Takver's Initiatives. P.O. Box 1078, Brunswick M.D.C, Victoria, 3056, Australia

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It was the organisation rather than the individual which was on trial. No evidence was offered of particular acts-except in the case of Mick Sawtell, who was accused of sending an anonymous letter to Senator Lynch threatening that his farm would be burnt out if Tom Barker were not released.

The accused reserved their defence. Monty Miller argued his own cause:

'I say it with pride....I am a member of the I.W.W. If I am not a member by right of payment of subscription [which, having retired from work, he presumably could not be], I am a member in heart, in brain, and in power of spirit....I feel, elated to stand or fall by the side of comrades such as these....I have never conspired. That is secret; it is mean; it is detestable. I and my colleagues have taken the open path....We want everything to be known.'

The magistrate found that there was insufficient evidence to commit Jack O'Neill and two of the others and discharged them; the remaining nine were committed for trial.

The arrests and prosecution removed at one blow the most active of the Wobbly agitators. Annie Westbrook, almost the only remaining soap-boxer, wrote to Direct Action from Perth:

'You will think, no doubt, that we are cowards. Well, I was so stunned at first, and afraid to do anything that might injure those in gaol, and did not want to get married men with little children in, that I kept very quiet....Am getting a defence committee formed. Will leave wage slavery for a time and get to the [gold] fields for a tour. The city council have made it necessary to get a permit to speak on the Esplanade [Perth's open-air forum] To have attempted meetings here would have meant prosecution, and I am the only one out....'

The fellow workers inside, wrote Mrs Westbrook, gave 'the glad assurance that they are doing more propaganda now than ever. Everyone is wanting to know what is this I.W.W.' (To the Wobblies, slaves were slaves wherever they might be found.) Of Monty Miller, she reported that he was 'still strong, save for a little failing of the memory'; he refused bail unless all his fellow-workers were given it, and he was happy having 'a band of rebel young men around him'.

Almost alone, at a time when Westralian workers had voted overwhelmingly for conscription, Mrs Westbrook carried on the Wobblies' fight. For sustenance, she carried within her a passionate 'dream of happy children dancing in the sunlight of a glorious earth made new by the intelligent application of the principles of the One Big Union'.

from Ian Turner's Sydney's Burning.

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Last modified: February 2, 1998

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