Eras Journal – Fischer, N. Abstract
Abstract of Fischer, N., “An Inspiration Misunderstood: Australian Anti-Communists and the Lure of the U.S., 1917-1935”.
“An Inspiration Misunderstood,” explores the influence American anti-communists exercised on their Australian counterparts following the Bolshevik revolution, and the political, legal and cultural factors which impeded the importation of the most extreme elements of American anti-communism into the antipodes. It then reflects on the muted success Australian anti-communists enjoyed attempting to adopt American political ideas and methods, and what this tells us about broader similarities and contrasts between American and Australian socio-political culture.
While the United States and the Australian government formulated their own legislative programs to crush political dissent during the Great War, the distinct influence of the United States on Australian anti-communism became apparent after the war when the Australian government began to rely on deportation procedures to fight the incursion of undesirable peoples and doctrines, habitually denounced as “Bolsheviks”. This influence soon spread to debates on race and race protection as eugenic ideas promoted by American writers left their mark on Australia. Of course, Australia had its own viable tradition of practical eugenicism in the White Australia Policy and some American politicians and businessmen believed they could learn valuable lessons in race protection from Australia; this was how a successful lecture tour of the United States, in 1924, by ex-Prime Minister Billy Hughes was marketed.
However, it was in the areas of security and domestic surveillance that the influence American anti-communists was perhaps most felt. Powerful patriotic societies like the American Protective League, which often worked as de factosub-contracting law enforcers for government, inspired prominent Australians to form their own anti-radical agencies. Similarly, other Australians became convinced that ongoing systematic anti-communist propaganda was essential for Australia’s protection and they strove to create official and public counter-propaganda agencies based on American models, notably the National Civic Federation.
Yet, two great gulfs separated Australian anti-communist fraternities from their American brethren: the abysses separating their real and perceived levels of empowerment. Compared with American anti-communists, Australian anti-communists had a modest record of achievement and an even more modest sense of power. In part, this was because they refused, unlike their American counterparts, to take full advantage of the range of services patriots could provide and deregulate law enforcement into a public-private partnership between the state and its most loyal supporters.