The Guardian • Issue #2081

Worth Reading: Australia

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2081

"The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties" by Robert Murray book cover.

The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties

Robert Murray

Robert Murray’s The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties concerns the split in the Labor Party over the Communist Party’s growing influence in the era. Yes; they split over us. You’ll have to get this from the library because it isn’t widely available. It’s fascinating insight into how Labor became a largely reactionary party led by right-wingers dedicated to the destruction of communism. It may come as a surprise to some readers what a political force communism once was in Australia, and if you read it a certain way, why communism ought to be a bigger force than it currently is. Published 1970.


"On Australia’s Constitution" by E G Whitlam book cover.

On Australia’s Constitution

E G Whitlam

What was Whitlam’s model of governance? What was the good of it, and what should we discard? This is a collection of Whitlam’s speeches. If there’s anything to keep from it, try his 1961 lecture “Socialism Within the Australian Constitution.” Of interest here are several passages on pioneering state-owned enterprises and international law, which remain relevant today as to how Australia could theoretically build a national economy. But throughout we find Whitlam too much trusts that the bourgeois liberal-democratic model can deliver. We know now, this long after his dismissal, that it cannot. The Australian constitution has become harder to change and less dynamic than ever before. Published 1977.


Straight Left

Katharine Susannah Prichard

Straight Left, by Katharine Susannah Prichard, is a collection of her articles and addresses on politics, literature and women’s affairs over almost 60 years: from 1910 to 1968. If you can get a hold of it, Straight Left is worth reading because it gives you a great sense of how one of Australia’s most famous novelists was able to bring together literary and communistic political work. Prichard delivers criticism of other writers, appraisal of Australian socialist literature, and addresses many themes, including Aboriginal affairs, nuclear testing, and the importance of international proletarian solidarity (especially with the Soviet Union at the time). Published 1982.


"Ink in Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer" by Sylvia Martin.

Ink in Her Veins: The Troubled Life of Aileen Palmer

Sylvia Martin

Aileen Palmer was the eldest daughter of two famous Australian communists, Vance and Nettie Palmer. She too was a communist, fighting in the Spanish Civil War and translating the work of Ho Chi Minh (his Prison Diary, and his poems). Palmer led a difficult life. Martin’s account covers Palmer’s descent into mental illness. A beautiful and detailed portrait of Palmer, it reminds us how many great and extraordinary people have dedicated themselves to the communist cause in Australia, the Party cause, and why we need to build on the work of those who gave their lives to our cause. Published 2016.


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