There once was a river that flowed through an arid land, and though rainfall was scant and infrequent, the river provided an abundance of cool, fresh, sweet water with which the people who lived along its banks were able to irrigate their crops and water their flocks. And the people prospered and lived in peace and harmony; and so it had been for as long as anyone could remember.
But there came a time when the water’s flow began to diminish. At first it was barely noticeable, but as time went on the water level fell ever more rapidly until there was barely enough water to keep their animals alive, much less to irrigate the fields. Day by day, the people grew more alarmed as their crops began to wither. Then the men and women of the valley came together to discuss their plight and what might be done to deal with this calamity.
Now, no one knew where the river began or where it ended. They only knew that throughout their generations, it had always been there and it had always provided a reliable supply of water from which everyone was able to draw freely.
As Julan Assange continues to languish in the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in London, a movement of journalists and supporters of free speech continues to build. The mainstream media did not report it, but a few days ago “Legendary musician Roger Waters sang “Wish You Were Here” in honor of Julian Assange, at a public concert outside the British Home Office. He was joined by journalist John Pilger and UK MP Chris Williamson in calling for the imprisoned Wikileaks publisher to be freed, and not extradited to the US.” You can read about it in The Grayzone.
In the video below, journalist John Pilger delivers a warning from Julian, “Speak up now,” Pilger said, or face “the silence of a new kind of tyranny.”
You can sign the petition to free Julain Assange at Change.org.
Now is the time for the American people to stand up and use
their power to challenge the political establishment, to oust the war mongers, and
to join together in demanding a government that is committed to promoting the
common good and peaceful relations with the governments of other countries around
Tulsi Gabbard is the only Presidential candidate I’ve seen since John and Robert Kennedy who is willing to put her life on the line to lead the people in this battle against the forces of darkness and domination. Tulsi was “being groomed to be the next great Queen of the Democratic Party establishment” but threw it all away when she “refused to sacrifice her soul” and resigned as co-chair of the Democratic National Committee. Watch this video and start informing yourself.
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power. —Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Fascist Dictator of Italy
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power. — Franklin D. Roosevelt
current attack by US and globalist forces against the Venezuelan government is
the latest in a long series of regime change actions aimed at keeping or
restoring control over essential resources, in this case oil, and preventing
any significant departure from corporatization and elite rule. It should be
clear by now that according to Mussolini’s definition, the present world order
is not democratic, but fascist. Centralized control of money, banking, and finance
have allowed the power elite to develop financial weapons that can be deployed
to bring independent governments to heel, with military force being deployed if
In his recent
article,Sanctions of Mass Destruction: America’s war
on Venezuela, journalist Garikai
Chengu points out that,
“American economic sanctions have been the worst crime against humanity since
World War Two. America’s economic sanctions have killed more innocent people
than all of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons ever used in the
history of mankind,” and highlights
the obvious saying, “The fact that for America the issue in Venezuela is oil, not democracy,
will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history.
Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves on the planet.”
Chengu goes on to say that “From the first moment Hugo Chavez took office,
the United States has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist movement
by using sanctions, coup attempts, and funding the opposition parties. …United
Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, recommended,
just a few days ago, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic
sanctions against Venezuela as a possible crime against humanity perpetrated by
“Prior to American sanctions, socialism in Venezuela had reduced inequality and poverty whilst pensions expanded. During the same time period in America, it has been the absolute reverse. President Chavez funneled Venezuela’s oil revenues into social spending such as free+6 healthcare, education, subsidized food networks, and housing construction.”
Johnstone reports that, while
the Maduro government has refused this “Trojan Horse” of supposed aid from the
United States, he has not been refusing aid from other sources. “In
reality, Maduro has been accepting aid from everywhere except from the
government that is openly staging a coup in his country in gross violation of
its national sovereignty. Just last week Caracas accepted 933
tons of food and medical supplies from China, Cuba, India and Turkey, and
Russia has shipped in 300 tons of aid on its own.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio posted this image in his recent tweet. The implication is clear that Rubio wants Maduro to be tortured, sodomized and murdered just as Gaddafi was in Lybia for defying the demands of the empire.
CNN’s Ana Cabrera reports that Florida Senator Marco Rubio has said
that “no matter how long this takes,” the US and the international
community are standing with the people of Venezuela, “until freedom is
restored in Venezuela.”
Sure, freedom for U.S. corporations
to plunder Venezuela’s oil resources, and once again dominate the Venezuelan
people. We’ve seen this “ploy” so many times before, in so many different
places; can anyone possibly take it seriously? Mr. Rubio, you call yourself (on
your Twitter page) “a follower of Christ,” but your behavior is not at all
Christ-like. Did Christ ever call for the violent overthrow of governments, or
the torture and murder of another human being, or the promulgation of lies
intended to justify such actions? Even
the United Nations has acknowledged that this so-called “aid”
that you are trying to impose is a political ploy. “Humanitarian action needs
to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” U.N. spokesman
Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
And it is not only the Trump administration that is beating the drums for this takeover of Venezuela. According to Johnstone, even so-called democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris are calling for regime change there.
The world today is controlled by a small elite group that has been increasingly concentrating power and wealth in their own hands. There are many observable facets to this power structure, including the military security complex that president Eisenhower warned against, the fossil fuel interests, and the neocons that are promoting U.S. hegemony around the world, but the most powerful and overarching force is “the money power” that controls money, banking, and finance worldwide. It is clear that those who control the creation and allocation of money through the banking system are able to control virtually every other aspect of global society.
Having taken control of the political leadership in North America and western Europe, they are determined to use military force, if necessary, to create a unipolar world order in which the power elite enjoy “full spectrum dominance.” Based on a long established pattern of covert and overt interventions, it is evident that they are willing to employ, either directly or through proxies, a wide range of tactics, including propaganda, bribery, cooptation, deception, assassinations, false-flag attacks and war. Large segments of the media and entertainment industries, education, and the military power have been captured to help manufacture public consent.
Be that as it may, I believe that the natural course of human evolution tends toward a multi-polar world order based on honesty, openness, compassion, cooperation, and fairness, but that requires a well-educated and informed populace and “broad spectrum” participation in the political process. Fortunately, the internet and world wide web have enabled people to be better informed than ever before and to engage with one another directly, bypassing intermediaries that control and limit what people can share. On the other hand, the political machinery has been so thoroughly taken over by the power elite that the will of the people has thus far been of little consequence in deciding the course of world affairs.
So what can be done to turn the tide? How can we the people empower ourselves to effectively assert our desires for a more fair, humane and peaceful world order? Is it possible to influence the behavior of those in power? Or is it possible to install new leaders who will act more responsibly and in accordance with the popular will? Or is necessary, or even possible, to reinvent and deploy political and economic structures by which people can more directly assert themselves?
It seems reasonable to assert that action must be taken on all levels, but I am inclined to believe that the greatest possibility of bringing about the desired changes lies in economic and political innovation and restructuring.
The monopolization of credit
I came to realize many years ago that the primary mechanism by which people can be, and are controlled, is the system of money, banking, and finance. The power elite have long known this and have used it to enrich themselves and consolidate their grip on power. Though we take it for granted, money has become an utter necessity for surviving in the modern world. But unlike water, air, food, and energy, money is not a natural substance—it is a human contrivance, and it has been contrived in such a way as to centralize power and concentrate wealth.
Money today is essentially credit, and the control of our collective credit has been monopolized in the hands of a cartel comprised of huge private banks with the complicity of politicians who control central governments. This collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians disempowers people, businesses, and communities and enables the elite super-class to use the present centralized control mechanisms to their own advantage and purpose. It misallocates credit, making it both scarce and expensive for the productive private sector while enabling central governments to circumvent, by deficit spending, the natural limits imposed by its revenue streams of taxes and fees. Thus, there is virtually no limit to the amounts of resources that are lavished on the machinery of war and domination.[i]
In today’s world, banks get to lend our collective credit back to us and charge interest for it while central governments get to spend more than they earn in overt tax revenues, relying on the banking system to monetize government debts as needed. These two parasitic drains on the economy, interest and inflationary monetization of government debts, create a growth imperative that is destroying the environment, shredding the social fabric, and creating ever greater disparities of income and wealth. At the same time, this scarcity and misallocation of money, which belies the abundance that exists in the real economy, leads to violent conflicts and provides the power elite with the means to pursue policies of domination, even at the risk of global nuclear war.
What most people still fail to recognize is that regardless of the nominal form of their government, their political power has been neutralized and exhausted by the political money and banking system. Democratic government in today’s world is more an illusion and a hope than a reality. As Prof. Carrol Quigley wrote in his book, Tragedy and Hope (1966), “… the powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.”[ii]
In the succeeding decades since Quigley’s revelation, their control mechanisms have been refined and extended to include the intelligence services and military power, political think tanks, the media, and virtually every segment of society. The U.S. agenda of regime change over the past several years[iii] is not so much about taking mineral and petroleum resources, that is a side benefit. By examining the pattern of interventions by the U.S. and NATO powers, it is clear that the primary objective is to force every country of the world into a single global interest-based, debt-money regime. No exceptions will be tolerated. Thus, Saddam Hussein had to go, Gaddafi had to go, Assad has to go, and Putin has to go (but deposing Putin will not be so easy). The war against Islam is also related because a significant proportion of Islamists are serious about eliminating riba (usury) which is an essential feature in the creation of all political money throughout the world today. The United States military is the enforcer that is used when threats, bribes, cooptation and covert operations prove insufficient. Thus, the United States, Britain and their NATO allies have become the greatest perpetrators of state-sponsored terror in the post-World war II era.
How can such a power be confronted?
Fortunately, we the people have in our hands the means of our own liberation. It is the power to allocate our credit directly without the use of banks or political money. How to effectively assert that power is the main theme of my most recent book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.
Over the years there has been a long parade of “reformers” who wish to take the power to create money away from the banks. This is an admirable objective that I wholeheartedly endorse. But the alternatives that they propose have been either to revert to commodity money, like gold, which has proven to be inadequate, or to transfer the money-issuing power to the central government—what I call the “greenback solution.” The latter harks back to Abraham Lincoln’s scheme for financing the Civil War. That proposal calls for the federal government to bypass the Federal Reserve and the banks by issuing a national currency directly into circulation from the Treasury. At first glance that may seem like a good idea, but there are many flies in that ointment. First of all, the greenback solution does not propose to end the money monopoly but merely to put it under new management. But it is a gross delusion to think that the Treasury is, or might become, independent of the interests that now control the Federal Reserve and the major banks. Consider the fact that most of the recent Treasury secretaries have been former executives of Goldman Sachs, the most powerful financial establishment in the country. It is naïve to expect that they will serve the common good rather than the money power that has spawned them.
Second, central planning of complex economic factors has been shown to be unworkable. That is especially true with regard to money. Neither the Fed nor the treasury is qualified to decide what kind of money and how much of it is necessary for the economy to function smoothly. The issuance and control of credit money should be decentralized in the hands of producers of needed and desired goods and services. Thus the supply of money (credit) must automatically rise and fall in accordance with the quantity of goods and services that are available to be bought and sold. If private currencies and credit clearing exchanges are allowed to develop and grow without interference from the vested interests in political money, their superiority will quickly become apparent.
Third, the greenback solution does nothing to eliminate deficit spending and inflation which are enabled by legal tender laws. As long as political currencies are legally forced to circulate at face value, the abusive issuance of money, the debasement of national currency value, and the centralization of power will continue. All government programs, including social programs and the military budget, ought to be funded by legitimate government revenues, not by the underhanded means of monetary debasement. Centralized control of credit money and the imposition of legal tender laws enable the hidden tax that is called inflation. Salmon P. Chase, who as Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary presided over the issuance of greenbacks, argued later as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that the issuance of greenback currency was unconstitutional and exceeded the powers of the federal government. He said, “the legal tender quality is only valuable for the purposes of dishonesty.” Finally, the political process has been so thoroughly corrupted and taken over by the power elite that political approaches to solving the money problem have virtually no chance of passage anyway.
Toward effective means of empowerment
Business people, farmers, professionals, and others who are engaged in productive enterprise are clamoring to gain access to credit, credit which they fail to recognize is already in their collective hands. Under the present arrangements, we give our credit to the banks, then beg them to lend some of it back to us, and pay them interest for the “privilege.” But there is no good reason for credit to be monopolized. Business routinely offer credit to one another when they deliver goods and services then allow some period of time for payment to be made. This practice can be extended and organized on a multilateral basis.
The real solution to the problem lies in creating new structures for allocating credit based on the legitimate needs and the resources of businesses, workers, and state and local governments. Competition in currency can transcend the dysfunctions that are inherent in the present centralized system and ensure that there will be sufficient amounts of exchange media to enable all desirable trades. Competing currencies will also ensure that political currencies (like the dollar, euro, pound, etc.) cannot be abused without losing patronage in the market. Rather than establishing the state as the money power, we need to promote the separation of money and state by deploying exchange mechanisms that decentralize and democratize the control of credit.
Money is first and foremost a medium for facilitating the exchange of goods and services and other forms of real value, but the exchange function can be effectively and efficiently provided outside the banking system and without the use of conventional political money.[iv] This is already being done through credit clearing exchanges and through the issuance of private currencies or vouchers by businesses that produce real valuable goods and services. Both approaches have the capacity to provide exchange media that can be also be used by general public to mediate all manner of transactions.
Is there any practical possibility of organizing producers on a sufficiently large scale to achieve this? I strongly maintain that there is. This approach, based on private initiative, is far more practical and empowering than any political approach to reform of money and banking that is currently on offer. Improvement in the human condition have always stemmed from the creativity, industriousness, and goodwill of people. A cooperative, compassionate, society can emerge from the creation of exchange alternatives based on voluntary, free-market, and community-based initiatives that enable people to transcend the money monopoly and the “war machine.”[v]
This is begun at the local level by utilizing the credit of local producers to mediate the exchange of goods and services that are locally produced or sold. There are many historical examples of successful private currencies that have been circulated in various times and places. Call them vouchers, scrip, credits, certificates, or coupons—sound private and community currencies can be SPENT (issued) into circulation by any trusted producer or reseller who is ready, willing, and able to reciprocate by accepting it back (redeem it) as payment for real value, i.e., the goods or services that are their normal stock in trade and are in regular demand. There is nothing mysterious or complicated about this process.[vi]
The exchange of goods and services is also enabled on a moneyless basis by using a process of direct credit clearing among buyers and sellers. This is already being done by the scores of commercial trade exchanges (sometimes called “barter” exchanges) that have been operating successfully around the world for more than 40 years. These commercial credit circles, comprised of thousands of businesses of all kinds, presently mediate an estimated 20 to 30 billion dollars’ worth of trades annually, and these numbers continue to grow. As operational improvements are made and credit management procedures become standardized, these exchanges will be networked together to more fully realize the vast potential of moneyless credit clearing arrangements.[vii] In this emerging worldwide web of exchange, members of each local circle or node are known to one another and allocate credit to one another based on their reputation and ability to provide valuable goods and services. Thus we can eventually have an independent system of non-monetary payment in which credit is locally controlled but globally useful.
In conclusion, I maintain that it is essential and entirely feasible that we reduce our dependence upon the banking system and conventional political monies. Through the deployment of innovative mechanisms of exchange, like private currencies and credit clearing networks, individuals, businesses and communities can empower themselves economically and politically to build a society that is free, fair, prosperous and peaceful. The way forward is clear. The blueprints have been drawn. What remains is for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and community activists to act boldly to implement these exchange mechanisms in ways that are sound, credible, effective, and scalable.
Thomas H. Greco, Jr. is an educator, author, and consultant dedicated to economic equity, social justice, and community empowerment. He specializes in the design and implementation of private and community currencies and mutual credit clearing networks. His latest book is The End of Money and the Future of Civilization. His main website is https://beyondmoney.net/. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[i] As E.C. Riegel put it in his book, A New Approach to Freedom, “…as long as our governments are vast counterfeiting machines, Mars can laugh at peace projects.”
[v] My 15 minute video, Disruptive Technologies Making Money Obsolete, https://youtu.be/ty7APADAa8g, describes how communities and businesses can escape the debt trap and become more resilient and self-reliant.
No, it’s not xenophobia, as the elite propaganda machine would like us to believe. It’s the same phenomenon we’re seeing in American. Quite simply, people in Britain, America, and elsewhere are finally getting wise to the neo-liberal agenda which seeks to disempower people and their elected governments and place power in the hands of the unelected, undemocratic, global banking and corporate elite. As I said in an earlier post (What do Trump supporters and Sanders supporters have in common?), people are sick and tired of:
Politicians who promise one thing but deliver another.
“Political correctness” that interferes with our ability to debate the deeper issues and concerns.
The rich getting richer and ever more powerful while the middle class is being destroyed.
Big banks that are “too big to fail” yet refuse to provide adequate financing to small local businesses.
Legislation that favors big corporations over small and medium-sized enterprises.
Fiscal policies that reduce taxes on corporations and the rich while forcing states and municipal governments to assume ever greater burdens.
Trade agreements that cede power from sovereign governments to transnational corporations thus undermining democratic government, the rights of labor, and environmental protections.
A disastrous foreign policy of interference in countries around the world that kills thousands of innocent people and stirs up hornet’s nests of resentment that manifest as massive displacements of people and acts of terror against the U.S. and its European NATO allies.
And as I concluded in another recent post, “Since the debt crisis of 2008, Americans of all classes and ideologies have finally begun to wake up to the facts that the game is rigged against them and that they have been manipulated and exploited by the Wall Street-Washington nexus. The next American revolution will happen when liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Americans of all religions and races, stop being seduced by “hot-button” rhetoric and come to realize what their common interests are and are able to work in harmony toward the common good.”
In the following video, British filmmaker John Pilger expresses similar thoughts with regard to Brexit:
On my way back to the U.S. from Kuala Lumpur, I picked up a copy of the Financial Times (March 7 edition) in Tokyo while waiting for my connecting flight. As expected, I found numerous articles relating to the Ukraine situation, but one stood out amongst the rest. It was titled “Putin loyalist points finger at ‘global financial oligarchy.’”
I was surprised but also pleased to see this affirmation of my long-held view that the present geopolitical turmoil is not so much a contest among nations, but a global class war being waged by an elite oligarchy bent on creating a New World Order in which they hold the reins of power. Oddly, when I later tried to locate the article on the FT website, it was nowhere to be found, but I did find an article from the previous day’s edition which quoted the same “loyalist,” Vladimir Yakunin, making the same arguments. That article is titled, US accused of ‘trying to destroy Russia.’
Yakunin is described as a “former senior diplomat” who now heads the Russian state railways. He has accused the US and a “global financial oligarchy” of organizing the violent overthrow of the government in Ukraine, and of trying to “destroy Russia as a geopolitical opponent.”
Both articles are based on the same interview and quote Yakunin as saying, “A CIA analysis . . . described three possible scenarios for the development of the geopolitical situation. The most acceptable scenario was considered to be one in which a certain world government is created – and the realisation of this project is in line with the concept of global domination that is being carried out by the US. We saw this in Iraq, we saw it in Afghanistan, we saw it in Yugoslavia and in North Africa. Today, the borders of carrying out this doctrine have moved to Ukraine.”
That article goes on to say, “Mr Yakunin said the west had consistently reneged on its assurances to Moscow since 1991 that it had no intention of encircling it by expanding NATO to include countries on Russia’s borders. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the three Baltic states have joined the alliance as well as eastern European countries – including Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania – most of which were once in the Warsaw Pact.”
“’If you look at things objectively, [the former German chancellor Helmut] Kohl swore to [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev that the exit of Soviet troops from Germany would not lead to NATO’s approach towards Russia’s borders. But in reality everything that has happened is the exact opposite.’”
If one is willing to look at the record of history, especially monetary and banking history, he can easily see that Mr. Yakunin’s charges are entirely valid.
Carroll Quigley, historian and advisor to Presidents, told us long ago that the would-be rulers of the world have a plan: “The powers of financial capitalism had a far-reaching plan, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole… Their secret is that they have annexed from governments, monarchies, and republics the power to create the world’s money…”(Tragedy and Hope, 1966).
That is the essence of the New World Order that has been touted for decades by American political leaders, notably the first President Bush.
Now, the annexation of Crimea seems a natural step for Russia to have taken to not only protect its military installations there, but also to resist the advancing NWO. While the western propaganda machine gave it short shrift in its attempt to paint Putin as the “bad guy,” Putin’s speech is well worth considering. You can find the full text here.
Even a casual observer of recent geopolitical history can see the pattern of encirclement, neutralization, and domination that has characterized western policies over the past several decades. It is clear that the consolidation of power and the imposition of the global fascist New World Order is all but complete and that all remaining obstacles must be removed, one way or another.
What will it take to bring about a civilization that is peaceful, equitable and happy? This is a key question that I have been contemplating for the almost four decades during which I’ve come to realize the fundamental changes that are required in order for a convivial civilization to emerge.
In my most recent book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, I drew upon Prof. Philip Zimbardo’s work on human behavior and the lessons learned from his famous Stanford Prison Experiment. Just recently I happened to hear on the TED Radio Hour on NPR, a fascinating program that explored, The Violence Within Us. Besides Philip Zimbardo, talking about “Why Do Good People Do Bad Things?”, the program featured three other related segments as follows:
Jim Fallon: What Does The Mind Of A Killer Look Like?
Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why Don’t Domestic Violence Victims Leave?
Steven Pinker: Is The World A Less Violent Place?
These segments, each dealing with a different question relating to violence comprise one of the most thought-provoking programs I’ve heard in a very long time. I think we can learn a great deal by contemplating the facts and ideas presented. Please visit the program page and have a listen.
Everybody warned this would be no ordinary invitation, and they were right. Three hundred metres from Knightsbridge underground station, just a stone’s throw from fashion-conscious Harrods, I suddenly encounter a wall of police. I try to remember my instructions. Look straight ahead. Avoid eye contact. If asked my name, reply with a question. Ask who authorised them to ask. Climb the stone steps. Act purposefully. Appear to know exactly where you’re heading. I don’t.
Through a set of double doors, I’m confronted by more police officers, this time armed, with meaner faces. “Good afternoon”, I say politely, as I edge towards the receptionist. “I’ve an appointment at the Ecuador embassy. Am I at the correct address?” “Ring the brass bell”, grunts the bored-looking man squatting at his desk. A few minutes later, after some confusion about whether or not my name’s on the appointments list, I’m ushered inside. I’m greeted by the personal assistant of the most wanted man in the world. “Julian is taking a call,” says the well-spoken and debonair young man in black-rimmed glasses. “I’m terribly sorry. Please do have a seat. Would you like some tea, or coffee, or polonium, perhaps?” There’s a smile, but it’s pretty faint. I know I’ve reached my destination: a prison with wit and purpose.
The deadpan irony sets the tone of the lunch and dinner to come. The silver-haired “high-tech terrorist” (Joe Biden’s description) appears quietly, dressed in crumpled slacks, a V-necked pullover, socks. He’s relaxed, and welcoming. The quarters are cramped. We shuffle down a corridor into his office, where we occupy a desk covered in laptops and cables and scraps of paper. It’s black coffee for him and tea for me. I offer gifts that I’m told he’ll like. Popular delicacies from down under: a couple of honeycomb Violet Crumbles, chocolate biscuit Tim Tams, a bottle of Dead Arm shiraz from my native South Australia. I know he likes to read. Lying on his desk is a biography of Martin Luther, the man who harnessed the printing press to split the Church. To add to his collection, I hand my pale-skinned host a small book I’ve mockingly wrapped in black tissue paper with red ribbon, tied in a bow. The noir et rouge and dead arm pranks aren’t lost on him. Nor is the significance of the book: José Saramago’s The Tale of the Unknown Island. Inside its front cover, I’ve scribbled a few words: ‘For Julian Assange, who knows about journeys because there aren’t alternatives.’
I’d been told he might be heavy weather. Fame is a terrible burden, and understandably the famous must find ways of dealing with sycophants, detractors and intruders. People said he’d circle at first, avoid questions, proffer shyness, or perhaps even radiate bored arrogance. It isn’t at all like that. Calm, witty, clear-headed throughout, he’s in a talkative mood. But there’s no small talk.
I tackle the obvious by asking him about life inside his embassy prison. “The issue is not airlessness and lack of sunshine. If anything gets to me it’s the visual monotony of it all.” He explains how we human beings have need of motion, and that our sensory apparatus, when properly “calibrated”, imparts mental and bodily feelings of being in our own self-filmed movie. Physical confinement is sensory deprivation. Sameness drags prisoners down. I tell how the Czech champion of living the truth Václav Havel, when serving a 40-month prison spell, used to find respite from monotony by doing such things as smoking a cigarette in front of a mirror. “Bradley Manning did something similar,” says Assange. “The prison authorities claimed his repeated staring in the mirror was the mark of a disturbed and dangerous character. Despite his protestations that there was nothing else to do, he was put into solitary confinement, caged, naked and stripped of his glasses.”
Life in the Ecuador embassy is nothing like this. It’s a civilised cell. After eight months, Assange tells me, the embassy staff remain unswervingly supportive, friendly and professionally helpful. They get what’s at stake. When delivering messages, they knock politely on his office door, as they did more than a few times during our time together. Yet despite feeling safe, Assange feels the pinch of confinement. He says the “de-calibration” (he uses a term borrowed from physics) that comes with “spatial confinement” is a curse. That’s why he listens to classical music, especially Rachmaninov. He has boxing lessons (gloves are on his study shelf) and works out several times a week (“just to get the room moving around”) with a wiry ex-SAS whistleblower. The need for variety is why he welcomes visitors and why, judging from the long and animated conversation to come, he’s desperately passionate about ideas.
Assange begins to enjoy the moment. Nibbling a chocolate biscuit and sipping coffee, he springs a surprise. “Truth is I love a good fight. Many people are counting on me to be strong. I want my freedom, of course, but confinement gives me time to think. I’m focussed and purposeful.” It sounds implausible. Entrapment wounds; it’s painful. Psychic defences are needed to ward off the unbearable. But striking is his utter defiance. “Never, ever become someone’s victim is a golden rule,” he says. In graphic detail, he then sketches his ten days in solitary confinement, in the basement of Wandsworth Prison, in south-west London, in late 2010. “I had expected to be completely out of my depth. But I felt no fear. I was tremendously enthusiastic about the challenge to come. I learned to adapt on my feet.” He means what he says.
I’m keen to talk about courage and its political significance. We do so for well over an hour. Lunch arrives: soup and a vegetable wrap from the local Marks and Spencer. His boxing mate appears. Assange says “it will be a while” and politely asks him to wait in the adjoining room. I remind Assange that he’s holed up in the right-wing Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, home to one of the safest Tory seats in Britain. So, just for fun, I play devil’s advocate by repeating the well-known remark of Winston Churchill that success is never final, failure is never fatal, and that what really counts in life is courage, the ability of people to carry on, despite everything. Assange lights up. “That’s undoubtedly true.” He’s never written or spoken at length about courage, but our time together convinces me he’s thought deeply and in sophisticated ways about the subject. He’s been forced to.
We discuss the detention without trial and torture of Bradley Manning. Assange mentions how the authorities are “picking off people all around me” (he’s referring to the ongoing FBI investigation and arrests of WikiLeaks activists). There’s no maudlin wobble. He understands the traps of “obsessive self-preoccupation” and speaks of the vital importance of cultivating a strong personal sense of “higher duty” to carry on. Courage is for him something that’s more important than fear because it involves putting fear in its place. I quote Aristotle at him: courage is the primary virtue because it makes all other virtues possible. “Yes, and that’s what’s worrying about present-day trends. We’re losing our civic courage.”
So where does courage come from, I ask? What are its taproots? Some people evidently draw breath from spiritual or religious sources, I say. He frowns. “My case is quite different. It’s hardship that makes or breaks us. True courage is when you manage to hold things together, even though most people expect you to fall to pieces.” The words ooze resilience. They could easily be his personal anthem, the proverb engraved on his Knightsbridge prison walls. He goes on to explain that although courage may or may not be a quality within human genes, a good measure of it is always learned. Courage is cultivated. It’s infectious. “Women on average have more of it than men,” he says. We discuss examples: on our list are Raging Grannies, Pussy Riot and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. “These women show men what courage is. Treated as outsiders, women have learned the hard way how to deal with structural power. They’re consequently much more adaptable than men. The world of men is structured force.”
The phrase catches me by surprise, but it captures in the most concise way exactly what the prisoner sitting across the table has done, in style, with great courage: he’s confronted structured force head-on. Julian Assange could be described as the Tom Paine of the early 21st century. Drawing strength from distress, disgusted by the hypocrisy of governments, willing to take on the mighty, he’s reminded the world of a universal political truth: arbitrary power thrives on secrets. We run through how WikiLeaks perfected the art of publicly challenging secretive state power. This “intelligence agency of the people” (as Assange calls his organisation) did more than harness to the full the defining features of the unfinished communications revolution of our time: the easy-access multi-media integration and low-cost copying of information that is then instantly whizzed around the world through digital networks. WikiLeaks did something much gutsier. It took on the mightiest power on earth. It managed to master the clever arts of “cryptographic anonymity”, military-grade encryption designed to protect both its sources and itself as a global publisher. For the first time, on a global scale, WikiLeaks created a custom-made mailbox that enabled disgruntled muckrakers within any organisation to deposit and store classified data in a camouflaged cloud of servers. Assange and his supporters then pushed that bullet-proofed information (video footage of an American helicopter gunship crew cursing and firing on unarmed civilians and journalists, for instance) into public circulation, as an act of radical transparency and “truth”.
We’re at the several hours mark, but everybody around me remains gracious. Nobody looks at watches; in fact, there’s not a clock to be seen. The debonair assistant pops in and out of the office, sometimes squatting at our table, tapping out messages on his laptop, fielding phone calls, several times handing his mobile to Assange. “It’s the latest crisis,” he whispers during the first of them. “We handle on average at least four or five a day.” He looks undaunted. This one’s just to do with the FBI investigation.
When Assange comes off the phone, I change topics. I ask him about his pre-Christmas speech from the embassy balcony, when he predicted that in the next Australian federal parliament an “elected senator” would replace an “unelected senator” (he was referring to Foreign Minister Bob Carr, appointed through the casual vacancy rule). Now that the federal election date (September 14th) has been announced, is he still seriously intending to stand as a candidate?
Our conversation grows intense. For several years, Assange has been serious about entering formal politics. A new WikiLeaks Party is soon to be launched. He’s sure it will easily attract the minimum of 500 paid-up members required by law. The composition of its 10-member national council is decided. There’s already a draft election manifesto. The party will field candidates for the Senate, probably in several states. And, yes, Assange is certain to be among them, probably as a candidate in Victoria, where (conveniently) three Labor senators face re-election.
Assange bounces through the probable scenarios. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will be re-elected, for another four years. He’ll stand firm in his personal and political support for Assange. This will ramp up pressure on the Swedish authorities, whose case against him is “falling apart”, with the two women plaintiffs looking for a way to extricate themselves from the protracted messy drama. “The Swedish government should drop the case. But that requires them to make their own thorough investigation of how and why their system failed.” The man’s not for turning. He’s certainly no intention of apologising for things he hasn’t said, or done. If he wins a seat in the Senate, he says, the US Department of Justice won’t want to spark an international diplomatic row. The planet’s biggest military empire will back down. It will drop its grand jury espionage investigation. The Cameron government will follow suit, says Assange, otherwise “the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still”. So the obvious question: what are the chances of that happening? Can bytes and ballots trump bullets? Can dare claim victory in his personal battle for political freedom?
What he has in mind has never before been attempted in Australian federal politics. Eugene Debs ran for the US presidency from prison (in 1920). Sinn Fein MP Bobby Sands was elected to Westminster while on hunger strike (in 1981). Under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi won a general election (in 1990). In defiance of Israeli occupation and prison confinement, Wael Husseini was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (in 2006). There are plenty of similar examples, so why shouldn’t Julian Assange attempt to do the same, and in style?
By now the boxing mate, kept waiting several hours, has gone home. The young assistant has left for another appointment outside the embassy. Dinner is nowhere in sight. We reach for chocolate biscuits and spend the last hour drilling down into the barriers Assange might well face. We start with nagging questions about his eligibility to stand. He’s characteristically upbeat. The technical objections (raised by Graeme Orr and others) aren’t real, he says. He’s no traitor to his country, and most definitely not under the “acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power” (section 44 of the Australian constitution). Truth is he was let down by a gutless Gillard government and forced into political asylum, under threat of extradition. “I’m safe here inside the embassy walls,” he mocks, “protected by more than a dozen police, including one stationed night and day right outside my bathroom window.”
The man of courage clearly relishes the thought of being the first Australian senator catapulted from prison into a debating chamber. I crack a bad joke, telling him that he’d better hurry up, reminding him that the Commonwealth Electoral Act stipulates that people who’ve been sentenced for more than 3 years in prison don’t have the right to vote in federal elections while they’re serving their sentence. His eyes twinkle, before laying into those who insist that the federal electoral laws are against him, that he’s ineligible because candidates must already be registered to vote. “That’s untrue,” he notes. “The Act specifies only that candidates must in principle be qualified to become a voter.” Assange is right, but since he’s not currently on the electoral roll much turns on whether his preferred strategy of registering as an overseas voter will work. Courtesy of legislation pushed through by John Howard, I know from bitter experience, having once lived abroad for more than three years, what it means to lose the right to vote. Assange says his case is different. He’s been overseas for less than three years (he was last in Australia in June 2010) and intends to return home within six years – that’s why he’s just applied to be on the electoral roll in Victoria.
That leaves two final snags. If victorious, some advisors speculate, Assange might need to take oath before the Governor-General. For this to happen he’d have to be set free, naturally, but it could also be done, “for the first time ever, by video link”. Whatever the situation, continued confinement, he says, would breach the rule that he must take up his Senate seat within two months. “In that case, the Senate could vote to evict me. But that would trigger a big political row. Australians probably wouldn’t swallow it. They’ve learned a lesson from the controversial dismissal of Gough Whitlam.”
I’m curious about the kind of political party WikiLeaks will launch. “The party will combine a small, centralised leadership with maximum grass roots involvement and support. By relying on decentralised Wikipedia-style, user-generated structures, it will do without apparatchiks. The party will be incorruptible and ideologically united.” I flinch at his mention of ideological unity. He explains that the party will display iron self-discipline in its support for maximum “inclusiveness”. It will be bound together by unswerving commitment to the core principles of civic courage nourished by “understanding” and “truthfulness” and the “free flow of information”. It will practise in politics what WikiLeaks has done in the field of information. It will be digital, and stay digital. Those who don’t accept its transparency principles will be told to “rack off”. That’s the ideological unity bit.
Assange agrees the WikiLeaks Party must address and respond creatively to the creeping local disaffection with mainstream politicians, parties and parliaments. “I loathe the reactiveness of the Left,” and that’s why, he says, much can be learned from clever new initiatives in other countries. We discuss Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star movement (it could well win up to 15% of the popular vote in Italy’s forthcoming general election). On our list is the Pirate Party in Germany (it practises “liquid democracy” and has representatives in four state parliaments). So is Iceland’s Best Party. It won enough votes to co-run the Reykjavik City Council, partly on the promise that it would not honour any of its promises, that since all other political parties are secretly corrupt it would be openly corrupt. Assange lets out a laugh. “Parties should be fun. They should put the word party back into politics.” The WikiLeaks Party will try to do this, and to learn from initiatives in other democracies. Supported by networks of “friends of WikiLeaks”, it will be seen as “work in progress” designed “to outflank its opponents”.
He and his party supporters are bound to attract hordes of detractors. Tom Paine was cursed by foes; he even suffered the dishonour of being called a “filthy little atheist” by Theodore Roosevelt. Assange is similarly facing an army of spiteful enemies. In Britain and the United States, there are signs they’re now closing in on him with new arguments. He used to be denounced as a “cat torturer”, a “terrorist” and “enemy combatant” and accused of committing “an illegal act” (Julia Gillard). He was attacked as both an “anti-Semite” and a “Mossad agent”. There were murderous calls to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch” (Bob Beckel). These days the language is milder but no less vicious. He’s said to be ‘paranoid’, all ‘alone’ in his gilded prison, abandoned by his supporters, at the British taxpayers’ expense. He and WikiLeaks are guilty of the same “obfuscation and misinformation” (Jemima Khan) they claim to expose. Swedish media and politics are meanwhile crammed with crass epithets: “rapist”, “repugnant swine”, low-life “coward”, “Australian pig” and “pitiful wretch” hooked on sex-without-a-condom.
Auguste Millière’s portrait (1880) of the great English champion of liberty of the press Tom Paine. Auguste Millière/Wikimedia
I can’t tell from our time together whether any of this stuff hurts. It’s clear he’s aware that going into parliamentary politics will involve permanent fire-fighting, but unflappable he sounds. “I’ve had to deal with the FBI, the British press and more than a few rank functionaries. The Australian press are decent by comparison. No doubt the Australian Tax Office will show an interest in our campaign. Old enemies may make an appearance.”
Assange knows that in the age of surveillance and media saturation little remains of the private sphere. I put to him a prediction: the way he dodged questions about the Swedish allegations during a recent video-link appearance before the Oxford Union (“I have answered these questions extensively in the past”) isn’t sustainable, that avoiding the subject when running for the Senate will be blood to the hounds of the press pack. He asks what he should do. I put to him a positive alternative, which is to come clean on his alleged misogyny. “I’m not interested in softening my image by planting attractive women around me, as for instance George W. Bush did. I like women. They’re on balance braver than men, and I’ve worked with many in exposing projects that damage women’s lives. An example is the scandalous practice of UN peacekeepers trading food for sex that we exposed. Our WikiLeaks Party will attract the support of many women.” But what about the charge of misogyny, I ask? Isn’t Julia Gillard’s use of the word to attack the Leader of the Opposition worth widening? The reply is very Julian Assange: “Let’s just say I prefer miso to misogyny.”
There are moments when Assange seems much too serious, nerdish even, yet one thing’s very clear: prison hasn’t ruined his deadpan humour. He’s smart, and he’s shrewd; he’s a fox, not a hedgehog. That’s why he’s counting on lots of public support down under. “When people speak up and stand together it frightens corrupt and undemocratic power”, he says. “True democracy is the resistance of people armed with truth against lies.” I wonder whether he’s right. Australians can be a politically lazy bunch, but we’re also known for our cheeky cheerfulness, our taste for the matter-of-fact, plus our strong dislike of bullshit. We respect hard work and admire courageous achievement. We’re mawkish in the company of Ned Kelly underdogs. And so, if a political fight over his election to the Senate were to break out, strong public support for Assange might suddenly surface.
Time’s up. Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I slip on my coat, prepare to say goodbye, to pass back through the wall of mean-faced police. Assange shakes my hand, twice in fact. Both of us are pretty tired and stuck for words, so I let myself loose by asking him to ponder a wild southern hemisphere fantasy, a hero’s welcome later this year, a rapscallion’s reunion with spring sunshine, fresh ocean air, flowers, banners, tweets, whistles, haunting sounds of didgeridoos. For a few seconds, he smiles, then draws back, looks down, and glances sideways. It’s the reaction of a man who knows in his guts there are no easy solutions in sight. The cards are stacked, piled high against success. He’s trapped. He knows his fate will be decided not by legal niceties, or diplomatic rulebooks, but by politics. That’s why he’s aware that in the great dramas to come, nothing should be ruled out.
The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power lists his odds of winning a Senate seat as seven-to-two. The cautious fortune telling may be significant. Down under, nationwide polls conducted by UMR Research, the company used by the Labor Party, show (during 2012) that a clear majority of Australians think he wouldn’t receive a fair trial if extradited to the United States, and that in any case he and WikiLeaks shouldn’t be prosecuted for releasing leaked diplomatic cables. Green voters (66%) and Labor supporters (45%) are sympathetic to Assange. Significant numbers of Coalition supporters (40%) think the same way. In the most recent UMR poll, Assange tells me, around 27% of voters say they’ll vote for him.
That should be enough to slingshot him from Knightsbridge to Canberra. Set aside the cheap diatribes and what you think of Julian Assange as a person, or whether he’s done this or not achieved that. The fact is that electoral victory for him later this year would be one of those rare political miracles that make life as a citizen worth living. In a country weighed down by sub-standard politicians, sub-standard journalists and sub-standard freedom of information laws, the political triumph would be great. It would breathe badly-needed life into Australian democracy. And, yes, if the miracle happened, from that very moment the fun party down under would begin.
John Keane does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Spurred by the movie, Lincoln, David Morris has written an excellent article that describes the struggle for freedom and equality subsequent to the Emancipation Proclamation, a struggle that continues even today, not only in the South, and not only for Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, but for all of us, everywhere in this country.
“Lincoln is a magnificent movie. But as I left the theatre, to echo Paul Harvey, the late radio commentator, I wanted to know “the rest of the story”, then goes on to describe the multitude of ploys that have been used to constrain the political power of various groups. It then concludes,
“By all means go see the movie Lincoln. You can even go out cheering the January 1865 victory. But realize that the movie’s triumphal ending did not mark the end of the struggle to gain full citizenship for blacks and other minorities, but only the beginning. Today minorities no longer confront poll taxes and the Ku Klux Klan but newly imposed voting restrictions and racially biased drug laws and a Supreme Court that is indifferent or outright hostile to the rights of minorities. Gridlocked Washington will not come to the rescue. But much of the problem lies at the state level. We need a new massive grassroots struggle such as that which arose in the 1950s and the 1960s, this one to overturn draconian and racially biased drug laws and to eliminate the new wave of law that hamper voter participation. The struggle continues.”
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