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Was There Really A "Communist Threat" To Australia, Or Was Australian Foreign Policy Responding Only To A Perceived Threat?

1760 words - 7 pages

Was there really a "Communist threat" to Australia, or was Australian foreign policy responding only to a perceived threat?By Alia HubermanThe fear of Communism clutched at the hearts of Australians for nearly half a century. It drove the nation to actions that today would be inconceivable - proposing a Bill to give the Australian Government the power to dissolve the Communist Party and persecute Communists, and conscripting troops to be sent in an overseas war - turned brother against brother, and dominated the face of Australian foreign policy. This essay explores the question of the justification of these actions, and considers the reality (or illusion) of the Communist threat to Australia.The influence of communist ideology in working class politics had been feared in Australia since the early 1920s. A vast majority of the population viewed it as a threat to the nation's democratic way of life, and many, particularly in the 20s and 30s, believed it to be inherently linked to the Australian Labor Party and trade union movements. These fears were intensified significantly in the five years after the end of World War II, as Australia watched much of Eastern Europe and a significant part of Asia fall under communism's "Iron Curtain". The 'Communist Threat', at it was popularly seen by Australians, was not only the loss of democracy and individual freedoms, but the threat of physical danger for all Australians - communism was largely controlled by foreign dictators and appeared never to spread peacefully. [1: Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2013, 'Movements against Communism 1951-4', accessed 16 March 2013 http://www.civicsandcitizenship.edu.au/cce/ad3_why_was_communism_feared,9574.htmlhttp://www.civicsandcitizenship.edu.au/cce/ad3_why_was_communism_feared,9574.html]Though some of these fears may have been justified (the danger of the possible escalation of the Cold War into full-scale warfare, particularly complemented by the knowledge that both blocs were stockpiling immensely destructive weapons, was very real), the Australian Government and various political factions undeniably built on them for political gain. As the result of a number of strikes that affected Australian industry in the late 1940s, particularly the infamous coalminers' strike of 1949, and the general allegation that the CPA (Communist Party of Australia) was both responsible and linked to the ALP (Australian Labor Party), newspapers and the Liberal Party under the leadership of Robert Menzies attacked the two with a vicious and persistent propaganda campaign. The campaign served both to perpetuate the 'red scare' and undermine Labor support, and against this backdrop of fear and tension, Menzies won the 1949 election with a fierce anti-communist and anti-socialist platform. The campaign is also a stark example of the Australian people's fear of the communist threat being exploited for political advantage, and perhaps some...

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