James Keir Hardie (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915) was a Scottish socialist and labour leader, and one of the first two Labour MPs elected to the UK Parliament after the establishment of the Labour Representation Committee (later the Labour Party).
- From his childhood onward this boy [the future Edward VIII] will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score—[Cries of ‘Oh, oh!’]—and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation. [Cries of ‘Oh, oh!’] A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over. In due course, following the precedent which has already been set, he will be sent on a tour round the world, and probably rumours of a morganatic alliance will follow—[Loud cries of ‘Oh, oh!’ and ‘Order!’]—and the end of it all will be that the country will be called upon to pay the bill. [Cries of Divide!]
- House of Commons speech (1894)
- We are called upon at the beginning of the twentieth century to decide the question propounded in the Sermon on the Mount, as to whether we will worship God or Mammon. The present day is a Mammon-worshipping age. Socialism proposes to dethrone the brute-god Mammon and to lift humanity into its place. I beg to submit, in this very imperfect fashion, the resolution on the paper, merely promising that the last has not been heard of the Socialist movement either in the country or on the floor of this House, but that, just as sure as Radicalism democratised the system of government politically in the last century, so will socialism democratise the country industrially during the century upon which we just entered.
- For my own part I have always maintained that to claim for the Socialist movement that it is a "class" war dependent for its success upon the "class" consciousness of one section of the community is doing Socialism an injustice, and indefinitely postponing its triumph. It is, in fact, lowering it to the level of a mere faction fight. Socialism offers a platform broad enough for all to stand upon who accept its principles ... Socialism makes war upon a system, not upon a class.
- Article in Labour Leader, September 1904.
- "Keir Hardie's Speeches and Writings", edited by Emrys Hughes ("Forward" Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, Glasgow, 1928), pp. 118, 120.
- “Their honesty,” said honest Keir Hardie, “is proverbial. They borrow and lend on word of mouth, and the repudiation of a debt is almost unknown.”
- Keir Hardie about Indians. Quoted from Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage.
From Serfdom to Socialism (1907)
- If the State has no right to interfere to protect the poor struggling against circumstances over which they have no control in the industrial world, it is difficult to see why the same State should be considered a beneficent agency when called in to protect the property of the rich against an infuriated mob of starving people. If the poor are to be left to struggle for existence unaided by the State, then why not the rich?
- pp. 3-4
- If it could be shown that the great Trust magnate or the great Aristocratic landowner, apart from the advantages of his inherited wealth, was a more highly developed species of humanity than the poor struggling sempstress or the unemployed docker, then there might be some justification for allowing the docker and the sempstress as the representatives of a weaker class to die out in order to enable the more highly developed creature to survive; but one moment's reflection will show that the alleged superiority of the landowner or the Trust magnate rests on one fact alone, namely, that he owns certain material possessions, usually inherited, which enable him to dictate the terms upon which his less fortunate fellow creatures shall be permitted to live.
- pp. 4-5
- The individualistic conception of the State as some external authority exercising a malign influence upon the life of the community is a travesty of fact. The State is that form of organised society which has evolved through the process of the ages, and represents the aptitude for freedom and self-government to which any people has attained. The policeman and the soldier, for example, who are at the call of the landlord or the employer when tenant or workman becomes turbulent, exist by the will and under the express authority of those same tenants and workmen, who constitute a preponderating majority in the State, and without whose consent neither soldier nor policeman could continue to exist.
- p. 6-7
- No law can give freedom to a people which is dependent upon some power or authority outside themselves for the necessaries of life. The owners of the means of life can dictate the terms upon which all who are not owners are to be permitted to live.
- p. 9
- Socialism does not propose to abolish land or capital. Only a genius could have thought of this as an objection to Socialism. Socialism proposes to abolish capitalism and landlordism.
- p. 11
- The landlord, qua landlord, performs no function in the economy of industry or of food production. He is a rent receiver; that, and nothing more. Were the landlord to be abolished, the soil and the people who till it would still remain, and the disappearance of the landowner would pass almost unnoticed. So too with the capitalist.
- p. 11
- By capitalist, I mean the investor who puts his money into a concern and draws profits there from without participating in the organisation or management of the business. Were all these to disappear in the night, leaving no trace behind, nothing would be changed.
- p. 11
- There is the increasing tension required in the conduct of business which so saps a man's energies as to leave him little of either time or inclination for the cultivation of any other than the business faculty. A tendency to revolt against this is a well-marked feature of the social life of our time. Of what use is it, ask these slaves of the ledger, to spend the greater part of a lifetime in acquiring a competency only to find after it has been acquired that its acquisition has taken all the savour of enjoyment out of life?
- p. 29
- By inherited instinct we are all Communists at heart; and if the isolated Ego of self gets the upper hand for a time he produces results so terrifying that the mistake of allowing him to rule is speedily made apparent, and we begin to seek a way whereby we may return to the kindly sway of the spirit of Altruism.
- p. 34
- Almost without exception, the early Christian Fathers whose teachings have come down to us spoke out fearlessly against usury, which includes interest also, and on the side of Communism. They proclaimed that, inasmuch as nature had provided all things in common, it was sinful robbery for one man to own more than another, especially if that other was in want. The man who gathered much whilst others had not enough, was a murderer.
- p. 39
- History is one long record of like illustrations. Must our modern civilisation with all its teeming wonders come to a like end? We are reproducing in faithful detail every cause which led to the downfall of the civilisations of other days—Imperialism, taking tribute from conquered races, the accumulation of great fortunes, the development of a population which owns no property, and is always in poverty. Land has gone out of cultivation and physical deterioration is an alarming fact. An so we Socialists say the system which is producing these results must not be allowed to continue. A system which has robbed religion of its saviour, destroyed handicraft, which awards the palm of success to the unscrupulous, corrupts the press, turns pure women on the streetsm and upright men into mean-spirited time-servers, cannot continue. In the end it is bound to work its own overthrow. Socialism with its promise of freedom, its larger hope for humanity, its triumph of peace over war, its binding of the races of the earth into one all-embracing brotherhood, must prevail. Capitalism is the creed of the dying present; socialism throbs with the life of the days that are to be. It has claimed its martyrs in the past, is claiming them now, will claim them still; but what then? Better to "rebel and die in the twenty worlds sooner than bear the yoke of thwarted life."
- p. 103–104
Election address for the 1910 general election (1910)
- The events of the past few weeks in the Aberdare and Rhondda valleys must have shown you anew that a Liberal government is first and foremost a capitalist government. If the bloodshed and riotous conduct of which the police have been guilty had taken place under a Conservative government every Liberal platform would have rung with denunciations of the wicked Tories; but, because it is the Liberals who are responsible there is a conspiracy of silence in the press and every Liberal speaker is dumb.
- The Home Secretary not only defends the actions of the police and refuses an enquiry into the charges against them but also eulogises the hooligans in uniform, whilst Liberal MPs, with few exceptions, back him up by their votes in the Division Lobby.
- As a consequence of this the men on strike are believed by millions of people who know nothing of the facts to be wild, riotous, drunken, worthless scamps, whereas the very opposite is the truth. The military and police have been sent to help the masters to crush the men. The trick won’t succeed.
- During the contest I shall be a good deal in other constituencies where Labour men are being opposed. Both parties fear the presence in Parliament of Labour men whom they can can neither silence nor control. I want to see the number of such men increased, so that political hypocrites to the Churchill type may be unmasked and the health, comfort, safety, and general well-being of the working class promoted. I know you will hold the fort for Labour in my absence.
- Election address for the Merthyr Tydfil Boroughs parliamentary constituency, dated 28 November 1910. Printed and published by the Labour Pioneer Press Ltd, Williams’ Square Glebeland, Merthyr Tydfil. Copy preserved in the People’s History Museum.
Quotes about Keir Hardie
- The Independent Labour Party is extremely indefinite in its tactics, and its leader, Keir Hardie, is a super-cunning Scot, whose demagogic tricks are not to be trusted for a minute. Although he is a poor devil of a Scottish coal miner, he has founded a big weekly, The Labour Leader, which could not have been established without considerable money, and he is getting this money from Tory or Liberal-Unionist, that is, anti-Gladstone and anti-Home Rule sources. There can be no doubt about this, and his notorious literary connections in London as well as direct reports and his political attitude confirm it. Consequently, owing to desertions by Irish and radical voters, he may very easily lose his seat in Parliament at the 1895 general elections and that would be a stroke of good luck — the man is the greatest obstacle at present. He appears in Parliament only on demagogic occasions, in order to cut a figure with phrases about the unemployed — without getting anything done — or to address imbecilities to the Queen on the occasion of the birth of a prince, which is infinitely banal and cheap in this country, and so forth. Otherwise there are very good elements both in the Social-Democratic Federation and in the Independent Labour Party, especially in the provinces, but they are scattered; yet they have at least managed to foil all the efforts of the leaders to incite the two organisations against each other.