Tim Thorne. A Letter to Egon Kisch. Launceston: Cornford Press, 2007 [Book Review]

2017-05-22T02:12:57Z (GMT) by David Blencowe
Allow me to set the scene. An author, famed for his journalism and political engagement (including known communist sympathies), is invited by a group of peace activists to come to Melbourne and speak at a congress they are holding. Upon arrival the author is promptly refused entry to Australia, although he has the appropriate visa. He has not technically commit-ted an offence, but the federal government is concerned by what he might say at the peace congress, and is worried that it could offend the sensibilities of a certain world power as well as give credence to a cause to which the government is antipathetic. The government is determined to deport him at whatever cost, the Attorney-General declaring to the media that the man in question “would not set foot on the soil of the Australian Common-wealth.” Sound like another episode in Howard’s Australia, with the government eager to stamp out the possibility of sedition coming from a foreign intellectual, who might criticise our ally, the USA, like Scott Parkin? It is not, but rather the welcome that greeted the Czech Egon Kisch upon his coming to Australia as the invited guest of the Movement Against War and Fas-cism. The year was 1934, the Attorney-General was not Phillip Ruddock but Robert Menzies, and the world power whose offence the government wished to prevent was none other than Nazi Germany.