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Labouring People

Chris Bowen, the former Treasurer, now Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, is an avid reader, and curious about the motivation, thinking, and conflicts that rule the hearts and minds of political folk. His latest book tributes six, largely forgotten, Australian Labor men and women, never household names. In doing so, Bowen says that many books: “…tend to focus on the big names or the big dramatic moments: the election wins, the reforms, the splits, the challenges.” But there is more to the Labor story: there are many thousands of personalities who make up the movement. … Continue readingLabouring People

Charlie Chaplin and the FBI

(Phillip Deery, Charlie Chaplin and the FBI): There is much more to the political harassment and persecution of Charlie Chaplin. J. Edgar Hoover first took an interest in the ‘little tramp’ in 1922, the year after ‘The Kid’ opened. But it was not until World War II that his FBI file, numbered 100-127090, began to thicken. FBI agents noted that he was the main speaker at a CPUSA-backed Artists Front to Win the War in Carnegie Hall on 16 October 1942, which called for a second front. He addressed the crowd as ‘comrades’ and praised the Soviet Union, then a wartime ally. … Continue readingCharlie Chaplin and the FBI

A Book of Doors

These were better days. Definitely: perhaps so much better because we were young back then. And those who were there naturally see them through that rosy-golden glow. But more likely better because it was us – the young ones ourselves – who had made them better. That is what is often missed: we were actually the vectors of historical advance. We took hold of the times and wrestled them to our novel requirements. We rode them with exhilaration for a while to the forefront of surging change. … Continue readingA Book of Doors

ONE SONG – MANY LIVES: Remembering the Westgate Bridge tragedy

15 October 1970 is infamous as the date of one of Australia’s worst industrial disasters.  A span of the Westgate Bridge, then under construction, collapsed. 35 workers plummeted to their deaths below.  Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 played havoc with plans to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy. The annual pilgrimage of remembrance to the memorial plaque was cancelled, but the anniversary was still appropriately observed, with the Memorial Committee’s live stream Facebook event, 3CR’s documentaries from 1990 and 1995, Channel 9’s documentary feature, and Sam Wallman’s magnificent eight-panel artwork. … Continue readingONE SONG – MANY LIVES: Remembering the Westgate Bridge tragedy

The Gloves Come Off – The 1970 Moratorium and the Limits of Tolerance

On 18 September Moratorium marchers encountered a determined effort by the police to reassert their ‘dictatorship of the streets’. This might have been expected to occur most virulently in Brisbane and Melbourne but it was in Sydney and Adelaide that the police were most vicious, attacking demonstrators with pre-planned clockwork precision. … Continue readingThe Gloves Come Off – The 1970 Moratorium and the Limits of Tolerance

Portrait of an activist: Elizabeth Vassilieff

Elizabeth Orme Hamill, née Sutton, was a 31-year-old teacher, writer and divorcee when they met in Warrandyte. Although Danila had an anti-communist background – he fought with the Whites during the civil war in Russia and was captured by the Reds[3] – Elizabeth, both during their marriage and well beyond, was not only an artist in her own right, but an activist in the peace movement and the Communist Party. … Continue readingPortrait of an activist: Elizabeth Vassilieff