Iran Solidarity: Solidarity run

Comrades and friends of Workers Fund Iran are doing another solidarity marathon run reports Jamie Tedford

On Sunday November 25 Ben Lewis and I will be representing the ‘British section’ of the Workers Fund Iran running team at the Florence city marathon. We will be running alongside around 30 other WFI comrades in a city that promises both beautiful scenery and - rather ominously - a very high number of cobblestones and hills per kilometre.

This is our second marathon this year. And, just as we tried to do in the Vienna marathon, which we completed with other comrades back in the spring, in Florence the aim is clear: to raise political awareness of the situation in Iran and to collect funds for the cause of international solidarity.

One way in which working class solidarity differs from bourgeois charity is in its honest declaration that our modest contribution to alleviate some of the most extreme hardship currently faced by the working class in Iran cannot in and of itself lead to any form of solution for our brothers and sisters in that country. We do not simply wish to rattle tins, raise some funds and foster the illusion that people on these shores have ‘done their bit’. This is a passive conception of how to enact change.

As communists we believe the real solution can only come through the self-liberation of the Iranian working class by and for itself, which also requires the rebuilding of the workers’ movement internationally. So we call upon you not only to donate money, but to become active in the movement against war and sanctions, and in support of the Iranian masses against their own brutal regime. At a time when the entire Middle East region is in turmoil, the slogan, ‘No to imperialism! No to the Islamic regime!’, is as pertinent as ever.

It is hard to find the words to describe just how difficult the situation is for the Iranian masses. One notable absence from Barack Obama’s re-election campaign was the pretence, so prominent four years ago, that an Obama presidency would represent some kind of paradigm shift in US foreign policy in the direction of peace. In fact, Obama has spent the last four years leading a war on the Iranian people. His weapon of choice has been the deepening sanctions regime, ensuring that the Iranian rial has plummeted in value and ordinary Iranians have trouble getting hold of even the most essential goods. But that is not all. As can be repeatedly seen by statements from the more unhinged sections of the Israeli and American elite, the threat of military intervention still looms worryingly large.

Like any good capitalist state, the Iranian regime has deflected the burden of sanctions onto its most vulnerable members. The result has been mass unemployment, poverty and hunger. Extreme hardship has in turn made the fight for democracy, for even the most basic political freedoms, all the more difficult. It is almost impossible to organise effective working class resistance when you do not know where your next paycheck or meal is coming from. With the modest funds that we raise through initiatives like late-night hikes, marathons, cricket matches and rock gigs, Workers Fund Iran activists are attempting to provide material support to those in Iran who are currently hit the hardest.

The WFI solidarity running team is growing in size, and comprises many people from across the world of all ages and abilities. Over the past few years, the team has competed in Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm and Vienna. The next race will be decided after the post-marathon celebratory meal, where the fastest runner traditionally leads the other runners in song. If we did have a ‘leader’ then this would definitely be comrade Ali, an Iranian living in Florence. He is a distinguished member of the ‘50+ club’, having completed over 50 marathons. Now I know that some readers will be thinking that any member of such a club might need their head examined, so I thought I would dispel some myths around marathon running in the hope that you may join us in the future - wherever the next marathon takes us!

Like the actual race itself there are distinct phases to a marathon training programme. The first, or ‘optimistic phase’, begins with signing up to the event - to make this part go more smoothly it is best to be slightly inebriated: not to the point that you completely forget that you have signed up and thus forget to do any training, but just enough to distort your expectations and convince yourself that running 26.2 miles ‘can’t be that hard’. Initially, running is quite fun, a bit of a novelty and it is not long before you are making good progress, running longer distances and feeling good for it.

The middle phase of the training is the hardest: you have to put in most of the effort by gradually increasing your stamina and braving dark, early mornings, biting winds, ice, freezing rains and other niceties of the British autumnal weather. One relief during this time is that you can annoy others around you with endless tales of your progress and complaints of every minor injury you suffer along the way.

When you get through this, the next stage is the most satisfying and, speaking personally, I knew I had reached it when I realised that I had actually come to enjoy running, rather than just counting each kilometre until I could stop. If you get through this without suffering any horrific injuries then there is little more to do other than to pack your stylish WFI T-shirt, wait for the big day … and try not panic too much. The first celebratory beer at the dinner afterwards, oddly enough, has just the effect of making you sign up again too!

If this hasn’t convinced you, then I can only suggest that in the future you come along, meet our comrades and find out more. In the meantime, Ben and I are hoping to raise at least £500 in Florence, so please rush your donations to us via this link: www.charitychoice.co.uk/fundraiser/jamietedford/florence-marathon.

To learn more about Workers Fund Iran visit www.workersfund.org.