Australian PrehistoryHistory - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries

Buckely's Chance

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Relations between Aborigines
and colonists

Aboriginal War
Friends or foes?

History Wars
Denying contestability

Black Woman and White Man
Rape or love?

Myall Creek Masscare
Causes and consequences of colonial violence

The Stolen Generations
It's not so black and white

Jimmy Govenor
Not a good fence builder

Mary Anne Bugg
Female Bushranger

Pelmuwuy
Justice or resistance?

Racism
Contemporary racism against Indigenous People

Convicts and their legacy

Convict legacy
How the past shapes the present


Convict life
Regrets and floggings

Convict crimes
Power and morality

Convict punishments
What purpose?

Larrikin Convicts
Breaking rules

Escapes
Thinking different

Convict women
Moral diversity

 

Communist Party Australia

Australia in the Cold War

"What sort or peculiar capitalist country is this in which the workers' representatives predominate in the upper house....and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?" Vladimir Lenin on Australia

Since British colonization, Australia has been governed by strong transnational identities. For much of the 19th century, the dominant transnational identity involved membership of the British Empire. Membership of the Catholic faith was somewhat of a transnational identity of rebellion. Mixed in with the dominant identities were the fledging ideals of what would grow into western liberalism as well as a belief in collective action for social justice that would grow into Communism. After World War 2, the later ideals were formalised into transnational identities in oppositional conflict as part of the international Cold War.

Although the transnational battlelines were defined after World War 2, liberalism and socialism as progressive social movements dated back to the 19th century where they often worked hand in hand. Perhaps the first example was the Eureka Stockade, which was the culmination of individual miners wanting freedom from government restrictions, democracy, and the vote. It was through collective solidarity that the miners believed this could be achieved.

In the later 19th century, magazines like the Bulletin promoted an identity based on egalitarianism, solidarity and unionism that was in opposition to conservative Englishness. Reflecting the ideals, when the Labor Party was formed to protect the interests of workers, it chose the American spelling of Labor to associate itself with the socially progressive liberalism of the United States.

Transnational movements aligned with unionism were instrumental in Australia’s federation; however, their opposition to conservative England was problematic because British Governor Generals could simply dismiss any government that did not work for British interests.

The first major point of conflict concerned British commercial interests wanting to import Chinese, Indian and Pacific Island labour. Not only did opposition to the labour undermine British commercial interests, but allowing racism to be part of Australian government policy undermined the façade of racial inclusiveness that Britain tried to promote around the world. As a compromise, Australia introduced dictation tests (White Australia Policy) that allowed non-white migrants (and others defined as undesirable) to be excluded using a justification other than race. A second major point of conflict concerned conscription, which put identities as British citizens in conflict with liberal notions of individual choice.

Although conscription, non-white migration and identity as British subjects were subjects of contention, socialism in substance (if not in label) was generally a subject of consensus. Federal governments tended to favour socialist policies with public ownership of industries and regulation of private enterprise for the greater good. Even private enterprise embraced socialist ideas with the formation of co-ops and single desks allowing for different businesses to work with each other rather than against. The unusual mix provoked Soviet revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin to write of Australia:

"What sort or peculiar capitalist country is this in which the workers' representatives predominate in the upper house....and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?"

While socialism had its advantages, most of those who received its advantages were white men. Furthermore, social and economic change was limited under government ownership and single desks. Consequently, socialism was challenged with the formation of the Liberal Party in 1949. Economically, the Liberal Party promoted smaller and less intrusive government. Socially, it aligned itself with Britain while still promoting opportunities for women and equality for Aborigines. Finally, as part of intentional movements trending towards racial equality, it began dismantling the White Australia Policy that had been erected to protect the white men in unions.

The Liberal Party first gained federal power in 1949 and its conflicts with the Labor Party could perhaps be seen as the beginning of the Cold War in Australia. As part of its domestic battles, Liberal leader Robert Menzies aligned the party with western liberalism under the leadership of the US. Ironically, this caused a corruption of the liberal ideals that Menzies claimed to support. Firstly, in 1950 the Menzies government sent Australians to South Korea to fight a Soviet backed invasion from the North. While defending the South against an invasion could perhaps be reconciled with liberalism, in 1951, Menzies introduced conscription, which was not consistent. Fighting in the Korean War ended in 1953, but the Menzies government maintained conscription until 1959. In the 1960s, Menzies took Australia to war in Vietnam and in 1964 introduced conscription once more.

As well as trying to defeat Communism through war and conscription, Menzies tried to have it banned outright. In 1951, the Menzies government passed a bill banning Communism. When the High Court ruled the bill unlawful, a referendum was held to ban Communism. To the government's displeasure, the majority of Australians voted to ensure they had the freedom to be Communists if they so desired, and their fellow Australians could be Communists if they so desired.

The House You Built - Liberal advertisement attacking socialism


If anything, Menzies fuelled Communism with his strategies to suppress it. The legality of Communism in Australia made the conscription of Australians to suppress it in foreign countries seem absurd. Not surprisingly, Menzies' policies sparked anti-government protest marches. These marches provided the stage for Communists to redefine the purpose of the march from being about opposing conscription, to also being about opposing Capitalism. All they needed to do was join a protest march against conscription carrying a huge sign bearing some kind of Communist slogan.

Just as the Cold War resulted in Liberal Party betraying some of the ideals it claimed to support, so it was for the Labor Party. In 1972, Australia elected Labor leader Gough Whitlam and many Communists perhaps believed that their time was coming. Unfortunately for them, Whitlam  largely continued the western liberal trends that had commenced under the previous Liberal governments. In regards to the Vietnam War, most troops and all conscripts had been brought home under the previous McMahon Liberal government. Whitlam brought home the final training team, much to the applause of the faithful. In regards to racial relations, most of the White Australia Policy had been dismantled and the Gorton Liberal government had signed international agreements denouncing racism. Whitlam ratified those agreements into law, much to the applause of the faithful. Finally, Whitlam chose (or was fooled by the CIA) into having Jackson Pollack’s Blue Poles being used as a visual image of his government. Jackson Pollock was an abstract expressionist painter who was covertly promoted by the CIA due to abstract expressionism’s association with individualism and subjectivity, which were seen as synonymous with western liberalism. Whitlam made headlines when his government paid $1,000,000 for Pollock’s work and today, many Labor ministers are happy for it to be seen as a symbol of the Whitlam government.

Land of Liberty

A highly political purchase, Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles was sold as a subversion of the establishment and a symbol of the Whitlam government revolutionary tendencies. Ironically, abstract expressionism was convertly promoted by the CIA because it was seen to embody individualistic values.

Whitlam really only made two decisions which could be defined as allying with Communism in the Cold War. Firstly, he recognised that the Communist Party of mainland China was the true government of China. Previous Australian governments recognised the Kuomintang of Taiwan as the true government of China. Secondly, he refused to allow South Vietnamese refugees to settle in Australia because Australian Communists considered them to be criminals.

anti-refuggee protests

Despite pursuing a social liberalism agenda that was broadly popular with voters, the Whitlam government proved to be extremely unpopular due to its economic mismanagement. To force an election and take power, the Liberal opposition blocked supply, which in turn forced the Governor General to dismiss the government. As a pitch to voters for the upcoming election, Whitlam made a republican style pitch that perhaps further eroded the British transnational identity but ultimately couldn’t save Whitam.

Post-Whitlam, the Fraser Liberal Government allowed almost 50,000 South Vietnamese refugees to settle in Australia but largely did little else that could be defined as a Cold War battle. It wasn’t until the election of the Hawke Labor government that the Cold War flared up again. Although he was the former leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Hawke was an economic liberal and had plans to implement a deregulated agenda. The Communists of the Labor Party naturally opposed him, and in 1983 Hawke made an example of former national secretary David Coombe as a warning to others. Security agency ASIO secretly recorded Coombe sharing a drunkard evening with Valery Ivanov, the First Secretary to the USSR Embassy in Canberra. Coombe never said anything to indicate that he was part of a Communist conspiracy or that he had national secrets to share. At the time, Commbe had a private lobby business and the transcripts recorded his plan to use his connections to make money - like a good Capitalist.

The transcripts were shown to Hawke, who then announced to the media that ASIO had uncovered a "threat". Hawke then expelled Ivanov as a potential spy. As for Coombe, although he was never charged with anything, he was ruined and by ruining him, Hawke demonstrated to the public that the Labor Party would not tolerate potential Communists in its ranks.

With Communists on notice, Hawke set about implementing economic liberalist policies that dismantled almost 80 years of socialism. In 1983, he floated the dollar and deregulated the banking system so that foreign banks could enter the Australian market. In 1988, his government removed tariffs on foreign products. In 1991, his government started privatising government enterprise such as Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank. Hawke’s successor, Paul Keating continued with the economic liberal agenda. In 1992, he introduced compulsory superannuation, thus making Capitalists out of all workers. In 1993, he ended centralised wage-fixing and introduced collective bargaining at the enterprise level. After Labor lost power in 1996, the Liberal government continued the economic liberalist agenda with the sale of more government assets and granting independence to the Reserve Bank.

Today, socialism continues in the form of government grants and government ownership of media companies, hospitals, schools, and universities; however, the Communist transnational identity really only lives on among the type of university students that have Che Guevara as a screen saver.

 

What is Communism?

In the 1840s, Karl Marx fled to England in order to escape persecution from the states that later federated into Germany. Marx’s personal experience of being persecuted, combined with the capitalist exploitation of the workers that he saw in England, motivated him to see the history of humanity as a class struggle. Basically, Marx said that those with more power were able to control the means of economic production to progressively hoard more and more of the surplus for themselves. In Marx's view, over time, this manipulation of power would lead to market failure and social revolution. In short, capitalism would destroy itself.

Marx’s post-revolution utopia was one in which the means of production would be controlled by the state so that individuals could not use any special advantages of inheritance, breeding or networks to exploit their fellow man. This would make all people equal. In his own words:

"Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals."

Communism, in basic accordance with Marx’s theories, was first implemented after the Russian revolution of 1917. Once gaining power, the new Communist leadership set about purging dissidents who didn’t want to be subjugated to the united power of individuals, or more specifically, to the leadership of the united power of individuals. The dissidents kept being purged until only one leader remained, Joseph Stalin.

Stalin initially diverged from Communist orthodoxy in that instead of promoting Communism around the world, he proposed Communism in one country. This allowed Russian Communist propaganda to be nationalistic rather than a promoter of global humanity. Despite embracing nationalism, Russia was still a Communist state in the sense that Stalin prevented most Russians from exerting their individualistic self-interest. He prevented some of the self-interest by making the state own the means of production. In addition, he used nationalistic jingoism, sporting success and wars to encourage Russians to ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for Stalin. When that failed, he had dissidents executed or forced into labour camps.  

Communism in Russia collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it became too difficult to keep anti-Communist movements supressed in its puppet states.

While Communism in Russia was characterised by the purges of dissidents on the orders of Stalin, Communism in China took a different route to achieving the Communist utopia. In many respects, Communism in China did amount to an honest attempt to realise the Communist dream. On the Long March, the rebel Communist army had bled for each other, died for each other, and received aid from poor farmers. It was on the march that Mao Zedong and other Communist leaders had seen how altruistic people could be and they were determined to allow that altruism to shine when they took power in 1949.

Rather than dissidents being executed, most were sent for "re-education". Sometimes this involved academics being put to work as farmers or coal miners while farmers and coal miners were given work as public officials. Sometimes re-education involved asking people to write essays about whether they had been good Communists. Sometimes it was by encouraging everyone to read quotes from Mao's little red book. Sometimes it was by erasing pride in history, burning books, destroying temples and replacing it with Communist propaganda. In Mao's view, because China’s heritage and culture was hierarchical, it had to be completely destroyed for an egalitarian China to emerge. Furthermore, to be a true Communist country, it had to embrace human culture over Chinese culture, which meant erasing those symbols of Chinese exceptionalism.

Five Teachers

Communism in China did make some attempts to put global citizenship above Chinese nationalism, but this was on the assumption that Mao would lead that global citizenship.

Despite genuine attempts by the Communist leadership, Communism in China led to an estimated 30 million Chinese dying in famine and a massive fall in economic output. In addition, a global Communist identity never surpassed a Chinese national identity, which in turn led to military conflicts against fellow Communist countries. In 1969, China had a brief military conflict with the Soviet Union. In 1979, China invaded Vietnam to punish it for aligning with the Soviet Union over China.

To explain why the Communist system was failing, Chairman Mao turned to nationalism. Furthemore, he found flaws in the people rather than his management policies. To remedy these flaws, he developed an idea of Red Guards. These were student evangelists that would spread the word of Communism and purify the nation’s soul.

While noble in ideal, the students had trouble purifying their own soul, let alone anyone elses. The students struggled to understand what it meant to be a good Communist and much like Christians once burnt “witches” at the stake to show their conformity to the bible, the activists tortured and vilified the perceived  enemies of the revolution in order to show how "egalitarian" they were. As told in the book Mao and China:

“We forced the teachers to wear caps and collars which stated things like “I am a monster.” Each class confronted and reviled them in turn with slogans, accusations, and injunctions to reform their ways. We made them clean out the toilets, smeared them with black paint, and organized “Control Monster teams” to see that it was properly done. We would charge them with specific mistakes and not relent until they admitted that they were true. It took a week of nearly constant struggle to make the man admit he had said, “Mao was wrong” in conversation with one of his fellow teachers. They had little rest and were forced to sleep apart from their fellow teachers. We would join informal groups, raid their quarters and begin to work on them again. They could not escape us.” (Karnow, Stanley 1972, Mao and China Penguin Books)

For Mao, the actions of the Red Guards represented an end of his Communist dream. Less than a year after their inception, he disbanded them and called in the military to take control. Mao's faith in the common man and woman had evaporated and China never again experienced policies designed to realise the Communist dream.

After Mao’s death, Deng Xiaoping (an enemy of Mao who had been tortured by the Red Guards) assumed leadership of the Communist Party. In 1978, he opened up China to reform, which basically allowed China to become a free market system run by a public service bureaucracy that put social relationships (guanxi) above the rule of law. In name, China is still Communist but it is completely alien to Marx's vision.

Why did the Cold War happen?

At the end of World War 2, the United States and the Soviet Union were the two most powerful nations in the world and for contrasting reasons, positioned the other as the enemy. Because neither nation wanted a war with a nuclear armed opponent, their battles were played out in diplomatic channels and in proxy wars in Asia.

For the US, Communist revolutions were a threat to its economic interests in Europe and Asia. Specifically, America had funded the reconstruction of Western Europe, South Korea and Japan. If any of the funded nations became Communist, not only would it have been unlikely that American loans would have been repaid, but American businesses would have been deprived of markets that were expected to develop as economies were rebuilt.

While the US had legitimate reasons to fear Communism, it initially did little in response to that fear. Instead, it was the Soviet Union that commenced hostilities. One day after the American atomic bombing of Japan, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and subsequently invaded much of the territory that Japan had held in Mongolia and Korea. These invasions and the subsequent creation of Communist puppet governments occurred without American opposition.

In 1949, the Soviet Union had its first successful test of a nuclear weapon. With the confidence that the nuclear weapon provided, in 1950, China and the Soviet Union encouraged the Communist government of North Korea to invade South Korea and despose of its US backed government. For the two Communist countries, the US military presence on mainland Asia was potentially a threat. Furthermore, they needed an enemy in order to order to persuade individuals in their countries to maintain faith in Communist ideology.

In response to the invasion, America and a UN coalition including Australia provided military support to the South Korean government. After three years of warfare and around 2.5 million deaths, an armistice was signed.

In 1955, conflicts for power in Vietnam escalated into another proxy war between the US, China and the Soviet Union. Unlike was the case with South Korea, America didn't have the same financial interests to protect in Vietnam; however, it had developed a domino theory that proposed that Communism had to be stopped in Vietnam otherwise it would keep spreading. Over the subsequent 20 years, more than 2 million people lost their lives before the US withdrew. Ironically, a few years after the US withdrew from Vietnam, China invaded in order to punish Vietnam for aligning itself with the Soviet Union. After suffering some humiliating defeats, it too withdrew.

In 1979, a third proxy war broke out after the socialist government of Afghanistan invited the Soviet Union to send military support. Unlike was the case in Korea and Vietnam, America didn't commit troops but it did fund Islamist rebels against the Soviet regime. For America, the intention was to economically weaken the Soviet Union by drawing them into a protracted war. The poor relations between China and the Soviet Union also resulted in China supply arms to anti-Soviet forces.

The Cold War came to an end largely because the Soviet Union and China abandoned the economics of Communism in the 1980s. China started opening up to reform in 1979. In 1989, a wave of protests toppled Communist governments in Eastern Europe with the Soviet Union making no effort to stop them. In 1991, the Soviet Union broke apart into independent republics.

 

Difference between Socialism and Communism

There is often confusion about the differences between Socialism and Communism. Socialism is best conceived as government ownership of businesses for the purpose of realising social justice (moral benefit). For example, a government may own a bank because it is concerned about bank workers being exploited by shareholders or banks exploiting their working class customers.

 

The Relationship between Patriotism and Communism in Australia

Because nationalistic fervour helps persuade individuals to put the group before themselves, Communism is typically associated with patriotism. At the beginning of the 20th century in Australia, patriotism was a problematic topic for many Australian unionists and would be Communists. The problematic nature of patriotism could be seen in the words of Henry Lawson, a unionist, and a bush poet popular amongst Australian nationalists:

"This was the loyalty which sent several hundred jingoes and several thousand pounds to assist England in crushing a brave nation of savages who were fighting for a country of no earthly use to anyone but themselves...Why on earth do we want closer connection with England? We have little in common with English people except our language. We are fast becoming an entirely different people. We are more liberal, and, considering our age, more progressive than England is. The majority of English people know nothing of Australia, and even the higher classes understand neither us nor our country. The latter entertain a sort of good-natured contempt for us which is only the outcome of their contact with our own shoddy aristocracy, which is several degrees more contemptible than that of England.
The loyal talk of Patriotism, Old England, Mother Land, etc. Patriotism? after Egypt, Burmah, Soudan, etc. Bah! it sickens one. Go and read His Natural Life, and other natural lives, by Marcus Clarke, and then talk of the dear old Mother Land that gave us birth. "

(HENRY LAWSON Autobiographical and Other Writings 1887-1922 ANGUS AND ROBERTSON, Sydney 1972)
 

For the labour movement, the issue of conscription during World War 1 also revealed the way the movement was struggling with the issue of patriotism. Specifically, the movement ran anti-patriotic advertisements such as:


"To Arms!
Captalists, Parsons, Politicians,
Landlords, Newspaper Editors, and
Other Stay-at-Home Patriots
your country needs
YOU
in the trenches
WORKERS
Follow your Masters"

Does Australian History support Communism or Capitalism?

 

Argument 1 - Australian history provides a compelling case for Communism

The Convicts had a saying,

“The law locks up the man or woman who steals the goose from off the common, but leaves the greater villain loose who steals the common from off the goose.”

It is was an saying that developed in response to English enclosure acts that took land that was being communally used and gave it to private individuals to own and control. Enclosure commenced in the 16th century and by the 19th, only mountainous terrain was left in communal hands. In the process, farmers, hunters, or people who just collected firewood were made into criminals or forced to become labourers for urban capitalists.

Not content with the profits they were making off enclosed land and cheap workers, capitalists sought to control more and more of the means of production. New machinery made workers obsolete and high unemployment allowed those who kept their jobs to be forced to work in even more dangerous and lowly paid conditions.

After depriving their own people of their land, Britain invaded Ireland in 1690 to deprive the Irish of theirs. Three-quarters of the Irish land became owned by the English Protestants who rented it to the Irish farmers. If rent was not paid, bailiffs would take anything moveable such as livestock or furniture and then evict the family.

The exploited realised that their only hope for change was through unity and they rose up against their British overlords. In 1798, Ireland was declared to be in a state of insurrection. Under the Insurrection Act, Magistrates and Military Officers were empowered to arrest and punish, by death or otherwise, according to their discretion, people committing treasonable acts or even suspected of treason. An Indemnity Act protected them from suits for illegal acts committed by them in suppressing a rebellion, so that many thousands were, without any judicial trial or investigation, flogged, tortured, executed or transported to Australia.

In Scotland in 1834, six men from the village of Tolpuddle also realised that their freedom lay in unity. Consequently, they tried to form a union to fight for their rights collectively. They were collectively transported to Australia.

In 1835, the chartists, a group of about 60 people from Monmouthshire in England, drew up a list of changes they wanted made to the political system. The list included an idea that everyone should be given a vote, that voting should be by ballot and Parliamentary members should be paid. The system of the time only allowed rich men who didn't have to earn a living to enter Parliament. For creating the list, they were transported to Australia. Joining them in Australia were criminals who had been caught fishing, collecting wood, hunting, stealing peat, or who picked the pockets of the rich as an alternative to being exploited by the rich in factories.

After being deprived of the right to even exist in their country of birth, decent human beings continued to be exploited by capitalists in the penal colony of Australia. Such was their exploitation, they even lost the right to sell their own labour. Female Convicts were forced into sexual servitude, and male Convicts built infrastructure without pay and assigned to work for land owners like a donkey is forced to pull a cart.

No opportunity for more profits ever went to waste. In 1808, the British military decided it wanted to sell alcohol to a population struggling with alcohol abuse much like the British military in China wanted to sell opium to a population addicted to the drug. When Governor Bourke tried to stop the trade, the military rebelled, removed him from his post, continued to sell alcohol and took over the assignment of Convict labour.

When gold was discovered in the 1850s, continued exploitation by those who controlled the means of production led to workers again realising that their freedom was in unity. In 1854, 500 miners raised their flag and vowed:

'WE SWEAR BY THE SOUTHERN CROSS TO STAND TRULY BY EACH OTHER, AND FIGHT TO DEFEND OUR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES.'

In their stand, the miners gave birth to unionism in Australia, and it was through unionism that worker exploitation was reduced, although only Communism could remove it completely.

Those that want to argue that the human right abuses in China and Russia prove that Communism was a failure only need to look at the history of Australia to appreciate that human rights abuses under Capitalism were even worse.

Argument 2 - Australian history provides a compelling case for liberalism (capitalism)

By today’s standards, conditions for the working class in 18th century Britain were hard; however, it would be wrong to imagine that in the 16th century the Brits were dancing around Stonehenge every night sharing the massive banquets that they had grown on common land. Life in Britain had always been tough and starvation had always been part of British life.

While land enclosures and new technology deprived many of their livelihood, the impact could have been lessened if workers had more avenues to start businesses that allowed the wealth of increased industrial output to be shared around. By denying such individualistic opportunities, the only way some people could share the wealth was by breaking the law. In other words, the problem was not with individualism, but that opportunities to express individualism legally were only available to a few.

Even though land enclosures and new technology led to unemployment, it would be wrong to say that this was the biggest driver of poverty in Britain. Instead, the real problem was that massive improvements in public health led to population growth out stripping industrial growth. Under the communal ownership structure, most of Britain would have starved as the population grew. The increases in agricultural production caused by privatisation actually alleviated many of the pressures associated with a rising population. In other words, land enclosure and mechanisation actually reduced overall suffering.

Emigration was a circuit breaker that helped prevent the kind of revolution that occurred in France. Sometimes emigration was voluntary but in the case of transportation to Australia, it was forced.

The social situation that allowed the Convicts to be forcibly sent to Australia, and dehumanised in Australia, was oppressive, but it was individualism that allowed that oppression to be overcome. Certainly, the rum rebellion wasn’t motivated by altruistic ideals, but it did help diversify power in the way that made it more difficult for governors to rule the colony in a dictatorial fashion. The governor appointed after the rebellion, Lachlan Macquarie, partly dealt with the threat of another rebellion by the military or Convicts by offering opportunities for more individuals to share in the wealth of the colony. This extension of opportunities allowed the likes of ex-Convict Molly Morgan to become a prosperous business owner. Unlike many governments, Morgan used her wealth to help those less fortunate. She donated freely to set up schools and churches and even turned her own home into a hospital for the sick. Her story was repeated countless times across the colony as a new class of wealthy citizens never forgot what it was like to be poor and exploited. These people gave to others, not because they were forced to, but because they wanted to.

As for the Eureka Stockade, although Communists and unionists may have claimed that it as a triumph of collective action, the motivations of the miners have been misunderstood. Admittedly, they said their oaths of solidarity, but they weren’t chanting “when I find gold, I want to share it with everyone, horray!” These miners were objecting to licence fees and abuses of power that denied them an opportunity to strike it rich. In other words, they were looking out for their own monetary well being.

It is also woth noting that the entreprenuial miners had a far more inclusive attitude to racial diversity than did the unions that adopted the miners' flag. To be more precise, one of the leaders of the rebellion, Raffaello Carboni, wrote:

"The maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self-overworking diggers of all languages and colours, was a fascinating object to behold"

50 years later, unions were chanting slogans that Australia should be reserved for the white man, which led to the white Australia policy. In a nutshell, union leaders showed that they had just as much propensity to abuse their power as did any capitalist, and people suffered as a result.

It is understandable that the Communist slogan of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" would find a willing ear amongst those who were transported to Australia. The abuses of power by British capitalists in the 17th, 18th and 19th century were horrific, and those abuses indeed prevented people contributing according to their abilities or taking according to their needs. However, abuses of power are remedied by diversifying power, not further concentrating it. It was by diversifying power that individuals in Australia were able to cast off their shackles and give according to their abilities and take according to their needs.

Australia did not change from an oppressive society to a liberal society through collective action or government declaration; rather, it changed because individuals had their own little revolutions and did those things that governments were too ignorant or to oppressive to do.

 

 

 

Leaf

Email

Rebellion

John Caesare
The first

Our Ned Kelly
A story heard and considered

Eureka Massacre
Dying for liberty

Post Convicts

Federation
Why is it not celebrated?

White Australia Policy
From Convicts to Chinese

Gallipoli
Baptism of Fire or Well of Tears

Simpson and his Donkey
A larrikin and a hero

Nancy Wake
A larrikin and a hero

The Depression
Australia's Greek Moment

World War 2
The eastern chapters

Cold War
The expression of transnational identities

Prime Ministers
Values and policies of Australian leaders

 

 

 

"Let no-one say the past is dead, the past is all about us and within"(Oodgeroo)