On Monday December 7, Hands Off the People of Iran activists attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy to mark Students Day. It was particularly important for those outside Iran to express our solidarity because this year’s commemorations in that country have highlighted a deepening radicalisation of the student movement, with demonstrations spreading beyond the campus and onto the streets.
It was encouraging that around 350 protesters attended what was a rather impressively prepared event in London. There were marquees, generators, a powerful PA system, a green laser lighting up the Iranian embassy and green glow sticks available on demand. But the demonstration reflected much of the confusion prevalent amongst Iranian exiles (the Hopi contingent was the only non-Iranian group that took part). This was to be expected, since it was organised by the Iranian Green Movement in London. Official chants and slogans were limited to opposing Ahmadinejad and Khomeini, rather than the Islamic Republic as a whole.
The statement on the website of the Iranian Green Movement (www.londongreen.org/en/index.php) includes some supportable demands on freeing all political prisoners, freedom of the press and calling for public trials for those agents of the Islamic Republic who have committed crimes and tortured detainees (does that include leading ‘reformists’ like Mir-Hossein Moussavi?).
However, it has absolutely nothing to say on sanctions or war on Iran. Worse, it sows illusions in what the green movement claims is the “neutral” United Nations and its platitudinous Human Rights Declarations – calling for the UN to “oversee” a “free election” in Iran. Like the sham elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, presumably …
In order to challenge this perspective, a smaller ‘red’ demonstration had been organised right next to the green tents and marquees. It was vociferous and energetic in calling for opposition to both imperialism and the whole Islamic regime, as opposed to this or that individual mullah, but – presumably by mutual consent – they were physically separated from the main demonstration by steel barriers and a row of police. The noise of the ‘green’ PA often drowned out the more principled politics.
Hopi activists distributed a leaflet entitled ‘Solidarity with the Iranian people, not Moussavi’. As well as outlining our internationalist, working class perspectives for Iran, the leaflet also carried a translation of the Iran Khodro car workers’ statement on the political crisis in the country.
Given our clear message, we were expecting to be met with a rather frosty reception. However, comrades found that there was very little difference in the way we were received by the ‘green’ and ‘red’ parts of the demonstration. Almost everybody appreciated the solidarity we have shown and many wanted further information about Hopi. We leafleted and sold papers to both sections in an atmosphere which contrasted favourably to other occasions. Following the rigged presidential elections, our comrades’ red flags were torn away by Moussavi supporters in Manchester, for example.
In view of this it was a little puzzling that the anti-regime left did not attempt to interact more directly with the ‘greens’ and those who hold illusions in Moussavi. Rather than mounting what was in effect a counter-demonstration, and being unable to make themselves heard, the ‘red’ section could have demanded speaking rights from the official organisers. The comrades were correct to retain their independent voice, however. We should not blur lines of principle. We should not encourage support for the theocrat Moussavi or seek to prettify his sordid record.
One Iranian comrade pointed out that many of those now in the ‘green’ part of the demonstration were actually familiar faces from past leftwing actions – people who consider it their duty as ‘Marxists’ to uncritically tail Moussavi.
As the mass movement inside Iran grows in confidence and the regime’s days appear increasingly numbered, the tasks of the solidarity movement remain the same: a fight on two fronts – against imperialist designs on Iran, and for unequivocal support for the Iranian masses. This necessitates taking a clear stand both against imperialist sanctions and war and against Moussavi, a butcher of the Iranian left. Both have the blood of workers, the left, democrats and secularists on their hands.