Sunday, March 29, 2009

HOPI Moves Away From Opposing Both US and Iranian Regime

I've been pondering the recent HOPI statement about Obama. Nothwithstanding some obvious and true points about Obama and the US ruling class, it seems to me to be a step away from the 'third camp' politics of supporting the working class against both the Iranian regime and US imperialism which is HOPI's main appeal.

When it first started, HOPI was quite an attractive project, and I know that it involves lots of good people with a sound outlook of defending the Iranian people against both the Iranian regime and US aggression. But its political core has shown on several occasions now that it can not resist the pull of the 'anti-imperialist' demagogy that dominates sections of the left, and it seems to be allowing it to be dragged in that direction in rather the same way that the Death Star's tractor beam dragged in the Millenium Falcon.

Here is the statement, with a few comments from me ...

Statement: Barack Obama’s ‘diplomacy’ initiative is no new beginning*

Much has been made of Barack Obama’s Newroz message, which is supposed to represent a “new beginning” for relations between the US and the Islamic Republic.

But we should take a closer look at Obama's project in the Middle East and what he is looking to gain from Iran.

This clearly is no new beginning. The speech is part and parcel of the gunpoint diplomacy initiated by George W. Bush and continued under Barack Obama. Bush himself gave out numerous messages of a similar nature during his presidency. The only difference is that Obama actually addresses the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic directly.

But his demands remain the same:
- Iran should give up uranium enrichment and accept international offers to provide fuel for nuclear power
- Iran should stop arming Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza
- Iran should stop threatening Israel
- Iran must help in achieving peace in Afghanistan and Iraq

So, why not say what you think of the demands themselves? Yes, the US ruling class is hypocritical in raising these demands, for example calling for help in achieving peace in countries where it initiated war! But what if the Iranian workers' movement raised these demands? Would we have a problem with that? If so, why not say so?!

Iran's supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni wasted little time dismissing the message as “words”, adding he had seen no change in America's “attitude or policy”. Obama knows that it would be political suicide for the Islamic regime to accept those demands. It might be able to keep going by accepting one of the four, but this in turn would not be acceptable for Obama.

And would we have a problem with the Islamic regime committing political suicide? No - so why not say so?!

Further, why is there no comment on Khameni's comment?

Isn't there an implication here that the demands are out-of-order and the Ayatollah's response reasonable? Or if not, why not say so?!

In reality, Obama is trying to influence the Iranian presidential elections, which take place in June. Through sanctions, sable-rattling, diplomatic pressure and the enormous funding for organisations who pursue US-sanctioned ‘regime change’, the US are trying to set the political agenda of these elections in an attempt to force a politically pliant government.

He is pursuing regime change from above, in other words. But the example of Iraq clearly shows that real democracy must come from below, from the people themselves. Just like George W. Bush, Barack Obama has no confidence in the Iranian people to liberate themselves. In fact, by ratcheting up the existing sanctions against Iran - and by threatening even stricter sanctions - he actually undermines the work and efforts of many workers, students and women’s organisations who are fighting against the theocracy. Sanctions disorganise the working class as people squander their fighting energies on day-to-day struggles to simply survive. Sanctions dramatically degrade the ability of the working people to struggle collectively on their own account, to radically refashion society in their own image, to organise and fight.

It is rather strange that Obama has used Iran’s support for ‘terrorism’ as the justification for his new round of sanctions. After all, the US are very keen on getting Iran to attend their ‘Afghanistan conference’. It seems that when the Iranian government acts in the interests of the US, they make a perfectly acceptable ‘partner’.

Hands Off the People of Iran is clear: US-led imperialism, whoever is at its helm, is the greatest enemy of the people of Iran and indeed the peoples of the whole world.

Is it really? Would you say that to the loved ones of the people whose bodies hang from cranes in a recent post on this blog? To those executed for homosexuality, or imprisoned and tortured for trade union activities?

And as the hyperbole escalates, we reach the statement that US-led imperialism is the greatest enemy of the peoples of the whole world. Really?! There is not a people on the planet who have a greater enemy - for example, their own ruling class - than 'US-led imperialism'?

There can be no ‘peace’ based on gunpoint diplomacy or a ‘deal’ between one section of the Iranian theocracy and US imperialism - this would actually entrench the US project in the Middle East and provide backing for the disastrous war in Afghanistan, currently being stepped up by Obama. Hopi fights for a nuclear-free Middle East as a step towards a nuclear-free world.

Our campaign also fights for:

- No to imperialist war! For the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of US/UK troops from Iraq and all the Gulf region!
- 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, democracy and workers' control in Iran

So finally we see a statement against the Iranian regime. Except for the implied criticism in the paragraph starting He is pursuing regime change form above, this is the first time the statement has criticised the Iranian regime. But it is deliberately outnumbered by statements against the US. It also comes across as tagged on the end, rather like the 'notes to editors' after the end of a press release.

(I'm also faintly puzzled by the inclusion of a demand about Israel. It is a demand I agree with, but there is no explanation as to its relevance to a campaign whose title is just about Iran. Sure, Israel has a nasty government and is in the same region as Iran, but there are others that fit that description too.)

HOPI's stance now seems not so much 'a plague on both your houses' as 'a really big plague on your house and a small infection on yours'.