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George Norman (Norm) Jeffery (1894–1966)

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George Norman (Norm) Jeffery, also known as George Jeffrey (1894-1966) shipping clerk, trade unionist, socialist and communist activist 

Birth: 21 December 1894 at Footscray, Melbourne, Victoria, son of Frank Jeffery, English seaman and Mary Jane, née Shaw, school teacher of Irish descent. Marriages: (1) about 1926 in Sydney, New South Wales, to Mabel Constance Fuller (1896-1944). (2) 1945 in North Sydney to Annie Frances Griffiths, known as Nancy (died 1987). No issue from either marriage. Death: 26 February 1966 at St Luke’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, Sydney. 

  • Arrived in Perth, Western Australia, from Melbourne c.1899.
  • Educated at Fremantle Boys School c.1899-1909. Father killed in an accident, c.1900. While still attending school he helped his mother at a cleaning job and his elder brother sell newspapers.
  • Apprenticed as a wickerworker at a seagrass furniture factory in 1909.
  • Joined Federated Furniture Trade Union WA, and became executive member in 1911.
  • First contact with socialist ideas came from hearing Monty Miller speak for the WA Socialist Party on Perth Esplanade 1912-13. Was also influenced by an English cousin, Frank Jeffrey, formerly of the Independent Labor Party, who introduced him to the writings of Blatchford, the Fabians and the Communist Manifesto. Also heard Tom Mann and Pat Hickey speak and read American freethinker, Ralph Ingersol.
  • Together with Waterside Workers Federation, tramways and general workers, formed local branch of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Fremantle in 1914 and became its secretary.
  • Travelled to Sydney as a ship’s steward to seek employment and lived in Balmain, 1915. Made contact with Sydney IWW led by Tom Barker. “Humped his bluey” in NSW for a year.
  • Travelled to Brisbane and gained employment as a bushworker. Took part in large anti-conscription campaigns of 1916-17 against Hughes’ War Precautions Act, and was jailed. Took part in Red Flag Procession in Brisbane in 1919 and ongoing protests in the early 1920s and was jailed again.
  • Moved to Melbourne and joined Industrial Workers of the World of which he became secretary, 1916. Had contact with Victorian Socialist Party and Australian Socialist Party.
  • Returned to Sydney before 1920 and had contact with, or joined, the Socialist Labor Party.
  • Foundation member Communist Party of Australia in 1920 and secretary of first branch of CPA formed outside of the City of Sydney in Balmain. Held various official positions in CPA up till 1935, including member of Central Committee.
  • As national organiser, CPA, toured NSW, Queensland and New Zealand. CPA delegate to Soviet Union International Trade Union Congress, 1928. Arrested five times in Sydney after leading big processions of the unemployed, 1931.
  • Executive member, communist ‘dual union’ Pastoral Workers’ Industrial Union 1930-37. Member, Australian Workers’ Union, Hotel Club Union, Ironworkers’ Union and Clerks Union.
  • Delegate and Executive member, NSW Labor Council.
  • Delegate from NSW Labor Council to Red International of Labor Unions, 1928. Member of trade union Militant Minority Movement. Prominent in campaign for the right to hold a May Day march in Sydney and later became chief organiser and marshal of May Day marches, c.1936-1958.
  • Worked as a tally clerk on waterfront, Sydney and promoted World Federation of Trade Unions. Attended WFTU conference overseas and became its chief correspondent in Australia; Campaigned against Vietnam War. Regular contributor as ‘pioneer peoples’ historian’ giving lectures to the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Sydney branch.
  • Cause of death, cerebral haemorrhage, thrombocytopaemia, pre leukemia.

John Playford, Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962, p 423; Malcolm Henry Ellis, The red road: the story of the capture of the Lang party by Communists, instructed from Moscow (Sydney, [1932]) and The Garden path (Sydney, 1949); Tribune, 3 September 1958 p 5, 2 March 1966 p 3, 9 March 1966 p 8; Australian Foundry Worker, July 1958 p.7; Kerry Taylor, ‘The Lost World of ANZAC Communism’, 1991; Maritime Worker, 9 March 1966; Federation News, Mar. 1966; Common Cause, 5 March 1966, p 2; Sheet Metal Worker, April 1966; Jean Devanny, 1986: Publication of the Sydney Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, ‘The Writings of Norm Jeffery’, pp.1-47 

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'Jeffery, George Norman (Norm) (1894–1966)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

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