The Communists have been vanquished! The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) confirmed yesterday that the Communist Party of Australia had been deregistered as a political party for the second time in 90 years.
The reds are gone. The Punch discovered this morning they’re not even under the bed. We called five Communist contacts on the CPA’s website and not a single comrade answered the phone. And the AEC told The Australian yesterday the party was deregistered because they didn’t respond to a notice querying whether they met the required membership threshold.
While your natural reaction might be: hoorah! The Glorious Bourgeois Capitalist Machine has won! The Resistance is dead!!! The reality is, it’s a bittersweet victory. The end of communism means the end of all kinds of cultural touchstones we hold dearly.
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It was a country that banned beards. Travellers arriving at the border sporting facial hair would be shaved on the spot.
A citizen attempting to leave the country on other than official business engaged in an act of treason punishable by jail or even death.
During the second half of the 20th Century Albania was one of the most isolated countries on earth.
Communism was a really good idea – stay with me here – and so is democracy. Unfortunately, neither ended up the way their idealist inventors imagined.
If you lived through the ‘Reds under the bed’ era this might come as a shock, but at its core communism is really rather nice. It would be great to think that we could treat everyone as equal and be sharing, caring community.
The fatal flaw, though, is communism didn’t really take human nature and greed into account, so ‘What’s mine is yours’ evolved into ‘What’s mine (and yours) is the dictator’s’.
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I’ve written before about how, at the age of 25, I discovered that my father was a very senior member of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.
I was visiting him in Washington, where he was serving in what had once been Kim Philby’s job - as the SIS liaison with the CIA. One reason that he chose to tell me on that visit, I think, was that during my stay at his house in Washington, some of his colleagues from London would also be visiting.
He needed to know that I would not say or do anything untoward. I was, after all, a long-haired journalist working for the Sydney rock station Double-Jay. Not exactly prime security material.
I remember the jokes. They were usually about one of two things: hardship or fear.
It’s been strange, this week, to reflect that most people will never know, as I did (albeit as a visitor) what it was really like in the old Soviet Bloc. But the jokes used to tell the story.
An American dog, a Polish dog and a Russian dog are talking. The American dog says “Where I live it’s good. You bark loudly enough, and they give you meat”. The Polish dog says” What’s meat?” The Russian dog says “What’s bark?”
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Near Sydney’s Circular Quay sits the Hitler Bar. The door sign has Hitler’s name in Germanic script on a swastika background. Similar nazi era iconography decorates the menus.
Alright, not surprisingly, there is no Hitler Bar. Instead what overlooks Sydney Harbour is the Lenin Bar, replete with the nostalgic/ironic hip communist hammer, sickle and Soviet star kitsch.
This is strange because in overall scope, communism presents as a greater man-made humanitarian catastrophe than nazism, or almost certainly any other ism.
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It’s Friday at The Punch
Fact: today in 1956 thousands of Hungarians took to the streets demanding an end to Soviet rule. Communist forces had taken control of Hungary in 1946. The Soviet army led a brutal retaliation to the uprising that resulted in 2,500 deaths and a further 200,000 people being forced into exile. They maintained their influence in Hungary until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
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