Denis Freney on the 1971 Springbok tour of Australia - Peter Myers, January 16, 2007; update April 22, 2007.

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Denis Freney here explains the shock that Khruschev's secret speech of 1956 had on him, as a young communist in Sydney, and how it led him to become a Trotskyist.

He describes his meeting with Trotsky's widow in Paris, on the way to a World Congress of the Fourth International in West Germany; and the factional splits in the movement..

Freney was the major organiser, with Meredith Burgmann, of the demonstrations during the 1971 Springbok tour of Australia. The protestors, through their theatrical antics, caused this to be the last such tour; it was a major setback for the apartheid regime in South Africa, and a mind-altering event in Australia.

I myself took a minor part in those events, because I had joined the Anti-Apartheid Movement which Freney and Burgmann ran.

Freney omits one event from his account, which I recall vividly. On the night before one of the Springboks' matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), I took Freeney and Burgmann to the ground in my old Holden panel van, registration number EPC633. They must have wanted an unknown car to be used, so as not to arouse police suspicion. They did not tell me what they planned to do.

Next day, the front page of one of Sydney's afternoon papers (The Daily Mirror, or The Sun) featured a large photo of the gates of the SCG, with "Racists Go Home" spray-painted over it in large letters.

Meredith Burgmann was later elected to the upper house of the state parliament in Sydney (the Legislative Council of NSW}, and subsequently became its President.

Freney relates the "entrism" or "entrist" tactics of joining other organisations to missionise them, lead them in certain directions, or take them over.

A Map of Days: Life on the Left

Denis Freney

William Heinemann Australia, Melbourne 1991

{inside front cover}

Denis Freney was born in Sydney in 1936. He spent his wartime childhood in the beachside suburb of Harbord and joined the Labor Party when he turned sixteen, the Communist Party at eighteen and the Balmain Trotskyists at twenty.

As a 'big fish in the small pond' of world Trotskyism, he went on a secret mission to South Africa in 1962 and later worked in newly independent Algeria with President Ben Bella's political adviser, Michel Pablo, in 1964 and 1965.

On his return to Sydney in 1968, Denis Freney became an organiser of the Vietnam Moratoriums and a convenor of the Springbok demonstrations; set up 'Liberation', an anti-war youth centre in Manly, where he learned the joys of marijuana and rock-and-roll; and and was later an early member of Gay Liberation. In 1970 he rejoined the Communist Party after it shed its subservience to Moscow, and became a journalist on its weekly newspaper Tribune.

In 1974 Denis Freney was a founder of the Timor solidarity movement and from 1976 organised the illegal radio contact between Fretilin guerillas and Darwin. In 1981 he visited Warsaw, where he interviewed prominent members of Solidarity.

After a lifetime as one of Australia's best known - some may say notorious - Communists, Denis Freney believes the historic legacy of the 1917 Russian Revolution has been exhausted and has joined the New Left Party.

Today he lives frugally in a communal household in Sydney's inner-west, works as a part-time journalist on Tribune and is writing a series of political thrillers.

{p. 85} FIVE


{note the title of this chapter; it refers to Trotsky's book The Revolution Betrayed}

IN February 1956, shortly before I began my one-year Diploma of Education course at Sydney Teachers' College, the newspapers reported that Nikita Khrushchev had denounced Stalin in a secret speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Older comrades assured us that this was simply a CIA fabrication and that Stalin was still greatly respected in the Soviet Union. Perhaps, they said, he had made some mistakes and neglected the principle of collective leadership, but the western intelligence agent Beria, who had been his security chief for years, was the one to blame.

I was not so sure that the reports of Khrushchev's speech were fabrications. Roger Milliss and other comrades shared my doubts. The extracts published in the local dailies had a ring of truth about them. Tribune had at first ridiculed the reports but then took a more cautious line. We heard through the Party that Khrushchev had revealed more serious errors committed by Stalin, but that we should ignore the exaggerated claims in the capitalist press.

Khrushchev's speech became forbidden fruit, which made me all the more determined to get a copy. They were soon available from the US Consulate, but entering that headquarters of the

{p. 86} enemy was unthinkable. In March Tribune published summaries of the official resolutions of the 20th Congress, including one on Stalin's Cult of the Individual. This seemed to confirm the outlines of Khrushchev's speech published in the media.

Older comrades, who had joined the Party while Stalin was still alive, were obviously shocked. Although I had studied Stalin's writings, I was less affected because when I joined the Party Khrushchev was emerging as the Soviet leader. He had already taken many initiatives that broke with previous Cold War policies.

Nevertheless, it was an unpleasant surprise. I was now desperate to get a copy of the speech. I was soon presented with one by Bob Walshe, a Party member and teacher. Bob had headed a small group of historians interested in digging deeper into the history of the working class movement, particularly concerning the beginnings of the socialist movement in Australia. I had done some research into the first May Day marches here and written a short article about them for Tribune's May Day issue the year before. It was my first article in the socialist press.

I bumped into Bob Walshe at the Teachers' Club, where we had adjourned after a Party teachers' faction meeting to which I had been invited. Bob took me aside and began to sound me out regarding the speech. I let him know I was eager to get a copy. He looked around furtively, reached into his briefcase and slipped one under the table. I followed his lead and put it surreptitiously into my briefcase. At home that night and again the next morning, I read and re-read it, looking for evidence that it was a forgery. But I soon came to the conclusion that it was genuine.

The speech had been printed in The New York Times and then brought out as a booklet by a US publisher. Bob had undoubtedly got hold of his copies directly or indirectly from the US Consulate. But if the enemy could produce it, why did not the Soviet Union or my own Party do so? Better to have all this out in the open than handed around like a piece of pornography, I decided.

I rang Bob the next night. He invited me to visit him that weekend at Como on the George's River where he was finishing building his home. When I arrived, he was doing some carpentry and I helped him with labouring while we discussed

{p. 87} the implications of the report. He was an extremely intense type, with the rimless glasses that in those days signified an intellectual. His views seemed a little extreme to me. He had fully absorbed the document and was now asking whether the crimes it described were simply due to Stalin's Cult of the Individual. Did it not reflect more deep-rooted deficiencies in the Soviet system? How could one individual, for example, get such power and rule so cruelly, if the system itself was not defective?

Our discussion continued on a log overlooking the river, until the mosquitoes drove us indoors. I left only in time to get the last ferry home. I didn't want to believe that the Soviet system was so seriously flawed. While I could accept with some difficulty the truth about Stalin's crimes, a deeper questioning struck at beliefs which had sustained me for the past two years. But the problems Bob posed were inescapable. I reacted by becoming depressed.

Bob rang me soon after and asked me to attend a meeting to discuss a new journal named Outlook, which he and another Party member and high school teacher, Helen Palmer, wanted to launch. I had met Helen a few times in Bob's historians' group. She was the daughter of the noted writers Vance and Nettie Palmer and was a well-known author herself. We met in Helen's flat in North Sydney. Also present was Ken Gott, a Party member from Melbourne who had taken many of the initiatives in distributing Khrushchev's speech. He had an unlimited supply from the US Consulate. Jim Staples, whose flamboyant exploits as a student comrade were legendary, was also present. He was also distributing the speech without worrying about the consequences for his Party membership. He seemed to enjoy the outrage his actions provoked among conservative Party leaders. Others, mainly Party academics or teachers, crowded Helen's living room. The discussion centred on the role of the magazine.

Most of those present favoured a much more sympathetic view of the Labor Party than I did. They were reacting against the sectarianism always present in the Party's approach, even when it was advocating a united front with the ALP. Ken Gott went even further, wanting to ditch any support for socialism in the magazine's editorial policy. He rapidly moved to the right after being expelled from the Party some time later.

The Outlook discussion left me feeling even more isolated

{p. 88} than before. I had not renewed my ALP membership and was in no mood to go back into the Labor Party. I had no illusions that the ALP would bring the socialism I still wanted. I rejected Ken Gott's views outright. But there was no going back to my earlier faith in Stalin and the Soviet Union. There seemed nowhere to go.

I decided not to resign from the Party. The two campus branches were debating the report and other comrades, such as Alan Roberts, Johnny, Simonl Roger Coates and Roger Milliss were all asking the same questions as I was.

Nevertheless, life at Teachers' College was pleasant and helped eased my political worries. After the years of intense study at university, many of us treated the Dip Ed year at college as a time to relax. We resented the attempts by some lecturers to impose a discipline upon us more suited to the high schools we would soon enter. The subjects we were obliged to study often seemed trivial. As the year progressed, more time was spent in the pubs bordering the campus than in lecture rooms.

In October I was still grappling with the implications of the secret report when Soviet troops invaded Hungary. As reports of the bloody street battles covered the front pages, I tentatively concluded that the invasion was unjustified. The Soviets admitted that the previous Hungarian regime had been Stalinist and repressive, but claimed that the Nagy government had become counter-revolutionary and that the West Germans were about to invade Hungary. Yet they offered no believable evidence for the last assertion.

On a Sunday a couple of months later I went to the Domain to meet friends from the Youth Council. Among them was Bob Gould, who I knew had left the Communist Party shortly before. I had met him first in the Youth Council and we had both participated in CPA faction meetings after we had joined the Party. But we had had less contact over the previous two years after I had become so involved in the Labour Club and campus politics. Bob was one of the more eccentric members of the Youth Council crowd, screaming the loudest abuse at the Groupers and slurping his coffee from his saucer at Repin's when we supped there after the council meetings, offending my notion of table manners learned the hard way in Oliver Street. Our discussion naturally centred on the Hungarian events. I

{p. 89} explained my concerns - first there was the secret speech, now the invasion of Hungary. I had earlier resolved not to resign from the Communist Party, but was now rethinking that decision. Much that had sustained me over the past few years seemed to be a lie. Only my indignation concerning the recent invasion of the Suez Canal by Britain, France and Israel had kept my basic socialist convictions alive.

Bob had answers for my concerns. He lent me a book by Peter Fryer, the correspondent of the British Communist Party's Daily Worker who was in Budapest when the Soviet troops invaded. Fryer provided a detailed account of the revolt and denied any counter-revolution was taking place. On the contrary, he saw the revolt as one of workers against the ruling bureaucracy both in Budapest and Moscow. Fryer, Bob told me, had since joined a Trotskyist group in Britain.

His book offered an explanation from a source that I could accept. Soon after I met Bob again and he confessed that he was in contact with the Balmain Trotskyist group headed by Nick Origlass and offered to introduce me to him. We set a time to visit him the following Sunday. Fryer's book had persuaded me that Trotskyism may well have something to offer in explaining what had happened in the Soviet Union. The decision to meet Nick Origlass had not been easy. Trotskyists had been high in the demonology I had learnt in the Communist Party and to contact them would definitely lead to expulsion from the Party. I therefore urged Bob not to tell anyone.

We caught a bus to Origlass's small Housing Commission flat near Balmain Point. Nick ushered us in. A tall, stockily built man, with a large head and thick glasses, he seemed to fit the diabolic image I had of him. His thick eyebrows reinforced the impression. His hair was showing specks of grey and his shoulders were rounded. As his voice droned on, it soon became clear that Nick was something of a patriarch in his own home and that we were expected to sit and listen.

After a few inquiries about my background, he began to read a document that he had just received from the Trotskyist Fourth International's headquarters in Paris, written by a Michel Pablo. Nick was translating from the French as he read, speaking in nearly incomprehensible English in what I realised was a very literal translation. Every few minutes he would halt in mid-

{p. 90} sentence to consult a large French-English dictionary and ponder at length about the best word to use.

Nick was a self-taught man, whose dedication to the Paris- based Trotskyist International had led him painstakingly to study French after a hard day's work as a labourer. He presented me with some of his roneoed translations of Pablo's articles which, as I told Bob Gould later, were almost unreadable because of the literal way each word had been translated. Bob shrugged. 'Nick says if you change it you lose some of the meaning. You've just got to do your own re-translation as you go along.' The quality of Nick's translations were to be a sore point for both of us in the years that followed.

Meanwhile, Nick continued in a monotone that would have put anybody else to sleep. But I listened with rapt attention as he recounted the history of the Trotskyist movement and the betrayals of Stalinism. When my attention did wander, it was to browse over his bookshelves, crammed as they were with Trotsky's works and copies of other Trotskyist publications. Over a period of years, I was to borrow and read most of them.

On the bus back to the city, Bob explained Nick's background. His parents were among the first Italian migrants to settle on the north Queensland canefields. Born Origlasso, Nick had come to Sydney during the Depression in search of work. He joined the Young Communist League but one day met an American seaman who was a member of the US Trotskyist organisation. The seaman was persuasive and left a copy of the American Trotskyist paper, The Militant, with Nick and his friends. He subscribed and soon was a convert to Trotskyism. This not unnaturally led to his expulsion from the YCL in 1935. Nick had begun work at Mort's Dock in Balmain and with a group of other young workers soon formed Australia's first Trotskyist group. Among them was a young Jewish worker, Issie Wyner, and Laurie Short, small in stature as well as name.

After the Stalin-Hitler Pact, Trotskyism became fashionable among some former communist intellectuals such as John Anderson, Professor of Philosophy at Sydney University, who joined Nick's group. But a split soon occurred when Anderson and others such as Jack Sylvester followed the line of a leading American Trotskyist, Max Schatmann. He claimed that the Pact showed that the Soviet Union had lost all that remained of the

{p. 91} gains of the October Revolution and was now 'state capitalist'. Trotsky, living in perilous exile outside Mexico City, had denounced Schatmann. For Trotsky the Soviet Union was a deformed Workers' State. Despite Stalin, it had not undergone a complete counter-revolution because the nationalised state property remained intact. A 'political revolution' to overthrow the Stalinist dictatorship was needed, not a social revolution to overthrow the whole basis of the state.

As Bob Gould led me through this complex history, I felt immediate sympathy with Trotsky's position. I was sure that the Soviet Union was not capitalist and that it should be defended when it was threatened by imperialism, no matter what Stalin or Khrushchev did. Yet it also had to be criticised fiercely for its bureaucratic regime and the crimes it had committed. A workers' democracy, as outlined by Lenin immediately before the Revolution and by Trotsky after his exile, seemed a correct perspective to me.

Nick had lent me Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed. I read half of it the first night, emerging bleary-eyed to resume my revision for the College exams. I was greatly impressed by its well-researched details, its nuanced analysis and its willingness to leave some questions open. I began to contemplate the implications of becoming a Trotskyist.

It would isolate me from my environment of the last three years and probably end my personal friendships with many in the Communist Party. But a new life was beginning in 1957. My student years were nearly over and I would soon be teaching. In any case, I could no longer hide my disillusionment with the Soviet Union or the CPA's continuing refusal to face up to the questions posed by Khrushchev's secret report or the invasion of Hungary.

The Sunday visits to Nick's became rituals over the next few months. His lectures, into which it was almost impossible to interject more than a nod of agreement, were nevertheless an education of sorts. He would deliver long monologues and the few other Trotskyists gathered in his lounge room would restrict themselves to short statements or questions when he had exhausted a topic.

Nick's group was following a policy of entrism sui generis - of a special type - which meant joining the Labor Party while

{p. 92} continuing to publish an openly Trotskyist journal. The 'journal' was a roneoed collection of tortuous translations of articles by Pablo and a few pieces on Australia. Its address was a post office box in Balmain in the name of A. McLean, an old Trotskyist who had long disappeared from the scene, but who had no objections to his name being used, if he ever knew about it.

A small roneoed newsletter was also produced irregularly for the group's activities inside the Labor Party. The 'entrist' work had been singularly ineffective, except in Balmain where virtually all the members of the group lived. They were fighting the rightwing which had controlled the local ALP branch for many years and there was a good chance that Nick and Issie might win pre-selection for the Labor Party team for the Balmain Ward at the next municipal elections.

I had had my experiences of 'entrism' into the ALP as a member of the Communist Party. I had not renewed my Labor Party membership because my Party work at Teachers' College had absorbed my energies. Moreover, it seemed pointless in Harbord, where the Groupers from the local Catholic Church were still rounded up after Mass to make sure their leaders dominated the branch's monthly Sunday evening meetings. But Nick was insistent that if I was to become a full member of his group, I should rejoin the ALP He also somewhat reluctantly agreed to my proposal that I should not resign from the CPA but try to win some of my contacts to Trotskyism and wait until the Communist Party leadership tried to expel me.

It was with a heavy heart then that one Sunday I missed the regular meeting with Nick to go up to the Harbord Institute to renew my ALP membership. I was now a member of three parties - if Nick's group qualified as a party - the ALF the CPA and the Australian Section of the Fourth International, boosting the last's membership to twelve nationwide.

My life had undergone another upheaval and I was determined to get away over Christmas to try to come to grips with it all. I reflected on what a momentous year it had been. I had begun it as a convinced Stalinist, had become disillusioned and now was a convert to Trotskyism. I had just turned twenty, was living at home and had no relationships with members of the opposite sex. Everything had happened very swiftly and was

{p. 93} somewhat confusing. My political proficiency had rapidly outstripped my social and sexual experience. Yet I saw no chance of changing that. I found it embarrassingly difficult to approach women, let alone envisage any longer-term relationship. Despite a few relatively short-lived crushes on some women acquaintances, I did not feel any great urge to pursue them. Other male friends, however, spent much of their time trying to get into or out of such liaisons and I worried that they would see my inability to form one as somewhat odd. É

{p. 95} The Sunday meetings at Nick's continued, while I also became active in the Teachers' Federation.

At the first meeting of the Federation branch at Shacktown, I was pleased to find that my fellow teachers were quite militant. The Federation representative, Jim, was a supporter of the legendary Sam Lewis, who had recently made a comeback as vice-president of the Federation, after being defeated for the presidency by a rightwing anti-communist campaign a few years before. I knew Sam was a member of the CPA, but he always refused to confirm this publicly, although it was an open secret. Jim was one of his many dedicated supporters within the Federation who judged him by his actions not his political affiliation. É

As I was still a member of the CPA, I was able to attend Party teachers' faction meetings. Sam Lewis presided and was surrounded by teacher comrades who almost all followed his lead on everything. In 1957, the Federation was on the verge of its first strike. Sam, however, believed that many teachers would ignore a direction to take industrial action and that the militants would be isolated. I disagreed, arguing that high school teachers would respond well and this would be enough to make the strike a success. I was in a minority of one and came under attack from some of Sam's closest collaborators. I was accused of being a Johnny-come-lately just out of college and something of an upstart challenging Sam's wisdom. All of which was true.

Nevertheless, Sam was very friendly after the meeting. He said he admired people who spoke their minds and regretted that it was not the right time to call a strike. I spent an increasingly large number of afternoons after school at the Teachers' Club, where leftwing Federationists escaped from the frustrations of their profession. I never confessed my Trotskyism to anyone there, although I'd argue about the rights and

{p. 96} wrongs of the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Khrushchev's secret speech at any opportunity.

The Party had allocated me to Narrabeen branch after I'd left College. I attended meetings frequently enough not to be accused of being inactive. I found them uninteresting in the extreme. The branch was small, elderly and concerned with the same sort of mundane matters we had been in the university branch.

Late in 1957, the branch secretary, Ray Clarke, came to my home to ask me to attend the next meeting without fail. Grimfaced, he told me that a member of the Party's District Committee would be attending to raise certain matters regarding my membership of the Outlook group. 'Disciplinary action' was proposed, he said curtly.

I'd heard that Jim Staples, Bob Walshe, Helen Palmer and several others associated with Outlook had been expelled recently and that the purge was gathering momentum. In the immediate aftermath of the secret speech, the Party leadership had reluctantly agreed to allow members to take part in establishing the magazine, but recently the Outlook group had been declared an anti-Party faction. I was surprised that Ray had mentioned Outlook in my regard. Certainly I had attended a few of its meetings about nine months previously, but not since becoming a Trotskyist. Bob Walshe had told me that the Party leadership had an informer in the Outlook group and that she had provided them with a list of all those who had come to meetings or had otherwise been associated. I concluded she had supplied them with my name.

I went along to the branch meeting in the small weatherboard house of Johnno, an albino-faced comrade whose long dedication to the Party was combined with an absent-minded gentleness. Half a dozen of the Party stalwarts were assembled. With them was Hal Alexander, a fulltime Party organiser whom I had not met before. He was aggressive, almost fanatical, in his enthusiasm for the task he had been set and after a few formalities read the accusation against me and the District Committee's decision that I should be expelled. As Ray had hinted, my crime was membership of the Outlook group. I felt that it would be undignified to deny my association with the magazine and I could hardly plead in my defence that I was

{p. 97} actually a member of the Australian Section of the Fourth International.

I argued that the Party leadership had failed to face up to the full meaning of Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin or to tell members what had really happened in Hungary. Ray Clarke then took up the attack. I had met him several times at branch social functions where he enjoyed acting as Master of Ceremonies. His thin, carefully-trimmed moustache and fondness for florid ties left me with the impression of a barker at the Royal Easter Show. Yet he was zealous in his loyalty to the Party and contemptuous of anyone whom he considered an intellectual. Ray sought to refute my charges, saying the secret speech was a CIA forgery and that while Stalin had made mistakes, his contribution to world socialism had been overwhelmingly positive. As for Hungary, it was a counter-revolution, he said, quoting from the Soviet White Book on the invasion which had recently reached Australia to prove his point.

Then he launched an attack on my membership of the Labor Party. It seemed I was happier with the reformists than with the Party, he said. I was about to respond that I had been a member of the ALP almost all the time I was in the CPA, with the full knowledge and encouragement of the leadership. But I decided not to. They would not have believed me and, even in this small circle, I still felt some responsibility not to publicise the undercover work some of my Youth Council comrades were still undertaking. The others present formally endorsed my ousting, but in milder terms than Ray, and some even expressed regret that I had fallen by the wayside. A vote was taken and I was unanimously expelled. I left after making a short speech about how I was still a communist and would remain one. I said I believed that the Party would some day reject Stalinism.

My expulsion was not unexpected. I knew that I would be thrown out in the near future as the Party leadership tried to rebuild the obedient and monolithic organisation it had ruled before February 1956. It was willing to lose the great majority of its intellectuals and quite a few other rank-and-file. Many more dropped out due to exhaustion after years of hard, slogging activity, as occurs in any political split. I now determined that I would try to win over to Trotskyism as many as possible of those Party members, particularly from the university branch, who

{p. 98} were disillusioned with the Party's re-stalinisation.

The Outlook group continued but some, including Bob Walshe, dropped out, as a result of the psychological strain from breaking with their Stalinist past. Bob and a small group from the Como branch of the CPA who had followed him out of the Party became involved with the Scientology movement, which had appeared in Australia only shortly before. I accepted Bob's invitation to discuss his new faith at his waterfront home. I had never been able to accept anything religious, at least since the age of thirteen, and was supremely cynical about those who offered cure-alls - at a price. I found Bob's Scientology nonsense and told him so, much to his distress.

Later that year, I bumped into Bob at the Teachers' Club. He bitterly recounted how he was being hounded by the Scientologists to pay over even more money for the 'clearing' he had received. He had had a nervous collapse under the treatment, handed his savings over to them and then taken out a heavy mortgage on his house to pay for their more advanced courses, which had escalated in cost as his treatment progressed. Others in his Como group had had similar experiences. One, an Englishman, had now become one of two Australian supporters of the British Trotskyist group led by Gerry Healy, jumping from the frying pan into the fire, as Bob somewhat cynically remarked. Meanwhile, Bob promised to expose the Scientologists' fraudulent practices. But when he recovered from his breakdown, he returned to his teaching job and authored history textbooks which were widely used in high schools. He certainly didn't want to know about Nick's group.

My education in the history and principles of Trotskyism had continued every Sunday at Nick's flat and from the copious material I borrowed from his bookshelves. I found Trotsky's books, particularly his history of the Russian Revolution and his autobiography, a joy to read. Not only was he a brilliant politician but also an excellent writer. Nick's literary style was decidedly less impressive.

Nick took me through the laborious history of the numerous splits that had shaken the Fourth International after the war. The Trotskyists had believed that, although they were a small minority, History would thrust on them the same role it had on the Bolsheviks, and that they would lead the World Revolution.

{p. 99} The lack of reality in this perspective soon became clear. The Trotskyist groups were not only tiny, but had become sects, revolving generally around one or two personalities.

The secretary of the Fourth International, or the 'FI' as we lovingly called it, was Michel Raptis, or Pablo, which was the underground name he had assumed during the war and which he continued to use afterwards. Soon after the war had ended, he had recognised the Trotskyist movement's isolation and advocated 'entrism' into the mass social-democrat or communist parties. The first signs of decay in the Stalinist leadership in the USSR, following the 1948 split with Yugoslavia's Tito, led Pablo and others to prepare a document, The Rise and Decline of Stalinism, which was adopted at a World Congress of the Fourth International in 1951. The sectarians within the International found it unacceptable because it went beyond Trotsky's own analysis by predicting that the Stalinist bureaucracy would try to reform itself and that popular revolts would develop throughout the rest of eastern Europe.

The Americans in the Socialist Workers' Party and the majority of the British Section around Gerry Healy, as well as a group in the French affiliate led by Pierre Lambert, split away with some smaller groups to form the International Committee for the Reconstruction of the Fourth International. The loss of the Americans and the British was a major blow because they represented the biggest sections, apart from the Ceylonese and Bolivians, and the wealthiest. They had accumulated resources during the war that the Europeans living under Nazi occupation had not.

Except for the Ceylonese, Nick's group in Australia was the only English-speaking section that had remained with Pablo. Fortunately, the SWP and the Healyites had not been able to colonise Australia, although in addition to Bob Walshe's friend, Ken, who soon dropped out of any political activity, there was reputedly another Healyite in Perth.

The history lessons Nick delivered were interesting, but I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the smallness of the group and its isolation from any real politics. This only redoubled my nervous exhaustion resulting from my daily battles at Shacktown. The only advantage I had gained from teaching was a regular pay packet É

{p. 115} I arrived in Paris exhausted but elated. É Next morning, after getting lost in the web of tunnels in the Metro, I was ushered into Pierre Frank's tiny offfice.

Frank was the leader of the Internationalist Communist Party (PCI), the small group that bore the grandiose name of French Section of the Fourth International. É

{p. 116} Soon after we were joined by his Jewish wife, a thin and haggard woman, obviously not in good health. On her wrist I noticed some tattooed numbers. I learnt later that she had somehow survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Frank had managed to escape to Britain where he spent the war years.

He began almost immediately to try to persuade me of the virtues of Mandel. Ernest was a brilliant man, he declared. This I did not question, having read his copious writings under the pseudonym of Germain in various Fourth International publications. With that point gained, Frank began to explain Mandel- Germain's position in the Belgian Socialist Party. He was a recognised leader of the left of the party in the French-speaking Walloon region, which was the industrial heart of that small country, and an area famed for the militancy of its coalminers. He was editing the weekly left socialist paper La Gauche, and had a mass influence through it.

Did anyone expect Mandel to sacrifice such a position in the mass movement to proclaim himself publicly as a Trotskyist? Frank asked. No, I replied, repeating the arguments Nick had used, but why cannot someone else in the movement in Belgium produce an openly Trotskyist paper?

Frank was becoming exasperated. Mandel contributed enormously to the work of the International. Pablo had been impossible, Frank said. 'Why does he attack Mandel so harshly? Is he jealous? Does he want to drive him out of the International?' he asked rhetorically. Frank then decided not to pursue the question and instead asked about our work in Australia. I explained honestly that we were a very small group, but that Nick and Issie were building a strong base in the Balmain Labor Party branch. Maybe they would soon be elected to the municipal council. And, I added significantly, we did produce a small bulletin. 'Oh, yes,' Frank replied with some irony. 'I've seen it.'

I then asked about Pablo's situation in jail in Holland. Frank became sympathetic. Comrade Pablo was in good health and handling his imprisonment well. He was reading and writing. 'Something about Plato,' Frank said in a neutral tone, watching closely for my reaction. I replied that I had heard he was also writing a long article on the liberation of women. Frank grunted agreement and then glanced at his watch. He had another

{p. 117} appointment and the long lunchtime discussion ended.

He promised to take me the next day to meet Trotsky's widow Natasha, who was living in Paris. I decided to head back to the hotel. The combined effect of jet lag and the wine I'd consumed during the long lunch had left me very tired. I realised that I would be under considerable pressure to support Frank and Mandel at the Congress. The articles Pablo had written for internal circulation attacking Mandel had indeed been harsh, perhaps even a little uncomradely. I respected Pablo for the work he had done for the Algerian Revolution, but maybe he had provoked a situation where the International could once more be facing another split? I doubted if it could stand another division. Its Sections were already so tiny É

Next day, as we travelled by the Metro to meet Natasha, Frank spoke of the great tension between the American Trotskyists in the Socialist Workers' Party and the British group led by Gerry Healy. After some initial hesitations, the Americans had welcomed the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro, but Healy had denounced him as petite bourgeoisie. The conflict between the two would not take long to become a total rupture, Frank concluded.

Mistakes had been made on both sides during the 1953 dispute with the Americans, he said. Some were too rough with the Americans, in an implicit reference to the 'harsh' Pablo. I disagreed.The Americans had taken the initiative and left the International because they remained very orthodox in their Trotskyism, accepting only what Trotsky wrote as valid. 'No, no, you don't know the full story,' Frank replied darkly.

We had by then arrived at an elegant apartment building in a fashionable part of the city. We climbed two flights of pink marble stairs and Frank knocked on a heavy wooden door. I could hear footsteps coming down a tiled hallway. After a moment in which she had checked us out through the door's spyhole, a tiny old lady shook our hands and ushered us in. I recognised Natasha from the photos I had seen of her taken when she was living in Mexico. She was much smaller than I had imagined and looked like a respectable grandmother of some middle-bourgeois household.

Frank had explained that the spacious flat had been given to her by a wealthy sympathiser, one of those who had joined the

{p. 118} Trotskyist movement as a young man but had dropped out and become a successful businessman. He was still enough of a supporter to give generous donations to the International and to be honoured when asked to provide an apartment for Trotsky's widow.

We sat on antique chairs in the dining room, perching fine china cups on our knees. Natasha asked me a few polite questions about Australia. I replied briefly, tongue-tied in her presence and at a loss what to say. I could hardly express my sympathy at her husband's death and felt that a little speech would be out of order. We sat in silence for a minute, then Natasha turned to Frank and began speaking rapidly in French. My knowledge of the spoken language was non-existent and even my ability to read French was limited, mainly to political topics.

Natasha and Frank obviously had some other business to discuss and I had been invited along as an afterthought, perhaps to reinforce Frank's and Mandel's credentials in my eyes. After a quarter of an hour, we were escorted out. I shook the old lady's tiny hand and said a few platitudes about how honoured and happy I was to meet her. I was a little surprised that Natasha had such good relations with the International, because after Trotsky's assassination I knew that her bitterness had brought her closer to the dissident American Schatmann than to the International. But Frank assured me that she was now friendly to the organisation, although she did little politically.

Back in his office, Frank gave me instructions of how to reach the venue of the Congress in West Germany, just over the border from Belgium. I was told to catch a train to Cologne next morning and to be at the restaurant inside the station at a certain hour. There I would be met and taken to the Congress.

I wandered through the Louvre, gazing dutifully at the Mona Lisa and admiring not only the works of art but the ancient building itself. I fell in love as well with the whole ethos of the city. The French were off-handed and sometimes rude but their way of life captured me immediately. The winter winds, however, were far too harsh for much more exploring and after a few hours I retreated to my hotel room, to read some of the lengthy draft resolutions for the Congress that I had picked up at Frank's office.

Next day I was waiting as instructed in the Cologne railway

{p. 119} station. Soon a young Frenchman came up and in halting English asked me to come with him. He then went to other tables and collected three other people, all of whom were sitting as inconspicuously as they could reading newspapers. We drove for a few hours along an autobahn, then turned off onto a road banked high with snow. I had seen snow both in Australia and in New Zealand, but had never experienced it in such profusion and my excitement at the sight of it amused my companions. I felt a little like a country bumpkin. Then we pulled up in front of a large modern building which turned out to be a hostel owned by the German Social Democratic Party's youth movement. The caretaker was a Trotskyist who was an undercover member of that Party.

At a briefing session later that night, we were asked to observe strict security during our stay. The hostel had been booked under a false name and we were not to visit the neighbouring village under any circumstances. If any strangers came we should not speak to them, but alert the security committee and the caretaker. The hostel was in an isolated position on top of a pine-covered hill - and just as well, I later thought. The rowdy sessions would have aroused the curiosity of any outsiders in hearing distance.

After a dinner of stew with heavy dumplings, which was to become monotonously familiar in the next week much to the dismay of the fastidious French, I was allocated a bunk in a large dormitory, only to be kept awake most of the night by the snoring of a thick-chested Bolivian. It was the first time I had been among people of so many different nationalities despite my contact with immigrants from southern Europe and Asian students back home. But I had never met any South Americans before. After the Europeans, they formed by far the largest contingent. Apart from myself, the only other delegates were an Indian comrade from Bombay and a few Ceylonese students from London. Frank was disappointed that the leaders of the Ceylonese Section had not come, or anyone from Japan. There were simply no Sections in Africa or the Arab world.

I was briefly introduced to Mandel, a tall but stooped man in his late thirties, who perched his rimless glasses halfway down his nose when reading, giving him a certain schoolmasterly air. His English was almost as fluent as his French and I was

{p. 120} impressed by how easily he switched from one to another of the half-dozen languages he commanded. But he was too patronising for my sensitivities and I felt some resentment towards him, although I was mesmerised by his intelligence. He formed a troika with Pierre Frank and Livio Maitan, the leader of the Italian Section, who was short and tubby, and in his early forties. He was more likeable than Mandel, but his intelligence was superficial and, I was later to observe, he would hide his lack of depth with enormous verbosity.

The Congress assembled in the hostel gymnasium in front of a basketball net, below which was tacked a small red flag with the figure four imposed over a hammer and sickle. Livio, who was acting secretary during Pablo's imprisonment, then rose to begin a three-hour report, delivered with machine-gun rapidity in French with a heavy Italian accent. The Indian, Ceylonese and I, together with the Dutch and Danes who knew more English than French, huddled in one corner, around a French comrade who did his best to translate it into English.

In another corner, the Spanish-speakers did likewise, while in a third the Germans gathered. The result was a constant hubbub, broken every so often by a desperate appeal to Livio from one of the translators, asking him to speak more slowly. He would do so, but soon gathered speed until he was again interrupted. After about two hours, there was a commotion among the Spanish speakers. A tall man with a shock of pure white hair was shouting and waving his arms at Livio. Frank who was chairing the session rose and pleaded: 'Comrade Posadas, comrade, what is the matter? Please sit down.'

Comrade Posadas took no notice and only raised his voice several decibels higher. After a few minutes of unintelligible shouting, he stalked out of the room, followed by all but a few of the South Americans. Livio could not disguise his fury, but Frank had no option but to adjourn the session while he and Mandel went off to try to discover what had upset Posadas.

Livio's rapid delivery had caused the Spanish translator to summarise part of his speech dealing with South America which included a reference to the group in Argentina led by someone called Moreno, which was linked to the American SWP The translation had been misunderstood by Posadas who headed the Argentinian Section. He believed that Livio had praised

{p. 121} Moreno, his mortal enemy, while in fact Livio had simply noted that Moreno, like the SWP, had supported the Cuban Revolution. É

{p. 122} I spoke in strong support of Pablo and expressed the hope that he would resume the position of secretary as soon as he was released from prison. Livio and his friends received this suggestion stonily. I also posed the question of the need for all Sections to produce public journals, but felt too intimidated to challenge Mandel directly on this score. I voted for most of the resolutions, but abstained on those parts dealing favourably with the Great Leap Forward in China.

Towards the end of the Congress, Frank raised the question of the American SWP, even carefully alluding to the possibility of the future 'reunification' of the International with them, but not of course with Healy. Posadas naturally walked out once more, knowing that if the SWP came into a united Interna- tional, Frank and others would prefer Moreno's group to his. I felt some sympathy for Frank on this. No one could be as destructive as this aging football hero.

Maurice, however, saw this as a plot against Pablo, because it

{p. 123} was unthinkable that the SWP would rejoin the International if Pablo remained as secretary. I felt much the same, but was concerned that the movement remain as united as possible. I told both Maurice and Frank that I considered myself neutral in the growing factional battle, despite my admiration for Pablo and disagreements with the Mandel faction when it came to China and reunification with the Americans. I knew Nick would not be happy, but he was not here and could not know all the complex issues that had arisen.


to call on the air force to transport them, as he threatened, which would make our political point even more. I was a little amused by the sudden show of militancy by the ALP They would face an election in the next eighteen months and so must have decided that such forthright opposition to the Springboks would not hurt them politically. Or, rather, they must have judged it would help them.

Mick Young had been a school mate of mine at Harbord Public, but I had not seen him for many years. He had later worked as a shearer in South Australia and, while I was overseas, he had briefly joined the CPA and visited Moscow in a youth delegation. He had then made his way through the Australian Workers' Union in South Australia to become State and now federal secretary of the ALP He was no longer on the Left and, while I was sure he was personally opposed to apartheid, his call for black bans against the Springboks would only have been made if he felt there was some electoral gain in such a stand. The same would apply even more so to Bob Hawke, whose leftist cre- dentials built up in his campaign to win the ACTU presidency were rapidly disappearing.

I awaited the Springboks' arrival confident that we would be victorious.

{p. 293} FIFTEEN


{about the 1971 Springbok tour of Australia, and the protest movement led by Denis Freney and Meredith Burgmann}

WHEN the Springboks began their tour in Perth on June 26 our support had reached such a level that we were confident the protests would rival those held during the Vietnam Moratorium. In the months following the Coogee demonstration I had spent every free moment helping to prepare a suitable welcome for these ambassadors of apartheid.

I hoped we would shake the arrogance of the South African white population a little, by showing them that their 'kith and kin' in Australia wanted nothing to do with their racially-based system. I recalled my stay in South Africa in 1961 and thought with some pleasure about how angrily Mrs Snelloep and her friends would react. I was sure that Neville, Serge and Misha and the many other hundreds of political prisoners there would take heart from our actions. Stopping apartheid sporting teams visiting Australia would help prepare the way for real change there, I believed.

The Springboks faced a hostile demonstration when they played Western Australia the day they arrived. It was only the beginning. The ACTU had imposed a ban on all services and, to our surprise, the Transport Workers' Union was able to persuade its airport members to refuse to handle scheduled

{p. 294} flights on which they were booked. Railway workers also would not carry them and the Liquor Trades Union would not serve them. In the end, they had to rely on small charter planes to get around the country and non-union motels to stay at.

In Adelaide anti-apartheid protesters kept up a non-stop and very noisy protest outside the motel where they were housed, with the goal of robbing them of as much sleep as possible. Next day, police savagely attacked several thousands who marched to the ground where the Springboks were to play South Australia. In Melbourne there was even worse police violence and only a few of the 5,000 demonstrators managed to get into Olympic Park to make their protest.

We had already decided not to hold a march in Sydney but to ask our supporters to enter the ground quietly and then do everything possible to disrupt the game, particularly by getting onto the playing field itself. We urged protesters to form 'afffinity groups' with their friends, in groups of less than ten, to carry out their own actions and to give each other whatever protection they could. The Springbok demonstrations were to be 'self-managed' in large part because many of us organising them supported such an approach rather than the traditionally centralised and elitist one so commonly adopted on the Left.

We did, however, strongly encourage demonstrators to be non-violent. That did not extend to fences or other obstacles to getting onto the playing field. And, we decided privately, smoke bombs - the orange flares sold by ship chandlers for yachts - were fair enough. The smoke was harmless and would cause no injury, but it made a spectacular display.

I prepared a 'Protesters' Guidebook', outlining our strategy and with handy hints for those taking part. It quickly became a best-seller. The money soon began to pour in, more than enough to cover the basic publicity costs. We had no central office, with Meredith's lounge room and other lodgings around the city serving as points for meetings and storage of flares and other gear. We also published tens of thousands of copies of a broadsheet to expose apartheid and mobilise people for the protests. In the end, we had enough money to finance certain other projects, of which more later.

We also provided a 'protester's kit' which included the Guidebook, black balloons, a clicker in the shape of a frog, and a

{p. 295} shrill whistle. It looked like something you'd put under a Christmas tree. We scoured toy wholesalers around the city, who were suddenly able to move stock that they would normally not sell for six months or so.

Soon it seemed that every second student was joining with friends in an 'affinity group', as were older Communist Party members and other leftwing workers. They were all deciding on what specific action they would take. A few former Australian Rugby Union Wallabies spoke out in opposition to the tour. Because they could not openly support South Africa, the McMahon and Askin governments said they simply wanted to 'keep politics out of sport' and tried to whip up antagonism among the sports-mad public against the 'ratbags' who wanted to stop them watching a game of football. The former Wallabies could respond with arguments that at least some of the rugger buggers understood.

The night before the Springboks were due to arrive in Sydney I found it difficult to sleep. The coming month or so would be in many ways a culmination of the previous fifteen years of my life. At the time of the Vietnam Moratoriums I'd been one of many hundreds who had helped organise those big protests. This time I'd been one of the few who had taken the initiative from the beginning, when prospects for major demonstrations against the apartheid team looked dim. We hadn't put a foot wrong since and now we had the government on the run. I was confident that we would succeed not only in stopping further racist tours but also in changing the political atmosphere in Australia more than I had initially hoped. I allowed myself a little bit of self- congratulation before I finally drifted off.

Next day, the Springboks flew into Sydney in a convoy of light planes and some 500 people were at Mascot to protest. After the team was smuggled off the tarmac in waiting buses, we followed them to the Squire Inn Motel, in a side street in Bondi unction, where we planned to maintain a noisy round-the- clock vigil throughout their stay there. Soon a crowd of about a thousand had gathered there, making an incredible din. In addition to the whistles and clickers we had supplied, affinity groups had improvised their own noise machines. A favourite was the tin money box the Commonwealth Bank then issued free of charge. New slogans were also invented on the spot,

{p. 296} 'Don't Scrum with a Racist Bum' being one of them. Sekai had taught us some foul swear words in Afrikaans, which the local cops naturally did not understand.

We had an additional surprise awaiting the Springboks. 'Mr and Mrs Jim Holland' had booked a room in the motel as soon as we had learned that the team would be staying there. After they arrived, Sekai and her Australian husband Jim entered the building, explaining to a bewildered policeman that they had a reservation. When the management tried to deny them admis: sion, Sekai fiercely objected, warning them as only she could not to dare touch her. ]im quietly backed her up. The racket attracted the media massed at the entrance and under the glare of TV lights they were eventually allowed to take possession of their room.

A security guard was posted outside their door and Sekai and Jim could do little but parade up and down the corridors arm in arm, and kiss whenever a Springbok came in view. In South Africa, any such relationship, let alone their sharing a hotel bedroom, was strictly illegal and could lead to a term in jail.

About two the following morning, I was in a car parked on the rise to the east of the motel. With me was Mark, who had agreed to join me in a sort of symbolic guerilla attack. I had brought a parachute flare with me and after studying the instructions on it, to make sure we did not blow ourselves up, I pointed it towards the motel, its outline clearly visible against the lights of the city.

Nothing prepared us for the noise and velocity with which it leapt into the sky after I pulled the firing ring. I was also surprised by its kick-back. As the flare shot towards the motel to drop like a falling star from its parachute, Mark sped off south, driving along roads he did not know.

'Jesus, Jesus,' was all he could say, while I provided poor navigation. After several minutes we calmed down enough to laugh at our own alarm. Finally, we pulled up to consult street signs and a Gregory's directory. We had reached Maroubra, well to the south and in the opposite direction to that we had intended. Our 'guerilla attack' was ignored in the media and friends who were on the vigil outside the motel at the time did not notice our rocket assault. I felt a little disappointed. It was typical of the adventurous and often unsuccessful actions I and

{p. 297} many others were to undertake during the weeks that followed. The Lord Mayor, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, was holding a reception for the Springboks at lunchtime next day. Some 200 of us gathered behind lines of police on either side of the Town Hall steps. Shehadie, himself a leading Rugby Union adminis- trator and a Liberal to boot, was waiting in his mayoral regalia at the top of the steps to welcome his guests. Soon a coach pulled up and the Springboks began to alight. The protesters started chanting slogans, but it seemed that no one was going do anything more.

I thought it was important that we do something dramatic every time they appeared. I crouched down, hoping the cops would not see me, and took a smoke flare out of my bag. I pulled the ring and lobbed it over the heads of the crowd. Chaos broke out and Noel Haard took a wonderful photo of the Lord Mayor and the Springboks walking gingerly up the steps in a cloud of bright orange smoke.

I did not see much. A few seconds after I threw the smoke bomb, two Special Branch men were dragging me to a paddy wagon parked on the driveway under the steps. I had rather naively thought I could hide among the crowd, but Askin's political police had been keeping a close eye on me. After being bailed out a few hours later, I was pleased to see the smoky reception for the Springboks splashed across the front pages of both evening papers. The tension had been maintained.

Next day we aimed to make the Springboks' game against a Sydney team at the Sydney Sports Ground a dry run for that against New South Wales the following Saturday and the First Test a week after. Meredith had managed to get some tickets to enter the Members' Stand on the opposite side of the ground from the Hill on which the mass of the demonstrators gathered. The Members' Stand was always thinly populated and, as we correctly guessed, would be unguarded by the police. Meredith and two other women, together with a couple of male escorts, entered suitably attired and with a picnic hamper and two bottles of champagne to help them play the role.

Meredith had borrowed a rather frowsy red-haired wig and some elaborate glasses of the type made famous by Dame Edna Everidge. It was a slightly ludicrous though surprisingly effective disguise, and certainly nothing like the conventional image of a

{p. 298} demonstrator which had plastered newspaper pages. We created a diversion on the Hill, cutting some of the wire. The police rushed to cover the gaps in the fence and grab the dozen or so people who managed to get over. Meredith and her friends then stormed the fence on the opposite side and made it onto the middle of the field before the police could capture them. Smoke bombs rained on the pitch, the thick orange smoke drifting across the ground.

We judged the demonstration a successful trial run, from which we had learned some important lessons. By word of mouth, we urged protesters to assemble in a certain area in the Cricket Ground the following Saturday. In a coordinated action, a dozen teams of three people each would cut the wire and turn it back. Through the gap would pour all those who were willing to face the cops' fury on the playing field. At least, that was the plan.

The night before the match Bob Pringle, the president of the Builders Labourers' Federation, and his ironworker mate Johnny Phillips entered the Cricket Ground and tried to saw down the goalposts, only to be discovered by the caretakers and police. They had taken this initiative without consulting any of us.

Other people had even more ingenious ideas. Some planned to cover the playing field with a green dye which would merge into the grass and leave the players a bright green when they fell on it. The SDS leader Mike Jones was constructing a large remote-controlled model aircraft to buzz the playing field during the coming Test. I doubted the scheme would ever get off the ground - literally. But we agreed to fund it, if only to keep him happy.

Just before the Saturday match, I dropped into Meredith's house. A large group of her friends were there, clustered around the kitchen door. They were peering into the tiny back yard, a concreted few square metres with an outdoor toilet and laundry. Meredith dragged me through the crowd, saying 'Come and meet Snowball.' I found a small pig, a porker, looking trapped behind a makeshift fence in the backyard. Was the household planning a barbeque, I asked innocently? No, they laughed, and explained their scheme.

They had bought the porker the day before at the Homebush

{p. 299} meat markets. The plan was to dope it an hour or so before the match, grease it, dress it in baby's clothes and carry it into the ground. When it awoke, it would be freed and put over the fence. The idea of a bunch of beefy cops trying to catch the greased pig was immensely amusing and certainly would have disrupted the game no end.

'But,' said Peter, who was studying medicine and had consulted some friends in vet science, 'it will have to be carefully timed. We'll have to make sure how long Snowball would stay doped and when he would wake up. We'll have to carry out some experiments ...' There was a chorus of objections. Snowball was a beautiful little piglet. We should not experiment on him more than necessary. Everyone seemed to be getting very attached to him. Perhaps he would end up as the household pet, if he could be tamed. More liely he would meet the same fate as the Trotsky character in George Orwell's Animal Farm after whom he had been named.

Snowball showed he had an incredible turn of speed. On one occasion, he escaped from his pen and dashed through the house, eluding the clutches of a dozen pairs of hands before he was returned to captivity. 'Poor little Snowball,' Meredith said with real feeling. There was no question of his being ready for Saturday, but he could be prepared for the First Test the following week.

I arrived at the ground well before the match was due to begin. Paddy wagons were stationed strategically around the playing field. Ten or twelve members of the Rescue Squad in white coats were ready to smother the smoke bombs they expected. The wire was now made of six strands, including some of barbed wire, reaching well above our heads. The police filed into the ground, encircling it inside the playing area.

But if there were a thousand police in the Cricket Ground and its environs, as was admitted later, there were five or six times more demonstrators. When the Springboks finally ran onto the field our protest drowned the cheers of their supporters.

A few smoke bombs landed at the feet of the police on the other side of the fence. That served as a signal for them to attack us. I found myself being rushed out of the ground by a couple of Special Branch plainclothes men, who much to my annoyance

{p. 300} called me Denis. I guessed they had spent so much time studying my lengthy file and listening into my phone calls they felt almost part of the family. I was inside a paddy wagon within minutes of the kick-off.

The uproar in the ground rose to a crescendo and I guessed that the concerted attack by our wire-cutters had begun. Soon the van was filled with those arrested, with or without cause. They told me the ground was covered in orange smoke. The wire had been breached in several places, but the police had quickly massed at each gap six deep. One demonstrator had reached the middle of the field and shown some dazzling Rugby skills in dodging the flatfoots chasing him. But no one else had got through. Some were cut by the wire when the police threw them back over the fence. Meanwhile, the Springboks and the NSW team had valiantly tried to play on. The papers next day were full of photos of scrums and lineouts barely visible among the police, smoke and paddy wagons.

Peter McGregor had been kicked hard in the crutch by a friendly cop, who added a few more as he fell to the ground in agony. Three had been taken to hospital after being bashed by the police, one with a suspected fractured skull and two with concussion. One policeman had been injured after being hit by a full can of beer most likely thrown by some drunken rugger bugger. All told, 142 people were arrested.

Late next night we headed west for Orange, where the Springboks were to play a NSW Country team the following Tuesday. We arrived about five hours later. The town was silent with not a car on the road as we searched for the sports ground. It was not guarded and we entered easily. The night was frosty with a full moon that cast an eerie light over the ground. Three of us began painting slogans over the grandstand, while Meredith and a few others began pouring grass killer to etch 'No ties with Apartheid' on the playing field itself. Two more began to work away on the goalposts with hacksaws, making a racket that seemed certain to awaken the whole town. We tried to signal to them to stop.

A minute or two later a stupendous crack shattered the silence. I looked back and saw the goalpost bent over, with one of the sawyers clinging almost lovingly to the bottom end. Unable to use their hacksaws, they had begun swaying the

{p. 301} goalposts back and forth and had succeeded in snapping one of the uprights. We dashed back to our cars sure that the police would soon arrive. I took the wheel and only when we reached the foothills of the Blue Mountains did I begin to relax.

At a meeting shortly before the First Test Mike ones reported that his plane was not yet ready but would be airborne in time for the Third Test in three weeks. So might Snowball, I thought cynically. In the end neither naturally took off. Towards the end of the discussion, a thin young man rose at the back of the packed room. He held up a small phial.

'This,' - he waited for the room to fall silent - 'this is tear gas. We've produced it in the labs at uni and thought we'd use it at the Cricket Ground.' A hubbub of speculation began. The idea of tear-gassing the apartheid team and the cops amused those who had been bashed up the previous Saturday. 'But,' I warned, 'you'd gas us as well and cause panic in the crowd and we'd be breaking our own rule about not causing physical harm to anyone, even the Springboks.' Finally, the chemistry students reluctantly agreed not to go ahead with their plan. I was relieved we had called meetings open to all those taking part in the demonstrations - spontaneous action was good, but at these gatherings we had the chance to stop anything stupid.

When I returned to Meredith's house next day I was told that Snowball had escaped through the open front door and was last seen moving like greased lightning up Darghan Street. Search parties had failed to produce any sign of him. 'Perhaps he's met a nice lady piglet,' Meredith said half jokingly. 'More likely he's pork chops on someone's dinner table,' Peter replied glumly.

I spent the next few days at Tribune, catching up on some articles I had ignored during the previous two weeks. The Stop the Racist Tours campaign had already achieved its goals, I wrote for the following issue. It would be impossible to hold cricket matches under such conditions. The Springboks no doubt felt at home with the grounds turned into concentration camps, complete with barbed wire and hundreds of police. We had realised from the beginning that the police could stop a mass invasion of the playing field if they deployed enough forces and used violence. But they had turned the Rugby matches themselves into sideshows and had thus helped us achieve our purpose. It was almost certain that this would be the last

{p. 302} Springbok tour to Australia.

I was awoken at six on the morning of the First Test by a loud hammering on the door followed by the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. I hurriedly put on a dressing gown and went out to find two detectives on the landing outside my room. They produced warrants to search the house, but they were only interested in my small and sparsely furnished bedroom. One began inspecting the bookshelf while the other got down on his knees groping about under the wardrobe. I soon realised that I had no witness present and could be easily framed.

I went out and called Mike and his girlfriend in the next room to help me keep an eye on the detectives. It was a mistake. They stumbled into my bedroom half-asleep and very worried that the police would discover the plentiful supplies of grass elsewhere in the house. One of the plainclothes men invited Mike's girlfriend to look under the wardrobe. She obeyed and pulled out two smoke bombs. The bastard had planted them there while I was outside for a moment and I had been stupid enough to allow the girl to 'find' them!

Outside the gate, the other detective said cynically: 'We might as well look in your car.' I silently cursed - I had foolishly left a parachute flare in the boot. He was delighted when he found it. I guessed they'd planted the two smoke bombs because they'd thought I wouldn't have kept any in my bedroom or car.

I was charged with possession of 'grenades', which carried a hefty penalty under the Crimes Act. They were going to throw the book at me this time, I thought. The magistrate refused me bail and I was soon on my way to Long Bay for the weekend at least. It was a case of preventive detention. The police probably believed I was going to act as field marshal at the ground. They were wrong, of course. The afffinity groups would do what they had planned without instructions from me or anyone else. I had hoped to get over the fence myself this time, however.

I had never been in jail before and had no particular desire to spend time there, but I was confident I would get bail on Monday, when legal aid could be organised. I decided to make the best of my short stay behind bars, keep out of trouble with other prisoners and just observe life inside. I was glad I had an almost full packet of Drum tobacco. That was good as currency

{p. 303} and helped make friends there, I had heard.

Out at Long Bay, I was processed by bored warders and a few inmates with plucked eyebrows and light make-up. The transvestites in the jail were sad sights to me, servicing as they did the needs of frustrated prison 'heavies' who would have been rampantly heterosexual outside. I arrived after lunch and was soon out in the yard, chatting with a few prisoners attracted to my full pouch of tobacco. They brought me up to date with radio reports of what was happening at the Cricket Ground, where police violence was even worse than the previous Saturday.

I was in the old remand section, filled with those refused bail, or, more likely, unable to raise it. I found no hostility when I explained why I was among them. Many were facing drug charges, some of the younger ones simply for possession. One twenty-year-old who had been in the paddy wagon that brought us out had decided to spend a few days in jail instead of paying offhundreds of dollars of parking fines. He was not unattractive and although he tried to give off the airs of a worldly-wise type, he was not.

I knew about the dangers of rape inside prison and warned him to be careful. He was a little worried when we arrived and even more so when our mixed bag of eight were paraded through the yard to be processed. Some young toughs in one of the yards nearby gave a few wolf whistles. They didn't seem to be directed at anyone in particular, but I hoped the fine-defaulter would not find himself in a cell with someone who would make him sorry he had not paid up. On the Monday I was granted bail and by lunchtime was back in the Tribune of fice explaining that my stay at Long Bay had been interesting, but that I was glad I'd only spent two days there.

We now had something of a respite as the Springboks were heading for a week or so in Queensland. Joh Bjelke-Petersen had declared a month's State of Emergency and the unions replied by calling a twenty-four hour strike. Outside Brisbane's Tower Inn Motel where the Springboks were lodged mounted and foot police with batons drawn lashed into the crowd, causing many injuries. Joh's scare campaign frightened off all but the most fanatical rugger buggers from the Springboks' games, while the anti-apartheid movement marched in the city centre rather than face draconian penalties at the ground if they demonstrated

{p. 304} there. The police beat them up anyhow.

Bjelke-Petersen however had assured our victory. A State of Emergency was of course no joke, but his over-reaction only served to highlight the cost any future tour would involve. He also gained us worldwide publicity. South African whites could not ignore how much their apartheid system was hated and the blacks there would be encouraged in their struggle, I believed.

We still had the final Third Test to be played in Sydney in early August. We knew we had already won the war, if not each battle. The police and the Askin government were fuming, and we could expect even worse violence. We decided to call for a silent protest at the last Test, in mourning for the harm done to Australian democracy by police thugs and Tory governments, particularly in Queensland. We declared that our protests had been victorious and that there would be no more tours.

It was agreed that I should not attempt to enter the ground. I also urged Peter McGregor and Meredith not to go. We were all marked by the cops and could expect to be the targets of their provocations. I did however go to the Squire Inn Motel in Bondi, where protests had resumed after the Springboks had returned, with Gary Foley and Paul Coe and other Aboriginal militants playing a major role. They urged us to campaign for black rights in Australia as well as in South Africa. It was to be the next issue we had to face - our own racism.

I arrived at the motel just as the Springboks were filing into the minibus taking them to the Cricket Ground for their last game in Australia. When they were seated, I saw a small phial being thrown through one of the open windows of the bus. The Springboks came out coughing, holding handkerchiefs over their mouths. The chemistry students had used their tear gas after all! Fair enough, I thought. But I moved away quickly from the scene - the police would certainly pin the charge on me if they spotted me nearby.

I was wise not to go to the Cricket Ground. I heard soon after of an incident which bore all the signs of an attempted frame-up. A middle-aged protester of my build was standing silently among the crowd, when some young men in plain clothes behind him unsuccessfully tried to thrust something into his coat pocket. A number of uniformed police came rushing up and seized him, saying 'Is it Freney? Have we got Freney?' They

{p. 305} let him go when they realised that the ploy had failed and that in any case they had the wrong man. He could not tell what they had tried to plant on him. Was it grass I wondered? Or even heroin? A gun maybe?

Despite the passive nature of the protest, forty-five people were arrested, bringing the total in Sydney to over 300. We now launched a campaign, as the Boks left with their tails between their legs, to raise as much money as possible to help pay the consequent fines.

On the Monday after the Third Test, Meredith Burgmann, Ralph Pearce and her Members' Stand colleagues appeared on charges arising from having invaded the field during the Springboks' first match in Sydney. We thought it would result as usual in hefty fines. However, Meredith was given two months' jail by the magistrate, who we believed had been lined up by the police. The others got fines of $120. Meredith's lawyers lodged an appeal and she was released on bail. Her jail sentence was subsequently replaced by a heavy fine.

We were all exhausted by the time the Springboks flew out but the Australian Cricket Board had scheduled a South African Test series that summer. We were relieved therefore when a week or two later Sir Donald Bradman announced the cricket tour would be cancelled. He made the best of it by discovering the principled position of opposition to segregated sport, as did others including the future Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. Our victory was complete. Certainly, the cost had been high both financially for those arrested and in terms of the injuries many had suffered. But no one had been seriously hurt, despite the best efforts of police forces around the country. I was proud to be an Australian - I had never thought that anti- racism was so deeply rooted among so many ordinary Australians.

We all knew, however, that the battle against racism was not won, particularly when we considered the oppression faced by the Aborigines. We could understand the criticism from the black militants - you have acted courageously against racism in South Africa, but when will you do the same about our suffering here? It was a mesSage Paul Coe had voiced at the Moratorium rally in the Stadium a little over a year before. I still had not come to grips with that challenge and decided to take it up in the

{p. 306} coming twelve months.

I was also proud of the way in which the Communist Party had responded to the anti-apartheid campaign, confirming my attachment to it. Many Party members had been arrested and bashed along with the hundreds upon hundreds of students who had likewise proved their courage and determination. It contrasted with the various Trotskyist groups and the Stalinists. I was infuriated when the Percys' Socialist Workers League published an attack on the demonstrations, describing our tactics as 'a failure' and speaking of 'the futility of flare throwing' and of the mass arrests as having 'disastrous consequences'. The SWL had opposed protests inside the grounds, and advocated only marches to the gates - which had resulted in as many arrests and as much police violence in Melbourne as in Sydney. Bob Gould was nowhere to be seen.

The Stalinists 'deplored the violence and disruption' involved in our protests which should have been 'peaceful'. This was particularly insidious because it repeated rightwing criticism which blamed the 'violence' on us, not the police. The Moscow- liners were going around saying the demonstrations were the result of 'adventurism'. I let them and the SWL know how I felt whenever our paths crossed. Give me all those non-Party humanists anytime before these 'revolutionaries' who turned out to be so conservative when the chips were down, I thought.

But, all told, the previous few months had been an exhilarat- ing experience. I took the opportunity now to wind down a little, spending more time at Liberation and with my sister Margaret and other friends before gearing up again for some demonstrations we'd planned at the end of the year in support of Aboriginal rights. There was, however, still one more episode to be played out in relation to the Springbok protests. It was one I could have done without.

One Friday in mid-October I turned up in court for the trial arising from my arrest when the police raided my home before the First Test. The Council for Civil Liberties had provided Peter Moss as my lawyer. He was no radical but was more than competent when it came to the law. The police had withdrawn the charges concerning the smoke flares they had planted under my wardrobe and only persisted with those related to the parachute flare which they discovered in the boot of my car.

{p. 307} Moss became increasingly concerned as my case was delayed until it seemed it would not finish that day. He was wrong. The evidence was completed and the magistrate, Wal Lewer, found me guilty. I had expected that, but I remembered he had dismissed the case against me when I was charged the year before with producing an obscene publication - the photo of the GI with the half-destroyed body on the Manly Moratorium leaflet. This time, however, his jaw set and his mild magisterial manner absent, Lewer sentenced me to three months' hard labour. It was a shock. Even worse, the case had dragged out to well after the time the clerks' office closed. As it was Friday afternoon, Moss would not be able to lodge an appeal until the following Monday. I was scheduled for another weekend at Long Bay.

This time I was sent immediately to the Central Industrial Prison, not Remand, as I had been sentenced. I arrived quite late and was taken to a tiny cell. Inside were three others, in two double bunks. In the corner was a toilet can. The wing was not sewered and hepatitis was in near-epidemic proportions. My cellmates represented a small cross-section of the prison population. The oldest was Charlie, a professional cat burglar whose career had suffered greatly when a drainpipe had given away under him and he had 'done his back in'.

The second occupant was a twenty-year-old who explained with scarcely concealed pride that he had been given a long sentence for what turned out to have been a particularly appalling gang rape and torture of a young woman which had made the headlines in the tabloids. The third lay on the bottom bunk opposite, occasionally muttering to himself in between spasms of dry hawking. He was evidently a migrant, probably Yugoslav, an alcoholic in jail for vagrancy who should have been in hospital instead. Charlie swore he would kill him if the screws did not move him out in the morning. I slept fitfully, as the coughing and mumbling continued throughout the night. The twenty-year-old fell asleep immediately, which was perhaps just as well. As soon as the cell doors were opened, Charlie ordered the alcoholic out and complained to a warder with whom he obviously had good relations. The next night, the Yugoslav was alone in a cell two doors up, his hawking still audible but not enough to keep us awake.

{p. 308} Breakfast was stale porridge, stewed tea and bread and jam. Beans on toast were for lunch, while some gluey stew made up our dinner. On Sunday, there was a lukewarm roast with some leathery meat. I never saw a piece of fruit during my stay. I swore I would have a slap-up Chinese meal when I got out.

In the yard, I yarned with a number of other inmates. I guessed about one-third were inside for vagrancy. Bill had just got out of Concord Repatriation Hospital. He was an old digger, like my dad. He had a room in a boarding house and was looking for a job when the police picked him up. He had very little money on him and the kindly magistrate gave him twenty-one days inside. Joe was sixty-two and had an even more disturbing story to tell. He had come down from Scone in the Hunter Valley a few days before and took a room in the People's Palace only to be arrested and get a month for vagrancy, as he didn't have a job.

Kevin was much younger, about twenty, waiting for his appeal against a five-year jail sentence for possession of morphine. He seemed to have his head together when I gave him a smoke from my rapidly diminishing packet of Drum, but his hands still shook from withdrawal and his left arm was covered with ugly scars where he had sliced himself in a suicide attempt. He had tried to kill himself a second time when he swallowed a razor blade and phenol. He was addicted to cocaine and morphine and specialised in breaking into chemist shops to get supplies or money to buy them. He too needed medical care, not a jail sentence.

After three days inside my appeal was lodged and I was more than pleased to get out. I had never felt threatened by the other prisoners, but I was particularly worried about the epidemic of hepatitis that was sweeping through the jail. I certainly didn't feel at all ashamed about spending time there. I considered that the corrupt Askin govemment and its police force had in fact paid me an unintended compliment. I'd been a political prisoner, I reflected with not a little pride. As I expected, when my appeal was heard some months later, the jail sentence was quashed and I was given a minimal fine.

As the year drew to a close, I realised that many of those who had taken part in the Moratorium and Springbok demonstrations were joining the Labor Party as the federal elections

{p. 309} approached and hopes grew that the Liberals would be defeated. I had thought we would recruit a lot of these activists to the Communist Party, but those who did become members hardly compensated in numbers for oldtimers who resigned to join the newly-formed pro-Moscow Socialist Party.

My friends from the anti-war and anti-racist movements said they agreed with our politics, but correctly felt only the ALP could replace the crumbling McMahon government. I could do little but wish them the best of luck. I argued that a strong left- wing party outside the ALP was essential, although it was also important to have a strong Left inside the Labor Party. We agreed to differ, although I did feel a little cynical about some people who a year previously had been raging revolutionaries, abusing me and the CPA for our 'conservatism', but who were now flocking into the ALP and were soon to get comfortable jobs.

{p. 397} A new leader had come to power in the Soviet Union and was now revealing just how bad the situation was there. I had for the past thirty years prided myself on not having any illusions in what had happened since Stalin had seized power. But Gorbachev and those around him were to reveal even more serious problems than I had suspected existed and which cast doubt on the whole revolutionary process that began in 1917, no matter how much they tried to keep the faith intact. In Warsaw I'd seen an economy collapsing under the weight of an incompetent centralised bureaucratic system where everything was supposedly decided from above. Back in Algeria in 1965 I'd agreed with Michel Pablo when he'd insisted on the role of the market economy under a self-managed socialism, but I'd never

{p. 398} understood just how important that was.

{end of quotes}

The politics of Freney & Burgmann seems quite different from the Soviet style. Their politics was completely non-violent (except for damaging property in the way). It was theatrical, and even "fun".

As an example, here is a photo of Burgmann being arrested during a sit-in at the US Consolate in Sydney, in 1970; it's from A Map of Days, between pages 248 & 249: meredith.jpg.

Lots of small groups doing their own thing.

Meredith Burgmann and her associates later turned against Robert Mugabe, accusing him of tyranny.

How the Trots Destroyed the Nuclear Disarmament Party: trots-ndp.html.

The worst of Trotsky, in his own words: worst.html.

Seeing the real Trotsky: trotsky.html.

The early Soviet Union - after Lenin and Trotsky, but before Stalin's ascendancy: soviet-union-early.html.

How Stalin overthrew the Jewish Bolsheviks: stalin.html.

Isaac Deutscher on Trotsky vs. Stalin: deutscher.html.

Stalin was murdered. He died within 2 months of the Doctors' Plot being announced. His murderers were in two factions: a Jewish one (Beria, Kaganovich, Molotov) and a "Russian" one (Khruschev). The Jewish one seized power, but was overthrown a few months later, by Khruschev: death-of-stalin.html.

Write to me at contact.html.