“I am confident that he loved little children”
— George Lansbury, on Lenin
What a long, strange trip it has been for Molotov Lansbury, the child born in 1954 to Coral Lansbury and Bruce Turnbull. Secretly christened in a Communist chapel, bathed in red light, a giant hammer and sickle looming over the atheist ceremony, young Molotov was “blessed” by CPA (the Commies, not the accountants) general secretary Lance Sharkey, who said: “Yes, this, this shall be the one”, after which The Internationale was sung. The next day, a more conventional christening occurred in a chapel, and “Malcolm Turnbull” was born.
From then, what a burden lay on the young boy. But what could be done? “The bourgeoisie are too strong, we shall never create revolution in Australia,” wise elders had said. “We must smuggle in one amongst our number. He must be very patient. He must wait decades — at least until the Kenyan operative has completed the American takeover. Then he will be in a position to consolidate his power at the heart of the bourgeois party.”
There were few other than young Molotov they could have selected. His great-grandfather was George Lansbury, the most left-wing leader the British Labour Party had had, an associate of Lenin’s, a midwife of the Russian Bolshevik Party. Several of his uncles and aunts were Communists. His grandmother, stranded in Australia during the Depression, was a Communist disguised as a showgirl. His mother, Coral, who knows? She was an academic, so she must have been a Marxist of some sort.
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How old was Molotov when he was first informed of his historic mission? Young, very young presumably. There was so much to do. Schooling in the Marxist classics at night, Sydney Grammar Boy by day. Did he cavil at being chosen so? Did he wish to play games with the other boys, rather than having to stay in, learning Mao’s categories of contradictions? If he did, he never showed it. Not only was he not saddened by his mother’s departure to New Zealand, he had ordered her there, to seed revolution in Palmerston North, for by age eight he was a major-general in the Red Army. And when, having made his way through school, he stormed the heights of bourgeois professionalism, the law faculty, and then Brasenose College Oxford.
Not for young Molotov the showy bust of Lenin, such as a young Rupert Murdoch had brought to decorate his rooms when he had come to the dreaming spires. Through this and his rising career, Molotov never let his cover slip. Wealth was easy to make for anyone who had read all four volumes of Capital many times. In the ’80s, the Liberal Party was in such dire straits that he considered a detour to Labor — “a bourgeois democratic party” Lenin had sniffed — and when it was clear that the Liberals were back in business, he had to stage a failed republican referendum, in order to disguise a move sideways, back to the true blue party. He entered Parliament as easily as most people enter [name redacted].
Then, disaster! He accessed the leadership too early. In 1967, using protractor and compasses to chart the falling rate of profit, he had calculated that the crisis of Australian capitalism would come in 2017. He must be there to fully socialise the economy when it occurred, usher in the socialist republic, abolish the states, repudiate the United States alliance, legalise same-sex marriage and reintroduce Safe Schools. Too early would spell disaster! A minor scandal concerning a Senate inquiry, an email, an odd figure with leaks — effortlessly Molotov destroyed his own leadership, leaving only Tony Abbott capable of taking over, a figure so weak that, within years, the party would be mired in conflict and fatalism.
Success again! If he minded the widespread derision, he never showed it. His discipline was perfect. He retreated to the Department of Communications, with the same litheness with which Stalin had taken over the Administrative Department in the new Soviet government. Now he controlled a vast network, which could communicate with the hundreds of sleeper cells, left there for decades. Soon would be his moment.
By 2015 it had all fallen into place. The party had collapsed in completely predictable fashion. Labor was in disarray. He would win the election, and when the crash happened, socialise the economy and install the dictatorship of the proletariat. Could he do it? Discipline must be total. There was a nasty moment when Anthony Albanese announced that “a vote for Malcolm Turnbull is a vote to abolish capitalism”. How had he known? Had there been a leak? No one noticed.
The moment passed. His goal was in his grasp. He felt the rush of victory. He raised himself in front of the crowd. Jubilation got the better of him: “Women hold up half the sky!” he shouted, quoting the chairman with full-throated jubilation. He paused, aghast. He was losing his ability to keep it all in. Molotov Lansbury’s moment was imminent. He looked around. Was it all over, before it had begun? No one had noticed. No one would notice anything. All he had to do was to keep it together for four more weeks.
As the crowd cheered his Maoist imprecations, he thought how strange people would think it if they knew. Then he reflected — it was less strange about this campaign than any other explanation anyone could make.
*Editor’s Note: This article is satire, as if you did not know that already