For principled solidarity

If anyone is in any doubt about the level of the threat of war against Iran, I suggest they read the text of a speech by Tony Blair comparing “Iran’s extremism” to “rising fascism in the 1920s and 1930s” (The Times October 19).

Quiet clearly the vacuous former PM and current ‘peace envoy of the quartet’ has spent so much time in Israel that he repeats like a parrot the most stupid utterances of Israeli politicians – all this in line with the US administration’s plans for possible military attack against Iran and paving the way for more extensive sanctions.

Worst of all for Iran’s leaders, Russian president Vladimir Putin, in Tehran for talks with the theocratic regime following meetings with Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, gave a stark warning that Russia will not oppose further sanctions and military strikes against Iran, unless it stopped its enrichment of nuclear-grade uranium.

Many observers in Tehran believe that it was Putin’s visit that sparked the resignation of Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. Whatever the reasons behind this resignation, coming amidst rumours of the impending departure of foreign minister Manuchehr Mottaki, it is clear that even supporters of Ahmadinejad have now realised that Iran faces a serious threat. The response to this threat has engulfed the crisis-ridden regime in turmoil and, although it appears Iran will reject any nuclear compromise, hours after the resignation of Larijani was accepted by the Iranian president, Iran’s supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, intervened directly to make sure Larijani remains part of the negotiating team meeting EU officials.

Of course, no-one who has listened to Dick Cheney or George Bush could be in any doubt that the nuclear debacle is no more than an excuse for preparing for such an attack. The current US administration labelled Iran its main enemy in the region on the day it came to power in 2001 – it was Iran’s compliance with and support for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq that delayed the escalation of the conflict. But now the US administration is so desperate to divert attention from the disaster in Iraq that an air assault on Iran by the US or Israel is a real possibility.

To complicate matters further, Turkey’s threats of attacks against Iraqi Kurdistan show the fragility of the relative ‘peace’ in that part of Iraq. The Iraqi president and member of the Kurdish PUK, Jalal Talebani, has played a dangerous game over the last few years, promising one thing to the Americans and the opposite to Turkish and Iranian Kurdish groups. If you listen to both his Kurdish utterances and his English speeches, you could be forgiven for thinking there are two Talebanis: one who is pro-American, while remaining loyal to Iran; and another who is an anti-colonial Kurdish nationalist.

Of course, with the escalation of the Turkey-PKK conflict, the PUK and its leader now have to face the consequences of playing with fire for so long. Over the last few years the PUK has repeatedly justified its support for US military intervention in the region by telling Iranian and Turkish Kurds that the current Iraqi Kurdish statelet is the first step on the road to an independent Kurdistan. It holds up the ‘referendum option’ in the Iraqi constitution as the trump card and implies that the establishment of an independent Kurdish state is just around the corner.

Many Kurdish leaders, including in Turkey and Iran, have fallen in behind Talebani’s pro-US line, foolishly believing his slogan that the end (an independent Kurdistan) justifies the means. But Talebani’s promises mean nothing – his masters in Washington and Tehran are only interested in ‘Kurdish rights’ as long as they suit their own purposes, such as during the propaganda war against Saddam Hussein.

Of course, the US still supports Iranian Kurdish groups as part of its ‘regime change’ policy, but inevitably the same support cannot be granted to the enemies of a Nato ally, Turkey. So this week, in addition to the threat of US-Israeli ‘shock and awe’ attacks against the people of Iran, the region faces the threat of military attacks by Turkey against Iraqi Kurdistan.

The barbarous US-led unfinished war in Iraq, combined with the duplicity of both the capitalist clerics in Tehran (who now call for the withdrawal of UK troops from southern Iraq, yet supported the US invasion of 2003) and the reactionary president of occupied Iraq, Jalal Talebani, have made the situation in the region far more complicated than ever before. Simplistic solutions and slogans such as the banal idea that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ can only lead anti-war activists into one crisis after another.

That is why Hands Off the People of Iran has constantly fought for a principled campaign along two main lines. First and foremost, we are vehemently against every imperialist intervention in the region and for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US-UK troops. This demand is echoed by the working class and rising social movements inside Iran.

As part of Hopi’s activities in Farsi we have relentlessly exposed the advocates of ‘regime change’ Bush-style, as well as those Iranian political groups and organisations who deliberately or unconsciously take a soft line on the macabre policies of imperialism in our region.

However, as the threat of military intervention increases, we see it as our duty and responsibility to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people, who, with the exception of the regime’s paid agents and security forces, are increasingly united in their opposition to both imperialist war and the rule of the theocracy. We read their demands, see their protests and hear their slogans every day.

The thousands of workers in Haft Tape who in October shouted, “We are hungry – why is the state refusing to pay our wages?” The workers in Iran’s oil industry who write that “dividing the company into hundreds of small, private contracting firms is privatisation of Iran’s oil industry on a scale far more alarming than what is happening under the US invasion in Iraq”. The car plant workers in Iran Khodro who this week drew attention to the death of yet another worker (the third in less than two months) through exhaustion in this most exploitative joint French-Iranian capitalist venture. We will not ignore their calls.

The anti-war movement should read the reports of the regular demonstrations organised by leftwing students, such as the one held on October 22, and act in solidarity with them. Student protesters in Tehran shouted, “Death to the dictator, death to reaction” , “Ahmadi Pinochet, Iran will not become like Chile” and “Release the imprisoned students”. On October 23, hundreds protested at Bouali University at the ‘suicide’ of a fellow student who was held by the security forces following a previous demonstration.

By contrast, there are those in the anti-war movement whose idea of anti-imperialism is to invite supporters of reactionary clerics such as Muqtada al Sadr and Hezbollah officials to their rallies, who lead chants of “we are all Hezbollah now”. They seem oblivious to the fact that in the only country in the region where there is a secular, socialist anti-war movement – Iran – for the majority of the population Hezbollah are the thugs who go around throwing acid in the faces of young girls for daring to reveal part of their fringe beneath their headscarf. Hezbollah are the hoodlums with chains who attack workers staging protests outside privatised factories where the unscrupulous owner (often a relative of a senior cleric in power) refuses to pay the workers their wages and calls on Hezbollah to arrest them if they protest too much. Hezbollah are the forces who arrive in jeeps to demolish the huts of poor shanty town dwellers when a developer buys up the land and needs it cleared.

To be frank, those who raise such an obscene slogan in Britain – be they followers of some islamist group or members of the Socialist Workers Party – are in no position to lecture Hopi about solidarity.

Some of us have personally experienced the repression meted out by the brutal islamic regime. We who have mourned the loss of tens of thousands of socialists and communists – tortured and executed at the hands of the clerics – view with contempt their anti-western rhetoric. We have even dared to hope – obviously foolishly! – that incidents such as Irangate, not to mention the track record of Iran’s islamic republic over 28 years, would be sufficient to prevent anti-war campaigners confusing Tehran’s anti-US slogans with the genuine anti-imperialism of the Iranian people. In our era anti-imperialism cannot but be anti-capitalist.

Do the SWP and those like the Communist Party of Britain’s Andrew Murray really think that clerics presiding over a neoliberal capitalist economy – in a country where the gap between the rich and the poor grows every day, where corruption, drug addiction and prostitution are ripe and only repression keeps the regime in power – either want or are in a position to fight US imperialism?

Those of us who are not fooled by the regime’s empty rhetoric will continue our principled campaign, whether or not we are excluded from the Stop the War Coalition. We will expose the false image of the Iranian people manufactured by the pro-war media, but we will also expose the rosy portrait of Iranian society depicted by the crude apologists of the islamic regime, such as Campaign Iran – which, to its shame, the STWC supports while smearing Hopi.

Yassamine Mather Deputy Editor of Critique, Journal of Socialist Theory, published by Centre for the Study of Socialist Theory and Movements, Glasgow University.



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