Fighting Back

Charlie Fox
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Fighting Back

Subjects

History

Published

3 June 2016

ISBN

9780522865301

Ebook File Size

4.1MB

Subjects

History

Imprint

Melbourne University Press

Fighting Back

Charlie Fox
Unemployed workers in Australia during the Great Depression were active, organised and remarkably successful in their aims.
Work for the Dole is not a new idea. It was introduced in Victoria in 1932 and became one of the battlegrounds of unemployed politics. The provision and administration of sustenance, relief work, eviction of tenants from their homes, the issue of free speech—these were the major issues confronting unemployed workers and their families and organisations, and they fought successive governments over each one.
Written in a pleasingly clear and accessible style, this absorbing work shows how complex unemployed politics was, and situates it in the long history of agitation by unemployed workers.
It takes issue with the prevailing historical orthodoxy that unemployed workers in Australia during the Great Depression were introspective, politically apathetic and concerned only with survival. It shows that, to the contrary, they were active, organised and remarkably successful in their aims. It also shows that government unemployment relief was as much a product of this agitation…
Work for the Dole is not a new idea. It was introduced in Victoria in 1932 and became one of the battlegrounds of unemployed politics. The provision and administration of sustenance, relief work, eviction of tenants from their homes, the issue of free speech—these were the major issues confronting unemployed workers and their families and organisations, and they fought successive governments over each one.
Written in a pleasingly clear and accessible style, this absorbing work shows how complex unemployed politics was, and situates it in the long history of agitation by unemployed workers.
It takes issue with the prevailing historical orthodoxy that unemployed workers in Australia during the Great Depression were introspective, politically apathetic and concerned only with survival. It shows that, to the contrary, they were active, organised and remarkably successful in their aims. It also shows that government unemployment relief was as much a product of this agitation as it was of government policies and preferences.
Yet the movement was always pulled in other direction; by the hunger and poverty of its members, by their need simply to survive, by the disengagement that accompanies individual powerlessness and by resignation in the face of such an incomprehensible disaster. That a creative, often extensive and vigorous unemployed movement could exist in such circumstances, in a decade of the worst poverty Australia has known, is surely a tribute to the courage and resistance of the men and women who made unemployed politics.
Fox's book takes a complex look at the actual politics of the unemployed in the Great Depression, a subject which, for various reasons. Hence it represents a substantial revision of the existing historiography.

Charlie Fox

Dr Charles Fox has been teaching in the History Department of the University of Western Australia since 1989, having studied and taught for several years in the History Department at the University of Melbourne. His previous books include Australians at Work (1989) with Marilyn Lake; Working Australia (1991) (winner of the 1992 Keith Hancock History Prize); Historical Refractions (1994); and Under Blue Skies (1996).

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