Monday 20th of January 2020

before the zingers of the future…


In his book written in 1940, “Australian Labour Leader, the story of W. A. Holman and the Labour Movement”, The Hon. H. V. Evatt, K.C., M.P. , wrote to us in conclusion…:

Political Labour’s struggle towards socialism is dependent on Mill’s hypothesis that mankind shall “continue to improve.” At times the condition seems to be impossible of achievement. Then black despair suggest the struggle for humankind avails naught. But victory may be at hand if only courageous leadership and loyal devotion both remain.

When many thousands of the workers of Sydney stood in silent and final homage as the body of their lost leader was carried away from them, it was too late to recall errors of the past to seek or give pardon. But on that day, at that moment, It was apparent to every one who could think, feel and sympathize, that the life and work of one leader at least had realized part of the noble ideal. If so in spite of deep sorrow and bitter regret, hope and determination might be renewed. His life and and work had bequeathed

Some brightness to hold in truth
Some final innocence
To save from dust;
That, hanging solid,
Would dangle through all
Like the created poem,
Or the dazzling crystal.

Such a bequest should impel Australians to “gather up the gentle spirit of the dead…  speak more softly in the face of other things."

the light on the hill...

William Arthur Holman (4 August 1871 – 5 June 1934) was the second Labor Party Premier of New South Wales, Australia. He later split with the party on the conscription issue in 1916 during World War I, and immediately became Premier of a conservative Nationalist Party Government.

As a cabinet maker in Sydney he was interested in the ideas of John Stuart Mill, William Morris, Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin, and became very active in the Australian labour movement. He joined the Single Tax League, the Australian Socialist League and the newly formed Labor Electoral League, a forerunner to the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In the Australian Socialist League he mixed with anarchists and socialists and met future Prime Minister Billy Hughes, Creo Stanley, Ernie Lane, Henry Lawson and J.D.Fitzgerald. Holman and Hughes were ironically associated with Arthur Desmond on the scandal sheet paper, The New Order (no link available).

Note: Arthur Desmond (c. 1859 – 26 January 1929), also penned as Arthur Uing, Ragnar Redbeard (speculated), Richard Thurland, Desmond Dilg, and Gavin Gowrie, was a British-born politician, poet, and author.

He is believed to be the author of the book Might Is Right, written under the pen name Ragnar Redbeard. Might Is Right is an essay illustrating the author's support of Social Darwinism and its belief that power, strength, and superiority is the mark of a moral human being and that inherent human rights are nonexistent.

He is also known for his book Rival Caesars.

In 1893 Holman became Secretary of the Railways and Tramways Employees’ Union, representing the union on the Sydney Trades and Labor Council. With the support of the Labor Electoral League he unsuccessfully stood for election to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1894 and 1895. During this period he was the proprietor of the Daily Post newspaper, sympathetic to the labour movement, which wound up in liquidation, with Holman and four other directors convicted of fraud. He spent nearly two months in jail before the conviction was quashed. He went on to become a journalist for the Grenfell Vedette, and later its proprietor. From 1896 to 1898 he worked as an organiser for the Australian Workers' Union.

In the times of Holman, the “press” was more than hostile to the ideals of the Australian Labour Party. Like the Daily Telegraph today, it was putrid! It became difficult, like it is now to have a “free” press that is not in the pocket of any rightwing ratbags. 

Instead of "share" the motto for the rightwing ratbags was "grab and grab”. It still is. This is why it was difficult for Holman to set up a newspaper sympathetic to the Labour Movement. A lot of tricks by the rightwing paper made sure his “would not survive”. He managed later with the Grenfell Vedette…

In Mill’s words:
We… looked forward to a time when society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they who do not work, shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the divisions of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the accidental of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusive to their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to. The social problems of the future we consider to be, how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action with a common ownership in the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all the benefits of combined labour.

When Holman was in charge of the NSW government he faced similar "negativity” as Rudd and Gillard faced one hundred years later, when Tony Turdy Abbott was in charge of the opposition, and of course this “opposition” was fully supported by the rightwing ratbag press. Holman said:

"The offences committed by the Opposition are systematic, continuous and wholesale. Their offence do not consist of incidental or accidental breaches of Parliamentary decorum, but do constitute in the case of a certain number of members what is apparently a studied attempt to make it impossible for the speaker to conduct the business of the house.

The Opposition was thus described by some people as "a band of ruffians” “a group of political hooligans” and the more moderate “Bulletin" calls them “half a dozen larrikins” with much intimidation of the speaker and other members. We described Tony Abbott as a lying turd. He lied, lies and he is a dag (according to his daughters).

Holman’s ways were still attacked by the press, by the industrialists, through various defamation, plus political vilification…  Nothing new.
Holman’s epiphany was about John Stuart Mills :
"Most of his conclusions are valueless nowadays… Mill’s steady inculcation of the doctrine that we must prove all things and hold fast only to that which was good in the sense of being provable, is invaluable…"
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