Inspired by the words of Julian Assange, workers around the world are collaborating to stand up for his freedom, writes Davey Heller.
IN A TIME of deepening capitalist crisis, just as in the 1930s, the ruling class is turning to fascism and dictatorship. Fascism requires crushing working class resistance to succeed.
The fascist in the White House, Donald Trump, is leading a global attack on the rights of the working class with his persecution of Julian Assange. The “defend Assange” campaign is correctly characterised as being a free speech campaign, but it must also be seen as part of the class struggle and the working-class fightback against the threat of fascism.
This is why the launch of the Workers for Assange movement is necessary. Today the war on journalism is the spearhead of what is really a class war and Julian Assange is a class war prisoner. Without access to journalism which tells the truth about the crimes of imperial power, without the fundamental right to know the truth, all the rights of the working class won in struggle over a century are existentially threatened.
At root, the fight to free Julian Assange must be seen as an industrial struggle. Therefore, only the international working class organised in the fight to free Julian Assange has the social power to win his freedom — another reason why this movement is necessary.
Julian Assange himself has called for industrial organising in his defence. In early November 2019, one of the few letters from Julian Assange that managed to break through the cruel information blockade inflicted by Belmarsh Prison emerged. The letter sent to a supporter in France encouraged workers to form “blocs” in their unions.
‘Dear Anne-Marie, you ask what you can do to fight for my freedom? Use your strongest skills, friends, resources and associations. If you are a nurse, gather nurses, create a bloc in the nurses union, etc! defend.wikileaks.org JPA.’
The import of Julian urging workers to organise industrially in his defence cannot be overstated. It reveals that Julian himself understands that only a mass movement of the working class can unleash the power needed to free him.
Marxists define the working class as everyone who has to survive by earning a wage — for instance, by selling their labour. This is the vast majority of humanity who all share the same social interests of wanting access to good working conditions, democratic rights, safe and stable housing, healthcare, education and a clean environment. The working class is therefore not just “blue-collar” or factory workers, but teachers, nurses, retail workers, people in the service industry and so on.
There have already been the stirrings of a working-class orientated campaign to free Julian. Out of the Yellow Vest movement, who have been bravely marching against social equality – literally under police fire in France for over a year – has grown a contingent of Yellow Vests organising on Facebook who has now travelled to London three times to protest for Assange. Most significantly on 25 January, over a hundred Yellow Vests brought their militant spirit of resistance to Belmarsh.
Workers have also organised in professional “blocs”. This includes the very effective Doctors for Assange. Over a hundred doctors globally have signed an open letter demanding that Julian be immediately moved out of prison to a hospital setting where he can recover his health. Journalists have also collaborated in the Speak Up For Assange open letter, now signed by over 1,000 journalists. Ranks and file teachers in Melbourne and Sydney have passed motions in support of Assange. Motions have been passed by unionists in the San Francisco Labor Council and Pacifica Media Guild in the U.S. This must be built on.
LAUNCHING “WORKERS FOR ASSANGE”
To take this fight forward, workers around the world can join a new campaign entitled Workers for Assange. Whilst unions are a major focus of this campaign, the reality is that not all workers are in unions. It must also be recognised that this struggle must be waged by ordinary workers as union bureaucracies have either been silent or made no more than token gestures. No union has sought to seriously mobilise its members through protests, strikes or even a stop-work meeting.
- Join the Workers for Assange Facebook group or start a worker bloc.
Whilst Facebook is a platform that is owned by an oligarch, is politically censored and can be a vehicle for surveillance, it is also one of the most effective organising tools available for workers globally. It has been utilised to organise Yellow Vest protests, wildcat strikes and innumerable political struggles. That is why as part of the launch of Workers for Assange, a Facebook group has been created for workers to discuss ways the working class can be mobilised to free Assange.
- Start a specific workers bloc.
Follow Julian’s advice. If you are a nurse, start a nurses bloc. If you are a teacher, start a teachers bloc. Once again, starting a Facebook group would be a good place to start this process.
- Pass a motion within your unionised or non-unionised workplace.
Just as teachers have done in Australia, move a motion in your workplace or union branch to defend Assange.
These motions are stepping stones to action, such as the calling of stop-work meetings, mobilising workers for protests and ultimately political general strikes across borders. Whilst aiming at strikes for Assange might sound overly ambitious, there are already political general strikes breaking out around the world. This includes the general strike in France against cuts to the pension and the general strikes and mass protests in Chile which began with small student protests against public transport fare hikes.
The demand to free Assange would not be the only demand of such a strike but it could be a spark for such a broader movement. If the U.S. and its accomplices in the UK and Australian Government were not concerned about the potential for this campaign to spark a broad political struggle they would not be trying so hard to slander Assange and prosecute this outrageous case in the dark.
- Adopt the Yellow Vest as the symbol of protest for Assange.
By wearing the Yellow Vest you are not only being inspired by the spirit of resistance of our French comrades but we are also connecting the Assange campaign to the broader international struggle against inequality and repression. Buy a Yellow Vest and write ‘free Julian Assange’ on the back and/or stencil Julian's face like protesters in France and Melbourne have done. Let's make this our international symbol of resistance.
- Use your associations.
Workers are not only found in workplaces but belong to many associations. Most university students are also waged workers. Some are in political parties or other community organisations. As Julian suggested, organise in these places, too. Labor Party branches in the UK and Greens branches in Australia have begun to pass motions. People have moved motions in Australia at a local council level. Such actions are powerful in building a movement that involves the widest possible layers of the working class.
It’s time to take the campaign to free Julian Assange to the next level. The courts and politicians in the UK must be compelled to free Assange. Join the Workers For Assange Facebook group and start organising. There is no time to waste. Workers must unite for Assange.
Davey Heller is a writer and campaigner. You can follow him on @socialist_davey.
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