December the 3rd

Today is the anniversary of the battle of the Eureka Stockade. This is not a much remembered date. In fact, it was only brought to my attention by a letter in the AFR bemoaning the lack of recognition. This letter was penned by a Joseph Toscano of the  Anarchist Media Institute – the AFR is well known for it’s anarchist readership. As much as I sympathise with Toscano’s dismissal of other dates, such as April 25th and January 26th, I still find it very difficult to get excited about the whole Eureka escapade.

For a long time I dismissed interest in the entire episode as grasping by Australian historians, patriots and radicals. They seized on the stockade because it involved white people shooting at each other; REAL History, like they had overseas. I was already sufficiently impressed by the social conflicts and – more importantly – resolutions in Australian history already. I saw no need to ape the celebration of intra-European violence that was the orthodox benchmark for interesting history. Just because the Americans saw fit to dress a self interested tax revolt in hyperbolic and frequently hypocritical rhetoric didn’t mean we had to. The triumph of mild mannered competence in the Emancipist-Exclusionist struggle was more imspiring to me, and needed not glory in bloodshed or make  hagiography for flawed men (as all men are).

It didn’t help of course that the Eureka flag was appropriated by each and every fringe group that wanted it. Racists and anti racists; communists and anarchists; libertarians and corporatists. In appropriation they robbed it of any meaning it had had, just as the semiotics of their fringe culture would later be bled dry by hipsters.

It wasn’t until later that I learned how many of the Australians involved entered into and became a part of mainstream politics. It didn’t provoke me into celebration, but it did bring a smile. I can’t say that the way of doing things allowed them to fight for wondrous liberty, or that they even wanted to. But the grin was just for the fact that things kept muddling through. A series of messy outcomes and processes that kept things blundering along without further recourse to the kind of events that would provide Real History. Who knows, maybe a world we could hope for is one in which June 4th is as similarly meaningless in China – one in which jaded radicals manage to become part of a system that muddles through to outcomes that are somewhat better, even if they remain unglorious and unsuitable for celebration.

Maybe a date chosen from a random divison of a colonial parliament on a benign issue would be the greatest cause for celebration, were were to take a date from the pre-federation era.

Still, if I had to choose a date to celebrate, it would be the 16th of August, the stated date of publication for Daniel Deniehy’s speech on the Bunyip Aristocracy. It is after all, the closest we have to a pivotal date in the battle against our oldest enemy. Given that the current progeny of the Aristocracy are now buying Channel 10 with daddy’s money – either to celebrate themselves or attack those horrid oriental dragon ladies whom would rob them of said money – it’s a battle that bears remembrance. Even if no guns were fired between white people.

About Richard Tsukamasa Green

Richard Tsukamasa Green is an economist. Public employment means he can't post on policy much anymore. Also found at @RHTGreen on twitter.
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13 years ago

What’s wrong with libertarians appropriating the Eureka Flag?

1. They were protesting arbitrary power.

2. They were protesting multiple taxation.

3. They fought together from all over with no pangs of racism, with no top down dictated artificial multiculturalism.

4. The result was an honourable move towards liberal democracy and autonomy.

5. They fought in the first instance for a fair trial (which we enjoyed recently until Bob Carr per se introduced the revolting majority verdict system).

6. They had no means for peaceful erecourse for their complaints.

7. Hotham was an incompetent who was ruling Victoria like a medieval fief.

8. They fought for secure property rights which we all enjoy more or less today.

9. They weren’t a trade union, tories, commies, racists, anti racists or even – anarchists.

10. They had no pretensions of class welfare, except for against the colonial machinery. They were upwardly mobile by their entrepreneurial anture.

Nicholas Gruen
13 years ago

Thx for the post Richard. Very nice writing. And I agree with it – a pleasing combination ;)

13 years ago

Those brave people fought for democracy and freedom for all Australians.This led to Federation and the Constitution of Australia in 1900, which is still valid today. For decades now Governments have been returning us to pre Federation conditions, ignoring our inalienable rights. They have enslaved us again with statute rules (revenue raising) laws. Sold our utilities, water, public transport ect. to foreign investors. Once again the people are not happy, they are struggling to exist just for the basic neccessities. Evidence was the recent Federal and State election (Vic) Need I say more?

13 years ago

Gypsy – many of the gold miners were immigrants and bringers of foreign physical, financial and entrepreneurial capital.

Ownership isn’t sanctifiable or demonic on the grounds of being Australian or not.

I wish they’d sell NSW City Rail. It needs a kick in the bum. To whoever thinks they can handle the graft.

paul walter
paul walter
13 years ago

Was worried till he mentioned a contemporary effort involving the “bunyip aristocracy”.
I’d have Eureka Day as the national day if I could, the birth of consciousness of a new identity, against the machinations of colonial overlords and local collaborators and the foundation for a future state. Fast forward to the depression eighteen nineties and the birth of unionism, then two wars, for some thing “we” did, to secure a future against the predations of others who saw us (or our ancestors) and the country as mere resource to be exploited as ruthlessly and sometimes as brutally as possible, rather than a (our) home for a civil society.
As a footnote, I can remark on my disappointment at the misappropriation of the “egalitarian” southern cross symbol by rightists- chauvinism, jingoism, fear and isolationism are not the same thing as love of and pride in country which can also celebrate or enjoy the efforts of humans to establish workable societies across the world, over history.

Steven Noble
12 years ago

Um, interesting theory, but wrong — the miners at the Eureka Stockade were multiracial and international. The first miner to be tried for treason after the event was an African American miner called John Joseph. A Jamaican miner sat in the dock with him. When John Joseph was acquitted — instantly crippling the crown’s case against all other charged miners — the people of Melbourne carried him through the streets on their shoulders as a hero.

12 years ago

Can anyone explain he relevance of the international context of the Eureka Stockade?

A bunch of international influenced libertarian miners in the bush in Victoria some three years after the 1848 revolution cycle in Europe began…..

Only differences were they were late, badly organised and completely ineffective……

I might know only a little about this but it sounds like there’s a story here…