by Daphne Liddle

DECEMBER is traditionally the month for the Lord of Misrule to break out causing mischief and chaos and discomforting the rich and powerful. And this year he is outdoing himself as a group of “hacktivists” who call themselves Anonymous are taking revenge for the arrest of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, by attacking the websites of financial institutions that have acted against .

“We are glad to tell you that MasterCard is down and it’s confirmed,” the Anonymous group tweeted.

Attacks have caused serious damage to MasterCard, Paypal, a Swiss bank and other institutions that have bowed to pressure from the United States government to close Wikileaks accounts or withdraw services from the whistleblowing site.

Assange began disclosing vast quantities of leaked secret information from US government communications with its embassies and military forces around the world in April.

The information is believed to have been gathered by Bradley Manning, a US serviceman with a conscience about what his country is doing to the world who is now in jail in the US.

To anti-war activists there was very little new or surprising in the information but it did give proof of unreported atrocities by US and British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and of the true levels of civilian casualties.

The leaks also confirmed instructions from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to her agents to spy on the various delegations at the United Nations headquarters in New York. This spying is illegal but no one was surprised by it.

The leaks of communications between US embassies and their govern ment caused some amusement as we learned what the most powerful figures of western imperialism really thought about each other. It caused a great deal of embarrassment but no real harm done.

Nevertheless Clinton reacted furiously, declaring Wikileaks a “terrorist” organisation. Soon smear stories appeared accusing Assange of sexual attacks on two women in Sweden, where he lived until recently. Nobody believed them but it provided an excuse to issue a warrant for Assange’s arrest.

Last weekend Wikileaks issued another batch of some 250,000 leaks from the US government’s own assessment of installations, sites and companies around the world that it considers vital to its interests. The US government considered these leaks seriously undermined its defences.

A warrant for Assange’s arrest was issued — on the trumped up sex charges — and he met the police in London by arrangement through his lawyer. He was denied bail and is now in custody in Wandsworth Prison, pending extradition negotiations with the Swedish government.

The danger is that if he is taken to Sweden the government there will then allow his extradition to the US on trumped up terrorism charges.

But he is not a helpless pawn. An unknown number of hacktivists all around the world are keeping the Wikileaks sites going and are engaging in a new kind of cyber war that can really damage the giant and powerful financial institutions of western imperialism.

Needless to say the imperialists are retaliating by flooding the internet with smears and black propaganda against Wikileaks and its supporters. There will be a rapid process of both sides developing their own cyber defences while attacking their opponents.

The Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has welcomed the Wikileaks and described Assange and Bradley Manning as “brave” and offered Assange sanctuary in Venezuela.

Earlier this year Chavez called on Clinton to resign and said: “This exposes the US Empire for what they are, their mask has fallen off. They’ve tried to isolate this soldier [Manning]. It didn’t work and certainly won’t work now.”

Wikileaks has the support of many left and progressive people and it seems to be operating with a peaceful anarchistic and totally anti-authoritarian philosophy.

It has certainly shaken western imperialism and laid bare the thousands of threads that bind the executive powers of state to the financial giants behind the façade of bourgeois democracy.

It raises the question of whether the imperialist powers now have anything to gain by pretending to be civilised or democratic.