[Editor: This article was published in The Shearers’ and General Laborers’ Record (Newport, Vic.), 15 March 1893. Aside from the introductory paragraph, the article is a republication of text from the Review of Reviews (Melbourne, Vic.).]
The Labor press of Australasia.
Owing to forgetfulness, the fact that the Review of Reviews had considered the Labor Press of these colonies worthy of a special article was overlooked until the last moment, and there was only time for a few lines of notice in our last issue. In criticising the newspapers which espouse the labor cause, the Review of Reviews has not only been fair and impartial, but also generous, and we feel sure those who have exercised what ability they may possess in the interests of the masses have been accorded full credit for good intentions. Of course this applies collectively. The notices are marked by fair comment — indeed the editor’s desire seems to have been to make discreet selections from each journal, and with a slight commentary on these, to allow a full scope for the exercise of his readers’ judgment in the matter. With respect to the S. and G. L. Record, it says:—
The Shearers’ and General Laborers’ Record is a monthly journal published at Newport, Victoria. It is the official organ of the two most powerful Labor unions in Australasia. It was founded in 1887, and is thus five years old — a quite venerable age for literature of this class, as Labor journals have, alas, an almost incurable habit of dying young.
The Shearers’ Record is not the property of the unions, its founder and editor being Mr. George A. Andrew, who is a trained journalist by profession, and was one of the originators and for some years the editor of the Daylesford Advocate, and is the present part-proprietor and editor of the Newport Times.
This journal was first published as the Shearers’ Record, solely in the interests of the Amalgamated Shearers’ Union of Australasia, which was established in 1887,and now numbers about 24,000 members — being the largest and most successful Labor organisation in Australia. In 1891 it was decided to establish an independent union for the general laborers who were associated with the shearers on the squatters’ stations. The Record thus became the official organ of the two unions, and a vast number of unionists.
The journal was first published in the small mining town of Allendale and Smeaton, near Creswick (the headquarters of the unions), by Mr. Geo. A. Andrew, a journalist, who had labored for many years in the cause of Liberalism and Labor. The Record was founded by Mr. Andrew upon his own responsibility, as an aid in the organising of the Australian Shearers’ Union, and he has conducted it on the principle of fostering concord and amity between Labor and Capital, its aim being to establish a conciliatory spirit, while advancing the just and equitable claims of a class of workers whose labors are carried on under exceptional difficulties — there being few walks of life more arduous and trying than a shearers’ experiences in the bush. It is the oldest Labor journal in Australia.
Mr. Andrew is allied by political sympathies to the unions, but he is himself a man of substance and an employer, a shrewd and staid Englishman, by no means anxious to throw society into the melting pot or to see an anarchist regime started. The Shearers’ Record in Mr. Andrew’s hands is well printed, and on the whole is temperately written.
Here is how the Record describes itself in its latest issue:—
When our little sheet was sent forth, it was not with the intention of revolutionising the country, nor of branding wholesale the employers as unit to exist. “Conciliation” was our watchword. Whether the Record has been instrumental in contributing to the great and important changes that have marked the conditions under which our people pursue their arduous labors, it is not our place to say. But this can be averred: not an issue of our unpretending journal has gone forth but with a desire that it should assist in establishing peace and concord in respect to the relations of Labor and Capital.
It was not expected that all employers would peruse these pages with pleasure; but whatever their symptoms may have been, the arguments used and the demands put forth have been supported with such an illimitable and complete justification that individual abuse was unnecessary, and consequently there was not that undesirable bitterness engendered which is at all times calculated to widen any breach that may exist between contending parties.
The literary characteristics of Australian Labor.
It will be seen that only seven Labor journals are discoverable in Australasia. New Zeeland has none, though labor is especially strong in that colony. A journal called the Globe for a short time represented Labor interests in New Zealand, but it perished of mere ignoble lack of peace. The Democrat, Tasmania, the Commonweal, Melbourne, and the Voice, Adelaide, have no official relation to trade unions; they represent various types of socialism and are Labor journals only incidentally. The Australian Workman, Sydney; the Worker, Brisbane; and the Shearers’ Record, Newport, are the only examples of pure Labor journals in Australasia. The Labor press of Australia, therefore, is not strong, and it does not tend to become stronger.
A Labor journal, indeed, seems, by some unkind law of nature, doomed to an early death. The size of such journals as survive is, as a rule, a diminishing quantity. The various Labor papers, moreover, have no connection with each other, and not much love for each other. Each Labor journal fights like Hal o’ the Wynd for “its ain hand;” and even — if the figure is not deemed unkind — at the bottom of its own hole. If Labor in Australasia is to be judged by its literature, it is a heap of disconnected sand grains.
The unions generally are unwisely careless of the Press. How else can we account for the fact that the powerful labor organisations of Victoria have no Labor journal? The Labor Press of Australasia, however, has no anarchist leven; it does not smell of dynamite. There is no trace of the bitter Continental hate of order, religion and civilization itself discoverable. It is written by men of English birth, and speech, and training, and there is discernible all through it the characteristic English zeal for what is practicable.
There is much of genuine literary ability, too, especially in the purely Labor papers; though the socialist organs, by some unexplored law of nature, lapse inevitably into mere screaming. The political economy of the Labor journals is often mournfully crude, and they are too commonly taken captive by a phrase, such as “wealth belongs to the workers,” which sounds alarming in timid ears, but which is a mere bit of oratorical clap trap incapable of definition.
It would be wise to treat the Labor journals with generous respect. They are not run by adventurers, or by literary demagogues who grow fat by feeding on the follies of the crowd. They have a real function; they make articulate the aspirations of great multitudes. They are not always wise; they do not always write in elegant English; their epithets are sometimes of disconcerting and unconventional vigour. But epithets are the natural relief of the semi-articulate, and should not be taken by wise men too seriously.
Let anyone of competent knowledge compare the Labor papers of Australia with the incendiary rags of the Continent, or even more than semi-atheistic journals which too often assume the advocacy of Labor interests in Great Britain, and he will be glad to recognise that the Labor Press of the colonies has some good elements. And these, let us add, might be made better by courteous and humane treatment.
The Shearers’ and General Laborers’ Record (Newport, Vic.), 15 March 1893, p. 1 (columns 5-6)
ain = (Scottish) own (e.g. “my ain folk” means “my own folk”)
atheistic = relating to or characteristic of atheists or atheism (pertaining to those who do not believe in the existence of God)
Australasia = Australia and New Zealand; in a wider context, it can refer to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, and neighboring islands
aver = to assert, declare, or state something to be a fact; to declare positively that something is definitely true; (in a court of law) to allege or assert something as a fact (past tense: averred)
clap trap = absurd, foolish, nonsensical, or silly talk (especially ideas or talk of a pretentious or cheap showy nature); regarding the ideas of someone said to be talking baloney or spouting rubbish (also spelt as one word: “claptrap”)
Continent = (in a British context or from a British viewpoint) the continent of Europe (i.e. excluding the British Isles)
Continental = (in a British context or from a British viewpoint) continental Europe (i.e. excluding the British Isles)
epithet = an adjective or phrase used to characterise a person, group, animal, or thing, whether real (e.g. “America the Beautiful”, “Australia Felix”, “bible-bashers”, “man’s best friend”) or fictional (e.g. “The Dark Knight”, “The Ghost Who Walks”; “Man of Steel”); an adjective added to someone’s name, often used to commend or praise, or (conversely) to belittle or criticize (e.g. “Honest John”, “Little Johnny”); a descriptive word or phrase added to someone’s name, often achieving common usage (e.g. “Alfred the Great”, “Richard the Lionheart”)
Geo. = an abbreviation of the name “George”
Hal o’ the Wynd = a character who appeared in The Fair Maid of Perth (1828), one of the Waverley novels by Sir Walter Scott; “Hal o’ the Wynd” (“Hal” is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry; a “Wynd” is a narrow alley, lane, or side-street, pronounced “wined” due to it having a long “i”) was the nickname of a blacksmith/armourer named Henry Smith, or Henry Gow (the surname “Gow” is the Gaelic equivalent of “Smith”), who was an honourable and heroic fighter in the story; after participating in, and winning, a battle between two groups of clan champions (he volunteered to fill a empty spot), he declared “I fought for my own hand” (a line which gained fame in the field of literature)
See: 1) “The Character Statues: Hal O’ the Wynd”, The Scott Monument virtual tour
2) “No. 60116 Hal o’ the Wynd”, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust
3) “The Fair Maid of Perth”, Wikipedia
4) “Wynd”, Wikipedia
leven = (archaic) lightning; can also refer to: a shortened form of “eleven”; (archaic) an alternative spelling of “leaven”; (Scottish) a lawn or an open space between woods
S. and G. L. Record = The Shearers’ and General Laborers’ Record (Newport, Vic.), a newspaper published in support of the Amalgamated Shearers’ Union of Australasia and the General Laborers’ Union of Australasia
squatter = in the context of Australian history, a squatter was originally someone who kept their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) upon Crown land without permission to do so (thus illegally occupying land, or “squatting”); however, the practice became so widespread that eventually the authorities decided to formalise it by granting leases or licenses to occupy or use the land; and, with the growth of the Australian economy, many of the squatters became quite rich, and the term “squatter” came to refer to someone with a large amount of farm land (they were often regarded as rich and powerful)
[Editor: Changed “organising of the Australian Shearers Union” to “organising of the Australian Shearers’ Union” (added apostrophe); “revolutionsing” to “revolutionising”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]