The yellow letter – Smith’s first tactical mistake

In 1883, the year that Smith’s workers’ groups started to take shape, workers were invited to buy shares that would form a Workers’ Bank, under generous conditions. The shares cost only 25 SEK and should be paid within one year. When 10,000 shares had been sold, the Workers’ Bank would be set up.

Smith was proud of the initiative. He was convinced that this was the solution to social problems and that the system would spread to the rest of the world.

He wrote an open, over six pages long letter on yellow paper. In the letter, which was printed in 20,000 copies and distributed worldwide, Smith turned to the workers. He explained how he wanted the country to be governed and proclaimed himself as the best person to implement the proposals. In return, he required loyalty and trust.

He developed his argument in twelve points that covered everything from his own spirit production and the temperance movement to education, savings banks and shipping.

Unfortunately, the ”yellow letter” did not become the success Smith had hoped for. His intention was to use the letter to fully present his plans for the first time, but it was not received well by the public. The hostility was partly connected to his previous debates and his part in the so-called second vodka war. Smith left the country in 1884 and started planning another solution for the working class.

Retrospectively, it is clear that the letter was Smith’s first tactical mistake.