Iran: Oppose all sanctions
Support working class self-liberation from below!
The October 1 nuclear talks between Iran and the UN security council are unlikely to resolve the stand-off between imperialism and the theocratic regime.
For a start, both sides actually thrive on the “nuclear threat”. With the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq becoming increasingly difficult to justify at home, imperialism has another reason to explain why it needs to spend billions on its war machinery. Similarly in Iran: the Islamic regime has long survived on the external threats to “bomb Iran back into the stone age” – be it by US or Israeli missiles. Slapping ever stricter sanctions on the country has, over the years, actually rallied the people behind its theocratic leaders.
But the June 2009 elections dramatically changed the picture. Thousands took to the streets in defiant response – despite the Iranian regime’s history of brutal repression. Initially, they were commonly portrayed as middle-class backers of the leading ‘reformist’ candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi, but as protests have continued, and Moussavi himself has continually shown his timidity and ties to the theocratic state, the mood has radicalised dramatically and this anger has embroiled wide swathes of the society. Now, many of those protesting the electoral outcome question the entire basis of Iran’s Islamic republic.
Despite Moussavi’s indisputable desire to preserve the current order (albeit with some minor reforms), the crisis has unveiled some considerable divisions within the regime itself. These impact at every level. Both Ayatollah Rafsanjani and ex-Prime Minister Mohammed Khatami have thrown their lot in with Moussavi. This group around Moussavi has attempted to manoeuvre itself into favour with the Iranian masses by counterposing itself to the ‘official order’ of Khameini and Ahmadinejad.
However, the political divergence between these two forces is minimal. Both support the neo-liberal economic policy that Ahmadinejad has relentlessly pursued, which has contributed to the economic collapse of the country. Currently unemployment stands at 30% and inflation at 25%.
A brief look at Moussavi’s history provides further evidence. During his previous tenure as Prime Minister, between 1981 and 1989, he oversaw the Iran-Iraq war and the extensive crackdowns on Iranians the regime perceived as a threat. Chief amongst those was the Iranian working class which had played a significant role in the 1979 revolution. Moussavi and those around him were directly involved in the arrests and deaths of thousands of socialists and communists.
Clearly, Moussavi offers no positive alternative for the Iranian masses. His vested interest in maintaining the Islamic order has been illustrated time and again in his continual efforts to blunt and demobilise the mass movement. He fears losing control.
Already numerous sections of those protesting are recognising his inadequacy, and extending the fight to one for truly democratic and secular progress in Iran. From the start of the current crisis it is sections of the working-class that have taken the lead. It is in working-class neighbourhoods where impromptu protests continue into the night, and where the most consistent opposition to the entire edifice of the Iranian theocracy can be found. However, working-class organisations remain weak and divided. This is in large part a product of thirty years of systematic repression at the hands of an Iranian state which knows and fears the revolutionary capacity of the working-class when united.
Iran is an incredibly young society, and the youth have been at the fore of the demands for change. It is amongst the youth where the left is strongest, particularly amongst the student population, which has experienced some of the most severe brutality from the Islamic republic in recent years. Hands off the People of Iran (Hopi) aims to build links with, and provide support where possible, to those student groups at the fore of the fight against the repressions of the Islamic republic.
Necessary, in conjuncture with this solidarity, is a steadfast opposition to external intervention, in the form of imperialist invasion, or via sanctions. The current proposals of the US government to enforce sanctions on Iran’s oil industry would unquestionably cause chaos for a society facing another harsh winter. They are also a disaster for the cause of democracy because they limit working class struggle. Thus, in the face of a harsh winter and petroleum sanctions, militant oil workers (who played a key role in the revolution of 1979) are now wondering whether to go on strike at all due to the effects that this could have. This clearly underlines how solidarity with Iranian workers which does not flow from steadfast opposition to US and Israeli war threats and sanctions is absolutely pointless.
Radical democratic change in Iran (and indeed in the imperialist countries such as the US and UK) can only come from below. It cannot be gifted by the likes of Moussavi, or imposed by the imperialists. Not that either would wish to see such change. We have to aid such advances through promoting working-class internationalism – the core politics that Hopi implacably stands for.