‘An alien association’: Master of Arts thesis on Maoism and the Communist Party of China 1971-1977

The late John Herouvim wrote a Master of Arts thesis at La Trobe University in 1983, drawing on wide and meticulous research and interviews with Communist Party of Australia (ML) members and former members. The former members included veterans of the working class struggle such as Clarrie O’Shea, Bill Wilson and Marj Broadbent. Most of the interviewees were still members and requested anonymity but they wanted to speak because of their growing disillusionment with that party.

I only recently came upon a copy of the completed thesis. It hasn’t previously been scanned, to the best of my knowledge.

I am yet to read it properly but recall having a few differences with John, such as his use of the term ‘ultra left’ too loosely. At the time he was researching it, there were a few social-fascist types who tried to stop his progress. John purchased a large steel safe, like a fridge, in which he kept his notes and drafts. He told me once that the safe would even survive a bomb blast. Thank heavens, it was never put to that test.

Ted Hill, the party chairman, wasn’t happy about John’s research and declined to cooperate with him but I remember John telling me that Hill offered him unrestricted access to the archives of a small trade union should he drop the project and focus on a history of that union instead. Presumably, the party had strong influence in that union, whose name I forget.

The thesis is now an historical document about a party and period that, in my view today, represented the decline of the left. I didn’t articulate my frustrations in that way at the time but quit organisationally in late 1980 or early 1981 and had no problems with being interviewed by John for his thesis. I was in the esteemed company of Clarrie O’Shea, after all.

Nearly four decades on, I have scanned the thesis and share it here (in four parts).

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