Dawn To Dusk, Ernest Lane 1939
It became increasingly apparent as the war continued that the Federal Labour Government was enthusiastically pursuing a policy in support of the war that differed in small degree from that of any anti-working class movement. Under the guise of war emergency, military supremacy in the conduct of affairs in the Commonwealth was accepted and encouraged. Freedom of speech was denied to all who would not meekly worship at the shrine of national hatred of the enemy. With a few honourable exceptions, the Federal Labour members loyally supported “Billy” Hughes in his frenzied jingoism. Anstey, Brennan, Blackburn, McGrath, O’Mally, Dr. Maloney, Myles Ferricks, and W. Finlayson were courageously outstanding in their opposition to the War Precautions Act and other war legislation introduced and passed by the Federal Government.
Many unionists also, befuddled and mislead, foolishly followed the will-o’-the-wisp of imperial capitalism and regarded with distrust those who sought to expose the true meaning of the world conflict.
Hughes was acclaimed as a great patriot who was well fitted to lead the people of Australia in the hour of crisis. During his famous tour of Britain in the latter part of 1915, when he consorted with dukes and duchesses and slept in “blue rooms,” Hughes, with his flamboyant oratory, out-jingoed the jingoes in his exaltation of “the war to save civilisation and democracy.”
It was while Hughes was engaged in this whirlwind campaign that I wrote a “Jack Cade” article “The Man of the Hour,” as he was fulsomely termed by his admirers – Labour and Tory alike. I did not spare the whip, but castigated and exposed this mountebank Labour Prime Minister. This article aroused the resentment and ire of Hughes’ supporters, and by a coincidence, Hanlon, editor of the Queensland “Worker,” in his leading article the same week on Hughes, proclaimed him as indeed the “man of the hour,” in whom the workers could place entire confidence as an incorruptible champion of democracy and Labour principles.
It requires no comment to indicate how this adulation of Labour’s greatest traitor reveals the reactionary nature and proclivities of the official organ of the A.W.U. at that time.
Shortly after Hughes returned to Australia, he declared openly for conscription, and the Labour Party split on this question was followed by the formation of the “national” government, which species of amalgamation of Labour and capitalist parties has since become quite common in other countries whenever it is necessary to sacrifice the workers on the altar of economic or war necessity.
On the decision of the Federal Parliament to take a referendum on the conscription issue, anti-conscription organisations were immediately formed in a desperate attempt to save Australia from this, the worst form of military frightfulness.
The Queensland Labour Government declared its opposition to conscription, although as far as some at least of its members were concerned, with hesitation and trembling. Here, as in other States, the determination expressed by the overwhelming majority of the unions to fight conscription and conscriptionists whoever they might be, swung the political wing into the fray on the anti-conscription issue. The Brisbane Industrial Council, as always, was in the forefront of the initial fight and exercised a powerful influence in its undeviating, courageous attitude.
The Queensland anti-conscription committee comprised representatives of the unions, Parliamentary Labour Party, Women’s Peace Movement, A.B.P. and Australian Peace Alliance. Theodore was elected chairman, Lewis McDonald, secretary. Riordan, Dunstan, and I were the A.W.U. delegates. The committee was fully representative of the anti-conscriptionists of Queensland and carried out a most effective campaign throughout the State, and several thousands of pounds were contributed from organisations and individuals.
The inauguration of the conscription campaign was marked by an immediate tightening of the already drastic military censorship and it was a penal offence to criticise in any way the conduct of the war or question the infallibility of the military machine.
The most important matter in the campaign was the compilation of literature, its printing and distribution. A literature committee was appointed, comprising J. Fihelly (Minister for Justice), H. Sewell, Cuthbert Butler, E. H. Lane. I pointed out that the censorship would render it practically impossible for literature that was of any real value to be passed by the censor and. urged that the literature committee be authorised to obtain and publish literature (if necessary) without submission to the censor. This was agreed to. Cuthbert Butler was elected secretary and I chairman of the literature committee.
Butler had quite recently become associated with the Labour movement. A radical parson, he had, on account of unconventional and “extreme” preachings, left the church. He was a man of considerable ability; a lover of literature and a keen sense of humour, and a good comrade to have in a fight. Practically the whole work and responsibility of the literature committee was undertaken or fell on us. We were good companions, and notwithstanding Butler’s later abandonment of his revolutionary ideals, I still retain pleasant memories of our escapades and adventures in the two anti-conscription campaigns. Butler at the following State elections was selected as Labour candidate for the farming district of Laidley. Quite unexpectedly he won the election, due to the fact that many of the electors were German farmers who had received scant justice at the hands of the authorities. Even after the war ended, Butler could have retained the seat, but he mistakenly thought otherwise and disappeared from Queensland and the Labour movement.
One of the first lots of literature decided upon it was considered had no hope of passing the censor so I was deputed to get three pamphlets or leaflets illegally. I persuaded A. J. Ross, a brother of “Bob” Ross, who had an old established printery, to do the printing. I assured him that if it was discovered, the anti-conscription committee would pay the fine. In reply to his query as to what would happen if he got goaled as well, I said that the committee could not very well go to goal in his stead. Then I had to hunt round and get another compositor as the printing had to be done in the middle of the night. Apart from those who printed this literature only one member of the committee other than Butler and I, knew anything about it.
The next morning Butler came to see me at the “Standard” Office and exploded a bomb. The censor had walked into the anti-conscription committee rooms at the “Worker” building, handed Butler the three illegal leaflets, with the false imprint on them, and, asked him why they had not been submitted to the censor. Butler was staggered and to gain time professed ignorance and said he would see me and then we would come to the censor’s office at the Post Office.
Butler and I concocted the most plausible story we could think of to explain the illegal literature and went round to the censor’s rooms. He was out when we called. When we called again he was still out. So then we had a brain wave and decided to say nothing – but leave it to the censor to make the next move. But we never heard any more about it, neither did we ever discover who had played the informer and betrayed us to the censor.
This is not a record of the anti-conscription campaign in Queensland, only a few of the incidents that I was personally associated with. “Cosme” was the natural home of visiting delegates of the rebel army from other States. These included Adela Pankhurst, now Mrs. Tom Walsh, and Miss Cecilia Johns, representing the Women’s Peace Army, who came to hold a series of meetings in Brisbane. As the campaign progressed the feeling on both sides became more intense, and clashes between the opposing forces, more or less serious, were a common occurrence.
Adela’s first lecture was called “Down with Germany.” The Centennial Hall was packed as the reputation of the lecturer as an irreconcilable opponent of the war was well known. It was at first doubtful if Miss Pankhurst would get a hearing, so bitter was the popular feeling against Germany. But her determination and sincerity carried her through, and her passionate denouncement of the war mongers and plea for peace stirred many in the audience.
At another lecture in the same hall, it was arranged that the meeting would commence, with the singing of the once famous anti-war song “I didn’t raise my son to be a soldier.” This song had been barred by the military authorities so the chairman of the meeting was notified by the military just before the meeting started that anyone singing the prohibited song would be immediately arrested. However, we decided to ignore this threat. Copies of the song were quietly distributed to the audience, Miss Johns struck the first bars on the piano, the chairman gestured the audience to stand, which they did, and the song was sung with great gusto, the singers little knowing that they were all liable to arrest and six months’ gaol. Apparently the military decided it was too big a job to arrest 1000 people, so no one was hurt.
The first public anti-conscription meeting in Brisbane was held at the Lyceum Theatre, George Street. This meeting was not organised by the anti-conscription committee but by an independent committee of which I was secretary. Miles Ferricks, W. Finlayson, Ms.H.R., and Rev. Rivett were the speakers. Two resolutions were drafted, one dealing with conscription and the other advocating peace by negotiation. I had shown the resolutions to the three speakers who agreed without demur. The morning of the meeting I had a ring from Harold Hartley (Labour member for Normanby) from Parliament House. He said that he and other Labour members would like to be on the platform at the meeting, but they could not identify themselves with any peace movement. I said that we hadn’t the slightest intention of deleting the peace resolution for all the Labour members in Australia. “But,” said Hartley, “you don’t know how strong the war feeling is amongst the, people. I have just come back from Rockhampton and know.” “Yes,” I retorted, “I know how widespread the war fever extends, and it is because of the cowardice or ignorance of some Labour representatives who will not tell the people the truth about the damned horror, that peace talk is abhorrent. “Anyway,” I concluded, “you should be on the platform to-night to support fellow politicians who are prepared to voice unpopular truths.”
I think that there was only one other Labour member on the platform besides “Charlie” Collins, who never deserted the workers, but who was always true to his principles.
It was expected that there would be an attempt to smash up the meeting, and a number of the more pugnacious anti-conscriptionists provided for emergencies by carrying concealed weapons in the shape of iron piping or wooden batons. However, the first speaker, Rev. Rivett, plunged boldly into the subject of peace to the evident amazement of the jingoes present who failed to rally from the shock.
Following a pitched battle at an anti-conscription meeting held at Market (now King George) Square, in which the soldiers and conscriptionists were routed, a surprise attack was made on the “Daily Standard” office, one or two shots being fired and stones thrown, but no damage was done. As it was freely rumoured that the soldiers intended to raid the “Standard,” destroy the machinery, etc., an armed guard kept watch at nights. One day we were discussing what would happen if the soldiers carried out their threat and burst in the street door and rushed up the stairs. Some said they would fire at their legs. A Russian sitting across a chair with a rifle on his lap protested. “No!” he exclaimed, “Fire at their heads; we might as well kill them as the Germans.”
The would-be attackers; hearing that a warm reception awaited them, evidently thought discretion was the better part of valour and abandoned their intended coup.
In a tramcar one day two portly, elderly citizens recognising Cuthbert Butler as one of the hated anti-warites, began to talk at him with regard to war. Butler sat like a sphinx until one of the baiters could endure his stony silence no longer, and turning to him, said viciously: “What do you think of the war?” With an expression as bland as Bret Harte’s heathen Chinee, Butler said, “War? War? What war? Did you say there was a war on?” Spluttering with rage, the would-be goader ejaculated, “Oh! I know what’s the matter with you – you’ve got cold feet.” “Oh, no,” replied Butler, “I haven’t got cold feet, As far as the war is concerned I am an icicle from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.” The fury of the rebuffed jingoes was unbounded as they left the car and Butler with a broad grin.
Quite unexpectedly for some time the censorship of the anti-conscription literature was somewhat relaxed, and Hanlon, editor of the “Worker,” who told me he got on well with the censor, offered to submit much of the literature to him. He did so, and was successful in getting it passed without any serious alteration. Butler and I, however, continued by various underground methods to print and circulate uncensored matter. Towards the end of the campaign, when the position became more tense, the censor in Brisbane put on extreme pressure. About three weeks before polling day the “blood-vote” poem by Winspeare was published in the Sydney “Worker” and passed by the New South Wales censor. I wrote it up a little, and sent it to the censor for endorsement. He flatly refused to pass it, although it had been approved in New South Wales, and threatened full penalties if we used it. Realising the great value of this poem, I determined to defy the censor and flood Queensland with it. But the next issue of the Sydney “Worker” had improved on it by adding the powerful cartoon of the woman dropping her “blood-vote” into the ballot box. As all wires and letters were censored by the military, I sent the following cryptic wire to the private address of a comrade in Sydney: “Send by rail immediately 50,000 Winspeare pencils.” (The woman voting had a pencil in her hand). The order was passed on to the “Worker” office and the 50,000 “pencils” arrived and were housed at the “Worker” building, much to Albert Hinchcliffe’s dismay, as he had consistently refused to print any illegal literature on the plea that the military were shepherding the “Worker” and would seize the machinery and close down the paper if any illegality was indulged in. Neither he nor McCosker, then in charge of the composing room, would take the slightest risk in connection with the printing of anti-Conscription literature. With a desire and will to share the responsibility of this work, in direct contrast to the “Worker,” McDonald, the editor of the “Standard,” did not raise any objection to printing a number of uncensored leaflets when I asked him.
In August, 1916, the Industrial Council convened a Trade Union Congress to consider what action should be taken with regard to conscription. The congress was one of the most representative held, 56 unions being represented. Riordan and I were delegates from the A.W.U., and I reported the proceedings for the “Daily Standard.” It was unanimously decided to utilise all the forces of organised Labour to defeat compulsory militarism, and that immediately any scheme for the conscription of life or labour was introduced, the workers of Queensland should be called on to “down tools.” A further resolution was carried that drastic action would be taken by the unions if any attempt was made by the Federal Government to enforce certain clauses of the Defence Act. A committee was appointed to carry out the congress decisions and to prepare a plan of campaign.
A full report of the congress was published in the first edition of the “Standard” at noon. The military authorities immediately took action and deleted all the resolutions and references to strike action, so that the second edition at 3 p.m. was startlingly mutilated. Enraged and alarmed at the congress decisions, the censorship was extended in its scope in an endeavour by the authorities to suppress the result of the congress deliberations. All communications sent through the Post and Telegraph Office were either confiscated altogether or severely censored, and all reference in the press not only to the general strike but to conscription matters generally was made a military offence under military instructions.
One of the direct results of the Congress was a 24-hours’ strike and demonstration in the Domain on Wednesday, October 4th, to protest against the Federal Government’s drastic proclamation calling up the single men for military service. Although, owing to various causes, a few of the more timid unions did, not partake in the demonstration, thousands of unionists marched in the procession from the Trades Hall. The protest was a powerful one and effectively demonstrated the bitter opposition of the workers of Brisbane to conscription.
Throughout the campaign the “Daily Standard” unhesitatingly stood staunchly with the workers in their bitter fight against militarism. Frequently the censorship regulations were defied. News that obviously would be censored was published in the first (noon) edition, and the paper withheld from city circulation until it had been rushed to all outside centres. The censor then “blocked out all the “objectionable” portions of the paper, making the second edition a very emasculated one. Eventually, of course, this evasion was stopped by the prosecution and fining of the editor, who, under a bond, was forced to submit all anti-conscription or anti-war copy to the censor for endorsement or rejection.
On the anti-conscription committee there was a very clear-cut division between the purely political anti-conscriptionists and the anti-war section. Our forces were very evenly divided with the politicians headed by Theodore and camp followers, which included Riordan, Dunstan and other reactionary delegates. Many bitter fights were waged in the committee meetings between these two contending forces, principally on questions regarding support of the war. All proposals in the direction of peace or even criticism of the righteousness of the Allies cause were ruthlessly opposed and defeated by the politicians who regarded the returning of votes and political power of far more importance than mere principles of humanity. It was on this committee that I first fully realised the varied methods unblushingly adopted by the politicians and their henchmen to keep the flag of reaction flying. It was an experience that prepared me for some of the many shocks I received in later years from the same coterie.
Miss Margaret Thorpe and Mrs. Lane represented the Women’s Peace Army on the committee, and were invaluable allies in the militant unions’ camp and a very painful thorn in the side of the war mongering conscriptionists. I, of course, was particularly obnoxious to Theodore, Riordan, and Dunstan, not only on account of my attitude on the committee, but because of the militant anti-war character of the “Jack Cade” articles in the “Standard.”
Military house raids were made during this and other periods while the military joss was supreme, but strangely enough I was not subject to this tyrannical method of militarism. The majority of the books in our home at “Cosme” were banned and condemned by the Federal Government. Mrs. Lane advised me to bury some of them in our gully, but keyed up to rebellion against military arrogance, I said if they raid the house, let them do their worst. “Cosme” was never visited by these sleuth hounds, neither did I fall into the clutches of the law, though I was under the shadow of a term in goal for quite a number of illegal activities, especially in reference to the issuing of uncensored literature.
In retrospect, I now almost regret that I escaped imprisonment as it is one of the experiences that would have been invaluable and worth while. While never desiring that attention from the authorities, I have never evaded any revolutionary activities or denied myself the right of “treasonable” utterances in order to avoid breaking freedom-suppressing laws. But I have, fortunately, I suppose, been favoured in this regard, while others, for only minor offences, have suffered.
The I.W.W. played a most prominent and uncompromising part in the anti-conscription campaign. Unlike the official Labour movement, the I.W.W. with rare courage and reckless of all consequences denounced and exposed the true causes of the war as a deadly clash of interests of conflicting imperial and capitalist groups. Tom Barker, editor of the I.W.W. paper, “Direct Action,” was arrested and imprisoned for sedition. Shortly afterwards, Donald Grant, J. B. King, J. Larkin and other leading I.W.W.-ites were arrested and charged with sedition, arson and conspiracy, and savagely sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. This obvious “frame-up” by the police, at the instigation of higher authorities, roused a storm of protest throughout the Commonwealth. Release committees were formed and unions were organised. Tom Barker, on his release, came to Queensland and received strong support, and 40 unions were represented on the Queensland. Release Committee. The Brisbane Industrial Council afforded every possible assistance to secure justice for the imprisoned men.
As industrial writer on the “Daily Standard” I was in constant contact with Barker, and formed a close friendship that has remained until to-day. In an interview and write-up of him, I said: “Barker is here to tell the truth about the evidence and questionable methods adopted by the authorities to silence and suppress some of the most dangerous – from the capitalist point of view – members of the I.W.W. It was particularly refreshing to come into contact with Tom Barker, who, despite the persecutions he has endured at the hands of an anti-working class society, still retains all that buoyancy, all the enthusiasm, all the power of youth. Rebels are born – not made and Tom Barker is a rebel against all things which serve to degrade and enslave mankind, and place money and privilege before humanity.
Barker, of course, the penalty for his working class agitation, and with a number of other “seditionists” was deported to the inhospitable shores of Chile. Later he found a haven of rest from persecution in Soviet Russia, at one time acting as an official representative of that Government in Australia.
My insistent advocacy of the I.W.W. claim in the “Daily Standard” for justice, aroused the ire of the Tory press, one publication stressing the fact that I was a vice-president of the A.W.U. and the regular official industrial writer of the “Daily Standard,” also “the only reporter admitted to the secret conclaves of the Queensland Labour Party.”
This latter paragraph apparently referred to my being a member of the Queensland Central Executive. of the A.L.P. The intent of the capitalist press, of course, was to connect my revolutionary tendencies with the Labour Party, for political purposes, so as to brand the Labour Party as a destructive force, allied to, the I.W.W. and other seditious bodies. Needless to say that this Tory accusation of the Queensland Labour Government was utterly groundless and a slander upon a perfectly innocuous and respectable political party. This attempt of their political opponents to fasten on them the crime of I.W.W.-ism was not at all relished by Ryan, Theodore, and their fellow politicians and quite rightly did not increase their esteem for my “irresponsible” actions and attitude.
No reference to agitation for a re-trial and release of the I.W.W. prisoners would be complete without acknowledgment of the remarkable and unceasing propaganda of H. E. Boote, the brilliant editor of the Sydney “Worker.” Devoting his powerful pen, week after week, in the setting down of a damning indictment of the evidence, trial and conviction of the 12 I.W.W.-ites, Boote accomplished a mighty task in the interests of common justice that will for all time remain a glowing tribute to his marathon effort. Not content to wield his pen in this crusade, Boote, who was not a platform speaker, visited the various centres in Australia and addressed packed audiences. I well remember a flashing, scathing sentence he uttered when he was, with lightning like rapier, piercing the sham legal flummery and assumption of undeviating impartial justice that has been so cunningly woven round the whole machinery of the law. Referring to the judges, Boote exclaimed: “These dispensers of justice – with horse hair on their heads – and the dust of centuries on their brains!”
So, at last, despite the most determined opposition on the part of those who saw in the I.W.W. a fierce challenge to the whole capitalist system, the I.W.W. prisoners, victims of a most notorious “frame-up,” were released.
Reverting to the anti-conscription campaign, the defeat of the militant plan to enslave the workers of Australia on October 28, 1916, brought renewed vigour to those who had fearlessly borne the brunt of the fight and had not hesitated to risk their own liberty for the sake of a far wider freedom.
In 1916 the Victorian section of the Labour Party had promised to convene a peace conference in the following year, 1917. Evidently too timorous to proceed with this object the peace movement was abandoned to outside non-political organisations. A peace conference was called by the Australian Peace Alliance to meet in Melbourne on Good Friday, April 7th, 1917. Invitations to attend were sent to the unions and various anti-conscription committees throughout the Commonwealth and other radical organisations. A motion to send two delegates to represent the Queensland Anti-Conscription Committee aroused the most virulent and unscrupulous opposition of the pro-war section of the committee.
The fight was a bitter one and was carried on for several meetings, but the anti-war section could not be side-tracked from their intent that Queensland should be represented at the Australian Peace Conference. Dunstan, Theodore, Fihelly, all that camp stormed and raved in vain and the motion that two delegates, J. S. Collings and W. J. Wallace be sent to the conference, was carried. Beaten on this vital question, Theodore and his henchmen wielded the big stick and with true political cunning advanced the argument that no money from an anti-conscriptionist committee could be used to send delegates to a peace conference! If the committee’s money was used for this purpose it would be done fraudulently and every member of the committee could be prosecuted by any subscriber to the subscription fund for criminal misappropriation of money!
What a brilliant example of statesmanship! This was put forward by Theodore, the modern Napoleon of Labour politics, in order to save the Queensland organisation and the miscalled Labour movement, in reality merely the Labour Party, from having the dove of peace placed on their sacred war-banner. But this move was successful enough to frighten two timid delegates to break away from the anti-war section and the motion was carried. As there was now no money to send delegates to Melbourne, with only a few days to go, it looked as if the plotting war-mongers had scored a knock-out blow.
But Margaret Thorpe, a delegate with Mrs. Lane from the Women Workers’ organisation, took up the task of collecting the necessary £30 or £40 to finance the delegates. The money was collected and the matter seemed definitely finalised, but we had not yet plumbed the full depth of dirty political chicanery.
The day before the delegates were due to leave Brisbane for Melbourne, Collings’ wife was taken seriously ill, so he had to remain in Brisbane. Miss Thorpe asked me if I would accept the vacant delegateship. I agreed and Miss Thorpe asked Theodore if he, as chairman of the Anti-Conscription Committee, had any objection to me going as a delegate. He raised no objection.
On our arrival in Melbourne late at night in pouring rain, I stayed with “Bob” Ross, while ‘’Billy” Wallace was billeted on another friend. The conference commenced at the Guild Hall at 10 a.m. the next morning, Good Friday. On arrival at the Hall, Wallace handed me a telegram remarking: “This is a beauty!” It was a wire from Lewis McDonald brutally, and without any explanation, stating that at a special meeting of the Anti-Conscription Committee held on the day previously it had been decided to withdraw the Queensland delegates from the Peace Conference!
Fortunately we also had credentials from the Brisbane Industrial Council as proxy delegates, so that we were able to represent a more intelligent and courageous section than some of the members of the Anti-Conscription Committee.
On returning to Brisbane I heard the sordid particulars of the last minute effort to keep the ‘Queensland Anti-Conscriptionist Committee pure and clean from any suspicion of being favourable to peace. It was not only in Queensland, but in every State, the Labour politicians with a very few exceptions, were strongly opposed to any effort to agitate for peace and proudly ranged themselves on the side of the jingoes in their war fervour. Thus the action of the powerful Queensland Anti-Conscriptionist Committee to send delegates to a peace conference was deplorable and must be prevented at all costs. Slanderous reports were insidiously circulated regarding the bona-fides and intentions of the peace conference and devious methods were adopted to as far as possible render the conference abortive. The New South Wales politicians were particularly hostile and were in private communication with the Queensland politicians in their endeavours to kill the conference. As a result of “certain information received from New South Wales,” a special meeting of the Queensland committee was held on Easter Thursday. Many of the delegates were absent from Brisbane on Easter holidays, and it was only by a majority of one in a small meeting that the decision to recall the delegates was made. Writing to McDonald on this matter, Margaret Thorpe cuttingly said: “One would think that the Almighty W. M. Hughes had suggested recalling them under the War Precautions Act, because they did not belong to his ‘Win the War’ Party. We abided by the rule of the majority with regard to the allocation of the funds, so you can do nothing else than abide by the same rule with regard to the sending of the two delegates. I fail to see who has any authority to recall the delegates. They have gone on behalf of the A.C.C.C. – not the Parliamentary Labour Party. That any of you should hesitate to heartily support any effort made in the cause of peace is beyond my comprehension.”
The Queensland anti-conscription campaign committee was not dissolved, but indefinitely adjourned to be convened at any time in case of emergency. About June of 1917, it was considered necessary to meet again in view of the proposal of the Federal Government to take another conscription referendum.
As I had earned the antagonism of my two A.W.U. co-delegates on the Anti-Conscription Committee – Dunstan and Riordan, because of my passionate opposition to the war and efforts to force the political section to be honest and tell the deluded workers the truth about the war, it was evidently determined by these two “loyal” comrades that I should be prevented from again being a member of the committee.
Dunstan informed me, as a vice-president of the A.W.U., that the A.W.U. had been advised to send its three delegates to the first meeting of the Anti-Conscription Committee and asked me if I agreed to the taking of a ballot of executive members for the three delegates. Although surprised at this proposal, I agreed. Dunstan, Riordan, Stopford and I nominated, and the other six executive members were wired to record their votes. When I told Mrs. Lane she said: “Oh! that is the end of you on the Anti-Conscription Committee; they are determined to get rid of you.” I pointed out that five of the six absent executive members were militants and strong supporters of me and would not conceivably vote against me. But I was wrong, as, according to the ballot declared by Dunstan, while he, Riordan, Stopford and I voted for Lane – the other absent six voted against me!
I cannot say that the ballot was faked against me in any way, it seemed bona-fide, but I am simply recording the amazing fact. I happened to see Riordan just after I was told the result of the ballot and could not restrain commenting on the surprise of the vote. “Yes,” he mused, “it is strange, we all voted for you!” Mrs. Lane, when I told her, exclaimed: “Of course, the whole thing was loaded against you.”
My reflections on this rebuff were somewhat bitter. Of the three A.W.U. delegates on the last Anti-Conscription Committee, I had been the honest. toiler. Dunstan. had not done anything except attend the committee meetings and strenuously oppose any progressive action, while Riordan, as president of the A.W.U., had done little except get the limelight on the platform at big meetings. I had not spared myself, worked day and night and gladly risked imprisonment for my illegal actions. I know of no craft union at the Trades Hall (whom the A.W.U. bureaucracy have such a contempt for), that would dream of deposing any of their officials from a position which was being faithfully filled and more effectively carried on than anyone else could do it. But the mighty A.W.U. has a code of morals and honour peculiarly its own.
The militant section of the anti-conscription campaign committee indignantly resolved to counter the tactics of Dunstan and Riordan to keep me off the committee. At the first meeting it was agreed that the Toowoomba anti-conscription committee, which had done magnificent work during the previous campaign, should be allowed to send a proxy delegate to the Queensland anti-conscription committee. McCormack, who, perhaps suspected something, proposed that this proxy delegate be appointed by the Queensland committee, but it was resolved to give Toowoomba the right to appoint their own delegate. I was this delegate, and Dunstan and Co. gaped with disgust when I walked into the next meeting.
Notwithstanding all the manoeuvring of the political section of the committee, the militant anti-War section had a small but solid majority on the new committee, although the Australian Peace Alliance had now been refused representation. The first business was the election of a secretary and we nominated J. S. Collings against Lewis McDonald. Collings was uncompromisingly anti-war and with his well-known pugnacity and eloquence had severely castigated the war-mongering anti-conscriptionists. Theodore, McCormack, and their followers were viciously alarmed and had no hesitation in digging up Collings’ black past in connection with his entire union activities at the time of the Brisbane Bootmakers’ Strike, when he was secretary of the Boot Trade Employees’ Association. But we were intent on defeating McDonald, who was a faithful servant of the reactionary section. A bitter debate ensued – but Collings was elected to the intense chagrin of the politicians. We knew that if Collings took the position that the anti-conscription campaign committee would be sabotaged and rendered futile by the defeated political section, who never hesitate when they are forced into a minority to disloyally jettison the majority who succeed in displacing them. We therefore, in the interests of the greater issue of the moment, anti-conscription, withdrew Collings and Lewis McDonald was appointed secretary.
Under the guise of “war necessity,” the censorship which was so outrageously enforced during the conscription campaign, was not abated when conscription was again rejected in December, 1917, by a larger majority than on October 28th. It rather appeared that Hughes and his militarist allies, enraged at the failure of their conscriptionist plans, were determined to still more strictly deny freedom of utterance with regard to the war. As the ever-increasing war weariness of the people assumed more virile proportions, and the demand for peace louder and louder, frantic endeavours were made to stifle this plea for humanity as against a continuance of the bloody slaughter. Peace talk was taboo and although I endeavoured to keep within the military law as much as possible a considerable portion of the “Jack Cade” articles was prohibited by the military censor. At this stage the editor of the “Daily Standard” had perforce to submit all matters pertaining to the war to the censor. My only personal contact with the chief censor, Professor Stables, of the Queensland University, arose in this connection. I had written an article “Coming of Peace,” “Labour’s Duty,” “Propaganda of Peace Policy.” in which it was urged that the peace by negotiation, which had been adopted by the Federal Labour Convention held in Perth in February, 1918, should be fearlessly and continuously propagated by all Labour organisations. I directed attention to the utterance of Acting Prime Minister Watts in denouncing the policy of peace by negotiation as adopted by the Federal Labour Party as a “poisonous pill,” a “ghastly blunder.” I wrote (inter alia), “The challenge is sneeringly thrown down by the leader of the militarist Party in Australia to organised Labour and its peace policy, and it is incumbent upon Labour’s representatives, Labour’s press, Labour’s organisations to take up that scornful and vituperative challenge, and to prove to the general public of Australia that peace by negotiation is not a ‘ghastly blunder or a poisonous pill’ but something that is worthy of the adherence and advocacy of every man or woman who is a lover of their fellows and humanity. There is only one course of action now for every representative of the Australian Labour Party to take, and that is to fearlessly and continuously expound the doctrine of peace by negotiation at all times, in all places, irrespective of whom it offends or of any penalties that may be imposed.”
The whole of this article, a fairly long one, written for the sole purpose of trying to force cowardly jingo Labour representatives to toe the line, was returned by the censor with the censorship red pencil scored through every line.
I was incensed and saw McDonald, the editor, who said he could not help it and I had better see the censor. With very little hope of redress I went to the censor’s office which was at the G.P.O. and introduced myself and mission. The Censor, Professor Stables (Queensland University) said that he always read the “Jack Cade” articles with interest. He knew I was sincere, but “a lot of your people,” he remarked, “are not honest.” I did not dispute this, knowing too well how much truth there was in it.
With regard to the complete censoring of my article, if it got to Germany it would indicate that there was a peace movement in Australia!
He, however, sent it to Melbourne for decision, by the Chief Censor. I interviewed Professor Stables a week later to hear the verdict, which, of course, was the same, and he adopted a more hostile attitude towards me when I gave him a few home truths regarding the war. “But,” he amazingly retorted, “You don’t know the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Huns. At New Farm there is a girl with her two hands cut off!”
Amazed at the audacity of a highly placed militarist venturing to put over this sort of war propaganda on me, I said: “If that was true, you only have to take that mutilated child in a car through the streets of Brisbane to get all the volunteers you want. There will be no need for conscription or recruiting campaigns.”
This was my last personal contact with the censor and the experience exposed to its full the callous, unscrupulous nature of the military josses in their war-mongering policies.
It was in January, 1917, that I was first elected as one of the Queensland delegates to the A.W.U. annual convention, which was then invariably held in Sydney. For eight or nine consecutive years I was delegate to that convention during which I got inside knowledge of the devious methods of the old guard of the A.W.U., whereby all efforts to galvanise into militant activity the dying bones of the organisation were sabotaged or checkmated.
My initial introduction into the high hierarchy of the A.W.U. did not remove impressions of its reactionary proclivities that I had gathered from delegates and members who had experience of the A.W.U. outside of Queensland. Trading on an early history of militant unionism when the A.W.U. had stood four square to all attacks of a powerful squatterage, the A.W.U. posed as the one shining light of the Australian unionism and scorned the smaller craft unions.
Comprising about 35 delegates from the various States, many of them paid officials, the overwhelming majority of the convention was, to say the least, very moderate, and opposed to anything of a really progressive nature. There was a larger proportion of militants from Queensland than from any other State and for some years there was a growing militant faction until a permanent reaction about twelve years ago once more placed the reactionaries in the saddle more firmly than ever.
Prominent in the Queensland militant delegates was “Mick” Kelly, who attained fame in the early days of the amalgamation with the A.W.U. by nearly defeating W. J. Dunstan for the position of secretary of the Queensland branch, Dunstan just winning by six votes. Dunstan is credited with having made the cryptic remark: “This will never happen again.” Neither did it.
Kelly, a fine speaker and capable organiser, always secured a big militant vote for delegate meetings and conventions. In debate he could more than hold his own with the A.W.U. “big guns” by whom he was regarded as a very dangerous man. For years Kelly was an outstanding figure at the Sydney conventions until he dropped out and embarked on a lucrative position with the T. & G. Insurance Company, Sydney. He still keeps in academic touch with the Labour activities but is no longer in the thick of the fray. Ex-Premier McCormack told me that occasionally he meets Mick, and they have dinner at an hotel in Sydney, where, after dinner, they discuss the world situation and exchange reminiscences of the old days of strenuous agitation.
One of the earlier rebels on the A.W.U. Conventions, Jack Cullinan, then secretary of the A.W.U., Armidale branch, is now but a memory in the history of that organisation, though he is still an active worker in the Labour movement in Sydney. Jack, through his pugnacious militancy, unshakable adherence to principle, and hatred of the intrigue and trickery of the A.W.U. heads, was the most detested rebel of us all. Absolutely fearless in his actions and utterances, Jack was feared and condemned by Jack Bailey, W. H. Lambert (afterwards Lord Mayor of Sydney), E. Grayndler, F. W. Lundie and all the other reactionaries. Jack Bailey, who later was alleged to be connected with the sensational ballot box scandal, was Cullinan’s particular enemy, and never hesitated on the floor of the convention to fearlessly criticise and scathingly condemn Bailey and his actions.
Charges of a most serious character relating to corrupt ballot practices in connection with the annual election of A.W.U. officials in New South Wales, were constantly being brought before the Sydney Convention. Cullinan, as secretary of the Western branch, with its head office at Armidale, was in a position to bring to light some of the fraudulent methods employed whereby to secure the election of certain individuals. But, notwithstanding the securing of irrefutable evidence of ballot faking on several occasions, as far as I know, no definite action was ever taken to punish the offenders of the inner and ruling powers of the A.W.U.
The day before Convention commenced one year, I met Jack Cullinan in the Manly Corso in the afternoon. He told me he had the faked ballot papers of a Naomi A.W.U. ballot in his possession and that those responsible would not hesitate at murder to get hold of this proof of their villainy. Excitedly Cullinan pulled a revolver out of his hip-pocket and wildly flourishing it said that he always carried it to shoot any of this crooked gang who tried to steal the tell-tale ballot papers.
These ballot slips, which were the subject of a committee inquiry at the Convention, were placed in a sealed parcel in the safe at the A.W.U. head office by Grayndler, general secretary, in the presence of members of the committee. The parcel was to be handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department. After the Convention concluded, Grayndler was absent from Sydney for some weeks. When the safe was searched for the parcel – it had disappeared. The safe had not been broken into, but unlocked. According to Grayndler, only the secretary, McPhee and the assistant secretary, Karl Alhurst, had a key. Grayndler informed the following Convention that he had “the utmost confidence in the integrity of these two officials.” But still, the damning evidence had disappeared.
Another mysterious disappearance of fraudulent ballot papers occurred when a Convention committee of inquiry (George Martens, M.H.R., was a member of that committee) at noon on a Saturday deposited all the documents in a parcel in the safe of the A.L.P. strong room at McDonnell House. Carey was then secretary of the A.L.P. On the following Monday morning when the safe was opened in the presence of the committee – the parcel had vanished! So there was evidently a real conjuring department attached to the A.W.U. or rather that section that traded in corrupt ballots and reactionary policies.
An incident in connection with the conscription referendum was my meeting Harry Taylor, after a lapse of 20 years. Taylor was a man of the highest integrity, brilliant intellect, and unselfish disposition. As young men we had first met in Sydney, prior to his departure in the “Royal Tar” with the New Australia Pioneers. With so much in common, Taylor and I became great friends, although it was some time before I discovered he was a passionate lover of Shelley the poet. When I made the happy discovery, it was in George Street, Sydney, we stopped to grasp hands and embrace each other to the astonished amusement of passers by.
Harry, on New Australia and Cosme, proved to be one of the too few genuine Communists, but to everyone’s regret, family affairs and a serious breakdown in health, compelled him to return to Australia.
Harry became owner and editor of the “Mildura Times,” and one of the best authorities on grape culture and dried fruits. He attended an Interstate Country Press Conference,’ held in Brisbane, and traced me to the “Daily Standard.”
We were, of course, delighted to meet, but within a few minutes the inevitable topic of conversation, the war, arose. To my amazed horror, I found that Harry was a conscriptionist. Fortunately I had learned through long experience never to argue with fanatics, fools, or rogues. A strict observance of this determination has saved me from much heart burning and wasted energy. So I told Taylor we would forget the war and all its horrors.
Harry was enraptured by the climate and resources of Queensland and had several long journeys in the southern part of the State before returning to Mildura.
The evening before he left Brisbane, Taylor came to “Cosme” for dinner. I warned Mrs. Lane not to talk about the war, but, as it happened, Roy Connelly, since well known in the journalistic world in Sydney and Brisbane, also came to dinner. Roy was then a young, wild Irish rebel, intensely radical, though it is hard to conceive the later Connolly as such. Dinner had not been long in progress before the “war” broke out. Connelly, a rabid anti-Britisher in regard to the war, immediately entered into a fiery argument with Taylor, who, goaded by Connelly’s unpatriotic (?) attacks on Britain and the allies, retorted in similar strain. Eventually Mrs. Lane, aroused by Harry’s bitter jingoism, could no longer refrain from joining in the wordy fray. At last I said: “Come, Harry, let us go to the other end of the room, and talk about Shelley – if he were alive he would not be a jingo conscriptionist. Like a flash Harry retorted: “Of course he would, because Shelley loved freedom, truth and justice.” I had enough control to laugh and say, “You are indeed hopeless.”
After the war, Taylor, like many other fine men and women, realised the full criminality of the war, and how honest, unsuspecting people had been fooled and lied to Harry had the courage and honesty to write a leader in his paper, freely acknowledging his war – mistaken judgment.
This recalls a similar courageous action by another fine Socialist – Professor Heron, who was one of the leading Socialist writers in the U.S.A. A master of the English language, Heron’s beautiful prose with his revolutionary outlook, made him an outstanding character in Socialist propaganda. When America joined the Allies, four of the most prominent America Socialists, John Spargo, Allan Benson (editor of “The Appeal to Reason”), Charles Russell and Professor Heron, were employed by the U.S.A. Government as missionaries to expound the war-gospel according to the Allies.
I was deeply shocked at Heron’s apostasy as his Socialist writings were a source of inspiration to me and many others. Some time after the war I read a poignant article by Heron, then a professor at the Florence (Italy) University, bitterly regretting the part he had played as a war advocate. He wrote (inter alia): “I am suffering the torments of the damned to know that I supported this unholy war and was responsible for inducing many to go and sacrifice themselves on the bloody altar of Mars, though I mistakenly believed that the war of the Allies was fought in a righteous cause.”
It would be interesting to know how many of our Australian anti-conscriptionist war-mongering Labour politicians have been honest enough to confess their blood guiltiness with respect to the war. I know of none, but I know scores who, with unblushing effrontery, denounce the Great War (because it is the vogue to do so) which they enthusiastically supported or kept a cowardly silence.
When the news of the Russian Revolution of February, 1917, reached Australia, with the acclamation of the Tory Press and Imperial capitalist governments, I immediately sensed that it was merely a political one – a change of exploiters The reports, meagre and heavily censored, did not supply any of the actual position or to what extent the Russian workers and peasants had participated.
In a “Jack Cade” article, headed “Russia in Revolt” – “A Political Upheaval” – “Capitalism Still Predominant” – I wrote (inter alia): “The new Russian Government, in common with all other belligerent governments, is determined to continue the war until certain trade objectives are attained, altogether independent of the desire or well-being of the workers. In Russia, as elsewhere, there is a rapidly increasing number of workers who only see in the war, as in all other capitalist wars, a bloody conflict between rival financial and commercial interests in which the common people gain no advantage but sacrifice everything. Knowing that this view is largely held amongst the Russian toilers, it is absurd to assume on the censored news which is permitted to be told, that the whole of the Russian people have revolted for the sole purpose of carrying on the war to a successful issue.
“To term it a people’s triumph is untrue. The cables from day to day mention in a casual way that the ‘extremists’ in Russia are hopelessly endeavouring to obtain some vague and Utopian results from the present reshuffling of the cards, but that they are only an insignificant minority and are rapidly being forced to abandon their revolutionary purposes. Yet,” I continued, “within the ken of these despised and impotent ‘extremists’ – lies the real revolution – the only revolution that counts as far as the workers are concerned. Political revolutions, such as has taken place in Russia, are sometimes of value to the workers in respect to government, but without economic freedom the worker is in reality but little better off and all such happenings are revolutions in name only. The very fact that the Tory and capitalist press in all countries applaud and countenance the Russian revolution, should, without further argument, prove to the workers of what little real value to the people at large the inauguration of the new Government is. How different was the attitude of the whole capitalist press towards the Paris Commune of 1871, which was really a revolution of the workers, denounced in the most bitter terms, slandered and hated, while the brutal massacring of the Paris workers, even women and children, was gleefully approved. Capitalism does not object to political changes, in fact violent political upheavals are often of direct advantage to the capitalist class, but economic revolution is a change feared and resisted to the utmost.
“Under the new Russian regime the millions of workers and peasants will still be ruthlessly exploited by their patriotic German-hating employers, and whether the purified anti-German Government succeed in smashing the hated Hun or not matters very little to the factory slaves or peasants of Russia, who will still be but a despised and overworked cog in the great machine of production for the boss’s profit.
“Under the newly constituted government the old vile caste of aristocratic landowners of Russia will still demand, and get, their pound of flesh from their unhappy tenants, and will still retain their many privileges, luxuries, and power. The factory owner, trader, the food exploiter, the usurer, will remain untouched as far as anything revolutionary is concerned, and can well afford to unctuously bless all such ‘revolutions’ as the present one.
“The worker can be, and is, robbed just as scientifically, just as constantly, under the protection of the great American Republic as under the tyranny of an autocratic Czar. Political freedom is certainly an advance on autocracy, but unless it is accompanied by economic freedom the lot of the toiler remains practically the same.
“As long as the whole edifice of civilisation is built upon the backs of the workers, as long as the governing and employing class are allowed by statutory law to exploit the labour of another class, as long as there is privilege, power, and luxury for one section of society at the expense of the misery, degradation, and toil of another section, so long is it idle to talk about a successful peoples’ revolution.
“There have been many successful revolutions of a kind, but never a successful and permanent one, of which it might truly be said that it was of the people, for the people. When that revolution comes, as it may sooner or later, then will the supporters of the present order, led by the capitalist press, be as loud in their denunciation as they are to-day in their praise of the Russian revolution, which, from the class conscious workers’ viewpoint, is but the changing of one set of taskmasters for another.” (“Jack Cade.”)
I have quoted this article at length because of the supreme importance of the later real Russian Revolution of November, 1917, when the Bolsheviks tore the mask off the face of their sham revolutionists and incurred the full venom and hatred of the capitalist class in every country in the world.
To me, as to many millions, the workers’ revolution in Russia, came as an inspiring revelation of the new society which we had dreamed of and toiled for with little hope in the immediate future. The triumph of the Russian workers lit a torch that flashed a light across the world that gives faith in the hope that the age-long tyranny of the select few over the masses of the people will soon be a nightmare of the past. So in my writings and contacts with the workers I continuously and passionately emphasised the vital importance of the Russian Revolution and the badly needed lessons to be learnt therefrom.
The stable foundations of the Communist society were being laid in Russia despite the virulent hostility of the workers’ enemies and the thinly veiled opposition of many “Labour” leaders.
One of the Russians in Brisbane who had escaped from the Siberian exile of the Czarist government, returned to Russia after the revolution. I had almost forgotten him in the strenuous whirl of activities in which I was constantly engaged. A letter I received from him dated January 25th, 1920, from Vladivostock, Siberia, caused me considerable pleasure, especially with regard to his appreciation of my militant articles. He wrote, inter alia: “My dear comrade Jack Cade: I am always so busy and I am living in such a condition that I had no opportunity to write you a letter, although I was always anxious to do so. But I was always reading the “Daily Standard” and enjoying your articles there. I always considered that the best part of this paper is the page ‘Among the Unions.’ Just a few days ago I had the fortune to read your splendid, well-informed, class-conscious workers’ article on the Russian Revolution in the ‘Daily Standard,’ dated November 18th. I really enjoyed this article, so did my fellow workers. I have already translated the article and published it in a certain local paper. The article made a very good impression, and gave a good result. Since your article was written, the Russian Revolution, or rather the International Revolution is rolling ahead with still greater speed and I believe that it will reach its goal before long.”
One of my most cherished memories with regard to the Russian Revolution are those relating to Professor W. T. Goode, who, as correspondent of the “Manchester Guardian,” had visited Russia before and after the Revolution and was recognised as a reliable authority on Russian affairs. On his return from Russia on a British destroyer where he had been imprisoned by order of the British Government and all his papers, notes, et cetera, confiscated, he startled the world of Britain by publishing a series of articles, “The Truth About Russia.’ It was the first time since the 1917 revolution that the truth of the epochal events in that maligned country had managed to pierce the wall of lies and anti-Bolshevik propaganda that had encircled Soviet Russia. Professor Goode, with Cook, secretary of the British Miners’ Union, and Colonel Malone, M.P. and a converted Communist, toured Britain lecturing on Russia and telling the people the long-concealed truth of the Bolsheviks. Malone, for his part in this “subservice agitation,” was arrested and served a sentence of six months gaol. Later he married and abandoned his erstwhile revolutionary activities.
Suffering from a serious breakdown, due to his self-sacrificing efforts in the cause of truth and humanity, Professor Goode embarked for Australia to recoup his health and visit near relatives in Sydney and New Zealand. Unfortunately for his own comfort and peace of mind, he was discovered by a newspaper reporter and consequently, despite his desire for rest and privacy, dragged once more into the whirlpool of a public lecturer on Soviet Russia. Goode was the first person to arrive in Australia who had visited Russia since the revolution.
Commencing a lecture on “The Truth about Russia,” Goode travelled to many places outside the larger centres of population and formed many friendships with the workers of the back country. I got into communication with him and invited him to stay with us at “Cosme” as long as he stayed in Brisbane. As our guest a very deep appreciation of Goode’s fine character, of his selflessness, and widespread sympathies, was born in the hearts of Mrs. Lane and myself. He, too, was thankful at the peace of mind and opportunity to quietly write undisturbed in the soothing charm of “Cosme” and its beautiful surroundings. A deep and lasting friendship was the result and he and I corresponded regularly after he returned to his home in Devonshire until his death a few years ago.
A small committee was formed in Brisbane, of which J. B. Miles, now secretary of the Australian Communist Party, then secretary of the Workers’ School, was a very active member. A most successful series of lectures were given by the professor, much to the wrath of the capitalist press and to the resentment and secret antagonism of reactionary and orthodox Labourites.
I still retain some of Goode’s letters in which the man’s nobility of character, high intellectual attainments and unshakeable adherence to the highest principles of living, found moving expression. Today Soviet Russia is accepted as a commonplace phase of world change or development. It is recognised as an integral part of the community of nations, and its Government admitted (even though secretly feared and hated) to the highest conclaves of other countries. Thus one is a apt to forget – even if they ever knew – the courageous fight against the most powerful forces in the world, fought by a few of those who saw the light of truth with regard to Russia, and at the risk of social ostracism, lost friendships, and many other cruel penalties, dared to stand almost alone and proclaim the justice and righteousness of the despised, the slandered Russian masses. Professor Goode, to his everlasting credit, was one of the pioneers in this battle for the honest recognition to the Bolsheviks right to their own destiny, and at a critical period when even many workers were ignorantly hostile to Soviet Russia, Goode by his self-sacrificing courage, rendered invaluable service, for which every truth lover owes him a debt of gratitude.
I make no apology in quoting the following extracts – taken haphazardly from the small amount of correspondence I retain from Goode: “The depression (1930) seems universal, save in Russia. That, of itself, sets up the backs of her enemies. Russia is going through a tight time, but one which her people knew well would come when they began to put their five year plan into execution. But they accepted the position to go ahead with a zeal and an enthusiasm which frightens others who now begin to fear, not only the political organisation and social position of Russia, but the possibilities for them of success in this industrialisation of the country. In fact, paradoxical as it may sound her enemies fear desperately her success, while proclaiming that she is an appalling failure. I have lived long enough to see the world pass through one cataclysm and enter on a stage from which there can be issue on one of two ways – by a complete overthrow – through a social revolution, or a disappearance, entire and swift, through the bitter animosities of people, fomented by the selfishness of the possessing class.
“Continue indefinitely in the present worsening conditions, economic and political, no country can. A few days ago I had a call from a Labour M.P., a former rebel, also the chief organiser, and two satellites. No one would infer from their talk that the country and world were anything but what they should be, and the M.P. was strong on the ‘comradeship’ of the House, which means that it is a great club, pure and simple, in which one gets stuck and gummed like a fly in treacle and loses all power of initiative.”
“Never mind,” he wrote, another time, “about being despised and rejected – we are all that who take up any line which runs counter to the follies of mankind. Choose your row – hoe it, and go on with the hoeing in spite of all. One has the supreme satisfaction of knowing that one has fought the good fight, and that if we fail or fall it is in a good cause.”
Referring to the British press (1931) Goode wrote: “The bulk of the newspapers are despicable, they distort their news, make comments lurid and play the game of the folks with purses, whether they be politicians, financiers or industrialists. For them the worker is just something to tread on. If he starve – well let him do so, wages will the sooner come to a reasonable (?) level.”
Following a vivid recountal of the miserable and hopeless position of the mass of the people, and the complete bankruptcy of the capitalist countries, Goode continued: – “It seems incredible to turn from all this to a country which was the Cinderella of Europe – Russia – and find the opposite to all that one sees in the West. A galling prospect for all the anti-Soviet people, English, French, American. But it is a real fact, and one which gradually forces recognition. Indeed, it is just this view, just this comparison, which forces the idea, or prophecy, if you prefer it, that the era on which we have just started will end in one supreme conflict – Communism against all other ideas or systems.”
Late and present developments throughout the world testify to the remarkable accuracy of this forecast by Professor Goode and the inevitability of the final conflict between the disinherited workers, “The Army of the Night,” and all the forces of capitalism whether it be in the guise of Fascism, Nazism, Imperial democracies or prostituted Labour Parties. And my own unshakeable belief, despite the many disillusionments and bitter disappointments I have encountered during the battle of life, is that the Communists – the working class – will achieve a glorious victory in the coming Armageddon.
In the meantime, all the pettifogging sections of the capitalist world, which include reactionary Labour Parties, ally themselves with the masters of finance and industry to stem the irresistible advance of the Communist faith. But all in vain. As the Turkish proverb says: “The dogs bark – but the caravan moves on.”
In the last letter I received from Goode, just before his death, he wrote with his usual brave and undaunted spirit, sending a final message of comfort, comradeship, and hope. “I hope and hope again,” he wrote, “that things go, if not well, at least satisfactorily with you. The world turns upon its prophets – its good men, I know, but I would have you free from its claws. Anything else would be too unjust and cruel. I saw that ‘Bob’ Ross had gone. Another link with your side of the world broken. But it is of no use to repine. When the long day’s work is done, hand on the torch, and rest. Antony’s cry rings in my ear: – ‘Unarm, the long day’s work is done.’ But as long as health lasts it is difficult to lay down one’s arms; at least I find it so. And after all we have plenty of which to be proud, plenty to justify hopes. We have not yet arrived at the state of Job’s wife counselling the old boy to ‘Curse God and die.’ And if that be true, it is true also that ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’ and we will do nothing to quench it.”
The advent of the Bolsheviks to power in Russia aroused the bitter malignity of the capitalist world and its press and a turgid flood of distortion and lies regarding the Soviet Government was poured forth on this greatest menace to capitalist society. Official Labour also saw in the workers’ government in Russia a challenge to their audacious pose as genuinely representing the working class, with odious comparisons to Labour’s utter failure to even attempt to carry out bona fide working class policies. Consequently the cry of the capitalist press and politician that Bolshevism was the negation of all principles of democracy or justice, and a menace to civilisation was re-echoed in the camp of reactionary Labour, who greatly feared the floodlight thrown upon their own ineptitude and hypocritical platitudes through the success of the Bolsheviks. Not only the capitalist press and its adherents, but also official Labour in Australia branded all militant action on the part of the workers and radical workers as “Bolshevism” and “Bolsheviks.” Any stick was good enough to use to attack all who dared to stand upright.
The Tory and the reactionary Labourite alike have always used as a term of opprobrium and scornful rejection of all militant workers the name attached to the left wing section of the Labour movement. Prior to Bolshevism, the “Industrial Workers of the World” was the stalking horse thus used. “I.W.W.-ism” and “I.W.W.-ite” connoted to official Labour – with their capitalist bed-fellows – all that was most immoral and iniquitous in political and even private life. This term of scorn and detestation was displaced by Bolshevism, later to give way to the present name of Communist for all “agitators and disruptors.”
Writing on the misuse of the term “Bolshevism” as so eagerly seized upon by all sections of reactionary Labour and otherwise to discredit militant workers, I wrote, in the “Daily Standard,” an article, “Bolshevism the Scapegoat,” concluding thus: “However, no sincere advocate of working class emancipation will object to being termed a Bolshevik, rather will the name be accepted with pride as an honourable one signifying the acceptance and adherence of a faith that recognises only the one class which is open for every human being to belong to, viz., the working class, to whom shall belong the earth and the fullness thereof, and to none else. Bolshevism, rightly or wrongly, has been proclaimed by capitalist governments and press as the name whereby shall be known (and suppressed if possible) all those workers who seek drastic changes and the overthrow of capitalism. The challenge may well be eagerly accepted, and if Bolshevism means uncompromising and bitter war against the whole capitalist system, then no class-conscious workers will regard it with anything but joy. The hopes, aspirations, and results of Bolshevism will find a passionate and ready response wherever there is a wrong to be righted – a human desire struggling for articulation.
“In every workshop brooding woe,
In every hut that harbours grief,
Ah! is it not the breath of life
That pants and struggles for relief?”
A reminiscence of the hostile attitude of Labour politicians with regard to the Soviet Government is on an occasion when Jack Curtin, since leader of the Federal Labour Party, on a visit to Brisbane, had dinner with us at “Cosme.”
During the evening’s conversation, Soviet Russia was being discussed, and I extolled the inspiring achievements of that government with natural critical comparison of the Australian Labour Party’s ignominious failure to function as a genuine Labour Party. Curtin, as a Labour politician, did not appreciate this truth and forthwith criticised and belittled the Soviets, using all the insidious arguments that were, and still are, the stock-in-trade of all anti-working class parties and individuals. I was astonished at Curtin being stupid enough to attempt to “put over” this sort of twaddle on me or anyone who had a sound knowledge of the truth about Russia, and told him so, also very quickly exposing his fallacious arguments. In reply to my resentment at his method of attempting to discredit the Soviet Government, he said, “When one is engaged in an argument one makes use of every point possible to uphold his cause.”
This political morality, however, never appealed to me, even in the sacred cause of substantiating an argument or a slanderous attack on the Russian workers. Curtin’s utterances in this matter gave me a pretty clear insight into the underlying make-up of Curtin as a Labour politician, and many of his later actions and speeches, as leader of the Party, have fully borne out my opinion of him, formed on his anti-Bolshevik “argument.”
It was at “Cosme,” too, that, prior to the appearance of Curtin on the political stage, I heard first-hand evidence of the kind of morality that dominates the inner circles of the A.L.P. Jim Page, M.H.R. for Maranoa and Federal Party representative on the Queensland executive, was discussing politics at our home one day. Like other politicians who I have well known on occasions, they spoke frankly of the effect of politics on Labour members and how their whole outlook on life and their responsibilities to the workers became warped and distorted.
Page, in one of these moments of frankness, said “Look here, Ernie, I know you haven’t a very high opinion of Labour politicians, but if you or any workers were present at a party caucus meeting and witnessed the intrigue, the selfishness of individuals, the gross abandonment or betrayal of working class principles, you would be horrified. If the workers of Queensland only knew the inside truth and what really goes on, not one of us would ever be elected again!”
If this was the mentality and position of Labour politicians 20 years ago what must they be like today after all these years of corroding political power and prestige.
An emotional man, Page, towards the end of the war, realised its true criminality and horror. Meeting him on a tram going home one evening, he indignantly condemned the war as a murderous outrage on humanity. I told Mrs. Lane this when I got home. The next evening Mrs. Lane said to me “Don’t you ever tell me anything again about Jim Page’s detestation of the war. I was in town today and heard him in a recruiting speech from the Post Office steps urge and plead for the young men to join the army to participate in the European blood bath.”
Truly the politician’s mind must be a strange conglomeration of warring emotions – the eternal battle between right and wrong. But unhappily it seems that with very rare exceptions, expediency and cowardice induces them not to take a stand against popular prejudices, but to drift with the tide, to blow wherever the wind listeth. After all there is seemingly as much grim truth as caustic wit in the old anarchist motto “All men are born equal – but some descend to Parliament.”
The big industrial upheaval that shook Australia in 1917, marked a new phase in the history of Australian trade unionism. Commencing in the New South Wales railway workshops, the strike spread with startling rapidity. Union after union, without counting the bitter cost, downed tools to try to assist their fellow workers in their hour of need. Without any preparation for what would inevitably resolve itself into a long drawn out fight against hopeless odds, the rank and file of the N.S.W. unions did not hesitate to declare that craft distinctions did not count in time of battle, that an injury to one was an injury to all, irrespective of the calling or section to which the workers happened to belong. The ultimate defeat of the workers did not detract from the value of the fight in many ways. Bitter lessons learnt and a realisation as never before of the oneness of Labour, of the urgent necessity for the closest possible organisation and unity amongst all the unions. The strike gave a great impetus to the One Big Union scheme which was now the outstanding question being seriously considered by unions throughout the Commonwealth.
Under the heading “The Workers’ Glory,” I wrote a Jack Cade article extolling the unselfish action of the workers and emphasising the lessons taught. The article stated (inter alia):
“The magnificent solidarity of the men and women who have indeed fought the good fight of human advancement – human freedom and human comradeship – is one of the outstanding phases of the titanic battle just concluded. The spontaneous and enthusiastic realisation of the workers of the oneness of Labour, of the eternal justice of the workers’ cause, found soul-moving expression in the noble action of the scores of thousands who, in order to testify their unbounding faith in the brotherhood of toil, cast aside all calculating or restraining influences, made the hard-pressed railwaymen’s cause their own, and flung themselves into the thick of the bloody fray.
“It was not scientific industrial warfare – it was no carefully conceived plan whereby to match or outwit the cunning of the fuller capitalist plot – it was merely a humane and indignant protest by the workers against a vile injustice to other members of the working class, and as such was a glorious triumph of true unionism. Starvation, humiliation, victimisation, and slander have been meted out to these unionists, who, regardless of cost, took up the cause of their fellows. It is poor material comfort to say that these starving, victimised workers, callously bludgeoned into defeat by the overwhelming power of money, have proved their magnificent fidelity to the great principle of working class solidarity. But the solidarity and unselfishness shown during the recent industrial trouble has been the one grand redeeming feature of the campaign. True to their class, with an abiding faith in the justice of the cause, these workers have rendered a service to the whole of the Labour movement of the Commonwealth, that can never be over-estimated, that overwhelmingly counterbalances the apparent defeat of today.
“In the meantime, much remains to be done by the workers if they desire to even retain what privileges they have today. Closer unity – a linking up of the whole of the unions throughout the land – a clear and unmistakable confession – by action – of the community of interest of all the workers. A speedy breaking down of the present craft distinctions that have spelt nothing but disaster in the past. A sane and practical realisation of real industrial organisation to the complete exclusion of the pettifogging, infinitesimal tactics, principles, and ideals of the old unionism. Organisation to the utmost limits on these lines, a complete abandonment of the old system, of unionism with its aloofness, its castes, and its narrow vision.
“Organisation on the broad and challenging lines of Big Unionism, coupled with the fine spirit of comradeship so splendidly illustrated in the recent struggle, and the Labour movement with the unions, will sweep on from triumph to triumph, until at last the crowning victory of industrial emancipation, the abolition of the whole system of wage slavery, will reward the workers and gladden the hearts of all those who are today enduring a penurious life of toil, under the benign regime of exploiting profiters.”
I am afraid that this vision in 1917 of a united irresistible working class movement in Australia has not materialised. The day has not yet come wherein the exploiters will be unknown and the people come into their own. But, despite Arbitration Courts and time-serving Labour politicians, the delayed victory of the workers is nearer, much nearer, than it was in 1917, and the lessons of that testing is today bearing fruit.
The immediate effect of the 1917 upheaval was to give a great impetus to the movement for the formation of One Big Union to displace the ineffective and disunited craft and sectional unions. The I.W.W., as the pioneer of this bigger unionism, had accomplished invaluable work in implanting this ideal in the minds of many Australian unionists, and in every State there was an ever growing swing in this direction.
The defeat of the unions in 1917 had revealed how impotent sectional unionism was to meet in combat the powerful and organised forces of capitalism. A Commonwealth-wide agitation for the One Big Union captured the imagination of thousands of unionists, also the fear and hostility of those unions and officials who dreaded any revolutionary change that imperilled their comfortable positions or called a halt to their reactionary policy.
After a series of union conferences in the various States, an All Australian Trades Union Conference was held in Melbourne, January, 1910. All States, including Tasmania, were represented and the preamble, classification and rules of the “Workers Industrial Union of Australia” were adopted.
The Queensland delegates at the conference were “Tim” Moroney, secretary of the Queensland branch of the Australian Railways’ Union, and W. J. (Billy) Wallace, secretary of the Queensland Painters’ Union. Wallace, about this time, was also honorary secretary of the Brisbane Industrial Council, which office he held until the amalgamation of the Council, Eight Hour Committee, and Trades Hall Board, when R. J. Mulvey, secretary of the Eight Hour Committee, became secretary of the new Trades and Labour Council.
One of the “old guard,” a pioneer of the Queensland Labour movement, Wallace has never faltered in his adherence to the basic principles of working class organisation, either politically or industrially. Today, as yesterday, “Billy” Wallace is in the forefront of the fight, ever ready to take an active part in the militant movement activities however unpopular it may be. He is one of the very, very few union officials who have retained the ideals of their youth and never deviated from the hard and thorny path that does not lead to political preferment or remunerative office. As fellow members of the old South Brisbane Workers’ Political Organisation (now known as A.L.P. branches), and on many radical committees, I have been closely associated with Wallace for many years. We have often fought together in forlorn hopes, and he has never yet sounded the retreat.
The strongest opposition to the O.B.U. (One Big Union) came from the Australian Workers Union which, or rather its bureaucratic officials and executive, regarded the O.B.U. as an unscrupulous poacher on its preserves and a revolutionary menace to the “sane” moderate Labour movement. Added to this was an intense personal hostility by leading A.W.U. officials, which included the general secretary, E. Grayndler, Jack Bailey, W. Blakely, F. Lundie, Senator Barnes, W. J. Riordan, W. J. Dunstan, and many others to “Jock” Garden and other militant O.B.U. advocates.
This hostility assumed a more frenzied character as the O.B.U. movement permeated the ranks of the unions, including the mighty A.W.U., and one would imagine that the real enemies of the workers were not the exploiting employers but those militant officials and unionists who objected to capitalist Arbitration Court methods and Labour duplicity and reactionaryism.
There was a strong militant section of the Queensland branch of the A.W.U., and at the annual delegate meeting we were in a majority, much to the disgust of the secretary and president, W. J. Dunstan and W. J. Riordan. Unfortunately as part of an Australian organisation, the powers of the Queensland branch were very restricted, and many militant resolutions or recommendations were subject to the endorsement or rejection of the annual Australian Convention then held at Sydney. There, Dunstan and Riordan were in the bosom of their reactionary comrades. The Convention always had a good majority whereby to sandbag the “reds,” “I.W.W.” or whatever term of opprobrium all militants were labelled. Therefore we received little mercy from the convention in our persistent efforts to make the A.W.U. a bona fide working class organisation.
This regrettable conflict of personalities and petty prejudices between individuals in opposing camps has been all too common amongst the unions. It has resulted in the collapse or failure of numerous well-founded schemes to further the interest of the workers and lessen some of the injustice and hardships which are the lot of the toilers. On more than one occasion the helpless rank and file have been literally crucified on a cross of fierce personal antagonisms that has raged without any thought of its dire consequences between some of the leaders of different policies or schools of thought.
I have sometimes said that the greatest blessing that could befall the workers would be for these bellicose officials to be taken in a boat to sea and abandoned as derelicts. Mutual jealousies – a frantic scramble of the opposing officials for positions of power and affluence has been and still are to a large extent, one of the most serious obstacles to the desired united front of the working class. To the credit of the Queenslanders, they, with few exceptions, refused to be dragged into the mire of militarist conscription. There was one well known union, however, the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, that declared its adherence to conscription. The reactionary character of this union can be gauged by the fact that, at a State conference in Brisbane during the war years, the delegates were entertained at a civic reception by the Tory Brisbane City Council! Such an honour (?) was unique in the history of Queensland unionism. When this conference concluded, a dinner function was held by the union to which was invited press representatives from the bitterly anti-Labour metropolitan press – “Courier,” “Daily Mail,” and “Telegraph,” as well as the “Daily Standard.” As the “Standard” had a monopoly of all union official news and reports, this was also a significant indication of the outlook of the locomen’s union. I, as industrial writer of the “Daily Standard,” had to report the function. At the head of the table – honoured guests – were a number of the highest officials of the Queensland Railway Department, excluding the Commissioner. The speeches by the union representatives and the railway officials were, of course, of an intensely reactionary and ignorant character. Pride was expressed at the “comradeship” that existed between the loco men and the departmental heads. The policy of collaboration and understanding between the workers and the employers was extolled and unctuously blessed as the bedrock of all sane unionism. As I listened and reported this damnable heresy, this repudiation of real unionism, I saw “red.” Before the last toast, “The Press,” was proposed, the other reporters had left, so I was called on to respond. Seething with indignation, I determined, whatever the consequences, to strip the veil of ignorance and hypocrisy from the caricature of unionism and society that had been expressed by the speakers. I branded the “mutual interest of employers and employees” policy as a lie and treachery to the working class. I told them of the glories of the Russian Revolution, what it connoted, and whether they liked it or not the world was being swept by a revolutionary urge that would sweep all opposing forces as they into oblivion. At the first pause in my talk, I fully expected to be howled down. Instead, to my amazement, there was a solid round of applause from the 200 rank and file members of the union who were present. When I finished I received an ovation and they crowded around me and declared mine was the only speech worth hearing, and if I didn’t report it fully in the “Standard,” they would complain that the report was not a correct one. Needless to say, I did not report my own speech. Anyway, it was a refreshing experience and the indignant astonishment on the faces of the “heads” as they unwillingly listened to my revolutionary utterances added a touch of humour and satisfaction to the evening’s entertainment.
It is only fair to add that, like many others, the Loco. Enginemen’s Union has seen the light, left the old beaten track of class collaboration, and joined hands with other unions to demand for their members a place in the sun.
As one of the Queensland delegates of the A.W.U., I attended the State Labour-in-Politics Convention, held in Brisbane in January-February, 1918. Dunstan, secretary of the A.W.U. (Queensland branch), had been most anxious to attend, but, as the date clashed with the commencement of the A.W.U. annual convention in Sydney, he resolved to use all his personal influence with the members of the A.W.U. Australian executive to postpone the convention for a week. I had been elected that year as Queensland councillor on the Australian executive to the exclusion of Dunstan, and was also desirous of being present at the A.L.P. convention, though not for the same reasons as Dunstan, who was successful in securing the postponement of the Sydney convention. But the plan miscarried with regard to Dunstan, as the Queensland A.W.U. delegate meeting elected myself (with the biggest vote), G. Martens, Harry Bruce, and Jack Dash. Riordan, who would also have been defeated with Dunstan, shrewdly sensed disaster, and withdrew from the ballot and quietly secured a nomination from Bourke.
As usual, the A.L.P. convention was dominated by the Labour politicians, and the “moderates” had a vote of about 48 to the militants 22. There were 13 Labour politicians, including W. M. Gillies (later Premier), W. Forgan Smith, W. McCormack, E. G. Theodore, T. J. Ryan (Premier), and Charlie McDonald, M.H.R.
On the opening day “Tim” Moroney and I took our seats with three other rebels at one of the tables provided close to the platform. Theodore immediately dubbed it “The Bolshevik Table” and, by a strange mischance, McCormack sat with us.
On the third day, despite the badly concealed fear and opposition of the politicians, the convention carried a lengthy and all-embracing resolution which, in the nature of an exhaustive preamble, reviewed and condemned the world war.
I had forced the convention, on the second day, to admit a reporter from the “Daily Standard,” whose reports, however, were subject to a press committee, of which McCormack and Lewis McDonald were members. The report of the day’s proceedings published in the “Daily Standard” following the debate and adoption of the peace resolution, I found at the luncheon adjournment, had no reference whatever to the question. I saw, of course, that it had been censored, so I resolved to take drastic action to break up the convention. Prior to the resumption of convention, I conferred with Moroney and others and agreed to move the adjournment of the convention to direct attention to the gross suppression of the peace proposals in the report. In the event of obtaining no satisfaction, the militant section – about 20 delegates – decided to leave the convention. Lewis McDonald had evidently been watching me and called me. He said: “When I got to the office at lunch, I found three or four sheets of the manuscript of the convention report had blown off the table!” In reply to me he said it was the portion of the report dealing with the peace proposals and that he would instantly take it to the “Standard” for inclusion in the second edition. As that was all that was required we, of course, let the matter drop. I heard later that McDonald, breathless and ghastly white, had rushed to the “Standard” office with the “mislaid” report.
All through the convention the militants waged a hopeless fight against the forces of the politicians. It was bad enough then, 20 years ago, but with the constantly growing power and unscrupulousness of the Labour politicians and their henchmen, with the banishment of the left wing, Labour conventions are to-day little better than a hollow mockery.
But the historic fight on the 1918 A.L.P. convention was that which on the last day raged round the following motion which I moved: – “That this convention urges upon the Federal Labour convention the necessity in the interests of the workers of Australia of the immediate repeal of the compulsory clauses of the Defence Act, and that the Queensland delegates to the Federal convention be instructed to vote accordingly.”
At the commencement of the debate, McCormack offered to bet five to one that the motion would be defeated. I have been in many hard fought and bitter fights on conferences but the one which this question raised I consider was the most intense of all. As the afternoon wore on one could sense a swinging over of the moderates, to the left wing. Riordan foolishly rose and opposed the motion. I told Moroney, who had not yet spoken, that at the Queensland A.W.U. delegate meeting the previous week, at which Riordan had presided, I had moved a similar motion which had been carried unanimously. Following Riordan, Moroney exposed the audacious attitude of Riordan, who sat a humiliated and furious man. We told the convention that the workers of Queensland were waiting to see who were the real conscriptionists – those who supported the lowest form of conscription – that of the boys. The gloves were off and we undoubtedly frightened some of the reactionaries to desert their political masters. With the exception of Charlie Collins, every Labour politician delegate voted against the motion. Randolph Bedford, who was not a delegate, but only a visitor, with his well-known jingo Australian outlook, continually interjected across to the anti-conscriptionists. Bedford’s action so annoyed one of the country A.L.P. delegates, an elderly bearded man who happened to sit in front of Bedford, and who had voted enthusiastically with the politicians all through the convention, that he actually voted with the hated “reds.”
The finishing touch to an historic fight was just after the chairman, T. J. Ryan, had closed the debate. Charlie Collins rose to his feet. “Let me speak,” he cried, “I will not give a silent vote on such a question. Every time I go down the street and see a man in military uniform my whole soul shudders. If this motion is defeated this convention shall be known for all time as the Black Conscription Convention!” It was a thrilling moment when the vote was taken; Moroney and I demanded a division, “so that the workers of Queensland would know who were the conscriptionists.” The voting was 38 for the anti-compulsory clauses, and 20 against, who looked a very sorry lot when they had to stand up and have their names recorded.
The next morning I left for Sydney to engage in the annual forlorn hope fight against the might of the A.W.U. reaction. That year I was in constant fights for six weeks, viz., A.W.U. delegate meeting, nearly two weeks; A.L.P. convention, one week; A.W.U. convention, three weeks; so that I had more than a fair share of strenuous work and was indeed glad to get home and enjoy the peace of “Cosme.”
In connection with the war, and Labour parties’ attitude thereon, a later incident in this year is illuminating. Although the Queensland Labour Government had remained solid on the anti-conscriptionist question, the policy of Labour had not diverged from that of undeviating support of the war. It was too unpopular to oppose the strong jingoistic fervour that was rampant and any tendency to peace talk was calculated to lose votes at the election. Therefore, all efforts of the more militant unions and A.L.P. members to force a courageous change in the policy failed.
Quite a large number of responsible members of the Queensland Labour Party, including some Labour members, still went on the recruiting platform to assist the militarists to obtain yet more cannon fodder for the front firing line. This was in 1918, when the Allies’ part in the war had been exposed as the conflict to vanquish a dangerous economic and trade rival. In view of this situation, when there was a rapidly spreading detestation of the war madness that had cost millions of lives and brought desolation to countless homes, it was an outrage on every principle, of Labour, in common humanity, that Labour representatives should be permitted to degrade the movement by calling for still more bloody slaughter. So I resolved to endeavour to force the Queensland Central Executive of the A.L.P. to prohibit any Labour representative from committing the enormity of recruiting. The following is the motion I moved: –
“That in view of the fact that the Federal Government has persistently refused to depart from its war policy of a ‘military victory,’ of annexation of the German colonies in the Pacific and elsewhere and is bitterly antagonistic to bringing about an end to the war by ‘peace by negotiation methods,’ as adopted by various Labour conferences, including Queensland, and further, that as this Executive is firmly of the opinion that the war as conducted by the Allied Governments, has developed into a war of aggrandisement, can no longer be termed a war for democracy, and that its continuance is diametrically opposed to every interest of the workers, therefore, this Executive representing the Q.C.E. of the Australian Labour Party is emphatically of the opinion that no Labour representative should appear on recruiting platforms or in any way endeavour to induce men to enlist.”
One would have thought that there would not have been any opposition to such a resolution in 1918, but the motion was the prelude to a bitter and stupid attack on me by Theodore. “Where was Mr. Lane,” he shouted, “when the war started?” “Just where I am now,” I interjected, dumbfounded at his scurrilous audacity in inferring that I had ever done anything but denounce the war for the unholy thing it was.
“It is all very well for Mr. Lane at this late hour of the war to come here trying to get a little cheap popularity by talking peace and anti-war.”
After a heated debate I replied that if these assumably picked leaders of the Labour movement did not know the truth about the damnable war by now or had not the decency to tell it then they were not fit to occupy any responsible position in a working class movement. It was all in vain. It is almost unbelievable, but this motion to stop Labour representatives recruiting in 1918 was actually defeated by a full meeting of the Q.C.E.!
Going home that evening with Jim Page, I said: “I don’t mind defeat in any fight, I have been in that position almost all through my life, but I admit feeling very hurt at being lyingly accused by Theodore to-day of being a cowardly opportunist on the war issue.” Page replied: “You should not let that trouble you in the least, Ernie; everyone at the Q.C.E. meeting knows you and where you have always stood – and they also know Theodore!”
The action of the Q.C.E. in its cowardly refusal to do anything to encourage a cessation of the murderous capitalist war, to abandon a subservient policy of support of the militarist beast, was typical of the attitude of Labour politicians, with a few honourable exceptions, throughout the Commonwealth. Yet, when the war ended, and the inevitable reaction against war and militarism swept Australia, the erstwhile war-mongering Labour Party and its mouthpieces had the brazen effrontery to proclaim from the housetops and highways their detestation of the war and denounce the authors and causes of it as capitalist bandits.
Is it any wonder that I and others who, in exposing the true inwardness of the war, for four long years endured the bitter hostility and scorn of miscalled Labour leaders, have lost all respect or confidence in a Labour Party that did not hesitate to betray the workers and unhesitatingly assisted to prolong the inhuman slaughter.
The Labour Party’s audacious pose since the war of an honest anti-war party in view of its own war record, is surely a glaring example of political perfidity and expediency – and cynicism.
Labour and Socialist parties in other countries who had likewise betrayed the workers in their hysterical support of the war, now it was over, join in the now popular denouncement of militarism and war. At an International Labour conference, held at Amsterdam, a delegate -Philip Snowden – welcomed this eleventh hour repentance, but remarked that it was just as well, to also remember the war policies of Labourites and Socialists when the war crisis arose. On the basis of this report I wrote a “Jack Cade” article “The Australian Labour Party and the War,” severely – but truthfully – reviewing the Party’s policy throughout the war period. This much required reminder of Australian Labour’s failure to function as a courageous, non-war-mongering party in a time of crisis, was evidently too bitter a pill to swallow as it was not published, being one of the few “Jack Cade” articles thus treated during J. V. McDonald’s editorship of the “Daily Standard.”
It has been well said that “Stupidity is the root of all the evils of the world – and war is the supreme evil, because it is the supreme stupidity.” Labour or so-called Socialist parties who, for whatever obscure reason, countenanced or approved the greatest “supreme stupidity,” cannot by any manner of political juggling escape their responsibility for the ignoble role they played throughout the war.
As a member of the Queensland Central Executive of the Australian Labour Party for nearly ten years, from 1915 onwards, I have had the opportunity of gauging the depths of political mendacity and expediency which were the cardinal points of that select and all-powerful organisation. The experience has been invaluable insofar as it enabled me to get a close-up view of the machinery of Labour-in-Politics and to assess at their true value the genuineness of the Labour Party’s assumption to express the ideals and lead the workers of this State out of the House of Capitalist bondage.
The experience has sufficed to convince me that the Labour Party as functioning to-day, is far removed from its original purpose. Instead of honestly facing the position and courageously challenging the right of the capitalist exploiting system to any longer rob and sweat the mass of the people, the Labour Party has degenerated into an effete and reactionary organisation that, in some instances, rivals its political opponents in its vicious anti-working class activities.
Dominated by Labour Ministers, the Q.C.E. has always pursued the path of compromise and adopted vote-snaring policies even though the trusting workers were thrown to the lions in the process.
Although there is a majority of direct industrial representative members of the Q.C.E., unfortunately with few exceptions these delegates have been and are spineless followers of the Labour politicians. To successfully resist the autocracy and overbearing egotism of the purely political section of the Q.C.R an industrial representative has to possess knowledge, intelligence and courage wherewith to meet and overcome the powerful and insidious influence exercised by the politicians. Very few Q.C.E. members had these qualifications with the inevitable result that the Theodores, McCormacks and Forgan Smiths have always been the senior dominating authority on the Q.C.E. On terms of personal friendship with many members of the Q.C.E., I invariably found myself in fierce antagonism to them on practically every serious working class question that came before us for discussion or decision. There was, of course, a small minority of militant members which always included the two representatives of the Australian Railways Union, with a varying number of other radical delegates. But in those days there was at least a determined and class conscious militant group on the Q.C.E. who never faltered in their intense advocacy of fundamental Labour principles and to whom the majesty and prestige of Labour Premiers and Ministers had no awe. We were a continual source of annoyance and detestation to the political right wing, forcing its adherents on all occasions to discard the mask of workers’ true representatives and reveal their real identity as time servers and place hunters. Today that virile section of the Q.C.E. no longer exists. The expulsion of the A.R.U. – my own eclipse, plus the rapid deterioration of the Labour Party and of militant unionism down to the last decade, has rendered the Q.C.E. a virtual monopoly of the politician.
It was – and still is, I suppose – esteemed one of the highest honours in the Queensland Labour Party, to be a member of the Q.C.E. I, however, never had that conception of its greatness. I often used to wonder if Theodore, Lewis McDonald & Co. considered I was honoured to be in the Q.C.E. – in the same caste as they were – as I, a militant, actually felt humiliated to be regarded as in the same class as these perverters of the Labour movement.
My first insight into the real Forgan Smith with regard to his claim to be a genuine workers’ representative occurred on the Q.C.E. I had been particularly friendly with him on account of his Socialist faith and apparent honesty. At a Q.C.E. meeting, the militants were making the usual vain attempt to force the Parliamentary party to give effect to a reasonable claim of the workers. Forgan Smith arose with blustering indignation to strongly resent the “audacity” of the Q.C.E. to attempt to “dictate” to the Labour Government. He swelled visibly in venting his righteous wrath at our simplicity in imagining that the Q.C.E. or any other working class organisation had any right to advise or control the mighty Labour Government. This revelation by this later lath-and-plaster “Labour” Premier, was more than sufficient for me to disregard for all time his pretensions as a bona-fide Labour representative. Forgan Smith at that time was not even a Minister, so one can humorously try to conceive what kind of an egotist he must be to-day as a Premier. “The never-ending audacity of the elected person!” that scathing indictment of Walt Whitman’s, surely must have been born as specially designed to apply to Labour politicians – not only in this State but elsewhere.
I soon discovered that Theodore, McCormack, J. Fihelly and the rest of the political bunch, had a philosophy and outlook with regard to the Labour movement that filled one with amazed contempt. This outlook was, of course, not openly expressed, but countless actions clearly indicated its acceptance and operation. Whenever a serious question was dealt with by the Q.C.E., the attitude adopted by these gentry was not, “Is this a right or wrong principle from the Labour point of view,” but “How will this affect our welfare?” Then they considered whether they could with safety adopt a line of action that they could “get away with,” to delude or bluff the workers. If it was considered too brazen or risky to do so, the plastic politicians would make a virtue of necessity and do the right thing by the workers. As far as my knowledge of the politicians on the Q.C.E. is concerned, I never knew them to frankly adopt a genuine working class principle without demur – unless it happened to suit them.
The endorsement of nominees for official or parliamentary positions also revealed the unscrupulous methods of the Q.C.E. right wingers. With an effrontery that almost commanded respect (it did amazement) a separate method of considering the endorsements of their own friends and supporters and the condemned militants was unblushingly exercised. One of the right brand was always sure of approval unless he had committed some outrageous crime which even the Q.C.E. could not overlook. On the other hand the unfortunate militant nominee who might happen to be the victim of even a rumour of some slight misdemeanour, was subject to every conceivable form of obstruction and was lucky to pass the test and secure endorsement. But at least in this period 20 years ago or less, members of the Q.C.E. had to give their reasons for objecting to endorsing any nominee in open meeting. Latterly even this mild privilege has apparently been jettisoned as a nominee’s name goes to a silent, secret ballot.
I had always on the Q.C.E. opposed the endorsement as a Labour representative of any employer and, of course, in every instance of this objection the endorsement had been granted. A resolution from the Paddington W.P.O., “That no member of an employers’ federation or association be eligible as a Labour representative” was adopted at a Labour-in-Politics convention at Rockhampton and added to the rules and constitution of the Labour Party.
Shortly afterwards, at a Q.C.E. meeting, the name of an employer was submitted for endorsement. I said that as always I would oppose it, but pointed out that, owing to the Rockhampton resolution, the position was now entirely different and the endorsement could not now be granted. But I had not yet evidently realised the cunning tricks of the Labour politicians to gain their own selfish ends and defeat the workers. Theodore virulently attacked me, “another heresy hunt by Mr. Lane,” and he declared that the Rockhampton convention did not intend the new rule to apply to employers generally. It really meant, he said, members of employers’ organisations with a political platform opposed to the Australian Labour Party!
I protested against the outrageous absurdity of this interpretation of the intention of the convention to exclude employers from the Labour Party. I pointed out that employers’ federations, chambers of commerce, or other employers’ organisations did not have any political platform in their constitutions, but every worker knew how bitterly anti-Labour they were. “Billy” Demaine exclaimed with horror: “Why, you would exclude me as I am a member of the Printing Trade Employers’ Association.” “That would be tragical,” I retorted, “but you would be only a small sacrifice for a fundamental Labour principle.”
However, the resolution to exclude employers from the movement was thrown into the waste paper basket as something that would be a source of danger to the welfare of the Labour Party.
On account of W. G. Higgs’s (Labour M.H.R., Capricornia) very questionable attitude on the conscription issue, but more particularly on his very definite antagonism to a proposed conscription of wealth and to relieve the workers of some of their burden, I opposed his re-endorsement, stating that I had too high a regard for the Labour movement to agree to the nomination of such a representative. Of course, I received no support, only abuse. Within three years Higgs was called upon by the Q.C.E. to show cause why he should not be expelled from the Labour Party! Every member of the Q.C.E., including Moroney, with the sole exception of myself, received a personal letter from Higgs “explaining” his actions, but he was repudiated by the Q.C.E. and eventually got put out of politics.
It has been my experience in connection with the Q.C.E., that although its meetings were supposedly confidential and details of decisions and discussions not to be divulged, I never received the benefit or protection of this loyalty. Always, within a few hours of the Q.C.E. meetings, any action or utterance on my part against crooked or non-working class individuals was always conveyed to the persons concerned.
The advent of the I.W.W. in Australia, about 1913, supplied a badly needed energy in the direction of militant industrialism which, under the combined retarding influence of Arbitration Courts and Labour politicians, had lost most of the uncompromising virility that had been such an encouraging feature of the earlier movement in Queensland. As an insistent driving force, the I.W.W. had attracted the sympathy and support of the left wing of the unions, while it had also aroused the open antagonism of the “moderates” and their political masters.
The I.W.W. comprising the vanguard of working class revolt, was regarded – and treated – by this latter section of Labour as a deadly enemy – a pariah – a disruptive force – which at all costs had to be discredited and destroyed. Just as later “Bolshevism” and to-day “Communism,” is the bogey of Labour politicians, so I.W.W.-ism was the object of vicious attack and repudiation. The term, as with Communism to-day, was deliberately and with malice applied to all individuals and organisations that criticised the official Labour movement and earnestly endeavoured to keep it on the straight track of working class emancipation.
Unfortunately the I.W.W., as a definite and uncompromising opponent of any political action, was an easy target for the attacks of political and industrial Labour, which were pledged to political as well as industrial action.
It is worth noting on this question, however, that although the Communist Party is as definitely political as the I.W.W. was anti-political, it has not been spared the same scornful repudiation and slander by official Labour throughout Australia as was directed against the I.W.W. It is clear that, whatever group or party adheres to, and propagates, a revolutionary policy of attack on the capitalist system, with its ultimate overthrow and the destruction of all forms of exploitation, will be branded by the official Labour movement as anti-Labour and a deadly enemy of the working class.
The stalking horse of I.W.W.-ism was gleefully used by Theodore and his fellow politicians to attack all the militant elements in Queensland. I, of course, was regarded as an “I.W.W.-ite,” notwithstanding that I had never faltered in my belief in, and advocacy of direct political action on the part of the workers. But the I.W.W. bogey was too rich an opportunity to be allowed to remain in abeyance, so the Q.C.E. decided to issue an “official manifesto,” “Solidarity or Disruption,” wherein to attack the I.W.W. and castigate militant Labourites at the same time.
I was absent in Sydney at an A.W.U. convention when the Q.C.E. made this decision and the first I knew of it was the receipt of a letter from Lewis McDonald, secretary of the Q.C.E., advising me that I, with Theodore and another whose name I forget, had been appointed a committee to draft the desired manifesto. It is against all procedure to appoint anyone to a committee or office without the knowledge and consent of the appointee. I sensed that I had been appointed in defiance of this rule in order to ensnare me into a position to have to denounce the I.W.W. and other militants. I hesitated whether I should agree to walk into the trap but decided to accept the position, also to insist that my opinion of the militants should be inserted in the manifesto, failing that to resign.
At the next meeting of the Q.C.E., Theodore submitted a draft manifesto overflowing with his usual condemnation of the left wing. I, as a member of the committee objected to this method and it was agreed that we should both draft a manifesto and later collaborate in its final production. I was fully expecting Theodore to refuse to accept my portion of the manifesto relating to the militants, but to my surprise he did not demur and after it had been submitted and adopted by the Q.C.E., was published with the signatures of all members of the Q.C.E.
Included in these signatories (March, 1919), were the Premier, T. J. Ryan, E. G. Theodore, J. A. Fihelly, W. McCormack, D. Gledson, Ms.L.A., T. Moroney, R. J. Carroll, G. Lawson, J. Page, J. S. Collings, M.H.R., W. J. Riordan and D. K. Higgie.
The decline of the Queensland Labour Party since this manifesto was issued in March, 1919, is too well known to the deluded and disillusioned workers to need comment. Twenty years ago it fell far short of its highest purpose and ideals, but it was then possible to at least call a halt to its downward path and force some recognition – however tardy – of Labour’s true mission.
Herewith is that portion of the manifesto relating to the militants that I wrote and was accepted by the Q.C.E. Such a declaration, reasonable as it is, would be inconceivable from the Q.C.E. to-day.
“To Members of Workers’ Political Organisations and Affiliated Unions: –
The Queensland Central Executive of the Australian Labour Party, being desirous of consolidating the industrial and political wings of the Labour Movement, in order that a united front may be presented to the conservative and reactionary forces opposed to it, declares that any element in the ranks of Labour, political or industrial, which deflects the Movement from its true aim – “the securing of the full results of their industry to all wealth producers” – or which destroys its discipline or undermines its authority, or which, by unfair or unwarranted criticism, endangers its solidarity, is detrimental to the interests of the movement and must be combated.
The Movement looks to education and such social and political reforms as strike at the root of the injustice from which the masses now suffer. By loyalty to principle, unity of purpose, aim, and method alone, can we succeed. Rules are but a means of securing unity of action; nevertheless their observance and recognition are essential to success.
While the Queensland Central Executive considers that it is its duty as the executive body of the Labour Party, to clearly enunciate the only constituted policy of that Party and to draw attention to the dangers threatening by unconstitutional and disruptive tactics, there is no intention or desire in any manner to stifle legitimate criticism or advocacy of newer and what may be considered better and more rapid methods whereby to achieve the ultimate objective of all true Labourites.
The Queensland Central Executive fully recognises that the suppression of bona-fide and honest criticism is vicious in principle and reactionary in effect, and would inevitably result in stagnation and early decay of the Labour Party. Without the driving force of the left or extreme wing of Labour, and intelligent and advanced criticism, progress and virility are impossible.
At no period of working class history have there been such revolutionary changes in the thoughts and desires of men as at the present time. The heresy of to-day may become the orthodoxy of to-morrow. The minority view that was rejected with scorn to-day gains acceptance and becomes the determined policy of the majority. Therefore, all sections of thought that make for the advancement of Labour on sane and class conscious lines are welcomed by organised Labour, so long as the great underlying basis actuating its advocates is the earnest desire to improve and solidify the Labour Movement, to strengthen and not to disrupt, to build and not to destroy.”
Of course, the I.W.W., as an anti-political organisation, was criticised and condemned in the manifesto. No other attitude was possible from an avowedly political body like the Q.C.E., but the original intention of Theodore and his group to viciously attack and slander the left wing section of Queensland workers sadly misfired, much to their ill-concealed chagrin.
At the conclusion of the Federal conference of the Australian Labour Party, held at Perth in June, 1918, at a meeting of the Q.C.E., I moved a vote of censure on the Premier, T. J. Ryan, W. McCormack, and J. Fihelly, three of the Queensland delegates to the conference, who apparently had voted. against their instructions from the A.L.P. convention held in Brisbane in January, 1918, with regard to compulsory military training.
The Queensland convention had most convincingly – despite all desperate politicians resistance – carried a resolution instructing the six delegates to the Perth conference to vote for the repeal of the compulsory clauses of the Defence’ Act. For the purpose of covering up their tracks on this and other important questions decided at the Perth conference, that conference, at its opening session, resolved not to publish any division lists. Consequently the rank and file of the workers were kept in ignorance as to how their representatives voted. Speeches, however, were reported in the official report which, in some instances, indicated how the speakers were going to vote. It was on this unsatisfactory basis of knowledge that I based the motion of censure.
Fihelly did not appear at the Q.C.E. meeting to answer the charges. McCormack did not evade the charge, but admitted its truth and attempted to justify his action in defying the instruction from the convention. The debate was in an interesting and heated stage when T. J. Ryan arrived. On being informed by the chairman, W. Demaine, that he, Ryan, was coupled in the censure motion, the Premier stated he was not present at the Perth conference when the vote was taken. McCormack substantiated this. I said that I accepted unreservedly Ryan’s statement, but pointed out that owing to the cowardice of the conference in not publishing division lists, I could only judge delegates by their predelictions or utterances. Anyway, while there was a doubt as to Ryan’s vote on the compulsory military question, I was not going to exempt him from a censure motion simply because he happened to be the Premier.
McCormack made a fighting defence and, realising the seriousness of his position, made the cryptic statement that if he was going to drown he was not going to drown alone, but would drag others down with him. However, with its usual shrewd method of avoiding all unpleasant issues – unpleasant, of course, only to the approved circle – the Q.C.E. adjourned finality “until further information was secured” – Thus the matter faded into the darkness of hush and oblivion that has been the fate of many other undesirable happenings in connection with the Q.C.E.
My most outstanding experience of the dominance of the politician on the Q.C.E. over supposedly industrial representatives came when the demand of the unions for the restoration of the basic wage, which had been reduced by the State Arbitration Court, was considered by the Q.C.E.
Following the decision of the Court in 1925, to reduce the basic wage from £ 4/5/- to £ 3/15/-, there was a State-wide agitation by the unions for the Government to restore the basic rate by legislative enactment to £ 4/5/-. The workers bitterly resented the drastic cut by the Court, and realising the futility of again appealing to that wage reducing instrument of the capitalist class, rightly demanded that the supreme authority in the State, the Labour Government, should give the workers the modicum of justice denied them by the Court.
An intense campaign was carried on by the unions to force their political representatives to take action but with little effect. The Government shirked its responsibilities in the usual manner by declaring that wages were fixed by the Arbitration Court and that it was outside the jurisdiction of Parliament – and unthinkable to question the supremacy of the Court or override its decision.
This suave method of rejecting the unions’ demand aroused such a storm of protest that the Q.C.E. was forced to deal with the question and a special meeting was convened for that purpose.
All the union representatives on the Q.C.E., and they were in the majority, were instructed and pledged by their organisations to uncompromisingly insist on the restoration. But the Labour Ministers, with Theodore and McCormack as the spear head, came to the Q.C.E. armed to the teeth with statistics, statements and arguments to show to the selfish and unreasonable workers that to restore the basic wage to £4/5/- would immediately result in the bankruptcy of Queensland, close down many industries and throw thousands of workers on the unemployed market. A truly tragic picture was painted with the most lurid colours as to the sad fate of the wage earners and their unhappy wives and children if the Government so far forgot its duty as unswerving guardians of the welfare of the people as to weakly submit to the workers’ demand.
It was an amazing attack, bristling with unscrupulous distortion of the true position. But the politicians knew well the vacillating cowardice and ignorance of the majority of the union representatives, nor was the politicians’ confidence in their ability to overawe and throw dust in the eyes of these men mistaken.
As the unceasing battery of political eloquence and sophistry thundered against the advocates of wage restorations, one could see the ranks of the unions wilting, decimated and beaten to its knees. Secretaries of unions subserviently admitted the righteousness of the Government’s case and the serious mistake the unions had made in attempting to force the Labour Government to bring ruin to the people of Queensland! One secretary said that he must accept the considered statements of Ministers of the Crown! Chris. Dawson (Waterside Workers) declared that he could not take the responsibility of throwing hundreds of his members out of work. R. J. Carroll stated that he would have to vote for the restoration of the basic wage as he had been definitely instructed by his executive (Amalgamated Engineering Union), but he felt certain that if they had been present at the Q.C.E. meeting and heard Theodore and other Ministers, his, Carroll’s, instructions would have been different.
And so the fight went on. I said that the figures and financial statements of the politicians, even if I believed them, and no one at that meeting had any means whatever of checking the Government’s allegations, left me absolutely cold, and that the workers’ demand was a challenge to the Government’s pretensions to represent the workers. When the division was taken only seven voted for the restoration motion. The following are the seven Q.C.E. members who did not betray the workers at the behest of the unscrupulous gang of politicians: – R. J. Carroll, R. Sumner, D. Gledson, M.L.A., G. Rymer, J. Hayes (A.R.U.), S. J. Bryan (Electrical Trade), and E. H. Lane (A.W.U.).
The attitude of the Q.C.E. on this question caused extreme indignation amongst the rank and file and I was anxious to issue a minority report on the part of the dissenting delegates. But Bryan declined on the grounds that it was a majority decision; Carroll and Gledson, of course, I knew would not agree, and Sumner had left Brisbane. Consequently, with only three of us it would have been a minority report of a minority of a minority, which was impossible, so I abandoned the idea.
The sequel to this victory of the reactionary Q.C.E., was written within a few weeks when the railway workers throughout the State went on strike for the restoration of the basic wage to £ 4/5/-, with some other demands. The strike was settled by the Government (W. Gillies was Premier at this period) granting the restoration! There ensued no ruin, unemployment, or bankruptcy as was prophesised by the Labour politicians, and the irony of the situation was that the Government, by grudgingly and through industrial direct action, granting the restoration, exposed Theodore and his political confreres as mountebanks and brazen bluffers of the highest order.
As one of the four or six representatives of the A.W.U. on the Q.C.E. (the number varied, one or two being elected direct from the A.L.P. conventions), I found myself in almost continuous conflict with the other A.W.U. delegates on fundamental Labour principles. W. J. Riordan. W. J. Dunstan, F. Martyn, J. Dash, R. Funnell, and many other A.W.U. delegates, were invariably solid supporters of the political section, and bitterly opposed to the small militant minority to which the two Australian Railways Union delegates were always attached.
The Q.C.E., being an executive body, there was no possibility of camouflage by delegates with regard to their attitude or votes and my position as an uncompromising opponent of the reactionaryism of the politicians and A.W.U. delegates was a grim and disquieting reproach to my A.W.U. colleagues. It was an invidious situation and demanded my removal in the interests of the peace of mind of Riordan and his followers.
I had always been elected to the Q.C.E. in the annual ballot and polled a very big vote in excess of the other successful nominees. So there did not seem to be any possibility of my being removed by an adverse vote of the rank and file. But at a delegate meeting Riordan, on the specious grounds that the ballot had resulted in the election of a northern delegate, who could not possibly attend Q.C.E. meetings in Brisbane (this could have been prevented by not accepting such nominations), induced the delegate meeting to agree that the Q.C.E. representatives be elected by the delegate meeting. When this resolution was carried, I said to Hanlon, editor of the “Worker,” who was sitting next to me, “That is the end of me next year as a delegate to the Q.C.E.” This prediction was correct, as although I apparently had strong support among the delegates, the machine was too powerful and I was defeated in the secret ballot of the delegate meeting.
Thus concluded my membership of the Q.C.E. after ten years strenuous and often nerve racking fighting against what proved impossible odds. I do not in any way regret the experience which was invaluable to me. It revealed to me without a shadow of doubt the falsity of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labour Party – at least as expressed consistently by the Q.C.E., the supreme governing authority of the Party in assuming the role of a genuine Labour Party with an honest desire to protect and advance the interests of the workers at all costs.
I discovered on innumerable occasions that no intrigue was too unclean, no method too audacious or unscrupulous whereby to entrench the privileges of the Labour Party in its determination to retain political power, and to defeat and discredit all those who foolishly imagined that the Labour Government was a courageous and fitting expression of working class principles in the political arena. Since my personal contact with the Q.C.E., it has developed into a political machine, whose closest counterpart appears to be the old infamous Tammany Hall of New York.
To-day the Q.C.E. reigns supreme in its authority, its one time militant members and minority is no more, bludgeoned or intrigued out of its sacred precincts, it is indeed a fitting executive body for a Labour Party that grovels at the feet of that most astute and tricky of Labour (?) Premiers, W. Forgan Smith.
Far removed though it might seem, the AW.U. convention and the Australian executive had and have much in common with the Q.C.E. and its unsavoury methods and pursues a similar reactionary course. I particularise the Q.C.E and the Queensland Labour Party only because I have had no personal experience of the A.L.P. in other States, although one has not any reason to believe that there is any marked difference in their anti- or non-working class attitude. Therefore I write only of that which has come within my own direct knowledge and experience.
Covering a period of eight or nine years from 1917, I attended the A.W.U. annual conventions in Sydney and was also for two terms Queensland councillor and a member of the Australian executive. During that decade I experienced the chairmanship of F. Lundie, A. Blakely, and Senator Barnes, but there was little difference in their attitude towards the annoying militant section or their staunch adherence to the politico-arbitrationist policy which has been the bedrock of A.W.U. reactionaryism for many years.