Tag Archives: Hands Off the People of Iran

Hands Off the People of Iran protests against the expulsion of one of Hopi’s founding members

Defend Moshé Machover

Of course, professor Machover’s in-depth knowledge of Middle Eastern history, as well as his expertise on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has played an important role in strengthening Hopi’s principled positions in opposition to this type of reactionary nationalism – which is alive both within the Iranian opposition and sections of the Islamic Republic regime – at a time when our focus remains one of campaigning against the threat of war and military intervention in Iran. As an independent member of Hopi’s coordinating committee (one not associated with any particular political organisation), he often plays an important role bringing together various opinions within the committee.

Moshé Machover is despised by Zionists because he has spoken on a number of occasions (including at Hopi public meetings) about Israel’s nuclear capabilities and in particular the Dimona nuclear plant. This is a very important issue, given the continuing discussions on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the threat of a new conflict in the region. We can only assume that it is such comments that have led him to face the ridiculous accusations, equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, levelled against him by the Labour Party head of disputes. It is as if Hopi was accused of being anti-Iranian or Islamophobic because of its opposition to the particular form of religious government that is currently in power in Iran.

The first letter professor Machover received from the Labour Party disputes committee accused him of anti-Semitism for the ‘crime’ of putting the record straight on historical links between some German Zionists and the Nazis. Hopi has often mentioned the historic connection between Reza Shah Pahlavi, the shah of Iran from 1925 to 1941, and Nazi Germany. This an historical fact, which some nationalist Iranians, especially royalists, do not like being reminded of. That does not make Hopi a supporter of Nazism: recalling such historical associations does not make us anti-Iranian.

Let us be very clear: this debate is not about anti-Semitism. In fact it is not solely about anti-Zionism. The reality is that the right wing of the Labour Party wants to toe the imperialist line of the US state department and the British foreign office. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn accepts Nato membership and the renewal of Trident and anyone dissenting from such policies is regarded as unwelcome by the Labour right, who will do what they can to expel such individuals.

Hopi has benefited from the support of prominent Labour MPs, as well as individual Labour Party members. These were mainly those opposed to war, those who stood up against the Blairite policy of tailing the US line in the Middle East. We had hoped that a Corbyn leadership would see increased cooperation between Constituency Labour Parties and Hopi at a time when Donald Trump seems intent on the ‘decertification’ of the nuclear deal with Iran. That is why we are so disappointed by the speech made by shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry. at the Labour Party conference.

Hopi is fully committed to the defence of professor Machover’s anti-Zionist stance. In expressing our continued opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran, we do not forget that there is another religious-based country in the region – one that already has nuclear weapons and whose actions have been a constant threat to peace in the region: ie, the state of Israel. That is why we will not tolerate soft Zionists within our ranks, whether they are members of the Labour Party or any other organisation


LPM @ Labour conference: Wednesday September 27

In this issue of Red Pages:

  • Don’t relax – now the real work begins!
  • Stuffed parrots, texts from Momentum – but very little real decision-making. A first time delegate reports
  • Transform the Labour Party – the basis of our submission to the Corbyn review
  • Support trade unionists in Iran!

Download the PDF version of this issue here: part 1 and part 2

Don’t relax – now the real work begins!

This conference was certainly historic: almost 1,200 delegates and 13,000 visitors made this the largest Labour conference ever. It was also very left-wing, at least in its composition. There are lots of things the left can celebrate:

  • We defeated attempts by the right to portray Corbyn supporters as anti-Semites. Clearly designed to shut up the left, it achieved exactly the opposite effect: there were dozens of speakers at conference who spoke out against the right wing’s vile witch-hunt and in favour of the rights of Palestinians. This ran like a red thread through conference.
  • Pressure from below (and perhaps Corbyn?) forced the Conference Arrangements Committee to re-insert Labour’s support for the Palestinian cause into the National Policy Forum’s report.
  • Labour First and Progress played no role at conference – and were visibly upset about it: their dismissal of the majority of new members as “naïve” and their rants against the Marxist “bullies”show that they have their backs against the wall.

But conference business itself was still firmly in the hands of the right:

  • There were no real debates on anything. The documents produced by the National Policy Forum (to which Tony Blair outsourced policy making) are full of waffle and without any concrete policies. Contemporary motions were distributed way too late and, once merged, were too vague and non-committal.
  • The NEC exercised a lot of pressure on delegates to remit all their rule change proposals in favour of the ‘Party Democracy Review’, even those that do not fall in the review’s remit. Conference should have had a chance to properly debate and vote on, say, the McDonnell amendment, the need to abolish the 12 months delay affecting CLP rule changes and the fight to democratise Young Labour.
  • About a third of contemporary motions were ruled out of order by the CAC, including some that wanted to end British weapons exports to Saudi-Arabia, because a NPF document touches on the issue.

Clearly, the left still has a long way to go in its fight to transform the Labour Party. For a start, conference must become the sole, sovereign decision-making body of the party and the NPF should be abolished. It is an instrument to stop members from shaping party policy.

The next 12 months are going to be crucial in our fight to democratise the party and take it out of the hands of people like Iain McNicol. It is the bureaucratic middle layer that has been resisting reforms; the top and the bottom are now firmly in the hands of the left:

  • With the addition of three more members chosen by CLPs, the NEC will have a (slim) left-wing majority.
  • The new CAC (in office for two years), has a pro-Corbyn majority: Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes were elected by the membership; two more seats are held by the Unite union.
  • The so-called ‘Corbyn review’ will be run by Katy Clarke, Claudia Webbe and Andy Kerr – all in the Corbyn camp.

This gives us an unprecedented opportunity to transform the party. However! We urge Labour Party members not to rely on Jeremy Corbyn and his allies on the NEC to sort things out for them. Corbyn has relented to pressure from the right on too many issues, be it the ‘anti-Semitism scandal’, Trident or free movement. Corbyn and his allies seem to believe that the saboteurs can been pacified and ‘party unity’ consolidated by giving ground on these issues. This is dangerously naive. The outcome of the Chakrabarti enquiry shows the opposite to be true. The witch-hunters’ appetites grow in the eating.

Members need to exercise as much pressure as possible over two concrete issues arising from conference:

1. The Corbyn review must be as democratic and wide-ranging as possible. Clearly, the party is ripe for radical reform. Branches must be invited to have their views heard – and then implemented! The review could easily become a pseudo-democratic exercise, where people send in their thoughts and we end up with another compromise between the left and the right. This is, of course, the way the NPF currently works.

2. The NEC compromise on ‘prejudice’ is a fudge. The worst excesses of the Jewish Labour Movement’s rule change have been removed. But its fingerprints are all over the compromise and they are trying to enshrine in the new code of conduct the controversial ‘Working Definition of Anti-Semitism’, which conflates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The JLM must not be allowed to continue to exercise pressure beyond its numerical size. Conference has shown clearly that the membership has no interest in appeasing those determined to destabilise Corbyn’s leadership.


Stuffed parrots, texts from Momentum – but very little real decision-making

A first-time delegate gives his impressions of conference

I really enjoyed my first time at conference. It was fantastic to see so many like-minded people, quite a few of whom were very happy to describe themselves openly as Marxists. I did not expect the mood to be so overwhelmingly pro-left, so clearly behind Corbyn and so visibly pro-Palestinian. It’s evident that the panic in the right-wing press over the anti-Semitism scandal helped to consolidate the left at conference. Of course, delegates were eating out of John McDonnell’s and Jeremy Corbyn’s hands. But I did not expect everybody around me to get up to whoop and cheer when Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi made her pro-Palestinian speech. I could not see anybody staying in their seat. Another speaker got a standing ovation for mentioning that she was a member of Momentum.

I also did not expect the right to be quite so small and useless. Apart from a small group of people handing out Labour First’s White Pages, I hardly came across them and they were almost invisible at conference.

Having said all of that, I can’t say I really understood what was going on most of the time. I don’t think delegates were really in control of things here. Everything is left to the last moment, and because of the various NEC compromises it was difficult to prepare. You really have to study the daily update from the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). For example, it was only by chance that I saw the proposed change to the National Policy Forum’s document on Israel/Palestine in Sunday’s report.

This year’s conference agenda was designed, so we were told, to maximise the number of contributions from the conference floor, as opposed to just the party big-wigs. But the method of selecting these ordinary delegates was hard to believe. Speakers were selected by the chair in groups of three, from different parts of the floor. However, up to fifty would-be speakers attempting to catch the eye of the chair led to the employment of ever more bizarre theatrics: comrades were seen holding up hats, scarves, stuffed parrots, inflated bananas, open umbrellas… you get the picture. Those just raising their hand stood no chance.

But it was worse than that – in one session the chair admitted that they could only see the delegates in the front section of the audience, so anyone wanting to speak from the raised section at the rear would have a long wait. Delegates around me noticed that often the randomly selected speakers seemed to be very well informed with speeches that must have taken a while to prepare. Perhaps it was not that random after all.

This chaotic method of speaker selection was matched by the incoherent structure of the sessions. In no way could they be called debates – there was no order to the contributions and many topics in the NPF documents (to which Tony Blair outsourced policy-making) were not covered at all.

It was not much better when it came to contemporary motions. We only got to see them in the CAC’s report on Sunday morning: a thick booklet with over 120 motions, which were grouped into different ‘themes’. And by 3.30pm we were supposed to have read them all and then decide in the ‘priorities ballot’ which four themes we would like to see debated at conference. That is impossible of course. And of course it is designed to be impossible.

This is where the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy comes in. They certainly worked through the conference agenda (and dragged Momentum along with them – they are linked, of course. As I understand it, Momentum’s owner Jon Lansman used to be a leading light in the CLPD back in the day).

As CLPD’s Pete Willsman has been sitting on the NEC for decades, he gets prior access to material and so his comrades were able to read through all the motions in advance. They used their fringe meeting on Saturday evening to instruct/suggest to delegates which themes to vote on. They already knew that the unions would go for growth and investment, public sector pay, workers’ rights and Grenfell. So, in order to maximise the motions heard, delegates were urged to vote for social care, NHS, housing and railways. Lo and behold, these themes got the vast majority of CLPs’ votes.

As a normal delegate, I felt pretty much out of the loop most of the time, so this attempt to coordinate and explain issues was most welcome. At their fringe meeting on Tuesday night, CLPD comrades also urged CLP delegates to remit all their rule changes in order to get the ‘Corbyn review’ through unopposed. I must say I had my doubts about that tactic, as my own CLP was one of those who voted through the ‘McDonnell amendment’: we wanted to see a dramatic reduction to 5 per cent of the nominations needed from MPs and MEPs in order to get a leadership candidate on to the ballot paper. In th end, we were one of the many CLPs who “regretfully” remitted their rule change.

Momentum was a bit short on the arguments, but better with technology. They were texting us throughout the conference, giving voting advice. Particularly the session on Monday afternoon has to be regarded as a brilliant example of Momentum’s ability to issue voting instructions to delegates at very short notice. The very last speaker in the session moved a reference back of a couple of paragraphs in the NPF document on ‘Work, Pensions and Equality’. As he was literally the last speaker, there was no time to hear other speakers for or against, so delegates really had no idea which way to vote.

But the Momentum organisers must have decided it was an important issue, because text messages were despatched to all their supporting delegates on the conference floor: “Please vote for the reference back to reverse cuts to social security!” The document only criticised the cuts, but the delegate wanted the Labour Party to commit itself to reversing them. By the time the vote was taken a few minutes later, the message had got through. The reference back was carried, with support from a huge majority of CLP delegates. The NPF will now have to look at it again – though of course ordinary members will have to wait to see if the 200 or so members of the NPF will actually enforce this in their next annual report.

This kind of decision-making is very much hit and miss. There were plenty of other issues in the very vacuous NPF reports that deserved to be referenced back, but I presume nobody was called in to make the point! In the end, I ended up abstaining on all of the documents, because they are really full of waffle, without any clear, coherent policy proposals. Ditto the composited contemporary motions. As has been common practice, they have been merged into the most bland and uncontroversial motherhood and apple pie-type statements. Impossible to vote against.

The atmosphere of conference was joyous, even jubilant. It’s just a shame that we haven’t got a hold on conference and the party bureaucracy yet. Conference really hammered home to me the need to change that!



Transform the Labour Party

Jeremy Corbyn says he wants to find ways to give more power to ordinary members and a conference that makes the final decision on policy. The democracy commission has now been agreed and will report next year. All this is very welcome. James Marshall presents a 13-point platform that will provide the basis for the submission by Labour Party Marxists

1. Mandatory reselection is crucial,   though it terrifies the right. We read that this, “even more than nuclear disarmament and membership of the European Community, became the main catalyst for the launch of the breakaway Social Democratic Party” in March 1981. In that same treacherous spirit as the founders of the SDP, Progress – Lord David Sainsbury’s party within a party – furiously denounces mandatory reselection as “a weapon of fear and intimidation”. Yes, mandatory reselection is viewed as an affront by every rightwing wrecker, every hireling, every parliamentary careerist.

It is worth looking at the background. Interestingly, and with good foundation, we read on the Progress website that mandatory reselection carries “echoes of the Paris Commune, and of the Russian soviets, where delegates were subject to recall if they displeased their local citizenry. It rests on the idea that leaders will always be tempted to sell you out, once they get power.” Well, surely, that is what history actually shows.

For decades, sitting Labour MPs – certainly those with safe seats – enjoyed a job for life (or for as long as no better offer came along). They might have deigned to visit their constituency once or twice a year, deliver a speech to the AGM and write an occasional letter to the local newspaper. Meanwhile they lived a pampered, middle class life, frequented various London gentlemen’s clubs and spent their weekends in the home counties with Lord this and Lady that. Despite such evident moral corruption, they were automatically the candidate for the next election. Unless found guilty of an act of gross indecency or had the party whip withdrawn, they could do as they pleased.

With the insurgent rise of Bennism that totally unacceptable situation was called into question. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, founded in 1973, committed itself to a range of rule changes – the mandatory reselection of MPs was finally agreed by the 1980 conference. What this saw, however, was  not a Labour Party equivalent of the Paris Commune or the Russian soviets. There was no right to instantly recall. Nevertheless, once in each parliament, our MPs had to secure the endorsement of their local General Management Committee. Note, GMCs were made up of delegates elected by local party and trade union branches. They were sizable bodies too, typically consisting of 80, 90, 100 or even more delegates.

At the prompting of the bourgeois media, Neil Kinnock, desperately seeking acceptability, sought to extract trade unions from the voting process altogether. He failed, but accepted a compromise. A local electoral college for the selection and reselection of candidates was introduced. Ordinary members were given a direct vote for the first time, leaving GMCs with the right to nominate and shortlist only. This electoral college system gave unions and affiliated organisations up to 40% of the vote, with ordinary members having some 60% (the actual balance was different in each seat, depending on party and union membership).

Trigger ballots were a product of the 1990s. Formally honouring conference’s “desire to maintain reselection”, they made it significantly “easier for MPs to defend their positions”. Trigger ballots allowed for a sitting MP to be subject to a full-scale ballot of the membership. But only if they lost a trigger ballot.

We say, all elected Labour representatives must, by rule, be subject to a one-member, one-vote mandatory reselection. MPs have to be brought under democratic control – from above, by the National Executive Committee; from below by Constituency Labour Parties.

2. We urgently need a sovereign conference once again. The cumbersome, undemocratic and oppressive structures, especially those put in place under the Blair supremacy, must be abolished. The joint policy committee, the national policy forums, etc, have to go.

3. We are against the idea of electing the general secretary through an all-member   ballot. The NEC should elect all national officers. Therefore the post of Labour leader should be replaced by the post of NEC chair. We favour annual elections with the right to recall at any time. As a matter of basic principle Marxists oppose all forms of Bonapartism.

4. In Scotland and Wales, their executive committees should likewise elect their own officers, including their representatives on the all-UK NEC. We are against a single individual in Scotland and Wales having the right to appoint themselves, or a trusted clone.

5. Scrap the hated compliance unit “and get back to the situation where people are automatically accepted for membership, unless there is a significant issue that comes up” (John McDonnell). The compliance unit operates in the murky shadows, routinely leaks to the capitalist media and makes rulings in a completely biased manner. We want to welcome into our ranks the bulk of those who have been barred from membership by the compliance unit. Many of them are good socialists with a proven record.

6. Those expelled from membership ought to have the right to reapply, not after five years, but just one year. All disciplinary procedures should be completed within three months. Endless delay violates natural justice.

7. The huge swing towards Labour in the June 2017 general election happened in no small part due to the enthusiasm of young voters. Yet Young Labour a is creaking, uninviting, thoroughly bureaucratic construction. We need a one-member-one-vote organisation. That must include Young Labour’s National Committee. At present, two-thirds of votes are accounted for by appointees from affiliated organisations, eg, the Fabians and Co-op Party, and affiliated trade unions. Instead of the bi-annual policy and national committee elections, their must be an annual conference that can both decide on policy and elect a leadership. Young Labour has to have the right to decide on its own constitution and standing orders.

8. We need a rule that commits the NEC to securing the affiliation of all trade unions to the Labour Party. The FBU has already reaffiliated. Excellent. But what about the RMT? Let us win RMT militants to finally drop their support for the thoroughly misconceived Tusc project. Instead reaffiliate to the Labour Party. And what about the NUT? This year’s Cardiff conference saw the executive narrowly win an amendment, by 50.63% to 49.37%, which in effect ruled out considering affiliation … at this moment. This can be changed … if we campaign to win hearts and minds. Then there is PCS. Thankfully, Mark Serwotka, its leftwing general secretary, has at last come round to the idea. Yes, PCS affiliation will run up against the Trades Disputes and Trade Union Act (1927), introduced by a vengeful Tory government in the aftermath of the general strike. Civil service unions were barred from affiliating to the Labour Party and the TUC. The Civil and Public Services Association – predecessor of PCS – reaffiliated to the TUC in 1946. Now, however, surely, it is time for PCS to reaffiliate to the Labour Party. Force another change in the law.

9. There has to be a shift in the party, away from the HQ, regional officers, the leader’s office, the Parliamentary Labour Party, etc. CLPs must be empowered. Towards that end there has to be proper financing. CLPs should be allocated 50% of the individual membership dues. That will help with producing publicity material, hiring rooms, paying for full-time officers, providing transport, setting up websites, etc. That way our CLPs can be made into vibrant centres of socialist organisation, education and action.

10. Our goal must be a Labour Party, that, in the words of Keir Hardie, can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”. We therefore need rule changes to once again allow left, communist and revolutionary groups and parties to affiliate. As long as they do not stand against us in elections, this can only but strengthen Labour as a federal party. Nowadays affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the left, the Cooperative Party and, problematically, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. Encourage the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Communist Party of Great Britain, etc, to join our ranks.

11. Being an MP ought to be an honour, not a career ladder, not a way for university graduates to secure a lucrative living. A particularly potent weapon here would be a rule requiring all our elected representatives and officials to take only the average wage of a skilled worker – a principle upheld by the Paris Commune and the Bolshevik revolution. Our MPs are on a basic £67,060 annual salary. On top of that they get around £12,000 in expenses and allowances, putting them on £79,060 (yet at present Labour MPs are only obliged to pay the £82 parliamentarians’ subscription rate).

Let them keep the average skilled workers’ wage – say £40,000 (plus legitimate expenses). Then, however, they should hand the balance over to the party. Even without a rule change Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Dianne Abbott ought to take the lead here.

12. Relying on the favours of the capitalist press, radio and TV is a fools game. Yes, it worked splendidly for Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell. But, as Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband found to their cost, to live by the mainstream media is to die by the mainstream media.

The NEC should, by rule, establish and maintain our own press, radio and TV. To state the obvious, tweeting and texting have severe limits. Brilliant mediums for transmitting simple, short and sharp messages to the already converted. But, when it comes to complex ideas, debating history and charting out political strategies they are worse than useless. We should provide time and space for controversy and the whole range of different opinions within the party. Without that our media will be dull, lifeless, pointless. We should also take full advantage of parliamentary immunity to circumvent the oppressive libel laws. Then we can say the unsayable. That would prove to be electric in terms of shaping and mobilising public opinion.

13. We should adopt a new clause four. Not a return to the old, 1918, version, but a commitment to working class rule and a society which aims for a stateless, classless, moneyless society, which embodies the principle, ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. That is what socialism is all about. Not a measly £10 per hour “living wage”, shifting the tax balance and a state investment bank. No, re-establishing socialism in the mainstream of politics means committing the Labour Party to achieving a “democratic republic”.

johnMcDonnell HopiSupport trade unionists in Iran!

John McDonnell has been the honorary chair of the anti-war/solidarity campaign Hands Off the people of Iran for many years. He outlined its core principles in a speech to our 2011 conference:

“While opposing any imperialist attacks, we positioned ourselves in clear, active solidarity with the people of Iran who are fighting against their theocratic regime. That also led us to clearly oppose all sanctions on the country, because in our view that is just another form of imperialism attacking the people of Iran. I think we have successfully engaged others in that discussion.”

HOPI is now calling for solidarity with three prominent worker activists in Iran. Please sign and circulate this statement and contact HOPI (details below) to receive more info on this important campaign:

Three prominent activists are on hunger strike in an Iranian prison. They are protesting against unjust sentences handed down to them by the Islamic courts. The comrades are in urgent need of solidarity, especially from trade unionists and democrats internationally. The three are:

• Reza Shahbi ‐ a member of the coordinating committee of the syndicate of the Vahed Bus Company;

• Abbas Abdi ‐ executive member of teachers’ guild;

• Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi ‐ former spokesperson of the teachers’ guild.

Shahabi, Abdi and Langaroudi have had these sentences imposed as a result of their activities in defence of their fellow workers. Worryingly, the hunger strike is starting to have a serious effect on their health and is now endangering their lives. Reza Shahabi, for example, has refused food for more than six weeks.

We call on labour activists and defenders of the working class worldwide to do everything they can to save the lives of these leading activists and to build solidarity with them. We also express our grave concern for the lives of these labour activists and urge them to consider ending their hunger strike. The essential work they undertake in defence of thousands of workers in Iran is vital.

To add your name, email office@hopoi.info

Lies, smears and dictators

There were predictable reactions to the election of Jeremy Corbyn in the Middle Eastern media. Amir Parviz Pouyan reports

The pro-Saudi and Israeli press have been competing with each other in their scaremongering. The Times of Israel, under the headline, “Anti-Israel Jeremy Corbyn is new UK Labour leader”, claimed that the “far-left MP has empathised with Hezbollah, Hamas” and that British Jews were “alarmed by his ties to ‘holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites’”.1

All false accusations, as explained by Jewish supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. For example, Jews for Jeremy, which has almost 300 members and was launched in response to what its founders say were “unscrupulous” attacks from the media, comments:

“Some members of the group live in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency, some have worked with him on various campaigns, and many know him from his reputation and his tireless work for the disadvantaged in society, including migrants and asylum-seekers …. Members applaud his efforts to bring together opposing parties to many conflicts in dialogue in a constructive way, and are dismayed that in some cases this has been held against him.2”

The Jewish Leadership Council, which claims to represent more than 30 community groups, including Jewish charities, synagogues as well as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has adopted a more cautious approach. It released the following press statement soon after the declaration of the votes:

“The Jewish Leadership Council will, as we always have, find ways of working with her majesty’s opposition on matters relevant to us. Over the course of the leadership campaign, we had a number of concerns regarding some of Mr Corbyn’s past connections, and his stances on policy areas of great significance to the Jewish community. It is important that the legitimate concerns of the community are addressed.
“We look forward to meeting with Mr Corbyn at the first available opportunity to discuss our concerns, but also ways in which the Labour Party and the Jewish community can continue to work together in a spirit of cooperation and understanding. We hope that the labour movement remains a welcoming environment for members of the Jewish community, many of whom have lifelong commitments to it.3”

For its part, the influential English-language daily, Arab News, which is published in London, relies on an article by veteran rightwing Iranian columnist Amir Taheri:

“Corbyn admires Ali Khamenei because he is supposed to be ‘standing against the Americans’. Corbyn could not have invited Mullah Omar or Saddam Hussein to dinner. If he sheds tears over their demise, it is because they fell victim to American ‘imperialism’. For Corbyn, Israel is a hate object not because it is Jewish or even ‘usurper of Palestinian land’, but because it is supposed to be an ally of the US.4”

Absolute nonsense. Jeremy Corbyn has no illusions about the Iranian clergy. In the 1980s he was the first and for many years the only British MP raising the issue of political prisoners in Iran and opposing the execution of leftwing activists in Iranian jails. He regularly met exiled activists and often raised the issue of repression in the Islamic Republic in parliament.

In the early 2000s he opposed war and sanctions against Iran, but he has no time for forces like Iran’s royalists, who advocate ‘regime change from above’, courtesy of Saudi, US and Israeli funds.

And Corbyn’s close ally John McDonnell has played a crucial role in supporting Iranian workers and political prisoners in his role as honorary president of Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi).

In 2011 this is what he wrote in a joint call written with Yassamine Mather:

“At this current time of enormous political and economic crisis, continued UN sanctions and war threats, Iranian workers are in a very difficult situation. This is why it is absolutely vital that the workers’ movement in this country organises material and ideological solidarity with workers’, women’s and students’ struggles in Iran – they are our natural allies and a true beacon of hope for genuine democracy and freedom.5”

This is what comrade McDonnell wrote in 2011 on the launch of a campaign to free all political prisoners in Iran:

“We formed Hopi at a time when there was a real danger of imminent attack on Iran, right after the war on Iraq. While opposing any imperialist attacks, we positioned ourselves in clear, active solidarity with the people of Iran, who are fighting against their theocratic regime. That also led us to clearly oppose all sanctions on the country, because in our view that is just another form of imperialism attacking the people of Iran. I think we have successfully engaged others in that discussion ….
“However, at the moment there is a certain quietude. Partially this has to do with other activities in their spheres of influence that the imperialists are anxious about, for example, in Afghanistan. And there is an acceptance that, as long as the Iranian regime is quiet, ‘maybe we can turn a blind eye’. And that is why we have not had any major political leader in the west take on the question of Iranian political prisoners in a serious way …
“There is a certain acquiescence that the barbarity will go on and, as long as this barbarity in Iran does not affect the rest of the Middle East or the rest of the world, it is almost acceptable – very much in line with what goes on in other barbaric countries in that region. There is a real vacuum on the question of human rights in Iran, whereby those who look can easily discover the brutality of the executions, the hangings, the tortures, the arrests, the denials of human rights. But the media and mainstream politicians are not interested.
“Just as Hopi had to stand up and put forward a principled position against war and against the theocratic regime, we now have to stand up and fight for the freedom of all political prisoners. The responsibility falls on our shoulders, because nobody else is doing it.6”

In fact. with the exception of one rightwing newspaper, where a reporter compared Corbyn’s dress style with the refusal of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wear fashionable clothes (!), the Iranian media have concentrated on Corbyn’s anti-war position and his support for the Palestinians. As far as I can see, unlike Amir Taheri, no-one within the Islamic regime is claiming Corbyn is a supporter, let alone an ‘admirer’, of the Iranian supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The pro-government news station, Press TV, reminds everyone of a short-term but well publicised association Jeremy Corbyn had with it in 2010, when he chaired one of its programmes. However, even Press TV cannot produce anything other than general comments about, say, the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

The Middle East Eye sums up the feelings of most progressive, secular forces in the region:

“Here’s the reality. Reality is four civil wars – four fires raging out of control, which are consuming Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Possibly five if security in Egypt deteriorates further. Reality is the strategic failure of every intervention since the first Gulf War. Reality is 432,761 refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, already double last year’s total. Reality is the loss of power and influence of the US, Britain and France, not least over their traditional allies – Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt – who are taking decisions on their own. What is it about this reality that is worth preserving? The fact that it could get a lot worse? It already is.
“Credibility: the accolade is awarded to every leader who makes a ‘brave and principled stand’, but who subsequently does everything in his power to avoid accountability for his actions. David Cameron wants to force a vote in parliament which would allow the RAF to bomb Islamic State (IS) in Syria, despite his defeat on a similar vote to bomb Bashar al-Assad after the chemical attack in Damascus. British pilots have already been caught using US planes, and now RAF drones have been involved …
“Credibility or consistency is not a word often applied to policy. British government policy on Syria has lurched one way and then another. It started by encouraging the rebels to believe that Assad’s overthrow was imminent at both Geneva conferences. It has now morphed into one in which Assad could stay in a transitional government. Cameron’s policy on Egypt is to engage the dictator in power, without having any traction over him or any hope of moderating his rule. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is going to be Cameron’s next guest in Downing Street.7”

Note early day motion 279 protesting against the Sisi visit. Tabled on July 9 2015 it calls on the prime minister to: “rescind the invitation, to put pressure on the Egyptian government to take immediate steps to demonstrate its commitment to democratic freedoms and human rights, including the revocation of all death sentences, and to stop licensing equipment for export to the Egyptian military and security forces.”8 Its primary sponsor is Green MP Caroline Lucas and amongst its five other sponsors we find the signatures of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

In other words, it is not comrades Corbyn and McDonnell who are on the side of dictators. It is David Cameron l


1. www.timesofisrael.com/jeremy-corbyn-claims
2. http://jewsforjeremy.org.
3. www.thejlc.org/2015/09/labour-leadership-result
4. www.arabnews.com/columns/news/802576.
5. http://hopoi.org/2011/07/from-john-mcdonnell-mp-support-hopi-vs-lrc-cricket-match.
6. http://hopoi.org/2011/03/john-mcdonnell-mp
7. www.middleeasteye.net/columns/corbyns-
8. www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/279.

STWC: Main enemy is at home

Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists reports on the September 14 Stop the War Coalition AGM
Despite the war threat against Syria. Despite the temporary boost given to the anti-war movement by the August 29 parliamentary vote against a military attack on Syria. Despite David Cameron’s humiliation, attendance at the 2013 annual conference of the Stop the War Coalition at Westminster University was down to less than 100. This was compared to the 200-plus in March 2012 and over 300 at the 2010 conference. That was the first year in which the Socialist Workers Party no longer mobilised its rank and file to attend, after John Rees, Lindsey German and Chris Nineham split off from the SWP to form Counterfire.

The coalition has been suffering from a lack of foot-soldiers ever since, and the appearance of new faces on local demonstrations immediately prior to the parliamentary vote was not reflected in attendance at conference. Although the SWP’s Judith Orr chaired half of the conference, few SWPers were present and the organisation’s Party Notes circulated two days later made no mention of Stop the War.

The coalition’s lack of numbers, however, is now compensated for by its gain in prestige, with official recognition by the Trades Union Congress. In 2003, although the TUC had opposed the invasion of Iraq, STWC vice-president Andrew Murray explained, it had “stood aloof from the movement”. Now, in its September 11 statement on Syria, the TUC general council committed itself to “strongly oppose external military intervention” and to “work with civil society organisations, including … the Stop the War Coalition.”

As we know, Ed Miliband had agreed to back an attack on Syria, but had a very late change of mind. This, and the rebellion of some Tory MPs, can only be due to the anti-war pressure of public opinion, with sitting MPs fearing loss of votes. No doubt the campaigning by Stop the War over the years has played its part, but it is the transparent horrors of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq which have disabused public opinion of the illusion of humanitarian intervention.

“We stopped Cameron, but Obama still plans war,” proclaimed STWC’s August 30 statement. But by the time they reached conference, the ‘officers group’ had sobered up, tempered their triumphalism somewhat, and recognised that public opinion against an attack on Syria had other sources besides their campaigning. “What produced that vote?” asked comrade Rees. “We helped. But the mass experience of war did not match the media story. And the resistance over there played its part.” STWC had “mounted effective opposition”. It was “not just public opinion,” he argued. “Compare the privatisation of Royal Mail”, which is going ahead despite being very unpopular. And why did opposition break first here, and not in France, not in the US? “Because of the consistent campaigning of STWC,” he claimed.

There were attempts from the various STWC officers to characterise the significance of the August 29 vote. Jeremy Corbyn, chairing, said the vote had been a “mea culpa” for many MPs, who felt guilty about voting for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. “We are into a historical change in relations between the west and the rest of the world,” he claimed – but then hedged: “But not for ever”. Chris Nineham, in similar vein, spoke of “a breakthrough in the movement”. STWC had “mobilised thousands in last few weeks”, he gushed. “Lindsey now gets invited onto TV. We need clarity and unity, to unite all the forces against austerity and war.” All the forces? At last, I thought, Hands Off the People of Iran will be able to take its rightful place in Stop the War – not!

Guardian journalist Seamus Milne said that the western powers are in disarray – “but was this a body swerve, or a retreat?” Public opinion does matter, he said. The ‘war on terror’ had become “an orgy of torture, not human rights”. It had also “revealed the inability of the US to impose its will – the limits of the first truly global empire”.

The British ruling class always and everywhere does foreign policy in its own selfish, exploitative and oppressive interests – never in order to ‘save lives’. What a pleasure it was to see the arrogant bourgeois persuaders, after confidently pumping out their war propaganda, suddenly brought to a grinding halt on the buffers of obstinate public opinion. As Abe Lincoln said, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time”.

The famous aphorism of Clausewitz is that “War is the continuation of politics by other means”. In other words, war is a form of politics. But politics is always class politics. In war, the interests of one ruling class is pitted against the interests of another ruling class. The working class is mobilised in support of our own rulers, thereby strengthening their power over us. The independent politics of the working class means opposing the foreign policy and military adventures of our ‘own’ ruling class, preventing them from strengthening their hold over us by exploiting and oppressing others. The main enemy is at home.

So the struggle against imperialist wars, and to end war once and for all, should be seen as part and parcel of the political struggle of the working class to supersede capitalism and class society. The anti-war struggle needs independent working class politics . And working class politics can only be thrashed out through thoroughgoing democracy – freedom of discussion, unity in action.

Unfortunately, freedom of discussion is not the method of the bureaucratic clique which runs the Stop the War Coalition. It evidently prefers to keep conference – and local groups – free of sharp political debate. God forbid that political differences should be thrashed out openly. But their war on politics can only mean protecting their own politics from being challenged.

‘Guidelines for local groups’, submitted to conference by the ‘officers group’, waxed eloquent about the breadth of opinion in the coalition: “Stop the War represents the opinion of the vast majority of people in this country on foreign policy.” This is indeed a strange phenomenon, since it is led by a variety of self-styled Marxists.

Local groups must “work hard to ensure the widest possible participation in order to reflect this breadth of opinion”. Stop the War has “very wide backing, symbolised by the recent support from the TUC congress”. Groups must “get as broad a leadership as possible, always looking to involve new activists”.

Groups must “maximise the … impact of … our arguments”. While we should “encourage wide discussion”, public meetings should “focus on the key campaigning issues and on the main task of ending western intervention, not on potentially divisive political debates”.

Well, which political debates, I wonder, are not “potentially divisive”? And what exactly are to be “our arguments”, if not ones arrived at through “potentially divisive political debates”? And what if ‘ordinary people’ turn up to our public meetings, and start asking “potentially divisive” questions or expressing “potentially divisive” views?

Several speakers had raised issues which they thought should be linked to opposition to military attack: anti-austerity, anti-racism, immigration, defence of whistleblowers, freedom of information and the stifling of debate.

Chris Nineham, in moving the guidelines, said: “The left will have its political debates, but not inside Stop the War, because that would be divisive.” Matt Willgress from North London, under the rubric of teaching us ordinary folk ‘How to build a local group’, explained that “people would rather lobby MPs than debate about the Syrian left with the usual suspects”. Philistinism rules OK!

Nevertheless, Andrew Murray, agreeing with my assertion that “the main enemy is at home”, conceded that “No-one is saying we can’t debate differences, but we must keep our eye on the ball.”

Sami Ramadani urged us to “distinguish patriotic resistance from terrorism in Iraq (where I was born)”. The most popular platform speaker, he advised us to “celebrate a great victory – but do it quickly, as they will get back at us very soon”. He congratulated the British parliament “for listening to British people, for once”, and the US people “for not listening, for a change, to Fox News”. The more ‘peace president’ Obama preached war, the more the American people wanted peace, he said. And he happily dished out congratulations to the French people, the Syrian people (“Yes, there is a democratic opposition”), the Iranian people and the Egyptian people, who all “forced their government to oppose an attack on Syria”. Congrats to STWC too, he said: “Unity is the key to opposition to imperialist intervention, and support for the struggles of the people for democracy.”

So steer clear of “divisive” debates.