Throughout the twentieth century, rural Australia has been a bastion of conservatism. Consequently it has been difficult for labour activists or those of the Left to gain more than a foothold in rural centres. Activists and labour organisations were tolerated as long as they did not challenge the accepted norms of behaviour or the rural elites. This article looks at the attempts of union and Left activists to cement a working class ethos in Wagga Wagga, one of the largest inland cities in New South Wales, during the anti-communist frenzy of the 1940s and 1950s. It highlights the confrontations that took place in the labour movement, but also considers how the local community mobilised to defeat what they regarded as a threat to their way of life. In so doing, the article emphasises that the ‘chill winds of the Cold War blew most strenuously’ in rural Australia. It also points to a range of difficulties that confronted union activists in rural Australia generally.