Thursday, November 04, 2010

Barbaric injustice, but it's 'business as usual' for antiwar coalition

AN urgent e-mail reached me from a friend whom I only know through Stop the War meetings and demonstrations:

"Tomorrow, Iran could execute Sakineh Ashtiani.
Our global outcry stopped her unjust stoning sentence in July. Now we have 24 hours to save her life.
Iran's allies and key UN powers are our best hope -- they could persuade Iran of the serious political cost of this high-profile killing. Click below to send them an urgent call to action and send this to everyone -- it only takes three minutes and we are her last chance:

Sakineh's adultery case is a tragic sham stacked with human rights violations. First, she was to be stoned to death. But the Iranian government had to revoke the sentence after her children generated a worldwide outcry against the farcical trial -- she could not speak the language used in court, and the alleged incidents of adultery took place after her husband's death.

Then her lawyer was forced into exile, and the prosecution conjured up a new trumped-up charge for which she would be executed -- the murder of her husband. Despite this being double jeopardy, as she is already serving time for alleged complicity in this crime, Sakineh was tortured and paraded on national television to 'confess', and was found guilty. Since then the regime has arrested two German journalists, her lawyer and her son, who has bravely led the international campaign to save his mother. All remain in prison and Sakineh's son and lawyer have been also tortured and have no access to lawyers.

Now Iranian human rights activists state an order has just been issued from Tehran to implement her killing immediately. She is on the list and tomorrow is execution day.

Our persistent campaigning led Iran to drop Sakineh's stoning sentence and captured the attention of leaders in countries with influence on Iran, like Turkey and Brazil. Now let's urgently raise our voices to stop her killing and inhumane treatment and free her, her lawyer, her son and the jailed German journalists. Send a message and share this emergency call with friends and family:

The Islamic regime of Iran plans to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani immediately

Sakineh hanging imminent

Iranian woman could be stoned Wednesday

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani: A life in the Balance (Amnesty International)

A person discussing this case on Facebook said 'let's hope it's not used by the West as another excuse to attack Iran'. I should think that we've heard enough from Iraqi women to put paid to the notion that US bombing and invasion delivers benefits or rights for women.

But in any case it is worth noticing that the petitioners are not addressing their concerns to the US State Department or Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but appealing to governments which are the nearest thing the Iranian regime has to friends. A wise move, I hope. As the Guardian reminds us:

"Back in August, then Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offered sanctuary in his country to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for the "crime" of adultery. It was another moral and well-judged piece of diplomacy from the leader, who has just been replaced in presidential election by his protege, Dilma Rousseff".

I hope the campaign works. I was slow to pay attention, and when I did it was because I trust the person who forwarded the communication to me, . Wish I could say the same about the leadership of the Stop the War Coalition. I wasn't able to get along to the Coalition's AGM at the weekend. Seems I did not miss much.

Here's Ben Lewis, of the Communist Party of Great Britain, writing in Weekly Worker:

"Around 300 people attended the very ‘business as usual’ Stop the War Coalition annual conference on October 30. On offer were more or less the same timetable, speakers and motions as in previous years - and, of course, the same narrow, pacifistic politics. So it was that Communist Party of Britain members Andrew Murray and Kate Hudson, Labour lefts Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn, Guardian columnist Seamus Milne, Respect’s George Galloway and the Counterfire duo of Lindsey German and John Rees graced the congress with speeches that would be instantly recognised by anybody who has ever attended a STWC meeting or demonstration.

"Unfortunately, something else has not changed: the STWC leadership’s desire to avoid serious political discussion from the floor. Last year a contentious motion on the Tamils was “remitted” to the steering committee (read: buried) instead of being discussed thoroughly and voted on. This time it was the fate of a motion on self-determination for Kashmir, moved by the British South Asia Solidarity Forum (BSASF)".

What a shame it is to belong to a minority that is not flavour of the month, or be one of those small nations that are making a nuisance of themselves, clamouring for the attention of our so-British Left. Get to the back of the queue, we'll discuss your problems later...if at all. The Palestinians were fortunate enough to have their cause adopted by the SWP/ Stop the War leadership because it found out Muslim organisations were planning a march on the same day as the first big Stop the War Coalition demonstration, and it wanted to bring them on board. That is not to say that support is not genuine, or reflecting real feelings as Israel persists in inhumanity towards the Palestinians and contempt for humanity as a whole. But solidarity flawed by opportunism and inconsistency is not up to what the Palestinians deserve.

Back to comrade Ben again:

"We also saw the usual motion from the CPGB-ML calling on Stop the War to fight for the slogan of ‘Victory to the resistance’ in Afghanistan and Iraq. In opposing this, Gareth Jenkins of the Socialist Workers Party said that he was “not opposed to the slogan” - he was actually “fully in favour” - but the coalition needed to think about “breadth” and “not drive people away” by making this slogan a “condition for participation” in the coalition. Finally, he added that we needed a “good debate” on this within the coalition - not that there was one, of course".

I can't help wondering how long the CPGB-ML Maoists would last if they found themselves within reach of the Taliban or some of the armed squads active in Iraq. I dare say Iraqi and Afghan communists could tell them a few things. Preferring the defeat of our own imperialist ruling class is not the same as actually desiring the victory of whoever British soldiers are supposed to be fighting against. As Iraqi oil workers' leader Hassan Juma'a put it a couple of years ago when asked about his attitude to resistance, "I am for resistance that fights the Americans, not that which kills Iraqi people. We too are waging resistance, but we are doing it our own way as workers". Unfortunately, the Maoists and others like them are not so specific about what they mean by "resistance". But then they only want "Victory" to it as a slogan, they are not going to take responsibility for it, any more than the SWP spokesperson who is "fully in favour" - but let's not talk about it now it might put off people. After all, the really big demonstrations by which some of his until-recently comrades got so carried away included not only Muslim organisations, but contingents of Liberal Democrats.

However, as Ben observes:

"Delegates were soon to find out that this ‘broad’ approach is only applied when it suits the STWC leadership and their political prerogatives though. For the third successive year, Hands Off the People of Iran’s attempt to affiliate was rejected. This time, however, the tactics the leadership employed plumbed depths that perhaps none of us thought possible".

"As soon as I entered the hall in the morning, it was clear that something fishy was going on. The delegates’ pack handed out to all present had a little note “concerning motion 8” (ie, the CPGB motion on Hopi). The note falsely alleged that last year’s conference had agreed to oppose Hopi affiliation “on the grounds that Hopi had made public comments hostile to the Stop the War Coalition, including the statement that Hopi aimed to become ‘an alternative political centre’ to the Stop the War Coalition and that Stop the War had ‘rotten politics’.”

If, like me, you're operating with more or less common logic you may wonder why HOPI keeps trying so hard to be accepted and recognised as part of the Stop the War Coalition, if it is intent on setting up an 'alternative centre'. Or why, if it was intent on some devious plot against Stop the War, it should queer its own pitch with "public comments" beforehand. But then the truth is that HOPI has made no such declarations. What has happened is that Andrew Murray, having previously claimed HOPI was against everything the Coalition stood for, failed to substantiate this, falling instead on something which one individual, Mark Fischer, said at an internal Communist Party of Great Britain meeting. Still, Mark Fischer is national secretary of HOPI, can ignore the public statements which HOPI has made, and the fact that it includes a range of people who are not members of the CPGB (apart from mere dupes like me, there's a number of Iranians, but what do they know?!) ...ignore also the strange anomaly that the CPGB is a member of the Coalition. But then witch-hunting an organisation that is already in the Coalition would risk the kind of discussion we don't want, eh, and might worry other punters?

It seems the delegates’ notes reprinted a letter from Andrew Murray in April 2009, asking the Hopi steering committee to address the “issue” of what Mark Fischer reportedly said. I'm on that committee, and though I hadn't even known or particularly cared what he said at some other meeting, I know that we offered more than once to meet Stop the War committee representatives and talk about it. Some of us hoped that once we'd got it out of the way we could even open a discussion about sanctions and the threat of war against Iran.

There was a discussion at this year's conference, with a motion from the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, calling for “unconditional negotiation” between Iran and the West, which HOPI chair Yassamine Mather argued would come at the expense of the Iranian people themselves. A motion against the recent cyber warfare attack was taken in parts, apparently to avoid linking the anti-war stand with support for the masses' struggle in Iran. Stop the War officer Andrew Burgin, who I'm ashamed to say used to be a member of the same party as me, apparently thinks that for the sake of unity, the Coalition must be careful not to upset "Ahmadinejad supporters". But it is OK to exclude Ahmadinejad opponents from this "broad" coalition.

Andrew Burgin concedes that Ahmadinejad's regime is “brutal and dictatorial”. John Rees said much the same. But then Rees has parted, first from the Iranian Press TV star George Galloway, whom he used to introduce as the leader of the anti-war movement, and since then from the Socialist Workers Party, not that I can see much to choose between them. Galloway was still there, of course, and I don't know whether either of the Merry Andrews who remain upset about what Mark Fischer said on their "rotten politics" have had a word with Gorgeous Georgie about his colourful description of those who criticised the Iranian regime's treatment of gays as being "the pink emd of the khaki MoD". Only that was not in an internal meeting but on TV and repeated from a Stop the War platform.

It was Andrew Burgin who falsely claimed that: “Hopi draws an equals sign between imperialism and the Iranian regime”. Perhaps he should compare notes with Sean Matgamna who accused HOPI of supporting "the mullah's bomb"! Or he could at least pay attention to what HOPI has said and done against imperialist war and sanctions. But then I remember my surprise a few years ago when Andrew Burgin spoke against the African Liberation Solidarity Campaign (ALISC) application for a place on the STWC steering committee, arguing that "people don't know them". "But he knows them!", I exclaimed. Thanks to delegates, ALISC did get a place on the steering committee, but no thanks to Andrew Burgin who probably knew the African comrades as well as I did , but chose for whatever reason, to pretend ignorance rather than vouch for them.

Last year, according to Ben Lewis, it was Andrew Burgin who approached him during the lunch break, suggesting that if he remitted the motion for HOPI recognition to the executive, there was morechance of it being accepted. This time, it was other people who approached Joseph Healey of the Green Left to persuade him to withdraw his speaking slip to support HOPI's motion. Instead he decided to move it himself.

Andrew Burgin claimed that HOPIs politics would "weaken and split" the Coalition.
Not so. It managed to unite the CPB, SWP, the latter's breakaway 'Counterfire' group (led by John Rees and Lindsey German)and the International Socialist Group against it. Maybe Mark Fischer's remark about the STWC leadership's "rotten politics" was a bit strong. But they seem intent on confirming it.

See also:

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home