Delegates to the May 21-23 conference of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) voted overwhelmingly to affiliate to Hands Off the People of Iran. The PCS is the first national union to support Hopi, which fights:
Against imperialist war on Iran
For the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US/UK troops from Iraq and all the Gulf region
Against any imperialist intervention. The immediate and unconditional end to sanctions on Iran.
Against the theocratic regime! For solidarity with the working class, women’s and students’ movements against the theocratic regime.
Yassamine Mather, member of the Hopi Steering Committee and Iranian exile, said:
“This is important step forward for Hopi could not be more timely, coming as it does when leaked news over the weekend suggests that Bush has been secretly briefing key US senators on plans to launch airstrikes against Iran with the next two months.
When a major union of the size and reputation of PCS takes such an explicity stand against imperialist sabre-rattling, a powerful message is sent out to the war-mongerers”.
The motion supporting Hopi was opposed by just 50 or so of the 1,200 delegates, although it was opposed by leading PCS member, Jon Gamble. Writing in the Morning Star (May 27), he denounced the “con trick” played on the conference and charged that by “raising the issue of the nature of the islamic regime in Iran” Hopi thus “seeks to split this movement on sectarian lines” and “provides a left cover for liberal apologists for war”.
In a statement released on its website (reproduced below), Hopi firmly rejected these charges as “lies and slander” and offered to debate opponents such as John Gamble to clarify its real politics.
NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS
1. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is the fifth largest trade union in the UK, with over 300,000 members.
2. Hopi was established in December of last year and includes amongst its supporters John McDonnell MP, Derek Wall, male principal speaker, Green Party, Peter Tatchell, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Naomi Klein, Michael Mansfield QC, John Pilger, Peggy Seeger (singer, songwriter and activist), Bill Bailey (actor and comedian) and Noam Chomsky.
3. Hopi was barred from affiliating to the Stop the War Coalition in October 2007 because – it was claimed – we were “entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work” (see www.hopoi.org/media.html for material on this controversy). The dispute was also covered in the Independent – see www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/antiwar-activists-do-battle-over-intervention-in-iran-399450.html)
JON GAMBLE LETTER, MORNING STAR MAY 27
“Watch Out For Dodgy Splitters
It is frustrating to sit and watch a train crash go on in front of you and be unable to act.
Recently, the PCS conference voted to affiliate to an organisation purporting to defend the people of Iran from attack by the US and its allies – the so-called Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) campaign. What most delegates didn’t know is that this organisation is not primarily concerned with opposing US maniacal military adventures, but rather splitting the Stop the War movement in Britain. In reality it is a front for the misnamed CPGB micro-sect.
The Stop the War Coalition has successfully united millions of people to oppose the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. By raising the issue of the nature of the islamic regime in Iran, Hopi seeks to split this movement on sectarian lines. This would only delight Bush and Brown and the whole warmongering lobby. Hopi provides a left cover for liberal apologists for war, the likes of Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens, in the liberal defence of murder.
It was unfortunate that the main left force in PCS, Left Unity, were duped into supporting this affiliation, apparently to avoid having a debate around affiliation to John McDonnell’s Labour Representation Committee – surely a bizarre sense of priorities. Sadly, Morning Star supporters went unheard in the debate, which left the SWP isolated and slandered as apologists for the Iranian regime in opposing this affiliation.
As Mark Twain once said, a lie can go around the world before the truth has tied its boot laces. PCS branches need to question their conference delegates about this con trick as a matter of urgency.”
PSC NSOC (personal capacity)
HOPI REPLY, MAY 28
“Lies and slander
Jon Gamble’s letter on the Public and Commercial Services Union affiliating to Hands Off the People Of Iran (Hopi) is grossly inaccurate and disingenuous. He claims that Hopi is not “primarily concerned with opposing US maniacal military adventures”. Yet our main demands are: No to imperialist war! For the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US/UK troops from Iraq and all the Gulf region! The immediate and unconditional end to sanctions on Iran! (www.hopoi.org)
Clutching at straws, he then proceeds to attack us for our apparent attempts to split “the Stop the War movement in Britain.” Those with a slightly longer memory will remember how Hopi actually sought affiliation to the Stop the War Coalition last year but were refused on the most spurious of grounds. Sadly, the anti-war movement was split. But not through our actions.
Whereas the stooges and apologists of the Iranian regime like Abbas Eddalat and Somaye Zadeh are welcomed with open arms into the coalition, Iranian socialists and their comrades are not welcome.
He claims that Hopi is a front for the “misnamed CPGB micro-sect”. This will come as news to the substantial working class and socialist organisations from Iran who form the core of Hopi’s support alongside Green Party comrade Peter Tatchell and the leader of the Labour Left, John Mc.Donnell. Comrade Gamble is inconsistent anyway: the CPGB is an official affiliate of the Stop the War Coalition. Yet organisations that are damned as its fronts are disqualified! Where is the logic?
Hopi is clear that the main enemy is imperialism. The theocratic regime of Iran – which implements a neo-liberal capitalist agenda against its working people – is also an enemy. We can walk and chew gum. We can oppose any imperialist intervention and support democratic, secular and socialist movements fighting to overthrow the theocracy and thereby create a genuinely anti-imperialist Iran. This is not “sectarian”. This is not Nick Cohen ‘lite’ politics. This is genuine internationalism.
That the PCS has taken a lead in the fight for genuine politics of solidarity is to be welcomed. Some comrades ought to follow the principled lead of PCS delegates and recognise Hopi as a legitimate and valuable part of the anti-war movement. This was no “con trick” but a decision made by comrades who, unlike Jon, have a sense of their internationalist duty in the struggle against war and oppression. If the PCS wish to discuss the politics of Hopi and the issues involved then we are more than happy to speak to them at every level of the union and also debate our opponents.
Ben Lewis, Communist Party of Great Britain
Yassamine Mather, Workers Left Unity Iran
Tami Peterson, Labour Representation Committee (personal capacity)