ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

April 2014



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



The myth that is ANZAC Day

Ruling classes around the world have their national myths. These attempt to tie working people to the capitalist class through the false idea of nationhood – a recent historical development.

The Australian version of this national myth is ANZAC Day. It is supposedly the day Australia became a nation. It celebrates the defeat of Australia’s invading troops at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915.

It is important to understand the historical context around the establishment of this day. The first ANZAC Day was held in 1916. The war to end all wars was bogged down in bloody slaughter. In Australia support for the imperialist adventure was split.

Many workers remembered the bitter class battles of the 1890s and the depression that drove large numbers into poverty.

Workers had ignored Federation, despite the cheer squads of Australian capitalism attempting to use that event to glue workers to the system and the exploitation that arises from it. For many workers class was the most important determinant of loyalty.

The war further exacerbated class divisions.

Many rejected outright participation in the battle between two competing imperialisms. Others, influenced by the Labor Party, supported it but opposed conscription.

The class still had a memory of internationalism, and the impending outbreak of revolutions across Europe (including the German revolution, which ended Germany’s war) would only further reinforce this sense of class solidarity across borders and against the common enemy – capital.


Here in Australia the divisions were highlighted by the rapid growth of the Industrial Workers of the World, a revolutionary group committed to a democratic society without bosses. Indeed the “Wobblies” were such a threat that the police and security forces framed leading members for arson, and the state made being a member illegal, closed down their press and finally outlawed the organisation itself.

Conscription was the issue that saw class divisions come out most starkly in Australia. Working people and their parties opposed conscription, and defeated both referendums on the issue. The ALP split, with the forces around Billy Hughes going over to join the Conservatives and form a Government.

In 1917 there was a general strike in New South Wales. Overseas the Tsar’s regime in Russia collapsed after a five-day strike begun by women workers on International Working Women’s Day.

The first ANZAC Day in 1916 was an attempt to divert anger away from the capitalist class to those who were “disloyal”. It was also an important part of the pro-conscription propaganda.

An immediate concern the ruling class had was that disaffected soldiers – and there were many, having witnessed the reality of war – would link up with the radical sections of society. ANZAC Day deliberately offered them an alternative, an alternative that celebrated their role and remembered those who died rather than questioning why war occurred and why workers died for profits.

In fact, class polarisation (which reached its apogee in 1917 in Russia with the working class taking power on 7 November) continued in Australia and elsewhere for a number of years after 1916 and 1917. This saw ANZAC Day almost disappear in the early 1920s.

It revived after that as the revolutionary tide ebbed (exemplified by the rise of Stalin in Russia and Stalinism elsewhere). The forerunner of the RSL rebuilt itself by setting up clubs and pubs and helping returned servicemen and women (especially during the Depression).

World War II saw the idea of Australia, as a nation, “arrive” (and also boosted the popularity of ANZAC Day).

The sense of class and internationalism lost its way under Stalinism. In Australia the Communist Party wrapped itself in the flag of patriotism to fight the fascists. In fact World War II was among other things a repeat of World War I – the clash of two blocs of imperialism.

The Australian ruling class has always had an imperialist “protector”. This used to be Britain and is now the US. As part of the ruling class’s desire to be the major imperialist power in the region, they have attached themselves and us to a powerful ally which will enable them to carry out that role and to ‘protect’ the Australian ruling class from invaders who don’t.

To do that the ruling class here must pay its dues, its insurance policy. That is why Australia have a long history of following ‘our’ ally into imperialist adventures around the world.

From Sudan in 1885 to Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003 we have participated in a large number of foreign wars to help keep the UK and the US on side with our own expansionist project.

Iraq and Afghanistan were about showing to the US the Australian ruling class’s commitment to the alliance and to allow its own role in the region – East Timor, the Solomon islands, PNG for example – to continue.

The disguised defeat that is Afghanistan sees all the troops except a few advisers on the way out of the country. For what? What did the 39 dead Australians die for?

Gallipoli itself is an example of Australia’s ongoing imperialist view of the world. We were part of a force that invaded a country that we had no quarrel with and which did not threaten us.

ANZAC Day also performs another function.

War is an integral part of capitalism and imperialism. Most people’s initial reaction is to recoil from war and all the horror it brings. ANZAC Day downplays that horror and makes war acceptable.

It is propaganda to allow the ruling class to call on the next generation of workers to join the war effort if needed.

And it may divert people’s attention away from immediate economic concerns – I may be losing my house or job but at least we diggers are good fighters and I am so proud my son or daughter was in Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or East Timor. Or the Solomon Islands.

As Tony Abbott spends $12 billion on fighter jets and cuts pensions, disability pensions, legal aid, scientific research, public service jobs, wages, spending on social services and attacks unions, remember this. We are not all in this together. ANZAC Day is cover for these attacks on poor and workers. It celebrates imperialist wars to prepare us for future wars and to justify our ruling class’s imperialist expansion in the region.



Pingback from The myth that is ANZAC Day | OzHouse
Time April 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

[…] Apr 23 2014 by admin […]

Comment from Lorikeet
Time April 24, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Love the cartoon.

Comment from John
Time April 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Yes, Lorikeet, it is a Wobblies one. From memory Tom Barker, the editor, was jailed for it, even though he argued it was encouraging enlistment.

From the ANZAC Myth:

TO ARMS – Capitalists, Parsons, Politicians, Landlords, Newspaper Editors
and other Stay-At-Home Patriots – YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU IN THE

The poster caused consternation among the God, King and Country brigade
as soon they were put up by the I.W.W. they were torn down by police who
surely had better things to do. Concerned about the casualties from the failed
Gallipoli campaign and the beginning of public disillusionment with what was
increasingly being seen as a trade war between Imperialist powers, the NSW
Parliament found Tom Barker’s poster – “a more serious matter than Germans
in our midst”. Discontent over pegged wages, rising prices, unemployment and
war profiteering was having a direct affect on Australians initial unequivocal
support for WWI.

Tom Barker the editor of ‘Direct Action’ was arrested on the 3rd of September
1915 and charged under the NSW War Precautions Regulations Act with
publishing a poster prejudicial to recruiting. He was held in jail for a week,
bailed and eventually fined 50 pounds or 6 months imprisonment for producing
the poster. He was also ordered to enter into a bond of 200 pounds (a
significant sum in 1915) – “to observe the regulations of the War Precautions
Act during the currency of the war which Great Britain is at present engaged –
in default another 6 months”.

Barker concerned he wouldn’t be able to agitate against the war from inside
prison – appealed. His Counsel restated the case he made to the Magistrate
that Barker had been tried under State regulations in an area covered by
Commonwealth Law. The Judge, unlike the Magistrate, agreed with the
Counsel’s submission and squashed the conviction. Embolden by increasing
dissatisfaction among Australians with the consequences of WWI, a rapidly
increasing membership base and their legal victory, the I.W.W. paper ‘Direct
Action’ became a weekly.

Comment from Ross
Time April 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Anzac Day is also a clever psychological ploy to prepare young people for war.

The elites have created a lot of despair with their GFC and many young men feel impotent and disaffected. So what better way to feed upon desperation and impotence is the rattle the sabres of war and our young people can vent their frustration lying prostrate on their battlefields of imperialistic greed.

Why are the masses so stupid ?

Comment from Lorikeet
Time April 28, 2014 at 11:33 am

I would like our young people to be taught that the pen is mightier than the sword and that governments should negotiate with each other, rather than sending young people to war as sheep to the slaughter. Then if national leaders still want to fight it out, they can do their own individual duelling and take a bullet or bayonet themselves.

At the same time, I think we need a strong defence capacity to act as a deterrent factor. Without this, we are vulnerable to attacks from other nations who do not care to negotiate using a pen.

Write a comment