For Them or Against Them: The Stop the War Coalition Does Iran

Internecine warfare is the one type of war on which the far left has always been rather keen. But your choice of conflict says a lot about you, and so the decision of the Stop the War Coalition in the … Read More

By / October 15, 2007

Internecine warfare is the one type of war on which the far left has always been rather keen. But your choice of conflict says a lot about you, and so the decision of the Stop the War Coalition in the UK to deny affiliation to two left-wing groups on the eve of their AGM tells us a couple of interesting things about that body’s priorities. Indymedia has the story:

Preparations for the Stop the War Coalition’s annual general meeting on Saturday, October 27 have run into controversy with the exclusion of two newly-affiliated organisations – Hands Off the People of Iran [Hopi] and Communist Students [CS]. On the day of the final deadline for motions and nominations for the Coalition’s leadership (October 12), both organisations were sent emails from the StWC chair, Andrew Murray, tersely informing them that they were barred because “you are entirely hostile to the Coalition, its policies and its work”

Strong stuff. Hostile how? Yassamine Mather, a prominent exiled Iranian socialist, is a founder member of Hands Off The Peoples Of Iran, and she was certainly rather surprised.

“Hopi’s founding statement has two core elements. First, total and unconditional opposition to any imperialist attack on Iran. No doubt, the StWC officers have no problem with that.

“Second, we are clear that this implies no support or softening of our attitude to the Ahmadinejad regime. We make no apology for telling the truth that Iran is a foully oppressive society. We are totally opposed to Bush-style regime change – but we are positively for democracy from below, for the working people of that country to take the running of their society into their own hands! “Is it this that makes us ‘hostile’ organisations in the eyes of some StWC officials?” 

Clearly so. Stop the War have a five-point mission statement to which both Hopi and the Communist Students are in full agreement. But both those organisations are on record as opponents of the theocrats in Tehran; and this clearly puts them beyond the pale as far as StWC are concerned. As CS remark, perhaps there is a secret Point 6 that stipulates that “we, as a matter of course, crawl up the backsides of any reactionary state that happens to find a temporary shared aim with us”. It’s official; in order to be a member of the Stop the War Coalition, you must be a supporter of the Iranian regime. It’s not even up for negotiation. 

The Iranian regime are, in many ways, a perfect poster-boy for anti-imperialism; making common cause with Venezuela, Cuba, Belarus and other anti-imperialist nations, willing to stand up to American hegemony in the region both in their rhetoric and directly, through the funding of heroic resistance groups like Hizbollah and the Shia militias in occupied Iraq; keen to denounce the Zionist occupation of Palestine, executing adulterers [“er…”], imprisoning trade unionists and pro-democracy activists [“um…should you really be pointing this out, comrade?”] and executing an estimated 4000 homosexuals since the 1979 Revolution [“You’re a Zionist spy, aren’t you? Infiltrator! Fascist!”].

 But the less savoury aspects of the mullahs’ rule don’t seem to register on your average Stopper’s radar. “Well, yeah,” our heroes are forced reluctantly to admit, “the Iranians aren’t perfect, but who is? Anyway it’s all our fault for overthrowing Mossadegh and after all homosexuality was illegal until a few decades ago here too so who are we to talk every society evolves at its own pace and aren’t there judges in America who have the Ten Commandments in their courtrooms and if there’s going to be a war it’ll be ‘coz of the Jews that control foreign policy and besides Bush is worse than Hitler.”

If I’m caricaturing these comrades as children, consider the alternative hypothesis. I wonder if the Stoppers who invite Iranian ministers to their meetings, and shout down Iranian trade unionists who try to protest the fact, ever pause to evaluate, in an adult and mature fashion, the path which they have chosen. I wonder if any of them ever stop to ask themselves what they’ve done, these veterans of the Free Kurdistan marches, Aung San Suu Kyi vigils and anti-apartheid rallies? Do they ever break off from designing “stop the apartheid wall” banners to consider that there’s apartheid in Iran, too, between those with a cock and balls and those without? Do they ever look around and ask, where the fuck am I, anyway?

Because that might be worse; at least if you’re just unthinking, reflexively anti-American you have the defence of stupidity. But if you see what is going on in Iran and choose to ignore the deaths and the beatings – if, in other words, you’re in full possession of all the facts and, given the option between intolerant, reactionary theocracy on the one hand and Western liberal democracy, with all its manifold flaws and injustices on the other, you choose the former – what is your defence then? And how do you go up to an exiled Iranian pro-democracy campaigner like Reza Moradi or Yassamine Mather and explain to them that they’re “hostile” to your cause, unless your “cause” isn’t really the Iranian people at all?

As Oliver Kamm is fond of stating, these people are in no sense anti-war campaigners. They are supporters of the war effort of the other side, whoever they happen to be at any given time. This demonstrates it in the starkest possible terms.

(Story via Harry’s Place)

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