Hands Off the People of Iran congratulates Labour’s John McDonnell on his appointment as shadow chancellor. The MP for Hayes and Harlington was a founding member of HOPI and is honorary president of the organisation. He has consistently opposed imperialist intervention in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as supporting movements for democracy from below.
We feature below a video of John addressing a day school held by HOPI in 2008.
Hands Off the People of Iran has been accused by some forces in the orbit of the Iran Tribunal of abandoning its central political slogans and effectively becoming an apologist for the Tehran regime. Hopi categorically rejects these accusations. Our opposition to the IT flows precisely from the principles embodied in our founding statement – principles that uphold implacable opposition to both imperialism and the theocratic regime. At the same time we were – and remain – crystal-clear about where change must come from: the struggles of the working class and the social movements.
Our criticism of the Iran Tribunal and the left organisations that have collaborated with it flows from this. The refusal of this body to stand against sanctions and the threat of war against Iran makes its condemnation of the regime’s crimes – accurate though they are in the abstract – an aid to imperialism’s plans and manoeuvres in the region. Quite apart from murky questions to do with the tainting of the IT through funding or indirect support, its silence on US threats and the possibility of an Israeli attack provide a damning indictment of the whole initiative.
Despite protestations to the contrary, some of those on the ‘left’ who have cooperated with the IT have effectively given up on the ability of the working class to win fundamental change in Iran. Their political decay and disorientation is illustrated by the agency they now look to in order to defeat the theocratic regime: the stance of the IT proves that, for these people, that force is now imperialism. Others who have given their support in hope of raising awareness of the crimes committed by the theocratic regime have done so at a political cost that is too high. Whatever media interest has been gained has been placed within the framework of strengthening the imperialist arguments for deeper sanctions and the possibility of a military strike.
In stark contrast, Hopi stands proudly by the founding principles we adopted at our first conference in 2007:
No to any imperialist intervention. The immediate and unconditional end to sanctions on Iran.
No to the theocratic regime.
Opposition to Israeli expansionism and aggression.
Support to all working class and progressive struggles in Iran against poverty and repression.
Support for socialism and democracy in Iran and therefore solidarity with all democratic, working class, socialist and secular movements in that country.
Opposition to Israeli, British and American nuclear weapons. For a Middle East free of nuclear weapons as a step towards worldwide nuclear disarmament.
Yassamine Mather and Mark Fischer of Hands Off the People of Iran explain why the so-called “Iran Tribunal” that has been taking place in London, should not be supported by socialists and communists: because of its financial support from the US government and its silence on the threat of war it is implicitly acting in a pro-imperialist manner. The tens of thousands of communists and socialists who were murdered by the regime, on the other hand, were always clear that they were opposing two enemies: the theocracy AND imperialism
Michael Copestake reports on HOPI’s successful weekend school
“The only thing that is certain is uncertainty,” said Labour MP John McDonnell in his talk at the April 21-22 weekend school organised by the Hands Off the People of Iran at the University of London Union.
Given the negotiations between the five members of the United Nations security council plus Germany and Iran that have just completed in Istanbul and are due to resume next month in May in Baghdad (of all the places to talk peace in the Middle East, could there be a more ironic one?) and the decline in the number of those mobilised on demonstrations and marches against war, the truth of this statement should be well noted by all. The continued threat of direct military action against Iran combined with factors such as the US electoral cycle constitute a heady and unpredictable brew.
The weekend school was part of the continued efforts of Hopi to reorientate the left against both the imperialist war drive and the sickening anti-working class regime of the Iranian state itself. Aiming to provide an analysis of the forces driving to war and the general condition of the Iranian state and society, Hopi brought together a range of speakers, including Iranian activists and exiles, National Union of Journalists president Donnacha DeLong, as well as comrade McDonnell himself.
The speaker for the first session on the Saturday was CPGB’s Mike Macnair, who sought to explain what he judged to be the increasingly irrational military adventures of the United States and its imperialist allies. These tend to end in social chaos, as in Iraq, rather than the imposition of some pax Americana, and comrade Macnair linked them to three distinctive cyclical tendencies within capitalism.
The first of these is the business cycle, which in its upswing phase imbues a sense of optimism and belief in progress, while a period of downturn or stagnation provokes attempts, including through war, to distract attention from the ensuing crises of capitalist legitimacy.
The second cycle is much longer-lasting and relates to the rise and decline of the hegemonic capitalist state itself. Giving examples of this process from history, comrade Macnair referred to the Netherlands, the British empire and now, in the present day, the United States itself. Here the qualities which create the success of the new pretender in stealing the crown from the previous declining hegemon breed their own failure over time. These take the form of the loss of previously world-beating industrial production, which provokes the use of brute military force to maintain ‘top dog’ status – irrational adventurism in order to maintain credibility and deter potential successors.
Lastly there is the general decline of capitalism itself, said the comrade. This expresses itself in the fact that United States intervention has not stimulated the significant economic development of capitalism in the states where it has intruded that was seen in the case of previous imperial powers. Taking patterns of immigration as a measuring stick, comrade Macnair noted that previous empires led to an exodus of the population of conquering powers to the new colonies, whereas today the reverse is true – people from the oppressed countries are driven to seek a better life in the core countries.
It is the failure of much of the left to understand these factors that leads it down the dead end of calling for the bourgeoisie, in essence, to act more rationally: it should desist from starting wars and spend the money on the welfare state or whatever. But that fails to grasp the wider – perfectly rational from the point of view of imperialism – imperatives that drive the seemingly crazy waves of destruction.
This interpretation proved controversial for some in the debate that followed, with speakers questioning the category of ‘irrationality’ and suggesting it was lacking in explanatory power. Others pointed out that the war on Iran has been a long time coming, with sanctions going back over 30 years, when capitalism was, presumably, still more ‘rational’. The connection between the business cycle and general political ideology was questioned by one speaker, as was the phenomena of a ‘cyclical hegemon’, while another comrade wondered exactly why China might not be a legitimate rival to the US for this position. During the following exchanges comrade Macnair offered a robust defence of his thesis and expanded on many of its elements in relation to the points being made.
Iran working class
Iranian trade unionist and former political prisoner of the Iranian regime, Majid Tamjidi, gave an illuminating and hard-headed assessment of the plight of the Iranian working class, caught as it is in the vice of imperialist sanctions and neoliberal Islamic despotism.
What came through in comrade Tamjidi’s talk was the nightmarish coincidence of the needs of the US and Iranian states, which serves to push both further down the road towards military conflict. The bluster and bravado with which the Iranian regime responds to sanctions and threats of war feed US portrayals of Iran as intransigent and in need of a swift and harsh remedy. The missing element in the narratives of both the imperialist and Iranian governments is the masses themselves, yet they are being crushed under the weight of both sanctions and the neoliberal policies of the theocratic state, resulting in 60% of Iranians living below the poverty line, 12 million on insecure ‘instant dismissal’ temporary work contracts, and at least 30,000 deaths per annum in workplace accidents.
This focus on the desperate economic situation of Iran and the Iranian working class was picked up in a session on the second day on the political economy of Iran, addressed by Mohamed Shalgouni of the Organisation of Revolutionary Workers in Iran and Hopi chair Yassamine Mather.
The audience was straining to hear the words of comrade Shalgouni, not just because he was so quietly spoken, but because of the great interest in the things he had to say. He provided a compelling dissection of the role of the regime in the economy of Iran, of which 70% is directly or indirectly controlled by the state and its related bodies, increasingly under the auspices of utterly phoney privatisations that give ownership of companies to state and military officials technically at ‘arm’s length’ from the government in a kind of pocket-bursting, oligarchic give-away, last seen on a such a scale in the crash privatisations undertaken in the collapsing Soviet Union. That there can be such a bonanza for state bureaucrats and heavies is a legacy of the revolution, which resulted in the expropriation of the holdings of the royal family and a series of nationalisations. This self-interested gangsterism by the state, taken with three decades of increasingly severe sanctions, has led to the ruin of much of what remained of the Iranian economy and, with the possible closure of French car plants under the pressure of the United States, the situation grows more and more dire.
Indeed, the size of the ‘black economy’, much of which is controlled by state, army and militia bureaucrats, and includes imports, currency and the trade in alcohol, is estimated at being worth $60 billion a year: about the same as Iran’s official imports. As comrade Yassamine Mather elaborated, domestic industry, including the production of agricultural staples at a price affordable to the Iranian proletariat, has been deliberately run down by the mercantilist, middle-man interests of the state and bourgeoisie, as it is easier to extort money from the masses when all of the country’s needs are met by imports controlled by the collective state gangster rather than from domestic production.
Aware of the basket-case economy and a desperate, volatile society it has created, the Iranian state, whilst it slashes subsidy and welfare for everyone else, continues to subsidise around five million supposedly grateful economic dependants who can potentially act as extra-military brownshirts against Iranian workers when society inevitably produces explosive protests.
Speakers from the floor wondered how the supposedly deeply religious government of the clerics justified its privatisations, though the answer was provided quickly that this was done with great ease – and was typical of theologians throughout history, whenever god gets in the way of fistfuls of hot cash. Other questions ranged from the role of the military in exploiting the economy and the possibility of conflict between them and the clerical wing of the state.
More focused on the immediate situation facing the wider world and its working class movement was the talk given by comrade Moshé Machover, co-founder of Israeli socialist party Matzpen. This was also the case with the panel discussion led by left-Labour stalwart John McDonnell MP, who humorously referred to himself and Jeremy Corbyn as the “parliamentary wing” of Hopi, Sarah McDonald, a runner in the previous weekend’s Vienna marathon in aid of Workers Fund Iran, and NUJ president Donnacha DeLong.
Comrade Machover focused on the relationship between Israel and Iran. He believed that the recent Istanbul negotiations with Iran had produced a vaguely positive outcome despite Hillary Clinton’s hawkish rhetoric. Attempting to identify exactly why Israel was so pro-war, the comrade identified two main factors. The first was that an Iran with nuclear arms, or nuclear potential within the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, reduces the relative power of Israel in the region and its ability to be the watchdog of the United States.
The second reason was that the Israeli state is seeking a pretext in order to engage in a further ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, thus solving the so-called ‘demographic problem’ of the growing Arab population of Israel. The acceptance by the Israeli military in its own documents and in the words of some of its own leading figures that the ‘Iranian bomb’ is not a serious threat disproves the notion that this issue is about Iran’s nuclear capability. It is more about provoking a situation of such turmoil that the mass expulsion of Palestinians could be more conveniently undertaken.
The panel discussion made up the final session of the weekend, with comrade De Long recounting his experience of the Iranian regime during his time as an Amnesty International worker and gave an example of the power of the social media in spreading cutting criticisms of the regime than can serve as morale boosters and potential incitements to action for ordinary Iranians.
John McDonnell reported that the word in the Westminster village was that, should there be an attack on Iran, it may be around September time, though the Israelis were suffering from an itchy trigger finger and he did not discount them acting alone. Comrade McDonnell emphasised the correctness of Hopi’s line against imperialism, sanctions and the regime itself and that it was essential that these ideas be spread more widely into the labour and trade union movement as a whole. Whether this took the form of meetings with individual trade union general secretaries and MPs, of cultural events and campaigns such as the film screenings in aid of Jafar Panahi, of direct action or of good, old-fashioned marches and demonstrations was not important: what matters is spreading the message.
The comrade also emphasised another part of what Hopi stands for as particularly important: support for working class and progressive forces and for socialism in the Middle East. We absolutely must not, the comrade insisted, ever refrain from stating plainly that the only progressive force in Iran (and elsewhere) capable of combating imperialism and overthrowing the neoliberal clerics is the working class, and that the only way to lasting peace and prosperity in the whole region is through socialism.
Describing her experience of practical solidarity with the Iranian working class was CPGB member Sarah McDonald, fresh back from the Vienna marathon. She, along with others, had raised almost £1,000 for Workers Fund Iran. Comparing the project of transforming the left into a healthy and principled anti-war force to a marathon rather than a sprint, the comrade emphasised how the act of having to ask others for support and sponsorship for the marathon had itself been a very useful form of political activity: it provided the opportunity to explain the aims of Hopi and its stand against any war against the people of Iran.
During the ensuing debate comrade McDonnell was asked what the atmosphere in parliament was like at the moment, given that earlier in the year he had reported that it felt like a rerun of the lead-up to the Iraq war. He replied that the atmosphere had calmed somewhat, but that in the EU Britain remains the most hawkish state. Donnacha DeLong, by this point proudly wearing his cap decorated with anarchist badges, suggested that Hopi might be able to use the Levenson inquiry to expose the collusion between the Murdoch press and the government to bring the Iraq war to bloody fruition.
Others from the floor emphasised that, despite real anti-war sentiment – for example, around the Afghanistan debacle – the conclusion that many had reached from Iraq and the endless ‘numbers are everything’ marches organised by the Stop the War Coalition was that war cannot be stopped. That is why it is so essential to link the struggle against war to a rounded, working class politics and that is what Hopi will continue to do.
On March 4th five members of the Hands Off the People of Iran Manchester branch will be walking the Bogle, a fifty five mile walk round Manchester. We are walking to raise money for the charity Workers Fund Iran, which was set up in December 2005 with the aim to reduce and relieve poverty amongst Iranian workers (both employed and unemployed) who are victims of the economic policies of the Iranian regime, including mass non-payment of wages. The charity is not aligned to any political organisation. Funds sent to Iran will be distributed amongst the most needy working class families who are facing destitution. We hope the funds will stop families sending their children to the streets as beggars or peddlers and selling their body parts, which is a common practice.
In Iran at the moment, hundreds of thousands of workers are being consigned to poverty by the oppressive Iranian state. Practical solidarity is one of the greatest things we can do for Iranian workers; it helps the revolutionary struggle against the Islamic Republic continue. Give generously!
We are hoping to raise over £300 pounds for the charity. You can donate by going to our Charity Choice page here.
Kelly King congratulates everyone on a friendly match that raised a thousand pounds
This year’s solidarity cricket match between Hands Off the People of Iran and the Labour Representation Committee – a fund -raiser for the Workers Fund Iran charity – contained all the excitement you might expect from an August bank holiday: a torrential shower, a gallant but unavailing run chase by the LRC, and another CPGB member joining the ‘golden duck club’. Around 50 people attended the 32-over game last Sunday in Victoria Park, east London.
All the weather reports had predicted golden sunshine, but after captain John Sidwell won the toss Hopi went out to bat first under gloomy grey skies. Their youngest player, James Carruthers, a stalwart wicketkeeper aged just 15, opened the batting in partnership with Martin Jones. The partnership was not to last: a fast ball on target bowled by Mary Partington took the first wicket for the LRC, and James was replaced by Vic Marelic, dashing out to bat so quickly that he wore a child’s helmet over his sunglasses, and completely forgot his gloves. Martin Jones retired after his cool half-century, and anyone who attended last year’s match will be relieved that Ben Lewis stayed in well past the first ball, eventually notching up 43 runs before finding himself at the wrong end of a more than controversial lbw decision from the umpire, Weekly Worker editor Peter Manson. Sidwell and newcomer Luke Mackenzie went on to bat steadily until the darkening clouds opened around 2.30, and both teams retired – or rather raced off – with the spectators trying to stay dry under two small gazebos. It was clearly time for lunch.
Players and supporters tucked into their sausages, burgers and salad as they huddled together under the crowded awnings. Drinks sales shot up as the rain poured down. Special thanks go to Milly Morris for managing to keep the barbecues alight throughout the downpour, while her daughters, Iggy and Bella, showed off their lightning-fast arithmetic behind the busy bar for most of the day.
Eventually the rain slowed to a trickle and the two captains, John Sidwell and Sean McNeill, in consultation with umpire Manson, decreed that it was safe to continue. Hopi eventually reached 175 runs, despite the best efforts of LRC bowlers Partington, Rowan Kennedy, Andrew Fisher and Jim Gleeson. The LRC then came out to bat, and with them came the sunshine. Within half an hour all evidence of the storm was erased, as the outfield started to dry up and the skies turned blue.
It is worth noting that the LRC fielded a slim-line but extremely game team: several last-minute cancellations led to a desperate shortage of batsmen, meaning that some players had to bat twice and Hopi comrade James Turley came out for the other side at number nine wearing black trousers and shoes! Such lack of respect for cricketing decorum did not go unpunished by the gods, and he was bowled by Sidwell for a golden duck.
Pressure mounted as virtuoso bowlers Sidwell and (Martin’s brother) Gareth Jones bowled a series of unplayable deliveries, but Partington and McNeill put up the best partnership of the afternoon, and McNeill also provided the quote of the day after facing lethally slow bowler Frances Grahl: “I told myself I couldn’t get out to someone wearing denim hot pants!”
At the end of an exciting day, the LRC’s brave fight brought them 94 runs, but they couldn’t catch up with Hopi. Mary Partington and Martin Jones were declared player’s player by the respective teams, and Hopi would have been presented with a shield but for someone forgetting to pick it up from the engravers.
Summing up the day, Yassamine Mather reminded everybody of the serious political work that must continue after the beer and barbecue had been cleared away. She gave more bad news from a factory threatened with closure in Iran, and smilingly added that the workers had been pleased to hear about a cricket match played in London, despite their own critical situation.
This is the message we need to take away from Sunday: while we can congratulate ourselves on a fun and friendly match which raised around a thousand pounds for Workers Fund Iran (www.workersfund.org), we cannot walk away from the pitch, unstrap our pads and forget about Iran until next August. Cricketers and spectators – find out now what more you can do for Hopi.
We are writing to ask for your support for the second annual solidarity cricket match between Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) on Sunday August 29 2009 at 12 noon in Victoria Park, E9. The match is to raise money for Workers’ Fund Iran – a charity that is dedicated to raising much-needed funds for the inspiring struggles of the Iranian working class. These struggles have increased enormously in the recent period and been led by numerous sections of the workforce – from car workers to bus drivers, sugar cane workers to construction workers.
Last year we raised £1,500 and we are confident that we can get close to £2,000 this time around. These funds can certainly not match the funds raised for ‘regime change from above’ by the US and its allies, but they are absolutely crucial to our brothers and sisters in Iran and of great symbolic importance: their fight is our fight.
We have stepped up the plans for this year and are looking forward to more numbers, more fun and more funds being raised. But to take these steps forward we need your help! Can you?
-Play? Both male and female welcome players welcome so get in touch!
-Get your union branch/campaign/organisation to pass the draft motion?
-Help out on the day?
-Organise a stall for your union/campaign/organisation on the day?
-Provide a donation to help cover some of the costs we will incur during the day?
-Help to publicise the event amongst friends and on the internet or send a message of support for us to put up on our blog?
Yours against imperialist war and sanctions and in solidarity with the people of Iran,
John McDonnell MP Yassamine Mather
LRC Chair HOPI Chair
Andrew (LRC) – 07930 529828 Ben (HOPI) – 07792 282830
August 29 will once again see Hands Off the People of Iran play the Labour Representation Committee in their annual solidarity cricket match to raise £1,500 for the charity Workers Fund Iran, which raises money for Iranian workers. (workersfund.org). In the face of an enormous political and economic crisis, a new round of UN sanctions and war threats, Iranian workers are in a very difficult situation.
This is why it is absolutely vital that the workers’ movement in this country organizes material and ideological solidarity with workers’, women’s and students’ struggles in Iran – they are our natural allies and a true beacon of hope for genuine democracy and freedom.
This is the second solidarity cricket event following the successful match last year (see http://hopivslrc09.wordpress.com/scorecard-and-reports-from-the-match for a report) and we are confident that this year will be even bigger and better than the last one. Those of you who attended last year will know the score by now: food, drink, cricket and a social in the evening. Those of you who don’t will doubtless be kicking yourselves for missing out, but you can make up for it this year!
We are calling on your help to make this day as successful as possible.
*Play? The standard will be more ‘village’ than the ‘Test Match’ so even if you have to brush off those pads after years of neglect – get in touch! Both male and female welcome players welcome!
*Get your union branch/campaign/organisation to sponsor the event and cover some of the numerous costs involved in organising the events? Get in touch and we will send you a model motion
*Help out on the day? There is a load of work to do on the day itself, and the more people we have to help
*Promote the event in mailouts, on blogs, or help with leafleting for the event
*Take some leaflets to hand out locally?
Please get in touch with us to offer your help, show solidarity or find out more about what should be an excellent event for an excellent cause!
Hands Off the People celebrates the fact that Iranian film maker Jafar Panahi has been released from prison after more than two months. For the last week, he has been on hunger strike to protest against the conditions in the notorious Evin prison that he and his fellow prison mates had to endure.
He was arrested in March, apparently over plans to make a new critical film about the protests that sprung up in Iran after the rigged presidential elections in June 2009.
International pressure, including the protests staged at the Cannes Festival, as well as the campaigning work of organisations like Hopi (which, amongst other things, organised solidarity screenings of Panahi’s film ‘Offside’), have clearly played a role in him being freed. Panahi’s family and friends have told us how heartened he was to see that there were people fighting for his freedom.
He was released on a bail of $200,000 (£140,000).
But the struggle continues: his case has been referred to a revolutionary court, and he will still face trial, the official Irna news agency said. And hundreds of activists still remain behind bars. At least nine have been sentenced to death, and two have been executed already.
Hopi will continue to fight for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. Sanctions and war are not the answer to deal with the theocracy in Iran. Real democracy must come from below, from the workers’, the students, the women and unemployed in Iran.
Support Hands Off the People now. Join the campaign or make a donation: http://hopoi.org/
Ben Lewis reports on the campaign to free the outspoken film maker imprisoned by the Iranian regime
Activists in Hands Off the People of Iran have been informed that Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed film maker who has been incarcerated for over two months, has begun a hunger strike in Evin prison.
This is the latest brave step by Panahi, who is increasingly becoming a symbol of resistance. The solidarity he can generate is of grave cause concern for the Islamic Republic, despite its jails, armed thugs and reactionary militias. Panahi fully realises this, and he is using his standing to exert as much pressure on the regime as possible. He has refused offers of bail, saying that he will only accept it when all other political prisoners are released. Like him, the overwhelming majority of these prisoners were arrested as part of the shocking wave of repression unleashed by the regime in response to the enormous protests on the streets of Iran following last June’s rigged presidential elections.
As we have reported previously, Panahi has been subjected to rigorous interrogation in jail. The Evin interrogators appear to be pursuing the tried and tested approach of bombarding him with the same questions over and over again in order to force inconsistencies in his answers, backing this up with the soul-destroying conditions and humiliating treatment for which Evin prison has become infamous.
Last Saturday the authorities kept all inmates in his wing of the prison outside their cells in the open air for the whole night. Next morning he was interrogated once more, this time being accused of secretly working on a film from his cell. He is particularly concerned about some of the new threats that have been made against his family.
There is clearly a lot of work for us in the solidarity movement. We must do what we can to publicise Jafar Panahi’s brave stance, not least using his wonderfully human films. He – and indeed all the other political prisoners in Iran – cannot be allowed to suffer without an outcry. Holywood directors Martin Scorscese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Redford have issued forthright statements demanding his release. At this week’s 63rd Cannes Film Festival there were countless expressions of solidarity. One of the nine chairs for jury members remained empty in his honour. Given Panahi’s reputation internationally, it is quite striking that his case has hitherto been subjected to what John McDonnell MP has described as a “media blackout” in Britain, and we must break through this.
Simultaneously, it is vital ensure that the brutal actions of the Iranian state and its callous treatment of dissenters and critical figures of all kinds should not in any way be misappropriated by the US or UK governments to cover their designs on Iran and the region more generally. At a time when the permanent members of the UN security council – US, UK, China, Russia and France – have agreed on new proposals for a fresh round of sanctions, and when the rightwing Israeli politicians hypocritically hark on about the danger of a “second holocaust”, this is of the utmost importance.
Indeed, given that public opinion is not exactly welcoming the prospect of the further escalation of tension in the Middle East, one of the ways in which the imperialists may attempt to respond is to disingenuously latch on to the cause of Iran’s political prisoners. So there is a danger that the political and cultural establishment in the US and UK could hijack Panahi’s courageous stance for their own nefarious purposes. So we must redouble our campaign for the immediate and unconditional release not only of Panahi, but of all political prisoners, and link this with implacable opposition to imperialist sanctions and threats of war. A fight on two fronts which Hopi has conducted since its inception.
May 12 saw well over 100 people attend a solidarity screening at London’s Soho Theatre of Panahi’s best known film, Offside, jointly organised by Hopi and the Labour Representation Committee. The event was the first in a series of film showings and solidarity events across the country. The Manchester screening took place on May 18, and there will be a further one in Glasgow on May 21.
The event opened with Soho Theatre’s artistic director, Lisa Goldman, providing a moving account of her work with Panahi on artistic projects in Iran. She was followed by John McDonnell, who outlined the significance of the campaign to free Panahi. “Every movement creates a symbol,” he said. “In refusing bail until all other political prisoners are freed, Jafar is taking a courageous stance that we in Hopi wish to applaud and highlight.” He emphasised the importance of Hopi’s core principles – against war or sanctions on Iran; but no support for the theocracy and unequivocal solidarity with genuinely democratic struggles from below against its rule, especially those of the workers’ movement.
This was a theme British-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi took up in her opening remarks to the audience, explaining that is why she “loved” Hopi. Offside was certainly a big hit with the audience: stormy applause followed its closing credits. At the end a message of thanks was read out from Panahi’s family.
Hopi activists have been present this week at the Public and Commercial Services union conference in Brighton and our stall has had a very good response from delegates. PCS has been affiliated to Hopi since 2008 and the annual conference is always a good time to meet PCS militants new and old. Gratifyingly, the response we had from the delegates this year was particularly warm. We distributed some 400 information bulletins on the Jafar Panahi campaign and have already received over 50 signed postcards, which will be sent off in a special batch to Panahi’s family in Iran. We also raised funds for our campaigning work by selling numerous ‘No to war; no to theocracy’ badges and copies of Panahi’s films.