'The Bolshevik element must be stamped out' : returned soldiers and Queensland politics, 1918-1925




Popple, Jeff

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The First World War was not a unifying experience for Australian society. The demands and traumas produced by the war played on and exacerbated long existing tensions and divisions in Australian society. The descent from a facade of near unanimity of purpose at the beginning of the war to the open and bitter racial, religious and class confrontations at its end is now well documented. Marilyn Lake and Raymond Evans have provided accounts of the impact of the war upon the homefront in Tasmania and Queensland between 1914 and 1918, while L.L. Robson in his excellent study has charted the decline of unity by focussing on responses to one issue, enlistment.(2) Other historians have also provided sweeping accounts or narrow specialist studies which chronicle the degree of disunity and social conflict during the war years.(3) Heated industrial disputes, falling wages and rising prices and two emotive conscription referenda all helped to aggravate and extend the societal divisions caused by religious suspicions, racial persecution and class conflict over the inequality of wartime sacrifices. These divisions were deepened by two overseas events; Britain’s brutal suppression of the Irish Easter rebellion, and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. As a result of the trauma of war Australian society in 1918 was a cauldron of turmoil into which one more divisive ingredient was yet to be added, the returned soldier.






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