Guido Baracchi Archive
Guido Baracchi led an interesting, colourful and useful life on the left. I first laid eyes on Guido at a meeting of the general branch of the clerks' union in 1955, which I attended along with other leftists in the orbit of the Communist Party in an attempt to out-stack the Groupers in the run-up to a clerks' union election.
This little, old, white-haired guy made a fiery speech from the floor attacking the Grouper leadership of the union. I was sitting next to the key figure of the Labor left in the union, who was in fact a key figure in the interface between the Labor left and the Communist Party, and I asked, "Who's that?" The response was: "Be careful of him, he fell out with the party years ago. He's a Trotskyite." That was a term of abuse with which I was just becoming acquainted.
After my own break from the orbit of Stalinism a year or so later, I got to know Guido quite well, and I told him that story.
Baracchi was enormously knowledgable about the history of the socialist movement, Marxism and many other things, and during his long and unusual life he was married several times to interesting and independent women, and he was associated with a number of important figures in Australian left politics and cultural life.
For instance, he was involved in the important artists' colony at Montsalvat, near Melbourne, which was such a significant place in the development of artistic modernism in Australia.
When I knew Guido, he was pretty old, but he was up to his ears in Nick Origlass's small Trotskyist group, and in all the battles against Grouper domination of the NSW Labor Party.
In later life he made a bit of a ritual of working all day for the ALP on election days which, he explained carefully to young players like myself, covered him for a multitude of other revolutionary sins in Labor circles.
It was characteristic of Guido that he conked out at a great age after working all day on a very hot day for the Labor Party on a polling booth in the bitterly fought election of December 13, 1975, after the dismissal of the Whitlam government by Governor General John Kerr on November 11, 1975.
The most culturally well-known of Guido's wives was the playwright Betty Roland, who herself wrote several volumes of autobiography, which I still have available in my bookshop.
Freda Utley, whose bitter experiences turned her into an anti-communist, wrote several books about her disillusioning experiences in Russia: Odyssey of a liberal, Lost illusion and The dream we lost.
Michelle Arrow recently published an interesting book called Upstaged, Australian women dramatists in the limelight at last (Currency Press, 2002). This is an important study of Australian female playwrights, and Betty Roland figures prominently in it.