Labour History

Labor, Loyalty and Peace: Two Anzac Controversies of the 1920s

Labour History (2014), 106, (1), 205–228.


Between the two world wars, the conservative parties dominated federal politics but Labor governments often ruled in the states. Since most key issues concerning Anzac commemoration occurred at state level, the result was that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) had little choice but to grapple with the emergent culture of Anzac commemoration. This article explores two case studies in the 1920s, one from Victoria and the other from Western Australia. In particular, decisions by state Labor governments to regulate teaching about the Great War in primary schools, which need to be seen as part of a wider effort by the labour movement in the 1920s to counter “jingoism,” led to howls of protest and, in the Victorian case, contributed to the fall of the government. This article examines these controversies as instances of the labour movement’s interwar engagement with the Anzac tradition. While the Labor Party contested militaristic nationalism, it also invested in Anzac commemoration and incurred significant political costs through its effort to substitute an alternative understanding of Anzac that would promote international peace and arbitration.

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Author details

Deery, Phillip

Bongiorno, Frank