Version in the Marxist Archive (Andy Blunden)
In 1991 Bob Gould sold me his last copy of Ernie Lane’s Dawn to Dusk – Reminiscences of a Rebel. This was the one published by Clarrie Beckingham in 1939.
Bob recommended that LeftPress re-print it because it was out of copyright and because it is a great yarn about the travails of the early socialists in the working class movement in Australia. On reflection this was strange advice from Bob Gould who was a committed ”entrist”*. He believed that we should bring reform from within the Labor Party. But on closer examination Ernie Lane believed this too. The contradiction lay in the words of Ernie in the early part of Dawn to Dusk –
‘The wiles of Labour politicians the futility of fearful and reactionary Labour leaders have been revealed in this record, and the lessons I and others so bitterly learned should preclude any further waste of time and enthusiasm in vainly endeavoring to make figs blossom and fruit on barren trees.
— Ernie Lane in Dawn to Dusk
Sadly it has always been so. Bob Gould knew it. He recommended that LeftPress also re-publish Gordon Childe’s How Labour Governs (1923). Bob correctly informed me that Dawn to Dusk was a classic and had been rated by the Bulletin as one of the 50 best books written in Australia.
So we took Bob’s advice on re-publishing Ernie Lane’s book. It is probably the best publishing project we have undertaken — not because we sold that many books (we sold about 200 of the 500 we printed) but because of the nature and insights we discovered in the book and in the publishing process.
We launched Dawn to Dusk at the Trades & Labour council building in South Brisbane in 1992.
We were very lucky because the original publisher, Clarrie Beckingham, gave full support in reprinting the book and spoke at the launch – Clarrie was well into his nineties back then and fainted as he was giving his speech at the book launch. After the ambulance came, Clarrie was declared OK. We took him home to a strong cup of tea. How relieved we all were – especially after we were able to ring his son, John, to tell him that Clarrie was OK.
Clarrie’s wife, Dorothy Lane, had been at the socialist colony called ‘Cosme‘ in Paraguay in the late 19th century – Dorothy was Ernie Lane’s daughter.
Hughie Williams, the state secretary of the Transport Workers Union, launched the book and told the harrowing tale of how he grew up on the Hunter Valley coalfields where the Chifley labor government had sent troops to break the great coal strike of 1948. Starving miners were forced back to work. Sadly whenever socialists have managed to build the working class movement in Australia and the Labor party pulls back wanting only reformism, we have always gone to water. It is this contradiction and lack of maturity that, more than any other single thing, has plagued us.
Thanks Bob, you are part of our socialist history and you knew it well.
We followed your advice that LeftPress print this book from your shelves at Gould’s Books in Newtown.
It is good to see your daughter, Natalie, is carrying on Gould’s books.
We wish her well.
Vale Bob – your advice about the relevance of Dawn to Dusk holds true for the Labour movement till this day.
The banner photo of Bob Gould is taken from an SMH article and is by Dallas Kilponen. See End of cultural chapter as beloved bookseller dies at 74