Category Archives: Statements / Positions

Leaflet: No new sanctions

Iran: Oppose all sanctions
Support working class self-liberation from below!

Click here to download leaflet in PDF format

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.

No to Zionism’s barbaric war!

January 2009

Click here to download the leaflet in PDF format

Hands Off the People of Iran unreservedly condemns the massacre of Palestinians by Israeli military forces. Air raids on Gaza have killed over a thousand people and a land invasion with tanks and heavy weaponry has created hell for the inhabitants of Gaza. No words can express our horror at the barbaric actions of the utterly unscrupulous set of leaders in Israel using their soldiers to commit war crimes.

Clearly this operation is in line with US imperialist strategy in the region, part of the so-called ‘war on terror’. This is confirmed by the refusal of the current President and President elect, Obama, to condemn Israel or to support calls for a ceasefire.

The biased reporting of these events by sections of the Western media has given the impression that this is a war against Hamas and Islamic fundamentalism. The reality is that the victims of the onslaught are defenceless Palestinians who in a desperate search for any viable opposition to Israeli colonialism voted for Hamas in 2006.

The Palestininan people have the right to resist. But this does not mean that HOPI politically supports Hamas. We do not believe it offers a real alternative to imperialism. Its politics will lead to further disasters. However, we reject the lies about Hamas told by Israeli military spokespersons to justify their barbaric war.

Very few reporters have reminded their audience that it was Israeli forces that broke a four-month long ceasefire on November 4. Few have mentioned the fact that in the late 1980s, it was Israel that supported Hamas in order to weaken secular, leftist Palestinian groups. Few have reminded their audience that Israel actually encouraged the corrupt and pliant Fatah leadership to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power – a poisonous policy of divide and rule.

Aggressive American neo-con-servatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. (Avi Shlaim – The Guardian January 7 2009). The reactionary Arab regimes in the region have once again proved they have no intention of supporting the Palestinians beyond some tired rhetoric. Egypt has actually aided the Israeli blockade, closing the Gaza frontier both to humanitarian aid and to volunteers attempting to bring in medical aid.

As far as the Iranian government is concerned, after all the empty slogans and propaganda in defence of ‘Palestine’, its current near silence on Zionism’s atrocities speaks volumes.

Ahmadinejad’s posturing and provocations, whether over nuclear weapons or the decision to host neo-Nazis in Tehran, have only helped Israeli propaganda and the warmongers in Washington. Yet even in the field of diplomatic efforts, Iran’s response to the Gaza carnage is muted. At a time when Palestinians need regional help, the regime puts its own interests first and keeps its head down.

No one should put any trust in the Islamic regime in Tehran. It has actually helped the enemy sow sectarian division among the Palestinians in Lebanon and Iraq. Iranian-backed militias have ethnically cleansed thousands of Palestinian refugees from Iraq, under the eyes of the occupation regime. The Iranian rulers have traded oil and arms with Israel, and if they use the Palestinian people to serve their interests today, it would be as pawns, to be sacrificed tomorrow.

However the working people of Iran have a right and duty to aid the Palestinian people in any way they can; but not because of a shared religion. Instead, this should be offered as an expression of international working class solidarity. This tradition has deep roots in the history of the mass radical left forces in the region.

Hopi condemns Ahmadinejad's "Alternative Christmas Message"

December 25 2008

Every year, the British television broadcaster Channel 4 produces an alternative to to the Queen’s Christmas speech. In previous years it has been delivered by a fully veiled Muslim woman and Genelle Guzman, a 9/11 survivor. This year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke for seven minutes.

He used the speech to condemn Western leaders for their neglect of Jesus’ teachings, saying “Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice”.

Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) does not believe Ahmadinejad is a responsible choice for the Christmas speech: he is a right-wing hardliner, whose regime persecutes women, LGBT people, ethnic minority groups, trade unionists and socialists, secularists and political dissenters. In addition, Ahmadinejad was a supporter of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and is currently benefiting from these occupations.

Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, claimed the network had a responsibility to broadcast “alternative voices”. Hopi believes this decision was taken purely to court controversy and demands that Channel 4 issue a full apology. A far better choice for the alternative Christmas message would have been one of the many organisations and individuals fighting both for freedom in Iran and against the possibility of imperialist war on their country, such as the group “Students for Freedom and Equality”.

The political situation, war and imperialism

Position paper adopted HOPI conference December 13 2008

1.  Conference notes:

1:1 That despite the election promises of the new administration in the USA and various pronouncements by its allies, the threat of yet another US-led war in the Middle East has not gone away. On the surface, it seems that a direct military attack on Iran by the US is now less likely. However, the new US regime is set on increasing the economic warfare on Iran by tightening the already destructive sanctions. Also, the current global economic crisis is likely to make world imperialism even more belligerent, thus increasing the threat.

1:2 That even if the latest economic crisis of the world capitalist system may temporarily divert the attention of imperialists, the colonialist state of Israel is increasingly voicing its readiness to do its US master’s biddings and drag the whole region into a devastating war.

1:3 That the ‘soft war’ on Iran, which is already well underway in the form of so-called UN sanctions, is drastically bolstered by Barack Obama’s proposed new raft of sanctions against companies exporting refined petrol to Iran.

1:4 That the programme of sanctions imposed so far has on the one hand strengthened the theocratic dictatorship in Iran whilst on the other hand has drastically worsened the situation of the vast majority of Iranian people. Whilst inflation and unemployment have more than doubled over the last 2 years, the Iranian regime’s expenditure on its apparatus of repression has quadrupled.

1:5 That the Iranian regime has used the sanctions and the threat of an external war both to cover up its collusion with the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and its horrendous repression against workers, students, women and national and religious minorities inside Iran.

1:6 That the refusal of the 2007 conference of the Stop the War Coalition to allow the affiliation of HOPI reflects its unwillingness to countenance criticism of the Islamic government of Iran and as a result undermines the unity and effectiveness of the anti war movement.

1:7 That the decline in anti-war mobilisations has reached alarming levels. The failure to organise effective solidarity with the Iranian peoples has created the danger that the democratic struggles of the Iranian peoples are hijacked by US imperialist propaganda.

2.  Conference resolves:

2:1 To continue a principled campaign against imperialist sanctions and military interventions in Iran whilst defending the just struggles of workers, students, women and national and religious minorities against the barbaric capitalist theocracy in Iran.

2:2 To continue exposing imperialist-sponsored “solidarity” with the people of Iran whilst opposing the machinations of the Iranian regime in transforming the anti-war movement into its own ally.

2:3 To increase its efforts in organising effective solidarity with the all the progressive struggles of the Iranian people for socialism and democracy.

2:4 To further this end by seeking affiliation to the Stop the War Coalition and encouraging all supporters to join its ranks.

Barack Obama: has the threat of war gone away?

November 4 2008

Barack Obama’s victory has enthused millions of people across the globe. But anti-war activists should be careful not to cheer him too loudly.

Much was made of his claim to want to meet Iran’s president Ahmadinejad “without preconditions” to sort out the ‘disagreements’. And, after all, both have quite a lot in common: they want to see the Shia government succeed in Iraq and are strong opponents of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But Obama has also made clear that he will do “anything” to stop Iran from developing the facility to produce nuclear weapons. He has “not ruled out” the prospect of war.

Furthermore, “If Iran continues its troubling behaviour, Obama and Biden will step up our economic pressure and political isolation”, it says on Barack Obama’s campaigning website. So, even harsher sanctions and economic warfare are likely to be introduced by new US President – which will hit the poor and the working class the hardest.

Much has been made of Obama’s announcement to “withdraw American troops from Iraq by 2010” – less well known is the fact that 30,000 soldiers will remain in Iraq after that, to protect foreign businesses and diplomats and to train the Iraqi security forces. He also wants more troops in Afghanistan and extend the so-called ‘war on terror’ to Pakistan: another 10,000 soldiers will be sent there.

A quick look at his advisers and potential cabinet members he is currently assembling also tells us a lot about his views on the future of the Middle East:

– There is speculation that Hillary Clinton might become his Secretary of State. She has, of course, voted for the war on Iraq and has threatened to “obliterate” Iran if it uses nuclear weapons against Israel.

– Madeleine Albright (appointed by Barack Obama to represent him at the G20 meeting last weekend) was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State and as such responsible for Clinton’s Nato-war on Yugoslavia and imposing the horrific sanctions on Iraq. In her now infamous TV interview on the programme ‘60 minutes’ in 1996, she said of the estimated 500,000 deaths resulting from the sanctions: “We think the price is worth it”. She also couldn’t rule out a war against Iran: “This last resort can never be given up”, she told Prague-based CT1 television.

– The Republican Colin Powell, rumoured to be given the post as Education Secretary, was George W. Bush’s Secretary of State during the 2003 Iraq invasion and the head of the US armed forces during the 1991 Gulf war.
While President Obama might suspend the sable-rattling against Iran for a while, it is clear that he will not bring war in the Middle East to an end. And the threat of an attack on Iran has certainly not gone away. Quite the opposite: the global financial crisis is making imperialism more belligerent, not less.

Has the threat of war subsided?

October 16 2008

Does the current economic crisis and the collapse of banks and financial institutions mean the threat of war against Iran has subsided? We believe that the opposite is true. In the past, capitalism in decline has often turned to external war to solve its problems at home. There are reports that influential voices in the Israeli government and secret service are increasing their efforts to lobby the US government to “deal with Iran” before George W. Bush leaves office (click here to read an interesting article on this matter by David Owen, former foreign secretary:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4926251.ece)

But a change of the ruling administration will not make a big difference either. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have made clear that they see Iran as a “threat” and would be prepared to use military force to attack its nuclear installations. There is also the danger of unilateral military action by Israel, designed to provoke some sort of retaliation of Iran, so that the US is obliged to get involved and ‘defend’ Israel. Meanwhile, the sanctions against Iran are nothing but war with other means – they hurt particularly the poor and dispossessed.

We in Hopi are firmly on the side of the women’s, workers’ and students’ movements who are struggling against of the threat of war and their own repressive regime. We believe that democracy cannot be delivered from outside – be it by military means, sanctions or US-financed coups. We want regime change, both in Iran and in the imperialist countries. But we know that change must come from below – from the struggles of the working class and social movements – if it is to lead to genuine liberation.

UK unions take principled stand against war on Iran

June 6, for immediate release

AS IMPERIALIST THREATS AGAINST IRAN GROW, SECOND UK UNION AFFILIATES TO HOPI

Delegates to the June 2-6 Nottingham conference of the train drivers’ union, Aslef, voted unaminously to make their union the second to affiliate to Hands Off the People of Iran in just 2 weeks. They joined the PCS, the 300,000-strong civil servants union, in lending their support to Hopi.

The gathering pace of Hopi’s support is crucial in a period when authorative leaks from Washington tell of Bush secretly briefing key US senators on plans to launch air strikes against Iran with the next two months.

In what must be an orchestrated move with the US, a deputy prime minister of Israel, Shaul Mofaz, has warned that an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites was “unavoidable” unless Tehran halts its alleged weapons programme. Meanwhile, the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, met US president George Bush on June 4 to discuss concerns over Iran’s supposed nuclear threat, something he has stated “must be stopped by all means possible”. (While no one has produced a shred of evidence that Iran – a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty – is making nuclear weapons, there is plenty of evidence that Israel (which refuses to sign the NPT) has a huge nuclear arsenal).

Mark Fischer of the Hopi steering committee commented:

“This underlines the importance of Hopi’s unequivocal stance in its founding statement against ‘Israeli expansionism and aggression’ and for ‘a nuclear-free Middle East as a step towards a nuclear-free world’.

“We also have to set these statements against the background of Barack Obama’s hawkish June 4 speech, where he pledged his ‘unshakable commitment’ to Israel and warned that if elected president he would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon’. Attitudes towards Iran are hardening in the US political elite and in its close Middle East ally, Israel. The threat of a new war is growing.”

Hopi says that the organised working class movement is the key to any successful fight against imperialist war. The action take by Glasgow train drivers in 2003 when they refused to move arms freight is a glimpse of its power – this is the sort of determination we need again if we are to have a chance of stopping a new disaster for the peoples of the Middle East.
ENDS

NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS

1. ASLEF is Britain’s trade union for train drivers. Its 18,500+ members are employed in the train operating companies, the freight companies, London Underground and some Light Rapid Transport.

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).

4. However, Hopi supporters have remained members of the StWC and intend to challenge this undemocratic exclusion at the coalition’s AGM in the Autumn.

MAJOR UK UNION TAKES STAND AGAINST WAR ON IRAN

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.

ENDS


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.”

Jon Gamble

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)