End STWC exclusion
Murray's and Hopi's letters and the StWC's undermining of the struggle; plus Unison and Iranian students' news
Andrew Murray is once again fronting the campaign to stop Hands Off the People of Iran affiliating to the Stop the War Coalition. Although he claims that the letter from the Stop the War steering committee did not “refuse” Hopi’s affiliation, and actually was carrying out a decision “taken by [our] last conference”, it should be noted that Communist Students - an organisation that was also banned alongside Hopi in 2007 following a conference vote - has been allowed to affiliate and register delegates.
In fact this glaring inconsistency seems to reflect something more general about the STWC at the moment - the organisation is in quite serious disarray. After months and months of delay and postponement before the conference was finally called, we are informed by the STWC office that there will be no opportunity to put amendments to motions, and that the motions themselves will not be posted on the STWC website but sent out by Royal Mail during the week. Although we do not yet know whether it has made it onto the agenda, the CPGB has tabled a motion arguing for Hopi to be allowed to affiliate.
We publish here a letter signed by leading Hopi members John McDonnell MP and professor Moshé Machover. Please circulate this letter as widely as possible and build support against this exclusion. Those who wish to help Hopi raise the argument with delegates attending conference on Saturday should get in touch: email email@example.com; or call Ben on 07792 282830.
To Tina Becker, Hopi steering committee
Thank you for your response to our letter of February 9. Our letter did not “refuse” Hopi’s affiliation to Stop the War. That decision was taken by our last conference. The letter asked you to clarify a couple of points to see whether there was any new recommendation the steering committee could make on the subject.
In the event, your response arrived much too late to be considered by the steering committee - this would have been the case even if your email of March 30 had not gone astray. I am not clear why it took you so long to reply.
On the substance of your response, it is your approach to the comments by Mark Fischer that is most unsatisfactory. This is not a matter of one set of views among many which could be addressed by approaching the political organisation of which Mark is a member. These are remarks by the national secretary of Hopi bearing directly on Hopi’s relationship with STWC - ie, that our politics are “rotten” and that Hopi is needed as an “alternative political centre” to STWC.
It is therefore quite legitimate for us to ask whether Hopi as an organisation endorses these views of its national secretary, or wishes to disassociate from them. Hopi, like all organisations, has to take collective responsibility for statements by its national officials on matters relating to the organisation’s business. Your unwillingness to honestly face up to the content of Mark Fischer’s remarks - the accuracy of which has not been challenged - must inevitably call into question your intentions in seeking to affiliate to STWC.
If you are able to clarify your position on Mark’s statements - indicate whether they represent Hopi’s views or not - then the question of your affiliation to STWC can be considered at the conference on Saturday week. Otherwise, I can see nothing that has moved the issue on from where it was when the conference rejected your affiliation at the end of 2007.
Undermining the struggle
To Andrew Murray, officers and members of the Stop the War Coalition
We note with great concern the comments of the STWC’s national chair, Andrew Murray, which seem to suggest that coalition officers will again recommend rejection of the affiliation of Hands Off the People of Iran. If this is indeed the case, we urge you to reconsider your decision as soon as possible.
Hopi is an integral part of the anti-war movement. It fights against the threats of imperialism against Iran and has just launched its ‘Smash the Sanctions’ campaign in the House of Commons.. Clearly, democracy cannot be delivered from above, as the example of the invasion and occupation of Iraq shows. Democracy can only come from below, from the people themselves. This is why Hopi is in active solidarity with the women’s, workers’ and students’ movements in Iran who are not just fighting against the threat of imperialist war, but also against their own oppressive regime, the Iranian theocracy.
In a letter to the Hopi steering committee on April 15, STWC chair Andrew Murray asks to “clarify a couple of points”.
Firstly, to our knowledge no other organisation has ever been asked to pass such an exam before it was allowed to affiliate to the coalition. Why start with Hopi? Secondly, the “points” he requests clarification on actually amount to a single question: Will the Hopi steering committee disassociate itself from comments made by Hopi secretary Mark Fischer (the national organiser of the Communist Party of Great Britain) at an internal CPGB meeting in 2007? This should not be a barrier to our affiliation and could almost be classed as ridiculous.
There is an extremely wide range of opinions concerning STWC in the ranks of Hopi. We are a broad organisation, including the CPGB, the Labour Representation Committee, the PCS, Aslef, Workers Left Unity (Iran), alongside many other individuals, each with their own unique viewpoint, but working together in common concern for the people of Iran.
In fact, it would be more logical for STWC to assume that Mark Fischer’s views are far more likely to be in a majority in the CPGB itself. Yet we have had confirmation that you are happy to allow this organisation to re-affiliate, to submit motions to your 2009 conference and to stand for election to your steering committee.
This inconsistency brings no credit to the coalition and could lead people to question what your actual reason for excluding Hopi is.
We feel that your decision undermines the struggle for effective unity against the sabre-rattling and war preparations of imperialism. The deeply reactionary regime in Tehran is no friend of the international anti-war movement and, as illustrated by its collaborationist role in the US’s occupation of Afghanistan, is no way a consistent opponent of imperialism. Our real allies are in the ranks of the movements that this theocratic regime is busy oppressing and imprisoning on a daily basis.
That is the important debate that should be had in the ranks of a united anti-war movement, alongside - and as a vital component of - its campaigning work.
As for comments made by Mark Fischer two years ago, can we suggest that, instead of attempting to implicitly conflate the views of Hopi and the CPGB, you debate the issues directly with your affiliate, the CPGB?
John McDonnell MP
Professor Moshé Machover
The national conference of the largest public sector union, Unison, will take place in Brighton from June 16-19. Supporters of Hopi in the union organised to make sure that a motion on Iran, calling for support for the work of our campaign and the rights of independent trade unions against attacks by the clerical regime, was on the agenda.
However, the Unison leadership has decided to oppose the motion because, “although touching on the denial of trade union rights in Iran”, it “effectively serves to publicise the work of Hands Off the People of Iran and calls on the union to affiliate to it”. This rules out support as, according to the Unison tops, “Hopi has refused to join broad-based campaigns in defence of Iranian trade unions, preferring to take a sectarian position. In 2008 it refused to support the International Transport Workers Federation/International Trade Union Confederation campaigns in defence of Iranian trade unionists Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi and this year failed to support Education International’s campaign in defence of Iranian teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar.”
It is important that Hopi activists are clear about the real stance of our organisation.
In fact, we did attend the March 6 200 8 picket outside the Iranian embassy in London. This action was part of an internationally coordinated protest that brought out activists in 35 countries to demand the “immediate and unconditional release” of Iranian trade union leaders Mansour Ossanlou and Mahmoud Salehi. The ITUC and ITF-organised event was endorsed by Amnesty International and supported in this country by Aslef, RMT, GMB, TSSA, Unison and Unite.
However, Hopi issued a leaflet making clear that - despite the physical presence of our supporters on the day - our campaign “[draws] the line at politically endorsing these protests”. We noted that the silence of the organisers on the threat of imperialism to the Iranian people marked them as “deeply compromised politically”. For example, a posting on the same day as the protest on the IFT website proudly boasted that the “British and Australian governments have released statements backing the day of action”, with British foreign office minister Kim Howells approvingly quoted as demanding that “the government of Iran … release immediately Mansour Ossanlou and Mahmoud Salehi … [who] have been imprisoned for several months for their involvement in peaceful activities in support of workers’ rights.”
The Hopi leaflet issued at the picket on March 6 noted that “the official leaflets to mobilise for this day of action focus almost exclusively on opposition to the theocratic regime. But the Iranian working class is facing two enemies - both the Ahmadinejad regime and the biggest enemy of it and the world’s working class, imperialism.”
The fact that the British government - an active accomplice in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and a loyal partner of future US-led military adventures - felt no compunction about supporting the protest tells us something; the fact that the organisers were not alarmed by this tells us a great deal more.
To point this out is in no way “sectarian”, as the leaders of Unison suggest. Despite our occasionally sharp criticisms of the approach of some others in the anti-war and solidarity movement, we do not boycott it.
Hopi supporters in the union will now be fighting to have the motion prioritised. The opposition of the Unison machine gives us the opportunity to write to every branch, region and self-organised group to lay out the case for Hopi and explain why their organisation should fight to ensure the motion is moved up the agenda and debated.
Defend Iranian students’ movement
Chris Strafford calls for support for students
Authorities in Iran are still attempting to crush the student movement that has been organising against the theocratic state, and against imperialist warmongering and sanctions. A leading member of the Students for Freedom and Equality group, the DAB (Daneshjouyan-e Azadi Khah va Beraber Talab), Peyman Piran, is facing deportation from Norway. Members of DAB have said that Peyman’s life would be in danger if he is returned to Iran after being subjected to ill-treatment and imprisoned for anti-regime activities going back to 1999. You can help Peyman by contacting the Norwegian consulate and the Refugee Council of Norway to demand that he is permitted to stay in Norway (details below).
Sanaz Allahyari and Amir Hossein Mohammadi, who were arrested on March 1, have been released with significant injuries after 18 days in prison. They were arrested for taking part in demonstrations held on February 23 at Noushirvan University in Babo. Protests had been banned after the burial of soldiers killed during the Iraq-Iran war as the authorities deem it disrespectful to the ‘martyrs’. Comrades Maryam Sheikh and Nasim Roshana’i remain in the notorious Evin prison. Their well-being is unknown, but it is standard practice to ill-treat and abuse dissidents in Iran.
DAB members are also extremely worried about Mohammad Pour Abdollah, a Tehran University student who was arrested on February 12 and spent over a month in solitary confinement at Evin prison before being moved to Qezel Hesar, just outside of Tehran. His parents have only seen him once after sitting in front of the prison during Iran’s Norouz (new year). During the visit they learned that their son was being tortured.
Students for Freedom and Equality spokesperson Alireza Davoudi was also arrested in Isfahan on February 12 and is still in prison.
Hands Off the People of Iran has previously organised actions and meetings in solidarity with students in Iran - the videos of a protest in Manchester, for example, can be found on the Hopi website (www.hopoi.org).
With the continuing wave of repression, we are planning further actions and call on all internationalists to stand with the students of Iran - against imperialism, against the theocratic regime.
We demand the immediate and unconditional release of these comrades and all political prisoners held by the Islamic Republic and call on all communists to act in solidarity with these students. For us this is inseparable from opposing all imperialist sanctions, threats and attacks on Iran, which the regime uses to justify its continued repression.
Royal Norwegian Embassy: 25 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QD; 020 7591 5500; firstname.lastname@example.org
Norwegian Refugee Council: PO Box 6758, St Olavs plass, 0130 Oslo; +(47) 23 10 98 00; email@example.com