Labour History

Collateral Damage: B. A. Santamaria and the Marginalising of Social Catholicism

Labour History (2007), 92, (1), 89–111.

Abstract

B.A. Santamaria’s contribution to the removal of communists from trade union office in the 1940s and 1950s may have been less significant than his marginalising of the Distributist school of Social Catholicism of which he was a long-time advocate as deputy director of the Australian National Secretariat for Catholic Action (ANSCA) from 1937 and director from 1946. Distributism was approved by the Catholic Hierarchy as the aim of Catholic Action, spelt out by the bishops in their early Social Justice Statements and fostered through ANSCA agencies including the National Catholic Rural Movement (NCRM), the Catholic Social Studies Movement (CSSM) and the Young Christian Workers (YCW). ANSCA’s initial ‘bottom up’ approach was later subordinated to an attempted assumption of control of the Labor Party through influence fortuitously accruing from the replacement of communist union officials by CSSM operatives and sympathisers, which others including the YCW opposed. When the opportunity for establishment of meaningful Distributist institutions finally arrived with the emergence of the largely YCW-inspired credit union movement in the middle 1950s, the Distributists were too distracted, exhausted and internally divided by the turmoil within and around the Church and the Labor Party to avail themselves of it. Rarely can so comprehensive a defeat have been snatched from the jaws of victory.

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Author details

Mathews, Race

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