CIA agent, Harry Goldberg, looks at Australia in 1960
- Introduction and General
Whew, what a country! After seeing it at close quarters I can understand why a decent, democratic foreign observer, with some knowledge of world politics, would feel extremely frustrated. Let me say bluntly at the very beginning: in some of the most fundamental values, and in the chief issues activating our crazy world, this country is backward, in a backwash it hasn’t gotten out of yet, isolated, insulated, provincial, etc.
In some things it can be regarded as a Western country (chiefly material, industrial, production); in other matters involving sensitive and sensible reaction to political currents, facts, threats (to wit: communism), it is more backward than most so-called backward Asian countries.
From all this “strong” reaction on my part you will not be surprised that I would venture a vigorous demurrer to the line of the recent article on Australia in Time, which you must have seen, which presents Australia as a vigorous, dynamic, growing, progressive (!!) country. They’d have to define “progressive” in a most peculiar way for me to allow it to get under the line.
True, industry is growing, the production statistics are there and it has turned away from England and towards us, and is quite friendly to the US (which last had its origin, of course, in the last war), but that’s all a sign of Australia’s peculiar type of “practicalism” which animates and guides it on all levels.
But that very practicalism as we shall see allows it to be complacent toward and cohabit with the greatest evil on earth, communism, Communist China, etc.
This something in the Australian character, which, for want of a better term, I call “practicalism” is undoubtedly an outgrowth of their peculiar history. The average Australian is rather vigorous, independent, outspoken, a bit rude (in the extreme case), a bit wild, and a good deal wooly. He’s rather narrow visioned, and extremely short on theory, sensitivity and sensibility.
I think the very geographic isolation (which the age of the jet, the cable and television has hardly overcome), has imposed on most Australians the intellectual limitations of the backwash in which they still flounder to too great a degree, if even less than, say 25 years ago, and reminds me of our own frontier with its analogous emphasis upon practical fact and equal limitations of theory, and most Australians haven’t gotten away from the frontier.
But these Australians give even “fact” a peculiar twist. Our frontier at least recognised a fact as a fact, but the Australians’ peculiar type of practicalism leads them to twist a fact into its opposite, sometimes, by imposing upon it a theory, borrowed from abroad, undigested, and not understood, like “socialism” for instance. You’ll see what I mean when I get down to concrete cases and note down the conversations I’ve had with Australia’s “great” labor leaders.
They, more than anybody, illustrate the softness and complacency in character, as well as the ignorance in theory, which help to explain why the communists are so influential in Australia.
In regard to this, I find the situation even more serious than I thought it would be, given even the knowledge of Monk’s and Evatt’s appeasement attitude re the commies and Communist China.
The vermin have infiltrated more extensively into the labor movement than I thought.
More, their influence is greater than their infiltrated numbers warrant. Support for their attitudes and slogans has penetrated deeply inside intellectual (!!) circles in Australia. All this is possible chiefly because of the gutlessness of Australia’s labor leaders today.
A gutlessness which grows out of their “practicalism”, i.e. they want to maintain their positions and if they need the support of the commies to do so, they’ll play ball with them. It’s as simple as all that. Of course, to validate their actions they bring “theory” into play, and that’s where their abysmal ignorance is revealed as we shall soon see.
Actually, the commies are strong because they’re allowed to be so by the present leadership of the ACTU. They could be weeded out, but that would require a revolution in character and education of these leaders. That’s the central problem.
I’m told that the situation today is not as bad as it used to be. I can only imagine what it used to be!
This is a natural labor country, what with 2,000,000 in the trade unions out of a total population of 10,000,000. The liberals are in because of the division inside labor and all I can say is it’s good it’s so, because if the present Labor Party got in with its present leadership and attitude, vis-a-vis communism and Communist China it would simply be disastrous.
I do not by all this mean to elevate the Liberal Party into any praiseworthy niche of either leadership or principle. There’s plenty (if less) of similar sort of strictures to be made here. Which is why I think there is really a perilous situation in Australia as such. There is simply here too a dearth of profound faith in and adherence to reasoned and understood moral and political principles.
There are substantial wings of the industrial circles (the wool interests, for instance) who, out of greedy reasons of trade alone press for recognition of China, better relations with her, for coexistence and all the related claptrap (including admission into the UN) and they have their influence in the Liberal Party. Another graphic illustration of practicalism!
On the other hand, Menzies’ estrangement from decent democratic principles was illustrated in his incredibly reactionary position on the South African question.
We saw a Menzies’ performance in Parliament. This is a puffed-up politician, not a statesman, supercilious, arrogant, smooth and slick, who tries nothing so much as to imitate Churchill in his oratory and mannerisms.
But Winston, whatever you might say of his colonialist predilections, had some outstanding capabilities. This guy Menzies, vis-a-vis Churchill, reminds one of Marx’s squib versus Napoleon III, vis-a-vis Napoleon.
Having said all this and made my severe strictures I must add that, just because of these dangerously negative features in Australian political and labor life, more attention must be paid to it.
Australia is in a terribly important strategic situation and if things went wrong there its negative repercussions on the free world would be great.
The situation is far from hopeless, it can be helped and we are in a position to do so more than anybody else. and the exceptions in the situation, the labor boys especially who are on our side, who have been fighting an uphill battle versus the commies are looking to us and only to us.
There is a good and substantial core of those here – Laurie, Joe Riordan, Chris McGrane and others. I met with all of them in Sydney and Melbourne and talked things over. There is also good material in the Labor Party (on the political level) MP’s with whom I talked. There is the DLP crowd, of whom more later. Also the cultural freedom boys are doing a good job in a very difficult situation. Just as in Japan, all these groups are more or less loosely in touch with each other.
It is interesting to note the substantial role on the various levels: labor, trade union, cultural university, that is being played by some of the “new Australians” (as they are called). Among the most active of these immigrants, mostly from socialist backgrounds in Germany, Austria and Poland, are Jews who survived both the Nazi and Soviet Concentration camps and are continuing their fight with persistence and courage against great odds.
Guys like Krygier (who is a sort of leader of the cultural crowd). Oscar Rozenbess (who puts out News and Views), Bono Wiener, and others. As I said before they are all looking to us. My visit gave them a bit of a shot in the arm and raised their morale. It was good for them to know that we were concerned at least. I think we can do something to help and we can discuss the matter concretely when we get together.