Trade unionists support Julian Assange
Every year in July trade unionists gather in the small Dorset village of Tolpuddle to remember the six agricultural labourers who in 1834 tried to form a trade union to fight for higher wages, and were transported to Van Diemens Land by a cabal of local employers. The case turned into a major victory for the nascent British trade union movement, which mobilised to get the Tolpuddle six pardoned and restored to their families in England.
There are many parallels with the case of Julian Assange because in both the law was used to criminalise legitimate activities. Harsh punishments were meted out by a vengeful establishment and those whose interests were harmed. The media (and in 1834 its equivalent, the church) were complicit in smearing and condemning the men.
For this reason campaigners for Assange from the JADC were at Tolpuddle in 2019 and this year we had a stall.
The support from trade unionists was overwhelming and moving. Our stall buzzed with debate and discussion.
On the procession through the village on the Sunday afternoon bystanders clapped our banner and ‘Free Julian Assange’ sounded across the Dorset hills. David Rovics, the American singer-songwriter and ardent Assange supporter was with us at the stall and on the march.
To find out more about the parallels between the cases of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and Julian Assange you can download a digital copy of our pamphlet Tolpuddle, Julian Assange, and the long struggle for social justice. You can read an earlier and longer version of this here. You can also read David Rovics’ blog about the 2022 event.
A later historian wrote:
“The Martyrs of Tolpuddle speak across the years of the price by which alone justice can be set up on the earth….. they take an honourable place in the long story of man’s struggle against the fear and greed of those who entrench themselves behind the privileges that property and class bestow upon the favoured minority.”
This is echoed by Nils Melzer, UN Rapporteur on Torture in his recent, masterful book “The Trial of Julian Assange”:
“Assange is not persecuted for his own crimes, but for the crimes of the powerful. Their impunity is what the trial of Assange is really about.”