Saturday, 13 June 2009

"Death to the Government" - Mass Protests and Violence in Iran

Presidential Mir Hossein Mousavi has called the election a "charade", comrades in and outside of Iran have said it was a farce from the very beginning. All the candidates were loyal to the Islamic Republic, and have their hands drenched in blood. The imperialists will obviously be disappointed that the pro Western candidate seems to have been cheated out of victory. The way you win an election in Iran is by winning the support of the supreme leader not at the ballot box.

The Iranian state prepared for mass protests, shutting down SMS access, blocking websites such as Facebook and the Guardian as well as deploying in excess of 100,000 security personnel. Pictures and videos are coming in from across Tehran and beyond of Mousavi supporters taking to the streets and being attacked by the police as well as members of the Basij. To complicate matters on the street, Ahmadinejad supporters have also come out celebrating and goading Mousavi supporters. From what I have heard so far, four people have been killed, many have been arrested and the police and Hezbollah are daring people to come out on to the street so that they can crack down further. Thousands have come out onto the streets as the below video shows, yet without clear leadership there can be no hope of any progress. The main slogan of the demonstrators is 'death to this government'.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The disunited colours of Iran's Bourgeois camps

The political and organisational disintegration of the Labour Pary may be on everyones lips at the moment, yet in Iran, our comrades are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Bourgeois factions are entering into open war on the streets and in the media. It is "Greens" versus the "Reds" in Iran at the moment, Karoubi's "Whites" have very little chance in this election, one thing can be sure whatever coloured camp wins, the people will lose in this election either way. As the main tendencies of the Iranian bourgeoisie go into battle the imperialists are desperately trying to influence the outcome of the election. This is what is behind Obama's recent appeals to Muslims.

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi have taken up the colour green and have been out onto the streets rallying and demonstrating. This has caused outrage, with right wing papers attacking the use of the "sacred colour" and aiming to copy the colour revolutions that took place in former Soviet Republics. The charge of a colour revolution could actually stick, as no doubt Mousavi is the most desireable candidate for the USA. Ayatollah Khamenei has commented on this, and railed against the wests "meddling" in Iran.

In the North of Tehran, youths in sport cars are driving around waving green flags in support of leading opposition candidate Mousavi. In the South of Tehran, things are a little different. Members of the Basij are out in force attacking opposition and reformist youths, so are Ahmadinejad's supporters, they are sporting red attire, which has been denounced by Ahmadinejad's campaign manager, but is continuing regardless as young Iranians are flocking to the three political centres intent on victory in this election. One Daneshjouyan-e Azadi Khah va Beraber Talab (DAB) member has told me that the South of Tehran looks increasingly like a war zone as rival factions clash. A young Mousavi supporter in the Eastern city of Mashhad has been killed by Ahmadinejad's boot boys, comrades described him as a "boy" who just wanted to see the back of the hated Ahmadinejad. That killing goes on top of the 25 killed in a bomb attack on a Mosque and the five killed in clashes on Monday.

Ahmadinejad is at the moment is visibly losing the election along with his marbles, his behaviour in a television debate was denounced by Ayatollah Khamenei in his address celebrating Ruhalla Khomeini's life and marking 25 years since his death. Ahmadinejad supporters along with the Basij are doing everything in their power to keep him in power, it is not beyond the power or the imagination of Ahmadinjad and his conservative allies to rig the election. The only thing he needs is backing from Khamenei, whatever the number is of those who vote against him, he will remain in power.

I am backing the "Blues", which as a Villa fan, is a hard thing to do. That is the colour the democratic opponents of the Theocratic regime have taken up; they are not calling for a vote for any of the candidates. They are calling for an abstention, since none of the candidates offer anything other than repression, violence and poverty for the working masses.

Friday, 29 May 2009

You have to be this big to go on this ride...

Speak to any member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and they will tell you that they consistently build the United Front. They will tell you that United Against Fascism (UAF) and Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) are both United Fronts. The problem is they are wrong and are not alone in their misunderstanding. The Permanent Revolution (PR) group, join them and the majority of the Left in getting the United Front wrong. Whilst PR does not go all the way along the road with SWP’s take on the United Front, they still manage to believe that a group of 30 people with no influence in the class has managed to form a United Front with the Labour Party. A United Front where the other party is ignorant of others existence by the way! The debate can be found here.

The biggest and most obvious mistake PR have made is that they are not a Communist Party and are a group with no influence on the working class. The united front is done on a mass scale, I don’t see any section of the masses following PR at the moment. “If the use of this tactic is to advance the cause of Communism, the actual Communist Parties carrying it out must be strong, united and under an ideologically clear leadership.” []

PR is not at that point. Neither is the majority of the Left. PR’s understanding or use of the United Front does not at all correspond with the theses accepted at the Fourth Congress of the Comintern.

The United Front tactic is to be deployed by parties which have won a significant layer of workers to communism. Trotsky is quite clear on this:
"wherever the Communist Party already constitutes a big, organized, political force, but not the decisive magnitude: wherever the party embraces organizationally, let us say, one-fourth, one-third, or even a larger proportion of the organized proletarian vanguard, it is confronted with the question of the united front in all its acuteness." []

The United Front tactic was introduced as workers’ were moving back towards the social democratic parties at the end of the slaughter of world war 1, it was about engaging with these workers and winning leadership of them. Over the last period the working class is abandoning the Labour Party and in the Euro elections will deal a severe beating to the Labour Party. The workers are not calling for unity with Labour Party in face of mounting assaults by capitalism, our class is having to defend itself against this onslaught led by the Labour Party.

Campaigns around school closures etc are simply campaign blocs. The United Front is a tactic of the Communist Party to win the adherents of social democracy/ labourism to socialism. In the UK we have no Communist Party. We are not even at the point communists were before the formation of the CPGB in 1920.

Trotsky is clear on what type of organisation should and can carry out the United Front tactic. Let’s look at Trotsky’s advice to the ILP, he is even more clear:

“QUESTION – Should the ILP terminate its united front with the CP?
ANSWER – Absolutely and categorically – yes! The ILP must learn to turn its back on the CP and towards the working masses. The permanent “unity committees” in which the ILP has sat with the CP were nonsense in any case. The ILP and the CPGB were propaganda organizations not mass organizations; united fronts between them were meaningless if each of them had the right to advance its own program. These programs must have been different or there would have been no justification for separate parties, and with different programs there is nothing to unite around. United fronts for certain specific actions could have been of some use, of course, but the only important united front for the ILP is with the Labour Party, the trade unions, the cooperatives. *At the moment, the ILP is too weak to secure these; it must first conquer the right for a united front by winning the support of the masses.* At this stage, united fronts with the CP will only compromise the ILP. Rupture with the CP is the first step towards a mass basis for the ILP and the achievement of a mass basis is the first step towards a proper united front, that is, a united front with the mass organizations.”[]

I think looking at what else Trotsky has to say on this is helpful (sorry for the length):

“to conquer the masses – the parties are divided quite naturally and logically into three large groups:

First, there are the parties which are but at the beginning of their successes and which are not yet in a position to play a big role in the immediate action of the masses. Naturally, these parties have a great future, like all the other communist parties, but right now they cannot count very much upon the action of the proletarian masses for they are numerically weak as organizations. Hence, these parties must fight for the time being for the conquest of a basis, of the possibility of influencing the proletariat in its action (our English party is now emerging from this situation with ever-increased success).

On the other side there are parties which completely dominate the proletariat. I believe comrade Kolarov is right in claiming that this is the case with Bulgaria. What does this mean? It means that Bulgaria is ripe for the proletarian revolution and that only international conditions stand in its way. It is clear that in such a situation the question of the united front scarcely exists. In Belgium and England, on the other hand, it signifies the struggle for the possibility of influencing the proletariat and of cooperating in its movement.

Between these two extremes, there are parties which represent a power, not only in ideas but also through their numerical and organizational strength. This is already the case with most of the communist parties. Their strength may come to a third of the organized vanguard, a fourth, even a half or a bit more – that does not alter the situation in general.

What task confronts these parties? To conquer the overwhelming majority of the proletariat. And to what end? To lead the proletariat to the conquest of power, to the revolution. When will this moment be reached? We do not know. Perhaps in six months, perhaps in six years. Maybe the interval will differ for the various countries between these two figures. But speaking theoretically, it is not excluded that this preparatory period will last even longer. In that case, I ask: What will we do during this period? Continue to fight for the conquest of the majority, for the confidence of the entire proletariat. But this will not be attained by today or tomorrow; for the moment we are the party of the vanguard of the proletariat. And now still another question: Should the class struggle stop meanwhile, until we have conquered the entire proletariat? I put this question to comrade Terracini and also to comrade Renoult: Should the struggle of the proletariat for its daily bread stop until the moment when the communist party, supported by the entire working class, is in a position to seize the power? No, this struggle does not stop, it continues. The workers who belong to our party and those who do not join it, like the members of the social-democratic party and others, all of them – depending on the stage and the character of the working class in question – are disposed and able to fight for their immediate interests; and the struggle for their immediate interests is always, in our epoch of great imperialist crisis, the beginning of a revolutionary struggle. (This is very important but I mention it here only parenthetically.)

Now then, the workers who do not join our party and who do not understand it (that is precisely the reason why they do not enter it), want to have the possibility to fight for the piece of daily bread, for the bit of meat, etc. They see before them the communist party, the socialist party, and they do not understand the reason why they have parted company. They belong to the reformist General Confederation of Labor [CGT], to the socialist party of Italy, etc., or else they do not belong to any party organization. Now, what do these workers think? They say: Let these organizations or sects – I don’t know how these not very conscious workers call them in their language – give us the possibility of conducting the fight for our daily needs. We cannot answer them: But we have separated in order to prepare your great future, your great day-after-tomorrow! They will not understand this, because they are completely absorbed by their “today”. If they were able to grasp this, to them, entirely theoretical argument, they would have joined our party. With such a mental outlook and confronted with the fact of different trade union and political organizations, they have no means of orienting themselves; they find it impossible to undertake any immediate action, no matter how small or partial. Along comes the communist party and tells them: Friends, we are divided. You think it’s a mistake; I want to explain the reasons. You don’t understand them? I regret it greatly, but we are already in existence, we communists, socialists, reformists and revolutionary syndicalists; we have our independent organizations for reasons which are entirely sufficient for us communists. Nevertheless we communists propose an immediate action in your struggle for bread and meat, we propose it to you and to your leaders, to every organization that represents a part of the proletariat!” []

As you can see Trotsky is quite clear on which type of organisation should carry out the United Front tactic, that is those parties that have won a significant section of the vanguard and have the ability to engage the reformists in serious way both organisationally and politically. Groups the size of PR or even the ILP are not at this point. They are at the first stage that Trotsky describes, that is the fight for a Communist Party. That fight should guide our actions in the movement. That is the fight the CPGB has taken up.

The united front against fascism is about defeating the fascist threat but it is also about winning leadership of the class. Again we must go to Trotsky:

“The program of action must be strictly practical, strictly objective, to the point, without any of those artificial “claims,” without any reservations, so that every average Social Democratic worker can say to himself. what the Communists propose is completely indispensable for the struggle against fascism. On this basis, we must pull the Social Democratic workers along with us by our example, and criticize their leaders who will inevitably serve as a check and a brake. Only in this way is victory possible.” []

I don’t think it is formalistic and at the same time revisionist to simply state that a little group PR cannot form a United Front with the Labour Party. It is what is written in the theses but more importantly, it also proven by reality.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

No 2 EU looks to Far Right for Votes

Facebook (FB) is a peculiar world occupied by office workers, students and the unemployed. On it you can follow the latest intrigues of this or that friend, stalk the weirdest sectarians and at times find out somebody’s politics by where they post. The RMT, the Stalinist CPB and the “Trotskyist” Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) have gone to lengths to try and convince us that the No2EU campaign is not right wing, not anti immigrant and certainly is not nationalist! FB exposes these claims as nothing but lies.

Leading Cardiff SPEW member Andrew Ballard has been doing his best to promote No2EU on FB, nothing wrong in that. The problem is, he is promoting them on far right, nationalist, racist and BNP controlled pages. Pages such as ‘British jobs for British people’, ‘get foreign labour out of Britain’, ‘UK jobs for UK workers’. The demands of these groups centre around getting foreigners out of the UK. For those who think we are making this up, have a look here at a copy of some of the pages he has been posting on. On these pages apart from posting links he posted this message:

‘British jobs for british workers and Italian jobs for Italian workers. The only reason the EU has such a large migrant workforce is to drive down workers wages and increase profits for the super rich. Vote no2eu on June the 4th.’

So much for a workers’ Europe then. Such slogans would find a loving home in the BNP and nationalists parties across Europe. Did he forget about internationalism?

So many of us on the revolutionary Left have been repulsed by this campaign, we have been called sectarians and all of the other usual crap internationalists get called. It is doubtful that Ballard is the only one, and is certainly not a loose cannon, he is leading cadre. When we said that No2EU is nothing more than little England politics dressed up in trade union clothes we never expected SPEW members to campaign on nationalist, far right and BNP controlled sites and pages. SPEW members need to sit up and wake up, good socialists are being dragged into a nationalist adventure by Left bureaucrats and vile opportunists.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The Death of "Nazli" (or, The Death of Vartan Salakhanian)

I am usually a philistine when it comes to culture. Art generally isn't my thing, hence my distaste of an apparently Dada inspired Weekly Worker front cover for May Day. Below is a poem about an Armenian comrade who was tortured to death under the Shah, his name was Vartan Salakhanian, he refused to speak, even cry in pain, as he was being tortured to death. I put this up now, to remind comrades that we may have removed the Shah, but the torture of our comrades in Iran is going on as we speak. The Iranian regime is holding 50 comrades from May Day protests and hold many more from the social and national movements in Iran. I was told by a comrade from Iran, that when they were arrested they would recite this poem to each other.

Nazli! Spring smiled and the Judas tree bloomed.
At home, under the window, the old Jasmine has budded.
Remove [your] hand from doubt! (give up doubting)
With sinister death do not wrestle!
Being is better than becoming not being, especially in the Spring

Nazli said nothing
Head high, he clenched tooth of anger on wounded liver/heart and went.

Nazli! Talk!
The bird of silence, the chick of a tragic death in the nest, is sitting on the egg (the bird is sitting on the egg that will be the birth of a tragic death)

Nazli did not say a word
Like the sun
appeard from darkness and settled in blood and went.

Nazli did not say a word
Nazli was a star
Suddenly in this darkness, he lit up and leapt and went.

Nazli did not say a word
Nazli was a violet
He flowered and
gave the good tidings: "Winter was defeated!"
left ...

The Death of "Nazli" by Ahmad Shamlu

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Second Statement from May Day Organising Committee

Workers and freedom loving people!

This is a follow up statement to the May Day Organizing Committee’s first report on the violent attack by police and intelligence forces at the May Day rally in Laleh Park, Tehran. More than 150 workers and their families as well as activists from the women’s and students’ movements were arrested. The updates for public information and appropriate actions, as of today, are as follows:

Four days after the May Day police crackdown, about 130 women and men are still incarcerated. They are detained in unacceptable conditions in section 204 of Tehran’s Evin Prison.

The families of these esteemed friends have been incessantly contacting the intelligence and judicial centres, including the Islamic Revolutionary Court on Moalem Street (Teacher Street). They have been threatened by security forces and never receive clear answers from the judicial authorities. The relatives of the arrested workers have been gathering in unity outside the court, protesting the arrest of their loved ones.
The authorities have told some family members of the detainees that they have issued heavy bails of 50 to 100 million Toman (US$50,000 to $100,000) for the conditional release of most of the arrested activists, however, many of the arrested workers have kept up their morale and are demanding their unconditional release without any bail conditions.

The May Day Organizing Committee condemns these oppressive measures and brings to the attention of all freedom-loving people of the world the fact that all these beatings and assaults demonstrate the repressive disposition of the ruling capitalism in Iran; that’s why these people are imprisoned unjustifiably and their freedom is delayed inexcusably and their families are being penalized financially. Isn’t it the Iranian government’s security and intelligence apparatus that has to be accountable for all the financial and emotional costs of these inhumane actions?

Workers, women, students and freedom-seeking people!

Support the families of the imprisoned activists who have been gathering everyday outside the Islamic Revolutionary Court protesting the cruel and inhumane actions of the police and judicial systems. Let’s join them in solidarity!

Workers and Workers’ organization of all countries around the world!

The Iranian capitalist state has not only attacked the May Day event across Iran in recent days, they have also raided the meeting of the consumer cooperative of the Metal-Mechanics Workers in Nemat-Abad of Tehran and arrested a number of workers.

As we all know, the celebration of the first of May and the declaration of workers’ demands are absolute and undeniable rights of the working class. We see ourselves in solidarity with workers of the world, and invite you all to disseminate these reports and take necessary measures to increase pressures for the unconditional freedom of all arrested activists at May Day rallies in Tehran and other parts of Iran.

1388 May Day Organizing Committee
Tehran, Iran, May 04, 2009 (Ordibehesht 14, 1388)

The May Day Organizing Committee:

- The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company
- The Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company
- The Free Union of Workers in Iran
- The Founding Committee of the Syndicate of Building 's Painters and Decoration's Workers
- The Center for Workers’ Rights in Iran
- The Collaborative Council of Labour Organizations and Activists
- The Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations
- The Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Free Workers’ Organizations
- The Women’s Council.

Friday, 1 May 2009

No2EU Launch “a fucking disaster” says CPB Stalinist Dave Hawkins.

On April 30 two members of Communist Students in Manchester attended the Manchester launch of the Left Nationalist No 2 EU - Yes To Democracy campaign. The attendance was a paltry eight, and of those eight three were from the Morning Star’s CPB, one from the Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW), one from Permanent Revolution and a comrade from the Green Left. So out of eight in attendance 4 were hostile to the campaign. The meeting began with an unwelcome discussion on the politics of the campaign with myself and other comrades taking the CPB to task for backing immigration controls, British jobs for British workers and little Britain politics dressed up in trade union clothes. The comrade from SPEW seemed genuinely shocked when Dave Hawkins from the CPB proclaimed that immigration controls are a great British tradition and that British workers should be protected from immigrants coming over here and taking their jobs. It took but a second for the real politics of the campaign to come out. The CPB members present seemed stupidly unaware that muttering such sentiments did nothing to help the campaign and only encouraged and angered the small but hostile audience. For over 45 minutes they were subjected to ridicule and the proper communist approach to Europe. To the credit of the SPEW member he did not engage in any abusive or arrogant remarks like the CPB members did, he listened and discussed calmly taking on the points that many comrades had raised but still saw that the positives outweighed the negatives in the campaign. It was a peculiar atmosphere considering CPB bureaucrats in Unison are witch hunting socialist trade unionists who are members of the SPEW.

Further questions where raised about the establishment of the campaign and why it was done behind the backs of not just the RMT but the entire movement. There was no democratic process or discussion within or outside the RMT. Unlike the PR member and CPB members everyone else thought that this was an important issue. The claim that the RMT are backing the electoral bloc when the RMT as a union has not discussed it or voted on it has no basis in reality.

As the meeting went on CPB members became more and more embarrassed with Hawkins spending a good five minutes with his head in his hands. Hopefully he had just realised that Stalinism and its half witted adherents will face opposition whenever they climb out of the safety of the trade union bureaucracy. Tempers did begin to fray and instead of discussing with the female comrade from the Green Left, Hawkins gave a sharp one liner that ended in “love”, to which she replied “comrade would have been fine”. So not only is the CPB happily promoting left nationalism, it’s members are also happy to be derogatory towards female comrades who are critical. Sexism has always been apart of this movement, and it is no surprise an old Stalinist is intent on perpetuating it.

The meeting was brought to an abrupt end as the CPB decided they would organise the campaign via email. They quickly ran out of the building, even forgetting to pay for the room. It was one of the most farcical launch meetings I have ever been too.

Stalinists beware, internationalists are everywhere!