Release Julian Assange!
19-06-2018 – Six years. Today marks six years since Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, was effectively incarcerated inside the Ecuadorian Embassy (a small building) in London. His doctors have reported that his health is failing. He urgently needs a root canal, and treatment on a shoulder injury. His vision is deteriorating for not being able to see long distances. Being kept indoors means he has virtually no access to sunlight, with all of the negative health effects that entails. The United Nations has declared that he is arbitrarily detained. Yet he cannot leave the building containing the embassy where he is sheltering, because the British government has repeatedly stated that it will arrest him – and very likely hand him over to the custody of the US government. The US empire, whose numberless crimes Julian Assange and Wikileaks have ceaselessly exposed, is, at best, likely to try Assange for “espionage”. At worst, they will subject him to torture. He could also be starved into an early grave if he is not allowed out of the building he is confined within. His life hangs in the balance, and yet he has not given in.
Elementary rights at stake
Wikileaks has changed the world, and all but the most spiteful concede that Julian Assange has changed the world for the better. The very fact that world imperialism seeks his demise is proof positive that Assange is an agent of change, and that his continued work is a threat to the domination of the planet by the forces of capitalist darkness. Canberra is once again playing a nefarious role; by following Washington’s foreign policy willingly, instead of offering what should be straight-forward assistance to an Australian born citizen carrying an Australian passport. Australian Federal governments have changed several times since Assange was detained, but all of them effectively continue former PM Julia Gillard’s appalling label of “criminal”. Needless to say, the voluminous publishing by Wikileaks has proven over and over again that the real criminals are the ones who run the system.
Not only is the physical well-being of Julian Assange at stake right now. At stake are some of the most basic civil and democratic rights, without which society would descend into a dystopian void. The right to free speech, the right to publish information, the right of journalists to report in the public interest. The right of citizens to question their governments, the right to oppose war, the right to dissent, the right to hold a political opinion which differs from the mainstream. The right to communicate with others without those communications being spied upon by the government. The right to know where your taxes are being spent. And on and on it goes. In short, almost every pretense for the basis of bourgeois democracy – which was always a fraud for working people – is being shredded to pieces. In addition to opposing planet threatening imperialist war, Julian Assange is heroically defending elementary rights.
Left parties, Union officials abandon Wikileaks
Incredibly, Julian Assange has virtually been abandoned by many left parties, and not one Union official has spoken out against the Australian government’s abominable collusion with their counterparts in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA), which has left Assange’s life hanging in the balance. It is a cliché, but the silence of the parties which became the imperial left is deafening. The Socialist Alliance, which in 2010 called large demonstrations in support of Julian Assange, have since that time kept him well out of their headlines, with only an occasional mention finding its way into their press. Socialist Alternative, who also organized large demonstrations in defence of Julian Assange in 2010, to our knowledge last mentioned Julian Assange in 2014, and then only reprinting an article from internationally renowned left-wing journalist and film maker John Pilger. Solidarity, who also railed against Assange’s detention in 2010, to our knowledge last published a minor mention of Julian Assange in 2014, begrudgingly defending Assange against some feminists for false “rape” charges.
The political reasons why these left parties have dropped Julian Assange like a sack of spuds are today not difficult to establish. For them, when Julian Assange’s actions opposed the US led war on Iraq, he became their hero. When, however, Julian Assange’s actions went on to oppose the US led wars on Libya and Syria, he became an embarrassment. While the parties which became known as the imperial left strongly endorsed the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, Julian Assange continued to expose the West’s role in prosecuting them. As they moved sharply to the right, Julian Assange – along with genuine anti-war activists, remained consistent in publicly opposing the wars of Empire. Julian Assange had become too left-wing for the “left”.
More than this, Julian Assange’s work continued to expose Hilary Clinton, and her links to the criminal arming and funding of mercenary terrorists, calling Libya “Clinton’s War”. In response, Hilary Clinton blamed everyone but herself for her election loss to Donald Trump, and claimed without evidence that Julian Assange was an agent of “Russia”. Defence of Russia, even against US threats of nuclear war, is impermissible for liberals. Not to speak of a defence of Red China, which Assange has also, in one way, brought to bear. In 2011, Wikileaks cables revealed that, in fact, there was no massacre of students, or anyone else, through the Peoples Republic of China’s government response to demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. A defence of Russia and China, in any way, is enough for liberals to throw up their hands and shriek in horror. The imperial left and almost all Australian Union officials are magnetically bound to the foreign policy of Australian imperialism – so Julian Assange and Wikileaks had to be given the cold shoulder. Not even the Union officials from the Union covering journalists – the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has seen fit to issue so much as a press release in defence of the basic journalistic work of Wikileaks. For them, journalism is fine as long as it tows the line of existing society. Julian Assange has shown just how corrupt this society is, so he was hung out to dry.
The case of Peter Greste
In contrast, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), has taken the lead in organizing and calling for political action to release Julian Assange from his effective jailing in London. They have been effective in organizing the rally in Sydney on June 17, which has gained endorsements from John Pilger, prominent social justice lawyer Julian Burnside, and Terry Hicks, the father of David Hicks, the alleged “Australian Taliban”, who was also unlawfully detained by the US government. Despite our sharp political disagreements with the SEP on other issues, we applaud and support their initiative.
At the same time, the SEP’s laudable defence of Julian Assange has a fatal flaw. The SEP compares the detention of Julian Assange to the case of another Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was imprisoned in Egypt in 2013. They write:
“The Australian government committed considerable resources to winning the freedom of Al Jazeera journalist and Australian citizen Peter Greste from false imprisonment in Egypt….It must do the same, if not more, to prevent Julian Assange falling into the clutches of the Trump administration and the American courts.”
This makes a critical error. Peter Greste was not an innocent Australian journalist simply doing his job who was “falsely imprisoned” in Egypt – he was willingly and knowingly working for Al Jazeera, who in turn, were aiding the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Al Jazeera, or more specifically the Qatari monarchy, was openly backing Mohamed Morsi in an effort to expand their war against secular states in both Syria and Egypt. Al Jazeera, in contrast to its role in exposing the US led war on Iraq from 2003, today fans the flames of ultra-sectarian Sunni jihadism, from Palestine to Libya to Syria, and to Egypt. The Qatari monarchy’s funding and arming of Al Qaeda and ISIS mercenaries in Syria, and it’s backing of the Brotherhood in Egypt, were a part of the same genocidal war against secular Syria and Egypt, but also against what they see as the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran – despite many religions existing side by side in these countries. Mohamed Morsi obliged, and effectively declared a jihad on Syria, telling the Arab League that “Assad must go”.
The US-led war on Syria was arguably the most extensive and most damaging proxy war in history; unleashing tens of thousands of ISIS linked deranged killers, causing immeasurable loss of innocent life. Mohamed Morsi and Al Jazeera were a strong component of this war of unspeakable barbarity, yet Peter Greste knew this and became a spokesperson for it. He maintains his backing of jihadism, though couched in very cryptic terms – as no one can now, especially after their defeat by Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, come out in support of jihadist terrorism. For example, in 2017, Peter Greste claimed “….we’ve succumbed to the rhetoric around terrorism….the far greater threats are from things like nationalism and xenophobia, where we turn inwards and away from the rest of the world. I think that’s doing far more damage.”
Between the lines, the message is unmistakable – jihadist terrorism and regime change is fine, resisting it (“nationalism and xenophobia”) is a no go area. Peter Greste did not suffer “false imprisonment” in Egypt. He, along with two other Al Jazeera colleagues, were imprisoned in Egypt for working for the Muslim Brotherhood, at the very time when the Muslim Brotherhood was directly involved in attempting to overthrow Syria through imperialist backed terrorism, utilising diabolical methods such as beheading innocent men, women and children. Working people have no truck with the Egyptian military, but is it any wonder that they imprisoned Qatari funded “journalists”, who were broadcasting “news” about how wonderful the Muslim Brotherhood was? Thankfully, the US-Qatari forces that Peter Greste was not only backing, but being paid to work directly for, were soundly defeated in both Egypt and Syria.
For working class led mass action to free Assange
Julian Assange is the polar opposite of Peter Greste. Julian Assange opposes imperialist war and the workings of imperialism with every fibre of his body – literally. Peter Greste openly and unapologetically works for capitalist-imperialism, even when it creates terrorists to target Syria and Iran. Assange works directly against imperialism, Peter Greste was working directly for imperialism. This was why the Australian government extended full consular assistance to him and why they have abandoned Assange. This points to the second flaw in the SEP’s otherwise outstanding defence work. They call for the Australian government to exercise its “diplomatic power” and “legal discretion” to work to secure the “unconditional freedom” of Julian Assange. But such calls are fraught with danger for working people.
Rather than calling on the Australian government to free Julian Assange, the left should aim its demands at the working class itself, and principally on the Union officials, to mobilise using all available means, up to and including the use of strike action. The ruling class must know that this country will become ungovernable unless Julian Assange is unconditionally released from any custody. International action by supporters and defenders of free speech, the right to publish etc., will also play a strong role, but the key is to empower working people to achieve this. Calls on the government itself to do the work for you significantly disempowers of working people, and reinforces the false notion that the government is “ours” – and can be made to serve our will.
This is false to the core. The capitalist state cannot be reformed into something that it is not. It must be overthrown through workers’ insurrection. This is the case regardless of whether or not there exists the necessary political prerequisite – a Marxist vanguard party. A workers vanguard party, or anything resembling it, cannot be forged while the advanced elements of the class are encouraged to call on the government of the class enemy to “act”. Julian Assange himself provides information to expose the political system, but even he would acknowledge that it is up to us to change it. If the working class can free Julian Assange through its own efforts, there is no reason why it cannot go on to put an end to the source of all the ills that Wikileaks reveals – the rule of capital. A workers republic, overseeing a publically owned and planned economy, will be the first step towards the liberation of humanity from imperialist war, unemployment, poverty, environmental desecration and more. FREE JULIAN ASSANGE!
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