Student Number: 214244999
Was there a widespread fear of communism in 1950s Australia? Why/why not?
This essay will discuss communism in Australia during the 1950’s, more specifically it will focus on the universally experienced fear that communism as a political ideology brought with it. This essay will focus on the role that Prime Minister Robert Menzies along with his party played in terms of introducing legislation to vanquish communism in Australia, particularly the introduction of the Communist Party Dissolution Act.1 This essay will explore the importance of the unions in the promotion and opposition of the Communist Party of Australia. This essay will also explain the influence of high-powered conservatives both in explaining the common concern of communism and also the eventual curtailing of the communist movement in Australia. This essay will explore the importance of the Korean War geographically in escalating anxieties, bringing an intangible threat to an impending reality and the significance of the relationship between Australia and the United States both abroad and overseas in protecting and also confronting the threat of communism. Finally this essay will also look at the public perception regarding the threat of communism, focusing on the working class of Australia and how a communist state would shatter their way of life.
For the purposes of this essay communism is considered to be a political ideology that distributes wealth evenly, ultimately creating a classless society. Although the rise of communism can be traced to the end of the First World War during the Bolshevik Revolution, it wasn’t until the latter stages of the Second World War that it became a concern for the Western World and more importantly for Australia. With the beginning of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, came an unprecedented threat towards modern democracy and capitalism in Australia. As a result in the early 1950’s, the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies frantically pushed, on behalf of his party and the wider community, to rid the country of the menace that was communism2. Menzies constantly referred to the communist movement in Australia as the “fifth column”, with them constantly undermining the nation whether it is overt or clandestine3. Communism as a process of collectivizing royalties directly opposed a conservative Menzies and his ambitions as Prime Minister. In 1951, Menzies legislated to ban the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), however the Communist Party Dissolution Act was considered unconstitutional4. Later in the same year a referendum was held to enable the government to legislate against communism. Despite strong public opinion and support in the polls the referendum was narrowly defeated. The Labor leader at the time HV Evatt saw the defeat as a huge win for his party but he was considerably hesitant in hailing it as success due to his fear of being seen as a pro-communist supporter.
Throughout the early 1950’s the CPA and communism as a whole was deeply entrenched in many of the unions throughout Australia; unions such as the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Ironworker’s Association and the Seamen’s Union, among many others5. This is just another example of how far-reaching the communist influence truly was. With this immersion throughout Australian industry came a greater prevalence of fear amongst, not only union workers, but also the Australian society as a whole. Some unions such as the Australian Council of Trades Union (ACTU) were openly anti-communist. Some communist movements, working in conjunction with some unions, sought to obstruct Government and union projects. Projects like building of the Central Australian Rocket Range, however their attempts were immediately quashed by the ACTU6. This blaringly obvious attempt from the CPA to curtail defense initiatives by the Government was seen as incredibly...
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