Newly published evidence that a number of senior left-wing Labor identities were also secret members of the Communist Party has come like a “bombshell revelation”, according to former New South Wales premier Bob Carr.
|On April 26, 1973, government minister Dr Jim Cairns (centre) |
shared a platform in the Sydney Town Hall with representatives
of communist North Vietnam (whose visit to Australia he sponsored),
surrounded by Viet Cong flags and a huge picture of
dictator Ho Chi Minh.
Mr Carr was referring to a recent study published by left-wing journalist and broadcaster Mark Aarons, whose father, uncle and grandfather held prominent positions in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Mr Aarons’ book, entitled The Family File (published by Black, Inc.), is the result of his investigation of the many volumes of files kept on members of his family over many decades by the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
In addition to chronicling his family’s history of radical activism, Mr Aarons has brought to light evidence that several senior left-wing Labor figures had clandestine ties with the CPA during the Cold War.
Reviewing the book, Mr Carr said: “Aarons quotes ASIO files that place former senators Arthur Gietzelt and Bruce Childs as CPA members.” Gietzelt during this time played a key role in building the left-wing faction of the NSW Labor Party.
During the 1950s, he regularly attended CPA meetings and conferences, sometimes using the alias Arthur James. Although he later discontinued his attendance, ASIO records indicate that he maintained secret links with Communist leaders well into the ’70s. In 1978, ASIO received intelligence that Gietzelt, as well as holding dual ALP/CPA membership, “was the CPA’s official parliamentary co-ordinator in Canberra” (The Australian, July 3, 2010). He went on to serve as a minister in the Hawke Labor Government.
He kept his CPA membership a secret because disclosure of it would have seen his instant expulsion from the ALP.
Said Bob Carr: “The revelation of dual membership is rich in implications. They recast the political history of Australia from the 1950s to the 70s.
“First, they vindicate the decision of a large part of Catholic Australia to veto the election of federal Labor governments by voting for the breakaway Democratic Labor Party after the Labor split of 1955.
“Still something of a Labor romantic, I find it painful to squeeze this out, but it strikes me the DLP indictment of the ramshackle Labor Party led by H.V. Evatt and Arthur Calwell was mostly right.”
“Second, the revelations demean the reputations of Evatt, the mercurial and somewhat disturbed leader of the ALP 1951-60, and his successor Calwell, leader of the party from 1960 to 1967. Both compromised the party, in Evatt’s case by choosing a communist-led Left wing to be his ally and tolerating cosy relationships with CPA personnel at a time when they were rusted-on Soviet loyalists.” (The Australian, July 5, 2010).
During World War II, the Communist Party had come close to seizing control of Australia’s trade union movement and, through it, the Labor Party. In 1945 the CPA controlled 40 per cent of the votes of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) congress in Sydney.
Communists were not social democrats, or small “l” liberals in a hurry; they were murderous thugs who had given their allegiance to Stalin’s tyranny and were working tirelessly to undermine Australian democracy.
Mark Aarons admits: “The Soviet Union provided substantial funding and directed the CPA’s political strategies for its first 45 years. Communists owed a higher loyalty to Moscow, proclaimed in the interests of the ‘workers of the world’. This led some communists to betray Australia by spying for Soviet intelligence.” (The Australian, July 3, 2010).
After the war, Lance Sharkey, then secretary-general of the CPA, played a significant role in stirring up the communist insurrection in Malaya in 1948. In that year he told a Singapore meeting of the Malayan Communist Party central committee in Singapore how his men back home dealt with strike-breakers. He said: “We get rid of them.”
A delegate present thought he had misheard Sharkey’s words and asked: “You mean you eliminate strike-breakers, Comrade … kill?” Sharkey paused, then said carefully: “But not in the cities. Only in the outlying areas. Rural areas. The mining areas.” (News Weekly, March 26, 2005).
This, then, was the lethal menace from which the anti-communist Industrial Groups, masterminded by B.A. Santamaria’s Catholic Social Studies Movement (CSSM), delivered Australia in their titanic struggle to take back control of the trade unions from the CPA.
What is most astonishing about Mark Aarons’s recent revelations of the CPA and ALP is former NSW premier Bob Carr’s astonishment at the whole affair.
Surprisingly for someone with his wide reading and supposed understanding of history, he says that these recent revelations “demean” former federal Labor leader Dr H.V. Evatt’s reputation.
The truth is that, for many years, Evatt’s reputation has been so shattered that it would be difficult to demean it much further.
Evatt professed a lifelong sympathy with communism and counted several leading Australian communists among his closest friends and advisers.
In 1934, Evatt, then a High Court judge, went to extraordinary lengths to defend a visiting Czech Comintern agent, Egon Kisch, whom the Lyons Government was trying to deport as an “undesirable” migrant.
Australian diplomat, and later Liberal politician, Paul Hasluck recalled that, in 1945, at the inaugural United Nations conference in San Francisco, Evatt, then Australia’s Minister for External Affairs, leaked an important secret British document to Stalin’s foreign minister Molotov. The British quickly identified Evatt as the culprit, and the following morning British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and Dominions Secretary Lord Cranbourne gave him a very public dressing down.
In 1998, two Canberra academics, Desmond Ball and David Horner, published a path-breaking study, Breaking the Codes: Australia’s KGB Network, 1944-1950 (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998), about Soviet espionage in Australia. They used the recently declassified material from the US Army’s Signal Intelligence Service (USASIS)’s code-breaking project, codenamed “Venona”, which had intercepted a number of radio signals that Moscow had sent to Soviet spy residencies and agents across the world during and after World War II.
The Venona Project helped greatly in unmasking highly-placed Soviet agents in the West, such as Alger Hiss in the US State Department, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess in the British Foreign Office, and Kim Philby in the UK Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6).
From 1943 to 1948, nearly 5,000 coded messages were sent between Moscow and Canberra, but only five per cent of them have been deciphered. Many Australians working as Soviet agents were referred to in these messages, but are still unidentified.
Limited though our knowledge still is of the true extent of Soviet Cold War espionage in Australia, Ball and Horner have shown, from the Venona decrypts, that many of Dr Evatt’s staff appointments, both in his private office and in the Department of External Affairs, were not merely communist sympathisers but Soviet agents.
Former intelligence analyst Dr Andrew Campbell, in a two-part article on Evatt in National Observer, wrote: “Venona-decrypted messages from Canberra to Moscow from mid-1943 to 1948 eventually led to the identification of Ian Milner (codenamed Bur/Dvorak), Katharine Susannah Prichard’s son Ric Throssell (Academician’s Son/Ferro), Jim Hill (Khill/Tourist), Frances Bernie (Sestra/Sister), Allan Dalziel (Denis), Fergan O’Sullivan (Zemliak), and others. …” (National Observer, No. 76, Autumn 2008).
As Dr Campbell has shown, after Menzies’ Liberals defeated the Chifley Labor Government in the 1949 elections, ASIO repeatedly warned Evatt (who in 1951 succeeded Chifley as Labor leader) about the security risks posed by his personal staffers.
Gavan Duffy, in his book, Demons and Democrats: 1950s Labor at the Crossroads (Freedom Publishing, 2002), quotes a prominent NSW Labor Party official, Frank Rooney, who in 1953 confronted Evatt with reports that his press secretary Fergan O’Sullivan (Zemliak) was phoning the CPA’s Sydney headquarters each evening. Evatt refused even to discuss the matter.
The following year came the dramatic defection in Australia of the Soviet spy, Vladimir Petrov. Evatt accused Prime Minister Menzies and ASIO of having conspired to time the defection to help the Liberals win the 1954 election.
At a subsequent royal commission into the Petrov defection, Evatt point-blank denied that anyone from ASIO had ever warned him of the security risks posed by any of his staff. He lied.
In 1955, Evatt publicly turned on the anti-communist Industrial Groups and, with the help of left-wingers such as Clyde Cameron, engineered a split in the Labor Party. It resulted in the mass expulsion of countless moderate members of long standing, many of whom formed the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).
In the years to come, militant left-wingers, such as Arthur Gietzelt, Dr Jim Cairns, Bill Hartley and George Crawford, would come to the ALP’s fore. Their visible influence made Labor unelectable federally until 1972. Bob Hawke in the early 1980s described the powerful Socialist Left faction as a “canker” within the party.
One-time Labor leader, Bill Hayden, said that Evatt “was the cause of Labor’s greatest and longest-running disasters, and he should be held accountable for that”.
Left-wingers holding dual CPA/ALP membership were not the only individuals to betray their party and their country.
Several other Labor left-wingers, without necessarily being card-carrying CPA members, were members of Soviet-run front organisations, such as the World Federation of Trade Unions and the World Peace Council, which operated in Australia during the Cold War.
The left-wing academic, anti-Vietnam War activist and later Labor Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Jim Cairns, was a prominent figure in the World Peace Council, from 1949, when Stalin established it, until the mid-1970s. (National Observer, No. 64, Autumn 2005).
The WPC was co-ordinated and financed by Moscow. It was expelled from Britain, France and Austria in the 1950s for its subversive activities. It unfailingly supported the Soviet-backed invasions of Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), and Afghanistan (1979), and the 1981 Soviet-backed imposition of martial law in Poland.
By 1988, even the CPA had had enough of the WPC. Its paper Tribune quoted approvingly a Soviet official who admitted that the WPC was a Stalinist body promoting Soviet foreign policy.
Cairns’ prominent position in the WPC – particularly his being Australian president of the WPC while he was Deputy PM – should have earned him automatic expulsion from the Commonwealth parliament, under Australia’s Constitution (section 44).
However, don’t hold your breath waiting for justice to be served on Australia’s left-wing traitors.
Being Red means never having to say you’re sorry.
Mark Aarons, The Family File (Melbourne: Black, Inc., 2010). Paperback: 304 pages. ISBN: 9781863954815
Mark Aarons, “Radicalism was in the bloodstream, giving national security agents a rich vein to tap”, The Australian, July 3, 2010.
Mark Aarons, “The covert comrades in the ALP”, The Australian, July 3, 2010.
Desmond Ball and David Horner, Breaking the Codes: Australia’s KGB Network, 1944-1950 (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998).
John Ballantyne, “Australia’s Dr Jim Cairns and the Soviet KGB”, National Observer (Melbourne), No. 64, Autumn 2005, pp.52-63.
Michael D. Barr, “Murder and insurrection: Lance Sharkey in Singapore”, News Weekly (Melbourne), March 26, 2005.
Andrew A. Campbell, “Dr H.V. Evatt – Part I: A Question of Sanity”, National Observer, No. 73, Winter 2007, pp.25-39.
URL: www.nationalobserver.net/pdf/evatt_part1_natobs73.pdf (PDF)
Andrew A. Campbell, “Dr H.V. Evatt – Part II: The question of loyalty”, National Observer (Melbourne), No. 76, Autumn 2008, pp.33-55.
URL: www.nationalobserver.net/pdf/evatt_part2_natobs76.pdf (PDF)
Bob Carr, “Thankfully, Whitlam and Co rescued Labor from the Reds”, The Australian, July 5, 2010.
Gavan Duffy, Demons and Democrats: 1950s Labor at the Crossroads (Melbourne: Freedom Publishing Co., 2002).
Gavan Duffy, “The Labor Split – 50 years on”, News Weekly (Melbourne), April 9, 2005.
Paul Hasluck, Diplomatic Witness: Australian Foreign Affairs 1941-1947 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1980).