Tom Watson, Contributor
Social ventures, social change, social media, social movements. Assange's Emerging Politics: Rand Paul And Libertarian Wing of GOP Represent 'Only Hope'
The strong turn of Julian Assange and Wikileaks toward partisan electoral politics continued this weekend, as Assange told an online audience that he’s “a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues” and insisted that the libertarian wing the Republican Party represented the “only hope” for reform in American politics.
The praise for the conservative Paul wing of the Republican Party in the U.S., aligned with Tea Party and anti-government activists, comes on the heels of the establishment of the Wikileaks Party in Australia, where Assange is standing for election to the Senate from Victoria.
Speaking during a live-streamed panel discussion from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been given political asylum despite being sought for sexual abuse allegations in Sweden, Assange claimed that the Republicans – and especially the Pauls – don’t represent conservatism, but an opposition to a powerful Federal government that spies on its own citizens.
“The Republican Party in so far as how it has coupled together with the war industry is not a conservative party at all and the Libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice in the US Congress,” he said. That point of view may well set the Wikileaks founder at odds with many of his progressive supporters here in the United States, who while opposing large-scale surveillance like the kind exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden (now a political refugee in Russia), nonetheless hold social views that are antithetical to hard right Paulist positions on issues like immigration, labor, reproductive rights, and social welfare programs.
Libertarians on the right, claimed Assange, “will be the driver that shifts the United States around.”
“It’s not going to come from the Democrats, it’s not going to come from Ralph Nader, it’s not going to come from the co-opted parts of the Republican Party. The only hope as far as electoral politics… presently, is the libertarian section of the Republican Party.”
Assange said the Paul wing of the GOP has the winning formula for non-violent political change, and listed gun violence and women’s reproductive rights as two areas where right-wing tactics are working in the United States:
“The position of the Libertarian Republican, or a better description Right, coming from a principle of non-violence which is the American Libertarian tradition. That produces interesting results.
“So, non-violence: well, don’t go and invade a foreign country. Non-violence: don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. Army. Non-violence: doesn’t extort taxes from people to the federal Government with a policeman. Similarly, other aspects of non-violence in relation to abortion that they hold.”
In the United States, the social movement that has supported Wikileaks efforts at uncovering U.S. government secrets (including the links provided by U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, now in the sentencing portion of his military trial) has been largely dominated by the left wing and progressive activists angry over U.S. security expansion since the attacks of 9/11 and the war in Iraq. The politics of Rand Paul – who famously said he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – are in stark opposition to the civil libertarian left in the United States (not to mention the political leanings of Matt Drudge, who Assange also praised as an exemplar of American journalism). But this may be changing.
While it is unclear whether Assange and newly-political Wikileaks will make endorsements in U.S. elections – Rand Paul is thought to be seeking the GOP nomination for President in 2016 – he has plunged in deeply in Australian politics, forming a registered political party and campaigning (albeit remotely) for elected office. And that electoral effort in Australia may have legs around the world as well; four days ago, The Guardian reported that Wikileaks will try to raise money internationally for its slate of candidates. “There is generational change taking place. People are searching for a new body politic,” said spokesperson Sam Castro.
Symbolic of that generational change is the 30-year-old Snowden, who Wikileaks represented in his negotiations with the Russian government and others as he sought asylum to escape U.S. spying charges. And Snowden, it turns out, is a supporter of Ron Paul, having twice donated $250 to the former Texas Congressman’s campaign in 2012. The feeling is mutual: “We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk,” said the elder Paul in June. “They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”
As the American Conservative reported this week, the U.S. right wing is rallying to Snowden’s cause: “A funny thing happened between Hong Kong and Russia: Edward Snowden, teller of National Security Agency secrets and American dissident at large, started to become a conservative hero.” And Snowden’s father Lon is represented by long-time conservative “originalist” lawyer Bruce Fein, a former Reagan Administration official who testified to Congress two years ago that “the individual is the center of the Constitution’s universe.”
In both Assange’s attacks on the Obama Administration (and the vast U.S. security bureaucracy which has grown since 2001) and in the Wikileaks Party’s Australian platform, there’s a vein of criticism of big government as a failure, riddled with cronyism, careerism, and blind party loyalty. This is similar to the rhetoric of both Pauls and some Tea Party activists as well, and is based on their narrow view of what the republic’s founding generation and constitutional framers actually intended.
Here’s the Wikileaks Party platform: “We are witness to a degeneration of democracy into political party oligarchy, in which dissent is stifled and the public bureaucracy is contained and docile.”
And here’s Ron Paul: “Sadly, the constitution and its protections are respected less and less as we have quietly allowed our constitutional republic to devolve into a militarist, corporatist social democracy.”
What’s fascinating is that Paul (the father, less so the son, who still has aspirations to actual head up the vast government he says he despises) largely rejects a modern view of democracy, claiming that “pure democracy is dangerous” and that the founders never intended actual democratic rule. “Democracy is majority rule at the expense of the minority,” wrote Paul last year. “Our system has certain democratic elements, but the founders never mentioned democracy in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence.”
In a 2010 interview on the website of Ron Paul publisher and collaborator Lew Rockwell, Assange talked about his ideas on radical transparency might help to collapse traditional institutions like political parties and governments: “Many of these organizations, be they political parties be they conspiratorial groups of criminals or be they business are only just in equilibrium with their competition. And because they are acting in a way that is often inhuman or corrupt or criminal they have lots of opponents. So, if you cause them to collapse as an organization, to not be able to communicate with each other internally, to become paranoid and fall in on themselves. Then they are no longer competitive as an organization compared to all those organizations that are more open. So the power of these organizations starts to shrink. And the market gap is then taken up by the more open organization that does not have the problem of secrecy.”
Between Assange’s praise for the Paul wing of the Republican Party and the launch of his political party in Australia, the movement of the original Wikileaks ideal toward active politics continues – and it’s continuing along a fairly radical course (for mainstream democrats, anyway) that argues that government should be broken down, rendered weaker, less authoritarian and empowered by majorities. As I wrote back in June when I suggested (somewhat controversially) that Wikileaks was now a global political party, “Assange’s position as the global spokesman for what is (loosely) an Internet-based international political movement in opposition to the United States has never been stronger.”
It would be a mistake to underestimate the potential of this international (and in the U.S., it would be called conservative) libertarian movement. Wikileaks was once labeled (too easily) an anarchist group – its political ambitions and growing alliances on several continents clearly show it’s anything but.
UPDATE: Wikileaks Party under fire in Australia for what some are describing its “lurch to the right,” revealing in filings that “they want the fascist Australia First Party, the pro-shooting-in-National-Parks Shooters and Fishers Party , and the “mens rights activist” Non-Custodial Parents Party to win a seat instead of the Australian Greens. Maybe this really is an international conservative movement.