Julian Assange: 'I knew my life would never be the same'

Once the decision was made to target governments and institutions, Assange found himself lonely and tired, as his organisation grew into a global movement

In 2006 I decided that I wanted to tackle institutions and governments, wherever they led their dark lives. I'm not an original political thinker, never claimed to be, but I know the technology and I understand the structures of government; and I was ready to throw the latter, where possible, into a bath of acid and boil them down to the bone.

We had the activist experience and the will to disempower. We had the gumption. We had the philosophy. Game on. I registered WikiLeaks.org on 4 October 2006. Our philosophy was, from the beginning, fundamentally anti-bastard, and, coarse as that seems, it's also got a certain honesty. I guess I knew that my ordinary life, if I'd ever had one, would never be the same again.

Before the launch, the finance for registering domain names and so on came from me. Everybody else contributed their time for free. I tried to bring in friends, but friendship, in my experience, will only buy you about nine hours of free labour. And there was an unbelievable amount of work. I had worked through the ideas over many years, but the programming and the logistics had to be done quickly and effectively. I was going from Kenya to Tanzania to Cairo, building the site all the way, and that's when I really began to live out of a small rucksack. I must say I had never been one for belongings. I didn't have many clothes. I spent or gave away whatever money I had almost instantly. I had a bag of socks and underwear, and a bigger bag of laptops and cables. That was it.

In Paris in the spring of 2007, I felt completely crushed, knowing WikiLeaks could be great, but that I was just ailing under the sheer volume of work required to make it happen. I had a girlfriend who would come round. She just brought food and I stayed at the computer. She spoke Russian, and would sometimes lend a hand with that, but it was a lonely time.

I was constantly searching for voluntary labour and holding online meetings that I'd scheduled with supporters. Once or twice, though, quite comically (though not at the time), I turned out to be the only person at those online meetings. And of course the whole thing was right on the border of schizophrenia: I'd be there, tapping away, being the Chair and the Secretary and bringing the next thing on the agenda and calling the vote. Mad.

In the same spirit of self-reinforcement, I would sometimes decide that a particular piece of work would demand that I wore clothing that suited the gravity of the occasion. Imagine me sitting in a hot poky flat in Paris, unshaven, typing away, but wearing exactly the right sort of jacket. I know. But I felt I had to go on as if the whole thing were possible, and that way it would really happen.

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