by Davey Heller 19th September 2020
As the outrageous show trial of Julian Assange continued at London’s Old Bailey several developments highlighted the political crossroads facing the Assange campaign. Will elements of the campaign continue to foster the dangerous and self-defeating illusion that Assange can be saved by appeals to Trump, the fascist political thug responsible for his persecution? This reactionary dead end was personified by Glen Greenwald’s recet interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News. Or will the campaign turn to the only social force that can free Assange, the international working class? This approach took a step forward with two developments. South Africa’s largest trade union federation (COSATU) issued a joint statement with the influential South African Communist Party (SACP) calling for an end to the US persecution of Assange. And in London a newly formed London Bus Drivers Rank and File Safety Committee, initiated by the Socialist Equality Party of Britain, passed a motion condemning the state frame up and persecution of Assange.
COSATU is a Federation of over 30 unions, representing 1.6 million workers. Along with the Communist Party of South Africa which has over 200,000 members, they form the tripartite political alliance with the ANC that has dominated South African politics since the fall of Apartheid. The joint statement issued on September 15th stated:
“Assange has become a target because he did what journalists are supposed to do—expose the truth. The WikiLeaks publisher exposed the crimes that emerged out of wars launched based on lies, which have led to the deaths of more than one million people.
We stand firm on the belief that it is the working class, the broad mass of the population, that must be mobilised to defend Julian Assange, and all class war prisoners. The demand for their freedom must be a rallying cry for the global working class. We therefore call on all workers and young people, and all those who uphold democratic rights, to come forward.” (The full joint statement is reproduced below the article.)
Since the end of apartheid rule both the Communist Party (SACP) and COSATU have worked tirelessly to suppress the growth of a revolutionary socialist movement in South Africa. The SACP is a Stalinist party that embraces the political perspective of the “two stage theory” of revolution. The “two stage” theory demands that the class interests and struggle of the workers must be subordinated to the so called “progressive” wing of the bourgeoisie, in this case the ANC. Rather than fight independently for the overturn of capitalist property relations, the workers movement is forced into the dead end of giving parliamentary support to the ruling bourgeois nationalist ANC, thus propping up South African capitalism and the domestic ruling class. The Stalinist “two stage” theory has led to repeated disasters in country after country in the 20th century. From Spain and China to Indonesia and Chile, untold thousands of revolutionary workers and leftist militants have gone to their graves in the name of the Stalinist two-stage theory.
However, this political perspective does not change the significance of this development. Such a call-out is a crucial break in the chain of betrayal by all the reformist, social democratic organisations around the world. It is a statement made in the name of the political forces which help run a country of almost 60 million people. In contrast, the Australian union movement in Julian Assange’s home country has remained virtually silent as his extradition hearing kicks off again. One can hardly imagine such a statement coming from any of the political groupings associated with the Democrat Party in the US! It should be welcomed by the broader Assange campaign, but as yet it has received very little promotion within the campaign, and no news coverage outside it.
The statement of the newly created London Bus Drivers Rank-and-File Safety Committee is a part of its efforts to organize safety committees in the face of the homicidal “back to work” drive of the UK ruling class. The Bus Drivers statement in support of Assange is in an act of admirable internationalism.
The safety committee is one of several rank and file safety committees initiated by the Socialist Equality Party, who publish the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). The SEP is a Trotskyist socialist party. Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution fought for decades against the degeneration of the USSR under Stalin. The motion reads:
“We call on all workers everywhere to come to Assange’s defence. At stake are basic democratic rights, including free speech and freedom of the press. The defence of Assange is the spearhead of the struggle against militarism and war abroad, and the mobilisation of the state against the working class at home”
So, this week we had motions from the large bureaucracies of COSATU/SACP and a small Trotskyist led workers’ committee in London, both calling for workers internationally to join in the campaign to free Assange. Classconscious.org has long argued that only such a campaign could free Julian— one that did not appeal to any faction of the ruling class but sought instead to independently mobilise the international working class. This is the only social force capable of forcing a backdown by US imperialism in its obsessive campaign to crush Assange as part of its efforts to stop ordinary people from learning about its crimes.
Such efforts stand in sharp contrast to the ongoing reactionary trend within the Assange defense campaign to foster illusions in Donald Trump, the fascist, who is pursuing Assange. Perhaps the most high profile, recent example of this trend comes from Brazil-based US journalist Glen Greenwald, who writes for the Intercept. He appeared on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox news on September 10th on The Tucker Carlson Show. Carlson uses his platform on Fox to support Trump’s fascist agenda. Carlson recently justified the murder of two anti police violence protestors by a fascist gunmen with the statement, “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” Greenwald appeared on this far right demagogue’s platform to make the following direct appeal to Trump, who watches Fox News religiously:
“Obviously this isn’t coming from President Trump! He praised WikiLeaks in 2016 for informing the public. He knows, firsthand, how these spying systems that Edward Snowden exposed can be abused and were abused in 2016. This is coming from people who work in the CIA, who work in the Pentagon, who insist on endless war, and who believe that they’re a government unto themselves, more powerful than the President. I posted this weekend that there’s a speech from Dwight Eisenhower warning that this military industrial complex — what we now call the Deep State — is becoming more powerful than the President. Chuck Schumer warned right before President Obama — President Trump — took office that President Trump challenging the CIA was foolish because they have many ways to get back at anybody who impedes them. That’s what these cases are about Tucker, they’re punishing Julian Assange and trying to punish Edward Snowden for informing the public about things that they have the right to know about the Obama Administration. They’re basically saying to President Trump, “You don’t run the country even though you were elected. We do!” And they’re daring him to use his pardon power to put an end to these very abusive prosecutions.”
Here we see yet another so called “progressive” element of the Assange campaign regurgitating the ludicrous idea that it’s not Trump but “Deep State” actors opposed to him, who are responsible for the prosecution of Assange! For starters this completely contradicts the main tenet of Assange’s legal defence, that the prosecution of Assange is being directed by the highly politicized U.S. Department of Justice, which under Trump, essentially takes it’s orders from the President.
The “Trump versus the Deep State” narrative also somehow posits a billionaire developer from New York, whose cabinet is full of billionaires and the former head of the CIA is somehow an “outsider” fighting and taking on the “establishment’! This is the narrative that underpins the MAGA movement and the Q Anon conspiracy theory.
In reality, the US ruling class is currently locked in vicious internecine warfare between the liberal faction working through the Democrats, and the fascist wing working through the far right Republicans/Trump. Whilst both wings of the ruling class are reactionary servants of Wall St, they rest for their support on different social forces, backed by different elements of the military-industrial-complex, and different networks of billionaires. They represent different strategic approaches of the ruling class as to how to best divide and suppress the working class at home, while pursuing imperialism’s interests abroad under conditions of deepening social crisis. For Greenwald, however, to appeal to the fascist wing to pardon Assange is not only deluded, but dangerous. This appeal occurs in a context where Trump is openly planning to steal the election and crush resistance on the street with military force!
The insidious strategy of appealing to MAGA and Trump to free Assange, in fairness, predates Greenwald. Classconscious.org has been warning against this self-defeating strategy since at least August 2018, when we published an article slamming the inclusion of alt-right speakers among progressives on the #Unity4J platform. At the time #Unity4J was virtually the “official” arm of the solidarity campaign. To see this strategy still being pursued whilst Julian is literally facing off with Trump’s own DOJ in a London courtroom shows the level of desperation and disorientation of the petty-bourgeois “leadership” of this campaign.
It is not too late for the Assange campaign, despite Julian’s dire situation. Julian himself has called from his prison cell for workers to organise themselves in his defence. In a letter from Belmarsh in late 2019 he wrote to a supporter
“Dear Anne-Marie, You ask what you can do to fight for my freedom? Use your strongest skills, friends, resources and associations. If you are a nurse, gather nurses, create a bloc in the nurses union, etc! http://defend.wikileaks.org JPA”
This reflects the fact that despite signs of some disorientation prior to his arrest in appealing to, and attempting to maneuver between different factions of the ruling class, Julian too has now turned politically to the working class.
Initiatives such as the actions by the London bus drivers and the joint statement of the COSATU/SACP must be built on. The Assange campaign must once and for all step back from the cliff. No faction of the ruling class will save Julian, not the liberal/social democratic, or the fascist wing. The British ruling class and its kangaroo court do the bidding of the war mongers in Washington. The working class is the only international force with the social power to free Julian. It is the working class that has the most to lose, because at its heart the prosecution of Assange by the Trump administration is designed to prevent ordinary people from learning about, and therefore, being able to intervene politically to stop imperialism’s war crimes.
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