The active chorus : the mass strike of 1917 in eastern Australia

Bollard, Robert (2007) The active chorus : the mass strike of 1917 in eastern Australia. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis is a study of the Great Strike of 1917, arguably the biggest class conflict in Australian history. For over two months up to 100,000 workers confronted an enraged and belligerent combination of conservative state and federal governments, employers, the establishment press and a middle class which was organised against them on an unprecedented scale. The thesis assesses the strike from a ‘history from below’ perspective. In doing so, it challenges the existing historiographic consensus that the strike was doomed to defeat and that the consequences of that defeat were wholly negative. It argues that the leadership of the strike was primarily responsible for defeat and that the failure of leadership was a product of a conservatism inherent in the trade union bureaucracy. This conservatism was, moreover, underlined by the prevailing faith, predominant within official circles of the Australian labour movement at this time, in arbitration as an alternative to industrial confrontation. It analyses the connection between the defeat in 1917 and the revival of the movement in 1919, concluding that anger at the betrayal of the 1917 strike by its official leadership played a significant role in shifting the movement to the left, motivating key sectors of the working class to seek revenge in 1919.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Historical > RFCD Classification > 430000 History and Archaeology
Historical > RFCD Classification > 370000 Studies in Human Society
Keywords mass, great, strike, 1917, Australia, history
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