If ever a man lived a life in his early years that would cause him to lose his soul, it was Hamish Fraser. The circumstances of his birth were unfortunate: his mother, a strict Scottish Calvinist, loved a Roman Catholic man, but refused to marry him because of his religion. Nevertheless, she conceived his child and chose to raise young Hamish alone, causing her to be shunned by her co-religionists. The only God the youngster knew was the so-called Christian God of the Calvinists. Hamish considered himself a born revolutionary, rejecting at an early age not only the cruel God of his mother’s beliefs, but the equally cruel capitalistic system he observed in his native Scotland. He equated all religions with the post-Reformation creation of the impersonal and unjust brand of raw capitalism he found in the Scotland of the 1930’s, calling it “inhuman.”
When he left school as a teenager, he was already a budding leftist. It was then that he decided to become a professional revolutionary. The Wall Street crash of 1929 had just occurred, leading to worldwide depression. By 1930, he was convinced that Marxism was the wave of the future, and in 1933, at the age of twenty, he joined the Young Communist League (YCL). Sadly for him, he hated both God and government, as he knew them. As a member of the YCL, he read the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism – Marx himself, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Plekhanov. His quick mind soaked up their theories, and he became valuable as a recruiter of the young workers that were so necessary to the growth of the Party. In 1936, his work brought him to London where he became Propaganda Secretary of the central London Federation of the YCL.
The Spanish Civil War
That year, 1936, was a fateful one for Hamish. The Spanish Civil War broke out – really a testing ground for Communists and socialists of various stripes in how to ensnare a western country into its sphere. Fraser went to Spain as a member of the International Brigades, serving in the Fifteenth. He saw action on the fronts of Jarama, Brunete, Teruel, the Ebro and others. He rose to the rank of lieutenant in the military wing of the KGB whose task was to ensure Party control of the Brigade. When General Franco proved successful after a long and bloody war, many on the losing side returned home disillusioned and depressed. Not so for Hamish. He was more dedicated to the Communist cause than ever. When World War II broke out, he took on the task of Party Organizer at Clydebank Shipyards where he worked. He was also responsible for organizing Party cells in other shipyards and factories in the western part of Scotland.
Beginning to Question
Hamish Fraser, and others like him in the unions of Scotland and elsewhere, were not their own bosses. They had to follow the “Party line” emanating from their controllers in Moscow. During the lead-up to hostilities, their duty was to support the war effort against the fascist Nazis, the same fight they thought they were waging in Spain. This was easy. Then in 1939, the Nazi-Soviet Pact surprised everyone and turned the war effort into one of slowing down and even disrupting production on orders from Moscow. Then, in June of 1941, Germany invaded Russia and another about-face was ordered, this one easier to explain to the workers – the Glorious Motherland of Russia had to be defended. This third turn-around garnered the Party a boost in membership, but, ironically, became harder to explain to those committed to Marxist-Leninist principles. They found the constant changes in Party line confusing and demoralizing.
As a consequence of questions raised in the dedicated rank-and-file, Hamish wrote his pamphlet, An Intelligent Socialist’s Guide to World War Number Two. The pamphlet earned him praise from higher-ups in the Party, sold out within a week, and earned him a promotion to Propaganda Secretary for Scotland. Ironically, it was at this high point in 1943 that Hamish saw through the entire sham. It was obvious to him now that the flip-flops were simply an example of Moscow’s stranglehold on the world revolutionary movement. Hamish was in favor of local Communist Parties being more independent from Moscow. From this moment he became a dissident Communist. One could not remain a dissident for long and retain a high position in the local Party. So it was that in September, 1945, he officially resigned from the Communist Party.
A Providential Meeting
It is said that there are no co-incidences with God. The next turn that Hamish’s life took makes that easy to believe. In October, 1945, he entered Jordanhill Training College for Teachers. He had become a Communist because he sought social justice for the poor and because his early encounter with Christianity had been so distasteful. Jordanhill first destroyed his atheism, a good beginning, but while he could see through Moscow’s lies regarding social justice, what was the alternative?
Enter Jack Campbell, a friend of his first wife, Mary. Jack was an enthusiast for the social teachings of the Church; he introduced Hamish to the great social encyclicals of the popes, the principle of subsidiarity, and the need for a wide distribution of property and power, claiming that this is what will achieve social justice while avoiding the totalitarianism of socialism and Communism. A whole new world opened up for our former Communist when he began to familiarize himself with Catholic social teaching. While not yet ready to commit to the Church, he encouraged his wife to seek reconciliation with her Faith (she had left the Church to marry him), have their children baptized and attend Catholic school. Hamish accepted the Church intellectually, but still had to have the Faith in his heart. Many prayers later, in June, 1948, he was received into the Church nearing the age of thirty-five.
A New Commitment
From the time of his conversion in 1948 until 1965, Hamish kept his full-time teaching job, while in his spare time he worked tirelessly as a crusader for spreading the social teachings of the Church. They made so much sense to him that he did not understand that the ordinary Catholic was unfamiliar with them. His plan was to spread this good news with the expectation that Catholics would enthusiastically adopt this way of thinking and, in turn, spread it to others. To that end, he became active in the Blue Army of Our Lady, spreading the message of Our Lady of Fatima, and in the Catholic Social Guild. During this time, Mary died leaving him with three children to raise and educate. Soon after he met and married his second wife, Kathleen, who bore him four more children.
It was during a rally of the Blue Army in Paris in 1952 that an event occurred that astounded everyone present. Before his speech to the huge crowd, Hamish made the statement to the assembled, “I do not believe that prayer can convert Communists; I know that prayer can convert Communists.” One of the several doves that always accompanied the statue of the Pilgrim Virgin alighted on his head and remained there for fully three minutes. The crowd was astonished, and the Abbe Richard, who was present, called the event “a sign for the faithful.” In France, he became known as “the Man of the Dove.” (His wife, however, claimed that the dove landed on his head mistaking his unkempt mop for her nest!) The picture of Hamish with the dove on his head became famous and can be found on the Internet.
Hamish continued to teach until 1965, when, in the third year of Vatican Council II, he gave up his teaching position to write and speak in public full time. At first, he was optimistic about the possibilities of the Council, but after rumors of the Vatican-Moscow Accord began to surface, he saw that the Council fathers were preparing to totally suppress discussion of the greatest threat to the Church in its history – that of atheistic Communism and its stranglehold on Eastern Europe as well as its inroads into Latin America. By this time he had written his book Fatal Star (1954), and was becoming famous as vocal spokesman against his former religion, Communism.
Because his approach to spreading the gospel of the social teachings of the Church had not been effective, Hamish, encouraged by Lumen Gentium, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church (a section of which deals with the role of the laity in the Church) launched a new project. He decided that what was needed was a platform from which to launch discussion of the topic and against the new leftward bent of the hierarchy. Thus was born Approaches, a magazine/newsletter of sorts by which he could reach more people with articles by himself and various others warning of the dangers of Communism’s infiltration into European politics as well as the inner workings of the Church, starting with members of the hierarchy friendly to socialist ideas and the frightening trend in Latin America of “liberation theology.”
As his speaking opportunities began to dwindle because of the new outlook in the Church, he became more and more associated with Traditionalist movements, speaking at Wanderer and Remnant forums in the United States and associating with Ousset’s Cite Catholique in France. The idea was to form networks of cells (some might call them “study circles”) in which doctrine would be studied with the intention of spreading Catholic social teaching in the English-speaking world as Ousset’s group spread the news in France.
Not all of Hamish’s associates appreciated his strong stance against the new left-wing groups in the Church such as Pax Christi and Justice and Peace, many accusing him of “bishop-bashing” when he strongly denounced the “immanent apostasy” he saw in some bishops and even in Rome itself. His travels became more widespread, even to accepting speaking engagements at conferences in India. He still maintained a punishing work schedule of sixteen hours a day gathering materials for Approaches, writing, editing, printing and mailing the publication. He practiced a devout prayer life, with Mass, Rosary, and family devotions each day.
For thirty years, Hamish had suffered from heart fibrillation, to the point of needing a pacemaker. This bombastic, opinionated, militant Catholic died on the morning of October 17, 1986, not as he had lived, but quietly, alone, while reading in his favorite chair. His legacy in the Traditional movement, especially in the English-speaking world, is an important one; he was one of the voices “crying in the wilderness” of modern society (and the modern Church) hoping to bring the social gospel of Christ the King to the attention of Catholics and to the rest of the world.
In his 1954 book, Fatal Star, Hamish Fraser speaks of his early life, why he became a Communist, and his theory of why men become Communists. The remainder of the book consists of reflections on Communism and warnings of the dangers of the spread of this atheistic philosophy and economic system, in particular the dangers of the spreading tentacles of the Soviet Union under Stalin. He also speaks of his conversion to the Catholic Faith and the importance of the Fatima message to the world. Fraser was one of the early English-speaking proponents of Fatima and the necessity of Our Lady’s message to prevent the spread of the cancer of Communism. For him, the only things needed to convert Russia were for Catholics to adhere to Our Lady’s requests for prayer and to work for the social reign of Christ the King, understanding the correct teaching on social and economic justice.
This writer found most interesting Fraser’s theory of why Communism took such a stranglehold on the minds of men. Men need a god and a religion, even if they deny it. He saw Communism as the natural development of the God of post-Reformation Europe. In his own words, Hamish describes the steps which brought him to accept Communism: “For me, then, the path to Moscow was paved with a desire for self-justification, emotional and intellectual revulsion from Protestantism, abysmal ignorance of Catholic teaching, and an insatiable craving for a faith capable of ordering my own existence as well as providing a solution to the problems of the crisis-stricken world.” He obviously viewed Communism as a religion without God, brought on by the Revolt of the Protestants in the sixteenth century. The key phrase that caused all the problems was Luther’s doctrine of “Justification by Faith.”
This phrase made possible the “expropriation of the monasteries [in England and Europe] and the pauperization of a once-prosperous peasantry by a rapacious nobility; by establishing landed property on theft, and right on might, post-Reformation society came into being already equipped both with a considerable landless proletariat and the moral climate necessary for its ruthless exploitation. … Under the new dispensation the old moral order of society was dead… the law of the new order was ‘Every man for himself.’”
The most glaring illustrations of this new attitude were the English rape of Scotland and Catholic Ireland where the Irish were dispossessed of their land and made to starve by their absentee landlords when the potato crops failed.
Fraser is pretty hard on the Protestant “reformers,” especially Luther, as we can see. He felt that the greatest tragedy in the whole sad mess was that, when the economic meltdown came, its victims had no idea what was the primary and historic cause of it. He also blames the Church hierarchy for not making better known the social teaching of the popes. He claimed never to have met one – not even one – Catholic trade union member familiar with the social teachings of the Church.
When Fatal Star was written, Stalin was in power and the Cold War was on. That situation would continue – under various dictators – throughout the fifties, sixties, seventies and later. So Fraser died before the so-called “fall” of Communism in Europe. His knowledge of the politics of England and the Continent at the time is impressive; he has serious criticisms of the politicos of the time, many of whom were socialists, most Freemasons, some even outright Communists. He expresses dismay that the attempts to unify Europe against the Communist world were mostly unsuccessful and not led by the right people anyway – meaning those of the above-mentioned groups – who were entirely secular and could not see that the way to European unity was through its traditional Christianity.
As we stated, when Hamish Fraser saw that his attempt failed to convince others that the Catholic Church has the answer to social problems in the teachings of the popes, he began his publication Approaches as a way of evangelizing Catholics and others that the Catholic way was the answer. Although basically an activist, not exclusively a writer, he saw this as the only way to reach his intended audience. As his fame spread, he began speaking to Catholic Traditionalists all over the world. He warned, he exhorted and he evangelized. Because he was so knowledgeable of European history and politics, his warnings, even now, ring true. A few examples – certainly not exhaustive – follow.
It was the method of Communist governments to undermine religion, not by attacking the Church directly, but by using faithful Catholics to their purpose. Nowhere was this more apparent than in thoroughly Catholic Poland. Even after decades of Communist rule, Poland’s Catholics remained true to the Church and her churches remained open. The plan of the Communists was to “put on a smiling face” to the Church while attempting to destroy the Faith of the Catholic families. Thanks to Poland’s brave Cardinal Wyzynski who was a shining example to the people, the Church still functioned in that nation. Instead of just saying no to the unjust demands of the state, he took the offensive. He gave the people hope in what should have been a hopeless situation.
Fraser extols Poland for her long and loyal Catholic history, wealth of vocations to the Church, even during those dark years of Communist domination. Sadly, Poland’s brave story is not well known in the West, mostly because of the language barrier. However, he also points out that the Communists were not above, indeed excelled in, “friendly subversion.” This “new left” in certain countries worked with (or better, against) Catholics in order to subvert them from within. These folks were basically Trotskyites who wanted to co-opt the Catholic workers to their own end. Fraser names KOR, the group that became known in the West as “Solidarity,” under the leadership of Lech Walesa who presented himself as a good Catholic family man. But Fraser had his doubts about Walesa: Is he what he seems to be or a Communist front man? The West wildly supported Solidarity, and the Holy Father’s visit to his homeland in 1979 was exploited by KOR to its own advantage. As of this particular writing (Supplement to Approaches 72, March 1981), the situation was still unresolved.
Similarly, Ireland, though not under the Soviet thumb as were the nations of Eastern Europe, experienced subversion from within by left-leaning Catholics, priests included. There was a conscious attempt to couch the fight for the poor in Communist terms, calling Jesus a “revolutionary” in His times and referring to His “political consciousness.” There was even a piece by a well-known “progressivist” Irish journalist, John Horgan, called the Ecclesiology of Violence in the newspaper of the Irish Christian Left. The Irish Communists were attempting to accomplish the same thing that the Communists did in Holland – turn the most conservative and loyal Catholic priests into leftists. The term“Christian Marxism” began to be bandied about, an attempt to put a Christian veneer on the atheistic Marxist philosophy.
Fraser saw through this and made it his business to educate his readers that no such creature was possible. Marxism’s message was the antithesis of the Christian message, and no amount of pretending could make the term make sense. Again, he blames this situation on the suppression by the hierarchy of the social teaching of the Church under the rule of Christ the King.
A third problem certainly related to the “Christian Marxist” theory was the rise of so-called “Liberation Theology,” especially among the Jesuits of Latin America. Many of these leftist priests, some even with the approval of their bishops, attempted to put a Christian face on revolutionary activity. Books were published and disseminated pushing the belief that the only way that the poor and oppressed of Latin America would achieve justice in their lifetimes was through violent revolution, certainly not a Christian method of achieving that goal. The ground was ripe for Communist activity in these poor countries and foolish priests were the Party’s pawns in encouraging revolutionary activity. Sadly, it was the absence of authoritative and authentic social teaching from the Church since Vatican II that created the vacuum that “Liberation Theology” filled.
As we have seen, Hamish Fraser was a voice that was sorely needed at the time he abandoned Communism for the true Church. His life after age thirty-five was spent making up for all the harm he did in his zeal to spread the atheistic doctrine of Marx.
When I was discussing this article with our editor, Brian Kelly, I had the delightful surprise of being informed that Mr. Fraser visited Saint Benedict Center and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary some time during the mid 1970’s at Still River, Massachusetts. Mr. Kelly told me what a wonderful experience it was for a young man like himself to witness conversation between the Scot Hamish Fraser and the Lebanese Brother Francis, M.I.C.M. Both had a fantastic grasp of the history and politics of Europe and the Middle East and to hear the two of them – one with his Scottish “burr” and the other with his musical Arabic accent – muse on the world situation left a mighty impression on their young listener. Truly, there are no co-incidences with God! Let us hope and pray that these two holy Catholics have met again in Heaven.