december, 2019

02dec5:45 pm7:00 pmAn uncomfortable past: fascism and interwar AustraliaKeynote/public lecture by Associate Professor Andrew Moore (UWS)5:45 pm - 7:00 pm Flinders University Victoria Square (Level 1, Room 1)Audience:Researchers,Staff,Students

Event Details

Keynote for the Histories of Fascism and Anti-Fascism in Australasia symposium


In many respects the New Guard, Australia’s principal contribution to interwar fascism, is profoundly inconvenient. The preferred historical narrative of Australian history, the ‘relaxed and comfortable’ view, is to eschew the argument that Australia is a ‘quiet continent’ that successfully avoided extremism of the Left and Right. Based in Australia’s oldest and most populous city, Sydney, flamboyant and aggressive, with a militant leadership drawn strongly from the officer class of the First Australian Imperial Force and with perhaps as many as 60,000 members, the New Guard contradicts this sanguine view of the past. By December 1931 this paramilitary organisation had turned the streets of Sydney into a battlefield. By May 1932 its plans for staging a coup d’état to depose the democratically elected Lang government were well advanced.

This keynote address has three major points of focus. First it examines the events and influences that prepared the ground for the paramilitary groups of the interwar years.

Second, it examines the impress of the so-called history wars of the 2000s. According to Gerard Henderson, one of the major practitioners of the culture wars in Australia, leftist historians had misrepresented the New Guard. Henderson argued that it was not ‘the embodiment of fascist/Nazi evil’ but rather ‘one essentially Australian response to an essentially Australian situation’. Clearly groups like the New Guard and its parent organization, the Old Guard, have become part of an ‘uncomfortable past’.

Finally, this address explores the insights of the burgeoning subdiscipline of ‘fascist studies’ as practised by the likes of Roger Griffin and Philip Morgan to situate Australian interwar fascism in a comparative framework. How did Australia compare with Europe? To what extent did Australian interwar fascism embrace ‘a palingenetic form of populist ultra nationalism’?

Dr Andrew Moore is an adjunct associate professor at Western Sydney University where he taught Australian history for thirty years. He began his research on right-wing politics in Australia in the 1970s, completing a PhD at La Trobe on the interwar right in 1983. He is the author of six books, three on right-wing politics in Australia, The Secret Army and the Premier. Conservative Paramilitary Organisations in New South Wales 1930-32, (New South Wales University Press, 1989); The Right Road? A History of Right Wing Politics in Australia, (Oxford University Press, 1995) and Francis De Groot. Irish Fascist Australian Legend, (Federation Press, 2005), as well as over 100 scholarly articles. In 2005 he edited a special issue of Labour History on the extreme right in Australia. He continues to research the area with an ARC funded study of the rank and file of the New Guard and the Old Guard that hopes to shed fresh light on the social character of interwar fascism in Australia. He serves on the NSW Working Party of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and on the editorial boards of Labour History and Sporting Traditions.

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(Monday) 5:45 pm - 7:00 pm


Flinders University Victoria Square (Level 1, Room 1)

182 Victoria Square, Adelaide, South Australia


College of Humanities, Arts and Social | 8201 7900