A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand 1930-1950
Mason had hoped that his People's Theatre would eventually receive financial support from the government. The argument that the state should support a people's culture was a logical extension of a socialist model of culture. It is also an argument which was expressed by a number of New Zealand writers and critics in this period, and can be seen as a corollary of cultural nationalism. M.H. Holcroft, for example, in The Waiting Hills (1943), suggested that the government establish an editorial board which would subsidise the publication of New Zealand literature, while the recently-formed writers' organisation PEN lobbied in the 1940s for the establishment of a literature advisory and funding body. These requests were not disappointed; the New Zealand Literary Fund was established in 1946 and the award of government grants to cultural organisations and travel bursaries to individuals initiated in the late 1940s. These initiatives followed the establishment by the Labour government of the National Film Unit, the National Library Service and the National Orchestra.
Between 1947 and 1949 the question of a state funded national theatre was also publicly discussed. The proposal never came to fruition, but the debate, on which it foundered, is of interest here: it involved a number of people who were active in the left theatre movement, and it centred upon discussion around the concept of a popular culture.
A five person committee to investigate the issue was appointed by the Prime Minister in March 1947, and advice was sought from visiting overseas artists as well as local dramatic groups. A meeting held in October that year agreed on the establishment of a drama school which would in due course produce a professional theatre company; the company would be controlled by a seven member board appointed by the government. Disagreement between the principal parties thwarted any further action, however, and the drama school and national theatre never came to be.1 But the debate over the concept of a professional or page 224 national theatre was to continue for the next two years. Unity Theatre was not given a voice in the official discussions, a snub which its members attributed to their enduring reputation as a front for the Communist Party (the letter informing them that they were not invited was addressed to the Communist Party's Unity Centre). However, Unity supported the submissions of the Auckland Drama Council which took a major part in the proceedings, represented by its president Mervyn Lusty and Arnold Goodwin of the Auckland WEA Dramatic Club, A.J.C. Fisher of the People's Theatre, and WEA director and Progressive Book Society chairman, P. Martin-Smith.
The Auckland Drama Council saw the role of a national theatre as one of encouraging popular cultural awareness and activity. It advocated a decentralised, locally-controlled organisation which would cater to a wide, popular audience. Its argument was advanced in opposition to the model of a centralised, government initiated and controlled, professional theatre, as proposed by the recently-formed New Zealand Drama Council. An organisation of this kind, the Auckland group feared, would result in 'an anticipation, possibly incorrect, of the general direction of artistic development'. Stated a submission by A.J.C. Fisher:
We are frankly doubtful of culture being dispensed from above by Government officials and educational bodies like Adult Education. We believe in the slow growth of culture in and from the people. We believe in a people culturing, not being cultured. We have more faith in the doings of a small amateur group in the backblocks, in its ultimate cultural effects in the people, than the effect of an occasional visit from some company of great actors. We believe in participation.2
This populist argument was extended by Arnold Goodwin in his proposal for small, mobile theatre groups, which would dispense with the conventional proscenium arch stage and experiment in alternative forms of staging—a proposal which emphasised the inherent participatory nature of theatre and which would enable plays to be performed in small communities which lacked stage facilities.3 In Parliament, meanwhile, Martyn Finlay looked to the Soviet Union for an example of state cultural funding and argued that 'the national theatre should be a people's theatre, and the focal point around which discussion groups would revolve.'4 Another model of government-supported theatrical activity was the American Federal Theatre Project; writing of this in Tomorrow Ian Milner had pondered whether the New Zealand government 'might well see its way towards endowing a theatre to produce plays of social significance at prices open to all.'5
These proposals expressed a similar vision of the theatre to that expressed by R.A.K. Mason: theatre as 'a centre of social energy, which is at once recipient page 225 and source of social stimulus'. Mason made these comments in Landfall in 1948, in his own contribution to the debate. Concerned about the designs of theatre magnate RJ. Kerridge who was promoting a scheme to establish a commercially-based national theatre in Auckland, Mason supported the principle of a government-funded organisation, but also emphasised the necessity of political and artistic independence, warning of the danger of 'bureaucratic strangulation, and political interference'.6 But it was Ngaio Marsh who summed up the central issue in the national theatre debate. Marsh described the alternative proposals being considered: 'a big state-controlled organization ushered in with a blast of nationally orchestrated fanfares . . . [or] the group or number of rural and urban groups under a producer or producers, choosing plays and players with a free hand and receiving such grants of money from the state as the state shall previously determine'.7 It was a debate not just about amateur or professional, or about the principle of government funding, but about how to stimulate, and indeed define, a national or people's culture.
This debate introduces the central issue, both theoretical and practical, raised by the history of left cultural activity in the 1930s and 1940s. The conflict between the two models of cultural organisation put forward by the Auckland Drama Council and the New Zealand Drama Council parallels a major tension in the cultural theory expounded by Winston Rhodes, where a model of an organic, popular culture coexists uneasily with an emphasis on the active role of the artist or intellectual, in saving the old culture or in creating the new. This uncertainty centres on a problem which was fundamental to both the idea and the experience of socialist cultural activity in this period: that of how an intellectual avant-garde can create a popular culture. Or, to pose the question in the words of Winston Rhodes: how the 'defenders of culture' might 'carry it forth in to the streets of the cities.'8
Neither Unity Theatre nor the Hamilton People's Theatre realised R.A.K. Mason's vision of a popular, progressive, national theatre movement. Mason's own People's Theatre had been brought to a premature end by the war, and so had little opportunity to test his faith in the interest of 'the working people' in a progressive theatre. Its formal structure of trade union affiliation and its performance of locally-written plays may, perhaps, have provided a more fruitful basis. However, it seems unlikely that, in the years of post-war prosperity and growing Cold War conservatism, the People's Theatre would have developed into the widely-supported working class cultural movement that Mason anticipated. The left theatre of the 30s and 40s, like the Left Book Club, the cooperative book societies and Progressive Publishing Society, was essentially the activity of a small group of left-wing and liberal intellectuals. Although it attracted some working class support, notably in Auckland, this was not a page 226 popular cultural movement. Its immediate stimulus lay in the international political events of the late 1930s and the war years: in the Popular Front and the atmosphere of left-wing enthusiasm and anti-fascist fervour generated by the Spanish Civil War and Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. It was also a product of local cultural conditions. The cooperative book movement and left theatres attracted those who were interested in the political issues of the day, but also those interested in contemporary developments in literature and the arts, and those, of course, who were interested in both: in modernism as well as socialist realism, in Faber poetry as well as the Left Book Club, in Ibsen as well as Odets. In filling a cultural vacuum, the initial socialist vision was lost.
The expansion of the cultural infrastructure in New Zealand over these two decades was partly the achievement of the left cultural movement itself, but was also a result of new cultural influences in New Zealand society, influences brought by European refugees, American troops stationed in New Zealand during the war, and the return of New Zealand's own soldiers from overseas. The cultural desert of the 1930s had become a more fertile ground by the end of the 1940s, through the related influences of a developing national consciousness and an enhanced understanding of New Zealand's place within a larger political and cultural context.
Realisation of the socialist ideal was also hindered, in the case of the cooperative book movement and progressive publishing, by the simpler facts of economics: the small market, the need for capital, and the necessary if distasteful considerations of sales and profits. But the more disappointing reality was, as Ron Meek observed to Henry Martin in 1940, that 'the people' did not appear to be enormously interested in supporting a left-wing cultural movement. When the Progressive Publishing Society invited manuscripts of a popular or working class nature, and when Unity Theatre performed to a working class audience, they were not gratified by the response. Nor did the organised labour movement—the Labour Party or trade unions—show a strong interest.
The partial exception was in Auckland. There the support of trade union officials was expressed in significant union representation in the management of the Progressive Book Society in its early years and in the affiliation of several unions to the People's Theatre, and possibly in the higher working class membership of these organisations compared with their Wellington counterparts. The Auckland carpenters' union in particular had a comparatively high profile in these activities. This union is also noteworthy for its journal, the facetiously named Borer and its successor the Union Record, which were exceptional among union publications in the degree of interest they showed in international political issues and cultural activity as well as in local politics and union affairs. Borer was one of only two union journals to have significant coverage of the Spanish Civil War. In addition to reporting the activities of the page 227 People's Theatre it carried some general material of a cultural nature, such as occasional cartoons and verse excerpted from American labour publications. However, such material constituted only a small proportion of the journal's overall content. By comparison, the Industrial Worker, a national labour journal published in 1940-1, had regular book reviews which featured mostly political literature, but otherwise did not attempt to fulfill a cultural function.
The extent of trade union-based, working class cultural activity is not the subject of this book, and it has not been extensively researched. But the lack of cultural material in union journals would seem to reflect the low priority accorded to cultural activity by the trade union movement at this time. Industrial Worker'Readers' Leagues were formed in a number of places, as were Workers' Weekly Readers' Leagues in the late 1930s, but although some saw a potential for these organisations to encourage social and cultural activity—and an Auckland Industrial Worker Readers' League group gave a reading of Where's That Bomb? in January 1941—their primary function was the promotion and distribution of the journal. The paintings done by Dennis Knight Turner for Auckland trade unions in 1948 are a rare example of direct union patronage of the arts in this period. In addition to a handful of social realist paintings (in a style derivative of Frank Brangwyn), Knight Turner produced cartoons for the labourers' union journal Challenge (on which R.A.K. Mason was employed as editor) and also drew the covers for two of Mason's publications (Buccaneering Bankers and Frontier Forsaken). However, in the 1950s he abandoned social realism for abstractionism, in which he was to develop a greater reputation. The reason for his break with the trade union movement and the Communist Party at the beginning of the 1950s is not yet known but lack of support for his work seems a likely factor.9 The 1949 film of the carpenters' strike, Fighting Back (made by Cecil Holmes and Rudail Hayward), also deserves mention here, as does the mural 'Controversy' which was painted by Lois White for the Auckland WEA between 1943 and 1946 (this was destroyed in the WEA fire a few years later). But it is fair to say that in the 1930s and 1940s the labour movement as a whole did not actively support a working class culture which might have provided a basis for the popular audience that Mason or Rhodes envisaged.
The Communist Party provided a context of a different kind. Although it was only a small organisation the Party defined for itself a larger social and cultural role. Its Unity Centres—one was opened in Wellington in November 1943 and another in Christchurch in 1944—were intended to provide 'a social and cultural home for the labour movement'.10 The Wellington centre in Cuba Street featured a mural painted by Guy Harding (a government cartographer) and his daughter Judy Evans—a singular example in this period of an expressly working class and Communist art. True to the spirit of the time, to which the centres themselves were dedicated, it 'depict[ed] the international unity in the page 228 struggle against Fascism, the tasks of liberation of the oppressed peoples, and the unity of the progressive forces of the world for the liberation of mankind.'11 Through the mid 1940s the centre hosted a regular Sunday evening series of lectures, debates and quiz contests, occasional film screenings and musical evenings, and a Saturday night dance. Christchurch's Unity Centre in Worcester Street held weekly film screenings and a series of trade union talks in mid 1946. But while they described themselves as 'The Home of the Labour Movement'12 the Unity Centres were essentially Communist Party centres, catering primarily to the Party and its fellow travellers.
The Communist Party press showed a greater interest than did labour journals in left-wing or working class culture. Until the mid 1930s the Workers' Weekly contained no cultural items at all, but from that time occasional verse or short fiction appeared—Shelley's 'Mask of Anarchy', for example, and a serialised version of Upton Sinclair's No Pasaran!'This may have reflected the appointment of Gordon Watson as editor rather than Popular Front ideology alone. By contrast, the Peoples Voice and its wartime replacement In Print, the latter edited by R.A.K. Mason, had a substantial arts page, with book reviews, poems, extracts from progressive fiction and news of progressive cultural happenings from around the world, most of which was derived from international left-wing publications.
The Party also produced a small amount of dramatic activity in addition to its support for Unity and the people's theatres. Party socials, dances and rallies were regular events and would sometimes include cultural items, as did a Wellington 'Rally and Dance' on 1 October 1942 which was billed with 'Poster Display, Choir, Short Plays [Unity's 'According to Plan'], Supper, Dance.'13 In 1942 the drama group of the Christchurch branch (organised by Elsa Flavell, formerly a member of the Auckland People's Theatre) staged two one-act plays entitled 'Production Front' and 'There Is No Defeat' at Party functions. 'Production Front' was written by Party member Elsie Freeman (Locke), who later commented: 'I can hardly remember "Production Front" but that in itself suggests that it was entirely forgettable'.14 Perhaps not surprisingly, this is the only recorded activity of the group. 'Production Front' was performed again in Wellington, and also at a Hamilton branch social and dance in December that year, along with 'Social Security Howlers' by Lex Hayward and 'a demonstration of Magic' by Ron Meek, who was evidently a man of many talents.15 A regular speaker at Wellington's Unity Centre in the mid 1940s, on one occasion he gave a lecture on spiritualism complete with mock seance. Meek also hosted a Sean O'Casey evening at the centre in July 1945, with a lecture, readings, and songs sung by Tom Wood, whose 'Tom Wood Song Group' performed at Party functions and similar events a repertoire of international working class songs and one original piece, 'Song of Liberty' (written by Wood himself) .16 A People's Choir page 229 was also formed in Auckland in February 1940, though whether this was a Party-activity and how long it lasted is not known.
But despite these efforts, cultural activity was not a Communist Party priority, and formed a smaller part of Party work in New Zealand than it did in other countries. There were no workers' art clubs such as that with which Winston Rhodes had been associated in Melbourne in the early 30s, or Jean Devanny in Sydney. When Rhodes first arrived in Christchurch he was surprised to find no workers' theatre, workers' art club or labour college. A Party member who emigrated from England in the mid 30s was similarly disappointed to find that the cultural life she had enjoyed within the Party there was largely absent in New Zealand. What cultural activity there was coincided for the most part with the heightened activity and rapidly growing membership of the early 40s. In the more difficult post-war years priorities quickly changed, as the Party's withdrawal from Unity Theatre at the end of 1946 demonstrates. The revived People's Voice did not continue the arts page introduced by Mason; its only regular non-political features in 1946-7 were a film review and a (considerably longer) racing column.
In the absence of concerted interest from the Communist Party or the organised labour movement in fostering a working class or left-wing culture, one can only speculate on the support this would have received. But it is arguable that the international orientation of the Communist Party, and its resulting failure to look to a New Zealand working class tradition, political or cultural, would have undermined any real attempt to foster a genuinely popular culture of this kind. The Party's social calendar reflected the international frame of reference which also informed Mason's plays and Henry Martin's 1940 pageant. The occasions for celebration were dates of significance to the international communist movement: the anniversary of the Russian revolution on 7 November; Red Army Day; the anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Soviet treaty in 1942 (marked by the SCR); the anniversary of Stalingrad; and of course May Day. May Day was marked by the Canterbury Trades Council and Federation of Labour in 1946 with a concert which featured the following programme of entertainment: traditional Russian songs, Spanish and Russian dance, the Tuahiwi Maori Party, a performance of Mason's This Dark Will Lighten' by the Progressive Drama Group (to whom no further reference has been found), and recitals of 'Serenato' and 'O Sole Mio', 'The Road to Mandalay', 'Waltzing Matilda' and 'England' and 'Song of Liberty'.17 The international consciousness of the left and labour movements given expression in entertainments such as this had historical origins, and was reinforced by the political events of the 1930s and the war.page 230
The failure of the left-wing cultural movement in the 30s and 40s to establish a socialist or popular culture was not confined to such activities in New Zealand. In both the United States and Australia, the upsurge of left-wing cultural activity in the 1930s was, in the 1940s and 1950s, channelled into 'nationalist' cultural movements. Although the histories of these movements were not exactly-parallel, the similarity in the pattern of cultural development in these countries and in New Zealand suggests that there were problems fundamental to the theory and practice of socialist culture.
The disjunction between the socialist ideal which inspired the cooperative book movement and the people's theatre, and the audience to which they increasingly catered, is foreshadowed in the cultural theory of Rhodes in Tomorrow. Rhodes succinctly expressed the central problem of Popular Front cultural politics when he wrote: 'The people, long out of touch with the poets, may not read them; but if they did, they would find something they could recognise and understand—their own authentic voice.'18 Here is an explicit recognition of the distance between the intellectual and the working class, and, at the same time, an expression of belief in their natural affinity. The ambiguous role of the Popular Front intellectual as a literary spokesperson for the working class is again brought into focus in this article, which welcomes the political conscience of the young English poets such as W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, by a slight but significant semantic shift: Rhodes describes the political themes in the writing of these poets as an expression of their desire 'to talk to their fellow men', but then observes that 'the left wing poets are giving themselves the chance of becoming the voices of the people.'19 What is revealed in this prepositional change, and what Rhodes elsewhere recognises and describes, is the marginalised and alienated intellectual: 'the wavering and uncertain intellectual on the fringe of that social class [the middle class intelligentsia] but also on the fringe of a new and emerging class.'20 It has been argued that the experience of cultural alienation largely underpinned the attraction of socialism to western intellectuals in the 1930s. And yet the Popular Front movement, in its rhetoric at least, perceived the intellectuals' commitment to the political struggle and their , making common cause with 'the people' as a political and cultural imperative. Observed Rhodes: 'If [the writer] is conscious of the complexities of human living to-day, he will be unable to interpret them satisfactorily, unless he can get in touch with the minds of the people.'21
Just how the writer was to do this, and how, in turn, this might contribute to the growth of a popular culture—the problem experienced by the socialist cultural initiatives discussed in this book—is something that Rhodes' cultural theory is unable to resolve. A relatively simplistic, determinist analysis of the relationship between literature and class or social context is apparent when Rhodes surveys the history of the novel. The writer's imagination and natural page 231 sense of rebellion remain circumscribed by the ideology of his or her social class to the extent that the social background of a novel's characters is in Rhodes' view directly determined by the novelist's own social background. Thus he observes the absence of 'credible communist[s]' and 'real flesh and blood workers' in the work of writers such as Christina Stead or John Dos Passos and gives an uncompromising caricature of the fictive communist who appears in much left-wing literature: 'At one time novelists went slumming, but now they go revoluting; and the result is often a nauseous mixture of gush and heroics poured over a collection of Freudian specimens.'22 But elsewhere Dos Passos, and writers such as Walter Greenwood, Paul Nizan and Andre Malraux, are described as 'not merely observing and writing, they are experiencing and writing', they are 'in actual and living contact with the workers in mines and factories.'23
The image invoked here of the 'worker . . . writing' is exemplified for Rhodes by Lewis Jones, the Welsh miner, trade unionist and author of two novels of mining life, Cwmardy (1937) and We Live (1939), whom Rhodes describes as a writer 'who was of the people, for the people and with the people all his life', and whose novels 'were merely a by-product of his life of continual struggle.'24 This concept of the 'worker-artist' provided one of the few occasions of debate in Tomorrow over the issues raised by Rhodes (and one of the very few which was not taken up by A.R.D. Fairburn), drawing responses from Frank Sargeson and Toss Woollaston. While Sargeson criticised as 'romantic' the notion of workers 'in mines and factories' who go home after work and 'sit down and bang away at their typewriters', Woollaston took issue with Rhodes' idea of the 'soldier-artist', rejecting his insistence that the writer or artist take sides over the political issues being fought in Spain.25 To both Sargeson and Woollaston, in other words, the artist or writer was 'a man apart'. Rhodes responded to the latter with the argument that: 'The artist may sometimes turn soldier, he is always a man' and thus 'has human problems as well as artistic ones, problems that cannot be solved by the individualist. . . . the complicated problems of the artist are inextricably mixed up with the complicated problems of the man.'26 It was a satisfactory answer in political terms, but one which does not address the problem experienced, or implied, by Sargeson and Woollaston, that of how to integrate artistic and political activity—both in personal and in aesthetic terms.
The conflicting descriptions Rhodes gives of the literary fellow traveller, and the debate between Rhodes and Sargeson and Woollaston, derive from the coexistence of two models of cultural production. His description of the works of Lewis Jones as 'merely a by-product of his life of continual struggle' expresses a model of culture as an organic process and a communal product. This model informs both Rhodes' popular cultural vision and his commentary on New Zealand culture:page 232
more and more is our culture becoming the possession of those who have least to contribute to what little we have of communal life. That is to say our culture is no culture at all. It may seem a flourishing growth but it has no roots in the soil of the nation—its people. It is no culture if it does not spring from the natural recognition of those things which are valuable to the life of the community.27
Rhodes' organic model of culture is also supported, as is clear from this passage, by a pastoral metaphor, which like his 'humanist Marxism' is owed partly to the influence of William Morris. He finds, for example, that the proletarian literature of the Soviet Union is in 'contact with the rough vigour of worker and peasant', while western literature 'has lost touch with the soil and forgotten the tool'. 28 Elsewhere he quotes the words of Morris: a culture's 'roots must have a soil of a thriving and unanxious life'.29 This pastoral metaphor is counterbalanced, however, by the equally recurrent use of terms like 'virility', 'rough vigour' and 'militant', by an emphasis on active political commitment on the part of the artist or intellectual (the literary fellow traveller or International Brigade member), and by the pervading sense of the 1930s as a revolutionary moment in history. Rhodes' masculinist discourse—'virility', 'rough vigour'— indicates a male-sexual model of creativity which is a central idea of Romantic cultural theory: an ideology of culture which sees the process of cultural production as essentially individual and instinctive, and art 'as projecting an ideal world and stirring men to new values.'30 This Romantic conception of the nature of the artist and artistic creation, and the Popular Front emphasis on 'saving civilisation' and creating a new culture, privilege the role of the artist in the political and cultural struggle. Rhodes' discourse shifts between an emphasis on cultural activism and the effective function of art, and the model of an organic, communal, popular culture; between a self-consciousness of the role of the intellectual avant-garde and a belief in a popular culture in which the individualist artist is replaced by the 'worker-artist'.
The discourse of New Zealand cultural nationalism in the 1930s and 1940s expresses a similar ambivalence regarding the role of the artist. It too contains a strong emphasis on originating and creating while simultaneously subscribing to an organic model of culture. Here, the pastoral theme and its theoretical implications are carried in the literary focus on landscape and seascape, and in the 'metaphors of solidity'31 which recur throughout the writings of Curnow, Holcroft and Brasch. The frequent reference in this writing to 'soil', 'roots' and 'ground' frames the opposition between a colonial and a national culture: between an insubstantial, derivative colonial culture, and one which is 'rooted in life' and 'as immediate. . . as the island soil'. The predominance of metaphors of human development which describe New Zealand culture in this period— page 233 ranging from the Progressive Publishing Society's 'Give us the MSS and the Progressive Publishing Society will prove an efficient midwife',32 to D'Arcy Cresswell's 'Culture and Puberty' in the first Phoenix and the centennial theme of the nation's 'coming of age' (not to mention M.H. Holcroft's rather strained gestation metaphors in The Waiting Hills)—also reflect a conception of culture as an organic whole, and of its development as a natural process. Hence Allen Curnow's self-effacing statement in the introduction to the Book of New Zealand Verse. 'It would not be necessary, even if I thought it honest, to modify the choice of poems so as to illustrate a favoured thesis: the recurring themes and attitudes are there, plainly, in the writings of those whom we have best reason to call our poets.'33 Curnow explicidy rejects the prescriptive function of the anthologist, and his inclusive 'we' reflects a belief, made more explicit by Holcroft and Brasch, in the common cultural values which would form the basis of a national culture. But, like the cultural project of the Popular Front, the manifesto of cultural nationalism also privileged the role of the artist. Both Phoenix and Landfall attributed to the artist a redemptive, and prescriptive, role: 'the creation of cultural 'antennae' and 'the integration of national consciousness' (Phoenix); the maintenance of 'a single scale of values' (Landfall); 'a New Zealand metaphysic as a centralising effort of intellect that would be followed by an enrichment of the general culture' (Holcroft).34 The cultural nationalist movement of this period, like the left-wing cultural theory expounded by Winston Rhodes, reveals a theoretical confusion in its self-consciousness about the role of the artist ('interlopers on an indifferent and hostile scene'35 ) and the act of creating a national culture, while appealing to a shared, national cultural consciousness.
Curnow could have been speaking for Rhodes and the left-wing cultural movement when he wrote of the Phoenix poets: 'The real question was not what they were to write about, but whom they were to write for. . . . About his audience there can be yet no certainty for the New Zealand poet'.36 The activities that have been discussed in this book were inspired by a populist cultural ideal; but they did not reach their audience. The initial socialist vision was deflected, or absorbed, by a broader development: by the need for an intellectual infrastructure in a provincial culture.
Tomorrow provided the only regular forum for most of the 1930s for the publication of New Zealand literature and for informed debate on political, social, economic and cultural affairs in New Zealand, as well as a medium for the expression of liberal and left-wing opinion on international affairs. The Left Book Club and the cooperative book societies introduced to the New Zealand book buying public a wide range of literature which had previously been virtually unobtainable, from works on Marxism and the Soviet Union to social page 234 realist novels, modernist poetry and literature on family planning. The Progressive Publishing Society published over 60 titles of New Zealand and progressive literature in its short but impressive life, filling the vacuum created by the virtual absence of an independent New Zealand publishing industry at this time. The left theatres in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington presented progressive, contemporary drama to an audience crying out for an alternative to the lightweight, conservative, predominantly British repertory fare offered by the amateur dramatic societies. This movement expressed three cultural impulses in this period, and three themes which Rhodes in his articles in Tomorrow sought to reconcile: a vision of a socialist, popular culture; an interest in contemporary and modernist culture emanating from Britain, Europe and America; and a growing interest in establishing an independent New Zealand culture. That vision was not fulfilled. Nevertheless, over these two decades the left-wing movement was a major influence in the development of New Zealand's intellectual and cultural infrastructure.
1 J. M. Fox, 'State Aid to the Arts in New Zealand'. MA thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1967, pp. 13-21; P. S. Romanov, 'Towards a New Zealand National Theatre: a study of indigenous professional theatre in New Zealand, 1945-1960'. PhD thesis, University of Oregon, 1973, p.73ff
2 Quoted in Fox, 'State Aid to the Arts', p.19
3 A. Goodwin, 'A National Theatre', Landfall, 9, Mar. 1949 (v.3, n.1), pp.69-72. Goodwin's proposals were prompted in part by the experiment of the WEA-based Community Arts Service, which from 1946 toured dramatic productions around the Auckland district.
4 New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, v.277, 1947, p.755
5 L Milner, 'U.S. Federal Theatre Project: A People's Theatre?', Tomorrow, 23 Nov. 1938 (v.5, n.2), p.59
6 R.A.K. Mason, 'Mr Kerridge Tries Culture', Landfall 5, Mar. 1948 (v.2, n.1), pp.34-8; 'National Theatre. Time to Act', Press, 29 Nov. 1948, p.6
7 N. Marsh, 'ANational Theatre', Landfall 9, Mar. 1949 (v.3, n.1), p.67
8 H. W. Rhodes, The Cult of Culture', Tomorrow, 25 July 1934 (v.1, n.3), p.13
9 R. Taylor, 'Dennis Knight Turner— artist'. Paper given at Labour History Conference: Culture and the Labour Movement, Wellington, 20-1 Oct. 1990
10 'UnityCentre', Peoples Voice, 26 Jan. 1944, p.8
11 Ibid. The Unity Centre murals, now held in the Alexander Turnbull Library, are reproduced in Sites, 16, Autumn 1988, pp.71-6
12 Peoples Voice, 20 July 1946, p.2
13 In Print, 23 Sept. 1942, p. 
14 E. Locke. Letter to author, 30 Mar. 1984
15 In Print, 6 Dec. 1942. p. 
16 Songsheets. H. O. Roth. Private collection
17 Programme, May 1946. Jack Locke Deposit: item 17. University of Canterbury Library
18 Rhodes, 'The Dance of Life', Tomorrow, 10 Apr. 1935 (v.1, n.38), p.io
20 'Revolt in the Madhouse', ibid., 14 Apr. 1937(v.3, n.12), p.370
21 'Forerunners', ibid., 28 Aug. 1935 (v.1, n.44), p.12
22 'Revolt in the Madhouse', pp.369-70
23 'Heroes in Fiction' (3), ibid., 7 July 1937 (v.3, n.18), pp.561-2
24 'The Novels of Lewis Jones', ibid., 22 Nov. 1939 (v.6, n.12), pp.50-1. Rhodes also reviewed these two novels in the Peoples Voice under the title 'Miner Who Wrote For The People' (8 Dec. 1939, p.7)
25 F. Sargeson, correspondence, Tomorrow, 4 Aug. 1937 (v.3, n.20), p.632; T. Woollaston, correspondence, ibid., 30 Mar. 1938 (v.4, n.11), p.352
26 Rhodes, correspondence, ibid.
27 'The Cult of Culture', pp.12-13
28 'Literature in the Land of the Soviets III: Proletarian Writers', Tomorrow, 13 Mar. 1935 (v.1, n.34), p.13
29 Writers Between Two Wars. AEWS discussion course, 1943, p.64
30 T. Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism. London: Methuen, 1981, p.54
31 R. Horrocks, 'No Theory Permitted on These Premises', AND, 2, Feb. 1984, p.136
32 'This Culture', Co-op Books, Dec. 1943 (v.1, n.2), p.1
33 A. Curnow, A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-45. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1945, p.18
34 Phoenix, Mar. 1932 (v.1, n.1), p. ; 'Notes', Landfall, Mar. 1947 (v.1, n.1), p.3; M.H. Holcroft, Discovered Isles. A Trilogy. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1950, p.83
35 Curnow, A Book of New Zealand Verse, p.52
36 Ibid., p.17