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Tripp, Edward Clavell (Ted) (1900–1979)

by Peter Beilharz

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Edward Clavell (Ted) Tripp (1900-1979), political organizer, was born on 25 September 1900 at Acton, London, son of Clavell John Francis Tripp (d.1908), a cigar merchant who was involved in the Liberal movement, and his wife Violet Mary, née Vinall. Ted was placed in a boarding-school and took the University of Cambridge junior entrance examinations, but his mother arranged an engineering apprenticeship for him. During World War I he worked in the locomotive shop of the Metropolitan Railways in London and was radicalized by the Russian Revolution in 1917. He later claimed that his desire to read Marx's Das Kapital was thwarted only by his inability to afford its purchase price.

About 1924 Tripp came to Western Australia, then moved to Townsville, Queensland, where he worked as a fitter in the government railways and joined the militant Australian Railways Union and the State branch of the Communist Party of Australia. He attended the 1927 party conference, and in May 1929 stood for the Legislative Assembly seat of Mundingburra as an Independent (Communist) candidate. Later that year, after visiting Britain and Germany, he travelled to Moscow, where under his party pseudonym 'Clayton' he was a student at the International Lenin School. His experience predisposed him to Trotskyism, although student sympathizers of Bukharin at the university were already disappearing and Trotsky was persona non grata. He was back in Australia by August 1930.

In January next year Tripp became the first C.P.A. candidate for the House of Representatives when he contested a by-election for the seat of Parkes, New South Wales; in December 1931 he stood for Darling. Appointed full-time national organizer of the Friends of the Soviet Union late in 1930, he lectured widely and set up successful branches in several States. In June 1932 he stood for the seat of King in the Legislative Assembly. He was, however, already out of favour with the party leadership and in July next year was removed from his F.O.S.U. post. In June 1934, described as 'a Right opportunist', he was expelled from the party. Next month he joined the Sydney Trotskyists—the Balmain branch of the Workers' Party of Australia.

Tripp's conversion to Trotskyism was at first strategic, but soon became more theoretical. Subjected to C.P.A. harassment while working at the ammunition factory, he became the Workers' Party secretary in 1935, edited the journal, the Militant, and spoke regularly in the Domain. In 1937, falling out with the local Trotskyist leadership, he led a rival group, the League for Revolutionary Democracy (Independent Communist League), and edited the journal Proletarian Review.

In 1938 Tripp moved to Melbourne, married Ruby May Bullock, a Queensland-born waitress, on 30 July at Erskine Presbyterian Church, Carlton, and ceased political organizing. He worked as a fitter at the Footscray munitions factory until 1965 and was a militant shop steward in the Federated Ironworkers' Association. In 1945 he was appointed tutor at the Victorian Labor College, teaching Marxism to trade unionists at the Trades Hall, and about 1956 succeeded May Brodney as the college's secretary, retaining the position until his death. A small man, large headed, retaining traces of an English accent, he possessed considerable gravity. In 1978, in a final gesture of solidarity with the Trotskyist movement, he joined the Socialist Workers' Party. Tripp died on 21 September 1979 at Footscray and was cremated. His wife and their daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Macintyre, The Reds (Syd, 1998)
  • H. Greenland, Red Hot (Syd, 1998)
  • Labor College Review (Melbourne), vol 10, no 10, Nov 1979, p 10, vol 10, no 11, Feb 1980, p 5
  • P. Beilharz, ‘Trotskyism in Australia--Notes from a Talk with Ted Tripp’, Labour History, no 62, May 1992, p 133
  • Workers Weekly (Sydney), 28 Nov 1930, p 4, 30 Jan 1931, p 6, 14 Aug 1931, p 2, 13 July 1932, p 4
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1932, p 11
  • Militant (Sydney), no 10, July 1934, pp 1 & 6, 10 Jan 1938, p 3
  • Direct Action, 26 Oct 1978, p 8, 30 Nov 1978, p 10
  • Australasian Spartacist, no 60, Dec 1978, p 2
  • interview with E. Tripp, 1961, N57/109 (Australian National University Archives)
  • A6119, item 3529 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Tripp collection (University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

Peter Beilharz, 'Tripp, Edward Clavell (Ted) (1900–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tripp-edward-clavell-ted-13223/text9249, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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