A tribute to Quadrant magazine

As we celebrate the Fall of the Wall 20 years ago we should remember the  effort that was put in by the friends of freedom in the West during the Cold War. I am thinking of the  worldwide network of groups which resisted the propaganda efforts of the communists and their fellow travellers. This was an uneasy alliance at times, involving a coalition of social democrats, social conservatives, classical liberals and others. Not surprisingly, the alliance did not long survive the Fall of the Wall. Robert Manne, who earned our gratitude for his principled stand on communism did not maintain alliance with the free traders, for example.

Quadrant magazine was the Australian organ of his effort, initially under the editorship of James McAuley. The early issues make interesting reading, especially for those of us who came to it years after when we had been told that it was a magazine of unbridled rightwing prejudice. For the most part, excepting a fiery editorial and mission statement  from McAuley it was nothing of the kind. It hosted a wide range of opinions which were expressed with the utmost civility. This is Peter Coleman’s account of the McAuley Quadrants.

The first issue was far more literary than some of McAuley’s polemics had suggested it might be. He would not allow Quadrant, he had announced, “to exemplify that ideal of a completely colourless, odourless, tasteless, inert and neutral mind on all fundamental issues which some people mistake for liberalism.”  The first issue had poems by Rosemary Dobson, Judith Wright. A.D.Hope, Vincent Buckley and Roland Robinson. (They all were metrical and rhymed.) There were articles by Hope, Alan Villiers, George Molnar, and George Kardoss.  There were reviews of Patrick White, David Campbell and Judith Wright. 

The friends of communism had a windfall when it was found that the CIA contributed funds to the freedom movement, including Quadrant. As if this invalidated a single word that was printed in the magazine. The knockers of Quadrant have yet to understand or admit that in the Cold War the friends of Quadrant were on the correct side and the communists and fellow travellers were not.

Rest in honourable peace, James McAuley, Richard Krygier and other helpers.

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7 Responses to A tribute to Quadrant magazine

  1. zoot says:

    The knockers of Quadrant have yet to understand or admit that in the Cold War the friends of Quadrant were on the correct side and the communists and fellow travellers were not.

    Not sure what you mean by the “correct” side. I can understand they were on “our” side, or the “winning” side, but what on earth is the “correct” side. It sounds as if they sat an exam.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts zoot.

    You can think of it as an exam which was failed by a great many lefties, especially intellectuals. But as Orwell wrote, it helps to be a certain kind of intellectual to support communism.

    Some intellectuals are still rusted on, Eric Hobsbawn for example.

    What do you think about that?

  3. zoot says:

    Still wondering what you meant by “correct”.

  4. Chris Lloyd says:

    I cannot see the point of this sequence of posts Rafe. Perhaps you should just send themto Eric Hobsbawn instead. The overwhelming majority of people were fanatically anti-communist in the 50s and 60s. Anti-communism was used as a tool to suppress any sort of discussion of state ownership, industrial democracy, worker solidarity. There was no need for a CIA funded an anti-socialist magazine.

    The fact that the CIA thought it worthwhile to finance Quadrant in the most anti-communist country in the world next to the US shows what a paranoid rabble they were, and still are. They neednt have bothered. All the major newspapers were 100% anti-communist already. Please dont point me to any Cato institute link of historical accounts of the communist conspiracy to take over unions. There was never any real threat. I say again 99% of people in Australia would punch you in the nose if you said you were a communist. Can you point to a single western nation that came close to a communist revolution?

    Stalin was bad because he killed his own people, invaded neighbouring states and supported communist revolutionaries in the third world. Apart from the nukes (a big issue) he was never a threat to Australia.

    Just for the record Rafe since you seem to think it is necessary that every Australian do this not only am I sorry for the Stolen Generation but I hereby acknowledge that the communists and fellow travellers were on the wrong side if by communists you mean supporters of the Russian state rather than those who just believed in more state ownership or industrial democracy. But the friends of Quadrant were also on the wrong side. Like Joe McCarthy, they used an imaginary threat and a small number of vocal Australian Russia supporters to support a general right wing agenda and distort the political landscape for decades. Not so different from the way the imaginary threat of the Muslims destroying the world is used these days.

  5. Niall says:

    Chris……wash out your mouth!! That Muslim Threat is far from imaginary. To some.

  6. zoot says:

    Can you point to a single western nation that came close to a communist revolution?

    Does Italy count? (We’d have to agree on a definition of “close”)
    I find the whole implied triumphalism a bit strange given the looming prospect of Chinese dominance. Or are they not real communists?

  7. Tel_ says:

    There’s an interesting parallel between Stalin’s imaginary enemies of the state that made him feel it was necessary to run regular show trials (with executions) as compared with Joe McCarthy’s reds under the bed and his famous trials (fortunately no executions, still hurt a lot of people).

    Common theme: any centralised power structure will have a tendency to consolidate its authority by fostering intolerance. The more totalitarian the central power, the more violent and arbitrary will be the political purges. It really doesn’t matter what exactly they are being intolerant about, the objective of the exercise is to impose fear and obedience.

    So the important question is, did Quadrant encourage tolerance or intolerance? I’ll leave the answer for people who actually read it.

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