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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A Scottish Socialist Reads Carlyle in Johannesburg Prison, June 1900: Reflections on the Literary Culture of the Imperial Working Class
Author:Hyslop, JonathanISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:labour relations
labour history
English language
biographies (form)
History and Exploration
Literature, Mass Media and the Press
Urbanization and Migration
Labor and Employment
About person:James Thompson Bain (1860-1919)ISNI
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3557435
Abstract:James Thompson Bain, a Scottish-born trade unionist, became one of the most important figures in the white labour movement of early Johannesburg. His career culminated in his leadership of the 1913 general strike in that city, and his deportation by the Botha-Smuts government in the following year. This paper explores Bain's intellectual formation through an investigation of the impact that literary culture, and especially the writings of Thomas Carlyle, William Morris, and Robert Blatchford, had on his politics. Carlyle's work inadvertently provided late 19th-century British, and especially Scottish, labour activists with an intellectual bridge between a Protestant world view and new secularist and socialist ideas. The anti industrialism of Carlyle and Morris predisposed Bain to see the Boers' defence of their interests against the Randlords and the British government as compatible with socialist ideology. Carlyle's ideas fed into a vision of working class interests, held by Bain and many of his contemporaries, which stopped at the boundaries of Britishness, and which was therefore compatible with certain forms of colonial politics. The paper argues that the scholarship of Jonathan Rose and other historians has missed the global dimension of late 19th and early 20th-century British working class literary culture and the way in which its radicalism was entirely compatible with racial segregationism. The white labourism of men like Bain was not a specifically South African phenomenon, but part of the common politics of the labour movement in Britain and across its Empire. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]