AN INTENSE debate has broken out among people who claim to be progressive and “lefties”, on the internet and in the pages of many left-wing publications about Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of Wikileaks.
He is currently staying put inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London after the Government of Ecuador, after careful consideration, has granted him political asylum. But our Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has categorically refused him safe passage from the embassy to leave Britain for Ecuador.
A year or so ago most of the Left in Britain and throughout the world were hailing Assange as a hero for publishing on the web details of secret communications between the United States government and its embassies and military bases around the world.
These were extremely embarrassing to the US and other imperialist powers as their underhanded dealings, machinations and manipulations were revealed – along with the casual cruelties in the various imperialist wars in the Middle East. The revelations also embarrassed other governments to a greater or lesser extent but the countries of the world divided and revealed their real position on human rights as they lined up, either to condemn Assange and the Wikileaks team as shameful traitors who should be tried and shot, and those like Venezuela, who praised him as a great hero and offered him sanctuary.
Since then we have come to know Assange a little better. He seems to be not particularly left wing, rather something of an anarchist and a bit of an egotist.
Predictably the imperialist powers reacted at first furiously and then with a campaign to try to discredit him and to get him into a position where the government of the United States could put him on trial.
He has been accused of rape by two women in Sweden, where he used to live. Sweden has asked for his extradition to face trial and, after several lengthy court battles, the British government has assented and was prepared to send him to Sweden before he took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy.
There is little doubt that heavy pressure on both Britain and Sweden is being wielded behind the scenes by the US government and that the ultimate aim, once he is in custody, is to send him to the US, where he could face the death penalty. He has never lived in the US and that country has no jurisdiction over him but that sort of thing never bothered the country that built the concentration camp at Guantánamo or that has secret torture bases – not so secret after Wikileaks – around the world.
It should be natural for all progressives to support him but the imperialists are using their infiltrators to darken his name and divide the Left in a war of words for and against Assange.
We cannot prove the rape allegations are untrue but we hold him innocent until proven guilty. And he has publicly declared he would agree to go to Sweden if that government could guarantee he would not then be sent to the US. They will not guarantee that.
But we do know that the CIA, MI5, MI6 and the rest have a long history of framing and smearing individuals who are bold enough to challenge their power. They seriously want to discourage anyone doing anything like that again by making a horrible example of him – as they are already doing to his alleged source, the former US soldier Bradley Manning.
Bradley Manning has been incarcerated in the US under the most inhumane conditions and is unlikely to see freedom again unless there is a workers revolution in the US. He as much in need of public support as Assange.
In the process of traducing Assange, his smearers are also attacking Ecuador, making it out to be some sort of banana republic or petty dictatorship. Ecuador is part of the strong, left-wing Bolivarian Alliance that includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba.
And the imperialists’ desperation is shown by the British government’s attempt to arrest Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy and threat to breach it by force. This is absolutely contrary to all international law and the diplomatic repercussions against Britain from other countries could be serious. The police forces of Britain do not usually put this much effort into chasing alleged rapists.
Assange is not a saint but he doesn’t have to be. His work has done a lot of damage to imperialism by exposing its ugly, deceitful, cruel and greedy underbelly. Genuine left-wing workers’ and communist parties around the world recognise this and will rally to defend him and Bradley Manning.