Correction: Assange is standing for the Senate, not Parliament, and would therefore become a Senator, not an MP.
Entering the Ecuadorian Embassy last Wednesday felt kind of like visiting a private house, a rather posh house right beside Herrods in the conspicuous consumption district of central London, but just a house nonetheless.
The Embassy is neither fortified, nor particularly guarded, neither compound nor fortress, protected not by rampart nor battlement, but only by diplomatic law granting inviolability to diplomatic premises. Ecuador’s Embassy stands in stark contrast with the barricaded garrisons typical of US Embassies around the world. Ecuador, one supposes, has a much shorter list of official enemies.
It’s been a few years since I met Julian Assange at 26C3, and the interim has no doubt been interesting times, as WikiLeaks and Julian himself rose from hacker exemplar to international cause célèbre, currently confined as an asylee in the Embassy for over a year to avoid extradition.
The relative smallness of the building means that the street is never more than a few metres away, always visible through windows and doors, yet beyond reach for Julian, unable to step outside.
Not withstanding his confinement on Hans Crescent, Assange is standing in the Australian Federal elections with the newly formed WikiLeaks party, with elections coming up on September 7th. He stands a good chance of becoming an Australian Senator.
Obviously, the first question that comes to mind is whether or not becoming a Senator would change his situation with regard to potential extradition or somehow allow him to leave the embassy and return to Australia to attend parliament, but Assange doesn’t think it would. He plans to serve as a Senator in exile, from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. As he put it, the only way it would change the situation is make his confinement even more absurd.
The idea of the party is taking advantage of the political process as a public platform for the agenda of WikiLeaks, “Transparency. Accountability. Justice.” As their platform says, “Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice flourish.” Clearly, the suppression of truth is not an Australian issue, per se, but rather a global issue and WikiLeaks has never had a policy focus, let alone Australian policy specifically.
WikiLeaks is a publisher, aiming to primarily make a contribution to journalism; “Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public.”
This makes the framing of a “WikiLeaks Party” a somewhat odd fit. Yet, my interest in it stems from my endorsement of the concept of “Counterpolitics,” the same basis of my support for the Pirate Party, and my proposal for the Debtors’ Party.
The goal of “Politics” is to impose the interests of powerful groups on the rest of society. The Political process provides a pretense of participation and thereby provides legitimization for rule. However, political participation requires the capacity to campaign, to donate, to lobby, etc, so in the end it’s a battle of capacities in which only the wealthy can push relentlessly towards their own interests. The interests of the less wealthy and less powerful groups can never be imposed by way of the political process, as those that are more powerful will inevitably have more wealth with which to resist them.
This is why the goals of less powerful groups must be pursued from the bottom up, by building and expanding alternatives, not by way of top down restructuring of society through the power of the State.
Thus, our political engagement is not politics proper, but rather counterpolitics. Our goal can not be to impose a new society from the top down, since only dominant groups can impose their interests that way, but rather to resist attacks on our ability to build alternatives.
As such, it doesn’t matter whether or not a WikiLeaks Party represents a coherent platform for ruling Australia, the party will never rule Australia, and we can not achieve communism by offering to manage capitalism for the capitalists.
What does matter is whether or not the WikiLeaks Party can, by way of participating in Australian parliament, and by way of using that country’s upcoming elections as a publicity platform, help defend our ability to build the new society in the shell of the old. Just like the Pirate Party and the proposed Debtors’ Party, I believe it can.
Australia, Vote WikiLeaks 2013!
I’ll be at Stammtisch at Cafe Buchhandlung tonight at 9pm or so, look forward to see you all there.