In 1917, after the October revolution, the Bolsheviks immediately published all the secret treaties of both the Tsarist government and the unelected provisional government of the February revolution.
In the 1972-4 the Watergate scandal, exposing US government dirty tricks against political opponents, led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon and hugely and permanently increased popular mistrust of government in the USA.
Contemporary journalist and malcontent Hunter S. Thompson summarised Nixon as a man who was 'criminally insane, and also President of the United States'. It's anyone's guess how rational world leaders are these days.
The recent torrent of US embassy cables released by online whistleblower Wikileaks has once again revealed the manipulating and lying ways of bourgeois governments across the world. There has been a great outcry from many governments, claiming that the leaks put government agents in danger and sabotage diplomacy, but in fact the major effect has been to embarrass the governments. The leaks are set to continue well in to the new year.
The governments have responded by trying to trip up Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange walked in to a police station in London on 7 December to be arrested on charges of rape and sexual molestation brought by the Swedish authorities, and is currently fighting extradition.
Is there substance to the charges? We don't know. Assange may well be a deeply unpleasant person. He is reported as saying to a co-worker on the Wikileaks project: "I am the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, orignal coder, organiser, financier and all the rest... If you have a problem with me piss off." (Guardian, 8 December 2010).
It is reasonable that Assange face trial for the accusations brought against him in as fair a court as bourgeois justice will allow.
However, the details surrounding the Assange man-hunt are pretty odd. Sweden issued an international arrest warrant via Interpol, and an EU arrest warrant was also issued. There were 3,159 acts of rape in London alone in the past 12 months, none of have prompted a response of equal magnitude.
The charges look like, not the Swedish government spearheading a crack-down on rape in Europe, but an opportunist attack on someone who has annoyed all established governments.
Both Visa and Mastercard have prevented their cards from being used to donate money to Wikileaks via Paypal - though people can still use Visa cards to donate money to the BNP or the Ku Klux Klan. The finance arm of the Swiss postal service and Paypal have cut off Wikileaks accounts. Amazon and EveryDNS have removed Wikileaks from their servers. (Amazon has claimed this was not in response to government pressure).
Mike Huckabee, former candidate for the Republican nomination for the US presidency, is rousing the American right to a flury of 'my-country-'tis-of-thee' rage, declaring that 'whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.'
In response, a surge of hacktivism, largely by a loose network calling themselves 'Anonymous', has partially paralyzed Mastercard's website, through a series of DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks under the banner 'Operation: Payback'.
There are also street demonstrations this weekend (10-12 December) in Australia, under the slogan 'Defend Wikileaks'.
The story highlights the rise of internet activism. Twitter is said to have played a role in the demonstrations against Ahmadinejad's government last year after the rigged Iranian elections (and the rigging of has been verified by the recently leaked embassy cables.)
Some enthusiasts of an 'online revolution' forget that electronic activism in Iran shook the regime not 'by itself' but only by helping organise people to be out on the streets in great numbers.
As socialists, we have to learn to adapt to new technology and find the best possible ways to use the technology to help build real (and not just 'virtual') action.