Provided by the Question Mark Collective as part of a forthcoming anthology on Australian Troublemakers to be published by Melbourne based Scam Publications.
Any account of past radicalism invariably must involve the Communist Party of Australia. As the largest organisation on the extra parliamentary left the CPA attracted many of Australia's most able radicals and gave them a direction to follow. Unfortunately the authoritarian character of the Party and its love for all things Soviet often meant that this direction was horribly flawed. The Party's drive for respectability in the 1950s and 1960s also meant that it began to ostracise its more interesting and "larrikin" sympathisers. Many of the group's otherwise worthy activities were marred by these tendencies as the following account by Miss J.A goes to show.
However, it is rather interesting to take a closer look at the people who organised and participated in the march. I can only speak with experience of those who were present on the stages from Goulburn onwards, but it is difficult to imagine that there would have been a great difference in the relays who marched before Goulburn was reached. The people I met were for the most part C.P.A. members and all sympathies lent in the direction of the C.P.A. Considering the usual communist moralism and authoritarian leanings, it is not surprising that my friend and I were not still with the Peace marchers when they reached Canberra.
The story of the "disagreement" we had with the N.S.W. Peace Committee rests on a somewhat amusing chain of coincidence. When we joined the march at Goulburn, we appeared to be quite acceptable to the others. Although, because of our appearance, they regarded us as harmless oddities, they were obviously impressed by the fact that my companion, Martyn Whyndham-Read, had participated in all the Aldermaston Marches.
The first incident precipitating our rapid fall from favour took place when we were camped at night at Targo Lagoon, 17 miles from Goulburn. Martyn, who had a guitar, was asked to sing, but when in the course of the evening he sang "The Keeper of the Eddystone Light" and another song that used the word "virginity", the entertainment seemed less popular and a transistor radio was produced - folk songs being exchanged for interminable news broadcasts.
That night, however, we committed an "indiscretion" which caused raised eyebrows the next morning. Because of the cold night, our lack of blankets, and the fact that the sleeping space in front of the fire had been quickly occupied, we slept together fully clothed (complete with duffle coats etc) except for me having removed my boots to use as a pillow. The next morning it was painfully obvious that we were not particularly popular with the other marchers who, while we were in the small store buying band-aids for our numerous blisters, went on leaving us in the shop although they said they would wait. Eventually, having got within 100 yards of the march, we called out to them but received no reply, nor did they acknowledge our presence although we observed them looking around from time to time. We hitch-hiked on beyond the march and were grudgingly permitted to rejoin when they caught up with us.
The final insult on our part to decency and morality happened after lunch that day and earned us dismissal, yet again we were quite innocent of any misdemeanour (though what the hell if we were not innocent). Deciding the water of Lake George was too cold for swimming, we sunbaked on some rocks nearby, but not visible from the camp. Lying on the rocks, we saw one of the women walking into the bush. Unfortunately she saw our discarded outer clothing.
When we returned to the camp, one man (obviously elected to bell the cat) who seemed most concerned with our blisters and who assured us that it would be better for us to rest rather than continue marching, invited us to accompany him on a shopping expedition to Canberra. We then asked him if he would prefer us to go away altogether as we were obviously undesirables - the expression of relief on his face was a delight to see. They then drove us into Canberra with the driver apologising all the way. At the pub we met some soldiers who stood us drinks, staged a party, gave us a place to sleep and gave us a lift back to the highway.
This article originally appeared in the Libertarian journal Broadsheet in 1962.