Industrial action for peace: The Communist Party of Australia and antiwar activity before 1960

[Douglas Jordan was politicised in England in the late 1960s. After arriving in Australia he joined the Socialist Youth Alliance/Socialist Workers League/Socialist Workers Party, in which where he remained a member for 14 years. Today he is a community activist and co-presenter of the City Limits radio program on Melbourne's 3CR.

[After working as a tram conductor in Melbourne and Adelaide he was replaced by a ticket machine in 1998 and so lost his lifetime profession. He returned to study and is now writing his PhD thesis. The thesis -- of which this article is an excerpt -- is a detailed examination of the extent to which Communist Party of Australia union activists raised political issues in their unions.

[In particular it looks at the peace movement, attitudes to the post-war migration program and the Aboriginal struggle for human rights. There was been a general perception that Communist Party union activists were nothing more than industrial militants. The thesis aims to challenge this and show that CPA members often raised political issues and sought support for them from their co-workers.]

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By Douglas Jordan

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) emphasised the central role that the working class through their trade unions should play in the peace movement. The struggle for peace was as important to trade unionists as was the struggle for improved pay and better working conditions. Central to the party’s approach was the view that trade unions had every right to use their industrial strength to pursue a range of political issues. In effect, this meant that trade union support for the peace movement should not be limited to an educational and propaganda role, but where possible it should include the use of traditional trade union tactics, such as strikes, bans and boycotts. In the postwar period, with the apparent imminent threat of a third world war, there were new opportunities to implement this policy.

The CPA was able to draw on a number of historical precedents, internationally and in Australia, where trade unionists had used their industrial strength to challenge the war plans of various governments.

In May 1920 the beleaguered Bolshevik regime faced a new and serious threat to its existence. The outbreak of a war between Soviet Russia and Poland threatened to provide new avenues for Western military intervention against the world’s first socialist state. The intervention had the potential not only to destroy the socialist experiment but also the hopes of millions of workers around the world who had rallied to support the new government and its revolutionary programme. This threat was countered by widespread protests, particularly in Great Britain, with the expressed aim of preventing any new military involvement by the capitalist powers.

On 10 May 1920 London dockers refused to coal the Jolly George which was loaded with munitions for the Polish government.[1] Harry Pollitt, the future Communist Party of Great Britain leader, played a crucial role in the dispute. He explained that a small ‘Hands off Russia’ sticker placed on the side of a box of unloaded munitions was ‘big enough to be read all over the world’.[2] Another key role was played by Ernest Bevin, who became foreign secretary in the post-World War II Labour government of Prime Minister Clement Atlee. In 1919 he had argued that the labour movement was justified in using ‘any weapon’ to secure its goals.[3] It was an argument that was later to be central to the CPA’s actions in the immediate post-World War II period.

In August 1920 with Soviet troops marching on Warsaw the British government threatened to declare war on the Soviet Union. With the active support of the British Labour Party 350 Councils of Action were established across Britain to coordinate a general strike if the government proceeded with its plans.[4] Bevin warned the government that if it persisted a revolutionary situation could rapidly develop.[5] British workers gained support from workers around the world. Trade unions affiliated with the Second International called on their members to block military supplies to the Polish government.[6]

In Australia, all the major trades hall councils led by the New South Wales Labor Council, offered their support including, if necessary, the use of industrial action. They were joined by the NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party which sent a telegram of support to the British workers.[7] Rather than directly confront this mass movement the British government retreated and abandoned its plans for military intervention.[8]

In 1949, with a new world war appearing almost imminent, Jack Blake acknowledged the crucial role played by British workers in preventing an imperialist war against the Soviet Union.[9] However, what was different in the immediate World War II period was that any residual Labor Party support for the Soviet Union had long since evaporated and the party was fiercely anti-communist.[10] As Blake explained this would mean that once workers understood their own strength and used it, ‘the war plans of the imperialists and their labor (sic) henchmen will be smashed.’[11] This attitude would lead, as we shall see, to a confrontation with the Chifley government and its plan to integrate Australia into the Western military alliance against the Soviet Union.

Union action against Japanese militarism

From the mid-1930s onwards Communist Party members started to gain wider acceptance in the trade unions and were elected to central union leadership positions in a number of large industrial unions. This gave them the opportunity to put into practice their understanding that trade unions had a role in the wider political process. In particular, trade unions had a legitimate right to use their industrial strength to challenge the increased military power of Japan and its aggression against the Chinese people. The key unions in this process were the Seamen’s Union and the Waterside Workers’ Federation (WWF) and their newly elected Communist union officials.

In October 1937, Newcastle maritime unions refused to supply labour to the Japanese-owned SS Silksworth after its predominantly Chinese crew had complained to local Communists about poor conditions on the ship and that the ship was transporting war materials to Manchuria. The dispute was therefore seen as making an important contribution to the ‘Hands off China’ campaign that the CPA had launched as a protest against Japanese actions in China. The maritime unions received considerable support from the trade union movement and this forced the federal government to abandon initial plans to bring charges against the seafarers under the Navigation Act and allow the crew to be repatriated to China.[12] After the 1937 ACTU congress had condemned Japanese actions in China, waterside workers around the country imposed a series of bans on Japanese ships. The ports involved included Fremantle, Geelong, Melbourne and Sydney.[13]

In November 1938, after Port Kembla wharfies refused to load pig-iron onto the SS Dalfram bound for Japan, a bitter confrontation erupted between the workers and Prime Minister Joe Lyons’ conservative government.[14] For nine weeks the workers defied all attempts to convince them to drop the ban including the declaration by Robert Menzies, the Commonwealth attorney-general, of the Transport Workers Act.[15] The dispute ended when the government agreed to revoke the declaration of the Transport Workers Act and that no additional pig-iron would be exported once existing contracts were honoured. In return the Port Kembla wharfies agreed to load the Dalfram.[16]

An important feature of the dispute was that it was initiated and led by Ted Roach, the recently elected Communist secretary of the Port Kembla WWF branch, rather than by Jim Healy, the leading Communist in the union.[17] It formed part of a pattern where Healy was either hesitant about the ability of the union’s members to win such disputes, or worried about increased government attacks on the union as a result of their involvement.[18] A situation was established where rank-and-file Communists were often more aggressive in attempting to implement the party’s wider political agenda in the unions than Communist union officials. In the post-World War II period CPA leaders were often critical of the failure of many leading Communist union activists to raise the party’s peace campaign in their unions.[19] The ALP opposed the union’s involvement in the Port Kembla dispute with John Curtin, the federal Labor leader, allegedly telling Roach that under a Labor government, workers would have to load the pig-iron.[20] In the post-World War II period, the Labor federal government of Prime Minister Ben Chifley demonstrated that it would not tolerate any challenge to its policies when it defeated attempts by building unions to prevent the construction of the Woomera Rocket Range.

The campaign against the Woomera Rocket Range

In June 1946 the Chifley government secretly agreed in principle with a British request to develop a rocket testing facility in Australia.[21] Subsequently, in the federal election later that year, Prime Minister Ben Chifley announced that his government was seeking to develop ‘a gigantic industrial project for the production of guided projectiles’.[22] The project was often shrouded in secrecy and when critics of the project raised potential problems they were dismissed as either ‘oversights’ or ‘readily solvable’.[23]

The Woomera Rocket Range project was an essential feature of the Chifley government’s post-war defence strategy. When news of the atomic bomb became public knowledge John Dedman, the minister of defence, wanted Australia to acquire its own atomic bomb and the Woomera project would have been seen as the first step towards this.[24] In 1947, Australia’s membership of the United Nations Security Council led to Herbert Vere (H.V.) Evatt’s appointment as the first chairperson of the Atomic Energy Authority. This enhanced his determination to promote the Chifley government’s policy of developing a British Commonwealth nuclear club and Australia’s own nuclear technology.[25] The project would also give a boost to the planned industrial expansion and place Australia ‘in the very forefront of the most modern developments in Defence Science’.[26]

In 1947, the US and British governments voiced their concerns about the possible leakage of secret information from the Woomera project to the Soviet Union.[27] In Canada, a royal commission established after Igor Gouzenko, a Russian cipher clerk, defected in September 1945, discovered evidence of extensive Soviet spying.[28] By this time it was clear that the wartime alliance between the Western powers and the Soviet Union had ill-retrievably broken down and that a new world conflict was starting to emerge. In Australia, the goodwill that the Communist Party had gained due to its wartime collaboration with the Labor government had evaporated and its actions were now viewed with deep hostility. In March 1947, at its annual state conference, the Victorian branch of the CPA denounced as ‘lying propaganda’ claims that it was involved in spy plots to deliver rocket research to the Soviet Union.[29] The CPA’s opposition to Woomera was therefore seen as part of a global offensive by communist parties to thwart the necessary defence preparations to meet the perceived threat from the Soviet Union.

The anti-Woomera campaign was one of the few times prior to the formation of the Australian Peace Council that the Communist Party actively involved itself in a peace-related issue.[30] It occurred almost simultaneously with the decision by the world communist movement to establish broad-based peace movements to prevent what they considered to be a drift towards another world war. This meant whatever concerns the CPA made about the impact of the proposed rocket range on Aborigines, was nearly always overridden by the suspicion that it was acting solely on behalf of the Soviet Union to prevent a vital defence project.

In a pamphlet specifically written to deal with a proposed union boycott, H.V. Evatt, the federal Labor government’s attorney-general, said that such claims were a ‘smokescreen’ and those who had originally supported it were misled ‘as most have since realised.’[31] Evatt also called the attempted union boycott an ‘ugly incident’ and added that the whole situation called for ‘vigilance and scepticism concerning propaganda emanating from communist sources … especially if they relate to defence and foreign policy’.[32]

The campaign did involve two sometimes conflicting issues: the right of Aboriginal people to full control of their reserves without outside interference, and questions of defence policy. In Melbourne, this resulted in tensions on occasions between the various groups and individuals involved in the campaign.[33] While some of the people involved in the campaign were only or primarily concerned with the possible impact of the proposed rocket range on Aborigines, the Communist Party opposition was based on both grounds. Alf Watt, the South Australian CPA state secretary, addressed both issues in his pamphlet, Rocket Range Threatens Australia.[34]

Watt supported the recommendations of Dr Donald Thomson, an anthropologist, that the reserves be ‘absolutely inviolable’ and that tribal Aborigines should be ‘absolutely segregated’ so that their ‘social organisation, institutions and culture be preserved intact’.[35] He went on to support the Soviet Union’s peace proposals, attacked the proposed rocket range as a preparation for war as well as calling for a rejection of the Bretton Woods Agreement.[36] The Communist Party-led Eureka Youth League was also active in the campaign. It contrasted government expenditure on Woomera with the limited facilities provided to young people.[37]

The prominent role of the Communist Party in the campaign limited the support it was able to attract.[38] For some independent activists this involvement meant that the issue of civil rights for Aborigines was lost amid the increasing anti-communist atmosphere.[39] In November 1946, the party was criticised by S.R. Russell, of the army general staff, for ‘inciting and using the protest for their ends’ and that ‘public opposition should be viewed with this in mind.’[40] However, the government was embarrassed by what appeared to be a mounting opposition and called upon the support of anthropologist A.P. Elkin to undermine it. Elkin willingly agreed. He believed that the objections were ‘quite groundless’[41], maintaining that the rocket range should be supported as it was a British Empire decision and called on people ‘not to waste energy in futile protests or abstract announcements’.[42] Those who formed the campaign were also called a ‘motley crew’ that included ‘pacifists, daydreamers and humanitarians’ supported by the ‘directing hands of Communists’.[43]

In August 1946 the Port Augusta Communist Party branch was the first unit of the party to issue a public statement opposing the rocket range.[44] Later that year at a conference of the northern branches of the Communist Party in South Australia, comprising branches from Iron Knob, Kimba, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Quorn and Whyalla, strongly criticised the proposal and the infrastructure developments that were associated with it.[45] A significant proportion of those attending would have been industrial workers and Whyalla’s ‘best-known’ Communist, Joe Brazel, was also secretary of the Port Pirie- Whyalla branch of the Federation Ironworkers Association (FIA) and the only full-time union official in Whyalla.[46] In Adelaide, the Communist Party had a strong influence in a number of unions including the FIA, the Tramways Union, Boilermakers, Builders Labourers, Gasworkers, Clerks, Shop Assistants, several building unions and the WWF.[47] The influence of the Communist Party was seen when the South Australian United Trades and Labour Council voted 57 to 49 on 14 March 1947 to call upon the ACTU to ban the project.[48]

The argument for a union ban appeared strengthened when in April 1947, The Beacon, the journal of the Unitarian Church, supported the call for a union ban on the project.[49] Within a few years the Unitarian Church became an important component of the Australian Peace Council, the main conduit of CPA peace activity.[50] The Presbyterian Board of Missions had allegedly earlier in February 1947 raised the possibility of union action over the development.[51] With the Chifley government determined to proceed with the project, there was clearly support from outside the traditional Communist Party networks for a wider union involvement in the campaign, including if necessary the use of industrial action.

Around the country unions started to get involved in the campaign. In Darwin, E. J. Walker, the Communist secretary of the North Australian Workers’ Union, used the impetus created by the campaign to support calls for a national conference to discuss the repeal of all racially discriminatory laws and to support granting Aborigines wider civil liberties including political rights.[52] The Association of Australian Scientific Workers was vocal in its opposition to the proposal.[53] Its opposition to the 1946 jailing of [British nuclear physicist] Dr Alan Nunn May [as a `spy’] heightened fears of a ‘communist plot’ to undermine Australian security.[54] In Sydney the campaign was dominated by active trade unionists.[55] Flo Davis, the Communist secretary of the Hotel Club and Restaurant Workers Union (HCRU) was instrumental in convincing her union executive to support the campaign.[56]

In January 1947 the Maritime Worker reported that protests against the rocket range had been sent to Prime Minister Chifley from the Boilermakers, Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU), WWF, Sheet Metal Workers, Nurses Association and the HCRU.[57] The Bendigo and Bogong branches of the Communist Party also sent protest letters.[58] In February 1947, in a report to the Central Committee, Tom Wright called on the Communist Party to continue with its agitation against the development even though the government had already made its decision.[59] In May 1947 Wright called for the testing site to be shifted because of its potential impact on the Aborigines living in the area.[60]

In Melbourne the Rocket Range Protest Committee was established with representatives of more than forty organisations to coordinate the campaign against the rocket range.[61] Despite calls to exclude Communist Party members the committee refused arguing that it was wrong in principle to exclude anyone who supported the committee’s aims.[62] Victorian-based Communist union officials started to emerge as the key opponents of the rocket range. H.V. Evatt, who as attorney-general was to introduce legislation to break a threatened union ban, believed that Melbourne’s Communists were particularly active on the issue.[63] The strong position adopted by the Victorian branch of the CPA was almost certainly related to its emerging differences with the national leadership. The Victorian branch was calling for a more explicit challenge to the policies of the Chifley government, a position the national leadership was resisting.[64] The proposed ban on Woomera provided an avenue by which the Victorian leadership of the party could place additional pressure on the national leadership for a more confrontational policy towards the Chifley government.

When initial construction work started at the site there was almost constant disruption to work which was linked to the Communist leadership of the building unions and their opposition to the project.[65] In March 1947 the triennial meeting of the federal council of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union called on its branches to enforce a ban on Woomera.[66] By this time Communist Party members were either an absolute majority of delegates, or close to it.[67] By early May 1947 the Victorian Building Trades Federation (VBTF) was calling for a total union ban on Woomera.[68] The call for the ban was endorsed by the South Australian building unions.[69] Don Thomson, the VBTF’s secretary justified the imposition of bans using the arguments that Alf Watt had used in his pamphlet; that is the threat to world peace by the further development of rocket technology and the violation of the Aboriginal reserve.[70]

The attempt to impose a ban on Woomera was quickly defeated. It was immediately condemned by right-wing unions who claimed the ban was imposed at the behest of the Soviet Union.[71] Former NSW premier Jack Lang made similar claims.[72] With the active support of the anti-communist Industrial Croups organised by the far-right wing Catholic B.A. Santamaria, the ACTU rejected the call for a boycott effectively ending any chance of an effective ban on the project.[73] The ALP federal executive unanimously carried a motion congratulating the Chifley government on its ‘firm stand … against the proposed ban on the rocket range’.[74] Evatt’s firm opposition to the proposed bans helped to remove the suspicions held by ALP right-wing groups about his political outlook, after he had made ‘a large number of leftist appointments to the External Affairs Department’.[75] In the ALP federal parliamentary caucus, Evatt claimed that while there was ‘no evidence that the Soviet Government has issued any instructions to the Communist Party’ the CPA was acting ‘in the interests of the Soviet in Canada, America and Australia’.[76] After Evatt had successfully steered through parliament legislation to deal with the threatened ban, caucus defeated an attempt by Senator Bill Morrow to limit its application to Woomera.[77]

In the face of this widespread criticism the Communist Party made a rapid retreat and abandoned all attempts to impose union bans on Woomera. The CPA’s central committee issued a statement saying and the party was not opposed to the defence of Australia,[78] The Victorian state conference of the CPA had now rejected the call for a union ban.[79] Tom Wright had earlier said that ‘left-wing union leaders must support proper measures for the defence of Australia, including knowledge and possession of rocket weapons’.[80] An editorial in the Victorian Railways Union Gazette adopted a different position. It explained that ‘Workers who have studied the progress of fascism are always sceptical of plans to develop and extend armaments’.[81] The editorial repeated the denials of any direct Communist Party involvement in the proposed bans and explained that the protests had ‘actually originated in South Australia over twelve months ago’.[82]

In August 1947 Wright again stressed that the Communist Party had never supported the suggested ban on Woomera.[83] At the CPA congress the following year, newly elected general secretary, L.L. Sharkey, conceded that the proposed ban had created ‘difficulties’ for the CPA and stressed the need for ‘collective discussion, thorough reporting and careful working out of campaigns’, in future to avoid similar mistakes.[84] Ralph Gibson, a key Victorian CPA leader, later stated that he believed the Victorian leadership of this period had made a number of ‘leftist’ errors.[85] The evolution of the CPA’s policy on Woomera clearly indicates that the power to make decisions ultimately resided with the CPA leadership, not the state branches. In 1947, the party hierarchy was not prepared to make the final break with the Chifley government, and as a result used its authority to ensure that the proposed bans were withdrawn.

Despite the withdrawal of the proposed ban, Evatt successfully steered the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act through parliament. The Act provided for fines up to £500 or imprisonment for twelve months for any person who by ‘speech or writing advocates or encourages the prevention, hindrance, or obstruction of the carrying out of an approved defence project’.[86] The Act had the full support of the opposition parties. However, Menzies contrasted the Chifley government’s tacit acceptance of the maritime unions’ bans on Dutch shipping, with its determination to act against similar bans on Woomera.[87] The Approved Defence Projects Protection Act clearly indicated that the Chifley government would not tolerate any direct challenge by Communist-led unions to its policies and would, if necessary, introduce new legislation to defeat such challenges. The Communist Party responded by explaining that Evatt had ‘taken his place among the world’s reactionaries’ and that the Australian labour movement should contain ‘no place for Dr H. V. Evatt.’[88] Don Thomson demanded the repeal of the Act and stated it was ‘anti-working class and in the tradition of the Crimes Act’.[89]

Other groups and individuals also expressed their concerns that the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act undermined many civil liberties. Eleanor Moore, a life-long pacifist, who had often been critical of the CPA, was infuriated by this attempt to silence critics of the Chifley government.[90] The Unitarian Church denounced the Act as a ‘Black Bill’ and said that democracy had received a ‘slap in the face’.[91] The Australian Council of Civil Liberties expressed its view that the Act threatened both free speech and the right of trade unionists to withdraw their labour.[92] The 1947 ACTU congress called for the ‘immediate repeal’ of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act.[93] However, while ACTU officials did have at least one meeting with Dr Evatt to discuss their concerns about the Act, they refused to organise a broad-based union campaign that could have led to its repeal or substantial amendment.[94] Both the Geelong[95] and the Bendigo[96] trades hall councils called for the repeal of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. Despite these relatively widespread calls for either the repeal of the Act or its amendment, the Act remained unchanged and ready to be used, if necessary, to defeat the next challenge by Communist-led unions

The Korean War and the Communist Party

In April 1950 the Australian Peace Council (APC) held its first national congress in Melbourne. The Communist Party’s influence in the Australian Peace Council was significant, shaping both its overall political outlook as well as providing many of the organisation’s activists.[97] Despite the increasingly adverse political climate 10,000 people attended its opening session.[98] The congress provided a new opportunity for the CPA to propagandise its policies on peace to a wider audience. Its influence on the trade union commission of the congress was obvious. The resolution of the trade union commission resolved to ‘take every action within our power, including industrial action, where necessary against war and intervention’.[99] The resolution also called for ‘no intervention in Malaya or any other country in South-East Asia’.[100] At the session, WWF leader Jim Healy called on Australian trade unions ‘to take a lead in preventing any mad adventure in Malaya as they had done over pig-iron for Japan and arms for the Dutch’.[101] In his speech to the APC on behalf of the Communist Party delegation, J. Blake, stated that ‘We are determined that our people will never go to war against the Socialist Soviet Union- or against any other country’.[102]

The role of the Communist Party at the congress gave a clear indication that the Communist Party was fully committed to using its leadership of key industrial unions to oppose any war in which Australia might be involved. Within a few weeks of the congress, the outbreak of the Korean War gave the CPA a fresh opportunity to implement this policy.

When the Australian government announced in July 1950 that Australian troops would be joining the United Nations forces in Korea it had the support of 71 per cent of those surveyed, while only 20 per cent opposed the commitment.[103] This substantial support for Australian involvement in the war did not deter the Communist Party from its strident opposition to the war. Two months earlier the Communist Party Dissolution Bill had been introduced into federal parliament on 27 April 1950. Its purpose was not only to declare the Communist Party an illegal organisation; the Bill also sought to bar known Communists from holding union positions in major industrial unions.[104] In September 1950, Menzies claimed that the emerging Australian peace movement was ‘just as authentic and deadly as the communists’ campaign in Korea’.[105] The active participation of not only the Communist Party, but Communist-led unions in the campaign against Australia’s involvement in the war deepened the growing anti-communist atmosphere. For example, during the 1951 referendum Menzies claimed that Communist union officials made frequent trips to the Soviet Union to present reports and receive orders.[106] The proposed union bans on the transport of war materials seemed to confirm the government’s claims that the CPA was a ‘fifth column’ acting to protect the interests of the Soviet Union.[107] The proposed bans also strengthened the determination of the government to proceed with its anti-communist legislation.[108] .

In April 1950, a Tribune editorial denounced a suggestion by Lord Mancroft, a British Conservative peer, that Australian troops be sent to Malaya to assist the British attempt to suppress a colonial revolt.[109] With the Menzies government seriously considering the proposal, Tribune demanded that ‘Not A Man Or A Gun For Monopoly’s War Against Malaya’.[110] The endorsement of this policy by the Australian Peace Council congress would have encouraged the Communist Party to proceed to implement the policy. L.L. Sharkey had earlier stressed that ‘every progressive must support Malaya and the other Asiatic wars of liberation against the imperialists of whatever nationality’.[111] Tribune linked the attempt to suppress the Communist Party and curb trade union militancy with this opposition to any Australian involvement in suppressing the Malayan insurgency.[112] When the Korean War commenced the Communist Party responded in the same way as it had to the outbreak of the Malayan emergency.

The Communist Party’s response to the outbreak of the Korean War was swift and consistent. It had none of the doubts or the rapid shifts in political analysis that was a feature of the party’s initial response to the outbreak of World War II.[113] At the conclusion of the war the North Korean regime had been established with strong support from the Soviet Union. It had immediately commenced the destruction of feudalism and the construction of a political and economic system modelled on the Soviet Union. The defence of North Korea was therefore of paramount importance to the Communist Party. For the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution Australian forces were directly involved in a war that threatened to destroy the existence of a state in which workers ostensibly held political power. The responsibility of the international communist movement was to respond as they had thirty years earlier to the Bolshevik Revolution, and do all that was in their power to block the intervention.

A few days after the outbreak of the war Tribune claimed: ‘Peace-lovers throughout the world are rejoicing at the resounding defeats being inflicted by the Korean people on American imperialism’s war plans’.[114] When the North Korean ministry of the interior issued a communiqué claiming that the war was a result of an invasion of North Korea by South Korea, Tribune gave it prominent coverage.[115] A statement issued by the CPA central committee condemned US intervention in Korea as a ‘flagrant act of aggression, a breach of international peace and a gross violation of the United Nations Charter’.[116] The party demanded that ‘Not a Man, Not a Ship, Not a Plane, Not a Gun’ be sent to Korea’ -- the same demands it had made for Malaya.[117] In 1920, the British labour movement had raised a similar demand when the Conservative government threatened war against the Soviet Union during the Soviet-Polish crisis.[118] After the Menzies government committed air and naval forces to the conflict Tribune accused the Australian forces of ‘already killing Koreans in a filthy war of imperialist intervention’.[119]

The ALP gave the Menzies government complete support over its Korean policy and its commitment of Australian forces.[120] This was despite Chifley conceding that US policy in Asia often meant support for ‘corrupt and reactionary governments’ which meant that Communists were handed a ‘propaganda feast on a platter’.[121] Despite the overwhelming anti-communist atmosphere there were other critics of the war. By the end of 1950, some officials in ‘high circles’, believed that that the commitment ‘should never have taken place’ and that Australia should have been ‘more sensitive to Oriental and world opinion’.[122] Despite this criticism, the Communist Party was almost totally isolated in the Australian political culture. In May 1950, 80 per cent of those surveyed supported the suppression of the Communism Party.[123] The ALP support for the war meant that the Communist Party faced enormous difficulties when it tried to develop union opposition to the war.

The Communist Party stridently criticised the ALP position, claiming that ‘Rightwing labor [sic] leaders have once again shown that they stand on the side of monopoly capitalism, of imperialism, against the interests of the working class’ by supporting the Menzies government’s policy.[124] Chifley also faced criticism from B.A. Santamaria’s News-Weekly because his support for the war was based not on opposition to Communism, but because it was based on the fact that the war was a result of the invasion of South Korea by North Korea.[125] In Australia, as a direct result of what appeared to be the relentless surge of communism in Asia, the anti-communist movement gained new strength.[126] B.A. Santamaria and the Movement [the right-wing Catholic forces in the labour movement he led] reversed their previous opposition to the Menzies legislation, on the basis that in the event of the Korean War escalating to a new world war against the Soviet Union, the Communist Party would use its leadership of key industrial unions for subversive activities.[127] The trade unions became an intense battleground where the issue of the Korean War and the attitude that workers should take towards it was fought out between communists and anti-communists.[128]

The immediate impact of this development was that in August 1950 the right-wing controlled Melbourne Trades Hall Council voted to call upon the ACTU to reconsider its opposition to the Bill.[129] In contrast, J. Ferguson, president of the NSW ALP and a former Communist Party member, rejected this saying it was ‘wrong to use the Korean War as a smokescreen to push through the Communist Party Dissolution Bill’.[130] The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen was also an opponent of the attempt to suppress the Communist Party despite its support for the war.[131] However, the Communist Party’s strong opposition to the Korean War, including, as we shall see, attempts to impose union bans on the supply of war materials to Korea, often undermined its campaign to defend its legal existence. Despite this the party continued with its union-based campaign against the war.

In Melbourne, the party functionaries responsible for trade union work, Flo Russell and Frank Johnson, organised a meeting of Communist union officials to discuss the Korean situation shortly after the war started. After an extensive discussion the union officials were directed to hold workplace meetings and denounce US and Australian involvement in the war.[132] When Geoff McDonald attempted to carry out the party directive at the normally militant maintenance carpenters’ shop at Myers he received a hostile reception.[133] As a result McDonald went to the next party trade union meeting and argued that the party should moderate its position and concentrate its activities on proposals to end the war and not on routine denouncements of imperialism. Despite his claims of similar negative experiences by other union officials he received no support.[134] Russell and Johnson argued that party union officials had to ‘battle out politics with the workers’ despite the adverse consequences this might have.[135] In an organisation that was increasingly hierarchal and determined to present a united face to Australian society, Communist union officials were expected to accept Communist Party directions no matter what the consequences. In April 1951, the central committee initiated a verification of members campaign the aim of which was to ensure that the CPA was ‘leading force in the fight for peace’. Individuals who failed to meet the requirements that were implied in this campaign faced the perspective of being dropped from membership.[136]

The Communist Party advocated that the peace movement should also adopt a policy of opposition to Australian involvement in the war, rather than simply calling for peace. In NSW, the Australian Peace Council called for an immediate halt to the ‘United States intervention in the Korean Civil War’ and said that its actions ‘gravely increased the danger of a world war’.[137] Amirah Inglis recounts the long discussions that occurred at her home and at Party headquarters when the Korean War broke out. Ian Turner, as secretary of the Australian Student Labour Federation, was willing to argue the CPA position that the war was a result of US aggression. However, as secretary of the Australian Peace Council, Turner felt it was important that the peace movement seek an end to the conflict without taking sides.[138] The CPA leadership demanded that he put the party position.[139] At a Melbourne Town Hall meeting called to discuss the Korean War, Turner ‘did what he had to do’, abided by party discipline, and put the party line.[140] The national executive of the Australian Peace Council later issued a statement calling on Australians ‘to oppose with all their strength and courage, before it is to late, the present illegal, aggressive policies of their government’.[141]

Thus, in each of its spheres of activity -- the student movement, the peace movement and in the trade unions -- the Communist Party argued consistently that the US (and Australia) were the aggressors in Korea. The party understood and was prepared to accept that there would be some consequences for adopting this unpopular position. In the Australian Peace Council the majority of the executive was unhappy with the decision but remained with the organisation, but there some individual resignations.[142] In Victoria, the BWIU lost some members to the rival right-wing led Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners as a direct result of the branch leadership’s opposition to the Korean War. The branch leadership also decided to abandon mailing the union’s journal, the Building Worker, directly to union members due to the hostile reactions provoked by its anti-war policies.[143] These reverses did not appear to have a significant impact, at least initially, on the Communist Party’s determination to pursue its antiwar campaign in the trade unions.

Communist-led union opposition to the Korean War

Around Australia many Communist Party members accepted the obligations of party membership and raised the Korean War issue in their unions and their workplaces. This activity usually centred on routine propaganda work which sought to convince other workers of the Communist Party position on the war. On the Hobart waterfront, Tas Bull joined the Communist Party as a result of his involvement in the No campaign during the referendum to ban the Communist Party and was further politicised by the intense and bitter debates generated by the war.[144] Bull was also impressed with the many Communist seafarers, both union officials and rank-and-file activists he had previously encountered when he had gone to sea.[145] Many of these Communist Seamen’s Union activists were to play a key role in their union’s attempt to impose a black ban on the transport of war materials to Korea.

Other Communist-led unions also opposed the war. However, unlike the Miners’ Federation, the Seamen’s Union and the WWF, these unions had no direct connection with the production or transport of war materials. Therefore, the unions concerned were not in a position to utilise their industrial strength, even if they wished to, to support their antiwar policies. Their activity was confined to denunciations of the war and Australia’s role in it. This activity seldom had a significant impact but there were undercurrents of resistance to attempts to militarise Australian society. When the management at the Angliss abattoirs organised a meeting to encourage recruitment only two workers responded and joined the army. This was a reflection of the left’s strength in the workplace which continued to exist throughout the war.[146] At the 1951 ACTU congress, an amendment moved by Miners’ Federation delegates ensured that the union movement maintained its traditional opposition to conscription.[147] However, this traditional working-class resistance to conscription seldom moved towards active opposition to the Korean War. On this issue the Communist Party continued to be isolated from the majority of trade unionists.

Over the last four months of 1950 the radical Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett toured most states addressing meetings on world politics and in opposition to the Menzies government’s plans to suppress the Communist Party. The meetings he found difficult initially were factory-gate meetings where there were often debates with workers on these issues.[148] Burchett’s recollections capture some of the intensity of these debates that erupted in the working-class movement of this era as opponents and supporters of the Korean War sought support for their policies. Where possible Communist-influenced peak union bodies passed motions opposing the Korean War. In July 1950, the South Coast Labor Council unanimously carried a resolution claiming that the Korean War was a result of ‘American inspired provocation and attack on Northern Korea’ and called for the immediate withdrawal of Australian and US forces.[149] Similarly, the Ballarat Trades and Labor Council rejected the call to offer ‘whole-hearted support to democratic-free countries opposing aggression’ in Korea and instead opted to call for a ceasefire and negotiated settlement.[150] In contrast, Charles Anderson, president of the right-wing-led NSW Labor Council, condemned any suggestion of plans by waterfront unions to block war supplies to Korea.[151]

Communist-led unions also adopted anti-Korean War policies and campaigned strongly against the war. For example, the Victorian ARU’s paper, the Railways Union Gazette, demanded that Australia stay out of the Korean conflict and criticised the Labor Party for supporting ‘America’s aggressive war in Korea’.[152] In July the state branch council of the union voted 37 to 10 to brand as ‘aggression America’s interference in the internal affairs of Korea’ and demanded ‘in the name of democracy, that the Australian Government withdraw all its armed forces from Korea’.[153] The Victorian Branch of the Liquor Trades Union deplored ‘the civil war in Korea and the intervention of U.S. and other forces’ and went on to call for a referendum on the reintroduction of compulsory military training.[154] In New South Wales, Flo Davies, the Communist secretary of the HCRU, led her union’s opposition to the war and had earlier had been a delegate to the meeting that had established the NSW Peace Council.[155] The Sydney district committee of the Amalgamated Engineers’ Union also opposed the war and called for the withdrawal of Australian forces.[156]

In Darwin there was an intense debate in the North Australian Workers’ Union after the Northern Standard, the union’s newspaper, printed an article critical of the UN intervention in Korea.[157] Despite the vocal opposition from some delegates the union’s annual conference in September 1950 supported the union executive’s opposition to the UN actions in Korea.[158] Other Communist-led unions adopted a similar position of opposition to the war. On 4 July 1950, the Mackay branch of the WWF claimed that the United States government was ‘guilty of the crime of incitement for a third world war’ and that the Australian government by supporting such aggression had ‘become an accomplice in this crime against humanity’.[159] The WWF’s newspaper repeated the Communist Party’s claim that the war was a result of an attack on North Korea by the US-backed South Korean government.[160] In June 1950, the federal executive of the Seamen’s Union condemned the USA in for its blatant interference in domestic affairs of the Korean people.[161] The similarity of the positions adopted by the three unions, all of which were in conformity with the Communist Party’s outlook, is a clear indication that these policies were being shaped by Communist Party activists.

Despite the significant defeat in the 1949 coalminers' strike, Communist activists in the Miners’ Federation continued to raise political issues in the union. The union was an active participant in the peace movement with many of its lodges establishing peace committees and sending representatives to the first Australian Peace Council congress.[162] This established a pattern where throughout the 1950s the union was often well represented at the various peace movement conferences.[163] In the aftermath of the coal strike and amid the bitter divisions produced by the Cold War, the Communist Party often had only a small majority on the union’s central council in support of its political positions, such as its opposition to Australian involvement in Malaya and the Korean War.[164] At the district and local bodies of the union it was sometimes easier for the party to gain support. For example, in Victoria the Wonthaggi miners also opposed the Korean War and the branch was affiliated with the Australian Peace Council with regular meetings being held on peace movement issues at the Union Theatre.[165]

During World War II the Collinsville State Mine was Queensland’s biggest colliery with more 500 miners.[166] From the mid 1930s onwards the Communist Party had a strong presence in Collinsville and there were four CPA branches to only one ALP branch.[167] When Fred Paterson was elected to the Queensland parliament there were eighty-five party members in the town.[168] In a town where there was only one industry this Communist Party influence was reflected in the decisions of the local Miners’ Federation branch. As John Currie, the branch chair throughout the 1950s, explained, the branch responded ‘to everything that happened on the left of the Australian scene’.[169] In common with other Communist-led unions the branch opposed Australian involvement in both Malaya and Korea.[170] Since attendance at branch meetings was compulsory the protest almost certainly reflects the general sentiment that existed amongst the majority of Collinsville miners.[171]

In September and October 1953 a dispute broke out at the mine over plans to introduce increased mechanisation so that a contract to supply coal to the US army in South Korea could be fulfilled.[172] In May when the contract was first announced Jim Nisbet, the branch secretary and a member of the Communist Party, had written to the Mines Minister Riordon informing him that the monthly union branch meeting had opposed coal from the mine being supplied to the US forces.[173] The Communist Party was therefore seen as the main instigator of the dispute that followed.[174] There were claims in federal parliament that the dispute was a product of the Communist Party’s opposition to the US involvement in Korea rather than any genuine industrial issue.[175] Since there were other non-communist-led unions apart from the Communist-led Miners’ Federation involved in the dispute this claim can be seen as yet another product of Cold War hysteria. The dispute was finally settled after the state government conceded the unions’ claims for increased payments to compensate for changed work procedures.[176]

After the Collinsville mine disaster the Shechy Royal Commission reported in 1954 that, Communist Party influence was probably the major cause of the strong antagonism to the Korean contract but ‘maybe not a controlling part in the severity of job control and militancy in pursuing objectives’.[177] These findings confirm that Communist Party union activists had convinced many Collinsville miners of the CPA’s position on the Korean conflict. At the same time there were strong local traditions of industrial militancy that existed independently of the Communist Party. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that in Collinsville, Communist union officials reflected the general industrial and political outlook of the union members they represented, a situation that may not have existed in other Communist-led unions.

The triple alliance

In June 1950 the leaders of the Miners’ Federation, the Seamen’s Union and the WWF met to discuss the threat that the proposed Communist Party Dissolution Bill posed to many of the officials of their respective organisations. They resolved to seek support from their memberships to establish an alliance between the three unions that would ‘render mutual assistance of a moral, financial and industrial character, in event of any of the organisations named being involved in struggle against fascist legislation…’[178] The unions also believed that united action by the union movement would not only defeat the Bill but also would bring down the Menzies government.[179] The basic thrust of the proposed alliance at this stage was limited to the defence of trade union rights, but with the implied threat of united action if there were an attempt by the Menzies government to reduce living standards.[180] The three unions had the potential industrial strength to shut down the Australian economy, a feature that was well understood by the unions and their opponents.

The unions also had long-established traditions of political and industrial militancy that predated the Communist Party. More importantly, their membership generally continued to support their Communist officials not only as ‘trade union workers but as political radicals’.[181] The exclusion of other Communist-led unions from the proposed alliance, some with similar traditions, indicates a degree of caution on behalf of the Communist Party, or a reluctance of some Communist union officials to be involved, a feature that was often not evident in other areas of political activity. For example, BWIU officials almost lost their positions after they attempted to disaffiliate the union from the ALP as a protest against the Chifley government’s actions during the coal strike.[182] Similarly, in April 1949 at mass meetings the FIA membership overwhelmingly rejected an executive motion for strike action after Jack McPhillips, the union’s national assistant secretary, had been jailed for one month for contempt of the Arbitration Court.[183] These examples clearly illuminate the limits of the Communist Party’s political influence in the unions they led and help explain the hesitations of other Communist union officials to join the alliance.

The outbreak of the Korean War rapidly changed the nature of the proposed alliance. The Communist Party now called for the alliance to shift from being an essentially defensive strategy to defend Communist union officials, into a weapon in which the unions concerned would use their industrial strength to prevent any Australian involvement in the Korean War. In March the International Union of Seamen and Dock Workers, a department of the World Federation of Trade Unions, had called for worldwide bans on the handling of war materials.[184] A few months earlier the Australian Peace Council congress had endorsed the use of industrial action to prevent any Australian involvement in future wars.[185] However, within a very short period the Communist Party was forced to retreat and abandon all its plans to use industrial action to oppose the war.

The Miners’ Federation

In May 1950, after hearing a report by councillor W. Parkinson on the Australian Peace Council congress, the Miners’ Federation central council endorsed its decisions, making specific reference to the resolution of the APC trade union commission.[186] The same council meeting also threatened industrial action ‘in the event of any attempt to dispatch arms and troops to Malaya’. As Common Cause explained, the stand was consistent with long-standing traditions of opposition to colonial oppression and was taken against a background of ‘current aggression by Imperialism’ in the Pacific.[187] Two years earlier the Miners’ Federation had stated: ‘We were with the Bolsheviks in 1917. We have been by the side of the Soviet Union ever since.’[188] Thus, given this background for radical socialist politics, when the Korean War commenced the Communist Party would have been confident that the Miners’ Federation members would support both the proposed alliance and industrial action against the war.

Common Cause gave extensive coverage to the Korean War with an analysis that was consistent with Communist Party policy.[189] Its coverage increasingly stressed the need to strengthen the peace movement and the key role that industrial workers could play in ending the war. On 8 July Common Cause asked the question, ‘But what of action on the industrial front?’ as a way in which workers could express their opposition to the war.[190] Two weeks later Common Cause called on mineworkers to support their opposition to the war with action.[191] The example of the Seamen’s Union and the WWF refusal to handle war materials was one that Miners’ Federation members should consider when ‘digging coal for war purposes’.[192] In the struggle against imperialist war, the protection of democratic rights, the maintenance of living standards, all of which were clearly connected, Common Cause pledged that ‘the mineworkers of Australia will play their part!’[193] A statement issued by vice-president Parkinson, drew attention to the Miners' Federation’s position of support for industrial action on Malaya, and went on to add that since the issues in Korea were similar ‘we must take a similar stand on this question’.[194] His comments were later endorsed by Idris Williams, the general president, who stated that while the Miners' Federation had not yet discussed Korea, the comments were ‘in accordance with Federation policy.[195]

Shortly after war commenced Edgar Ross argued that there was now ‘another basis for the triple alliance, another justification for it, another factor emphasising its urgency!’[196] There was clearly an intention, at least on the part of the Communist Party activists, that the alliance would provide the leadership in the trade union struggle against the war. In support of the alliance Parkinson issued another statement linking its formation with the peace movement, and added it would ‘constitute a grave warning to all who would attack the Labor [sic] Movement’.[197] The union’s central executive now called on all sections of the union to discuss the proposed triple alliance and make a specific declaration in support. Their statement noted that recent developments including the Korean War had aggravated ‘the threat to democratic liberties, trade union rights and living standards’.[198]

Almost immediately rank and file members of the Miners' Federation opposed the proposed triple alliance. Common Cause explained that there was ‘considerable confusion’ about the alliance with members feeling they ‘were being asked to agree with some sort of automatic action in support of any move to hold up supplies to Korea’.[199] Common Cause emphasised that the triple alliance was originally proposed as a mutual assistance pact in the event of any one of them being attacked either by the Menzies government or by the employers. Yet with Communist activists in the Miners' Federation arguing consistently in support of the Seamen’s Union and the WWF, it is clear that the majority of Miners' Federation members felt they would inevitably be drawn into a major clash with the government on the issue. Against a background of virulent anti-communism many of the planned national aggregate meetings called to discuss the issue were abandoned.[200]

The issue was finally resolved in August when, after an extensive debate, the central council voted to authorise ‘the Executive to consider discussions with other unions’ but ‘no formal alliance to be entered into without the submission of the matter to the membership at aggregate meetings’.[201] During the debate Williams, the general president, conceded that while only a minority of the Federation’s lodges had voted on the issue, the majority of those had opposed the alliance. The opposition to the alliance was led by G.W.S. Grant, the general secretary and a member of the ALP. Grant explained that he had reversed his previous support for the alliance after he had seen the press statements by Parkinson linking the establishment of the alliance with opposition to the Korean War.[202] Grant also said that while he ‘didn’t agree with the present situation in Korea’, he was ‘with the Government -- any Government that puts forward a policy to protect Australia’.[203] He also reminded executive members that ‘certain people’ -- a clear reference to the Communist Party -- had opposed the last war until Russia was attacked.[204]

Grant had a long history of support for militant trade unionism dating back to the 1929 Rothbury demonstration and he had an innate class consciousness.[205] During the 1949 coal strike he had been sentenced to twelve months imprisonment for ‘contempt of court’ charges for reusing to reveal information to the court about the location of union funds.[206] His opposition to any suggestion of union industrial action to oppose the Korean War clearly show that it was possible to be industrially militant and politically cautious. There were pockets of support for the alliance from areas where there was a significant Communist activity such as Collinsville in Queensland, Lithgow in NSW and Wonthaggi in Victoria.[207] The Southern District (NSW) had also voted overwhelmingly in support of the alliance.[208] However, this vote was taken before the start of the Korean War, and the vote may well have been reversed if it had been taken later. However, it was clear that the Communist Party had failed to convince Miners' Federation members about the necessity for industrial action to oppose the war.

The Seamen’s Union

In June 1950, the federal executive of the Seamen’s Union passed a resolution which declared that, ‘Australian Merchant Seamen are pledged to refuse to handle or transport war supplies and will mobilise opposition to Menzies’ aims to make Australia an American colony’.[209] It was the most explicit challenge to the government’s Korean policies. Even before the outbreak of the war the union had shown some interest in Korean politics. For example, the Seamen’s Journal in June 1950 contained a World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) report on Korea (dated 10 May) which criticised the US role in Asia and supported the right of the Korean people to determine their future without outside interference.[210]

There was an almost immediate hostile reaction to the resolution once it became public knowledge about a week later. The fact that E.V. Elliott, the Federal Secretary, had just returned from a Budapest WFTU executive meeting, where trade union action on peace-related issues was discussed, heightened the prevailing anti-communist hysteria.[211] News-Weekly claimed that the union was ‘pledged to fifth column activity’ and that the ‘long awaited clash between the Government and the Communist Party looms closer’ because of the union’s action.[212] News-Weekly also claimed that Communist union leaders had received instructions the previous December to block the supply of war materials to Asia.[213] The Returned Servicemen’s League also condemned the union’s actions calling on the government to take firm action, if necessary, against the union and called on its own Seamen’s Union members to assist in the removal of their Communist union officials.[214]

It may have been possible for the Seamen’s Union leadership to ignore opposition from outside the labour movement and continue with the proposed ban. However, the union was almost totally isolated in the trade union movement on the issue and this made it impossible for the leadership to maintain its support for union action to oppose the war. The rejection of the triple alliance by the Miners’ Federation membership meant that in any prolonged dispute with the government the Seamen’s Union would receive little support from one of Australia’s strongest and militant unions. More importantly, in September 1950, the ACTU interstate executive supported the government’s Korean policies and branded North Korea as the aggressor.[215] In response to the ACTU leadership, Elliott alleged that ‘Seamen have seen their mates die agonising deaths and will actively oppose today’s Australian youth suffering the same fate’.[216] Tribune accused the ACTU leaders of rushing in to ‘play copper’ and added that they had exposed themselves as ‘traitors to the Labor movement and Australia’s great traditions of opposition to unjust war.’[217]

The union came under a sustained attack from a diverse range of sources. At the July NSW ALP conference Chifley attacked the ban and called on the government to use the Crimes Act to defeat it.[218] A short while later the Commonwealth Police raided the union office as a possible prelude to the laying of charges under the Crimes Act.[219] Elliott then instructed all officials not to make statements to the police or the security service.[220] The union leadership then faced claims that they were traitors to Australia. In rejecting the claim Elliott said that Australians should ‘look at the kind of war the Menzies government aided by the Rightwing inside the Labor movement want to drag us into’.[221] Elliott also pointed out that all seven members of the union’s federal management committee, which had unanimously endorsed the ban, were veterans of the world wars.[222] Tribune welcomed the Seamen’s Union decision describing it as an example of ‘selfless loyalty and devotion to Australia’.[223]

The unrelenting attacks on the Seamen’s Union started to cause divisions in the union. Reginald Franklin, the federal president, and the only non-communist member of the federal executive denied he had been consulted about the issue; a claim rejected by the Seamen’s Union official historian.[224] In response to mainstream media reports about divisions in the union, Tribune claimed that the majority of union members supported the decision.[225] Whatever possible distortions there may have been in the mainstream media coverage it is clear that there was significant opposition to the attempt to impose bans. For example, in Sydney the crew of the Macedon condemned the executive resolution and demanded an immediate special stopwork meeting to discuss the issue.[226] It became increasingly clear to the union leadership that it could no longer maintain its call for transport bans on war materials to Korea.

Mass meetings of the union’s members were then held around Australia. They voted 929 to 814 to support an executive recommendation that condemned Australian involvement in the Korean War, but made no mention of imposing bans on the supply of war materials.[227] The rejection of bans by the Seamen’s Union rank and file ended the union’s involvement in the proposed triple alliance. Elliott was to claim later that ‘many seamen succumbed to this capitalist propaganda’ and that ‘the action of the Federal Executive and its decision were correct’.[228] Yet, despite the virulent anti-communist campaign, a narrow majority of the Seamen’s Union members had voted to oppose the war. The issue for many of them was not so much opposition to the Korean War, but the attempt by their union leadership to extend this opposition into the industrial arena.

The Waterside Workers’ Federation

Of the three unions that were to establish the triple alliance, the WWF was the least active on the Korean War issue. Ted Roach, the assistant secretary of the WWF, maintained that the WWF had previously always given ‘full support’ to colonial people struggling for independence.[229] In Sydney, a WWF branch official, Ron Maxwell, held what he called ‘an extra good meeting’ outside the Circular Quay wharf where the war was condemned.[230] Maritime Worker did cover the Korean War issue but failed to call specifically for trade union bans on the transport of war materials.[231] The inaction of the federal leadership was in sharp contrast to its actions a few years before, when it took the lead in imposing bans on Dutch shipping in support of Indonesian independence.

The outlook of the federal WWF leadership was shaped by a number of factors. While Jim Healy was widely respected within the union, and repeatedly re-elected to his position, this support did not usually translate into support for his political outlook.[232] In July 1950, in the WWF elections, the Industrial Group maintained its control of the Brisbane executive and was successful in defeating Ted Englart, the Communist Party branch secretary.[233] The Melbourne WWF branch was also led by anti-Healy forces.[234] In the event of the Federal leadership calling for a boycott, these ports, and others, would have defied the call thus making it ineffective. In August 1950, the Townsville WWF rejected by 299 to 230 a motion to impose bans on war materials.[235] Yet the same branch in June, after hearing a report from their branch delegate to the Melbourne Peace Congress, endorsed its decisions.[236] This again illustrates the sharp distinction that many unionists made between support for the peace movement and its extension to include industrial action.

Despite the rejection of industrial action by the majority of WWF members there were isolated examples of waterside workers refusing to handle war materials. In July two waterside workers and a tally clerk refused to load Mustang engines on the Changie which was bound for Korea.[237] The next month, fourteen Sydney WWF members were suspended for three days after they refused to load war material onto the Yunnan. They were replaced by another work gang whose delegate claimed that 90 per cent of WWF members supported the war and they would act to ensure that supplies which reach Korea.[238] The fact that the local WWF leadership did not try and extend the dispute, which would have often been the normal response, is an indication of their isolation on the issue. The same month after a protest from Jim Healy, shipowners conceded that press reports of WWF work bans on loading ammunition were a total fabrication.[239] Thus, in common with other Communist-led unions, the WWF abandoned all attempts to organise industrial action against the war.

The aftermath

The defeat of the proposal to establish a triple alliance was a major blow for the Communist Party and its attempts to organise widespread industrial action against the Korean War. In its key stronghold unions the membership had acted decisively to reject being drawn into a campaign that would directly challenge the government’s Korean War policies. It meant that there would be no generalised industrial action to oppose the war. However, it did not end all industrial action on peace-related issues. In April 1954 Sydney WWF members refused to load bombs and arms onto the Radnor which was bound for French Indo-China. In response the Menzies government ordered troops to load the ship.[240] Two years earlier, during a strike in Sydney, troops were used to load the Devonshire which was bound for Korea.[241] The potential use of troops by the government was therefore always a factor that the WWF had to consider in any industrial dispute.

In the aftermath of the defeat of the triple alliance proposal the Communist Party began to shift its overall trade union strategy. The first indication of this came when Jack Blake presented a major report on the peace movement to the July central committee meeting. Blake stated that there had been ‘a wrong tendency to give the primary direction of Party leadership through top strongpoints in trade unions’ instead of directing activity through the revellent party organisations.[242] He argued that Communist trade union leaders who tried to lead by proclamation would mean that the CPA would fall into adventurism, and ‘unfortunately there has been too much of these methods’.[243] While Blake made no direct reference to the debates that were occurring in the three unions, it is almost certain that he was referring to them. The aim of communist trade union activists, Blake explained, was to lead to a situation where ‘the whole struggle is developed on the basis of conscious action below instead of relying on technical points’.[244] The full impact of this analysis was to be felt over the next few years as the CPA sought to rebuild alliances with the mainstream labour movement.

The 1959 Melbourne Peace Congress

From the mid 1950s onwards political developments in Australia and internationally started to have an impact on the Australian peace movement. The 1955 split in the ALP, by removing many of the more conservative forces from the party, opened up the possibility of the mainstream labour movement returning to its traditional concerns about peace-related issues. In 1956 Khrushchev’s denunciation of the crimes of Stalin led to around two thousand resignations from the Communist Party.[245] However, unlike those who had left the party at the onset of the Cold War, many of these new departures maintained their support for radical politics. These developments meant that for the first time at a peace congress, there was real discussion of minority viewpoints which in the past had been unrepresented.[246]

In September 1959 the ACTU congress endorsed a resolution on the peace movement. It declared, ‘That all trade unionists should support to the upmost the ideal of peace’ and went on to support the Australian-New Zealand Conference for Disarmament and International Co-operation due to be held in Melbourne in November. Initially ACTU president Albert Monk was to preside at the trade union section of the conference.[247] The state executive of the Victorian ALP agreed to sponsor the conference.[248] A prominent role in the trade union section of the peace conference was played by Grouper supporter Jim Kenny, the ACTU senior vice-president and secretary of the NSW Labor Council.[249] This section was held in the main chamber of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, an indication of how much the complexion of the Grouper stronghold had changed since the 1955 split.[250] In June the council had issued a call for all trade unionists to support the congress.[251]

Despite this wider support there was still continuing opposition to the peace movement from within the labour movement, mainly from forces linked to the Industrial Groups. In a pamphlet issued for the conference, Santamaria criticised Bill O’Brien and Don McSween, both members of the organising committee, as ‘two well-known “unity ticket” men’.[252] When the ACTU moved to endorse the peace congress, Lloyd Ross was a vocal opponent.[253] When Kenny reported back to the NSW Labor Council, which endorsed the decisions of the congress, J. Riordan, federal secretary of the Clerk’s Union, opposed the adoption of the report.[254] Despite the NSW ALP central executive sending an official observer to the congress, Tom Uren, a left-wing parliamentarian, was told that if he spoke he risked being charged under party rules.[255] The Melbourne Peace Congress was Uren’s first direct involvement with the peace movement, and helped to establish a course that was to be followed by numerous other ALP members over the next decade.[256] This continuing enmity and the need to maintain its new alliances meant that the Communist Party had to pay careful attention to the tactics it proposed at the conference.

A total of 386 delegates attended the trade union section of the congress.[257] It was therefore one of the biggest and broadest meeting of trade union peace activists of the 1950s. Communist-led unions such as the Seamen’s Union sent significant numbers of officials and delegates to the congress.[258] For the first time in years ALP members could talk openly about their participation in a peace movement congress.[259] Despite this more representative nature, nine out of thirteen members of the drafting committee were leading trade union functionaries.[260] A number of rank and file union delegates criticised the Communist Party for its passivity and its refusal to support industrial action on peace-related issues. For example, Lionel Anets, a Sydney-based Trotskyist, argued that without ‘working-class action against nuclear war and capitalism’ the peace movement would achieve little.[261] Similarly, George Petersen claimed that the Communist Party’s ‘peaceful coexistence class collaborationist line’ had been adopted virtually unchallenged.[262]

The determination of the Communist Party to suppress any mention of industrial action over the peace issue became apparent early in the congress. A worker who intended moving a resolution was warned by the Communist federal secretary of his union that he would be branded as a disruptor if he did.[263] On the first day, in response to a question, Healy stressed that two million people talking about peace would have a major impact on public opinion. In fact Healy carefully avoided any mention of industrial action, including those previously organised by his own union.[264] It represented a considerable shift away from the policies the Communist Party was arguing for a few years previously.

The first speaker the next day was R. Richardson, a boilermaker: he called for a black ban on nuclear tests. He drew attention to the Jolly George campaign and the bans that were imposed on Dutch shipping.[265] Another speaker linked the struggle for peace with the fight to establish a socialist society -- a position that in theory the Communist Party adhered to.[266] In the evening there was a call for a 24-hour stoppage the day after the French tested a nuclear bomb in the Sahara. The call was widely applauded and supported by some of the following speakers.[267] A Catholic worker from the Sydney waterfront urged the conference to adopt the slogan ‘Down Bomb-Down Tools’.[268]

The debate over possible trade union tactics continued on the third day. A FEDFA delegate from Sydney’s Cockatoo Dock questioned why so many workers chose to work in the war industries and then called for the progressive closure of all war plants.[269] Finally, E. McCormick, a Melbourne waterside worker, cited the inspiring example of industrial action by Japanese workers, who for eighteen months had prevented the use of warheads that had been sent to Japan. McCormick went on to call for a complete ban on the Woomera Rocket Range, something that the Communist Party had attempted unsuccessfully to achieve twelve years previously.

Despite some indications of support, those calling for militant action were clearly a minority.[270] A combination of ALP and CPA union activists united to defeat all calls for industrial action in support of peace. Jim Healy justified this on the basis that ‘there are unions and union leaders who are afraid of such a move. We shouldn’t get divided on this question’.[271] Unlike the trade union resolution of first Australian Peace Council congress, that of the 1959 congress contained no reference to any form of industrial action in support of peace demands.[272]


This article has examined the specific application of the Communist Party’s trade union strategy in three areas. In two of them, that of the Woomera Rocket Range and opposition to the Korean War, the party tried to move beyond a propaganda campaign and use its leadership of key industrial unions to support its demands. In each instance it was forced to make a rapid retreat. In the case of Woomera it was due to a combination of two factors. First, the Chifley government, as it would do so two years later during the coal strike, reacted by passing legislation which imposed heavy penalties on unions taking what it considered to be political rather than industrial action. Second, was the reluctance of the central party leadership to make the final break with the Chifley government. It still hoped to maintain some kind of unofficial alliance with the ALP. It used its authority in the party to compel the party Victorian trade union leaders, who were the main supporters of the proposed union ban, to fall into line with party policy.

By the time the Korean War commenced the Cold War had reached a fever pitch of intensity. Many Australians saw the war as a possible prelude to the next world war with frightening consequences. Correspondingly, there were deeply entrenched fears of communism and its threat to Australian society. However much the Communist Party tried to argue that its opposition to the Korean War was consistent with Australian labour movement traditions, it was simply not believed. Many Australians saw the party as an agent of the Soviet Union operating as a ‘fifth column’ in Australian society. Thus, when the party moved to establish the triple alliance as a means of escalating its campaign against the war, it ran into immediate problems. Rank and file members of the three unions concerned, the Miners’ Federation, Seamen’s Union and the WWF, rejected it outright and it died a quick death. However, it should be noted that members of all three unions continued to be active in the peace movement throughout the 1950s, and also continued to re-elect their Communist officials. What was at stake for the majority of members of the unions concerned was not so much the issue of the war, or the nature of their Communist officials, but the seemingly inappropriate use of industrial action to support unpopular political goals.

By 1959 the Australian political climate was slowly starting to change. It was now possible for the Communist Party to establish alliances with political forces beyond its immediate periphery. However, in order to maintain these new alliances the CPA had to abandon the revolutionary essence of its proclaimed Marxism. Many of the new supporters of the peace movement were members or supporters of the ALP. Their first loyalty was towards ensuring the election of ALP to government and this meant the complete rejection of any sign of revolutionary politics. The Communist Party was in fact returning to the ‘Popular Front’ days of the mid-1930s in which the Communist Party functioned almost as a left appendage of the ALP. In the process CPA union activists could continue to be involved in the peace movement, but under conditions where the radical rhetoric of the early 1950s had evaporated.

[1] Alan Bullock, The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin Volume One: Trade Union Leader 1881-1940, Melbourne, Heinemann, 1960, pp133-134; James Klugmann, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain Volume 1: Formation and Early Years, 1919,-1924, London, Lawrence & Wishart, 1968, p. 80; A.L. Morton & George Tate, The British Labour Movement, London, Lawrence & Wishart, 1956, p. 287; Henry Pelling, A History of British Trade Unionism ,London, 1963, p. 164.

[2] Harry Pollittt, Serving My Time: An Apprenticeship to Politics, London, Lawrence & Wishart, 1941, p. 116-117.

[3]Bullock, Life and Times of Ernest Bevin, p. 134; Trevor Evans, Bevin, London, George Allen & Unwin, 1946, pp. 83-84; Peter Weiler, Ernest Bevin, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1993, p. 20.

[4] G.D. Cole, A Short History of the British Working Class 1789-1927: Volume III 1900-1927, George Allen & Unwin, 1927, pp. 174-75; Klugman, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, p. 83;

[5] Cole, A Short History, p. 175; Evans, Bevin, p. 84; Klugmann, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain, p. 85.

[6] Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime, New York, Vintage Books, 1995, p. 183.

[7] Frank Farrell, International Socialism and Australian Labour: The Left in Australia 1919-1939, Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1981, p. 106.

[8] Cole, A Short History, p. 175; Klugmann, History of Communist Party of Great Britain, pp. 164-165; Morton& Tate, The British Labour Movement, p. 288.

[9] Jack Blake, War, What For?, Melbourne, International Bookshop, 1949, p. 11.

[10] In November 1947 Jack Blake described the policies of Bevin and Evatt as ‘anti-Soviet’. See Robin Gollan, Revolutionaries and Reformists: Communism and the Australian Labour Movement 1920-1955, Canberra, Australian National University Press, 1975, p. 203.

[11] Ibid., p. 12.

[12] Vic Bird, S.S. Silkworth Dispute of 1937: A Memoir, Melbourne, Melbourne May Day Committee, 1991.

[13] Margo Beasley, Wharfies: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, Rushcutters Bay (NSW), Halstead Press, 1996, p. 106; Wendy Lowenstein & Tom Hills, Under the Hook: Melbourne Waterside Workers Remember Working Lives and Class War 1900-1980, Prahran (Vic), 1982, p. 83; Tom Nelson, The Hungry Mile, Sydney, Waterside Workers’ Federation, pp.25, 74; Vic Williams, The Years of Big Jim, Western Australia, Lone Hand Press, 1975, pp.40-41.

[14] Robert Lockwood, War on the Waterfront: Menzies, Japan and the Pig-Iron Dispute, Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1987; Len Richardson, ‘Dole Queue Patriots’, in John Iremonger, John Merritt, & Graeme Osborne (eds), Strikes: Studies in Twentieth Century Australian History, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1973, pp. 143-158.

[15] Stan Moran, a Sydney wharfie and communist, claimed that he was the originator of the epithet ‘Pig-Iron Bob’ used to describe Robert Menzies. See Stan Moran, Reminiscences of a Rebel, Chippendale (NSW), Alternative Publishing Co-op, 1979, pp. 17-18.

[16] Beasley, Wharfies, p. 108.

[17] Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from Origins to Illegality, St Leonards (NSW), Allen & Unwin, 1998, p. 308; Greg Mallory, Uncharted Waters: Social Responsibility in Australian Trade Unions, Brisbane, Greg Mallory, 2005, pp. 39-48.

[18] Beasley, Wharfies, p. 107; Sondra Silverman, ‘Australian Political Strikes’, Labour History, No.11 (November 1966), p. 33; Williams, The Years of Big Jim, p. 40.

[19] Audrey Blake, ‘Some Problems In The Movement For Peace’, Communist Review, August 1950, pp. 633-635; J. Blake, ‘A Government of National Betrayal’, Communist Review, March 1950, pp. 451-452; J. Blake, ‘Report On The Tasks Of The Party In the Struggle For Peace’, Communist Review, September 1950, pp. 643-652; Bernie Taft, Crossing the Party Line: Memoirs of Bernie Taft, Newham (Vic), Scribe Publications, 1994, pp. 57-58.

[20] Mallory, Uncharted Waters, p. 42.

[21] Paul Wilson, ‘Rockets and Aborigines August 1945-August 1947: A study in the initial plans for the Woomera Rocket Range and the protest movement which surfaced to challenge its implementation’, BA Honours (History), La Trobe University, 1980, p. 10.

[22] David Day, Chifley, Sydney, HarperCollins, 2001, p. 433.

[23] Dick Leichleitnet Japanangka & Pam Nathan, Settle Down Country: A Community Report for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Malmsbury (Vic), 1983, p. 50.

[24] Richard Broinowski, Fact or Fission? The Truth About Australia’s Nuclear Ambitions, Melbourne, Scribe Publications, 2003, p. 13.

[25] Ibid., p. 26; Kylie Tennant, Evatt: Politics and Justice, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1981, p. 201.

[26] Ken Buckley, Barbara Dale, & Wayne Reynolds, Doc Evatt: Patriot, Internationalist, and Scholar, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1994, pp. 286-287; Frank Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation: An Unofficial History, Richmond (Vic), Spectrum Publications, 1994, p. 33; Day, Chifley, p. 451; David Lowe, Menzies and the Great World Struggle: Australia’s Cold War 1948-!954, Sydney, University of New South Wales, 1999, p. 18.

[27] Ross McMullin, The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party 1891-1991, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 250; C.B. Schedvin, Shaping Science and Technology: A History of Australia’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1926-1949, North Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1987, p. 334.

[28] Charles Byrne, Communism and Us, Melbourne, Hawthorn, 1964, pp. 27-28.

[29] Guardian, 14 March 1947, p. 8.

[30] Ralph Summy, “The Australian Peace Council and the Anti-Communist Milieu 1949-1965’, in Charles Chatfield & Peter van den Dungen (eds.), Peace Movements and Political Cultures, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1988, p. 235.

[31] H.V. Evatt, Hands of the Nations Defences, Canberra, Federal Capital Press, 1947, pp. 1-2.

[32] H.V. Evatt, ‘Defence Projects and Boycott Propaganda’, Australian Observer, 31 May 1947, p. 37.

[33] Eleanor M. Moore, The Quest For Peace As I Have Known It in Australia, Melbourne, Wilkie & Co., 1949, p. 152; The Beacon, April 1947, p. 3.

[34] Alf Watt, Rocket Range Threatens Australia, Adelaide, South Australian State Committee Australian Communist Party, 1947. Also see Ralph Gibson, My Years in the Communist Party, Melbourne, International Bookshop, 1966, pp. 126-127; Jim Moss, Representatives of Discontent: History of the Communist Party of South Australia 1921-1981, Melbourne, Communist and Labour Movement History Group, 1983, p. 31; Katharine Susannah Prichard, Straight Left, Sydney, Wild & Woolley, 1969, pp. 96-100.

[35] Ibid., p. 6

[36] Ibid., pp. 11-16.

[37] Barrie Blears, Together With Us: A Personal Glimpse of the Eureka Youth League and its Origins 1920 to 1970, Leura (NSW), 2001, p. 105.

[38] Heather Goodall, Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics 1770-1972, St Leonards (NSW), Allan & Unwin, 1996, p.274; Jack Horner, Vote Ferguson, Vote Ferguson For Aboriginal Freedom: A Biography, Brookvale (NSW), Australia and New Zealand Book Company, 1974; pp. 142-143; Michael Toomay, ‘Red on Black: The Communist Party of Australia and the Aborigines 1946-63’, University of Melbourne B.B. (History), Honours, 1979, p. 11.

[39] Jack Horner, Seeking Racial Justice: An Insider’s Memoir of the Movement for Aboriginal Advancement 1938-1978, Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2004, p. 15.

[40] Geoffrey Gray, ‘Aborigines, Elkin and the Guided Projectiles Project’, Aboriginal History, Vol. 15, Part 2, p. 157; Wilson, ‘Rockets and Aborigines’, p. 26.

[41] Bain Attwood, Rights For Aborigines, Crows Nest (NSW), Allen & Unwin, 2003, pp. 121-122.

[42] Tigger Wise, The Self-Made Anthropologist, North Sydney, George Allen & Unwin, 1985, pp. 199-200.

[43] Argus, 13 May 1947.

[44] Transcontinental, 23 August 1946, p. 4.

[45] Ibid., 29 November 1946, p. 5.

[46] John Sendy, Comrades Come Rally! Recollections of an Australian Communist, West Melbourne, Thomas Nelson Australia, 1978, pp. 35-36.

[47] Ibid., p. 33. Santamaria lists the Council as ‘communist controlled’. See B.A. Santamaria, Santamaria: A Memoir, Melbourne, Oxford University Press Australia, 1997, p. 71.

[48] Guardian, 28 March 1947, p. 1. The short report only mentions that the rocket range was part of the ‘Imperialist war preparations’. It fails to address any of the other issues that may have been involved.

[49] W. Bottomley, ‘Dangerous Trends’, The Beacon, no.90 New Series April 1947, p. 1.

[50] Marian Hartley, The Truth Shall Prevail, Melbourne, Spectrum Publications, 1982, p. 67; Douglas Jordan, ‘The Trojan Dove? Intellectual and Religious Peace Activism in the Early Cold War’, B.A. Honours, Victoria University, 2004, pp. 36-37.

[51] Wilson, ‘Rockets and Aborigines’, p. 64.

[52] Attwood, Rights For Aborigines, p. 122.

[53] Jean Moran, ‘Scientists in the Political and Public Arena’, pp. 208 &211.

[54] Ibid., p. 208.

[55] Horner, Vote Ferguson, p. 144. Ferguson had been a decades-long Aboriginal activist as well as an Australian Workers Union and ALP member and would have been able to draw in some independent activists.

[56] Audrey Johnson, Bread & Roses: A Personal History of Three Militant Women and their Friends 1902-1988, Sutherland (NSW), Left Book Club Co-op, 1990, p. 154.

[57] Maritime Worker, January 1947, p. 2.

[58] Day, Chifley, pp. 452-453.

[59] Tom Wright, ‘Fight For The Aborigines’, Communist Review, April 1947, p. 500.

[60] Guardian, 23 May 1947, p. 1.

[61] Mavis Thorpe Clark, Pastor Doug: The Story of Sir Doug Nicholls Aboriginal Leader, Melbourne, Lansdowne Press, 1972, pp. 145-146; Gibson, My Years in the Communist Party, p. p. 126-127; Horner, Vote Ferguson, p. 142.

[62] Clark, Pastor Doug, p. 147.

[63] Tennant, Evatt, p. 201.

[64] Davidson, Communist Party of Australia, pp. 101-102; Phillip Deery & Neil Redfern, ‘No Lasting Peace? Labor, Communism and the Cominform: Australia and Great Britain, 1945-1950’, Labour History, no.88 (May 2005), pp. 68-73; Gollan, Revolutionaries and Reformists, p. 203; O’Lincoln, Into the Mainstream, pp. 57-59.

[65] Clark, Pastor Doug, p. 146; Ross Fitzgerald, The Pope’s Battalions: Santamaria Catholicism and the Labor Split, St Lucia (Qld), University of Queensland, 2003, p. 90.

[66] Guardian, 28 March 1947, p. 1; News-Weekly, 21 May 1947, p. 1.

[67] John Spierings, A Brush With History: The Painters’ Union and the Australian Labour Movement, South Melbourne, 1994, p. 143.

[68] Age, 10 may 1947, p. 1; Argus, 10 May, 1947, p. 1.

[69] Herald, 14 May 1947, p. 2.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Age, 12 May 1947, p. 2; Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 1947, p. 1.

[72] John Iremonger, ‘Cold War Warrior’ in Heather Radi & Peter Spearitt (Eds), Jack Lang, Neutral Bay (NSW), Hale & Iremonger, 1977, p. 245.

[73] Davidson, Communist Party of Australia, p. 133; Moran, ‘Scientists in the Political and Public Arena’, p. 215; Sheridan, Division of Labour, p. 63.

[74] Patrick Weller & Beverley Lloyd (Eds), Federal Executive Minutes 1915-1955, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, 1978, p. 347.

[75] Frank McManus, The Tumult and the Shouting, Adelaide, Rigby Limited, 1977, p. 61.

[76] Patrick Weller (Ed), Caucus Minutes 1901-1949: Minutes of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, Vol 3, 1932-1949, Carlton (Vic), Melbourne University Press, 1975, p. 347.

[77] Ibid., pp.437,442.

[78] Age, 14 May 1947, p.1;Guardian, 6 May 1947, p. 1;

[79] Guardian, 6 May 1947, p. 1.

[80] Guardian, 23 May 1947, p. 1.

[81] Railways Union Gazette, June 1947, p. 2.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Tom Wright, ‘Evatt Attacks Civil Liberties’, Communist Review, August 1947, p. 628.

[84]L.L Sharkey, For Australia Prosperous and Independent, p. 25.

[85] Gibson, My Years in the Communist Party, pp. 149-151.

[86] Don Watson, Brian Fitzpatrick: A Radical Life, Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1979, p. 210; Tom Wright, ‘Evatt Attacks Civil Liberties’, Communist Review, August 1947, pp. 627-629.

[87] CPD, House of Representatives, Vol 192, 5-6 June 1947, pp. 3657-2659.

[88] Guardian, 27 June 1947, p. 3.

[89] Guardian, 4 July 1947, p. 3.

[90] Malcolm Saunders, Quiet Dissenter: The Life and Thought of an Australian Pacifist Eleanor Moore May Moore, 1875-1949, Canberra, Peace Research Centre Australian National University, 1993, p. 340-341.

[91] The Beacon, July 1947, p. 5.

[92] Watson, Brian Fitzpatrick, p. 210.

[93] Sheridan, Division of Labour, p. 63; Tom Wright, ‘A.C.T.U. Congress’, Communist Review, October 1947. p. 685.

[94] Guardian, 6 June 1947, p. 3; 13 June 1947, p. 1; 4 July 1947, p. 3; Sheridan, Division of Labour, p. 63.

[95] Guardian, 20 June 1947, p. 1.

[96] Ibid., Saffin, Left and Right in Bendigo and Shepparton, p. 19.

[97] Alec Robertson, ‘CPA in the Anti-War Movement’, Australian Left Review, no.27 (October-November 1970), pp. 39, 41-44; Turner, Room For Manoeuvre, pp. 126-129.

[98] The Examiner (Launceston), 17 April 1950, p. 8; Geelong Advertiser, 17 April 1950, p. 1; Mercury (Hobart), p. 2; Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 1950, p. 4.

[99] ‘Resolutions of Australian Peace Congress-Melbourne, April 1950’, Communist Review, June 1950, p. 553.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Tribune, 29 April 1950, p. 7.

[102] ‘Speech of J.D. Blake on Behalf of the Communist Party Delegation’, Communist Review, June 1950, p. 556.

[103]Marilyn Dodkin, Brothers: Eight Leaders of the Labor Council of New South Wales, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2001, p. 34; John Murphy, Imagining the Fifties: Private Sentiment and Political Culture in Menzies’ Australia, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2000, p. 93.

[104] Frank Cain & Frank Farrell, ‘Menzies’ War on the Communist Party 1949-1951’ in Ann Curthoys & John Merritt (eds.), Australia’s First Cold War Vol. 1 1945-1953: Society, Communism and Culture, Sydney, George Allen & Unwin, 1984, p. 120; Gollan, Revolutionaries and Reformists, pp. 257-258.

[105] Age, 4 September 1950, p. 1.

[106] Leicester Webb, Communism and Democracy Webb: A Study of the 1951 Referendum, London, Angus & Robertson, 1954, p. 25.

[107] Cain & Farrell, Menzies’ War on the Communist Party, p. 123; Lowe, Menzies and the Great World Struggle, p. 9.

[108] The Communist Party later claimed that plans for the ‘fascist bill’ were drawn up in Washington and it was rushed through parliament to thwart potential opposition to the Korean War which had already been planned in advance by the US. See E.W. Campbell, Hands off Korea! Sydney, E.W. Campbell, nd [1950], pp. 9-10.

[109] Tribune, 12 April 1950, p. 4.

[110] Tribune, 26 April 1950, p. 2.

[111] L.L. Sharkey, ‘Foreword’, in Walter Blaschke, Freedom For Malaya, Sydney, Current Book Distributors, nd[1948], p. 2.

[112] Tribune, 15 April 1950, p. 1.

[113] Brown, The Communist Movement and Australia, pp. 97-114; Davidson, The Communist Party of Australia, pp. 78-79; Gollan, Revolutionaries and Reformists, pp. 80-86, 91-98; Macintyre, The Reds, 381-419.

[114] Tribune, 28 June 1950, p. 1.

[115] Tribune, 5 July 1950, p. 2.

[116] Tribune, 8 July 1950, p. 2.

[117] Tribune, 1 July 1950, p. 1.

[118] Bullock, Life and Times of Ernest Bevin, p. 135.

[119] Tribune, 5 July 1950, p. 1.

[120] C.P. D., (HOR), Vol. 208, 6 July 1950, pp. 4839-4841, 4941-4844; Crisp, Chifley, pp.288, 378-379; John Murphy, Harvest of Fear: A History of Australia’s Vietnam War, St Leonards (NSW), Allen & Unwin, p. 52.

[121] Crisp, Chifley, p. 290.

[122] Nicholas Brown, Governing Prosperity: Social Change and Social Analysis in Australia in the 1950s, Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 37.

[123] McMullin, The Light on the Hill, p. 258; Murray, The Split, p. 82.

[124] Campbell, Hands of Korea!, p. 1.

[125] News-Weekly, 12 July 1950, p. 1. For an outline of Chifley’s position see Joseph Benedict Chifley, Things Worth Fighting For, Carlton (Vic,), Melbourne University Press, 1952, pp. 341-343.

[126] Bruce Duncan, Crusade or Conspiracy? Catholics and the Anti-Communist Struggle in Australia, Sydney, University of New South Wales Press, 2001, p. 147.

[127] Santamaria, Santamaria: A Memoir, pp. 104-109; Thomson, ‘To Be or Not to Be’, p. 19.

[128] Hagan, History of the A.C.T.U., p. 235.

[129] Murray, The Split, pp. 81-82.

[130] Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 1950, p. 2.

[131] Richard Trembath, A Different Sort of War: Australians in Korea 1950-1953, Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2005, pp. 65-66.

[132] McDonald, Australia at Stake, p. 82.

[133] Ibid.

[134] Ibid., pp. 82-83.

[135] Ibid.

[136] Communist Review, April 1951, p. 739.

[137] Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 1950, p. 13.

[138] Inglis, Hammer & Sickle, p. 95; Turner, Room For Manoeuvre, p. 129.

[139] Inglis, Ibid,; Turner, Ibid.

[140] Ibid.

[141] Available on line at Accessed 20 August 2008.

[142] Summy, The Australian Peace Council, p. 241; Turner, Room For Manoeuvre, p. 129.

[143] McDonald, Australia at Stake, p. 83.

[144] Tas Bull, Life On the Waterfront, p. 50.

[145] Ibid.

[146] Healy, Lifeblood of Footscray, p. 40.

[147] Hagan, History of the A.C.T.U., pp. 237-238.

[148] Wilfred Burchett, Passport: An Autobiography, Melbourne, Thomas Nelson (Australia), 1969, pp. 182-183.

[149] Maritime Worker, 12 August 1950, p. 8.

[150] Shauna Hurley, ‘Catholics, Communists and Fellow-Travellers: The Ideological Battle in Ballarat 1936-1951’, B.A. Honours Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1995, p. 29.

[151] Raymond Markey, In Case of Oppression: The Life and Times of the Labor Council of New South Wales, Leichhardt, Pluto Press, 1994, p.329.

[152] Railway’s Union Gazette, July 1950, p. 1.

[153] Railway Union Gazette, August 1950, p. 8.

[154] Best, History of Liquor Trades Union, p. 182.

[155] Johnson, Bread & Roses, p. 154.

[156] Tribune, 5 July 1950, p. 1.

[157] Bernie Brian, ‘The Northern Territory’s One Big Union: The Rise and Fall of the North Australian Workers’ Union 1911-1992’, PhD thesis, Northern Territory University, 2001, p. 234.

[158] Ibid., p. 235

[159] Maritime Worker, 15 July 1950, p. 1.

[160] Ibid.

[161] E.V. Elliott, Seamen’s Union Annual Report 1952-53, Sydney, Seamen’s Union, 1953, p. 7.

[162] Common Cause, 25 February, 16 March, 8, 15, 22 April, 13 May 1950.

[163] Edgar Ross, A History of the Miners’ Federation of Australia, Sydney, Sydney, Australasian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation, 1970, p. 434.

[164] Ibid., p. 438.

[165] Reeves, ‘Industrial Men’, p. 384.

[166] Pete Thomas, The Coalminers of Queensland. A Narrative History of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union: Volume 2 The Pete Thomas Essays, Spring Hill (Qld.), Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Mining and Energy Division (Queensland District Branch), 2007, p. 13.

[167] Macintyre, The Reds, p. 353.

[168] Pete Thomas, The Coalminers of Queensland. A Narrative History of the Queensland Colliery Employees Union: Volume 1 Creating the Traditions, Ipswich, Queensland Colliery Employees Union, 1986, p. 122.

[169] Ibid., p. 142.

[170] Ibid., p. 645.

[171] Ibid., pp. 134, 142.

[172] Courier-Mail, 26, 29, September, 12, 13, 14 October 1953.

[173] Thomas, The Coalminers of Queensland, Volume 1, p. 151.

[174] Max Griffiths, Of Mines and Men: Australia’s 20th Century Mining Miracle 1945-1982, East Roseville (NSW), 1998, pp. 39-40;

[175] C.P. D., HOR, 24 September, 15 October 1953, pp.664-665, 1409-1411.

[176] Courier Mail, 14 October 1953, p. 3.

[177] Thomas, Miners of Queensland, Volume 1, p. 163.

[178] Tribune, 3 June 1950, p. 3.

[179] Ibid.

[180] Ibid.

[181] Gollan, Revolutionaries and Reformists, p. 282.

[182] McDonald & McDonald, Intimate Union, p. 69.

[183] Greenland, Red Hot, pp. 195-196; Murray & White, The Ironworkers, pp. 178-182; Short, Laurie Short, pp.103-106.

[184] Tribune, 22 March 1950, p. 4.

[185] See page 21.

[186] Common Cause, 13 May 1950, p. 2. Bill Parkinson was a Communist Party member on the South Coast of NSW who was successively district, then national president of the Miners’ Federation. See Aarons, What’s Left?, p. 58.

[187] Common Cause, 13 May 1950, p. 2.

[188] Ibid., 24 January 1948, p. 6.

[189] Ibid., 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 July, 5, 12, 26 August, 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 September 1950.

[190] Ibid., 8 July 1950, p. 2. Emphasis in original article.

[191] Ibid., 22 July 1950, p. 1.

[192] Ibid.

[193] Ibid.,15 July 1950, p. 1.

[194] Ibid., 8 July 1950, p. 6.

[195] Ibid., 22 July 1950, p. 5.

[196] Ibid., 8 July 1950, p. 2.

[197] Ibid, 22 July 1950, p. 5.

[198] Ibid., 15 July 1950, p. 5.

[199] Ibid., 29 July 1950, p. 4.

[200] Ibid.

[201] Ibid., 19 August 1950, p. 6.

[202] Ibid.

[203] Ibid.

[204] Ibid.

[205] Ross, History of the Miners’ Federation, pp. 381-382.

[206] Ibid., p. 425.

[207] Common Cause, 19 August 1950, p. 6.

[208] Ibid., 29 July, 18 August 1950.

[209] Elliott, Annual Report, p. 7.

[210] Seamen’s Journal, June 1950, pp. 6-7.

[211] Fitzpatrick and Cahill, The Seamen’s Union of Australia, p. 198.

[212] News-Weekly 12 July 1950, p. 1.

[213] Ibid., 19 July 1950, p. 1.

[214] Fitzpatrick & Cahill, The Seamen’s Union of Australia, p. 198; Trembath, A Different Sort of War: Australians in Korea 1950-1953, p. 54.

[215] Hagan, History of the A.C.T.U., p. 237; Trembath, A Different Sort of War, p. 56.

[216] Tribune, 15 July 1950, p. 2.

[217] Ibid., p. 1.

[218] Sydney Morning Herald, 17 July 1950, p. 1.

[219] Frank Cain & Frank Farrell, ‘Menzies’ War on the Communist Party 1949-1951’ in Curthoys & Merritt (eds.), Australia’s First Cold War Vol 1 1945-1953, p. 123; Louis, Menzies’ Cold War, p. 42; Tribune, 22 July 1950, p. 1.

[220] Fitzpatrick & Cahill, Seamen’s Union of Australia, p. 201.

[221] Tribune, 15 July 1950, p. 3.

[222] Ibid., p. 2.

[223] Ibid., 12 July 1950, p. 1.

[224] Fitzpatrick & Cahill, Seamen’s Union of Australia, p. 198. News-Weekly, 12 July 1950 p. 1;

[225] Tribune, 12, 15 July 1950.

[226] Fitzpatrick & Cahill, Seamen’s Union of Australia, p. 200.

[227] Ibid., pp. 202-203.

[228] Elliott, Annual Report, p. 7.

[229] Tribune, 11 July 1950, p. 8.

[230] Ibid., 8 July 1950, p. 2.

[231] Maritime Worker, 15 July, 12 August 1950.

[232] Capt. James Gaby, The Restless Waterfront, North Sydney, Antipodean Publishers, 1974, p. 249; Tom Sheridan, Australia’s Own Cold War: The Waterfront Under Menzies, Carlton (Vic.), Melbourne University Press, 2006, p. 62.

[233] Davidson, Communist Party of Australia, p. 133; News-Weekly, 10 July 1950, p. 1.

[234] Lowenstein & Hills, Under the Hook, pp. 127-129.

[235] Trembath, A Different Kind of War, p. p. 63.

[236] Maritime Worker, 24 June 1950, p. 8.

[237] Tribune, 19 July 1950, p. 1.

[238] Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 1950, p. 1.

[239] Tom Sheridan, Australia’s Own Cold War: The Waterfront Under Menzies, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, 2006, p. 105.

[240] Maritime Worker, 15 April 1954, p. 1; Sheridan, Australia’s Own Cold War, p. 155.

[241] Beasley, Wharfies, p. 158; Sheridan, Australia’s Own Cold War, p. 154.

[242] J.D. Blake, ‘Report on the tasks of the party in the struggle for peace’, Communist Review, September 1950, p. 650.

[243] Ibid.

[244] Ibid.

[245] Davidson, Communist Party of Australia, p. 120.

[246] John McLaren, Free Radicals Of the Left in Postwar Melbourne, Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2003, pp. 147-150; Outlook, Vol. 3, No.6, December 1959, p. 1; Summy, in Chatfield & Dungen (eds.), Peace Movements and Political Cultures, pp. 249-250.

[247] Guardian, 10 September 1959, p. 3.

[248] Saunders & Summy, in Curthoys & Merritt, Better Dead than Red, p. 76.

[249] Dodkin, Brothers, pp. 47-48; Jack Heffernan, ‘Struggles in the Unions’, in Bradon Ellem (ed.), The Great Labour Movement Split in New South Wales: Inside Stories, Sydney, Australian Study for the Study of Labour History, 1998, pp. 17-18.

[250] Ibid., p. 17. For details of the MTHC and the split see Cathy Brigden, ‘The Melbourne Trades Hall and the Split’ in Brian Costar, Peter Love & Paul Strangio (eds.), The Great Labor Schism: A Retrospective, Melbourne, Scribe Publications, 2005, pp. 140-161.

[251] Guardian, 11 June 1959, p. 1.

[252] B.A. Santamaria, The Peace Game, Fitzroy, National Civic Council, 1959, p. 4. O’Brien was assistant secretary of the Victorian ARU, and McSween an official in the Victorian Clothing Trades Union. Both were long-term ALP activists.

[253] Holt, A Veritable Dynamo, p. 123; Santamaria, The Peace Game, p. 6.

[254] Guardian, 26 November 1959, p. 3.

[255] Dodkin, Brothers, p. 47.

[256] Tom Uren, Straight Left, Sydney, Random House Publishing, 1994, p. 115.

[257] Heffernan, in Ellem (ed.), The Great Labour Movement Split,

[258] Seamen’s Journal, November 1959, p. 301.

[259] Guardian, 19 November 1959, p. 5.

[260] Summy and Saunders, in Curthoys and Merritt (eds.), Better Dead Than Red, p. 89.

[261] Outlook, December 1959, p. 9.

[262] Ibid., February 1960, p. 12.Petersen had been a member of the CPA between 1943 and 1956 when he resigned after the Party supported the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary. See R. Petersen, ‘Obituary: George Petersen (1921-2000)’, Illawarra Unity, Vol.2, Issue 2, 1999, pp. 34-35.

[263] Outlook, December 1959, p. 1.

[264] Ibid.

[265] Ibid.

[266] Ibid.

[267] Ibid.

[268] Ibid.

[269] Ibid.

[270] Ibid.

[271] Ibid.

[272] Seamen’s Journal, November 1959, p. 302.