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


  • Michael Wilding


 For their part in the I 891 shearers' strike, some eighty to one hundred 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).2


'lbe first part is laid during the summer of I 888-89 and covers two days; the second part 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 I 890 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 of the 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' (144) have realized the way they were co-opted and used by the 'authorities.'