B. A. Santamaria

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Santamaria with Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Matthew Beovich at the first Catholic Action Youth rally in 1943 Matthew Beovich and B A Santamaria 1943.jpg
Santamaria with Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Matthew Beovich at the first Catholic Action Youth rally in 1943

Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria, usually known as B. A. Santamaria (14 August 1915 – 25 February 1998), was an Australian Roman Catholic anti-Communist political activist and journalist. He was a guiding influence in the founding of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).

Anti-communism political position

Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an intense rivalry. Anti-communism has been an element of movements holding many different political positions, including nationalist, social democratic, liberal, libertarian, conservative, fascist, capitalist, anarchist and even socialist viewpoints.

Democratic Labor Party (historical) former political party in Australia

The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) was an Australian political party. The party came into existence following the 1955 Labor split as the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), was renamed the Democratic Labor Party in 1957 and continued to exist until 1978.


Early and family life

Santamaria was born in Melbourne. The son of a greengrocer who was an immigrant from the Aeolian Islands in Italy, Santamaria was educated at St Ambrose's Catholic Primary School in Brunswick, behind his father's shop, and later at St Joseph's College in North Melbourne by the Christian Brothers. He finished his secondary education at St Kevin's College as dux of the school. One of his teachers, Francis Maher, belonged to a newly founded Roman Catholic association, the Campion Society. Santamaria attended the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in arts and law. He completed his Master of Arts degree with a thesis entitled "Italy Changes Shirts: The Origins of Italian Fascism". Santamaria was a political activist from an early age, becoming a leading Catholic student activist and speaking in support of Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War.

Melbourne City in Victoria, Australia

Melbourne is the capital and most populous city of the Australian state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Its name refers to an urban agglomeration of 9,992.5 km2 (3,858.1 sq mi), comprising a metropolitan area with 31 municipalities, and is also the common name for its city centre. The city occupies much of the coastline of Port Phillip bay and spreads into the hinterlands towards the Dandenong and Macedon ranges, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. It has a population of approximately 4.9 million, and its inhabitants are referred to as "Melburnians".

Aeolian Islands archipelago

The Aeolian Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The islands' inhabitants are known as Aeolians. The Aeolian Islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer and attract up to 200,000 visitors annually.

Brunswick, Victoria Suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Brunswick is an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of Melbourne's central business district. Its local government area is the City of Moreland. At the 2016 Census, Brunswick had a population of 24,473.

Santamaria was married in 1939 and had eight children. In 1980 his wife, Helen, died. He later married Dorothy Jensen, his long-time secretary. His brother, Joseph, was a Melbourne surgeon and prominent in the Roman Catholic bioethics movement. [1]

Bioethics is the study of the ethical issues emerging from advances in biology and medicine. It is also moral discernment as it relates to medical policy and practice. Bioethics are concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, and philosophy. It includes the study of values relating to primary care and other branches of medicine. Ethics also relates to many other sciences outside the realm of biological sciences.

Catholic Worker movements

In 1936 he co-founded The Catholic Worker , a newspaper influenced by the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly the encyclical Rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII. He was the first editor of the paper which declared itself opposed to both communism and capitalism. Although the group campaigned for the rights of workers and against what it saw as the excesses of capitalism, Santamaria came to see the Communist Party of Australia, which in the 1940s made great advances in the Australian trade union movement, as the main enemy. In 1937 he was persuaded by Archbishop Daniel Mannix to join the National Secretariat of Catholic Action, a lay activist organisation. [ citation needed ]

An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Roman Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop. The word comes from Late Latin encyclios.

<i>Rerum novarum</i> encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891

Rerum novarum, or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on 15 May 1891. It was an open letter, passed to all Catholic patriarchs, primates, archbishops and bishops, that addressed the condition of the working classes.

Pope Leo XIII 256th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Leo XIII was head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death. He was the oldest pope, and had the third-longest confirmed pontificate, behind that of Pius IX and John Paul II.

During World War II, Santamaria gained an exemption from military service. In 1972 Arthur Calwell, a leading Catholic Labor politician, confirmed that Santamaria had "dodged" war service after Mannix had approached him to gain the exemption. [2] When asked, Calwell stated "I want to put the record straight because apparently the Department of Defence cannot find any of the records, nor can the Department of Labour and National Service." [2] Santamaria and two other men (Maher and K. W. Mitchell[ who? ]) were, argued Mannix, "members of the Secretariat of Catholic Action and that their work was equivalent to that of a minister of religion." Calwell said 'I regret my part in it... I want the country to know that these three men who have been pestering and opposing and demonstrating against the Australian Labor Party for the last 30 years were people who dodged military service'. [2] He reflected on the Vietnam War and noted that all three supported it and "conscription of men for military service", adding "I regret that these people who benefited from our generosity did not beget any children who went out to fight in the war in Vietnam. Their sons were exempted, all of them, because they were employed in reserve institutions as were their fathers." [2] Santamaria denied the allegation that he had ever sought an exemption [3] and stated that 'if Mr Calwell repeated his statement outside of parliament he would take appropriate action'. [4] Calwell moderated his statements regarding Maher, but not on Mitchell or Santamaria. In May 1972, previously missing records were found confirming Calwell's version. [3]

Arthur Calwell Australian politician

Arthur Augustus Calwell KCSG was an Australian politician who served as the leader of the Labor Party from 1960 to 1967. He led the party to three federal elections without success.

Australian Labor Party Political party in Australia

The Australian Labor Party is a major centre-left political party in Australia. The party has been in opposition at the federal level since the 2013 election. Bill Shorten has been the party's federal parliamentary leader since 13 October 2013. The party is a federal party with branches in each state and territory. Labor is in government in the states of Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and in both the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. The party competes against the Liberal/National Coalition for political office at the federal and state levels. It is the oldest political party in Australia.

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was an undeclared war in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war is considered a Cold War-era proxy war from some US perspectives. It lasted some 19 years with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973 following the Paris Peace Accords, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist states in 1975.

In 1941, Santamaria founded the Catholic Social Studies Movement, generally known simply as "the Movement" or Groupers, which recruited Catholic activists to oppose the spread of communism, particularly in the trade unions. The movement gained control of the Industrial Groups in the unions, fighting the communists and gaining control of many unions. This activity brought him into conflict not only with the Communist Party but with many left-wing Labor Party members, who favoured a united front with the communists during the war. During the 1930s and 1940s Santamaria generally supported the conservative Catholic wing of the Labor Party, but as the Cold War developed after 1945 his anti-communism drove him further away from Labor, particularly when H.V. Evatt became Leader of the Labor Party in 1951. Seven Labor MPs, elected from Victoria and associates of Santamaria, criticised Evatt's leadership over the next four years. [ citation needed ]

The Industrial Groups were groups formed by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in the late 1940s, to combat Communist Party influence in the trade unions.

A united front is an alliance of groups against their common enemies, figuratively evoking unification of previously separate geographic fronts and/or unification of previously separate armies into a front—the name often refers to a political and/or military struggle carried out by revolutionaries, especially in revolutionary socialism, communism or anarchism. The basic theory of the united front tactic among socialists was first developed by the Comintern, an international communist organization created by communists in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. According to the thesis of the 1922 4th World Congress of the Comintern:

The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie.

Cold War State of geopolitical tension after World War II between powers in the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. A common historiography of the conflict begins between 1946, the year U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow cemented a U.S. foreign policy of containment of Soviet expansionism threatening strategically vital regions, and the Truman Doctrine of 1947, and ending between the Revolutions of 1989 and the 1991 collapse of the USSR, which ended communism in Eastern Europe. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.

Labor split and the National Civic Council

Events leading to "The Split" included a well publicised incident in the Parliament of Victoria. In October 1954, the Sydney Sun-Herald reported on a letter sent by the Victorian Minister for Lands, Robert W. Holt, to the federal secretary of the Australian Labor Party, a Mr J. Schmella, which the paper described as "probably as explosive, politically, as any document in Australia". [5] Holt stated "My charge is that the Victorian branch is controlled and directed in the main by one group or section through Mr. B. Santamaria ... My criticism is not personal. It is leveled against those ideas which are contrary to what I believe Labor policy to be. Moreover, I have been requested by my numerous and trusted friends, who happen to be Catholic, to fight against the influence of Mr. Santamaria and those he represents, when he seeks to implement his ideas through an abuse of a political movement, designed to serve a truly political purpose." [5]

Holt spoke of events the previous year and describes attending a meeting of Santamaria's National Catholic Rural Movement Convention, following which he was, as Minister of Lands, approached by Santamaria and Frank Scully, where he was asked to use his position to make Crown land available to "Italians with foreign capital". When he refused, "Santamaria stated that I might not be in the next parliament", and Scully agreed. Holt considered this "a direct threat" which was confirmed when another M.L.A. confided that there was 'pressure' to oppose him for party selection for his seat. He added that "subsequent events which happened during the selection ballot' had convinced him that the ALP's "Victorian branch is not free to implement Labor policy and connives with this method". [5] He concluded by stating his belief in:

a party machine which permits the true expression of opinion of its members, regardless of who or what they may be. The only requirement is loyalty to Labor ideals and principles. This is not possible in the present circumstances... [5]

Holt introduced the Land Bill without Santamaria's desired advantage and it was at first amended by another ALP member, then defeated, amended again and passed – with what Santamaria wanted – after two Liberal party members "switched sides". [5] In December 1954, Santamaria launched a suit against Holt for libel, citing the letter published in-full by the Sun-Herald. [6] The libel action was withdrawn, without explanation, in April 1955. [7]

In 1954 Evatt publicly blamed "the Groupers" for Labor's defeat in that year's federal election, and after a tumultuous National Conference in Hobart in 1955, Santamaria's parliamentary followers were expelled from the Labor Party. The resulting split (now usually called "The Split", although there have been several other "splits" in Labor history) brought down the Labor government of John Cain senior in Victoria. In Victoria, Dr Mannix strongly supported Santamaria, but in New South Wales, Norman Cardinal Gilroy, the first Australian-born Roman Catholic prelate, opposed him, favouring the traditional alliance between the Church and Labor. Gilroy's influence in Rome helped to end official Church support for the Groupers. In January 1955, Santamaria used Dr Mannix as his witness to the statement, "There is no Catholic organisation seeking to dominate the Labor Party or any other political party ... So that there will be no equivocation, Catholics are not associated with any other secular body seeking to dominate the Labor Party or any other political party." [8]

Santamaria made this statement when he denied charges from the general secretary of the Australian Workers' Union (Mr T Dougherty) that the "No. 2-man in the Victorian ALP" (Frank McManus), the "No. 2-man in the NSW Labor Party" (J. Kane) and the "secretary of the Australian Rules Football Association of Queensland" (Mr Polgrain) were Santamaria's "top lieutenants in The Movement". For his part, McManus suggested that Dougherty "appeared to have contracted an ailment from one of his political colleagues ... the chief symptom of this ailment was that the sufferer believed he was always detecting conspiracy theories". [8]

Santamaria founded a new organisation no longer an organ of Catholic Action, the National Civic Council (NCC), and edited its newspaper, News Weekly , for many years. His followers, known as Groupers, continued to control a number of important unions. Those expelled from the Labor Party formed a new party, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), dedicated to opposing both Communism and the Labor Party, which they said was controlled by Communist sympathisers. Santamaria never joined the DLP but was one of its guiding influences. [ citation needed ]

Anti-communist and social conservative

During the 1960s and 1970s Santamaria regularly warned of the dangers of communism in Southeast Asia, and supported South Vietnam and the United States in the Vietnam War. He founded the Australian Family Association and the Thomas More Centre (for Traditional Catholicism) to extend the work of the NCC. However, his political role gradually declined. The death of the 99-year-old Archbishop Mannix (in 1963) ended the Roman Catholic Church's support for the NCC, even in Victoria. In 1974 the DLP lost all its seats in the Senate, and was wound up a few years later. Santamaria ran the NCC in a highly personal and (according to his critics) autocratic way, and in 1982 there was a serious split in the organisation, with most of the trade unionists leaving it.

The first of four unions disaffiliated after the split of 1955, attempted to return at the ALP Victorian State Conference in 1983. [9] The Federated Clerks' Union and three others similarly aligned 'right-wing' unions – the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the Federated Ironworkers' Association of Australia and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners – had their re-affiliation cases considered by a special Victorian ALP committee of ten which split on the decision 5 against 5 and had submitted separate reports to the State Conference. The Federated Clerks' case, 'after a bitter and at times acrimonious 3 and a 1/2-hour debate', which was 'centred on alleged links' with Santamaria, the National Civic Council, and the Industrial Action Fund, was defeated at the State Conference by 289 votes to 189. [9] It was noted in a news report of the time that all four were likely to appeal to the federal ALP executive and that they had the support of then Prime Minister Bob Hawke. [9] The ALP federal executive supported the re-affiliation before the 1985 Victorian State Conference [10] while two of the unions were refused re-affiliation in the Northern Territory later that year. [11] Ultimately, all four returned as ALP affiliated unions in some form; the Federated Clerks' Union amalgamated into the affiliated Australian Services Union in 1993, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association is a current ALP affiliated union, while the Federated Ironworkers' Association of Australia and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners amalgamated with the affiliated Australian Workers' Union. [12]

But Santamaria's personal stature continued to grow, through his regular column in The Australian newspaper and his regular television spot, Point of View (he was given free air time by Frank Packer, owner of the Nine Network). He was one of the most articulate voices of Australian conservatism for more than 20 years. [13]

He was offered a knighthood by Malcolm Fraser but declined it. [14]

Traditionalism in the Catholic Church

Santamaria also opposed what he saw as liberal and non-traditional trends in the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council (which he had sought to attend as an independent observer), and founded a magazine through his Thomas More Centre, called AD 2000 [15] , to argue for traditionalist views. He welcomed Pope John Paul II's return to conservatism in many areas.

The conservative Archbishop of Melbourne, George Cardinal Pell, a staunch supporter of Santamaria, delivered the panegyric at his funeral, which was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne. Santamaria had died from an inoperable brain tumour at age 82 at Caritas Christi Hospice, Kew, Victoria. On his death Santamaria was praised by conservatives for his opposition to communism, but also by some on the left (such as veteran left-wing Labor ex-Cabinet Minister Clyde Cameron) and by social democrats (such as former Governor-General Bill Hayden) for his consistent critique of unrestricted capitalism. [ citation needed ]





Critical studies, reviews and biographies of Santamaria

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  1. J.N. Santamaria, The Education of Dr Joe, Connor Court, Ballan, 2006.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Santamaria's exemption". The Canberra Times . 24 February 1972. p. 1. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  3. 1 2 "Denial 'given the lie'". The Canberra Times . 18 May 1972. p. 11. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  4. "Chairman of NCC replies to Calwell". The Canberra Times . 25 February 1972. p. 1. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "EXPLOSIVE LETTER ON SANTAMARIA LABOUR MOVEMENT ABUSED. SAYS M.L.A." The Sun-Herald . Sydney. 31 October 1954. p. 5. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "SANTAMARIA SEEKS LIBEL DAMAGES". The Examiner . Launceston, Tasmania. 14 December 1954. p. 1. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "Santamaria ends action". The Argus . Melbourne. 1 April 1955. p. 9. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  8. 1 2 "A.W.U. chief's 'movement' charge "UNTRUE", REPLIES Mr. SANTAMARIA". The Argus . Melbourne. 29 January 1955. p. 5. Retrieved 13 August 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  9. 1 2 3 "Bitter debate ALP vote keeps union out". The Canberra Times . 24 June 1984. p. 1. Retrieved 21 September 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "The Canberra Times". The Canberra Times . 20 March 1985. p. 2. Retrieved 21 September 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  11. "Unions refused affiliation". The Canberra Times . 5 May 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 21 September 2013 via National Library of Australia.
  12. "Our Proud Past – A Brief History". CFMEU Construction. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  13. Santamaria interview
  14. Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 28 January 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2017
  15. Victoria Balwyn. "AD 2000 : a journal of religious opinion". Peter Westmore for the Thomas More Centre, 1988-2015. Retrieved 17 March 2018.