Smearing solidarity

The issue of Iran solidarity has provoked controversy recently in the debates on Indymedia Ireland (www.indymedia.ie). Anne Mc Shane reports

The issue of Iran solidarity has provoked controversy recently in the debates on Indymedia Ireland (www.indymedia.ie).

Reports of struggles against the islamic regime have upset some contributors to the website. These reports have been condemned as part of US anti-Iran propaganda - and supporters of Hands Off the People of Iran as witting or unwitting puppets of the CIA.

As is the way with such email lists, many of the contributions can be dismissed as the rabid, bellicose ramblings of some very frustrated individuals (usually male) - and not worthwhile responding to. However, there have also been some interesting reactions by posters who almost certainly are Socialist Workers Party supporters. While identities are disguised (some writers seem to have several), the arguments are mostly in defence of the SWP and Campaign Iran.

As well as the 'Oh no, not more US propaganda!' reaction, we have been treated to a number of reasons why organising in solidarity with the Iranian people is a bad idea. Chief among these is the argument that we are playing into the hands of the US by raising criticisms of the Iranian regime at this particular moment. As one contributor, Steve, put it, "When the present threat to Iran from the neo-cons has passed I will be the first to condemn any mullah oppression, as I do all oppression" (www.indy media.ie/article/83719). The Hopi campaign is just bad timing. We are told by 'Neo-con puppet' that it is better to write more critical articles about client states of the US, such as Saudi Arabia, and "then, when the war drums stop, switch back to highlighting the problems in Iran" (www.indymedia.ie/article/83485).

Therefore we must suspend our support for the Iranian workers, progressive and democrats in the face of this current crackdown by Ahmadinejad. Indeed they too should suspend their own struggle and suffer whatever is exacted on them by the state, it seems. They should support the regime against the US in any event. After all, we are constantly told, the whole nation will unite once there is an attack.

Besides the unsavoury advice to the Iranian masses that they should support their own oppressors, has it not occurred to these comrades that US threats are necessary for Ahmadinejad? They excuse him cracking down on opposition in order to stabilise the fragile theocratic regime. So by uncritically defending the Iranian state the 'left' becomes complicit in the repression of the Iranian people.

The other claim made is that reports of struggle in Iran are exaggerated or concocted. We are told that no émigré Iranians who are critical of the regime can be trusted - they are de facto tools of imperialism, often financed by the CIA. Reports by leftwing émigrés sourced from their contacts in Iran are therefore dismissed as 'Iran-bashing' and downright dangerous. Proponents of this argument state that there are no genuine calls for solidarity coming from Iran (except those demanding solidarity with the regime, obviously). Therefore there is no need to worry about building a solidarity movement. We should just leave them alone.

Another argument against a solidarity movement with the Iranian people is that there is a putative democracy movement within the Iranian state and any possibility of self-reform will be set back decades if US imperialism launches an air war. The comrades appear to believe that change will come through 'progressive' clerics and other such types whittling away at the oppressive apparatus, rather than through the mass action of the working class and the rural poor. Either way, to safeguard the possibility of what is not possible they once again demand that we keep quiet.

Campaign Iran, we are told, is not soft on president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but fights for women's and other rights. And, while its mission statement calls for the unity of all political perspectives around the single aim of opposing intervention in Iran, it also claims its "core values include respect for human rights and a democratic state, in particular freedom of expression, freedom of press, an independent judiciary, equal rights for women, ethnic and religious minorities in Iran" (www.cam paign iran.org/casmiindex.php ?q =about).

But, like its supporters on Indymedia, Campaign Iran is not for highlighting these "core values" just now. Instead the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, its parent organisation, recently issued a statement which looks to Ahmadinejad himself to nod in the direction of democratic reform so as to strengthen his government against hostile forces. It calls on "the Islamic Republic of Iran to pay more attention to human rights and social and political freedoms, so as to create the grounds for a stronger and greater unity of the people of Iran in the face of foreign pressures and threats" (my emphasis, www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/2513). Obviously what they have in mind is cross-class unity behind the repressive regime - Ahmadinejad could not wish for more loyal advisors.

Although the campaign says it is organisationally independent of the Iranian state, the same cannot be said of its despicable politics. It goes without saying that such politics can have no place in any principled solidarity movement. It will be interesting to find out which section of the islamic regime Casmii favours, for it is certainly not backing the workers, students and women protestors, many of whom are now in prison facing torture. Casmii is an enemy of the democratic and working class forces in Iran.

Supporters of Hopi have explained in the Indymedia discussions that one can be both against imperialism and against the islamic regime. It is possible to fight on two fronts at the same time. We do not pull our punches dealing with those in our movement who are soft on imperialism, or try to present it as a civilising force. Eg, the social-imperialists of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty. US imperialism is our biggest enemy, of course. There can be no doubting that. We should therefore be critical of the International Federation of Trade Unions for organising a day of solidarity with Iranian trade unionists without also condemning US-UK imperialism. Also, in my view, the Worker-communist Party of Iran should be criticised for simply concentrating on the islamists and not raising anti-imperialist slogans.

But being clear about who is the greater enemy does not mean supporting the 'other side'. The Iranian regime might be anti-US but it is certainly not anti-imperialist. In truth its real aim is to dominate the Middle East, including post-occupation Iraq. It certainly would not be hostile to a deal with the Bush administration if it furthered its own ambitions.

The only force that can be supported in Iran is the working class and democratic movement. They are the only genuine anti-imperialists, and all smear campaigns against principled solidarity with them must be exposed and condemned. Shame on those on the left who try to undermine that movement.