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Issue #1675      March 4, 2015

Vale Comrade Daniel

Bishop Dawid Daniel Landy-Ariel of the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia and New Zealand died suddenly of a heart attack last month. Daniel, a member of the Sydney Central Branch of the Communist Party of Australia, suffered an unexpected heart attack on Wednesday February 18. Life support was turned off on Sunday February 22.

Sydney May Day 2010 – Daniel holding banner foremost right of centre.

Daniel’s was a very muscular Christianity, full not only of compassion for the poor and the oppressed, but also of anger at those who would resort to oppression and exploitation for their own profit. It was his recognition of the commonality of interests between his type of Christianity and Marxism-Leninism that persuaded him to join the CPA.

This may seem strange to some, for philosophically we are poles apart. But Jesus was one of the most humane people who ever spoke out on behalf of the downtrodden in society and in condemnation of those whose greed caused their misery. Communists and Christians of Daniel’s type have near identical goals: putting an end to the scourges of poverty, exploitation and war.

Daniel knew that these things would not come about as a gift from the rich and powerful but only as a result of the mass action of the people themselves. He regularly attended meetings of his Party Branch as well as marches and rallies.

His Church supported orphanages in some of the poorest countries in the world. Last year, he travelled to India to visit one of them and while there to be consecrated a Bishop. Before going, he sought a letter of introduction from the CPA to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the larger of India’s two big Communist parties, known as the CPM for short. When he informed his church hosts in India that he wished to meet the local leaders of the CPM, they informed him that their parents had been foundation members of the CPM!

Not only was a meeting readily arranged, but Daniel was accompanied to it by his Archbishop and another bishop who took photographs! The meeting between the representatives of the Church and the CPM was felt to have been not only positive and rewarding for both sides, but also a process that would be continued in future. Daniel was understandably chuffed by this result of his initiative.

Daniel endeavoured in every way to put his faith into practice. Lip service was definitely not for him. His recognition of the left-wing nature of the professed aims of Christianity, aims too often honoured in the breach rather than the observance, was not unique to him, or even new. We think of the “Red Dean” of Canterbury, and Martin Luther King who for many years had a Communist Party member on his team.

In fact there is a whole movement called Christian Socialism that began in the 19th century and probably reached its peak in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. In Wikipedia’s rather quaint description, “Christian Socialism is a form of religious socialism based on the teachings of Jesus. Many Christian socialists believe capitalism to be idolatrous and rooted in greed. … Christian socialists identify the cause of inequality to be the greed that they associate with capitalism.” And they’re not wrong there.

The American poet Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn was a proponent of Christian Socialist values. Her poetry illustrates progressive political and social principles. Her first volume of poetry, Portraits and Protests was published in 1917 (a momentous year for socialists) and her second, Peace and Freedom in 1945 (another momentous year). One of her poems, Comrade Jesus, expressly notes the commonality of interests between Communism and Christianity.

Thanks to St Matthew, who had been
At mass meetings in Palestine,
We know whose side was spoken for
When Comrade Jesus had the floor.

“Where sore they toil, and hard they lie,
Among the great unwashed dwell I –
The tramp, the convict, I am he,
Cold-shoulder him, cold-shoulder me.”

By Dives door, with thoughtful eye,
He did tomorrow prophesy: –
“The Kingdom’s gate is low and small;
The rich can scarce wedge through at all.”

“A dangerous man”, said Caiaphas;
“An ignorant demagogue, alas!
Friend of low women, it is he
Slanders the upright Pharisee.”

For “law and order” it was plain,
For holy church he must be slain.
The troops were there to awe the crowd
Mob violence was not allowed.

Then clumsy force with force to foil,
His strong clean hands he would not soil.
He saw their childishness quite plain
Between the lightening of his pain.

Between the twilights of his end,
He made his fellow-felon friend;
With swollen tongue and blinded eyes,
Invited him to Paradise.

Ah, let no local* him refuse!
Comrade Jesus hath paid his dues.
Whatever other be debarred,
Comrade Jesus has his red card.

Next article – Native Title meeting stirs Noongar activism

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