Before I wrote the article on Julian Assange (“Assange, rape, free speech”, Solidarity 254) I had a good look at the bourgeois press.
The serious mainstream papers and magazines seemed unanimous (based on legal opinions that they had solicited or examined) that the extradition of Assange to the US from Sweden was harder than from the UK to US. Of course, if this is true, Assange’s case for staying here to best avoid falling into the US state’s hands collapses.
Paul Field, himself a lawyer, has a different view (Solidarity 255). And, here-and-there, there are others who should be listened to, that have opinions similar to Paul’s. Nevertheless, the big bulk of serious opinion falls the other way. (I’m discounting much of the material written for Assange which unfortunately comes from the self-deluded or plain weird or conspiracy nuts — or a combination of those).
But, anyway, the legal issue (Britain or Sweden: where is he safer?) doesn’t exhaust the matter. Both governments are right-wing, US allies. In the long-run he’s probably not very safe anywhere. His ability to stay out of a US jail will largely rest on the campaign that can be built in his defence. And that defence campaign is now tightly bound up with another question — the rape charges he faces in Sweden.
Some comrades have argued that if the US does manage to seize and jail Assange it will be a blow against the anti-imperialist left. I think that’s true, and we should defend Assange against the US state.
Equally, given he is — at least in general terms — a part of our movement, we are also concerned that he uphold minimum standards of a prominent radical. And he isn’t upholding them. It seems that he is running away from, and attempting to avoid, the accusations of rape.
If it is true, as he claims, that he is innocent of these charges, he should face them in Sweden, removing an issue from the fight to defend himself from the US state.