William Lane's The Workingman's Paradise: Pioneering Socialist Realism


  • Michael Wilding


shearers' strike, maritime strike, unionism, queensland


For their part in the 1891 Australian shearers' strike, some 80 to 100 unionists were convicted in Queensland with sentences ranging from three months for 'intimidation' to three years for 'conspiracy'. It was to aid the families of the gaoled unionists that William Lane wrote The Workingman's Paradise (1892). 'The first part is laid during the summer of 1888-9 and covers two days; the second at the commencement of the Queensland bush excitement in 1891, covering a somewhat shorter time.' (iii) The materials of the shearers' strike and the maritime strike that preceded it in 1890 are not, then, the explicit materials of Lane's novel. But these political confrontations are the off-stage reference of the novel's main characters. They are a major unwritten, but present, component of the novel. The second chapter of part II alludes both to the defeat of the maritime strike and the beginnings ofthe shearers' strike, forthcoming in the novel's time, already defeated in the reader's time. Those voices preaching moderation in the maritime strike, are introduced into the discussion only to be discounted. The unionists who went round 'talking law and order to the chaps on strike and rounding on every man who even boo'd as though he were a blackleg' have realised the way they were co-opted and used by the 'authorities'.