Simon Wells reports on the launch of the Smash the Sanctions campaign
On March 16, Hands Off the People of Iran kicked off its Smash the Sanctions campaign with a press conference in the House of Commons. John McDonnell MP, Jenny Jones (Green Party member of the London assembly) and Hopi chair Yassamine Mather addressed the meeting.
Comrade Mather started off by saying that sanctions are another form of war. The current set has just been renewed by Barack Obama. This shows that – if any proof was needed – his policies are very much a continuation of those of the Bush administration. There has also been a new round of sanctions, which includes serious restrictions on Sharif University, a leading educational institution in Iran, along with the Razi institution, a developer of immunisation medicines and a textile plant in the north of the country.
“I really fail to see how you can build a nuclear bomb with immunisation medicine or textiles, said comrade Mather. “But these sanctions have a real effect in that doctors and hospitals in Iran tell us that they can’t get hold of so-called ‘dual use’ equipment.”. It is not the senior clerics’ welfare which is harmed by the sanctions. They can buy the goods they need through the black market, but “at a price that the poor simply cannot afford”. The Iranian working class is hit thrice: it is hit by sanctions, the disastrous economic policies of the Islamic government and by world recession.
Clearly, sanctions are an important weapon in imperialism’s arsenal. They are supposed to pave the way for regime change from above.
However, Iraq and Zimbabwe are two countries that show where these efforts lead: sanctions strengthen the leaders of those countries and at the same time disempower the working class, which is struggling just to survive. “But this is the only force that can bring about real regime change – change from below,” said John McDonnell. “These are not smart sanctions: they are insane! They force people into poverty, giving them little opportunity to rise up to challenge the regime.”
He suggested that Hopi should do some work in explaining that the sanctions on Iran are of a qualitative difference from those imposed on South Africa, which many people on the left campaigned for: “For a start, British capital had a lot of money invested in and profited from the apartheid regime. And, of course, the people in South Africa asked for our solidarity to impose those sanctions.”Jenny Jones agreed with both speakers and added that in today’s media culture it would be useful if Hopi could find some concrete examples of Iranians suffering from the sanctions.
The meeting went on to discuss the campaign and concrete ways to spread the message. For example, comrade McDonnell is preparing an early day motion, a request to the foreign affairs committee to investigate the effect of sanctions on the Iranian people and a letter from the Labour Representation Committee to political parties on the European Left.
There were also suggestions that Hopi should contact the National Union of Journalists regarding the internet ban which affects millions of students in Iran, to link up Hopi supporters in Unison with Iranian health workers in hospitals, where staff are complaining about the effects of sanctions, and to mobilise student activists and academics to oppose sanctions on Iranian universities.
You can listen to the three speakers on Hopi’s website: www.hopoi.org