by Davey Heller, 20th January 2020
The fight to defend Assange is inseparable from the fight against fascism, war & dictatorship; therefore forces such as Breitbart, Trump and the fascist section of the ruling class that back them must be treated as hostile political entities. The campaign to defend Assange must be truly progressive and working class orientenated. A revealing episode occurred on January 13th outside London’s Westminster Magistrates Court when Breitbart News attended to interview protestors. It was extremely significant and healthy that singer M.I.A refused to speak to Breitbart, showing principled political leadership. Her actions spoke for the elements of this campaign that understand that fighting for Assange does not mean you have to compromise your principles. Her actions shames those that did speak to Breitbart which included “Wikileaks Ambassador” Joseph Farrell and John Rees head of the official Wikileaks PR/ advocacy campaign “Dont Extradite Assange.”
The interviews done outside the court were published on January 15th in Breitbart news in the article: “Exclusive Video: Interviews with Protestors at Julian Assange Hearing”. The article was widely shared on social media by campaigners following the lead set by Emmy Butlin (@greekemmy) who runs the London based Julian Assange Defence Committee who tweeted the article and linked to it in the WISEUP action wrap of the day.
That Breitbart is a racist publication that is committed to developing a basis for fascism is beyond dispute. It grew into the fascist media powerhouse it is today under the leadership of Stephon Bannon, who is 2016 declared it the “platform of the alt-right”. Bannon went on to be Chief Strategist in the Trump Whitehouse. Bannon secured funding for Breitbart from the far-right hedgefund billionaire Robert Mercer. It is rightfully infamous for its incessant anti-immigrant, racist, anti-socialist “news”. One relevant example is that the author of the January 15th interview article was Kurt Zindulaka. A recent piece by Kurt Zindulaka in his role Breitbart’s London correspondent followed a typical Breitbart trope of highlighting violent and sexual crimes by migrants, in this case, a case of serial rapist. Zindulaka on Jan 7th retweeted the right US bigot Anne Coulter who tweeted his article accompanied with the text “Immigrants bring DIVERSITY (of rapes):”
This is not the first time that senior figures associated with Wikileaks and the Courage Foundation have allowed far right figures to bolster their phoney “anti-establishment” credentials and try to co-opt Assange to their “drain the swamp” MAGA fascist narrative. The presence of figures such Fairbanks, Prosobiec and Stranahan on the now thankfully defunct “Unity4J” vigils was another example. In 2018 classconscious.org repeatedly exposed these forces in Unity4J.
How is one to explain the promotion of such forces within a campaign for democratic rights in the defence of Wikileaks and Assange? The political mission of Wikileaks and Julian Assange in their goal of revealing the criminal secrets of the ruling class is by its very nature a revolutionary one. We have seen this time and time again in terms of the anti-war and working class struggles unleashed by their publications, not least helping to spark the Arab Spring in 2011 and sustain and fuel anti-Iraq war sentiment around the world. This is why US imperialism and its allies have worked relentlessly to silence and break Assange and Manning and destroy Wikileaks.
However there is a contradiction present in that the individuals involved or surrounding Wikileaks are not all revolutionaries in their class politics. In fact many of them come from a layer of progressive but privileged upper middle class layers (petty bourgeois). Their perspective is not orientated to the working class as only social force internationally that stop the drive of the ruling class towards dictatorship, war, inequality and environmental collapse. Instead they are still invested in the capitalist system and its capacity of the ruling class to be reformed.
This has led these figures down the political dead end of believing that Julian Assange, now that he is the cross hairs of US Imperialism, can only be saved by appealing and maneuvering between one or another faction of the ruling class. Before Julian was trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2010-2011, Julian was the darling of the social democratic and “liberal” petty-bourgeoisie wing of the ruling class in London. This unreliable milieu turned on Assange after the rape investigation in Sweden was weaponized against Assange to destroy his reputation and try to entrap him in an extradition process to the US. In the US the Democrats have been implacably hostile to Assange since 2011. Their hostility to Wikileaks cut across their absolute commitment to the US Imperialist war which seamlessly morphed into their more recent “Russiagate” narrative.
When Wikileaks published emails in 2016 which revealed corruption within the DNC Primaries and highlighted the pro-business and pro-war character of the Clinton campaign the far right in the US, including Trump adopted the “I Love Wikileaks” mantra. This was cynically exploited by forces such as Breitbart and the alt-right who were working with intelligence forces such as Erik Prince to use the Wikileaks revelations to add to the fuel of their fascist narrative that Trump was going to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington and lock up Hillary and all the other “enemies of the people”.
Abandoned by the liberal progressives, in desperation petty bourgeois forces around Wikileaks started hoping that the far-right wing of the ruling class coalescing around Trump could be used as a counter-balance to the anti-Assange Clinton/Democrats. Even after Trump was elected we saw in the form of Unity4J, the deluded hope that MAGA figures such as Fairbanks could be used to exert pressure on the Trump Administration to drop the then secret charges against Assange. Of course of all this came crashing down in April 2018 when Assange was illegally arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy and the seventeen Espionage charges were revealed. Trump, despite “I love Wikileaks” rhetoric,had in truth never abandoned his 2010 position that Wikileaks and Manning were spies and should be executed. Unsurprisingly, Unity4J and its “Unite with the far right” message had crumbled by June 2019 and its poster child Fairbanks and her alt-right cadre quietly slunk away into the Twitterverse distance.
Meanwhile over the last two years, support for Assange has gradually been building in the working class. After a long lull in large scale organising for Assange since 2011, protests started spreading around the world as alarm spread about the Moreno Ecuadorian’ government’s move to try and force Julian out of the Embassy. Millions were shocked by the illegal termination of Assange’s asylum and his snatching by UK police out of the Embassy. Support has only continued to grow due to the Espionage charges being revealled, the collapse of the bogus Swedish investigation and alarm at his ongoing torture in the maximum security Belmarsh prison.
Free Assange committees or groups now exist in many countries around the world and are actively organising regular protests. Whilst they are not yet manifesting as mass mobilisations they reflect the deep and widespread support for Assange in the global working class. Petitions in support of Assange in Australia and Germany have received hundreds of thousands of signatures. Some campaigning social media accounts have extremely large follower bases such as the Free Julian Assange FB page with over one hundred and twenty thousand “likes”. Yellow vests supporters in France are taking their spirit of working class resistance from France to London. A contingent will return to London on January 25th for the third time to protest at very walls of Belmarsh.
As a reflection and consequence of this rise in active support for Julian in the working class, there has been a welcome rise in support for Assange from sections of the social democratic and progressive petty-bourgeois wing of the ruling class, that had largely abandoned him. This has manifested in statements of support by some Labor politicians in Australia and social democratic forces such as the PT in Brazil, President Obrador in Mexico. In the UK we have seen figures such as John Rees himself, a self-described “socialist” who writes for Counterfire and is aligned with the Labor Party, take over the PR campaign. He has worked with figures such as Tariq Ali, Pilger, Chris Williamson and most recently Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to unite the “left” or Corbyn wing of the Labor Party around Assange, although Corbyn remains stubbornly loyal to the intelligence services by staying silent on the issue. These social democratic forces are not only responding to the rise in working class support for Assange but also seeking to use the campaign for their own political ends. For example supporting Assange is a way for these forces to distinguish themselves from other sections of the ruling class who are one hundred percent committed to supporting the foreign policies of Trump.
The appointment of Rees in the build up to the 2019 UK election to head up PR/advocacy for the Assange campaign is the latest effort to appeal to yet another faction of the ruling class, after the collapse with the failed, opportunistic and unprincipled “unite with the right” strategy.
This brings us back to the terrible decision by Rees and Farrell to give an interview to Breitbart. Not only was it totally unprincipled to give any cover to an outlet that supports the Trump agenda of war, racism, concentration camps and a shredding of constitutional rule in the US, including the First Amendment, it was a vestige of the earlier failed appeal to the right strategy. The other last flicker of this delusional strategy was the US meeting between Assange’s lawyer Gareth Pierce and the Trump supporting Senator Rand Paul on a visit to Washington last November. This was always a counterproductive political strategy on every level but in the current context of a rise in progressive working class support for Assange and the context of the Trump regimes unshakable commitment to destroying Assange, it borders on political madness.
On a deeper level it reveals why social democratic forces, who think they can outsmart or “use” the forces of fascism and who ultimately fear the working class more than do the far right can never be trusted to lead the fight against fascism. This is why Corbyn was so ineffective in the fight against Johnson. This is why forces such as George Galloway in the UK failed to take a principled stance over Brexit and promoted a “left right left right marching together” alliance with Nigel Farrage. This is why the Democrats refuse to call out the working class against Trump. As the forces of fascism once again threatens to unleash its full horrors on the international working class a political line must be drawn in the sand, no alliance or truck can be given to the far right by progressive forces. There is no half measures in the fight against fascism and campaigning to free Assange does not give anyone a “free pass” to forget this political lesson.
This also brings us back to the principled stance taken by M.I.A outside the court. It is worth quoting the simple statement of Breitbart, referring M.I.A. full name of Mathangi Arulpragasam, they stated “Arulpragasam refused to comment to Breitbart London.”. M.I.A, just as classconscious.org has argued since mid-2018, refuses to find any common ground with a reactionary and fascist outlet like Breitbart that has the audacity to pretend that you can whip up fascism and support democratic rights!
It should be noted that all the self-styled leftists and progressives who have rejected actively supporting Assange on the basis that his campaign either through the Wikileak releases of 2016 or by allowing the alt-right to infiltrate the campaign are also totally wrong. This is a puerile and ultra-leftist position. The persecution of Assange was animated by the ruling class’s recognition of the revolutionary potential of Wikileaks mission, giving information to the working class about its crimes. Assange is being charged with spying for informing the global working class specifically of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the skulduggery of the State Department. Failing to actively support Assange and Manning only plays into the hands of US imperialism’s efforts to shut down free speech and journalism not just in the US but globally.
It was always possible to be a part of the campaign to defend Assange and to fight fascism. In fact this has been the correct path since the beginning. M.I.A showed this on January 15th. It is a time for the message to sink into the skulls of the likes of Farrell, Rees and Butlin. Meanwhile the real struggle to build a working class orientated international campaign to Free Julian Assange continues. This fight is unlikely to be resolved by the February extradition hearing for Assange in London. It must be continued as part of the broader efforts to build a united working class struggle against war and dictatorship and all factions of the capitalist ruling class.
A very short guide to class
This article uses Marxist concepts of class. There is a lot of confusion about these terms so here is a short guide to class!
It is important to note that class in Marxist terms describes someone’s relationship to the “means of production” eg do they make their money from owning things or from having to earn a wage. It isof course doesn’t tell us everything about who a person is. For example, some wealthy people are progressive and some poor people are conservative.
There are other differences between people in terms of culture, gender and other forms of social identity. Marxism does not seek to make these differences disappear or deny their importance. Marxists seek to explain that the fundamental division in society is between classes, and that class division and conflict is what ultimately drives politics, economics and history.
Working Class – in Marxist terms, the working class is everyone who has to survive by earning a wage eg by selling their labor. This is the vast majority of humanity who all share the same social interests of wanting access to good working conditions, healthcare, education and a clean environment. Marxists also call the working class the proletariat.
The working class is not just “blue collar” or industrial workers but teachers, nurses, retail workers, people in the service industry etc but everyone who survives by earning a wage.
The working class however is not uniform in terms of its wealth. What is commonly called the “middle class” is really just a layer of the working class that is more comfortable financially.
Ruling Class – the ruling class, or capitalist class, is the small percentage of society that makes their money not through earning a wage but from the profits from what they own eg their investments.. They own the “means of production” eg all the factories, banks, companies etc by which things are produced. Each country has its own ruling class which compete with each other. In Marxist theory the ruling class is also called the Bourgeoisie.
How do capitalists make money? The ultimate source of their wealth or profit is the work done by the working class. Workers sell their labor to capitalists in order to produce commodities eg things or services. Capitalists exploit workers’ labor by paying them less in wages than the value they produce. Marxists call this difference between what a worker is paid and the wealth they produce – surplus value. Surplus value is the source of capitalist profit.. The capitalists take the profits and use them to accumulate more money for themselves. All the wealth of the rich is ultimately therefore produced by the working class.
Of course not everyone fits into the working class or the ruling/capitalist class. Intermediate classes exist between the working class and the bourgeoisie.All of these other classes, however, like the working class are exploited by the ruling class for profit.
Peasants – In many parts of the world many people still life on the land as poor farmers
Underclass – Some people live largely outside the formal economy and are so poor they are not part of the working class. This could also include people who subsist on welfare.
Small business owners are categorised as “petty bourgeois” as they are not waged workers, but neither are they part of the ruling class as they are not economically powerful and only own a small amount of capital.
The upper middle class is also classified by Marxists as petty-bourgeois. Although they earn a wage or salary, they are so privileged that as whole they see their interests as more aligned with the ruling class than the mass of the working class. This would include managers, union bureaucrats, well paid professionals etc