"Angry exchange with Little, Brown & Co, 'Stray Thoughts on South Africa' is not published" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceMS 18, 198 South African News, 6.2.05-p3-col3
ArchiveCory Library, Rhodes University, Grahamstown
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date3 February 1905
Address FromHanover, Eastern Cape
Address To
Who ToSocial Democratic Federation Cape Town
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
7Hanover, February 3, 1905.
9Dear Sir, --- I deeply regret that I cannot be with you at the meeting
10on Sunday afternoon to express my sympathy with the Russian strike
11movement. Absent bodily, I shall yet be with you in thought; and yet
12more with those who in far-off Russia are today carrying on that
13age-long war of humanity towards a larger freedom and a higher justice,
14 a war which has been waged through the ages, now by this people, and
15now by that; now a small nation against one that would subjugate it;
16then by a class; then by a race; now, for religious freedom, then for
17the right of free thought and free speech; but which, when looked at
18from the highest standpoint, has always been essentially one battle,
19fought with one end, now with success, and then with seeming failure,
20but always bringing nearer by minute and imperceptible degrees that
21time, in the future, when for a free and united humanity, a truly
22human life shall be possible on earth. To-day the flag is passing into
23the hands of the great Russian people. With how much of immediate
24success, or failure, the battle will be fought, we cannot now say; but
25that it will be with ultimate success, we know, and that it is a
26battle not fought for themselves alone, but for all the world, that we
27know also. I see it stated in this morning’s paper that Maxim Gorki
28is to be hanged. A few years ago, I would have believed it impossible
29that such a thing should happen at the beginning of the twentieth
30century. I do not now. For the honour of human nature, we hope it may
31not be so; but I hardly know that for him we need so very deeply
32regret it. It is from the scaffold that the sons of humanity have
33passed into immortality in the hearts of the race. One very beautiful
34fact is brought home to us by this struggle of our fellows in Russia.
35Divided and half-developed as our human race yet is, a certain dim
36consciousness of human solidarity is beginning to dawn. From the
37drought-smitten, barren plains of South Africa, from the hearts of the
38great cities all over the world thoughts of sympathy and fellowship
39are stretching themselves out to our brothers in Russia, so that
40whether they are lying in Russian fortresses or perishing in the
41streets of Poland, they are not really dying or suffering alone. We
42are all with them. I regret especially that I cannot be at your
43meeting, because I should meet many of our Russian Jews, members of
44that great race which has given Europe its religion and to the world
45some of its sons. As a South African, it is a matter of pride and joy
46that we have been able to give refuge and to accept among our citizens
47many whom oppression drove from their birthland. If the great struggle
48of our fellows in Russia tends only to diminish their sufferings there,
49 it will now have been in vain. I believe that in this movement in
50Russia we are witnessing the beginning of the greatest event that has
51taken place in the history of humanity during the last centuries.
This open letter was written as an address to a meeting organised by the Cape Town branch of the Social Democratic Federation, held in the Good Hope Hall on Sunday 5 February 1905 in order 'to express sympathy with the struggle of the Russian people for complete representative institutions and full responsible government, and to open a fund for the relief of the sufferers'. An audience of around 2000 people was present. Schreiner's letter was read aloud and a speech made by the Rev Balmford, who also moved a resolution condemning the Russian government for its massacre of peaceful protestors on 22 January 1905. The letter was subsequently published in the South African News on 6 February 1905 (p.3, col 3), from which this transcription has been derived.