Australian politics, society & culture

Share

Apologetics and Hypocrisy

An Exchange on Australian anticommunism and the Indonesian massacre of 1965-6 between Gerard Henderson and Robert Manne

Cover: September 2008September 2008Long read
 

‘There is no crime which cannot be condoned when "our" side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one knows it is exactly the same crime as one has condemned in some other case, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified-still one cannot feel that it is wrong. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function." George Orwell ‘Notes on Nationalism' (1945)

As those who follow ideological politics in Australia are aware, it is one of Gerard Henderson's many unpleasant habits to engage his enemies in legalistic email exchanges, usually based on a petty grievance about something they have said or written about him, and then, after their patience has been exhausted, to publish the exchanges without permission in his in-house magazine, the grandly titled Sydney Institute Quarterly. On August 22 I was informed by a friend that Henderson had published an email exchange between himself and me on the question of the anticommunist intelligentsia in Australia and the mass murder of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 communists or suspected communists in 1965-6. I soon discovered that this was indeed the case. The email exchange was published without my permission. But not only that. Prior to its publication the editor of The Monthly, Sally Warhaft, had asked for Henderson's permission to publish the full email exchange on The Monthly website. Henderson refused. At this time the edition of The Sydney Institute Quarterly which contained a version of the email exchange had already gone to print. Hypocrisy was the least of it, however. In what was published, Henderson, conveniently enough, left out the only email where I outlined my position in detail on the political and moral failure of the anticommunist camp, the camp to which both Henderson and I once belonged.

In what follows the unexpurgated email exchange is published without even the smallest alteration (including my late night misspellings of James McAuley's name). It is published not mainly as a comment on the ethical standards of the Director of the Sydney Institute, nor even as evidence of his legalistic pedantry, evasiveness, disingenuousness and intellectual shallowness. All this is too well known to require demonstration. It is published, rather, because, strangely enough, so far as I am aware, the issue I raised in passing in my original Monthly article on Wilfred Burchett-the willingness of the Australian anticommunist camp to support, in one way or another, one of the great political crimes of the twentieth century, the Indonesian mass murder of 1965-6, where approximately as many died as in the Armenian genocide of 1915 or in the Rwanda genocide of 1994-has never before been discussed by anyone associated with the anticommunist camp. As readers of this exchange will see, Australian anticommunists supported one of the great crimes of the twentieth century in a variety of ways-by turning a blind eye to the horror of what had occurred; by openly applauding the consequence of the crime; by failing to discuss the atrocity in an appropriate moral register; by supporting in words and deeds those who helped unleash the mass murder; by denying publicly that these people had been involved, and so on. They will also see that in the email that Henderson did not publish I asked him a simple and direct question. Did he regard these mass murders as a crime against humanity? Predictably enough, Henderson failed to reply.

To enable readers to understand this exchange the passage in dispute in my original article in The Monthly (June 2008) is reproduced here:

The recent rise in Burchett's reputation is not difficult to explain. Part of the reason lies in the determination of his son, George Burchett, who has been an intrepid defender of his father's literary legacy and political reputation. Part lies in the rise of anti-American sentiment among the Australian intelligentsia following the unlawful and catastrophic invasion of Iraq. Part lies in the parochialism of many members of the Australian Left, who seem to be more shocked by the injustice of the Menzies Government's denial of a passport to Burchett after his exploits during the Korean War than they are by Burchett's life-long apologetics on behalf of a string of murderous regimes.

 

But there is more to it than that. The Burchett revival is founded upon a distinctive form of post-Cold War intellectual inertia, an unwillingness to re-examine judgments made during the Cold War. There are three main reasons for this inertia. The first is vanity or pride. Those who have once been utterly convinced of a cause do not find it easy to admit they were wrong. The second is rancour. Many people find it galling to make retrospective concessions to old enemies over matters where they had once dug in. The third concerns the peculiar nature of political friendships formed at time of intense ideological dispute. People feel that breaking ranks with old political comrades on whom they once relied involves betrayal or breach of faith. For these reasons many of Burchett's supporters seem unwilling to reconsider the Burchett question, despite everything they know about the human catastrophe of Communism, the cause on which Burchett gambled in his youth and to which, despite the pyramids of corpses, he clung for the entirety of his adult life. This kind of inertia is not of course restricted to the Left. Many of Burchett's enemies seem incapable of reassessing their support for indefensible causes, like the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian Communists in the mid-1960s or the war in Vietnam, where opposition to American behaviour turned out to be right. The unwillingness of politicians like John Howard or journalists like Greg Sheridan or Gerard Henderson to confront the military failure and the human cost of Australia's earlier involvement in the military action in Vietnam helped make possible our enthusiastic participation in the even more disastrous invasion of Iraq. In the United States, the intellectual inertia of the Right has been of real historical significance. The group most responsible for the Iraq invasion-the neo-conservative intelligentsia-were united in their belief that the Vietnam War was just and that America had been defeated only because of left-wing treachery on the home front.

 

********************

Gerard Henderson to Sally Warhaft, copied to The Monthly Board, 5 June 2008

It was good to meet you at the 2020 Summit.

As I have said in the past, The Monthly is perhaps the only serious journal of opinion in the English speaking world which does not carry a correspondence page in its printed edition. This implies that The Monthly is not really interested in the views of its readers. More seriously, this policy prevents those who are criticised or attacked in The Monthly from obtaining access to any adequate right of reply.

Not for the first time, Robert Manne has made an untrue statement about me in The Monthly. And, not for the first time, I have no adequate right of reply. In view of the fact that Professor Manne is chairman of The Monthly's editorial board, this involves your journal in a conflict of interest situation. Your chairman can write what he likes in The Monthly. And those whom he criticises have no right of reply in The Monthly.

In his article "Agent of Influence: Reassessing Wilfred Burchett" in the June 2008 edition of The Monthly, Robert Manne makes the following claim:

"Many of Burchett's enemies seem incapable of reassessing their support for indefensible causes, like the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in the mid '60s, or the war in Vietnam, where opposition to American behaviour turned out to be right.

The unwillingness of politicians like John Howard, or journalists like Greg Sheridan or Gerard Henderson, to confront the military failure and the human cost of Australia's earlier involvement in Vietnam helped make possible our enthusiastic participation in the even more disastrous invasion of Iraq."

This is a wilfully false statement. Robert Manne alleges that I lent "support" to "the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in the mid '60s". The fact is that I have never supported massacres in Indonesia or anywhere else.

I ask you, in your capacity as The Monthly's editor, what evidence does Robert Manne have to document his claim that I lent "support" to the "massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists" in 1965?

I am not aware that anyone in Australia supported these killings. Not even the likes of Professor Heinz Arndt and Paul Keating who were the strongest supporters of the Soeharto regime in Australia.

Robert Manne is on record as claiming that I made inaccurate comments about him in the current issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. He has not stated what the (alleged) errors are. If Professor Manne chooses to document his allegation, I will publish his response in the next edition of The Sydney Institute Quarterly.

The Monthly, on the other hand, does not carry letters-to-the-editor page in its print edition and does not employ a fact-checker to vet articles before publication.

Please advise how I can correct Professor Manne's untrue claim with respect to me in the current edition of The Monthly.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 5 June 2008

Can't you read? The comment about you OBVIOUSLY refers only to Vietnam.

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 5 June 2008

If this is what the words you wrote really meant, you can't write. Or perhaps your sophistry has simply got the better of you. I (along with John Howard and Greg Sheridan) am the only person referred to in the paragraph where you describe Burchett's enemies as having supported the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in 1965. On any reasonable interpretation of the paragraph, your reference is to me and Howard and Sheridan. If it wasn't to us, then who are the "Burchett enemies" who supported the massacres? Precisely who do you have in mind?

Please name names - if you have names.

I have yet to hear from the editor on this matter. I trust she has the autonomy to make her own decisions in such instances and is not overridden by the chairman of the editorial board.

 

Gerard Henderson to Sally Warhaft, copied to The Monthly Board, 13 June 2008

I note that you have not replied to my email of 5 June 2008 - although The Monthly's editorial board chairman Robert Manne responded in his capacity as contributor to The Monthly. I remain interested in your own response as the editor of The Monthly who decided to publish Professor Manne's article in the first place.

As you know, Robert Manne commenced his piece in the June 2008 edition of The Monthly with reference to the support which Wilfred Burchett has received from "Australian left-wing academics" and "prominent expatriate left-wing journalists". He named names - viz. Stuart Macintyre, Gavan McCormack, Ben Kiernan, John Pilger and Phillip Knightley. There followed, soon after, a reference to "Burchett's enemies". The clear implication was that this reference turned on Australian academics/journalists who were not on the left. However, in this instance, no names were named.

Professor Manne made the most serious charge:

"Many of Burchett's enemies seem incapable of reassessing their support for indefensible causes, like the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in the mid '60s...."

As a Professor of Politics, it is all but inconceivable that Robert Manne would have made so serious an allegation without supporting evidence. So, who does he have in mind?

Burchett did not have many enemies in Australia who wrote or commented about him. As far as I am aware, the following list includes Wilfred Burchett's known enemies who publicly criticised his views and actions viz:

Peter Coleman
Brigadier P.J. Grenville
Gerard Henderson
Jack Kane (Deceased)
Richard Krygier (Deceased)
Peter Kelly
Robert Manne
James McAuley (Deceased)
John Paul
Roland Perry
Peter Samuel
B.A. Santamaria (Deceased)
Greg Sheridan
Denis Warner
Bruce Watson

Robert Manne did not support the massacres in Indonesia in 1965 and beyond. Moreover, in his email to me dated 5 June 2008, he has acknowledged that I did not do so.

The question remains - who of the remaining names on this list does Professor Manne maintain supported the Indonesian massacres? Or are there other people that he has in mind?

I know that The Monthly does not run a letters-to-the-editor page in its print edition. Consequently, there is no way that I can ask Professor Manne in The Monthly to document his evidence. However, the Sydney Institute Quarterly is prepared to run correspondence (including critical correspondence). You, as editor of The Monthly - or Professor Manne - are welcome to provide supporting evidence for the serious allegation contained in the June 2008 issue of The Monthly. I will publish such material (if, of course, it exists) in The Sydney Institute Quarterly.

It is all the more important for Robert Manne to provide evidence for his assertion since some of his (apparent) targets are dead and cannot defend themselves.

I have followed Australian history for the past four decades and I am not aware of anyone in Australia who lent support to the massacres which took place in Indonesia in the mid 1960s. Not a single person. However, I am willing to examine any evidence Professor Manne may have to support his (so far undocumented) assertion.

 

Sally Warhaft to Gerard Henderson, 13 June 2008

I have been overseas working on a story, hence the delay in responding to your email. As I have said before, we do have a letters page - online, it's the modern age - and you are welcome to write a response, which we will post. It can be any length and we will not edit it. We would welcome your contribution. 

 

Gerard Henderson to Sally Warhaft, 13 June 2008

Thanks. Modern age or no modern age, a reply on-line does not adequately address an unproven allegation published in a print edition. If The Monthly is as modern as you suggest, why bother with the print edition at all? Why not put all the magazine on-line? But since you have a print-edition what's the policy of refusing to run a Letters-to-the-Editor section in it?

If I make an unproven allegation in The Sydney Morning Herald, the Editor or the Letters Editor or the Opinion Page Editor can run a reply on the Letters Page or the Opinion Page. Alternatively, errors can be corrected in the Correction section - both in hard-copy and on-line. The SMH would never advise someone seeking a redress that it would only be published on-line.

So, I will not be submitting a letter to The Monthly's on-line edition. However, I still believe that you - as editor - have a duty to ensure that your contributors provide evidence for assertions made in articles which you have chosen for The Monthly. I ask again - where is the evidence for the allegation made by Robert Manne that enemies of Wilfred Burchett supported the massacres in Indonesia in the mid and late 60's?

I look forward to you providing this material in due course.

 

Gerard Henderson to Sally Warhaft, copied to The Monthly Board, 8 July 2008

My copy of the July edition of The Monthly has just arrived. As far as I can see, Robert Manne has not provided any material to document his allegation in The Monthly's edition of June 2008 that "many of [Wilfred] Burchett's enemies" supported "the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in the mid '60s".

Since The Monthly refuses to run letters from its readers in the print edition, there is no way that I can request this information in The Monthly's print edition. In view of this, it seems to me that - as editor - you have a professional duty to ask your contributors to document the evidence they have to support serious allegations of this kind.

It is very simple. All Robert Manne has to do is to name the enemies of Wilfred Burchett whom he alleges supported the massacres which took place in Indonesia in the mid 1960s. The task should take no more than five minutes - assuming, of course, that Professor Manne does have evidence to support his allegation.

I note your recent claim that "it's the modern age" and I should be satisfied with responding in The Monthly's on-line edition, which does run a letters page. Your email of 13 June 2008 refers.

I note that The Monthly's editorial board chairman is not so committed to the "modern age". When he alleged that I had "misread" an article of his which was printed in The Monthly, Robert Manne sought to have a reply published in the print edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. The SMH Letters Editor ran Professor Manne's letter on 14 April 2008 - it was also published in the SMH's on-line edition.

To repeat, I would like to receive the same treatment in The Monthly as Robert Manne receives in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the meantime, I look forward to Robert Manne naming the names of those enemies of Wilfred Burchett whom he alleges supported the massacres which took place in Indonesia in the mid 1960s.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 8 July 2008

If you write a letter to appear on The Monthly website outlining (a) your question to me and (b) your own view on the issue at stake i.e. what you think to have been the response of the anticommunist politicians and intelligentsia to the Suharto-et al-inspired massacre of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Indonesian communists or suspected communists after 1965, I promise to reply in detail. I do not intend to waste my time replying to you privately. I want the dispute to proceed in public.

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 8 July 2008

You seem somewhat confused.

  • I have already been refused the right to have a letter published in The Monthly's print edition. And I have already indicated that I do not regard a letter published in The Monthly's on-line edition as an adequate response to something which has been published in The Monthly's print edition. My recent email correspondence with The Monthly's editor refers. You should be aware of this in your capacity as chairman of The Monthly's editorial board.
  • All I have asked you to do is to name the names of the enemies of Wilfred Burchett whom you allege supported the massacres which occurred in Indonesia in the second half of the 1960s. That's all. It's called supporting assertions with evidence.
  • Contrary to your claim, I am not seeking to have a private debate with you. All I have asked you to do is to provide evidence in support of your serious allegation.
  • The Monthly is perhaps the only serious journal of opinion in the English speaking world which refuses to publish the views of its readers in its print edition. This policy seems designed to protect contributors to The Monthly (yourself included) from any criticism - including a request that they support undocumented assertions with evidence.
  • I look forward to hearing from Sally Warhaft when she returns to the office in response to my note sent to her this morning.
  • Unless you name the names of those enemies of Wilfred Burchett whom you allege supported the killings in Indonesia, I do not intend continuing this personal correspondence with you.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 8 July 2008

I intend to write on this issue.

If you're interested in this issue you could read the Ph D by Karim Najjarine, "Australian Diplomacy Towards Indonesia 1965-1972". Najjarine argues: "From the time of the attempted coup until March 1966, Canberra's efforts were focused on gauging the transfer of real authority in Indonesia and doing everything in its power to assist the Army in its drive against both the PKI and Sukarno..." He argues that the CIA and ASIS were "involved in efforts before September 30 [1965] to destabilize Sukarno's leadership and encourage senior Army officers to seize power. Such evidence also implicates these organizations in the attempted coup and assistance to the Army throughout the period. This assistance included providing material assistance to the Army in the purge of hundreds of thousands of suspected PKI members and sympathizers following the coup." He also argues that Canberra "assisted the Army at this crucial stage by failing to openly criticize or attack the Army for massacres which left hundreds of thousands of people dead."

You could also examine Harold Holt's remark on the massacres reported in The New York Times on July 6 1966. This is what Harold Holt said about the post-massacre situation in Indonesia: "With 500,000 to one million Communist sympathizers knocked off, I think it is safe to assume a reorientation [in Indonesia] has taken place." What, Gerard, would you think of a Western statesman who, following the Holocaust, said: "With six million Jews knocked off I think it is safe to assume a reorientation in Europe has taken place"?

For an article that pretends without a skerrick of evidence that Suharto was opposed to the massacres you could look at Heinz Arndt in Australian Outlook of April 1968. Here is what Heinz says three years after the murder of hundreds of thousands: "Indonesia now has a very much more moderate, more rational, more pragmatic leadership than for many years". Concerning "acts of oppression, even persecution of real or suspected enemies... most of this reflects, not the will of the Suharto Government, but its inability to assert its will..."

You might also look at BAS's Point of View article on the Indonesian ‘coup' which speaks with great feeling of the atrocities committed against a handful of Army officers but says not one word about the hundreds of thousands of communists murdered. (I haven't yet read News Weeky systematically, to see whether the murders were ever condemned. If you are aware of articles condemning the murders, Gerard, I'd be grateful for your advice.)

You could also look at James McCauley's Note in Quadrant of March-April 1966, which also condemns the communist coup and bemoans the continued imprisonment of a handful of anticommunist writers but says not one word of condemnation or regret re the killing of hundreds of thousands of PKI members. McCauley summarized post-massacre Indonesia like this: "The coup and its bloody aftermath had resulted in a stalemate at the time of my visit."You could also take a look at an article in The Australian of March 17 1992 which quotes with apparent approval the results gained by the massacre of hundreds of thousands: "During his period as Minister for Defence in the Hawke Government, Kim Beazley... reflected that ‘if the PKI had been victorious in the mid-1960s, our security prospects over the last two decades would have been very different from the favourable circumstances we enjoy today.' Regrettably, this attitude is not widespread in Australia." This article was written by you.

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 9 July 2008

At long last, some names. But still the same sophistry and intellectual dishonesty. Your email of late yesterday afternoon refers.

I note that you intend to write about this issue. I assume you will do so in The Monthly where, once again, you will be protected from criticism or query due to The Monthly's refusal to publish letters-to-the-editor in its print edition.

The problems with the individuals you have mentioned is that the quotes you have provided do not support your assertion in The Monthly (June 2008) viz: "Many of Burchett's enemies seem incapable of reassessing their support for indefensible causes, like the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in the mid '60s...."

In your email of 8 July 2008 you named just five names - the late Harold Holt, the late Heinz Arndt, the late B.A. Santamaria, the late James McAuley (whose name you misspell) and Kim Beazley (whom I quoted in a newspaper column).

You provide no evidence whatsoever that Arndt or Santamaria or McAuley or Beazley actually supported the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in the mid 1960s. Rather, your accusation now is that they did not speak out against the massacres. In Arndt's case your additional criticism is that he said that the massacres took the form they did because of the inability of the Soeharto regime to assert its will within the Indonesian archipelago to stop them. This is hardly consistent with an assertion that Arndt supported the massacres.

It is hardly a revelation that successive Australian governments - led by Robert Menzies, Harold Holt, John Gorton, William McMahon, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard - broadly supported the Soeharto regime and were pleased that the communist PKI did not come to power in Indonesia in 1965. This was widely known at the time. You are on record as supporting Paul Keating (who attended Soeharto's funeral) and Malcolm Fraser - so you might like to check with them. For my part, I am not aware that any of the above supported the massacres which occurred after what was widely regarded as a failed PKI-initiated coup.

You were also a leading supporter of B.A. Santamaria and you spoke at the National Civic Council's 50th Anniversary celebrations in October 1991 - without raising the issue of Santamaria's support for the Soeharto regime. You also praised Santamaria on his death in 1998 - without raising this issue. Indeed, you reproached me for being critical of Santamaria at the time and you described Mr Santamaria as "utterly admirable" (Radio National 27 February 1998). As Patrick Morgan documents in B.A. Santamaria: Running The Show (MUP, 2008), you were actively cooperating with Santamaria, in what Morgan terms the "Malcolm Fraser group", as late as 1992.

From my personal recollection, I do not recall that Santamaria wrote about this matter. However, I have a recollection that he privately expressed concern about the widescale killings in Indonesia which he regarded as driven by racial and clan rivalries unrelated to the dictates of the Jakarta regime. Unlike you, I do not make allegations without evidence - so I would not assert this publicity without the qualifications set out above. From my personal recollection, you did not condemn the massacres in Indonesia in the late 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s or the 1990s. Feel free to correct me if I am mistaken on this.

I am surprised by the Harold Holt quote and have never seen it previously. If Mr Holt did make this statement about those whom he allegedly described as "500,000 to 1 million Communist sympathizers" of the PKI, it was a reprehensible comment to make. Even so, the text makes clear that he was talking about the consequences of what had happened and not supporting what was happening at the time.

Even so, contrary to your claim, there is no valid comparison between this apparent statement about a revolutionary situation in Indonesia in the mid 1960s and the Holocaust in Europe in the early 1940s. Just as there is no valid comparison between failing to speak out about Nazi killings of Jews and Gypsies and actually supporting such murders.

In any event, this is a long way from your original assertion - no doubt deliberately so. The question remains: Who were the enemies of Wilfred Burchett who actually supported the massacres which occurred in Indonesia during, and following, the attempted coup of 1965? Just the names will do - along with documentary evidence (if you have any) of the manner in which they indicated such support.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 9 July 2008

For the sake of completeness... your view on the Ph D?

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 9 July 2008

I do not know about you, but I do not comment on material which I have not read.

For the sake of completeness - when do you propose to provide the evidence that many of Wilfred Burchett's enemies actually supported the killings in Indonesia in the second half of the 1960s?

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 9 July 2008

In what sense have you read the comment from Holt and not read the quotes from the Ph D? Do you think I have made them up?

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 9 July 2008

I have read the entire article in the NY Times which reports Harold Holt's comments. I managed to obtain this around lunch time today. I have not read Karim Najjarine's thesis and I am attempting to obtain a copy of this.

I know enough about your recent work not to accept your claims about the work of others without having read this material myself.

I repeat, for the record, my earlier comments that none of the quotes you have cited from Heinz Arndt or B.A. Santamaria or James McAuley or Kim Beazley backed your assertion that they actually supported the killings which took place in Indonesia in the second half of the 1960s.

I repeat, after over a month I still await the evidence to support your claim that Wilfred Burchett's enemies supported these killings.

 

[At this point Henderson's publication of the email exchange in The Sydney Institute Quarterly concludes. He claims that my email of July 11 "did not break any new ground." Readers can judge for themselves.]

 

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 11 July 2008

I want to comment in detail on the email correspondence you initiated more than a month ago, which was based on an initial misreading of a comment of mine about the "intellectual inertia" seen not only on the Left, in their continued championing of Wilfred Burchett, but also on the Right as seen in the continued support for the American and Australian cause in the Vietnam War (by journalists like you and Greg Sheridan and by politicians like John Howard) and the failure of the anticommunists to reassess their attitude to the support the Australian anticommunist intelligentsia and the anticommunist political establishment had given to those who had conducted a mass slaughter of communists in the mid-1960s. You claimed falsely that I had argued that you belonged in the latter category. In fact no one was named. Although you conceded this point, you persevered with your demand, in an email one month later to the editor of The Monthly, that I provide evidence for the proposition that anticommunists in Australia--the enemies of Burchett--had indeed supported by their words and deeds the mass slaughter of between half a million and one million real or suspected Indonesian communists in the mid-1960s. You refused to write a letter to the editor to appear on The Monthly website to which I might reply. Apparently you think you have a right to dictate what the editorial policy of an independent magazine, which had decided to publish letters to the editor electronically, should be.

In your email of June 5 to Sally Warhaft, the editor of The Monthly, copied to me and others, you admitted: "I am not aware that anyone in Australia supported these killings." The most detailed study of this matter is the doctoral thesis of Karim Najjarine which you admitted you had not read. Let me repeat here two of his main conclusions: "From the time of the attempted coup until March 1966, Canberra's efforts were focussed on gauging the transfer of real authority in Indonesia and doing everything in its power to assist the Army in its drive against both the PKI and Sukarno, without being seen to interfere in Indonesia's internal affairs." And that there exists "evidence" that "implicates" both the CIA and ASIS "in the attempted coup and assistance to the Army throughout this period. This assistance included providing material assistance to the Army in the purge of hundreds of thousands of suspected PKI members and sympathisers following the coup." Perhaps your awareness of the matters in question needs to be improved.

In your email to Sally Warhaft of July 8 you make the very serious accusation namely that in publishing my article she had been unprofessional. I quote: "...[I]t seems to me that--as editor--you have the professional duty to ask your contributors to document the evidence they have to support serious allegations of this kind." The assumption behind this accusation is that I did not have evidence for my claim that in the mid-1960s there were anticommunist enemies of Burchett who supported these killings. You now know that this assumption was simply false and that I had considerable evidence supporting my case of which you admit you were unaware--from a relevant doctoral dissertation; from the Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who in July 1966 made clear his Government's astonishingly callous and cavalier attitude to the murder of between half a million and a million real or suspected Indonesian communists, which he described as a welcome "reorientation" of Indonesian politics; and from many other sources in addition.

Unless you take the view that it is "unprofessional" not to accept your own (as I will soon show) bizarre interpretations of the meaning of this evidence, I believe you now owe Sally Warhaft an apology. And not only for that. In your email of June 5 you claim not merely that The Monthly has failed to check one particular fact but also that it "does not employ a fact-checker to vet articles before publication." How in heaven's name do you think you know that? This claim is false. As Chair of the Editorial Board of The Monthly, I ask you now to withdraw your slur on the magazine.

In your email to me of July 9 you claim that none of the evidence I provided in a previous email proves that anyone in Australia supported the murder in 1965-6 of somewhere between half a million and a million Indonesians. An observer of your behaviour commented to me that when confronted by the evidence I provided you would dodge all the real issues and retreat to your characteristic legalism. They were not wrong.

One of the central themes in twentieth and early twenty-first century politics is the way partisans for a cause condemn atrocities when committed by their ideological opponents and support, in one way or another, the atrocities committed by their own side. (My favourite essay on this topic is George Orwell's 'Notes on Nationalism') The support they provide for these atrocities comes in many different forms. Most usually, the ideologically committed simply fail to notice atrocities committed by those they identify with. Turning a blind eye is in fact the most usual kind of support intellectuals give to murderous regimes. Sometimes partisans of a cause notice the atrocities but deny, for public purposes, that the atrocities have indeed occurred. Sometimes they acknowledge in public statements that the atrocities have occurred but treat them with indifference or as matters of little consequence. Sometimes partisan politicians support, in actions, those who are committing or who have committed atrocities, and keep quiet about the deeds they know are happening or have happened simply because they welcome the result. Sometimes the ideologically committed intellectuals and politicians accept that atrocities have occurred and praise openly those who have ordered the killings or those who have carried them out.

This final type of support for atrocities is actually very rare. Yet according to your recent email it is the only kind of support that counts. By this logic, pro-Nazi intellectuals did not "support" the destruction of European Jewry. They simply denied the claims that it was taking place. By this logic, procommunist intellectuals did not "support" Stalin's Gulag Archipelago. They simply denied that it existed.

In general in your writing you accept this point. Let me quote from a characteristic article of yours concerning this matter to demonstrate what I mean. In The Sydney Morning Herald of July 31 1990 you wrote: ""After Lenin's death, communists the world over became unqualified adherents of Joseph Stalin. They cheered such barbarities as land collectivisation, the forced famine in the Ukraine, the subjugation of the nationalities (including forced deportations), the purges of the 1930s, the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939-41...and Stalin's anti-Semitism which manifested itself in his handling of the so-called Doctors' Plot in the early 1950s." Do you really believe that communists "cheered" the Ukrainian famine? They did not. Rather, reprehensibly, they denied that it had occurred. Do you really think that the communists "cheered" the subjugation and the deportation of Soviet minority nationalities? They did not. They denied that the subjugations and the deportations had occurred. Do you really think that the communists "cheered" Stalin's late antisemitism? They did not. They denied it completely. If in these three instances you mean that communists supported Stalin's crimes by their silence or their denials I agree. If you believe they cheered these crimes you are wrong. "Cheered" is a far stronger term than "supported". Can you provide any evidence that in these three instances communists cheered? If you cannot provide evidence, do you now deny that in these three instances communists, by their denials and their silence, offered support for Stalin's crimes?

Let me summarise my argument so far. There are many different ways political crimes can be supported. The rarest way is overt admission that the crimes occurred and that they were a good thing. Yet apparently only that kind of support and that alone counts for you as support. This is either an historically naïve or a completely disingenuous thought. Either way, your position on the question of anticommunist support for the 1965 massacre of the Indonesian communists is ignorant, inconsistent with your own writing, and ultimately untenable.

Let me now turn to the different ways in which the crimes of Suharto et al, in 1965 and 1966, were indeed supported by the enemies of Burchett--that is by the Australian anticommunist intelligentsia and the Australian anticommunist political, military and intelligence establishment.

Before doing so I need to clear up one of your obvious misunderstandings. I did not argue, and do not regard, the Indonesian massacres as an equivalent evil to the Holocaust. As you may be aware there is a scholarly debate about whether the Holocaust is or is not unique. In a piece I have written for a book on Jeffrey Alexander's argument on the Holocaust, which will appear late this year or early next year, called Remembering the Holocaust, I make it clear that, among all the atrocities of history, I regard the Holocaust as unique. In the numbers of those killed, in the ferocity of the killings, in the short time it took--the closest analogy I can find with the Indonesian massacres of 1965-6 is the Hutu slaughter of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994. Like all analogies it is not perfect. Yet in what I am about to argue, I would like you to keep that analogy in mind.

James McCauley visited Djakarta in early 1966. Already it was known that several hundred thousand Indonesian communists or suspected communists had been slaughtered in unbelievably horrible circumsances. By this time even the Indonesian Government had admitted that 87,000 killings had occurred. What did McCauley, then, have to say about this mass slaughter? In his Note in Quadrant of 1966 this is what he said. "The coup and its bloody aftermath had resulted in a strange stalemate at the time of my visit. From such a fluid and ambiguous situation anything can arise..." There was not one word of pity or compassion for the victims. There was not one word of regret. McCauley simply expressed his pleasure with the fact that the PKI had temporarily at least suffered a major defeat. From a human rights point of view, he was worried only about the fact that a handful of anticommunist intellectuals remained in prison. "About 20 of the country's best intellectuals are still in gaol." James McCauley was capable of deep compassion for the victims of communism, as his fine editorial in the first edition of Quadrant after the Hungarian 1956 uprising revealed. He was, however, apparently indifferent to the far, far vaster numbers of those killed in Indonesia in the anticommunist cause. In the same way that communist silences and denials offered important support for the crimes of Stalin, by his apparent indifference to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and by his silence, in my view McCauley offered support for the murders and for the murderers. What would you think of a pro-Hutu intellectual, who visited Rwanda a few months after the mass murder of the Tutsi, and failed to utter even one word of condemnation concerning what had occurred?

I did not know McCauley. I did, however, know Heinz Arndt reasonably well. Like McCauley, he was an enemy of Burchett. In Australian Outlook of April 1968 Arndt wrote: "It is no mean thing that Indonesia now has a very much more moderate, more rational, more pragmatic leadership than for many years, perhaps at any time since independence..." The leadership he praised was responsible, and was known to be responsible, for instigating the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Arndt wondered whether communism was truly finished. He wasn't certain that it was but was quietly hopeful. "[The} fact that now 'the pursuit of friendly relations with the West is acceptable in the context of an independent foreign policy' is surely a change as profound as it was unexpected only three years ago." Arndt did not deny that there had been massacres in Indonesia in the recent past. This was common knowledge. What he did deny however was that the Suharto Government had in any way been involved. "[There] is still much exercise of arbitrary power by civil and military officials, especially outside Djakarta, acts of suppression, even persecution of actual or suspected enemies of the new regime. But most of this reflects not the will of the Suharto Government, but its inability or reluctance to assert its will."

Arndt clearly was enthusiastic about the new regime. He redescribed the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians as "suppression, even persecution". And he denied that Suharto or those in his Government had in any way been involved in the murders. For this proposition Arndt offered no evidence. (As we now know, this was quite false.) In my view, Arndt offered support for those who had come to power through mass murder both by the tepid misdescription of what had actually occurred, and also by his false and unevidenced denial that the leaders of the new regime had in any way been involved. This is the equivalent of claiming, without anything that looks like evidence, that the Hutu leaders, who had in fact instigated the Rwanda genocide, were innocent even of the suppression or the persecution of the Tutsis.

Although I knew Arndt, we were never friends. I was, however, from time to time politically close to Bob Santamaria and, as I have made clear time and time again, I admired him as a man. I am pleased that in your opinion he was personally disturbed about the Indonesian massacres. I will read News Weekly closely when I have time to see whether that concern was ever publically expressed. I genuinely hope it was. If it wasn't, we have to ask why. Oddly enough, in his autobiography Burchett claims he was disturbed about the Kostov show trial. Yet in his book, People's Democracies, he gave no hint of such concern. Even Burchett's supporters find this fact an awkward one. At present all I know about Santamaria and the question of the Indonesian massacres is that in the piece on the Indonesian coup that he reprinted in his collection, Point of View, he expessed real horror at the atrocities committed against a handful of generals in September 1965 but not one word of sympathy or regret concerning the by then well-established fact that hundreds of thousands of communists had been brutally slaughtered in an action instigated by the Army anticommunists he supported.

Before your dramatic falling out, you were a close political disciple of Santamaria. In retrospect, do you think his apparent public silence on the Indonesian massacres, on the slaughter of between half a million and a million Indonesian communists or suspected communists, was right? Do you think it was politically justified? And in what way, in your view, was this silence different from the silence of the communists who, in your words, "cheered" for the Stalin regime despite its terrible crimes? Did not this silence offer support at a critical time for those who led the Indonesian mass murder in precisely the way the communists provided support for the Stalin regime during the Ukrainian famine, or the wartime deportation of the nationalities, or the postwar outbreak of Soviet anti-semitism?

Was it alright for McCauley and Arndt and Santamaria and, so far as I can tell, for the Australian Coalition Government as a whole, to keep silent simply because the victims were communists? Was it alright to keep silent because the murderers were anti-communists? Was their silence justified because they welcomed the consequence of the massacre? Please answer these questions. Please do not evade.

We come now to the case of the Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt. In July 1966 Holt visited the United States. As you now know but until a couple of days ago did not that Holt said the following words at a talk delivered on July 5 to the Australian-American Club in New York. "With 500,000 to 1 million Communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it safe to assume a reorientation has taken place." There are a number of interesting features about this comment. Its tone was that of an insiders' joke. Apparently after-dinner jocularity about the Indonesian mass murders was deemed by Holt and perhaps by some of his audience to be acceptable at this time. What would one think of an Australian Prime Minister who made light in this way of the deaths of the 800,000 or so Rwandans only a few months after the deaths had occurred? The disgusting phrase "knocked off" represents, at best, an astonishing indifference to a vast human tragedy and, at worst, an almost open admission of glee.

One interesting feature of Holt's remark is that it shows how accurate Australian intelligence was at that time concerning the numbers who had been killed. The figure of half a milliom to a million deaths represents something like the present scholarly consensus over the numbers killed. (See for example Robert Cribb(ed), The Indonesian Killings 1965-1966.) Another feature of interest is the way it reveals the undisguised political pleasure the Australian Government seemed to take in the recent turn of events. By his indifference, or worse, to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists or suspected communists, and by his undisguised political satisfaction at these deaths, Holt, on this occasion, seems to me to have inadvertently made public his Government's real view about the recent turn of events.

You admit you did not know of this quote. You admit that it surprised you. You even concede that it is "reprehensible". But what you don't accept is that it means that Holt or the Australian Government offered Suharto and the other Indonesian leaders, who helped instigate the mass murders, their support. If Burchett had said in 1939, a few months after the intensity of Stalin's Great Terror had dropped: "With 500,000 to 1 million Ukrainian separatists knocked off, I think it is safe to assume a reorientation [in the Ukraine] has taken place", would you not condemn him in unambiguous terms? Would you not accept that in writing or speaking in this way he had offered the Stalin regime support for the purge of Ukrainians during the period of the Great Terror. Or would you argue, as you do with regard to Holt and the Indonesian mass murder, that the comment "makes clear that [Burchett] was talking about the consequences of what had happened and not supporting what was happening at the time"?

The Kim Beazley comment that you quote--"if the PKI had been victorious in the mid-1960s, our security propects would have been very different from the favourable circumstances that we enjoy today"-- shows how pervasive and longlasting was the thought that, from the Australian security perspective, the mass murder of the Indonesian communists and sympathisers was an unambiguously good thing. You clearly shared Beazley's point of view in the early 1990s. I wonder if you still do. According to you at this time: "Regrettably, this attitude is not widespread in Australia." There is of course another way of looking at the slaughter, of which you appear unsympathetic or unaware. Would you disagree if I described the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians not so much as a bonus for Australian security interests but as one of the twentieth century's many "crimes against humanity"?

One final point. You seem to think that after I began writing political columns in the late 1980s I was silent about this matter. I was not. In December 1991 in Quadrant I wrote: "No doubt Jakarta would like us to turn a blind eye to the occasional slaughter in East Timor or West Irian...Unhappily we cannot oblige. Even those realpolitik conservatives who would like their fellow countrymen to limit their expressions of outrage to the actions of regimes which are either far left or far distant will in the end be forced to acknowledge that it is simply not possible to condemn slaughters in Beijing and condone them in Dili". And in March 1999 I wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age: "Over the years Whitlam has been one of the most conspicuous defenders of Indonesian rule in East Timor. He has frequently spoken of the'vendetta' waged by the Australian media against Indonesia. He has even spoken of President Soeharto--who strode into office in the sea of blood of 500,000 dead and who left it with a familial wealth measuring billions of dollars--as an 'honourable man'." I wrote on other occasions in this vein. Not for the first time, the dirt files you keep on me, somewhere in recesses of the Sydney Institute, have let you down.

Both of us were once anticommunists. Both of us were and are unambiguousy critical of the communist and the anti-anticommunist intellectuals. What divides us is your incapacity to face up to the moral and political failures of the movement to which we once belonged.

I look forward to your detailed response. I hope for once you can get beyond nitpicking and legalism and write about the real issues I have raised.

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 11 July 2008

I refer to your 3539 word email dated 11 July 2008 and forwarded on your La Trobe University email address at 12.40 am. I make the following points:

  • You have still not provided any evidence that any of Wilfred Burchett's enemies actually supported the massacres which occurred in Indonesia in the mid 1960s. You cannot provide one single quote to this effect with respect to James McAuley (whose name you continue to misspell), Heinz Arndt, B.A. Santamaria or Kim Beazley. Rather, you have revamped your allegation to cover your lack of evidence. This is unprofessional.
  • I am attempting to obtain a copy of Karim Najjarine's thesis - this is proving difficult. I note that, according to your report, Dr Najjarine's allegation that some Australians actually supported the massacres in Indonesia in 1965/1966 turns on anonymous operatives in ASIS. This does not support your assertion that Wilfred Burchett's enemies (all of whom were public figures) supported these massacres - and it does not provide any names.
  • I will check with Harold Holt's biographer Tom Frame as to whether he is aware of the statement attributed to Mr Holt in New York in July 1966. I note that you are already embellishing the facts. You depict Harold Holt's reported comment as an example of "after-dinner jocularity" and state that they were delivered at "the Australian-American Club". According to the report in The New York Times on 6 July 1966, Mr Holt addressed a luncheon (not a "dinner") of the Australian American Association (not "Club"). So what is your evidence that Harold Holt was engaged in a bit of "after-dinner jocularity"?
  • I am not attempting to dictate to The Monthly whether it should run a letters-to-the-editor page in its print edition. It's beyond my capacity to do so. All I am pointing out is that no one (not me and not the likes of Stuart Macintyre) is able to respond to criticism of them in The Monthly in your journal's print edition. This is very convenient for contributors to The Monthly - like you.
  • If you do employ a fact-checker at The Monthly, I would be interested to know his or her name. In correspondence with Morry Schwartz in August 2005 (concerning two chapters in a book edited by you which contained numerous factual errors about me), Mr Schwartz declined to respond to my claim that Black Inc. did not employ a fact-checker.

In November 2006 Sally Warhaft acknowledged to Crikey that the only checking she did with respect to Mungo MacCallum's claim in The Monthly that Robert Menzies had an affair with Betty Fairfax was to ask Mungo MacCallum if his sources were accurate. According to what Sally Warhaft told Crikey, no fact-checker was involved in the process and Mr MacCallum later conceded that he had "no direct evidence" for his claim. If The Monthly had employed a fact-checker in this instance, Mr MacCallum's rumour-fuelled and undocumented assertion would not have been published. It is worth noting that one of Mungo MacCallum's sources for his allegation turned to be deceased Commonwealth Car drivers.

The fact is that there are frequent factual errors in The Monthly - including in your own articles. They are the kind of howlers which should be readily picked up by a competent fact-checker.

  • I note that your book Left Right Left: Political Essays 1977-2005, there is not one article on Indonesia and not one reference to Indonesia in the Index. Clearly your interest in the massacres which occurred in that country four decades is a relatively recent phenomenon.
  • Once again, in your latest email you overlook the fact that Paul Keating was the strongest supporter in Australia of President Soeharto and the New Order regime which came to power in the mid 1960s. You might like to engage Mr Keating as a fact-checker with respect to anything you may chose to write on this issue.

Now I must get back to work.

 

Sally Warhaft to Gerard Henderson, 14 July 2008


I have read with constant interest your ongoing correspondence with Robert Manne arising from his Monthly essay on Wilfred Burchett. I would like to put this exchange on the Monthly website, with your permission of course. Let me know if you have any objection.

 

Gerard Henderson to Sally Warhaft, 15 July 2008

Welcome back. I refer to your email of 14 July 2008.

As you will be aware, I have already made my position clear on this matter. I refuse to have any of my correspondence placed on The Monthly's website while I - and others - are denied the right to have a letter-to-the-editor published in The Monthly's print edition.

So, I decline permission to have my recent correspondence with The Monthly's editorial board chairman, Robert Manne, published on The Monthly's website or in The Monthly's on-line edition.

As previously outlined, I remain interested in the fact that The Monthly is perhaps the only journal of opinion in the English speaking world which refuses to publish the views of any of its readers/subscribers in its print edition. This is very convenient for the likes of Robert Manne - who can make false claims about others, sure in the knowledge that The Monthly's editor will not publish a reply or correction in your print edition.

If and when The Monthly offers the same opportunity to me as Professor Manne can obtain in The Sydney Institute Quarterly or in The Sydney Morning Herald - then I would be willing to have my material placed on The Monthly's website. As far as I can ascertain, this is not likely to happen any time soon.

By the way, if Robert Manne or you have come up with any names of those enemies of Wilfred Burchett who actually supported the massacres which occurred in Indonesia in the mid 1960s, I am still interested in receiving the names - along with any supporting evidence. As you will recall, I first requested this information on 5 June 2008.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 15 July 2008

I'm thinking of writing a reply to the defamatory attack on me in The Sydney Institute Quarterly (sic). Do I have the right of reply? I'll need about 3000 words.

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 15 July 2008

I refer to your email of today requesting a right-of-reply to what you claim was an attack on you in the March 2008 issue (Number 32) of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. I note, for the record, that you are requesting a right to be published in the print edition of The Sydney Institute Quarterly and not merely in the on-line edition - in spite of the fact that, as editorial chairman of The Monthly, you deny such a right to those you are attacked/criticised by you in The Monthly. An unpleasant double standard, to be sure.

You should pay more attention to detail. On 5 June 2008 I copied to you an email which I forwarded to Sally Warhaft. You must have received this - since you replied to me on her behalf. In my email dated 5 June 2008, I made the following comment:

Robert Manne is on record as claiming that I made inaccurate comments about him in the current issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. He has not stated what the (alleged) errors are. If Professor Manne chooses to document his allegation, I will publish his response in the next edition of The Sydney Institute Quarterly.

Since you did not respond to this invitation, I assumed that you did not want to take up this offer. Clearly, you have now changed your mind.

The current issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly (Number 33) is already at the printer. I will honour the promise which I made to Ms Warhaft with respect to you in issue Number 34 of The Sydney Institute Quarterly - as follows, viz:

  • The Sydney Institute Quarterly will publish any facts presented by you which document that there were inaccurate comments made about you in issue Number 32 of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. Any such corrections should be supported by documentary evidence - just as the article about you in issue Number 32 was supported by documentary evidence. You should identify each (alleged) inaccurate comment and then provide documentary evidence why such a claim in false. The Sydney Institute Quarterly is prepared to run up to 1500 words - i.e. about two pages.

By the way, have you come up with any evidence yet to support your claim in the June 2008 edition of The Monthly that enemies of Wilfred Burchett actually supported the massacres which occurred in Indonesia in the second half of the 1960s? And are you prepared to name the person who you maintain does fact-checking for The Monthly? Our recent correspondence refers.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 22 August 2008

I have been informed that following your refusal of Sally Warhaft's request to publish our full email exchange on The Monthly website you have published an incomplete version in The Sydney Institute Quarterly without either requesting or receiving my permission. Is this true?

If it is true, could you please send me a copy of what appears in this edition of the SIQ? You refused your permission on July 15. On the same day in an email entitled "Your double standard refers" (sic) you informed me that it was too late for me to have a right of reply to a previous defamatory attack on me in the next edition of the SIQ "because the current issue of the Sydney Institute Quarterly (number 33) is already at the printer." The implication seems obvious. You refused permission to publish on The Monthly website an unexpurgated email exchange between us at a time when your own abbreviated and deliberately misleading version, which I have been informed omitted my detailed response, was already at the printers.

And I am the one who is accused of double standards.

I look forward to your prompt response to my request.

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, 22 August 2008

I subscribe to the print issue of The Monthly. If you wish, you can subscribe to the print issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly.

If you want an electronic copy of the current issue of the SIQ it is on the The Sydney Institute's website. You should be able to locate this.

Everything I wrote to you in my emails was accurate. You were invited to submit copy to the print edition of the SIQ on 5 June 2008 but did not respond to this invitation for over a month - by which time Issue 33 was set. I have still not received copy from you on this matter.

By the way, there is reference to your final 3500 word email in Issue 33 - there was no room to publish this and I did not publish my reply to you either.

I refuse Sally Warhaft permission to run any of my material on The Monthly's online edition because she and you refuse me and others a right of reply in The Monthly's print edition. That's all.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 22 August 2008

I have now seen the expurgated email exchange you published without permission.

Here are two very simple questions to assist my understanding of your ethics and politics?

  • 1. Do you believe The Monthly required your permission to publish your emails?
  • 2. Frank Knopfelmacher wrote in January 1966 of "the Soekarno-PKI racket (now fortunately ended)..." Does that qualify in your mind as "support" for the anticommunist mass murder?

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, copied to The Monthly board, 25 August 2008

I have just read your email of last Friday afternoon - it arrived after I left the office.

I am very busy today. The answers to your questions are as follows:

1. No. But I was asked by Sally Warhaft - and I refused permission. My reason was not motivated by any concern about my privately expressed views being published. Rather, I do not want to be seen as approving of a situation where The Monthly refuses to run a right-of-reply by me (and others) in its print edition but rationalises this censorship of critical views by running material on its on-line edition only.

2. No. You should be able to do better than this. You do seem desperate to blacken the names of your former mentors/friends/associates by (belatedly) labelling them as supporters of mass murder. Frank Knofelmacher was perfectly entitled to approve of the fact that the "Soeharto-PKI racket" had been effectively ended circa January 1966. So did many commentators in Australia at the time. But there is no evidence that Franta supported the mass killings which occurred after what most observers believe was an attempted PKI coup (with which Soekarno was involved) in late 1965. Also, I never heard Franta support the killings in the many private conversations I had with him in the second half of the 1960s. Do you recall him doing so?

* * * *

In conclusion, I should confirm that I am happy to supply copies of the rest of our correspondence - if anyone is interested - and I have made this clear in Issue 33 of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. By the time your email of 11 July 2008 arrived, the SIQ was already set up to Page 52. In any event, I would not have run a 3500 word email in the Correspondence section - for the obvious reason that it was too long. As you will be aware, I did not run a copy of my reply to your 11 July 2008 email either.

The Monthly's refusal to run a letters-to-the-editor section in its print edition is convenient for you as a contributor to The Monthly.

However, if you continue to deny those who are criticised in The Monthly a right of reply in your print edition - then (as chairman of The Monthly's editorial board) you should not be surprised if people seek to have their views about The Monthly printed elsewhere.

Now I must get back to work.

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, 25 August 2008

Thanks. Your response is very helpful.

I'm glad to see that you have no objection to your private emails being published.

I'm also intrigued to see your response to the Knopfelmacher quote. As you must be aware, this controversy turns on the definition of the word "support" Let's take your answer apart. If an Australian Communist had written shortly after the Great Terror of the "kulak-Trotsky-German fascist racket (now thankfully over)" that presumably would not count for you as "support" for Stalin's mass murder. Similarly, if an Australian Nazi sympathiser had written after the Holocaust of "the Judeo-Bolshevik racket (now thankfully over)" that also would not count as "support" for the mass murder of the Jews of Europe. 

As you know I greatly admired Bob Santamaria despite our many differences. As you also know, before we fell out mainly over his final strange views about the question of Israel and American Jews, I was very close to Knopfelmacher and have always written about him as my most important teacher. Where we differ in all this is that I think those of us who were involved in the anticommunist camp have reason to think carefully not only about the moral and political blindnesses of the Australian communists during the Cold War but also about the blindnesses of the group to which we belonged. None of this involves denigration of anyone. I am pretty certain that both Santamaria and Knopfelmacher would have been willing to discuss this issue honestly even if they disagreed with me over the question of the Indonesian anticommunist mass murder.

Neither would have been interested in your kind of evasion.

Knopfelmacher would have been highly amused by the thought that an expression of thanks at the conclusion of a bloodbath did not entail support. He regarded himself as an expert on the Jesuitical.

I'm sorry to take yet more of your valuable time. 

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, copied to The Monthly board, 25 August 2008

Re your note. Contrary to your ironic aside, you should not feel worried that you are taking up more of my "valuable time". It's just that - unlike you - I do not have a tenured job per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer. Consequently, I have to ration my time. But I enjoy receiving your correspondence.

For the record, I always assume that anything I write might well be published - either with, or without, my express permission.

Your comment re the late Frank Knopfelmacher is quite contemptuous.  He never supported mass killings in Indonesia or anywhere else and you know this. If Franta had done so, no doubt you would have chosen to draw attention to this sometime before he died in 1995. Ditto with B.A. Santamaria, before he died in 1998.

I don't know what's going on at the La Trobe University Politics Department but you seem to have moved into psychic mode. It's as if John Edward (of Cross Country fame) has become a visiting professor and influenced you.

How could you possibly be "pretty certain" of what "both Santamaria and Knopelmacher would have been willing to discuss" about Indonesia more than a decade after their deaths? And how could you possibly know that "Knopfelmacher would have been highly amused" about anything at all - since he is not with us any more?

I note that you are now using invented positions of Franta in order to condemn Franta.  This is grossly unprofessional and you should know better. It seems that you have taken to verballing the dead. This is easy for you - since they have no right of reply. Come to think of it, the same applies to the living who try to get their letters in the print edition of The Monthly. 

 

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson, copied to The Monthly board, 25 August 2008

Could you please discuss this par?

I'm also intrigued to see your response to the Knopfelmacher quote. As you must be aware, this controversy turns on the definition of the word "support" Let's take your answer apart. If an Australian Communist had written shortly after the Great Terror of the "kulak-Trotsky-German fascist racket (now thankfully over)" that presumably would not count for you as "support" for Stalin's mass murder. Similarly, if an Australian Nazi sympathiser had written after the Holocaust of "the Judeo-Bolshevik racket (now thankfully over)" that also would not count as "support" for the mass murder of the Jews of Europe. 

 

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne, copied to The Monthly board, 26 August 2008

You seem to conduct correspondence like an academic setting an examination paper - with questions to be answered and points to be discussed. Your so-called historical analogies - invented as a means to defame the late Frank Knopfelmacher as a supporter of mass murder - are seriously flawed. As a historian, you should know this.

By the way, since you are so keen on posing questions why not answer the following ones, viz:

Why does The Monthly refuse to publish a Letters-to-the-Editor section in its print edition?  Is the sole reason for this censorship an attempt to protect its contributors (including yourself) from criticism or correction?

I look forward to your answers to your answers when I return from interstate later in the week.

 

This correspondence is closed.

About the author Robert Manne

Robert Manne is emeritus professor and vice-chancellor’s fellow at La Trobe University. He is the author of The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage (Text Publishing) and The Cypherpunk Revolutionary: On Julian Assange (Black Inc.). His most recent book is The Mind of the Islamic State (Black Inc.).

 
×
×