Wikileaks yes, Assange no!

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecudor. We post here some thoughts about the left’s attitude to Assange. By Kate Harris it was originally published in Solidarity in July this year (www.workersliberty.org/solidarity)

Several months ago, there was an image going around social networking sites of Julian Assange and Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire owner of Facebook. The caption next to the image of Assange was: “I give private information on corporations to you for free, and I’m the villain”. The caption next to Zuckerberg was: “I give your private information to corporations for money, and I’m man of the year.”

While Zuckerberg is obviously a class enemy, Assange is a suspected rapist. Yet many comrades – some who describe themselves as feminists — were still posting this image.

In recent weeks many leading figures on the left, including Tony Benn, have lent their support to Assange, asking Ecuador to uphold his plea of political asylum. Benn even provided his own disturbing definition of rape which included the phrase “a man’s need”.

It is possible to argue both against extradition to the US and at the same time for a fair trial in Sweden on the rape charges.

The best thing I’ve read on the subject of the left and Assange is a blog by Zoe Stavri. She cuts straight to the point; the title of the post is “I think Julian Assange is a rapist. I still like Wikileaks.” She goes on to say: “There should be a distance between Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Wikileaks is not Assange. Assange is not Wikileaks.”

Further, she points out that Assange’s own lawyers admit sexual wrongdoing on his part, although they shy away from calling it rape. (If you want to read the quotes from his appeal in July 2011, it’s on the Guardian website. The acts that are described are morally, if not legally, rape.)

In socialist circles generally, there is a tendency of trying to make people into heroes who really aren’t worthy of it. The glorification of misogynistic men does working-class women a huge disservice. Let’s not forget that some leftists in France sided with Dominique Strauss-Kahn over a poor black hotel maid. Or that child rapist Roman Polanski is held in such high regard.

“Offering” something — such as being an artist, anti-establishment or to the left of the status quo — seems to absolve men of crimes.

Those of us who were living in Scotland cannot forget the gang rape of a homeless pregnant woman at Occupy Glasgow, the way that spokespeople called it an “alleged rape”, or the subsequent failures of the group to deal with it.

In the last eighteen months there have also been numerous cases in Britain of women activists being sexually harassed and assaulted by those who were previously considered trusted comrades.

The rest of the left needs to do everything it can to distance itself from rape apologism and misogyny. Working-class women are the victims of a violent rape culture, and we deserve better.

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About womensfightback17

Women’s Fightback is a socialist feminist paper and blog produced by members and supporters of the socialist group Workers' Liberty. Workers’ Liberty is a revolutionary socialist organisation fighting as part of the labour and student movements, and in campaigns, for a socialist alternative to capitalism, based on common ownership and democracy.

5 comments

  1. There is also a big issue with the trivilisation of rape in ‘comedy’. Only last Saturday, I saw a comedian compere, Chris Ramsey, at a BBC comedy club gig at the Edinburgh fringe get lots of laughs by quoting the slogan ‘Rape – Sudden Sex’. Of course it was ‘ironic’ and he was only saying it as an example of the sort of things he couldn’t say, yeah right, but he was still playing it for laughs. He then later publicly bullied a woman in the audience who had tweeted that he was making a joke of rape. He probably genuinely thought he hadn’t – another consequence of allowing the the crime of rape to be trivialised.

  2. Bert.

    I “think”, or “suspect”, it was rape, is not the same as “It was rape”. That’s called the law of the jungle To some upper middle-class snobs, Left is always wrong and Right always right
    .

  3. James

    “Assange No”

    Surely the title of this is too hasty? Whilst I agree that Assange has got a ridiculous personal following, even though his politics are mild, to raise the slogan that this article presents is surely jumping the gun?
    Yes, the allegations are serious and he should face a fair trail, but what about Assnage’s individual rights to actually have a fair trail. There is a real threat of him being extradited.
    However, i agree with the majority of this article, but the title ( and the Zoe Stavri quote as i fail to see what its based on)

    There is no doubt that there is suspicion about the allegations, considering they were dropped after a couple of weeks to only be taken up again. There is no doubt that Assnage could of raped these women, and justice should prevail. However, surely it isn’t up to socialists to raise slogans which already demand the outcome even though it isn’t possible to know.
    Justice to all, innocent until proven guilty.

    Maybe he is guilty, maybe he isn’t.

    Yes to wikileaks, yes to a fair trail!

    “Assange No”

  4. James

    + where did you find that Tony Benn quote on rape, please send the link.

  5. Hi James – I agree there is contradiction for socialists – we believe in a fair trial and “innocent until proven guilty” but also that women must be supported and believed – I’m not sure what the answer is there, it’s a contradiction that is difficult to resolve. There’s also an issue that incredibly few rape cases lead to arrests, charges or prosecution due to the way women are treated by society, the police and the bourgeois courts – so there’s an issue of saying a woman wasn’t raped because no guilty verdict has been served (I’m not suggesting this is what you’re arguing).

    I do think though that the Assange case is different – his lawyers have admitted that he had sex with one woman whilst she was asleep and another whilst he held her down – they don’t deny the events took place, only challenge the idea that there was lack of consent. Whilst I agree that the principles of “innocent until proven guilty” remain and think that a trial should take place, it shouldn’t be controversial to say that those acts, which Assange admits took place, are rape.
    (You can read more on this here: http://bethgranter.com/blog/2012/08/julian-assange-admitted-to-non-consensual-sex/)

    I’ll ask the author for details on the quotes.

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