By Dave Carr (Socialist Party in England and Wales)
After seven years of self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was dragged from his place of asylum and arrested by the Metropolitan police. This followed the revoking of his asylum status by Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno.
The US administration, backed by the UK Tory government, is keen to get Assange extradited to the US to face charges of stealing US state secrets – in other words, details of its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The UK’s Tory-led government, a key ally of US imperialism, maintained a seven-year, multi-million pound surveillance outside the embassy in Knightsbridge in its determination to deny Assange freedom.
This was despite a United Nations working group, in February 2016, declaring that Assange had been “arbitrarily detained” for five years by the UK and Swedish governments and should be released immediately, with compensation.
Assange was originally granted political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy by former social-democrat president Rafael Correa – a supporter of WikiLeaks.
Correa couldn’t contest the 2017 election, which was won by his social-democrat party rival Lenin Moreno. The new president embarked on a sharp rightward shift in the government’s political trajectory, including developing closer economic and diplomatic ties to the US.
Moreno declared Assange a “nuisance” and an “inherited problem”. Recently Moreno accused WikiLeaks of hacking his private messages, without providing evidence of this. This accusation is against the backdrop of an Ecuadorian judicial investigation into Moreno over allegations of corruption.
Having conducted a propaganda campaign against Assange, Moreno worked with the US and UK governments to secure Assange’s arrest.
After the arrest Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, claiming to be unbiased, declared that Assange is “no hero”. However, Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “He is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces.”
The US charge refers to the 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks obtained from former US intelligence operative Chelsea Manning in 2010, which exposed the dirty war the US government and its allied governments, including the UK, was waging in Iraq and Afghanistan (and still are).
Manning was subsequently court-martialled and jailed for 22 years by the US military but released after seven years on a pardon granted by Barack Obama.
WikiLeaks was also responsible for publishing hacked emails (carried out by Fancy Bear – a pseudonym of the Russian state hackers according to the Mueller investigation) from the Democratic Party national leadership prior to the 2016 US presidential election.
What these leaked emails showed was that the Democrats’ national leadership was unconstitutionally blocking left-wing candidate Bernie Sanders from becoming the Democrats presidential candidate in favour of Hillary Clinton, who subsequently lost the election to Donald Trump.
WikiLeaks is not a socialist organisation or on the left, nor even a democratic organisation. Assange has entertained some dodgy politicians in his embassy bolt-hole, including former Ukip leader, Nigel Farage.
Moreover, allegations of rape by women in Sweden against Assange – the basis of his 2012 arrest warrant – cannot simply be dismissed as ‘fabricated’. The rape allegation should be investigated, but without the threat of deportation to the US.
However, the Swedish prosecution acted very clumsily and slowly in 2010 when the rape and sexual molestation charges were first made. When the investigation was resumed, they had three weeks to interview Assange before he left the country, which they allowed him to do.
In November 2016, Assange was questioned at the Ecuadorian embassy by Swedish officials over the remaining sex allegation. Then, unexpectedly, in May 2017, the Swedish prosecutor’s office said it was dropping the rape investigation at that stage.
Notwithstanding its shortcomings, WikiLeaks has exposed and embarrassed the major Western powers, especially over how their military and intelligence forces operate outside of any notional democratic public oversight, often conducting extremely violent and illegal operations, including acts of terror against civilians.
When the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky led the working class and rural poor to power in Russia in 1917, one of the first acts of the new democratic Soviet government was to reveal the secret treaties between the major European capitalist powers to carve up the world and further their geopolitical interests.
Today, like in 1917, the Western powers are determined to keep their dirty laundry hidden from public view. The ruling classes understand that exposure of their anti-democratic and anti-socialist secrets can only fuel working class hatred of capitalism.