Friday, December 05, 2008

Guest post -HOPI Conference - 13th December

Another guest post , this time from Ben Lewis :

Ben Lewis is a member of the HOPI Steering Committee and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The second annual conference of Hands Off the People of Iran comes at a vital moment for the struggle against the threat of war on Iran and the sanctions war currently being waged on Iran.

Hopi has had some important successes over the past twelve months, not least the affiliation of the two major national unions Aslef and PCS. But our small steps forward underline just how much work needs to be done - especially at a time when some in the anti-war movement seem to think we can afford to relax about the threat of a new disastrous war in the Middle East.

Comrades in the movement have told us that the world economic crisis, with its attendant collapse of major banks and financial institutions, eases the pressure on Iran. Many sincere activists hope that perhaps the leaders of the Western world will now be too preoccupied with their financial woes to countenance starting a new war in the Middle East.

In Hopi's view, this is dangerously complacent. In the past, imperialism has often turned to external war to alleviate problems at home. Reports reach us that influential voices in the Israeli government and secret service are lobbying the US government hard to “deal with Iran” before George W. Bush leaves office. The election of Barack Obama - however his foreign policy develops in the longer term - actually adds to pressure, as noted in the Sunday Times by David Owen (foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979):

“Some key decision makers in Israel fear that unless they attack Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities in the next few months, while George W Bush is still president, there will not be another period when they can rely on the United States as being anywhere near as supportive in the aftermath of a unilateral attack. 

“Following an Israeli attack and Iranian countermeasures, the American military would be bound to follow Bush's orders. The president-designate … would be wary of criticising him. It is imperative that voices are raised in America and Europe to warn Israel off unilateral action against Iran. The experience of Georgia has given an amber, if not a green, light to Israel …” Now is not the time to relax - now is the time to dramatic step up our anti-war agitation and activity!

HOPI’s political perspective flows from two principles:

1. Imperialism has no progressive role to play in this region or in any other part of the world. It is the main enemy of the peoples of the world. We therefore campaign against the threat of any imperialist intervention and fight for an end to sanctions. Sanctions are not an alternative to war, but a form of war. We demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all occupying troops from the Gulf and an end to Israel’s expansion and aggression.

2. The islamic regime - whether in the sway of the ‘reformist’ faction around Mohammad Khatami (dubbed the ‘mullah with a smile’ by radical Iranian students) or the hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - is also an enemy. Its repressive and reactionary policies actually smooth the way for imperialist designs on the region. This means that we must build active, practical solidarity with grassroots, progressive and secular forces in Iran - the radical women’s, workers’ and students’ movements. The ongoing nightmare of Iraq underlines that US-led imperialist forces can only introduce social meltdown and chaos - a fertile breeding ground for reaction. Progressive, democratic change must spring from below - from the struggles of the working class and social movements.

In fact the question of imperialist threats and the islamic regime are directly interrelated, with the Iranian theocracy using the pretext of imperialist intervention to divert attention away from the country’s endemic crisis, deflect popular anger onto foreign enemies and thus prolong its iron rule.

This makes the tasks of the anti-war movement quite clear, underlining the significance of HOPI’s political approach. As Mike Macnair put it in a discussion on The Commune:

“Solidarity against US attack on its own, without opposition to the regime and support for the Iranian workers’ movement, is not even anti-imperialist because the Iranian regime is the main regional backer of the US war in Afghanistan and occupation of Iraq and because the US may at any moment come up with an overt deal with the regime.

Solidarity with the Iranian workers’ movement on its own, without clear opposition to the role of the imperialists in the region, tends to fall in behind the US plans and covert ops for a ‘colour revolution’ or break-up of Iran”.

The Hopi conference is an important opportunity for activists to clarify our plans. There will be plenty of time to during the day to debate motions submitted on important themes. Speakers from Iran will provide up-to-date information on the women's, workers' and students' movements as they face up to the enormous pressure being exerted on them as the theocratic regime uses the war threat to clamp down on its internal dissidents. The conference will be a chance for trade unionists to share their experiences of Iranian solidarity work in different parts of the movement.

Speakers on the day will include:

John Mc.Donnell MP

Behrouz Karimizadeh (Iranian Students for Freedom and Equality)

Kaveh Abassian (Iranian Students for Freedom and Equality)

Torab Saleth (Workers’ Left Unity Iran)

Yassamine Mather (CPGB)


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