Abstracts – Labour History No. 89

Writing About the Extreme Right in Australia
Andrew Moore

Compared to the rich historiography documenting left-wing and social democratic politics in Australia, the literature about the extreme Right is fragmentary. The following article surveys historical writing about the Australian extreme Right, offers a definition of that term and examines why left-wing politics have proved more attractive to Australian labour historians. It also introduces a thematic of six articles – essays in anti-labour history – that describe the role of individuals and organisations from an unfamiliar narrative about Australia’s past. While they proceed from a variety of perspectives, all are united around the need to seek out historical precedent and context. The purpose of studying the history of the Australian Right is ‘to know the enemy’.

The Australian Right, the American Right and the Threat of the Left, 1917-35
Nick Fischer

Historians can learn much about the anxieties, beliefs and activities of early Australian anti-communists and the political Right more generally by situating them in a comparative context. This reveals common motives and activities by conservative and reactionary political elements throughout the Western world. Further, comparing the situation of the Australian political Right between 1917 and 1935 with that of its counterpart in the United States provides significant insights into the centrality of historical context and its role in determining why and how events unfold and political movements develop as they do. We can thus see how and why the political and social power of labour, Australia’s inherited system of government and other peculiar local conditions made Australia’s founding anti-communists and the radical right an only partially effective lobby.

Arthur Nelson Field : Kiwi Theoretician of the Australian Radical Right?
Marinus La Rooij

During the 1930s, Arthur Nelson Field was New Zealand’s most prominent author of right-wing conspiracy theories. Field’s influence spread to Australia where his books, periodicals and private letters were important sources of information and affirmation for a host of individuals and groupings on Australia’s far right political fringe. In Australia, Field’s writings were valued as textbooks by a variety of groups and individuals from the extreme nationalists of the Guild of the Watchmen of Australia to the Sydney-based League of Truth, the Catholic Truth Society, the Melbourne-based British-Australian Racial Body, the Evangelical Publishing Agency of New South Wales and, most importantly, Australia’s Douglas Social Credit movement. Many Social Credit activists and authors made significant use of Field’s writings. The most notable of these was a young Eric Dudley Butler, later leader of the Australian League of Rights. This article draws on a variety of sources to throw new light on the hitherto largely unexplored internal life of Australia’s radical right during the 1930s and its trans-Tasman connections.

The New Guard and the Labour Movement, 1931-35
Andrew Moore

While largely confined to NSW and indeed to the city of Sydney, the New Guard was Australia’s most successful manifestation of inter-war fascism. Even though the New Guard has received its fair share of historical investigation, this article sheds new light on both the movement’s social profile and the reasons for its ultimate decline by the mid-1930s. First, the article examines whether Eric Campbell successfully attracted a working-class following to the New Guard. This directly affected the movement’s fortunes in the street fights of 1931 and 1932. Second, after shedding fresh light on the Workers Defence Corps and other left-wing militias, the article interrogates anti-fascist memory of the Great Depression. In this respect the article revises the prevailing view that opposition from the labour movement contributed to the New Guard’s ultimate demise.

Frank Browne and the Neo-Nazis
Peter Henderson

The journalist Frank Browne was a pivotal character in Australia’s far-right scene after World War II. This article evaluates Browne’s part in starting Australia’s first post-war neo-Nazi group. It concludes that the initial success of his Australian Party convinced activists such as Arthur Smith that a far-right group was politically viable and this led to the formation of the first neo-Nazi group in Sydney in 1959. The article also looks at the careers of other prominent neo-Nazi activists around Australia during the early 1960s. It argues that Browne provided an organisational model rather than an ideology. In support of this contention, the article examines the development of similar groups in the United States and United Kingdom and their interactions with Australian groups.

Douglas Evelyn Darby, MP : Anti-Communist Internationalist in the Antipodes
Drew Cottle and Angela Keys

The conservative politician, Douglas Darby’s long service to the extreme Right in Australia spanned almost the entirety of the Cold War. Darby’s reputation as a powerful advocate of right-wing causes from strikebreaking to Captive Nations and the war in Vietnam was unsurpassed. Despite this advocacy, a study of Darby’s political career suggests that he remained largely isolated and powerless on the Right.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation : Extreme Right, Centre Party or Extreme Left?
Murray Goot

To what extent do writings about Pauline Hanson or One Nation construct her or her party as a phenomenon of the Right, the Centre or the Left? To what sorts of values – Left or Right – did her major speeches mostly appeal? And where did electors, both those who voted for One Nation and those who did not, place the party ideologically? This article shows how Hanson’s politics were frequently characterised as a politics of the Right, though what sort of Right – extreme Right, populist Right, plain Right, and so on – was a matter on which there was no agreement. It demonstrates that while her maiden speech in 1996 and the speech she gave to launch her party in 1997 focused on issues of race and ethnicity – Aborigines, migrants, and multiculturalism – in ways that have come to be associated with the Right, the speech she gave to launch her party’s 1998 federal election campaign focused on jobs, an issue more often associated with the Left. The study also uses survey evidence to show that while One Nation was less likely than the Liberal or National Party to be seen as a party of the Right, respondents were more likely to see One Nation as a party of the extreme Right. Yet more than any other party, including the Greens, One Nation was also seen as a party of the extreme left. The least commonly held view – except by One Nation respondents – was that One Nation was a party of the Centre.

Other Articles

Creating Labour’s Space: the Case of the Melbourne Trades Hall
Cathy Brigden

In the wake of the achievement of the eight-hour day in 1856 by building trades unionists in Victoria, attention shifted to the pursuit and construction of a Trades Hall. This claiming of space, the creation of labour’s space, is explored in this paper. Drawing on the work of geographers, in particular debates about space, this analysis aims to extend our understanding of the spatial dimensions of peak bodies by reassessing the historical significance of the Trades Hall building for the Victorian union movement. The paper begins by examining the impetus for the building, before exploring its significance in embedding the union movement into the colony’s built environment, while the final section explores the annual eight-hour day celebrations as another space-claiming strategy of colonial unionists.

How Secure Was That Public Service Job? Redundancy in the Queensland Public Service
Linda Colley

Public service employment has traditionally been perceived as secure and permanent. This security has been reduced in recent years, as economic pressures and broader public sector reforms have resulted in the redundancy of numerous public servants. While many consider this to be a revolutionary or novel trend, a review of the Queensland public service demonstrates that redundancies have long been a feature of public sector employment. The nature of redundancy appears to have changed over time, with earlier redundancies being largely related to economic circumstances, and those in more recent times being related less to economic cycles than to organisational decisions to restructure. The legislative provisions for redundancy have also changed and become more flexible and accessible. This combination of the change in the nature of redundancy, and the more accessible provisions, is not consistent with the traditional rationale for public service tenure as a protection against political dismissal.

Making Working-Class Heroes : Labor Cartoonists and the Australian Worker, 1903-16
Marian Quartly

The establishment of union-based papers in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Australia created a base for professional cartoonists whose sympathies (and mostly origins) were strongly working class, though their mode of employment placed them as intellectuals. The paper looks at cartoons published in Tocsin, Labor Call, and the Australian Worker, notably those of Claude Marquet. Marquet and his fellows created a populist representation of organised labour which shaped class imaginings of the ideal Australian worker as male, muscular, and white. The homoerotic aspect of these representations is read here as generating the desire which moves the images towards the mythic.

Workplace Football, Working-Class Culture and the Labour Movement in Victoria, 1910-20
Peter Burke

In exploring the role of workplace football in Victoria in the decade beginning 1910, this article focuses upon two – the Railways and Tramways. Examination of football in these workplaces reveals that the respective unions took what was originally an employer initiative and used it to support their industrial goals and to develop an identity of interests between workers and union. Workplace football became a vital part of working-class culture in the period before World War I. Despite being under effective union and worker control in these workplaces detractors in the labour movement remained suspicious of the role of workplace football. This stance reflected middle-class attitudes towards working-class sport as much as fears of the de-unionising effect of workplace sport.

Reading Ethnography as Labour History : the Example of the Iatmul, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Marcel van der Linden

The present essay explores how ethnography can contribute to the development of a truly global labour historiography. Since the 1910s, ethnographers have been carrying out fieldwork among the Iatmul, a small ethnos in Papua New Guinea. Up to about 40 years ago the indigenous people lived from fishing and agriculture, but then began to move into the cities, where they became wholly or partly proletarianised. The reports of British, American and Swiss ethnologists who have visited the Iatmul time and again in their original villages, and later in the urban squatter settlements, can be read diachronically as a kind of long-term study of gendered proletarianisation processes.