The League of Rights: a reply to Brockett
By David Greason **
'The Party system of Government can play little part, if any, in the struggle for real democracy. In principle, it is the antithesis of democracy.' Eric D. Butler, The Money Power versus Democracy, 1940.
'A recent press report from Cologne tells how "democracy" is now working in that city: Germans are digging trenches while Jews have the administrative positions. You do understand what 'democracy' really means, don't you? It is a state of society in which Jews order everybody else about.' Eric D. Butler, New Times, 18 May, 1945.
In the early 1970s, the Australian League of Rights attracted national front-page coverage following allegations that it was co-ordinating aprogram to infiltrate and hijack the Liberal and Country Parties.
Richard Brockett questions aspects of these allegations in his article 'The Australian Country Party, the Australian League of Rights, and the Rural Crisis of 1968-1972', published by The Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History.
Essentially, Brockett's thesis is this: by the 1960s, the Country Party had abandoned its traditional constituency of rural smallholders by promoting a policy of 'Get Big or Get Out'. Further, the Australian League of Rights, an organisation whose stated objectives were in many ways identical to those of the Country Party in the 1940s, sought to return the Country Party to its original beliefs via a campaign based around a series of economic reforms. Many 'ordinary' farmers, he says, were supportive of this campaign. In response, the leadership of the Country Party, who had been seduced by power and the privileges of office, unfairly denounced the League as orchestrating a campaign of infiltration and destabilisation, and employed smears to discredit the League, despite the fact that the League's principles and those of the Country Party were in many ways identical.
There are a number of problems with Brockett's argument, not the least being that important pieces of information about the League of Rights are neglected or never fully explained.
By 1968, the National Director of the Australian League of Rights, Eric Dudley Butler, had been active in politics for just over 30 years. Rightly or wrongly, he and the League were widely considered to be anti-Semitic, racist and possibly even pro-Nazi. They were equally well known for their adherence to an economic theory, Social Credit, that had long been dismissed by mainstream economists and the major political parties (including the Country Party) as crankish and impractical.
While the League from time to time cited areas of common ground with the conservative parties (to lay claim to mainstream credentials, critics claimed), the writings of its key activists were steeped in conspiracy theories of history, and rejected the party political system as corrupt and corrupting (1). The Country Party did not escape the League's baleful glare: according to League spokespersons, even Jack McEwen was said to be 'toeing the Jewish line' (2).
None of these facts are explained in Brockett's article, but are crucial to understanding the bitter feud that broke out between the Country Party and the League at that time. The Country Party leadership did not denounce the League of Rights in 1971 simply because the League had exposed the party's supposed abandonment of its core constituency. It denounced the League because it saw the League's economic and social policies as disastrous, its tactics deceitful, and its intentions dishonorable.
This not to deny opportunism played a role in the Country Party's attack. Brockett rightly reveals just how closely the Party - including some of the figures who were later to denounce the League - had for years courted League members and tolerated their presence within the party as bulwarks of "anti-socialism". As the League's demands became more strident, however, exposing the Country Party's inconsistencies in a way only extremist groups can, the leadership of the Country Party began to take a closer look at what the League's agenda really was.
Brockett gives us only half of the picture. We see the Country Party's opportunism, but we are not offered a detailed account of the Country Party's toleration of the League throughout the 1960s (3).
In Brockett's version of the League's history, anti-Semitism, Social Credit, and the League's traditional anti-party sentiment are barely explored. We read that Country Party Parliamentary Leader Doug Anthony withdrew his allegation that the League was pro-Nazi, but we never learn why he made the allegation in the first place. We read that in 1946, Eric D. Butler published a book entitled The International Jew, but we are told nothing about it, not so much as a line. We read that Doug Anthony described Social Credit as 'inflationary' and a 'chimera', but nowhere is Social Credit defined. We read that the League called for 'constructive electoral action against financial policies which are rapidly destroying the basis of rural independence', but we are not told what this 'constructive electoral action' was, nor how an avowed anti-party organisation could claim a mandate to 'save' the Country Party.
The League of Rights
'What perhaps gave the League's rhetoric added credibility and acceptance with Country Party rank and file was the great similarity in stated objectives between the two organisations.' Brockett, 'The Australian Country Party...'
If there ever had been 'great similarity' between the stated objectives of the League of Rights and the Country Party, it is only because the stated objectives of the League of Rights tell us little about the League's politics.
The first state branches of the League of Rights were established in South Australia and Victoria in 1946, by activists who had organised a South Australian campaign against the Federal Labor Government's Powers Referendum, the 'Vote No Campaign'. The League's objectives, as published in 1946 and again in 1960 when the state branches came together to form the Australian League of Rights, are as follows:
* Slightly modified in the 1960 version (4).
- To promote loyalty to God, King (or and the Crown), and Country as a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
- To advocate genuine competitive individual enterprise and personal initiative.
- To defend private ownership and advocate its extension in order that individual freedom with security shall be available to all.
- To make a thorough and active exposure of bureaucratic interference with economic activities, which results in monopoly and/or centralised control.
- To emphasise the benefit of our written Federal Constitution to assure to the individual very definite rights which no government can take away.
- To defend the rule of law which makes all equal before the law.
- To stress the value of our system of Common Law, built up in Great Britain, to protect the individual against bureaucratic control.
- To expose the manner in which the safeguards of individual rights and liberties are rapidly being destroyed.
- To emphasise the value of Legislative Councils and the Senate.
- To expose and oppose all anti-British propaganda and actions, irrespective of their origins.
- To take such other actions as may be deemed desirable to promote the policy of this League.
Note there is no mention of Social Credit, the League's favored economic theory and philosophical inspiration. There is no reference to its core belief in the malevolent role of Judaism and Zionism in world affairs. The League's long-standing opposition to non-European immigration is not mentioned. The very issues that make the League a distinctive organisation in Australian political life simply cannot be determined from its objectives.
Not that the League is secretive about such matters. League spokesmen sometimes dissemble when confronted with controversial aspects of League doctrine, but in this they are no worse than the average politician (5). The League's defining positions can be found in signed articles published in its official journals, as well as in a wide range of books written by League members, published under the League's imprint, and sold through the League's bookshops and its public meetings. But to rely upon the League's stated objectives as authoritative statements of League belief, as Brockett does, is to mistake rhetoric for substance.
The driving force behind the League's formation in 1946 was Eric Dudley Butler, a recently demobbed serviceman who had been introduced to politics before the war through the Social Credit movement.
Social Credit was a scheme of financial reform that in the early 1930s attracted the support of thousands of Australians. The movement's founder, English engineer Clifford Douglas, believed that capitalism's ever-recurring crises were caused by an accounting flaw that drained credit out of the financial system, in inverse proportion to industrial production. Under orthodox finance, a community could never afford to buy what it produced. When bankers withheld credit from the community, less and less money chased more and more goods.
The solution, Douglas said, was to pay every citizen a regular 'national dividend' to make up the gap between their wages and the cost of goods. Eventually, Douglas believed, the increased use of technology as a labor-saving device, would mean the end of work as we know it, and the dawn of a new age of leisure, with citizens paid the national dividend instead of wages. This national dividend, to be financed by created credit and the profits of industry ('social credit', which, Douglas said, rightly belonged the community), was dismissed by Douglas's critics, left and right, as 'funny money', something for nothing that would trigger off massive inflation.
In the early days of the Depression, Social Credit attracted a wide following in Australia. By 1946, however, its supporters were minimal in number and politically marginalised, partly because Social Credit had been widely discredited as fanciful and economically illiterate, and partly because Douglas had embraced anti-Semitism as an explanation for the world's problems.
In The Development of World Dominion, Douglas wrote:
The true case against the Jews is one which can be laid at the door of many Orientals - the systematic and continuous use of bribery and corruption to sterilise genuine reform and popularise error and degradation (6).
Not all Social Crediters agreed with Douglas's anti-Jewish musings. In Australia, many were left Labor supporters who sympathised with Social Credit's anti-banking sentiment but who abhorred racial scapegoating (7). His staunchest supporters were based around the Melbourne Social Credit newspaper The New Times.
By the late 1930s, Eric Butler was one of New Times most prominent writers, and had also become converted to Douglas's view of the world. Butler has said that he initially felt that New Times was wrong to claim that International Finance was Jewish-dominated, and said that he pressed this point at the 1938 annual shareholders meeting of the paper, for which he was 'treated rather like a young upstart who did not know what he was talking about'.
Following this meeting Butler 'started to examine the 'Jewish Question' in depth. Like Douglas, 'reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was a major issue to be faced' (8). By this time, however, facing the 'Jewish Question' also involved facing the 'Hitler Question'. In 'Is Danzig Worth the Life of One Australian?' Butler criticised Adolf Hitler, yet added that the Nazi leader 'appears to be showing some indication of attacking the financial system, and the Jews' (9).
Butler's criticisms of the war as a Jewish war soon attracted the attention of the Security Service and Military Police Intelligence (a Security file was opened on him in 1937) (10). 'Personally, I am British and am prepared to make a lot of sacrifices to help win this war for the British Empire,' Butler wrote in June 1940, 'but, for my part, I am not prepared to hand over the Empire to any group of international Jews after winning the military conflict' (11). Brockett makes a point of citing Butler's military service, in reference to an ill-informed claim by Queensland Country Party state secretary Mike Evans that Butler had been jailed for pro-Nazi activities in 1944. This was incorrect, and as Brockett points out, Butler that year came before a Board of Inquiry that adjudged him and other Social Crediters 'totally loyal to Australia'. It should also be recognised, however, that Section 63 of the inquiry's findings noted that 'quite a number of those who are interested in social credit ... are prepared to continue the advocacy of their theories in such a way that at times their arguments are in line with enemy propaganda'. And on the New Times, inquiry chairman Justice Reed noted that:
over a period of years this paper has attacked not only Nazi Germany, but also Mr Churchill, Mr Roosevelt, other leaders of Great Britain and America, and also the USSR, all of whom are charged with being under the domination of, or in league with International Jewish Finance.
As for Brockett's pointed reference to Butler's overseas military service (footnote 41), this extract from a Security Service dossier on Butler, dated 2/10/42 should be noted:
In 1941, BUTLER was called up for Military service, and although this in no way curbed his political activities, it is felt that the entry of Japan into the war somewhat mitigated his morale-damaging writings, since the obvious affinity between his ideas and Nazism did not stretch to the point of welcoming an invasion of this country by the Japanese. The question of whether any action should be taken against BUTLER was recently discussed with officers of Military Intelligence, and the decision was reached that, in view of the fact that BUTLER is reputed to be a good soldier and has very recently been posted to a forward battle station, which should effectively hamper his political activities, no action need be taken (12).
In 1946, Butler and a group of fellow Social Crediters, some of whom had also been cited in wartime intelligence reports for alleged anti-Jewish activities, formed the League of Rights. That same year, Butler published his magnum opus on the Jewish conspiracy: The International Jew: The Truth about the Protocols of Zion. The original title was to be 'Hitler's Policy Was a Jewish Policy'(13). His book took the form of an exposition on the notorious anti-Jewish concoction, The Protocols of Zion, the supposed blue-print for Jewish world domination that had long before been exposed as a forgery. Butler's book cited historical 'facts' to 'prove' that the central core of international finance was controlled by Jews, who in turn controlled National Socialist Germany; that 'International Jewry' planned to destroy civilisation 'as we now understand it'; that 'Hitler's policy was a Jewish policy' that 'helped further the declared aims of International Jewry'; that the press was controlled by Jews; that Bolshevism was Jewish; as was Hitler himself (at least according to 'reputable' commentators); that Jack McEwen (later to become leader of the Country Party and Deputy Prime Minister under Robert Menzies) was a Jewish tool; that the Jews secretly directed their own persecution and were neurotic and unassimilable; and last, but by no means least, that there was 'no historical evidence' to support the belief that Jesus Christ was Jewish.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the League cultivated a reputation for hardline positions on communism, Zionism, fluoridation, decolonisation and non-European immigration, all of which it opposed as tools of an internationally orchestrated conspiracy to enslave the world. Internationally, it aligned itself with white supremacist groups in the US and far-right groups in Britain, such as the League of Empire Loyalists, which combined Blimpish nostalgia with musings on the Jewish-Bolshevik Conspiracy (14).
The League's embrace of the Conspiracy theory and its Social Credit purism meant that no rival group, however conservative, was ever considered genuinely anti-communist. The anti-Socialist and business-financed Institute of Public Affairs was supposedly 'softening up' the community for the 'eventual acceptance of communist totalitarianism'(15). Nor did the Liberal Party and its leadership fare much better; in 1945, Butler had written: 'Menzies is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous men in Australian politics - more so, possibly, than a man such as Dr Evatt ... The greatest service the non-Labour group in Australia can render this country is to 'purge' Menzies and his new political party dictatorship' (16).
The Dead-End of Party Politics
The League's antagonism towards party political 'rivals' sprang from Douglas's teachings. In 1934, Douglas denounced party politics as a diversion, and outlined the method by which he felt Social Credit would be implemented, the Electoral Campaign. People wanted food and shelter, he said, but they did not know how to get these things. The 'experts' (senior public servants, policy directors in the mainstream parties) knew that the people's needs would only be met via Social Credit - but they would not tell the people this, as it threatened their grip on power. So people had to demand of the experts their rightful plenty, via the national dividend, not by voting for labour or conservative parties that quarrelled over technique, but by electing candidates of any persuasion who pledged to unambiguously demand of the public service (under pain of dismissal) the implementation of the voters' express wants. 'One by one the voters should be asked whether they are in favour of larger personal income, with absolute security, via the national dividend; and sufficient information should be placed before them to show that that is possible,' Douglas told his followers. 'This is a job for the rank and file. The electors should then definitely be asked for a pledge to vote for no candidate who is not prepared to demand that dividend' (17).
This is the genesis of the very method used by the League in its 1971 campaign to 'save' the Country Party. 'The counter-strategy advocated by the League,' writes Brockett,
...was an Electors' Policy Statement which asserted the need for a stable, independent rural community, including its service towns. This called for decentralisation of political, financial and economic power, elimination of inflationary trends and financial strictures forcing farmers off their land. It also demanded the removal of 'experts' who were unable to eliminate inflation, renegotiation of primary producers' debts via long term low interest loan arrangements and a freeze on parliamentary salaries until all this was achieved. In order that the Country Party's elected representatives would get the message, the campaign brochure instructed electors to extract promises of performance standards and commitment to specific issues from their representatives.'
At the height of the League-Country Party dispute, in September 1971, Jeremy Lee, National Secretary of the League's Institute of Economic Democracy, told a League seminar:
In the next election there will be 20 or more Associations of Electors, working in the first attempt that I know to regain elected government. They will, I am sure, all meet resistance, not from the majority of their fellow voters, but from those groups that have usurped the voters' power (18).'
By 'those groups', Lee included political parties, which, he said, had assumed 'powers which properly belong to electors'. Brockett counters the infiltration allegations by citing a League briefing paper League Activity Within Political, Economic or Cultural Organisations, dated May 1969, which supposedly 'permitted' League members to 'improve and further' the objectives of other organisations and 'take the 'initiative' to effect such action if circumstances permitted' so long as the member was 'in agreement with the stated aims, objectives and policies of the other organisation', and did not seek to 'destroy or subvert' it. (Brockett, footnote 32.)
Only an organisation with no conscious recognition of itself as a political force could produce such a document and expect it to be taken seriously. The League of Rights had no such ignorance of its own motives. For years it had denounced the very essence of party politics. Just a year later - before the Country Party furore became a public issue - the Liberal Party's Victorian state executive resolved that 'membership of the League of Rights is inconsistent with membership of the Liberal Party'. A month before that, in March 1970, a party sub-committee had found 'substantial evidence to show that, in many instances, the League is 'opposed to the best interests of the party' (19).
Why the League of Rights - this avowedly anti-party political group - felt it had a mandate to regenerate the Country Party is perplexing. Yet this was the League's belief. 'One of the League's concerns,' Butler told Brockett, 'was to generate sufficient public opinion to force the [Country Party] back to the principles on which [it] had been established. And if this had to be achieved in opposition, that will (sic) be a good thing for [it] and a good thing for Australia.' It is interesting to note that similar sentiments were expressed by League supporter Alex Psalti who had joined with League members to form a Liberal Party branch within Victorian Federal Liberal MP Neil Brown's electorate of Diamond Valley in 1970. 'If our party is to continue in power we must first ensure that our branches ... be joined and strengthened only by members who genuinely believe in the Liberal Party's basic philosophy and platform, rather than be indifferent to the infiltration of people who masquerade as Liberals and who subsequently erode our platform and party from within (20).'
The League members in this branch were not footsoldiers. One of Psalti's fellow branch members was Matthew Sinclair, later the League's Victorian state director. He followed a proud tradition: in earlier times, the League's Queensland state director, Arthur A. Chresby, had joined the Liberal Party simply and solely to engineer his preselection for a parliamentary seat. 'I deliberately went into the Party system, worked my way into the position of a member of State executive, and deliberately worked myself into the position of getting a seat in Parliament,' Chresby wrote in How to Get What You Want (21).
Chresby was the Federal Liberal Member for Griffith, 1958-1961. Like Butler, Chresby, a veteran Social Credit activist, had come to the attention of intelligence agencies during the Second World War. A NSW Special Section police inspector noted that one of Chresby's obsessions was 'the grip the Jews have on English and Empire finance' (22). The League's continual attacks on the coalition parties were well-known. One League pamphlet, Australia's Liberal-Socialist Road to Serfdom, published during the Gorton premiership, derided coalition claims to be anti-socialist, and accused Sir Robert Menzies, John Gorton and the Country Party of implementing Fabian Socialist policies. 'In conclusion we must make our own position clear: The Australian League of Rights will not recommend support at future elections for any candidate who refuses to sign an undertaking to work to reverse present centralist policies' (23).
Back to Basics
It is small wonder then, that the Country Party's hierarchy accused the League of a campaign of destabilisation. The interests of the two organisations were incompatible, even if sections of the Country Party had turned a blind eye to this for years, in the name of 'anti-socialist' unity. Despite supposed similarities in stated objectives, the assumptions of the League and the Country Party were radically different, as the League well knew. The League believed the rural crisis, farm aggregation and the rise of inflation were deliberately orchestrated policies as part of a world-wide drive for power by the International Conspiracy:
The truth is that behind the programme for progressively centralising control of primary production, there is a long term policy which has as its objective the elimination of the independent primary producer. The drive to centralise primary production is not the result of 'inevitable trends', but of conscious effort to create the completely centrally planned society (24).
The Country Party did not hold to these views.
The League followed Douglas's line that inflation could be beaten simply by removing the so-called financial 'experts' who were deliberately misleading the public, and instituting Social Credit in place of orthodox economics. 'Only an enlightened and aroused electorate, demanding that political representatives insist that present Fabian Socialist financial policies be reversed, will force the 'guilty men' to produce alternative policies - or lose their jobs!'
Even the Country Party, whose spokesmen often took refuge in the great simplicities, knew that the League's Manichean view of the financial crisis betrayed a shallow misunderstanding of politics and human nature. As Queensland National Party president Robert Sparkes noted in a broadsheet attack on the League:
[I]t is claimed that almost all of the ills of the community, particularly the rural community, can be ascribed to ... 'erroneous' economic policies. According to these people, the pursuit of these policies is not mere accident or incompetent oversight, but is a deliberate technique of the 'Fabian Socialists (25).
'The ALOR did advocate Social Credit,' Brockett writes in a footnote (34), 'but in this campaign', he continues, 'they were simply advocating long term, low interest loans as per orthodox economics, plus consumer subsidies, a stated ACP policy.' Maybe so. As far as the Country Party was concerned, Social Credit was never very far behind the League's proposals. In his address to the Country Party's SA annual conference in Nuriootpa in August 1971, party leader Doug Anthony denounced Social Credit as 'dangerous and the worst way to stimulate the economy' (26). Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen attacked Social Credit as 'loose talk which many country people have fallen for'(27). Victorian National Party Leader, Peter Ross-Edwards accused the League of attempting to infiltrate the Country Party, describing Butler's 'basic economic theories (as) open to the gravest question.' He also accused the League of anti-Semitic tendencies (28). In a recent interview, Ian Sinclair (in 1971 the Deputy Leader of the Country Party and Minister for Primary Industry), said: 'what bothered us about the League was its racial bigotry and its strange economic theories of George Henry...' (Sinclair appeared to be confusing the land-tax reformer Henry George with Social Credit founder Clifford Douglas.)
These people had been pushing Social Credit for years. We knew them. Jeremy Lee had been in my home; our wives had been to school together. We knew that this (the Save the Country Party campaign) was just another way of pushing the Social Credit line, to make it more respectable to get people in (29).
The report prepared in 1971 by the Country Party's National Secretariat, referred to by Brockett, also emphasised this point: 'It is noteworthy that Mr Butler was strongly critical of the NZ social creditors (sic) for forming a party of their own. In New Times, March 1970, he wrote:
Whenever social credit has been tied to party politics the results have been disastrous.' Nothing can be done, the writer says, until the electorate is mobilised to exert sufficient pressure to force a change of financial policy. Mr Butler, through the Institute of Economic Democracy (a League division), is working on the Country Party to create this pressure' (30).
Even if the League's 'Can We Save The Country Party?' proposals were no more than rehashed Country Party policy as Brockett claims, the assumption that duplicitous 'experts' stood between prosperity and ruin was pure Social Credit doctrine.
Brockett is less than helpful when he takes on face value the League's claim that Social Credit is anti-centralist. 'The ALOR, as a Social Credit organisation, is totally opposed to highly centralised government, and to totalitarianism in its many forms, including socialism, communism, fascism, and national socialism'. Putting aside for a moment the League's public record of distributing virulent anti-Jewish literature written by self-styled National Socialists and fascists, and its eager endorsement of harsh measures against its political opponents, Social Credit is by necessity a centralist doctrine (31).
Despite Clifford Douglas's anti-socialist rhetoric he was no defender of laissez-faire capitalism. In Economic Democracy, his major work, Douglas wrote that industrial plant would be the property of the community (p. 113), that production would be according to plans based on community needs (p. 113); and that both production and consumption would be controlled by a 'collective credit organisation ('which might preferably not be the State') (p.114). 'Theoretically, we know where Douglas stands,' wrote socialist critic Lloyd Ross, 'practically he has not indicated how it is possible to control the issue of credit except through a central body. Douglas will not make his ideas clear on this point because he has written so many words condemnatory of central control.' Ross turned Douglas's earlier words back on to him:
The belief that 'the plant of civilisation belongs to the community, not to the operators, and the community can, or should be able to, appoint or dismiss anyone who in its discretion fails to use that plant to its best advantage' (1922); the insistence that industry is a common heritage (1920); the theory that 'the community has already bought and paid for many times over the whole of the plant used for manufacturing processes' (1919); and the attack on profits made in the earlier Douglas literature would lead to the nationalisation of industry, the elimination of profits (guaranteed so carefully in the later schemes), the better division of wealth (repudiated by Douglas supporters), and the abolition of inheritance. The early Douglas, despite his attack on Socialism, was Socialist in thought, though he might object to centralised control, and although he did not understand what Socialism really meant.
Canadian academic John Finlay, author of the broadly sympathetic Social Credit: The English Origins, agreed.
The socialist element in Social Credit was patent (Douglas) believed along with the socialists that 'natural resources are common property, and the means of exploitation should also be common property'; he also believed that 'the industrial machine is a common heritage, the result of the labours of untold generations of people whose names are for the most part forgotten and therefore society as a whole has a right to the product' (32).
Assessing the claims, Brockett's article touches on many important issues about conservative and right-wing politics in Australia. Although the League (like any marginal political group) is sometimes given to overstating its influence, Brockett, with the aid of correspondence supplied to him by League members and supporters, cites numerous instances of Country Party MPs praising the League and what they took to be its policies and philosophy, with one undocumented (and disputed) exception - Ian Sinclair has flatly denied telling Jeremy Lee that he and others subscribed to League journals to keep abreast of Government business (33).
Suggestions that the Liberal or Country parties were in some way tools of the League are unfounded, yet individuals from both parties, in some cases senior individuals, had been willing to overlook the League's anti-Semitism, racism,hostility to the party system, and unorthodox economics if they were prepared to assist in thwarting the Labor Party.
This tells us much about the poor intellectual engagement of some Australian conservatives. The League of Rights, in arguing that socialism is Jewish in origin (and as such is just one variety of Satanically-inspired totalitarianism), has a profoundly different understanding of 'socialism' than that held by the conservative parties (38). As Butler said in his 1979 work Releasing Reality, 'A reading of the Talmud explains why so many Jews are attracted to central planning, irrespective of what label it carries.'(39). This was not, presumably, the Country Party's understanding of socialism. Yet this ignorance has allowed many politicians over the years to share a platform with the League in the name of conservatism. 'They are anti-socialist and that's what I like,' said National Party Senate candidate Flo Bjelke-Petersen after addressing a League seminar in Brisbane in 1980. 'Joh thought it would be very nice of me to go along' (40).
It will be interesting to see what happens to the League's courting of conservatives with the decline of international (and local) communism as a threat. Andrew Moore, in his history of right-wing politics in Australia, The Right Road, has outlined how Cold War anti-communism created coalitions of convenience between the mainstream right of the conservative parties and the lunar right of groups such as the League. Will the much-touted 'End of Ideology', and the mainstream's embrace of economic rationalism serve to highlight and widen the ideological differences within the 'anti-socialist' right, or will new coalitions be built? And if so, on what issues? Reproductive rights? Gender politics? Race and immigration?
What does the Country and Liberal parties' one-time tolerance of a radical sect that dreamed of consigning them to the garbage-pail of history tell us about conservative-radical right relations today? The garbage-pail is still there: the Liberal Party was 'destined for the dustbin', said Eric Butler in 1984; ten years later it was suffering 'terminal decay and is NOT WORTH INFILTRATING'(41).
However, the League hungers for mainstream acceptance. Butler's replacement as League National Director, David Thompson, told Channel Nine's Sunday program that he would like to see the League 'more accepted ... from the point of view of getting results'(42). This self-styled 'service organisation' will probably still be there to offer its services to selected conservatives. But on whose terms?
The Country Party could well have done without the Australian League of Rights and its 'Save the Country Party Campaign',' Brockett writes, 'although it is doubtful that its electoral defeat in 1972 would have been averted if the League had not existed.' This is a statement as curious as it is oblique. It seems to infer that although the League did not cost the Country Party Government in the 1972 Federal election, its campaign had some negative electoral impact. Yet such a conclusion cannot be inferred from the poll results. As Mike Richards and Max Edwards detailed in their chapter on the League in Labor to Power, the League's preferred candidates who ran against Country Party members polled poorly, even in supposed League strongholds. In Darling Downs, the League-backed R.J. Alford polled just 2.5% despite being top of the ballot paper. The DLP candidate, also endorsed by the League, polled 6.4% - less than the 1969 result. The Country Party won Darling Downs from the Liberals. In Maranoa, the DLP's vote was also down from the previous election; the League's preferred independent polled just 1.47%. A League supporter, Bill O'Donnell, ran against the Country Party's Ralph Hunt in the NSW seat of Gwydir. (Hunt had previously denounced the League, which in turn revealed that Hunt had subscribed to the New Times for 13 years until 1964.) O'Donnell polled 0.7%, Hunt's vote increased.
If, as Brockett says, the Country Party had disenchanted many of its traditional supporters, they were disinclined to seek solace in the arms of the League of Rights or its preferred candidates (43). Indeed, as Brockett notes, dissatisfied farmers and graziers were, according to delegates to the Country Party's 1971 NSW annual conference, threatening not to join the League of Rights but to vote for the ALP in the next election.
According to political geographers D.J. Walmsley and I.R. McPhail, that is exactly what Country Party voters did, especially in NSW and Victoria, where swings from the Country Party to the ALP topped 4% in five seats (44).
In failing to detail the controversial aspects of the League's worldview, Brockett does the League a disservice. There are two aspects to the League's dispute with the Country Party. Firstly, there were the economic problems faced by rural communities in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, and the League's understanding of this rural crisis. As Brockett points out, the argument that the Country Party had sold out its traditional supporters was not confined to the League of Rights - the Basic Industries Group had a long-running battle with the Country Party dating back to Trade Minister Jack McEwen's time following his imposition of tariffs to shore up manufacturing industry.
Cynical commentators claimed that McEwen's tariff move was orchestrated to shore up the Country Party by creating an alliance between rural interests and manufacturing industry (45). In doing so, however, traditional rural interests felt they had come off second best. Whatever McEwen's motives, he created a noisy (if not powerful) enemy in the Basic Industries Group, centred on a group of wealthy graziers and wool growing interests opposed to what it saw as the negative influence of tariff protection on the wool industry.
'Traditional' vs. reformist splits within political organisations are never as simple as protagonists claim. Supposed 'traditional' values are can often be little more than factional interests. Yet the mainstream assumptions behind BIG's criticisms of the Country Party's new directions were far more in line with the concerns of 'traditional' Country Party voters and members than were the League's insinuations as to the Country Party's implementation of 'Sovietism by stealth' (46).
As sociology lecturer Geoffrey Lawrence has argued in his book Capitalism and the Countryside, Australia's rural crisis is 'based upon the declining position of family-farm agriculture in a world of transnational corporate capital. It is a crisis resulting from the unplanned and contradictory nature of world agricultural commodity production and exchange'(47):
There has been a concentration and centralization of capital in agriculture, and...it is the larger, capitalist-oriented producer who is succeeding in agriculture' (48).
As Lawrence sees it, the family farm can only be maintained through government commitment to principles of agrarian socialism.
In warning that farmers had to 'get big or get out', the Country Party was recognising the harsh realities of free enterprise, the very system that the League had so nakedly embraced back in the late 40s and early 50s, when it sought to tailor its message to the anti-socialist businesspeople of Australia. The League's fanciful theories of Judeo-Leninist skulduggery were a useless diversion and were recognised as such by the vast majority of rural Australians, whether dissatisfied with the Country Party or not.
There is also the broader issue of the League's understanding of the political process. The League's case was (and is) that mainstream political groups, such as the Country Party, had long before become the tools of Judaic philosophies of centralisation, and that League activists merely sought to introduce party members to its Social Credit economic policies, which, because of a smear campaign, needed to be presented in a more politically acceptable way, through a minimalist program. When it came under attack from Doug Anthony, it responded that this was an attack inspired by communists, 'the real infiltrators' of the conservative parties (49).
While such claims have no foundation, it has to be appreciated that League's demonological world view is fundamental to understanding its politics. To neglect this, as Brockett does, may very well help the League represent itself as simply another competitor on Australia's unlevel political playing field. The electorate may not appreciate just what it is doing with the ball. Brockett begins his article with a quote from Cedric Turner, a farmer whose interests, we are led to assume, had been neglected by the Country Party.
I was drawn into the Country Party in my youth. In those days its principles, as expressed in its original policy booklet, coincided with the principles I had been brought up on. The infrastructure was basic and reflected the aspirations and needs of the rural community ... one had an affinity with a party that gave the rural community some hope.'
Turner is Brockett's everyman, the 'ordinary' bloke done down by the political expedients of the Country Party. A later reference identifies him as the secretary of a Country Party branch in 1971, a CP member for more than 20 years. There is no suggestion in the text that he was a League member or sympathiser. All we see is an implied sadness at the loss of hope. Like the infrastructure he speaks of, his desires are, we assume, basic.
The anger of the Cedric Turners of this world at the Country Party was real, League of Rights or not. To that extent, and that extent alone, arguments about anti-Semitism and racism and financial fancies are perhaps a sideshow.
However, Brockett does not tell us is that Cedric Turner was a member of a prominent Social Credit pioneer family, a League of Rights activist for years, and Eric Butler's brother-in-law (50). We are back to square one.
(1). What I have called here conspiracy theories of history needs to be distinguished from beliefs that groups of ndividuals do at times conspire to achieve particular ends. The secret plotting of those involved in the Watergate break-in, or the conspiratorial behavior of intelligence services are a poor relation to the overarching all-consuming program of the universal Conspiracy, where disparate social forces are all controlled by a tiny hegemonistic group, such as the Jews, the Freemasons or the Jesuits. See A.L. Burns, 'Conspiracy', Quadrant, June 1977, pp 9-11, for a critique of conspiracy theories drawing on the writing of Karl Popper.
(2). 'Who authorised Mr McEwen to surrender our freedom? And who decided 'the great objective'? Here is the Judaic policy being openly advocated.' Eric D. Butler, The International Jew, 1946, p. 50.
(3). Irrespective of whether Brockett thinks the reverse, it is important that the League's reputation - fairly acquired or no - be examined.
(4). Objectives of the League of Rights: A Movement of the Australian People Fighting for Individual Freedom with Security, 1946, p1; The Australian League of Rights: For God, Queen & Country , 1960, p.1.
(5). Eric Butler stonewalled repeatedly when asked in 1972 about his present day views on his work The International Jew on the ABC-TV program Monday Conference, June 26, 1972.
(6). Clifford Douglas, The Development of World Dominion, p.26.
(7).Dr Maloney, the Labor MHR for Melbourne, criticised the New Times's endorsement of the anti-Jewish Protocols of Zion. 'I cannot see to my conviction any single prophecy made in these Protocols that have been proved to be issued before the dates of such prophecies.' Still, he signed off 'with all greetings and good luck for the success of your paper' New Times, July 26, 1935. Another Victorian Labor MP, J.J. Holland, wrote in the first issue: 'We are looking with a great deal of interest and great deal of hope to the trial of the Douglas Credit System in Alberta.' New Times, May 31, 1935. Regarding anti-banker sentiment within the ALP, see Peter Love, Labor and the Money Power.
(8). Letter to author, December 8, 1992.
(9). New Times, August 25, 1939
(10). Security Service dossier summary, October 15, 1942. Australian Archives, Series A 472. Item W9498.
(11). New Times, 28 June, 1940.
(12). Australian Archives. Series A472 Item W9498. op cit.
(13). New Times, 8 March, 1946.
(14). On the League of Empire Loyalists, see George Thayer, The British Political Fringe, pp 53-65.
(15). New Times, 4 March, 1949.
(16). New Times, 16 February, 1945.
(17). Clifford Douglas, The Nature of Democracy; pp. 8-9.
(18). Jeremy Lee, How to Vote Like A Christian, 1977; pp. 7, 9.
(19). The Age, March 1, 1972, 'Liberal Party looks over its shoulder'.
(20). The Age, ibid.
(21). Arthur A. Chresby, How to Get What You Want..., p. 2.
(22). Australian Archives. Series A472/1 Item W3354. Letter to Director, Commonwealth Investigation Branch, 18 April, 1941.
(23). Australia's Liberal Socialist Road To Serfdom, p. 6.
(24). 'They Want Your Land!,' cited in Jeremy Lee, Australia's Looming Farm Disaster! 'They Want Your Land' Revisited, p. 31, 32.
(25). Cited in Alan Metcalfe, In Their Own Right: The Rise to Power of Joh's Nationals, p.29.
(26). The Advertiser (Adelaide), 7 August, 1971.
(27). Sunday Australian, July 18, 1971.
(28). The Age, 9 August, 1971.
(29). Interview, Ian Sinclair, 26 August, 1996.
(30). 'A country league report', The Review, August 20, 1971. p. 1268-9.
(31). Some examples of books sold by the League: Fraudulent Conversion, by British National Socialist Movement founder Colin Jordan; The World Conquerors, by Hungarian Arrow Cross member Louis Marschalko; Anti- Zion, by William Grimstad, former managing editor of the US Nazi Party paper, White Power; Hitler: Born at Versailles, by Rexist founder and Belgian Waffen SS leader Leon Degrelle; Jewish Ritual Murder, by Imperial Fascist League founder Arnold Leese; For Those Who Cannot Speak, by Michael McLaughlin, leader of the openly Nazi British Movement; Imperium, by Francis Parker Yockey, which is dedicated to 'the hero of the Second World War' - Adolf Hitler.
During the Springbok rugby union tour in 1971, League 'actionists' were advised to write to police and encourage them in their actions against anti-Apartheid demonstrators, described in the League's On Target magazine as 'utter scum' and 'the organised dregs of our society'. 'Letters to the Chief Commissioner of Police in your State should state that you are strongly in favor of more energetic police action, and that this rabble must be put down, and that you and your friends won't be sorry to see a few police batons in action if this is necessary.' On Target, 9 July, 1971, cited in The Age, 26 February, 1972.
(33). Lloyd Ross, Tickets Without Goods, p.40.
(34). John Finlay, Social Credit: The English Origins..., pp. 111-112.
(35). 'As the national and international crisis deepens,' wrote League national director David Thompson at the height of the Downer affair, 'the role of the League of Rights becomes ever more central to any genuine resistance to the destruction of Australian sovereignty'. Intelligence Survey, August 1994.
(36). Brockett's collection of League-sourced correspondence in this matter is invaluable to any student of this area. It is troubling, however, that he does not clearly identify whether certain correspondents were 'ordinary' farmers/CP members or League supporters/members. For example, Don Auchterlonie, cited in footnote 18, belonged to both the CP and ALR, but only his CP involvement is mentioned.
(37).Interview, Ian Sinclair, 26 August, 1996. op. cit.
(38). 'We have witnessed the slimy intrigues and the growing power of the oligarchy of finance founded by the Houses of Rothschild and the Secret Societies and today consolidated in International Finance, International Communism, International Zionism and the agencies they control. These power hungry men of history and their lesser brethren have pursued a single policy - namely to centralize and consolidate in their hands the power to control the lives of nations ... In short it is the policy of evil - of the Devil - it is the policy which can aptly be described as Satanism.' L. Denis Byrne, Centralization - The Policy of Satanism. p. 3-4.
(39). Eric D. Butler, Releasing Reality, p. 57.
(40). The Age, The Australian, 11 August, 1980.
(41). The Age, 14 June, 1984; Intelligence Survey, August 1994.
(42). Sunday, 12 August, 1994.
(43). Mike Richards and Max Edwards, 'The League of Rights and the election', in Henry Mayer (ed.), Labor to Power, pp. 105-100.
(44). D.J. Walmsley and I.R. McPhail, 'The Country Party's performance', in Henry Mayer, ibid, pp. 69-70.
(45). Alan Reid, The Power Struggle, pp. 44-62; Don Aitken, 'The Australian Country Party', in Henry Mayer and Helen Nelson (eds.), Australian Politics: A Third Reader, pp. 422-424.
(46). Lee, Australia's Looming Farm Disaster! p. 32.
(47). Geoffrey Lawrence, Capitalism and the Countryside, p. 3.
(4). Lawrence, ibid, p 26.
(49). See 'Behind The Nation-Wide Smear of the League of Rights: Who Lured Country Party Into Political Booby Trap?' Intelligence Survey, November 1971.
(50). On the Turner family of Colac, see New Times, 19 September, 1941. Mr Turner's sister, Elma, is Mrs Eric Butler.
- Australian League of Rights. The Australian League of Rights: For God, Queen & Country. Melbourne, 1960.
- Australian League of Rights. Australia's Liberal-Socialist Road to Serfdom Melbourne, 1970.
- Eric D. Butler. The International Jew. Adelaide, 1946.
- ------. Releasing Reality. Heritage Publications, Melbourne, 1979.
- L. Denis Byrne. Centralization - The Policy of Satanism. Australian League of Rights, Melbourne, 1972.
- Arthur A. Chresby. How to Get What You Want. ACECFC, Toowoomba, 1990.
- Clifford Douglas. The Development of World Dominion. Tidal Publications, Sydney, 1969.
- Clifford Douglas. Economic Democracy. Bloomfield Publishers, Epsom, 1974.
- Clifford Douglas. The Nature of Democracy; Institute of Economic Democracy, Kingstown, 1978.
- John Finlay. Social Credit: The English Origins. McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal, 1972.
- Geoffrey Lawrence. Capitalism and the Countryside. Pluto Press, Leichhardt, 1987.
- Jeremy Lee. How to Vote Like A Christian. Australian League of Rights, Melbourne, 1977.
- Jeremy Lee. Australia's Looming Farm Disaster! 'They Want Your Land' Revisited . Institute of Economic Democracy, Ravensbourne, 1985.
- Peter Love. Labor and the Money Power. Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1984.
- Henry Mayer (ed.). Labor to Power. Angus & Robertson, Cremorne, 1973.
- Henry Mayer and Helen Nelson (eds.). Australian Politics: A Third Reader. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1973.
- Alan Metcalfe. In Their Own Right: The Rise to Power of Joh's Nationals . University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1984.
- Andrew Moore, The Right Road? Oxford University Press. South Melbourne, 1995.
- Alan Reid. The Power Struggle. Tartan Press, St Ives, 1969.
- Lloyd Ross. Tickets Without Goods. Lloyd Ross, Dunedin, n.d.
- George Thayer. The British Political Fringe. Anthony Blond, London, 1965.
- South Australian League of Rights. Objectives of the League of Rights: A Movement of the Australian People Fighting for Individual Freedom with Security. (n.p.) Adelaide, 1946.
Newspapers, magazines and journals
- The Age (Melbourne)
- The Australian
- The Sunday Australian
- The Advertiser (Adelaide)
- The Australian Financial Review
- The Review
- New Times
- Intelligence Survey
- Monday Conference, ABC-TV, June 26, 1972.
- Sunday, Nine Network (TV)
- News, 3LO (ABC radio)
- Australian Archives, Series A 472. Item W9498.
- Australian Archives. Series A472/1 Item W3354.
- Ian Sinclair, 26 August, 1996.
- Eric D. Butler to David Greason, 8 December, 1992.
** David Greason is a Melbourne journalist and author of I was a teenage fascist (McPhee Gribble, Melbourne, 1994), and a three-part report on racism in Victoria for the Victorian Equal Opportunities Commission. He is at present writing a history of the Australian League of Rights, to be published by Penguin Books in 1997.