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'Manifesto to Australian Workers'
(almost certainly J.A. Andrews), Melbourne pamphlet, reproduced in 'The (Brisbane) Worker,' August 9, 1892, p.2.

"WORKING MEN: The existence of large numbers of unemployed here has long been strenuously denied by our wealthy classes, because they hoped to attract men into this country and under a false impression, and thus have a still larger number of unemployed to tempt with the choice between starvation on the one hand and a bare subsistence in return for long hours and low wages on the other, and thus break up your combinations and reduce you to the most abject poverty.

Today they are changing their tactics. The starving misery of the great cities has become chronic. The warning cry of the unemployed can no longer be prevented from reaching the masses in far-off lands, and it will next be sought to make use of these unfortunates to intimidate all the other workers. This will probably become very evident before any of the principal trade difficulties of the present time are settled. By present appearances many other trades are likely to be affected and in all the struggle will be rendered sharper by the presence of the unemployed. Already they have been urged in the Victorian Parliament as a reason against giving the railway laborers an extra sixpence per day, and employers have been turning the newspapers to account to make the misery of the unemployed an excuse for agitating for cheaper labour.

It is simply needless to point out the effect of several thousand persons agreeing to accept a lower wage than that hitherto prevailing - lower even that the current non-union rates - and yet, under the existing circumstances, they must accept any work at any figure whatever, or voluntarily resolve, for the sake of their less unfortunate companions of toll to endure indefinitely the sharpest pangs of misery and degradation.

Even among those who are in their present melancholy situation through, to some extent, their own fault (and such are by far the smallest portion) the greater number have the courage to make this decision for themselves and where work within their own trade is concerned; but they may not have the same resolution in face of the necessities of those dependent on them, and especially with regard to work where they may be able to persuade themselves that their inexperience justifies a low wage.

But even had they all, besides the patient heroism of martyrs, the sternness necessary to make them contemplate, without flinching, the agonies of their wives and children, for them and theirs the bitter endurance is utterly without hope.

You, in your strikes and similar movements, have at least the hope of, by your abstention from work and wages winning from the exploiting class, since they need your toil, some slight advantage, some few paltry concessions. They, on the other hand, since they are those of whom the dominant exploiters have, under the rules of our atrocious social system, no need, and being thereby prohibited (for if the toilers were not bound by an inexorable necessity to work for the needs and whims of their lords, farewell to the supremacy and the very existence of the capitalist class) from working to supply their own needs, are unable to look forward to any benefit save that of their mental satisfaction in rather dying than serving the ends of the tyrants by competing against you. If on the contary, they give way, and leave you the alternative of choosing between a further submission and being turned into the street, they may, for the time being, secure for themselves - and more, for those who are dear to them - the means of maintaining life.

Unionists or non-unionists, you demand of them too much heroism, even though their own nature freely accords it, unless you are prepared to take their side, and with them wage war against the accursed system (by which their lot today may become your tomorrow) which makes the right of the labourer to the means of subsistence dependent upon the strategic needs or commercial position of the profit-makers who live by appropriating or gambling for the proceeds of his labour. If you do not stand up boldly against the fatal privileges of PROPERTY and the AUTHORITY which enforces them, then do the festering corpses that line the bed of the putrid Yarra, and the waifs and wrecks that haunt the back slums of the city and suburbs, cry out against you as an accomplice of their bodily and moral murderers!

Comrades, arouse to the work before you! Make a clean sweep of capitalism and its faithful ally, privileged authority; and in gaining the perfect liberty to relieve yourselves of the necessity for daily watching over the now too imperfect security of labour. Let it be your resolve that the ten years which will usher in another century, shall witness the conquest of a new era for humanity, in which tyranny and the exploitation of the weak by the strong shall yeild to the glorious realisation of LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY."

'Free' Labour escorted to Broken Hill to break a strike (1892)

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Last modified: May 1, 1999

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