by John Hawkins | October 4, 2006 4:00 am
“IT’S important we remember not just the big ideological struggles but also the individuals who took up the cause of cultural freedom and the defence of liberal democracy against its enemies.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism, it became all too easy to pretend that the outcome of the Cold War was an inevitable result of large-scale, impersonal forces that ultimately left totalitarianism exhausted and democratic capitalism triumphant.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This was a struggle fought by individuals on behalf of the individual spirit. It’s worth recalling just some of the philo-communism that was once quite common in Australia in the 1950s and ’60s:
* Manning Clark’s book Meeting Soviet Man, where he likened the ideals of Vladimir Lenin to those of Jesus Christ;
* John Burton, the former head of the external affairs department, arguing that Mao’s China provided a model for the transformation of Australia;
* All those who did not simply oppose Australia’s commitment in Vietnam but who actively supported the other side and fed the delusion that Ho Chi Minh was some sort of Jeffersonian Democrat intent on spreading liberty in Asia.
There is a view that the pro-communist Left in Australia in decades past was no more than a bunch of naive idealists, rather than what they were: ideological barrackers for regimes of oppression opposed to Australia and its interests. They were right in principle and part of a noble and moral cause.
The influence of the pro-communist Left in Australian cultural circles did wane over time – after Hungary and (Nikita) Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956 and further still after the brutal suppression of the Prague spring in 1968.
In the ’60s and ’70s, it largely gave way to a new Left counterculture, where again Quadrant served as a beacon of free and sceptical thought against fashionable leftist views on social, foreign policy and economic issues. In the eyes of the new Left, the Cold War became a struggle defined by moral equivalence, where the Soviet bloc and the American-led West were equally to blame, each possessing their own dominating ideologies. It became the height of intellectual sophistication to believe that people in the West were no less oppressed than people under the yoke of communist dictatorship.
In time, the world would luckily see the emergence of three remarkable individuals whose moral clarity punctured such nonsense: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. All of us here tonight owe a particular debt of gratitude to these three towering figures of the late 20th century.” — John Howard
PS: Everything Howard said about the lefties in Australia is even more applicable to the liberals in America.
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