Labour History

Clarence Wilbur (Carl) Baker, 1888–1967

Labour History (2013), 105, (1), 211–220.


Carl Baker was one of the founding members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Appointed paid editor ofThe Communistin March 1921, he later became acting General Secretary of the CPA. However, his high standing was short lived. Accused of being “more concerned about a meal ticket than the movement” in 1922, he was expelled from the CPA in 1926 for allegedly stealing money from workers. Believed to be an American, little else was known about his life. Recent research for a biography of Christian Jollie Smith has uncovered further details.

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1.Marriage certificate, 1915, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria; Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, Ohio, Hardin County, Buck Township, Ancestry Library,; A6126/27/1143, Item 4025834, National Archives of Australia (NAA) ACT. However, his death certificate states that he was born in Kenton, Ohio, about 100 kilometres north of Dayton but whoever provided the information after his death may not have had complete or accurate information. Death Certificate, 1967, Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths, NSW;Gilbert C. Fite and Jim E. Reese, An Economic History of the United States, 3rd ed.(:Houghton Mifflin Co, 1973), 386, 391; Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Ohio, Hardin County, Buck Township, Ancestry Library, Google Scholar

2.A6126/27/1143, Item 4025834, NAA; Unassisted Immigration to Victoria, Index to Inward Passenger Lists, Fiche 324, Public Record Office, Victoria. His death certificate noted that he had been in Australia for 58 years which suggests 1909 as his year of arrival. However, there is no likely immigrant of the right age in the index for that year;Sands & McDougall’s Directory of Victoria for 1915(:Sands & McDougall, 1915), 1362. Baker is sometimes described as an optometrist, but in theDirectory of Victoria, on his1915marriage certificate and his AIF attestation papers he is described as an optician, that is, a spectacle maker. Google Scholar

3.Marriage certificate, 1915, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria. Baker, Clarence Wilbur — 5thPioneer Battalion AIF, Commonwealth Investigation Branch file A402/3/W294, Item 989731, NAA; information from the Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Google Scholar

4.Ross McMullin, Pompey Elliott(:Scribe Publications, 2008), 83;Ernest Scott, Australia During the War, Volume XI: The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918(:University of Queensland Press, 1989; first published1936);Les Carlyon, Gallipoli(:Macmillan, 2001), 182–84; A402/3/W294, Item 989731, NAA. Google Scholar

5.Peter Stanley, Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny, Murder and the Australian Imperial Force(:Murdoch Books Australia, 2010), 35. Google Scholar

6.This and the following personal information was obtained from Baker, Clarence Wilbur, AIF Personnel dossier, file B2455/1 Item 300932, NAA; A402/3/W294, Item 989731, NAA; Fifth Pioneer Battalion War Diaries, Australian War Memorial website,;Ross McMullin, Pompey Elliot, 191–92; Baker, Carl Wilbur, Australian Military Forces personnel dossier, B884/2002, Item 5692027, NAA. Google Scholar

7.Stanley, Bad Characters, 52. Google Scholar

8.Ashley Ekins, “Australians at Passchendaele”inPasschendaele in Perspective: The Third Battle of Ypres, ed.Peter H. Liddle(:Leo Cooper, 1997), 229. Stanley, Bad Characters, 74. Google Scholar

9.Stanley, Bad Characters, 109. Google Scholar

11.Les Carlyon, The Great War(:Pan Macmillan Australia, 2006), 644. Google Scholar

12.Ekins, “Australians at Passchendaele,” 245. Google Scholar

13.Stanley, Bad Characters, 170. Google Scholar

15.Minutes of Executive Meeting, 14 January and 16 February 1920, Victorian Socialist Party Papers, MS 564 Microform, National Library of Australia (NLA);Ian Turner, “Socialist Political Tactics, 1900–1920,” Labour History, no. 2 (May1962):20–23;Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from Origins to Illegality(:Allen & Unwin, 1998), 21;“Meeting: Bolshevism,” Argus, 26 October1920, 1. Google Scholar

17.Minutes of the Central Executive, 1 April 1921, CPA Papers, MSS 5021 Box 82 ML; CJS to Esmonde Higgins, 2 May 1922, Esmonde Higgins Papers, MSS 740, vol. 11, ff169–170, ML; CJS to WP Earsman, 8 July1921, Communism: Communist Activities in Australia, Department of External Affairs file A981 COM 10, Item 173734, NAA. Google Scholar

18.C. W. Baker, 28 August1922, Summaries on Communism and Communist Soviet Personalities, Commonwealth Investigation Service file A8911/154/1, Item 3301106, NAA;Heather Radi, “Christian Jollie-Smith,”in200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, ed.H. Radi(:Women’s Redress Press, 1988), 151; May Brodney comments on Earsman and Baker, A. T. and M. M. Brodney Papers, MS 10882, Box 10, Folder 32, State Library of Victoria. May Brodney (nee Francis) was the wife of A. T. (Bob) Brodney who was also involved in the meeting at which the Communist Party of Australia was formed; seeRaelene Francis, “Brodney, Maria May (1894–1973),”inAustralian Dictionary of Biography,National Centre of Biography, accessed October2013, Google Scholar

20.Minutes of the Conference of the Communist Party of Australia, 23 December1922, CPA Papers, MSS 5021 ADDON, Box 1 (microform reel CY3096) ML; Stuart Macintyre, The Reds, 90. Google Scholar

21.“The Unemployed,” Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 23 August1921, 7; “Revolution as Opposed to Evolution,” SMH, 1 April 1922, 7; “Street Speaking: Several Offenders Fined,” SMH, 14 August 1923, 6; “Street Speakers: Release Refused,”SMH, 20 August 1923, 10; “Communists: Plans in Europe,” SMH, 7 November 1923, 13; “Christianity,” SMH, 14 December 1923, 12. Google Scholar

23.Macintyre, The Reds, 94–95; “Divorce Court,”The Argus, 4 April1925, 31. Google Scholar

24.Workers’ Weekly, 16 July1926, 3; File Note dated 3 August1926, file A8911/154/2, Item 3301106, NAA; Macintyre, The Reds, 170–71; [Herbert] Moore [Harry Wicks] to Norman Jeffrey, 10 February1931, Communist Party, NSW: Discipline, Commonwealth Investigation Service file A6355/1/31, Item 273919, NAA. Google Scholar

26.Ibid. Google Scholar

27.Alistair Davidson, “The Making of a Communist: An Interview with Guido Baracchi,” Australian Left Review, no. 31 (September1971):67; A6126/27/1143, Item 4025834, NAA; Marriage certificate, NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Google Scholar

29.Death certificate, 1967, Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, NSW. Google Scholar

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Author details

Skinner, Carolyn