Person - J B Miles

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JOHN BRAMWELL MILES (1888 - 1969)

Described by ASIO as the "Grand Old Man of Australian Communism", J B Miles was a founding member of the CPA and its General Secretary 1931-48. On 5 September 1938 at Transport House the NTL staged The Home of the Brave for his 50th birthday. With other CPA officials Bert Chandler and fellow hardliner Jack Blake he was regularly sent NT opening night tickets. Deaf (but reputed to be an excellent lip reader), “the old man” used a hearing aid and had a deliberate way of speaking. At NT revues Miles sat unsmiling, a lean brittle figure, in the middle of the front row, cupping his ear as performers went through numbers like “I shimmied my way through the Iron Curtain right into Stalin’s arms”. Although deeply read in Marxist literature, his preferred entertainment was Popeye and the light fiction of Edgar Wallace.

J B Miles was witness to Soviet-style "Red" weddings such as that of John Hepworth to Oriel Gray's sister Grayce Maxwell. In such “companionable marriages" Comrades crossed hands over the hammer and sickle flag and pledged sexual equality and duty to the Communist Party.

A Scottish stonemason, Jack Miles was an ordinary worker in an old-fashioned trade when he migrated to Queensland in 1913 with his wife Elizabeth Jane née Black. He was recruited to the Queensland Socialist League before becoming prominent in the CPA. In 1931 he was brought to Sydney where he was crowned CPA boss by the Comintern (although its initial preference was Lance Sharkey who succeeded Miles as CPA Secretary 1948-65). Miles was in Russia 1934-5.

J B Miles died on 17 May 1969, survived by a daughter and four sons, one of whom wanted to be an acrobat. Like other CPA men Miles was said to be feudal with his own family. He and his wife enjoyed a beer but she bore the brunt of things. He had a long affair with Jean Devanny.

John Bramwell Miles has Wikipedia and Australian Dictionary of Biography entries.


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