Hopi: fight on two fronts

Ben Lewis makes a call to truly champion the cause of the Iranian masses

This coming weekend, Hands Off the People of Iran will hold its third annual conference. In the past three years we have been pivotal in planting the flag of principled solidarity, taking the arguments for proletarian internationalism into the workers' and student movements both in Britain and, to a lesser extent, internationally.

Indeed, in spite of the confusion that has been sown about the campaign by regime apologists and social-imperialists alike, Hopi's message has been and remains unambiguous: consistently siding with the Iranian masses and the movements of workers, students, women and LGBT people must flow from two indispensable principles.

On the one hand, we must implacably oppose imperialist sanctions and war as the worst possible outcome for the peoples of Iran (as we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq). For this reason, we have been on every Stop the War Coalition demonstration against imperialism's presence in the Middle East and against any future attacks. Unfortunately, the STWC still rejects our affiliation, but precisely because of our commitment to the defeat of the imperialist project we take the unity of the anti-war movement seriously and will continue to seek such affiliation.

On the other hand, we must provide unswerving support for the mass democratic movements inside Iran, especially those led by the working class, as opposed to this or that faction of the purportedly 'anti-imperialist' regime.

If we are to truly champion the cause of the Iranian masses, then these principles cannot exist in isolation from each other. We are firmly convinced that the tumultuous events of the past year and the mass upsurge following the patently fraudulent presidential election of June 2009 have vindicated our fundamental perspectives. Approaching the question in the manner we have always done, we had no hesitation in immediately placing ourselves on the side of the Iranian masses. We also welcomed the fact that the left in Britain - with a few distinctly dishonourable exceptions such as George Galloway - also sided with the Iranian people. As a result of the inspiring events, many comrades in the movement who previously held doubts about the campaign have increasingly come over to our perspectives. This is good news.

As we have insisted, the Islamic Republic is deeply unpopular inside Iran. It is increasingly clear, however, that illusions in the green movement of Mir-Hossein Moussavi are disappearing. The only way the Iranian masses can impose their agenda on society is by building a red movement and fighting for working class rule. The actions of workers in transport, train manufacture, the sugar and oil industries are intimations of something more generalised and must be supported through practical international solidarity.

Hopi is committed to advancing the interests of the working class. This is why we resolutely oppose imperialist sanctions: they reduce the fighting capacity of the working class to a mere struggle for survival. For example, oil workers have been seriously discussing a nationwide strike (that is what tipped the balance of forces decisively against the shah in 1979), but they are concerned that such an action would be damaging to the Iranian population which faces a harsh winter and renewed talk in the Obama administration of 'crippling' petroleum sanctions (about 40% of Iran's petroleum has to be imported because it lacks the necessary processing capacity).

The sanctions war has the aim of either forcing Tehran to compromise and fall in with the wishes of the US or, failing that, helping to bring to fruition plans for regime change from above. US imperialism now smells blood. With the regime deeply split and facing a huge opposition movement, administration officials are hoping for a diplomatic deal that will ends Iran's pariah status as a rogue state, while safely neutralising the mass movement. Given Iran's history of revolutions in the 20th century and militant working class traditions, this is more than understandable.

In the absence of a strong international workers' movement that is capable of providing decisive material and ideological support, many pseudo-leftwingers in Iran are overtly or covertly going over to the camp of imperialism and winning a degree of support by claiming that anything must be better than the brutal and thoroughly discredited theocratic regime. However, Iraq is a living warning that imperialism brings not peace, democracy and plenty, but barbarism.

Winning the working class in the core imperialist countries away from the type of politics promoted by the International Workers Transport Federation and International Trade Union Confederation is a key question for Hopi. In March 2008 and June 2009 the ITWF and ITUC organised protests outside Iranian embassies highlighting the plight of imprisoned trade unionists but failed to mention imperialist sanctions or the threat of war (not least an Israeli strike).

In 2010 we shall continue to fight on two fronts: against the theocratic regime, against imperialist sanctions and war.