Few periods of Australian history are as heavily mythologised as World War I. From school textbooks to Anzac Day ceremonies, we’re told that Australia was born as a nation on the shores of Gallipoli and that the country united as one behind our gallant diggers, who gave their lives to defend our freedom, our democracy, and our way of life.
Like most myths, however, this one has little basis in reality. Far from this image of patriotic unity and enthusiasm, World War I was a disaster: war-fueled inflation devastated working class living standards, tens of thousands of Australians were slaughtered in the trenches of Europe, and dissent was criminalised and thousands of opponents of the war were jailed. Meanwhile, the country was rocked by the largest wave of strikes in its history, anti-war activism exploded in the face of intense repression, and huge sections of the population moved rapidly to the left.
In this episode we talk with socialist, postal worker and historian Robert Bollard, author of In the shadow of Gallipoli: the hidden history of Australia in World War I. Robert chats about the terrible effect that the war had on most Australians, the wave of industrial disputes that broke out in spite of extraordinary political pressure against striking workers, anti-war activism and government repression, and the creation of the Anzac myth in postwar Australia.
You can get hold of Robert’s book, In the shadow of Gallipoli, here.