Second thoughts on Labor Split conference (letter)by John R. BarichNews Weekly
, June 4, 2005
One is compelled to take an unusual step and correct one's own conclusions after just a few weeks. In my report (News Weekly
, May 7, 2005) on Monash University's recent conference, held at Victoria's Parliament House, on the 1955 Labor Party Split, I stated correctly that the organisers tried to ensure a balanced discussion.
However, I have now read the complete proceedings of the conference and can say that, while many of the papers are of a high quality, two or three descend to the level of second-class journalism.
Malcolm Saunders and Noel Lloyd on South Australia are most convincing; Anthony Cappello documents the xenophobia which was prevalent in the Victorian Left; and John Roskam demonstrates the identity of interest which segments of the Liberal and Labor Party had in opposing B.A. Santamaria.
The conference papers were not delivered in full, as each speaker was given only 15 minutes. It resulted in some of the more colourful language, such as "renegade, puppeteer, splitter and crusader" for the Right, but the more neutral "power-broker, gladiator, and reformer" for the Left, not being used. Robert Murray's paper is not included and, although Race Matthews was on the initial conference program and distributed copies of his paper at the conference, he did not actually present his paper verbally and it is not included in the proceedings.
Many assertions on the religious aspects of the NCC and DLP are incorrect, mainly owing to the fact that they are based on the highly inaccurate conclusions of Ross Fitzgerald in his book The Pope's Battalions: Santamaria, Catholicism and the Labor Split
(2003). This book contains at least 40 errors of fact and over a dozen major omissions such as the lack of any discussion of the role of the Jesuit Institute of Social Order in developing Movement and later NCC leaders.
A significant misunderstanding is the claim that the 1957 Commission of Cardinals "dissolved" the Movement. As the Movement was a lay organisation, all they could do was order the withdrawal of support, not disestablish it, as was done with the Jesuit Order in 1773.
A number of papers show a majority of bishops exercising their collegial independence and continuing to support the work of the NCC as vital for the safety of church and state. This is in keeping with the Second Vatican Council which called on the laity to permeate their culture.
One of the conference authors, Paul Strangio, has detected the emerging coincidence of thinking between certain anti-globalist elements in Australia and those in the ALP which, according to B.A. Santamaria, under Hawke and Keating "transformed the Labor Party into the champion of Big Business".
Similarly, the same author is wary of calls for the ALP to court the Christian vote of Family First and Rev Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party. He concludes, "Perhaps the Split never quite ended after all, but is still running its fitful course."John R. Barich,