Profile - Jack Kavanagh (1879-1964)
Socialist, trade unionist and political activist John (Jack) Patrick Marcus Kavanagh was born in Ireland. His family moved to Liverpool when he was young but both his parents died by the time he was 11. At 19 he enlisted in the King's Royal Rifle Corps and fought in the Boer War in South Africa.
In 1907 Jack migrated to Vancouver where he learnt the trade of tile laying. He quickly became involved with the Socialist Party of Canada and other trade and labour organisations. In 1921 he helped found the underground Communist Party of Canada and in 1922 he was elected to its National Executive.
Jack married twice and had two children, one with each of his wives, before meeting Edna Louise Hungerford (née Hay). The pair sailed for Australia in 1925, with his eldest daughter and Edna’s son, and appropriately arrived in Sydney on May Day. Jack wasted no time in pursuing his passion for activism and socialism and within months of his arrival, he was elected chairman of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) and became editor of the Workers' Weekly (1925-1929).
In 1928 he founded the Militant Minority Movement and was elected to the Labor Council of NSW, but he found it difficult to combine his roles with the Labor Council and the CPA. In 1929, the Stalinist Communist International ordered all links with the 'social fascists' in trade unions and national Labor parties be severed, a directive that Jack rejected. What followed was a turbulent period. He unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for Newtown in the 1930 and 1932 elections. In 1930 moves were made to expel him from the CPA, which he fought vigorously, but nevertheless was expelled in January 1931. He successfully campaigned to be readmitted but was again expelled in 1934 when he was accused of Trotskyism. He subsequently forged ties with Trotskyite groups and in 1935 helped to form an anti-war committee, remaining involved in left-wing activity during the Second World War.
Jack joined the Old Age & Invalid Pensioners' Association (OAIPA) of NSW in 1953 and campaigned passionately for pensioners’ rights. He edited the Pensioners’ Voice and was elected Sutherland Branch president of the OAIPA in 1954.
Jack Kavanagh died at his home in Sydney in 1964, survived by Edna, whom he had married in 1946, and his daughters.
Akers, D and Sampson, M 1996, John Patrick Marcus Kavanagh (1879-1964), Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 14, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kavanagh-john-patrick-marcus-10658>