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Herbert John (Bert) Moxon (1902–1987)

This article was published:

Bert Moxon, c.1936

Bert Moxon, c.1936

Herbert John (Bert) Moxon (1902-1987) engineer and Communist activist

Birth: 1902 at Wrightville, near Cobar, New South Wales, son of native-born parents Henry Percy Moxon (1869-1950), shearer, and Ellen Mary, née Egan (1873-1944). Marriages: (1) July 1931 at the District Registrar’s Office, Ashfield, Sydney, to native-born Dulcie Elizabeth Odgers (1908-1993). The marriage ended in divorce in 1936. (2) 1938 at Paddington, Sydney, NSW, to native-born Vivian May, née Fitzpatrick, late Prahl (1908-1982), a divorcée. They had one son. Death: 2 March 1987 at his usual residence in Baker Street, Carlingford, Sydney. 

  • From the age of five lived with relatives in Sydney for about ten years. Later rejoined his parents at Lake Cargellico, NSW.
  • Joined Communist Party of Australia in 1922 in Queensland. Consolidated and built party branches in Brisbane and north Queensland, together with J. B. Miles, in the 1920s. Helped to recruit Ted Tripp who was instrumental in establishing the Townsville branch in mid-1920s.
  • Played an important role in bringing the Australian Socialist Party into the CPA. Prominent in establishing an electoral bloc of Communist and left-wing militants against the Australian Labor Party in the Queensland State election in 1929. Moved to Sydney in 1930. In September that year was Communist candidate for the State seat of Auburn held by J. T. Lang. Spent two years in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
  • Part of new leadership of CPA with Lance Sharkey and later B. Miles after 1929 when Jack Kavanagh and his supporters were removed from positions of authority. The factional dispute was over the CP's view of the ALP, where Kavanagh supported it against the conservative parties but Moxon and Sharkey took a harder line partly in accordance with the Comintern hard line in Russia, which viewed parties such as the ALP as being 'social fascists' and leading the working class astray.
  • Became general secretary and exercised control of the CPA, with Lance Sharkey, after the factional dispute. Replaced as general secretary in 1931. Removed from the central committee of the CPA in 1932 in a similar manner as Kavanagh had been removed from leadership with a campaign built up against him. The campaign was initiated by Herbert (Harry) Moore Wicks, an American Communist sent to Australia in 1930 and who was in fact a police agent and had departed from Australia in 1931. The campaign was continued by Lance Sharkey and J. B. Miles who continued to lead the CPA.
  • Moxon was removed from the central committee for being a 'left sectarian' which was evidenced by examples of what was claimed to be poor organising, creating a financial mess, cowardice for criticising Wicks and not engaging in constructive self-criticism. Ted Docker replaced him as acting general secretary. Later in 1932 Moxon was expelled from the CPA and had no connection with the party thereafter.
  • Was sometime national secretary of International Class War Prisoners' Aid.
  • A family history note by his son John (1938-2022) reports that Bert shifted around NSW, working in the motor trade as a spare parts salesman for the rest of his life and wrote articles for motor trade journals on brake efficiency and safety. He also had a farm at Pennant Hills for ten years and was active in the local progress association. He joined a Masonic lodge about 1950 and late in life was a member of the local branch of the Australian Labor Party at Carlingford where he lived until his death.
  • Cause of death: myocardial infarction and atherosclerosis.

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); Beris Penrose, ‘Herbert Moxon, a Victim of the “Bolshevisation” of the Communist Party’, Labour History, No. 70, 30 May 1996, pp 92-114; Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from origins to illegality (Sydney, 1998).

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'Moxon, Herbert John (Bert) (1902–1987)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

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