Tories sink into the mire

4th May 2019

local elections

You would be hard pressed to believe, from press and media coverage, that local elections this week have been a meltdown for the Tory Party with Labour having largely held their position.  The BBC in particular have sought to characterise the elections as a ‘plague on both your houses’, portraying the results as a further indication of splits in both major parties over Brexit.

It is hard to deny that there is a grain of truth in the fact that Brexit has had an impact upon local election results, given its dominance in UK politics at present.  However, the reality of politically driven austerity, clearly the fault of the Tories, resulting in hugely damaging cuts in local jobs and services cannot be ruled out.

The actual figures for losses paint more mixed picture than the media would like to portray.  Across the country the Tories lost 1,334 local councillors.  Labour lost 82 councillors.  Across the country the Tories lost control of 44 local councils.  Labour lost control of 6 councils.  The Liberal Democrats did increase the numbers of councils they control by 10 while adding 703 to their tally of local councillors, mainly at the expense of the Tories in the South and South West.

The Labour right wing, always keen to take any opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, have fuelled the media narrative by agreeing that the results are a major blow for Labour and suggesting they illustrate the need for a so-called People’s Vote to break the Brexit deadlock.  Quite how such a conclusion can be extrapolated from the reality of the figures is hard to see but there are those in Labour, spearheaded by Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who refuse to let the facts get in the way of their version of the world.

The media have made little play of the fact that Labour candidate, Jamie Driscoll, won the North of Tyne Combined Authority Mayoral contest.  An openly Momentum backed candidate, Driscoll beat establishment candidate, Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council for the Labour nomination.  Attempts to subvert Driscoll’s campaign through so-called Independent, John McCabe, a smokescreen candidate for the Labour right wing, failed to dent Driscoll’s appeal.  Local entrepreneur, Charlie Hoult, in a desperate tilt at populism from the Tories made it through to the count of second votes but was soundly defeated by a 76,862 to 60,089 votes margin.

While the realities of the powers of the so-called Metro Mayors is limited, and Driscoll will have the intransigence of the local Labour establishment to contend with, his election nevertheless represents a positive signal that a Left wing programme can attract votes.

The usual suspects, in the form of Professor Sir John Curtice, have been wheeled out to predict that, based upon this week’s result a General Election would result in the two main parties gaining only 28% of the vote each and would lead to another hung Parliament.  However, a cold analysis of the figures does not take into account the dynamics of an election campaign and the real issues which parties will have to address on the doorstep.

There is no getting away from the fact that, even discounting the Brexit debacle, the Tories have a dismal record and with a clear programme based upon addressing the need of the many, not the few, Labour stands every chance of winning a General Election.

It is clear from the response to the local election results that Tory strategists know that they are on the ropes.  Calls for May’s resignation have intensified while her greeting at the Welsh Conservative Conference this week was far from warm.  The sacking of Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, days ahead of the local elections is see as a tactical blunder on May’s part and Williamson has clearly positioned himself in opposition on the backbenches, not being prepared to go quietly.

With Brexit discussions set to resume next week and European elections still scheduled for 23rd May, it is hard to see where else the Tories can turn but to hope that a new leader can help dig them out of the hole they find themselves in.   Labour on the other hand must stand firm and not be distracted by the splitting tactics of Change UK or the antics of Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.

The prospect of a General Election may yet be within grasp and in a General Election scenario a united Labour Party will undoubtedly win.

 

No red carpet for Trump

27th April 2019

Trump NRA(2)

Trump – promising the NRA he will oppose gun control

The right wing press are in a spin about Jeremy Corbyn calling out US President, Donald Trump, as a misogynist, racist, climate change denier and refusing to have anything to do with the state visit scheduled for the 3rd – 6th June.

The Daily Mail, not surprisingly, were almost gleeful in their denunciation of Corbyn stating,

“Jeremy Corbyn was accused of ‘staggering’ hypocrisy last night after snubbing the Queen’s invitation to a state banquet with Donald Trump.

Despite his record of meeting terrorists and extremists, the Labour leader yesterday said he would refuse to attend the dinner with Mr Trump at Buckingham Palace in June.”

The Daily Mail were incensed by a tweet from Corbyn which made his position categorically clear stating that,

“Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a President who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”

What is not to agree with?  State visits from US Presidents are not the norm.  If anything, the honour accorded to Trump is only the third state visit by a US President in the 67-year reign of the present Queen, making it more the exception rather than the rule.

The bluster about Corbyn snubbing the Queen and the hot air from failed Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith that this demonstrates that Corbyn is “unfit to be Prime Minister” is just a smokescreen.  The idea that the Queen is above politics and that a state visit somehow exempts a visiting leader from the normal rules of politics is nonsense.

The monarch, as the UK Head of State, is the embodiment of the ruling class and symbol of everything that is outdated, undemocratic and anachronistic about the British state.  Corbyn should have no qualms about snubbing either the US President or the British monarch for perfectly sound political reasons.

It may be expected that liberal bastion, The Guardian, would take a different line but if senior correspondent Simon Jenkins is to be believed, that is not the case.  For Jenkins it is merely a matter of courtesy, stating,

“A US President has been invited to Britain on a state visit.  It is a state courtesy, between one democracy and another, on the occasion of a wartime anniversary.  No conceivable purpose is served by 200,000 people coming to London to shout insults at him.”

Jenkins argues that simply opposing policies or a particular politician does not win political arguments and that however much anger Trump generates that is “no reason for childish protests”.  Oozing condescension Jenkins argues that there is no room for direct action in the pantheon of methods in which messages can be delivered.  Trump may well shrug his shoulders if a quarter of a million people turn out to oppose his visit but there is no evidence to suggest that he is open to rational debate either.

Sometimes the loud, noisy, visibility of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets is the only way to get a message across, not only to President Trump but to the millions who will watch elements of the visit on TV and social media.  Is our only response really to concur with Jenkins that we extend Trump every courtesy?  In the concluding words of his article, Jenkins suggests that we bow down to the climate change denying racist saying,

“You are welcome, Mr. President.”

That is simply not good enough.  Trump does not and will not play by the rules, even the distorted rules that pass for political discourse in the United States.

There is no reason on Earth to welcome Donald Trump to the UK or anywhere else, President or not.  There is every reason to oppose the policies and practice of the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, especially when that leader embodies the very worst aspects of that society and would willingly impose those ‘values’ on others.

The debate will rumble on until Trump’s visit and beyond.  Taking a principled stand will be another stick used by the right wing media to beat Jeremy Corbyn.  However, Corbyn has given a clear lead on this issue and opposition to Trump’s visit must be vocal and it must be loud!

Cuba Stands Firm

 19th April 2019

The Cuban Revolution reiterates its resolute determination to confront the aggressive U.S. escalation, and prevail

Cuban flag

In 1961 the United States attempted to reverse the revolution in Cuba by sending an invasion force to the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón).  The invasion was defeated and the Cuban revolution continues to flourish.  The following statement was released by the Cuban government to mark the 17th April anniversary of the Playa Girón invasion.

Revolutionary Government Declaration

Today, April 17, is the anniversary of the launching of the United States’ 1961 military invasion at Playa Girón. (Bay of Pigs) The Cuban people’s resolute response in defense of the Revolution and socialism, within only 72 hours, produced the first military defeat of imperialism in America. Strangely, the date was chosen by the current U.S. government to announce new aggressive measures against Cuba and to reinforce their implementation of the Monroe Doctrine.

The Revolutionary Government rejects, in the strongest terms possible, the decision to now allow action to be taken in U.S. courts against Cuban and foreign entities, and to aggravate impediments to entering the United States faced by leaders and families of companies that legitimately invest in Cuba, in properties that were nationalized. These are actions established in the Helms-Burton Act which was denounced long ago by the international community, and which the Cuban nation has repudiated since its promulgation and implementation in 1996, with the fundamental goal of imposing colonial tutelage on our country.

We repudiate, as well, the decision to reinstate limits on remittances that Cuban residents in the U.S. send to their families and friends, to further restrict travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, and impose additional financial sanctions.

We strongly denounce references that attacks against U.S. diplomats have occurred in Cuba.  They attempt to justify their actions, as is customary, with lies and coercion.
Army General Raúl Castro stated this past April 10: “Cuba is blamed for all evils, using lies in the worst style of Hitler’s propaganda.”
The U.S. government resorts to slander, to cover up and justify the obvious failure of its sinister coup manoeuvre, designating in Washington an impostor “President” for Venezuela. They accuse Cuba of being responsible for the strength and determination shown by the Bolivarian Chavista government, the country’s people, and the civic-military union defending their nation’s sovereignty. They lie shamelessly, alleging that Cuba has thousands of military and security troops in Venezuela, wielding influence, and determining what happens in this sister country.
They have the cynicism to blame Cuba for the economic and social situation Venezuela is facing after years of brutal economic sanctions, conceived and implemented by the United States and their allies, precisely to economically asphyxiate the country and cause suffering within the population.  Washington goes so far as to pressure governments in other countries to attempt to persuade Cuba to withdraw this unlikely supposed military and security aid, and even to stop lending support and solidarity to Venezuela.
The current U.S. government is well-known, within the country itself and internationally, for its unscrupulous use of lies as a tool in domestic and foreign policy. This is an old habit among imperialism’s practices.
The images are still fresh of President George W. Bush, with the support of current National Security John Bolton, indecently lying about supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a lie that served as the pretext to invade this Middle Eastern country.  Recorded in history, as well, are the bombing of the Maine anchored in Havana, and the self-inflicted Gulf of Tonkin incident, episodes that served as pretexts to unleash brutal wars in Cuba and Vietnam.
We cannot forget that the United States used fake insignia painted on the planes that carried out bombings here as a prelude to the Playa Girón invasion, to hide the fact that they were U.S. aircraft.  It should be clear that the U.S. slanders are based on an absolute, deliberate lie. Their intelligence agencies have more than enough evidence, surely more than any other state, to know that Cuba has no troops in Venezuela, and does not participate in military or security operations, even though it is the sovereign right of independent countries to determine how they cooperate in the area of defense, which is not a U.S. prerogative to question.

Those making this accusation have more than 250,000 soldiers and 800 military bases abroad, some of them in our hemisphere.  This government also knows, as Cuba has repeatedly stated publicly, that the more than 20,000 Cuban collaborators, more than 60% women, are undertaking in this South American country the same work currently being done by another 11,000 professionals from our country in 83 nations; contributing to the provision of social basic services, fundamentally in healthcare, which has been recognized by the international community.

It should also be absolutely clear that our firm solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is Cuba’s right as a sovereign state, and also a duty that is part of our tradition and among the irrevocable principles of the Cuban Revolution’s foreign policy.  No threat of reprisal against Cuba, no ultimatum or pressure on the part of the current U.S. government will dissuade the Cuban nation’s internationalist vocation, despite the devastating human and economic damage caused by the genocidal blockade to our people.

It is worth remembering that thuggish threats and ultimatums have been used in the past, when Cuba’s internationalists supported liberation movements in Africa, while the United States supported the opprobrious apartheid regime. Cuba was expected to renounce its solidarity commitments with the peoples of Africa in exchange for a promise of forgiveness, as if the Revolution needed to be pardoned by imperialism.

At that time, Cuba rejected the pressure, as we reject it today, with the greatest disdain.
Army General Raúl Castro recalled this past April 10, “Over 60 years, facing aggression and threats, Cubans have shown the iron will to resist and overcome the most difficult circumstances. Despite its immense power, imperialism does not possess the capacity to break the dignity of a united people, proud of its history and of the freedom conquered with so much sacrifice.”

The Cuban government calls on all members of the international community and U.S. citizens to put an end this irrational escalation and the hostile, aggressive policy of the Donald Trump government. Member states of the United Nations rightly demand, year after year almost unanimously, an end to this economic war. The peoples and governments of our region must ensure that the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace prevail, for the benefit of all.

The President of the Councils of State and Ministers Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez declared this past April 13, “Cuba continues to have confidence in its strengths, its dignity, and also in the strength and dignity of other sovereign, independent nations. But Cuba also continues to believe in the people of the United States, the homeland of Lincoln, who are ashamed of those who act beyond the boundaries of universal law, in the name of the entire nation.”

Once again, Cuba repudiates the lies and the threats, and reiterates that its sovereignty, independence, and commitment to the cause of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, are not negotiable.

Two days before the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the victory at Playa Girón, a historic site within our national territory, where mercenary forces backed by imperialism bit the dust of defeat, the Cuban Revolution reiterates its resolute determination to confront the aggressive escalation of the United States, and prevail.
Havana, April 17, 2019.

A Brexit breather…?

13th April 2019

GettyImages-1136148292Donald Tusk, Theresa May and Angela Merkel indulge in Brexit banter

If there is anything that is close to rivalling the ineptitude of the British government it is the indecisiveness of the European Union.  Faced this week with the opportunity to end it all, by pressing the Brexit button on 12th April, or offering a lengthy extension which would kick the Brexit can a long way down the road, the EU did neither.  Instead UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, had her plea of a short extension till the 30th June returned to her in a Hallowe’en mask, with an offer of an extension till 31st October.

The absurdity of this position has been rehearsed throughout the media this week.  It has however afforded the BBC in particular the opportunity to resurrect airtime for one of its darlings, Nigel Farage, trumpeting the launch of his latest vanity project, the Brexit Party.

Preparations are now underway for European elections on 23rd May, which the UK will contest unless, by some miracle, Parliament agrees a Brexit deal before then.  If the UK were to fail to take part in the elections Britain would automatically leave without a deal, effectively being kicked out of the EU on 1st June.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the UK was expected to “continue its sincere cooperation” while it is still a member state.  While Theresa May agreed the UK would continue to abide by its obligations, a tweet by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on 7th April suggested that,

“If we are stuck in we must use the remaining powers we have to be difficult. Sincere co-operation so far seems to be a one way street.”

Needless to say, this caused much furore in Brussels in spite of Rees-Mogg’s relatively minor status in the scheme of things.  The implications of Rees-Mogg’s comment was taken to be an indication of how a more hawkish successor to Theresa May could engage with Europe, should the Prime Minister be forced to fall upon her sword.

Of more concern across Europe is the prospect of the election on 23rd May returning a highly Euro-sceptic bloc of MEPs from across the Member states.  With right wing governments in Poland and Hungary, the idiosyncratic nationalist Five Star Movement running the show in Italy, the fascist Vox party gaining seats in Spain and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly National Front) poised to capitalise upon discontent in France, the EU project could look distinctly wobbly by the 24th May, whatever the state of play with Brexit.

The discontent in the UK could also provide oxygen for both UKIP and Farage’s Brexit Party.  A low turnout may play to their advantage.  Whatever the promises made by a British Prime Minister they are unlikely to play nicely if elected to an assembly they are dedicated to abolish.  Quite what sort of political platform any of the major parties will stand on, to elect MEPs for what may be a five month period, will also be interesting to see.

Negotiations between the Tory government and the Labour Party appear unlikely to be fruitful given the intransigence of the Government.  In spite of this the BBC, in the form of chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, continue to characterise the negotiations as ones in which the Labour Party needs to give ground.  Perhaps Kuenssberg’s much trumpeted break from Twitter will help clear her political head.  Not something to rely on though.

Either way, most MPs are close to the end of their Parliamentary tether and are simply glad to be allowed a recess over Easter, before re-entering the Brexit fray on 23rd April.  Depending on progress once Parliament returns a General Election is still an option, as the only real prospect of renewing both a failed Parliament and a failed government.

Weighing against this is the fact that the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory is the only thread keeping the Tory Party together.  However, even that thread could snap once the Brexit bartering resumes.  A people’s government negotiating a people’s Brexit may yet be a possibility.

Netanyahu set to tighten grip

5th April 2019

NetanyahuPartners in Crime – Trump endorses Netanyahu re-election

With Israeli elections scheduled for 9th April incumbent Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, looks set to be returned to office in some form of coalition with ultra right nationalists, who are demanding the annexation of the occupied territories and the expulsion of all Arabs.

For a Prime Minister who, in his ten years in office, has stuck resolutely to positions including no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the status of Jerusalem and no acceptance of any Palestinian pre-conditions in negotiations, acceding to the demands of the ultra right would not be a great departure.

The Golan Heights, which is part of Syria, was occupied by Israel in 1967, has always been contested by the Syrian government and recognised as Syrian by the international community.  However, just two weeks ago the United States government formally recognised Israel’s ‘right’ to the Golan Heights.  The move follows the recognition by the US last year of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, in spite of its contested international status, and the promise to relocate the US Embassy there.

Over the past year Palestinians locked in the blockaded Gaza strip have been protesting against the Israeli occupation on a weekly basis.  Over that period alone Israeli soldiers have killed 194 people, including 40 children.  Nearly 29,000 people have been wounded of which 7,000 were shot with live ammunition.

The UN commission investigating Israeli claims that the protests are a cover for attacks upon the border fence, itself illegal, has not found this to be the case.  On the contrary, the UN said that the demonstrations were almost entirely civilian and the use of lethal force by the Israelis was neither necessary nor proportionate.  Israeli snipers have shot dead civilians hundreds of metres from the border fence.

The US has in effect been supporting Israeli action against the Palestinians.  Trump has made no secret of his support for Netanyahu and the feeling is mutual on the part of the Israeli leader.  The European Union on the other hand has done nothing to support the justified cause of the Palestinians.  As things stand there is little prospect of a peace settlement and Netanyahu’s re-election will only push that further from reach.

In the meantime the weekly protests by a blockaded people, armed with sticks and stones, will continue against one of the world’s most powerfully armed military regimes.  In any other part of the world such an army firing on unarmed civilians would be arraigned for war crimes.  It seems that, under US cover, the Israeli government not only has immunity but will continue to act with impunity.

Put It To The People in a General Election

23rd March 2019

Stop Brexit

Putting It To The People? A General Election would!

It may be a stretch to suggest that the UK is ungovernable at the moment but there can be little argument that it is ungoverned.  What passes for government at the moment, under the notional leadership of Theresa May, is little more than a loose coalition of warring factions unable to come up with any agreement on the way forward for Brexit.  This has effectively immobilised any meaningful discussion around major issues which continue to be the day to day concerns of the people of the UK; peace, health, homes and jobs.

This travesty is exacerbated by the fact that the Tories are only able to notionally govern as they are propped up by the votes of the unrepresentative gangsters from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).  The DUP pose as defenders of Northern Irish integrity but in reality continue to pursue their sectional and sectarian interests, in defending the rights and privileges of one section of the community in the annexed statelet.

The DUP plea for Northern Ireland to be treated the same as the rest of the UK in the withdrawal process contradicts their stand on social issues such as gay rights and abortion, where they are happy for the position in Northern Ireland to remain driven by their bigoted agenda.

The DUP position is reinforced by their ideological bedfellows in the European Reform Group (ERG), who are equally reactionary in their social policy and equally committed to steering the UK towards a no-deal Brexit.

The pressure to avoid no-deal continues to be the default position in Parliament, the media generally and, insofar as it is possible to gauge, with large sections of the population.  The Put It To The People campaign will no doubt point to the demonstration in London this weekend, in favour of a second referendum, and the four million signatures to the petition calling for the same as evidence of this.   A far as the evidence is presented, this would not appear to be an unreasonable position.

The anti no-deal tendency however is little more than a cover for the long running covert campaign to remain in the European Union.  If no-deal is off the table then the UK must leave with a deal.  The deal presented by the Prime Minister has been rejected twice by the House of Commons.  She may not test it a third time.  The deal proposed by the Labour Party has also suffered defeat in the House of Commons.  Remainers argue that if no-one can agree a deal, the only options are to remain, or go to a so-called People’s Vote.

The Labour Party position, to have a UK wide customs union, close alignment with the single market and co-operation on workers’ rights, environmental and security issues, is one around which the EU would be prepared to negotiate.  Its chances in the House of Commons however have been sabotaged by those in the Labour Party committed to remain in the EU at all costs, in spite of having been elected on a manifesto which promised to deliver Brexit.

The departure into political exile of Chukka Umunna and the so called Independent Group (IG) has simply reduced Labour’s voting power in the Commons.  More sinister is the formation of the Future Britain Group, spearheaded by Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.  When the IG made their move on the 18th February Tom Watson lamented their departure, suggesting that a front bench reshuffle would be in order to accommodate different views within Labour.

Watson was less keen to publicise that on the very day of the IG departure (18th February) the website domain name futurebritaingroup.co.uk was registered.  Less than three weeks later, on 9th March, Watson announced the formation of the Future Britain Group, an open faction within the Labour Party.  All coincidence?  Perhaps…..

It is not surprising that Watson will be addressing the Put It To The People march in London this weekend.  The remain faction in Labour is alive and kicking.  Their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn at all costs continues to be their modus operandi.  In that respect they are effectively working hand in glove with the DUP and the ERG on an ‘anything or anyone but Corbyn’ agenda.

Where the voting will go and how factions will align and divide in the House of Commons next week is anyone’s guess but no-deal is looking like a distinctly possible outcome.  If that is the case then it must be followed by a real People’s Vote, in the form of a General Election, a chance to put the Labour programme in its entirety in front of the British people.

Now that would be worth marching for.

Is the Iranian regime anti-imperialist?

8th March 2019

The occasion of the 40th anniversary of the revolution in Iran has resulted in a plethora of articles analysing the origins of the revolution and its development.  Jamshid Ahmadi assesses the reality.

iran demo Protests against the regime and Western intervention, a daily feature of life in Iran

The mantra that my enemy’s enemy is my friend can have some mileage and as a starting point in assessing our attitude towards any given regime may not be bad place to begin.  However, it is a dangerous principle to apply too rigidly because, in many circumstances, the complexities beneath the surface require a more nuanced response.  Very little in international politics is strictly black and white.

This is particularly the case when considering the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the attitude that the Left should adopt towards the regime.

There can be no doubt that the basis of the 1979 revolution was a progressive one, in spite of the widespread portrayal in the Western media of despots deposing the Western friendly regime of the Shah.

The Shah’s power base was the British and United States oil corporations who had installed him in power in 1953, in an MI6 and CIA backed coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh.  The administration under Mossadegh had initiated a process of nationalising the oil industry and had kicked out British contractors.  The plan was to take back Iranian oil assets for the benefit of the Iranian people, rather than the Anglo-Iranian Oil Corporation who had controlled Iran’s natural assets for most of the twentieth century.

Not surprisingly, the leeching away of Iran’s natural resources to line the pockets of Western millionaires proved to be an unpopular approach with broad sections of the Iranian people.  While the Shah was able to create a relatively prosperous middle class, on the back of oil and gas revenues, the lot of Iranian workers was one of low pay, uncertain employment and widespread poverty.

SAVAK, the Shah’s infamous secret police, were used by the regime to keep the population in line and to quash any sign of protest or unrest.  Nevertheless, protests began at least two years before the revolution in February 1979, with workers defying the authorities and taking to the streets.  Their demands focussed upon an end to the repressive regime of the Shah and calls for a system based upon democracy and social justice.

That the demands of the working class and the Left also chimed with those of the clergy ensured that the base of the national democratic revolution, which saw the overthrow of the Shah, was a broad and popular one.

The overthrow of a staunch ally inevitably meant that the Western powers characterised the revolution as hostile to their interests.  The holding of 52 US hostages in the former US Embassy in Tehran, from November 1979 until January 1981, only exacerbated the image of the revolution that the West sought to portray.

The position was further complicated by the Western inspired attack upon Iran by Iraq, in September 1980, which initiated a conflict that was to last eight years and cost over 1 million lives.  The war also became a key source of income for the West’s military industrial complex.  At one stage the UK government were training Iraqi pilots while selling anti-aircraft weaponry to Iran.

Internally however the war was the means by which the clergy consolidated its power inside Iran.  Calls to unite the nation against the Iraqi invader went hand in hand with attacks upon the Left, which resulted in imprisonment, torture and exile for many.  While the Left was far from supine in the face of this onslaught it was not united.  Calls for a people’s front, against the subverting of the aims of the revolution by the clergy, did not result in the required unification of Left forces.  Within three years the clergy had managed to secure complete control of the entire state apparatus.

While the initial demands of the national democratic revolution in 1979, for peace, social justice and democracy were undoubtedly anti-imperialist in character there is nothing to commend the subsequent theocratic takeover of all levers of power by the reactionary clergy.

The record of the regime on human rights, social justice and equality is nothing short of appalling and has been rightly condemned by solidarity organisations around the world.  The unjust imprisonment, torture and execution of trade union activists, women and the political opposition continues unabated.  The basic freedoms of expression and assembly are denied to those critical of the regime.

In economic terms the oil and gas wealth of the nation now lines the pockets of the corrupt clergy and their allies, rather than the Western corporations.  The outcome for the ordinary people of Iran is little different to the days of the Shah, with unemployment, unpaid wages and poverty prevalent.

The Iranian regime has been inflicting abuses upon its citizens for nearly forty years, so why do some on the Left still see the regime in Iran as an ally in the wider anti-imperialist struggle?

While brute force has been the stock in trade of the theocratic dictatorship of the Islamic Republic the regime in Iran has not survived for 40 years without employing a certain amount of guile.

The international balance of forces has shifted over that time, with the defeat of the Soviet Union, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the intensification of the oppression of the people of Palestine by the state of Israel, being key features of the current period.

The Iranian regime has positioned itself in direct opposition to US allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia; supported Syrian President Bashir al Assad against external Western intervention; and supported Houthi rebels in Yemen, resisting the onslaught of the Western armed Saudi coalition.

Recent talks in Moscow, with leaders from Russia and Turkey, to seek a resolution to the civil war in Syria are designed to reinforce Iran’s anti-Western appeal.  Trade deals with China, North Korea and Venezuela also help reinforce Iran’s position as part of an anti-Western camp.

However, while chanting anti-Western slogans, the Islamic Republic remains desperate to attract Western investment to prop up its ailing economy.  Technological development is required if the economy in Iran is to progress and reliance on oil sales is vital to the economic survival of the regime.

For the Iranian regime the nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the US, EU and China, was an opportunity to open up the economy for exploitation through the lifting of sanctions.  The reneging on that deal by the Trump administration in the US has plunged the Iranian economy into a tailspin.

The international alliances forged by the Iranian regime are not out of a sense of anti-imperialist solidarity but the need to shore up the theocracy at any cost.  Like the last days of the Shah, the Islamic clergy are increasingly blind to the reality of protests around them.  Across eighty cities there were protests and demonstrations, on a massive scale in January 2018 and action has continued in a wide range of workplaces and cities since then.

The task for the Left in the West is not to find justifications for supporting the Iranian regime as some kind of anti-imperialist bastion.  On the contrary, as in the time of the Shah, it is the Iranian people feeling the brunt of the repressive policies of the regime who need international support and solidarity.  The demands of protesters over the past year have become increasingly political in character, demanding an end to the widespread corruption practiced by the regime and seeking a democratic way forward for Iran.

As the situation inside the country becomes more volatile there can be no doubt that the West will seek to impose a solution.  It is not beyond the bounds of the West to go the route explored in Syria and look to create a Free Iranian Army as a conduit for cash and weapons.

This would spell disaster for the Iranian people.  Having been thwarted in their national democratic desires once already the Left should not be complicit in the Iranian people being thwarted again.  The future and fate of Iran should be in the hands of its people, without Western political or military interference.

The support of the Left should be firmly on the side of the demands of the people of Iran for peace, social justice and democracy and firmly against the theocratic dictatorship, which for forty years has denied this to them.  Is Iran anti-imperialist?  If that is the right question the answer must be, not yet and it never will be under the current regime or with continued Western interference and intervention.  However, with the support of the Left, the Iranian people may be able to pick up where they left off in 1979 and truly follow through to deliver a real revolution for Iran.

Jamshid Ahmadi is assistant general secretary of Codir, the Committee for Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights. For more information on Codir please visit: www.codir.net

This article first appeared in the Morning Star (5th March 2019)