Lloyd Churchward, who died in 1998, was actively involved with the labour movement in various capacities for six decades. During this time he was a political activist and organiser, a member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), a labour historian, and a scholar of Soviet politics. This article uses Churchward’s political and intellectual odyssey as a case study of the labour intellectual, understood as somebody who shaped the organisations and ideas of the labour movement. It looks at the role he played in various political organisations, and the interplay between that involvement and his professional development as a scholar of the labour movement and of Soviet politics. Intensive interviews with Churchward, together with his publications, are the principal sources for this article. On this basis, the article provides a profile of a labour intellectual whose professional and political life in the context of the Cold War was a meeting ground between the university and the alternative public institutions of the CPA.