The New Guard and the Labour Movement, 1931-35

While largely confined to New South Wales and indeed to the city of Sydney, the New Guard was Australia’s most successful manifestation of inter-war fascism. Even though the New Guard has received its fair share of historical investigation, this article sheds new light on both the movement’s social profile and the reasons for its ultimate decline by the mid-1930s. First, the article examines whether Eric Campbell successfully attracted a working-class following to the New Guard. This directly affected the movement’s fortunes in the street fights of 1931 and 1932. Second, after shedding fresh light on the Workers Defence Corps and other left-wing militias, the article interrogates anti-fascist memory of the Great Depression. In this respect the article revises the prevailing view that opposition from the labour movement contributed to the New Guard’s ultimate demise.

Solicitor and leader of the New Guard, Australia’s rather premature manifestation of inter-war fascism, toured Europe to supplement his ‘data about Fascism’. In London he met representatives of both the British Union of Fascists (BUF) and the Imperial Fascist League. Relations with the BUF’s Sir Oswald Mosley, whom Campbell regarded as ‘a fine cut of a man with more than an ordinary share of personal magnetism’, were especially warm.[1] According to the BUF’s journal, Blackshirt, their discussions constituted a great step forward for international fascism.[2] Brandishing a letter of introduction from Mosley, Campbell continued his European fascist tour, seeking audiences with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. In Berlin the New Guard leader observed 100,000 Nazis rallying in front of the Imperial Palace in Unter den Linden. He was highly impressed. The Nazis’ ‘great spirit of co-operation’, Campbell enthused, was evident at such rallies when ‘large factories would empty and employers and employees would march together under their industrial banners’. According to Campbell, the Nazis were ‘more like a labour movement than anything else, a movement of the people’.[3]

Campbell’s contemporary observations of German fascism provide a surprising window into the New Guard’s make-up. That Campbell admired the Nazis’ proletarian membership is, at first glance, anomalous. Unlike Mosley, Campbell could lay no claim to a Labor background. Born in 1893 at Young, NSW, of patrician stock and privately educated, by 1931 Colonel Eric Campbell DSO was a leading member of Sydney’s Anglo-Australian establishment.[4] That such a man, a prominent solicitor, company director and habitué of Sydney’s most prestigious gentlemen’s clubs, should have sought a mass, working-class constituency for the New Guard, is not part of received knowledge about the movement. On the whole he shared the Australian bourgeoisie’s disdain and distrust of the lower orders. A typical piece of industrial relations wisdom in the New Guard’s journal was to repeat the biblical advice to workers, ‘Obey your masters’.[5]

This article addresses this apparent contradiction and some related questions. How successful was the New Guard’s bombastic leader in courting a mass, working-class constituency? In a country where the labour movement was historically strong and assertive, to what extent did opposition from its parliamentary and trade union wings affect the fortunes of the New Guard?

Proletarian Fascism?

The issue of the breadth of community and cross-class support enjoyed by the New Guard has been debated in the literature. Suffice it to say that there were more working-class members than has hitherto been acknowledged.[6] Proletarians whose hands and bodies were physically hardened by manual labour were especially useful when it came to street fighting. Among the New Guardsmen arrested after a clash with the NSW police outside the Liverpool Street police court on 1 April 1932 were a motor mechanic, a plumber, a bricklayer and two labourers, as well as a commercial traveller and a contractor.[7] Aside from their leader, a prominent city businessman, the eight New Guardsmen and members of the so-called ‘Fascist Legion’, convicted of assaulting the trade union leader ‘Jock’ Garden on 6 May 1932, included a fitter, a motor mechanic, a driver, a salesman, a clerk, a commercial traveller and manager.[8]

Campbell’s memoirs amplify his 1932 claims[9] that there was a significant working-class presence in the New Guard. According to Campbell:

What surprised me perhaps more than anything else was the way the New Guard caught on in the districts that were traditionally Labor strongholds. But such proved to be the case, and not only were Localities formed in the lower income areas, but they also turned out to be amongst the best organised and the most staunch of any in the whole movement.[10]

Indubitably there is an element of hyperbole in Campbell’s claims. In the Sydney suburb of Five Dock, for instance, Colonel Campbell contended that about 60 per cent of New Guardsmen were workers and trade unionists.[11] Jean O’Mara’s study of the Five Dock New Guard contests this. While there was certainly a proletarian component to this group, the ratio was closer to 20 per cent.[12] Of a total of 304 members whose occupational status could be identified, 17 were labourers, 11 were carpenters and 8 plumbers. There were also 13 drivers and 9 mechanics. Two railway workers who were victimised by the Australian Railways Union (ARU) because they were members of the New Guard — a minor cause celebre within the organisation — were members of the Five Dock Locality.[13]

Given that the New Guard is commonly remembered as an elite, upper crust movement of solid North Shore burghers,[14] even a worker component of 20 per cent is high. It may, however, be remiss to extrapolate this figure upon the movement as a whole. No doubt local variables played a part. Joseph Blumenthal, administrator of the New Guard’s Five Dock Locality (‘Locality’ was the term employed by the New Guard for its suburban branches) was unusually attentive to trade union issues. Jewish and a master painter, Blumenthal exhorted his members to infiltrate the Australian Labor Party (ALP) (presumably other than Lang Labor) and the Australian Workers Union (AWU) by seeking out the support of ‘moderate and decent’ unionists.[15] In a tactic later employed by the anti-communist Catholic activist B.A. Santamaria and The Movement, Blumenthal directed that Five Dock New Guardsmen who were also trade unionists should infiltrate their union branches in order to:

receive definite instructions to act in concert. Get hold of rules and study same. Carefully note leading opponents. Group together and as occasions present themselves, move motions, dissent from chairman’s ruling, question constitutionality, make loud exclamations and frequent in support of their speakers, shout down and insult the opponents. Report back of progress.[16]

The New Guard gained a significant foothold in the working class through the good offices of one trade union, the Railway Services Association (RSA), whose membership increased from 2,712 at the end of 1930 to 5,352 in January 1933.[17] On 31 March 1931 Bill Fletcher, the RSA’s secretary, attended a meeting of the General Council of the New Guard. According to the minutes of the meeting, Fletcher promised that ‘about 90% of his union would … stand behind the New Guard should trouble arise and maintain law and order in respect to maintaining the railway service’.[18] Formed among ‘loyalist’ perwaymen gangers during the 1917 general strike it was not surprising that this particular scab union was prepared to consort with the Right. By definition its members opposed militant trade unionism. Linking with the New Guard was consistent with the ideological and turf war Fletcher and his colleagues had been waging in the 1920s against the leftist ARU. The New Guard journal, Liberty, lauded the RSA membership as ‘decent British workmen … opposed to disloyalty, treachery and tyranny in Trade Unionism generally’. According to one speaker at a New Guard rally in July 1931, the RSA was a ‘body of grand fine men’ who stood like ‘a lion in the path … These men have been maligned and also threatened, but they stick to their guns’. The roars of approval from the audience that greeted this pronouncement suggest that many RSA members were present.[19]

It is possible that other trade unions collaborated with the New Guard. At one stage the NSW police inquired whether the powerful AWU was linked with the movement.[20] As per Blumenthal’s directive, individual New Guard branches encouraged members to sound out AWU members. Highly conservative, in 1931 and 1932 the AWU leaders were embroiled in thwarting a communist-inspired rank and file movement that had asserted itself in the shearing sheds of western New South Wales and Queensland. Their strategy involved collaborating with the powerful employers’ group, the Graziers Association of NSW.[21] The police inquiry, however, failed to establish any links between the AWU and the New Guard, and it is more than likely that there were none. More commonly, the New Guard approached employers’ organisations like the Graziers Association rather than trade unions.[22] On another occasion, attempting to find work for unemployed members, the New Guard approached the Metal Trade Employers Association (MTEA) seeking preferential terms of employment for its members. In turn the MTEA advised employers that anticommunist workers could be secured by approaching New Guard headquarters.[23]

Given the vicissitudes of the labour market during the Great Depression, with unemployment affecting one-third of the workforce, it is possible that some workers attached themselves to the New Guard because its Employment Bureau offered the chance of employment.[24] In individual Localities, such as Five Dock, the process of matching ‘sound’ employees to local businesses worked well. Given the meagre nature of the dole, for the likes of Samuel B. Higgs of Five Dock, a motor driver unemployed for 12 months, married with two young children to feed, any port in a storm would suffice.[25]

The New Guard’s inner city Sydney Locality — the so-called ‘Caretakers Battalion’ — increased the possibility of workers being seduced by the New Guard’s anti-socialist propaganda. These would include situations where relations with management were close, especially in small-scale industries, or in occupations (lift drivers, caretakers and watchmen, for instance) where the labour process entailed isolation from fellow workers. According to one of its members, Francis De Groot, best remembered for his part in ‘opening’ the Sydney Harbour Bridge on 19 March 1932, the inner city New Guard Locality was ‘no band of rich men, or even of men who were moderately well-off, in fact the great majority comprised working men’. De Groot, commented further that he:

was pleased to hear many times the expression ‘decent labour’ from men not ashamed of how they earned an honest living, but refused to let themselves be bracketed with such types as Mr Lang, Jock Garden the Red, the Trades Hall, and the ‘Labour Daily’ would like to describe their class.[26]

The New Guard could also claim the services of several prominent Labor renegades. One was George Waite, a pioneer socialist of the 1890s who defected from the Left in the 1920s and contributed to the New Guard’s journal in 1932.[27] Another was the veteran Seamens Union leader, Tom Walsh. He joined wanting ‘the New Guard to be something above and beyond class and to bring workers into its ranks to build Australia’.[28] Prominent in the movement’s Speakers’ Unit, Walsh advocated establishing New Guard nuclei in trade unions.[29]

The possibility of a significant proletarian presence among its total membership of perhaps 36,000 provides an important insight into the social character of the New Guard. It certainly refutes the suggestion, enshrined in popular memory, that the New Guard was simply a movement of the privileged and wealthy. Perhaps, however, the proletarian presence should be understood as a significant minority. Without further data from the analysis of other suburban localities, for the most part Humphrey McQueen’s appraisal of the New Guard as primarily ‘a father and son movement of the bourgeoisie and petit-bourgeoisie’ appears valid.[30] The New Guard’s basic constituency was the ‘forgotten people’ whom R.G. Menzies would draw into ranks of the Liberal Party in 1944. They were, however, part of the mainstream rather than, as Judith Brett suggests, the radical fringes of the ‘moral middle class’.[31] In New South Wales the new political party led by Labor renegade Joe Lyons, the United Australia Party (UAP), was very much a creature of the New Guard. There was little practical or ideological separation. New Guardsmen were also impelled by ‘convictions of their moral worth and … deeply held self-understandings’. Small capitalists, dependent upon bank credit and subject to the fierce competition of larger and more established business firms, they were doubly damned because of their susceptibility to the body blows meted out by organised labour. The backbone of a property-owning democracy, they were small shopkeepers, grocers, tradesmen, service station proprietors, reliable, straightforward men, but not the big end of town. To such men Lang’s ‘repudiation’ of interest payments due to British bondholders was an affront to their sense of decency and fair play. One left-wing observation of the audience at a New Guard rally at the Sydney Town Hall in December 1931 is probably accurate: they were, ‘well-dressed, well-fed members of the middle class, suburban shopkeepers and men about town, and a fair sprinkling of callow youths of the public school and city office type’.[32]

In the final resort, antipodean fascism never succeeded in emulating European fascism’s attractions to the working class. The group the New Guard most resembled and through its leader most admired, Mosley’s BUF, had a much stronger working-class rump, as well as proletarian leaders like the East Ender and fiery orator ‘Mick’ Clarke or John Charnley of Hull, a member of the Bakers Union.[33]Across Europe the number of workers in fascist movements varied but there was a much higher ratio of working-class participation in groups such as the German NSDAP, the Italian PNF, the French PPF or the Spanish Falange, than in Australia’s New Guard.[34]

The Labour Response

In 1931 the advent of an aggressive right-wing movement in the form of the New Guard hardly came as a major surprise to members of the Australian labour movement. Throughout the 1920s labour journals had warned about the dangers of a Mussolini-style movement emerging in Australia and kept diligent watch over any suggestions that this was happening.[35] The intelligence facility of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) also advised caution and vigilance about the machinations of the party’s far-right opponents.[36]

Though ultimately fraught with paradox, the labour response to the New Guard was immediately and uniformly hostile. Labor and leftist newspapers across the political spectrum as well as trade union, communist, unemployed and Labor Party organisations, all denounced the New Guard. The NSW Labor Council and state ALP executive attacked it as a ‘Fascist organisation’, as did the major trade unions, and rank and file activists and individual ALP and trade union branches. Lang’s Chief Secretary, Mark Gosling, was deluged with correspondence urging immediate and stern action to disband the New Guard.[37] Hastily organised in December 1931, a significant player in this regard was the United Front against Fascism (UFAF). A small communist front, among its members was the then left-wing professor of philosophy at Sydney University, John Anderson. At suburban meetings in early 1932 the UFAF warned that the New Guard had declared ‘open war … upon all members of the Working Class’.[38] The UFAF’s purpose, therefore, was:

To unite all opponents of the fascist form of capitalist dictatorship into one organisation for the waging of the common struggle … To the disbandment and disarming of the New Guard and all other fascist organisations, and the arming of the workers and small farmers for defence against fascist attacks.[39]

Enthusiastic amateur detectives in local ALP branches conducted rudimentary counter-intelligence operations. The Parramatta North Branch of the ALP insinuated one of its number into the Concord Locality of the New Guard to inspect the organisation’s books. Members of the Rose Hill ALP observed New Guardsmen engaged in rifle practice at Prospect Reservoir on Thursday afternoons and reported this intelligence to their local MP.[40] The labour press benefited from well-placed leaks, publishing detailed inside information about the New Guard as well as about the more covert counterrevolutionary organisation, the Old Guard.[41]

Across New South Wales there was much huffing and puffing and protestations of bravado from the labour movement. The schoolteacher secretary of the Lismore branch of the ALP spoke for many when he informed Chief Secretary Gosling:

As an ex Sgt of the A.I.F., I, for one, am prepared to fight for our Government if necessary … The swashbucklers need a severe lesson before they plunge the State into bloodshed.[42]

Embodying these sentiments, a number of paramilitary groups of various ideological persuasions rapidly formed. By April 1931, the Australian Labor Army (ALA), linked to the state ALP, could claim a membership of 25,000. At a large rally in the Sydney Domain two ‘generals’ were appointed, with a large number of ALA badges featuring a red star on a white background sold.[43] Another group, the Ex-Servicemans Defence Corps, may have had a less physical focus. With a membership of 193 it was certainly less numerous. Its leaders, J. Normington Rawling, E.W. Campbell and Esmonde Higgins were communist intellectuals more inclined to grapple with Marxist dialectics than fascist bruisers.[44] Indubitably more combative, as Naval Intelligence suggested, was the Constitutional Guard of Tom McCrystal, a well-known radical briefly infamous in 1931 for castigating the British Royal family at a public meeting in the Sydney Domain with remarks that reflected ‘sheer beastliness of mind and tongue’.[45] With units established through the industrial suburbs of Sydney, the Constitutional Guard was said to be 800 strong. According to Naval Intelligence ‘its main reason for existence appears to be a preparation for an attack on the New Guard’.[46]

Without doubt, however, the most significant paramilitary group formed on the left of politics was the Workers Defence Corp (WDC). A CPA initiative, it enjoyed the support of the NSW Labor Council.[47] Borrowing its nomenclature from Britain, the group had been active during the 1929 lockout on the Hunter Valley coalfields and in the timber strike at Glebe in the same year. There it was primarily used to coerce strike-breakers and defend pickets from the police, as had happened in Scotland during the 1926 general strike.[48] Revived in 1931, and apparently based in the western mining town of Lithgow but with branches in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Perth, the group was formed into cells of nine men, hierarchically structured and with layers of command, operating at a district and state level, to ensure its secrecy.[49]

The WDC meant business. One of its leaders, Dave Williams, reputedly of Patagonian background and a former British soldier, was described by one policeman as ‘a good organiser not afraid of taking the lead in any demonstration or acts of violence’. Williams infiltrated a militia machine gun company and attempted to steal arms and ammunition from a drill hall in the western suburbs of Sydney.[50] The WDC journal Red Fist reviled the ‘Fascist NEW GUARD ORGANISATIONS TO SMASH THE WORKERS’ but also noted a more ambitious aim. The ‘principal communistic necessity of a Workers Defence Corps’, it suggested, ‘is really the formation of a Red or Revolutionary Army in Opposition to the Armed forces of constitutional Government’.[51]

Even though only 85 members attended the group’s annual meeting in Sydney during May 1931, this was the stuff of conservative nightmares. The problem with accurately appraising the role of the WDC is that police and other security agents rapidly infiltrated the group. Their reports suggest fertile imaginations. It is almost certainly true that WDC activists were armed with pick handles and bludgeons, as well as revolvers and rifles. As Audrey Johnson shows, the group was linked with Australian operations of Sinn Fein, such that many of the police reports of the group’s activities were headed, ‘Irish terrorists’.[52] The leader of the Surry Hills branch claimed to have shot several policemen during the Irish Rebellion of 1916, while his Balmain counterpart asserted that he had travelled the world since 1903 in the employ of the Russian Anarchist Association. Active during various eviction riots in the inner city during 1931, the group planned reprisals against the police, as well as bank or payroll robberies to fund their activities. It is possible that a sergeant major in the Australian Army provided military advice and information about signalling. Williams and his colleagues, ‘Irish Paddy’, the ‘Irish Fisherman’ and Mick Ryan were nothing if not left adventurists.[53] On the other hand, even given recent disclosures about the implications of the CPA’s Moscow connections in the late 1930s,[54] it seems unlikely that the WDC was in direct contact with Comrade Voroshikov of Red Army Control in Moscow, as officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Branch believed.[55]

While it is possible that the WDC did consider ‘popping off’ Premier Lang, or planned a widespread campaign of incendiarism, these threats never eventuated. The WDC’s revolutionary spirit was strong but the flesh was weak. ‘Irish Paddy’, in particular repeatedly succumbed to the excesses of alcoholic refreshment whenever action was imminent. One of the WDC’s crucial problems involved its access to motor transport. Many of its activities depended on borrowing the car of a particular comrade who may or may not have been using it that night. While Williams and ‘Irish Paddy’ were prolific in stealing guns and ammunition, the prospect that they could, in fact, have stolen a motor vehicle does not seem to have occurred to them. As a result much of the WDC’s activities were necessarily concentrated in the inner city. Given the high level of motorisation enjoyed by the New Guard, enabling them to descend on far-flung suburbs such as Bankstown, this placed the WDC at a significant disadvantage.[56]

Assuming that the police reports on the WDC were even halfway accurate, their most surprising feature is the total absence of references to the New Guard. While obtaining the private addresses of individual policemen for the purposes of administering proletarian justice occupied an inordinate amount of attention, one might have assumed that Campbell’s grand mansion in salubrious Turramurra could have been staked out. Believing that his life was in danger, Colonel Campbell had taken the precaution of engaging the services of a full-time body guard, whom it transpires was also an undercover policeman.[57] Yet if his slumbers were disturbed one night by the lights of a ‘suspicious motor car, No 74936 Studebaker, colour — Dirty Blue’, the WDC was not responsible.[58]

In general, the paramilitary response of the labour militias to the New Guard was truncated. While it engaged in regular drilling under conditions of ‘strict secrecy’ at the Communist Hall, instructing its members in boxing, the WDC seems to have been too preoccupied with complicated, ongoing (and ultimately abandoned) bank robbery plans to devote many resources to countering the far Right. One member reputedly offered to inform on its activities to the New Guard.[59] The group was mobilised only very sparingly. On one occasion in Lithgow four units were reportedly deployed to defend a CPA meeting against an ill-founded intelligence report that a flying squad of New Guardsmen was travelling from Sydney to disrupt it.[60] Surprisingly, the WDC does not seem to have taken the elementary precaution of protecting CPA speakers at public meetings.[61] Considering the increasing physical danger they faced — one speaker, Lance Sharkey, claimed to have been bashed at least six times with bottles, iron bars and bricks[62]— this is very curious indeed. The WDC’s relationship with the CPA was occasionally ambivalent, and under Williams’ leadership there was at least one split. In short, the WDC’s claim to have built viable cells of men in every mine, factory, ship and unemployed organisation was no more than wishful thinking.

The ALA was also a non-event. In common with the so-called Socialisation Units, the ALA proved embarrassing to Premier Lang and the ALP hierarchy. There were fears it might precipitate violence and was also an implied rebuke to the police force. The ALA was quietly shelved for much of 1931.[63] It was never to be mobilised en masse.[64] Nonetheless, there was one occasion, in November 1931, when detachments of the ALA, largely identical with the Cowra and Wyangala Dam branches of the State ALP, successfully defended ‘Jock’ Garden, Secretary of the NSW Labor Council, from projected fascist violence in the country town of Cowra.[65] Paradoxically, the principal role of these labour militias was to fan conservative paranoia. Rather than arresting the growth of the New Guard, they assisted it.

Street Fighting in Sydney

After some months of waiting for the expected Red Revolution to justify its own mobilisation, in October 1931 the New Guard adopted a more militant policy of regularly disrupting working-class political meetings. The strategy was probably influenced by a bloodthirsty suggestion, penned by a divisional commander, to New Guard headquarters:

I recommend that a select band of stout fellows be formed from the ranks of the special unit for the special purpose of mopping up Communist and other reptile meetings; also a little select tarring and feathering of any particularly obnoxious vermin.
Perhaps with the aid of a few cars, quite a few lightning visits could be paid in the one evening, wherein, with the aid of a horsewhip, we could show some of these bassilis [sic] the error of their ways.
I have already spoken to several of the boys and the idea has been received with much joy and flexing of muscles.[66]

The New Guard response was particularly dramatic in the inner city, Darlinghurst — Kings Cross area. There the local divisional commander, Captain Francis De Groot, had become concerned about losing control of the streets to ‘the Reds’. A former British army cavalry and tank captain, De Groot was not squeamish about the use of violence. Throughout December 1931 he organised strong-arm groups of up to 1,000 New Guardsmen to attack leftist meetings in waves of 200. These would then double up, returning to the end of a queue so as to impart the impression of an even larger and more irresistible force. Bystanders and other innocent parties were caught up in the resulting affrays. At Darlinghurst on 11 December 1931, three policemen were injured in a fight between New Guardsmen and communists. One was temporarily blinded and off work for 80 days when cayenne pepper lodged in his eyes.[67] Nor did De Groot dissemble when justifying the escalation of violence. He ‘felt that, the best reply to force, was greater force. And seeing that we could command the greater force, [I] saw no reason why it should not be employed’.[68]

Assisted by the level of motorisation enjoyed by the New Guard, the strategy soon spread to the suburban outskirts of Sydney. Fascists like Herbert Hodges, an unemployed builder, spent much of the hot summer of 1932 cruising the streets of Sydney in their motor cars looking for left-wing political meetings to disrupt.[69] On 13 February 1932, 700 New Guardsmen drilled at Belmore. Several newspaper reporters who attempted to take photographs were assaulted.[70] Four days later, 13 New Guardsmen were arrested after violently disrupting a political meeting in Coffs Harbour on the north coast of New South Wales.[71] On 26 February 1932, unemployed meetings were broken up in Newtown and Bankstown, a parade was held at Lakemba, and meetings were conducted in Rose Bay, Double Bay, Woollahra and Bondi as part of a ‘general mobilisation’.[72] Issuing instructions for ‘street fighting’, by May 1932 Campbell had come perilously close to mounting a coup d’etat against the Lang government.[73]

Against this backdrop of proliferating fascist violence, one might presume that the labour movement and its militias would have been quick to confront the enemy. Certainly there were individuals who displayed great heroism. In the course of one meeting at Drummoyne in November 1931, Jim McNeill, later an International Brigadier, went to the aid of a comrade who was being assaulted by several New Guardsmen, one of whom was armed with a pistol. As they grappled, a bullet whistled past his ear. The experience influenced him to fight fascism in Spain five years later. Hence McNeill could lay claim to being shot at by fascists in two continents. As he told the oral historian Wendy Lowenstein:
‘I understood then what fascism meant and that they had to be defeated’.[74]

Anti-fascist memory has stressed the importance of the labour resistance in thwarting the New Guard. During the Cold War, with the threat of being banned and amidst the apparent resurgence of a New Guard style organisation, the CPA stressed the effectiveness of anti-fascist unity during the Depression. According to the CPA press, the New Guard had been routed when ‘the people united to defend their freedom’. It was asserted that ‘Eventually the public opposition to the New Guard became so great that it had to withdraw from public activity’.[75] The CPA functionary Lance Sharkey was even more emphatic. According to him ‘the workers finally drove the New Guard off the streets of Sydney’.[76] In 1973 the communist scholar, W.A. Wood, repeated this version of events. While admitting that the CPA’s sectarianism had proved divisive, Wood argued that the party press and the WDC had kept the New Guard ‘gangsters’ in check.[77]

Such views remain the orthodoxy in labour circles. The Sydney bookseller, Bob Gould, is the latest of a long line of labour movement activists to comment on the issue. According to Gould, ‘The right wing New Guard, attempted to break up many workers meetings during the Lang period, and were successfully defeated by the Labor Army and the Workers’ Defence Army’.[78] It is debatable whether this is true. The battle in Kylie Tennant’s novel, Foveaux, cited by Gould, is unsatisfactory evidence precisely because it is fictional.[79] Constructed from archival and newspaper reports of various ideological perspectives, a more useful test case is the celebrated encounter between leftists and the New Guard in working-class outer-suburban Bankstown, the so-called ‘Battle of Bankstown’, on 26 February 1932.

A minor version of London’s ‘Battle of Cable Street’, this encounter is subject to similar problems of interpretation and mythology.[80] In the most eloquent account of the Battle of Bankstown, published in 1950 the CPA newspaper Tribune celebrated it as a grand moment in successful anti-fascist resistance. According to this article, the episode was the New Guard’s ‘Waterloo’, largely because ‘the workers’ counterintelligence had been well-informed’, and reinforcements had been arranged from adjoining suburbs. Tribune argued that the New Guard’s attempts to disrupt an unemployed meeting in Thompson Park, Bankstown never got beyond first base. The intruders were accosted the moment they alighted from their motor vehicles: ‘Soon the picturesque Thompson square garden was a shambles of battered and bloodied New Guardsmen fighting desperately to regain their cars to beat a retreat’. Their ‘complete and dismal rout’ was completed when their cars would not start as ‘Someone had added a little sugar to their petrol tanks’. So crushing was this ‘complete fiasco’ that ‘the New Guard never recovered from the blows administered by united workers’. Mass resignations followed.[81]

However useful this version of events may have been to the author’s Cold War purpose, it does not bear much resemblance to what actually happened. This has not stopped the incident being widely celebrated as a heroic moment in anti-fascist resistance. Even the historian of the New Guard has his troops being humiliated.[82] In the memoirs of leading communist, Ralph Gibson, based in Melbourne and not present at the time, the New Guard were ‘crushed and battered to a standstill’. The fascists had to retire in disorder in damaged cars and run the gauntlet of angry workers’ counter-attacks on their way home.[83] J.T. Lang has the New Guard ‘routed’ by ‘locals’ armed with bicycle chains ‘which they wielded with devastating effect’.[84] Stuart Macintyre also constructs his account of this ‘most celebrated encounter’ between leftists and fascists around the premise that the former thrashed the latter. In his history of the CPA, Macintyre writes:

When a motorised column of several hundred New Guards attempted to stop a meeting of the UWM, they were beaten off in savage fighting, their cars put out of action: ‘the hoods were ripped to pieces, windscreens were smashed, side windows in the sedans were holed, and tyres were damaged’.[85]

Because of the various claims and counterclaims, understanding precisely what happened that night is difficult. Macintyre’s source — the communist press[86]— is indubitably no more unreliable than the sensationalist Daily Telegraph, then owned by the Packer family, but already well ensconced in its role as Sydney’s least reliable journal of record. The Telegraph enthusiastically reported ‘the smashing of a Communist meeting by a New Guard contingent’. It described ‘Wild melees’ with many injuries caused by ‘stones, garden stakes and flying glass’.[87] As Police Commissioner Walter Childs complained, much of the reporting of the incident was exaggerated. The local police sergeant in Bankstown regarded the press accounts as ‘absolutely ridiculous’.[88] Certainly the police reports of the incident suggest that the ‘battle’ was actually a relatively minor affray.[89]

If the Battle of Bankstown were a boxing bout, it would have been decided by a close points decision in favour of the fascists. This is because the New Guardsmen manifestly succeeded in their primary goal. Mobilised by their divisional commander, William Treyfrey, a shop assistant from Dulwich Hill, the New Guard contingent travelled there in 31 motor vehicles whose registered owners resided, in the main, either on the North Shore or the inner-west of Sydney. From about 9.30pm about 200 New Guardsman successfully disrupted a small meeting of the UFAF in Thompson Park, Bankstown. A left-wing speaker was in the process of denouncing the New Guard, asserting,

They talk of patriotism as they race about in Yankee cars, filling the air with poisonous fumes from Yankee petrol, and smoking big Yankee cigars. I challenge the New Guard and Campbell to …[90]

The sentence remained unfinished as the fascists milled around the speakers’ podium singing the National Anthem (‘God Save the King’), drowning out the ‘weaker strains of the Red Flag’. There were, according to the reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Shouts, curses, threats, waving of fists, cheers and songs — it was indeed a curious scene’.

The level of violence escalated when a garden stake was propelled into the crowd, striking a New Guardsman on the back of the head. He responded by engaging a left-wing opponent in a fistfight. Both were arrested. The crowd numbers began to swell as the adjoining audiences from a fair organised by the Central Branch of the Bankstown ALP to assist the local unemployed, and from a nearby cinema drifted over. Assisted by a ‘rowdy element of youths and young men who made no secret of their intention to drive the New Guard from Bankstown’, the fighting began to escalate. Women and children screamed. There were several skirmishes, causing a number of bleeding noses and one or two blackened eyes. Nonetheless, this was a typically Australian riot. More than likely there was more spectating and jostling than hand to hand fighting. This persisted until about 10.15pm.

Either because they felt that they had succeeded in their goal of disrupting the Bankstown meeting, or resolved that discretion was the better part of valour, the New Guardsmen decided to decamp. Returning to their motor vehicles they departed ‘with much blowing of horns, waving of fists and shouts of derision on both sides’. A group of larrikins threw stones from the railway line. More than likely there was some property damage to the motor vehicles. Reports of many smashed windscreens and slashed tyres were, however, probably exaggerated. In follow up visits made by the police to the individual New Guardsmen who had participated, they did not raise the issue. If the Workers’ Weekly account was accurate, it surely would have been. One of the Bankstown fascists, Herbert Hodges, had been aggrieved when, on an earlier visit to the suburb, a leftist had thrown a tomato at his vehicle.[91] According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the windscreen of a motor vehicle belonging to a local Bankstown man was smashed, presumably in error. One anti-fascist did more harm to himself than a political rival by smashing the windscreen of a New Guard vehicle with his fist, cutting his wrist in the process. However, the New Guardsmen do not seem to have been in any particular hurry to leave. Standing on the running boards of a motor vehicle, one member taunted the crowd with New Guard slogans. Drivers gunned their engines, apparently unaffected by sugar in their petrol tanks, and drove around the vicinity at high speed. The police tried unsuccessfully to track down one New Guardsman in order to charge him with dangerous driving. The crowd invited them ‘to come back next Friday night’.

Importantly, the departure of the New Guard did not signal the end of the Battle of Bankstown. While the main part of the struggle was over in less than three-quarters of an hour, sections of the local populace remained spoiling for a fight. Scouring the area, as the Sydney Morning Herald correspondent put it, for ‘New Guardsmen, New Guard sympathisers, Capitalists, or friends of the police’, several well-dressed men were accosted. It seems, however, that while visitors from Sydney’s North Shore, they were not necessarily members of the New Guard but had been visiting Bankstown to attend the unemployed fair. In trying to save his friend from a kicking, one of them, a Wahroonga market gardener, was arrested for ‘riotous behavior’.[92] This melee caused the further escalation of fighting but, with the New Guard departed, the contest was between police and ‘communists’. It seems likely that the level of violence became greater than in the main ‘battle’. According to several press reports, order was only restored when a police sergeant threatened to draw his revolver. By 11.45pm the streets were cleared and calm was returned to Bankstown.

From the New Guard’s point of view the Battle of Bankstown was a success at the level of fisticuffs, but also for its part in the ‘general mobilisation’ organised for the night of 26 February. Frank De Groot’s autobiography explains that this was intended to highlight the police’s inability to deal with a communist insurrection. According to intelligence received by the New Guard, Sydney was especially vulnerable to a Bolshevik-style uprising on Friday nights. This was pay night and late shopping night, and intelligence indicated that Sydney’s police stations operated on a skeleton staff only. In De Groot’s words, allowing ‘the Communists credit for not being entirely stupid’, it seemed likely that they could easily capture Sydney by detailing ‘two hundred armed and determined men’ to capture Sydney’s 100 police stations. At that point ‘Sydney was theirs’. The problem, therefore, was how to highlight the city’s vulnerability ‘in as harmless a manner as possible’.[93]

The ‘general mobilisation’ of 26 February 1932 was the New Guard’s response. According to De Groot, each Locality was detailed to hold a public meeting. The pretext was for each meeting to read a rather long and arcane legal document concerning Lang’s arbitration legislation. The New Guard had organised activities at as many as ten venues up to 40 miles apart across the city of Sydney, from the south-west at Bankstown to the inner-west, the East and the North, where ‘King Eric Campbell’ attended a meeting at Peat’s Ferry Road, Hornsby, ‘abrogating the right of royalty by remaining incognito’.[94] The purpose was to throw the police into confusion with the ultimate aim of encouraging them to heightened anti-communist vigilance in the future. At Bankstown, however, the New Guard had a different aim. This was to exact some revenge, in De Groot’s words, on that that ‘real hotbed of fermenting material’.[95]

As its internal documents suggest, the police were indeed surprised and bewildered. The local police inspector for Bankstown, based some distance away at Burwood, received reports and calls for assistance from a number of police stations in his district about large numbers of motor vehicles arriving in various suburbs in the area. He was at Thompson Park for only half and hour before being called away five minutes before the New Guard launched their attack. When summonsed to return as the fighting increased, he immediately did so, bringing four more police constables with him. However, by that time the situation had calmed down. The police were bamboozled. The New Guard had made their point.[96]

The sprawling geography of Sydney, from the outset of European colonisation, had influenced the city’s political life and this had been so with the New Guard’s mobilisation. Apart from geography, the New Guard also had the advantages of motorisation and surprise. It would have been impossible for the much smaller WDC to have organised its troops to respond. Unlike Europe, the peak of fascist activity in New South Wales lasted barely 18 months. Anti-fascists did not have the time to organise and respond. By the time they were organised in 1934 with the coming of the popular front policy and the Movement against War and Fascism, the New Guard had folded and there was no indigenous fascist threat within Australia.

The Battle of Bankstown was an important moment in the history of the New Guard. It is true that it caused a decline in the movement’s fortunes, but not for the reasons that are usually cited. Specifically, the incident inspired widespread dissatisfaction within the ranks of the organisation. Many members were squeamish about the use of violence and promptly resigned. At a New Guard meeting at Chatswood on 3 March 1932 five motions were passed that were critical of Eric Campbell’s leadership. One suggested:

unprovoked attacks on communists, while no doubt thoroughly merited, do not serve any useful purpose and tend to lower the prestige of the New Guard in the eyes of responsible citizens.[97]

In terms of understanding why, when the chips were down, the New Guard might not have succeeded in staging a coup d’etat against the Lang government, the Bankstown incident deserves an honourable mention. Responsible citizens had joined because they despised Lang and wanted to defend ‘law and order’. In contrast to the movement’s hot-headed leadership, many New Guardsmen did not wish to subvert parliamentary democracy. When such people voted with their feet, the New Guard started to disintegrate.

The confrontation at Bankstown was important, too, in that it caused a hardening of attitudes among officers of the NSW police force towards the New Guard. The police did not enjoy being led a merry dance across Sydney by the New Guard’s ‘general mobilisation’. Run ragged, the impression had been imparted at Bankstown that their response was dilatory and perhaps even partisan. Implicit in Chief Secretary Mark Gosling’s inquiries about the police handling of the incident was the suspicion that the police may have held back to allow the New Guard time to inflict some pain and suffering on their opponents. Given that at least some of the crowd were supporters of Lang Labor, as well as citizens of New South Wales, the Premier and his Chief Secretary were not impressed, with Mark Gosling reputedly hauling senior police over the coals.[98]

In particular the Battle of Bankstown caused Premier Lang to doubt whether Police Commissioner Walter Childs was strong enough to stand up to the New Guard. The result was the fast tracking of the career of the redoubtable W.J. (Bill) MacKay, a Detective Inspector in charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch. Glaswegian born and a large, menacing man who enjoyed using his fists, MacKay used the New Guard as a political device to advance his career interests. The more he opposed the Lang government’s right-wing opponents, the more the Premier saw fit to promote him. In the wake of the Battle of Bankstown he was appointed Acting Metropolitan Superintendent.[99]

Bill MacKay wasted no time in justifying the premier’s faith in him. On 2 March 1932 he summonsed Campbell and De Groot, together with other leading New Guardsmen, George Knox and L.W. Sutherland, to a meeting at De Groot’s factory premises in Rushcutters Bay. He strongly cautioned the New Guardsmen for the trouble at Bankstown, as well as at Newtown. The police were also concerned about the militant threats made by Campbell at St Ives when he claimed that ‘a few redcoats and bluecoats’ would not stop the New Guard. Campbell was strongly censured. By the end of the interview he agreed to advise his members ‘to refrain from any acts of disorder in connection with Communist meetings at street corners’. The violence was ‘now regretted by the executive of this Organisation’.[100]

In the wake of the Battle of Bankstown, the police effectively declared war on the New Guard, unleashing a vigorous campaign of surveillance, judicial harassment and physical intimidation against Campbell and his supporters.[101] The NSW Crown Solicitor advised that there were grounds for prosecuting the New Guard using the Crimes Act, 1900 and the Crimes Prevention Act, 1916 because the organisation advocated violence against an elected government. Detectives shadowed the New Guard’s leaders constantly, building up dossiers such that they could charge the movement’s leaders with ‘seditious conspiracy’. Ironically enough, this was the same legislation that had successfully crushed the Industrial Workers of the World in 1916. Incorporating the terminology of that legislation, the police reports written about the battle argued that New Guard had caused ‘hatred and contempt among the liege subjects of his Majesty residing in the Bankstown district’.[102]

Such was the enmity between the police and the New Guard that a major confrontation loomed. Francis De Groot conducted a frank exchange with MacKay regarding the likely result of the New Guard storming State Parliament House. MacKay warned him that 500 policemen, armed if necessary with bombs and howitzers, could easily stop ten times that many New Guardsmen.[103]

What became known in New Guard circles as the ‘Liverpool Street police riot’ suggests that MacKay was not overstating the case. On 1 April 1932, the day of the court case stemming from De Groot’s bridge opening, Campbell had decided to test the mettle of his ‘shock troops’. Placing great reliance on the numerical strength of his forces, Campbell evidently believed his men would ‘quietly shoulder’ the police aside. With 2,000 of the New Guard’s strongest and fittest men in the vicinity of the court, Campbell planned to assess how his men would fare in hand to hand combat with the police, perhaps as a test run for an attempted coup d’état.[104]

From the New Guard’s point of view the test was a dismal failure. At Central Police Station big Bill MacKay urged 300 police to ‘go out and belt their bloody heads off’. They did just that. Effecting 12 arrests, ripping off armbands and swinging punches, kicks and batons with impunity, the police taught the New Guard’s finest a stern lesson in the verities of state violence. MacKay was in his element. Standing in the centre of the fighting he singled out a tall, powerfully built New Guard staff officer for some personal Glaswegian hospitality. The level of violence surprised even other agencies of the state. Naval Intelligence was concerned that the effect of the police action was to ‘lower the prestige of the Force in the eyes of the public’.[105]

Genuinely shocked, the New Guard complained about police violence. In their view the incident showed the police force had become akin to ‘the Soviet police in Russia’. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there were a number of workers arrested, one of them Campbell’s gardener, an unemployed plumber, but across the city it was mainly respectable businessmen who sported black eyes and bruises. At least one of them asserted ‘No more *** New Guard for me’.[106] Correspondents from the middle class suburbs deluged the press with letters of complaint, surprise and indignation, listing injuries they or their friends had sustained.[107]


Though largely confined to one city, Eric Campbell had succeeded in building the most significant fascist organisation in Australian history. While it embraced a significant number of workers, it could not, however, boast a mass, working-class constituency. In the final resort, perhaps its social composition proved a crucial shortcoming. In reality the level of violence used by police on April Fool’s Day 1932 was no greater than that customarily used to subdue waterside workers or coal miners during demonstrations, and much less than was used at Rothbury in 1929 when a ricochet bullet had killed a coal miner. Another ‘battle’ in Bankstown in June 1931 between unemployed activists and the police had resulted in two of the former being hospitalised, one with gun shot wounds.[108]

Whatever its superiority over fellow citizens, the police mobilisation at Liverpool Street showed that, in the crucial area of street fighting, the New Guard was impotent against a well-drilled and disciplined police force. The likes of an Artarmon accountant or a Strathfield stockbroker were not used to the pain and distress a policeman could inflict with his fists, baton and revolver. In the event, the New Guard’s lack of work-hardened, blue-collar, manual workers proved telling. Even if Campbell had attempted a coup, antipodean fascism’s ability to fulfil its potential, to seize and then maintain power, was impeded by its soft bourgeois underbelly. To use the term of John Howard, an Australian prime minister whose own father was possibly a member of the New Guard,[109] many New Guardsmen were short of the requisite ‘ticker’. Given how well violence worked as a fascist strategy in Germany, Italy and Spain, it remains to be seen why it was a rock on which Australian fascism foundered.

In any case the Lang government’s dismissal on 13 May 1932, and subsequent electoral defeat, pre-empted the New Guard’s threatened seizure of power. Deprived of its raison d’être, and with economic conditions gradually improving, the New Guard was now politically superfluous. Following his return from Europe in 1933 and his related epiphany in Unter Den Linden, Colonel Campbell introduced imitative fascist paraphernalia and a strongly corporatist agenda. The perception of fascism’s ‘foreignness’ caused a total collapse of membership. Just as European fascism was going from strength to strength, its Australian counterpart degenerated into a sad potpourri of minor social occasions, smoke socials and reunions.[110] While Campbell remained enthusiastically pro-fascist and in regular contact with the German consul general in Sydney,[111] by 1935 his dream of an antipodean fascism had faded.


* I am grateful to the two referees independently engaged by Labour History for their advice and criticism, as well as members of the journal’s Editorial Working Party.
1. E. Campbell, The Rallying Point: My Story of the New Guard, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1965, pp. 131–137.
2. Blackshirt, 8 July 1933.
3. Liberty, 16 August 1933.
4. For Eric Campbell’s biographical details, see K. Amos, ‘Campbell, Eric’ in B. Nairn and G. Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1979, pp. 546–547.
5. New Guard, 15 April 1932.
6. For a detailed discussion of this issue, see A. Moore, ‘Workers and the New Guard: Proletarian Fascism in New South Wales, 1931–35’, in B. Bowden and J. Kellett (eds), Transforming Labour: Work, Workers, Struggle and Change: Proceedings of the 8th National Labour History Conference, Brisbane Labour History Association, Brisbane, 2003, pp. 237–244. Earlier contributions to the debate are H. McQueen, Gallipoli to Petrov, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1984, p. 202; K. Amos, The New Guard Movement, 1931–35, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1976, p. 44; A. Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier, New South Wales University Press, Kensington, 1989, p. 145; R. Darlington, Was there a Significant Working Class Element in the New Guard?, paper presented to Armies of the Night conference, Macquarie University, Sydney, 25 August 1979.
7. Sun, 1 April 1932; World, 1, 2 April 1932; Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1932.
8. Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1932.
9. State Records, New South Wales (SRNSW), Colonial Secretary’s Dept file (CSDF) B32/2669, transcript of speech by Campbell at Hornsby, 28 April 1932, and transcript of speech at Chatswood, 3 March 1932; Liberty, 17 November 1933.
10. Campbell, The Rallying Point, p. 65.
11. Ibid., p. 93.
12. J. O’Mara, Guarding Five Dock: a Study of the Five Dock Locality of the New Guard, 1931–1935, BA Hons thesis, University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, 1997, pp. 50–52.
13. Ibid., p.30; SRNSW, Premier’s Dept File (PrDF) B37/174.
14. J.T. Lang, The Turbulent Years, Alpha Books, Sydney, 1970, pp. 118–119.
15. Blumenthal papers, Mitchell Library (ML) MSS 4910. Following the Commonwealth Labor government’s acceptance of the Premiers’ Plan, there was a split in the ALP whereby the NSW (Lang) Branch operated independently. In most country towns in NSW there were two ALP branches, one Federal, one Labor, each denouncing the other as ‘bogus’.
16. Blumenthal papers, ML MSS 4910.
17. G. Patmore, ‘The Origins of the National Union of Railwaymen’, Labour History, no. 43, November 1982, pp. 44–52.
18. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
19. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669; Liberty, 18 April 1933.
20. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669 file 10274/554.
21. A. Moore, ‘The Pastoral Workers’ Industrial Union, 1930–1937′, Labour History, no. 49, November 1985, pp. 61–74.
22. Graziers’ Association of NSW Records, Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University (ANU) E256/322.
23. T. Sheridan, Mindful Militants: the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Australia 1920–1972, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1975, p. 113.
24. New Guard, 15 March 1932; Liberty, 14 October 1932.
25. Blumenthal papers, ML MSS 4910.
26. F.E. De Groot, The New Guard Story, unpublished manuscript, ML MSS 5243, p. 6A; Campbell, The Rallying Point, pp. 149–150 reinforces this description of the city Locality of the New Guard.
27. New Guard, 15 January 1932. V. Burgmann’s book, In Our Time. Socialism and the Rise of Labor 1885-1905, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1985, describes Waite’s career as a socialist at pp. 73 and 168. Waite’s political odyssey is documented in his private papers lodged at ML, uncatalogued MSS, set 208.
28. T. Walsh to E. Campbell, 18 April 1932, Pankhurst Walsh papers, National Library of Australia (NLA) MS 2123/7/65; V. Coleman, Adela Pankhurst, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1996, pp. 114–119.
29. T. Walsh to E. Campbell, 28 September 1932, Pankhurst Walsh papers, NLA MS 2123/7/65. See also Campbell, The Rallying Point, pp. 160–161.
30. McQueen, Gallipoli to Petrov, p. 202.
31. See J. Brett, Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2003, pp. 100–108.
32. Red Leader, 25 December 1931.
33. See J. Charnley, Blackshirts and Roses, Brockingday Publications, London, 1990, p. 60 for author’s membership of the Bakers Union. The working-class component of the BUF, stressed in particular in the work of T. Lineham, East London for Mosley: the British Union of Fascists in East London and South-West Essex, Frank Cass, London, 1996, is critiqued by D. Renton, ‘Docker and Garment Worker, Railwaymen and Cabinet Maker: the Class Memory of Cable Street’, in T. Kushner and N. Valman, (eds), Remembering Cable Street: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Society, Valentine Mitchell, London, 2000, pp. 95–108.
34. P. Merkyl, ‘Comparing Fascist Movements’, in S. Larsen, B. Hagtvet and J.P. Myklebust (eds), Who were the Fascists: Social Roots of European Fascism, Universitetsforlaget, Bergen, 1980, pp. 773–776. Merkl reports that the numbers of fascist workers were higher in the French PPF (57.3 per cent), the Spanish Falange (49.5 per cent), the Swiss National Front (49.5 per cent), and the Italian PNF (40.7 per cent) than in the Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian fascist movements (17–30 per cent), or in the German and Austrian fascist movements (pp. 773–776). Even the assessment of 27 per cent of workers in the German NSDAP is likely to be higher than in the New Guard. Only the Austrian movement (at 17 per cent) ranks lower than the New Guard.
35. Workers’ Weekly, 16 November 1923, 20 November 1925, 24 March 1926; Labor Daily, 6, 7 November 1925.
36. National Archives of Australia (NAA), CRS A369, item D585.
37. See correspondence in SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
38. Daily Telegraph, 12 December 1931; Labor Daily, 19 January 1931; SRNSW, Premier’s Dept correspondence, 1931, 9/2031, file A31–1387.
39. De Groot papers, ML MSS A4952, p. 292.
40. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
41. Red Leader, 25 September 1931; Workers’ Weekly, 24 September 1931.
42. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669,
43. Investigation Branch report, March–April 1931, NAA A367 item C94121.
44. SRNSW PDF B37/174.
45. Bathurst National Advocate, 14 December 1931.
46. Naval intelligence report, 5 May 1932, NAA MP 1049/9, item 1887/2/35.
47. Red Leader, 6 November 1931.
48. S. Macintyre, Little Moscows, Croom Helm, London, 1980, p. 61.
49. SRNSW, Police Dept file (PDF) 10/1829.
50. NAA A362 item C94121; SRNSW PDF 10/1829.
51. NAA CRS A467/SF 7/21/2.
52. A. Johnson, Bread and Roses, Left Book Club, Sydney, 1990, pp. 39–40.
53. NAA CRS A6122 item 109; SRNSW PDF 10/1829; Communist Party of Australia literature, 1927–30 ML.
54. D. McKnight, Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War, Frank Cass, London, 2002.
55. NAA CRS A6122, item 109.
56. See G. Davison, Car Wars, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2004, p. 114.
57. Sun, 2 November 1931; Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier, pp. 180–182.
58. De Groot papers, ML MSS A4952, p. 51.
59. De Groot papers, ML MSS A4952, p. 202.
60. Labor Daily, 11 March 1932.
61. See comments made in a court case by CPA speaker, Joe Schelley, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 1931; Sun, 16 December 1931.
62. Tribune, 30 July 1946.
63. J. James, A Tale of Two Leaders, unpublished manuscript, p. 28, in James research notes and papers, ML MSS 2057; B. Nairn, The ‘Big Fella’: Jack Lang and the Australian Labor Party 1891–1949, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 229.
64. W. Lowenstein, Weevils in the Flour: an Oral Record of the 1930s Depression in Australia, Hyland House, Melbourne, 1978, p. 103.
65. Interview, Walter Pagett, Cowra, July 1977.
66. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
67. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
68. De Groot, ‘The New Guard Story’, p. 7.
69. SRNSW PrDF B37/174, no. S104/8/554.
70. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
71. Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate, 19 February 1932, 13 May 1932.
72. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
73. See Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier, pp. 177–187.
74. Lowenstein, Weevils in the Flour, pp. 102–103.
75. Tribune, 17 July 1945.
76. Cited in Ralph Gibson, The People Stand Up, Red Rooster Press, Melbourne, 1983, p. 329; Tribune, 30 July 1946.
77. Tribune, 19–25 June 1973.
78. B. Gould, ‘Heritage Matters II’, Hummer, vol. 3, no. 9, Summer 2002–03, p. 44. See also Laurie Aarons’ remarks in Tribune, 6 December 1989. The historian of the CPA in Newcastle, R. Edmonds, observes: ‘In Sydney and elsewhere meetings were violently disrupted but the strength of the left in Newcastle helped to deter them [the New Guard] from any such action in this area’. See R. Edmonds, In Storm and Struggle, privately published, 1991, p. 60.
79. K. Tennant, Foveaux, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1939.
80. See T. Kushner, ‘Long May its Memory Live! Writing and Rewriting the Battle of Cable Street’ in Kushner and Valman (eds), Remembering Cable Street, pp. 109–180.
81. Tribune, 25 January 1950.
82. Amos, The New Guard Movement, p. 71; see also James, ‘A Tale of Two Leaders’, p. 35. James’ research notes suggest that the distinguished political scientist, D.W. Rawson, informed his understanding of the ‘Battle of Bankstown’.
83. Gibson, The People Stand Up, p. 329.
84. Lang, The Turbulent Years, pp. 120–121.
85. S. Macintyre, The Reds, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 214.
86. Workers’ Weekly, 4 March 1932.
87. Daily Telegraph, 27 February 1932. Apart from police reports, all strongly critical of the New Guard for disrupting an otherwise peaceful meeting, the most reliable report was written by the Sydney Morning Herald correspondent, published on 27 February 1932. It alone provides a satisfactory explanation of the sequence of events and is the principal source relied upon here. The above report in Workers’ Weekly strains credulity in a number of respects. For instance, it refers to New Guardsmen making ‘frenzied phone calls’ to call for reinforcements. Assuming that it was possible to find a public telephone in Thompson Park, Bankstown in 1932, the main part of the battle was over in a very short period of time. Calling for reinforcements from surrounding suburbs was not feasible. Registration details of the motor vehicles that had transported the New Guardsmen suggest that in the main they had travelled significant distances. Equally dubious is the Workers’ Weekly claim that 20–30 New Guardsmen were ‘put out of action; several being dangerously injured’. Police reports suggest that the worst injury sustained was a bump on the back of the head sustained by the New Guardsmen who was hit by the garden stake. When police later called at his residence he was not present, but his father, a fellow New Guardsmen, claimed that the blow had caused swelling which had lasted several days. A further example of the unreliability of the communist press is Workers’ Weekly account on 20 May 1932 of J.T. Lang’s dismissal. Here a Workers’ Weekly headline claimed: ‘Lang Resigns-to Aviod (sic) Exposure’.
88. The World, 27 February 1932.
89. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
90. Sydney Morning Herald, 27 February 1932.
91. SRNSW PrDF B37/174, no. S104/8/554.
92. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
93. De Groot, ‘The New Guard Story’, p. 17.
94. Labor Daily, 27 February 1932.
95. De Groot, ‘The New Guard Story’, p. 17.
96. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
97. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
98. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
99. Lang, The Turbulent Years, p. 121.
100. SRNSW PrDF B37/174.
101. See A. Moore, ‘Policing Enemies of the State: the New South Wales Police and the New Guard, 1931–32’, in M. Finnane (ed), Policing in Australia: Historical Perspectives, New South Wales University Press, Kensington, 1987, pp. 114–142.
102. SRNSW CSDF B32/2669.
103. Cited in Amos, The New Guard Movement, p. 73.
104. This account of the ‘Liverpool Street police riot’ is drawn from Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier, pp. 185–186, and ‘Policing Enemies of the State’, pp. 130–131.
105. NAA MP 1049/9, file 1887/2/35.
106. Cited in Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier, p. 186. Symbols indicating a deleted expletive also appear in the original in the papers of Ernest Crutchley, Australian Joint Copying Project, M1830.
107. See, for instance, Sun, 2 April 1932.
108. N. Wheatley, The Unemployed Who Kicked: a Study of the Political Struggles and Organisations of the New South Wales Unemployed in the Great Depression, MA thesis, Macquarie University, 1975, p. 418ff.
109. See Workers Online, 23 December 2003.
110. Liberty, 15 November 1932, 15 December 1932, 16 January 1933.
111. NAA CRS A6122, item 2, vol. 1.

By Andrew Moore