History

Of the many world-shaking events that took place in 1968, high on the list was the movement for reform in Czechoslovakia to create a democratic socialist alternative to the Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorships that ruled the Soviet bloc. Chris Slee takes a look at the movement, which was dramatically ended by a Soviet Union-led invasion.

On the night of August 20/21, 1968, tanks from the armies of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria rolled into Czechoslovakia. The aim of the invaders was to crush a movement for reform.

Among the first laws passed by the new Australian parliament in 1901 when the Commonwealth of Australia came into being was the Pacific Island Labourers Act, ordering the deportation of black Melanesian workers known as kanakas.

Other aspects of what became known as the White Australia Policy have since been rectified, but this shameful stain on our past has yet to be properly addressed.

Like all colonial societies, Australia has secrets. The way we treat Indigenous people is still mostly a secret. For a long time, the fact that many Australians came from what was called "bad stock" was a secret.

"Bad stock" meant convict forebears: those like my great-great grandmother, Mary Palmer, who was incarcerated at the Female Factory in Parramatta, near Sydney, in 1823.

A protest at the University of Sydney on June 27 demanded the University Senate drop its talks with the multibillion dollar Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which had offered millions to the university to offer a “Western Civilisation” degree.

The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66
By Geoffrey B Robinson
Princeton University Press, 2018
429 pages

From October 1965 to mid-1966, one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century took place in Indonesia. Anywhere between 500,000 and more than 1 million people associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) were estimated to have been killed and more than 1 million others jailed, some for more than 3 decades, in an anti-leftist purge led by the Indonesian military.

Donald Trump has partly backed down on the most extreme aspects of his cruel policy towards migrants seeking safety — but Shaun King writes that separating migrant families is something the US has been doing for centuries.

Captain Cook has loomed large in the federal government’s 2018 budget. The government has allocated $48.7 million over four years to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage to the South Pacific in 1770. The funding has been widely debated on social media as another fray in Australia’s culture wars, particularly in the context of $84 million in cuts to the ABC.

The recently re-published classic history of radical politics in Queensland, The Red North: The Popular Front in North Queensland, was launched at a series of forums in Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns over the past month, Jim McIlroy reports.

John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor of the Exchequer, declared Marxism a “force for change today” as he addressed the closing session of a conference in London marking Karl Marx’s 200th birthday on May 5.

McDonnell, a close comrade of Labour's socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn, received stormy applause for a speech in which he paid tribute to the revolutionary thinker and noted that public interest in his ideas had soared since the bankers’ crash of 2008.

Reconstructing Karl Polanyi: Excavation & Critique
By Gareth Dale
Pluto, 2016
246 pp., $33.88

As a well-known British socialist activist and an academic political economist, Gareth Dale is thus ideally placed to write about Karl Polanyi, writes Derek Wall.

Polanyi was a leading 20th century critic of the free market economics that crystallised into the neoliberal system that is now threatening our planet.

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