Person - Jack Blake

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JOHN DAVID BLAKE (1909 – 2000)

A staunch Stalinist, Jack Blake was said to have been a WAC/NTL drama producer and a heavy drinker. He sued Kylie Tennant for libel over her depiction of him as “Charteris” in her largely autobiographical novel Ride On, Stranger, although she treated most communists sympathetically. (Tribune 9 March 1944 described Tennant’s book as “irresponsible nonsense … cynical and slanderous” with its jibes against the NTL and organisations such as the League Against War and Fascism.) A writ by Blake and others in 1949 against ex communist Cecil Sharpley who denounced CPA tactics in newspaper articles was struck out.

Born Alfred Airey in Newcastle-on-Tyne on 25 May 1909, Blake changed his name by deed poll at the time of his marriage in 1934 to Audrey Elsie Boyd (see Audrey Blake ). After migrating to Australia in 1922, he was a Lithgow coal miner, joined the CPA in 1925, and from ca 1930-3 studied at the Lenin School, Moscow. He stood as a coal miner Communist candidate for the federal seat of Maribyrnong in 1934, gaining 4.2% of the vote. In 1943 as an Independent Communist soldier candidate for Port Melbourne he got 38.8%, the biggest Communist vote ever in Victoria.

As Victorian Secretary of the CPA, Blake in 1948 visited Sydney and became the national CPA leader. In 1949 he was transferred to Sydney where his office was in Marx House, the old "Green Coupon" building at 695 George Street. Blake’s CPA responsibilities were arts, the peace movement, youth, and Party education. A practised orator who spoke better than he wrote, he was described as aloof, lanky, slightly stooped with a neat moustache.

Bernie Taft first met Blake in Melbourne during the war. He said Blake was tall, handsome, impressive, a fiery orator and combative. Taft recalled Blake launching into a bitter and vitriolic attack on two women CPA members whom Taft defended, saying they were only doing their best.

At the 1949 Royal Commission on Communism, Tom McGillick stated that in Moscow in 1938 he had delivered Blake an envelope containing a plan for an ocean anti-mine device given him by J B Miles in Australia.

Blake died on 1 October 2000. An obituary appeared in the Australian 11 December 2000 p. 14.

There is other material on Jack Blake inSearch News vol. 8 no. 1 May 2000 pp 4, 6.

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