Assange extradition: where are the unions?

As an innocent man is tortured for the crime of exposing the criminals, British workers should be organising meaningful action in defence of all our rights.

The persecution of Julian Assange is not about one man. it is not even about the right to ‘free speech’. It is about the right to be successful in bringing truthful information to the public when that truth is inconvenient to ruling-class fake narratives.

As what was supposed to have been the final hearing in Julian Assange’s extradition proceeding took place on 21 February in London, CPGB-ML comrades hosted a rally and open mic session outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Our speakers made the following points to the demonstrators who were gathered there.

You can find links to the videos of each speaker in our article Communist party rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice for Julian Assange.


Where are the unions?

Julian Assange is being persecuted by the USA and its allied imperialist powers for having exposed their crimes. That being the case, it is shocking to see that there has been no mobilisation by the National Union of Journalists in his defence.

Where is the trade union movement? Where is the antiwar movement? Where is the mass mobilisation of British working people to close down this travesty of a proceeding? The power of the British working class could end the persecution of Julian Assange tomorrow if it were properly harnessed and directed.

Protestors shouldn’t be here merely as individuals ‘expressing their opinions’. We should be here to use our collective strength to stop this charade in its tracks – a ‘hearing’ that has no connection with British law, with American law or with international law, and which is in violation of the very extradition treaty under which it is being held. Julian has committed no crime anywhere in the world, and the USA has no right to ask for his extradition. He is being hounded by the imperialists simply for telling the truth.

And since it is our country where Julian is being physically targeted, it’s the responsibility of the British working class to mobilise in his defence; to make it clear to our rulers that we will not allow this crime to continue on our soil. Our trade union movement should be organising to blockade the city, to surround Belmarsh prison and the courts, to pull all media, prison and court workers out on strike. Our union leaders should be opposing the British state, but they are not.

Defending US imperialist interests

Another important insight we are gaining is into the relationship between the British and US ruling classes. We can see that when the interests of US imperialism are threatened, the British ruling class feels itself to be threatened too. Right now it is bending over backwards, breaking all its own rules, in order to conform to the wishes and preserve the interests of US imperialism.

Our rulers have shown that there is no crime they will not commit, no courtroom they will not lie in, no rule they will not break in this endeavour. This is the truth about our ‘mother of all democracies’ and our ‘great British justice system’.

‘Free speech’ and imperialist lies

And we are also learning about the realities of ‘free speech’ in Britain. It turns out you can say anything you like as long as nobody is listening to you. That’s the limit of free speech in practice. But if you have something to say that threatens the stability of imperialist looting around the world, and you say it in such a way that many people might hear you, on a platform that people are looking at, to an audience that is big and that is paying attention, the ruling class will be ruthless in its attempts to silence you.

What we are witnessing in Julian’s persecution is a punishment beating; a message not only to journalists but to anybody who wants to face imperialist power: If you are effective in bringing your message about our crimes to the mass of the people, we will come after you.

In the end, this is about our right to access the truth, and our right to organise ourselves against imperialist war.

The ruling class uses its control of the media to warp reality and twist our perception. This is what enables them to get away with locking up Julian Assange and turning the justice system on its head; so that the criminals sit in judgement over an innocent man and the stenographers for power report that as if it’s a meaningful process, repeating what they’re told to repeat in the order of importance that they’ve been given by some government press office. This is how our minds are controlled.

The more our rulers and their system decay and become separate from the people, the more their words lose connection with reality. Increasingly, they say one thing but they mean the opposite.

Many of us have grown up with horror stories about communism and how awful it was and how we should put up with capitalism because the alternative would be too horrendous to contemplate. But now we can see that all the stories about Big Brother watching us that they scared us with were projection.

We accepted these lies because it’s what we expect from a state; that it will abuse its people and lock them up, intimidate them and bombard them with lies – that all made sense to us because that’s the reality of the world we live in. But it’s not the truth about socialism and communism, it’s the truth about capitalism and imperialism.

Because of the way that we live and the dystopia we are living in right now, the ruling class can scare us with the idea there’s something worse around the corner. Don’t agitate, don’t organise, don’t try and change the world, we are told: what you’ll get will be worse.

But they are projecting on us their own crimes. When they told us horrific lies about the so-called crimes of the Libyan government, the so-called crimes of Colonel Gaddafi, it was in reality a projection of the way the imperialists behave around the world. Colonel Gaddafi was a hero in Africa and the middle east, and he was murdered for standing up to imperialism. Our rulers told horrendous disgusting lies about him and his people in order to prime us to accept their war of destruction.

And look at what happened to the world since they destroyed Libya. It turned out to be the most terrible calamity, not just for Libya but for the peoples of the world. And through it all our own ‘antiwar movement’ repeated all the lies that the bourgeoisie was telling about Colonel Gaddafi instead of challenging them. And many in our movement have done the same in Julian’s case.

The imperialists have made all sorts of lurid and spurious allegations against him to try to keep us away from finding out the truth for ourselves. To make us feel that even asking a question makes us questionable. That’s how they control the narrative. They make their propaganda so hysterical that to even start to question it makes you look as if you might sympathise with such awful crimes.

Remember what the media said on 8 October – what they said Hamas had done? They don’t talk about Palestinian resistance, they talk about ‘Hamas’. Why? Because they’ve labelled Hamas as ‘terrorist’ and they’ve banned it in Britain. So if you talk about Palestinian resistance now you’re ‘supporting Hamas’, and since Hamas is banned, you’re a terrorist.

Members of our organisation have been arrested under terrorism charges, their homes raided by armed police in the middle of the night. Why? Because we handed out a leaflet in support of the Palestinian people’s right to resist – a right that is enshrined in international law and has been underlined by multiple United Nations resolutions.

Why are we being targeted now for saying what we’ve said for 20 years? Because the ruling class fears that at this moment, when people are looking at and thinking about Palestine, there’s a possibility that a message we were free to say when no one was listening might now actually be heard by a movement that’s growing and becoming activate and aware.

The ruling class is desperate to stop the people who are waking up from connecting with the people who’ve got something to tell them. Because there is where the danger lies. And that’s what this issue of free speech is all about. They don’t mind our party saying all the things we’ve been saying for 30 years as long as no one can hear us. But they do mind if there’s an audience that is growing and might decide to take action on the basis of our information.

Julian threatened the status quo not just because he revealed the crimes of imperialism; people have been doing that as long as imperialism has existed. But he did it on a platform that had a mass audience. He did it in such a way that many people found out and those crimes couldn’t be denied. The proofs went around the world, and now the genie is out of the bottle and it can’t be put back in.

Everybody knows now that when they lied us into war in Iraq, every single thing they told us to get us into that war was a lie.

Where is the antiwar movement?

And we also know that when they told those lies they knew they were lies. Twenty years ago, the ruling class felt very comfortable ignoring the antiwar movement. Why? Because the leadership could be relied upon to squander the energy of the two million people who took to the streets. And indeed, that is what they did. Their message to the protestors was the opposite of empowering. They simply said: Well done for coming out, you’ve made history. This has been the biggest march ever. Well done, see you next time.

But two million people were ready to take their orders. Imagine if they’d have been prepared to use that power. What if they had said: Let’s go down to the City and barricade the stock exchange. Let’s go to Parliament and Whitehall and barricade the offices where all these decisions are being taken. Let’s go to RAF Northolt and stop the planes taking off.

Such action would have forced the ruling class to stop and think again about their war. Marching up and down is one thing, but we’ve got to work out what to do with that power once we’ve started to bring it onto the streets. And this is something that the misleaders of our movement are not prepared to tell us.

The punishment beating being meted out to Julian Assange shows that the ruling class understands what workers have not yet woken up to: that the real power in this country is in our hands.

The imperialist ruling class can’t continue to commit its crimes without our cooperation. This is the message we need to take back to all our trade unions, to our schools, to our communities.

If we organise to refuse to cooperate, there is nothing our rulers can do; they don’t fight the wars, they don’t make the bombs, they don’t even transmit the lies. They don’t know how to do any of these jobs – they give the orders, and we follow them. If we refuse to follow their orders nothing can happen.

This is the understanding that needs to be brought to workers in Britain.


A month after this ‘final’ hearing, the judges kicked the can down the road once again, decreeing that the USA must give assurances on certain aspects of its possible treatment of Assange, and that if such assurances were not forthcoming, Julian would be granted the right to a further appeal (on strictly limited grounds).

You can read our response to this non-decision here: Latest twist on Assange’s extradition: cause for pessimism or optimism?