Mr. Jeremy Lee travelled from Queensland
to pay his respects to his old friend and colleague Eric Dudley Butler, who passed
away on the 7th June 2006. Jeremy gave the following eulogy on behalf of all those
present who had gathered in the Main Hall, Panton Hill, Victoria to pay their
respects to the great man. Archbishop John Hepworth of the Continuing Anglo-Catholic
Church of Australia officiated at the ceremony.
assembled here today in honour of Eric Butler are part of an extended family-gathering
reaching into every State of Australia, as well as New Zealand, Canada, the United
States and the British Isles.
Every so often
- probably once a century on average ~ a man or woman comes along whose wisdom,
integrity and talents are so pronounced as to affect the times in which they live.
Such a one is the man we honour today. Each of us has been privileged to have
met Eric, regularly or only briefly. Our lives have been changed and affected
by his efforts.
Born in Benalla
Eric Butler was born to an
already well-established Australian family in the middle of World War I, in 1916,
so he was 90 at the time of his death. The Benalla district was his home, and
his father was a successful teacher and headmaster. From early childhood Eric
was imbued with a love of history, particularly the rich heritage of the English-speaking
peoples. is ancestry was both Welsh and Irish. He was also prominent on the sports
field, and was one of the most proficient country cricketers in Victoria, known
and feared as an opening batsman.
In 1935, at the
height of the Great Depression, came the experience which was to change and focus
his life. In one afternoon he read C.H. Douglas's book, Economic Democracy, which
was the first foundation stone of the Social Credit movement He left his farm
on foot the next morning and reported to the small city office of a group, headed
by the Catholic writer and editor T.J. Moore, and said, "I am reporting for duty,
and prepared to give the rest of my life". And so he did.
Then began a period
of constant traveling and speaking throughout Victoria, at the same time writing
for The New Times, at that time edited by T.J. Moore.
The only transport was
either bicycle or Shank's pony. A friend and supporter, the late Norm Rolls, traveled
ahead and put up signs in country towns and cities that Eric Butler, the "Boy
Wonder" would shortly be appearing. The speaking platform was a soap-box on a
street corner. The only finance was a cap on the ground for donations.
Eric once said, "We went through one period of three days without
a donation and hence without a thing to eat. It sharpened our passion and speaking
ability to a remarkable degree! On the fourth day we received enough so that Norm
and I could have a four-square meal. We ate as prodigiously as only young, famished
men can! Bicycling to our next engagement was a painful experience!"
the Social Credit movement had grown enormously, mainly in Victoria and the Riverina
area of New South Wales. At one time there were over 200 weekly Social Credit
study groups in the City of Sydney. They suffered from a lack of experienced teachers
and made many mistakes, including the main one of starting a Social Credit political
party, as also occurred in Queensland. This despite the warnings of C.H. Douglas,
who had visited Australia in 1934.
There were two
major papers devoted to Social Credit at this time - one, The New Era, edited
by a newspaper genius, Barclay Smith, a one-time editor of The Queensland Country
Life. Its articles and cartoons were brilliant - incisive, witty and pointed.
At its height, The New Era had over 35,000 paid subscribers, and remember, this
was at the height of the Depression. But The New Era lent itself, albeit indirectly,
to the idea that Social Credit could only be attained through control of government.
The other paper, published in Victoria, was The New Times, edited by the Catholic
writer Tom Moore, and later by Eric himself for over half a century. It still
appears monthly under the title The New Times Survey, having merged with the League
of Rights' other monthly, The Intelligence Survey.
While not as scintillating
as The New Era, The New Times had a greater philosophical depth, and had grasped
that Social Credit could never be imposed by the State upon the people, any more
than the Christian faith itself could be imposed by hierarchical structures.
to Party Politics
Eric, the main Social Credit leader in Victoria, strenuously
resisted the power approach of party politics, and was in touch with Douglas by
letter, although he never met him personally. His longer-term approach was to
bear fruit after World War II. To his credit, Barclay Smith subsequently conceded
that Eric's approach had been the correct one shortly after the war.
interesting to look back at pre-war copies of both papers with the advantage of
hindsight. Both were produced in the days of 'hot-lead' printing; but the clarity
and quality of articles and cartoons compare favourably with the coloured computer
papers of today, with their monotonous media-correctness that conceals, rather
than reveals, true news.
Through the dedication
of one "quiet achiever" - Mrs Daphne Maurer of Queensland, it is now possible
for this and future generations to re-read history, as she scans and puts on CD
all the League and New Times journals since the Great Depression, as it happened
- a mammoth task that has taken years of effort.
Looking back, a whole gamut
of experiences and conditions were covered. There were regular articles on organic
gardening and farming, long before the 'greenies' made their more strident appearance.
Pioneers like Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour gave the first warnings of
the dangers inherent in chemical fertilizers and monoculture.
There were parables,
short stories and satire of a pungency which only occurs among free people; and,
of course, an extraordinary exploration of the substance of Social Credit, which
took painstaking effort. It was easy enough to grasp the revelation that "banks
create credit" and thus by debt forge the chains of bondage.
abounded, who stopped short at the concept that all that was necessary was the
nationlisation of the banks. Few noticed that Karl Marx was preaching the same
form of centralized monopoly.
But Douglas left in his wake a small number of brilliant disciples
who saw in his revelation a way forward to a peaceful world in which the human
spirit was emancipated from the herd instinct of the totalitarians.
like the 'increment of association' which, mustered on the quest for Truth, made
sublime the human life, produced individuals who left the mundane behind them.
Even church leaders saw new visions. Bishop Moyes in Australia and the engineer
Dr Hewlett Johnson in England - who baulked at the last jump and joined the Communists,
becoming the "Red Dean of Canterbury"; authors and poets, great and small, grew
into a throng following the threads of Social Credit.
The outbreak of war shelved the active growth of Social Credit,
but not before it had seriously alarmed some politicians - notably the Labor leader
Dr H.V. Evatt.
Evatt first tried to woo Social Crediters, and met with a number
in Sydney, expressing his interest and agreement. But he was a politician!
he found no chink to exploit for political purposes, he shamefully tried to destroy
Social Credit leaders, including Eric, by forcing an inquiry into what he called
Eric Butler had
immediately enlisted, and was to serve in the Islands and later as an officer
training instructor. He trained young soldiers at the famous Canungra jungle training
centre, and later at an officer training centre in Victoria.
In 1942 he received
notification from his father that Evatt was arranging an inquiry into a Tasmanian,
Mr Deane, which would include Eric Butler as one of those required to give evidence.
In his spare time on leave, Eric had continued to lecture, his theme being the
need for Australia to avoid international debt to pay for the war.
was highly embarrassing to the banks, although the - at that time - Commonwealth
Bank had been used constructively in World War I under its chairman, Sir Denison
Miller. Warned in time, and able to marshal sufficient evidence, Eric Butler was
never condemned in the Deane Inquiry, but was commended by the Commissioner for
his public spirit and patriotism. But this did not deter his detractors from claiming,
in the post-war period, that he had been the subject of an inquiry into 'pro-Nazi
Back on the Trail
Even when on active service in war conditions, Eric was to be found, while his
fellow servicemen were relaxing with a beer, sitting typing articles by hurricane
lamp late into the night for The New Times, cleared by the censors and edited
by his wife Elma. No sooner was he honourably discharged from wartime duties,
than Eric was back on the Social Credit trail.
By 1946, with a handful of
faithful friends, Eric had put down the foundations of the League of Rights, which
was subsequently to appear in Britain, New Zealand and Canada. It was never to
be a power movement; it was not to be a church denominational movement. It was
to defend constitutional limits to government and the rule of law, defend the
monarchy as head of a "commonwealth of nations" and preserve individual rights.
Running through all activities was Social Credit, or the Policy of Christianity.
The vision, while never ostentatiously trumpeted was, nevertheless an approaching
Kingdom of Peace on earth.
By 1948 Eric
was involved in the battle to forestall Chifley's attempt to nationalize the banks.
He had written a series of brilliant articles, Steps Towards the Monopoly State,
being published weekly by an old established Melbourne paper, The Argus.
a description of the threat to Australia's freedom by centralized power from a
variety of sources - revolutionary, bureaucratic and corporate - his material
was prescient. Before his final articles appeared, The Argus had changed hands
and Eric's message was stopped in its tracks. They are all currently available
in booklet form.
But he was already well enough known for the traditional
enemy, the Trading Banks, to approach Eric and ask him to train their staff to
effectively fight nationalization. It must have been an invidious choice. But
he knew that a "State Monopoly of Credit" - as outlined in Karl Marx's famous
"ten steps" in the Communist Manifesto, was an even worse alternative to the world-wide
power of private banking.
For the bank nationalization battle the gloves were
temporarily laid down, to be picked up as that particular skirmish was over. A
small number of branch bank managers became supporters of Eric Butler.
He was also involved in campaigning in the Victorian seat of
Murray for the election to the Federal Parliament of an able young returned man,
John McEwen, who understood the nature of the battle against finance.
was duly elected, and subsequently became the leader of the Country Party (now
the Nationals) and Deputy Prime Minister. But within six months of election McEwen
had forgotten all about money reform and Social Credit - both inimical to a successful
Eric Butler became an internationally known speaker,
making many friends and contacts in high places. Of him it could truthfully be
said that he could "walk with kings, nor lose the common touch".
Australian-owned BHP financially donated to the League, as well as the equally
well-known Cottees. Both, sadly, are now foreign-owned. The Graziers' Association
of Queensland sent an annual cheque. Old Australian families such as the Manifold's
in Victoria and the Barnard's in north Queensland, quietly supported Eric's work.
In 1962, accompanied by James Killen, later to become
Australia's Defence Minister, Eric spoke on a packed tour of Britain, warning
of the long-term dangers to the British Monarchy and the nation's constitutional
sovereignty, inherent in the European Common Market, now a fully centralized European
His warnings to Britons became the first foundations of a movement
which, years later, became a well organized tide of resistance to Europe which
predominates in England today. A former industrial advocate who was earlier Queensland
Director of the League under Eric - Donald Martin - has played a major role in
the British resurgence.
He was projected onto world news after the British
Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, forced economic sanctions on the Ian Smith government
in Rhodesia for its Unilateral Declaration of Independence when he presented a
tanker-full of petrol to the beleaguered Smith government in Salisbury, paid for
by thousands of donations from British people round the world. Rhodesian troops
had fought alongside Australians in the Malayan campaign.
Smith himself and
most of his small Cabinet, had served with distinction in World War II. Eric was
attacked in Parliament by the Whitlam government, but became admired by a growing
number of Australians.
Out of the Frying Pan ...
As the three
years of almost revolutionary Whitlam politics neared their end, Eric was privately
solicited by another power aspirant, Malcolm Fraser, to see what support the League
might add to his ambitions. After a private meeting, however, Eric concluded that
Fraser offered no constructive alternative, and said so through a special issue
of The Intelligence Survey that received nation-wide coverage.
Even a number
of less well-informed League supporters, thoroughly alarmed at the behaviour of
the Whitlam government, were shocked at Eric's exposure of the dangers Fraser
presented. But Eric was right.
Even the first Human Rights Commission, which
Whitlam and his Attorney-General Lionel Murphy had failed to get through the Senate,
was implemented by the new Fraser regime. One of Fraser's legacies is Robert Mugabe
in the new ruins of Zimbabwe.
no rest between Eric's international forays. No sooner was he back in Australia
than he was on the road, usually in battered old cars, with cases of books, speaking
from one end of the nation to the other. There were few country halls which did
Eric at one time or another, from north of Cairns to remote regions
north of Geraldton in West Australia. Anyone attempting to follow in his footsteps
could not but marvel at his extensive number of friends and contacts.
was always an air of excitement when Eric Butler was scheduled to speak. In my
35 years association with Eric as a gauche and brash budding speaker, I learned
much from him. I was destined to follow in his footsteps, not only speaking round
Australia, but also in Britain, Canada and New Zealand. I always marveled at how
wide his influence was, and how much pioneering work he had done. He was an inspiring
task-master, but exacting too.
I still tremble when I recall him sitting in the car at Runnymede, after
warning Elma he was leaving in precisely five minutes. Elma was one minute late.
I was awestruck as I watched her running down the drive, trying to pull on her
stockings as she ran, as Eric drove off. I knew that he was no Sensitive New Age
On another occasion, in 1969, my first League car was a battered Chrysler
Royal, that looked like a battle tank in the desert! It cost $49 from a supporter
in Kingaroy who was otherwise consigning it to the dump. Eric was quite complimentary
as we drove towards St George, even though he could see the road flashing past
through the rust holes between his feet. All that changed when the door flew open
as we were going round an island, and Eric found himself hanging on with his nose
about three inches from the bitumen!
When he had pulled himself back from
an encounter with death, he told me that economy was one thing, but normal precaution
quite another! The time had come to upgrade our vehicles. And so we did, to an
ancient Toyota Crown station wagon, which rattled and wheezed - but whose doors
never flew open!
Eric was fearless - except
for one occasion when, after an annual New Times Seminar in Melbourne a car load
of us, including Eric, arrived home to find that Elma had been left standing on
the pavement in Little Collins Street. Luckily, another late supporter had driven
her the hour's drive home. It's not too much to say that Eric was too scared to
open the door when they arrived! Her anger was terrible to behold!
whether I should deal with the multitude of personal attacks on Eric which dragged
on year after year. A lesser man could never have withstood the barrage.
as news of his death broke, the nasty, mean-spirited, lying attack was repeated.
The journalists did not check the accuracy of their material. They simply regurgitated
the half digested carrion of the previous attacks. Eric was a fascist! They'd
never read his material - it was so much easier to use the mud of the past. He
had been investigated for "pro-Nazi activities" during the war. Nobody bothered
to check the real truth.
He was regularly attacked from the safety of parliamentary
privilege. A hateful booklet was written by a former communist, and large sums
of money spent on its anonymous circulation. One journalist who couldn't lick
Eric's boots, wrote a sensational article in a national paper titled "TOXIC SLUDGE".
It was all designed to forestall if possible Eric's influence, and frighten those
who might otherwise take a stand.
One member of Parliament, who accepted a
League invitation to speak on the Constitution, was so unnerved by the subsequent
criticism that he said in parliament he "didn't know where he was at the time".
His recantation enabled him to become a Cabinet Minister in the Howard government.
But his memory, judging by recent events in the Wheat Board scandal, has deteriorated
The attack was so sustained, so shrill and so vicious that it almost
became a back-handed compliment. Eric, to his eternal credit, ploughed on. His
cowardly detractors ran out of ideas of what to do next. And, indeed, each successive
attack brought the League new supporters and a few financial donations.
In the legacy he has left us, perhaps Eric's greatest contribution has been
the series of small booklets, each a gem in its own right, on aspects of Christian
freedom; with titles like The Root of All Evil, The Essential Christian
Heritage, Is the Word Enough? Releasing Reality and many more,
each containing almost lost gems of truth that will be cherished more and more
in the years ahead.
Following in Eric's footsteps in administering the League
of Rights is a task from which most mere mortals might quail. But he would approve
the work that has continued what he started.
There will, inevitably, be an
explosion of re-interest in Social Credit. A firm base has been laid to meet the
coming demand. Eric's work has not been lost.
How, then, can we view his passing?
With tears, regrets and reminiscences, certainly. With gratitude that we knew
him - yes indeed. But we should also see ourselves as one half of "the friends
of Eric Butler" attending this moment.
Eric often expressed his admiration
of the British natural economist and philosopher William Cobbett. Cobbett was
a short man. But when faced with critics, friends or enemies, he was wont to (quote)
'draw myself to my full height, so that they might see what manner of man I am!'
I see Eric setting his shoulders and stepping forth from this sphere to the next,
'drawing himself to his full height, so that they might see what manner of man
Besides the angels, there will be a host of old friends who have gone
before. I can see his wife Elma. I can see dear old Frank Bawden and equally dear
I can see Norm Rolls and his bicycle; 'Johnno' Johnson and Alec
McPherson will be there, as will the pickwickian character Bill Clarke from Wangaratta;
that genius Ivor Benson, and that saintly Albertan beekeeper Eric Boswell; the
old reprobate Patrick Walsh and, of course, Ron Gostick, who stood shoulder to
shoulder with Eric more than once.
And they in turn will sigh when the greatest
Hand of all touches Eric's shoulder, and His voice says, 'Well done, good and