The threat of a torn curtain

ABC Radio National has been running an audio history version of the Cold War.:TORN CURTAIN -- The History of the Cold War

With the opening of archives in both East and West, we now have some extraordinary and often chilling insights into how the Cold War was really fought—in Washington, Moscow, Beijing—and Canberra. Originally broadcast in February 2006, the series has been updated with a new episode on China and the Cold War. Torn Curtain casts a stark new light on a hidden world of high strategy, dirty politics, and ideological warfare—and prompts us to ask how much Cold War thinking still shapes the world today. The series is presented and produced for Hindsight ABC Radio National by Tom Morton.
This is a David McKnight (yes he speaks)/ Bernie Taft(--ex leader of the CPA -- so too does he)/soft Cold-War-Warrior history of the war which is so full of contradictions you could drive a truck in and out through them -- sideways. I'm up to Episode 3 but the first two episodes inform us that Robert Menzies thought a new Third World War was a' coming-- hellelujah! -- against the Soviets and that is was still some how reprehensible for the USSR -- despite Stalin's oft stated intention not to initiate a conflict or go to war with the West (as proven in Soviet documents since made public ) -- to indulge in espionage, even in Australia, in order to defend itself.(So IF any in the CPA membership here could have been guilty -- but no one is actually proven to be so -- of espionage then, well, Menzies had an argument to justify banning the party!

Of course....

So while we are treated to the unlucky history of Australian physicist --Tom Kaiser -- every other blacklisted Communist who suffered under the rabid red baiting rages of Menzies , the ALP right and the Catholic Actionists is not even granted an aside. In this squeeze it's only a few talented intellectuals who suffer.

The most horrendous aspect of this exchange was the proposition then being entertained by Australian security authorities -- ie: ASIO as created by the ALP to prove that Australia could be as determined in the Cold War as the US and Britain --to INTERN all Australian communists and their families (after being rounded up) on an island in Bass Strait!

Does that sound familiar or what? Aliens from within and from without please note!

So in the USA ,while Ethel and Julius Rosenburgs, we're told, certainly didn't deserve to be executed they were after all guilty (albeit to a very small measure --at least, apparently) of indulging in espionage. And of course Vladimir Petrov spied...

Mais oui.

We are then led to believe that the measures generated to 'talk up' the threat -- such as Menzies campaign to ban the Communist Party here --were at least warranted to some degree.(Doh!) because the integrity of the nation was at stake. In this telling Bob Menzies gets a national guernsey for consistency(because he was as rabid in private as he was in public) --and the discourse is one primarily of ideology as though the actual conditions under capitalism at the time are a distraction to the narrative. But at least, we are informed, how the ALP in the forties sort to be as anti communist as Menzies and was more determined ( ie: Doc Evatt was determined ) to foster a nuclear dynamic in this country for the sake of the national good and to secure a place in the pecking order with Washington.

Our talking heads in this discourse are an odd mix at this dinner party discourse. Robert Manne (editor of Quadrant for so long)is introduced, for instance, as the concerned small "l" liberal who is as much of the centre to have marched in the Vietnam moratorium protest with the pragmatically considered banner ;"Neither Washington nor Hanoi!". So it doesn't take much to steer to the series producer's (Tom Morton) pride and joy, an audio grab of the sound of Turkish guest workers chipping down the Berlin Wall.


This isn't profound stuff, folks, nor very good history telling....but this series has a wonderful way with contradiction that seems to work against the story Morton is trying to tell.

So many questions are left hovering in this retelling so you have to be very eclectic to sit through the journey. But the series isn't simply shallow -- it is rather a conscious and somewhat crude attempt to blame the communists for the Cold War as though there was some basis in historical fact for the hysteria...for the commie can kicking of Menzies, of McCarthy...for the rush to grab nuclear supremacy.

Discourses like this series are handy nowadays when you're talking up the hot, open ended, war on terrorism keen for unilateral excuses to send in the troops as fancy dictates.

It's a replay. And if the Ist Act was based on a pack of lies(as it was) then we need to be extra careful in what we swallow this time around.

But hey! This series is so shallow and manipulated it's its own worse enemy.