Dora Montefiore Justice 1910

Bebel’s Seventieth Birthday

Source: Justice, Our Women’s Circle, p. 5, February 26, 1910;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Socialist women all over the world will send grateful and fraternal thoughts to our comrade Bebel in Berlin this week, because on the 22nd of the month he will celebrate his seventieth birthday. Our comrade Clara Zetkin did me the honour of asking me to write in the name of English Socialist women an article for the “Bebel” number of “Gleichheit,” voicing our greetings, our thanks to him for his special work in the cause of socialist women, and our hopes that he may yet be spared to us for many years, and may have health and strength to continue his great life work. That article appeared in “Gleichheit” of February 14, which number also contained a stirring article on the same subject by the editor, comrade Zetkin, appealing to “the fighting proletariat of the whole world,” and reminding them that in August Bebel, “both a man and his life work stand before them — a man who lives and will live in history entirely in his work, and a work that represents every way the man.” Rosa Luxembourg writes enthusiastically of him as “the political leader of the German working classes,” and tells how, at the time of the French Commune, Bebel raised aloft in the German Parliament the red standard of Revolution, and cried aloud: “Be sure of this — that the whole proletariat of Europe, and all those who cherish in their hearts any feelings of freedom and of independence, are looking at this moment towards Paris. And if Paris is crushed, then I warn you that the struggle in Paris is only the fighting at an outpost; but the main fight is going on all ever Europe; and that before many decades have passed over your heads the war cry of the French proletariat, ‘Down with the palaces, peace and plenty in the cottages, an end to hunger and misery!’ will be the war-cry of the whole European proletariat.” Helena Grunberg writes a tribute to Bebel as one of the founders and organisers of free trade unions; and Mathilda Wurm tells a his influence on middle-class women. Louise Kautsky relates interesting personal details of the veteran fighter; and then come the greetings from women comrades all over the world, including those signed Adelheid Popp, from Vienna; Alexandra Koltontay (whom many of us had the pleasure of meeting last year) from Russia: and others from Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, and America. The last time I saw Bebel was at Stuttgart in 1907, when, as we drove away from the park, where a great open-air demonstration had been held, I watched what, for lack of a better word, I would almost call the “royal” and triumphal reception of our comrade by the waiting and enthusiastic crowd. I can still in memory see the stirring scene as the carriage passed slowly along the green, shady alleys; and Bebel, sitting with head uncovered, acknowledged the greetings and cheers of what was practically an international crowd. Turning to the comrade sitting next to me, I remarked: “I never yet felt so stirred and so vitally in sympathy with a public tribute to any other man; because I feel that Bebel is in every sense a logical and faithful interpreter of Socialism. He has had the courage to declare, and to act on the declaration, that Socialism has no room either for an enslaved class or an enslaved sex!”

“The Suppression of Socialism.”

Women comrades will be interested to know that a ladies’ club is being formed in London, to be called the Ladies’ Carlton Club, and, as advertised in the front page of the “Morning Post,” its objects are: “The suppression of Socialism and support of Tariff Reform.” What delightful and naive innocence such an enumeration of “objects” discloses These dear good ladies, in their little luxurious corner of the West End of London, are going to drink tea together and at the same time “suppress” a great international movement which has as its one and only object the freeing of the last set of slaves. The ladies’ Piccadilly organisation will be to the workers’ organisation what the explosion of an ignited drop of petrol is in the cylinder of a motor-car to the rumblings, crashings, and upheavals of an earthquake or of a volcano. But there is a side of this penny-toy movement which, like that of the Anti-Socialist Society in Victoria Street, should bring home a special lesson to the workers. And that lesson is that the privileged classes are extremely class-conscious, and quite extraordinarily alive to the issues of the class struggle. Not only so, but they are striking blow after blow, and the people, the workers, are not returning the blows, but are behaving as they habitually behave when cudgelled in the streets by the police, for whom they themselves are taxed to pay; they creep home and tie up their broken heads and pocket the insult and injury. The privileged class struck a blow with their police baton when the Lords refused to pass the Budget; they are preparing to strike another blow by forcing another election on the country before the democracy has financially recovered from the recent election, and before there is a chance of considering a belated electoral Reform Bill, which might give the human being, and not the property, an opportunity of political representation. They are organising their women folk into clubs and societies for the express protection of class interests and privileges, and the Women Suffrage Societies, standing for Mrs. Fawcett’s demand of the extension of the franchise to rent-paying and rent — receiving women, are closing up their ranks and gathering round Mr. Balfour, in the hopes that that rather forlorn figure of a leader may reward the loyal Primrose dames, who are giving so much money, time, and work to Tariff Reform propaganda, with votes for propertied women. As I wrote four years ago in the columns of “The New Age,” when I left the ranks of the W.S.P.U. because they openly ranged themselves on the side of Mrs. Fawcett’s reactionary demand, if the Liberal Government could not, during its term of office, be forced into granting democratic electoral reform on the basis of adult suffrage, the Tories would give Mrs. Fawcett’s limited demand the next time they came into power. Neither Liberals, Radicals, Labourists have been in earnest about enfranchising women as a sex; they will probably therefore have to suffer from having them enfranchised as a class; and there will be joy among the tea parties at the Ladies’ Carlton Club.

A Resolution Passed by both Houses of the Australian Commonwealth Parliament.

A resolution has been brought before the Parliament of Victoria by Dr. William Moloney, M.P., the first man to introduce a Woman Suffrage Bill into an Australian Legislature (Victoria, 1889), and runs as follows:–

“1. That this House testifies to the facts that after sixteen years’ experience of woman suffrage in various parts of Australasia, and nine years’ experience in the Commonwealth, the reform has justified the hopes of its supporters, and falsified all the fears and prophecies of disaster voiced by its opponents. 2. That, as foreseen by its advocates, its effects have, been (a) to gradually educate women to a sense of their responsibility in public affairs; (b) to give more prominence to social and domestic legislation. 3. That Australasian experience convinces this House that to adopt woman suffrage is simply to apply to the political sphere that principle of government that secures the best results in the domestic sphere — the mutual co-operation of men and women for the individual and general welfare. “

The resolution was received with approving cheers in both Houses. There is not one anti-suffrage member in either Chamber nowadays; most of those who were formerly our opponents are now quite hurt if we remind them of the fact, and the rest; believe they took the platform as advocates of women’s enfranchisement.