The Communist Party of Australia from heyday to reckoning
by Stuart Macintyre
Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $49.99 in hard back | ISBN 9781760875183
There is broad agreement that the late Stuart Macintyre was in a class of his own as an historian in Australia. This book, published posthumously, is Macintyre’s last. He died in November 2021 at the age of 74.
It is the long awaited second volume of his definitive history of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). The first book, The Reds, was published in 1999.
The CPA began in 1920 as a small offshoot of the newly formed Communist International. At the peak of its influence in the 1940s, unions led by communists could call a strike that paralysed the nation with communists influencing the highest level of government.
What set the CPA apart from other international branches was, according to Macintyre, its ‘… unquestioning adherence to a monolithic communist orthodoxy …’ for an extended period. Eventually, unconditional support for the Soviet model broke down as the horrors of Stalinism were revealed.
Public support for the party eroded during a series of strikes, and hostility from mainstream politics and security services took a toll.
But for those who remained, the comradeship and intense political engagement are the strongest memories.
By 1991, nothing remained but the wreckage of a movement that had once captured the imagination of a small but dedicated band of people looking to establish a new world order.
As I read through the pages of this book, I was left with the indelible impression that the past is indeed another country, a place that young Australians today would not recognise.