“The female members should be rooted on the workshop floor.” So wrote Trotsky, in answer to a letter from Comrade Origlass asking for the best contribution female party members and fellow travellers could make to the class struggle. Trotsky was master of five languages but was clearly unfamiliar with Australian double entendre.
Kenneth Gee was one of the young Australians who followed the Trotskyite flame in the 1940s. His memoirs tell the story of a middle class boy so fervid for a better world that he rejects the Labor Party, the Langites, the Leninists and the Stalinists and hitches his star to the tiny Sydney cell of the Fourth International.
He becomes Comrade Roberts, a man who transforms himself from a bright-eyed young solicitor to a boilermaker’s labourer on the Sydney waterfront.
We Trotskyites were a mixture of genuine Depression-hardened proletarians, with a residue of declassed intellectuals, idealists, dreamers, born losers, power-seekers, thugs, neurotics and drunks, and we operated with a combination of cold rationality and political lunacy, as these pages may reveal.
His is a vastly entertaining tale of life in Sydney in the Second World War, of work on the docks, in factories, as maker of hearses; and of meetings and schisms and the overthrow of capitalism.
Significant figures such as John Kerr, Jim McClelland and Laurie Short walk the pages with many others like Big Andy, Maisie the barmaid and Comrade the Rev. Bradley, boot clicker “caring for a thousand soles”.
In later years Comrade Roberts reverted to the law and became Kenneth Gee QC, a member of the Sydney Bar, and one of Her Majesty’s judges in the District Court of New South Wales.
At the Law School
Trotsky and Stalin
First Meeting, Rawson House
The Entryist Tactic
Midwives of History
Begin at Morris
Morris Union Meeting
McClelland and Short Defect
Provides vivid insights into a remarkable era.
Quadrant, May 2006
This book will be read with interest … by those who seek to understand the power of an idea, even one which is fatally flawed.
News Weekly, 10 June 2006
Comrade Roberts: Recolletions of a Trotskyite is an account of Gee’s three years in the Fourth International. … The plot reads as a series of vignettes rather than a linear storyline…
However the book’s charm lies more in Gee’s quirky characterisation. The folks he encountered mingling in this particular cross-section of Sydney’s underworld are delightfully drawn …
Gee’s chronicle of his days as a Trotskyite will appeal to those drawn to political subculture and the ‘also-rans’ of history. It is also a memoir for those readers interested in reasons why educated youth might turn to ideologies for answers… This chapter of Gee’s life ‘serving the socialist revolution that stubbornly refused to occur’ is more than a story of ideals dashed by experience. It is a testament that we all, judicial officers included, live with the dreams forged in youth.
Supreme Court History Program Yearbook 2006
Published 6 March 2006
Publisher Desert Pea Press
Australian RRP $29.95
International Price $30.00
Australian History / Studies