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Hamish Fraser - A Typical Man of the Thirties

Hamish Fraser
Born in 1913, Hamish Fraser grew to manhood just when the bottom fell out of WASP civilisation being 18 years old when the effects of the Great Economic Crisis overwhelmed the UK and began a decade of incomprehensible 'poverty amidst plenty'.

A typical Scot, baptised in the Church of Scotland he was educated in the Royal High School, Edinburgh, alma mater of Sir Walter Scott, author of the Waverley Novels. Like so many others of his generation for whom liberal democracy had become a farce, in his teens Fraser turned to Revolutionary Marxism and became active in the Young Communist League. Renouncing any idea of a professional career he decided to become what Lenin had described as ‘a professional revolutionary'.

Already Propaganda Secretary of the Central London Federation of the Young Communist League when the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, it was inevitable that he would volunteer for service with the International Brigade recruited by the Comintern to provide shock troops for the Spanish Republican Army.

Hamish Fraser

In Spain he served in various capacities, first as a despatch rider, then as political commissar and ultimately as an officer of the Secret Police (SIM), on all of the fronts manned by the 15th International Brigade.

If Fraser differed somewhat from the generality of 'Volunteers for Liberty' it was in that whereas the majority of International Brigaders returned disillusioned concerning the Communist Party, he came home more convinced than ever as to the need for the Party.

Hamish Fraser

Having seen the unique power of the numerically insignificant Party elite which contrived for three years to sustain the ramshackle Republican regime which but for this elite would have collapsed by Christmas 1936, Fraser returned to Scotland a year before the outbreak of World War Two only too well aware that a determined Communist elite could also exercise an influence quite disproportionate to its size within the UK.

During World War Two he sought to prove this to his own satisfaction by operating as Shop Steward and Party Group leader in John Brown’s Clydebank, then one of Britain’s largest shipyards, in which the Queen Mary, the Queen Elisabeth and countless warships had been built. He was also responsible for organising Party 'cells' in other shipyards and factories throughout the West of Scotland.

He also became Propaganda Secretary for the Communist Party in Scotland, after writing ‘An Intelligent Socialist's Guide to World War Two', which was the first attempt by any British Communist to explain the wartime political gymnastics of the Comintern in terms of Marxism-Leninism. It was hailed as such by both the late Harry Pollitt and the late John Gollan who succeeded Pollitt as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and was sold out within a week.

However no sooner was it published than Fraser realised that it was blatant sophistry from beginning to end, and that if no one else had tried to explain Moscow’s arbitrary manipulation of non-Russian Communist Parties in terms of Marxist doctrine, it was simply because it was impossible to explain Moscow’s behaviour other than as a ruthless exercise of totalitarian power - Thenceforth, until 1945 when he left the Party, Fraser was a dissident Communist.

Finding himself in an ideological wilderness, he began to ask why the Russian socialist dream had turned out to be such a nightmare, why Marxism in labour had begotten such monstrous offspring, and eventually realised that this derived in large measure from the corrupting influence of enormous power concentrated in fewer hands than ever before in history, and that this quite unprecedented concentration of power was essentially a function of the 'socialisation' of the means of production, distribution and exchange by a Party-dominated State which had already enforced savage control of all social, cultural and even spiritual life by various bodies directed from within by the Party and /or the Secret Police.

It was at this point in his ideological development that Fraser was introduced to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. And in a flash, so to speak, he understood that only the Church’s social doctrine with its emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity and the need for a wide distribution of both property and power could insure modern civilisation against the totalitarianism which was essentially a manifestation of socialism in practice.

Having thus had his interest aroused in the Catholic Church, it was only a matter of time before he obtained the Gift of Faith through God’s grace and the prayers of Catholic friends including certain contemplatives. He was received into the Church on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1948.

As a Catholic, it was natural that he should be especially interested in promoting the social apostolate of the Catholic laity, and in drawing attention to the positive significance of Catholic social doctrine. But almost from the commencement of his life as a Catholic, he was also indefatigable in propagating the message of Our Lady of Fatima.

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1952, Fraser was invited to address the immense crowd assembled in the Paris Parc des Expositions to inaugurate the French Section of the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima. In the course of his address, and based on his personal experience, he declared: 'I do not believe that prayer can convert Communists: I know that prayer can convert Communists.'

The Dove Man - Hamish Fraser

As though to authenticate his words, just before he began to speak, when two of the famous doves which accompanied the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Fatima were released in the hall, one of them perched on his head 'quite undismayed by the flashes made by the photographers who were vying with one another in their efforts to get a shot of the scene'. This incident was described by Abbé Richard as ‘a sign for the faithful ‘in signum fidelibus'. Ever since then Fraser has been known in France as ‘the Dove Man’.

Fatal Star by Hamish Fraser

Fraser’s 'credo' as a Catholic was spelled out in his book 'Fatal Star ' published in 1954. Written nearly a decade before Vatican 2, this book gave proof of quite remarkable foresight, for in addition to stressing the need for obedience to the Church’s social doctrine which he saw as integral to obedience to Our Lady of Fatima, it also contained a chapter ‘the Communist Fifth Column within the Church'. This Fifth Column’ he said was made up of such people as 'see nothing wrong in combining Mass attendance, or even frequent reception of the Sacraments, with the acceptance of Marxist social political and economic ideas'. This was the 'sector of Catholic opinion [to which] Communism seeks to harness its chariot'. Little did he imagine however that within little more than a decade such anti-anti-Communists would be in control of the institutional Church at virtually all levels.

Nevertheless, right from the beginning of the Second Vatican Council he was vividly aware of the danger of this 'fifth column’. And it was in order to combat such influences that he began publishing Approaches at Easter, 1965. It ran to 95 issues and addressed a truly catholic range of subjects.

Fraser’s role in the post-Conciliar Church has been realistically appraised, among others, by the late Rev. Paul Crane, S .J., former General Secretary of the Catholic Social Guild and former editor of Christian Order.

Writing in the May, 1978 issue of Christian Order he stated: ‘May I commend to you as high-powered, incisive and extremely important in these difficult days the review ‘Approaches’ published by my friend Hamish Fraser. ‘Our debt to Fraser is immense. He was sounding the alarm with regard to affairs within the Church long before most of us had even begun to realise that anything was really wrong. Events have shown how right he was and how courageous the stand he took. He is still in the front of the fray, daring where few would dare, outspoken in his defence of Catholic truth, humble in his acceptance of it. Had we a hundred like him, we would have won long ago. The very least we can do is read him in Approaches. The gain will be wholly ours.’

Larry Henderson, Editor and General Manager of ‘The Catholic. Register’ then Canada’s largest circulation Catholic newspaper had this to say of Approaches in the October 6, 1979 issue of ‘The Catholic Register': ‘One of my greatest pleasures is reading. Not, of course, the kind of thing which pours across my desk every day like an avalanche - newspapers by the dozen, Government handouts, insurance brochures, travel papers, Labour manifestos, and the like. But buried in it all sometimes comes a gem. I should like to thank the anonymous reader who has faithfully sent me Approaches for many years. This is a small, cheaply produced magazine, published by Hamish Fraser, Scotland. It represents that wing of the Church, entirely faithful to the Magisterium, which nevertheless has not “gone with the tide" which is still awash in the church. Approaches has many merits; it is
Journalistically thorough and well-informed, it has world-wide sources of news, and it is doggedly devoted to the Faith, the whole Faith and nothing but the Faith…..’.

Hamish Fraser died suddenly on 17th October 1986 on the Feast of St Margaret-Mary Alacoque. His predictions and warnings regarding the state of the Church have become, unfortunately, only too true. Requiescat in pace. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for him.

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