On the morning of Sunday November 19, Mansour Ossanlou, trade union president at the Vahed bus company Tehran, who had only been released from prison in August, was arrested by security forces and taken to an unknown location.
The union at Vahed, a company that employs between 8,000 and 16,000 drivers and other workers in the greater Tehran area, organised two major strikes in December 2005 and January 2006, causing gridlock in Tehran. Since the beginning union activists have been under surveillance. Repeatedly agents provocateurs of the islamic works committee and members of Khane Kargar (government-sponsored workers organisation) have attacked the union offices with the help and participation of the police.
On December 22 2005, a number of activists, including members of the executive committee and the chair, Mansour Ossanlou, were arrested and imprisoned. Following an international campaign Ossanlou was released on bail in August 2006.
Ossanlous arrest comes at a time when the islamic regime in Iran has launched a new wave of repression against labour activists, including those arrested in Saghez, accused of organising independent May Day celebrations.
Although the islamic regime in Tehran is using the threat of war and sanctions to increase repression, Ossanlou and Saghez labour activists such as Mahmoud Salehi and Borhan Divargar are adamant in their opposition to imperialism and war.
In the words of Madadi, deputy president of the Vahed branch: Our labour union does not regard anyone who propagates and prepares for war as its friends and allies. We reject strongly any military action against our country and warn the workers against the threat of war and the need to stop such aggression. Indeed Irans workers and their activists are the genuine anti war forces in our country.
Workers Left Unity Iran calls on all anti-capitalist groups, socialists, communists and trade unionists to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ossanlou and the withdrawal of all charges against Saghez labour activists.
Phil Kent accuses me of his own sins: namely not listening to others.
Nowhere did I talk of military defeats or pogroms. But what Phil does is once again counterpose the entirely hypothetical future oppression of Israeli Jews to the actual living situation of Palestinians today, who face daily pogroms. Once again the CPGB is drawing an equals sign between the oppressor and the oppressed.
It is no accident that Phil talks of a unitary, democratic Palestine only being achievable after mutual trust and respect has been established. What he implies is that the cause of the oppression of the Palestinians is not the material interests of Israeli Jews in colonisation - the land, the water - and, of course, the superiority that goes with racism and its project for transfer. It is the fears of the settler at the reaction of the oppressed and that the latter will have to establish the trust and respect of the Zionists if they want to progress.
This is little different from the excuses that the Israeli state gives for its latest terrorist outrage: The Palestinians provoked it. It is strange that the Palestinians - the living oppressed - never say that they will not live with Israeli Jews until they get some respect and trust. Just as black South Africans did not refuse to live in a single unitary state. Like Israel today it was the whites, both there and in Zimbabwe, who expressed their fears of being murdered by black savages in their sleep.
Why does Phil Kent pose the argument in this way? Because deep down he does not understand the reality of the situation in Israel or that of the Palestinians. Israelis are not physically all settlers, but politically they are, in just the same way as the Ulster loyalists have kept their settler identity for 300-plus years.
I do not possess a crystal ball, but I envisage that a combination of a number of factors, including the withdrawal of US backing, the rise of the Arab masses and also an internal weakening of Zionist society, will lead to the eventual crumbling of this siege state. What will not ensure the defeat of Zionism is the Israeli Jewish working class who are, unfortunately, privileged.
As far as Canada and Australia are concerned, yes, the indigenous people there, or some of them, survive, but there is no possibility of them challenging the state. The Palestinians are one of the few examples of an indigenous people refusing to give up their lands. That is why we should support them without any caveats and we should not be afraid to put forward a solution that envisages a non-racist society where privilege does not depend on ethnic or racial allegiance.
As for Guy Maddox, Trotsky was no Zionist and always fought Zionism politically. He envisaged the possibility of a Jewish state in Europe, not Palestine, where Jews did indeed constitute a significant national minority. As for Israel being multiracial, well, yes, I guess thats right. In the same way that South Africa was.
Solidaritys only asset, Tommy Sheridan, also happens to be its biggest liability. Most people in Scotland have heard of him, as you state, but to what extent is this celebrity and to what extent is it notoriety (Breakaway deeply divided from birth, November 16)?
I have a problem with the views of Simon Wells. He is playing with words while children are being mutilated and women raped in the name of a commercial transaction.
If we are all prostitutes then arent we opposed to the exploitation of ourselves as workers? Or are we to revel in our suffering in some sado-masochistic fantasy existence. Personally, I am at one with Andrea Dworkin on these matters. If it makes me bourgeois, I would rather be called that than a prostitute!
Jim Padmore appears to think that fascists should never be allowed a platform as a matter of principle.
But surely this is a question of tactics - and we should adopt whatever tactic best serves the interest of our class. In some circumstances that may indeed mean using physical force to prevent the fascists speaking, but in others it may mean engaging them in debate - particularly if this will give us access to a mass audience.
In general we want backward and reactionary ideas out in the open, where they can be shown up for what they are: workers can listen to the arguments and make their own minds up. We should have nothing to do with the paternalistic attitude of those who seem to think that the working class cannot handle contending ideas.
The working class can only become the ruling class if it is able to discover the truth for itself.
Government efforts to move people off benefit and into work risk failure unless employers get more support to recruit and retain staff with mental health problems. This is the result of a new survey for the Disability Rights Commission.
The poll, by NOP, of small and medium businesses found that two-thirds have no procedures in place for managing staff with mental health problems. The survey also indicates that managers are more reluctant to make changes in the workplace for new staff with a mental health condition than for existing employees.
One in four of the population will experience mental health problems during their lifetime. One million of the 2.7 million people currently claiming sickness benefits have depression or other mental illness. I know from personal experience that in spite of the Disability Discrimination Act, employers in Cambridgeshire will not employ people with a history of mental illness.
As Christmas approaches, 11 workers at the Scottish parliament face broken contracts and unemployment in the new year, courtesy of self-proclaimed champions of the Scottish working class Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne MSPs.
The Industrial Workers of the World have taken no side between their new party, Solidarity, and the Scottish Socialist Party. The MSPs are clearly entitled to align themselves as they choose. What they are not entitled to do, however, is make their parliamentary staff pay the price. The SSP group of six MSPs originally employed 13 workers, promising them work until the next election in 2007 on wages paid from their pooled parliamentary allowances. Sheridan and Byrne have now withdrawn their support from this fund and, although two of the workers have switched employment to the new group, there is not enough money left to pay the remaining 11 for the rest of their contracts.
They are therefore placed in an impossible position: forced to choose between having their employment transferred to the new group against their will, or losing their jobs over a political split they did not precipitate. Meanwhile, Sheridan and Byrne now fund their parliamentary work with money taken straight from the pockets of the workers they themselves employed.
Five of the workers are members of the IWW, while others are members of the National Union of Journalists and, although both unions have written to Sheridan and Byrne on these workers behalf, so far neither have made any offer to honour their agreements.
The four remaining SSP MSPs - including Rosie Kane and Carolyn Leckie, who are also members of the IWW - have expressed their full support for the workers whose future hangs in the balance, and are also attempting to intervene with Sheridan and Byrne, and the Scottish parliament itself, which facilitated the withdrawal of payments: but so far equally without result.
The IWW has made it clear that it takes no interest in the political differences between the MSPs: but is demanding that it should not be resolved at the expense of the workers they collectively employed. This report has focused on Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne because these are the MSPs who are withholding payment. However, the workers claim is against them all: and it is difficult to avoid the observation that any politician claiming to represent working people would do well to first treat their own workers fairly.
All and sundry
VN Gelis writes: The RMT, according to Bob Crow, is trying to respond to these pressures [globalism] by preserving its structures intact and not allowing a free-for-all in terms of jobs to all and sundry, as has happened on the buses. One might wonder what he was referring to, if one did not know the particular orientation of the comrade.
He believes that immigration controls should be rigorously enforced to preserve the jobs of native workers in Greece, Britain and all other imperialist countries. I am a Metroline busworkers TGWU shop steward and my first task on getting elected last year was to defend Somalian and other African, Middle Eastern, eastern European and particularly Polish bus drivers against racist, anti-immigrant attacks that sought to preserve the cosy relationship the old T&G leadership had with management.
These divide-and-rule tactics were rampant on the buses following the defeats of the early 1990s. However, neither my own garage, Thorpes in Perivale, or the Armchair garage in Brentford are part of this dispute because we will not come under Metroline terms and conditions until January. I am proud to say that the epoch of company unionism is now finishing. Metroline is led by militant trade unionists who stopped work on Tuesday November 14 for the first time in 14 years and will strike again later in November.
Any hint of racism from any one of us would be absolutely fatal in such a workforce, which is more than 50% muslim in some garages. We welcome all and sundry, no matter what race, religion, colour or creed, because we are principled trade unionists. From someone who claims to be a Trotskyist internationalist, I find VN Geliss remarks exceedingly offensive.
All and sundry
The globalism referred to by VN Gelis is simply imperialism, unbridled in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In other words, international imperialist metastasis. I would refer readers to Lenins Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism for a prophetic analysis of what is happening today.
Never before in history has the concept of world socialist revolution been more realisable as it is in this period, for it is strikingly clear that the solution to the globalisation of capitalism lies in the globalisation of socialism. That is, socialist revolution needs to occur on a world scale.
The globalisation of capitalism isnt simply some unpleasant phenomenon that is going to pass. Barring the conscious intervention of the working class, it is here to stay, for thats what the imperialists have been struggling to achieve for a hundred years. This has always been the strategic goal of the capitalist class.
May I suggest a recruiting slogan for the Campaign for a Marxist Party, perhaps best unveiled at the next Socialist Workers Party Marxism event: Never mind the Marxism, heres the revolution!
The SWP has a short memory. If you are going to lie, its best not to do it so stupidly.
The SWP website claims that Respects Organising for Fighting Unions conference was the largest gathering of rank-and-file trade unionists since the 1980s, with 900 present.
But hold on a moment. Look at its report of a Socialist Alliance trade union conference four years ago, claiming more than a thousand in attendance (Socialist Worker March 23 2002). That was described as the biggest conference of rank-and-file trade unionists for two decades.
Dont you just love them!
You would never guess from Lee Rocks criticisms of PCSU general secretary Mark Serwotka that Lees Socialist Caucus (SC) initiated the campaign to back Mark for general secretary in the first place, when the dominant Socialist Party pessimistically backed a Blairite candidate initially (PCSU left split, November 16). You would also never guess that the SC AGM vote to leave Left Unity (LU) was only won by 15 votes to 14 and that, apparently, only six comrades have actually left.
Lee is right that the SP stiflingly dominates the NEC and LU, and has disgracefully appointed many of its members as full-time union professionals in the PCSU. He is also correct that the PCSU leadership prematurely settled for a divisive two-tier pensions scheme and should have held out longer.
However, Lees anger at what he feels is the NECs failure to mount sufficient action against the civil service job losses is undermined by his own estimate of PCSU industrial action as hardly a sign of huge levels of militancy.
To leave LU is one thing. To stand an alternative electoral slate that would split the left vote and allow the right wing to regain control is quite another. Any analysis of the voting figures of the PCSU 2006 NEC elections will show that, even though the right had split into two groups, 4 the members achieved two seats on the NEC and were only 2,000 votes away from getting many more.
Lee did not consult independent lefts (such as myself) before asking SC to split from LU. Five independents I have spoken to who work in the department for constitutional affairs (DCA) are all appalled at the split (as are the SC members within DCA) and will not stand on Lees alternative slate.
Typically, LU NEC candidates receive 110 branch nominations against just six for the rightwing 4 the members, yet only just win. Where is the realistic, honest evidence that an alternative left slate has any chance of succeeding rather than disastrously splitting the left vote?
If the right wing regains control of the PCSU NEC, will there be any campaign against job losses at all? In fact, there would be even more job losses. To lose a left NEC would be a setback for the wider trade union movement, not just the PCSU.
I well understand Lees frustration with SP domination, but I do not support impatient adventurism presented as principled tactics.
Lee and 14 other Socialist Caucus members think they have a mandate to take action that affects 320,000-plus PCSU members against the vote of 14 other SC members at a poorly attended SC AGM and with no soundings taken of what other anti-SP left independents thought about such an important move. I have made the following alternative electoral suggestion to Lee that he has yet to reply to.
He could agree to stand a slate that has two-thirds official LU candidates on it and 10 SC/independent left candidates. If this lost we would still have a majority left NEC in power. If it won, we would have a left NEC in control but with more SC people on it than ever before. A win-win solution.
There is still time to avert the disaster of standing Lees alternative non-LU NEC slate. Lee and his supporters will become social pariahs among the left if he insists on pursuing this adventure. That would be a shame. Lee - please reconsider.
It is significant and paradoxical that Richard Prices interesting two-page polemic against Marxist organisation should appear in the Weekly Worker, a paper whose purpose is precisely to organise revolutionaries (Another Marxism is possible, November 16).
The very existence of the paper is the product of Marxist organisation, demonstrating its immense value and the collective strength it brings. All the hard work and fundraising that sustain our paper is shown to be priceless when vital debate, such as comrade Prices piece, is facilitated.
It goes without saying that the purpose of debate between revolutionaries is to forge programmatic unity and construct the organisation of communists, so that the disparate and sometimes conflicting efforts of individuals and groups can be made effective. How strange, then, that comrade Price not only opposes the independent organisation of Marxists, but seeks to limit their field of activity to the Labour Party, within the constituency parties, the trade unions and other affiliated bodies, and to reduce their aims to a desperate attempt to save what remains of the party of labour from rightwing destruction.
For Marxists, it should be axiomatic that we organise within all spheres of society, and that our collective actions in any particular area - such as within Labour - should be conducted as a part of the struggle as a whole, a part that must be subordinate to the whole.
What comrade Price displays is Labour Party sectarianism. And since he starts and ends with his own fetish that struggle outside Labour is irrelevant, he makes the mistake of attributing to Mike Macnair and the CPGB the opposite idea, that struggle within Labour is irrelevant. This makes our support for the John McDonnell campaign irrational or, for comrade Price, incomprehensible. Likewise, he finds it inconsistent that comrade Macnair regards the 1901 decision of the Social Democratic Federation to pull out of the Labour Representation Committee, separating the Marxists from the mass, as a sectarian mistake. Working within Labour, comrade Price assumes, is incompatible with organising Marxists.
Accusing us of wanting an avowedly revolutionary party outside Labour, comrade Price implicitly prefers to present a covert, sugared Marxism, and that only within Labour. He charges comrade Macnair with wanting to influence the Labour Party only from outside.
On the contrary, the Labour left is a vital area of struggle, and we must strive to organise Marxists within Labour just as much as outside it. But those who are Labour Party members should operate not as isolated individuals or competing groups, but, as in every sphere of political work, as organised Marxists.
No to party
The whole mess described by Jack Conrad actually points to the need for Marxists to build around a united front, and not a party at this point: certainly not inside any social democrat husk of a bourgeois workers party either, whatever the enticement to support the latest pro-Labour Party hype-ola (Programmatic masks and transitional fleas, November 16).
The united front is where disparate Marxist tendencies can interface with that mythical left of the Labour Party - not to mention all those liberal petty bourgeois forces outside Labour, which the working class will need to influence in their struggle to gain class hegemony in advance of the social revolution. Indeed, the united front will be where this ideological mess weve inherited can finally be sorted out: because a united front, by definition, can only be built around what can be commonly agreed to - and no more. United fronts, in fact, tell you to park your ideological baggage at the gate. And thats the prerequisite for basic agreement, isnt it?
Finally, the united front is where all the practical issues and struggles can and will actually be organised - since the whole point and essence of a commonly agreed-to programme is practical, immediate goals.
So forget a Marxist party of harpies and gargoyles for now: build the united front first. And remember that everything - and the key - is in the process itself.
No to party
I was surprised to read recently in your esteemed organ that the Alliance for Workers Liberty thinks that the 1945-51 Labour government of Clement Attlee was a workers government. While Socialist Appeal certainly does apply the moniker of real Labour government to post-war reformism, I have struggled to find any evidence that this is the attitude of the AWL, or indeed any of its members.
I must admit my own softness on this question. I did, after all, once state in an article on post-1945 Labourism in the pages of Solidarity that we cant expect socialism from above - but that doesnt mean that every element which constitutes the Labour Party is necessarily unable to be involved in a real workers government.
I am sure that rather than engaging with the existing organisations of the working class and labour movement, the CPGB will find success in regroupment with a handful of its sympathisers in the Campaign for a Marxist Party. This marked an important event, which fully deserved the ownership of the majority of pages in your November 9 issue, and indeed the exciting front page. The working class will be thrilled!
The Campaign for a Marxist Party was founded a fortnight ago and Peter Burton is already asking for detailed policies for this and that. Give it another fortnight and he will want to see our plans for the seizure of state power!
In my opinion, Peter has the wrong approach. The campaign is supposed to be exactly what it states on the label: a campaign, a process; not a small group of gurus with the tablets of stone and the magic ingredient X, spraying out pearls of wisdom and orders to the masses.
We decided to use a democratic process to come to our programme and to commit ourselves to the use of the Marxist method to analyse globalisation and its effects on the working class, and to decide what society would be like under socialism. This may seem an obvious course of action, but it is, in my experience, something new on the left.
We are appealing for Marxists to participate in the process of formulating a programme, not to wait like consumers in their armchairs to be told by the leaders what to think and do.
I am certain that Peter Burton has a creative contribution to make. As a well-known poet he could surely use his skills to write a campaign rap song or anthem that with some drum-and-bass backing could open up a path to young workers. This is the sort of approach we want.
Ask not what the party can do for me but what can I do for the party!