Labour History

Labor and the Anzac Legend, 1915–45

Labour History (2014), 106, (1), 163–188.


This article reconsiders the Australian Labor Party’s relationship with the so-called “Anzac Legend.” Examining the period between the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings and World War II’s conclusion, it argues that ALP and mainstream union attitudes towards Anzac are more nuanced than historians have typically allowed. According to received historiographical wisdom, the conservative “hijack” of Australian nationalism during the latter stages of the Great War, in addition to the vicious Labor schism over conscription, meant that Labor found itself alienated from the “imperialist” legend for most of the inter-war period. Not until John Curtin heroically led the country through World War II, so the story goes, could Laborites identify with Anzac-style patriotism. Through a close reading of the speeches and writings of Labor politicians and publicists, I will stress Labor’s more complex relationship with Anzac, in turn problematising the simplistic “hijack” thesis.

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Author details

Dyrenfurth, Nick