Sunday, 23 November 2014

Robin Hyde's 'Nor the Years Condemn' and the ideology of Anzac Day

The following is the text of a speech I gave recently at the 'War Memorialisation and the Nation' conference at the University of Otago. It turned out to be far too long for the 30 minute time limit, and although I'm reasonably happy with it as it stands, there's a lot more work to be done. The concept of Anzac ideology is just a sketch, which requires a lot more further development. 

  1. Introduction and background

The inspiration and central theme of this presentation is a passage from Robin Hyde's 1938 novel Nor the Years Condemn, which describes an Anzac Day service in Auckland sometime in the mid 1930s. This passage, in which Hyde urges her readers to consider the question of whether memorial services such as Anzac Day actually cause war – rather than the other way around – struck me when I first read it as a singular and compelling insight into the ideological nature of memorial ceremonies such as Anzac Day. Further contemplation on this led me into a consideration of what is meant exactly by this word “ideological”. The result of this is something of an experiment: first, a close reading of a section of Hyde's novel; second, a theoretical conception of the notion of ideology taken from Althusser; third, a consideration of the resonances and continuities between the literary work on the one hand, and the theory on the other. (In the course of this I will also attempt to relate back to the present reality of 2014, and the upcoming centenary of Anzac Day in 2015 – I will comment on these connections as I proceed).

To begin I will briefly sketch out an introduction to Robin Hyde and why I think her two novels Passport to Hell (1936) and Nor the Years Condemn (1938) are significant and powerful engagements with the social and cultural legacy of world war one in New Zealand society.

Robin Hyde was born in 1906 with the birth name of Iris Wilkinson – she adopted the pen name 'Robin Hyde' as a sort of literary alter ego, and also as homage to her first born son (Robin) who died in infancy. She lived through the war years as an adolescent, and like many other New Zealanders of this time she embraced the patriotic fervour which surrounded the commitment to the first world war. In a semi-autobiographical novel (The Godwits Fly) Hyde represents herself as the character Eliza Hannay, who displays her fervent loyalty to the cause:

'Stand up, the girls with more than three spelling errors,' said a teacher to his class. 'This is your imposition. You are to write twenty times “I am a German”.'

The teacher was young and thought himself smart. Eliza Hannay, one of his pupils, stood.

'Please, Mr Gillan, we won't write that.'

'Won't you?' he said, sweeping his cane through the air.

'No, Mr Gillan, we'd sooner have the cane.'1

This fervent patriotism of the young Robin Hyde was seriously challenged and dramatically altered as she grew older, and as the impact of the war was absorbed by the country in the period between the first and second world wars. Hyde's engagement with the cultural and political reality of New Zealand in this period involves several important aspects: her work as a journalist, her friendship with other writers and politicians such as John A Lee, and her own work as both a poet and a novelist. The two books she wrote which most directly relate to world war one, Passport to Hell (1936) and Nor the Years Condemn (1938) form part of a very small group of books written by New Zealanders based upon first hand experience of the trenches. Hyde was fascinated by a legendary war veteran named Douglas Stark, a hard drinking, charismatic (in a rough around the edges kind of way) character who was in and out of prison; yet who had fought in Gallipoli and other major WW1 battles with great distinction. His acts of bravery would have earned him a medal, had he not also been sent to a military prison for punching a superior officer.

Passport to Hell is a sort of 'novelised biography' about Starkie's war experiences, based upon Hyde's interviews with Stark. It's a really hard hitting and powerful description of the reality of the trenches, and it also provides a really acute insight into the class politics between regular soldiers and officers within the trenches. At the same time Passport to Hell is actually a quite limited text: for the most part it is 'stuck in the trenches', and the subjective orientation around Douglas Stark is fascinating for its insights into what actually lies beneath a character full of masculine bravado and aggressive rebelliousness – but the broader picture is lacking, and it is this which is addressed in Nor the Years Condemn.

This is the more ambitious sequel. Hyde continues the story of Starkie and how he fares after returning from the war, but the book makes no claims to be anything but fiction. She broadens the scope by introducing a second main character, the nurse Bede Collins. This allows Hyde to explore themes relating to the impact of WW1 on New Zealand society from a feminine perspective. The content is quite varied and does not relate exclusively to WW1; Hyde describes the overall theme in a 1938 preface to the novel:

The book's reality must stand or fall on the sense it conveys to the 'boom and bust' period in New Zealand. There I have tried to tell as exactly as possible what happened and the types of people who were caught up in the mounting wave, sank down into its pit, and are now struggling up again.2

I am going to focus on a single chapter of this book, in which the nurse Bede attends an Anzac Day service in the Auckland domain, sometime in the mid 1930s. Before I do this however I would like to provide some context, and make a few observations about Anzac Day in the 1930s. As we will see in Hyde's text, the Anzac ceremony was a very intense and poignant commemoration, which would have had a lot of meaning for thousands of families who had lost sons, brothers or husbands just twenty years ago. Yet the 1930s also gave rise to a vigorous peace movement, involving a diverse cross section of people – from pacifists to socialists to trade unionists and others, who organised large peace rallies in all the major cities of New Zealand. One of the largest of these in late 1935 involved over 4,000 people marching for peace in Auckland, organised by the New Zealand Congress Against War and Fascism. A significant section of the people in this peace movement were critical of the overt patriotism and militarism on display in the Anzac Day ceremonies. The Dunedin branch of the same organisation attempted to organise a peace march on April 25th 1935 as an alternative to Anzac day, but was forced to cancel its plans due to widespread public opposition. In 1936 the Christchurch branch held a rally of 250 people on the day just after Anzac Day (April 26th) – a very small number compared to the 3,000 + who showed up on the Anzac parade the day before, but still a significant chunk of people who took issue with the politics of the ceremony3.

One of the most active members of the peace movement of the mid 1930s was Ormond E Burton, a world war one veteran who had become disgusted by the cynical political realities of the post Versailles years and had become a dedicated pacifist. His 1935 book The Silent Division is a curious combination of military history and pacifist propaganda. Most of the book is a history of the New Zealand Regiment, which details all of the major battles fought by New Zealanders in the first world war. He celebrates the character and courage of the men, and especially their commitment to a 'greater cause' which many end up dying for. In a remarkable 'Epilogue' to this history, Burton completely rejects the idea that this 'greater cause' was in any way justified, or in any sense 'great', and goes on to argue that the idea of 'sacrifice' is completely misplaced when it comes to war.

These observations show that Hyde's antiwar sentiment was not in any sense an isolated phenomena, as the politics of Anzac Day were already a subject of contention. The background social texture of Hyde's Anzac description is also quite heavy and dark: people are still in trauma due to the massive losses of life in the first world war, the depression has hit their livelihood, and fascism looms menancingly on the other side of the world.

Now I will attempt an analysis of this Anzac chapter, “13. The Purple Mantle”:

2. The Purple Mantle chapter

The chapter alternates between a descriptive account of the people and the ceremony and Bede's intensely thoughtful meditation on the meaning and significance of the commemoration itself. There is a tension in the text between a dark sense of foreboding of a coming war, and a defiant idealism which insists upon hope for a peaceful future. Hyde also shifts between two different modes: a more or less conventional social realism mode (where she describes what is going on around her, talks to people and so on), and a more philosophical mode. Hyde herself described this philosophical mode as her 'utopian politics'. Interestingly, she was somewhat critical of this aspect of NTYC: she wrote in a letter that the 'chief fault' of the novel was 'not as you will immediately believe too much Starkie, but too much utopian politics'. I disagree with Hyde's assessment – I think that this non conventional philosophical aspect is what is most interesting about the novel.

There are several elements to this 'utopian politics' aspect of NTYC, I will restrict myself mainly to a close reading of just one passage. Hyde effectively makes an argument about the nature of memorial practices such as Anzac Day, and advocates some kind of peace promoting alternative. Before I explore this section of the text however I would like to emphasise the fact that it is couched within a fairly traditional literary first person narrative mode. This narrative is exceptional in that manages to convincingly describe the people at the ceremony and their actions with a high degree of sensitivity, and also a very clear insight into their weaknesses and fragility. I will illustrate this by reading a couple of quotes from the more descriptive passages, and then I will turn to exploring the philosophical section. clad women would creep forward like beetles to lay beside the big wreaths not a foot across, arranging them carefully so the memorial cards would show. Standing in thin sunshine, they would salute, most of them quite wrongly, and creep back, dabbing their eyes. Their loss, though keen and ardent in the moment they laid down the wreaths, was normally faded now, and their eyes were scared blue, like skim milk4.

Hyde emphasises the fragility of the women, and encourages the reader to imagine the immense trauma of losing a son or a husband or a brother. In another passage Hyde describes the voices of the people as they read Binyon's hymn 'For the Fallen':

'Solemn the drums beat; death, august and royal,

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.'

Binyon's hymn, which had found its way to the people like nothing else since Kipling […] was the climax to the service. But it wasn't that verse, so much better from the poets point of view, that the people loved. When the other came, their voices all joined in, men's voices which were merely ordinary became gentle and deep, the women's voices were true.

'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.'

The voices died, lingering upon 'Remember them.' Bede thought: “Poetry and music are two of the things we haven't given them since the war. We have taken away from them even that little that they had, so they don't care about death august and royal, but only for the things you feel not with your mind but with your bowels – age, weariness, condemnation, the true things they can understand5.”

Hyde seems to be doing two things at once here: on one level she is stating her objection to the idea of 'the glorious dead' (the people themselves don't embrace the 'death august and royal' line). But on another level she is pointing out the spiritual desolation of the interwar years: the war has laid waste to things like people's sensitivity to poetry, music and religion, they are effectively reduced to a more brutish and physical kind of sensitivity. I do not want to overstate this too much – it is after all just one part of a larger, very moody and complex whole. There are also many other descriptions, such as little boys playing on the cannons, which offer the reader little glimpses of sunlight amid the trauma and gloom and heavy darkness.

Having set the context for my exploration, I will now read out the central 'philosophical section' which I would like to focus on:

At the sound of the Last Post, men lurched off their hats and caps. Unspent, undefeated, the music bade farewell as the clumsy letters the women had treasured never could say it: ah, such music. Into the air it spired, and crystallized there above them, crying: 'Remember me, remember me.' Afterwards the crowd would break and hurry; but in their hearts they did remember the Last Post, sounded on a still autumn day, with the faded colours washing back and forth in the air tides, as quiet men held them erect. Across the gully, coming home, they would see the old mill, with its cinnamon coloured bricks and its pitchpine sail, like a one-armed soldier.

But she wished, thought Bede, that one could know for certain if the Garland of Flowers and the Last Post made the wars, or if the wars made the music. That didn't sound much, on the face of it, but meant everything. If the Last Post made the wars – that lovely wreathing thing to produce war and the aftermaths – the whole affair was hopeless; that would mean, humanity's talk about a will to peace was mere lip service, a lie and a cheat. But if the lovely wreathing thing were subsidiary, the reply of the human spirit speaking out of its unearned Hell, saying: 'I live on. Listen to me, do not despair, for I live on,' then the case was altered.

She bent her head; a woman sighed and creaked against her. Bede could feel the vast sigh through stay-ribs. On the whole, she thought the latter belief was true. War in its beginnings had no beauty, but was a simple business of eradicating a fear or a rival, getting out of the way something the ancient fathers had wanted out of the way. Very well, then; it grew big and autocratic. Helmets shone, and the unhelmeted, innocently caught up, made their own replies. They replied with systems of chivalry (a Tommy marching song was a system of chivalry) with carving a vine or a dog's head on the hilt of a dagger, with giving the basic ugliness of war the lie in its throat. They themselves weren't ugly; they themselves weren't carrion. Of course this theory had its obvious danger, because the people were still the unhelmeted, caught up, and they couldn't see how their own kind were trying in music, colour, forlorn meetings, to break free. Always there existed for them a nation of bogies, of frightful people outside the human law, against whom they must protect themselves. Some of the patriots identified the wars with the banners, and as for the rank and file – so many people could talk to them, anyone with the gift of the gab. But the thing carried also the germ of its own salvation. If what people loved was the vine on the hilt, the Last Post, the comradeship – called by them 'the fun of it' – these things were not the proprietary medicines of war. The scientists of peace could work upon them, work like slaves and isolate the instinct for beautiful excitement from the instinct of fear and destruction. They might be doing so now, obscure and intent6.

Bede's meditation on peace and war continues for about three more pages of text. The paragraph immediately after the above quote tempers the utopian optimism and demonstrates a keen awareness of the coming war:

Too late, said a tolling bell in her mind, too late, too late. Another bell answered: Never too late. Too late for you, perhaps, but who are you? I do not know one face from another face. Not too late for the only face I know7.

Having shifted into a more poetic register, Bede goes on to contemplate the life and poetry of Wilfred Owen. Then she contemplates the religious dimension of the question of war and its apparent neccessity, which leads into the Binyon section I quoted above. As I will go on to explain in more detail later, Hyde has a suspicious attitude towards purely rational, or overly cognitive approaches towards the human situation regarding substantial issues like war and peace. As I've now made clear, Hyde's philosophical pondering is couched in a subjective literary modality, so it needs to be read as such: a single element in a larger whole, which does not have any sort of claim to a higher status. Having made all these qualifications, I think it is still worth attending to the argument which Hyde makes, and the nature and content of her 'scientists of peace' metaphor.

Hyde turns around the common sense understanding of war as the cause of memorial ceremonies, and urges the reader to consider the question of whether the memorial practices actually encourage the sort of ideas and attitudes which lead to war. There's a quite keen sense of desperation and urgency about this, and Hyde sees the question in absolute terms: either there is a necessary connection between memorial ceremonies and future wars – in which case all hope is lost; or there isn't a necessary connection, in which case there is hope for humanity.

She distinguishes between the 'business' of war – the interests of the combatants, the motives, the causes and the fighting itself – from the aesthetic and social forms which accompany it. The carvings on a dagger, the songs which soldiers sing – these sorts of aesthetic responses indicate a positive and healthy human response to something which is in itself ugly and repulsive. If we can distinguish the good aesthetic and social forms from the ugly business of war, then it makes sense to think that we can do the same for memorials. The wreaths, the red poppies and the monuments are a positive human response to an ugly business. The fact that people come together and recite the Last Post is a healthy sign that the human spirit is at work, healing the wounds of the past. The aesthetic forms and the social rituals can be separated from the brutal ugliness of the war which instigated them.

Then Hyde points out that the 'separation' between the brute facts of war and the aesthetic and social forms which accompany it is far from being straightforward. This is the really crucial and significant part of the argument: The symbols, rituals and 'banners' are inevitably bound up with patriotism and a set of beliefs and attitudes about other peoples and countries which predispose people to making war. The deaths which we are commemorating in ceremonies such as Anzac are framed in terms of values such as bravery, sacrifice, duty and honour. The aesthetic forms and social acts which constitute remembrance practices reflect and transmit these very same values. As an example, consider the red poppy: it specifically encourages remembance of our dead, and more or less explicitly lends itself to the idea of 'sacrifice for a greater cause'.

It is the psychological effect of these symbols and rituals upon everyday people which Hyde provides a really convincing insight into. Hyde describes the people as 'the unhelmeted' and she seems to play on two meanings : we are the civilians, the non military, the 'observers' on the one hand, but also we are unprotected, 'caught up' in a system of beliefs, values and symbols which fundamentally incline us to partake in things like Anzac ceremonies with a set of interpretations which effectively justify both the necessity and justness of war.

What I think is most important to register is that Hyde is asking us to pose the question about ourselves: who are we, that we find ourselves subject to this position as 'the unhelmeted'? The poetic bell tolling paragraph suggests that we do have options: either we are subject to the call of necessary war, or we are somehow capable of listening to the 'scientists of peace' who provide us with an alternative to the compulsion of blood and sacrifice. There is an instability, a contestation of forces which in its essence is played out in the hearts and minds of people themselves.

In the next part of my speech I will argue that this philosophical sketch which Robin Hyde provides is best understood in terms of ideology. I will now turn away from Hyde's text, and outline Louis Althusser's theory of ideological state apparatus, and how we can conceptualise Anzac Day memorial practices in Althusserian terms. In doing so I will make reference back to Hyde's text, and show that there is a fascinating consistency between the literary content of Hyde's 1935 Anzac Day and an Althusserian account of Anzac Day as an ideological institution.

3. Althusser and his theory of ideology

Althusser grounds his account of ideology in the Marxist theory of capitalist 'reproduction'. In order to continue functioning, capitalism must not only reproduce the means of production (factories, materials, technology and so on) but also the human labour force required to produce value. The labour force must accept not only the bare facts of the economic situation which it inherits, but also the legitimacy of the class structure and power relationships within society. It can be compelled to accept these institutions of class society through the disciplinary and violent Repressive State Apparatuses (the military, police force, justice system and so on). But people more often than not freely accept and openly justify the basic structure of class society. This sort of 'acceptance' takes place through the processes and effects of what Althusser terms Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs). Examples of ISAs include religious institutes, political parties, the media and also a huge variety of cultural institutions and practices.

With respect to Anzac Day, the Marxist view is that capitalism is inherently unstable and therefore highly prone to produce war. The Anzac memorial ideology induces people to accept the idea that war is a natural and inevitable property of society as such, rather than the property of a particular kind of class society.

Louis Althusser

The word 'ideology' is often used to denote a set of theories or a 'worldview'. For example, we often hear people talk about neo – liberal ideology, or socialist ideology, or Islamic ideology and so on. Althusser's notion of ideology is quite distinct from this everyday usage. Although beliefs are an important element of ISAs, Althusser emphasises rather the material practices and rituals of ideological formations:

I shall talk of actions inserted into practices. And I shall point out that these practices are governed by the rituals in which these practices are inscribed, within the material existence of an ideological apparatus, be it only a small part of that apparatus: a small mass in a small church, a funeral, a minor match at a sports’ club, a school day, a political party meeting, etc8.

With respect to Anzac day and similar memorial practices, we can easily recognise the material form of ideology in worn symbols such as red poppies, the dawn ceremony and so on. In the description of the Anzac ceremony given in Nor the Years Condemn, there is a very insistent emphasis placed upon the physicality of remembrance: Binyon's hymn is felt 'in the bowels', the old mill which looks like a one armed soldier.

A second important aspect of Althusser's notion of ideology is the concept of 'interpellation'. Ideology, in all of its multiple forms and guises, effectively constitutes individual people as particular kinds of subjects. The word 'subject' here has an important double meaning:

...subject in fact means: (1) a free subjectivity, a centre of initiatives, author of and responsible for its actions; (2) a subjected being, who submits to a higher authority, and is therefore stripped of all freedom except that of freely accepting his submission. This last note gives us the meaning of this ambiguity, which is merely a reflection of the effect which produces it: the individual is interpellated as a (free) subject in order that he shall submit freely to the commandments of the Subject, i.e. in order that he shall (freely) accept his subjection, i.e. in order that he shall make the gestures and actions of his subjection ‘all by himself’. There are no subjects except by and for their subjection. That is why they ‘work all by themselves’9.

Ideology calls or 'hails' us as particular types of beings. As an example, consider the situation of a person going to church and going through the communion ritual. When the priest addresses us and offers us the bread and wine, he is effectively operating as a part of the ISA which constitutes us as a Christian. A policeman who calls out “Hey you!” hails us as the subject of a legal system. This process of interpellation calls 'individuals in particular ways that prescribe and enforce (a) thinking in specific ways about their identities, relationships with other individuals, and their connection to social institutions, and (b) act accordingly10'.

We can again quite easily describe a similar sort of effectivity with the ideological form of memorial practices such as Anzac Day: we are constituted as New Zealanders, as moral and dutiful citizens who remember the dead, as members of a victorious coalition of nation states, as defenders of freedom and liberty. As civilians, we are encouraged to also engage in a sort of gratitude: we honour the brave soldiers who saved us from terrible evil. This aspect of ideology is perfectly captured by Hyde's description of civilians as 'the unhelmeted', who are 'caught up' in a system which instills some form of patriotic nationalism.

So far we have a picture of ideology which emphasises material actions and practices, and which has an account of subjectivisation through which people are actually constituted by these very same practices. There are two more aspects of Althusser's notion of ideology which which I will explore: the claim that 'ideology has no history' and the idea that particular ideologies involve contradictions and class struggle. Again I will argue that both of these aspects resonate convincingly with Hyde's text.

The strange and somewhat obscure statement that 'ideology has no history' is explained by Althusser with reference to Freud's claim that the unconscious is 'eternal'. The idea seems to be that even though particular ISAs change and develop over time – the prime example being the history of religious struggle and conflict during the period of transition from feudalism to capitalism – the basic form of those particular ideologies as ideologies does not change. So just as individuals might have a psychological history of change and growth which is founded upon an 'eternal' structural relation between their consciousness and the unconscious, 'ideology' in this general sense is also eternal, without a 'history'.

We can see this 'omni-presence' of a more abstract and universal ideology if we attend to the more abstract features of Anzac ideology. The really hard core of this ideology contains two elements: the idea of sacrifice on the one hand (brave soldiers dying so that we unhelmeted ones can live freely), and the idea of an evil inhuman enemy (Nazis, communists, terrorists) on the other. This essence is itself very clearly linked to our history as a Christian nation – even though Anzac rituals are more secular than explicitly religious, they were at least originally much more closely connected to Christian notions of sacrifice. The idea of evil is itself a relic from our more religious past, but it simply changes its form – so in this sense we still have a lot of ideological 'baggage' from our Christian dominated past [cf Nietzsche]. The resonance with Hyde's text is again clear and compelling: firstly with her comment 'Always there existed for them a nation of bogies', secondly with her extensive references to God and other religious ideas.

The final, and perhaps the most significant aspect of Althusser's theory is his claim that ideologies are dynamic and changeable, and that the class struggle itself is the site of these contestations and challenges. Again, the easiest example to make this point clear is the history of the period of transition between feudalism and capitalism: the ideological conflict during the reformation period was not merely about theological ideas, rather these theological struggles were the embodiment of a class struggle. Although the situation with modern ISAs is vastly different, especially because there is no longer any one central 'big ISA' like religion, but rather a multitude of distinct ISAs all contributing to different forms of subjectivity, it is still the case that particular ISAs are dynamic and changeable. If we consider the Anzac ISA we can easily point out a history of struggle over the meaning and significance: the peace marches of the 1930s, the Vietnam protest era where people laid wreaths for the victims of the Mai Lai massacre, the 2007 flag burning incident.

To view NTYC in these terms leads to a potentially radical and subversive version of the larger meaning of memorial ceremonies like Anzac. In a general sense, novels such like NTYC (and The Silent Division, and We Will Not Cease) are themselves particular elements in the more general ISA. Althusser points out repeatedly that there is no standpoint 'outside' of ideology, and literature is definitely no exception. But picturing the Anzac ISA in these more general terms: including not just red poppies and dawn ceremonies, but also a vast and diverse set of discourse, including books such as NTYC – this really allows us to see the challenge and contestation in action. Clearly this perspective on to a complex site of really substantial and important ideological contestation is largely absent from mainstream commentary on Anzac day. For people who want to resist the dominant ideological framing of Anzac Day however, writers such as Hyde provide powerful antidotes to the complacent nationalism of 21st century New Zealand.

    4. Concluding comments

Hyde's account of Bede's meditation continues to oscillate between hope and despair as the chapter progresses from the Anzac ceremony section, but it relaxes its intensity at the end of the chapter when she reaches her home. She rescues a baby hedgehog and feeds it milk, and then sits down to read the Communist Manifesto. Although she 'liked the Communists much better than their opposite extreme' she is also highly ambivalent:

It convinced and depressed her. The Communists – Brigadier, vous avez raison ['you were right', 'a good reason']; but what the devil were they going to do with people like herself, riddled with good intentions and emotions, like old ships riddled with rats11?

The communists have the 'right reasons' and they can convince her logically, but there is a gulf between this sort of rationalistic objectivity and her own sense of subjectivity and emotion. This same contrast between reason and sensitivity is evident in an earlier section of the same chapter, where Bede reflects on the minister at the Anzac service:

And of the minister, a quiet, grey, convincing man, she thought: 'He's good, but he can't understand how Christ would ever have managed without the Apostle Paul to follow on and organise. Discipline and organisation. He's never stopped to imagine what a shoddy little epileptic Saul might have become without Christ … or how often Paul reverted to Saul. All these years, the one who really loved the world has been obscured by the one who both hated and loved himself so well, the organiser, Saul, Saul, Saul12.'

These jibes at rationalistic, orderly and disciplined forms of religion and politics cast the 'scientists of peace' metaphor into a different light. Whatever it is that these obscure figures might do, it is not 'science ' in the ordinary and familiar sense. We can nevertheless speculate that Hyde had something in mind that was rational at least in part: the 'separation' between war and aesthetic forms has to be a matter of careful and considered thought. So the critical perspective of something like Marxism is relevant here, but it isn't sufficient. The aesthetic and social content of the reponses to war is irreducably human and complex, so we need the intuitive and spiritual resources of something else – perhaps more akin to art and literature than politics.

To refer this back to Althusser and ideology, I think it is relevant to point out that ideologies such as those relating to Anzac Day function on two distinct, yet related levels: without doubt they function on a level which concerns beliefs, but they also function at a very deep emotional and aesthetic level which is not always amenable to the sort of cognitive deliberation which applies to the level of belief. So, for example, there are discussions and debates about whether or not the first world war was a just war, which country was most at fault and so on. Pacifists and Marxists will argue with liberals about the political ideas about if and when war is justified. It is surely not wrong to label such discussion 'ideological conflict', but it is not the whole picture. Althusser's notion of ideology allows us to extend our conception of ideological struggle to include the cultural interventions of writers like Robin Hyde.


Althusser, Louis. 1978. Lenin and Philosophy. (Trans. By Ben Brewster). New York:
Monthly Review Press

Burton, Ormond E. 2014. The Silent Division & Concerning One Man's War 1914 – 1919. John Douglas Publishing.

Grant, David. 2013. A Question of Faith: A History of the New Zealand Pacifist Society. Philip Garside Publishing.

Hyde, Robin. 2007 (1938). "The Godwits Fly". Auckland University Press.

Hyde, Robin. 1986 (1936). "Passport to Hell". Auckland University Press.

Hyde, Robin. 1986 (1938). "Nor the Years Condemn". Asquith House New Zealand Ltd.

Wolff, Richard D. 2004. "Ideological State Apparatuses, Consumerism, and U.S.Capitalism: Lessons for the Left". Economics Department Working Paper Series. Paper 74.

1Hyde (2007)

2Quoted in the introduction by Philida Bunkle, Linda Hardy and Jacqueline Matthews, Hyde R. (1986)

3See Grant D. (2013)

4Hyde (1986), p.237

5Ibid., p. 243

6Hyde (1986), p. 238 - 239

7Ibid. p.239

8Althusser, L. (1978)


10Wolff (2004), p. 7

11Hyde (1986) p.251

12Ibid. p.242


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Very good account of events Tim. Do you know about the work of the Baxter Trust in Dunedin? Our website is at www. and we are also at Facebook. Thanks for your time :)

    1. Thanks Ralph, yes I've heard about the Baxter Trust but hadn't checked out the website so cheers for the link.