‘What I remember most about the communists is their passion… ‘ For more than seventy years, idealists and rebels of all stripes saw in the Communist Party the best hope for a world remade. Who were the people who dedicated themselves to that beautiful dream? How did they experience its shimmering promise — and cope with its shattering collapse? This is the story of Guido Baracchi, the playboy and dilettante who experienced communism at its best — and its very worst. His love affair with Marxism took him from his father’s astronomical observatory to the rough halls of the legendary Wobblies. He debated Bob Menzies at the University of Melbourne; he wooed novelist Katharine Susannah Prichard on a luxury ocean liner; he belonged to illegal organisations in two world wars. The Sun dubbed him ‘Melbourne’s Lenin’, and ASIO classified him ‘a person of bad moral character and violent and unstable political views’. From Weimar Germany to Stalin’s Russia, from Melbourne’s Pentridge gaol to the bohemian colony of Montsalvat, Baracchi entwined political intrigue with a series of tempestuous romances with poets, artists and playwrights. Yet communism remained his real love and communism broke his heart — in a betrayal that still resonates in the political choices available today.
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