by Dr Joseph Toscano Wednesday November 26, 2003 at 12:25 AM
Anarchist Media Institute
On the 149th anniversary of the crushing of the Eureka Stockade at Ballarat, Celebrate the important elements of the Eureka rebellion DIRECT DEMOCRACY, DIRECT ACTION, SOLIDARITY.
It’s always puzzled me why so many Australians are familiar with the Ned Kelly legend and how few are familiar with Eureka Stockade story. Ned Kelly has become such an important figure in the Australian imagination that the symbol of his brief tussle with the Victorian government was used in the Olympic games opening ceremony in Sydney. The difference between Kelly and his gang and the Eureka Stockade revolt is the difference between the actions of rebels and revolutionaries. Although the Kelly gang enjoyed local support, their activities never challenged the power of the government. They were eventually caught, shot and executed.
The Eureka revolt was a very different matter, the men and woman who were involved in the revolt challenged the power of the state, they enjoyed widespread support both in the goldfields and in Melbourne. The Prime Minister’s refusal to fly the Eureka flag over Parliament House on December3rd to mark the 149th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion, highlights theG od, Queen and Country brigade’s understanding that the Eureka revolt directly challenged the power of the state and those who wield power in society.
Today the Eureka rebellion is claimed by republicans, parliamentary democrats, nationalists and trade unionists as the beginning of their movements. The Southern Cross is used as a symbol for both radical trade unionism and Australian nationalism. The debate about the significance of the revolt continues to be hijacked by people who read different interpretations into the events that led up to the revolt, the revolt itself and its aftermath.
The nature of the revolt can be found in the Eureka oath that was proclaimed by 500 determined armed miners under the newly unfurled Southern Cross on the afternoon of Thursday the 30th of November 1854 at Bakery Hill. ‘We swear by the Southern cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties’. Other insights into the nature of the revolt can be gleamed by examining the way the miners organised. The revolt was based on direct democratic principles, decisions were made at monster meetings of up to 12,000 miners at Ballarat. Delegates were elected to carry out decisions made at the meeting. The miners elected Peter Lalor as their military commander. Direct democracy was an integral component of the rebellion.
Interestingly, significant elements of the Australian Left reject the revolutionary nature of the revolt, preferring to believe that it was essentially a dispute about mining licences conducted by small business people. Others on the Left reject it as a racist and sexist revolt accepting the disinformation that has appeared about the Eureka rebellion that questions its revolutionary and egalitarian nature.
The Eureka rebellion was also based on the principle of direct action, the miners were willing to take up arms to protect what they believed were their rights and liberties. To believe the historical propaganda that the rebellion was centered around the issue of mining licences is to ignore the radical nature of the demands made by the miners. The miners came from all corners of the globe, some were involved in the failed 1848 revolutionary movements that spread across Europe, many were Chartists who had brought their political beliefs from England with them, others were survivors of the English repression in Ireland. The movement included men and women of all races. Two of the thirteen miners tried for High treason in the Victorian Supreme Court were black. Maefie Campbell hailed from Kingston Jamaica, John Joseph was a black man from New York.
John Joseph’s story encapsulates the egalitarian nature of the movement. John Joseph was involved in the heat of the battle. He acquitted himself with bravery during the fight, firing the shot that may have felled Captain Wise, the Deputy Commander of the British Forces. He was arrested and was the first one of the 13 who was charged with High Treason to appear incourt. The freedom of a number of other Americans that had been arrested at the Stockade had been negotiated by the United States Consul in Victoria, as Joseph was black the Consul did not intervene on his behalf. Governor Hotham believed that the good people of Melbourne would have no trouble in convicting a black man. How wrong he was, after a few minutes deliberation the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, the cheering in the courtroom at the verdict was so loud that Chief Justice Beckett sentenced two members of the public to one week’s jail for their boisterous reaction. John Joseph was chaired through the streets of Melbourne by over 20,000 supporters. Between February and May 1855 all 13 prisoners charged with High Treason were acquitted by Melbourne juries.
Woman played an important role during the organising period, as well as the aftermath of the battle. They entered the stockade immediately after the battle, rescuing and hiding wounded miners. Bridget Hynes and a number of other women ran onto the stockade site after the firing ended. They put their bodies over wounded miners laying on the ground, stopping the police and soldiers from bayoneting many of the wounded to death. Many women were in their tents on the Eureka Stockade site when it was attacked, they lay flat behind logs trying to dodge the bullets. Mary Faulds was in labour in the stockade during the battle, her daughter Adeliza was born during the battle or soon after. Adeliza Archer attended the 50th anniversary celebrations in Ballarat in 1904.
The three central elements of the Eureka rebellion were direct democracy, direct action and solidarity ideas that are as important to radicals today as they were in 1854.
Last year the Anarchist Media Institute organised a day of celebrations from 4.00am to 4.00pm at the Eureka Stockade site in Ballarat to reclaim the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion. We were surprised and saddened to see that only one lecture had been organised in Ballarat on the 3rd December 2002, to mark the 148th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion. We gathered at the site at 4.00am, nobody else in sight to reclaim the past and use the history of the past to try to change the future. This year we encourage people from around Australia to come to the Eureka Stockade site in Ballarat at 4.00am on Wednesday December 3rd, 2003 to mark the 149th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion and reclaim the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion.
MIDDAY – WEDNESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER
ALL WELCOME. THE MORE THE MERRIER
The Anarchist Media Institute will be erecting a monument to the 13 miners acquitted of High Treason for their part in the Eureka rebellion in the Victorian Supreme Court in 1855.
We will be erecting the monument next to the statue of Redmond Barry in the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria. Barry was one of the judges involved in the Eureka Treason trials. It’s time we reclaimed the radical spirit of the Eureka rebellion, took back our history and used that history to change the future.
JOIN US AT AROUND 11.30AM next to the statue of Redmond Barry for the erection of the monument on WEDNESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER at MIDDAY. If you can’t make it to Ballarat on the 3rd December don’t miss the ‘history bandits’ reclaiming their history at midday on Wednesday 26th NOVEMBER.
RECLAIM THE RADICAL SPIRIT OF THE EUREKA REBELLION
JOIN US AT BALLARAT AT THE EUREKA STOCKADE SITE
CNR STAWELL & EUREKA STREET, BALLARAT
>From 4AM TO 4PM
ON WEDNESDAY 3RD DECEMBER 2003
CELEBRATE THE 149TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EUREKA REBELLION
RECLAIM YOUR HISTORY
Celebrate the important elements of the Eureka rebellion
‘We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties’
4.00AM 6.00AM Gathering at Eureka Park to mark the 149th anniversary
of the battle on the site and at the time it occurred
6.00am 10.00am Breakfast Eureka Hall (Bring own food & drinks)
10.00am 11.00am Radio broadcast across Australia involving the
participants at the site on the National Community Radio Satellite
11.30am 1.00pm March from Eureka Park to Bakery Hill to re-affirm the
Eureka Oath. March back to Eureka Park
1.00pm 4.00pm Lunch & conversation (bring own food & drinks)
Reclaim your history, use that history to change the future.
JOIN US AT EUREKA PARK / EUREKA HALL.
(CNR STAWELL & EUREKA STREET, BALLARAT)
From 4AM TO 4PM
ON WEDNESDAY 3RD DECEMBER 2003