Tag Archives: Stop the War

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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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.

War threats intensify

It is clear that the Obama administration is preparing US public opinion for war, writes Yassamine Mather (first published in the Weekly Worker)

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Israel: ready to attack

 

On Saturday April 14 Iran will attend talks with six world powers. The US has indicated this is Iran’s “last chance” to avoid military intervention and the Obama administration is taking very specific demands to the talks as preconditions for further negotiations: for example, Iran “must immediately close” a large nuclear facility allegedly built underneath a mountain if it wants to avoid a devastating strike.

Other “near term” concessions to avoid a potential military conflict include the suspension of high-level uranium enrichment and the surrender by Tehran of existing stockpiles of the fuel, according to senior US officials. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton made the usual noises about time “running out for diplomacy”, while expressing “doubts” about whether Iran has any real intention of negotiating a solution. In other words, preparing US public opinion for an attack that is possibly already scheduled.

The preconditions put Iran’s Islamic government in an impossible situation and, although Tehran might use the talks to buy more time, accepting such conditions would represent such a terrible humiliation that it would be tantamount to political suicide for a dictatorship whose unpopularity continues to rise. But, there again, the US is hardly aiming to make life easy of the theocracy. In Tehran, some senior clerics are hoping that the 12th Shia Imam will make his reappearance even sooner than they are apt to predict.

As for Washington, in an election year the Obama administration has decided it cannot afford to look “weak” on Iran, as the Republican right ups the pressure for military action. To add to the pressure, the US navy has announced the deployment of a second aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, to the Persian Gulf region, where it will join the USS Abraham Lincoln. This will increase its ability to launch a massive air war on Iran at short notice.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Centre for Research on Globalization quoted political analyst Ralph Schoenman to the effect that Nato and the US are arming Israel with missile capacity in relation to a “projected and planned attack upon Iran”, According to Schoenman, Italy’s sale of 30 M-346 training jets to Israel is part of these preparations. And the Israeli military has gained access to airbases in Azerbaijan, according to Mark Perry of the journal Foreign Policy:

“Obama administration officials now believe that the ‘submerged’ aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance – the security cooperation between the two countries – is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran … senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran’s northern border.” One “senior administration official” is quoted as saying: “The Israelis have bought an airfield … and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.” [1]

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz is even more terrifying: “The roulette wheel continues to spin and the ball falls into a different numbered slot every time. Following defence minister Ehud Barak’s estimate that around 500 Israelis will be killed in the event of a counterattack by Iran, Israel air force performance analysts have recently published a study calculating that around 300 Israelis will die if Israel launches a war against Iran.” The paper criticises the Israeli government for its “obsession” with an Iranian “hypothetical nuclear bomb”, allegedly “forgetting the threat” of Iranian and Syrian chemical weapons. It calls on Netanyahu to protect Israeli citizens against an Iranian assault: “So, dear Bibi, ahead of the hot summer, we’ve got a tiny request. Give us gas masks.” [2]

For most Iranians the war has already started. After months of denials the ministry of oil admits that Iran’s export of crude oil has dropped sharply even before the EU embargo from July has officially started. Insurers are showing growing reluctance to cover tankers carrying Iranian oil and refiners are said to be “increasingly wary” of crude from the country because of the threat posed by sanctions. China, India, Japan and South Korea are the four biggest buyers of Iranian crude in Asia, and all of them have cut imports.

However, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remains in denial, claiming this week that the country has enough capital reserves to go “two to three years” without selling oil. It is difficult to believe such claims, when the government’s efforts to improve the plight of the currency so clearly failed – the Iranian toman dropped to half of its value against the dollar in January 2012.

Iran’s car manufacturing industry is also facing a serious crisis after Peugeot Citroen, fearing the enforcement of US-led financial sanctions, stopped its trade in February. Iran was Peugeot Citroen’s second-biggest market in 2011 in terms of trade volume. However it came under increasing pressure after a US lobby group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), called on the US Congress to investigate the French car company’s transactions with the Islamic Republic.

In addition, top financial institutions such as Société Générale and the Rabobank Group have stepped back from business with Iran in recent months, fearful of political risk and logistical difficulties covering every aspect of financial transactions (including areas not directly affected by sanctions). Smaller banks that are willing to continue business with Iran demand much higher fees. According to the Wall Street Journal, “firms and other intermediaries still brokering these trades are charging more than 6% per transaction for legitimate trade deals with Iran, on top of traditional banking fees … Other institutions involved in financing legitimate trade with Iran declined to speak on the record, saying they feared publicity could lead the US treasury to increase its scrutiny of their US-dollar operations.” [3]

The response from Iran’s pragmatist capitalist ayatollahs is clear: let us resolve our differences with the US. This week former Iranian president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani criticised the country’s current foreign policy – in particular the absence of formal diplomatic ties between Iran and the United States. In an interview with the Iranian International Studies quarterly journal, Rafsanjani stressed the importance of direct talks with the US.

Rafsanjani said that in a letter to ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he had urged the former supreme leader of the Islamic Republic to “resolve” seven outstanding issues while he was still alive, one of them being the poor state of US-Iranian relations: “I wrote that our current approach, which is to not talk or have any ties, cannot continue. The US is the world’s leading power. What is the difference, in our view, between Europe and the US, or between China and the US, or between Russia and the US? If we negotiate with them why can’t we negotiate with the US? Holding talks doesn’t mean we’re surrendering.” [4]

Iranian allies?

The Iranian regime, the Shia occupation government in Baghdad and Iran’s allies in the Lebanese Hezbollah are all following events in Syria with great concern. The fall of the Assad regime would be a serious blow to the Shia camp and Tehran feels more and more isolated in a Sunni-dominated Middle East. For the last three decades much of the Arab media has blamed Iran for meddling in internal Arab affairs – not only in Iraq, but also in Lebanon and Bahrain.

In Palestine Hamas has distanced itself from both Iran and Syria. Strengthening its relations with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, it has denounced the Syrian regime’s crackdown on its opponents and stated that it would stay ‘neutral’ if Israel attacked Iran. As a result of this shift Hamas is now getting a highly negative press in Iran, which hopes that at least it will be able to rely on Hezbollah. However, even there the relationship is not what it used to be.

In June 2011, Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, formed a government in coalition with Hezbollah. While Israeli and US officials are keen to exaggerate the role of Hezbollah, the reality is that financial, political and therefore military power remains firmly in the hands of Christian and Sunni parties. Iranian finance might have helped Hezbollah set up a social-service network in the Bekaa valley, allowing it to recruit fighters and acquire an arsenal of rockets, but there is no comparison between this and the multimillion-dollar investments by Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries in Lebanon.

Hezbollah was set up in 1983, under the Iranian ‘reformist’ premiership of Mir-Hossein Moussavi (currently under house arrest) and some Hezbollah leaders have longstanding relations with Iranian clerics and revolutionary guards currently out of favour in Iran because of their support for the ‘reformist’ movement. In fact, wary of the instability in Tehran since 2009 and a slashing of Iran’s annual budget for Hezbollah by 40% in early 2009, Hezbollah has been forced to impose austerity measures, reducing salaries and staff numbers and placing many construction projects on hold. In addition the party is being challenged at home by the indictment of several of its members for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

All in all, Hezbollah is not as powerful as the US and its allies claim and, although in the event of a military attack on Iran it will do what it can to support a Shia ally, the organisation is not in a position to prove an effective deterrent to military attacks. This is why raising false hopes about the ability of Hamas or Hezbollah to stop an attack on Iran is so misplaced.

Genuine solidarity with the people of Iran has to come from anti-war forces beyond the Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East. We in Britain and elsewhere need to raise awareness of the current situation in Iran and the region so as to build an effective anti-war campaign. Next weekend’s school organised by Hands Off the People of Iran in London will be an important part of such an effort.

Hopi’s opposition to war and sanctions, as well as to the Islamic Regime, is attracting new support in Britain and abroad. Iranian comrades in Canada joined the anti-war protests last month in Toronto, where Hopi posters were prominent, and this prompted discussions and debates with the Canadian anti-war alliance. When I debated James Clark of Toronto Coalition to Stop the War in a TV broadcast, he agreed with many of the points we have raised over the last few years. A further debate is planned and we hope to make similar interventions in Vancouver and Montreal. Hopi’s principled position is also supported by a number of Iranian leftist activists in Chicago and Washington. Over the next few weeks we intend to widen our activities in North America – opposing war, while building solidarity with Iranian workers, students, the women’s movement and Iran’s oppressed national and religious minorities. The April 21-22 London school will hopefully feature an online session to coordinate solidarity with activists in North America.

In France the collective around the journal Carré Rouge has played an important role in introducing Hopi to the French left. Translations of many Hopi articles in both the printed and online versions have helped us gain supporters in the French-speaking world. We hope this cooperation will lead to Hopi meetings in France and Belgium.

Marathon support

This Sunday, April 15, 40 runners representing Workers Fund Iran will take part in the Vienna marathon to raise money for the charity.

Workers Fund Iran was set up in December 2005. It aims to reduce and relieve poverty amongst Iranian workers (employed and unemployed), who are victims both of the economic policies of the Iranian government and the sanctions imposed by imperialism. It aims to put at the centre of its activities the need to rebuild international solidarity – directly, with the workers of Iran. WFI is involved in many fundraising activities to support its work, ranging from social gatherings to solidarity cricket. Yet another WFI tradition is perhaps the ultimate test: marathon running. Last September WFI participation in the Berlin marathon raised well over €500.

Over the last few years Workers Fund Iran has sent funds to a number of working class families, including contributing to the medical expenses of a well known trade unionist, and helping with the housing costs of a number of working class families particular badly hit by the poverty that is affecting large numbers. Of course, WFI has very limited resources. However, every penny collected in the UK is sent to Iran – the charity’s administration and management is run on an entirely voluntary basis.

As the war threats intensify, it is more important than ever to extend our solidarity. Please be generous in your sponsorship of our runners. Go to https://www.charitychoice.co.uk/workers-fund-iran-11724/donate, where your contributions will be gratefully received.

Notes

1. www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/28/israel_s_secret_staging_ground.

2. Ha’aretz April 8: www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/a-tiny-request-on-the-eve-of-an-iran-war-1.423197.

3. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303299604577323601794862004.html.

4. http://en.irangreenvoice.com/article/2012/apr/04/3586.


Joe Glenton and the popular militia demand

Individual defiance is laudable, but more is required, argues Eddie Ford

Last week saw lance corporal Joe Glenton – prominent anti-war activist and Stop the War Coalition member – sentenced to nine months’ detention in a military prison for going awol in the summer of 2007, as his unit was preparing to return to Afghanistan.

So, following a court martial last week, the 27-year-old Glenton pleaded ‘guilty’ and was also stripped of his rank – though the more serious charge of desertion, which carries a maximum jail sentence of up to 10 years, was dropped at the last minute. Emerging from the court, Glenton raised a defiant clenched fist, as he was led away to do his time at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester. His defence team immediately launched an appeal. But we are totally confident that comrade Glenton will never be ‘rehabilitated’ or ‘reformed’.

At the trial, defence lawyer Nick Wrack – former Socialist Workers Party member and now a leading figure in George Galloway’s Respect – detailed how Glenton returned from the Helmand province suffering from post-traumatic stress, which involved bouts of heavy drinking and recurrent nightmares. Whilst stationed in Helmand, he witnessed a direct mortar hit on civilians, which – to quote the words of the consultant psychiatrist who last November had assessed him at the behest of his legal team – induced feelings of “guilt” and “uselessness”: he would have terrible dreams about “coffins being opened up” and wake up in the middle of the night screaming. As a consequence of his tour of duty, we discovered, routine sounds and noises – like doors banging or car tyres screeching – instantly “reminded him of mortar fire”, triggering off panic attacks.

Glenton’s traumatised state was considerably compounded by the callous indifference of his military ‘superiors’ to the ordeal he had just been through – even to acknowledge that there was any sort of problem. Upon his return from Afghanistan the only advice Glenton received, Wrack informed the hearing, was a few condescending comments from the army padre – so much for the caring, compassionate Christian church – who told him to not to “drink too much” or “beat up your wife”. Indeed, far from receiving any support or help from his commanding officers, Glenton faced a regime of bullying and intimidation – even more than the usual for the British army – when he started to express his political concerns and worries about the Afghan war. Why had he been sent to the Helmand province? Why was the army in Afghanistan at all? For saying this, for daring to open his mouth and break rank, Glenton – who previously had been praised as an “intellectual soldier” by his officers – was branded a “coward”, “malingerer” and, of course, a troublemaker.

Though he repeatedly requested not to be redeployed to Helmand, and despite the army guidelines which recommend a gap of at least 18 months between tours of duty, the army bigwigs ordered him back to Afghanistan. Unable to face going back to the hellish province, to witness yet more death and suffering – and with a growing conviction that the war was fundamentally unjust – Glenton said enough was enough and absconded to south-east Asia and then Australia.

Admirably, Glenton used his time not just to preserve his sanity and save his own skin – perfectly reasonable as that is – but to think and develop his ideas. Though inevitably rough around the edges – hence some of the patriotic rhetoric and sentiments – Glenton’s increasingly vocal condemnations of British involvement in Afghanistan, and the imperialist war efforts in general, have had an inspiring effect on the anti-war movement in Britain.

So Glenton publicly delivered an open letter to Gordon Brown, thus becoming the first enlisted soldier in the British army to openly rebel against the war in Afghanistan. In the letter Glenton outlined why he refused to fight and why he thought the conflict was “unlawful”, believing that the “courage and tenacity” of his fellow soldiers was being used as a “tool of American foreign policy”. Instead, argued Glenton, British soldiers who “submit themselves to the service of the nation”, and put themselves in “harm’s way”, should only do so if the “cause is just and right” – that is, for the “protection of life and liberty”. Tragically, concluded Glenton, the Afghan war is not “reducing the terrorist risk”, but instead is “bringing death and devastation” to that country. He implored the prime minister to get the British troops out, as their continued presence can “only lead to more heartbreak within both our societies”.[1]

Perhaps more significantly still, Glenton made history by heading last October’s STWC demonstration. Briefly addressing the 5,000 audience gathered in Trafalgar Square, he told them that, while it is “distressing to disobey orders”, the Afghan conflict is neither legal nor justifiable – and that when Britain follows the United States in continuing to “wage war against one of the world’s poorest countries”, he felt compelled and “proud” to march with the STWC on that day.[2]

In an attempted to justify the decision to incarcerate Glenton, judge advocate Emma Peters declared that going awol should not be viewed as a “means of securing an early release” from the army – particularly when you consider the “seriousness of current operations” in Afghanistan. “Rather than letting the system help you”, Peters sternly admonished Glenton, “you decided to go absent and abrogate your duty”. Guilty as charged.

But for us in the CPGB, as for so many, Joe Glenton is no ‘criminal’ – or disgraced ‘coward’ – but instead a hero. He had the courage – and sheer determination – to stand up for what he believed in. For defying the military authorities and telling the truth about the imperialist war in Afghanistan – which is sacrificing lives on all sides in order to prop up a corrupt puppet government and acts only to further pulverise and tear apart an already traumatised and impoverished country.

For that reason the CPGB unequivocally calls for the immediate removal of all the imperialist coalition forces from Afghanistan and also for the immediate release of Joe Glenton. Yes, we most certainly do disagree – violently – with the blithe assertion of The Observer’s Barbara Ellen that the army “has to be tough on soldiers going awol”, given that “no-one is forced to sign up” (March 7). This just ignores the obvious and overriding question – talk about cowardice. That is, what is the role and function of the British standing army? Well, you do not have to search too hard for the answer. The British army, like all standing armies, exists to deliver – on order – death and destruction on behalf of the ruling class and its backers. To this end ordinary soldiers on the ground are just supposed to obey orders and kill, and be killed, if and when required.

Therefore, as extreme democrats, communists are obliged to fight for the abolition of the standing army. Towards that end this means that anti-war work has to involve agitation amongst the army’s ranks. To encourage and promote the self-organisation – and political self-confidence – of ordinary soldiers against their commanding officers and the top brass as a whole. A serious, working class-led anti-war movement would move mountains in order to engage with and encourage dissenting rank-and-file soldiers like Joe Glenton. As heroic as he is, however, we would not want to see others following his example of individual rebellion. It is only a collective movement that can begin to call into question the entire chain of command – the basic legitimacy of the standing army and its authoritarian institutions.

Of course, by incarcerating Joe Glenton the army tops and the political establishment hope to dissuade others – present and future soldiers – from coming out against imperialist war. The army’s worship – fetishisation – of hierarchy, discipline and fighting for one’s regiment and mates in the unit, and crap like that, exists to get rank and file soldiers to act like automatons. Accordingly, communists demand full trade union rights, election of all officers and the right to organise politically. The aim is to undermine and eventually split the army along class lines.

Needless to say, the CPGB calls for a people’s militia – not least in our Draft programme. We fight for the right of the masses to bear arms and defend themselves. Yes, we are more than aware that the philistine British left instinctively titters when hearing such demands, often making idiotic jibes about the American ‘gun culture’, Charlton Heston, the National Rifle Association, the far right, etc.

However, opposition to the standing army and the call for a popular militia is not an example of crazy ultra-leftism, but a basic democratic demand common to the American bourgeois revolution and Marxism. Eduard Bernstein – the father of revisionism – was, along with August Bebel and Karl Kautsky, responsible for drafting the 1891 Erfurt programme. Point three of its demands reads in part as follows: “Education of all to bear arms. Militia in the place of the standing army.”

Naturally, the fact that large sections of the British left pour scorn on the very notion of workers’ militias just confirms that, while  they are prepared to talk a good revolution, in reality they are quite content to settle for a reformed social democratic capitalism of their own imagination.

Notes

  1. stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1390/27
  2. www.stopwar.org.uk/content/view/1561/1

Messages of Support

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton
Military Corrective Training Centre, Berechurch Hall Camp
Colchester CO2 9NU

email: defendjoeglenton@gmail.com