The latest ships to venture into the Persian Gulf are not alone, they are joined by over fifty other Naval forces including Guided Missile Cruisers, Frigates, Hunter-Killer Submarines, Destroyers and Assault Ships. This isn’t something straight out of some epic world war novel it’s occurring right now.
Add to this George Bush’s decision last year to ask Congress for $88 Billion (US) to modify the infamous B52 Stealth Bombers to enable them to carry a (13,600kg) bomb, (lovingly called Massive Ordinance Penetrator) this weapon is described as ‘an air delivered weapon with an explosive capacity to destroy targets deep underground?'(deep underground, just like for example the Iranian nuclear facilities!) These are aircraft that cost $2.5 billion EACH to produce, this is irrefutable proof, if proof were ever needed, that all war is an act of war against the poor, in the US they don’t have the money to provide non-private health care but has seemingly unlimited funds to carpet-bomb some of the poorest people in the world!
Sadly then, we shouldn’t be planning our action, but our reaction.
Hands off the Iranian regime?
Our role as anti-capitalists, anarchists and internationalists is threefold. Primarily our first concern is to avert imperialist designs on Iran at all costs, and where possible, to inflict sabotage, political or otherwise, on the military industrial complex. Secondly, we should not hide from exposing the reactionary nature of the Iranian theocratic regime and finally we should offer practical solidarity with oppressed groups in Iran such as trade unionists, women, LGBTQ peoples and students.
This is nothing revolutionary and should be covered in the opening chapter of ‘A dummies guide to anti-war activity’, sadly however the above approach is contentious. Not least within the anti-war movement here in Britain, the wanna-be manifestation of which is the Stop the War Coalition (StW). StW like its puppet masters the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), withhold all criticism of the Iranian regime in order to be ‘more anti-war’. You see, according to SWP ‘logic’, (for lack of a better word), exposing the brutal nature of the Iranian ruling class is to give credibility to the pro-war lobby. Better to ignore the plight of those that are oppressed within Iran and paint the Iranian theocracy as democratic; a pool of tolerance or even more laughable, as a beacon of anti-imperialist activity!
Disgracefully the StW do not stop at a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ approach with regards to the Iranian regime, in their support for groups such as Campaigns Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) they actually side with overt apologists for the Iranian theocracy. This is the very same CASMII who at the last StW annual conference (Oct, 2007) tried to lay to rest a few myths about the Iranian regime. A CASMII speaker named Somaye Zadeh took to the platform and began to tell of how Iran wasn’t how it was portrayed, it isn’t misogynistic for example, because it was the birth place of a female nobel prize winner (so what?) and homophobia in Iran isn’t so black and white either apparently. According to Somaye the fact that homosexuals are killed in Iran for the crime of loving someone of the same sex, is of little significance because the regime does allow for sex-change operations – you couldn’t make this up! StW actually gave a platform to someone who thinks that lesbian, gay and bisexual peoples should find some condolence in the fact that whilst they are headed for the noose should they visit Iran, at least they can change genitals while they are there! The fact that this woman received such a warm applause from SWP members and their equally bad Stalinist acquaintances within StW, shows how completely bereft of any political direction StW has become.
This isn’t merely the ranting of an alienated anti-war activist; there are important conclusions to be drawn from the inadequacies of the majority of groups that constitute the StW coalition. Such cross-class collaborations between socialists, greens and liberals etc. are doomed to failure and should be avoided at all costs by anarchist communists. We know this because we can see clearly what has happened to StW and their utter incompetence when faced with a potential, indeed probable, nuclear decimation of Iran. Principled politics cannot be watered down, not in the name of getting more people to march and certainly not in the name of accommodating political Islam, Shia nationalists or those who believe the Iranian regime to be anti-imperialist!
Iran – the reality
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his clerical allies are no friend of the anti-war movement here in Britain. It is our job not to side with the Iranian national bourgeoisie but with the Iranian people! When faced with lies from the bankrupt left here in Britain then, we have to be clear on what our aims are.
When those on the left call for ‘a defeat of imperialism’, or some equally abstract sound-bite, they leave open the question of the agency of that defeat. We as anarchist communists are explicitly clear on this; it isn’t sufficient to call for a defeat of imperialism, because imperialism is not an isolated phenomena; it is how capitalism works. Just as a domestic market requires the State to enforce contracts and a generally stable environment, the world market requires co-operation between nations, it is when the markets of the imperialist powers are under threat that we see the rhetoric of ‘sanctions’, ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and ‘rouge states’ once again come to the forefront of the media.
Given this, we must seek to build alliances with the only independent force in the Middle East that is capable of consistent anti-imperialism, that of the Iranian working class. Only the Iranian workers, united with popular mass support can stand a chance against the military might of America. We must also not fall into the trap of believing the Iranian ruling class to be anti-imperialist. Iran not only supported both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but ironically the war in Iraq has led to the election of a pro-Iranian government that has made Iran little short of a regional sledgehammer, much to the dismay of Israel.
Iran is a country where privatisation, neoliberal economics, casualisation and denial of basic workers rights and the norm. Inflation is a massive 30%1 (that’s ten times higher than national growth) and according to the government’s own statistics poverty is at 20%, although the reformist faction of the Iranian regime puts this poverty percentage much higher at a staggering 50%!
Iran then is not an easy place to live if you’re working class and it is painfully obvious that Iranian workers are placed in a battle against both their own government as well as those who wish to impose external regime change upon them. If more proof were needed that the Iranian theocracy is not our ally then we need only look at the devastating repression of social movements that are to be found right across Iran. From the workers movement to the feminist and students movements there are signs that regime change from below, by the workers themselves is a real possibility and it’s never been more important for anti-war activists to stand up and show real solidarity with these oppressed groups whilst they are imprisoned, brutalised and tortured by the barbarous regime.
That is why any attempt to portray the Iranian regime as something it isn’t by anyone should be exposed. By siding with the regime these very same liberals, leftists and pacifists are doing nothing but aiding the state in its oppression of the Iranian workers.
Much of the rhetoric from the pro-war lobby and their friends in the media lends itself to discussion of how awful it would be if Iran were to acquire nuclear capabilities. This is because Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb would indeed be something to frown about, fortunately however most people agree Iran is not doing so. In fact a United States CIA intelligence report in December 2007 suggested that Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, had it ever had one, was halted back in 2002/3! This rebuttal of common pro-war arguments came from the imperialists themselves and was added to similar arguments made by Israeli academics, United Nations officials as well as, well, everyone except George Bush and his allies in both the Whitehouse and Westminster (with the notable exception of course from the ultra-trot group the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL).)
In fact anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Iranian ruling elite will know full well that nuclear weapons, at least in the foreseeable future is not in their interests at all. This is why ex-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has repeatedly denounced ‘hard-liners’ and called for US-Iranian negotiations and for the use of civilian nuclear energy only. Furthermore Iranian ‘Supreme Leader’ Ali Khamenei issued at Fatwa against the development, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons as recently as 2005. In a theocracy like Iran and coming from an Ayatollah a fatwa is not to be taken lightly.
However this evidence showing that Iran is not acquiring nuclear weapons seems to have gone completely unnoticed by the AWL. Their 21st August edition of ‘Solidarity’ for example, noted that ‘the drive by the Iranian regime to acquire nuclear weapons is a drive to achieve the power to inflict mass murder’.2 Not only does this ignore all evidence, but it shows the complete lack of anti-war credentials of groups such as the AWL who continue to pay lip-service to what is essentially a non-debate.
Iran is a country under strangling sanctions, it would something little short of a miracle if Iran could develop nuclear weapons given such sanctions. However that is not the point, what we should be clear on is that the so-called ‘nuclear question’ is high on the agenda for the media and those with imperialist designs on Iran for a specific reason. It is also no coincidence that President Ahmadinejad echos the concerns of the US/UK pro-war lobby by refusing to give unquestionable proof of Iran’s true nuclear ambitions. This is because this ‘nuclear question’ is hysteria whipped up by both the American and Iranian ruling class; by America to fasten the beating of their war drums and by Iran to mask endemic internal problems and to justify ever-harsher oppression against the Iranian people.
When there exists such little evidence then that Iran is developing nuclear questions we should be showing this ‘nuclear debate’ to be nothing more than a façade.
Already at war?
Something that is often overlooked is the fact that war on Iran has already begun. Some thirty years ago in fact! No, Iran hasn’t been bombed by B52 bombers, nor has any strategic strikes on nuclear facilities occurred – but be under no illusion, the United States and its Western imperialist lapdogs are already at war with Iran.
History teaches us that sanctions are not a negotiation or compromise that makes war unnecessary, but a prelude to war; a form of ‘soft-war’ even. Whilst the rich and ruling class in Iran have the means to escape sanctions and the money to remedy their ill-effects. The poor do not, so they are forced to starve or go without sanctioned necessities.
The first sanctions upon Iran were placed back in 1979 at the time of the Islamic revolution (read: counter-revolution). Recently however in a bid to whip up ever more exhausting hysteria over nuclear capabilities the UN have passed three series of harsher sanctions, which mainly concern proliferation risks. In 2006 UN Resolution 1737 was passed (unanimously), which froze the assets of individuals associated with nuclear-related technology, banned supplies of such technology and placed further restrictions upon the already hindered freedom of Iranians to travel. Next came UN Resolution 1747 (again, passed unanimously) that banned all Iranian arms exports (but of course not imports, the US still needs that market firmly open). Lastly came sanctions placed this year in March via UN Resolution 1803, which included travel bans and a call on States not to provide financial support for Iran.
We know that sanctions do not hurt the ruling class of any nation they are imposed upon, they hurt the nation’s people – the workers. Iranian officials have already largely moved their money out of Iran, leaving it financially wrecked and with unstable political conditions ensuring no internal nor external long-term investment, things can only worsen for the Iranian workers.
At such a time, any internationalist worthy of being taken seriously must make solidarity with oppressed Iranian trade unionists, anarchists, LGBTQ peoples, women and workers their primary concern. We should also recognise however that our main enemy lies at home, as it is our national bourgeoisie and its imperialist ambitions that will see Iran become a bloodbath. We know however that this doesn’t mean colluding with, or cuddling up to the Iranian ruling class, as this would mean allying oneself with a manifestation of reaction and an overt anti-working class machine.
As anarchist communists we have a proud history of opposing war vehemently and with principled politics. In the case of Iran this means opposing both war on Iran, but simultaneously we must not fool ourselves into believing we can form any alliance with the Iranian ruling class. Imperialism is always the greater enemy, but the barbarous theocratic regime in Iran will always be our foe.
We want genuine liberation for the Iranian people and so push for regime change, but this must come from below; from the only progressive and fully anti-imperialist force in the region, the working class. Simultaneously at such a time of strife, we must be explicitly clear in our calls to resist any attempts by Iranian workers to utilise the State to their advantage as proved so disastrous in 1979 – this we know, is a fatal tactic.
1See article ‘Sanctions hit workers, not theocratic regime’, – http://hopoi.org/articles.html