An Inspiration Misunderstood: Australian Anti-Communists and the Lure of the U.S., 1917-1935

Eras Journal – Fischer, N.: “An Inspiration Misunderstood: Australian Anti-Communists and the Lure of the U.S., 1917 – 1935”

An Inspiration Misunderstood: Australian Anti-Communists and the Lure of the U.S., 1917 – 1935
Nick Fischer
(Monash University)

Throughout the twentieth century, communism influenced western societies like no other political ideology. In the United States, it became a political obsession, the dominant influence on foreign policy after the Second World War, as well as a primary source of identification for American citizens. While its significance in Australia was less marked, and its character less extreme, anti-communism was a major influence on foreign policy and communism was an anathema to a majority of Australians. Yet, for all its significance, western reactions to communism remain understudied and misunderstood. While the impact of anti-communism during the Cold War is widely recognised, its evolution and development before this time is infrequently discussed.

This article examines one little-known but important facet of early Australian anti-communism: its debt to its American variant. This relationship is worth exploring for several reasons. In both nations, the triumph of anti-communism was the result, to a considerable extent, of the efforts of a surprisingly small number of government officials, intelligence and security professionals, and special interest groups. The intimate relationship between these officials, spies and special interests jeopardised democratic government, as anti-communist fervour encouraged a massive, unprecedented and largely unnoticed transfer of administrative power from more accountable branches of government to new, permanent bureaucracies: the security and intelligence services. Anti-communism underpinned and justified political surveillance and other forms of authoritarian behaviour. It became more than a political ideology, mutating into a force for social conformity and a central arbiter of the relationship between government and citizens, which was progressively characterised by governmental mistrust of and antipathy for citizens. Yet, there were telling differences in the ways that Australian and American anti-communists could and did respond to the threat of communism. These differences, along with the muted success Australian anti-communists enjoyed in attempting to introduce American political ideas, throw other common and particular characteristics of American and Australian socio-political culture into relief.

It is expedient here to make a few general remarks regarding the scholarship of Australian and American anti-communism, both to situate this article and explain its particular focus. As noted above, pre-Cold War anti-communism is a comparatively neglected subject. Moreover, a number of problematic perceptions about early anti-communism continue to exercise considerable influence, in spite of the efforts of a few scholars. The most problematic of these perceptions is that anti-communism’s influence dramatically dissipated after the great Red Scare of 1918-19 before resurfacing after the Second World War. Much of the literature on the Red Scare directly or inadvertently fosters the impression of a hiatus in state repression between world wars. [1] Australian historians have similarly acknowledged that the right’s post-war domination of Australian nationalism was facilitated, in part, by the Red Scare, but have under-emphasised the significance of anti-communist practices of the 1920s and 1930s. [2]Another significant problem with anti-communist historiography is that it has too crudely portrayed the rise of anti-communism as an outgrowth of popular sentiment. [3] It has also paid insufficient attention to the broader implications of the growing power of conservative and reactionary forces on the fate of the left. [4] The tendency both to neglect the history of inter-war anti-communism and to ascribe its fate to mercurial popular will have rested on an under-analysed association of these events with social mood, made tenable by a failure to examine the structural nature of Australian and American democracy (and evolving rents within them), as compared with other political systems.[5] Neither the “the American people” nor “Australians”, as is often claimed, perpetrated the Red Scare. Rather, supporters of anti-communism set out, with varying degrees of consciousness, to purge their local and national communities of what they took to be a heresy. This article brings into the historical limelight some pivotal individuals and networks who gave life to Australian anti-communism, pays proper tribute to their pioneering activity and examines a peculiar dimension of their political inspiration.

In both Australia and the United States, anti-communism was spawned by prior reactionary movements, including anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism and anti-labour radicalism. The legislative machinery with which governments initially combated communism was also inherited from earlier fights against domestic intransigency and dissent over national commitments to the Great War. After entering the war in April 1917, the Wilson Administration introduced anEspionage Act prescribing fines of up to $10,000 and/or twenty years jail for making “false” reports or statements concerning government policy or hampering the war effort. The Act became the executive’s chief weapon for silencing critics and was used in conjunction with the Alien Anarchist Law , the Alien Enemies Act and a newImmigration Act to expel alien radicals, especially those suspected of holding radical beliefs. The Australian government, which committed Australia to the war on its outbreak, similarly introduced the War Precautions Act in 1914, to facilitate the suppression of all opinion likely to prejudice recruiting or harm the war effort. The vaguely worded Act gave the government enormous discretion in its application and it censured and suppressed criticism of its conduct and policies under the guise of patriotism and military necessity. The Unlawful Associations Acts ( UAA) of 1916 and 1917, formulated by the new Prime Minister, William Morris “Billy” Hughes, empowered authorities not only to imprison individuals obstructing the war but also to summarily proscribe associations doing the same. Like United States legislation, the Act introduced guilt by association and criminal penalties for the expression of ideas into the legal system.

The similar American and Australian dissent-crushing legislative programs were more in the nature of a symbiotic response to the threat of Prussian militarism, and then Bolshevism, than the result of any direct borrowing. The distinct influence of the United States on Australian anti-communism was, however, apparent in the Hughes government’s heavy reliance on deportation procedures to fight the incursion of undesirable peoples and doctrines. Deportation orders were first issued to a dozen foreign-born members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), who were deported for breaches of the UAA and the Hughes government was undoubtedly influenced in its use of deportation procedures by the United States, which was in the habit of deporting some of its undesirables to Australia. [6]

The protection of Australia’s racial integrity was an additional motive for deportation. Several important official’s and businessmen’s views on race and race protection were influenced by happenings in the United States. Many American intellectuals and politicians, including Madison Grant, author of the seminal eugenicist tract The Passing of the Great Race or the Racial Basis of European History (published in 1916) and future president Herbert Hoover, believed that the revolutionary convulsions of Europe were caused by particular racial and cultural, rather than universal, qualities. [7] Thomas Ramsden Ashworth, long-serving president of the Victorian Employers’ Federation (VEF, 1920-1924 and 1925-1933) and a confirmed eugenicist, feared that Australia might not learn from the experience of the United States, which for too long failed to obstruct mass immigration and consequently suffered a diminution of “the average quality” of its citizenry. Ashworth, along with John Greig Latham, Attorney-General in the conservative governments of Stanley M. Bruce and Joseph Lyons, associated racial with political pedigree and vigilantly watched for signs of perfidy among Australia’s foreign-born and non-Anglo Saxon communities. [8]Whenever industrial trouble struck, Latham habitually instructed intelligence services to verify whether any “persons”, particularly Russians, had advocated “sabotage” in union meetings, to establish whether there was any evidence of communications between strikers and Russia, and whether troublesome elements might be removed from Australian shores. [9]

While Australians like Ashworth drew clear lessons from the racial experience of the United States, some American politicians and businessmen believed they could learn valuable lessons in race protection from Australia, and this was how a successful lecture tour of the United States by ex-Prime Minister Hughes was marketed in 1924. In a syndicated opinion piece for the Hearst newspaper conglomerate, Hughes informed Americans that the National Origins Provision of Congress’ new Immigration Act , which ensured that the proportion of ethnic groups vis-a-vis the total population of the US would remain at 1890 levels, would bring into force immigration practices that had been operating in Australia “for nearly a quarter of a century”. [10]

Although Hughes’ American tour demonstrates a reciprocal flow of information between the two nations, the relationship was very much weighted toward American influence on Australia, particularly with regard to the dependence of the Australian government, media and self-styled “loyalists” on the United States for news of foreign political developments relating to communism. With no foreign correspondents of their own, Australian papers and the federal government relied exclusively on British and American newspapers and embassies. Even after its tiny foreign affairs department was established, the Australian government was still obliged to glean most of its knowledge of communism from the British government and the foreign press. [11] However, the government and other anti-communists gradually learned to shift their gazes from Britain to the United States. Australia’s High Commissioner in London in the late 1920s, R. G. Casey, regularly sent Prime Minister Bruce press reports of anti-communist activity in America. The wealthy industrialist and conservative political powerbroker, Herbert Brookes, in his capacity as Commissioner-General for Australia in the United States, sent Prime Minister Scullin a series of articles published in the New York Herald-Tribune , which “set forth the results of a survey of Communists and their activities in New York City”.[12] The New South Wales anti-communist organisation, the Sane Democracy League, drew Prime Minister Lyons’ attention to resolutions of an anti-communist convention in New York, which called for the re-establishment of powers enabling the Bureau of Investigation (BI) to “scrutinise and keep under constant supervision” communists, as well as for the exclusion of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of America “from all right to organise and function as political parties”.[13] Garbled news of the proceedings of the Special Congressional Committee to Investigate Communist Activities and Propaganda in the United States (convened in 1930) even percolated down to dozens of municipal councils in Sydney, who urged the federal government to grant itself authoritarian powers they believed American authorities possessed. [14]

The flow of information between the United States and Australia helped to create among leading Australian and American anti-communists a common view of the primitive and anti-social motives of communists. John Latham, who clearly understood little of the psychological and sociological roots of revolution, divined that communists believed in Russia because “Russia is in favour with trouble makers and is more particularly an enemy of Great Britain and the Empire”. [15] Latham’s cynical and misanthropic views about communists bespoke of his tendency to “Other” people whose opinions differed from his own and deny their right to exercise political choice. He believed only in the efficacy of repression as a practical method of achieving order and regarded his draconian reforms to industrial arbitration and Crimes Acts as necessary protection for the labour movement from its own leaders and communist agents provocateur[16]

In stark contrast with some of his colleagues, Latham was determined to cleanse the nation of the very notion of radicalism. Stanley Bruce, for example, cared little about the beliefs of radicals and was probably unperturbed by their presence, so long as their political influence remained marginal. Although Bruce rattled the anti-communist sabre during union-busting action on the waterfront and in important public speeches, his anti-communism was incidental (rather than central) to his broader reform ambitions and was an electoral ploy first, a desirable outcome second. [17]Latham, however, hoped to enact legislation that would “get away altogether from [specific] association[s], and centre on preventing and suppressing unlawful revolutionary plans and propaganda [covering] allmeans of prevention and suppression” (emphasis in original). [18] In this respect, it was Latham rather than Bruce who was a kindred spirit of leading American anti-communists such as BI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr. (convener of the previously mentioned Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities and Propaganda) and the powerful Californian union-busting business organisation, the Better America Federation. They all believed that authoritarian subversion of democracy was the only way to save America from itself.

The extent to which Latham may have been influenced by their views is difficult to gauge, but it beggars belief to suggest that he would have been unaware of the findings and proposed legislative program of the Fish Committee, given that several municipal councils in Sydney had some idea of its activities. T. R. Ashworth’s enthusiasm for American political theories and initiatives is, however, more easily quantified than Latham’s. Outraged by labour militancy on the wharves and determined to prove that direct political representation of labour was disastrous, Ashworth found his proof in the writings of the Glasgow-born, British historian, statesman and diplomat, James Bryce. Bryce, in his celebrated study The American Commonwealth , contended that the United States was impervious to “class strife and revolution” because “the cleavage between political parties [was] ‘not horizontal according to social strata, but vertical'”. Bryce also maintained that social peace was contingent on the continued absence of a strong “Labor Party”. Neglecting to extrapolate Bryce’s differentiation of “horizontal” and “vertical” class segregation and to analyse the relevance of this theory to Australia, Ashworth merely cited Bryce as an authority in his diatribes against the Australian Labor Party, which he chided for giving political power to the trade union movement, thereby encouraging its leaders to concentrate on securing parliamentary representation rather than policing their own organisations. This, he concluded, was why trade unions were being “dragged at the heels” of communists who had “destroyed discipline” in the Queensland Railways, “paralysed” Australian shipping, “subjected … producers to serious loss” and made “mob rule” dominant “in Queensland ports and in Fremantle”.[19] Had they been confined to personal acquaintances, Ashworth’s American-influenced views may have made little or no imprecation on the Australian political landscape. As it was, he was a leading representative of the business community and, in addition, had significant tranches of his work syndicated in the Melbourne Age , the BrisbaneCourier , the Adelaide Advertiser and the Hobart Mercury , not to mention the VEF’s own journal. [20]

Although the bulk of printed political matter in Australia was stridently anti-communist and injurious to the left, anti-communists like Ashworth were convinced that ongoing systematic propaganda was essential for Australia’s protection. Accordingly, they strove to create official and public counter-communist-propaganda agencies based on American models. In part, this was because reform of industrial relations (particularly the abolition of compulsory arbitration and the removal of restrictions on federal power imposed by State courts) proved impossible to secure.[21] For his part, Ashworth found inspiration in the National Civic Federation (NCF), one of the most powerful, reactionary pressure groups in the United States, whose Board of Directors around this time included the industrialist T. Coleman DuPont and several Senators, most notably Archibald Stevenson, the prime mover of the notorious and hugely influential New York joint legislative committee (popularly known as the Lusk Committee) that investigated seditious revolutionary activities within and without the United States around 1920. The Federation’s Executive Director, Ralph Easley, was a staunch advocate of the use of secret police and military agencies to assume authority over “domestic questions” and “subversive activities” in times of peace as well as war. [22] He also petitioned other organisations to “kick out their Socialist, I.W.W.’ite and Bolshevist operators”. The Inter-Church World Movement and the YMCA were just two organisations he advised and recruited informants in, with the support of the State Department and Military Intelligence (MI). [23]

Oblivious to this side of the NCF’s activities, Ashworth admired its “civic educational” work, which he hoped could be brought to bear directly on Australian communists. [24] After travelling in the United States in 1923, meeting with labour leaders like Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor and acquainting himself with the philosophy of the industrialist Edward A. Filene, Ashworth became convinced that the principal factor making social conditions in the United States superior to those in Australia was the unity and coherence provided by strident anti-communism. Unlike their Australian counterparts on the waterfront, American labour leaders had successfully prevented the “degradation of the trades unions” by banishing “the virus of politics” (that is, direct political representation of labour) and, in the process, eliminated the risk of being white-anted by communist-influenced and inspired careerists. The reward for American labourers’ common sense and good will, Ashworth maintained, was access to “industrial ownership” through shareholding and investment schemes, and the privilege of living in a society free from class “hatred” and “conflict”. [25]

Ashworth was mindful of the need for the Australian business community to adopt the advanced thinking of Filene and Henry Ford if the antipodes were to become Bolshevik-free. He chastised businessmen who failed to apprehend the threat of revolution or ameliorate the plight of the unfortunate, accepting that social progress depended on improving the purchasing power of “the masses” so that they could “absorb the supplies of mass production”; these notions were quite consonant with Herbert Brookes’ advocacy of supplementing employees’ wages with profit-shares as an aid to harmony and enthusiasm.[26] However, it was not enough for Australia to follow the United States’ lead in the economic realm. It was essential, also, to educate the people, to “stimulate the development of psychic and physical machinery side by side” to secure “moral, along with material progress”. The performance of this task of bringing all classes together in a “general political program” was what made organisations like the NCF so important. [27] The fact that this general political program was often indistinguishable from propaganda was an entirely acceptable social cost. Although Ashworth did concede that employers were obliged to study economics and politics and, moreover, that they ought to unite more effectively in the manner he believed American business had, he was convinced that the labouring masses presented the most urgent and intractable case for social reform and, consequently, the elitism of the NCF’s propaganda struck him as being not problematic but, rather, wholesome. [28]It would be wonderful, he believed, if Australian workers could also receive instruction programs in “Revolutionary Movements”, “Industrial Relations” and “Civics”, informed by the teachings of such illustrious anti-communists (and anti-democrats) as Archibald Stevenson and J. Edgar Hoover, through affiliated women’s clubs, patriotic societies, fraternal insurance lodges, church and college clubs, teachers’ associations, and labour, agricultural, commercial and bankers’ organisations, like their American brethren. [29]

Although he was thoroughly convinced that anti-communist, pro-establishment propaganda was inherently ennobling, Ashworth was sensitive to the political risks of propaganda and, accordingly, he described beneficial propaganda as “education” and endowed it with a variety of pedagogical qualities. Unlike another significant and altogether different Australian anti-communist, Eric Campbell, Ashworth believed that some communists could be made virtuous. And, as “much” of a communist’s “unreason” was due to “sheer ignorance”, it was imperative to continually “bombard his mind with the sound propaganda of a civic educational organisation”, for:

resent and resist as he may at the start, in the end he will be influenced to some extent. You may not make of him a normal citizen, but you can assist in developing whatever potentiality for useful service he may happen to possess.[30]

The sound propaganda of civic education organisations thus represented Australia’s best hope of surmounting the psychological and political problem of having to attempt to resolve industrial conflict in adversarial and legal surroundings. [31]

Harold Jones, chief of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch (CIB), the federal secret intelligence agency that worked directly to the Attorney General, also fervently believed that Australia needed anti-communist propaganda. The political strength of the labour movement convinced Jones that anti-communist propaganda could never be successfully delivered by government and instead he worked to achieve what today would be called a “public-private partnership”: the creation of a private anti-communist propaganda organisation that the government could support by giving it “free use of all the information at its disposal”. Such a “scheme of counter propaganda” would ideally be national in scope and coordination, and derive its funding, resources and intellectual capital from private elites, “industrialists, manufacturers, and all wealth-owning members of the community”, as well as the press, and it would utilise modern technology, principally the cinema, as the Bolsheviks themselves had. [32]

One private citizen who was willing to lead an anti-communist propaganda scheme was Eric Campbell, a former Colonel in the Australian Imperial Forces and self-promoting businessman, who formed the New Guard (NG) in Sydney, in 1931 to rid New South Wales of the Lang Labor government and Australia of communism. The Guard’s newspaper Liberty , regularly argued that propaganda could be a force for social construction and would not sully the anti-communist cause. Events in both Italy and Russia had shown the Guard:

what a great aid propaganda [could] be to any Government which [had] to mould public opinion and to ask the people to place the welfare of the State above their own personal interests. [33]

Following the example of the Fascists and Nazis that he so admired, Campbell proposed to give Australians a “common-sense education in political economy”. This “common-sense education” amounted to support for the political and economic status quo, which the Guard described as the natural and proper interdependence of all classes in the community. The Guard intended to “forcibly” show the people that disrupting the status quo, or resisting “just and proper obligations in a time of adversity [would injure] the national welfare” and push the nation toward “ruin”. The Guard would “awaken [the people’s] conscience [and] appeal to their self-respect and patriotism”, and it would do all this “intensely [and] persistently, by dignified psychological propaganda”. [34]

Although Campbell was more inspired by Mussolini and Hitler than by either Herbert or J. Edgar Hoover, he was nevertheless profoundly influenced by rhetorical and semantic conventions of the American Right, which he adopted in his own writings and speeches. Campbell identified strongly with individualism and private enterprise and thought it “lamentable” that Australians, “members of a virile and proud Nordic race”, were forced by government to “accept public charity in the form of the dole”. Campbell wanted, instead, to create, through a compulsory land settlement scheme relocating the urban poor and unemployed, conditions that would restore individual “morale, independence, courage and enterprise”. Campbell’s notion that national salvation lay in the formation of a landed yeoman citizenry ennobled by self-sufficiency owed much to American political mythology. His habit of denouncing the bona fides of his left wing political opponents by using the epithet “so-called” when referring to their representative organisations and beliefs was also a custom appropriated directly from American sources.

The use of quotation marks in connection with communist, pacifist, labour and other objectionable associations was a stock means for American anti-communists to rob lawful organisations of their probity and legitimacy. It had long been their practice to describe unions and schools they perceived to be Bolshevik fronts as “so-called schools of social reform”. They also habitually derided workers’ or minority races’ efforts to engender community pride and solidarity as the fomenting of “so-called class consciousness”. The Lusk Committee’s mistrust of African-Americans particularly illustrates this tendency. Next to labour unions, the Committee regarded the nation’s black population as the most vulnerable to communist contamination. While conceding that African-Americans had “just cause of complaint with the treatment they received” in the United States, the Committee was more concerned that “various revolutionary agencies” were exploiting “such complaint” with “thorough skill”, and its report lamented the “marked increase of radicals…trying to recruit negro followers [and] stimulate race hatred [and] so-called class consciousness in their ranks”. [35]

The influence of American rhetoric and propaganda styles on Australian anti-communists, significant as it was, was less important than the commitment of Campbell and several other more powerful Australian anti-radicals to using American-style militia organisations to shape the political landscape. Political militia groups had a long history in Australia. Throughout the nineteenth century wealthy interest groups sporadically raised forces to protect property and existing order, with government approval. [36] Conservative forces that mobilised in response to the Bolshevik revolution were following the example of older associations, but the Red Scare moved conservatives to band together in greater numbers and with greater fervour than during any previous political crisis. Never before had extra-governmental conservative forces so directly influenced policing operations. In Queensland, for example, the Queensland Loyalty League and the National Political Council influenced the recruitment of Australian Federal Police and submitted secret reports about suspected subversives to authorities. In exchange for these services, they were granted access to government intelligence. [37] These developments were soon followed by initiatives to found a national, loyalist, surveillance authority. Herbert Brookes, who had been instrumental in the formation of Hughes’ wartime coalition government, led the charge to create a federal surveillance organisation. His principal colleagues in this venture were acting Prime Minister W. A. Watt, the Minister for Defence, Senator George Pearce, the chief of the Counter-Espionage Bureau (CEB) of the Attorney-General’s Department and principal secretary to the Governor-General, George Steward, the Director of Military Intelligence E. L. Piesse and the Commissioner of the Queensland Police, F. C. Urquhart. [38]

Brookes and his colleagues dreamed of establishing an agency that would become the country’s principal anti-radical force. It would be commanded by official appointees (the Minister for Defence, the head of the CEB and a private citizen who held the respect of self-styled “loyalists”) but staffed largely by a citizens’ auxiliary. Mindful of the hatred secret police forces had attracted “in other lands”, Brookes and his colleagues hoped that the open involvement of the public with the organisation, and its equally open partnership with “an acknowledged public Department” would protect it from ignominy and suspicion. Marrying the public and private sectors in the form of the auxiliary, Brookes noted, would also “enable the Government to come openly to Parliament for funds for ‘investigation’ purposes” and avoid the need to “ask for a secret service vote [which] would probably be regarded with repugnance”. [39]

The chief inspiration for Brookes’ project was the American Protective League (APL), an important patriotic society formed after the United States’ entry into the Great War. Displaying a zeal surpassing that of similar organisations, the APL was recruited by the Wilson Administration to help enforce federal policy. By early 1918, the League had become a 250,000 member-strong adjunct of government, liaising with the Department of War and MI, the Attorney-General and the Department of Justice (DJ) and the BI, the Department of Labor and its Immigration and Naturalisation Service, and various police departments. The League’s newsletter, the Spy Glass instructed its members in law and categorised offences operatives were to punish, including making “false and interfering reports” about the armed forces,”obstructing Bond sales” and “enlistments”, “curtailing production” and making “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive” attacks on government or the flag.Spy Glass also compiled lists of aliens and the disloyal who were to be observed and apprehended; [40] a membership fee of seventy-five cents or one dollar entitled Leaguers to become State-appointed vigilantes. [41]

The chief task of the APL was to help police the compulsory enlistment of eligible citizens for military duty. To ensure that no one escaped service, the government resolved to round up those neglecting their duty and 12 September 1918 was declared a national registration day, during which all absent draftees were to report for service or be rounded up. The APL helped enforce this “Slacker Drive”, which was a resounding success. [42] Tens of thousands of men were apprehended or questioned by the authorities. [43] Both the director of the BI, A. Bruce Bielaski and Attorney General Thomas Gregory declared that summary raids would become a cornerstone of government. The Department of War even envisioned an extensive role for APL personnel in overseas missions, partnering the Red Cross and YMCA[44]

Brookes learned of the activities of the League through the reports of Robert D. Elliot, a Melbourne businessman, newspaper proprietor, Country Party powerbroker and former member of the Army Intelligence Corps who had been sent to the United States in 1917 as a special emissary of the Department of Defence. Elliot’s description of the structure and activities of the League led Brookes and his colleagues to entirely misinterpret the organisation’s democratic, or rather anti-democratic, fides . Elliot mistakenly believed that the League was the “Citizen Section” of the “United States Secret Service” and that it had been formed with the approval of the Department of Justice, who continued to closely supervise its activities.[45] Yet, there was no United States government organisation that went by the name “the United States Secret Service”. Furthermore, the League’s affiliation with official authorities was not as clear as Elliot imagined. While the activities of the League were endorsed by government, there was no question that the League had been incorporated into the structure of government as Elliot understood them to have been. They were subcontractors, to whom the Wilson Administration found it convenient to assign quasi-legal vigilante assignments it could not enforce, due to a lack of manpower.

As Elliot was chaperoned by the APL’s founder, Chas Daniel Frey, who promoted the League’s high ethical standards and professional management, Elliot’s inspection of the League halted at the shop-front window. He had no concerns about the League’s legal conduct, reassured by the “corps of competent lawyers” that allegedly supervised the League’s use of authority and evidence, and prepared briefs for the BI. The police section of the League, Elliot similarly found, comprised men “especially qualified by experience and ability to conduct important investigations” and “willing to give all their time if necessary, to the Public Service”. The League’s Intelligence Bureau, Elliot reported, enlisted only the most “responsible persons” from financial, business or industrial sectors, “whose sworn duty” was to “promptly report…any and every case of disloyalty, industrial disturbance or other matter likely to injure or embarrass the Government of the United States”; reassuringly, they always did this “through the proper channel only”. Elliot was also comforted by the League’s stringent, internal security measures. The Bureau of Membership, he was assured, stringently evaluated the suitability of each potential member before they were enrolled; if there was the “slightest doubt” about the “suitability or loyalty of any applicant”, they were not recruited. All members swore oaths of allegiance to the nation and proudly wore their “badge of authority” when on duty. In the event that a member was accused of unseemly conduct, the Bureau conducted a formal investigation which, if evidence of improper behaviour was confirmed, would result in the resignation of the disgraced brother. [46]

Elliot’s glowing assessment of the League had little basis in fact. There is scant evidence that legal “expertise” determined the League’s operations. Yet, the appearance of legal probity was crucial to Elliot’s and Brookes’ admiration of the League, respectful as they were of hierarchy and elite leadership. Moreover, the “Public Service” Elliot imagined that the League served did not resemble the independent bureaucracy to which an “Australian Protective League” would be devoted; the protection of government bureaucracy could not have been further from the minds of most APL operatives. The relationship of official police agencies and the APL was also neither as proper nor direct as Elliot believed. In practice, the League frequently declined to defer to the authority of the state, which was unable (and unwilling) to closely direct its activities. Worse, having quickly swelled to enormous size, the League could not even cursorily monitor the character of its members. Further, the inherent corrupting effects of supra-legal status on League members were entirely discounted by Australian loyalists, who were warming to the notion of invading the confidential banking and industrial records of radical organisations and trade unions. [47]

Brookes, Elliot and their colleagues readily attributed an official character to the APL because they projected their own juridical norms and ethics onto a culture they failed to understand. Wanting to protect “law and order”, they were excited by any organisation seemingly devoted to “good” government, propriety and civic values. The example of the APL appeared to show that citizens working in the professions, real estate, finance, insurance, transport, industry and even in hospitality could make a substantive contribution to law and order. This inspired Brookes to nominate five men, solicitors, aldermen, academics and businessmen, as potential Australian Protective League members; a Defence Ministry functionary simultaneously drew up a list of the men who, “under proper safeguards”, would observe “enemy activities”. [48] Unhappily for Brookes and his colleagues, however, the impetus to found an Australian Protective League petered out. Personality clashes undermined the prospective League, but other factors proved more crucial. [49] Most important, the loyalist conspirators could not agree on the degree to which the League ought to be voluntary. While Watt and Elliot believed that the logistical burden of organisation necessitated a strong private involvement (and Watt was no doubt eager to apportion responsibility for the League beyond the government), G. R. Finchen, Manager of the National Bank, was concerned to confine knowledge of intelligence and propaganda within a narrower sphere of interest and he argued against mass mobilisation. [50] In the end, although they were united in their perception of a need for action, these conservative elites were unwilling to act decisively, because they were conscious that the law was against them and because they were hamstrung by their commitment to British constitutional traditions and the appearance of law and order.

The fate of the Australian Protective League was prophetic for future Australian patriotic organisations. Uncertain of their legal security and uneasy with extra-legal vigilantism, the League and succeeding fraternities never quite felt able to conduct their campaigns without regard for the authority of government. Their strong commitment to inherited social and legal hierarchies, along with an awareness of the political strength of labour, encouraged them to regard themselves as necessary adjuncts of government. Unlike the APL, the American Legion or the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), they neither sought to, nor could force the arm of governments. For the most part they worked directly with constitutional authorities and the majority of groups, including the aborted Australian Protective League and the dominant Victorian patriotic society of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the League of National Security (LNS), in fact did little else but petition official action. Even the practical ambition of the most militant loyalist organisation, the New Guard, extended no further than the desire to hospitalise “extremists” from the labour movement and a more fanciful wish to force the removal of the New South Wales Labor government.

In spite of their desire that it not be so, two great gulfs separated Australian anti-communist fraternities from their American brethren: the abysses separating their real and perceived levels of empowerment. Compared with American anti-communists, Australian anti-communists had a modest record of achievement and an even more modest sense of power. The comparative success of Australian and American citizen-based anti-communist fraternities reveal stark contrasts in political fortune. Even the most powerful and protected loyalist organisation, the Old Guard (OG), which made preparations with federal authorities and the New South Wales Police to overthrow the Lang government, did not precipitate Lang’s fall and promptly disbanded after his removal. Moreover, it actively suppressed the NG, fearing that its inflammatory demagoguery was more likely to imperil civic order than Lang himself. [51] The OG also refused to collaborate, let alone reveal itself, to other organisations such as the LNS, which meekly abandoned its practice of crushing public assemblies after the Victorian government legislated to permit street meetings that did not obstruct traffic in 1933. [52]

Australian anti-communists’ wariness of each other and of law-breaking could not have distinguished them more from the mentality and behaviour of American anti-communists. Anti-communism in the United States thrived on the sharing of information. Patriotic associations regularly gathered en masse to swap notes and tactics and keep one another abreast of communist intrigues across the nation. One such patriotic gathering was the Women’s Patriotic Conference on National Defence, an annual event that attracted hundreds of anti-communist associations of varying size and power, including the hugely-influential DAR and the much-smaller but not insignificant Westchester Security League (WSL). [53]

Concern for the education of America’s youth prompted the WSL to contact high schools experiencing difficulties with Young Pioneers and form student discussion groups and new clubs for “Jr. American Citizens”. [54] This venture proved so successful that the DAR soon “took over the enterprise” and established, with the Sons of the American Revolution, a national scheme to monitor “un-American” textbooks and supply schools with approved materials. [55]The WSL became an important source of information not just for interested citizens and affiliated associations, but also for government and judicial authorities. In the mid 1930s, both the Dickstein Committee investigating subversive activities and Congressman Tinkham, who was sponsoring a bill to revoke Soviet recognition, utilised the League’s resources, as did the Arizona State legislature when conducting “an investigation of disloyal activities”. The League also furnished material to an Arizona judge then trying some alleged communists and cultivated support from MI, the War Department and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [56]

Information sharing between American patriots and governments was not a one-way process. For example, a chart depicting the integral involvement of the “Socialist-Pacifist movement” in international socialist networks devised by a librarian at the Chemical Warfare Service in Washington, D. C., was obtained by J. Edgar Hoover, copied and passed on to the American Defence Society, in 1923; [57] the chart remained in demand among patriotic and intelligence circles for several years, notwithstanding the chief of the Chemical Warfare Service’s eventual disavowal of the chart and its “inaccuracies”. [58] Organisations such as the DAR were also mailed information about suspected Bolshevik front organisations like the National Council for Prevention of War, by the Department of War.[59] Australian authorities, by contrast, neither solicited nor encouraged non-official anti-communist activity with comparable enthusiasm. Information supplied by civilian informants was gratefully accepted and taken seriously, but there was never any question that outsiders would be made privy to classified information. [60]

Australian anti-communists were also unwilling to utilise the expertise of foreign-born, non-Anglo-Saxon anti-communists in the fight against Bolshevism. In the United States, loyal, multi-lingual migrants became powerful intelligence agents and muscle for union-busting corporations. The Ukrainian Jacob Spolansky, for example, worked for MI, the BI, Botany Consolidated Mills in Passaic, New Jersey, the Chrysler Corporation in Detroit, Michigan and local police departments, including the State Troopers in Michigan. He was also a key witness at the Fish Committee hearings. [61] In Australia, no migrant with such a background could find employment in the intelligence or police corps and while a certain J. Toman, a multi-lingual Czech, was “instrumental” in establishing a branch of the NG in Goulbourn, he was barred from holding executive office in the Guard on account of his ethnicity. [62]

When accounting for these significant operational differences between Australian and American anti-communists a number of factors need to be considered. It must be acknowledged that Australian anti-communists operated in a far less favourable political and cultural environment than American anti-communists. Labour was more politically powerful in Australia than in the United States. The separation of powers between arms and spheres of government were protected in Australia by such institutions as the High Court in its ruling on the Walsh-Johannsen deportation case of 1925, which denied the federal government the power to deport any persons not born in Australia whose continued presence was found by the executive to be detrimental to peace, order and government. Australian anti-communists were also hamstrung by the opprobrium such events as the 1916 show-trial of the “IWW Twelve” in Sydney and the violent vigilantism of the NG threatened to bring onto conservative authorities. Opportunities to co-opt paramilitary organisations in the manner of the United States DJ, while hankered for by some, were politically untenable. [63] Official counter-subversive agencies were further hamstrung by their subordinate position within the network of British imperial operations. [64] Moreover, while anti-communism directly fostered the development in the United States of State Department agencies and other organisations to augment the BI and MI, Australia was very slow to develop a foreign affairs executive and policy infrastructure with whom the CIB could share and develop its programs. [65]

Nevertheless, factors other than juridical and administrative practices and political imperatives hampered the growth of anti-communism in the antipodes. Peculiar and self-imposed psychological and political commitments also constrained Australian anti-communists. Australian loyalists’ overarching commitment to British Imperial power complicated and even crippled their hopes of revolutionising government. Compared with their American brethren, Australian anti-communists humbled themselves before the state. They perceived their proper place within an imperial, parliamentary structure that bound them to the glory of Britain, perched at the pinnacle of political as well as physical (racial) evolution. An unbreakable thread was thought to link Australian governments and the judiciary to Whitehall and the Privy Council, making rebellion against elected governments, except in the most extreme circumstances, unthinkable. And whereas Americans had historically viewed themselves as revolutionaries and citizens of a nation that would lead the world, Australians, by contrast, believed that they were bringing a superior culture, of which they were only one component part, to the world’s furthest reaches. So, Australian loyalists’ devotion to the British Empire not only circumscribed their political goals but also robbed them of the single-minded purpose of their American counterparts. Australian anti-communists were also distracted by extraneous issues which were not nearly so significant in the United States. For example, Herbert Brookes and other important patricians were arguably more preoccupied with their fight against papacy than Leninism; indeed, outrage over perceived treasonous behaviour by Catholics during the 1917 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Melbourne (not to mention the defeat of the two conscription referenda) was probably the most important direct impetus for the attempted formation of the Australian Protective League. [66]

Brookes’ near-total identification with Britain encouraged him to express his sense of cultural superiority and plans for political reform through an Anglo-Saxon, anti-Catholic paradigm. His confidence in the racial supremacy of Anglo-Saxons and the cultural supremacy of Britain was unbridled. He imagined that the British Empire was the greatest civilising force ever created and even regarded George Washington as the quintessence of British culture. He also believed that of the various forces threatening to destroy British peoples, the most horrible was Catholicism, particularly Irish Catholicism. As the most isolated and distant outpost of Britain, Australia was uniquely threatened by the potential loss of its “British citizenship” and could not rely on other British colonies to defend the Empire. Brookes and his colleagues in the Victorian Protestant Federation (VPF) were certain Australia’s large Irish Catholic population enjoyed ready assistance from Sinn Feinists. Accordingly, the VPF produced reams of anti-Catholic propaganda, including the pamphlets The Enemy Within Our Gates . [67] The Federation also compiled “a complete set of Electoral Rolls for Victoria…with all Roman Catholic names crossed out, so that at a minute’s notice”, in case of emergency, it could thereby “communicate with all Protestants in all, or any particular electorate”. The Federation was also disturbed by “Rome’s Domination of the Parliamentary Labour Party” and studiously monitored Catholic representation in the Cabinet of Catholic Prime Minister Joseph Scullin. [68]

Although the forces of anti-Catholicism and anti-communism were frequently allied, or one and the same, it was difficult to translate anti-Catholic prejudice into concrete forms of official repression and discrimination, for Catholicism was far more entrenched in Australia than socialism. Anti-Catholicism, therefore, remained an additional simmering cause for civic dissent, which, like anti-communism, never seriously threatened the fabric of the Australian state. However, unlike in the United States, sectarianism actually drained important resources and energy from the anti-communist movement. Anti-Catholicism had a time-honoured place in American political culture, but it rarely intruded upon the anti-communist activities of zealots like J. Edgar Hoover and the NCF.

Other, less lofty and ostensibly more radical quarters of the Australian anti-communist movement also evinced a thoroughly traditional political weltanschauung , disavowing American-style radical methods of political agitation. For all his swashbuckling rhetoric and admiration for Fascist Italy, Eric Campbell still suffered from a paralysis of ambition typical of Australian anti-communists. His ideal Fascist Australian state would, he imagined, not even claim a role in world affairs independent of Great Britain. Indeed, Campbell remained content to disavow real political obligation and hide behind the skirts of a crumbling Empire that was hurling its children from the filial nest. The Westminster Statute conferring independence on British Dominions was five years old and unratified when Campbell was dreaming of placing “on every man the responsibility of being in every way a worthy citizen of a great Empire”.[69] Significantly, the NG was also a very traditional socio-political order, conducting such bourgeois activities as establishing libraries, card game and reading rooms, and organising educational classes and publishing book reviews. The NG did not force radical right-wing agit-prop on its members; its classes in political science schooled pupils in the works of Plato and Aristotle, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall and more modern texts such as A.V. Dicey’s Law of the Constitution . And at street level, attending inter-denominational church services was the most radical paradigm shift the Guard contemplated. Outside Campbell’s inner circle, sympathy for conventional values, and perhaps an indigenous antipathy for extremism, made the prospect of Fascism, let alone Nazism, unpalatable. [70]

In assessing the overall impact of American anti-communism on Australia, it can be stated that the glowing impression Australian loyalists had of industrial and political life in the United States stimulated the amplification of elitism, anti-democracy and anti-labourism in Australia. Nonetheless, for a range of complex environmental and psychological reasons, the influence of American anti-communism on Australians remained largely theoretical. It is testament to the extraordinary power of anti-communism, however, that it encouraged Australia’s loyalist leaders to seriously consider substituting Australia’s democracy with more authoritarian systems of government and to look to environments other than those of Britain for solutions to the Red Menace.

Write a response to this paper

(the email you send to will be read by the Eras editorial committee and published on the “Discussion” page)


[1] While Richard Gid Powers gives something approaching due attention to pre-McCarthy anti-communism ( Not Without Honor: The History of American Anti-Communism , Free Press, New York, 1995), Ellen Schrecker ( Many Are the Crimes – McCarthyism in America , Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1998) and Joel Kovel (Red Hunting in the Promised Land: Anticommunism and the Making of America , Basic Books, New York, 1992) arguably do not. Earlier studies such as John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 , Atheneum, New York, 1973; Robert K. Murray, The Red Scare , University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1953; Peter Buckingham, America Sees Red: Anti-Communism in America, 1870’s to 1980’s – A Guide to Issues and References, Regina Books, Claremont, 1988; Gilbert C. Fite and H. C. Peterson, Opponents of War, 1917 – 1918 , University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1957; William Preston, Jr., Aliens and Dissenters – Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903 – 1933 , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1966 also, sometimes in spite of their empirical findings, underplay the significance of political developments between the wars. Back

[2] See John F. Williams, The Quarantined Culture: Australian Reactions to Modernism, 1913-1939 , Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1995; Terry King, “The Tarring and Feathering of J. K. MacDougall: ‘Dirty Tricks’ in the 1919 Federal Election”,Labour History , Vol. 45, November 1983; R. W. Connell and T. H. Irving, Class Structure in Australian History , Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 1980; Richard Hall, The Secret State – Australia’s Spy Industry , Cassell Australia, Sydney, 1978; Stuart Macintyre, The Oxford History of Australia: Volume IV, 1901-1942, The Succeeding Age , Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1986; G. L. Kristianson, The Politics of Patriotism – The Pressure Group Activities of the Returned Servicemen’s League , Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1966; Keith Richmond, “Response to the Threat of Communism: The Sane Democracy League and the People’s Union of New South Wales”, Journal of Australian Studies , Vol. 1, June 1977, pp. 70 – 83. Back

[3]Offending American scholars include, besides Murray, Buckingham, Fite and Peterson and Higham, Joan Hoff Wilson and contributors to her volume, The Twenties – The Critical Issues, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1972 and A. Mitchell Palmer’s biographer, Stanley Coben ( A. Mitchell Palmer: Politician , Columbia University Press, New York, 1963). Australian scholars such as Hall and J.R. Poynter (“The Yo-Yo Variations: Initiative and Dependence in Australia’s External Relations, 1918-1923”, Historical Studies , Vol. 14, 1969-1971, pp. 231-49) make the same error. Williams is more careful. Back

[4] Verity Burgmann and Stuart Macintyre have both written monographs examining Australian left wing, revolutionary parties. Burgmann limits her account of the Australian Industrial Workers of the World to profiling an organisation which offered “an example of more effective oppositional politics, whether within the labour movement or in wider society”, while Macintyre also declines to comment extensively on the legacy of the repression of the Communist Party of Australia, preferring to focus on the deep flaws “that nurtured tyranny within its emancipatory scheme”. See Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism – The I.W.W. in Australia , Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 276 and Stuart Macintyre,The Reds – The Communist Party of Australia, from Origins to Illegality , Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 413. Back

[5] Any scholar evincing such critical failings in the field of Russian revolutionary history would, I believe, struggle for serious recognition. Back

[6] Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism , p. 218. Back

[7] Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race or the Racial Basis of European History , Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1916 and Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Herbert C. Hoover – MSS, Box 157, “Preliminary Drafts on Bolshevik Manifestations”, document for President Wilson, 25 April 1919. Hoover was, at this time, director of the USRed Cross mission to Europe. Back

[8] T. R. Ashworth, “Pamphlets for the People No.1”, Communism in Australia – The Lesson of the British Seamen’s Strike and Other Papers , National Library of Australia (hereafter NLA), John G. Latham Collection – MS 1009, Series 44 (subsequent references Ashworth,Communism in Australia ). Back

[9] See for example letter from Latham to Jones, 22 September 1927, Australian Archives (hereafter AA), A467, Item Bundle 94/SF42/64 286. Back

[10] NLA, William Morris Hughes Collection – MS 1538, Series 26, Folder 6, Los Angeles Examiner , June 1924. ThePhiladelphia Evening Public Ledger dryly commented of Hughes’ views that, “another way of increasing friction with Japan would be to invite the Rt. Hon. William Morris Hughes, former Prime Minister of Australia, to address Congress”, 12 May 1924. Back

[11] The Office of External Affairs in Australia played a negligible role in policy development and execution until the mid-1920s. Prior to the Great War the Prime Minister assumed almost full responsibility for directing foreign affairs and the office was actually abolished in 1916. It was not until 1924 that a senior clerk attached to Imperial Foreign Office was stationed in Melbourne, Australia, and an Australian High Commission established in London. See J. R. Poynter, “The Yo-Yo Variations” and review by W. J. Hudson, “The Yo-Yo Variations: A Comment,”Historical Studies , Vol. 14, 1969-1971. Back

[12] Herbert Brookes, Commissioner-General in USA to PM Scullin, 13 February 1930, AA, A984, Item Com. 33. Back

[13] Letter from SDL to Prime Minister Lyons, 11 July 1932, AA, A1606/1, Item B5/1. Back

[14] Report from Secretary Attorney-General’s Department to Secretary Prime Minister’s Department, 30 June 1931, AA, A1606/1, Item B5/1. Back

[15] NLA, MS 1009, 27/5/169. Back

[16] Francis Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance, 1916-1932: Reactions to Radicalism During and After the First World War , PhD Thesis, Monash University, 1979, p. 76. Back

[17] Despatches from New Scotland Yard, passed on by the High Commission in London, rarely troubled Bruce, who routinely forwarded them to Latham. In this respect, Bruce’s preparedness to allow his subordinates to pursue the donkey-work of anti-communism contrasts markedly with Hughes’ direct administration of the secret services. See correspondence to and from the London High Commission (NLA, MS 1009, Item 41/6). An example of Bruce’s professional but dry anti-communist electioneering is a speech he gave on 9 September 1925 in Dandenong, published in pamphlet form by the National Publicity Bureau (NLA, MS 1009, Item 27/4). The Bruce who emerges in the observations of contemporary anti-communists, including Herbert Brookes, seems too remote to be passionately disturbed by communist intrigue. Brookes, who was appointed Australian representative to the 1923 Economic Conference in Britain and, in 1929, Commissioner-General to the US by Bruce, remarked that Bruce was “as indifferent to foes as he is to friends, apparently.” See Rohan Rivett, Australian Citizen – Herbert Brookes, 1867-1963 , Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1965, p. 89. Back

[18] Memorandum from Solicitor General Robert Garran to Latham, 9 February 1934, AA, A467, Item Bundle 28/SF10/15.Back

[19] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, p. 44. Bryce’s principal American work, The American Commonwealth , published in 1888, was perhaps a little out of date as a guide on contemporary industrial relations. Nevertheless, it was of sufficient currency to be of use to Herbert Brookes, no intellectual crank, during his stint as Commissioner-General for Australia in the US from 1929-30. See Rivett,Australian Citizen , p. 112. Back

[20] NLA, MS 1009, Items 27/118, Folder 5. The VEF’s journal was renamed several times during Ashworth’s tenures as president, from Liberty and Progress to The Employers’ Monthly Review to Industry and Trade . Back

[21] Ashworth repeatedly argued that the limitation placed on federal industrial power by State courts was injurious to industrial and economic harmony and order. He contrasted Australian industrial relations mechanisms unfavourably with those of New Zealand, which did not have to contend with the complications of rival federal and State jurisdictions. Ashworth wanted Australia to create a “central court” to “determine such fundamental questions as basic wage and working hours, and co-ordinate the awards of decentralised tribunals operating in all the States”. These “decentralised bodies”, he believed, could “function on the side of Conciliation rather than of Arbitration, thus avoiding the class bitterness that arises from legal conflict”. See The Employers’ Monthly Review , 31 March 1927, cited in Shirley Thomas, Challenge: The First 100 Years of the Victorian Employers’ Federation , Victorian Employers’ Federation, Burwood, 1985, p. 108. Back

[22] Letter from Ralph Easley to Patrick J. Hurley, Secretary of War, 24 May 1930, File 10110-2630 1, U. S. National Archives, United States Military Intelligence Files, MI-MSS, Reel 23.Back

[23] Letter from Ralph M. Easley to Churchill, 13 April 1920, MI-MSS, Reel 19. Back

[24] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, p. 4, see also 75 – 8. Back

[25] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, pp. 14 and 35. Back

[26] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, p. 46 and Rivett, Australian Citizen , pp. 54 – 5.Back

[27] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, p. 75. Back

[28] Censuring the integrity of “the people”, the NCF argued that they required firm moral guidance and support to counter “the growing confusion in the public mind resulting from erroneous information upon economic and political subjects; the lack of a widespread understanding of the principles underlying representative government; and the failure of citizens generally to fulfil their obligations”. Ashworth,”Communism in Australia”, p. 75. Ashworth criticised the diffusion and dissipation of Australian employers’ collective strength, represented by their lack of centralised organisation. M. P. Campbell from the delegation to the Industrial Mission to America reported to the VEF the “concentration of employers’ strength into one all-representative body…not split up into Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Manufactures, Employers’ Federations and other rival Associations”. Ashworth prescribed “the study of economics, ethics and politics” for employers in Liberty and Progress , 25 October 1921. See Thomas, Challenge , pp. 111 and 102. Back

[29] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, pp. 75-6. Back

[30] Ashworth, “Communism in Australia”, pp. 21-2. Back

[31] S. M. Bruce, like Ashworth, opined to the VEF that “a system in which you have courts, perpetual reference to courts, and employers and employees constantly meeting together in an atmosphere of legal proceedings … can never achieve very much.” Reported in The Employers’ Monthly Review , 31 March 1927, cited in Thomas,Challenge, p. 109. Back

[32] “Communism in Australia – Its Genesis and Development”, report by H. Jones submitted to Prime Minister Hughes, c. 1922, pp. 11-14, NLA, MS 1538, Item 21/156. Back

[33] Liberty , Vol. 1 No. 5, 17 September 1932, p. 4, AA, A432/86, Item 1933/152 – hereafter referred to as Liberty , with appropriate publication date. Back

[34] Liberty , 17 September 1932. Back

[35] Parts 1 and 2, Senate of the State of New York, New York, originally published in 1920 (1971 edition published by Da Capo Press) as Revolutionary Radicalism: Its History, Purpose and Tactics, With an Exposition and Discussion of the Steps Being Taken and Required to Curb It – Report of the Joint Legislative Committee Investigating Seditious Activities – Revolutionary and Subversive Movements Abroad and At Home , Vol. I, Part I, pp 17-18 and Vol. II, Part I, p. 1476. Back

[36] Andrew Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier: Conservative Paramilitary Organisations in N.S.W: 1930-32, New South Wales University Press, Sydney, 1989, pp. 13-14. Back

[37] Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance , 1979, p. 319-20. Back

[38] These men had been meeting since November 1917 for this purpose. See Moore, Secret Army , pp. 22-5.Back

[39] Letter from Brookes to Senator George Pearce, 29 November 1918, NLA, Herbert Brookes Collection – MS 1924/17/2. Back

[40] Spy Glass , Vol. 1, No. 1, p.1; Spy Glass , Vol. 1, No. 7, p. 4. Numbers 8 and 9 and a Special Supplement exhorted members to “Get These Dangerous Enemy Aliens”, German-born citizens and residents of whom large photo identities were supplied. Bureau of Investigation chief, A. Bruce Bielaski, formalised the incorporation of the APL into the government, ordering all Bureau employees to give “full cooperation” to League members in their “slacker” tracing endeavours, supporting their authority when required. See Spy Glass Vol. 1, No. 10, p. 3, all issues U. S. National Archives, BI – MSS, Records of the APL, Box 1, Entry 14, 15, 16. Back

[41] Gilbert Fite and H. C. Peterson,Opponents of War, 1917 – 1918 , University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1957, p. 19. Back

[42] Spy Glass proudly stated that according to the Provost Marshal General’s office, the League had arrested between 20,000 and 25,000 “delinquents”, in “more than two hundred cities and communities” during the period from June 1917 until the Drive of September 1918. See Spy Glass , Vol. 1, No. 7, p. 1. Back

[43] Spy Glass noted that 12,115 slackers were netted from just five New Jersey cities in the G reat Drive. See Vol. 1, No. 8, p. 4. Back

[44] See Spy Glass, Vol. 1, No. 7; Vol. 1, No. 12; Vol. 1, No. 11; Letter of Chief Examiner St. Louis INS to APL, 26 July 1918, BI – MSS, Records of the APL, Box 1, A1, Entry 14, 15, 16, and Spy Glass , Vol. 1, No. 10, p. 1, and Fite and Peterson,Opponents of War , p. 286. Back

[45] Report from Robert D. Elliot to Minister for Defence, 29 November 1917, AA, B197/0, Item 1851/2/43. Regarding Elliot’s business operations and Country Party affiliations see Rivett,Australian Citizen , pp. 86-7. Back

[46] Report from Robert D. Elliot to Minister for Defence. Back

[47] On at least one occasion in January 1925 the CIB persuaded the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to peruse the Bank’s records for evidence of funds flowing from Russia, through the Bank, to the Communist Party of Australia. See report of Sydney CIB to Melbourne HQ, 14 January 1925, AA, A8911/1, Item 154 Part 1.Back

[48] Letter from Herbert Brookes to Senator Pearce and Departmental Memorandum to Pearce, both 2 May 1918, AA, B197/0, Item 1851/2/43. The Departmental Memo list included names such as Brookes, Robert Elliot, E. Joske, Registrar of the Dental Board of Victoria, Archibald Strong, Professor of English at the University of Melbourne, John Clayton, of Collins House, O. Morrice Williams of the London Bank, Professor Picken of Ormond College, J. Davies, Secretary of the Commercial Travellers’ Association, F. P. Brett of Blake and Riggell Solicitors, C. S. Crouch, Secretary of the British Medical Association and Alderman W. W. Cabena, of Balaclava. Back

[49] Frank Cain writes that George Steward worked to sabotage the scheme. See Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance , 1979, p. 311. Back

[50] Notes regarding Meeting in Prime Minister’s office for APL, 29 May 1918, AA, B197/0, Item 1851/2/43, C 571/1/374. Chief of General Staff Legge was also concerned that the League would have to be absolutely above Party prejudice. Back

[51] Moore, Secret Army , pp. 155, 186-7, 198 and 234. Several Guards were in fact members of the Lyons government. Back

[52] Regarding the LNS’ cessation of repression of political movements see Stuart Macintyre, The Reds , pp. 232-3. Regarding OG’s refusal to liaise with LNS see Mitchell Library, [New Guard] Series 4951 & 4952 – [CY] Reel 2579.Back

[53] Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Westchester Security League Collection – MSS, Box 1. Back

[54] WSL internal report c. 1935.Back

[55] WSL, Inc. Annual Reports, 1934-1935 and 1935-1936, WSL – MSS, Box 1. Back

[56] WSL, Inc. Annual Reports, Internal Report , and internal memo Early contacts of W.S.L ., WSS – MSS, Box 1. Back

[57] Letters of J. Edgar Hoover, Special Assistant to Attorney-General to Mrs. Lucia R. Maxwell, 19 May 1923 and R. M. Whitney to Maxwell, 14 June 1923, MI – MSS, Reel 19. Back

[58] Letters of Brigadier-General Amos A. Friez to Captain J. H. Bogart, Munitions Building, Washington D.C., 23 April 1924 and Ida L. Jones to Colonel James H. Reeves, MI, War Department, 26 April 1927, MI – MSS, Reel 19. Back

[59] MI – MSS, Reel 19, File 10110-1935. Back

[60] This is indicated by correspondence between Jones and Latham regarding a naturalised immigrant from Moscow who offered the CIB a list of communist operatives in Australia. While Jones acknowledged the efforts of the informant, requested further information and offered him the Department’s gratitude, he was “unable to suggest” that the man “be placed [directly] in touch with any” branch of the government. See Letter from Jones to Latham, 22 January 1932, AA, A467, Item Bundle 94/SF42/64 286. Jones argued that it was “not desirable that [the informant] should know where the interest in these matters lies.” Back

[61] Jacob Spolansky, The Communist Trail in America , The Macmillan Company, New York, 1951 and Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities and Propaganda in the United States, in United States Congress, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, 1931. Back

[62] Report No. 205, 12 March 1932, ML Series 4951 & 4952 – [CY] Reel 2579. Toman was also appointed to his intelligence position in the “face of opposition from the Country Defence League”. Back

[63] The Australian Protective League was greatly disturbed by the magnitude of community outrage regarding the spurious prosecution of the IWW men (NLA, MS 1924, Item 17/116 and Ian Turner,Sydney’s Burning , Melbourne, Heinemann, 1967 and Burgmann,Revolutionary Industrial Unionism ). Harold Jones protected organisations such as the LNS from the Scullin Labor government and offered the OG the services of the CIB (See Michael Cathcart,Defending the National Tuckshop – Australia’s Secret Army Intrigue of 1931 , Mc Phee Gribble/Penguin, Melbourne, 1988, p. 61 and Moore, Secret Army , pp. 63, 135 and 188). Yet, he knew State police forces would not support his dream of a national counter-propaganda agency (CIB report on Communism in Australia, 8 August 1921, NLA, MS 1538, Item 27/2). The New South Wales police force regarded the NG as a useful punching bag that afforded them the opportunity to demonstrate that they were not biased against labour (Moore, Secret Army , p. 151). Conservative politicians and business elements were in no doubt that it was politically vital to divorce the armed services and unreliable paramilitary organisations (i.e. not the OG – see Moore, Secret Army , pp. 38 and 186 – 7) and the Lyons government had to fight off a proposed Royal Commission into the NG. Back

[64] AA, A467, Item Bundle 94/SF42/64 286. It is difficult to believe that Australian intelligence forces’ junior status did not diminish their enterprise and confidence; in spite of British authorities’ assurances to the contrary, the flow of intelligence from Britain to Australia was not entirely reciprocal and this likely influenced the CIB, which was remiss in sending information to New Scotland Yard. Back

[65] The regular Army and State police forces did not begin to collect security information in a systematic fashion until the mid to late 1930s. See Francis Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia , Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1983, pp. 252-6.Back

[66] NLA, MS 1924, Items 21/83 and Moore, Secret Army , p. 125. Among Brookes’ anti-Catholic confreres were the industrial magnate Sir James Elder, Sir John Grice and Justice W. L. Baillieu. Regarding the sectarian bitterness of April 1918, which presaged the Commonwealth Government’s invitation to Brookes to help form the League the following month, see Rivett, Australian Citizen , pp. 57-64. Back

[67] NLA, MS 1924. With regard to Brookes’ Anglo-Saxon passion and its effect on his feelings about the USA, it is worth noting that Brookes and his wife were early champions of the English Speaking Union, a trans-Atlantic organisation promoting relations between Great Britain and the USA . See Rivett, Australian Citizen , p. 109. Back

[68] The Vigilant , Vol. IX, 5, 14 December 1931, NLA, MS 1924. Back

[69] Liberty , 15 November 1932. Back

[70] Liberty , 15 November 1932. Liberty ‘s literary reviewer, P. H. Coates, demonstrated this in his unfavourable comparison of the works of the contemporary German philosopher Oswald Spengler with Sir Arthur Salter, an English economist. Back


[65] The regular Army and State police forces did not begin to collect security information in a systematic fashion until the mid to late 1930s. See Francis Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia , Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1983, pp. 252-6.Back

[66] NLA, MS 1924, Items 21/83 and Moore, Secret Army , p. 125. Among Brookes’ anti-Catholic confreres were the industrial magnate Sir James Elder, Sir John Grice and Justice W. L. Baillieu. Regarding the sectarian bitterness of April 1918, which presaged the Commonwealth Government’s invitation to Brookes to help form the League the following month, see Rivett, Australian Citizen , pp. 57-64. Back

[67] NLA, MS 1924. With regard to Brookes’ Anglo-Saxon passion and its effect on his feelings about the USA, it is worth noting that Brookes and his wife were early champions of the English Speaking Union, a trans-Atlantic organisation promoting relations between Great Britain and the USA . See Rivett, Australian Citizen , p. 109. Back

[68] The Vigilant , Vol. IX, 5, 14 December 1931, NLA, MS 1924. Back

[69] Liberty , 15 November 1932. Back

[70] Liberty , 15 November 1932. Liberty ‘s literary reviewer, P. H. Coates, demonstrated this in his unfavourable comparison of the works of the contemporary German philosopher Oswald Spengler with Sir Arthur Salter, an English economist. Back