Diary of a Labour Man 1917 - 1945

Full Text On the Backbenches



Fifth Floor, Crowle House, 105 York Street, Sydney.

EG Theodore Telephone M2528.

14th October 1932.

J Curtin, Esq., Holman House, Stirling Street, PERTH.

Dear Jack,

Gravenall called on me before I recieved your letter He told me he was commended to me by you. He asked for personal introduction to Sydney Morning Herald people and to the directors of the Labor Daily and 2KY (Trades Hall) broadcasting station. I explained I could not be of assistance to him in the quarters mentioned as I was not persona grata.

I was pleased to learn from your letter that you have employment that not only keeps the wolf from the door but which keeps your energies and thoughts occupied. As to myself I have one or two little business interests which keep me out of mischief.

How to employ our idle people is, as you say, the problem that transcends all others. It is amazing to see that although unemployment increases it has, as a problem, faded from public notice, and ceased to be a matter of much concern to any of the governments.

When we were in office we were made to feel that we were culprits who stood by helplessly and callously while scores of thousands of our citizens suffered and starved. It is curious that our successors are allowed to relegate the problem to the limbo of forgotten things. A stranger could dwell in Sydney and read in the newspapers the daily record of activities of every puerile kind, but see scarcely any reference to an unemployment scourge.

The belief that unemployment when it reaches large dimensions becomes a danger to the capitalistic system is an exploded myth. The existence of great masses of unemployed is a menace only to Labor Governments. The fool workers can easily be stirred to agitate against their own government, and Labor members can just as easily be stirred to a frenzy of fear, by a little subtle propaganda among the unemployed workers. All demonstrations cease when the Labor Government has been politically walloped.

Nevertheless it is the outstanding problem. I believe it should be the first duty of our rulers (our rulers include those in charge of the monetary system as well as the government) to keep the population at work. If production of consumable goods increases beyond the market needs the redundant workers should not be sacked but should be employed upon capital works and improvements. When the time comes that there is not sufficient work for the employment of all the workers an all round reduction of working hours should take place. The foregoing is such obvious commonsense that it is almost platitudinous, yet it is doubtful if it will ever become a politically practicable proposal. The workers can be so easily doped and deluded by the meglomaniacal Langs, and by the capitalistic dealers in election hog wash.

I have to smile at your suggestions as to what I personally can do. I recall the experience of last year when I made a tour of several of the States in an endeavour to rally the workers to support a radical change in monetary policy. It is true I had some large meetings and some enthusiasm, but it became as obvious as daylight that we were not winning the nation over. The power-drunk Lang faction, with the aid of their paper, and job patronage, and a liberal use of political lucre, were engaged at the same time in corrupting the Labor movement in N.S.W., and expelling me and the other Federal Labor members, and extending their disruptive influences to other States. Simultaneously the Nationalists playing upon the fears and childish dreads of the major portion of the people in the matter of currency inflation succeeded, with the aid of the Press, the banks and the Senate, in creating a widespread hostility against the Government and the policy we had formulated.

In the hope of getting a respite for the Government I agreed to the economy policy of the Premiers’ Conference conditionally upon the public debt interest and mortgage interest being included in the cuts. I never had any belief that that policy would restore employment unless it was accompanied by credit expansion on a large scale, and was accompanied by, either an active program of expenditure by Governments, or such a revival of business confidence as would lead to a large section of the employers becoming willing users of the credit. The banks gave us assurances that they would co-operate with the Government in the increase of money, but they let us down villainously in this respect.

I stated my fears and my hopes to the Party at the meeting at Canberra when the so-called rehabilitation plan was under consideration. I said a crisis precipitated then followed by an election would result in our annihilation. On the other hand the passage of the financial emergency bills would ensures us our supply and give us twelve months breathing space. I held the opinion then, though I am not sure I expressed it to the Party, that within twelve months the whole world would probably go inflation and thus kill the opposition crusade. I had not reckoned upon either the foolish destructive criticism of some of our own men in the House, who drove many nails in our coffin and did not save themselves; nor did I reckon upon the rank treachery of the Beasley group. So, as it turned out, we only succeeded in postponing the rout.

I have not lost faith in myself nor my belief in the soundness of the policy I have advocated, but my faith in the intelligence of the workers is sadly shaken. When I see a great mass of workers defying the charlatan Lang, and tolerating the egregious Garden, and allowing the Labor policy to be treated with contempt and contumely, I begin to lose hope.

There is little sign of returning sanity in N.S.W. The Lang gang still rules in the unions, and rules by coercion and through hand-picked executives and conferences, but, it must be confessed, it rules with the overt concurrence of the mass of the unionists. To go out and attempt to win the country in the face of these facts would be utterly futile.

I have made a few public addresses recently on finance and the nationalisation of banking, and have received a flattering hearing. I have received assurances of support from various quarters and a deal of encouragement from middle class people as well as from our own Federal organisations, but I do not regard these signs as of much political significance while Labor generally is so hopelessly bemused.

By way of gossip – I hear that Anstey is living in Sydney now and making his obeisances to the Langites. He is spoken of as a probable candidate for the Langites in N.S.W. for the Senate.

With kindest regards.

Yours truly,

Edward Theodore.