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Eric John Aarons (1919–2019)

by Alan Gregory

Eric Aarons was only at Melbourne High School from 1933-1934 coming from Middle Park Central. Whilst in Fourth Form, his father lead a delegation of workers to the Soviet Union and later fought in the Spanish Civil War. He moved to Sydney and he went to Sydney Boys’ High School from 1935 and then the University of Sydney where he completed a BSc in 1942.

He was the member of four generations of the Aarons family who were active in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). He had joined the Young Communist League in 1938, was active in the Communist party branch at Sydney University, was secretary of the University Labor Club. He worked in his Father’s boot shop, then graduated with first class honours and worked for Timbrol Chemical plant where he tried to radicalise the plant workers. Influenced by Trotsky’s theories he was long engaged in anti-war and peace campaigns and participated in the 1949 miners strike.

He worked in research at the Sydney Technological Museum then joined Taubman’s paints. He was Secretary of the CPA’s South Coast District in NSW and in 1951 at the invitation of the Chinese Government he led a delegation to China to study Chinese communism and he remained in China for three years. On his return this had changed his thinking on Communism which brought him into conflict with older CPA members in Australia. He taught in CPA education groups and was active in the Newcastle area of the party and became a prolific writer. Khrushchev’s denunciation if Stalin and the invasion of Hungary became anti-authoritarian in their view of communism. There was a rift in the party with Ted Hill (son of James Hill MHS Principal 1934-1949) leading a pro Chinese group and Aarons supporting the non Stalinist approach (Eric’s father Sam is captured by ASIO as saying “Hill is a madman”). In 1963 he became part of the CPA Secretariat in Sydney and from then on played a key role in their activities, travelling overseas, representing the CPA and editing the party publications. He became General Secretary 1965-1982.

Aarons helped develop a new Australian approach to Communism which caused a breach with Russia and there were also bitter divisions in Australia. The several disputes and complicated splits meant the collapse of the CPA which wound up in 1991.

Aaron’s retired to rural NSW where he read extensively and published several significant books on Marxist and non Marxist theory where he modified his views. He was also a successful artist and his sculpture was well regarded. He died aged 99.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Alan Gregory, 'Aarons, Eric John (1919–2019)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 July 2024.

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