Dawn To Dusk, E. H. Lane 1939
It is with a feeling of great pleasure that I accede to the request of the author to write a foreword to this book. My intimate acquaintance with him goes back to a day during the General Strike of 1912, when he and I were assigned for duty together issuing food coupons to strikers. Since that stirring period in the Labour Movement, there has developed between us a close friendship, in the course of which I have had related to me many of the happenings that are recorded in this book. Some of them I knew from my own knowledge, through my association with them as a delegate to the Q.C.E. and other representative gatherings. I have often expressed the view that it would be a great pity if Comrade Lane did not commit his reminiscences to writing; and I am pleased that he has done so.
I know that it is not in any spirit of caprice or spite that he has indulged in parts of his book, in criticism of some of Labour’s past leaders or Labour’s policy. He is incapable of any such action. His own known honesty and broad humanitarian feelings are sufficient guarantee that criticism is levelled only where it has been earned; and that the purpose of it is intended to provide the Movement with warnings of some of the factors that have been responsible for sapping working class organisations of their militant outlook and fighting spirit.
To many persons books of reminiscences seem to lack purpose and use. But it often occurs that reminiscences of persons who were actually associated with the events recorded in official histories, explain why some of those events took the course they did; and, therefore, reminiscences become a very necessary supplement to the official history books. I think that can be said of these reminiscences in relation to the official histories of Labour in this State.
The record of “Ernie” Lane’s reminiscences should be regarded as a valuable contribution to Australian working class literature. His association with the Movement goes back to the time when Labour was struggling for existence and recognition in this country, and when its organisations did not enjoy the liberties of speech, assembly and organisation that they established for themselves later in the course of their growth and development of influence. He and other members of his family assisted in directing the policy and activity of the Movement in this country towards achieving industrial solidarity and political representation and influence in the affairs of the land.
He has seen those early dreams and hopes of Labour realised. The Movement developed strength, influence and power. It has gained the liberties it fought for in the early days, and which were considered necessary to its proper growth and development. It achieved political strength sufficient to become the Government of the Nation and of its States. It has contributed a great deal to the improvement of industrial and social conditions of the people; and it has been responsible for most of the humanitarian legislation that is on our Statute Books. Its representatives have displayed great capacity in high executive positions; and from being regarded as outlaws and being imprisoned as strike-leaders and agitators, they have advanced to a state of being considered eligible to hob-nob with princes and kings.
“Ernie” Lane has witnessed the change taking place in Labour’s status and influence; has lived through the period of it; has helped to make it possible. And with the advancement of Labour’s position and power he has witnessed the gradual abandonment of every principle that Labour’s pioneers held sacred and thought vital to the real advancement of the Working Class Movement. He has seen the policy of the official Labour Movement in this State change colour from the deep red of Socialism to the palest pink of Liberalism. He has seen men who have been raised to positions of trusted leadership in the Movement use those positions to advance their own careers and fortunes rather than those of the class whom they claimed to represent; and, sometimes, desert the workers’ cause to enter the ranks of Labour’s enemies.
Gone now is the fervid faith, the high hope, the enduring enthusiasm, and the strong spirit of struggle that characterised the early Labour Movement that the name of Lane will be associated with always in this State. In its place there has been erected an “official,” Labour Movement that is numerically stronger; in which membership imposes no sacrifice or danger; which places greater value on tactics of political expediency than on faith in principle; that has abandoned the policy of the class struggle for one of class collaboration; and that by its listlessness and lack of fighting spirit is endangering even the retention of the liberties of speech, assembly, and organisation that were fought for by, and established through the sacrifice of, the Lanes and other pioneers of the Labour Movement here.
Yet, throughout it all, “Ernie” Lane’s rebel spirit has not wavered. His belief in the justice of the working class cause is as strong now as in the early days of his association with the Movement He has not abandoned the hope that the workers’ cause will triumph to the stage that economic exploitation of labour in the interest of profit will be completely eliminated, and that the social and cultural progress of the working class will not be regulated by the rate of profit being earned by a rapacious capitalist class. He has not given way to despair, or professed’ disillusionment as an excuse for seeking personal advancement by abandoning his early beliefs or embracing other political creeds. He has remained the rebel because his beliefs do not arise from instinct alone, but from honest conviction, a complete knowledge of the economics of Socialism, and a proper understanding of the requirements of the working class.
If, in his book, there creeps in occasionally a .note of pessimism or disappointment, it is because his own gentle and kindly nature, and his own honesty and sincerity, cause him to believe that those same qualities should be possessed by all humans particularly those who are placed in positions of trust and influence in the Labour Movement, and he can find no excuse for those in whom that trust has been misplaced; and also because he knows that “official” Labour policy is not conducted according to the will of the majority of the rank-and-file, whose wishes are suppressed in the ruthless grind of machine politics.
To those who will not tolerate that suppression and who are still fighting the real battle of Labour and they are an ever-growing band in these days of economic stress and political struggle, the book will provide inspiration to continue the fight. They may not find in the book any practical contribution to the immediate vital economic and social problems that confront the Labour movement; and they may not agree with many of the opinions and conclusions of the author. But they will absorb from it some of the militant Socialist spirit that is embodied in its author and in many of his early friends and associates who are mentioned by him. They will learn from this record of Labour’s struggles in this State, that if their Movement at the moment does not possess the Socialist spirit that was breathed into it by the pioneers, it is because that Movement has been diverted from its real mission, and has been allowed to become the playground of careerists and opportunists, who have used it to serve their own needs, and not those of the workers.
The real Labour Movement is still a rebel movement; it is still fighting against all those injustices and inequities that are sanctioned by the accepted scheme of “law and order” within our community; it is still strongly opposed to the system that allows a privileged possessing class to exist alongside a dispossessed class that is waging a continual struggle with suffering and want; it still believes that the class struggle is a reality in the existing social order; it is still organised to carry on that struggle on behalf of the oppressed and exploited working class until they are freed from oppression and exploitation.
That Labour Movement will arise again on the pressing economic and social needs of the workers to carry out Labour’s real mission, and to achieve the objective of the organised working class.
Australian Railways Union.