In Defense of Rape? The Left and Assange

by Stef Newton on August 22, 2012

Originally published as “When the Left apologises for Assange” by the Anti Capitalist Initiative (UK).

When the whole scandal recently flared up again, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Julian Assange. After numerous Facebook arguments with people on all sides, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Assange. After being screamed at for daring not to flock down to the Ecuadorian embassy in uncritical support of an alleged rapist, I said I wasn’t going to talk about Assange.

And yet, here I find myself talking about Assange, because it matters.

Before I was comfortable with calling myself a revolutionary socialist-feminist, I self identified as “apathetic.” I had convinced myself that nothing mattered anyway, so there was no point in demonstrations, slogans and arguments, because the world moved on at the same pace whether or not you were okay with benefit cuts, £9,000 tuition fees and political sentencing.

Being a part of the student movement showed me how we can work together and win together. Sometimes I hear people saying we lost the tuition fees vote, the movement is dead, we never achieved anything, and I don’t know how to tell them they’re wrong. I know we owe so many victories to the links we formed at Millbank while working together in revolutionary organizations or outside of them.

But above all, the radical left taught me about feminism, and how to stand up in the face of growing inequality.

I was shocked to see parts of the very Left which regularly slams patriarchy, and condemns sexism and misogyny, unconditionally defending a man who has been accused of rape. I was shocked seeing parts of the Left defending a man who had unprotected sex with a woman who had specifically not consented to having unprotected sex. A man who initiated sex with a woman who was asleep. A man who admits these things, and does not call them rape! And this Left was not even mentioning the word rape – as if it’s not important, as if the wrongs and rights of this man canceled each other out.

I was shocked to see this Left coming up with every excuse in the book for this man: that sometimes people admit to things they haven’t actually done, that the women were Central Intelligence Agency agents, that one of them even had the audacity to look happy and throw a party in the days after allegedly being sexually assaulted.

As a woman, this sent me a clear message: if you happen to be sexually assaulted by a man who has done good political things, you better not speak up. Because you will be silenced. You will be called a liar, and people will support the man, because powerful men can get away with these things.

The arguments have been made time and again, in articles and subsequent Facebook, Twitter, and blog threads. Semantics have been debated, party lines have been established. Some have managed to see that there is no dichotomy between supporting Wikileaks, being against political maneuvering and imperialism, and taking rape accusations seriously. Others huddle outside the Ecuador embassy building with signs of support, to see Assange on a balcony, smiling like some kind of cross between Mussolini and Eva Peron.

The uncritical support of Assange from parts of the Left has left a very sour taste in my mouth. It comes from a culture of silence and fear. It has made me think twice, like when I have to think twice about getting a bus alone at night. It has shown me who is willing to silence my voice, and it has shown me how much work we still have ahead of us as feminists.

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 22, 2012 at 10:21 am

Thank you Stef for having the courage to speak your mind on an issue that obviously hits close to home. Sometimes challenging your comrades takes more bravery than challenging a system that is so morally bankrupt. You run the risk of being branded “pro-imperialist” (making you an un-person) and ostracized by dissenters for the “crime” of dissenting!

There are two separate issues here: Assange’s personal acts and his political activism. He does not get a “get out of jail free” card for sexual assault because, while in jail, he might be extradited to the U.S. while in custody in Sweden. If that were to occur, then and only then would he become a political prisoner rather than what he is now — a common criminal on the run. He is shamelessly exploiting his political profile to avoid his apprehension by Swedish authorities, which is what would have happened to a person without fame or fortune.

Shame on the left for championing double standards.

Until Assange goes to Sweden to resolve the consequences of his personal behavior towards those two women, Assange is not the left’s problem. If we really give a damn about combating women’s oppression, we should demand his extradition to Sweden.

Reply

Tom Cod August 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm

And the likelihood of Assange being extradited to the US from Sweden to face politically motivated charges around WikiLeaks is slight ton non-existent, given the political culture of that nation, which sheltered hundreds of American deserters during the Vietnam War.

Reply

Arthur August 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

I see two more issues within each of the two issues mentioned by Pham Binh:

1. Wikileaks in general. Great!

2. Wikileaks releasing names that should have been witheld. Terrible!
(I gather this happened because Julian Assange trusted a Guardian journalist with the password to an encrypted file that was distributed through the interet as a safety precaution. If so that was incredibly irresponsible, although less malicious than if he had intentionally released the names regardless of the consequences).

3. Claiming the Swedish sexual offense allegations are a plot to extradite Julian Assanage to the USA. Preposterous!

4. Denouncing people for not calling the alleged conduct rape. Way over the top!
As described by others, doubts are raised because conduct that did not result in an abrupt cessation of amicable relations at the time became a subject of complaint only after two people compared notes and discovered that they had both been treated badly (and after Julian Assange refused their request that he get an HIV test). As described by Stef Newton without that background it sounds more clear cut as a sexual offense for which penalties should be applied, if confirmed. But it still does not sound to me like conduct that ought to brand the perpetrator as a “rapist”.

From a quick perusal of the translated police transcripts, not talking about Assange sounds reasonable to me.
http://rixstep.com/1/20110204,04.shtml

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

Team Assange’s claims that he has to stay out of Sweden at all costs is especially ridiculous since Assange filed to be a permanent resident there before sexually assaulting the two women in question. If he was worried about Swedish extradition, he sure didn’t show it.

The Western left is doing more for accused rapist jail-dodger Assange than it is for the Syrian revolution. All in the name of “anti-imperialism”!

Reply

Aaron Aarons August 29, 2012 at 1:59 am

Assange filed to be a permanent resident of Sweden before a prosecutor decided to bring accusations of sexual assault against him, something that the prosecutor did, IIRC, several months after the incidents occurred on which the accusations are based. Assange couldn’t have filed for permanent residency before or after “sexually assaulting the two women in question” unless he did sexually assault those women, something that is far from having been established. (Maybe somebody else can point to a time line of all these actual or alleged actions by all parties.)

As usual, Binh, you are doing more to attack the left than to expose the crimes of capitalism and its concentrated expression, imperialism. But you, or one of the other moderators on this site, deleted without any acknowledgement a slightly longer comment in which I made the same point.

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 29, 2012 at 9:31 am

“unless he did sexually assault those women, something that is far from having been established.”

Unless Assange turns himself into the Swedish authorities this is never going to be established one way or the other. The onus is on him to clear this matter up. If their government really wanted to get him into custody to hand him over to the U.S., they’d give him an ironclad guarantee that they wouldn’t do so and then change their mind once he was in a Swedish jail. Obviously.

Reply

Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 9:07 am

@Arthur: you (like a lot of people when this topic comes under discussion) miss the point: we are not trying this case: legal cases are always extremely complex (especially in this area) and involve both issues of law and interpretation of often large volumes of conflicting evidence. That is why “bourgeois democracies” have judicial systems.
The question for us is whether Assange, having been accused of these offences under the Swedish judicial system, should submit himself to that procedure or not – and if not why not.

Reply

Arthur August 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

As indicated by the word “Preposterous” in my item 2 I see no reason why he should not be dealt with under the Swedish judicial system.

As indicated by the words “Way over the top!” in my item 4, I object to Pham, Stef and others referring to him as a rapist and/or denouncing others for not referring to the alleged conduct as rape.

My objection is not an example of “trying this case”. It is an objection to others trying this case.

Also, as a separate issue, I would not be so quick to jump to the conclusion that the people opposing extradition are necessarily seeking special immunity for Assange or not taking rape or other sexual offence allegations seriously.

No doubt some are doing one or the other or both. But just because the idea that the Swedish charges are a plot to extradite him to the USA because of wikileaks is preposterous, does not mean that people do not sincerely believe it.

Many people believe all sorts of preposterous things, especially about American plots.

Reply

Arthur August 26, 2012 at 10:43 am

typo: my item 3, not 2.

Reply

Aaron Aarons August 29, 2012 at 3:24 am

The left is not going to join you in demanding, or even supporting, Assange’s extradition to Sweden any more than we are going to join you in calling for, or even supporting, U.S./NATO/Gulf monarchies’ military intervention in Syria.

Reply

Brian S. August 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

I solidarise with Stef over this matter, and the sort of attitude expressed by George Galloway should not be tolerated on the left. Stef dismisses one of her links as “semantics” but I think it provides important answers to many of the rationalisations that are used on the left to pass over the accusations against Assange:
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2012/08/legal-myths-about-assange-extradition

Reply

admin August 22, 2012 at 11:59 am

The original article had zero links. The North Star added them. Our mistake for not noting that.

Reply

Josh Laurel August 23, 2012 at 3:23 am

With entirely transparent “left” verbiage, this blog supported the US-NATO war of aggression against Libya which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands, the de facto fracturing of Libya into myriad militia-led fiefdoms and the transformation of Libya’s government into an open puppet of Washington and the capitals of the other major NATO powers.

With entirely transparent “left” verbiage,this blog is supporting the US and NATO-backed sectarian Sunni militias, including Al Qaeda, which are carrying out atrocities and terrorist attacks on a daily basis in Syria.

With remarkably transparent pseudo-left feminist verbiage, this blog is lining up (AGAIN !) with US and UK (and Australian) imperialism against Julian Asange, the man whose real “crime” was to expose the barbarities committed on a daily basis by Washington and the capitals of the other NATO states in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

I almost prefer the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannities of the world to you; with them, there exists no pretense that they are anything but propagandists for capital. You, as much as they, represent the fundamental interests of the top 1%, the top .1% and the top .01% in the US, but you strive (with piss-poor results) to cover this up with “left” and “rrrrrevolutionary” rhetoric.

You are truly repugnant human beings.

Reply

Brian S. August 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

I would reply to this nonsense but this thread was not initiated as another discussion on Libya and Syria: the fact that you have nothing material to say on theailure of much of the left to address the serious issue of the charges against Assange just goes to prove the point, doesn’t it?

Reply

Josh Laurel August 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

What I have to say is that you and all of your co-“thinkers” here are open apologists, nay, full-throated craven advocates of imperialist campaigns of mass murder.

After World War II, some of the propagandists for the Nazi regime were put on trial for their role in the commission of the Nazis’ atrocities.

History will judge you little better.

Reply

admin August 23, 2012 at 10:03 am

There’s no “party line” on Libya/Syria at The North Star:
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=1160
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=1043

Reply

patrickm August 23, 2012 at 4:49 am

Josh, you are being abandoned in droves by your former comrades not because they support imperialism, or because they supported a ‘NFZ’ in Libya, but because they are begining to support the war against tyranny that is underway across the region. At any rate they are out of Neverland and that’s where Julian Assange supporters exist. The whole saga is based on Sweden’s judiciary being able to be more manipulated than Britains! The Swedish system is not involved in tin-foil conspiracies with the all powerful Great Satan that can’t even manipulate the British!

Your mates that are dumping you and your tin-foil were on the side of the Libyan people who were united around a broad goal and reasonably simple demand. The goal was for a system founded on free and fair elections for a proportionally representative government. The demand was for bourgeois democracy as the minimum level required for human dignity in this the 21C. That’s why they support the Syrian revolutionaries aginst those that would prevent that revolution now. The enemy are all those who are armed and actively stand in the way of achieving this demand. The whole region is going for this revolution. The war broke out in Libya and Syria because those making reasonable demands of the tyrants were/are being killed for their troubles. Thus is this no more than fighting back against the oppressors; ‘militia-led fiefdoms’ only ever emerged because a tyrant refused to hold the elections and move on peacfully. Your old comrades are abandoning you because this is very basic stuff.

Having left Neverland behind they now look at Sweden as an open western bourgeois democracy that is not involved in a tin-foil-hat trap organised by the Great Satan. The people that are carrying on like you sound more tin-foil-hat by the day.

In Libya the enemy tyranny unleashed their power and only then had it returned in much greater force. The west joined with the rebels and then more than bomb for bomb returned to those who started the killing.

In Syria a united effort from varied forces is trying their best to destroy the enemy of all progressives without any agreement or formal arrangement and all those without military experience or study behind them are getting a grand lesson that will help all progressives as we think about what is required in other countries of the region as this revolution continues to unfolds. The comfortable old days of being anti-war are over.

People who have grown up and left Neverland no longer have to keep silent about the rape charges, whatever you think about other issues that are thrown as dust in front of people’s eyes. Josh shows that http://archive.lastsuperpower.net/members/+disc+members+00878857733921.htm is not even known about in Neverland.

In Libya the enemy fell and the war ended, while in Syria the enemy is stronger and lashing out wildly. The enemy in Libya had its capacity to make war destroyed. Almost nothing has happened yet in Syria except massive defections after a constant stream of crimes against the people.

Assad’s armed forces can fight or defect that much is up to them. As for the Syrian revolutionaries there will be no stopping them eventually building an army capable of freeing the whole country, after all it is their country and tyranny is on the chopping block. But the timeliness of that building project, now that’s another matter. So a question of other boots on the ground arises.

With western help Libyans were able to turn the war around and end it reasonably quickly and so will the Syrian revolutionaries.

Josh, you are being abandoned in droves by your former mates because progressives around the world know that the goal of free and fair elections is not negotiable and that whatever the difficulties that are ahead the war is just and the rebels won’t give in. The war will go on until the whole country is liberated and so lots of soldiers are required to do the job. That means we have to think about more capacity for revolutionary war.

There is not enough western war material including ‘forward’ ground forces currently on the ground and they are vital for both saving lives and killing the enemy. The enemies air power must be grounded or defeated and only an intervention can achieve that. I am all for that intervention.

When this war is over there will be some on the revolutionary side that will have to face charges for their conduct. Just like Assange they ought to face them and the process ought to be as open as is the Swedish legal system. That’s what this revolution is all about. The struggle is for a bourgeois democracy. Assange has the eyes of the world to protect him and the finest lawyers and is under no risk of being railroaded!

Reply

admin August 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

Don’t let trolls like Josh bait you into responding.

Reply

Josh Laurel August 23, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I am not being “abandoned in droves;” your unequivocally pro-imperialist perspective, which has its roots in the material interests of the more privileged layers of the US and EU petty-bourgeoisie, is completely at odds with the thinking of working-class people all across the world.

In conversations I have with working-class people from ALL OVER THE WORLD about Assange, about the US-NATO war against Libya, the US-led machinations against Syria, Lebanon and Iran, etc. there is a clear understanding that Washington’s course of action is motivated SOLELY out of a concern for the interests of the multi-millionaire and billionaire class which rules the West and in whose ranks you “humanitarian” imperialists clearly aspire to join.

The working-class is NOT, as middle-class “radicals” and “liberals” would have it, made up of ignorant, apathetic, racist, backward elements who can be duped by the ever-more right-wing bourgeois candidates put forward by the Democrats and the Republicans. Hatred for the US government, for both major political parties, for the wars that these two parties constantly wage overseas and which they are waging against the domestic working class, for the police-state agenda of these two parties, etc is very, very high. The working class understands far better imperialist realpolitick than you petty-bourgeois “democrats” and “radicals” at least pretend to.

The reality is that the political representatives of the upper echelons of the petty bourgeoisie, people very much like Louis Proyect, Proyect’s co-“thinkers,” those who write for this blog and their defenders, etc. know full what Washington is up to; you are fearful of socialist, working-class revolution against capitalism and, out of that fear, move ever farther to the right, in lockstep with the western imperialist bourgeoisie with whom you have far more in common.

Your promotion of identity politics (part and parcel of your manufacturing of a left veneer for your lockstep solidarity with the murderously militarist and imperialist, anti-working class and authoritarian regime of Barack Obama) deceives virtually noone.

You are part of the capitalist-imperialist establishment in the West and this is patently obvious to countless workers and genuinely progressive professionals and young people.

As I said before, you stand exposed as the (pseudo)-intellectual defenders of the current, rotten capitalist-imperialist order and will definitely have to answer for your stalwart promotion of its (and your) horrific crimes.

Reply

Aaron Aarons September 3, 2012 at 4:45 am

Patrick M from LaLaLand writes: “Assange has the eyes of the world to protect him and the finest lawyers and is under no risk of being railroaded!”

Tell that to Bradley Manning.

Patrick M from LaLaLand writes: “The struggle is for a bourgeois democracy.”

Maybe like the murderous one in South Africa, one of the most unequal countries in the world, where Black workers have been allowed, since 1994, to vote for their oppressors? There is a world of difference between fighting for democratic rights as part of the struggle against the bourgeoisie and fighting for a bourgeois-democratic state, i.e., for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in ‘democratic’ clothes.

Reply

Ismael August 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm
Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 24, 2012 at 1:24 am

How so?

Reply

Sks August 25, 2012 at 12:51 am

Because we should be able to chew gum and walk at the same time.

The rape charges are serious and should be treated as such, but the refusal of the Swedish authorities (in spite of Swedish law allowing it) to guarantee Assange asylum from the USA is keeping this process from reaching court.

And lets not be disingenuous – if Assange has to rot in jail for rape, so be it, but if he rots in jail for wikileaks (which is what will happen if the USA gets its hands on him), justice is not served.

Feminism and anti-imperialism should be part of the same continuum – not falsely divided like those who defend or attack Assange are doing. Who are mostly men. These two women are voices of reasons.

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

So in effect he gets immunity from criminal prosecution and will never go to jail for anything.

Reply

Sks August 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Comrade Strawman strikes again!

What part of “if Assange has to rot in jail for rape, so be it” was hard to understand?

Reply

Aaron Aarons August 26, 2012 at 6:38 am

Assange hasn’t been charged with anything! Moreover, he has expressed his willingness to be questioned about the allegations against him, even though such questioning violates his right against self-incrimination — a right which, at least before Blair, was recognized in the UK, the country from which Sweden was attempting to extradite him. (I have no idea whether or not Swedish law includes protection against self-incrimination, but if the Swedish government has no case against him without his possible evidence against himself, they have no business asking for his extradition.)

Reply

Aaron Aarons August 26, 2012 at 6:43 am

BTW, “Defense of Rape”, as alleged in the misleading headline on this page, and defense of a person accused of rape, or accused of sexual misbehavior that may or not constitute rape, are entirely different things.

Reply

Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 9:17 am

@Aaron Aarons: Quite right Aaron, but I think some of Assange’s defenders go beyond just defending him against these charges. They come very close to arguing that Assange should be above the law because of his role in Wikileaks; or in George Galloway’s case because he believes that his personal moral judgement is higher than any legal system.

Reply

Aaron Aarons July 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

Brian S. implicitly criticizes George Galloway on the grounds that, allegedly, Galloway “believes that his personal moral judgement is higher than any legal system.” But any genuine leftist (or, e.g., any genuine feminist) does believe that his or her judgment, moral or otherwise, is of higher value than the judgment of any capitalist legal system. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Galloway is a “genuine leftist”, since many non-leftists also believe the same thing. But he certainly can’t be criticized from the left for that belief.

Reply

Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 7:22 am

There’s a lot of debate about this in various UK online sites: it seems that the position is that he hasn’t been charged because under Swedish procedure he can’t be charged until the questioning has taken place – the questioning that the Swede’s want to carry out is part of the process of charging him. The UK court’s have accepted that he is “accused” of these offences. As I understand it, the case against him is based upon the evidence of the women involved.

Reply

Sks August 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Brian you are quite right.

The Swedish legal system if different from the US system (and British system).

It requires arrest prior to formal filling of charges. This is the only reason why Assange has not been formally accused.

Which is precisely why the Swedish government is the only stakeholder who is denying these women their justice: since Swedish law allows for political asylum of accused or convicted felons, all that Sweden has to do to resolve this issue is to provide Assange with political asylum.

Of course, it is possible that then Assange would raise some kind of conspiracy theory to avoid prosecution. But lets cross that bridge when we get to it: lets name the real culprits as they emerge.

Right now, if all the voices currently in-fighting

Of course, I might be being naive, and what is really at work is the left’s worse misogynist proclivities which question women’s claims of rape as a kneejerk meets the worse pro-imperialist “left” which would like wikileaks and Assange to go away as its too inconvenient to their narrative of the liberal western democracy as superior.

We can chew gum and walk at the same time. We should do it – and our failure to do so is keeping a large scale, global movement to pressure the Swedish government to both provide Assange with political protection and the women who accuse him of rape to be able to get their day in court.

It is in fact, the bickering over this, the in-fighting and the proxy battles, that are keeping a possible rapist from being prosecuted.

Reply

Aaron Aarons September 3, 2012 at 4:56 am

“It is in fact, the bickering over this, the in-fighting and the proxy battles, that are keeping a possible rapist from being prosecuted.”

Of all the things happening in the world, is the possibility that a possible-by-a-very-broad-definition-of-rape ‘rapist’ might not be prosecuted one that should be attracting our attention? I guess it’s more important than, for example, the cold-blooded murder of 34 striking miners by the bourgeois-democratic government of South Africa that took place a few weeks ago.

Reply

Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 7:34 am

I don’t find the arguments in this piece very strong – there’s a significant whiff of conspiracy theory about them.
Here’s further debate with one of the authors of this article and a critic. Make of it what you will.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/24/conversation-julian-assange-extradition?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 25, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Unless and until the Swedish government guarantees it will not extradite him, Assange will never surrender himself, so, in effect, he has immunity from criminal prosecution unless and until that happens.

What part of “in effect” don’t you understand?

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 25, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Unfortunately this didn’t post as a response to sks.

Reply

Sks August 26, 2012 at 1:16 am

Except your proposition stretches the meaning of “immunity” – a technical legal term – to a definition it doesn’t have.

You are confusing the legal with the political – interestingly enough, an objection you often raise yourself in other topics.

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

“Immunity” as in Assange should not be prosecuted for things unrelated to Wikileaks. In practice, this is what those who support Assange’s refusal to go back to Sweden want for him. I’m not using it as a legal category because no one on the left is calling for him to have permanent legal immunity, but in practice this is what it amounts to.

Reply

Sks August 29, 2012 at 3:33 am

That makes no sense.

Reply

Joaquin Bustelo August 27, 2012 at 2:23 am

Not sure why Pham Binh and other comrades are having such a hard time around the Assange case.

On the demand by Pham Binh and others that Assange go back to Sweden to face trial on sexual assault charges, right now he can’t. Because no such charges have been filed against him. WHY no such charges have been filed is, of course, a matter of speculation, but one good reason would be that if they were filed, the specification of the conduct attributed to Assange would have to fit the definition of a sexual assault in the jurisdiction he would be extradicted from. I leave aside whether the conduct attributed to Assange OUGHT to be so considered in Britain and elsewhere. But various legal experts have asserted it would not be. And even in Sweden, the case was closed until politically-connected lawyers and prosecutors had it reopened as wikileaks revelations about U.S. war crimes in Iraq mounted.

That conduct, as best I understand it, was that in one case he continued what had been a consensual encounter after a condom broke and in the other that he failed to adhere to an implicit understanding or explicit agreement that a condom be used. The two women discovered each other’s intimacy with Assange and issues around condom use, and approached the authorities to see whether Assange could be tested for AIDS. Apparently, the answer was no –but he could be charged with sexual assault, on the basis that what had begun as consensual encounters became non-consensual when the condom condition was breached. It is not clear to me whether this is an established norm of Swedish law, but at any rate the authorities handling the case closed it a few days later, only to have it reopened after the intervention of politically-connected legal folks.

Assange is wanted –and has been ordered extradited– for *questioning.* I do not know if under Swedish law Assange has a right to not incriminate himself and I don’t care: I consider protection against self-incrimination to be fundamental and essential to human dignity; without it, the road to torture is wide-open. I do not think an arrest warrant for questioning should constitute a basis for extradition, and certainly not in a case such as this, on the very edges of accepted legal principles.

Nevertheless, Assange did make himself available for questioning in relation to these incidents in Sweden for weeks after they happened. The authorities did not take advantage of his presence in the country; on the contrary, they closed the case. Even after reopening the case they did not avail themselves of the opportunity to question him. At the time he had a petition for permanent residency pending in that country, and Assange requested and received permission to leave Sweden. While abroad, his request for permanent residence was denied.

Assange left Sweden at the end of September. It was not until nearly 2 months later that the arrest order was issued. Why then?

A critical examination of implications of these two New York Times articles should make it clear:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/19/world/europe/19assange.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/world/29cables.html

Quite simply, because Assange went ahead with the decision to leak the treasure-trove of U.S. diplomatic cables it had obtained. The leak became public right after Thanksgiving in 2010. In the couple of weeks preceding the first publication, Assange arranged for a consortium of newspapers and other media to receive and analyze the material. And why did Assange all of a sudden become unwilling to go back to Sweden? Perhaps because part of the documents revealed precisely that the Swedish government was profoundly complicit with the American “war on terror” carried out through torture and assassination.

The United States may not have officially and publicly revealed an indictment against Assange, But that there have been grand jury hearings and a a secret indictment against him has been widely reported. Australian ministers have revealed their government has been preparing for the Assange trial. The torture of Bradley Manning shows how desperately the government wants to get Assange, for the only reason to torture Manning was to have him turn state’s evidence against Assange.

That it the way the U.S. court system operates.

Assange has profoundly challenged an empire that has torture and assassination as official policy. To say Sweden’s request to question him in an investigation that Sweden did not initially consider worth pursuing, and an investigation where even after it was re-instituted the authorities failed to ask him in for questioning, one where they explicitly gave him permission to leave their jurisdiction, where after more than two years charges have not been laid, must be placed above keeping Assange out of U.S. hands reflects very poor judgement.

On the other hand, Assange has REPEATEDLY and PUBLICLY offered to be interviewed by Swedish authorities on these incidents, initially either at Scotland Yard or Sweden’s own embassy in London. Sweden has neither accepted nor made what one would have thought would be the obvious counter-proposal: that Sweden would accept Assange’s offer provided he agreed to not challenge extradition should formal charged be presented against him.

* * *

There is in addition the matter of Ecuador’s sovereignty. Like it or not, Ecuador’s president, after careful consideration, and requesting from the Swedish authorities guarantees that Assange would not be turned over to the Americans, assurances that Sweden refused to give, granted Assange political asylum.

Britain’s reaction was to threaten to attack the Ecuadorean embassy, which led all of Latin America to immediately rally around Ecuador. The United States opposed an OAS ministerial-level meeting on the matter saying it did not recognize Assange’s political asylum status.

Pham Binh seems oblivious to the reality that, on the face of it, President Correa’s judgment in this was reasonable. He also seems to be oblivious to the fact that Assange IS INNOCENT, calling him “a common criminal on the run.” But Assaange IS INNOCENT as a matter of fundamental human rights:

“(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” That’s from Article 11 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, Leaving aside, of course, the very slight complication that Assange HAS NOT BEEN CHARGED.

Moreover, to be considered politically persecuted, the government doing the persecuting doesn’t need to stand up and say, “I hereby proclaim so-and-so an official target.” That Assange is a target of American imperialism and entitled to protection is obvious from the totality of circumstances, even if we did not have the leaks about secret US grand juries, indictments, and shenanigans like Britain approving extradition for questioning absent formal charges instead of telling the swedes, charge him, and if what you say he did is a crime under our laws, we’ll see about extraditing him.

As for Tom Cod’s inspiring faith in Sweden’s poliitcal culture, leading him to assert that “And the likelihood of Assange being extradited to the US from Sweden to face politically motivated charges around WikiLeaks is slight ton non-existent, given the political culture of that nation, which sheltered hundreds of American deserters during the Vietnam War,” all I can say is that it reminded me of the widely reprinted piece attacking Fidel Castro for his column –4 days after the Libyan began– warning that NATO’s plan was to attack Libya as an absurd piece of flim-flammery conjuring up non-existent threats as a back-handed way to support Gaddaffi while he was bombing his own cities and flying in Black mercs by the thousands.

Turned out Fidel was more accurate than his critrics, or the news reports.

I say that because of Pham Binh’s bitter comment that the left –people like me– are doing more for “accused rapist jail-dodger Assange than it is for the Syrian revolution.” It is not always clear just what is presented to us as the “XXXX Revolution” really represents. But I do have a pretty good idea of what American Imperialism represents, and who its targets are. And I don’t need imperialism to formally declare a fatwah against Assange to recognize that he is its target.

Also, since the cartoon formally raises, this, let me repeat –as a life long journalist now in his 60’s, and currently news and editorial director of a Latino community station that arose from the immigrant rights movement in Georgia– what I’ve said repeatedly on the air about Assange and journalism. And that is that Julian Assange is the most important journalist of the 21st Century.

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 27, 2012 at 9:51 am

“On the demand by Pham Binh and others that Assange go back to Sweden to face trial on sexual assault charges, right now he can’t. Because no such charges have been filed against him. WHY no such charges have been filed is, of course, a matter of speculation…”

Charges cannot be filed until he is first detained, i.e. arrested, under Swedish law. If you would like to see Assange charged so we can get this over with, you should be in favor of him returning to Sweden where he has an active arrest warrant out for him.

“It is not clear to me whether this is an established norm of Swedish law, but at any rate the authorities handling the case closed it a few days later, only to have it reopened after the intervention of politically-connected legal folks.”

What is unclear is why the charges were dropped in the first place. No explanation was given at the time.

“Assange is wanted –and has been ordered extradited– for *questioning.*”

He is wanted for arrest.

“I do not think an arrest warrant for questioning should constitute a basis for extradition, and certainly not in a case such as this, on the very edges of accepted legal principles.”

Assange has lost every legal battle in Britain over this issue. There is no basis in law for an individual to flout an arrest warrant in this way, even if his name is Julian Assange.

“Assange left Sweden at the end of September. It was not until nearly 2 months later that the arrest order was issued. Why then?”

A new prosecutor took over the case, for starters.

“On the other hand, Assange has REPEATEDLY and PUBLICLY offered to be interviewed by Swedish authorities on these incidents, initially either at Scotland Yard or Sweden’s own embassy in London. Sweden has neither accepted nor made what one would have thought would be the obvious counter-proposal: that Sweden would accept Assange’s offer provided he agreed to not challenge extradition should formal charged be presented against him.”

People charged with criminal offenses don’t get to pick and choose when and under what circumstances they will be questioned, unless they’re rich and famous I guess.

If Sweden really wanted to get him in a cell to turn him over to the U.S., they would promise not to comply with an extradition order, and then comply with an extradition order once he’s in custody. Or do we really think the Swedish government is incapable of such duplicity?

Reply

Sks August 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Joaquin,

Pham Binh is right in this instance, and you repeating the trope and conspiranoia really does detract from other points:

Assange cannot be accused, under Swedish law, of any crime, until he is arrested. This is how the Swedish legal system works for any crime.

I said so further up too.

Let me repeat it:

Assange cannot be accused, under Swedish law, of any crime, until he is arrested. This is how the Swedish legal system works for any crime.

Assange cannot be accused, under Swedish law, of any crime, until he is arrested. This is how the Swedish legal system works for any crime.

Assange cannot be accused, under Swedish law, of any crime, until he is arrested. This is how the Swedish legal system works for any crime.

Assange cannot be accused, under Swedish law, of any crime, until he is arrested. This is how the Swedish legal system works for any crime.

Assange cannot be accused, under Swedish law, of any crime, until he is arrested. This is how the Swedish legal system works for any crime.

And so on.

So there is no mystery as to why he has not been charged, no caprice, no conspiracy. It simply is not how Swedish law works, you ignorant American.

Now, what the Swedish authorities CAN do, is honor Assange’s formal request for political asylum, which Swedish law DOES allow, even for convicted felons in jail. Much easier is you are just accused.

Their denial to do so in spite of obvious reasonable fears that he could be renditioned to the USA is the real conspiracy here. Lets stop building strawmen.

Reply

Arthur August 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I am aware that Assange applied for residency and a work permit in Sweden but have never previously seen anyone suggest that he applied for political asylum. Please provide a link.

He doesn’t need political asylum for Sweden to refuse any extradition to the US for a political offense. After any case concerning him in Sweden is finalized he would either be free to leave or compelled to leave for wherever he wishes (including Britain, Australia or even Ecuador).

Reply

Sks August 29, 2012 at 3:14 am

1) Assange has not formally requested asylum because it requires he be present in Sweden (or a Swedish diplomatic facility). What he has done is asked for specific guarantees of a binding nature that if he does go to Sweden, won’t be extradited to the USA. Yes, he has asked for something uncommon (although not unprecedented) – but his situation is indeed special. Not every accused is also a political and military enemy of the USA.

2) If he were anyone else, your argument that Sweden could refuse extradition without political asylum would be true.

But he has been declared a criminal (before even a grand jury is convened) by nearly every level of the US diplomatic, legal, administrative, judicial, legislative, military, and bureaucratic power. That is an exceptional position – reserved normally only to active “terrorists” or “enemy combatants”.

Such pressures are enough to make Sweden bend knee, unless it has to stake its reputation (not entirely well deserved but not entirely false either) as a neutral world power and create a domestic legal situation that could create a real crisis in Sweden.

For example, after the fall of the Soviet Union there was a huge scandal in which a number of secret treaties between the USA and Sweden were revealed that involved high-level military and diplomatic cooperation – treaties that the Swedish State made behind the backs not only of the Swedish people, but behind that backs of a number of Swedish Governments – that is, a parallel Cold War government existed in effect.

It is not conspiranoia, but based on the factual history, to argue that if Assange is to turn himself in to Swedish authorities it must be done under special conditions and guarantees. It’s simply common sense. The idea that the USA (which has ordered and performed extra-judicial killings of US citizens during the “Overseas Contingency Operations”) is somehow above pressuring the Swedes to hand over Assange is ludicrously naive. Assange is not just a talker – he is the public face of an organization that did concrete harm to the US’s political interests. He is not some random leftists ranting on the internet (ahem)… he is someone who facilitated what the USA views as treason and enemy action.

Do I think Assange will accept guarantees from the Swedish government? I do not know. But if he doesn’t, then he has no excuse – he is simply a dick trying to avoid prosecution for rape.

And we can say so then.

But right now, arguing this is folly: the ball is on Sweden’s court. We should be pressuring Sweden for the sake of two women, who if they were indeed raped, deserve their justice, a justice denied because of Sweden’s refusal to officially tell the USA to fuck off.

Reply

Arthur August 29, 2012 at 5:05 am

Simply ignoring the fact that Britain is far more amenable to US extradition requests than Sweden won’t make it go away.

Reply

Sks August 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm

And who is doing that? Go build strawmen elsewhere.

Reply

admin August 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

There’s no need to lace posts with needless name-calling (“you ignorant American”).

The reason people are ignorant about the basic facts surrounding this case is because the issues have been improperly framed and discussed on the left. Most discussions of this issue on the left start out with conclusions — defend Assange! (or, prosecute the guilty rapist!!) — and cherry-pick the facts to fit whatever their conclusion is, ignoring entirely the facts that undermine their pre-selected conclusion.

We need more critical examination and comradely debate on this and many issues, not less, and we should try to enlighten people to the facts instead of berating them for ignorance. Teaching someone how to read is infinitely more productive than belittling them for illiteracy.

Reply

Sks August 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I apologize for calling Joaquin “American”. Such a needless insult was too harsh.

However, ignorant is accurate, as I know for a fact he has been told this before.

Reply

Arthur August 27, 2012 at 10:50 am

You are missing two important aspects.

1. Britain and Sweden are both members of the EU and recognize each others European arrest warrants AUTOMATICALLY on much the same basis that English, Scottish and Welsh authorities or US States or Canadian provinces automatically enforce each others warrants. (“Much” the same, not identical but all relevant courts have now ruled that there is simply no legal basis whatever for Britain not to enforce the European warrant). NOTHING extraordinary has been happening other than the lawyers making applications to higher courts knowing perfectly well that they had no hope whatever. There was never the slightest chance of a European arrest warrant not being enforced in an EU member.

2. Britain has a “special relationship” with the US whereas Sweden is not even in NATO. After extradition from Britain to Sweden, Britain AS WELL AS Sweden would BOTH have to agree before the US could obtain extradition from Sweden. Assange originally wanted permanent residence in Sweden because Sweden is actually more friendly to wikileaks than Britain. Pretence that extradition to Sweden makes it easier for the US to get him are simply preposterous exploitation of foreign ignorance about European realities.

BTW you are also wrong about “Australian Ministers”. No such news here in Australia. (PM foolishly said wikileaks is a crime but subsequently acknowledged not an Australian crime).

These are of course separate issues from whether Assange is guilty and whether Swedish prosecution is politically (or celebrity) motivated. I agree with you that he should be presumed innocent and that Pham and Stef are going well beyond what is necessary for merely insisting that he should stand trial on the charges.

Reply

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

” I agree with you that he should be presumed innocent and that Pham and Stef are going well beyond what is necessary for merely insisting that he should stand trial on the charges.”

I don’t know if he should stand trial. He has to be arrested/detained first before the prosecution can complete the preliminary stage of this process. I’m not the prosecutor nor am I saying “guilty until proven innocent.” Due process should apply to Assange just as it would apply to everyone else. I thought the left opposed special treatment for celebrities and the famous but it looks like I thought wrong.

Reply

Arthur August 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Earlier you wrote (above in this thread):

“Assange filed to be a permanent resident there before sexually assaulting the two women in question. If he was worried about Swedish extradition, he sure didn’t show it.

The Western left is doing more for accused rapist jail-dodger Assange ..”

That language includes an explicit finding that he is guilty of sexual assault and a “loaded” condemnation as a rapist who belongs in jail (with the usual legalism of including the word “accused” to make it less blatant).

That goes far beyond what is necessary to oppose the special treatment his supporters are demanding.

Likewise Stef’s condemnation of people not calling the admitted conduct rape is an explicit pre-judgement of whether or not it was rape.

All that needs to be said is that he has been accused of a sexual offense in Sweden and the Swedish prosecutors are entitled to arrest him regardless of conspiracy theories about extradition to the US for wikileaks.

Reply

Aaron Aarons August 28, 2012 at 2:11 am

‘arthur’ writes:

All that needs to be said is that he has been accused of a sexual offense in Sweden and the Swedish prosecutors are entitled to arrest him regardless of conspiracy theories about extradition to the US for wikileaks.

Since when do the agents of a capitalist state, even one that, unlike Sweden, is not a junior partner of the world’s number-one imperialist monstrosity, have any rights (entitlements) that anybody on the left is bound to respect?

Reply

Sks August 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Except there is no special treatment in here.

This is not, say, Roman Polanski or some other such embarrassing situation.

Previous to the accusations of rape, Assange already largely lived as a fugitive (as mentioned above, the hatred for him, as a symbol of Wikileaks, let even to the Australian PM to speak without censure as to what he considered Wikileaks to have done).

The reality is the followin, regarding wikileaks:

1) The USA has erroded due process for citizens and non-citizens alike, to the extreme of ordering extra-judicial killings

2) The Manning case shows what is in store for those accused of any crime connected to wikileaks

3) So, the operative positioning here is a political one: does what wikileaks did warrant our support? Do we defend and protect those who represent wikileaks from attacks by the USA?

Sure, it might be easier if Assange were not such an ass. I never liked him. I was a cypherpunk too, and he was an idiot. And you know what, I do not know if the accusations are true or not, but he totally gives a rapey vibe: full of himself etc.

So I have no admiration for him.

And what is more, he actually has been a problem for the original wikileaks idea, in particular his insistence in edited releasing to media outlets, his one sided secrecy etc, all have been criticized by even the originators of the wikileaks idea among cypherpunks.

However, my personal and political dislike for the man, do not mean I am blind to what the USA has done and in this case will do, to its enemies. I do not believe in revenge for revenge’s sake. If he rots in jail for rape, so be it. But that is not what the USA wants him for.

One cannot be so stupid as to believe that feminists cannot be imperialists. By all accounts, Hillary Clinton is a feminist. Yet she is the boss of US diplomacy, the Governor General of the Empire. No surprise she hides behind the rape charges to attack Assange. But the reality is that the USA lets rapists off the hook all the time, in the military in particular, and in particular if the victims are “the enemy”. Such hypocrisy is rich.

Anti-imperialist feminists, on the other hand, nearly in unison have asked the Swedish government to clear the way for Assange to be tried by guaranteeing he will not be handed over to the US. This is a reasonable request – done not out of respect for celebrity or as a “special” treatment, but out of a considered approach to satisfy the need for justice for these two women. Assange needs to be tried for rape, but this will not happen when he is renditioned. And the minute a Swedish cop handcuffs him right now, that is what will probably happen.

Sure, there are those in the left who are willing to throw the rape accusations under the rug. They deserve our condemnation.

But you, Pham Binh, hide your pro-imperialist politics behind feminist talk. That is as despicable. Why don’t you came out an say it? You support the USA jailing Assange, throwing him into a renditioned dungeon, for the crime of being the public face of wikileaks. This is because you are in agreement with US foreign policy. Stop hiding.

Assange – even if a rapist – is also the spokesperson for wikileaks. This is not “mere” celebrity: this is concrete political work with large scale political consequences (for example, wikileaks were part of the zeitgeist in the Arab Spring). So his role (while in certain quarters is indeed one of celebrity) is as a powerful enemy of the State. Any enemy of the State deserves our defense of their human and civil rights, and our campaigning for them to evade capture if this is not possible.

We do this all the time in the left with much lesser known people: campaigns for political asylum are dime a dozen, and based on a lot of causes. What seems to be shocking to “leftists” like Pham Binh is that this asylum is being requested to evade US capture. Well, news for you: the USA is one of the most arbitrary and terrible national security states in the world. There are probably as a proportion more political prisioners – right now – in US jails than in “totalitarian” Cuba.

This comes as a shock to those who pin their hopes on US being a beacon of freedom and hope. It isn’t.

We can chew gum and walk at the same time, its something we evolved to do. So we can condemn the rapist and defend the anti-imperialist. The contradiction only exist when you are an imperialist, and thus, only see a dangerous enemy (not even a rapist).

Reply

Louis Proyect August 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm

But you, Pham Binh, hide your pro-imperialist politics behind feminist talk. That is as despicable. Why don’t you came out an say it? You support the USA jailing Assange, throwing him into a renditioned dungeon, for the crime of being the public face of wikileaks. This is because you are in agreement with US foreign policy. Stop hiding.

North Star exists in order to supersede this kind of hair-trigger denunciations of people you disagree with as “pro-imperialist”, CIA-backers, etc. I remember hearing a talk by Peter Camejo at the Brecht Forum about 10 years ago when he spoke mostly about progressive investing. He pointed out that all the polemics of small Trotskyist and Maoist groups that was designed to put people on trial ideologically is only possible given the terrible subculture we inherited. Thank goodness that so many people on the left have learned to transcend it.

Reply

Sks August 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I hope it were true, however, I see Pham and yourself making such denunciations as a matter of routine, but from an inverse perspective.

In other words – what is good for the goose is good for the gander: you feel entitled to name call, bully, mock, and otherwise attack those who disagree with your carefully arranged worldview, to engage in ad hominem attacks left-and-right, to belittle the intellect and critical capacity of your interlocutors. But how dare them return the favor! We have a word for that: hypocrisy.

I believe that we need to develop a more reasonable left – but one that is still radical and revolutionary. And one that is fundamentally anti-imperialist.

In other words, while it is true that there are false accusations and that these are rife and a problem in the left – rooted in petty sectarian sentiments, and in squabbling egos – sometimes there is truth and basis for these accusations. In the case of Pham Binh, his stalwart defense of NATO intervention – which is a matter of record – puts him firmly in the pro-imperialist camp.

This reminds of a caveat to Godwin’s Law (the one that posits that a debate in the internet is lost or the debate is dead once a comparison to hitler or the nazis is bought up). The caveat was proposed by Godwin himself, and it posits that the law is invalid if the discussion is about actual Nazis or about Hitler.

In this case, while denunciations of for ideological impurity are rife and usually not useful – sometimes they are true. That is the case with Pham Binh.

And many people agree, they simply prefer to remain quiet to avoid the bullying they have to suffer at your hands.

I like what the North Star proposes in the abstract – and believe in it. But like Kasama, which puts forward more or less the same line only to leave a lot to be desired in practice, there is a tendency to throw a blanket denunciation on the past – instead of a real examination of how we can move forward. That Philistinism is nothing new, but while it was at first a tragedy, now it is and ever more boring farce.

You bringing up Camejo is a good example: you are pushing a particular set of politics that were not particularly successful compared to other contemporary rivals, but selling them as “new” or “anti-sectarian”. They are not.

And I said as someone, uniquely in my epistemology of the left, who holds a great deal of admiration for Peter Camejo – one of the few people in the USA left who was actually a Lenin, instead of thinking himself one… to bad he was a flawed Lenin, and was surrounded by sycophants and egotists who were not up to the task… and unfortunately outlived him.

Reply

Brian S. August 30, 2012 at 7:50 am

@SKS: You need to be more discriminating in who you adopt as allies, otherwise you’re in danger of developing “mission creep”. I don’t care much for arguments that accuse someone of “objectively” serving X,Y,Z (whatever evil force is at hand) It smacks too much of Stalinism and involves too much tea-leaf reading by the initiated. But at least it has an identifiable logic to it, and can be argued through (if we clench our teeth) in a vaguely rational way. But is a qualitatively different step to state that people are conscious agents of the devil and concealing their “real” views. Now that is wha tI would call “snitch jacketing”. I’ve never seen anything by Louis or Pham that does that (although I’m not conversant with their collected works). I have a simple rule – vigorous political debate, fine; slanders, NO.
If you want to solidarise with those views (which by extension include me, since I agree with most of the views in play here) then I see no point in continuing to discuss with you.

Reply

Brian S. August 30, 2012 at 7:57 am

@SKS. Correction: I’m sorry – I misread the thread: I thought you were commenting on someone else’s post (hence my reference to “allies”. I hadn’t realised the original offending words were your own. That of course, just reinforces the rest of my comment.

Reply

Sks August 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm

You have never seen Louis Proyect slander someone?

Yeah… see that is the problem. Behind all the protestations, it still remains the case, you scratch a trot, and there lies a shiny stalinist mythologist waiting to come out.

I am all for vigorous debate – I am not for this debate’s bounds to be defined by a meta-perspective on who gets to call other “Evil” and who doesn’t. Which is the fundamental hypocrisy at work: ad hominems are bad, unless they are in support of the argument we agree with, in which case, they are awesome.

Makes sense. Only to a hypocrite, that is.

Reply

Brian S. August 31, 2012 at 7:33 am

What I shame, It looked to me like you had apologised above and I could therefore forgive you. I was really looking forward to embarking on an interesting discussion of Kautsky’s theory of imperialism. Not quite the right thread for it, but I’ve seen stranger transformations on left sites. Anyway at least this will save me having to waste energy on trying to de-crypt your more obscure posts, like the one above.

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

So far no one — not D’amato, PSL, nor comrade Ely — has been able to actually quote anything I’ve written in these debates that was “pro imperialist.” It’s as ludicrous as saying a woman who calls a cop in a rape case is “pro cop” (a charge levelled at Clayborne during Occupy LA, incidentally) because she sought to use the police for her own ends in her own interests. Libyan revolutionaries — that is the only word to describe people who take up arms to smash a police state and then hold Nepal-style free elections afterward — got NATO counter-revolutionaries to attack their counter-revolutionary enemies. They used NATO for their own ends. They played one enemy against the other, retaining their political independence. They pushed successfully back against every attempt by NATO to send in ground troops and there are no NATO bases in Libya today.

The question isn’t about for or against imperialism, it’s what do we do about it.

Ely has chosen not to respond or discuss any of the above, the concrete realities of what actually happened in Libya. SKS is welcome to put forward his own analysis of these events/issues and call me an egomanical sectarian “pro imperialist” philistine all he wants. But let’s discuss and rigorously explore the substance of our differences instead of relying on one-word labels that shut down discussion rather than opening it up. So far, only Diana Barahona has made an attempt to write an in-depth analysis of the Libyan war, and that was only because her initial request to censor and not publish Clayborne’s stuff on The North Star was rejected and was prodded into crafting a refutation instead.

In terms of organizing, The North Star is only six months old, and for the first two months it was exclusively Occupy-focused. It’s a bit early to expect ripe fruit when we are still ploughing up the ground and beginning to figure out what seeds to plant and where.

I certainly don’t have all or even many answers in terms of immediately applicable models — I only rejected “Leninism” a little over 400 days ago after discovering that everything I thought I knew about Lenin and the Bolsheviks was either flat out wrong or only 2% of the truth. Nothing shakes you up faster politically than realizing you were worshipping a false idol for so many years.

Speaking for myself, I’m starting almost at square one. I know for sure some things don’t work and can’t work. What does work remains to be tried, explored, and devloped. I have general ideas, but turning them into something workable and useful isn’t easy. There is a lot of interest in turning Class War Camp into a more coherent and functional collective, but that is easier said than done. Some of us don’t have phones or even internet access. That is a new challenge for me. The organization I came out of had zero use for people who could not dedicate 10-20 hours a week every week to selling papers, recruiting, and convincing recruits not to quit — meaning 99.9999 of the 99%. Anyone who had to work two jobs, seven days a week like I did for three years straight was shit out of luck (or “deprioritized” if you want to use their doublespeak). I’ve got to unlearn almost as much as I’ve got to learn from Occupy and the Arab Spring.

On Camejo and the Greens: Camejo accomplished far more than I ever will (same for Aoki, informer or not), so I’m not in a position to call him a political failure. He went Green because he saw them as something organic, growing out of a real trend in American radicalism, and because the Marxist left is dominated by the sect form, a road that goes in circles, forever and ever. If he lived another 10 years, there’s no doubt in my mind he’d be a leader of the leaderfull uprising we call Occupy, a figure with a national and bilingual profile. I think he did the best he could in the context he was in with the human material he had; his worst was better than our best. The Green Party has a lot to sort out before it can reach its full potential and I don’t see my personal involvement in it as being the best use of my time and resources (mainly because I’d have to build tons of political relationships from scratch as an outsider coming in).

On Kasama: I feel the same way. I’m not sure how long they’ve doing what they’re doing. What bothers me is their opacity. I don’t really know what it means to be a member or part of their team. It’s like a building with no discernible door. A lot of people would like to come in from the cold, rainy night but there does not appear to be a way to get in. For the politically homeless, this is frustrating, to put it politely.

I like much of what I’ve read from Black Orchid Collective and Advance the Struggle because they seem to be saying Do It Yourself, build a cadre organization not based on formal politics, a series of positions (state capitalism, three worlds vs two), or ideology (Marxism vs. anarchism) but on common sense anti-capitalism, using whatever works, whatever gets results (as Malcolm X put it).

In closing, none of the above belongs in a comment thread about Assange, but SKS raised a variety of issues that I felt should be clarified mainly to give comrades a sense of where we’re at in preparation for our own long march over the next 1-3 decades.

Reply

Sks August 30, 2012 at 2:17 am

I think the success of politics is both relative and absolute in a dialectical way – and it also has a historic component. In that sense, I believe that practice the criteria of truth – and the truth is that the politics of the entire US socialist left since WWII have been historic failures – in spite of some clear – historic, even, victories.

The most clear criteria is the failure to establish socialism – not matter how small an alternative – into the acceptable discourse of mainstream politics. And I do not mean big S socialism, as in a Socialist Party, but rather the small s socialism of politics – agreed or disagreed with – that are more than mere epithet or something college kids bring up in rebellion.

In that sense, Camejo’s failure is not his alone – and it’s our entire failure. However, to claim – as Louis Proyect is so often and repeatedly prone to do – that the failures lay not in his own politics but that of others I find precisely one of the biggest failure of the past. Lenin, for example, threw out a decade of politics in a few weeks in February-April of 1917, because… well… conditions changed. The anti-dogmatic dogmatism is not new stuff – it has been the argument of renegades to socialism from Bernstein and Kautsky to Deng and Gorbachev – and of the lesser vermin herein.

I am red diaper grandchild – I have seen or heard it all. None of this sounds new, fresh, or anything other than the same tired path of failure.

That said, I take issue with this:

“So far no one — not D’amato, PSL, nor comrade Ely — has been able to actually quote anything I’ve written in these debates that was “pro imperialist.”

You might not think this has happened, but it has.

However, it has not been until now that I gained an insight on why you might not see it that was not simple cynicism (I like to follow Occam’s razor – it has served me well).

And that is this:

“The question isn’t about for or against imperialism, it’s what do we do about it.”

Bingo!

It is a difference of epistemology.

You see, within the revolutionary socialist (at that time, Social-Democratic) movement of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th there where a series of major and minor schisms. The first one was between anarchists and communists, the last one that between Cominternists and the Right and Left Oppositions. All of these schisms were around deep theoretical and practical difference that defined several epistemologies that some of us call “traditions”. During the early 20th century, Kautsky and other Social Democrats and various Anarcho-Communists (backgrounded by the Spanish-American war and by the race for empire in Africa and Asia) independently developed the socialists theories of Imperialism. Kautsky in particular did so from solid Marxist basis, and thus became widely influential. In his theories he presented Imperialism as a stage or epoch in capitalist development, its final epoch even, which would be defined by various then nascent characteristics. His ideas were explosive. Already the social-democrats of the Second International had been divided along Minimalist (reformist) and Maximalist (revolutionary) lines in much of the world – in the case of Russia this division made evident between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, as well as several grouplets that attempted reunification of both factions. Kautsky’s theories were like oil on a hot fire: explosive. They took a direct hit against the perspective that the national question was not central to Marxism, and that nations were “natural” phenomena, rather than a result of capitalism. These ideas developed and fermented until tested by WWI. Kautsky himself renege these ideas, thus prompting Lenin to write “The Renegade Kautsky” – both reaffirming and elaborating Kautsky’s ideas on imperialism, and attacking Kautsky’s cowardice in not following them through to practice. In this process, a new schism emerged: the left-Zimmerwaldists. They emerged from the Zimmerwald movement of anti-war, yet hetereogenous, Second International parties and politicians, convened by the Swiss section, which was, of course, neutral. The Zimmerwaldist quickly divided into the Right – those who opposed the war but didn’t accept revolutionary defeatism and anti-imperialism, and the Left, led by Lenin, which did. The Left Zimmerwaldists would become the core group to later develop the Comintern – and of course, the Bolsheviks.

With this schism, there cemented the idea that imperialism was not simply a policy of government, that is, something rooted in the hawkishness or warlike qualities of a given government – and thus it depredations better stopped at the ballot box by electing Socialist governments, but rather than imperialism was capitalism in a new epoch. This would form the ideological basis of traditions as seemingly disparate as Trotskyism and Maoism in the coming decades, but these contradictions – at the level of theory – are not as deep as they seem, precisely because they share this common language.

Later, as the USSR developed, as the Left opposition split, as anti-colonial stuggles developed, all of this original simplicity would be lost. In particular, branches of trotskyism (and maoism) would describe the Soviet Union as State Capitalist, and thus, [social-]imperialist, while others would defend the USSR as socialism, and define Imperialism as the “capitalist camp”. The Global Class War and Three Worlds Theory would emerge, further complicating matters. But still – without going into details – a common language existed: imperialism was a social relation, not a policy.

Yet for you, Imperialism is something that exists on the realm of power-above-society, that is, something to be approached in a pragmatic manner. However, imperialism for those of us of the Left-Zimmerwaldist tradition (all inclusive – Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, etc) and of the Anarcho-Communist traditions is simply another name for capitalism in the present period, a global expression of the specific mode of production and social relations of the capitalist system. Imperialism is capitalism – not some form of capitalism, but THE form of capitalism. Sure, imperialism can be fascist or liberal or dictatorship or even social-democratic. It is still imperialism. It is still capitalism.

In other words, it is not a pragmatic question of realpolitik, but an ideological question of anti-capitalism. With the fall of the Berlin Wall – and the misguided triumphalism of the third camp and the ideological wilderness of the pro-Soviet, Trotskyist, and anti-Revisionist movements, this perspective on imperialism – once wholly uncontroversial, was lost. And it was not lost under a strenuous critique as a failure (unless you count the End of History Hegelism of Francis Fukuyama as such a critique), but rather because for some reason this was not taught anymore. Anti-imperialism became anti-globalization – and ideological and scientific confusion was mistaken for anti-dogmatism and exploration of new ideas. Rather than a thought out, vigorous eclecticism and anti-dogmatism, what we had was a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas or a retrenchment of old, failed, dogmas. And this happened across the board. And I know the period well: I joined a cadre org high school youth org in 1992, shortly after the SU disappeared.

So yeah, I am willing to concede something: you are maybe not pro-imperialist. You simply do not understand imperialism – at a theoretical and political level, in the same way as your interlocutors, including myself, do. We have a difference of epistemology.

You could still have the same epistemology and arrive at similar conclusions in practice – there is indeed such a thing as a pro-imperialist “revolutionary socialist” left (A good example is the Alliance for Workers Liberty in the UK).

However, it would be unthinkable for them to say something like “The question isn’t about for or against imperialism, it’s what do we do about it”. No, they firmly and without equivocation – for their own reasons whatever they are – take the side of imperialism. And so consciously: in fact, they go as far as describing the rest of the left as “reactionary anti-imperialists” for not siding with imperialism regarding the Malvinas or Palestine.

Your position of “The question isn’t about for or against imperialism, it’s what do we do about it” is not pro-imperialism.

Ideologically, it is, however, liberal and chauvinist. Imperialism is not an independent event that can be allied with here where convenient, and fought over there where not. It is a social relation: if you support it somewhere, you are supporting it everywhere. It is not about what is “convenient” for the side you chose in a civil way far away from you. It is about imperialism as a global, interconnected, and indivisible expression of the present epoch of capitalism.

Much is the way that that time honored (but not often practiced) principle of “an injury to one, its an injury to all” among the workers movement, thus is the global system of imperialism based on the class solidarity of the ruling classes of this system. So if you aid or align with them in Libya, you are doing it in Palestine. And so on. Class solidarity is not exclusive to the working class, but also extends to the ruling class. Supporting imperialism is like a worker supporting a strike: class loyalty. And not supporting imperialism is scabing the ruling class, something that as a socialist I want to do all the time.

Things could be different if we have a movement of millions of people, or commanded States, etc. In those cases the chess game of grand strategy could define a movement (say, Lenin taking a train paid for by the Germans to lead the Russian Revolution). But we are far from there – what we need now is clarity in terms of who our ideological enemies are, clarity on our actual capacities, and clarity versus imperialism and capitalism.

Or we cease to be socialists and are some sort of radical liberals.

Which is ok, I unite with such creatures all the time. In fact, some of them are my friends. I know more elected officials than you can imagine – some from an early age, and even some of them Republicans. But they don’t call themselves socialists. And if they did, I would call them hypocrites rather than simply mistaken (as I do now).

So that is my main contention – I wouldn’t be as harsh if you didn’t claim your position as socialist, because for me, epistemologicaly, socialist implies anti-capitalist, and imperialism is capitalism, and alliance with imperialism is alliance with capitalism, which is not socialism.

Reply

Louis Proyect August 30, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Which is ok, I unite with such creatures all the time. In fact, some of them are my friends. I know more elected officials than you can imagine – some from an early age, and even some of them Republicans. But they don’t call themselves socialists. And if they did, I would call them hypocrites rather than simply mistaken (as I do now).

SKS is really on a roll, isn’t he? Now you can understand why the 1960s and 70s left imploded.

Reply

Sks August 30, 2012 at 11:56 pm

How so?

Reply

Arthur August 31, 2012 at 7:01 am

Not really. I don’t think the 1960s left “imploded”. Rather it faded away as result of the accommodations made to it (civil rights, US withdrawal from Vietnam, generational cultural shift etc).

BECAUSE that left had ALREADY faded away, it became possible for really weird stuff to be passed off as “left”. It makes as little sense to blame the 1960s left for such phenomena as it would to attribute it to the traditions of Zimmerwald. Much as I reject Trotskyism I couldn’t in all honestry blame it on them either.

What I find more startling than ravings about the espistemological traditions of the Zimmerwald left in a discussion about extradition of Julian Assange for alleged sexual offenses, is that it was preceded by Pham Binh also posting extensive comments that ended with:

“In closing, none of the above belongs in a comment thread about Assange, but SKS raised a variety of issues that I felt should be clarified mainly to give comrades a sense of where we’re at in preparation for our own long march over the next 1-3 decades.”

This came AFTER “admin” had warned about not feeding the trolls!

The sense I get of where we’re at is that people who stayed involved with what passed as “the left” in recent decades and are only now emerging from it will need an extensive period of recuperation from post traumatic stress disorders.

Reply

Aaron Aarons September 3, 2012 at 3:29 am

Arthur writes: “it became possible for really weird stuff to be passed off as “left””

True, but there is some really weird stuff that can’t ‘be passed off as “left”’ — stuff like support for the imperialist wars and embargoes against Iraq since 1990.

Reply

admin October 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm
ignite energy December 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

Males, in particular, should not be consuming soy protein in any significant amount,
let alone twice a day every day as Visalus advises. Food being
part of the physiologic needs of people should be taken with some
sort of discipline. You must know what to choose in obtaining your goals.

Reply

los angeles dui lawyer December 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Appreciating the commitment you put into your
site and detailed information you present.
It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information.
Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Reply

dui in pa July 10, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Full the form under to get a free case evaluation from a neighborhood DUI
/ DWI lawyer.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 16 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: