[Editor: This critique of National Notes (by William Baylebridge) is from the “Just a word” column, published in The Australian Worker (Sydney, NSW), 21 October 1936.]
Equality and leadership.
William Baylebridge, in his “National Notes,” puts this to us: “Have we not overdone the idea of equality, and lost sight of the idea of leadership?”
No doubt he intends the question to be taken seriously, but it only makes me laugh.
Equality, which he thinks overdone, is the rarest thing we know of.
We are familiar with the word. We can tell each other the dictionary meaning of it.
But the Thing-in-itself has always eluded us, and if we were suddenly brought face to face with it in active operation as a social principle we’d think our world had been turned upside down.
As for the idea of leadership, of which Baylebridge fancies we have lost sight, it vitiates our whole national existence.
Leadership has taken all the initiative out of us. It has made a mere dependent mob of the people, perpetually waiting for this or that leader to tell them what to do, and how and when to do it.
We have been positively afflicted with leadership. It has affected us like a sickness, softening our moral fibre and weakening our intellectual faculties.
Look at Italy and Germany.
Leadership has transmogrified the peoples of those countries. Once, howsoever fortune treated them, they were at least men. To-day they are slaves.
They hardly dare to breathe until their Duce or their Fuhrer gives them permission to do so.
Is that the “new patriotism” Baylebridge prates about in such sententious phrases, I wonder.
The patriotism of the ants’ nest and the bees’ hive, in which the individual is sunk in the mass, and has no separate value worth mentioning.
The Labor Movement gives us an idea a million times superior to such a conception as that.
It gives us the idea of individuals consciously and freely co-operating for mutual benefits, yet nevertheless preserving, as something precious beyond all else, the sense of personal independence — the liberty to lead one’s own life in one’s own way.
That’s the true equality.
We haven’t “overdone” it. It’s an ideal still to be attained. But one day it will be an accomplished fact.
And in that much to be desired time, brother, men will have been thoroughly cured of the will-destroying, soul-sapping disease we call “leadership.”
The Australian Worker (Sydney, NSW), 21 October 1936, p. 7 (column 3)
transmogrified = past tense of “transmogrify”: to transform, to change appearance, or to change completely, especially in a manner which is bizarre, grotesque, magical, or strange; to change significantly
vitiate = impair, spoil, or weaken the effectiveness, efficiency, or quality of something; to make something defective, faulty, or ineffective; ruin