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)

Why we cannot politically support the day of action on March 6 2008

What sort of solidarity do workers in Iran need?

  • Click here to download the leaflet that we will be distributing on March 6

Supporters of Hands Off the People of Iran will be taking part in the day of action on March 6 to highlight the plight of Iranian trade unionists currently languishing in the prisons of the regime (Ossanlou, Salehi and many others). However, we draw the line at politically endorsing these protests.

The groups centrally involved in organising this mobilisation (the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)) are deeply compromised politically. They are more or less silent on the role of imperialism in the region and – in truth – are junior partners in implementing the reactionary agendas of the US and its allies.

The official leaflets to mobilise for this day of action focus almost exclusively on opposition to the theocratic regime. But the Iranian working class is facing two enemies – both the Ahmadinejad regime and the biggest enemy of it and the world’s working class, imperialism.

The negative impact that the pressure of US-led imperialism has already exerted on the Iranian working class does not merit a mention in the publicity material of the IFT and ITUC. The looming threat of war and sanctions have cost the jobs of thousands of Iranian workers – and those that protest to defend their conditions against the anti-democratic attacks of the theocratic regime are branded as “traitors” or “dupes of imperialism”. Iranian workers are struggling daily against the Islamic Republic’s attacks – privatisations, casualisations, systematic non-payment of wages and attacks on effectively organised trade unions that stand up to this vicious exploitation.

Yet, in this, the theocracy is just enthusiastically enforcing neo-liberal economic policies dictated by the World Bank and the IMF! No wonder there is no enthusiasm amongst the working class and radical movements of Iran for regime change ‘George Bush style’. Not only do they have the grinding experience of what this already means for their daily struggle to live, they have only to glance at the nearby hell that imperialism has fashioned in Iraq to understand that the chance for genuine democracy and social change must come from their own struggles, not from reactionary self-appointed ‘saviours’. Organisations such as IFT or ITUC that are silent on imperialism – and those on the left that uncritically tail them – effectively provide a left cover for the war plans of Bush.

Hopi has a totally different approach to solidarity. We are clear moribund capitalism – imperialism – has no answers either for the people of Iran or anywhere else on the globe. We want direct links of support between the working class in Iran and internationally that are ideologically, politically and materially totally independent of either imperialism or the theocratic regime. In today’s world, democracy and progressive social change comes from struggles only from below – whether in the Middle East, in Europe or in the United States itself.

Click here to read the motion on workers in Iran passed at the Hopi launch conference plus our model trade union resolution.

Videos from launch conference

Hopi launch conference – videos


Yassamine Mather
welcomes participants
to the conference

Torab Saleth (Workers
Left Unity Iran) leads a
commemoration for the
Iranian victims of imperialism
and the theocratic regime

Mark Fischer (Communist
Party of Great Britain) explains
why democrats and socialists

must fight on two fronts

Does Iran have the right to
have nucelar weapons?
Israeli socialist Moshe Machover

David Mather (Hopi
Glasgow) talks about
‘workers’ struggles in Iran’

Mike Macnair (Communist
Party of Great Britain)
discusses imperialism’s
interest in the Middle East

Andrew Coates (TGWU/ Unite  the Union, Ipswich) speaks in  the general debate

Mike Martin (Hopi Sheffield)
speaks in the general debate

Kath McMahon (Hopi Edinburgh)
speaks in the general debate

Stuart King (Permanent
Revolution) speaks in the
general debate

Steven Monaghan (Hopi North
West) speaks in the general debate

Anne Mac Shane (Hopi Ireland)
speaks in the general debate

Tami Peterson (Labour
Representation  Committe and  Labour Briefing) speaks in the
general debate

Charlie Pottins (Jewish
Socialists  Group) speaks
in the general debate

Tony Greenstein (Brighton
Unemployed Centre) speaks
in the general debate

Stuart King argues that the
founding statement of
Hands Off the People of
Iran should not contain
opposition  to nuclear weapons. Israeli socialist Moshe
Machover disagrees.

Ben Lewis (Communist Students)
urges the founding conference of Hands Off the People of Iran to support the students’ protests in Iran.

Nick Jones (Communist Students)
moves a motion on the ban of Hands Off the People of Iran to affiliate to the Stop the War Coalition.

Mark Fischer (Communist
Party of Great Britain) defends amendment to the founding
statement of Hands Off the
People of Iran that declares
‘Imperialism is the main enemy‘.