All posts by b.lewis

Women's Day March, March 7 2010, in London

March7If you are outraged by 31 years of anti-women Islamic laws against Iranian women! If you are disgusted by 31 years religious oppression and repression! If your heart is full of pain because of fallen heroines such as Neda and Taraneh! If you hate the inequality and discrimination against women! If you oppose patriarchy in any form!

Join Our March on March 7 2010 on the occasion of the International Women’s Day to support the Iranian women’s struggle against the anti-women Islamic regime of Iran!

Date and Time: 7th March 2010 at Noon

Assembly: In front of the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran
16 Princes Gate, London SW7
Nearest Underground Station: South Kensington

Speakers:
Message from 8 March women’s organisation (Iran-Afghanistan)
Inci Kaya (European Democratic Women Movement)-Turkey
Yassamine Mather(Hands Off The People of Iran)
Houzan Mahmoud (Organisation of women’s Freedom in Iraq)
Sabrina Qureshi (Million Women Rise)

Artists:
Gissoo Shakeri (singer) – Ziba Karbasi(poet)
Arashk Farahani (rap singer) – Nahid Naimi (play director)
8 March Women’s Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan)-UK

Supported by:
Million Women Rise
European Democratic Women Movement
Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq-Abroad representative
Rhythms of Resistance
Iranian Youth Committee-UK
Solidarity Council with Iranian People’s Struggle
Hands off People of Iran
www.8mars.com Email: zan_dem_iran@hotmail.com
For more information please call: 07521134454

‘Reformist’ confusion stunts opposition protests

Yassamine Mather reports on the February 11 Revolution Day celebrations

Last week’s official celebrations of the February 1979 uprising that brought down the shah’s regime in Iran stood in total contrast to the events of 31 years ago.

The Islamic state’s lengthy preparations for the anniversary of the revolution included the arrest of hundreds of political activists, hanging two political prisoners (for “waging war on god”), and blocking internet and satellite communications. In addition, the government brought busloads of bassij paramilitaries and people from the provinces to boost the number of its supporters – it considers the majority of the 14 million inhabitants of Tehran to be opponents.

The 48-hour internet and satellite blackout was so comprehensive that the regime succeeded in stopping its own international press and media communications. On the morning of February 11 connections to Iran’s state news agency and Press TV were lost. Foreign press and media reporters found themselves confined to a platform next to where president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking. Neighbouring streets and squares were barred to them. The bassij blocked all routes to Azadi Square by 9am and dispersed large crowds of oppositionists who had gathered at Ghadessiyeh Square and other intersections, preventing them reaching the official celebration.

From the speakers’ podium, surrounded by bassij and revolutionary guards, many of them dressed in military uniform, Ahmadinejad produced yet another fantastic claim. In the two days since his instruction to Iran’s nuclear industry to step up centrifuge-based uranium enrichment from 3% to 20%, this had already been achieved! Nuclear scientists are unanimous that such a feat is impossible.

Huge flags surrounded the Azadi Square podium and the official demonstration was dominated by military figures – typical of the kind of state-organised shows dictators such as the shah have always staged. The crude display of military power, together with the severe repression in the run-up to the anniversary, had nothing to do with the revolution it was supposed to commemorate.

In fact the events of February 11 2010 were the exact opposite of February 10-11 1979, when the masses took to the streets and attacked the repressive forces of the regime, when prison doors were broken down by the crowds and political prisoners released, when army garrisons were ransacked and the crowds took weapons to their homes and workplaces, when the central offices of Savak (the shah’s secret police) were occupied by the Fedayeen, and when airforce cadets turned their weapons against their superiors, paving the way for a popular uprising by siding with the revolution.

The show put on by our tinpot religious dictators was an insult to the memory of that uprising. Yet despite all the efforts and the mobilisation that had preceded the official demonstration, despite the fact that the confused and at times conciliatory messages of ‘reformist’ leaders had disarmed sections of the green movement, the regime could only muster 50,000 supporters. Meanwhile tens of thousands in Tehran and other cities took part in opposition protests – even in the streets close to Azadi Square despite the presence of large numbers of bassij. The protests were so loud that, according to Tehran residents, the state broadcast of Ahmadinejad’s speech had to be halted and instead TV stations showed the flags and crowds to the accompaniment of stirring music. Fearing that the bassij might not be able to control the protesters gathering in neighbouring squares, the government decided to start its extravagant ceremony early and then cut it short. So, despite only beginning at 10am, it had finished by 11.30.

Over the last few months there has been a lot of official nostalgia about the1979 revolution and ironically there are undoubtedly political parallels with the current situation – not least the fact that, just like Ahmadinejad and ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei today, in February 79 ayatollah Khomeini was not on the side of the revolution. In the words of Mehdi Bazargan (Khomeini’s first prime minister), “they wanted rain and they got floods” (in other words, they wanted a smooth transfer of power, with the repressive, bureaucratic and executive organs of the royalist state left intact).

Yet the events of February 10-11 1979 shattered those hopes. No wonder the first official call by Khomeini, on the day the Islamic republic came into existence, was for people to hand over seized weapons to the army and police, for ‘order’ and for an end to strikes and demonstrations. From the very beginning religious clerics in Iran were an obstacle to revolution and for the last 31 years all factions of the Islamic Republic, including the ‘reformists’, have done their utmost to negate what was achieved with the bringing down of the shah’s regime.

Looking back at the events of 1979, in many ways it is amazing to think that a rather weak, confused and divided left managed to accomplish so much in such a short time. But for many Iranians of a different generation the current struggles are indeed the continuation of the same process – and many of them are determined to continue this struggle, however long it takes.

‘National unity’

Of course, if the anniversary of the revolution was not a good day for the government, the ‘reformist’ leaders of the green movement too had little to celebrate. Fearful of growing radicalisation, as witnessed by the Ashura protests in December, they spent most of January in both open and secret negotiations with the office of the supreme leader searching for a compromise.[1] Even though by early February it was clear that no deal was on the cards, they continued to issue confusing statements about how to approach the official celebrations.

Both Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Moussavi implied that participation in the demonstration (official or otherwise) was important as a show of ‘national unity’. They condemned any attack on the bassij and other militia and repeated their declarations of allegiance to the Islamic Republic. Many of their supporters joined the official protests wearing no identifying colours and were therefore counted by the regime as supporters.

As always, the main problem with our ‘reformists’ is that by remaining loyal to the ‘supreme leader’,[2] by condemning the popular slogan, ‘Down with the Islamic regime’, they fail to understand the mood of those who have taken to the streets in protest. If for a while they were lagging behind the protests, today they no longer even understand the movement they claim to lead. That movement is adamant in its call for an end to the current religious state, an end to the rule of the vali faghih (Khamenei, whose ‘guardianship of the nation’ is supposed to represent god on earth) – the repeated shouts of ‘Death to the dictator’ are directed at the so-called ‘supreme leader’ himself.

The February 11 protests marked a setback for Moussavi and Karroubi – not just in terms of their politics, but also in their choice of tactics. First of all, it is foolhardy to organise demonstrations to coincide with the official calendar of events, as it allows the regime to plan repression well in advance. Secondly, it was absurd to call on people to join the regime’s demonstrations and, thirdly, opposition to a repressive dictatorship cannot simply rely on demonstrations. The state has unleashed its most brutal forces against street protesters, and we need to consider strikes and other acts of civil disobedience too.

A lot has been written by Persian bloggers about the ‘lack of charisma’ of Moussavi and Karroubi. However, the truth is their main problem is not personality, but dithering. This has cost them dear at a time when opposition to the regime in its entirety is growing, and the left can only benefit from this.

The anniversary of the revolution reminded Iranians of the slogans of the February 1979 uprising. The principal demands of the revolution were for freedom, independence and social justice (the ‘Islamic republic’ was a post-revolutionary constitutional formula imposed by the clergy). Thirty-one years later, no-one, not even the majority of Khomeini’s own supporters, who currently form the green leadership, claim there is any democracy in the militia-based monster of a state they helped to create.

Iran’s independence from foreign powers is also debatable. US hegemony might be in global decline, but in Iran, following America’s defeat in February 1979 and the subsequent US humiliation of the embassy hostage-taking in 1980, the last two and a half decades have seen a revival of US influence. As discussed in detail at the February 13 Hands Off the People of Iran day school in Manchester (see opposite), we can even see US influence during the Iran-Iraq war (Irangate and the purchase of US arms via Israel). In the late 1980s US policies of neoliberalism and the market economy dominated Iran’s financial and political scene and since 2001 the Iranian state has supported US military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the issue of social justice, even though the previous regime’s downfall had a lot to do with class inequality, the Islamic version of capitalism has brought about much harsher conditions for the working class and the poor. The Islamic state’s own statistics show a constant growth in the gap between rich and poor. The impoverishment of the middle classes, the abject poverty of the working class, the destitution and hunger of the shantytown-dwellers – these are all reasons why the current protests continue in urban areas.

Crocodile tears

In the midst of all this internal conflict, Iranians face the continued threat of war and sanctions. On February 15 Hillary Clinton declared: “Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship.” Yet there is nothing new in the power and role of the revolutionary guards in Iran. Ever since 1979 they have been the single most important pillar of the religious state, involved in every aspect of political and military power. What is new is their involvement in capitalist ventures, empowered by the relentless privatisation plans driven by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

In recent years capitalists in Iran and elsewhere have complained about the revolutionary guards’ accumulation of vast fortunes through the acquisition of privatised capital – precisely the pattern seen in eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Those in power, often with direct connections to military and security forces, are in a position to purchase the newly privatised industries. That is the case with many US allies in the region, yet we have not heard the state department commenting about ‘creeping military dictatorships’ in those countries.

No doubt, as repression increases, Iranians’ hatred of the bassij and revolutionary guards will increase and they will respond to these forces as they did in the protests of late December and last week. However, they do not need the crocodile tears of the US administration – indeed interventions like those of Clinton and condemnations of the repression coming from the US and European countries tend to damage the protest movement inside Iran. After all, Iranians are well aware of the kind of ‘democratic havens’ created under US military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the last thing they want for their own country is regime change US-style.

It is difficult to predict how the opposition movement will develop, but those of us who have argued that the current protests have economic as well as political causes are in no doubt that we will witness many more street demonstrations, strikes and other forms of civil disobedience. The state is clearly gearing up for another round of repression and there is no sign that those arrested in the last few weeks will be released. Death sentences have been passed on a number of political prisoners, some of them arrested prior to the elections of June 2009 (some have been found guilty of the crime of participating in protests held while they were in prison!).

Even before the new wave of sanctions hits the country, the economic situation has worsened. Thousands of workers are about to lose their job following the bankruptcy declaration of the electricity and power authority last week. Hundreds of car workers – the elite of the Iranian working class – are being sacked every week. On the other hand, the involvement of the working class in the political arena has increased to such an extent that even the BBC Persian service admits we are witnessing a “qualitative change” in workers’ protests.[3]

Four workers’ organisations – the Syndicate of Vahed Bus Workers, the Haft Tapeh sugar cane grouping, the Electricity and Metal Workers Council in Kermanshah, and the Independent Free Union – have published a joint statement declaring their support for the mass protests and specifying what they call the minimum demands of the working class.[4] These include an end to executions, freedom of the press and media, the right to set up workers’ organisations, job security, an end to temporary ‘white contracts’, equality in terms of pay and conditions for women workers, abolition of all misogynist legislation, the declaration of May 1 as a public holiday with the right of workers to demonstrate and gather freely on that day, the expulsion of religious workers’ organisations, which act as spies, from workplaces …

Meanwhile, Tehran’s bus workers have issued a call for civil disobedience: “Starting March 6, we the workers of the Vahed company, will wage acts of civil disobedience … to protest the against the holding of Mansoor Osanloo in prison. We appeal to the Iranian people and to the democratic green movement to join us by creating a deliberate traffic jam in all directions leading to Valiasr Square.”[5]

Workers involved in setting up nationwide councils have issued a radical political statement regarding what they see as priority demands Iranian workers ought to raise at this stage. Emphasising the need to address the long-term political interests of the working class, they also call for unity based around immediate economic and political demands.

As the struggles in Iran enter a new stage, where the weakness of the ‘reformist’ leaders is causing despair amongst sections of the youth, and at a time when the US, Israel and now Saudi Arabia are issuing threats of direct military action and sanctions, the need for international solidarity is stronger than ever before.

Notes

  1. See ‘Reformists fear revolution’ Weekly Worker January 14.
  2. See, for example, ‘Karroubi accepts Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president’ The Daily Star (Lebanon), January 26.
  3. www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2010/02/100204_l12_ar_labour_movement.shtml
  4. See www.iran-chabar.de/news.jsp?essayId=27347
  5. ahwaznewsjidid.blogfa.com/post-3521.aspx

Theocracy threatens bloodbath as mass movement grows

Iranian workers are on the offensive, reports Chris Strafford

2010 has begun the way 2009 ended in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with millions protesting in cities and towns across the country. But the dangers facing the Iranian people have undoubtedly increased over the last few weeks.

Further sanctions are being put in place, and Obama is holding back Israel for the time being, but has been promising “decisive action” if Iran does not halt all uranium enrichment. One Israeli diplomat was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Obama has convinced us that it’s worth trying the sanctions, at least for a few months” (January 3). The imperialists seem to be moving towards military aggression this year – Washington has now dismissed the validity of the intelligence estimate which concluded that Iran was no longer trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

They have also been hypocritically talking about repression and democracy in Iran. Yet it was the CIA that put into power and propped up the vicious regime of the shah, under whom similar scenes to what we are seeing on the streets of Iran today were played out again and again. And today the US and Britain support regimes which are equally adept at violent oppression, such as that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

While the alleged threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is played upon, the only actual nuclear power in the region, which happens to have a history of bloody military adventures and aggression, continues to threaten Iran. Israel undertook joint war games with the US in October to test its new ground-to-air missile defence system.

Imperialist warmongering and sanctions have undoubtedly damaged the mass and working class movement in Iran, but despite that at present that movement is very much on the offensive. The funeral of ayatollah Montazeri, who died on December 20, became a focus for the latest opposition protests, with hundreds of thousands attending. A founder of the Islamic Republic, he later became a loyal oppositionist who was horrified by the mass murder that took place under Khomeini, along with the embarrassment of the Iran-Contra affair. His funeral procession and the gatherings in Qom were attacked by state repressive forces, which only fuelled the protests.

Tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians came out onto the streets on Sunday December 27. Clashes took place in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Ardebil, Arababad and Mashhad. Martial law was declared in Najaf-Abad and at least four were killed in the city of Tabriz. In every part of Iran security forces, backed up by bassij militia and Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran), resorted to violence to put down protests.

In Tehran the supreme leader’s residence was surrounded by massed ranks of Pasdaran and police. Throughout the day chants such as “This month is a month of blood! Khamenei will be toppled!” rang out in the streets. A clear indication of how far the movement has come since the initial protests against the rigging of the June 2009 presidential elections by one wing of the regime against the other.

In Tehran clashes erupted at many religious sites, as people started to gather for the planned opposition protests. The fighting was intense, with security forces being forced to retreat, as demonstrators burnt police vehicles and bassij posts and erected barricades. In a couple of instances police and bassij were captured and detained by demonstrators and three police stations in Tehran were briefly occupied. Demonstrators also attacked the Saderat Bank in central Tehran, setting it on fire.

As the day wore on, the security forces began to crack, with the first division of the special forces refusing orders to shoot protestors. There are many pictures and videos that show police retreating or being beaten back. There are also unconfirmed statements from sections of the army declaring that they will not be used to put down popular unrest.

Over a week on it is still unclear how many were killed – reports range from seven to 15, but it is known that the nephew of ‘reformist’ leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi is among them. The official cause of the deaths that have been admitted varies from ‘accident’ to ‘murder by unknown assailants’. Marxist groups and the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) have also been blamed, although videos and pictures have been posted online of the bassij firing on demonstrators.

Hundreds have been incarcerated and 300 of those arrested during the recent protests have been moved to section eight of Gohardasht prison under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. Beatings, torture and rape of prisoners is continuing on a daily basis. Ebrahim Raiesi, first undersecretary of the judicature, said that the “rioters” will be prosecuted immediately and that charges range from “causing disorder” to “war against Islam” (which is punishable by death).

On December 30, 500 bassiji and Hezbollah attacked a gathering at the University of Mashhad armed with knives. They injured dozens of students and arrested over 200, possibly killing two. The day after, over 4,000 students and professors staged protests against the attacks and arrests at Ferdowsi and Azad universities, but were laid siege by security forces and militia.

Students, professors and parents have tried to find out information about those arrested and hospitalised. They sent a delegation made up of representatives from the university Islamic Society to meet with officials, but they were themselves arrested. Amongst them is Seyed Sadra Mirada, a relative of Khamenei.

Protestors have taken to chanting “Independence, freedom, Iranian republic” – a slogan that has been condemned by Moussavi as too radical, as the ‘reformists’ go to great lengths to try and impose some sort of control on the mass movement. Other slogans that have been used include “Not the coup government, nor America” and “No colour revolution here!”

The ongoing political crisis in Iran is compounded by the economic crisis caused by the neoliberal polices pursued by consecutive governments, the world economic crisis and sanctions. Inflation is running at over 25% and unemployment has reached 12.5% – nearing 30% for young workers – impoverishing millions of families. Workers in numerous industries have gone months without pay, and on January 4 those at the Mazandaran textile factory downed tools in protest against non-payment of wages and the laying off of workers on temporary contracts.

The economic situation and the political upheaval have fused the demands of the workers’ movement with those of students and the mass movement as a whole. More and more workers are taking part in, sometimes leading, the street protests. This has scared the authorities, who have begun rounding up known left and worker activists across Iran.

The regime aims to scare the movement off the streets with dire threats. On January 2 the Revolutionary Guard released a statement saying: “The devoted bassijis of Greater Tehran will smother all the voices that come out of the throat of the enemies of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.” This came amongst calls by leading conservative clerics, such as the chair of the Guardian Council, ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, for the execution of leading activists. A motion has been submitted to the Iranian parliament calling for “enemies of the Islamic Republic” to be hanged within five days.

The international workers’ movement must be prepared for a new round of mass murder in Iran. We must support our comrades in any way we can. The majority of the left has indeed come out in support. To its credit the Socialist Workers Party has continued to back the movement, whilst opposing imperialism – something it previously said the anti-war movement could not do. Maybe the SWP will now permit the affiliation of Hands Off the People of Iran to the Stop the War Coalition, now that the SWP itself has taken up a watered down version of Hopi’s principled stance.

However, there remain nominal socialists who defend the mass murder and repression of the regime in Iran. Respect MP George Galloway, Andy Newman (Socialist Unity blog and Respect member) and groups like the Stalinist CPGB-ML have all defended the “mature democracy” of the Islamic Republic (Newman – www.socialistunity.com/?p=5051) and poured scorn on the mass movement as an attempt at some sort of colour revolution. Such claims have clearly been disproved by what is happening on the streets and the slogans taken up by the movement. Newman has been particularly idiotic, opting to ignore the murder of thousands of trade unionists, socialists, feminists and LGBT people under the clerical regime and instead defending the miserly welfare provisions that exist in Iran.

Defenders of the regime see it as anti-imperialist, forgetting that the clerics have made deals with the imperialists before and will no doubt do so again, if they think that will maintain their rule. The Iran-Contra affair and the welcoming of the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are good indications of how consistently the theocratic regime ‘opposes imperialism’. No, the only genuine opponents of imperialism can be found on the streets: democrats, students and most of all the working class. It is these forces to whom we must give our support – in deeds as well as words.

It is essential to maintain a clear position of opposition to any faction of the Islamic Republic and to US-led imperialism. We must begin to strengthen the campaign against sanctions initiated by Hopi – Stop the War Coalition needs to take up this issue in a serious and organised way, so that the anti-war movement can begin to win the argument that sanctions undermine working class struggle through impoverishing the masses. We need to state loud and clear that sanctions are not some soft option, but part of the imperialist war drive.

Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri (1922-2009)

Montazeri The contradictory figure of Ayatollah Montazeri died in the early hours of Sunday, December 20. In one of his last statements, he warned that the current crisis in Iran was threatening the entire basis of the regime.

Yet how did this man – originally a stalwart of the state, one of the main architects of the Islamic Republic of Iran and, until 1989, a designated successor of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Khomeini – come to such a dramatic conclusion?

The official version of events has it that they fell out over Montazeri’s opposition to the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The truth is that conflict had flared between them earlier. Official history will remember Montazeri as the man who played a crucial role exposing the Iran-Contra scandal. This was a scandal that both revealed the emptiness of the regime’s ‘anti-imperialist’ credentials and also something about the nature of this man; a senior, yet simple cleric who had maintained illusions about these rhetorical pretensions (despite weight of the evidence to the contrary that had piled up by the mid-1980s).

Thus, he was genuinely horrified to discover that the inner circles of the regime – from Khomeini to Hashemi Rafsanjani, from Khamenei to Moussavi – were deeply implicated in the arms for hostages scandal. Iran was sold arms via Israel, including Hawk missiles, at a time at a time when the USA was publicly calling for a worldwide ban arms sales to the Islamic state.

Iran was loudly claiming to implacably oppose both US imperialism and the Zionist state. Yet the quid-pro-quo for the Israeli-brokered arms deal was Iran facilitating the release of US hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The negotiator in the US was Lt. Colonel Oliver North, a military aide to the National Security Council, reporting to Robert McFarlane, and later John Poindexter. An inventive reactionary, North improvised an addendum to the plan: diverting proceeds from the arms sales to support the counterrevolutionary Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Montazeri was horrified to when he found out about this sordid deal. It was his office that leaked the news of Reagan’s secret talks with Iran to a Lebanese newspaper and provided background information about the rest of the deal. The Lebanese paper’s scoop was picked up by the world’s media and this broke Iran-Contra affair worldwide.

Khomeini and others involved in the conspiracy were furious and started a campaign to undermine Montazeri. His solidarity organisation (set up to support ‘anti imperialist’ movements throughout the world) was taken over and its head, one of Montazeri’s relatives Mehdi Hashemi, was executed.

To undermine him, Khomeini’s inner circle (including Rafsanjani and Moussavi) encouraged rumours and jokes about his simple- mindedness. When Montazeri met students returning from higher education abroad, they introduced themselves to him as holders of Phds and MScs.  Montazeri was supposed to have replied that his son had a BMW.

At the end of the Iran Iraq war in 1988, Khomeini issued orders to execute political prisoners who were beyond ‘redemption’. That year, thousands of Mojahedin and communist prisoners were executed – despite the fact that most of them had already received custodial prison sentences or even had served their sentence and were eligible for release.

Montazeri broke ranks with other clerics in condemning the executions. In a letter to Khomeini he wrote : “our prison system and our human rights record are worse than the Shah’s regime”. All this despite the fact that he was aware of Khomieni’s illness and was thus potentially weeks away from becoming  “Supreme religious leader” himself.

Of course had he not been an Ayatollah, he would have paid with his life for any of the above offences. As an Ayatollah, Montazeri’s worst punishment was a period of house arrest in 1997 after he had criticised Khamenei’s leadership. In June 2009, he called the presidential election results fraudulent and later issued a fatwa against Ahmadinejad’s government.

Yet protest movements against religious states do not need ‘spiritual leaders’, and Montazeri himself would have objected to being dubbed as such by sections of the ‘Green Movement’ and the media. However, in one of his last statements he warned Khamenei that the current political crisis in Iran was now endangering the very existence of the Islamic regime. It is likely that the words of this senior cleric, one of the founding figures of  an Islamic Republic now riven with crisis, will haunt Iran’s rulers in the months to come as they stumble from one crisis to another.

Yassamine Mather, Hopi Steering Committee

Hopi activists at Azar 16 demo outside Iranian Embassy in London

hopibannerhigh On Monday December 7, Hands Off the People of Iran activists attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy to mark Students Day. It was particularly important for those outside Iran to express our solidarity because this year’s commemorations in that country have highlighted a deepening radicalisation of the student movement, with demonstrations spreading beyond the campus and onto the streets.

It was encouraging that around 350 protesters attended what was a rather impressively prepared event in London. There were marquees, generators, a powerful PA system, a green laser lighting up the Iranian embassy and green glow sticks available on demand. But the demonstration reflected much of the confusion prevalent amongst Iranian exiles (the Hopi contingent was the only non-Iranian group that took part). This was to be expected, since it was organised by the Iranian Green Movement in London. Official chants and slogans were limited to opposing Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, rather than the Islamic Republic as a whole.

The statement on the website of the Iranian Green Movement (www.londongreen.org/en/index.php) includes some supportable demands on freeing all political prisoners, freedom of the press and calling for public trials for those agents of the Islamic Republic who have committed crimes and tortured detainees (does that include leading ‘reformists’ like Mir-Hossein Moussavi?).

However, it has absolutely nothing to say on sanctions or war on Iran. Worse, it sows illusions in what the green movement claims is the “neutral” United Nations and its platitudinous Human Rights Declarations – calling for the UN to “oversee” a “free election” in Iran. Like the sham elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably …

In order to challenge this perspective, a smaller ‘red’ demonstration had been organised right next to the green tents and marquees. It was vociferous and energetic in calling for opposition to both imperialism and the whole Islamic regime, as opposed to this or that individual mullah, but – presumably by mutual consent – they were physically separated from the main demonstration by steel barriers and a row of police. The noise of the ‘green’ PA often drowned out the more principled politics.

Hopi activists distributed a leaflet entitled ‘Solidarity with the Iranian people, not Moussavi’. As well as outlining our internationalist, working class perspectives for Iran, the leaflet also carried a translation of the Iran Khodro car workers’ statement on the political crisis in the country.

Given our clear message, we were expecting to be met with a rather frosty reception. However, comrades found that there was very little difference in the way we were received by the ‘green’ and ‘red’ parts of the demonstration. Almost everybody appreciated the solidarity we have shown and many wanted further information about Hopi. We leafleted and sold papers to both sections in an atmosphere which contrasted favourably to other occasions. Following the rigged presidential elections, our comrades’ red flags were torn away by Moussavi supporters in Manchester, for example.

In view of this it was a little puzzling that the anti-regime left did not attempt to interact more directly with the ‘greens’ and those who hold illusions in Moussavi. Rather than mounting what was in effect a counter-demonstration, and being unable to make themselves heard, the ‘red’ section could have demanded speaking rights from the official organisers. The comrades were correct to retain their independent voice, however. We should not blur lines of principle. We should not encourage support for the theocrat Moussavi or seek to prettify his sordid record.

One Iranian comrade pointed out that many of those now in the ‘green’ part of the demonstration were actually familiar faces from past leftwing actions – people who consider it their duty as ‘Marxists’ to uncritically tail Moussavi.

As the mass movement inside Iran grows in confidence and the regime’s days appear increasingly numbered, the tasks of the solidarity movement remain the same: a fight on two fronts – against imperialist designs on Iran, and for unequivocal support for the Iranian masses. This necessitates taking a clear stand both against imperialist sanctions and war and against Moussavi, a butcher of the Iranian left. Both have the blood of workers, the left, democrats and secularists on their hands.

Ben Lewis

On Monday December 7, Hands Off the People of Iran activists attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy to mark Students Day. It was particularly important for those outside Iran to express our solidarity because this year’s commemorations in that country have highlighted a deepening radicalisation of the student movement, with demonstrations spreading beyond the campus and onto the streets.

It was encouraging that around 350 protesters attended what was a rather impressively prepared event in London. There were marquees, generators, a powerful PA system, a green laser lighting up the Iranian embassy and green glow sticks available on demand. But the demonstration reflected much of the confusion prevalent amongst Iranian exiles (the Hopi contingent was the only non-Iranian group that took part). This was to be expected, since it was organised by the Iranian Green Movement in London. Official chants and slogans were limited to opposing Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, rather than the Islamic Republic as a whole.

The statement on the website of the Iranian Green Movement (www.londongreen.org/en/index.php) includes some supportable demands on freeing all political prisoners, freedom of the press and calling for public trials for those agents of the Islamic Republic who have committed crimes and tortured detainees (does that include leading ‘reformists’ like Mir-Hossein Moussavi?).

However, it has absolutely nothing to say on sanctions or war on Iran. Worse, it sows illusions in what the green movement claims is the “neutral” United Nations and its platitudinous Human Rights Declarations – calling for the UN to “oversee” a “free election” in Iran. Like the sham elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably …

In order to challenge this perspective, a smaller ‘red’ demonstration had been organised right next to the green tents and marquees. It was vociferous and energetic in calling for opposition to both imperialism and the whole Islamic regime, as opposed to this or that individual mullah, but – presumably by mutual consent – they were physically separated from the main demonstration by steel barriers and a row of police. The noise of the ‘green’ PA often drowned out the more principled politics.

Hopi activists distributed a leaflet entitled ‘Solidarity with the Iranian people, not Moussavi’. As well as outlining our internationalist, working class perspectives for Iran, the leaflet also carried a translation of the Iran Khodro car workers’ statement on the political crisis in the country.

Given our clear message, we were expecting to be met with a rather frosty reception. However, comrades found that there was very little difference in the way we were received by the ‘green’ and ‘red’ parts of the demonstration. Almost everybody appreciated the solidarity we have shown and many wanted further information about Hopi. We leafleted and sold papers to both sections in an atmosphere which contrasted favourably to other occasions. Following the rigged presidential elections, our comrades’ red flags were torn away by Moussavi supporters in Manchester, for example.

In view of this it was a little puzzling that the anti-regime left did not attempt to interact more directly with the ‘greens’ and those who hold illusions in Moussavi. Rather than mounting what was in effect a counter-demonstration, and being unable to make themselves heard, the ‘red’ section could have demanded speaking rights from the official organisers. The comrades were correct to retain their independent voice, however. We should not blur lines of principle. We should not encourage support for the theocrat Moussavi or seek to prettify his sordid record.

One Iranian comrade pointed out that many of those now in the ‘green’ part of the demonstration were actually familiar faces from past leftwing actions – people who consider it their duty as ‘Marxists’ to uncritically tail Moussavi.

As the mass movement inside Iran grows in confidence and the regime’s days appear increasingly numbered, the tasks of the solidarity movement remain the same: a fight on two fronts – against imperialist designs on Iran, and for unequivocal support for the Iranian masses. This necessitates taking a clear stand both against imperialist sanctions and war and against Moussavi, a butcher of the Iranian left. Both have the blood of workers, the left, democrats and secularists on their hands.

Hopi Annual General Meeting

hopi-agm-logo-medSaturday November 28 2009
Somers Town Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, London NW1 1EE (near Euston station). Registration from 10am.

Download a leaflet here:  AGM leaflet front leaflet back


Since the June 2009 elections, the situation in Iran has dramatically changed. Thousands have taken to the streets in defiant protest – 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 repeatedly shown his timidity and ties to the theocratic state, the mood has radicalised dramatically and this anger has embroiled wide swathes of the society. Many of those who were initially protesting against the election outcome now question the entire basis of Iran’s Islamic republic and there are daily strikes and protests. Come along to our AGM to discuss this and many other issues.

Motions:
All Hopi members can submit motions, which will be taken during the relevant part of the agenda. Deadline for motions: Friday, November 20. Deadline for amendments: Wednesday, November 25.

Click here to read the motions.

Agenda:

  • from 10am
    Registration:
    £10 waged/£5 unwaged
  • 11am-11.30am
    Report
    of Hopi secretary Mark Fischer, incl. campaigning priorities for the next 12 months
  • 11.30am-1pm
    Imperialism’s need for conflict and the situation in the Middle East
    With Moshe Machover (Matzpen founder) and Mike Macnair (CPGB)
  • 1-2pm
    Lunch
  • 2pm-3.30pm
    Why sanctions are not a ‘soft alternative’
    With Cyrus Bina, author ‘Modern Capitalism and Islamic Ideology in Iran’
  • 4pm-5.30pm
    Iran’s workers’ movement since the June 2009 elections
    With Yassamine Mather, Hopi chair
    incl. Launch: Day of solidarity with workers in Iran

There will also be a fundraising event in the evening at the same venue. To find out more, or to reserve your place, send an email to office@hopoi.info