Monday 28 August 2023

From the Archives - The Petrov Affair - what was in Document J?

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Mulga Wire no. 44, August 1984, p.15.
Come along to John Meredith's workshop at the Bush Music Festival
and find out! In his workshop titled LOOKING BACK, John will
survey the results of 32 years - half a lifetime - of collecting,
and playing a selection of most intersesting items he has recorded.
For instance, What was in Document J? the answer lies in a song
written by one of the clubs earliest members, Joe Fernside.

Document J was a prominent item in the Petrov Affair. It was written by an Australian journalist, Rupert Lockwood who was a member of the Communist Party, & was one of the papers brought out of the embassy by Petrov when he defected in 1954. The day it was declared secret by the Royal Commission, the Communist party printed copies of what Lockwood said was his original document, not the fake referred to in the Royal Commission! John Meredith was one of the members who sold copies for a shilling. Document J was of great interest to the Commission & the public, including Communist Party members so Joe Fernside, a bean farmer in Terrigal who was a party member, wrote a song about it, & sent the words to John Meredith.  (paraphrased from Keith McKenry's biography of John Meredith, pp126-128)

Alex Hood & Chris Kempster were friends of Joe, & Alex attended the Petrov enquiry in the Court House in Taylor Square on the day of a large demo by wharfies. Evertt was cross-examining Petrov & asked him about payments to informers - Petrov said he paid using £25 notes! 
Alex laughed, & the police glared at him.  Alex was sitting next a huge wharfie who told him not to worry. He left in the middle of a crowd of wharfies & they walked past the waiting police. 
(Conversation with Alex, July 2021)

Wharfies demonstration at Taylor Square, reported in Tribune - Wed 19 Jan 1955, page 1 & page 10

National library Public List (36 items) Research Question: In what ways was the Petrov Affair used as propaganda by various interests in Australia from 1954 to 1956?

WHAT IS IN DOCUMENT J? by Joe Fernside(sic) 1954
(FEARNSIDE according to his daughter)

audio - Joe singing it in the John Meredith Collection, NLA Oral History collection

Oh, what is this Document J?
That's what we ask today.
There's no-one knowin', says Justice Owen,
What's in Document J?

Oh, there is a dirty big spy,
He's got a big Yankee eye.
He's a workers' snob, his name is Bob,
Would that be in Document J?

They're selling us out to the yanks,
The marbled millionaire cranks;
They control our oil, our uranium spoil,
Would that be in Document J?

They sympathize with the Japs.
They're saying they're very good chaps.
For war they'll train, they'll addle the brain
Would that be in Document J?

The poor are all born to be slaves,
They work them to their graves.
Let us unite, defend our right,
Would that be in Document J?

Oh, we love our own native land,
But we don't like the rich robbers' hand.
We will cleave to the poor, for evermore,
Would that be in Document J?


Typescript of an article entitled "What is in Document J", published in the Bulletin, ca. 1979 held in the National Library

comment by Sharon Fearnside, Joe's daughter 


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