BRISBANE, AUGUST 24, 1895.
Our Charleville Letter.
The following sheds have started shearing in this branch, which I have had communication with: North Comongin, South Comongin, Pinkilla, Mt. Alfred, Yarronvale, Dillalah, Burrenbilla, Tinenburra. The sheds in the corner, Tickalara, Yanko and others, are starting this week, if they have not already done so.
The electoral registrar is busy sending the police around and gaining information from others as to the bona fides of names on the roll, so I expect Bulcock's circular has reached here. I saw a circular which was sent to a chap here in town asking his support to the Bulcock association, and signed “Hugh M. Nelson.” The chap happened to be one of the individuals who are opposed to Bulcockism.
W.G. Higgs left Charleville on August 14th on an organising tour. He will travel down the Warrego as far as Tinenburra, calling at all sheds and camps en route. He will then cross over into the St. George district. I believe a tour through the shearing sheds such as Higgs has undertaken should be of service to him in his capacity as editor of the WORKER. He will come in contact with a great number of men during his travels, and should be able to hear from them their opinions on “Socialism in our time.”
[W.G. Higgs, since this letter was written, had to return to Charleville through an attack of fever. - ACTING EDITOR]
There are numbers of men to be found in the shearers' and labourers' ranks who are able and capable to discuss the different problems on the Labour question. And many of them hold unionism sacred, but through the boycott which the Employers' Union is able to enforce on them, many are compelled to prostitute their principles in order to obtain employment. The bushmen, or the majority of them, are aware that unionism only assists to resist the tyranny of the capitalist, while Socialism would do away with the capitalist altogether. But they are satisfied to progress step by step. Thus, much can be attained. All that is required is too see that to artificial hindrance s are in the way of onward progress. The bushmen require to be united in some bond, whether in the form of the present organisation or some other. United they will progress Divided they will find freedom of contract, boycott, coercion and the agreement under which they will have to sign their manhood away in order to obtain employment, and that at starvation wages. The bushmen, without a reserve fund, living from hand to month, finds that in dealing with the squatter employer he can make but a bad bargain for his labour. He suffers from long hours, low wages, unhealthy accommodation, galling or exacting conditions, and in all he suffers, as he conceives, unnecessarily. But he must accept what is offered, or starve. So he accepts.
The history of the A.W.U. , its origin, and the struggles against public opinion, against the boycott of the employers with their reference system, and also the action of the Queensland Government in passing Coercion Acts, is fresh in my memory. And yet the majority of the bushmen are combined. The very fact that the then existing conditions were too unjust to be borne led up to the present combination of industrial and political associations of the workers; and when we consider that many reforms have taken place since their formation in Queensland it should be an inducement to the weak and wavering to keep united.
We are now in the midst of a period of political treachery and require to be united, or else we will have to suffer, perhaps for years, and still be ruled by a squatter Government, and the only reforms given us will be in the shape of Coercion Acts.
While we stand united the reforms which must succeed will be democratic. The reforms for which we are agitating may not be obtained in a couple of years, or yet in our time. But the coming generation will be governed by Democracy; they will then be peaceful and happy, as none of their predecessors in Queensland have ever been.
The capitalist will then feel that the days of absolutism are over; that tyranny is to be replaced by a relation more honourable to employers as well as employed. They will cease to be unapproachable, recognising that disputes are not to be concluded by the authority of the master but are matters for settlement between the two parties by means of negotiation and compromise.
Public opinion will then exercise a more active moral control over industrial disputes, and will demand courts of arbitration and put forth its whole force to compel recourse to them and will declare both strikes and lockouts to be disgraceful to one at least of the parties concerned because as mere trials of force they are barbarous expedients for the settlement of questions which in their nature plainly admit of a solution by peaceful and rational means.
August 17th, 1895. E.T. BRENNEN