International Support for Assange May Not Prevent His Extradition / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

A banner in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is seen outside the High Court in London, which ruled on December 10, 2021 that Assange can be extradited to the US. A lower court judge earlier this year refused the US request for extradition. Photo: VCG, Global Times

Australian Julian Assange founded and managed Wikileaks, the international organization that famously has collected and passed on secret political documents. The campaign to prevent Assange from being extradited to the United States from Britain has intensified recently just as legal remedies for him to avoid extradition are fast disappearing.

The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel on November 28 issued a joint letter stating that the U.S. indictment against Assange “sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.” A recent statement from the International Federation of Journalists points out that, “None of WikiLeaks’ media partners have been charged … because of their collaboration with Assange.”

High officials have weighed in. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on November 30 assured legislators he made it  “clear to the US administration—that it is time that this matter be brought to a close.” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet indicated that Assange’s “potential extradition and prosecution of Assange raises concerns relating to media freedom.” 

Supporters on October 8 created a human chain outside Parliament in London. Assange’s allies claim he is a journalist and that criminalization of reporting violates the democratic right of press freedom. The American Civil Liberties Union long ago opined that, “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange would be unprecedented and unconstitutional.” 

Among the many U.S. charges against Assange are accusations that he disseminated government secrets and thereby violated the Espionage Act of 1917. Conviction on those charges could send him to prison for up to 175 years.

It seems presently that the campaign to prevent Assange’s extradition to the United States is falling short and perhaps inevitably so.  In particular, political agitation on his behalf his failed to arouse significant popular support for his cause in the international arena.

A review of how his case has played out may be helpful. Through Wikileaks, Assange collected, and was supplied with, cables and documents, classified and unclassified, having to do with U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence activities. Beginning in 2010, Wikileaks distributed material to news outlets worldwide, furiously at first and intermittently later on. 

Revealing and often embarrassing information emerged regarding U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; interventions in Iran, Yemen, and Turkey; U.S. prisoners held in Guantanamo; and U.S. involvement in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere. U.S. authorities claim Assange endangered U.S. interests and personnel.

Sexual assault charges against Assange emerged in Sweden in 2010. Authorities in the U.K., where he was living, first imprisoned him in preparation for extradition to Sweden and then released him on bail.  Assange sought judicial protection from being extradited, mainly to avoid extradition from there to the United States.

Court rulings and appeals continued until 2012, when Britain’s Supreme Court authorized Assange’s extradition to Sweden. He took refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London.

A new rightwing Ecuadorian government in 2019 ended that sanctuary and British authorities, invited into the Embassy, transferred Assange to Belmarsh prison on bail-violation charges. The sexual assault charge had already been dropped. The U.S. government in June 2019 requested Assange’s extradition and also released a previously secret indictment created the year before.

Reports have circulated that Assange has suffered from neurological and psychological illnesses while in prison. Beginning in 2020, British courts at various levels ruled on Assange’s extradition until mid-2021, when the Supreme Court approved a British government order to extradite him. 

An appeal of that decision is in the works; a hearing is scheduled for early 2023.  Assange’s lawyers have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Whether or not the British government would honor that court’s rejection of Assange’s extradition is uncertain.

Assange is apparently on the verge being imprisoned in the United States. The headline of John Nichols’s article in The Nation says, “A United Front Is Needed to Fight the Threat to Journalism Posed by the Assange Prosecution.”

A united front of sorts is already in place.  As noted above, political officials and journalists have spoken out in opposition to Assange’s extradition. In that vein, Wikileaks top editor Kristinn Hrafnsson and an associate conferred with Latin American heads of state in early December.  Colombian president Gustavo  Petro, his Argentinian counterpart Alberto Fernández and Brazilian president-elect  Lula da Silva have signaled their support for Assange.

The suggestion of mounting a united front to bolster Assange’s defense is a serendipitous gift to this inquiry. A united front indeed does have the potential to build mass support for a defendant as an adjunct to his or her legal defense.  Effectiveness, however, depends on its composition. 

We recall a united front that did create a widespread people’s mobilization that helped to secure the liberation of political prisoners in Alabama. That one differed from the one developing now on Assange’s behalf. 

A court in that state in 1931 convicted nine African-descended boys and young men of having raped two white women; eight of them were going to be executed. These were the “Scottsboro Boys,” and they were innocent. The national group International Labor Defense (ILD) not only provided lawyers but also orchestrated publicity and protests that extended worldwide and contributed hugely to the prisoners’ eventual liberation.  

Initiated by the Communist Party, the ILD recruited activists from all quarters of the American left in order to defend “victims of class warfare.” The Communist party was pursuing a united-front strategy, of which ILD was one manifestation. Communist parties of the world were on that track as they prepared for a world war thought to be inevitable. They were forming coalitions in their various countries with other political parties of the working class. 

Tapping into the grief of oppressed peoples’ daily existence, ILD was offering relief for one aspect of that grief, persecution by local civil authorities.  The ILD was providing grounds for hope, and, that way, encouraged people to seek justice and think of freedom for prisoners.

The problem for Julius Assange, however, may be that the issue of press freedom, while certainly an important democratic right, does not register as serving people’s basic needs at the grassroots. It’s an abstraction and doesn’t qualify as a call likely to provoke the mass mobilization needed by Assange. A united front of experts, journalists, politicians, human rights organizations, and international agencies advocating for Assange is one thing. Peoples of the world calling for the liberation of the Scottsboro Boys was quite another. 

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Elections 2022: No time to let up in the fight against fascism / by Jarvis Tyner

The Trump forces have spent billions of corporate dollars to rob the people of their means to fight for their basic rights, including the right to vote. They are stepping up propaganda, gerrymandering, and the disenfranchisement of citizens. They are trying to eliminate any peaceful paths to real economic and social justice.

Through his actions and words, Trump proves every day that he is undeniably a committed fascist. The media is full of private discussions he has had with his top officials where he admits his admiration for Adolf Hitler. Who does that?! And who welcomes Nazis to their rallies, or permits them to make Nazi salutes at their meetings?

Trump has financed and legitimized political violence. He has destroyed the Republican Party by making it an openly fascist party, and has built his despicable movement by promoting vile racism, anti-Semitism, male supremacy, and hatred of LGBTQ people, immigrants, and foreigners. He has financed and promoted a most dangerous gang of right-wing thugs, who tried to steal an election and carry out a coup under his direction.

As we vote, we must remember that voter suppression and red-baiting are designed to demoralize and splinter movements, to turn us against each other and a people’s agenda.

Most importantly, we must remember—and refuse to forget—that these efforts are unbelievably cruel, because they are targeted directly at the people whose very lives are at risk. They are targeted at victims of class exploitation, racial, gender, and sexual brutality. They are targeted at those trying to survive in the ghettos and barrios, the elderly, the children, the incarcerated, and the victims of poverty. They are targeted at many tens of millions in impoverished communities who are denied their right to clean air and water, free medical care, dignified affordable housing, and to a free, high-quality education.

It is a left agenda that supports these rights, making it the only agenda that the people will support. That is why the right and its media are flailing, and, like the old German Nazis and other fascist movements around the world, the far right and their media are using anti-communism to unite the center-right with themselves.

They are calling mainstream progressive initiatives communist, but these broad left policies are really just decent and moral policies.

Unfortunately, some people shrink in the face of being labeled communist or socialist, although the Communist Party is aligned with those fighting for democracy.

Anti-communism is a diversion that is ahistorical and an insult. It confuses the very nature of who we are. What have we been fighting for, for over 100 years? We stand against racism, wars of imperialism, anti-Semitism, male chauvinism, and poverty. We believe in medical care for everyone, free, high-quality education, and the role of government in protecting human rights and providing vital services.

Making the rich richer is an assault on the well-being and survival of working- and middle-class people. That’s not what we are after.

The problem for the Trump forces is that they do not support basic pro-people causes, and so they naturally do not have support from the majority of voters. That is why they try to demonize progressive agendas. That is why they must lie and cheat to win. And that is why, if the democratic and progressive forces are inspired and effective, they can win the majority of races.

Those around Trump must be defeated, and they can be defeated. Step one is to defeat them at the polls.

We have had successes before, and we will have successes again. If we look south to Latin America and the Caribbean, there have been some very important victories against fascist advances of the extreme right. Popular movements, progressive parties, and youth and student groups have worked to restore democracy, despite great odds against them.

The tide is turning.

We hail the historic victory of Lula DaSilva, the heroic leader of the Workers Party of Brazil. Lula had been jailed for over 500 days on trumped-up charges. He was replaced by Bolsonaro, an extreme right-winger who swiftly imposed fascist policies that claimed the lives of thousands. Yet, after years of campaigning for “Lula Livre,” Lula was released from jail by the courts, and despite aggressive media misinformation campaigns, just days ago he secured another election victory. A record number of voters came to the polls, and Lula emerged victorious, despite massive efforts to steal votes by the opposition.

In Bolivia, the people voted out a U.S.-backed coup regime reigniting the Movimiento al Socialismo. In Honduras, the people elected the first woman president, the wife of a former president who had been ousted in a U.S.-backed coup. In Colombia, Gustavo Petro, a former left-wing guerilla fighter, and Francia Márquez—a Black woman, human-rights defender, and environmental activist—were elected president and vice president, respectively.

The tide can turn here in the U.S., too.

While a lot of the early polls reported more people supporting Republican issues over Democratic issues, and therefore a likely win for the GOP in many cases, other factors cast doubt on their reliability. Results from early voters showed Democratic supporters outnumbering the Republicans. Then it was widely reported in the media that most of the early polls were coming from Republican pollsters! Their aim might have been to rev up the right and demoralize the democratic forces.

This battle can be won!

The Communist Party has a big role play now, as it has in the past. We are the party that fought against white supremacist terror during the “Red Summer of 1919,” and against the framing of Sacco and Vanzetti in the 1920s.

We are the party that fought to free the Scottsboro Nine and that fought for justice for Emmett Till.

We are the party that led the organization of millions of industrial workers into the CIO.

We are the party that fought for the defense of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

We are the party that fought in solidarity with the South African anti-apartheid movement, that fought to free Angela Davis, and that fought to end the Vietnam War.

History proves we have always been, and will always be, on the side of the working class and on the side of democracy.

It is our solemn duty to do all we can to defeat the Republicans at the polls on November 8th and in 2024. Donald Trump and his violent, criminal movement must be defeated, and fully prosecuted for their crimes.

Jarvis Tyner is the former executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party’s national board. Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism, and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appeared on the media, campuses, and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality, and the socialist alternative.  

People’s World, November 7, 2022,