It was a powerful moment of solidarity as more than 200 Green Left Weekly supporters who had filled Balmain Town Hall for this publication's annual Sydney fundraising dinner held up Bradley Manning masks.
Looking down from the stage it was an amazing sight. The guests at the dinner included tables of freedom fighters from all around the world: from Latin America to Asia.
There were recent Hazara refugees who had fled war and persecution in Afghanistan; veteran Guatemalan human rights activists who had suffered imprisonment, torture and kidnappings for standing up for justice and democracy; Chileans who had fled the bloody Pinochet dictatorship; and a table of democracy activists from my own country of origin, Malaysia.
Even the food we were served that night was prepared by freedom fighters from Thailand who were part of a brave movement of resistance against decades of military rule.
So while we were not all facing the prospect of spending the rest of our lives behind bars — as Manning is if global public solidarity does not force his release — in a certain sense there was real meaning in this symbolic “We are all Bradley Manning!” declaration.
We were once again borrowing the line from the famous scene in the Stanley Kubrick movie Spartacus, when the Roman occupiers offer the rebellious ancient Greek slaves leniency if they agree to turn in their leader Spartacus. But when Spartacus rises to identify himself, the rest of the slaves stand up one after the other to cry: "I am Spartacus."
The message is simple: solidarity is strength, even in the face of the cruelty of the rich and powerful.
The Green Left Weekly dinner was a fitting place to stage this act of solidarity with Manning as his military trial drew to an end. Green Left Weekly has won a reputation for championing solidarity over its 22 years of publication. Indeed, the core value of this project is solidarity.
Solidarity is under constant attack from the rich and powerful and the entrenched political institutions that serve their interests. Just five days earlier, in the same Balmain Town Hall, the federal Labor caucus had met and endorsed the federal government's lurch to the far right on refugees.
I began my speech to the dinner with a joke borrowed from the late Venezuelan revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez: “Did anyone get a whiff of a bad smell in this room earlier this evening? Something a little stinky — perhaps even a little sulphuric?”
But any lingering badness in the room was well exorcised by the end of the enjoyable evening of celebration of solidarity.
If you haven't already, please check the calendar of coming events on page 23 for other Green Left Weekly fundraising events in your city. And attend them. Our readers are our most loyal supporters and we rely on you to keep on fighting.
You can also help Green Left Weekly today by donating online to the fighting fund.
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