Anyway, History is great fun. I love it. Which is why I spent so much time studying it, ancient, medieval (to better background D&D games), and modern. It's probably why I hate Howard so much because of all that 'those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it' stuff except we're in the same boat with him.
Anyhoo, one of the other things apparently missing was Howard's all time favourite man ever, Menzies (well known appreciator of fine German dictators right up until the actual fucking war starting which Downer never mentions in his plummy whining about Curtin), trying to ban an entire political party. To whit the communist party. Of course Pig Iron bob, so called because of all the scrap metal he sold to the Imperial Japanese up to 12 months before it returned in our direction in a slightly more lethal form, did so in order to win elections and probably the whole campaign was really around encouraging the forgotten people to freak the fuck out and come his way.
Here's a good take on it from here (it's a lefty site so be warned).
Reprinted in full. History is fun! Actually come to think of it that "doomed to repeat it" might not actually be all doomy. I mean if it worked once before right ... ?
Author: Jim Henderson
Publisher/Date: The Guardian, No. 831, 18th September, 1996. pp 6-7
Title: Democracy win a world first victory
Digital transcription by agitprop_mainman_2003
Many dates are celebrated in Australia but what is without doubt the most important — September 22, 1951 — is never celebrated. And yet, on that day, the people of Australia made a decision that must go down in history as unprecedented world wide. On that day a referendum was held to decide whether the Communist Party should be completely banned and anyone advocating communist theories declared a criminal and gaoled.
Never before or since has such a referendum been held in a capitalist country.
The people of Australia were asked to vote on the following question: “Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled Constitution Alteration (Powers to deal with communists and communism) 1951?”
It was a time of world-wide slandering of and attacks on the communist movement. In Western Europe, where post-war communist prestige was very high, terrorism, scaremongering and vote-buying under the Marshall Plan were being used to undermine and “roll back” the communists.
Rabid anti-communism knew no bounds. Hanz Holz, in The Downfall and Future of Socialism (page 25), records that “Father Grandlach, counsellor to Pope Paul XII, proclaimed from the pulpit in the ’fifties that it would be better for humanity to die in an atomic war than for their souls to be consigned to the godlessness of communism.”
In the USA, the government was waging — with considerable if temporary success — a vicious, unprecedented campaign of intimidation against communists, militants and progressives to smash not only the American Communist Party but the militant union and civil rights movements.
In Asia, the imperialist powers, Britain, France, the USA — and Australia — were fighting brutal wars against the communists in Malaya, Korea, Borneo, Indo China and the Philippines.
Anxious to exploit its nuclear advantage, imperialism was preparing for a new world war — against the USSR and the recently victorious Chinese communists.
Statements by Charles E Wilson, appointed by US President Truman in November 1950 as Director of Mobilisation, showed that imperialism had set itself a three-year timetable to the start of that new world war.
Early in 1951, a conference of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers was told to begin similar programs of mobilisation and war preparation. Australia’s new Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, returned from the conference and told a meeting of State Premiers that “Australia must be ready for war within three years — and not one day more”. He announced a £500 million re-armament program.
Menzies was extremely reactionary. Before the War he had displayed strong empathy with the policies of Hitler. After returning from a visit to Germany in 1938, the year of Munich, Menzies stated that he thought it was “a great thing” for Germany to have arms. He was notorious for supporting the pre-war sale of pig iron to Japan to aid its war industries.
His overriding concern for the class interests of big business had been made clear as early as May 3, 1931, in the midst of the Depression, when he said from the pulpit of the Wesley Church, Londsdale, Melbourne: “Rather than Australia should fail to pay her honest debts to her bondholders I would prefer to see every man, woman and child in Australia die of starvation in the next six months”. 1
Even before Menzies’ election victory, the post-war Australian Labor government had itself actively attacked the communists. (It must be remembered that the Australian Communist Party, by the end of WW2, was an influential organisation with over 20,000 members.)
Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, used the 1949 miners’ strike to provoke a “showdown”. Labor (as well as the Liberals) characterised the miners’ strike as a “red plot”.
No matter that the strike decision had been carried by a miners’ vote of 7,995 to 822, Chifley said: “The reds have to be taught a lesson.”
Supported by Menzies, the Labor government introduced a Coal Emergency Bill which provided for the jailing of union officials who gave any financial assistance to the strike.
Union officials were gaoled for up to 12 months for refusing to disclose where they had lodged their union funds for security reasons, as the Coal Emergency Bill gave the government authority to demand this money. Huge fines were imposed on unions but they stood firm.
The right wing launched an all out attack on the communists in the unions, opposing anything that was in the least progressive.
These attacks were led by a shadowy Catholic organisation which called itself “the Movement”, backed up by the thugs of the equally shadowy “Catholic Action” organisation. The Catholic church, it must be said, played a major part in influencing Catholic workers against the communists.
“The Movement” became well entrenched in the labour movement, working through the so-called Industrial Groups, which it set up in both the ALP and the unions.
The ALP leadership and right-wing union leaders did a great deal to support the reactionary Groupers in carrying out their anti-communist and anti-working class activities, swinging many non-Catholic workers against the communists.
The Groupers attacked and smashed union meetings as well as communist public meetings and were at one with the policies of Menzies and the right-wing leaders of the Labor Party.
There was a growing concern in the unions and the Labor Party at a fascist trend within their ranks.
In the elections of 1949, the Liberals under Menzies were elected with majorities in both Houses.
Menzies had made no secret of his intentions regarding the Communist Party, nor was it forgotten that the previous period of “illegality” for the Party (1940-1942) had also been initiated by Menzies.
So with his election the Party immediately put in place the preparations it had made for underground organisation. They worked well.
It had been decided that all members of the Central Committee Executive, except the General Secretary JB Miles, would go underground, with secret homes. JB would keep the open organisation functioning, while remaining in contact with the other Executive members.
Both openly and secretly the Party continued to function.
On April 27, 1950, the government brought on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
Considering the image Menzies cultivated in later years of the stalwart upholder of British parliamentary traditions, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was brazenly anti-democratic: “The Communist Party shall be outlawed and its property seized without trial and without proof that it has committed any offence.”
Menzies boasted in parliament: “Under this measure the [Communist] Party is being disposed of with no right of appeal and no humbug.” But it was immediately evident that the Bill’s definition of communist was so deliberately broad that democrats of every progressive kind would fall within its ambit.
Not only would the Communist Party be declared unlawful under the Bill, but so would any organisation affiliated to it, any organisation with a majority of Communist Party members on its committee of management, and any organisation which at any time after May 1948, “had supported or advocated the objectives or policies or principles or teachings or practices of Communism”.
The government was given the power to declare anyone a communist without the necessity of proof. Once “declared”, a person was barred from ever holding any position in a trade union.
They were similarly barred from ever working for the Federal public service in any capacity. (This last provision was also introduced in West Germany under Adenhauer and is still in force there.) It was a state-run blacklist.
A person could be “declared” if they carried on “in the direct or indirect interests of an unlawful association [i.e. the Communist Party], any activity which the unlawful association was engaged in or could have engaged in.”
A jail term of up to five years was provided for such offences.
Opponents of the Bill pointed out that teaching the Marxist theory of value contravened it, that advocating equal pay contravened it, that collecting signatures against the Atom bomb contravened it.
Labor leader Chifley said the Bill “opened the door for liars, perjurors and pimps”.
The Labor Party, however, did not object to the Bill’s aims, but only to the broadness of its provisions. In Parliament, Senator McKenna for the Labor Party said: “The net cast by this definition [of ‘Communist'] is exceedingly wide.”
To which the Attorney-General, Senator Spicer, replied: “The Government has to have a definition that is wide enough to catch the people whom it is after.”
This cynical answer apparently satisfied the Labor Party, for they moved no amendment to the definition.
The Labor Party did move an amendment giving organisations other than the Communist Party the right of appeal and to trial by jury. Another Labor Party amendment would have required that, before communists and militants were removed from union positions or Commonwealth government employ, the government “prove” its charges against them.
In essence, the Labor Party’s amendments sought to give this basically fascist piece of legislation an aura of democracy. The Parliamentary Labor Party accepted the main outlines of the Bill, quarrelling only with those aspects that threatened to hinder the ALP’s own activities.
None of the Labor Party amendments was acceptable to the government, however. Menzies’ refusal to accept any of the Labor Party amendments was a clear signal that his target was not only the Communist Party. All who advocated peace, democracy or social progress were in his sights.
Church leaders of various denominations condemned the Bill but the Catholic extremists were delighted and stepped up their vicious anti-communist activities.
The capitalist press was wholeheartedly in support and the savagery of their attacks coupled with those of the Liberals and the Groupers was almost beyond belief.
Some rank and file Labor Party members were beginning to take a stand against the Bill and were coming over to work with those campaigning against it.
However, after much discussion, including consultation with both Chifley and H V Evatt, the Labor Party’s Federal Advisory Committee came out in support of the Bill.
The Communist Party began a most vigorous campaign and were joined by the increasingly active Australian Peace Council where religious leaders played a prominent part.
The Communists held meetings all over Australia and distributed thousands of posters and well over a million leaflets.
However with the support of the Labor Party the Bill became law on October 20, 1950.
The Communist Party and major unions appealed to the High Court against the legality of the Bill.
A dramatic turn took place when Evatt, who had previously supported the Bill, now agreed to represent the Waterside Workers’ Federation in the High Court.
Evatt’s action caused consternation in right-wing Labor circles and pleasant surprise in all progressive circles.
The High Court on March 9, 1951, decided by a majority of six to one that the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was unconstitutional.
The Menzies government immediately decided on a double dissolution of Parliament and at the subsequent election won majorities in both Houses.
They then decided to hold a referendum of the people on September 22 that year to seek the power to change the Constitution in order to destroy the Communist Party and all who in any way fought for genuine democracy.
If approved, the Referendum would give the Menzies government far greater powers than the Communist Party Dissolution Act the High Court had struck down.
In the event of any other legislation, such as the draconian Defence Preparations Act, being challenged and invalidated by the High Court, the government could simply invoke the “necessary or expedient” clause of the Referendum proposal to push through similar legislation, by-passing the High Court and effectively nullifying the Constitution. Menzies was still pursuing a policy of war preparations. “In every speech he made Menzies confirmed this view. He constantly declared that the suppression of the Communist Party and the placing of the trade unions in a straight jacket was essential in the interests of ‘defence’...” 2
Evatt, now the leader of the ALP, played a most important part in the campaign to defeat the referendum, together with other Labor leaders Arthur Calwell and Eddie Ward. Evatt especially was responsible in large measure for winning Labor Party members and voters to oppose Menzies by voting “No”.
In Federal Parliament Evatt attacked Menzies and the Referendum Bill: “Mr Menzies had said quite openly that his purpose was to ‘destroy Labor’s political power’. Under the Bill he might have trade unions or Labor Parties declared illegal organisations on the grounds that they had socialist objectives.
“Passing of the Referendum would give any government dragnet powers to create its own system of special tribunals or to have none. It could be authorised to order every Communist or Socialist found within Australia to be put to death without trial.”
Not all Labor Party leaders supported the “No” campaign, however. A group of ALP MPs led by Keon and Mullens advocated a “Yes” vote.
A real unity of action developed among all who supported a “No” vote.
The Communist Party played a magnificent role in the campaign. Never before or since has such a campaign been seen in Australia. Millions of leaflets were distributed and posters adorned the walls in practically every city and town.
Countless public meetings were held, many being fiercely attacked, but the Communists stood up firmly against this opposition.
“The Communist Party played a decisive part in the Referendum. In the greatest mobilisation of forces and the biggest and best campaign ever waged, the Communist Party drew thousands of working people who stood for freedom into action and stimulated the Labor Party rank and file and the trade unions to mass activity.” (R Dixon, op cit)
The “Yes” campaign was based squarely on hate and distortion. Countless radio ads were run, each beginning with a stern male voice proclaiming: “I hate commos!”
In Parliament, the Attorney-General, Senator Spicer, when moving the second reading of the Referendum Bill, had invoked the “Soviet threat” while pushing every democratic button he could squeeze in to the one speech: “The Communist Party is not a political party in the sense in which that term is normally understood in a democratic community.
“For it, majority rule is irrelevant. It does not expect to become a large political organisation with hundreds of thousands of members supporting its policy throughout the land.
“Its true object is to obtain power by undermining and destroying our Constitution and our democratic institutions, and to do so in the interests of a foreign power engaged in vast imperialistic expansion.”
It was noted before long that the supporters of the “No” campaign were growing, cutting down the lead of 80 percent that the “Yes” vote had at the beginning of the campaign. Menzies changed his tactics in the later stages of the campaign, proclaiming that the powers he sought were aimed only at the Communists and would not affect the liberties of other sections of the people.
At last came the momentous day, September 22, 1951.
The referendum, to be carried, had to have a majority for “Yes” among voters Australia-wide and also had to have at least four out of six states voting in favour.
The result was a majority for “No” nation-wide of 52, 082 and three states out of the six also gave a majority for “No”. The states were NSW Victoria and South Australia.
Democracy had won a great victory! Some of the participants, however, reverted to looking after their own interests almost immediately. Evatt, McKenna and some other Labor Party leaders, as well as certain religious leaders, advised the government to use the Crimes Act (with its significantly narrower focus) against the Communist Party.
Nevertheless, R Dixon in assessing the Referendum outcome in the Communist Review, 3 could truthfully say: “Of the many Referendums that have been held since Federation in 1900, including the conscription referendums of 1916-17, the Referendum just concluded, with its threat of fascism and war, was the most important.”
What is the lesson to be learned from this wonderful victory? The lesson is indeed a most important one.
The forces for progress — and that includes in the first place the working class — must be united.
In this campaign the unity of the Communists and the ALP members who took a very progressive role was the determining factor in the successful outcome.
“We saw the beginnings of a united front between members of the Labor Party and members of the Communist Party. This was basic to the victory”, wrote Dixon. 4
“It was this unity and the fact that the trade union movement swung solidly for a ‘No’ vote that were the determining factors in securing a majority vote for ‘No’.
“The three most industrialised States, i.e. where the largest groups of workers are — New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia — all registered solid majorities for ‘No’ and decided the fate of the Referendum.”
It showed too, that when the working class is united it attracts other sections of the population who are not firmly attached to reaction. “Thousands of farmers and middle class people who, five months before at the General Election voted for Liberal or Country Party candidates, joined the workers in voting ‘No’”, observed Dixon.
Today, the Liberal Party, the party of Menzies, is pursuing the same reactionary policies as it did at the height of Menzies’ attacks on the working people.
This is clearly shown in the attacks on wages, health, education, jobs, the ABC, and the slavish binding of Australia to the war schemes of the US imperialists.
Only a united working class, led by a Communist Party with the broad support of other progressive social forces, can defeat these attacks on the living standards of the Australian people just as they did on that memorable occasion in 1951.
Notes4. Dixon, op cit.