Whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke to the world for the first time on Dec. 25 via an Alternative Christmas Message aired by Britain’s commercial television, Channel 4.
Snowden said, “[O]ur governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance, watching everything we do.” The computer analyst spoke from temporary asylum in Russia, where he sought refuge from a furious U.S. government manhunt following his exposure of massive spying by the National Security Agency.
Documentary videographer Laura Poitras filmed Snowden’s statement. She and journalist Glenn Greenwald were instrumental in bringing Snowden’s revelations to the public conversation. Together with WikiLeaks reporting in 2010, the government documents released by Snowden showed massive surveillance of individuals, even including allied heads of state, and a cancerous U.S. obsession with covering up the truth about its military occupation of Iraq and other lies inherent in imperialist diplomacy.
The Alternative Christmas Message is an answer to the annual message delivered by the British monarch, a relic of feudalism. The first one was broadcast via radio in 1932, at a time when “the sun never set on the British empire.”
Britain had still not recovered from the first horrific inter-imperialist war dedicated to redividing the resources and wealth of the colonized world. The horrors of that war enraged the masses and gave rise to the Russian Revolution, the first long-standing workers’ revolution.
As one of its first acts, the revolutionary Bolshevik government rejected imperialist diplomacy and published the secret treaties that czarist Russia, and later the brief social-democratic Kerensky government, signed with other capitalist governments. One was the Sykes-Picot Agreement, in which Britain and France, with the assent of czarist Russia, agreed to divide up the Middle East — a root of the current wars and devastation.
Snowden ended his message by reminding the government that “if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.” The unprecedented global anti-war outpouring before the U.S. invasion of Iraq certainly gave both the British and U.S. governments ample indication of how the people felt about that war.
It doesn’t take a huge, oppressive spying apparatus to know the feelings of more than a million long-term unemployed in the U.S. whose income is being cut off, or of the families and children who are hungrier after food stamp cuts, or of the low-wage workers demanding a $15 minimum wage, or of the Detroit retirees whose pensions are at risk because the capitalist government prefers to pay the bankers.
No, this expensive “national security” state is a desperate attempt by U.S. imperialism to maintain its super-profits around the globe even as the system is imploding at home.