1917-1979 was a prominent Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...
publisher after the Khrushchev Secret Speech of 1956 and the USSR's invasion of Hungary of the same year, which caused many leftists to leave the Communist Party of Australia
The Communist Party of Australia was founded in 1920 and dissolved in 1991; it was succeeded by the Socialist Party of Australia, which then renamed itself, becoming the current Communist Party of Australia. The CPA achieved its greatest political strength in the 1940s and faced an attempted...
She was responsible for the financial and editorial publication of Outlook
, a non-dogmatic magazine of Australian socialism. Palmer's significance is her cultivation of an inclusive and tolerant left intellectual network in Sydney and Australia more broadly, which contributed strongly to the emergence of the Australian new left of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Palmer was additionally an author, educator, servicewoman, trade unionist and communist activist.
Contributors to Outlook
included the writer Stephen Murray-Smith
and the historian Ian Turner
, who wrote an article, The Long Goodbye
for the final issue. "How to review over 13 years, 82 issues, of Outlook?" his article began. "For 13 years, Outlook has been a significant element in the vanguard, standing on the ground of socialist humanism; is there anything that can take its place," he ended.
Palmer was the daughter of Vance and Nettie Palmer
Vance and Nettie Palmer were two of Australia's best-known literary figures from the 1920s to the 1950s. Edward Vivian "Vance" Palmer was a novelist, dramatist, essayist and critic. Janet Gertrude "Nettie" Palmer was a poet, essayist and Australia's leading literary critic...
, prominent Australian intellectuals. During her undergraduate career at university Palmer was a newspaper editor. After military service during WWII in an education unit, Palmer took to secondary teaching. Facing difficulty after publishing on the People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...
in 1953, Palmer eventually secured continuing if extremely tenuous casual employment in secondary education in Sydney.
A member of the Australian Communist Party, Palmer was expelled after her involvement in circulating the Secret Speech of Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...
, a cause for political expulsion within Australia, where some of the Communist Party leaders claimed the speech was a CIA forgery.
As a result of her expulsion, and of that of many of her immediate comrades, Palmer began publishing Outlook
, which continued from 1957 to 1970, and was notable for its attention to indigenous issues: at that time particularly those of Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines , also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin ab originem , are people who are indigenous to most of the Australian continentthat is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania...
and Papuans in Australia's protectorate.
Denis Freney, in his autobiography, A Map of Days: Life on the Left
, describes one of the meetings leading to the publication of Outlook
after Bob Walshe, a Communist Party member and schoolteacher rang "and asked me to attend a meeting to discuss a new journal named Outlook
, which he and another party member and high-school teacher, Helen Palmer, wanted to launch. I had met Helen a few times in Bob's historians' group. She was a daughter of the noted writers Vance and Nettie Palmer and a well-known author herself. We met in Helen's flat in North Sydney. Also present was Ken Gott, a party member from Melbourne who had taken many of the initiatives in distributing Khrushchev's speech. He had an unlimited supply from the US consulate. Jim Staples, whose flamboyant exploits as a student comrade were legendary, was also present. He was also distributing the speech without worrying about the consequences for his party membership. He seemed to enjoy the outrage his actions provoked among conservative party leaders. Others, mainly party academics or teachers, crowded Helen's living room."
, under Palmer's direction, published works by Trotskyist intellectuals, which would otherwise have not been available in Australia.
Prominent Vietnam antiwar activist and longtime Labor Party member Bob Gould recollects
that Palmer was central to the creation of a milieu in Sydney that encouraged and intellectually supported the emergence of the anti-apartheid and antiwar protest movements.
Palmer wrote The Ballad of 1891
, which is widely regarded as a traditional song from the time of the 1891 Australian shearers' strikes, but was in fact written in 1950-51 and set to music by Doreen Jacobs. Palmer recounts this in an essay that appeared originally in Outlook
, Birth of an old bush ballad