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Celebrate Eureka Anniversary

Written by: Nick G. on 1 December 2021


(Above - invitation from Ballarat organising Comittee for the 167th anniversary celebrations)

December 3, 2021 will mark the 167th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade rebellion.

We have long promoted the Eureka Stockade as a potent symbol of the Australian people’s struggle for democratic rights and for national independence from colonialist oppression and imperialist control.

Together with the socialist red star, it is part of our Party’s logo.

The Eureka flag belongs to the working class. From the Great Strikes of the 1890s to workers’ struggles of the present day, the Eureka flag has demonstrated workers’ resolve to dare to struggle and dare to win.

For nearly 50 years some neo-fascist groups have deliberately tried to steal the flag’s true legacy, with the intention – stated in the mid-1970s – to stop “Maoists” from using it. They call everyone Maoist (a label we proudly wear) who simply raises the flag to unite the people. They try to promote it as a symbol of white nationalism and as a banner of racial pride.  Their followers are ignorant of its origin as a unifying factor on the multiculturally diverse Victorian goldfields where miners were called upon by Rafaello Carboni “irrespective of nationality, religion or colour, to salute the Southern Cross as a refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on Earth”.

The Ballarat goldfields were located on the lands of the Wadawurrung peoples. The miners unsettled the stable communities of the Wadawarrung, staying on their lands without observing the necessary reciprocities. There were some positive relationships built. Carboni learned language from the Wadawarrung and wrote a musical, Gilburnia, in which he highlighted injustices done by the unsettlers. Had they built better ties with the Wadawarrung, the miners could have used their knowledge of Country to ambush the approaching troopers well before they reached the Stockade.

In the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Eureka flag has been taken to anti-vaxxer rallies to protest the coercive powers of state governments applying lockdowns and mandating vaccinations for some categories of workers. We disagree with this use of the flag which essentially places the "right to bodily autonomy of the individual in refusing the vaccine" against the collective need for community control over the spread of the virus. This is just an extreme manifestation of petty-bourgeois individualism. It is, however, different from the use of the flag by racists.  We place the latter in the category of contradictions between ourselves and the enemy, and the former in the category of contradictions among the people.

On the home page of the Spirit of Eureka  is the text of a presentation give to SA Unions by a delegate in 2015 and subsequently endorsed by SA Unions executive. It addresses the question of “to whom does the Eureka flag belong?” It looks at the use of the flag by the workers’ movement from 1854 to the present day, and concludes with these words:

Clearly, the Eureka flag belongs to the unions, republicans, anti-racists and refugee advocates.

The best argument against its misuse by racists is a widespread public embrace of the flag as the first expression in Australia of a multicultural aspiration for democracy, freedom and Australian independence from imperialism.

No union should be ashamed to claim the flag as part of this inheritance.  It is part of our history, of the history of our class and our people.  It can only be a divisive symbol so long as Nazis and racists are allowed to carry it unchallenged as to its symbolism and its multicultural origins.

Unions, more than any other organisations, should protect and defend the Eureka flag from misuse by those who would divide the unity of the working class.

The organising committee for the Ballarat celebrations of the 167th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion calls on supporters to “Reclaim the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Rebellion”.

We certainly agree!


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