Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Sedition by Example VII: Harry Holland

(An ongoing attempt to excite hostility or ill-will against our archaic law barring sedition)

Harry Holland, editor of the Maoriland Worker, addressing a meeting of striking workers at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, October 26th, 1913:

The waterside agreement was broken when the men were obliged to take a day off; when Mr Liverpool - Lord Liverpool - the gilded popinjay, the figure-head of capitalism in New Zealand, landed here; and the same thing occured when Sir Joseph Ward's Dreadnought called. I remind them [meaning the police] of words used by me at Broken Hill, in Australia, the occasion when I was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on a charge of sedition. I told the miners. "If they hit you with a baton, hit them with a pick-handle, and have something at the end of it. Here is your opportunity, you John Hops [meaning the police]. They [the employers] want to give you a miserable eight bob a day, and the soul and clothes of a slave, and want you to scab on Labour".

...and at Newtown Park, Wellington, November 2nd, 1913:

You have a Gatling gun on the wharf to-day, and there is one on the turret of the Post Office, they tell us. When Massey's Cossacks come down upon us - I was going to say "men," but I don't want to be guilty of libel. The 2000 men offering in the Waikato are heroes, because they will come fully armed, provided Massey gives them full protection. If free labourers are put on, they will work with a revolver in their belts and a bludgeon beside them. I urge the navals present [meaning sailors from HMS Psyche, then lying in Wellington Harbour], when they are ordered to shoot, to remember where their class interests lie, and point their guns accordingly. The railwaymen should not carry free labourers. Let the trains rot and rust. The strike was not made by the working classes, but by the master classes, who are pouring their armed hundreds into Wellington, not by daylight, but like thieves in the night, coming utterly ashamed of the work they are undertaking. They sneak in in the midnight hours, but grey-headed women come to jeer them as they pass. The railway men have said that they are prepared to stop the trains. The drivers can stop the carts, and the seamen the ships. The uniformed police can deal a staggering blow by tearing off their uniforms, and standing by the watersiders. We are going to win, and by God, we are going to do it, no matter what means we are going to use.

If these "speeches" make little sense and read like "a hopeless jumble of words", it is because they are. Both are highly condensed versions of Holland's actual words, consisting of those passages believed to be most seditious, shorn of context and sometimes rearranged - both the mark of a hatchet job and a consequence of having to transcribe speeches in shorthand. But despite such flawed transcriptions, Holland was prosecuted for sedition for promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes (waterside workers and employers), and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. He was released after 3½ months, and later went on to become leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

(Source: Twelve Months for Sedition: Harry Holland's Speech from the Dock and the Chief Justice's Remarks in Delivering Sentence, Maoriland Worker, 1914).


Holland's Basin Reserve speech, as reported by the Maoriland Worker.

Mr H. E. Holland, editor of the 'Maoriland Worker,' said they were that day confronted with an interesting spectacle. Some time ago his friend Hickey had said: "to hell with agreements"; and ever since the press and employers had been proclaiming that the Federation of Labour favoured breaking and tearing up their agreements. Now they beheld the workers - who were supposed to be in favour of violating agreements - fighting like Hell to retain an agreement, while the employers were fighting like Hell for the right to tear it up! (Applause.) As a matter of fact, more than half the registered employers of new Zealand had been hauled before the Courts and fined for putting into practice the "to hell with agreements" precept. (Hear hear) Now they wanted a Scab Union formed; and in his opinion there was nothing lower than a scab, unless it was the Reform politician who was back of the scab (Cheers.) The employers rated the men for leaving work for one hour and 20 minutes to discuss a matter of vital concern to themselves; but when the Governor, Lord Liverpool, the gilded figurehead of Capitalism arrived, employers stopped work for a whole day without the men's consent! Also when Sir Joseph Ward's Dreadnaught arrived, the same things happened, and the employers and the daily papers took it as quite the correct thing. Apparantly the stop-work power was to be a one-sided privilege. (Applause.)

Addressing the police, he argued that the present trouble gave them an opportunity to secure their own demands. The police were born of the working class, and every policeman who came to the waterfront for the purpose of breaking the strike would be a blackleg. The idea of the ruling class when they enrolled the policeman was that he should be a scab in perpetuity. (Applause.) Rather than scab, they should down tools (or, rather, bludgeons). On second thoughts, he would advise them to throw in the clothes but hang on to their hardwood batons. "When the time comes that you can no longer wear your uniforms with honor, that will be the time to tear them off," he said. He referred to the government's refusal to permit the uniformed police to have a Union, and said: "The present struggle furnishes you John Hops with your opportunity to enforce your demands for the recognition of your Union."

Proceeding, he referred to the mis-statements and falsehoods put forward by the daily press, and declared that reporters who would write the lying accounts for the daily papers were really scabbing on their own class; and urged that industrial unionism would constrain the reporters to refuse to write slanders to order, and the time would come when neither advertisements for black-legs nor lying reports would be set into type by unionists in the printing trade. He urged that they should regard with disdain the journalist who prostituted his intellect on the streets of professional journalism. (Applause.)

He referred jocularly to the risk Tom Young ran for his references to the police, and in this connection warned them that it was not unlikely that the acts of maladministration committed by other Governments in other disputes would be copied by the present Government, whose guilt in connection with Waihi was so wel established. He referred particularly to the Broken Hill trouble of 1909, when that city had been invaded by armed police sent by the Wade Government to break the strike in the interests of the mine-owners. The Wade Government had even armed these police with pick handles; and he, speaking at Broken Hill, had told the miners that pick handles were not part of the accoutrements of the New South Wales policemen, and had added, inter alia, "If a policeman illegally hits you with a pick handle, hit him back with a pick handle, but have a pick at the end of it." For saying that, he had been charged with sedition, and had been dragged a thousand miles away to Albury, to be tried by farmers and squatters, where a fair trial was an impossibility, and he was then sentenced to two years' hard labour, and would not therefore think of advising the people of New Zealand in that direction. The people of N.S.W resented the Government's action on that occasion. Petitions and demands with nearly 100,000 signatures were quickly forthcoming; and after five months he had been unconditionally released. The Wade Government, for its guilt on that occasion and for its further guilt in connection with the Newcastle trouble of 1909-10, was driven from office at the first ensuing election, and never succeeded in getting back. (Applause.) That was what they would have to do with the Massey Government for its crimes against the workers. The present revolt had demonstrated the solidarity of the Waerside Workers in Wellington, and they were beginning to learn that, given economic solidarity, they had greater power and greater strength than all the forces of the combined employers. (Applause.)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 3/14/2005 08:24:00 AM