A legend with class

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  • Published 20150505
  • ISBN: 9781922182807
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

FOR THE AUSTRALIAN labour movement, Anzac has been more like a first cousin than a close sibling. There is no missing the family connection: the first Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was an overwhelmingly working-class army, with an ethos instantly recognisable as such.[i] Its members valued social egalitarianism while accepting the substance of inequality – just like most of the Australian working class in civilian life, who well understood the difference between a boss and a worker. It nurtured a powerful sense of entitlement – reflecting the idea of a living wage, which had begun to make its mark by the time war broke out, as Justice Higgins’ Harvester Judgement of 1907 found wider acceptance. And, just as in civilian life, members of the AIF were sometimes prepared to withdraw their labour when they believed their rights were being disregarded, or their dignity insulted.[ii]

Like the working class of Australia’s cities and towns, the AIF contained its fair share of crooks, crims and ne’er-do-wells, but alongside them were the steady and the respectable – men who saw the demands that war made on them as a test of their moral character.[iii]

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