April 13

Watermelons: republicans disagree

There is no pantheon of republican heroes in Australia.  If you mention previous republican movement, republicans either become embarassed or go into denial.

Annoyed by Britain’s toleration of all races, the push in the later nineteenth century was to turn Australia into a white apartheid republic.

Then in the first half of the twentieth century, and funded with Russian gold, the second one was to turn Australia into a people’s republic based on Soviet Russian lines.

…today’s republicans…

To point this out does not of course mean that today’s republicans are necessarily communist or indeed racist.

(That said, I don't think the current republican movement media director and deputy chair and his senior writer are trying to flatter me when they describe me on their site as a “perma-tanned Indonesian-born blow-in.”)

Today’s republican movement today is different from the one headed –  and we now know crucially bankrolled – by Malcolm Turnbull in the nineties.

With no idea what it wants, and in open disagreement  with the republican politicians who have put the issue on the back-burner –  at least until the end of the reign – today's republican movement is but a shadow of its former self.


…nostalgic links….



That said every so often some republican throws up a nostalgic link with the republican  past.

In 2008, I was invited to debate not one but two republicans at Parliament House Sydney.

I wondered whether the organisers assumed one constitutional monarchist was worth two republicans.

One of the Republicans came from the Greens, which curiously are now the most republican party in our Parliaments. (The rank and file ALP supporters were never interested, and the politicians only agreed as a result of a factional deal.  Labor's greatest  leaders were all constitutional monarchists.) 

The republican in question was a NSWGreens MP, Ms Lee Rhiannon.  Her arguments were essentially Marxist – all about the class system.

So I suggested that she might be interested in a restoration of titles. I said she could be known as Dame Lee Rhiannon. She politely declined.

The other speaker was a professor involved in an  international peace movement based at Sydney University. His speesch was more about the resolution of international disputes. He seemed to be wondering why he was there. 

…Greens’ agenda with nothing to do with the environment…

 I was reminded of this when the controversy recently arose about the boycott of Israel by Sydney’s Greens dominated Marrickville municipal council. 

Are knees are shaking all over Tel Aviv, and Marrickville's actions the talk of the town? 

The boycott was apparently supported by Ms Rhiannon who is to take her place in the Federal Senate on 1 July.

The point the founders of the Greens made about in the press recently was clear. What has the new agenda including the boycott of Israel –or indeed a politician’s republic – to do with the environment?

The latter is somewhat surprising given that the Royal Family has been particularly conservationist and green. Not only with Prince Charles, but also Prince Philip.

At the present time the Greens are the most republican party. Why?  

…Ms. Rhiannon…

 In a report in The Australian (2/4) by Brendan Nicholson, Ms Rhiannon declares that she is not “a watermelon.”

That is, green on the outside and red inside.

She says her parents were among the many who became disillusioned with Moscow after Soviet tanks crushed Czechoslovakia’s move towards communism with a human face in 1968

“ I am not a Communist,” she said. ”I and Greens members condemn the crimes committed under Stalin.” 

…. republicans disagree…

This led the noted commentator – and conservative republican – Dr.Gerard Henderson to write a letter to The Australian. This was published under the headline: “Denial of a watermelon gives us the pip.”

This and Ms. Rhiannon's reply follows. 

( Continued below)

Rhiannon asserts that she has been unfairly tagged as a hardline left-winger and claims that her parents became disillusioned with the communist regime in Moscow around 1968.
What are the facts?

W.J. (Bill) Brown joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1940, during the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Freda Brown signed on to the CPA in 1936, during the height of Stalin's purges in the Soviet Union.Rhiannon maintains that her parents were not Stalinists, that they came to renounce Stalin's crimes and that all the Browns opposed the Soviet Union's crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968.

She has provided no documentary evidence to support her case.

In 1986 Bill Brown wrote The Communist Movement and Australia, which is dedicated to his daughter Lee. It contains no criticism of Stalin's crimes and defends what the author terms Moscow's solidarity action to preserve socialism in Czechoslovakia in 1968.Rhiannon joined the CPA as a teenager.

Along with her parents, she quit in the early 1970s, when the CPA distanced itself from Moscow. Rhiannon joined the pro-Moscow Socialist Party of Australia and remained active in the SPA until just before Soviet communism collapsed.

As Mark Aarons documents in The Family File, Lee Brown was asked by Brian Aarons in 1972 to condemn the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the shooting of Polish workers and the suppression of socialist democracy in the Soviet Union.

She declined.

This correspondence can be found in the Tharunka student newspaper in May/June 1972.

….Senator-elect Rhiannon replies…

On 12 April the Australian published Senator –elect Rhiannon’s reply:

Gerard  Henderson accuses me of a "serious case of denial" based on an article by Brendan Nicholson. Nicholson did not interview me for this article and the statement that Henderson has now amplified is incorrect.

Henderson has written about my political history many times but has never interviewed me.

I welcome scrutiny of my political history, past work in the community and record as a Greens MP. But this endless recycling of inaccuracies about me and my family is curious.

I never suggested my "parents became disillusioned with the communist regime in Moscow around 1968".

Neither my parents nor I were Stalinists. Henderson produces no evidence to back his attempts to falsely imply that I support the horrific crimes committed under Stalin.

Henderson bases his smear that in 1972 I did not condemn crimes in the Socialist world on the fact that I did not reply to a letter in the student newspaper Tharunka 39 years ago.

He further asserts that I joined the Communist Party as a "teenager".

I was never a member of the Communist Party. I was a member of the Socialist Party.


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