Serious Love

A Review Essay of Dare to Dream The Memoirs of Tom and Audrey Mc Donald Stories of Struggle and Hope.

Below is an extract from this review essay of Dare to Dream The Memoirs of Tom and Audrey McDonald Stories of Struggle and Hope, November, 2016
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"This book deserves to be read widely. It is part of the story of contemporary Australia".

"One of the many interesting discussions of the book is Tom and Audrey’s life-long adherence to the doctrines of Marxism and Soviet communism. For ongoing cold warriors, like Greg Sheridan and Gerald Henderson, who continue to dominate our mainstream press and media, Tom and Audrey’s book would be unreadable and unforgiveable at the same time. What I think this response lacks is an understanding of the rigour and passion of the internal debates that took place, for the most part, peacefully within the Australian left. Tom and Audrey’s greatest strength is also perhaps their weakness, namely their loyalty. Audrey joined the Communist Party in 1956 when the Warsaw Pact countries invaded Hungary. She had already travelled the world and met Elizabeth Mafeking which influenced her life-long involvement with the African National Congress. I can understand why both Tom and Audrey were inspired by the Soviet Union. Communism enabled them to see the great diversity of the world, to study and think and most of all it gave them something to believe in. Both admit that they saw too slowly the tragedy and weaknesses of the Soviet Union and were both doctrinaire in their appreciation of the quality of for example Jack Mundey’s environmentalism and the more radical elements of Women’s Liberation. Notwithstanding the proud tradition of opposing Soviet expansion by the Communist Party of Australia the fact is many in the left were a bit too starry eyed about the East. It has been quite a stark realisation for me to realise in recent years that every one of my Russian ancestors – the Botsmans of St Petersburg – were killed in or around 1917 or in WWII or its aftermath. The only survivors were my great, great grandfather who left St Petersburg as a sponsored silversmith bound for the gold fields of Ballarat and Bendigo and the family of my distant cousin who lives in the Ukraine. With this new knowledge it was poignant to travel late last year to the Czech Republic and see the little plaques on houses in the old square of Prague for those who stood up to an unwanted communist dictatorship and national annexation and gave up their lives in the most trying circumstances. These little people were tortured, bullied and ultimately murdered. I came to understand a little of the stoic and modest, heroic qualities of the Czech people and their courageous non-violent Velvet Revolution of 1989. Five years earlier than this Tom and Audrey had resigned from the Stalinistic Socialist Party of Australia but they continued to admire the USSR partially because of its support for the South African National Congress and other international peoples’ struggles. Gorbachev and perestroika were I think what galvanized their critical views much later than most. I remember when the Evatt Foundation sponsored the trip to Australia of Gorbachev’s main and courageous economic adviser Abel Aganbegyan – the two most anxious to meet him were his Armenian country man Rene Rivkin and Tom and a delegation from the Building Workers Union. Rene gave him a trip around the harbour on his boat, Tom I remember gave him quite an intense grilling. It was my first contact with the great Tom McDonald and his brother Don and Stan Sharkey and I must admit it was interesting and unforgettable. I of course as a student had been a part time builders labourer and a great friend of Bobby Pringle the former President of the BLF and have many close friends and comrades who would have been on the other side of the fence during the momentous Green Ban years. My sympathies were elsewhere during that entire period but I knew there was something about Tom. He was the kind of bloke that you could respect and listen to and it was ultimately he who succeeded over the Gallagher forces that had been responsible for the demise of the Mundey forces. For the record I know that Tom and Audrey if ever personally confronted with tyranny or oppression would oppose it unconditionally. Bill Kelty sums it up pretty well: “Tom and Audrey are inspiring. At the same time, they demonstrate the truth and falsehoods of one of the world’s great revoluntionaries, Lenin. In so doing, they put on show the agony of choice between ideology and achievement, the immediate and the long term and words versus action. There is not one person in this country untouched or unaffected by Tom and Audrey’s life long political pursuits”. It’s so true."

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