For the Iranian masses

Anne McShane reports on solidarity in Ireland

Hands Off the People of Iran held a successful series of meetings and a launch conference in Ireland last week. Moshé Machover and Yassamine Mather, who attended all the events, gave an excellent boost to the campaign.

The first meeting was organised by the Anarchist Society at Trinity College, where Moshé focused on the background to the current situation in the Middle East. He described how the British and French governments’ cynical arming of Israel against Egypt in the Suez crisis should be seen as an important turning point in the creation of Israel aggression. But, while Israel remains to this day a creature of imperialism, it is not simply its servant, but has its own ambitions in the region.

Yassamine then discussed the struggles of students and workers in Iran. She looked at the effects of Barack Obama’s election. Contrary to media hype, Obama’s presidency will not herald in a period of peace and harmony. He has already promised to toughen up sanctions against Iran. Some students expressed an interest in linking up with their counterparts in Iran and it was agreed that Yassamine would try to facilitate this.

That evening Hopi held a joint meeting with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Joining the two Hopi speakers on the platform was Raymond Deane, a founding member of the IPSC, speaking in a personal capacity. Moshé argued that the only way of superseding Zionism was within a regional context. As a socialist he is for the voluntary union of the masses across the Middle East as a means of ensuring that the poles of oppression will not be reversed.

Yassamine then looked at the reality behind the assertion that Iran is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. Neither is true. The Iranian state is simply acting in its own interests and will strike whatever deals are necessary to facilitate this. At present it sells oil to Israel, for example. But 75% of Iran’s population is under 25 and they have seen the reality of life under an Islamic government. Most are also against any US intervention in their country, having seen what has happened to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are a real force for radical and maybe even revolutionary change. They are the real worry for imperialism.

Comrade Deane said that the election of Obama as well as the international crisis of capitalism created the possibility of increased confidence for those below and offered new opportunities. He said that the IPSC’s main work is raising consciousness and offering practical support. However, while it exposes the role of Israel and the US, as a broad church it struggles with the question of what to identify with as a positive alternative.

The Hopi launch conference on Saturday was an extremely useful event. We voted through a constitution confirming the current slogans of the campaign and elected a steering committee. Members of the Socialist Democracy group put forward a number of proposals, including a motion which stated: “The policy of Hopi is the unconditional defence of Iran against imperialist attack.” This was amended by the conference to replace “Iran” with “the Iranian people” - we must insist that our campaign supports the masses against the regime and this is an issue that must not be clouded.

The conference also agreed that our aim is to build a working class campaign in Ireland, but rejected the proposal that we therefore refuse to sign up those who are not working class. One of our sponsors, senator David Norris, is not a working class politician, but is progressive on many questions, including Iran. He is an important supporter, despite the fact that our politics are based on working class principles. Yes, there are contradictions in this, but they exist for the sponsor, not the campaign itself.

It was emphasised that, while Hopi is wholeheartedly for secularism, we are not against religious people. Our secularism is directed against the interference of the Islamic state in the everyday lives of Iranians, whether religious or not.

Finally we discussed activity for 2009 and agreed that we would plan activities to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Our role in this period is mainly educational and in this we have met with some success - our supporters, who often bring their own skills to the campaign, are now more knowledgeable about Iran and the Middle East in general.