Australian Journal of Politics and History: Volume 64, Number 2, 2018, pp.194-210.
© 2018 The Authors
Australian Journal of Politics and History © 2018 The University of Queensland and John Wiley &
Sons Australia, Ltd.
“And Poland is filed away with Samothrace”:
Australian Responses to Poland’s June 1956 Crisis
The suppression of Poznan June 1956 workers’ rebellion (Poznanski Czerwiec) by Polish
authorities prompted immediate Australia-wide demonstrations and protests by Polish émigrés
who were supported by friends and allies in the Catholic Church and the Australian anti-
communist movement. Nation-wide demonstrations in Australia and subsequent approaches by
émigré Poles and supporters required a disinterested Australian government to develop a position
on Poznan June events. Pressure on the Australian government for a response, potentially
disruptive to its foreign policies, was applied only by elements within the Australian political
scene that posed little threat to its future. Poznan June ’56’s effect on Australia takes place within
the particular nature of Australian domestic politics where the June events were used to fan the
flames of bitter rivalry within the labour movement by a strident anti-communist faction seeking
to restructure the Australian Labor Party in a manner consistent with its ideological predilections.
In taking up the anti-communist cause of the Polish émigrés, the Australian anti-communist
leadership claimed a moral high-ground, but lacked sufficient commitment to use their
considerable parliamentary advantage to pressure the Australian government to adopt a more
muscular position towards Poland’s government.
Contemporary historiography of the Cold War concurs that Poland’s 1956 workers’
rebellion Poznanski Czerwiec (Poznan June) while constituting a “serious internal crisis”
for Poland was “not isolated from international impacts”.
More recently, scholarship
has been investigating the effects of Poznan June events on world affairs. However,
Australian reaction and foreign policy responses to those events have not been
systematically analysed. Academic monographs, articles and sundry studies on questions
surrounding Australian responses are almost non-existent, notwithstanding the impact of
those events on domestic anti-communist activism in Australia where Polish post-war
émigrés — in pursuing their mission for an independent Poland — were supported by
friends in the Australian Catholic Church and by a range of ideological opponents of the
Csaba Békés, “Cold War, Détente and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution”, Paper 7, International Centre
for Advanced Studies (New York, 2002), p.7.
Jan Rowinski, ed., The Polish October 1956 in World Politics (Warsaw, 2007); Pawel Zietara,
Emigracja Wobec Pazdziernika; Postawy Polskich Srodowisk Emigracyjnych Wobec Liberalizacji w
PRL w Latach 1955–1957 (Warsaw, 2001). Poznan June events were eclipsed in Australian
historiography by the Suez crisis. The Australian Journal of Politics and History, which featured lead
articles on Australian foreign policy, dealt exclusively in its May 1957 issue with the Suez crisis. The
seminal documentary studies on foreign affairs by Gordon Greenwood and Norman Harper, eds,
Australia in World Affairs 1956-1960 (Melbourne, 1963), offered no insight into Australia’s position
on the Poznan crisis. Similarly, Poznan’s events did not attract the attention of later scholarly works on