Peter Coleman has had a lengthy career as a writer and supporter of liberal causes. He has kept his hands clean during a period when only a minority of intellectuals could make the same claim. Being a modest gentleman, he has not made that claim himself but I am happy to make it on his behalf . It is a pleasure to welcome his writings into the Guest Room.
Peter Coleman has provided an invaluable account of the counter-attack by liberal intellectuals in the battle of ideas with communism. At the time that this story begins, Arthur Koestler was convinced that the future of civilisation would be decided by the outcome of the battle between communists and ex-communists like himself. He believed that others could not comprehend the true nature of their adversary, with its capacity to recruit both the best of people and the worst of people. He was mistaken. The thin anti-red line was held by a mix of ex-communists and others who had not drunk from that poisoned cup.
How One Evil Leads to Another: The Great War of 1914-18 was a great evil but it spawned another that turned out to be far worse. This was the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Red takeover in the aftermath of the revolution. For the remainder of the century the Soviet empire spread devastation across the globe, not only in it's own domain but in every other country where its agents and its ideology polluted both politics and the world of ideas. From that evil arose another, when the western democracies formed partnerships with unsavory regimes to resist the real or perceived threat of communism. As Lord Acton wrote of classical liberals, we may feel obliged to form alliances with others who have very different ends from our own, and this has often proved fatal to the credibility of our cause. None of this provides any excuse for the treason of communist and fellow traveling intellectuals.
Alan Barcan . Melbourne University Press . 392pp
The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe
This piece is a book review on a related topic, the activities of the Old Left at the University of Sydney, the oldest of the universities in Australia. The book was written by an insider, a principled member of the Old Left who was prepared to move on quite early in life when he realised what was happening under the direction of the Party. This book will have mostly local interest and many of the names in the review will be familiar to Australians but not to people overseas.
Peter Coleman's book, The Liberal Conspiracy is their story. It is a proud and heroic tale. Few of the protagonists would claim the mantle of heroism, but in any case, I salute them for their courage and their fortitude. I see them in the same company as the Spartans who defended the pass at Thermopylae, the young airmen in the Battle of Britain, the boys at Kokoda and Omaha Beach. As we confront an uncertain future it is reassuring to know that there have always been those among us who are ready to rally to a worthy cause.
NEW ON THE PAGE Leaves from the Diary of a Madman.
I cannot not recall the exact day I picked up the political virus. You can carry it for years without fully realising it. It is not the same as adopting a political philosophy or becoming a Member of Parliament. By February 1968 I had done both of those, but the virus had barely infected me. It takes you over slowly. There are also remissions and plateaux when you think you may have returned to civilized life. But it is hard to shake off entirely. ...MORE
A SELECTION OF BOOKS by PETER COLEMAN
Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition: the rise
and fall of literary censorship in Australia
The Heart of James McAuley: life and work of the Australian poet
A Symposium (editor)
Six Incorrect Essays (editor)
Instincts of the Heart
The Real Barry Humphries
Memoirs of a Slow Learner
Available in most bookshops or online at Amazon.com
Cassandra Pybus. University of Queensland Press. 321pp
A review of an unsympathetic and uncomprehending biography of James McAuley, a major figure in Australian cultural life. The author, even after the fall of the Wall, has managed to ignore or deny the worldwide threat of communism. This is a remarkable achievement, but not an admirable one.
A paper delivered at a seminar on James McAuley at the University of Sydney in 2002. It outlines the submissions from a strong field of contenders hoping to become the founding editor of the new Australian magazine, Quadrant, in 1955,
and how well McAuley filled the position until his move to Tasmania in 1961.
The first chapter from Peter's insightful book on the unique Barry Humphries.
Chapter 20 from the above book.
An account of the development of McAuley's poetry in parallel with the changes in his political views, from the anarchism of his youth through his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith and his public involvement in the resistance to communism.
An essay on the history of leftwing tactics and rhetoric, starting with earnest idiocy of the early Fellow Travellers, moving on to the unrealistic radicalism of the New Left and ending with a thorough examination of the pros and cons of Political Correctness, its methods and motivation.
Information about the 2000 reprint of Peter Coleman's landmark study of Australian laws on censorship from 1788 to the 1960s.
Peter Coleman's Introduction to a 1962 collection of papers on Australian Civilisation.
Robert Manne's Virtuous Trajectory
A pungent commentary on Robert Manne's ideological odyssey and quest for reconciliation with the political left.
Papers from The Last Intellectuals: Essays on writers and politics.