REVIEWS AND CRITIQUE
"For nearly two hundred pages, phrase after phrase descends like a club, bent upon smashing to flinders the church and state at which it is aimed." —Liberty, Sydney.
About a middle-class party muddling through on a semi-Marxist policy, unaware that it is semi-Marxist, there is nothing to excite headlines in oversea countries. On the other hand, unwanted notoriety is often won for us by the revolutionary faction which knows that it is revolutionary, and cries with a loud voice: “We are out for everything. Spoils to the victors, and woe to the vanquished. We will do this, overthrow' that, and crush those who are too stupid to protect what they have.”
From the moral and ethical points of view, it compares with Machiavelli’s “Prince,” but it is questionable if any writer has equaled Redbeard in sustained invective. For nearly two hundred pages phrase after phrase descends like a club, bent upon smashing to flinders the church and state at which it is aimed.
“All men are created equal is an Infernal lie,” Redbeard declares. He quotes Bismarck:
“Not by speechifying and majority votes can the great questions of to-day be settled, but by iron and blood!”
Assassination, war, and slaughter are painted by Redbeard as the instruments of that “Might which only is Right”:—
Might was Right when Caesar bled
Upon the stones at Rome;
Might was Right when Joshua led
His hordes o’er Jordan’s foam;
And Might was Right when German
Poured down through Paris gay;
It’s the gospel of the Ancient World
And the logic of to-day.
Here is one of Redbeard’s many calls to the butchery of the vanquished:—
“Races of helots are never wanting!
See to it, O men, that you breed fighters!
See to it that you train them, too!
‘The haiper is not made otherwise than
by harping,” nor the warrior otherwise
than by war. Let muscle force be pitted
against muscle force, brainpower against
brainpower, and let winners wear the
laurel and losers wear the rasping sackcloth!
Let there be no compromise, no
half-hearted philandering, no backing
down; but, as Darwin commands, let the
strongest live, and the vilest die!”
It is to be feared that the commercial censorship of publicity in Australia has the effect of not permitting the pillars of the State to realize what some of our most influential, if rather impoverished, fellow-citizens are thinking. Of religion,Redbeardhas much to say that defies reproduction under our laws, so the reader who is just sitting up and taking notice must be content to remain in ignorance of the great iconoclast’s loftiest phrases. Here, however, is a mild specimen—a very, very mild one, be It appreciated: —
“Barabbasis described in the Scriptures as a petty thief. He was really an armed insurgent leader, the slayer of Roman taxgatherers, a guerilla chief (like Rob Roy, Robin Hood,William Wallace, William Tell), who levied toll upon opulent Hebrews for patriotic purposes. Had I been there that day, I also would have joined in the demand: ‘Release Barabbas unto us!’”
Is it not food for regret that the most graphic of our own proletarian authors remain unread by their best-content compatriots* while they achieve so much honor abroad? True, the ordeal might displace content with nightmares, but surely it would stimulate them both mentally and linguistically to learn the kind of company in which they are so happy? To know that the manner in which class hatred has been expressed here has been accepted throughout the globe as the acme of underdog eloquence and that below the vests of the Australian underdogs beat hearts of Alsatian fierceness?
Here are a few more fragments with quite a kick in them for the person who loves a drop of excitement. The author is Francis Adams, and they are from “Songs of the Army of the Night,” which first appeared in Australia.
Adams, in “To England,” reaches a classic pitch of rage:—
I whom you fed with shame and starved
I wheel above you,
Your fatal vulture, for I hate you so
I almost love you.
Look westward! Ireland’s vengeful eyes
On freedom won.
Look eastward! India stirs from sleep
You are undone!
Look southward! Where Australia hears
And turns away!
O, brutal hypocrite, she makes her choice
With the rising day!
Curses like these are not at all the sort of thing we associate with Australian literature. Even as we read, they strike us as foreign, exotic, untamed Russian, perhaps; but this yearning hate, which is so consuming as to be almost love, was cried to the world through an Australian publishing house.
“In Trafalgar Square” is another of Adams’ outbursts which carries its own
urge to the masses:—
It was not too clean, their feminine lay,
But it thrilled me quite
With its challenge to taskmaster
And infamous night.
"Girls, that’s the shout, the shout we
When, With rifles and spades,
We stand, with the old Red Flag
On the barricades!”
If Australian people are able to read such lines (which have gone to the nations of the earth from our shores and stirred the proletarian multitudes) and think they were inspired in an atmosphere of humdrum peace, of bucolic content —well
Liberty Vol.1 No. 18 (19 October 1933)