Our New Editor
Maoriland Worker, Volume I, Issue 7, 20 March 1911, Page 5
Our New Editor
SKETCH OF HIS CAREER.
Mr Robert S. Ross, who has been selected by the Newspaper Board of the Federation of Labour to guide the destinies of the ''Maoriland Woekee,'' is a native of Sydney. While he was very young his parents removed to Brisbane, where he grew up to man's estate and therefore considers himself and feels himself a Queenslander. His father was a journalist, and had owned in his day various newspapers in turn. In one of his journalistic ventures he had as a partner Mr H. Traill, afterwards of "Bulletin" fame. Young Ross was apprenticed as a printer, but with journalism in the blood it was to be expected that sooner or later he would leave the machine room for the literary department. In his case it was "sooner," and so we find him before he is yet twenty years old editing a small paper called "Queensland Cricketer and Footballer." He next edited "Wheel and Wheelmen," and subsequently the "Queensland Sportsman." A lover of sports of all kind, he had a more serious side to his nature. His mother was an extreme Radical, and as he had inherited his journalistic tendencies from his father, so from his (mother he inherited and imbibed a strong leaning to advanced politics. In the late eighties he often was an interested listener at the open-air meetings addressed by Gilbert Casej", Charlie Seymorir, Albert Hinchcliffe, and Mat Reid. Willie Lane's "Worker," started in 1890., of which he was a reader from the first, influenced him greatly. He considers that the Brisbane "Worker," the London "Clarion" and the publications of Charles Kerr and Co., of Chicago, have helped him more than any other publications in his evolution toward his present view-point —Industrial Unionism and Socialism. It was the publications of the lastmentioned firm, he declares, which first led him to see the greatness and basicness of proletarian science and philosophy. He began his career as a unionist as a member of the Queensland Typographical Association. In Broken Hill he was a member of the Amalgamated
Miners' Association, and assisted in forming several unions, including the Tailoresses, of Avhich lie was president. He also held a ticket for some years in the A.W.U. He began to contribute articles to ihe Brisbane "Worker" when it was under the editorship of Higgs, and continued to write for it under Kenna and Boote, the present editor—Australia's greatest joiirnalist and working-class writer. It was owing to the recommendations of Boote that he was given the editorship of "Barrier Truth" early in 1903. He edited the Broken Hill paper for three years, and then .became municipal valuator, and subsequently municipal) librarian. During his term in the latter position he did much good work, transforming the institution into a public lending library and single-handed selecting most of its books. While in this position he started the "Flame" for the Barrier Socialist Group, and late in 1906 left the library to take over the management of the "Flame" Co-operative Press. Tom Mann, H. H. Champion, and others had been urging him for long to remove to Melbourne, and in November, 1908, at the invitation of the Victorian Socialist Party, he did so, taking over from Tom Mann the editorship of the "Socialist" and secretaryship of the party. Since then he has. been in active harness as "Jack" of all departments, including Socialist Sunday School superintendent and Sunday evening lecturer. In Brisbane Ross early became prominent in Labour organisations, has sat on a State Conference, and was secretary of the Soiith Brisbane W.P.O. which first put Dave Bowman and Harry Turley into Parliament. He was also for some time secretary of the Oxley Federal W.P.O. When he left Brisbane in February, 1903, he was presented with a purse of money and an address "as a memento of his many
years of arduous and self-sacrificing service irs the Socialist and Labour Movement." lie values this address very highly because of its representative character, containing as it does the signatures of many of the leading Trades Unionists, Laboiir members ana Socialists, comprising the Central Political Executive of the Labour Party, the South Brisbane W.P.0., Oxley Federal W.P.0., Social Democratic Vanguard (of which he was one of the founders) and the "Worker" staff. Ross resigned the editorship of the "Barrier Truth" owing to an adverse referendum vote of its Unionist owners, taken at a time of great sectarian excitement. He had been replying to the attacks of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Broken Hill, and also castigating reactionary tendencies among certain Unionists. The Australian Labour Federation (on which all the unions were represented, and which owns the paper) referred the matter back, but li-oss got out, though he easily could have been reappointed. The Australian Labour Federation then presented him with an address extolling his "worth in gloAving terms. A. G. Stephens, on the "Bulletin" Red Page, said Ross "made his little paper one of the most readable in New South Wales by dint of shining sincerity.'' While municipal librarian he began to write reviews of books for his old paper the "Barrier Truth," some of which won wide notice. It was at this time and by reason of said reviews that he came under the notice of the present writer, who was then engaged in similar work. When Jack London was shown some of Hoss's book studies he wrote:— I cannot tell you how deeply I appreciate your reviews of my books. Not only are they the most appreciative I have received in Australia,, but they rank with the best appreciations I have received in
the whole world. Only a thoroughgoing evolutionist could have written those reviews. Ross had continued to specialise in. this department, and has had reviews in the Sydney "Worker/ , Queensland "Worker," Sydney "Bulletin," Melbourne "Socialist," and "Barrier Truth," for most of which he has won eulogies. It was in June 1907 that Ross and others joined in forming the Socialist Federation of Australia, and in the same year separated from the Labour Party on the ground that the time had arrived for the entry of a definite and all-round international and revolutionary Socialist Party. He is an enthusiastic exponent of Industrial Unionism plus Working-Class political action, and has sat on each of the Federation's annual conferences. He is considered not only a strong, rousing and informed writer but a born organiser. Hβ has done a lot of public speaking and debating, although, we are informed by those who have heard him, he is a better debater than he is a speaker. In a recent letter he told us that one of his cherished possessions is an unexpected complimentary xetter from Andy Fisher—with much of whose policy he disagrees—in praise of his "intense and epigrammatic utterances." Mr H. H. Champion thus describes Ross as a lecturer:— Mr Ross is not strictly a good speaker. He does not wait for any applause, and never leads up with waving arms, striking gestures, and bellowing noise, carefully arranged' so as to bring down a roar of applause at the close of his paragraph. No, he speaks straight on, and constantly cuts otf a burst of applause to finish his period. He makes you laugh though there is never 'any suspicion of amusement in his face when he scores a point. He should be heard oftener. Ross, himself, would prefer to leave speaking alone, and reckons his forte is journalism—for the Working Class. In Jane Stoddart's book, "The New Socialism," Ross's writing is quoted as symptomatic of the Revolutionary Socialist position in Australia. In Jensen's "The Rising Tide," an exposition of Australia Socialism, and a Labour Party apologetic, Ross is handled as representing the Revolutionaries. Friend Ross comes to us well equipped for his work. His literary ability is unquestionable, his conception of Industrial Unionism and Socialism clear-cut and scientific without being dogmatic or doctrinaire, while his enthusiasm still is keen and fresh. His wide experience gained in the Australian Labour movement we may be sure will not be without its value in the position he has been called to occupy in New Zealand. In the name of the readers of the "Maokiland Workek," of the New Zealand Federation of Labour, and of the New Zealand Socialist Party, we extend to him the hand of fellowship and wish him Kia Ora. Robert Hogg.