or scabbed it... Rough and unpolished many of them may be; but manly, true and white all the time and the movement owes them so much ..."

The Shearers Union later became the Australian Workers Union: it had an independence of thought and action. It fought to better the lives of the ordinary man. While much can be found to fault particular policies and reforms, it can only be said that without men such as Spence, Australian Labour would have toiled under "freedom of contract" (the old idea now reborn as "a free labour market") and the wealthy classes would have made super-profit. Whatever the old labour movement won has now been bartered away - and must be won all over again!

The Anti-Immigration Fight

Spence agreed with the Jack Lang position: Australian Labour owed as much to the "anti-Chinese struggle" as it did to Eureka Stockade (and it seems Eureka also had a lot to do with the support of the commercial classes for Chinese labour). Spence wrote:" The anti-Chinese movement was one of the early developments of democratic feeling. So strong was the feeling that in 1861 it led to the riot .. at Lambing Flat ..." Labour understood that unfettered immigration was a means to create a servile underclass which would allow the super-exploitation of white labour. It would be a living expression of the colonial status of the Nation. It was part and parcel of the order of Imperialism as it developed in the late l9th Century. Spence recalled: "The exclusion of alien and coloured races gives a chance for the development on the Australian Continent of a great nation of the white race.."

In 1902 the Labor parliamentarians raised this issue in the first Australian Parliament. A victory was won which at least - allowed the Australian Identity to be protected by its laws. It was something achieved against the British Empire and the best principles of banking and industrial capital as it made its first steps towards internationalisation.

Spence was often remembered for his line ."True patriotism should be racial." He meant it squarely and simply: there could be no Australian freedom, independence or identity if Australia was not proclaimed a European society. There was no "hate" or "prejudice" in the idea even where it was crudely stated. As Lang said: The White Australia Policy was the first Declaration of Australian Independence.

The Fatal Compromise

The limitations of the Trades Union patriots like Spence showed up in the fatal compromise of 1901. In the l880's and 1890's three distinct "patriotisms" were marketed. The first was that of the Imperial-connected capitalists - Imperial Federation. There was to be no Australian Federation but the connection of the colonies directly to an Imperial Parliament. Secondly, there was the Australian Natives Association middle-of-the-road patriotism: Australian Federation and self-government as part of the Empire. The third, carried by the Labour organizations, political groups and nationalist writers (like Lawson and the Bulletin magazine) was Republican, and for a New Social Order and an unashamed "White Australian Nation".

It may well be the historical task of the New Australian Nationalism of the Twenty First Century to "correct" the error of Federation. In exchange for the achievement of particular goals, the strongest part of the radical-nationalist movement compromised with the middle faction to achieve a narrow victory. Spence was one "taken in"; in fact he was to say: "The practical independence of Government granted under the Australian Constitution with the manifest advantages of being part of a big Empire ... together with the growth of a national spirit of "White Australia" and the broad humanitarianism brought by the Labor Party ... (have) abolished any talk of either republicanism or independence..."

It may well be the "compromise" kept out (for a time - until the 1930's) the extreme un-Australian economic and constitutional policies of the Anglo-Australian conservatives. But these Imperialists never died and under other circumstances lived - as a class - to see the death of "White Australia".

In other words, the Australian Labour movement deluded itself - and Spence was one of the victims. It was to the cost of the Nation.

The Legacy Of William Guthrie Spence

Spence lived until 1926, as President of the Australian Workers Union and a Labor Member of the Federal Parliament.

He was loved by those who remembered him the staunch agitator travelling across the country by horse and foot to spread the message of Union and Nation. In that regard he and those who fought with him against greed, exploitation and a venal State are to be honoured as prototypes of the New Nationalists we must become.

But Spence also left something which belied the image of "stolid", "parliamentarian" and the sad historic compromise of Labour with the State. In his Australia's Awakening, Spence left a ten page chapter "Labor's Objective". Dated it is in some parts; incomplete it may be in others. But it hammers out that type of Programme now borne high by Australian Nationalism as we approach a new millennium and decades of crisis for our Australian Nation.

Spence tells us:

"The Labor Movement in Australia is a political as well as a propagandist movement ......"

"The party stands for racial purity and racial efficiency - industrially, mentally, morally and intellectually. It asks the people to set up a high standard of national character...."

"True self-government means the government of Self - the preservation of Self from trespassing upon the rights of others. No class ruled people can ever be a self-governing people...."

"Education must be made free right through from the primary school to the University."

"We want a people self-reliant and willing to defend their hearths and homes in the advent of invasion."

"Labor takes the home as the unit of the Nation and works for all that is calculated to make it happy.."

"Under a rational regime, men and women will satisfy their instinct for activity and work..."

"The present competitive struggle for existence will disappear ..The Labor Party is dominated by two moral convictions: the Ethic of Usefulness and the Ethic of Fellowship. It holds all work must have a social value to have income...Governed by the Ethic of Fellowship there will only be one class. - that of the producing class.."

"Such a condition must come in white Australia before older lands."

It is in this spirit Australian Nationalists struggle today: in this way, William Guthrie Spence lives in our struggle. But the New Australian Nationalism, the Australian Republic, the European Australian Identity - none of these things - can be expressed or won by a parliamentarist party or a revived form of patriotic trades unionism. Rather, a Nationalist party able to operate amongst all sectors of the population and in a manner which takes into account the malevolent nature of the State Power - is called for. It must possess the spirit which flowed through our forebears and by its actions carry the National Spirit.

In recalling the career of men such as Spence we explore our character as a People; we gather the courage to renew the fight of yesteryear.

And finish the job!

I've toured the land from north to south, from westward to the east,
In times of flood, in times of drought, of famine and of feast;
I've tramped when the plains were dry and when the plains were wet,
But never crossed the boundary fence of Spence's Station yet.

Bush Jingle - 1880's

Labor's Objective. W. G. Spence. 1909.

The Labor Movement in Australia is a political as well as a propagandist movement. Its leaders realise that before we can have social reform the people must be educated to demand and carry out such reforms. The platforms, Federal and State, indicate the practical proposals for which public opinion is considered ripe. The objective and the general platform give an idea of the propagandist side. The first part of the Federal objective declares for "The cultivation of an Australian sentiment based upon the maintenance of racial purity and the development in Australia of an enlightened and self-reliant community." The party stands for racial purity and racial efficiency - industrially, mentally, morally, and intellectually. It asks the people to set up a high ideal of national character, and hence it stands strongly against any admixture with the white race. True patriotism should be racial. True self-government means the government of Self - the prevention of Self from trespassing on the rights of others. No class-ruled people can ever be a self-governing people. No people are self-reliant who are under the control of landlords or who depend on a brother man for the right to work for daily bread.

Labor stands for giving to Australians the opportunity to become an enlightened people. Every child must be educated at the expense of the community. Education must be made free right through, from the primary school to the University. The child must be protected from the careless or greedy parent, hence we must keep to a compulsory system, with technical training in every case to follow the teaching in the primary schools. Every citizen must also be educated politically, so that we may have an active and enlightened democracy. We want a people self-reliant in moral character and manhood able and willing to defend their hearths and homes in case of invasion. We aim at being self-reliant in regard to defence - in being able to manufacture all our own requirements of guns ammunition and food supplies. We should also manufacture all our own requirements for everyday life. Labor takes the home as the unit of the nation and works for all that is calculated to make it happy. It desires that the makers of the useful and the beautiful shall have the pleasure of enjoying all that is best in modern civilisation.

The second part of the Federal objective runs "The securing of the full results of their industry to all producers by the collective ownership of monopolies and the extension of the industrial and economic functions of the State and Municipality." Some of the States go further and declare for the "nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution and exchange," and hence have given grounds for the Labor Party being called Socialists. The party does not deny being socialistic in its aims but as practical men its members put forward such proposals as will improve conditions, while at the same time they are sound on general principles. When doing propaganda work most of the members of the party in any of the Parliaments will advocate Socialism, but as candidates for the suffrage of the people they keep closely to the definite proposals contained in the Fighting Platform which has been adopted by the Political Labor Leagues, and which represents work for years even if Labor had a majority.

Australians generally are Socialistic, most of them as yet unconsciously so. The most Socialistic in their demands are those calling themselves "Anti- Socialists." They are great in asking for State assistance - for practically everything they are connected with. The Victorian farmer declares himself against Socialism, yet he escapes much local taxation by securing Government subsidies for roads, bridges, parks, and gardens, and other public utilities which, were he a true individualist, he would scorn to ask aid in supporting. Likewise he gets money for agricultural shows, and experts of all kinds are sent around to teach him how to grow things in the most profitable manner.

The farmer has had so much done for him by the State that he is greedy for more, and at the same conference at which he declared himself politically opposed to Socialism root and branch he formulated the following list of things he wanted from the Government. He wanted water conservation, land on deferred payments, manure protection, reduced grain freights on the railways, reduced rates for starving stock, wire netting on deferred payments, bonus on fox scalps, help in bush fires, cold storage, a subsidy for the Agricultural College, special grants for shows, markets for fruit, instruction in tobacco growing, Credit Foncier for loans, and they also seriously discussed the question of asking for help to pay for reapers and binders. Many of these requests have been granted, but the hypocrisy of those who receive them calling themselves individualists is simply amazing. A very lengthy list could be added, but my object is merely to show the trend of thought.

In Australia a mass of things is done, and well done, by the Government which in other countries is left to private enterprise. The Labor Party say these can be increased with advantage to the community. They draw no line, leaving each step to be followed by the next as experience suggests. If any one proposed to transfer any of the big things now carried out by the Government to private enterprise the professed Anti-Socialists would themselves oppose it. The conscious dividing line between the Labor Party and all others is the fact that the old political parties, no matter by what name they called themselves, favoured using the powers of State to help a minority of the people, whilst Labor wants to use it for the equal good of all the people. The only class which has hitherto not asked for State help has been the workers. The farmer, the commercial man, and the manufacturer have all been strongly Socialistic in seeking help of all sorts for their own personal advantage, but the wage earner has had no consideration in any way.

There is also the great difference between the new party and the old. Labor understands the problem and has a well-thought-out plan of social evolution, and each step it proposes will be permanent and will not have to be receded from. The old parties were and are still mere opportunists, doing such things as they felt would keep them in office or proposing such things as would appeal to the people, and when put into power either forgetting their promises or keeping them only in name. Labor is in favor of taking over certain monopolies now operating in Australia, such as the manufacture of tobacco, the running of steamships on the Australian coast, the refining of sugar, etc. At present the Commonwealth Constitution is against the Party, and it will take a little time to educate the people up to carrying an amendment, but it will come. A State, which comprises but a section of the people, can take up the refining of sugar or the manufacture of iron, yet the Commonwealth, which includes the entire population, does not yet presently possess that power.

Then there is but little of Municipal Socialism in Australia, and there is a big field in that department of social life. There is great alarm amongst those who have been making fortunes out of the people in various forms of private enterprise, and they are leading in the fight against Labor, but just as the people awake to the fact that such persons are not friends, but in many ways parasites on society, so will Labor gather strength.

The influence of self-interest was exemplified recently in New South Wales, where a Government parading itself as a Reform Government, and one in favour of economy, refused to allow railway engines to be made in Government workshops, even though they could be produced better and cheaper than by private enterprise. In this they stood true to the traditions of old parties. They granted favours to the big firms at the expense of the taxpayer, and openly call it helping private enterprise. The railways are run by the State under Commissioners, but, instead of having their own coal mines like New Zealand, the people who use the railways - the country producers - have to pay higher freights and fares than there is occasion for in order that a coal ring may have big dividends. New South Wales railways consume 400,000 tons of coal per annum, and if they owned coal mines they would save at least 30,000 pounds per annum and the freights could be reduced by that amount. When Labor gets into power that is one of the Socialistic things it will do.

There are scores of economies of a similar kind which a good live Labor Government could at once effect, and which the people could applaud once they had the object lesson. Carl Snyder in his "New Conceptions in Science " says: "The scientific organization of industry illustrated in the great trusts is going on under our eyes. It should give no alarm. When the work is complete, public utility will necessitate governmental control, and from this to the complete unification of the whole machinery of production and distribution will be but a step. With this will come, too, the disappearance of the leisured and parasitic class generally. The invidious distinctions of wealth, with their attendant vulgarity and their inevitable debasing influence, will disappear. Under a rational regime men and women will satisfy their instinct for activity and work, while they will have ample time for that recreation and change which alone make life agreeable or supportable. Ostentatious riches and depressing poverty, greed and want, crime and prostitution will cease to exist, and with them the physical and moral maiming and stunting of the children of the poor." That represents the economic faith of the Australian Labor Movement, which is already prepared for taking over several monopolies, such as tobacco, shipping, sugar refining, etc.

As to whether Labor will nationalise the land, the means of production, distribution, and exchange, the question is hardly worth discussing at this stage, except as an abstract proposition. Every intelligent student of our social system agrees that universal co-operation must come. The law already declares that there is no such thing as private ownership of land. Monopoly of land is admitted to be an evil. There are only two factors in production - labor and land. The owner of land, if unrestricted, practically owns all the people. Presently the people will see that the ownership of machinery is on the same plane. Machinery must become the property of the community, and production must be for use and not for profit-making. The present competitive struggle for existence will disappear, and a new condition will arise, but it will not and cannot be brought suddenly into being.

Revolutionary Socialism is an impossibility. No practical man can conceive it possible. It is not a healthy form of doing things, There is such an immense amount of clearing away of rubbish ere we can begin the foundations that no Parliament could do the work, even if it was a desirable thing to spring it suddenly on a people grown up under an entirely different set of conditions. There is ample work for a succession of Labor Parliaments staring us in the face, and until the Tory Second Chambers are got rid of we cannot even make a start.

There is one brake beside that, and that is the people. It is slow work getting right ideas knocked into the masses. They are mostly so mentally lazy that they take their views ready-made from a misleading press. The Labor Movement is a people's movement. Labor trusts the people, and it cannot travel faster than the people will permit. The leaders ought to be and are ahead of the people, and legislation which now lags behind the aggregate intelligence of the masses will under a Labor Government take the opposite course and keep just ahead of the thought of the people. Much of their first work will be palliative; much of it preparatory to the introduction of bigger things.

The inglorious muddle made of land and finance alone by all past Governments will hamper Labor for a time. The very staff it has to depend on in administration of departments will have to be educated and trained to new ideas and to new methods: There will be so little difference apparent to the people between a Labor Government and others that the alarmists will cease to worry, whilst some of the impatient extremists will be disappointed. Those in close touch will realise how inevitable it is that progress must be comparatively slow. The thoughtful student of history will see in the advent a turning point, however, which will mark a revolution for the future historian.

Labor undertakes to change the whole tenor of the world's ideas. It undertakes to change a social system which has been the growth of century upon century. It has thousands of years of heredity to overcome, and some are foolish enough to expect it to be done in a year. The Labor Party is dominated by two moral convictions - the Ethics of Usefulness and the Ethics of Fellowship. It holds that all work must have a social value to entitle to an income. In the state of society Labor aims at setting up there will be no room for the idler. Every individual will have to contribute some service having a social value. The teacher, the artist, the writer, the scientist, the medical man, and those who entertain as well as those who make things are all entitled to income, but there is no place for the profit-grabber - the being who lives on rent or usury. Governed by the Ethics of Fellowship there will only be one class, and that the producing class. All will have to be producers, using the term in the broad sense to apply to all who aid in production and in making men better and happier. Such a condition must come sooner in white Australia than in older lands.

Give Labor a chance - give it reasonable time - and it will start such an era of growing prosperity in Australia as will make it the envy of the world. There must be patience and solidarity. There must be faith in the greatness and soundness of the cause which, while it can be retarded in individual action and unwise haste, can never be prevented from steady advance-leading wither we cannot now tell, but certainly to better and brighter days as time rolls on.


Brian Knight
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