Australasian Spartacist No. 240
Reformists Abet Imperialist Vendetta
Free Julian Assange Now!
The following article is reprinted from Workers Hammer, No. 246 (Spring 2020), newspaper of the Spartacist League/ Britain.
For almost ten years, Julian Assange has been subjected to humiliation, harassment, psychological torture and imprisonment at the hands of the British state. Two years under house arrest were followed by another seven cooped up in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London. In April 2019, a new, more pliant Ecuadorian re gime succumbed to US blackmail and revoked Assange’s right to asylum. British cops dragged him out of the embassy and off to an isolation cell in the maximum security Belmarsh prison. The US rulers immediately demanded Assange’s extradition to face espionage and other charges that could lead to a 175-year jail sentence. We say: No extradition! Drop the charges! For unobstructed passage to any country that grants him asylum!
In November, more than 60 doctors from around the world signed an open letter to the British government warning that Assange’s condition is now so parlous that he “could die in prison”. Assange was due to be released from Belmarsh in September, but a judge insisted that he remain behind bars until his extradition hearing, not scheduled to begin until February 2020.
In April 2010, Assange’s WikiLeaks posted a cockpit video of a US helicopter gunning down at least twelve people in Baghdad. Over the ensuing months, Wiki Leaks released troves of classified military reports provided by Chelsea Manning —then an intelligence analyst in the US Army—documenting other imperialist war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was immediately thrown into prison, where she was twice driven to attempt suicide, while Democrats and Republicans alike screamed for Assange’s head on a spike. But first they had to get hold of him. Thus the WikiLeaks founder suddenly found himself the target of a vile campaign painting him as a “rapist” on the basis of trumped-up accusations by two women in Sweden. Running point in this vendetta was the liberal Guardian, which had published (and profited from) the material made available by WikiLeaks.
The truth is there was no rape! Neither woman claimed at the time that she had been the victim of rape or sexual assault, only later saying that what had begun as consensual sex became non-consensual. One of them organised a barbecue for Assange the day after the supposed assault. The other texted that “it was the police who made up the charges” (justice4assange.com). A preliminary investigation after the allegations were made in 2010 concluded: “The evidence did not disclose any evidence of rape.” When Sweden wanted to drop the arrest warrant in 2013, Britain insisted that the case be kept open.
The imperialist frame-up of Assange has been abetted by an array of Labour lefts and reformist “socialists” who claim to oppose Assange’s extradition to the US. When Assange fled to the Ecuador ian embassy, Peter Taaffe’s Socialist Party (SP) published a statement by its Swedish co-thinkers which asserted that “Socialists stand for the rape allegations being investigated without the threat of deportation to the United States” (Socialist, 29 August 2012). The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) screamed “Julian Assange must face rape charges, not US revenge” (Socialist Worker, 21 August 2012).
The rape allegations were never anything more than a flimsy cover for getting Assange on a rendition flight to the US via a stopover in Stock holm. Now that Assange is firmly in the clutches of the British state, the “rape investigation” has collapsed as conveniently as it arose. On 19 Novem ber Sweden’s deputy chief pro secutor announced that “the evidence is not strong enough to form the basis for filing an indictment”! The SP and SWP have yet to comment on this unsurprising turn of events.
In refreshing contrast to the phony socialists of the SP and SWP, two members of the charity Women Against Rape declared in 2012: “The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will, usually to increase their powers, this time to facilitate Assange’s extradition or even rendition to the US” (Guardian, 23 August 2012).
The reformists’ crocodile tears over the alleged Swedish victims have nothing to do with the fight for women’s emancipation and everything to do with bowing to “democratic” imperialism. Underlining that the case against Assange was always and only about the US imperialists’ vendetta, the CIA has been implicated in a spying operation on Assange when he was in the Ecuadorian embassy. This operation recorded Assange’s discussions with his doctors and lawyers.
The International Marxist Tendency (IMT), initiator of the Marxist Student Federation, did not join its fellow reformists in baying for Assange’s blood. However, the IMT provided cover for those who did. After Assange’s arrest, Stella Creasy authored a letter, signed by a host of other Labour MPs, demanding that then home secretary Sajid Javid “ensure Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in the event Sweden makes an extradition request”. In an article headlined “The Assange arrest: Blairites run to the support of imperialism”, Socialist Appeal (16 April 2019) claimed that “Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott have come out firmly in defence of Assange.”
It was not just the Blairites who ran to the support of imperialism! If Sweden reopened the rape case against Assange, said Corbyn, “then obviously he must answer those questions”, adding: “There can be no hiding place from those accusations” (itv.com, 13 April 2019). Abbott chimed in, “If the Swedish government wants to come forward with those charges, I believe that Assange should face the criminal justice system” (inews.co.uk, 12 April 2019).
Thanks to the treachery of the pro imperialist Labour leaders and their “socialist” helpmates, demonstrations in defence of Assange have been few and small. Should Assange be shipped off to the US, those who provided a “socialist” fig-leaf for his persecutors have their share of the responsibility. A taste of what is in store for Assange is shown by the treatment of Chelsea Manning. Convicted on espionage charges, she was held in torturous prison conditions for seven years. In March 2019, she was thrown back in jail, where she is now, for refusing to testify before a grand jury against WikiLeaks. Free Chelsea Manning!
By exposing the crimes of the ruling class, brave truth tellers like Assange, Manning, Edward Snowden and others have provided a valuable service to workers and the oppressed. We fight to build a party that will imbue the working class with the understanding that it will take socialist revolution to end capitalist exploitation and imperialist terror.