SWP backs the mullahs - official

The Socialist Workers Party-backed Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (Casmii) effectively operates as an apologist for the regime sitting in Tehran, says Eddie Ford

A few weeks ago, we reported on the recent magnificent Iranian teachers' strike - which saw thousands demonstrating in Tehran, in open defiance of the regime. Of course, the majority of those demonstrators were against any form of US-UK imperialist intervention - it would be working people like themselves, together with their families, friends and neighbours, who would suffer the most.

So the striking teachers, and their supporters, oppose the butcher abroad, but they will not be bullied into supporting the butcher at home either. In other words, the democratic and workers' movement in Iran is one that opposes and fights against both the plans of the imperialists and the repressive islamic regime. Pertinently, these are exactly the campaigning principles of the steadily growing Hands Off the People of Iran campaign - among the latest to sign up are Scottish Socialist Party MSP Carolyn Leckie (Tommy Sheridan of Solidarity was one of the first signatories), two Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets, Lufta Begum and Rania Khan, and the Irish senator and civil rights activist David Norris. However, they are precisely not the campaigning principles of the Socialist Workers Party-backed Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (Casmii), which effectively operates as an apologist for the regime sitting in Tehran.

We also noted how the strikers had received widespread solidarity from the workers' movement internationally. But we ended the article by pointing to that week's Socialist Worker, which curiously contained a piece by Naz Massoumi (previously billed as a supporter of Action Iran, the forerunner of Casmii, and an SWP member) supporting the Iranian teachers' strike - who made the correct observation that "the anti-war movement in the west has a key role to play in offering solidarity to the Iranian people, while resisting any attempt by rightwingers to use their struggles to justify a murderous military attack on the country" (March 24).

At the time, we asked the rhetorical question: "Are we maybe witnessing some kind of a conversion? Mike Gonzales, one of the SWP's leading members in Scotland, was, after all, one of the first to sign up to HOPI's statement. Well, there's always hoping "¦" But we concluded: "More likely, though, the comrades will fall back into their usual position of siding with their enemy's enemy, if bombs start falling on Tehran" ('Solidarity with Iran needs a fight on two fronts', March 22).

Well, we did not have to wait for the bombs. In the April 7 edition of Socialist Worker we read on the front page: "Millions of ordinary people in Iran are determined to resist any new attempts by the US and Britain to undermine the Iranian government. The anti-war movement around the world must stand by them" (my emphasis).

So, there you have the SWP's real position on the Middle East and anti-imperialism in general. Given the SWP's recycled Trotskyism (via Tony Cliff's state capitalism), socialists and communists (not that the comrades are in the habit of using the latter word, of course) are obliged to support the 'little powers' against the 'big powers' - just as we are obliged to wholeheartedly, and "unconditionally" of course, back "the resistance" in Iraq, which apparently consists of a single, united bloc. This, in the twilight zone that is official SWP political thought, constitutes 'anti-imperialism'.

In which case, it must surely be the case that striking teachers in Tehran - and indeed anybody else who goes on strike or protests in any way against the regime - are acting to "undermine the Iranian government". If so, and basic logic would dictate that this must indeed be the case, then it only stands to reason that the striking teachers in Iran are 'objectively' agents of imperialism. Perhaps comrade Massoumi will protest against this betrayal of those in struggle against the regime - though we have our doubts.

Quite obscenely, the SWP has got itself into a frame of mind where the Iranian regime can be viewed as a strategic ally in the struggle against imperialism. Yes, it almost goes without saying, communists are quite prepared to make deals - or enter into all manner of alliances - with absolutely anybody under certain concrete circumstances (including the devil, of course).

But the overriding political imperative for us at all times is to advance working class independence, which means that, if we do enter into an alliance with a secondary enemy, we never for one moment drop our criticisms of it and never cease to warn against the danger that enemy will surely continue to pose. Not that the current situation calls for workers in either Britain or Iran to enter into such an alliance with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reactionary regime. We should continue to fight on two fronts.

All this stands in contradiction to the SWP's politics - which in reality is to sacrifice working class political independence, and shed all political principles along the way, in order to promote its right-moving (unpopular) popular front politics. By doing this, by opportunistically, and endlessly, chasing after immediate short-term advantage, the John Rees-Lindsey German SWP leadership imagines - and what a fantasy, comrades - that it will eventually 'make a difference' and in turn reap the 'big time'. Hence its Respect project.

But all Rees-German are actually doing over Iran and in Britain is abandoning class politics and spreading demoralisation. Most Respect councillors are muslims first and foremost, many being well connected businessmen with a local client base. Of Respect's 12 councillors in Tower Hamlets only three have trade union cards. So much for the 'T' in Respect standing for trade unionism.

As for the SWP, politically it has swung to the right. One 'shibboleth' has been betrayed after another: proletarian socialism, republicanism, a workers' representative on a skilled worker's wage, gay rights, secularism, a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, etc. In a sullen protest, a large swathe of the SWP members have effectively gone on strike or drifted into inactivity. They carry on as trade union militants and in other campaigns. But they won't touch Respect with a barge-pole. Either that or they have resigned in high dudgeon: eg, prominent comrades like Ged Peck in Luton. Clearly, the SWP is in an advanced state of decomposition.