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Australian Artists of the Right:
Ian Mudie

6,512 words

The idea of “Australianity,” the uniqueness of Australia as a nation and new nationality, has its origins both in the pioneer labor movement and in the novelists, poets, and artists who saw vast possibilities in building a new civilization unencumbered by the decay of the Old World. The first saw their “socialism” in terms of a non-doctrinaire “mateship” that could forge a new “race” called Australians: an amalgam of the sundry peoples that had settled Australia from Europe, enabled by a transcending of the class divisions of the Old World. Both elements had common enemies in the plutocracy of the Old World that aimed to subordinate Australia to international finance.

The Australian Nationalist-Right was practicing metapolitics generations ago. Percy Stephensen, a major literary figure, was the focus of Australian nationalism through the journal The Publicist and the Australia First Movement. [1] Because of his influence in literature, he was able to draw other literary figures to the Right and had made a seminal impact on the formation of an Australian culture-nationalist movement through his essay, The Foundations of Australian Culture. [2] The special character of Australia that inspired the culture-nationalists is cogently expressed in the first two paragraphs of The Foundations:

Australia is a unique country. All countries are unique, but this one is particularly so. Visitors, such as D. H. Lawrence, have discerned a spiritual quality of ancient loveliness in our land itself. The flora and fauna are primitive, and for the most part harmless to man, but to the visitor there is another element, of terror, in the Spirit of the Place. The blossoming of the waratah, the song of the lyrebird, typify the spirit of primitive loveliness in our continent; but the wail of the dingo, the gauntness of our tall trees by silent moonlight, can provide a shiver of terror to a newcomer. Against a background of strangeness, of strange beasts and birds and plants, in a human emptiness of three million square miles, our six million white people, of immigrant stock, mainly from Europe, are becoming acclimatized in this environment new to them but geologically so old that Time seems to have stood still here for a million years.

A new nation, a new human type, is being formed in Australia. [3]

While Stephensen combined politics with cultural patronage, the former through Australia First and the Yabber Club (a discussion group), there was formed at the time a specifically cultural movement devoted to the artistic expression of Australianity: the Jindyworobak Club. The poet and novelist Ian Mudie was prominent in both and served on the executive of Australia First.

Jindyworobaks and Australia First

The Jindyworobak Club was founded by Rex Ingamells as a poetry movement in 1938. The term is from an Aboriginal dialect, and means “to join.” It implied “to join” with the land and become imbued with the “spirit of place” as much as the Aborigine. This Aborigine heritage was important to both the Jindies — members of the Jindyworobak Club — and Australia First. Stephensen assisted the first major Aborigine movement, and its newspaper The Australian Abo Call was distributed from the office of The Publicist.

Stephensen used the specific term “Spirit of the Place” in Foundations. It is the basis from which Australianity could be built. The Aborigines had been intimate with the land for tens of thousands of years, and according to Carl Jung, who also referred to the spiritus loci, the impress of the land would impact different peoples in similar ways. [4] Hence, the Jindies used “the little black man” as their symbol: A silhouette of a figure over a campfire above the phrase: “For Australia first.”

The Aborigine term Alcheringa, meaning “Dreamtime,” was important to the Jindies. They aimed to create a white Dreamtime. It was Ian Mudie who suggested the “symbolic possibilities” of Alcheringa to Ingamells. The aim was stated by Ingamells to be to reject alien influences and to take account of Australia’s heritage in all aspects; primeval, colonial, and modern. Environmentalism was also important. [5]

In this age of muddled dichotomies, it might be easy to misinterpret the Jindies as an association of cosmopolitan leftists. However, recall that Ezra Pound incorporated Chinese ideograms into his poetry, and Evola introduced Eastern thought to the West, as did Jung.

D. H. Lawrence, whose novel Kangaroo influenced Ingamells and others, looked at the extant primeval customs of Mexico to discover the heritage of Europe that had disappeared under the hubris of modern civilization, [6] the negative consequences of which Jung had warned of in his essay “Wotan.” “Every continent has its own great spirit of place,” Lawrence had written. [7]

While the movement was broad and included Communist literati, the motive was Australianity and the “White Australia” that entailed. Mudie wrote in the Jindy anthology for 1941 Cultural Cross-Section: “We have created a new European country in Australia and we belong to the European nations even though we do not live in Europe.” Ingamells sought to explain this position amidst criticism from both sides: “Our traditions are twofold. Inextricably woven with the transplanted European culture are our experiences of the Australian environment.” [8]

Mudie had started in Australia First several years prior to meeting Ingamells in 1940 and joining the Jindies in 1941. He was regarded as an important recruit for the Jindies. Mudie esteemed Stephensen, and was unequivocal in his political position; he never retracted, even during World War II, through which he was spared the internment endured by Stephensen and 15 other Australia Firsters. With Stephensen, and the prominent arts matron Miles Franklin, also an active member of Australia-First, Mudie had a close, almost filial-type relationship. It is said that nobody was better at translating Stephensen’s political ideas into skilled poetic form than Mudie. [9]

Mudie (born March 1, 1911) had a tall, wiry, weather-beaten appearance, despite being a city-dweller, and was often assumed to be a bushman or shearer. Stephensen called him an “earth mystic.” Self-educated, working at various laboring jobs, his first association with the Jindies was a contribution to their initial anthology published in 1939. Like Stephensen, Mudie had lived in London, and this had made him conscious of being an Australian. Both had returned to Australia in 1932. He became an enthusiast for Stephensen’s home-grown “national socialism” and the poet laureate of Australia First. His personal files contained clippings about the Italian poet D’Annunzio, [10] who had an influence over the Italian Fascist aesthetic. He regarded Stephensen’s Foundations as the seminal document of a new Australian culture nationalism, which he called “Australianism.” He had been associated with Stephensen since 1935 when he contributed his poem “Ascent” to the latter’s short-lived journal Australian Mercury, in which he referred to “the marches of our dreams.”

Mudie was elected onto the executive committee of Australia First when it was founded in 1941. Mudie had found in Stephensen the leader to give his Australianity political expression, writing to Stephensen in July 1941: “We who are Australians had no leader; we had no conscious direction; we had no realization; we were incapable of realizing their political implications. We were all drifting into Moscow’s net. Then came P. R. Stephensen.” [11]

Mudie referred to himself as a “fanatic” for both Australia and Australia First under Stephensen’s leadership. He regarded Stephensen as the “National Leader” of what would become an army of followers growing like a “dust storm.” Stephensen was reticent about taking on the role, appealing instead for not one leader but “a thousand leaders” thinking in unison. [12]

From 1937, Mudie was also a regular contributor to the Australia First journal, The Publicist, founded in 1935. The Publicist provided a primary venue for Mudie’s poetry, and it was not until then that Mudie was recognized as a poet. [13]

The association of individuals such as D. H. Lawrence, Puccini, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and in Australia, Stephensen, Xavier Herbert, Lionel and Norman Lindsay, Mudie, Ingamells, and others causes liberals and leftists much angst in that so many cultural eminences were of the Right. Another of these angst-inducing figures is Miles Franklin.

Franklin was a novelist, feminist, and arts matron, who had known Mr. and Mrs. Stephensen closely, subscribed to The Publicist, joined Australia First and the Yabber Club, and became a motherly figure to Mudie. She was well aware of the menace of international finance, and like Pound supported Social Credit. She supported the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War, a litmus test in regard to what side one chose in the world doctrinal conflict. She was impressed by Stephensen’s Foundations. [14] The Miles Franklin Literary Award, established posthumously in 1957 for the best Australian novel of the year, continues to be the most prestigious award of its kind. [15]

Closely missing the round-up of arrests of Stephensen and other AF members in New South Wales, Mudie had returned to Adelaide and served full-time in the homefront “Militia” anti-aircraft units from 1942.

During the war years, his poems included Corroboree to the Sun (1940), This Is Australia (1941), Their Seven Stars Unseen (1943), the prize-winning Australian Dream (1943), and the collection Poems (1945). He edited the anthology Poets at War (1944).

On being discharged in 1945, he accepted a Commonwealth Literary Fund fellowship to research paddle-steamers on the Murray and Darling rivers. Mudie returned to poetry in 1959 with The Blue Crane, followed by the prize-winning North-Bound Rider (1963), Look, the Kingfisher! (1970), and Selected Poems 1934-1974 (1976). In 1961, Riverboats, a collection of short stories he had gathered from the paddle-steamers, was published. This was followed by two histories, Wreck of the Admella (1966) and The Heroic Journey of John McDouall Stuart (1968), children’s story-books such as The Christmas Kangaroo (1946), and edited books such as Australian Poets Speak (1961).

Avid in promoting Australian literature, Mudie was active in the Australian Society of Authors. He was national president (1959-60) of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, editor-in-chief (1960-65) at Rigby Ltd., publishers, and an organizer of Writers’ Week at the Adelaide Festival of Arts from its start in 1960 until 1972. He lectured to adult education classes at the University of Adelaide, taught at the South Australian School of Arts, and undertook speaking tours for the Commonwealth Literary Fund. He died in London on October 23, 1976, and his ashes were scattered on the Murray River. [16]

White Man’s Walkabout

It was the publication of Corroboree [17] to the Sun by The Publicist that brought Mudie to literary prominence. It seems strange today that a periodical of the radical Right, defending the Axis states, could be such a seminal influence on Australian culture.

Corroboree to the Sun appeared in the March 1940 issue of The Publicist, and reappeared in the 1940 Jindyworobak Anthology, which was sold at The Publicist bookshop. Corroboree to the Sun was published as a separate volume with a dedication to Stephensen the same year, and included a call for Australians to “become rooted in our own Austral soil.” [18] The cover depicted an Aborigine with spear, dancing before a blazing sun.

Mudie’s poetry shows the extent to which the genuine Right is the pioneer and custodian of ecology long before the Left jumped on the bandwagon. The “Australianity” of Stephensen and of the Jindies is rooted in their native soil. It is a mythic feeling that is intrinsic to the genuine Right, and is antithetical to both the despoliation inherent in plutocracy, and to the Left’s dialectical materialism — despite the latter’s posturing as “Green.” We read the same feelings across national boundaries, in the novels of Knut Hamsun, D. H. Lawrence, and Henry Williamson. [19]

This is why Australia-First and the Jindies sought to connect with the Aborigine; not in repudiation of their own White lineage, but as transplanted European colonials who had the option of despoiling the land or “joining” with it as part of a continuum of over 50,000 years. New Zealand Rightist poet Geoffrey de Montalk sought such a connection when he championed Maori causes before the Left jumped on that bandwagon also, as had Stephensen with his promotion of The Abo Call, and the Aborigines Progressive Association, where “only persons of Aboriginal blood” were eligible for membership. [20] In 1938, J. T. Patten editorialized:

White Australians, we appeal to give us a chance to improve ourselves! The treatment of Aborigines in Australia, for 150 years, and continued today, has been a worse example of racial persecution and race prejudice than the Jews in Germany have suffered. You are admitting Jewish aliens to Australia, while exterminating the Old Aborigines whose ancestors have roamed this continent since time immemorial. . . [21]

Ironically, the harshest critics of the Jindie attempt to build an Australian nativist culture through reference to the Aborigine were the literati who touted equality, insisting that the Aborigine tradition can have no place in a “progressive” civilization. For example, the surrealist poet, art critic, and publisher Max Harris, founder of the journal Angry Penguins, Australian Literary Review, and Sun Books, condemned the Jindies in 1943 for “Aboriginizing” English.

Harris saw poetry as international — detached from place and from anything other than the poet’s ego. [22] These internationalists and modernists remained Eurocentric in the sense of the progressivism of the Late West, while eschewing the Nationalist Right’s interest in Aborigine culture as redundant. Poet and academic A. D. Hope later amended his criticism of the Jindies and commended them for attempting to forge an Australian identity, despite making “impossible demands” on artists, [23] where previously he had implicitly rejected the Aborigine’s 50,000+ year presence, calling Australia a land “without songs, architecture, history.” [24]

Most exemplary of this attitude was that of a Jindie poet, Flexmore Hudson, who embraced the spirit of a “world state” with gusto — in the aftermath of the world war, he hoped that there would be less a sense of nationality and more a sense of “world citizenship.” He supported the newly formed UNESCO’s call for a universal education that would replace national and racial histories with “world history,” whatever that might be. A founding member of the Jindyworobak Club, Hudson, like other internationalists, saw in the Jindies the opportunity to promote their writings but remained at odds with the Jindie aim of Australian identity, including the reference to Aborigine traditions in explaining the spirit of place. Such a “joining” was not “progressive” in the English Liberal sense or left-wing sense. When Mudie was editing the Jindyworobak Anthology of 1946, he included a mediocre poem by Hudson with the hope of avoiding sectarian political divisions. [25] From an academic study on Hudson:

Yet, Hudson’s aversion to the Jindyworobak aim of drawing on Aboriginal Australia for inspiration seemed to stem from a more ordinary, pervasive racism. In the same 1948 article that Hudson encouraged Australians to be “unified by a concept of world-citizenship” he admitted that “I cannot believe that our poets are going to learn much of technique from a backward people who are without written language.” For Hudson, Aboriginal culture had no place in modern Australian literature; he told Ingamells that “a cultured scientific twentieth century outlook” was more appropriate [26]. To modern sensibilities Hudson’s attitude toward Aboriginal Australia seems at odds with his call for “goodwill to all peoples, regardless of their colour, race or religion. . .”[27]

There is nothing really paradoxical about this. Whether it is the dialectical materialism of Karl Marx, the Industrial Revolution as the epitome of human accomplishment as viewed during the Victorian era, or the “End of history” marking the universal triumph of liberal democracy and economics, proclaimed by Francis Fukuyama in our time, these are all economic, moral, social, political and cultural models of the Late West, and no other.

There is an implicit belief in the Late West’s superiority over traditional cultures and indigenous peoples, who must become fully integrated into a world system, now called “globalization,” on the assumption that being able to fully partake of the Late West’s decay is of great beneficence to all “humanity.” The internationalism of Hudson and the like was, and remains, perfectly consistent. It is supremacism antithetical to the traditional Right.

Regan points out in her aforementioned paper that “there was more room for Aboriginal Australians within the ‘savage nationalism’ of Stephensen than in Hudson’s world-minded outlook,” and alludes to Stephensen’s support for The Abo Call, and his involvement “with both the Aboriginal Citizenship Committee and organizing the Day of Mourning protest held on Australia Day 1938.” [28]

To Hudson, time spent in the Outback did not connect him with the “spirit of place,” but merely prompted him to reflect that the sun that beats down on Australia and the stars that overlook it are the same that are seen by “Papuans, Thibetans, Javanese, Chinese, Germans, Russians, Eskimoes,” and that they are all just part of some nebulous thing called “humanity.” [29] Such rootless cosmopolitans, to utilize an apt term from Stalin, pride themselves in being able to slot into any part of the world without sense of place and devoid of spirit. To what extent can their “world culture” mean anything, other than to give an aesthetic façade to the forces of international degeneration and plutocracy? The marketplace knows no boundaries, and the arts have long become a commodity. It is just such a predicament of the Late West that turned so many artists to the Right.

Carl Jung wrote both of the “spirit of place” molding the unconscious of settler peoples, and on the dangers in trying to incorporate the spirit of a foreign race as one’s own. The Jindies, Mudie, and Stephensen were aiming for a balance: The white Australian would be as imbued with the spirit of place as the Aborigine who had walked the soil for over 50,000 years, without denying that he was a white. Since liberals and progressives cannot see the animating spirit in anything, they could only attack the Australian nationalists as trying to “appropriate Aborigine culture,” while these progressives now have the arrogance to posture as the champions of the black man and attempt their own appropriations of culture for cynical agendas.

Acknowledging the Australianity of the white literati who had been inspired by Stephensen’s seminal Foundations, The Abo Call serialized extracts from Xavier Herbert’s prize-winning novel, Capricornia, which Stephensen and his patron W. J. Miles had enabled to be published. Given the situation today, it is difficult to imagine a time when there were such alliances between Aborigine traditionalists and Australian Rightists. However, the alliance brought to Australia a vibrant, nativist, blood-and-soil culture that was spearheaded by Stephensen, Mudie and the Jindies, and this is the basis of Corroboree to the Sun and Mudie’s other poems as the “Song Man” of Australia First — as Xavier Herbert referred to him.

Stephensen heralded Mudie as a “true innovator” whose service to “an indigenous culture” would be immortal in the first issue of The Publicist in 1941; whose poetry was a “deep surge towards the elemental spirit of our own land, its courageous, fundamental Australianism.” [30] Each issue of the monthly periodical featured Mudie. Among the poems were “Nation of the Blind” and “Journey” published in 1941.

“Nation of the Blind” drew on the Australian landscape and historical heritages, characteristic of Mudie’s writing: The iconic Eureka rebellion was being forgotten, and “Stuart’s tree is burned,” an allusion to a tree commemorating the 19th-century explorer John McDouall Stuart; while “Greenaway’s stones are down,” [31] “our eyes are dull and blind.” The soil is raped, while “none sing in patriotic voice,” and prophets are muffled, while others are deaf to challenges. The “deepest thoughts are trash.” “[O]ur youth and our fire and ambition / in aping empty play.”

Now is the time for returning
to courage and spears of the mind.
Awake, and see to your dawning,
oh, nation of the blind.

“Journey” is a mental and physical travel to finding the spirit of Australia, “to this sacred site of the spirit / where the waters of vision ever well,” across “the heat-glaring gibbers / up the lonely gullies of the mind /  and across its thrusting ranges.”

This is a White man’s “Walkabout,” where “alien mists” must be fought through, and “alien emblems” thrown away. Weary from “the oppression of heritages,” not of Australia’s spirit, and of “alien cultures;” struggling to shake off “alien burden.” This White man’s “Walkabout” is evident with the journey being on the:

dream-time [32] paths that led
to this sacred place,
to this sanctuary
of the idea
where National vision
ever dwells:
in the vast Alcheringa [33]
of the resurgent
National Consciousness.

Corroboree

“Corroboree to the Sun” [34] uses the symbolism of sunlight to establish a conflict between the sloth and ease of the sun’s warmth, and “its burning glass of energy that calls trees, grass and mountains to beauty.” The future was one of rule by “mediocrity,” of “white and pudgy hands” devoid of “flame” and “genius,” that cannot even “smolder” let alone set Australia ablaze as a new continental nation and civilization. “Let all the dross be burned,” and new growth sprout, too strong to ever again be cramped by “little minds” and “little men.” This was a call for the return of the archetypical Australian ruggedness, of toughness in mind, body, and spirit, freed from the bourgeois and plutocrats, and the inanity of democratic rulers.

“Moana Increase Site” laments the destruction of Australia’s landscape and sacred places by the inanity of the Late West, where a fruit tin drops upon the land, the sacred sites have been trampled over by cattle and campers, and attention is to the “dull news of Europe’s dull hysteria.”

In “Wool Chequee” Mudie retains a primary concern for the way in which Australia’s landscape, the basis of its mystique, was being ruined by farming, “by the fatal plague of paddocks and denuded hills, ” an invasion of axe, plough, and hooves, for the sake of blind profit, whether as gold or wool. He envisioned this civilization collapsing, and turning on man, walls crumbling and fences sagging, a land turned barren, “by the lusts of men.”

“This Land” follows “Wool Chequee” in the 1976 collection, and can be read as a contrasting scenario: Mudie wants a “harsh land” from which culture springs, where sun, dust, and rain forge a land of “strength and austerity.”

“Belong” is a defense of the Aborigine in ways that the present-day Left and Right would find difficult to comprehend, but accords with a traditionalist approach intrinsic to a genuine Right. Mudie here scorns the treatment of Aborigines by those who still possess a colonial mentality by telling the Aborigines where they belong, when the minds of their would-be benefactors have not left the Old World; that there were still only a few Whites who were really “Australians.”

The poem following, “Benarra’s Farewell,” sees Mudie write of the disappearing Aborigine and the obliteration of his ways by the encroachment of the Late West. Little would be left other than some “scratched pictures,” an allusion to petroglyphs that at times are the only reminder of an ancient tribe. “Our days went to the pattern of our law” might remind one of the differences in time and space perceptions among traditional cultures — as distinct from the “modern” — sustained by rites and customs, described by Mercia Eliade. [35]

A reading of Eliade and traditionalists such as Evola would be profitable in understanding Mudie. His thinking, and that of Stephensen and the Jindies, accords with the Right at a deep level and is distinct from the liberal notions of the “noble savage” or the “cultural appropriation” of commerce. Mudie saw the white Australian colonialist being eventually fundamentally changed by the landscape, “until its spirit through your every action runs,” and if the Aborigine race disappears there would emerge “a new Australian race,” possessing “the heritage of place,” “welded to its soil as once we were,” “responding to its very undertone.” The thoughts are thoroughly Jungian, and one might also think of Spengler and the Russian ethnologist Gumilev in the shaping of a “race” from the land. [36]

Mudie is scathing on the manner by which the Aborigines have been studied by anthropologists. In “The Tribesman Welcomes the Scientist,” he refers to the Aborigine waiting with his sacred weapons and dances for his skull and width of his nose to be measured and his hairs to be counted — to be treated as “an interesting scientific exhibit.”

“One Day, Perhaps in Spring” is a warning that “the people”, “the rabble,” and the “unintellectuals” periodically rebel against their leaders. He identified the types that comprise these leaders. Once they are rejected, they will become pointless:

and you’re left as followerless leaders, going nowhere
editors, politicians, ‘nice people’, union bosses,
planners, agitators, pacifists, war-mongers,
pedants, professors, chairmen of this that or the other,
the whole mob of you who get a cut out of organising us,
who swell your profits or egos by marching ahead of us,
all the self-elected leaders, magging your heads off –
you’re suddenly out on a limb with no tree to it;
and you find we’re not listening to you…

Blueprints made for the future will be smashed, and “signposts chopped up for firewood.” There will be nobody to read their newspapers, fight their wars or carry on their revolutions. Until then, nobody could be bothered to change things, and a circus is fun especially when the bosses think they are controlling the clowns. One day people will simply opt-out and let the old civilization fall.

Cultural Springtime

A further collection of poems in 1942, Unabated Spring, [37] was no less strident and unapologetic despite the internment of Mudie’s mentor Stephensen and other colleagues. The first poem, “Australia Day: 1942” was dedicated to the late W. J. Miles.

Miles (1871-1942) was a businessman and well-known “rationalist” who had been Stephensen’s financial patron and had established The Publicist. He founded the Advance Australia League in 1917 with the slogan “Australia First.” He had published Stephen’s Foundations of Australian Culture and Xavier Herbert’s epic novel Capricornia. Mudie’s poem “Australia Day: 1942” was an evocation to Australia’s great dead, naming such folk heroes as Ned Kelly and Peter Lalor: [38]

Lawson’s men from the western creeks, and a thousand more beside.
Call up your ghosts, Australia, and set them riding far
to rouse a sleeping nation to its seven-pointed star.
Call up your dead, Australians, and bid them ride with you
to set your rivers brimming with Eureka’s flood anew.
Call up your hosts, Australia, to strive with you amain,
to fight, to sting, to honor, your Flag of Stars again.

“Glory of the Sun” refers to those of colonial descent who had yet to find their identity away from Europe and connect with the spirit of the land. The wildness of the Australian landscape is a primary element of that identity, and while Australianity was still embryonic, Australians were gaining a sense of their difference — although each one still “idly drifts” along separate streams: “Yet these my people when they wander far/dream of the wattle and the waratah.” The full sense of identity is yet to find direction, and confront the elements that oppose it; most of all, the grip of materialism and commerce that threatened to thwart and strangle the young nation:

These are my people, who let vision slip
back to the stubble-land of last year’s crop;
glory they let slip for gold, wisdom for ease
and self-reliance for dull luxury’s pursuit;
making this land vassal, they proclaimed
culture subservient to alien trade.

How many years shall run
before they drink the glory of the sun?

“Mental Expatriates” disdains the colonial mentality that sees nothing of Australia’s tradition beyond colonial settlement; a transplanting of England:

Colour-blind, or like the cave-blind fish
that lives so long in dark it cannot see in sun,
they stare to the dark cave of the northern skies
and will not see the colors of our scene…
For them there is no oldness in this land –
white flesh, for them, and Europe tales,
wiped out the stories of our earth.

It is almost like an Aboriginal lament. Yet, without a white sense of Alcheringa, what was left and what has transpired other than Australia, like New Zealand, as an outpost of world trade and civilization at its epoch of decay? Around the same time in New Zealand, those such as Rex Fairburn were trying to mold a New Zealand sense of identity in like manner. [39] This was the Gold Age of the Antipodes, and with the passing of that generation there passed any true identity for both nations beyond the banalest and craven.

In “Here History Lives,” Mudie upholds the hope of Australia as the land of a new civilization, not having gone through the decaying epochs of the West; a new start for white peoples, without “drear depressing depth,” no “clutter” to “sour” the land; no “old and dreary wars, boredoms of princes, famines, hates, fears, lies, eternal shames” to the vitality of the emerging nation. Australia has youth, and one detects a Spenglerian optimism, rather than fatality:

History is here no toothless, peevish fool
In nightcap, piling grave upon grave,
Tombstone on tombstone, above ambition.
Here history lives; here history
– a lusty stripling soon to his prime. . .

Where “history is ours to make,” with a warning against importing “some imitative past to bury all our dreams;” “of nationhood, of unity, of looking / forward to the day when we shall be / the living sword of stars that some now dream. . .”

“This is Australia” continues with the theme of whether Australians will choose to make their own youthful destiny or succumb to the old. Australia is the “old-new land” where the choice to make is “between the high / banner-flame of allegiance to his land / and the shop-sign of rabbit-burrowing blindness / that gnaws at roots, and, plague-like, kills / all that will never fill his purse nor stretch his belly skin.” Will Australia become another outpost of cities and slums, or will the new Australia revere the “sacred,” like the primordial dwellers? Will Australians be those sons who hold every fistful of soil “as their own flesh,” “fanatic and consecrated in their loyalty”?

Mudie laments in “Return” the lack of vigor of Australians in building a new nation and identity:

Torpor has drugged our dull colonial minds.
In ease, and dreaming we loved this land, while it was being stolen by traitors and criminals
watching with sluggish hearts to deep-drugged minds
that which we thought we loved destroyed.

Australians failed to be roused, while “traitors greedily deface with purse-bound hands / all honor, beauty, glory, that is hers.” Here Mudie identifies money-interests as the primary outer-enemy, resorting to the ancient imagery in having let the spears lose their keenness; a lost vision of Alcheringa. Mudie’s vision was never diminished, and the first verses refer to arising from sloth, spears reshaped, and the return ofall honor, glory, beauty.”

In “To this Land Dedicated” Mudie looks with dismay at those who walk the streets but are not really his people, “nor this land’s;” upon waking remain dead, not seeing the skies, and only dream “some petty profit’s rattling coin.” Hope is ever-present, with customary allusions to tradition, and to the “firesticks of nationhood”:

And yet we could so easily awake and dream,
and feel in every stick and stone and leaf,
in the whole earth and air of this our land,
a nation’s fire smouldering for the need
of wind to set the flames alight and leaping high
to sweep and stir our hearts at bushfire speed
and kindle in our minds firesticks of nationhood.

A short poem, “The Rolling of the Drums,” is dated December 1941. Mudie, as an unapologetic leading figure of Australia First, did not support what was considered a plutocratic war against the Axis in favor of colonial powers rather than Australian interest. Having been taken into the war, Australia First’s demand was for the return of Australian troops for the defense of the home front. His call for the defense of Australia was one of fighting for national interests after the war, to “guard full your flame and your future / as never you have before.” He appealed to Australians in farm, factory, and shop to unite as one, “past the hour when this war shall stop.”

“Cause for Song” is replete with allusions to Australia’s nativist heritage, summoning the pioneers and the heroes of the Eureka revolt, at last conscious of the Southern Cross. Alluding to the Aborigine sacred dance, the white finds “his own Alcheringa / And a cult-path for his feet.” His song is a “deeper tune” “than alien drums may beat.” “Bone of his bone is every hill / And soil of all our plains.” If resistance is found to the dream of Australian nationhood, it can be answered by lighting “Eureka fires afresh,” evoking the spirit of the 19th-century miners’ revolt, “to write new dream-time on our skies.”

The final poem of the collection, “If this be Treason” was presumably written in the wake of the internment of Australia First Movement activists. Mudie was questioned at the time of the roundup. Two officers suggested to him that he spent his weekends at Port Adelaide talking to Japanese sailors as part of an effort to invent a conspiracy of Axis spies. Mudie pointed out that he had not long returned to South Australia from Sydney, and after some “haggling,” the officers did not detain him. [40]

Neither Australia’s entry into the war nor the internment of Stephensen and others dimmed Mudie’s commitment. He thought that if Stephensen and other AF members should be interned for nothing, then he should have been also. Mudie asks if it is “treason that a love of land strengthen and circle in our hearts / through every hour of every day?”

So this is treason, that our minds
should stir to none but native breeze,
that we should dream of unity
and our land’s high purpose,
that we should see
a national future
triumphant in our song,
that we should be
willing servants
of Australia’s dream?

“If this be treason, then let every tree / fall to the axe, let all brave flowers / wither in traitorous disgrace. . .” “If this be treason, then the very earth offends against the state / every stick and stone / plots order’s overthrow;” every waratah [41] an assassin, and every wattle a saboteur. “If love of land a dastard treason be / then black glows the sun and solid is the sea.”

Unrepentant

While Xavier Herbert tried after the war to repudiate his formerly close collaboration with Miles and Stephensen, Mudie remained unrepentant. Discharged from the army in September 1945, the Jindyworobak Anthology he edited that year eulogized Stephensen. In the 1946 issue, he included poems from Australia First internees. Later that year he published his poem “Ex-Internee” in Australian Poetry, concluding:

But you, you whistle while you walk,
your boot-falls wringing to the skies –
they could not fence you round with fear
nor yet with rusted barbs of lies

In 1951, Mudie became dissatisfied with his poetic achievements and settled to writing books, although Stevensen continued to encourage him to write poetry. In 1959, Mudie and Stephensen undertook a series of lectures at Adelaide University, later published as Nationalism in Australian Literature. That year, Mudie gave a lecture on “Poetry and Politics” to the university’s Politics & History Club, speaking on the link between nationalism and radicalism, citing the Australian 19th-century poet Henry Lawson. The tradition of Australian labor and nationalism is indeed rich, and is what Mudie meant by “Australian Socialism” and what Stephensen always called “Australian National Socialism.”

Mudie was part of a stream of thought that viewed Australia as the chance to create a new beginning by molding a new race from an amalgam of European races, transcending old class divisions, and not being part of the wars of the Old World. What is particularly striking is that they were conscious of their kinship with the Aborigine race, insofar as while they necessarily forged a culture and identity specific to whites, they saw that the sanctity of soil was as necessary for Australian whites as it was for the Aborigines. In practical terms, it meant not transplanting English gardens to the Australian Outback, despoiling the land for commerce and overseas bondholders, nor sending troops to far-away battles.

With the passing of that generation, there passed the Golden Age of Australian culture. The cultural torch of identity was not upheld, and the Left co-opted the movements of both the indigenes and ecology.

And as it goes with the Left throughout history, their materialism, their lack of a soul, meant that they could not assume such a role.

Notes

[1] See: K. R. Bolton, “P. R. Stephensen,” Counter-Currents, https://www.counter-currents.com/2011/11/p-r-stephensen-2/

[2] P. R .Stephensen, The Foundations of Australian Culture, https://www.counter-currents.com/2010/11/the-foundations-of-culture-in-australia-an-essay-towards-national-self-respect-excerpts-from-part-one/

[3] P. R. Stephensen, The Foundations of Australian Culture, ibid.

[4] C. G. Jung, The Complications of American Psychology (1930).

[5] Dan Tout, “Neither Nationalists nor Universalists: Rex Ingamells and the Jindyworobaks,” Australian Humanities Review, No. 61, May 2017; http://australianhumanitiesreview.org/2017/06/13/neither-nationalists-nor-universalists-rex-ingamells-and-the-jindyworobaks/

[6] D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent (London: Secker, 1926). For Lawrence see: Bolton, Artists of the Right (San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), pp. 1-9.

[7] D. H. Lawrence, The Spirit of Place (1935), Chapter I.

[8] Quotes cited by Tout, op. cit.

[9] David S. Bird, Nazi Dreamtime (Melbourne: Australian Scholarly, 2012), pp. 168-169.

[10] Bird, ibid., pp. 169-170.

[11] Quoted by Bird, p. 284.

[12] Quoted by Bird, p. 285.

[13] Philip Butterss, “Mudie, Ian Mayelston,” http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mudie-ian-mayelston-11192

[14] David S. Bird, Nazi Dreamtime, op. cit., p. 172.

[15] Miles Franklin Literary Award Trust https://www.perpetual.com.au/milesfranklin/about-miles-franklin

[16] Philip Butterss, op. cit.

[17] Corroboree = nocturnal festivals of song and dance by which Aborigines reconnect with the Dreamtime.

[18] Ian Mudie, Corroboree to the Sun (Melbourne: Hawthorn Press, 1940); cited by Bird, p. 282. A edition has been published online by Strong & Bold Publishing (2014); http://www.strongandbold.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/corroboree-to-the-sun.pdf

[19] See Bolton, Artists of the Right, op. cit.

[20] “New Hope for Old Australians,” The Australian Abo Call, No. 2, May 1938.

[21] J. T. Patterson, “Parliament’s Delay,” The Australian Abo Call, No. 6, September 1938. (Due to financial difficulties caused by problems of distribution, this was the last issue. It is evident that The Publicist was one of the few venues to assist The Abo Call. Financial patronage had come from Stephensen’s patron, W. J. Miles).

[22] Max Harris, “Dance Little Wombat,” Brian Elliott (ed.) The Jindyworobaks (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1979), pp. 259-63.

[23] A. D. Hope, “Australia,” Meanjin Papers Vol. 2, No. 1 (1943), p. 42.

[24] Hope, ibid.

[25] Mudie letter to Hudson, August 28 1946. Quoted by Jayne Regan, “A Cosmopolitan Jindyworobak: Flexmore Hudson, Nationalism and World-Mindedness,” JASAL: Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, Vol. 15, No. 3, p. 7; https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/JASAL/article/viewFile/10569/10447

[26] Hudson to Ingamells, 1941.

[27] Jayne Regan, “A Cosmopolitan Jindyworobak…”, op. cit.

[28] Regan, ibid., p. 7.

[29] Hudson, “With the First Soft Rain” (1943).

[30] Bird, p. 283.

[31] Perhaps a reference to the Macquarie Lighthouse designed by Francis Greenaway in the early 19th century.

[32] “Dreamtime,” when Australia was created by the Gods, with whom the Aborigine’s seek to reconnect in their rites and “Walkabout;” the basis of the Aboriginal world-view.

[33] Aboriginal word for Spirit of the Land.

[34] The poem is the first of a 1976 collection of 32 of Mudie’s poems, published online by Strong and Bold Publishers: http://www.strongandbold.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/corroboree-to-the-sun.pdf

[35] M. Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1959).

[36] See: Bolton, The Decline and Fall of Civilisations (London: Black House Publishing, 2017).

[37] Ian Mudie, Unabated Spring: Selected Poems (1942), online at: http://home.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/mudie.html

[38] Lalor was leader of the Eureka Rebellion of gold-diggers against colonial administration in 1854, a defining myth of Australian identity. The Eureka Flag, which features the Southern Cross, has been successfully adopted by the Nationalist-Right, to the chagrin of the Left. This poem has numerous references to the Eureka Rebellion, and its famous flag.

[39] See chapters on Fairburn and Geoffrey de Montalk in Bolton, More Artists of the Right (San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2017).

[40] Bruce Muirden, The Puzzled Patriots (Melbourne University press,1968), p. 107.

[41] A species of bush native to Australia.

 

7 Comments

  1. Vauquelin
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    “The first saw their “socialism” in terms of a non-doctrinaire “mateship” that could forge a new “race” called Australians: an amalgam of the sundry peoples that had settled Australia from Europe, enabled by a transcending of the class divisions of the Old World.”

    This is precisely what White Nationalists in America should strive for. Before the ethnostate, you need an ethnicity, and what better than to amalgamate all of the nation’s white European settlers into an “American” or “Columbian” race?

  2. D.M.
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Lovely article that I have only skimmed but want to spend more time with. I think Australia was the very best philosophy country mid-century through the sixties, with people like J.J.C. Smart, J.L. Mackie, David M. Armstrong (a rightest), John Passmore, Keith Campbell, and Michael Devitt. The list goes on and on. They are a manly and energetic bunch. Great soldiers. I think they will recover.

  3. nineofclubs
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    A really excellent and well researched essay. The case of Miles Franklin is almost worthy of a separate piece – like Mary Gilmore (who adorns our $10 note) – she combined illiberal and nationalist social positions with socialist economics. Gilmore participated in William Lane’s Paraguayan experiment; another chapter of history worthy of greater attention.

    .

  4. Tobias
    Posted February 6, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    In the late 1960s, early 1970s there was a push to recognise Australia as part of Asia and turn toward Asia for identity rather than (geographically) distant Europe. Today Australia is being sold off hand over fist to the Chinese. I wonder how the Chinese will deal with Aboriginal identity, sense of place etc? Globalism aims at destroying sense of place, culture or heritage.

    • nineofclubs
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      I think that whole ‘we are part of Asia’ fiction really ramped up under Fraser, Hawke and especially Keating in the late 1980’s. It was clearly driven by a desire to cash in on the growing affluence of the Asian middle class – a tendency that is still with us in force today.

      I hear the ABC this morning rapturous about Australia being one step closer to a free trade deal with Indonesia. The deal will cover goods and services. It will provide for ‘many more’ worker and student visas for Indonesians. Clearly, this is Australian capitalism seeking to further undermine the wages and conditions of our workers.

      The forces that threatened our national survival in the 19th century are still with us, emboldened by a lack of any credible threat to their dominance.

      .

      • Stephen Phillips
        Posted February 6, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        “I think that whole ‘we are part of Asia’ fiction really ramped up under Fraser, Hawke and especially Keating in the late 1980’s. It was clearly driven by a desire to cash in on the growing affluence of the Asian middle class – a tendency that is still with us in force today”.

        I was at university in the early 90’s, but I still distinctly remember the push for Asian language studies in preference to European in the press. Colleges were also promoting them in their glossy undergraduate material. … Suddenly Pauline Hanson’s 1996 Maiden Senate Speech about being ‘ …swamped by Asians ‘ doesn’t seem quite as funny as it did then.

    • K R Bolton
      Posted February 6, 2020 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Exactly New Zealand’s position also.

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