“Assange and WikiLeaks are a sharp example of the broader campaign to censor and silence oppositional voices. The fight to defend him is inseparable from the struggle to alert and mobilise the international working-class against the ongoing attacks on fundamental democratic rights and against the danger of dictatorship and war.” – James Cogan 5 July 2018
The Trotskyist I.C.F.I (International Committee of the Fourth International) has continually emphasised the importance of the campaign to defend Julian Assange, published extensively on the topic on their website the World Socialist Website, several of their Socialist Equality Party sections have organised demonstrations including a major rally in Sydney, and it has strongly and publicly endorsed the call-outs for international protests made by this website (classconscious.org) on June 19th and in the event of Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorean Embassy.
It is in this context, that we appeal to the I.C.F.I and it’s members/supporters to rectify the party’s silence on the co-option of the Julian Assange campaign by petit-bourgeois tendencies, opportunists and the pro-Trump far-right. It is an urgent political task to demarcate the class forces involved in this campaign so it can be re-orientated back to the international working class.
The vehicle of this take-over of the campaign is the #Unity4J ‘Movement’.
#Unity4J is the creation of both Suzie Dawson – the current President of the New Zealand Internet Party and the Internet Party’s multi-millionaire founder, Kim Dotcom.
Launched in response to the cutting off of Assange’s internet on March 28th by the Moreno Government, #Unity4J consists of a series of monthly, online vigils featuring prominent supporters of Julian Assange.
Although the campaign to defend Assange has been ongoing since 2010, the vigil’s online prominence enabled Dawson, Dotcom and their associates to claim that they are now leading and in control of the campaign to defend Julian Assange.
The name of #Unity4J encapsulates the bankrupt perspective “that Assange must be defended under a ‘Unite with the Right’ banner”.
The About section of the #Unity4J website states : “In a world of divide and conquer, uniting people is the ultimate act of resistance. Therefore, we must bring together ALL public figures who support Julian and WikiLeaks, regardless of their political views or party affiliation. Putting aside our personal politics in order to create a diverse line-up of advocates who support our message will give us the ability to reach the largest audience possible.”
This is not mere rhetoric. Whilst many of the participants in the vigils have been principled, progressive opponents of the attacks on Julian Assange’s democratic rights – numerous, high profile, far-right, fascistic figures have also appeared – including, but not limited to:
- Lee Stranahan: Former Breitbart News contributor and now pro-Trump reporter for Sputnik News.
- Cassandra Fairbanks: Pro-Trump Youtuber and writer for far-right website, The Gateway Pundit.
- H.A. Goodman: Who uses his Twitter profile to attack leftists and campaigns vociferously for Trump.
- Jack Posibiec: An alt-right troll who works for the pro-Trump channel: One America News Network.
- Ross Cameron: Far-right, ex-Australian Government politician and now Islamophobic, pro-Trump Murdoch journalist.
The inclusion of these forces has been justified by the self-proclaimed leader of #Unity4J, Suzie Dawson, who has repeatedly stated that the group’s ‘no politics’ line is explicitly being modelled on the global Occupy movement of 2011, of which she was a part in New Zealand.
As the ICFI has explained many times, this perspective is advanced by petit-bourgeois, upper middle-class layers in a conscious effort to prevent Marxist and independent, working-class, orientated movements from developing.
Nor is it a surprise that a ‘movement’ funded and launched by Kim Dotcom is hostile to working-class politics.
“The WSWS denounced the illegal campaign against Dotcom and the GCSB’s operations as deeply anti-democratic. But that does not in any way signify support for Dotcom’s politics, which are oriented toward the same big business and political establishment that is responsible for mass spying and many other abuses of democratic rights.
Dotcom has previously donated money to the far-right ACT Party, which is part of the governing coalition and supports lower taxes for the wealthy and sweeping measures to dismantle welfare. He recently sought political advice from Don Brash, a former leader of both National and ACT. Dotcom has criticised the GCSB and New Zealand’s alliance with the US, but not the National-ACT policies of austerity, privatisation and attacks on wages and working conditions.”
Dotcom’s Internet Party also went into an electoral alliance in 2014 in New Zealand with the chauvinist, Maori, anti-Chinese Mana Party and its pseudo-left allies who threw their lot in with Mana at the time. This development has also been extensively covered by the ICFI.
The ICFI has so far omitted any discussion of the origin and nature of the class forces involved in the current Julian Assange campaign. We believe this omission can best be highlighted by examining two relevant documents of the ICFI.
The first, is the recent resolution of the SEP (U.S.) at their Fifth National Conference that stated:
“The persecution of Assange and Internet censorship has been directly facilitated by the self-styled ‘liberal’ parties and media, the trade unions and the pseudo-left organisations around the world. The representatives of the privileged, upper middle-class, these tendencies have aligned with the ruling-class and the descent toward dictatorship and war. In the process, they have repudiated any defence of fundamental democratic rights. They have either joined the vilification of Assange or maintain a complicit silence”. (emphasis added)
Whilst, it is true that the representatives of the privileged, upper middle-classes have almost entirely betrayed Julian Assange, it must be said – that by stating that ALL their representatives have abandoned the campaign, the ICFI is unable to describe or even label the upper middle-class interests which remain in the campaign. These are, as we have argued – the leadership of the #Unity4J campaign.
In the Occupy movement in 2011, the ‘no politics’ line was used by pseudo-left forces to channel energy behind the Democratic Party. However, this is not possible under current political circumstances due to the open hostility of the CIA Democrats towards Assange.
Instead, the ‘no politics/Unity’ line is being exploited to channel the energy of the campaign behind a different faction of the bourgeois in the form of fascistic, U.S. President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. This follows from allowing far-right Trump supporters to fraudulently masquerade as defenders of democratic principles whilst simultaneously suppressing any criticism of Trump and promoting criticism of the Democrats within the campaign.
It shouldn’t be necessary to explain to ICFI members how dangerous giving political cover to fascistic forces is in the current global climate. The dynamic within #Unity4J reflects the international trend of pseudo-left forces aligning with the far-right as in Britain during Brexit, Syriza in Greece and the Maidan protests in Ukraine.
Classconscious.org highlighted this dynamic in our article; The Dead End of ‘Uniting’ with Fascists to Defend Julian Assange, an article that was publicly condemned by Suzie Dawson and the leaders of #Unity4J.
Classconscious.org, however, are not alone in raising concerns. The tensions over the involvement of the far-right in solidarity work for Julian has been ongoing at the highest levels of this campaign. Classconscious.org has subsequently received both public and private support for our stand against the inclusion of the far-right.
On August 13th, the Director of the Courage Foundation, Naomi Colvin, resigned her position over a directive from the Courage Foundation Board to remove whistleblower and journalist, Barrett Brown, as a beneficiary from the Foundation due to his criticism of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
In her resignation letter Naomi expressed her concerns over the involvement of the far-right in the campaign and linked to the classconscious.org article The Dead End of ‘Uniting’ with Fascists to Defend Julian Assange.
She stated, “I remain absolutely, unambiguously opposed to the withdrawal of Julian Assange’s asylum and the prospect of his extradition to the United States. I do, however, have acute concerns about the way advocacy on this issue is developing. This is reflected, obviously, in the circumstances that have led to me resigning from Courage, but also in recent comments made by Jesselyn Radack, Bailey Lamon and Davey Heller (I agree with them).”
The second document we would cite of the ICFI’s, that highlights their failure to discuss the origin and nature of the class forces involved in this campaign is the 12th July WSWS article by Oscar Grenfell entitled: Prominent whistleblowers and journalists defend Julian Assange at online vigil.
This article covered the second #Unity4J online vigil that occurred on July 7th-8th and is the sole article published by the ICFI on the organisation – #Unity4J. The article adopts an entirely uncritical attitude to #Unity4J, neglecting to mention it’s ‘no politics’ perspective.
The WSWS article highlights the statements of Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Cian Westmoreland, Ray McGovern and William Binney who are correctly described as “individuals who have been persecuted by governments for taking a courageous stand against war and authoritarianism”.
Other #Unity4J vigil participants, who previously have been excoriated by the ICFI in WSWS articles as pseudo-left or even “openly right-wing” are benignly described as follows: “Other prominent speakers included philosopher and author Slavoj Zizek and British politician George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party for his opposition to the invasion of Iraq.” (Hyperlinks to relevant WSWS articles added above).
Most strikingly though, all other vigil speakers are simply covered by the vague statement “A range of other independent journalists and commentators also spoke.”
This catch-all statement papers over the involvement of the far-right speakers including: Lee Stranahan, Ross Cameron, H.A. Goodman and Cassandra Fairbanks. Fairbanks not only spoke but actually conducted interviews with other panelists.
The statement also papers over the involvement of speakers who whilst not being explicitly far-right, possess extremely questionable politics including Kim Dotcom and Vivian Kubrick, daughter of Stanley Kubrick, who expresses sympathy for Trump and has appeared on Alex Jones’s show ‘Infowars‘.
The silence of the ICFI on these forces’ involvement in #Unity4J, within it’s own published documents, is made even more inexplicable in the light of Mike Head’s (senior member of the Australian SEP and senior writer for the WSWS) very public intervention and criticisms on this exact matter.
On August 9th, during a live-streamed ‘Politics in the Pub‘ event in Sydney, entitled “The Gagging of Julian Assange”, a highly significant exchange occurred between Mike Head, and Suzie Dawson.
During the exchange, Mike Head delivers a devastating critique of the ‘no politics’ line of #Unity4J and how it represents a dead end for the Julian Assange campaign and more broadly the working-class itself. Classconscious.org fully endorses Mike Head’s perspective and believes it should be shared as widely as possible. That is why we have published in full here – with a complete video and transcript of both Mike Head’s comments and Suzie Dawson’s response.
One short section is reproduced below, where Mike Head responds to Suzie Dawson’s explanation that the ‘no politics’ line of #Unity4J is based on the claimed “success” of the Occupy Movement.
Mike Head: “Yeah, but look, seven years on from Occupy, Wall Street is in control far more than ever before, inequality is just staggering…you know Occupy completely failed. In fact, it derailed the whole movement behind Obama and the only reason Trump and the alt-right can get a voice, is because of the betrayals of Obama, Clinton and the Democrats and Bernie Sanders too, who delivered… who tried to get people to vote for Hillary Clinton. These are political questions, you can’t avoid them. You can have all the unity you claim to have, and at the end you’re cosying up to extreme right-wing forces who are pro-capitalist forces, like Kim Dotcom by the way, you know, multi-millionaires. They have no common interests with the working-class. I’m sorry, these are very basic questions.”
We believe that the ICFI should have shared this video widely and followed it up with an in print, political intervention. We communicated with the ICFI via email and social media to encourage this path but no such action was taken.
We did receive one related reply from the ICFI on Twitter.
The SEP Australia Twitter account has been consistently incorporating the #Unity4J hashtag into it’s tweets. When we asked whether this denoted agreement with the principles of “achieving unity by papering over of political differences” (#Unity4J perspective), the SEP Australia account replied:
“It is a hashtag that is commonly used among supporters of Assange and WikiLeaks. I’m sure you know that the use of a particular hashtag does not imply agreement with it, or with everyone who uses it.”
Given the close correlation of the #Unity4J hashtag with the politics and identity of the #Unity4J movement we found this to be a politically, questionable position.
Further questions were raised for us in regards to the ICFI’s position on #Unity4J, when the comment section on the aforementioned Prominent whistleblowers and journalists defend Julian Assange at online vigil article was disabled on the WSWS site.
The comment section was active when the article was printed and became a forum for discussing the ICFI’s position on #Unity4J. It included exchanges whereby assorted WSWS readers questioned the seeming endorsement of #Unity4J speaker, Slavoj Zizek within the article – given his previous exposure as “openly right-wing” by the ICFI.
The comment section also included an debate between myself and commenter, Oliver C, after I expressed that it was politically remiss of the article to omit any reference to the ‘no politics’ perspective of #Unity4J.
At some point after this exchange was published, the comment section was removed from the article. However it was still accessible via the disqus platform which hosts the comment section of the wsws.org. We have reproduced the comment section in full in the following article through compiling a number of screenshots.
A possible pattern is emerging of suppressing discussion of this campaign via the comment section of the wsws.org. The WSWS article Australian vigils held in defence of Julian Assange which covered the vigils and protests coordinated by the classconscious.org website on June 19th appeared with no comment section attached.
It is our observation that it is highly unusual for any article on wsws.org to be published without a comment section.
We are not making any accusations regarding the motivations of the ICFI – in relation to either their omissions on discussing the upper middle-class interests and their far-right allies within the Julian Assange campaign or in relation to the removal of the comment section of the wsws article on #Unity4J.
However, we do believe that they raise serious political questions for the ICFI. We are writing this appeal to urge the members and supporters of the ICFI to ask these questions within and without the party and to debate these issues.
These questions must be resolved. The dynamics that have allowed the co-option of the campaign to defend Julian Assange by the far-right will reoccur, and pose a danger to the building of an international movement of the youth and working-class against war and to defend democratic rights more broadly.
Contributors to classconscious.org are not members of the ICFI so we cannot raise these issues directly within the party ourselves. We have attempted to communicate with the ICFI via email and social media but have been met largely with a wall of silence.
We are also Australian based, so much of our communication has been with the Australian SEP. We now reach out to members and supporters around the world in the spirit of internationalism and as comrades.
The contributors to classconscious.org share the revolutionary, socialist perspective of the ICFI and believe that the ICFI has a historic mission in mobilising the international working-class.
It is only because we recognise the vital role of the ICFI in leading the struggles of the working-class, that we are concerned that they have a clear and consistent pubic position on the issues raised in this article.
This article is not an attack on the ICFI but a plea for discussion and debate from an ally in the class struggle.The tradition of the Marxist movement, is one where public debate has allowed for the clarification of positions on important political questions.
At this time of increasing class conflict and pressures, such debates are not only necessary but healthy. It is in this spirit of solidarity that we make our heartfelt appeal to ICFI members and supporters.
Davey Heller – classconscious.org
Note: If anyone would like to contact us directly to discuss the issues raised in this article or ask for clarification on our perspective more generally we welcome discussion. Email firstname.lastname@example.org