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Assange Seeks Seat in the Australian Senate


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SYDNEY, AustraliaJulian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, formally inaugurated a new political party bearing the name of his antisecrecy organization on Thursday and declared his own unorthodox candidacy for a seat in the Australian Senate in national elections to be held later this year.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Assange said he had every confidence in his ability to run a campaign from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. He has been living under asylum there for more than a year to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault accusations.

“It’s not unlike running the WikiLeaks organization,” he said. “We have people on every continent. We have to deal with over a dozen legal cases at once.”

“However, it’s nice to be politically engaged in my home country,” he added.

Mr. Assange, 42, an Australian computer hacker who rose to prominence as an evangelist for radical government transparency and a critic of United States foreign policy, is a deeply polarizing figure. Many believe that the WikiLeaks Party is simply a vanity project for Mr. Assange, although several polls conducted since plans to establish the party emerged earlier this year suggest that it could fare better than expected.

The Australian Senate has a long history of successful protest candidates, John Wanna, a political-science professor at Australian National University in Canberra, said in an interview. Mr. Assange is probably hoping to trade on his name recognition and follow in the footsteps of other rabble-rousing, single-issue senators, Professor Wanna said.

“He’s basically a nuisance candidate who may attract a bit of attention, because he’s not really about governing and sitting in Parliament,” he said. “He’s not standing to do the work, he’s standing for the nuisance value.”

If elected, Mr. Assange said, his party will work to advance “transparency, justice and accountability.”

“My plans are to essentially parachute in a crack troop of investigative journalists into the Senate and to do what we have done with WikiLeaks, in holding banks and government and intelligence agencies to account,” Mr. Assange said.

Supporters of Mr. Assange laud him as a hero for what they see as his dogged pursuit of government transparency, but prominent critics have described his releasing of classified information as a reckless act.

Mr. Assange is perhaps best known for WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of a huge trove of American diplomatic cables. His supporters maintain that the United States and its allies have fabricated the sexual assault case against him in Sweden to hamper his ability to release further classified materials and to punish him for those already released.

Under Australian law, Mr. Assange would have to take his seat within one year of being elected, although the Senate could technically grant him an extension if he is unable to physically take his seat. The British government has stated its intention to arrest him if he leaves the embassy in London.

Although he is best known for his views on international affairs, Mr. Assange was eager on Thursday to offer WikiLeaks’ position on the most contentious issue in contemporary Australian politics: the record number of people trying to reach Australia each year in rickety boats to claim political asylum.

Mr. Assange assailed a tough policy announced last week by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, under which all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat are to be sent to refugee-processing centers in Papua New Guinea.

He compared his own situation, and that of Edward J. Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about American surveillance programs — with the plight of those trying to reach Australia by boat.

“I am a political asylum seeker, awarded political asylum by the Ecuadorean government, and another state, the United Kingdom, and other states are interfering with that,” he said.

via Assange Seeks Seat in the Australian Senate – NYTimes.com.

A socialist program against war, austerity and the drive to dictatorship


The Socialist Equality Party is holding an important series of public election meetings to outline its policies in the wake of the enormous political upheavals of recent weeks.

The courageous stand of Edward Snowden in exposing the extent of the Obama administration’s illegal spying activities, and the international manhunt against him; the mass demonstrations of Egyptian workers, following major protests in Turkey and Brazil; and the deepening global slump five years after the financial crisis of 2008— these are just some of the indications of the onset of a new period of revolutionary struggles.

In every country, the ruling elites, representing the interests of the banks and big businesses, are demanding that the working class pay for the crisis of the profit system and preparing authoritarian forms of rule to impose their agenda. At the same time, Washington’s preparations for war against China, in which Australia is intimately involved, are intensifying.

The political turmoil in Australia, including the unprecedented reinstallation of Kevin Rudd as prime minister after he was ousted in a political coup three years ago, is rooted in these global processes. Rudd’s return is a desperate attempt to prevent the collapse of the Labor Party and prop up the two-party system, on which the ruling class has relied for more than a century to defend capitalist rule. These events are a sure sign that major struggles are looming in Australia.

The agenda of the next government, Liberal or Labor, will be deeper attacks on living standards and ongoing preparations for war. The China-driven mining boom has ended and recession is developing. Corporations such as General Motors Holden are demanding savage cuts in wages and conditions, while public education, health, welfare and pensions are under attack by both federal and state governments. The trade unions are collaborating with the employers and the governments in these offensives.

A new, independent political movement of the working class must be developed to meet these challenges, based on an internationalist and socialist perspective. The SEP election campaign is aimed at building such a movement against the capitalist system itself—the root cause of war, austerity and the drive to dictatorship.

via A socialist program against war, austerity and the drive to dictatorship – World Socialist Web Site.

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