by Alice M.
The 3rd December marks the 160th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade Rebellion that holds great significance for Australia’s working people, in particular the organised working class.
The 1854 armed uprising was more than a rebellion. For that time it was a revolution for freedom from oppression and exploitation, a call for genuine democracy for the people, and national independence from the domination of the British colonial ruling class.
The rebels’ demands carried the seeds for far-reaching fundamental change in Australia and the necessity for the working class to eventually become the masters of an independent Australia. This was the beginning of social and political movements in Australia for a thorough-going change in class relations. It continues today.
The issues and demands around which the Eureka rebels united are still with us in a fundamental way. Those early strivings for justice, a genuine democracy for ordinary people and independence for Australia have yet to be achieved. The many struggles and mass movements of the people today, flow towards the realisation of these demands.
The British colonial ruling class forcefully dispossessed Australia’s Aboriginal people in 1788, and violently suppressed the indigenous resistance to the occupation of their lands. Aboriginal land was brutally stolen by the British colonial state and given away to the wealthy squatters from the British aristocracy and later to the newly arising ruling class of wealthy merchant bankers and industrial capitalists. A heavy mining tax was imposed on the impoverished gold diggers whilst the wealthy squatters paid no taxes on the stolen land, from which they made their fortunes growing wheat, sheep and cattle.
By November 1854, the oppressed, and mainly poor gold diggers, most of whom flocked from many corners of the world to Ballarat searching for gold to make a living, banded together, taking up arms to resist the harsh and unjust treatment by the colonial ruling class.
The Eureka rebellion was the first organised political class struggle and mass uprising in Australia by a newly emerging working class. They demanded the abolition of mining licences and the right to vote for parliamentary representation through which they hoped the will of the people would prevail.
They called for Australia to become a republic, independent of Britain.
The Eureka rebellion laid the foundations for many future progressive political movements and workers’ struggles, and produced the militant trade union tradition of working class solidarity. It gave birth to Australia’s working class fighting spirit against injustice, and the power of the collective and united action by the people.
This was the first sign of class struggle between the young, organised working class and British colonial capitalism, the ruling class in Australia at that time.
For 160 years the Eureka flag has appeared above many battles uniting and giving hope and courage to working people.
The flag of blue and white appeared in 1856 battles for the 8 hour day, in the formation of unions in late 1880s, the 1891 shearers strike in Barcaldine, Qld, and many countless struggles of working people. To this day the Eureka flag is raised in many workplace, community and environmental struggles; in the struggles for democratic rights.
The passionate hopes and yearnings of Eureka rebels and their supporters, that the visionary demands they had fought for would bring real equality, fairness and a genuine democracy for the people, have yet to be realised in a thorough-going way.
For independence and socialism
The ruling class of British colonialists and wealthy capitalists running Australia in the 19th Century have today been replaced by the local and foreign monopoly corporations and banks.
The Business Council of Australia, the mouthpiece of 100 biggest foreign and local corporations dictates the neo-liberal economic policies and agenda to whichever parliamentary party is in power, Liberal or Labor.
The mining corporations, multinational monopolies and banks pay little tax, if any, whilst more of ordinary people’s taxes are being syphoned off from public health, education, welfare, to subsidise big business profits.
The ISDS in the TPP and other Free Trade Agreements will further erode what’s left of Australia’s sovereignty and independence, destroy jobs, workplace rights, our public health, education and the environment.
US imperialism and its multinational corporations have replaced the British colonial ruling class as the dominant class of monopoly capitalism in Australia.
Parliamentary democracy and the right to vote that Eureka rebels had fought for is being exposed as a farce where the real power still lies in the board rooms of big corporations.
The democratic and civil rights to protest, to fight for workers’ and union rights, are whittled away as more legal power and force is used by the bourgeois state.
The organised working class will fulfil the revolutionary aspirations of Eureka in 1854, and continue to struggle to resist capital’s onslaught, and finally take charge of the country and rule for the interests of working people.
The vision of the Eureka rebels will be achieved in an independent and socialist Australia.