chapter  6
How far left?
Negotiating radicalism in Australian anti-nuclear politics in the 1960s
ByKyle Harvey
Pages 16

Australian anti-nuclear activism was markedly different in the 1960s from its earlier iterations. Many former members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), disenchanted with the rigidity of its Soviet-aligned socialism, began to develop a non-aligned critique of the Cold War in the late 1950s and early 1960s that shared much with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Britain, by far the largest and most influential British peace organisation. CND groups emerged in Australia between 1960 and 1962, and their evolution and composition owed much to the presence and influence of CPA exiles, migrants with radical backgrounds, and inspiration from their British counterparts. This was an era which saw the emergence of a younger generation of political radicals involved in anti-nuclear protest, many of whom would go on to lead anti-war campaigns later in the decade opposed to the Vietnam War and conscription. CND groups were largely aligned with the Labor Party left, and counted an assortment of Trotskyists amongst their ranks, yet their expression of dissent was tentative, numbers were small, and protests lacked the drama and magnitude of British CND demonstrations. Police restrictions on political protest influenced a more daring experimentation in Brisbane, where CND activists took early steps towards the sort of direct action that would become a divisive staple of radical protest repertoires later in the decade. This chapter argues that the personnel involved in anti-nuclear protest, and their political heritage, helped to define the nature of Australians’ early experiments with dissent that would reverberate into the coming decades.