E.F. (Ted) Hill
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Born Edward Fowler Hill at Mildura, he lived most of his life in Melbourne where he assumed positions of leadership in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).
Hill was raised within a petty-bourgeois class environment, his father being a teacher in rural Victoria. As a young teenager he saw the ugly impact of the Depression on working class and poor farmer families, and began to question the cause of it all. While still at school he developed a strong interest in social problems. He attended Essendon High School from 1928-1931 and studied the Articled Clerk’s course at Melbourne University from 1933-1937.
Hill was regarded as an outstanding student. In 1933 he was awarded the Harry Emmerton Scholarship in Constitutional Law and Legal History; in 1934 he gained First Class Honours and the Exhibition in Contract; in 1936 he was awarded the Bowen Prize for English Essay and in 1937 the Supreme Court Prize.
In 1935 Hill had an article on the Crimes Act published in the Oct-Dec issue of Proletariat, organ of the Melbourne University Labour Club. The Commonwealth Government was intending to declare both the Communist Party and the Friends of the Soviet Union unlawful under the Act. Citing the success of mass action by the people in freeing imprisoned Czech anti-fascist Egon Kisch, Hill declared that “mass action will secure the repeal of this measure”. It was an early statement of his refusal to rely on legal and parliamentary measures to fight reactionary attacks on the people. In 1933-4 he was an active member of the Clerks Union and by 1936 was a member of the CPA.
Hill did his articles on a part-time basis with law firm Slater and Gordon and was admitted to the bar in September 1938. In 1939 he resigned from the Party to contest the Victorian seat of Essendon for the Australian Labor Party (ALP). That experience convinced him that the ALP had no answer to the problems of capitalist society, and three months later he re-joined the CPA.
In 1938 he joined Jack Lazarus, another Communist lawyer, and together they were retained to do the legal work of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Workers Union.
In September 1939 Hill was asked by Hugh Gordon to re-join Slater and Gordon as a partner to because Gordon had decided to enlist. Gordon was subsequently killed in action.
A Victoria Police Special Branch report compiled by Detective Constable Coady on June 28, 1940 reported that Hill “is personally popular in the profession and regarded as a capable solicitor.”
Communist publications were subject to censorship from September 1939. This affected Hill as a developing writer of Party material against appeasement, the “phoney war” period and for people’s rights, and Hill was active in the fight against the Party’s illegality which was declared by Prime Minister Menzies in April 1940. Illegality was maintained even after Menzies’ defeat by the ALP and Curtin until March 1943, providing Hill and other Communists with rich experience in carrying out Party work under oppressive conditions.
In 1944 and for four years after that, Hill lectured on a variety of topics for the education of Party members at Marx School in Melbourne. He wrote Dunstan Against The People to challenge the Country Party Premier of Victoria, Albert Dunstan.
In 1945 he became a member of the Victorian State Committee of the CPA and in the same year published What Is The Liberal Party? following Menzies’ creation of the Liberal Party as a replacement for the United Australia Party.
In May 1948, Hill left Slater and Gordon to concentrate on his own workers’ compensation practice with Communist solicitor Cedric Ralph.
By 1949 Hill had been elected Victorian State Secretary of the CPA. He was made to appear before the Royal Commission into the CPA set up following the allegations against the Party made by renegade Cecil Sharpley. When the Party’s national leader Lance Sharkey was jailed for stating that Australian workers would welcome Soviet troops entering Australia in pursuit of aggressors, and that they should meet fascist force with their own force, Hill played a leading role in the fight for his release.
1950-51 saw a resurgence of reactionary initiatives introduced by the new Menzies government. There was a renewed attempt to ban the Communist Party. Hill wrote several influential booklets exposing the wider aims of the attempt, namely, to destroy the unions as defensive organisations of the working class. Courageous campaigns launched by the Party were ultimately successful in defeating the ban.
Despite a growing interest by the Victorian police and ASIO in gathering “dirt” on Hill and his wife, Joyce, a 1952 ASIO report on Hill concluded that “Nobody is turned away who might wish to see him and it is known that he gives much legal advice gratis to ordinary workers, whether Party members or not”.
The next big public challenge was the Petrov Affair. Once again a Royal Commission was established for the purpose of launching a witch-hunt against Communists and other progressive Australians. Hill and Cedric Ralph worked with Labor leader H.V. Evatt to fight back this latest attack.
As if these challenges were not big enough, the next setback came from the Soviet Union itself. Stalin died in 1953. At the Soviet Party’s 20th Congress in 1956, Khrushchev launched an unprecedented attack on everything Stalin and the Soviet Union had stood for. Confusion reigned within the ranks of Australian Communists.
Hill shared in that confusion. Even after the CPSU’s 21st Congress, where further attacks on Stalin were made, he was inclined to look for positives in the Soviet Party’s position.
By the early 1960s, however, the behaviour of the Soviet leadership and the crystallisation of a revisionist tendency into all-out repudiation of Marxism-Leninism, had led to a split in the international communist movement. In Australia, divisions deepened around questions of local significance including correct methods of work in trade unions, appropriate forms of organisation for a revolutionary party, and the line to be taken towards contesting parliamentary representation.
Comrade Hill emerged as a consistent champion of Marxism-Leninism. He fought for a principled Marxist-Leninist line within the Central Committee of the CPA, until he and his supporters were forced out and removed from the Victorian State Committee.
The following year, on March 15, 1964, Hill founded the CPA (M-L) in order to reconstitute a revolutionary proletarian party in Australia.
The new collective leadership included Comrades Paddy Malone, Clarrie O’Shea, Ted Bull and Norm Gallagher – all outstanding working class representatives.
The new party broke with revisionism ideologically, politically and organisationally (see the Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in this website’s Downloads section).
Comrade Hill took the lead within the reconstituted Party to develop Marxist-Leninist ideology based on Australian conditions. He continually urged the study of the Marxist classics so as to elevate the ideological level of the members of the new party, and took the lead in applying that ideological perspective to Australian reality.
Among his great contributions were Looking Backward: Looking Forward, first published in 1965 which clarified a number of important problems relating to trade unions and trade unionism; Australia’s Revolution: On The Struggle For A Marxist-Leninist Party (1973); Imperialism in Australia – The Menace of Soviet Social-Imperialism (1975); The Labor Party? Dr Evatt – The Petrov Affair – The Whitlam Government (1975); The Great Cause of Australian Independence (1977); and Communism and Australia: Reflections and Reminiscences (1989). These major writings were complemented by his prolific articles (often unattributed) in the Party publications Vanguard and Australian Communist.
In addition to his Party work, Hill continued as a barrister to defend the interests of injured workers and was regarded as the pre-eminent advocate on workers compensation matters. He assisted Clyde Cameron, then Labor’s spokesperson on Industrial Relations in the lead up to the 1972 Federal election, to draft a Bill for a new and greatly improved Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, and did so free of charge.
Under Hill’s leadership, the best elements in the working class and amongst the youth joined the CPA (M-L). A body of creative, active and ideologically sound revolutionary communists were nurtured and the Party’s influence spread out of all proportion to its relatively small numerical size.
In 1986, Comrade Hill stood down from his position as Chairperson owing to ill-health, and the Party elected Comrade Neil McLean to that position.
Comrade Hill died on February 1, 1988.
Former Labor Party Minister Clyde Cameron spoke for all who had known, worked with or been influenced by Hill when he said that “neither profit nor power could buy the great Ted Hill”.
The CPA (M-L) will always honour Comrade Hill as the man whose legacy sustains our revolutionary ideology and practice and as Australia’s most outstanding Communist.
Links to some works by E.F. Hill:
Speech of E.F. Hill to the Central Committee, Communist Party of Australia, February 1962
Letter of E.F. Hill to R. Dixon 9 May 1963
E.F. Hill, Looking Backward: Looking Forward (2nd ed. May 1968)
E.F. Hill, Australia’s Revolution: On the Struggle for a Marxist-Leninist Party (August 1973)
E.F. Hill, Imperialism in Australia: The Menace of Soviet Social-Imperialism (April 1975)
E.F. Hill, The Great Cause of Australian Independence (Nov 1977)
E.F. Hill, Communism in Australia: Reflections and Reminiscences (1989)
E.F. Hill, Miscellaneous publications
Independence from Imperialism
People's Rights & Liberties
Community and Environment
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