The Guardian deeply regrets to announce the sudden death of Comrade Pauline Mitchell in Melbourne on March 20 age 82. Pauline is widely known, loved and respected for her work in the peace movement, media and women’s movement.
She recounted in an interview recorded on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Campaign for International Co-operation and Disarmament (CICD) that she first became involved in politics and decided to join the peace movement when she realised that her taxes were funding armaments.
Pauline is famous as the person who first alerted Australians to the establishment of the United States secret military intelligence base at Pine Gap.
In the 1950s Pauline lived in Alice Springs, working for the local paper the Centralian Advocate. She noticed the arrival of US Air Force engineers who brought a large caravan bristling with electronic equipment, a caravan that was out of bounds to Australian government employees. US planes were landing at Alice Springs airport with high ranking military personnel and heavy equipment, tractors and cranes on them. A friend told Pauline he was blindfolded one day and taken out to the US base to fix some equipment, then blindfolded and brought back to town again.
When Pauline moved to Melbourne in the late ’50s, she could not find any reference in any papers about the presence of the American military in Australia. But eventually she did get the story out through the Melbourne Unitarian Church.
For over 50 years Pauline was a leading member, worker, organiser and for a number of years secretary of CICD. Established in 1959, CICD is Australia’s longest serving peace organisation. Pauline was an influential leader and activist in the peace movement as well as being a political leader, maintaining the CICD’s strong working class connections and anti-imperialist political line.
Pauline’s Sunday morning broadcast on community Radio 3CR was one of the first programs that went to air when it was established. Alternative News has been produced every week since 1976 till the Sunday before her death. It had a large loyal audience of people who looked forward to her well researched and down to earth weekly news and commentary on politics, peace and social justice, using material from publications and organisations from around the world.
You only needed to listen to one of Pauline’s programs to realise how much information and facts could be fitted into 15 minutes in a presentation that was so clear and easily understood.
Pauline was in the CPA and became a foundation member of the SPA and then the CPA following the Party reclaiming the name. She remained a loyal member until her death. She never flaunted her Party membership but her allegiance was well known and her commitment to an anti-imperialist position in the peace movement was always rock solid.
Pauline was one of those Communists who, despite the many struggles and strains, dedicated herself 100 percent to the people’s cause for peace and social justice.
She continued to work in the CICD office three or four days a week up until at the age of 81. Last year she could no longer climb the stairs at Trades Hall in Melbourne. But even then she continued to come into meetings and she always did the radio program.
The Communist Party of Australia and The Guardian send condolences to Pauline’s family and her many comrades and friends. Her magnificent contribution to the struggle for peace and socialism is her great legacy. She will be sadly missed.
Pauline’s final contribution was that she donated her body to Melbourne University.
There will be no public funeral but a memorial service is being organised. Details will be put on the CPA website when available. A memorial article will appear in The Guardian following this event.