Mass protests in Iran: Death to the Islamic Republic! Victory to the Iranian people!

Yassamine Mather, Hopi chair, looks at the social upheaval englufing Iran and the tasks of internationalists

The election campaign of the four presidential candidates was largely ignored by the majority of the population until early June, when a series of televised debates triggered street demonstrations and public meetings. Ironically it was Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s fear of losing that prompted him to make allegations of endemic corruption against some of the leading figures of the religious state, including former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, former interior minister and adviser to supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei.

In doing so he crossed one of the red lines of the Islamic regime. Once that was done, the floodgates were open. The language used by all three of his opponents – Moussavi, Karroubi and Rezaii – became more colourful. As Ahmadinejad continued to rail against 20 years of corruption and political and economic interference by the “economic mafia” associated with important figures, including Rafsanjani (currently chairman of the ‘assembly of experts’ charged with electing the supreme leader), his opponents wasted no time in using equally strong language to condemn his own presidency, pointing out the worsening economic situation, mass unemployment and 25% inflation, as well as Iran’s “embarrassing international profile”.

28th Khordad-June 18th-08In response to these accusations, Ahmadinejad’s election campaign made some historic claims. Apparently he is the man who brought Islam to Venezuela and Latin America! He has secured a written apology from Blair (prompting a denial by the foreign office). And he is the only president who is so feared by the US that it has been forced to drop regime-change plans for Iran. At times Iranians must have thought their president and his supporters lived in a parallel universe.

In just 10 days the two opposed factions between them managed to expose every unflattering aspect of the 30-year-old Islamic regime. No-one in opposition could have done a better job – no-one else had such in-depth knowledge of the levels of corruption and incompetence prevalent among the inner circles of power.

It was unprecedented for the authorities, including Ahmadinejad’s government, to tolerate the various election gatherings and slogans. But the eyes of the world were now on Iran and the regime put on a show: Bassij militia and Islamic guards turned a blind eye to women who failed to adhere to Islamic dress code for the duration of the campaign. Comrades and relatives inside Iran were telling us the atmosphere was like the pre-revolution days of 1979. Political discussions were held at every street corner, political songs of the late 70s became fashionable amongst a generation born long after the February uprising.

Those who had advocated a boycott of the elections were constantly reminded that it was the mass boycott of the 2005 presidential elections that had allowed Ahmadinejad to come to power. Consequently many life-long opponents of the regime reluctantly decided to vote, if only to stop the re-election of the incumbent. On polling day the regime’s unelected leaders basked in the euphoria of a large turnout, yet they were already facing a dilemma: how to keep control in the post-election era.

If Mir-Hossein Moussavi did become president, those who voted for him would expect serious change and the supreme leader was well aware that neither he nor the new president would be able to meet expectations. That is why he and the senior religious figures around him decided to do what most dictators do: rig the elections and declare Ahmadinejad the winner. Nothing new in such measures; but the supreme leader and his inner circle made two major miscalculations: they underestimated the anger and frustration of the majority of the population; and they failed to realise that the high turnout could only mean a massive ‘no’ to Ahmadinejad and, by proxy, to the entire Islamic order.

Added to this was the sheer incompetence of the vote-rigging. In previous presidential elections, the vote had been announced province by province. This time the results came in blocks of millions of votes. Throughout the night the percentage of votes going to all four candidates changed very little. It seemed obvious that the interior ministry was playing with the figures to make sure the overall percentages remained constant.

Early on Saturday morning, the supreme leader congratulated Ahmadinejad, which was seen as official endorsement of the results. But by Sunday afternoon, under the pressure of impromptu demonstrations, he was forced to reverse this decision, and called on the council of guardians to investigate the other candidates’ complaints. By the afternoon of Monday June 15, with a massive show of force by the opposition – over a million demonstrators on the streets – he was instructing the council of guardians to call for a recount. By Tuesday there was talk of new elections.

Had our supreme leader studied the fate of that other Iranian dictator, the shah, he would have known that at a time of great upheavals, as in 1979, once the dictator hesitates and dithers he loses momentum, and the thousands on the street become more confident.

The slogans and militancy of demonstrators in Tehran and other Iranian cities is today the driving force in Iran – and not only for the supreme leader and his entourage. These slogans also dictate the actions of the so-called ‘official opposition’. The meek, scared Moussavi, whose initial response to the vote-rigging was to seek a reversal of the results by the “centres of Shia religious guidance”, suddenly gained courage and appeared at Monday’s protests. After promising that he would protect people’s votes, he could not ignore the tens of thousands who on Saturday and Sunday were shouting, “Moussavi, return my vote”, “What have you done with our vote?” and even one of the students’ slogans, “Death to those who compromise”.

28th Khordad-June 18th-06There can be no doubt that Ahmadinejad’s press conference and victory rally on Sunday played a crucial role in increasing the size of the anti-government demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. As riots were taking place all over the capital, the reference to Iran as a “very stable country” reminded many of the shah’s claims that Iran was an island of tranquillity, less than a year before he was overthrown. In response to a reporter’s question about protests in Tehran, the president referred to his opponents as “dust and tiny thorns”. A comment that he will regret forever, as the huge crowds on Monday and Tuesday kept taunting him.

Demonstrators in Tehran are also shouting slogans adapted from those of 1979, often prompted by leftists and students: “Tanks, guns, Bassij are not effective any more”, “Death to the dictator”, “Death to this regime that brings nothing but death”. Clearly the supreme leader’s standard response of bussing in supporters from the countryside to put up a well-orchestrated show of force (as they did for Sunday’s and Tuesday’s pro-Ahmadinejad rallies) does not work any more. Sunday’s event failed miserably, with reporters claiming that many of those arriving by bus could only speak Arabic. By Tuesday some of Ahmadinejad’s non-Iranian supporters arrived at the rally with yellow Hezbollah flags. As Mr Ahmadinejad has no supporters amongst Sunni Arabs in the Khouzestan province of Iran, if these reports are correct one could guess that participants at the state-organised rallies included the thousands of Shias invited in June every year from Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan to participate in the events commemorating the anniversary of the death of Khomeini.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few days. However, one can be certain that nothing will be the same again. No-one will forget the fact that both factions crossed many ‘red lines’, exposing each other’s corruption, deceit and failure. No-one will forget the obvious vote-rigging that makes a mockery of ‘Islamic democracy’ – when Moussavi called it a “charade” he was only echoing the sentiments of the masses.

On Tuesday another presidential contender, Mehdi Karroubi, said: “This week ‘the republic’ was taken out of the Islamic regime”. No-one will forget that the immediate response of the regime to peaceful protests was to arrest, beat up and shoot opponents. No-one will forget that at least seven people have been killed in these protests.

There is little doubt that Moussavi /Karoubi/Khatami and Mohsen Rezaii will look for compromises and will ultimately sell out. However, these protests have gained such momentum that already in Tehran people compare the plight of Moussavi (if he does become president) with that of Shapour Bakhtiar – the last prime minister appointed by the shah, whose government lasted a few short weeks before the revolution overthrew the entire regime.

However, before the British left gets too excited and starts sending its blueprints for revolution to Iran, let us be clear about some facts: working class organisation remains very weak during this crucial period; most of the Iranian left is as confused and divided as it was in 1979, but now, of course, it is much smaller. Repression against labour activists and leftist students is harsher than ever.

Yet students’ and workers’ organisations have been very active in the anti-government demonstrations and they have managed to change some of the slogans of the protests, turning anti-Ahmadinejad slogans into slogans challenging the entire Islamic ‘order’. There was talk of a one-day general strike. However the organisations discussing this decided to try to improve the left’s intervention in current events before contemplating such ambitious calls. We should not expect miracles, but one can see that unlike the Iranian exile left (some of whom have benefited from the largesse of organisations offering regime-change funds, while others have tailed rightwing-controlled international trade unions) the left inside Iran has been conscious of the revolutionary potential of this period and, given its relative weakness, is doing what it can to make an independent, principled, but systematic intervention. That is precisely why the authorities’ attacks on university campuses, where the left is strongest, have been so severe; and why we must do all in our power to support comrades in Iran.

When it comes to predicting Iranian politics, no one can claim to have a crystal ball. However, it is reassuring to see that the unique position Hands Off the People of Iran took – against imperialism, against the threat of war and for the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic regime – has been vindicated by the events of the last two weeks. Imagine what would have happened if during the last year we had witnessed a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear industry, or various US plans for regime change from above had materialised. Political Islam in Iran and the region would have been the undisputed winner of such a scenario. We were right to argue that positive change can only happen from below and from inside Iran and we will continue to maintain this position.

28th Khordad-June 18th-04At the same time, these events have exposed the ignorance of groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, whose leaders kept informing us about the virtues of Islamic democracy in Iran. We have seen the selection of candidates by an unrepresentative nominated council of guardians; the role of the supreme leader in inventing the results of an election; and the brutal repression of legal and official opponents. If that is what the regime can do to its own, one can imagine the kind of treatment reserved for its opponents.

But even under the threat of beatings and executions, an overwhelming majority of the Iranian people have shown that they do not believe SWP-type apologia. No-one in their right mind should ever make such claims again. Hopi’s judgement was correct and we did not compromise our principles; that is why, now that the Iranian working class is in need of international solidarity more than ever, we are in a good position to help deliver it.

More articles

Older articles

February 1979: After the revolution
When Ayatollah Khomeini arrived in Tehran on 1 February 1979, a brief period of freedom for Iranians came to an end. Hands Off the People of Iran chair Yassamine Mather looks at the development of the Islamic Republic’s suppression of dissent

February 1979: Women of the revolution
Thirty years after the toppling of the Shah in Iran, Hands Off the People of Iran supporter Azar Sheibani looks at how Iranian women have defied the reign of misogynist terror

Dogs, Fleas, Pigs ..and Sean Matgamna
Vicky Thomson

Nothing in common with those who excuse war
Interview with a leading member of Iranian Students for Freedom and Equality

Abominable Warmongering Left
Moshé Machover

Learn the lessons of the Fedayeen
Yassamine Mather

Lies, Obfuscation and Utter Nonsense
Tami Peterson

News Update: AWL leaders are still liars
Vicky Thomson

Excusing nuclear Armageddon
Mark Fisher and James Turley

We don’t want war,” say the AWL. “But if Israel attacks Iran, who are we to condemn it?
Vicky Thomson

Sons of Imam Matgamna
Yassamine Mather

Latest negotiations: war by other means
Following the Geneva talks, the threat against Iran is as real as ever, argues Ben Lewis

Tehran changes reflected in anti-war movement
Ben Lewis looks at the newly formed National Peace Council in Iran and warns against tailing such a supine political initiative

Dancing to the US tune
Suddenly, the SWP-backed Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran has no problem in criticising the Iranian government, writes Nick Jones

Third campism is a stinking corpse
James Turley argues that the left, rather than twisting words, must approach defeatism creatively

No Friends of Women
Yassamine Mather continues her discussion of political islam by examining the women’s movement in Iran, its achievements and contradictions

Communists for the imam’s line

Yassamine Mather continues her discussion of political islam. In this article she describes how the left’s illusions in Tehran’s ‘anti-imperialist’ foreign policies played into the hands of enemies of the working class

Sanctions hit workers, not theocratic regime

Yassamine Mather reviews the effect of US and UN moves against Tehran

Donkey economics and islamic martyrdom
Yassamine Mather looks at the theocracy’s political economy

Responding to Workers Power on HOPI

Behind the lies of Petraeus
What is the truth about Muqtada al-Sadr’s connections with Iran?
Yassamine Mather looks at al-Sadr’s pragmatic opportunism and puts the record straight

Basra shows anti-occupation momentum is growing
What lies behind the spin about the Iraqi ‘government’ attempting to take back control of Basra? Mike Macnair examines the issues.

Allying with imperialism
Hopi attends, but does not endorse pro-imperialist protest. Mark Fischer reports.

Bringer of death, destruction and disorganisation
March 20 is the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion. Mike Macnair examines the features of present-day US imperialism and sets out once again the basic tasks of the workers’ movement

Galloway’s Iranian propaganda?
The Respect MP has turned on supporters of gay rights in Iran and falsely accused us of warmongering, says Peter Tatchell

Defence of ‘western interests’
Hopi’s Yassamine Mather trounces Nick Cohen in debate, reports Mark Fischer

New Sanctions and More U.S. Threats Against Iran
By Larry Everest

Iran: No let up in US threats
Problems facing the peoples of Iran and West Asia are rooted in the contradictions of 21st century world capitalism, says Yassamine Mather

Preparing for the Hopi launch conference
Interview with Ben Lewis, member of the steering committee of Hopi

When Che’s Children Went to Iran
by Reza Fiyouzat

Who REALLY Holds the People of the World Nuclear Hostage?
Why a U.S. Attack on Iran Must be Stopped.
In his infamous “Axis of Evil” 2002 State of the Union address, Bush put Iraq and Iran in the bullseye of the next phase of the “war on terror.” He outlined what were to become the whole set of concocted lies about Iraq’s “WMDs”—lies used to justify a war that has brought about—according to documented estimates—over a million deaths and created four million internal and external refugees.

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism
by Samir Amin. All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity.

The 1979 revolution and the failures of the left
This document was written in early 1983 by Saber Nikbeen, (Torab Saleth) then a member of the International Executive Committee of the USFI (United Secretariat of the Fourth International, the most well-known leader of which was Ernest Mandel), as part of the pre-world congress discussions. The author of this document was very critical of the USFI for a de facto support of a grouping that had  illusions regarding  the Khomeini regime.

Filling a political gap
November 1 2007. Yassamine Mather of Hopi spoke to Mark Fischer after the Stop the War Coalition conference on October 27 2007

Lies cannot stop imperialists
In her speech to the October 27 conference of the Stop the War Coalition, Somaye Zadeh of Campaign Iran tried to counter the imperialist lies about the Tehran regime with misinformation of her own. Yassamine Mather insists upon the truth

Ditch the strategic illusion
Pro-Tehran apologetics in the Stop the War Coalition represents a kind of nostalgia for the ‘anti-imperialist front’, writes Mike Macnair

For principled solidarity
Unite in opposition to both imperialist war and theocratic rule, says Yassamine Mather

America’s Bleeding “Cakewalk”
March 2007. The campaign of misinformation by the Bush administration is already under way against Iran, writes Cyrus Bina

From Stealing to Robbing: A Post-Script to “No Blood for Oil!”
a talk given by George Caffentzis at Stony Brook University on March 27, 2003

Making Cars in Iran: Working for Iran Khodro
April 2007. Critique article by David Mather, Yassamine Mather & Majid Tamjidi

US ‘double or quits’ – Mike Macnair
March 16 2006. Three years after the invasion of Iraq, and with Iran now in US sights, ‘Out now!’ must still be our main demand, writes Mike Macnair

Defiance grows
May 3 2007. Immediately after the London May Day demonstration, Hands Off the People of Iran held a public meeting near Trafalgar Square. Hopi activist Torab Saleth introduced the discussion

Double standards in London and Tehran – Yassamine Mather
April 12 2007. In the furore over the capture of British sailors and marines and their theatrical release by Iran’s islamic regime, a number of essential points seem to have been forgotten by the British media, and even by so-called anti-war broadsheets, says Yassamine Mather

Will Tehran be next? – Yassamine Mather
February 22 2007. Every day the media publish new information about plans for a military attack on Iran and, although many of these stories are simply recounting previous revelations, there is no doubt that the danger of (limited or extensive) military action by the US is now very real. Yassamine Mather reports

Mobilise the dispossessed – Mehdi Kia

Not a mistake but a state crime – Mike Macnair

Heads in the sand – Yassamine Mather on the Stop the War Coalition’s Scottish conference

Defend Iran’s workers, not its rotten regime – Yassamine Mather

Against imperialist war, for Iran workers – Yassamine Mather

Bush ups the ante – Mike Macnair

Yassamine Mather explains why the campaign Hands Off the People of Iran has been set up

Imperialism and method – Mike Macnair

Imperialism versus internationalism – Mike Macnair

Imperialism lives on – Mike Macnair

Secrets and lies – Mike Macnair

Political Islam’s Relation to Capital and Class – Ardeshir Mehrdad and Yassamine Mather Journal Critique

Bitter Reality of political Islam: Lessons of 26 years of Islamic Power in IRAN – text of Yassamine Mather’s Yurukoglu lecture

Middle East: Imperial assault and tasks for the left – Ardeshir Mehrdad interviews Alex Callinicos

Political Islam – Capital and Class – Ardeshir Mehrdad and Yassamine Mather
Variant 25 Spring 2006

Middle East:Cradle or grave of the Empire – Ardeshir Mehrdad
‘Ahmadinejad – Myth and Reality’ Variant Autumn 2006

Iran’s workers need support Weekly Worker 639

Deliberate mistake? Why did Iran’s president demand that Israel be “wiped off the map”?

Against war, for workers’ rights Weekly Worker 623

Sabre-rattling threats – Weekly Worker 593

Workers Left Unity Iran – The anti war movement, Hezbollah and the issue of political freedoms

Fearing for the worst Weekly Worker 583

Dangerous adventure – Iran’s Nuclear industry

Basra quagmire – Yassamine Mather – Weekly Worker 613

The fake left looks to change from above Weekly Worker 582

Alliance Against War in support of Iranian workers’ struggles May 2006 – published in Variant and Workers Weekly

Workers Left Unity Iran calls for participation in 18 March Worldwide protests against the war

Reject sanctions and the mullahs

Open letter to the anti-war movement from Workers Left Unity Iran

La guerre et les luttes de classe Yassmine Mather – À L’Encontre

Conference Papers

Marxism Fringe July 2006 London University – The need for genuine working class internationalism, in particular when it comes to the question of Iran. Yassamine Mather

Conference

Empire and Beyond ,University of Leeds,Organised by The Conference of Socialist Economists, Capital and Class – ‘Car Workers in Iran – exploitation and conflict’ David Mather

Socialisti Parti (4th International) Sweden
Gutenberg April 2006
The anti war movement should support the struggles of Iranian workers

Meetings

Iran Discussion – Human Rights Film Festival Scotland – Sat 14 Oct 2006
Yassamine Mather ‘The practical solidarity of the anti-war movement should be directed primarily towards the Iranian people and in support of the daily struggles of Iranian workers for the right to survive.’

Centre for Socialist Theory and Movements – Glasgow University
Anti Imperialism and the true nature of political Islam. February 2006

Marxist Forum Scotland – June 2006 – Strathclyde University
Criticism of the antiwar coalition case of Iran
Speaker: Workers left Unity – Iran

Don’t attack Iran, Bring the Troops Home – Scottish Coalition Against the War
15 February : Speaker – Workers Left Unity – Iran

Students Against War – Feb 21
Speaker: Workers Left Unity – Iran

Meetings in Germany

Achse der friede
Speaker: Nader Sadeh

Marxistische initiative
Speaker: Nader Sadeh

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.

Videos from HOPI weekend school June 14-15

John McDonnell- the anti-war movement and challenges faced by HOPI

Bill Bowring and Mike Macnair- War, human rights, and humanitarian interventions

David Mather and Amir Javaheri Langaroudi – The working class


Torab Saleth – The 1979 Revolution and its aftermath


Moshe Machover – Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons


Christine Cooper – The effects of sanctions on Iran


Rahim Bandoui – National minorities in Iran


Azar Majedi – Can imperialism liberate women?

Principled approach to anti-war work

Hopi’s two day school reflects its resonance in the working class. Chris Strafford reports

Over the weekend of June 14-15 Hands Off the People of Iran held a successful school, with around 70 people attending some or all of the sessions. All the openings were recorded and will soon be available on the Hopi website.

Hopi chair Mark Fischer (CPGB) opened the event by explaining that Hopi’s message has found a “resonance” in the workers’ movement. Two important unions, PCS and Aslef, have recently affiliated, proving the majority of the Stop the War Coalition leadership wrong. At both conferences the delegates found Hopi’s principled stand – against imperialist war, against the theocratic regime – was not too complex, but blindingly obvious. Comrade Fischer reminded comrades of the growing threat of imperialist attacks on Iran, either directly from the USA or from its regional watchdog, Israel.

1979 revolution
Torab Saleth (Workers Left Unity Iran) spoke in the first session, titled ‘The 1979 revolution and its aftermath’. Comrade Saleth gave a detailed account of Iran’s revolutionary history, showing the influence of the 1905 revolution in Russia on Iran’s 1906 ‘constitutional revolution’.

Comrade Saleth recounted how Iran’s history has been one of constant intervention by imperialist powers – first Russia and Britain, and more recently the USA. In 1953 the CIA organised a coup to overturn the nationalisation of the oil industry. This was followed by the ‘white revolution’ in 1960, which was a “turning point in the transition to capitalism”. Land reforms under the shah brought about a massive growth of the industrial working class.

From 1976 the growing revolt of the urban proletariat crystallised in the ‘out of bounds’ revolt which spread into a strike wave and general strike which was “at its core an anti-capitalist revolution”. The religious opposition only came to the fore in 1978, with ayatollah Khomeini presented as the leader of the opposition, particularly by France. Comrade Saleth argued that the crisis brought on by the revolution gave the bourgeoisie and the imperialists only one option – the reluctant acceptance of a transfer of power to the shia hierarchy.

When in power Khomeini’s gang set about dismantling the democratic gains of the revolution and liquidating the revolutionary vanguard of the working class. By 1981 the revolution was defeated. Comrade Saleth finished his address by urging the left not to “fall into the trap” of supporting the ‘anti-imperialist’ islamists a second time, as it had during the 1979 revolution.

Several important questions were raised in the subsequent discussion – could Iran be called state capitalist, what was the role of US imperialism in the ascendancy of Khomeini, what were the errors of the majority of the left in the islamist counterrevolution? David Mather called the Iranian revolution a “historical tragedy” and explained that it produced a massive polarisation of the Iranian left between those that gave some kind of support to the theocratic regime (the ‘official’ communists, the Tudeh party, and the Fedayeen majority) and those that fought for working class independence.

Comrade Saleth ended the discussion by explaining that he did not believe in a US conspiracy to put Khomeini in power, as had been claimed from the floor. He stated that the “vast majority of the radical left only appreciated that it was facing a counterrevolution when it started killing them” – a devastating indictment of the left’s failure.

Afterwards a recorded message from Tehran students was played. They thanked Hopi for its valuable solidarity work, especially in raising the case of all those leaders who had been arrested. The students were adamant in opposing every imperialist threat, which had given the regime a pretext to suppress democratic opposition.

Sanctions

Christine Cooper explained that sanctions against Iran had first been adopted after the 1979 hostage crisis. She pointed out the selective nature of UN sanctions when it comes to nuclear development, as Pakistan and Israel have been allowed, even helped, in their acquisition of weapons of mass slaughter. And, of course, the imperialists themselves have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over.

Recent sanctions began with the voluntary restriction of arms sales and reconstituted uranium. Comrade Cooper explained that the effect of sanctions hit the poor the hardest, while the rich and the elite were easily able to escape their effects. Iranian capitalists have used sanctions as a reason not to pay workers and to sell up factories, etc. Inside Iran domestic investment is being discouraged by the falling rate of accumulation. Comrade Cooper said that it was only the oil profits that are keeping things from getting worst.

During the discussion John Bridge (CPGB) said that sanctions are a way to “ratchet up tension”, while other comrades raised the economic links between Iran, the EU and China, the effect of sanctions on the working class and whether US culture is still appealing to the Iranian youth.

The debate was taken in another direction, pre-empting a session the following day, when a member of the International Bolshevik Tendency argued that we should defend the right of Iran to have nuclear weapons. Unlike Iraq, North Korea’s nuclear weapons ensure that it will not be attacked by the US (although, of course, Iraq is strategically and economically much more important than North Korea). Comrades responded that, while we are for the defeat of imperialism, we should on no account give support to a reactionary regime just because it happens to be an enemy of the US imperialists.

Working class in Iran

The next session was ‘The working class movements and their responses to the economic crisis’ with David Mather and Amir Javaheri Langaroudi (Workers Left Unity Iran). Comrade Langaroudi had produced a 600-page document recording workers’ struggles in Iran from March 2007 to March 2008.

Comrade Mather outlined Hopi’s differences with both the leadership of the STWC and SWP on the one side and the social-imperialists on the other. He said that the class conflict in Iran looks set to intensify, with a further upsurge in strikes, as the implementation of neoliberal policies, coupled with high inflation, continues to bite.

Privatisation and casualisation of labour has intensified and workers have been deserting the official islamic councils and setting up their own independent organisations. At first workers’ protests had taken the form of protests through petitions and so on, but, as the regime responded with violence, the workers resorted to their strikes and other militant actions – there has been a debate within the workers’ movement over how far such actions should be taken.

He outlined the danger of the workers’ movement being diverted either by reformism or being lured by the anti-regime promises of the imperialists. He reminded comrades that, while Hopi was first and foremost an anti-war campaign, its support for all democratic and working class struggles in Iran was vital.

Comrade Langaroudi thanked comrades for the support they had given to the workers’ movement in Iran – over the last year more than 5,000 workers’ disputes had taken place across that country. His collection of photographs were on display over the weekend, illustrating a whole range of the struggles taking place over the last period and the extensive repression they have faced.

The discussion was kicked off by Nick Rogers (CPGB) who said that the regime was openly anti-working class and that any notion of a united front with it was not on the cards. He said that a “burning question” for us concerned the need for working class independence. The application of the early Comintern thesis on the anti-imperialist united front had led to disaster after disaster – not least the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The discussion then centred around the strength of the working class movement, its national coordination, the threat of its manipulation by imperialism and the form future working class resistance will take.

‘Human rights’

The final session of the day was titled ‘War, human rights and humanitarian interventions’ with Bill Bowring and the CPGB’s Mike Macnair. Comrade Bowring argued that there had been three generations of ‘human rights’.

The first generation were the civil and political rights achieved by the French Revolution. Those of the second generation were social and economic or ‘red rights’, which were a response to the Russian Revolution. Third generation rights concerned independence and the right to self-determination, which he dated to the post-1960s struggles for decolonisation. Comrade Bowring said that outside “intervention” is always a disaster and that any democratic revolution must take into account questions of national democracy.

Comrade Macnair said that, however legal an imperialist war may be, it should always be opposed absolutely by our movement. He argued that we should challenge international law with the alternative principles of human/working class solidarity and republican equality – the latter being the equality between nations with no permanent relation of domination.

The discussion was once again lively, with contributions questioning the concept of republican equality, and the relationship between national self-determination and working class solidarity. But controversy was once more instigated by the IBT, whose comrades demanded that Hopi should “take a side” with Iran, an oppressed nation, against imperialism.

Comrade Peter Manson (CPGB) said that our desire to see the defeat of imperialism should never lead us to support a viciously anti-working class regime like the Iranian theocracy – we oppose imperialism because we seek to advance the cause of the working class, not hold it back. Comrade Bridge ridiculed the Trotskyist absurdity, to which the IBT subscribes, that regimes like that of Iran should be supported militarily but not politically. These comrades’ support takes the form of propaganda, not armed detachments.

National minorities

The second day was opened with another recorded message from an Iranian comrade, who spoke about the women’s movement and its growing strength. The comrade also spoke about the contradictions within the movement that are being played out in the campaign to raise one million signatures.

Rahim Bandoui from the Baluchistan People’s Party gave an insightful talk on national minorities in Iran, home to many nationalities that have been used to further the aims of imperialist powers throughout history. It was only in 1925 that attempts were made to unify Iran into a centralised state, which saw the suppression of minority rights, languages and religions.

Comrade Bandoui argued that imperialism had used reactionary islamist forces to contain the Soviet Union. But now defeating the islamist regime demanded not imperialist intervention, but the unity of all nationalities and left and progressive forces. Comrade Bandoui was against the nationalist break-up of Iran, suggesting that a democratic solution would entail a federal arrangement. He reminded comrades that the national movements in Iran need the support of workers across the world – otherwise the danger of US manipulation will be very real.

After the break John McDonnell MP gave a positive talk on the achievements of Hopi and the immediate tasks of the campaign over the coming period (see p6). The discussion afterwards was open and self-critical. Comrades talked about strengthening our links with the trade unions and building a stronger base of support in the workers’ movement. Participants also discussed the impact Hopi has had on the anti-war movement and the left, with Ann Mc Shane of Hopi Ireland describing the hostility of the SWP-led anti-war movement, even though it had adopted some of our slogans.

Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons
Moshé Machover recalled the creation of Israel and its role in the Suez crisis, which he described as a turning point in history. Comrade Machover explained that we should look at Suez as an example of how a war with Iran may be started – with the USA coming to the ‘defence’ of Israel after it had made the first move.

He spoke about US toleration of Israel’s development of nuclear technology in exchange for Israel’s role as a watchdog of imperialism. The USA had taken over France’s role as Israel’s biggest backer. Comrade Machover explained that until the 1979 revolution Iran and Israel had been “two pillars of US imperialism”. He argued that the nuclear issue was a pretext for US intervention and pointed out that, while there was no proof that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, Israel’s own nuclear arsenal is a constant provocation.

Women in Iran

Azar Majedi (Organisation of Women’s Liberation Iran) began the final session by declaring that “no-one thinks an attack would save anyone”. Comrade Majedi went on to describe the brutal crackdown on women and all those opposing the theocratic regime since 1981. She explained that the women’s movement in Iran has deep historical roots going back to opposition to the shah.

She argued that Iranian women were better placed than their Saudi counterparts because of this long history and the vibrant movement which still exists. She went on to describe the March 8 movement, which organised a week of demonstrations and discussions and has received widespread support, even though leading members had been arrested.

Comrade Majedi explained that there is now a new generation of activists in the women’s movement in Iran. This movement has also converged with the students’ movement, which has drawn many men into supporting women’s demands and aspirations. They have done this in spite of massive repression. She described the revolutionary potential of the campaign for women’s rights.

Yassamine Mather closed the weekend school by thanking participants and summarising John McDonnell’s suggestions for the coming period. Afterwards Hopi supporters attended the demonstration against George Bush’s visit to London, where 25 people were arrested and two injured following a police blockade and baton-charge.

For more information on speakers and sessions Click here

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.