by Davey Heller
19th February 2019
The last decade has seen the paradox of large-scale political movements marching under the banner of ‘no politics’. Millions of people have mobilised so that the ‘people’ can take power back from the ‘elites’. This has been driven by the increasing crisis of capitalism and the consequent rise in social inequality.
Major parties all over the world of both the traditional right and the social democratic ‘left’ are seen with justified disgust. This has fuelled movements such as the Occupy Movement, the Free-Trade agreements protests and the Yellow Vests.
Without a clear left-wing, class-based socialist perspective however, these campaigns are vulnerable to being exhausted or manipulated into supporting one or another faction of the ruling class and being coralled behind the dead-end of nationalism.
In recent years, this has increasingly been exploited by the far-right as they pose as defenders of the ‘people’ and ‘democratic rights’, all the while building the base for fascism around the world. This is the trap that has been laid for the Free Assange movement via #Unity4J.
#Unity4J – A Unite with the Right Platform
The Julian Assange campaign since June 2018 has been dominated by the perspective of ‘no politics’ through the #Unity4J online vigils which are now occurring weekly. Featuring prominent supporters of Julian Assange, including many progressive and principled speakers, the forum has also included prominent members of the far-right such as former longtime Breitbart journalist Lee Stranahan and alt-right, social-media darling and Gateway Pundit journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, amongst others as detailed in my previous article “Calling things by their right names”.
The #Unity4J website explicitly 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.”
It is not surprising that the #Unity4J has adopted the ‘no politics’ perspective given one of the founders, Suzie Dawson has repeatedly stated that #Unity4j is modelled on the global Occupy movement of 2011, of which she was a part in New Zealand. Occupy was a ‘no politics’ campaign.
The debate flares.
Debate around this perspective was ignited again with the publication on February 6th of “Being Honest: Considerations of a Julian Assange Supporter”, by independent journalist – Jimmysllama. Llama’s article raised legitimate questions about the integrity of figures within #Unity4J such as Suzie Dawson and Kim Dotcom. It also referenced classconscious.org articles to back her concerns over the far-right being platformed within #Unity4J. classconscious.org also shared her article on social media and therefore we became a target of criticism along with Llama after its publication.
This criticism has continued with a reply from Suzie Dawson to Llama’s article which in turn has fuelled new debate and contention around #Unity4J and the wider Defend Assange campaign.
Llama has now published a new article – “Llama: My Honest Response to Dishonest Accusations” that completely demolishs Suzie Dawson’s evidence-free “debunking” of Llama’s expose of #Unity4J’s grifting, falsehoods and collaboration with and platforming of alt-right fascists.
Llama has linked to and prefaced this very classconscious.org article in her latest piece as a response to Suzie Dawson’s denial that: “Unity4J is a haven for pro-Trump/alt-right/far-right figures”
Jimmysllama’s latest article has been published in full → HERE
Dawsons defence: What’s a few fash in the mix?
Dawson glibly dismissed concerns over high-profile, far-right figures in #Unity4J – essentially declaring “What’s a few fash in the mix”. She stated “The idea that the 4 or 5 names targeted in the recent smear are somehow so nefarious as to subvert the entire movement (clue: they aren’t) is laughably ridiculous.”.
Notably, Dawson did not name any of the individuals – class conscious has raised concerns about (ie. Fairbanks, Stranahan, Prosobiec, Cameron and Goodman). Nor did she deny the far -right politics or connections of any of these individuals. However, she did give them another sly endorsement with her denial of their “nefarious” influence. This is typical of the kind of evasion and game-playing that occurs when the specific politics, associations and statements of the far-right are brought up with #Unity4J.
The World Socialist Website gives left-wing cover to #Unity4J.
It was also extremely significant that Dawson, once again, used the statements of the Socialist Equality Party (which publishes the World Socialist Website) as the main ‘left wing cover’ to justify their ‘unite with the right’ strategy.
She stated: “Claims that Unity4J has been taken over by the alt-right have been resoundingly debunked by the National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party of Australia, James Cogan.”
She linked to a Facebook post of James Cogans that blatantly and falsely denied the involvement of far-right figures in #Unity4J. She quoted in full the following tweet from the Socialist Equality Party Australia.
In the days after the publication of Llama’s article, my social media feeds were full of this tweet. It has been an ideological sledgehammer in the hands of the apologists for ‘uniting with the right’ who are using it to make the point that “the real socialists” don’t mind standing alongside Breitbart journalists!
In recent days, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) has gone from providing defensive left-cover to the perspective of #Unity4J – to full throated endorsement in the form of James Cogan appearing on the vigil itself on February 15th. The attitude of the SEP appears to be an opportunistic one in muting any criticisms of hostile class forces within #Unity4J, including far-right and petty-bourgeois forces, in return for access to being promoted by the platform, including plugging their upcoming rallies in defence of Assange in March. This is despite classconscious.org making an appeal to the ICFI to expose these class forces. The tragedy of this – is that the ICFI does not even need these forces to take the leadership of this movement but could use its website and status of an international party to mobilise the working class.
Prominent left-wing journalists such as John Pilger and Chris Hedges have indeed appeared on #Unity4J, alongside many independent journalists and brave Whistleblowers ranging from Daniel Ellsberg, John Kirakou and Cian Westmoreland. However, as I argued in my previous article:
“It is extremely disorientating that figures such as Lee Stranahan are platformed and given equal respect as the likes of Chris Hedges and Daniel Ellsberg within #Unity4J. The working-class cannot effectively fight fascists if these wolves are allowed to dress up in the sheep’s clothing of defending Assange and ‘fighting the establishment’ – hiding amongst real progressive voices.
Now the authority of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) who publishes the World Socialist Website and speaks in the name of Trotsky has added its imprimatur to this disorientating process.
Ironically enough, James Cogan during his appearance on the vigil highlighted how important the struggle with hostile class forces within #Unity4J is – when he stated:
“The way forward is through the independent mobilisation of the working class. I actually believe that the movement that is developed, has developed, and it has been done through #Unity4J, through many other mechanisms, but the movement developing around Julian Assange is an important contribution to a broader political radicalisation within the working class. The massive political change begins among a politically conscious, politically directed minority and that’s what I believe we are seeking to forge.
Surely, given the prominence and importance James places on #Unity4J, the SEP should have something to say on the perspective it is based upon!
The Socialist Equality Party – hiding from its own positions.
The ICFI/Socialist Equality Party obviously do not feel on strong ground defending their position. Firstly, they have engaged in active censorship on the World Socialist Website of this discussion in the form of removing the comment section from their article on the July 2018 #Unity4J vigil.
They also refuse to acknowledge this debate on their website with Cogan claiming on Facebook that “It is not necessary or appropriate to bring the authority of the WSWS to bear against the confused positions of one individual.” The disingenuous nature of this statement is revealed by the act of censorship referred to above which indicates the real agenda is to hide this debate from the broader readership of the wsws.org.
Perhaps, if such a debate was to occur openly on the pages of the wsws.org the previously-held positions of the ICFI could inconveniently reappear. In previous years, the ICFI has taken an unrelenting position on movements that adopt a ‘no politics’ perspective including #Unity4J.
For example, Mike Head, a senior writer of the SEP, during a debate with Suzie Dawson over the perspective of #Unity4J at a Politics in the Pub event in Sydney on August 9th 2018, stated:
“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.”
Going a little further back, the World Socialist Website, thoroughly critiqued the ‘no politics’ perspective of the Occupy Movement. In a 2011 article they stated:
“The fact must be faced by Occupy protestors that defenders of these reactionary organisations have rushed to try and take control of the movement in order to block such a discussion. They are easily identified. They are those who are most vocally insisting that “no politics” should be permitted within the protests. The administrator of the “Occupy Sydney” Facebook page in Australia is one example. He or she declared this week: “[A]ny political party or group who wishes to try and hijack this into a political agenda, we will throw them out.”
Such positions are profoundly anti-democratic and hostile to the aspirations behind the Occupy movement. They amount to nothing more than a ban on any critique of the parties and unions whose pro-capitalist political agenda is responsible for the conditions facing the working class. It is an attempt to censor socialist politics and prevent the development of a genuine political alternative.
At every level, “no politics” is an absurdity. It is obvious to any serious person that a struggle against the capitalist “one percent” poses critical political issues. Every social movement in history has been compelled to adopt a standpoint on the basic question of politics—which class should rule.”
In 2011, the purpose of this perspective was largely to provide cover for the Trade Unions and Social Democratic Parties such as Obama’s Democrats in their ongoing repression of the working class. The perspective in 2019 – however – within the Free Assange campaign is to provide cover for a different faction of the ruling class, as represented by the fascist Trump, MAGA and the Republicans.
In 2011, in the U.S. there were two distinct ‘anti-establishment’ movements. One was the billionaire Koch funded “Tea Party Movement” and the other was the progressive “Occupy Movement”. Particularly since the 2016 election and the revelations of corruption within the Democratic Party by Wikileaks, there has been a merging of these two ‘anti-establishment’ strains into a heterogenous movement of ‘the people’ versus ‘the elites’. A shared and justified hatred of the corruption of the Democrat Party and the Clintons serves as the ideological glue for much of this new ‘movement’. Most disturbingly, some of this energy was co-opted very successfully by the Trump campaign, allowing a fascist real-estate billionaire, to posture as an ‘outsider’ coming to Washington to “drain the swamp” and take on the “deep state”.
A Marxist critique of false unity – Trotsky’s criticisms of the “People’s Revolution”.
As a Marxist, I believe the struggle for Julian Assange’s freedom cannot be separated from the struggle against capitalism. That is because the fundamental cause of Julian’s persecution is that he exposed the crimes of the U.S. capitalist ruling class and what the ruling class of the U.S. and elsewhere fear most is a politically educated working class.
When people within this campaign therefore argue that “everyone” needs to get together to free Julian and want us to “put politics” aside they ignore the fact that this campaign is not separate from politics.
Leon Trotsky, the Russian Revolutionary wrote extensively on how to fight fascism in Germany in the early 1930’s. In the following passage he was criticising the use of the phrase the “people’s revolution” by the Stalinist German Communist Party as opposed to the slogan of “proletarian (working class) revolution”
“The fascist says 95 percent of the people are interested in the revolution, consequently it is not a class revolution but a people’s revolution. In reality, the worker-Communist should say to the fascist worker: of course, 95 percent of the population, if not 98 percent, is exploited by finance capital. But this exploitation is organized hierarchically: there are exploiters, there are subexploiters, sub-subexploiters, etc…
Trotsky warns that this hierarchy needs to be exposed and taken apart but it cannot be if the proletariat/working class “dissolves itself into the “people,” and into the “nation.
“The slogan of a “people’s revolution” wipes away the ideological demarcation between Marxism and fascism and reconciles part of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie (middle classes) to the ideology of fascism, allowing them to think that they are not compelled to make a choice, because in both camps it is all a matter of a people’s revolution.”
In other words, we are not all on the ‘same side’. Ultimately, we all need to make a choice which side we are on. People like Stranahan and Fairbanks are paid to promote and defend the most vicious anti-working class forces in the world, in the personification of Trump. Trump’s regime as part of prosecuting this agenda is trying to nail Julian Assange to the wall. Of course Obama did the same as he represents the capitalist ruling class as well. I would not support including paid, high profile Democrat supporters in the campaign either! (of which there are none that I am aware).
This is a false ‘unity’ to which I will not agree and I will not be silent on.
Know your class enemy.
It is worth recalling that the Nazis cast themselves as ‘anti-establishment’ figures. In 1925, Joseph Goebbels, who later became the Nazi Propaganda Minister, appealed for a ‘United’ struggle against capitalism:
“Capitalism is the immoral distribution of capital… Germany will become free at that moment when the thirty millions on the left and the thirty millions on the right make common cause. Only one movement is capable of doing this: National Socialism, embodied in one Führer – Adolf Hitler.”
A fascist like Goebbels can only place Hitler at the head of a “united peoples” movement if people do not understand who their enemy is clearly – the capitalist ruling class (bourgeoisie). The Bourgeoisie must be overthrown as a part of the international revolution to replace capitalist property relations and the profit system with a new socialist society. Nation states must be abolished and the productive forces of humanity must be harnessed and run for the benefit of the vast mass of the population (the working class).
The enemy must be clearly defined, if not – the far-right can project whatever image it wants on to the blank canvas of the tyrannical ‘elite’ to divide and disorientate the working class. Terms such as ‘transnational elite’ and ‘globalists’ in the hands of the far-right are thinly veiled anti-semitic tropes. This is backed up with an unhealthy focus on high-profile Jewish capitalists such as George Soros and the Rothschilds. Jewish capitalists and immigrants are blamed for falling social conditions – not the capitalist class who benefits from dividing the international working class.
Conversely, if not clearly defined – the Social Democratic liberals can blame an external bogeyman such as “the Russians” or perhaps even worse, blame the working class itself for its own oppression.
The crisis of Leadership in the working class.
In 1938, Trotsky wrote: “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat (working class).” It is the job of Marxists to address this crisis of leadership by persistently and patiently pointing out the class dynamics involved in progressive movements such as the Julian Assange Campaign. This means being uncompromising in identifying and labelling far-right forces who attempt to posture as defenders of democratic rights just as much as it means labelling pseudo-left Democrat Party boosters who attempt to subordinate the campaign to that party.
It means, patiently explaining that the fight for Julian Assange, like all struggles against war, fascism, censorship, social inequality, to defend democratic rights and to protect the environment are inseparable from the struggle against capitalism itself.
Staking the “last card on fascism”.
The stakes could not be higher. Trotsky again wrote in 1938, “The bourgeoisie itself sees no way out. In countries where it has already been forced to stake its last upon the card of fascism, it now toboggans with closed eyes toward an economic and military catastrophe.” These words apply again eighty years later as once again the bourgeoisie, in fear of socialist revolution, is moving towards staking its last card on fascism. In the United States, Trump, who is clearly a fascist even if he is not able to openly rule as one yet, is consolidating his Executive Powers through declaring a National Emergency over the phoney border “crisis”, Republican control of half the Legislature and he has the Supreme Court sewn up. Trump also continues to build up an extra-parliamentary fascist MAGA movement within and without the state apparatus.
In Europe, country after country is falling donimo-style under the control or influence of the far-right including: Austria, Italy, Poland, France, Hungary, Ukraine and even Germany itself. The “Pink Tide” in Central and South America is being rolled back and replaced by fascists such as Bolsanaro in Brazil. In country after country, the cowardly Social Democrat parties play their role as the midwives of fascism, firstly betraying and disorientating the working class before offering no real resistance to the implementation of fascism. They fear the working class more than they fear fascism, even under the threat of their own liquidation at fascist hands.
As Trotsky warned the German working class “Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle.”
Class politics but not sectarianism.
The class lines must be drawn clearly. This does not mean that that Marxists cannot work with non-Marxists or adopt a sectarian policy of abstentionism in regards to the vital campaign to defend Julian Assange and Wikileaks. However, the class lines cannot be blurred or obliterated by Marxists endorsing, appearing on and sharing platforms with the far-right, such as #Unity4J. We must work with non-Marxists but never for the trade-off of short-term opportunism in return for muting or remaining silent in the face of the class enemy or a ‘Unite with the right’ strategy that can only disorientate the working class.
Solidarity not allegiance – the place for principled disagreements with Julian Assange.
It must be acknowledged as classconscious.org have pointed out, that Julian Assange has repeatedly met with Cassandra Fairbanks. This is not a defence of Fairbanks or indeed a condemnation of Julian Assange. I believe defending Assange’s rights is critical to defending the democratic rights of the entire, international working class. I stand unequivocally in his defence. However such a defence does not involve endorsing every decision he has ever made uncritically. Standing with Julian Assange because of the brilliant work he has done with Wikileaks and standing against his persecution by U.S. Imperialism does not involve endorsing his every political decision or affiliation. Solidarity is not the same as allegiance.
The World Socialist Website summed this position up well in 2013, with this passage from their article, “Why the SEP does not endorse the WikiLeaks Party”.
“Julian Assange has played an important role as a journalist and whistle blower. His political conceptions and activities are another matter. Assange’s politics are an eclectic combination of libertarianism and reformism. However sincere his intentions, Assange’s political associations have been all over the map and reveal a man whose decisions are influenced by impressionism, naiveté and short-sighted opportunism.”
Acknowledging a political difference with Assange is not the same as contributing to or agreeing with the almost never-ending smears of Assange from the likes of the Guardian. These ‘liberal’ forces will dredge up anything they can find to undermine public support for Assange for his heroic exposure of U.S. Imperialism. However, the fact these smears exist cannot be used to justify remaining silent on the serious political issues that inevitably arise within this campaign as they must amongst any campaign.
Why these issues matter beyond the Free Assange campaign.
This article was an attempt to not only reply to the criticisms of myself, classconscious.org and those Llama received but an attempt to clarify the important issues raised by the debate over #Unity4J for the benefit of the working class as a whole. Millions of workers and youth around the world, under conditions of capitalist crisis, are already moving into struggle. This includes not only movements such as the Yellow Vests but powerful, emerging industrial-workers movements breaking free from the bureaucratic control of the nationalistic trade unions such as Matamoros in Mexico or the striking teachers in North America. If these movements are to advance the interests of the working class they must be armed with the correct class perspective. Clarifying these issues within this campaign, given the centrality of the fight for Julian Assange’s rights to the broader fight against censorship and war, is an unavoidable if difficult political task.
The importance of this task is made even more critical by the anti-war positioning of the same #Unity4J pseudo-left and fascist forces who have co-opted the Defend Assange campaign. These anti-war poseurs include Suzie Dawson, Cassandra Fairbanks, Lee Stranahan and others connected with #Unity4J.
No doubt as WW3 threatens to erupt, the #Unity4J ‘no politics’ crowd will be eagerly offering their services to the global anti-war movement as they continue to provide cover for and boost President Trump, who not only wants Julian Assange dead but threatens whole countries with nuclear annihiliation!
Classconscious.org has worked with a range of people previously to organise several rounds of global protest in defence of Julian Assange. We have called for Emergency Actions outside U.S. Embassies and Consulates in the event Julian Assange is evicted. We continue to be willing to work with others to build a movement of the youth and international working class to free Julian Assange as part of the broader struggle against capitalism and of course, fascism – which is the most lethal form of bourgeois rule.