Declassified documents show CIA’s interest in Chinan communism

The CIA warned that the Chifley government could face “crippled” industries if the Communist Party of intervened. Photo: National Archives of The CIA released about 930,000 documents on Wednesday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite

A secret CIA memo warned of the n Communist Party’s ability to “cripple n production” just months before the 1949 coal miner strike.

The American intelligence agency prepared a recently declassified, 10-page dossier on communist influence on n trade unions and the then Labor government in April, 1949.

The report is one of several from the CIA to detail communist activity in from the end of the Second World War through to the 1960s, which were published on the agency’s Freedom of Information Act website this week.

It described the government as slow to counteract the growth of communist power in unions and “notoriously lax regarding security measures” in the past.

One of the report’s observations, that “communist power at present is sufficient to cripple the entire n economy temporarily by stopping transport and coal production”, proved to be prophetic.

Just two months after it was published, 23,000 coal miners went on strike and returned to work only after the government used the military to break the production.

But the report also said there was no evidence the Communist Party had any direct influence on the government, nor was there proof of contact between the n party and the Soviet Union.

“The US Naval Attache in Melbourne has reported that the Labor government is under communist domination, with two cabinet members probable communists and another cabinet member and Speaker of the House,” the report said.

“There are, however, no known Communists in the federal parliament and only one state legislator (Queensland parliament) is a known party member.”

Other declassified documents showed the CIA expected the failed 1951 referendum to ban the Communist Party would be successful, but described the voters as lacking enthusiasm and then opposition leader HV Evatt as “becoming hysterical if not desperate” in attacks on the government.

Another detailed interactions between the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China and their counterparts in and New Zealand.

Little was mentioned of the Chinese agent’s interactions with the n Communist Party, but the document noted the New Zealand Communist Party followed China’s advice to attempt to create a “clandestine party organisation” parallel to the existing one.

But the idea fell apart in New Zealand, and the report said the party’s leader “was apparently criticised for ‘his’ mishandling of the plan” on a return visit to China in 1968.

The documents, part of the 11 million document strong CIA Records Search Tool, were only available to view in person at the National Archives in Maryland until the agency decided to publish the collection online this month.

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