30/01/2007 - 22:00

Santamaria's anti-Red role

30/01/2007 - 22:00


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From 1920 until 1990, humanity faced a dangerous worldwide fraternity – the Bolsheviks – bearers of a primitive, murderous ideology whose founder, Vladimir Lenin, unfortunately, gained executive power violently in Petrograd in 1917.

From 1920 until 1990, humanity faced a dangerous worldwide fraternity – the Bolsheviks – bearers of a primitive, murderous ideology whose founder, Vladimir Lenin, unfortunately, gained executive power violently in Petrograd in 1917.

Australia’s initial cohort of Bolsheviks included cranks, spiritualists, naïve do-gooders, frustrated scribblers, residual Christians-turned-utopians, but rarely working class trade unionists.

Not coincidentally, Lenin dispatched to Australia in 1920 a top Comintern agent, Alexander Zuzenko, and two others to help guide the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) to power.

That’s largely how things remained until the Great Depression and outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

Ranks thereafter broadened, with bolshevism marching ever more obediently to the diktats of Moscow’s supreme leader and mass killer, Joseph Stalin.

Willi Munzenberg – Stalin’s loyal German-born organisational and advertising genius – sat in Paris devising and directing ongoing propaganda campaigns and front organisations that helped boost recruiting worldwide.

By the time Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, joined Neville Chamberlain’s Britain in September 1939 to help combat Stalin’s megalomaniacal ally, Adolf Hitler, the CPA was a formidable force.

Local Stalinists dreamed of transforming Australia into a people’s democracy along lines imposed upon post-1944-45 Eastern Europe – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Eventually, post-1948 Czechoslovakia became their model, since it was subverted and bolshevised domestically, so without Red Army intervention.

Union officials, dogged appara-tchiks, and, to use former Curtin University Czech-born political scientist, Peter Hruby’s, term, “pro-communist daydreamers”, within churches, the literary world, academe and Canberra’s bureaucracies – where some spied for Stalin – were the cutting edge of Australia’s intended political transition.

Perth’s best known literary pro-Stalinist daydreamer was, of course, CPA foundation member, Katherine Susannah Pritchard  (Soviet codename, Academician), mother of Ric Throssell (Soviet codename, Ferro) who, strangely, gained employment in the Foreign Affairs Department, where Ian Milner (Soviet codename, Drill), who defected to Prague in 1950, had been his departmental superior.

By 1944, the CPA had 24,000 members, with its most cunning in top union jobs, compared with the Liberal Party’s 200,000 when it gained power in 1949.

Only the exceptionally skilful became undercover operatives, such as Walter Clayton (Soviet codename, Klod), who dealt with Soviet handlers.

Australian espionage expert, Desmond Ball, said: “Due to the efforts of the Klod group in 1946-47, Moscow knew all details of strategic co-operation between Australia and her allies and many confidential aspects of the foreign policy of the West.”

Despite the CPA’s minimal electoral support, something resembling mid-1940s Czechoslovakia was emerging.

However, even before Labor PM Ben Chifley created ASIO in 1949 and countered communist-controlled unions by ordering soldiers to mine coal for power generation, moves were afoot to ensure Australia didn’t thread Czechoslovakia’s 1948 path into the Soviet Bloc.

Canberra historian, Colin Jory, in his path-finding study of Australian Catholicism and its response to all this, The Campion Society and Catholic Social Militancy in Australia 1929-39, says moves against the CPA began on the eve of World War II, just before Stalin joined Hitler in carving up Europe.

“The first moves to unite Catholic workers to fight the communists were spontaneous and widely scattered,” Jory writes.

“Isolated Catholic-based workers’ groups existed in Melbourne from 1938 and in Ballarat, Ararat, Launceston, Toowoomba, Adelaide and Newcastle by the close of 1940.

“In Broken Hill a group was founded: and in Sydney Father Paddy Ryan…and certain Catholic Labor leaders, began to assemble the nucleus of a Catholic anti-communist movement.

“Finally, in mid-1942, as the situation in the unions became increasingly grave, Bob Santamaria was approached by a number of Catholic and non-Catholic Labor leaders with an urgent request that he help to form a secret centrally co-ordinated Catholic anti-communist organisation [the movement].”

Those interested in these crucial years and the protracted struggle against Australian bolshevism can gain an insight into why a Catholic Australian of Italian heritage was contacted with an “urgent request” in the just-released book, Your Most Obedient Servant B.A. Santamaria – Selected Letters: 1938-96, edited by Victorian writer and academic, Patrick Morgan.

Mr Morgan, who had special access to the still-not-released Santamaria Papers, which are now lodged at the State Library of Victoria, presents a representative selection of letters that help lift the veil on so many little-understood aspects of that fight against Communism.

He points out that it was not until 12 years later, in October 1954, that Sanatamaria “first came to public prominence”.

By then he and his increasingly successful movement – often called industrial groups or groupers – was well on the way to neutering the CPA, though much work remained unfinished.

This is because Labor leader, Dr Herb Evatt, turned on Santamaria, publicly claiming the anti-communist movement was “a subversive group within the labour movement”, that is the ALP and unions.

Evatt, we know, came under the spell of ASIO’s former second-in-command, Robert Wake, who had convinced Evatt that he and Australia were targeted by a shady Washington-Vatican global conspiracy and the man at its hub was long-time Santamaria friend and briefly Menzies staffer, Adelaide author, journalist and poet, Paul McGuire.

McGuire, Australia’s leading Catholic actionist, had a wartime intelligence background and Mr Morgan assesses Wake’s claim in his 32-page commentary. The book also carries Santamaria letters to McGuire.

In 1955 came the Labor Party’s split that ensured the Liberals had 17 more years of power.

Non-leftist Catholic Labor political careers tumbled, including that of Brian Burke’s father, Tom.

A key player was WA’s enigmatic leftist, FE ‘Joe’ Chamberlain, who Santamaria suspected was the International Workers of the World activist, and Soviet Comintern agent Joe Zanni, also of Italian ancestry.

After 1954, Santamaria faced decades of ongoing hatred by Australia’s leftist establishment, from communists and many in the ALP to academics, journalists and Australia’s then highly imaginative rainbow coalition of dogmatic anti-Catholics.

Certainly having the name Santamaria, not Smith or Smyth, greatly helped the cause of blackening him and others who sought to counter any and all communist power enhancing moves.

But Santamaria, a former member of the ‘Catholic actionist campion society’ and founder of an array of organisations that countered the left, doggedly fought on.

Mr Morgan’s selection of letters – with senior Australian and overseas clergy, foreign figures, journalists, and many more – for the first time presents a clearer insight into his ongoing fight against Soviet-style totalitarianism.

“In 2004, about 150 large boxes of Santamaria’s working papers were donated to the State Library of Victoria by his family,” Mr Morgan says. “This immense collection comprises close to 1,000 files, many of which contain a hundred pages each.

“The material provides one version of events that shaped the course of 20th-century Australian history.

“Most incoming letters to Santamaria and his replies over 60 years have been retained and filed, a remarkable feat.”

Although the letters speak for themselves, the Morgan commentary is essential reading, since it contains a large number of original insights.

State Scene’s favourite deals with the question of the communist threat during the 1940s and 1950s.

“Santamaria’s great early success was rolling back communist dominance in the unions and the Labor movement, a precondition of Australia’s prosperity in the post-war decades,” Mr Morgan writes.

“But because of this achievement, his warning about the dangers of Communism became a self-denying prophecy.”

To back this, Mr Morgan quotes from a 1955 letter written by Father Ted Stormon, principal of the University of WA’s St Thomas More College.

“These people are equivocally saying that Catholic Action, etc. are jeopardising democratic liberties in their fanatical pursuit of communists, and then saying that, in any case, we don’t have to worry much about communists in Australia because the people themselves, and in particular the unions, are cleaning them up (meaning the industrial groups and Catholic actionists are cleaning them up.),” Father Stormon wrote.

Years later, Santamaria told former active German communist, historian Karl Wittfogel, how the movement’s industrial groups were organised and operated. Wittfogel replied: “That’s exactly what Willi Munzenberg would have done”.

Interestingly, Poland’s Lech Walesa-led Solidarity was also based on networks of counter-committees and by 1989 it had not only deposed Poland’s communists, but sparked the toppling of the entire Soviet system Stalin inherited from Lenin in 1924 and extended into Eastern Europe during 1944-45.

And yes, Solidarity had the Vatican’s moral support – due to a Pole called, Karol Wojtyla, otherwise known as Pope John Paul II.


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