“We often forget how strong the Australian communists were in the 1940’s in the unions, how they opposed the World War II efforts, sometimes even after Russia became our ally after the 1941 Nazi invasion,” observed Cardinal Pell on 12 August, 2008.
His Eminence was launching “B.A. Santamaria: Running the Show: Selected Documents 1939-1996,” edited by Patrick Morgan for the Melbourne University Press.
He pointed out that in 1945, the Communist Party still had a majority of 90 votes at the Australian Congress of Trade Unions.
Subsidised from Moscow, they had no electoral support, but managed to control key unions, usually through manipulating the elections.
Their plan was to change our country into a Peoples’ Republic on the East European model.
This People's Republic of Australia, with one party government, would be part of a brutal Marxist empire ultimately responsible for the death of 80 to 100 million people, and the enslavement of many more.
They were thus the second serious republican movement this country has known, in between the White supremacists of the late nineteenth century who saw republicanism as a way to escape from the British Empire’s liberal immigration policy, and the notion of racial equality so clearly enunciated by Queen Victoria herself.
Cardinal Pell points out that it was only through the Industrial Groups that the communists were defeated.
This was the great achievement of a most distinguished Australian, B.A. Santamaria.
Working through the parishes of the Catholic Church, he established a movement which by the early 1950’s had 6000 members in 350 districts with 100 factory and union groups.
This book is a natural companion to the superb collection of BA Santamaria’s letters, once again edited so well by Patrick Morgan, “ B.A. Santamaria : Your Most Obedient Servant."
…he was no republican…
When I attended the launch earlier this year of “B.A. Santamaria : Your Most Obedient Servant,” I took the opportunity to ask a very close colleague of BA Santamaria about his attitude to republicanism.
His answer was that Santamaria was a strong constitutionalist and a firm believer in federalism.
Never once did he hear him suggest that the Crown be removed and Australia become a republic.
Santamaria died in 1998.
He had enjoyed an extraordinary influence on the political life of the nation.
He led the fight against the communist dominance of the union movement, concentrated as it was in Australia’s strategic industries at a time when a world war between the Soviet Union and the West was widely feared and when the communists were expected to form a fifth column.
…support for the constitution…
While Santamaria wrote on and was interested in all serious political developments, there seems to be nothing in his prolific correspondence proposing the grafting of a republic onto our constitutional system.
This is confirmed in a comment in a speech B.A. Santamaria gave in 1978, which is reported in the latest volume at page 373.
He was referring to the struggle within the Australian Union of Students. This has some relevance today with suggestion the Rudd government may re-introduce compulsory membership of such unions.
In 1975, Sanatmaria feared that the AUS seemed likely to achieve its objective of transforming 260,000 students into a substantial revolutionary force which with the trade unions could use “political strikes and violent demonstrations to force a Labor government away from constitutional into revolutionary courses.”
His assessment of Gough Whitlam’s attempts to rule without a grant of supply confirm Santamaria’s strong constitutionalism.
He says: “While Mr. Whitlam was in no sense a revolutionary, neither was he very fussy about constitutional propriety.
“His proposal to govern without supply voted by the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, as prescribed by the Federal Constitution, had it succeeded, would merely have rescued him from the temporary embarrassment of proximate defeat.”
“But it would have also provided the revolutionary forces with the revolutionary precedent on which they would have capitalised: that, not his embarrassment, was what was important.”
These are the thoughts of a strong constitutionalist. It is to be hoped that in the education of our youth, attention is given to the extraordinary role B.A. Santamaria played in the life of our nation.