Category Archives: Solidarity

Joining forces against war and expulsions

Milton Keynes Hands Off the People of Iran and the local Stop the War Coalition group joined forces for a meeting on the threat of war against Iran reports Dave Isaacson (this report was originally published in the Weekly Worker).

Moshé Machover (left) and Dave Isaacson at the meeting. Photo: © Brian Robinson.

Comrades from the Hands of the People of Iran campaign in Milton Keynes have responded to the recently escalating sanctions and war threats against Iran by working closely with the local Stop the War group to build opposition to any imperialist intervention. We worked together to organise a joint Hopi/STW public meeting to discuss these issues on Monday May 28.

Over 20 people attended, which for a town such as Milton Keynes is reasonable. The meeting was addressed by Israeli socialist Moshé Machover, who is also a member of the Hopi steering committee. He gave an excellent opening, looking at the reasons why policymakers in the US and Israel want to see a change of regime in Iran and why some actively favour the methods of war to achieve such an aim. Moshé examined the long-term strategic interests of Zionism in Israel in particular. He argued that these interests flow from the fact that Israel is a certain type of colonial settler state, based upon the total exclusion of the indigenous population, to the extent that this can be achieved (unlike some other settler states such as South Africa and Algeria, where native peoples were needed for their labour-power).

With Israel’s determination to scupper any hopes that Palestinians have for an independent sovereign state on the one hand, and the Zionist nightmare of ‘demographic peril’ (the fear that the growing Palestinian population will increasingly outnumber Israelis) on the other, the very presence of the Palestinians is intolerable to Zionism. Comrade Machover explained that the solution that many Zionists have longed to put into practice is to simply expel the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza: ie, ethnic cleansing.

Indeed the current Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is on record telling students in a speech at Bar-Ilan University in November 1989 that “the government had failed to exploit politically favourable situations in order to carry out ‘large-scale’ expulsions at times when ‘the damage would have been relatively small. I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people’.” Israeli provocations that lead to a regional conflagration involving Iran and the US could create just the “politically favourable situation” Netanyahu wishes for – a sideshow while they ethnically cleanse the Palestinians.

Moshé’s talk was well received and there were some very interesting questions which prompted further discussions on issues such as the current conflict in Syria, Israel’s own development of a nuclear arsenal, and an assessment of the Occupy movement. One speaker expressed scepticism about the scale of the ethnic cleansing Moshé argues Israeli politicians would like to carry out. He felt that such a thing would just not be acceptable in this day and age. Moshé responded that it is precisely our job to make sure that such acts are made unacceptable, and indeed made impossible, through our collective opposition. To achieve such aims we need political organisation and a programme.

Everybody I spoke to left feeling that the meeting had been a success. Everyone took home Hopi literature and many bought a copy of the Weekly Worker or of Moshé’s new book – Israelis and Palestinians: conflict and resolution. As well as Hopi and STW, the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign branch was also present with a stall. These are all good signs that people are taking the issues seriously and want to learn more.

As Moshé explained at the end of the meeting, this summer is a particularly dangerous one for the Middle East. We must keep a close eye on the situation and do all we can develop the ideas and organisation we need to pose an internationalist and socialist alternative to imperialism and Zionism. Hopi is very clear: we stand in solidarity with the Iranian people – not their regime – and oppose all sanctions and war threats. In Milton Keynes we will continue to work closely with the local STW group (which incidentally displays none of the sectarianism towards Hopi that we have experienced at a national level). It is also worth mentioning our gratitude to Milton Keynes trades council, an affiliate of Hopi, who financed the meeting with a £100 donation.

Audio files of the opening speech and answers to questions at the meeting are available to listen to on the HOPI website. Thanks to Brian Robinson for producing the recordings.

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Iran: imperialism finds new pretext for threats

Yassamine Mather

As Iranian workers went out in remarkable numbers for May Day, a new dispute over some small islands in the Gulf shows that despite apparent progress on the nuclear question a new source of tension has been found. Yassamine Mather of Hands Off the People of Iran reports (first published in the Weekly Worker).

A week can be a long time in politics, but in Iran it can seem more like a year.

Last week, as news agencies were reporting rumours of the regime’s possible retreat over its nuclear programme, the price of gold dropped on the Tehran exchange market – a clear sign of reduced tensions between western powers and Iran. The factional fighting of recent years also seemed to belong to the distant past, as figureheads of various factions of the regime, including those arch enemies, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the current incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended the meetings of the National Expediency Council. They even managed to smile for the cameras in a pre-arranged photo-shoot.

However, then came news of another conflict in the Persian Gulf – this time between Iran on the one side and Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries on the other. Arab and US media reported that the Peninsula Shield Force, the military coordinating army of the GCC, had been carrying out military manoeuvres to “test harmony and coordination among ground, air and naval forces and their readiness”.

The military exercise was seen as a response to Iran’s continued occupation of three islands in the Gulf – the tiny Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb islets, near the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, that was seized in 1971 by the shah after British forces left the region. Abu Musa, the only inhabited island of the three, was placed under joint administration in a deal with Sharjah, now part of the United Arab Emirates. They have since been a bone of contention with the UAE, which claims sovereignty over them.

While the dispute seemed to have been forgotten for most of the decades since, in the last two months the UAE has been mounting increasingly vocal demands for the return of their territory – with the backing of the GCC and the Arab League. This, of course, has brought an angry response from the Iranians, who vowed to “crush any act of aggression” and prompted a visit to Abu Musa by Ahmadinejad a few weeks ago. In Tehran the rumour is that even the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, was not aware of the trip before it took place – on the eve of the international nuclear talks.

After Ahmadinejad’s trip to Abu Musa, the foreign minister of the UAE recalled its ambassador to Iran, claiming that it amounted to “flagrant violation” and an “occupation”. But things did not end there. The UAE succeeded in convincing the other Persian Gulf states to support it and the GCC issued a statement condemning the visit.

No-one can be in any doubt that the renewal of this dispute after 41 years is a pretext for a much wider conflict between Iran and the leaders of the Persian Gulf states, who nowadays are taking a prominent role in opposition to the Islamic Republic. The Gulf emirs are convinced that Iran is seeking to harness the forces unleashed by the Arab uprisings in order to destabilise their own internal control and, rather than wait for events to overtake them, have clearly decided to use the dispute over the islands as a lever to ramp up their hostility towards Tehran.

Of course, it is unlikely that the Gulf states will go to war with Iran. However, they have become an integral part of US plans for regime change in Damascus and Tehran. One option they are certainly taking up is increasing their support for groups opposing the Syrian and Iranian regimes. But, as the Saudis, Emiratis and Qataris try to vent their frustration with Tehran on Syria, they will almost certainly provoke Iran to adopt retaliatory measures. But over the last two weeks, without waiting for such a response, the US mainstream media have been portraying the dispute as yet another example of Iran’s ‘irresponsible warmongering’.

Most Iranians believe the issue of the ownership of the islands has surfaced now as part of the campaign to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. They do not believe the Emirates’ claims to be acting independently in this matter.

Internal conflict

As most of the world was concentrating on elections in Europe, the second round of polling for the Islamic parliament, the majles, took place in Iran. Results declared on May 5 showed the Iranian president’s support crumbling, with ultra-conservative rivals consolidating their hold on the majles. Ahmadinejad’s supporters won only 13 of the 65 seats contested in the May 4 vote, further reducing his power base in the 290-seat legislature. The president’s opponents won 41 seats and this follows the victory of Khamenei loyalists in the first round of voting in March, when they had already secured an outright majority.

On the day the increase in that majority was announced, conflict between the president and the majles reached new heights, as the ‘integration committee’ rejected Ahmadinejad’s proposal to increase revenues from subsidy cuts – a move which could effectively block the implementation of the second stage of the subsidy ‘reform’ plan.

Ahmadinejad had presented the draft of the national budget bill for the Iranian year beginning on March 20 on February 1, in which it was proposed that the revenues from subsidy savings would be increased from about $44 billion to $110 billion. And last week the government decided to suddenly remove controls on energy prices to complete the implementation of the subsidy ‘reform’. The majlis voted to say this decision is illegal because it runs counter to the agreed ‘reform’, which allows for the subsidies on fuel, electricity and certain goods to be cut over the course of five years. Too deep, too fast. Majles speaker Ali Larijani started legal action against Ahmadinejad, at the same time as two complaints were sent to the judiciary, accusing the government of “incurring irreparable damage” to the economy by violating foreign exchange laws, “at a time when the country faces numerous sanctions”.

Clearly the short-lived peace between various factions of the Islamic regime, forged by the supreme leader, has already broken down – with serious implications for the president.

Meanwhile, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton urged India to do “even more” to cut its purchases of oil from Iran to keep up the pressure on that country to prove its nuclear programme is peaceful. As a result of sanctions, drugs for cancer, heart disease and several other ailments are now in short supply, according to the ‘reformist’ daily, Shargh. The shortage is the result of international sanctions against the Islamic republic, the implementation of subsidy cuts and foreign-currency exchange-rate fluctuations that Iran has experienced in recent months, claimed the newspaper. Supply of the affected drugs has reached “worrying levels”, it said.

May Day

However, the conflict is not restricted to infighting within the regime. This year, Iranian workers participated in a surprisingly large number of May Day protests – some organised through activist networks, and many more occurring within industrial complexes. After hearing of similar protests elsewhere, workers demonstrated outside the gates of their workplaces demanding action over low wages, non-payment and lack of job security. All these issues have been compounded by sanctions. Many workers held up placards saying “We are hungry”.

A small, impromptu gathering took place in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj. According to reports by the Free Union of Iranian Workers, on May 1 hundreds of workers congregated in that city chanting, “We are workers, we are hungry”, and “Workers’ solidarity”. Other signs read: “Bread, housing, liberty” and “Imprisoned workers should be released”.

May Day 2012 will be remembered as the day Iranian workers managed to raise their voice despite the difficult circumstances they face – not just in terms of the appalling economic conditions resulting from sanctions and the regime’s attacks, but also under circumstances of an increasingly repressive religious capitalist dictatorship. For Hands Off the People of Iran this means redoubling our efforts in solidarity with Iranian workers, to make sure their voice is heard above all the talk of war, sanctions and territorial recriminations.

yassamine.mather@weeklyworker.org.uk

Don’t forget the upcoming public meeting, ‘No war on Iran’ on Monday May 28th at the Fishermead Trinity Centre, Fishermead Boulevard, Milton Keynes. Speaker: Moshé Machover. Jointly organised by HOPI and MK Stop the War.

Public meeting: no war on Iran

The Iranian people – devastated by sanctions and subjugated by their own regime – have much to fear. Israel is rattling its sabres. The American public are clearly being prepared by the Obama administration for an attack on Iran. UK parliamentarians are unsurprisingly supine in their acquiescence towards imperialist intervention. For our part, as communists, we are stepping up our efforts to convince people of the necessity of opposing both any future attack, and the sanctions that are currently devastating the people of Iran. It is these people in Iran who, being overwhelmingly at odds with their regime, must be the ones to settle scores with the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Progress will come as a result of revolt from below, not imperialist intervention from above. US, or Israeli, attacks would be a disaster.

In response to the growing threat of war against Iran activists from the Milton Keynes Stop the War group and the Hands Off the People of Iran campaign have got together to organise a joint public meeting setting out the case for opposing the war threats and sanctions on Iran. The meeting will take place on Monday 28th May at 7.30pm in Fishermead Trinity Centre, on Fishermead Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK6 2LA. The speaker will be Moshé Machover who is on the steering committee of Hands Off the People of Iran and a founder of the Israeli socialist group Matzpen. Please put the details in your diary and let others know about it too. It is hugely important that we build the biggest possible voice to counter the war threats and stand in solidarity with the people of Iran.

On the weekend of April 21-22 there is also a weekend school that Hands Off the People of Iran are hosting at the University of London Union on Malet Street in central London. This is an excellent opportunity to examine in more depth the issues behind the war threats. There will be a number of speakers over the weekend including Iranian socialists, John McDonnell MP, Moshé Machover, and NUJ President Donnache De Long. Full details are on the HOPI website.

No war on Iran! For regime change from below!

Make your voice heard against war and repression, urges Hands Off the People of Iran chair, Yassamine Mather

The war drums against Iran are beating ever louder. The new embargo on Iranian oil, to come into force on July 1, is only the latest in a long list of measures imposed by US and EU imperialism. It bans all new oil contracts with Iran, and cuts off all existing deals. Also, all of the Iranian central bank’s European assets are to be frozen.

We are told that the sanctions are designed to weaken the regime and “force Iran back to the negotiating table” over its nuclear programme. This is clearly nonsense:

  • In reality, the ‘nuclear danger’ is used by imperialism as an excuse to deal with an increasingly unstable situation in the Middle East. Imperialism has recently lost a number of friendly regimes in the region (like Egypt) and needs to reassert control in this oil-rich area. War is also a useful distraction from economic misery and the current crisis of capitalism.
  • Former International Atomic Energy Agency analyst Robert Kelly has debunked the latest report purporting to show that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Of the three pieces of ‘evidence’ that are not out of date, two are entirely unverifiable, and one an obvious forgery (see http://hopoi.org/?p=1841). But the regime draws sustenance from these rumours: the threats against Iran help the theocracy to stay in power, neutralise the opposition and unite the people behind a regime under attack from imperialism.
  • The new sanctions will make it even more difficult for Iran, Opec’s second largest producer, to be paid in foreign currency for its oil exports (which were worth more than $100 billion in 2011). Previous rounds of EU and US sanctions targeting Iran’s financial system have already caused a shortage of foreign currency. A shortage of foreign currency means that Iran cannot import food at a time when food prices have already risen to astronomical levels. The Iranian rial has tumbled to a new low.
  • But the sanctions are unlikely to dramatically weaken the regime. The rich and powerful are able to protect themselves to a large degree from the effects. In fact, leaders of sanctioned regimes are almost always strengthened (and enriched) by sanctions.
  • However, the sanctions will mean even more misery for ordinary Iranians: many workers will not receive their wages in time (if at all) and even the BBC has warned that social security payments and the remaining food subsidies could be the first to be cut by a theocracy under financial pressure. This will only increase the hardship and miserable conditions that our brothers and sisters in Iran have had to endure for many years.
  • Further, the military provocations of US-led imperialism – assassinations, sabotage and preparatory military manoeuvres in the region – have also dramatically upped the tension in the country and are being used by the theocracy to increase repression.
  • As the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan prove beyond doubt, democracy can only come from below, from the people themselves. But a people driven to their knees by brutal sanctions are hardly in the position to overthrow dictatorship.

We know from history that sanctions are only the first step in wars being waged against ‘unfriendly’ regimes. A military attack against Iran is very much on the agenda. Should the regime really decide to close the Strait of Hormuz, this could happen sooner rather than later.

That is why it is so important that we side now with the people of Iran in their struggle against their own theocracy and the threats by imperialism!

Make your voice heard now! Send us a message in the form of an email, voice mail, short video or a photograph holding the poster pictured alongside (download from http://www.hopoi.org) and encourage your comrades and friends to do the same. We will post all messages on a special section on Hopi’s website and on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. Plans are also afoot for solidarity events, film screenings and fundraising events.

Yassamine Mather

Chair, Hands Off the People of Iran

office@hopoi.info

November 30: Milton Keynes rally in support of striking workers

Join the rally in support of workers striking to defend their pensions.

Assemble: 12 noon outside MK Council’s Civic Offices, Silbury Blvd, CMK on November 30th. Bring placards, banners, and something to make a noise.

We will also be visiting workers on their picket lines in the morning of November 30th. If you want to come along too then please get in touch.

You can also download leaflets and a poster for the rally to give to friends, family and workmates.

June 30 strike report

An important step forward for the movement

PCS pickets at Bowback House, Milton Keynes

Yesterday’s industrial action was a significant show of opposition to the government’s cuts agenda and in particular its assault on the pensions of public sector workers. It also represented an important step forward for the anti-cuts movement both in the forms of action being taken and in terms of the numbers of people mobilised to take a stand in opposition to the Con-Dems. The use of strike action, contrary to the views of leading Labour figures such as Ed Milliband and Ed Balls, is a vital weapon in the armoury of the working class as it goes into battle to defend itself from the government’s attacks.

 

The program of capitalist austerity which is currently being meted out to working class and poor people on a global scale will not be stopped easily. It will take organised and militant action on a mass scale and the development of a genuine alternative (certainly not a government led by Ed Milliband!) by the working class movement. As Unite leader, Len McCluskey, speaking at the PCS conference, said ‘this is a capitalist crisis and they must foot the bill.’ He argued for the formation of ‘joint strike committees where we can’ and went as far as arguing that, ‘we need to work together… to mobilise… behind a different vision of how society should be, putting people before profit and… putting socialism back on the political agenda in this country.’

 

Yesterday’s action showed signs of the potential for involving wider layers of workers in future strike action. Many members of the public were happy to give their support to those out on strike. We also saw impressively large rallies across the country. There were 5,000 in Manchester, 2,000 in Sheffield, and locally 300 people packed out the rally in Northampton’s Guildhall while around 150 marched through the centre of Milton Keynes. Members of the Coalition of Resistance also visited a number of the PCS union’s picket lines in the morning in Milton Keynes to show our support for their action. We met workers from the Department for Work and Pensions, Revenue and Customs, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The picketing was particularly strong at Bowback House on Silbury Blvd. There was also a strong turnout from members of the National Union of Teachers for the combined rally in Campbell Park. Many schools were closed for the day, with others running a limited service, following the industrial action by NUT and ATL members. Throughout the day we distributed a leaflet produced jointly by Milton Keynes Coalition of Resistance and Milton Keynes Trades Council to both strikers and members of the public. Our organisations will have a key role to play in providing solidarity as more and more workers are won to the idea of taking industrial action and we need to win more people to get involved. At our next Coalition of Resistance organising meeting on Tuesday July 5 at 7pm at Bletchley Railway Club we will be discussing how we can best go about meeting these challenges.

 

Finally, it is important to remember that not only is the attack on working class and poor people global in scale, but the resistance to it is global too. Currently this resistance is expressed in its most acute form in Greece, but we have also seen significant struggles across the Arab world, and from Spain to Wisconsin, USA, and beyond. We need to utilise the global nature of our struggle to its fullest capacity. As well as arguing for the vital task of separate UK unions coordinating their actions for greatest effect, we need to begin to organise and coordinate our actions on the international level. If workers across Europe took strike action all together then that would certainly make an impact.

Support striking workers in Milton Keynes and Northampton on June 30th!

On June 30th CPGB members will be heading out along with other anti-cuts activists to show our solidarity with workers striking to defend their pensions on picket lines and rallies in Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Members of Communist Students and other students showing solidarity with striking postal workers in winter 2009

The strike rally in Milton Keynes is due to take place at 12pm in Campbell Park, and in Northampton the rally starts at 12.30pm in the Guildhall’s great hall.

In Milton Keynes the local Coalition of Resistance group is organising a number of cars to ferry supporters around various picket lines where we can show our solidarity in the morning. If you would like to join us and would either like a lift, or can offer your services as a driver, then please get in touch at email.mkcor@gmail.com

For those who would rather visit picket lines individually the main PCS picket lines will be at the two jobcentres (Manbrook House, 224 Queens Way, Bletchley, MK2 2SZ and St. Georges House, 811 Midsummer Blvd, Milton Keynes, MK9 3LR) and the benefits centre/HMRC at Bowback House 299 Silbury Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK9 1NG. There may also be a picket line at the courts (PCS MOJ section).

There will be NUT and ATL picket lines at various schools and colleges, and while the UCU action does not affect the Open University this time round, members at Northampton University will be striking.