Now, the last thing that I would want to do is to commence or take
part in a false war of this kind. In a country like Australia the
class war must always be a false war. But if we are to talk of
classes, then the time has come to say something of the forgotten
class - the middle class - those people who are constantly in danger
of being ground between the upper and the nether millstones of the
false war; the middle class who, properly regarded represent the
backbone of this country.
[Defining the Middle Class]
We do not have classes here as in England, and therefore the terms
do not mean the same; so I must define what I mean when I use the
expression "middle class."
Let me first define it by exclusion. I exclude at one end of the
scale the rich and powerful: those who control great funds and
enterprises, and are as a rule able to protect themselves - though
it must be said that in a political sense they have as a rule shown
neither comprehension nor competence. But I exclude them because, in
most material difficulties, the rich can look after themselves.
I exclude at the other end of the scale the mass of unskilled
people, almost invariably well-organised, and with their wages and
conditions safeguarded by popular law. What I am excluding them from
is my definition of the middle class. We cannot exclude them from
problems of social progress, for one of the prime objects of modern
social and political policy is to give them a proper measure of
security, and provide the conditions which will enable them to
acquire skill and knowledge and individuality.
These exclusions being made, I include the intervening range - the
kind of people I myself represent in Parliament - salary-earners,
shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers
and so on. These are, in the political and economic sense, the
middle class. They are for the most part unorganised and
unself-conscious. They are envied by those whose benefits are
largely obtained by taxing them. They are not rich enough to have
individual power. They are taken for granted by each political party
in turn. They are not sufficiently lacking in individualism to be
organised for what in these days we call "pressure politics." And
yet, as I have said, they are the backbone of the nation.
[The Historic Place of the Middle Class]
The communist has always hated what he calls the "bourgeoisie",
because he sees clearly the existence of one has kept British
countries from revolution, while the substantial absence of one in
feudal France at the end of the eighteenth century and in Tsarist
Russia at the end of the last war made revolution easy and indeed
You may say to me, "Why bring this matter up at this stage when we
are fighting a war, the result of which we are all equally
concerned?" My answer is that I am bringing it up because under the
pressure of war we may, if we are not careful - if we are not as
thoughtful as the times will permit us to be - inflict a fatal
injury upon our own backbone.
In point of political, industrial and social theory and practice,
there are great delays in time of war. But there are also great
accelerations. We must watch each, remembering always that whether
we know it or not, and whether we like it or not, the foundations of
whatever new order is to come after the war are inevitably being
laid down now. We cannot go wrong right up to the peace treaty and
expect suddenly thereafter to go right.
Now, what is the value of this middle class, so defined and
First, it has a "stake in the country". It has responsibility for
homes - homes material, homes human, and homes spiritual.
I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found
either in great luxury hotels and the petty gossip of so-called
fashionable suburbs, or in the officialdom of the organised masses.
It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and
unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious
conviction or dogma, see in their children their greatest
contribution to the immortality of their race. The home is the
foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition
of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a
I have mentioned homes material, homes human and homes spiritual.
Let me take them in order. What do I mean by "homes material"?
The material home represents the concrete expression of the habits
of frugality and saving "for a home of our own." Your advanced
socialist may rave against private property even while he acquires
it; but one of the best instincts in us is that which induces us to
have one little piece of earth with a house and a garden which is
ours; to which we can withdraw, in which we can be among our
friends, into which no stranger may come against our will.
If you consider it, you will see that if, as in the old saying, "the
Englishman's home is his castle", it is this very fact that leads on
to the conclusion that he who seeks to violate that law by violating
the soil of England must be repelled and defeated.
National patriotism, in other words, inevitably springs from the
instinct to defend and preserve our own homes.
Then we have homes human. A great house, full of loneliness, is not
a home. "Stone walls do not a prison make", nor do they make a
house. They may equally make a stable or a piggery. Brick walls,
dormer windows and central heating need not make more than a hotel.
My home is where my wife and children are. The instinct to be with
them is the great instinct of civilised man; the instinct to give
them a chance in life - to make them not leaners but lifters - is a
If Scotland has made a great contribution to the theory and practice
of education, it is because of the tradition of Scottish homes. The
Scottish ploughman, walking behind his team, cons ways and means of
making his son a farmer, and so he sends him to the village school.
The Scottish farmer ponders upon the future of his son, and sees it
most assured not by the inheritance of money but by the acquisition
of that knowledge which will give him power; and so the sons of many
Scottish farmers find their way to Edinburgh and a university
The great question is, "How can I my son to help society?" Not, as
we have so frequently thought, "How can I qualify society to help my
son?" If human homes are to fulfil their destiny, then we must have
frugality and saving for education and progress.
And finally, we have homes spiritual. This is a notion which finds
its simplest and most moving expression in "The Cotter's Saturday
Night" of Burns. Human nature is at its greatest when it combines
dependence upon God with independence of man.
We offer no affront - on the contrary we have nothing but the
warmest human compassion - toward those whom fate has compelled to
live upon the bounty of the State, when we say that the greatest
element in a strong people is a fierce independence of spirit. This
is the only real freedom, and it has as its corollary a brave
acceptance of unclouded individual responsibility. The moment a man
seeks moral and intellectual refuge in the emotions of a crowd, he
ceases to be a human being and becomes a cipher. The home spiritual
so understood is not produced by lassitude or by dependence; it is
produced by self-sacrifice, by frugality and saving.
In a war, as indeed at most times, we become the ready victims of
phrases. We speak glibly of of many things without pausing to
consider what they signify. We speak of "financial power",
forgetting that the financial power of 1942 is based upon the
savings of generations which have preceded it. We speak of "morale"
as if it were a quality induced from without - created by others for
our benefit - when in truth there can be no national morale which is
not based upon the individual courage of men and women. We speak of
"man power" as if it were a mere matter of arithmetic: as if it were
made up of a multiplication of men and muscles without spirit.
Second, the middle class, more than any other, provides the
intelligent ambition which is the motive power of human progress.
The idea entertained by many people that, in a well-constituted
world, we shall all live on the State is the quintessence of
madness, for what is the State but us? We collectively must provide
what we individually receive.
The great vice of democracy - a vice which is exacting a bitter
retribution from it at this moment - is that for a generation we
have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and
removing ourselves from the list of contributors, as if somewhere
there was somebody else's wealth and somebody else's effort on which
we could thrive.
To discourage ambition, to envy success, to have achieved
superiority, to distrust independent thought, to sneer at and impute
false motives to public service - these are the maladies of modern
democracy, and of Australian democracy in particular. Yet ambition,
effort, thinking, and readiness to serve are not only the design and
objectives of self-government but are the essential conditions of
its success. If this is not so, then we had better put back the
clock, and search for a benevolent autocracy once more.
Where do we find these great elements most commonly? Among the
defensive and comfortable rich, among the unthinking and unskilled
mass, or among what I have called the "middle class"?
Third, the middle class provides more than any other other the
intellectual life which marks us off from the beast; the life which
finds room for literature, for the arts, for science, for medicine
and the law.
Consider the case of literature and art. Could these survive as a
department of State? Are we to publish our poets according to their
political colour? Is the State to decree surrealism because
surrealism gets a heavy vote in a key electorate? The truth is that
no great book was ever written and no great picture ever painted by
the clock or according to civil service rules. These are the things
done by man, not men. You cannot regiment them. They require
opportunity, and sometimes leisure. The artist, if he is to live,
must have a buyer; the writer an audience. He find them among frugal
people to whom the margin above bare living means a chance to reach
out a little towards that heaven which is just beyond our grasp. It
has always seemed to me, for example, that an artist is better
helped by the man who sacrifices something to buy a picture he loves
than by a rich patron who follows the fashion.
Fourth, this middle class maintains and fills the higher schools and
universities, and so feeds the lamp of learning.
What are schools for? To train people for examinations, to enable
people to comply with the law, or to produce developed men and
Are the universities mere technical schools, or have they as one of
their functions the preservation of pure learning, bringing in its
train not merely riches for the imagination but a comparative sense
for the mind, and leading to what we need so badly - the recognition
of values which are other than pecuniary?
One of the great blots on our modern living is the cult of false
values, a repeated application of the test of money, notoriety,
applause. A world in which a comedian or a beautiful half-wit on the
screen can be paid fabulous sums, whilst scientific researchers and
discoverers can suffer neglect and starvation, is a world which
needs to have its sense of values violently set right.
[The Thriving of the Thrifty]
Now, have we realised and recognised these things, or is most of our
policy designed to discourage or penalise thrift, to encourage
dependence on the State, to bring about a dull equality on a
fantastic idea that all men are equal in mind and needs and deserts:
to level down by taking the mountains out of the landscape, to weigh
men according to their political organisations and power - as votes
and not as human beings? These are formidable questions, and we
cannot escape from answering them if there is really to be a new
order for the world.
I have been actively engaged in politics for fourteen years in the
State of Victoria and in the Commonwealth of Australia. In that
period I cannot readily recall many occasions upon which any policy
was pursued which was designed to help the thrifty, to encourage
independence, to recognise the divine and valuable variations of
men's minds. On the contrary, there have been many instances in
which the votes of the thriftless have been used to defeat the
thrifty. On occasions of emergency, as in the depression and during
the present war, we have hastened to make it clear that the
provision made by man for his own retirement and old age is not half
as sacrosanct as the provision the State would have made for him if
he had never saved at all.
We have talked of income from savings as if it possessed a somewhat
discreditable character. We have taxed it more and more heavily. We
have spoken slightingly of the earning of interest at the very
moment when we have advocated new pensions and social schemes. I
have myself heard a minister of power and influence declare that no
deprivation is suffered by a man if he still has the means to fill
his stomach, clothe his body and keep a roof over his head. And yet
the truth is, as I have endeavoured to show, that frugal people who
strive for and obtain the margin above these materially necessary
things are the whole foundation of a really active and developing
The case for the middle class is the case for a dynamic democracy as
against the stagnant one. Stagnant waters are level, and in them the
scum rises. Active waters are never level: they toss and tumble and
have crests and troughs; but the scientists tell us that they purify
themselves in a few hundred yards.
That we are all, as human souls, of like value cannot be denied.
That each of us should have his chance is and must be the great
objective of political and social policy. But to say that the
industrious and intelligent son of self-sacrificing and saving and
forward-looking parents has the same social deserts and even
material needs as the dull offspring of stupid and improvident
parents is absurd.
If the motto is to be "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you
will die, and if it chances you don't die, the State will look after
you; but if you don't eat, drink and be merry and save, we shall
take your savings from you", then the whole business of life would
[Towards Individual Enterprise or Slavery]
Are you looking forward to a breed of men after the war who will
have become boneless wonders? Leaners grow flabby; lifters grow
muscles. Men without ambition readily become slaves. Indeed, there
is much more in slavery in Australia than most people imagine. How
many hundreds of thousands of us are slaves to greed, to fear, to
newspapers, to public opinion - represented by the accumulated views
of our neighbours! Landless men smell the vapours of the street
corner. Landed men smell the brown earth, and plant their feet upon
it and know that it is good.
To all of this many of my friends will retort, "Ah that's all very
well, but when this war is over the levellers will have won the
day." My answer is that, on the contrary, men will come out of this
war as gloriously unequal in many things as when they entered it.
Much wealth will have been destroyed; inherited riches will be
suspect; a fellowship of suffering, if we really experience it, will
have opened many hearts and perhaps closed many mouths. Many great
edifices will have fallen, and we shall be able to study foundations
as never before, because war will have exposed them.
But I do not believe that we shall come out into the overlordship of
an all-powerful State on whose benevolence we shall live, spineless
and effortless - a State which will dole out bread and ideas with
neatly regulated accuracy; where we shall all have our dividend
without subscribing our capital; where the Government, that almost
deity, will nurse us and rear us and maintain us and pension us and
bury us; where we shall all be civil servants, and all presumably,
since we are equal, heads of departments.
If the new world is to be a world of men, we must be not pallid and
bloodless ghosts, but a community of people whose motto shall be,
"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Individual
enterprise must drive us forward. That does not mean we are to
return to the old and selfish notions of laissez-faire. The
functions of the State will be much more than merely keeping the
ring within which the competitors will fight. Our social and
industrial laws will be increased. There will be more law, not less;
more control, not less.
But what really happens to us will depend on how many people we have
who are of the great and sober and dynamic middle-class - the
strivers, the planners, the ambitious ones. We shall destroy them at