James McNeish’s North&South article on the “purges” of “communists” from the NZ public service in the ’50s starts with an untruth;
Admittedly, anti-communist paranoia was already in the New Zealand system, part of the price we paid for adopting the Cold War mentality of our American and other Western allies.
In 1948 for instance, an ardent young film maker and alleged communist, Cecil Holmes was dismissed from the National film unit for being a political agitator. The sacking was later quashed in court but Holmes emigrated to Australia.
Note the term “alleged communist“. Why does McNeish use this term, when it is a well known fact that Holmes was a member of the Communist Party of New Zealand during the period in question?
Even a leftist and easily accessible source like the is in no doubt on this point.
New Zealand’s first left-wing documentary film-maker, Cecil Holmes achieved notoriety in the late 1940s through the highly publicised exposure of his communist activity as a New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA) delegate in the National Film Unit.
Born in Waipukurau on 23 June 1921, Cecil William Holmes was the son of English-born farmer Alan Holmes and his wife, Ivy Marion Watt. From 1934 to 1937 he attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School, where he came under the influence of a socialist history teacher. He became involved in the Left Book Club and in 1939 joined the Communist Party of New Zealand, beginning a lifelong commitment to political radicalism.
A political scandal erupted in late 1948 when Holmes’s satchel was snatched from his car while he was drinking with friends at Parliament on 26 November. Documents found inside, implicating him as a communist involved in militant union activity within the PSA, were released to the press three weeks later by the acting prime minister, Walter Nash. The Labour government seized the opportunity to discredit the industrial campaigns for pay rises being waged by the PSA and other unions, and Holmes was dismissed from the NFU.
Legal action taken by the PSA on Holmes’s behalf was successful, and he was reinstated with back pay at the NFU. But he did not stay, shifting permanently to Australia in November 1949.
The “documentary evidence” found in the satchel included Holmes’s Communist Party card.
All this is well documented historical fact.
Why did a prominent writer, like McNeish, choose to fudge the facts in this matter?
More to follow.