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The Barcaldine Strike leaders

The Barcaldine

Strike Leaders

William Lane



The last fortnight has seen the climax of the capitalistic conspiracy against unionism. With 1500 or so police and military occupying a few places along the railway lines, the Government has felt itself strong enough to invite lawlessness by the wholesale arrest of union officials upon evidently trumped-up "conspiracy" charges. Fortunately private warning had been given of what might be expected and ample arrangements made for the prevention of all excitement among unionists, for peaceful submission to arrest and for the filling of all offices as officials were arrested. The Barcaldine arrangements in particular were so perfect that half a dozen or half a hundred committees would have been forthcoming in due order had they been required. The preposterous "conspiracy" charges have thus utterly failed in their purpose and can have no effect but to emphasise the alliance existing between organised Capitalism and the Government. M'Ilwraith and Donaldson are both in the middle of the squatters' association and Griffith will sell himself to either of them if thereby he can hold office.


Among the union officials arrested under this fictitious "conspiracy" charge are: Chairman Bennett, Secretary Fothergill, and Delegates Ryan and Murphy, of the Central District Strike Committee, Barcaldine; Secretary Blackwell, of the G.L.U., Barcaldine; Branch Secretary E. H. Murphy, of the G.L.U., Roma; Central District Organizers Taylor at Clermont; Forrester at Roma; Fanning at Charleville; Camp-Chairman Griffin at Clermont; while H. Smithbarry, appointed by the C.D. Strike Committee to replace Taylor at Clermont was promptly arrested in pursuance of the evident attempt of the capitalistic Government to prevent unionism from having officers. Secretary Chas. Seymour, of the F.S.U.S., who with the consent of his union had been representing the General Executive, A.L.F., at Barcaldine, had just left the Central District on his return to Brisbane when the arrests began. It was expected that he would be arrested on reaching Brisbane, Good Friday eve, but for some reason or other he was not molested. On Tuesday last Seymour started again for Barcaldine in response to a request to the General Executive from the Strike Committee; his arrest is hourly expected. Besides the abovenamed some 30 others have been arrested, whose names will be published as soon as obtainable in order that unionists may know who are suffering for the Cause. It should go without saying that should any man who has anybody dependent upon him be arrested simply for his connection with unionism, such cases should be the special care of every union in the country.


The gross exaggerations of lawlessness which are trotted out by the capitalistic Government to excuse its own lawlessness are beginning to react upon themselves. There is amazingly little disorder or drunkenness in towns filled with unionists and void of police and military; the fairy tale of a mounted messenger being "bailed up" by unionist highwaymen at Northampton turns out to be a pure concoction; most of the grass fires are from squatters' burning off themselves; and in three months only three sheds have been burnt, with no evidence that any one was started by unionists; if it was anything but a squatter Government in office there would be no excitement to speak of. So hard up is the capitalistic press for sensations that it has had to descend to personal comment upon the appearance of the bushmen. George Taylor is put down as the "worst-looking of the lot" of prisoners. Then the others must be mighty fine-looking fellows, that's all. This howling is all kept up to justify the military terrorism now extending over the country, and to keep out of sight the little fact that the Government has not attempted to secure an open conference. Actually, so barefaced is the support of the Government to Capitalism that French and his troops were actually delayed at Rockhampton upon the strength of the false rumour that the bushmen were going to concede so-called "freedom of contract". It is for this "freedom of contract", which will degrade wage-earners, that the Government is fighting - not for the suppression of lawlessness, which is mostly on its own capitalistic side.

This document is an extract from The Worker (Brisbane), 4 April 1891

The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture