2011 ASSLH conference – Anti-­Communism Undermined: The Uncomfortable Alliances of W. C. Wentworth


AntiCommunism Undermined: The Uncomfortable Alliances of W. C. Wentworth

 Lachlan Clohesy


William Charles Wentworth, one of Australia’s most prominent anti-communist agitators, frequently linked both socialism and communism to Nazisim, on the basis of the perceived totalitarian nature of socialist and communist governments. To Wentworth, even the Chifley Labor government’s policies in the late 1940s would inexorably lead to a Soviet-style regime in Australia. The apparent totalitarian nature of communism provided Wentworth with ample fodder for anti-communist speeches and propaganda. Comparisons to Nazi Germany, in particular, became a recurring theme. However, the anti-communist cause in Australia was often championed by those who had less than democratic origins. Wentworth worked with those who had come from dubious pro-fascist backgrounds, so long as they were anti- communist. This article will explore the origins of and explanations for Wentworth’s particular brand of anti-communism. It will also examine his associations, using these to highlight some of the uncomfortable alliances of Cold War Australia. These links served to undermine arguments against communism based on what Wentworth perceived as its totalitarian nature.

Lachlan Clohesy is a Sessional Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Victoria University, Melbourne.


William Charles Wentworth, one of Australia’s most prominent anti-­communist agitators, frequently linked both socialism and communism to Nazism, on the basis of the ‘totalitarian’ nature of socialist and communist governments.1 To Wentworth, even the Chifley Labor government’s policies in the late 1940s would have inexorably led to a Soviet-­style regime in Australia.2 The apparent ‘totalitarian’ nature of communism provided Wentworth with ample fodder for anti-­communist speeches and propaganda. Comparisons to Nazi Germany, in particular, became a recurring theme. However, the anti-­communist cause in Australia was often championed by people whose political viewpoints were hardly democratic. Wentworth regularly worked with those from fascist backgrounds, so long as they were anti-­communist.3  This article will explore the origins of and reasons for Wentworth’s particular brand of anti-­communism. It will also examine his associations, using these to highlight some of the anti-­ communist alliances of Cold War Australia. These links served to undermine arguments against communism, based on what Wentworth perceived as its totalitarian nature.

Obsessed with Defence

Wentworth was a member of one of Australia’s oldest establishment families. He gained a masters in economics from Oxford University and, upon his return to Australia in the early years of the Great Depression, advised B. S. B. Stevens’ New South Wales government. He then moved to a position as financial adviser to the New South Wales Treasury.4 Although a member of the Union Club, which Andrew Moore contends was the headquarters of the Old Guard some years earlier,5 Wentworth was not yet an active anti-­communist.6  In the late thirties, as war in Europe loomed, Wentworth became preoccupied with Australia’s defence.7 His views on defence allow us to appreciate his later understanding of communism. Anti-­communism was a reaction to what he saw as a hostile and aggressive foreign power: in the late 1930s Wentworth feared a potential Japanese invasion of Australia, rather than a communist revolution.Describing himself as ‘obsessed’ with defence, Wentworth later claimed that he resigned from the Treasury as he couldn’t get his defence ideas accepted.9

Wentworth’s 1939 book, Demand for Defence, stressed both the defenceless position of Australia and the reasons why Japan would attack Australia in the coming war. Stanley argues that Wentworth’s study was seen by staff officers of later generations as a ‘worst-­case scenario’, a common characteristic of Wentworth’s ideas on defence (and later on communism).10 The book prompted little reaction within Australia though, according to Wentworth, a copy translated into Japanese was picked up among documents seized by forces in New Guinea.11 That Wentworth published it at his own expense illustrated his fixation on defence issues, but it is his attitude to the Soviet Union that is most revealing.

Absent from those sections of the 1939 book dealing with the USSR is a hatred of communism. Wentworth believed the dismissal of Russia at the 1938 Munich Settlement – when, he argued, ‘we acquiesced in her exclusion from European deliberations, and conceded to Hitler our acceptance of his anti-­Russian attitude’12 – was a tragedy and that the democracies should stress to the Soviet Union that ‘we do not share in any attitude of hostility towards her’.13

Wentworth did not consider anti-­communism important at this stage, or decided not to parade it as he realised the value of Russia as a potential ally. He also feared the danger of a potential Nazi-­Soviet alliance.14 This attitude towards communism contrasted dramatically with the fierce anti-­communism that would later characterise Wentworth’s political career.

Wentworth’s defence fixation manifested itself in other ways. These included a mock invasion of Sydney with the Citizens Military Forces, which, after proving too successful, embarrassingly pointed out Australia’s inability to withstand a Japanese attack.15 Indeed, it was a defence issue that led Wentworth into contact with communists. In 1938 he supported the striking wharf labourers at Port Kembla over their stand on the export of pig-­iron to the Japanese. However, he believed that the communists used his support for their own purposes, causing him to become sceptical of them and to begin studying communist tactics.16

Defence Against Communism

In August 1943 Wentworth first ran for federal Parliament. He fell out with the United Australia Party (UAP) and instead ran as an Independent National Government candidate in the seat bearing his famous ancestor’s name. Wentworth remained passionate about defence during World War II, later recalling that he stood on a defence platform as at that time ‘defence obviously took precedence over everything else’.17 Significantly, his campaign literature also attacked communists in Australia.18 After espousing the benefits of a national government approach to the war, Wentworth claimed that Labor’s refusal to join was caused by ‘Communist intrigues’. Whilst Wentworth did not link his anti-­communism to defence issues, it is clear that by August 1943 he had developed an antipathy towards communists, declaring ‘effective opposition to Communism’ as part of his policy.19 His campaign to unseat the UAP’s Eric Harrison was unsuccessful.

The issue of a second European front in the war was taken up by the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), which held a rally on 30 September 1943.20 Wentworth vehemently disagreed with the position of the CPA, which advocated the opening of a European second front from the west (such as that which eventually occurred following the Normandy landings). Attending the rally, Wentworth argued that it should be opened from the Mediterranean rather than from western Europe. He considered the policy advocated by the CPA as being aimed at preserving Russia’s postwar position.21 The Tribune accused Wentworth of trying to provoke an incident, claiming that his friend Brian Penton of the Daily Telegraph had his photographer there to capture it.22 The Sydney Morning Herald went into some detail, describing how Wentworth was pushed off the stage and struck in the face.23 Wentworth was critical of Russia, comparing its nonaggression pact with Japan to the Nazi-­Soviet pact. He accused the Soviet Union of interning American pilots forced down after operations against Japan, suggesting instead that they should allow the United States to use available air bases in the war against the Japanese.24

Following a challenge published in the communist newspaper Tribune, Wentworth agreed to debate the CPA national president, Lance Sharkey, on the second front issue. The Tribune lauded the event as ‘a massacre, not a debate’.25 Wentworth claimed to be ‘infuriated’ that the Sydney Town Hall was packed in advance by communist supporters and that his own supporters could not get in.26 The Sydney Morning Herald described the crowd as ‘hooting’ Wentworth; after Sharkey spoke, they rose and ‘gave the clenched fist salute’.27 More than forty years later, Wentworth maintained that introducing a second front from the Mediterranean would have been the correct option.28 Reflecting on it as a ‘disgraceful episode’, Wentworth believed the failure to do so ‘subjected all the captive nations of Europe to Russian domination’.29 He became a champion of the ‘Captive Nations’. By the end of 1943, as he began to look to the postwar world, it was clear that Wentworth’s ideas on defence were deeply affected by an increasingly vehement anti-­communism. By late 1945 the war against fascism had been won and opposing communism became Wentworth’s sole focus.

Post-­war Anti-­Communism

In 1947 Wentworth published a sixteen-­page booklet titled Labor, Socialism and Soviets.30 Whilst the publication dealt primarily with the contemporary public debate on bank nationalisation, Wentworth’s views on the Soviet Union at this time are also revealed: ‘It is now clear that Russia under Stalin is a regime of misery, tyranny, terror and potential aggression – much as Germany was under Hitler’.31 Wentworth warned:

The history of developing Socialism is and must always be the history of developing totalitarianism. Hitler, with his National Socialism, and Stalin, with his Soviet Communism, are the two supreme example (sic) of Socialists who have achieved total power. Socialism must always be like that.32

His release of What’s Wrong With Socialism, a booklet published by the Institute of Public Affairs (NSW), argued that the Soviet Union was ‘the chief threat to world peace’.33 By 1947, Wentworth saw defence as ‘defence against communism’. He viewed the threat of the Soviet Union in the postwar era as analogous to the threat of the fascist powers in Europe before World War II. Determined not to repeat the mistakes of appeasement, he proposed a motion that the Liberal Party should send a message of support to Winston Churchill, hoping that he would once again lead Britain. Wentworth agreed with Churchill’s foreign policy, which urged the adoption of a tough stance against Russia, even if it involved being prepared to use force.34

One regrets that epithets such as “war-­mongers” should be bandied about this chamber. After all, the people who are raising that cry now were shouting “war-­mongers” in 1936 and 1937 at those of us who were endeavouring then to stir up some kind of opposition to the growth of nazi-­ism in Germany. Who were the real war-­mongers? Were they the people who thought that Hitler should have been stopped in 1936 or 1937, when he could have been stopped without war, or, at the worst, with only a little war, or were they the people who counselled appeasement? The supporters of appeasement described themselves as the makers of peace, but they made war.35

Wentworth’s views on national defence had metamorphosed into a vehement anti-­communism. His opposition to the Soviet Union bore a similarity to his earlier opposition to Japan. He frequently compared the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and believed fascist and communist governments to be almost identical in their totalitarianism.

Eastern European Émigrés

In attacking communism, Wentworth championed the cause of the ‘Captive Nations’ ‘enslaved’ by the Soviet Union. Becoming deeply involved in the politics of Eastern European émigré communities in Australia, he had established links in this area. Douglas Darby, the Liberal member for Manly in the New South Wales Parliament since 1945, was particularly active within these groups.36 Darby and Wentworth were friends, and Darby lent his support to Wentworth’s bid in 1949 for the new seat of Mackellar.37 Wentworth won the seat, which he was to hold until 1977.

In 1953 the Joint Baltic Committee formed an organisation known as the United Council of Migrants from behind the Iron Curtain.38 An advisory council of ‘old’ Australians, which included both Wentworth and Darby, was appointed.39 Wentworth had worked with Richard Krygier, a Polish émigré, in the Political Research Society, an anti-­communist propaganda organisation during the 1940s.40 Krygier was the Australian representative to the international Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) from 1952, and in 1954 founded its Australian affiliate, the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom (AACF).

The CCF was supported by funds channelled from America’s Central Intelligence Agency to combat Soviet cultural diplomacy.41 Frances Stonor Saunders concludes that the CCF was the centrepiece of America’s covert propaganda effort during the Cold War.42 Krygier claimed that Wentworth, along with the National Civic Council’s B. A. Santamaria and the anti-­communist trade union figure Laurie Short, were members of the AACF. McLaren contends, however, that while they maintained close contact with Krygier, none were official members of the organisation.43 Krygier and the AACF later established the literary-­political magazine Quadrant.44

Wentworth also had contacts within the Russian Anti-­Communist Centre. He wrote to the minister for external affairs, Richard Casey, about this organisation in January 1953, offering Casey a preview of the group’s activities, which he claimed had been given to him three months earlier ‘by a friend who is interested in it’.45 This link is important, as it helps to explain Wentworth’s actions during the Petrov Affair. Manne states that, through his contacts with Sydney refugees, Wentworth learned of demonstrations to be held at Mascot airfield on the night Mrs Petrov was to be taken from Australia.46 Wentworth was present at the demonstration and collected statutory declarations during the noisy protest from witnesses who could speak Russian, introduced to him by Krygier. The witnesses claimed that Mrs Petrov cried out that she did not want to go.47 The press, meanwhile, attributed the organising role in the demonstration to a Russian, N. P. Harkoff, head of the Russian Anti-­Communist Centre – the same organisation about which Wentworth’s ‘friend’ had provided information.48 It is clear that by the time of the Petrov Affair in 1954, Wentworth was involved in the politics of the Eastern European émigrés and had a network of contacts among their communities.

The Khrushchev Years

The year 1956 was pivotal in the Cold War. On 25 February 1956 General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev delivered a report On the Personality Cult and its Consequences to the twentieth congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Known as the ‘secret speech’,49 it denounced the regime of the former general secretary and Soviet premier, Josef Stalin. In the Australian Parliament, Wentworth pointed out that the Soviet officials now denouncing Stalin had supported Stalin’s regime, had never criticised the regime in the past, and ‘were active participants in the loathsome crimes of Stalinism which they now profess to denounce’. Wentworth recounted the history of Khrushchev and other Soviet officials and questioned the sincerity of the denunciation.50 In May he pointed out that the Soviet Union had denounced the ‘murders, tortures and slave labour that characterized Stalinism’, but still maintained a close relationship with Communist China ‘whose leaders have indulged, and are still indulging, in similar practices’.51 The Hungarian uprising, which began on 23 October 1956, was to prove a test of the Soviet Union’s sincerity.

Wentworth consistently campaigned for Eastern European countries behind the Iron Curtain, including Hungary. In March 1956 Wentworth urged the Australian government to be more vocal in condemning the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe.52 In April he urged Australia to renounce extradition treaties with Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, in order to remove the fear of immigrants to Australia ‘that forces behind the iron curtain will seize them and drag them back to death because they dared to oppose communism’.53 Wentworth believed that the Suez Canal crisis was a distraction compared to the ‘much more important events which were taking place in Budapest’.54 He addressed representatives of the Hungarian community outside Parliament House in Canberra.55 Along with Douglas Darby, he was at the airport to greet the first Hungarian refugees from the crisis.56 Later, he addressed a rally in the Sydney Domain where he shared a stage with, among others, the Hungarian émigré Laszlo Megay.57

Megay was the president of the Hungarists’ Association in Sydney, and also a member of the Anti-­Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), a right-­wing anti-­ communist group of émigrés.58 ASIO, in a 1955 report to Cabinet, considered the ABN to be pro-­Nazi and on the extreme right.59 In 1953 Megay had been elected president of the Federal Council of Hungarian Organisations in Australia? he was also the president of the Hungarian Liberation Movement in New South Wales.60 Wentworth argued that the Australian government should put the view to the United Nations that:

No representative of a regime imposed upon Hungary by Russian force of arms is entitled to be accredited as the representative of Hungary in the United Nations, and that the Government of Hungary be recognized by the United Nations as the one which has appealed to the United Nations for protection against aggressive Russian designs and action in Hungary.61

Following the crushing of the uprising, Wentworth continued to support Hungarian refugees in Australia. In April 1957 he publicly attacked the Australian Engineering Union, which he said was communist controlled, for refusing trade testing and registration of Hungarian engineers who had fled Budapest.62 In September 1957 Wentworth lamented that the West ‘made no physical intervention while the Hungarian people were trampled into blood and dust’. He believed that the Hungarian example could be a propaganda weapon against the Soviet Union, citing examples of how, in countries outside Russia, former communists had become disillusioned following the events in Budapest.63

Wentworth and the Extremist Émigrés

Wentworth remained active in the politics of ‘New Australians’, maintaining his links with organisations such as the United Council of Migrants from behind the Iron Curtain and the AACF. The Liberal Party founded a Migrant Advisory Council in 1957.64 This included among others, Megay and a Romanian, Constantin Untaru. Megay and Untaru were prominent members of the international Anti-­Bolshevik Bloc of Nations. The ABN had campaigned overseas for the declaration of Captive Nations Week, which sought to highlight the plight of nations behind the Iron Curtain. Jaroslav Stetsko, a prominent Ukranian émigré and leader of the ABN internationally, had arrived in Australia during 1957 to start a local chapter.65 The ABN also campaigned for the recognition of Captive Nations Week in Australia. Wentworth supported these efforts, addressing six hundred people at an ABN rally in September 1963 demanding that Captive Nations Week be recognised.

Speaking after Untaru, he told the crowd gathered at Croatian House in Sydney that communism was more of a threat than Nazism had been in 1938 and 1939. He urged those present to expose communism in Australia.66 Wentworth was already acquainted with the Captive Nations campaign internationally, receiving a presentation from the president of the Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN), V. Sidzikauskas, whilst at the United Nations in New York.67 The Nation later criticised Wentworth, arguing that Australia extended ACEN no diplomatic recognition and that he should not have taken cognisance of the group.68 In turn, émigré organisations including ACEN sent letters to the editor in support of Wentworth.69 A 1961 article reporting Wentworth’s views described him as ‘a staunch friend of the Captive Nations of East Central Europe’.70 With the backing of the ABN, the Captive Nations Week Committee (CNWC) was established in Australia in 1965.71 Shortly after, Wentworth was proposed as a patron for the organisation, a position which he occupied, in both the CNWC and its successor organisation, the Captive Nations Council of New South Wales (CNCNSW), until well after his political career ended.72 In 1973 he was briefly vice-­president of the CNCNSW, replacing outgoing vice-­president and New South Wales State politician, Jim Cameron.73 Cottle and Keys argue that only Darby, who served as president of the CNWC and CNCNSW, was the only politician committed to Captive Nations activism. Their rationale is that the biographies of other politicians involved do not mention the Captive Nations movement.74 In Wentworth’s case, this can be explained by the lack of a biography rather than lack of committed activism. Wentworth maintained involvement with émigré organisations and publicly championed their cause for the remainder of his career.

The Ustasha

A prominent aspect of Wentworth’s long-­running support of the Captive Nations was his defence of the Ustasha. The Croatian Liberation Movement (HOP) was an organisation headed by former members of the Ustasha, which had acted as a puppet government for Nazi Germany in Croatia during World War II. It was led by Ante Pavelic, the wartime dictator of the Ustasha regime, until his death in 1959. The Australian Ustasha was split into the HOP, led by Fabijan Lokokovic, and the more extreme Croatian National Resistance (HNO), led by Srecko Rover.75 The Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood (HRB) was a terrorist organisation, also headed by Rover, and used the HNO as its political front.76 In Australia, the term Ustasha was often used to refer to any of these organisations, and also all of them collectively. The HRB trained members in terrorism and weapons-­handling. In 1963 members of the HRB travelled to Yugoslavia to conduct a sabotage raid, but were captured. Even the HOP, the more moderate faction, had a training camp, near Wodonga on the Murray River.77 The Ustasha was often defended by members of the Liberal Party. In 1963 Senator John Gorton argued that they should be allowed to express their views, whilst Senator William Spooner had referred to the Ustasha as patriots. The Liberal member for Corio, Hubert Opperman, had commended the Ustasha from beneath a portrait of Pavelic. The DLP’s Senator Frank McManus was also a supporter, receiving a former Ustasha officer with Opperman at a function in 1966.78 If Wentworth was aware of the wartime records of some of the Ustasha members, and it is quite plausible that he was,79 he did not seem to be bothered by them. Wentworth already had associates among Eastern European émigrés who had questionable pasts. In 1961, he took up the case of Ervin Viks, an Estonian who served as an officer in the Estonian Security Service during Nazi occupation. He claimed Viks was innocent of war crimes following an extradition request for him from the Soviet Union. The USSR accused Viks of participating in the mass slaughter of 12,000 at a camp in Tartu, before being involved with the execution of 2,499 civilians in the Tallinn-­Harju prefecture. The government did not extradite Viks, citing insufficient evidence of his alleged crimes.80

Laszlo Megay, the Hungarian émigré, had become president of the Australian branch of the ABN following Stetsko’s 1957 visit.81 He had been accused of placing 14,000 Jews into a makeshift ghetto whilst serving as mayor of Ungvar, Hungary, during World War II. The accounts also accused him of beatings, robbery and rape.82 A Jewish Council dossier estimated that Megay had been involved in the deaths of as many as 18,000 Jews.83 Following Megay’s death in 1959, his successor as ABN president was Constantin Untaru. Untaru denied being a member of the Romanian Iron Guard, which had taken part in mass killings of Jews during the war. He did, however, serve as treasurer to the Iron Guard national government established in Romania in 1944.84 Wentworth had previously shared stages with both Megay and Untaru, and both had been senior members of the Liberal Party’s Migrant Advisory Committee.85 The anti-­ communist front was far more important to Wentworth than the undemocratic and even criminal histories of his associates.

Wentworth’s support of the Ustasha brought him into conflict with the Labor MP, Dr. J. F. Cairns. He debated Cairns, whom he accused of supporting pro-­Tito groups, on 20 May 1964. Cairns, in turn, accused Wentworth of trying to cover up his links with the Ustasha, which he called a fascist organisation, and stated that Wentworth had been photographed in front of the Ustasha flag, underneath a picture of Ante Pavelic, at a function six months earlier. After claiming that the Ustasha during World War II was responsible for the deaths of 750,000 Serbs, 65,000 Jews and 23,000 gypsies, Cairns argued:

I charge the honourable member for Mackellar with being willing to support genocide, if it goes under the flag of anti-­communism, and I do not think a more serious charge could be made against anybody. The record of the honourable member for Mackellar in this country proves that to be true.86

These sorts of exchanges characterised the long-­running debates between Wentworth and Cairns. Wentworth defended the Ustasha and accused its rival organisations of communist association, whilst Cairns defended Yugoslav groups and criticised Wentworth for his links with what he called ‘fascist’ groups.

In September 1964 Cairns turned his attention to the CRB, which he said was not only capable of violence, but already guilty of perpetrating violent acts. He accused the Menzies government of being ‘prepared to shield and protect the most extreme fascist type organisation that has ever existed in this country’.87 He outlined the links between the Ustasha in Australia and the wartime regime and argued that they were training in Australia for terrorist activities in Australia and Yugoslavia. Cairns then referred to government statements claiming that the Ustasha had never trained with the Australian Army, before producing photographs which he claimed showed Ustasha members in possession of an Australian tank (actually a personnel carrier) and conducting joint exercises with the Army.88 Wentworth’s response to Cairns’ accusations of collusion between the Ustasha and the Australian government was predictable. He compared Cairns’ behaviour to that of ‘a Communist propagandist’?89  accused Yugoslav groups of being Communist fronts; and claimed that Cairns, the patron of the Yugoslav Settlers’ Association, had made statements in the House given to him by its president, Marjan Jurjevic, in order that Jurjevic could then republish Cairns’ statements free from any charge of libel. Wentworth refused to acknowledge that the Ustasha was responsible for violence in Australia. Instead, he inferred that communist agent-­provocateurs among the Croatian organisations, rather than genuine Ustasha members, were inciting violence.90 His remarks in the weeks afterwards ignored Ustasha violence and concentrated on Jurjevic’s communist affiliations.91 Wentworth overlooked Ustasha violence as he temporised about the wartime record of the organisation. Of Ustasha alleged wartime crimes he stated:

I believe that in the last war [World War II] in what is now Yugoslavia atrocities were committed on both sides. I think some of the things said against the Croatians are true. I think some of the things said against the Serbs are equally true. In the passions of war these things occur. We regret them. We condemn them. We hope they will not be resurrected in Australia.92

Not only did Wentworth dismiss the crimes of the Ustasha regime as something that happened ‘in the passions of war’, but he also downplayed their significance by suggesting that both sides were to blame. He was willing to look past the wartime atrocities of anti-­communists, as Cairns alleged. For example, when Baron Krupp, a convicted Nazi war criminal, entered Australia in 1958 Wentworth defended him. He argued that during the war Krupp was at least ‘acting as a citizen of his own country’, comparing him unfavourably with the Australian communist who ‘acts as an agent of a foreign power’.93 In contrast, his vehement condemnation of the Russian role in episodes such as the wartime Katyn Forest massacre in Poland and Soviet brutality in the Baltic states shows that his dismissal of such events as happening ‘in the passions of war’ did not apply to the Soviet Union.94 Wentworth’s attack on J. Paletskis, president of Lithuania and the leader of the Soviet delegation to the Inter-­Parliamentary Union meeting in Canberra in April 1966, was a further example of this double standard. He accused Paletskis’ wartime ‘puppet’ government of being responsible for 65,000 forced deportations, and read accounts of mass torture and execution.95 Wentworth’s determination to highlight the war crimes of Paletskis’ government was praised by émigré groups through their organ, the News Digest – International.96 However, Wentworth not only failed to criticise or condemn other wartime governments such as the Hungarian Arrow Cross, the Romanian Iron Guard or the Croatian Ustasha, but also worked with their members to fight communism in Australia. Like many others in the Liberal Party, he turned a blind eye to the uncomfortable aspects of the Eastern European émigrés such as alleged wartime crimes and terrorism. His eyes were always firmly fixed on the communist menace. 

Wentworth denounced the ‘return to Stalinism’ in the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.97 He argued that the invasion proved that the Soviet Union was duplicitous, treacherous and aggressive. Comparing the invasion to the events in Hungary during 1956, he recounted how the Hungarian leader, Imre Nagy, was executed:

They will remember, too, how the Hungarian Premier, Mr. Nagy, went out on a Soviet safe conduct and was murdered by the Soviet Union in defiance of the safe conduct it gave him. Mr. Dubcek would know this. I wonder how he is feeling tonight.

Following an interjection of ‘If he is alive’, Wentworth responded ‘Yes, if he is not already dead’.98 Wentworth maintained his links with Eastern European émigrés, and spoke at a meeting to launch Captive Nations Week in 1969. He argued that there was no sign of repentance from communists, citing the continuing Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.99 He addressed a meeting of the ABN in April 1970, at a protest meeting timed to coincide with the United Nations’ declaration of Lenin as a ‘humanitarian’ on the one-­hundredth anniversary of his birth.100 In August of that year he lobbied for government funding for his friend and CNCNSW president, Douglas Darby, to attend the meeting of the World Anti-­Communist League in Tokyo, Japan.101 When Jurjevic published an exposé of the Ustasha in Australia in the same year, he wrote: ‘Mr W. Wentworth, Liberal MHR, is one of their strongest supporters and he turns up year after year in the pages of “Spremnost” as being present at their functions’.102 Jurjevic was also critical of Wentworth’s attendance at Captive Nations Week functions and described Wentworth as a ‘rabid red-­hunter’.103


In the postwar era, Wentworth identified tyranny exclusively with communism. He believed that the Cold War was ‘a conflict between the two systems of communism and freedom’.104 The brutal repression of revolts in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1956 and 1968 served to illustrate this point. He objected to communism on the basis that, in the Soviet Union, it became a totalitarian system of government. Wentworth frequently compared the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany, highlighting the similarities of the two regimes.

Wentworth’s associations with various groups and individuals undermined his position. Unfortunately, in his hunt for ‘reds under the bed’, he had some dubious bedfellows. Through the Anti-­Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, he fought on the side of Laszlo Megay, accused of war crimes in Hungary during World War II. He associated with Constantin Untaru, treasurer to the wartime Romanian government, the Iron Guard. He defended Ante Pavelic’s Ustasha, which had been responsible for the deaths of Jews during World War II and for terrorist activities in Australia and Yugoslavia in the years since.105 Wentworth’s anti-­ communism was clear in his championing of the ‘Captive Nations’ of Eastern Europe. He ignored the wartime behaviour and pro-­fascist backgrounds of those he formed alliances with, so long as they were anti-­communist. Wentworth’s association with, and defence of, these anti-­communists amounted to a double standard that diminished his credibility. This hypocrisy served to weaken the anti-­communist cause and to undermine the case against perceived communist totalitarianism.


1   For published early comparisons between Nazism and Communism, see W. C. Wentworth, Labor, Socialism and Soviets: The Trend to Totalitarianism in Australia: The Place of Bank Nationalisation in the Plan (Sydney: W. C. Wentworth, 1947). See also W. C. Wentworth, What’s Wrong With Socialism? Sydney: Institute of Public Affairs (NSW), 1948).
2   Wentworth, Labor, Socialism and Soviets.
3   In particular, those who had been associated with wartime fascist regimes in Europe. Wentworth’s links with these individuals are detailed later in the paper.
4   Ron Hurst and W. C. Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth, Former Member of the House of Representatives’, Parliament’s Oral History Project, Canberra, 1984-­7, 1:4.
5   Andrew Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier: Conservative Paramilitary Organisations in New South Wales, 1930-­32 (Sydney: New South Wales University Press, 1989), 162.
6   Wentworth’s interest in communism began after the Dalfram strike at Port Kembla in 1938, whilst his public opposition to communism began in the early 1940s. ‘Return of a Native’, Nation, no. 238, 2 March 1968, 11-­2.
7   Indeed, Wentworth funded the publication of a book he authored on the subject. See W. C. Wentworth, Demand for Defence: Being a Plan to Keep Australia White and Free (Sydney: W. C. Wentworth, 1939).
8   Though Wentworth was undoubtedly not the only person to hold this fear, his views contrasted sharply with the two major political parties of the time, particularly over his view that Singapore could not be relied upon. This divergence in views was the reason Wentworth was forced to publish Demand for Defence at his own expense. Colin Clark, Australian Hopes and Fears (London: Hollis & Carter, 1958), 203.
9   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth, Former Member of the House of Representatives’, 1:8.
10   Peter Stanley, Invading Australia: Japan and the Battle for Australia, 1942, (Melbourne: Viking, 2008), 54.
11   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 9:7-­8.
12   Wentworth, Demand for Defence, 15.
13   Ibid., 167.
14   Ibid., 16.
15   Fred Daly, From Curtin to Kerr (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1977), 91. Wentworth also discusses the incident in Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 1:9.
16   ‘Return of a Native’, Nation, no. 238, 2 March 1968, 11.
17   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 9:1.
18   For an overview of Communist Party of Australia activity during the early years of World War II, see Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from origins to illegality (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998).
19   Wentworth, Policy of William Charles Wentworth (National Government Candidate), 5-­31.
20   ‘Diggers Denounce Wentworth-­Penton Rally Provocation’, Tribune, 7 October 1943, 2.
21   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 9:1. Wentworth claimed to share his views on the second front with Winston Churchill, who favoured a push from the Mediterranean to capitalise on partisan activity in Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece. Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume VII: Road to Victory: 1941-­1945 (London: Heinemann, 1986), 439-­40.
22   Ibid.
23   ‘W. C. Wentworth Assaulted’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 October 1943, 6.
24   ‘Two Reasons for Ejection at Meeting’, SMH, 1 October 1943.
25   ‘‘Massacre, Not Debate’’, Tribune, 18 November 1943, 3.
26   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 9:3.
27   ‘Rush to Hear Debaters’, SMH, 11 November 1943, 6.
28   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 9:1-­2.
29   Ibid.
30   Wentworth, Labor, Socialism and Soviets.
31   Ibid., 7.
32   Ibid.
33   W. C. Wentworth, What’s Wrong With Socialism?, 22. Wentworth claimed that this book was also used by the Conservative Party in Britain in an election campaign ‘towards the end of the ‘40s’. Wentworth to Fraser, 22 September 1976, NAA M1334, 22.
34   Ron Hurst and W. C. Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 9:11-­12.
35   Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (hereafter CPD), House of Representatives (hereafter H of R), 4 October 1950, 281.
36   Drew Cottle and Angela Keys, ‘Douglas Evelyn Darby, MP: Anti-­Communist Internationalist in the Antipodes’, Labour History, no. 89, November 2005, 88-­92.
37   Douglas Evelyn Darby, A Try For Manly, ch. 10, 1, unpublished manuscript, Darby Family Papers, ML MSS 6164, Box 37.
38   Cottle and Keys, ‘Douglas Evelyn Darby, MP’, 92.
39   The other ‘old’ Australians were Col. J. M. Prentice, Mrs. Eileen Furley and Mrs. Arleen Lower.
Darby, A Try For Manly, ch. 26, 5.
40   For information on the Political Research Society, see Lachlan Clohesy, ‘Cold War Collusion: ASIO and W. C. Wentworth’, in Bobbie Oliver (ed.), Labour History in the New Century (Perth: Black Swan Press, 2009), 122. See also Lachlan Clohesy, ‘Australian Cold Warrior: The Anti-­ Communism of W. C. Wentworth’ (PhD thesis, Victoria University, Melbourne, 2010), 195-­7.
41   John McLaren, Writing in Hope and Fear: Literature as Politics in Postwar Australia (Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 80.
42   Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London: Granta Books, 1999), 1.
43   Ibid.
44   Peter Coleman, ‘Krygier, Henry Richard (1917 -­  1986)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 17 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2007), 642-­3.
45   Wentworth to Casey, 28 January 1953, NAA A6122, 166.
46   Robert Manne, The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage (Sydney: Pergamon Press, 1987), 80.
47   McLaren, Writing in Hope and Fear, 117.
48   ‘Anti-­Red Chief: “I’ve Evidence”’, Sun, 22 April 1954, 5.
49   The speech was given in a secret session to the CPSU. It soon, however, was reproduced in the press after what appears to have been a deliberate leak. R. N. Stromberg, Europe in the Twentieth Century London: Prentice Hall, 2000), 346-­7.
50   CPD, H of R, 21 March 1956, 962.
51   CPD, H of R, 14 May 1956, 2018.
52   CPD, H of R, 13 March 1956, 735.
53   CPD, H of R, 12 April 1956, 1336.
54   Hurst and Wentworth, ‘Interview with William Charles Wentworth’, 12:12.
55   Ibid., 12:13.
56   Cottle and Keys, ‘Douglas Evelyn Darby, MP’, 92.
57   John Playford, The Truth Behind “Captive Nations Week” & The extremist émigrés – ABN (Anti-­ Bolshevik Bloc of Nations) in Australia (Sydney: Outlook, 1968), 20.
58   Mark Aarons, War Criminals Welcome: Australia, a Sanctuary for Fugitive War Criminals Since 1945 (Melbourne: Black, 2001), 313.
59   Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 314-­5.
60   Playford, The Truth Behind “Captive Nations Week”, 17.
61   CPD, H of R, 8 November 1956, 2133.
62   CPD, H of R, 4 April 1957, 594.
63   CPD, H of R, 12 September 1957, 576-­8.
64   James Saleam, ‘The Other Radicalism, An Inquiry Into Contemporary Australian Extreme Right Ideology, Politics and Organization 1975-­1995’ (PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 1999), 61.
65   Ibid., 314-­6.
66   ‘20th Anniversary of A.B.N. Celebrated In Sydney: Captive Nations Week Demanded In Australia’, News Digest – International, no. 1, October 1963, 65-­6.
67   Voice of Freedom: Special Issue Marking the Twentieth Anniversary of Soviet Terror in the Baltic States (Sydney: Our Haven, 1961), 1.
68   ‘Return of a Native’, Nation, no. 238, 2 March 1968, 12.
69   ‘Mr. Wentworth’s Road’, Nation, no. 240, 30 March 1968, 15.
70   Voice of Freedom: Special Issue Marking the Twentieth Anniversary of Soviet Terror in the Baltic States (Sydney: Our Haven, 1961), 1.
71   Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 332.
72   Minutes of Captive Nations Week Committee, 22 Feb 1966, ML, MSS 7171, Box 1. CNCNSW records still show Wentworth as a patron in 1982, five years after he left Parliament in 1977. Annual General Meeting Minutes, 30 June 1982, ML MSS 7171, Box 1. In 1984 when Wentworth ran (unsuccessfully) for the Senate, he wrote to Lia Looveer to advertise in migrant newspapers espousing his opposition to communism. Draft advertisement, 12 November 1984, ML MSS 7171, Box 14.
73   Letter from Captive Nations Council of Queensland to Lia Looveer, 17 June 1973, ML, MSS 7171, Box 46.
74   Cottle and Keys, ‘Douglas Evelyn Darby, MP’, 99-­100.
75   Frank Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organization: An Unofficial History (Melbourne: Spectrum Publications, 1994), 206-­7.  Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 15, argues that the HOP was seen as the more moderate group.
76   Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 15.
77   Cain, The Australian Security Intelligence Organization, 207.
78   M. Jurjevic, Ustasha under the Southern Cross (Melbourne: M. Jurjevic, 1973), 54.
79   As we shall see, Dr. Jim Cairns had raised the wartime record of the Ustasha in Parliament in 1964.
80   Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 445-­6.
81   Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 318. Jaroslav Stetsko was himself a controversial figure, accused of the wartime massacre of Jew in Lvov, Ukraine. Ibid., 314-­8.
82   Playford, The Truth Behind “Captive Nations Week”, 20.
83   Aarons, War Criminals Welcome, 318.
84   Ibid., 328-­9.
85   Ibid., 330.
86   CPD, H of R, 20 May 1964, 2197-­2201.
87   CPD, H of R, 17 September 1964, 1281-­8.
88   Ibid.
89   CPD, H of R, 17 September 1964, 1281-­8. Ironically, a submission to admit Cairns to the CPA was rejected in 1946, probably because of his past employment as a police officer. Paul Strangio, Keeper of the Faith: a Biography of Jim Cairns (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2002), 52.
90   CPD, H of R, 17 September 1964, 1281-­8.
91   CPD, H of R, 14 October 1964, 1949-­51.
92   CPD, H of R, 17 September 1964, 1286.
93   CPD, H of R, 12 March 1958, 262.
94   CPD, H of R, 16 March 1961, 371-­2.
95   CPD, H of R, 20 April 1966, 1023.
96   ‘Wentworth Exposes Paletskis in Parliament’, News Digest – International, June 1963, 42-­4.
97   CPD, H of R, 22 August 1968, 519-­21.
98   Ibid.
99   ‘’No repentance’ by Communists’, Daily Telegraph, 14 July 1969, 11.
100   ‘The Soviet’s Secret Weapon’, News Digest – International, June 1970, 4-­10.
101   Wentworth to Darby, 15 August 1970, Darby Family Papers, ML MSS 6164, Box 16.
102   Jurjevic, Ustasha under the Southern Cross, 54.
103   Ibid., 44.
104   CPD, H of R, 1 March 1956, 402.
105   Frank Cain, ‘Terrorism in the Sixties and Seventies’, 133-­41.