Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iranian Embassy Demo report and protest this coming Saturday 27 June

Hands off the People of Iran held a very successful demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in Dublin last Saturday, 20 June. We will continue our protest this coming Saturday 27 June at 2pm, Central Bank, Dame Street Dublin.

The demonstration began at 1pm, at the same time that people were taking to the streets of Tehran in defiance of the oppressive state forces. A number of Iranian activists joined us as well as members of Irish left wing groups and campaigns.
We chanted slogans in support of the struggle and called for the overthrow of the Islamic republic. We also made clear in our speeches and slogans that we are against any imperialist intervention in Iran – any US attempt at regime change from above must be opposed. The hell holes created by imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of the terrible devastation wrought by imperialism.One of Iranian comrades did a fantastic job on the megaphone, shouting ‘marg bar Ahmadinejad, marg bar Moussavi, marg bar Khamenei’. He and most other Iranians there were fully supportive of our principled position on imperialism.

However a leading member of a group called ‘Free Iran’ was opposed to our anti-imperialism and said he supported sanctions. We made it clear that we will not countenance any compromise on this vital question. The US, under Bush or Obama is not a friend, but a dangerous enemy of the Iranian people.We continued our discussions later at a meeting in Seomra Spraoi, where the debate centred on the prospects for the left in Iran and whether the protests are simply about rigged elections.

It was a passionate and lively debate and we finished by agreeing to organise another demo this coming Saturday pm at the Central Bank, Dame Street Dublin. We will also be holding meetings in other cities, with a meeting in Cork on 2 July, 8pm Victoria Hotel Patrick Street.Join us in showing your solidarity. Let’s send a message to the protestors in Iran that we are on their side!Contact Anne on 086 23 43 238 Anne@hopoi.info www.hopi-Ireland.org

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran HOPI demo and meeting June 20 Dublin

Hands off the People of Iran’ calls for solidarity with the masses in their struggle for mass democracy! No illusions in Moussavi!
No to imperialist intervention!

Demonstrate Saturday
20th June at 1.00pm - All Welcome
Outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
72 Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin

Demo followed by meeting at 3.30pm
Seomra Spraoi, 10 Belvedere Court,
off Gardiner Street

Join us in showing solidarity with the masses in Iran who have taken to the streets in outrage against the rigged elections. This is a revolt against a deeply repressive state. The situation is Iranian is on a knife-edge. Hopi supporters are in daily contact with Iran. We are pushing for maximum solidarity from the working class movement here in Ireland to progressive forces in Iran. The upsurge against theocratic rule should not derailed by reformists from within the Iranian regime itself. Moussavi was himself a demagogue during his 8 years in power. He is not a solution but a danger to the struggle for mass democracy.

Contact Anne on 086 2343 238 or at Anne@hopoi.org

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran - support the anti-government revolt

Hands off the People of Iran statement.

Contact Anne on 086 23 43 238 or at Annegmcshane@eircom.net

June 14 2009

Support for the mass protests against Ahmadinejad’s re-election! But we should have no illusions that Massouvi would have been any better

Yassamine Mather, chair of Hands Off the People of Iran, assesses the highly fluid situation in Iran:

It is no surprise that the highly contested results of the presidential elections in Iran have sparked unrest in Tehran and other cities across Iran. The level of cheating on display seems crazy even by the standards of Iran's Islamic Republic regime. Clearly, the results are the final proof that confirms that the whole electoral process is deeply undemocratic and rigged from top to bottom:

Ahmadinejad was declared winner by the official media even before some polling stations had closed
His final result was almost identical to what the (rigged) polls predicted all the way through the elections. This percentage did not ever vary by more than three percent

Hundreds of candidates were barred from standing in the first place, especially those of the left. The main ‘reformist’ candidate Mir-Hossain Moussavi has declared the elections a “charade” and claimed Iran was moving towards tyranny. Thousands of protesters (not all of them backers of Moussavi) have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the re-election of Ahmadinejad.

Of course, Hopi condemns the arrest of over 900 demonstrators and 100 leading ‘reformists’, most of the latter ones supporters and collaborators of Moussavi.

But we should not forget that Moussavi does not consider the nine previous presidential elections in Iran's Islamic Republic – most of them with very dubious results - a “charade”. In the 2009 election, he did not bat an eyelid when the Council of Guardians disqualified over 400 candidates. He did not think the process was a “charade” when the supreme religious leader intervened time and time again to defend Ahmadinejad.

Even now, although he is furious about loosing the elections, he is not calling on the Iranian people to support him. Instead, he is addressing the 'Religious centres of Guidance' (elite shia Ayatollahs) to denounce the result. He is no fan of democracy and mass movements. Like his predecessor Mohammad Khatami, Moussavi is well aware that the survival of the 'Islamic order' is in his interests. That is why, even when he is clearly a victim of the supreme leader's lunacy, he cannot rock the boat.

After all, irrespective of the illusions of their supporters, Moussavi and the other reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, are no radical opponents of the regime. For eight years, Moussavi served as prime minister of the Islamic republic - during some of the darkest days of this regime. He was deeply involved in the arms-for-hostages deals with the Reagan administration in the1980s, what came to be known as ‘Irangate’. He also played a prominent role in the brutal wave of repression in the 1980s that killed a generation of Iranian leftists. During this period, thousands of socialists and communists were jailed, with many of them executed while in prison.

Moussavi has attempted to refashion himself as a 'conservative reformer' or a 'reformist conservative' by expressing his allegiance to the supreme leader and by claiming to have initiated Iran’s nuclear programme, which he promised to continue. He also criticised the release of British navy personal in 2007 as “a humiliating surrender”. Defending his government's anti-Western credentials, Ahmadinejad claimed that “prime minister Tony Blair had sent a letter to apologise to Iran”. Within a few hours, the foreign office in London issued a stern denial that such a letter was ever sent. Moussavi tried to exploit this ‘weakness’.

But he clearly failed. The supreme leader could not tolerate his former protégé Moussavi. Although his politics are almost indistinguishable from those of Ahmadinejad, he was just a bit too ‘progressive’ on two points:

He promised to be more liberal over women’s dress code and said he would expand women's rights –within the parameters proscribed by the religious state, of course

He promised to use more diplomatic language and a more amenable attitude in dealings with the West, especially the USA. Despite this diplomatic ‘packaging’, however, he remains committed to defending Iran's nuclear program (including the right to enrich uranium)

These elections were a “charade” from the day they started. All four candidates are supporters of the existing system. All support the existing neo-liberal policies and privatisations. All four are in favour of Iran's nuclear programme.

But we should not underestimate the anger of the Iranian population against this blatant manipulation of the results. Iranians had to choose between the lesser of two evils - and when the worst was declared winner, they showed their contempt for the system by huge demonstrations culminating in the massive protests of June 13 2009.
Until early June, most Iranians had shown little interest in these elections, as they knew that neither candidate would lead to real change. But it was the live TV debates that changed the apathy. The debates betweeen Ahmadinejad - Moussavi and Ahmadinejad -Karroubi have been unique events in the history of the official media of the Islamic Republic. The debates confirmed what most Iranians know through their personal experiences – but which they have not yet heard on the official media:

Ahmadinejad stated that Iran had been ruled for 24 years (up to his presidency) by a clique akin to an economic and political mafia. 'Elite' clerics such as the reformers Rafsanjani and Khatami had “forgotten their constituents” and were corrupt
Moussavi stated that the economy has been in a terrible state, particularly in the last four years
The situation in Iran is very fluid. Over 900 protesters and 100 'reformist' leaders have been arrested, including the brother of former president Khatami. Moussavi and his wife have gone underground. There are signs of the beginning of an internal coup. Thirty years after the Iranian revolution, if Iran's supreme leader believes he can suppress the opposition, he will be making precisely the kind of mistake that led to the overthrow of the Shah's regime in 1979. The foundations of the Islamic Republic regime are shaking.

The protests of June 13 were the largest demonstrations since 1979. After the euphoria of the last two weeks, when Iranians participated in their millions in demonstrations and political meetings, no state - however brutal - will be able to control the situation. The events of the last few weeks show that there is real hope that the Iranian people can get rid of this regime - be it in the guise of Ahmadinejad or the no less undemocratic and corrupt ‘reformists’.

Socialist Party does not look like it is interested in unity

Checking out the SP website it looks as though they are simply intent on pushing their own party. Maybe there are discussions going on in the background but the official line is 'build the socialist alternative - join the socialist party'!


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fianna Fail routed left make gains

The deep unpopularity of the government showed itself in an overwhelming vote against them in last week’s European and local elections.
Fianna Fail’s vote fell to 25% and its Green Party coalition partner to just 3%. The Greens lost all of their local and county council seats in Dublin, its previous stronghold. The results have thrown the government into crisis with a motion of no confidence currently being debated in the Dail.
But good as it is to see the collapse of their vote, even more heartening have been the number of left-wing candidates elected. Chief among these was the election of the Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins to the European parliament for Dublin. Unseating Fianna Fail’s Eoin Ryan, his election caused shock and upset for many of the bourgeoisie. The Mayor of Dublin, Eibhlin Byrne expressed her concern about the impact on Dublin of Higgins going to Europe with an “anti business message”.
In his victory speech Higgins made a commitment to receive the wage of an average skilled worker and donate the rest to working class organisations in Dublin. He also promised to be a thorn in the side of the ruling elite. As far as he was concerned, his mandate came from the working class and nobody else.
The Socialist Party retained their current council seats in the Dublin area and gained two further seats outside of Dublin, with a number of their candidates topping the polls.
The SWP’s People before Profit Alliance also made a breakthrough, gaining five council seats in the Dublin area. The Workers Party won two council seats and a group called The Workers and Unemployed Action Group gained 43% of first preference votes and overall control of Clonmel Town Council.
With some exceptions it seems that wherever the left stood it was supported with enthusiasm. The opportunities to make headway are obvious. But numerical weakness and political confusion remain serious obstacles. The way forward must be unity around a revolutionary programme. Without this the current upsurge in support for the left could be squandered. We need only look across the water to the debacles of Respect and No2EU to see the results of lowest common denominator unity.
The SWP issued a statement making clear that the “radical left must now enter discussions to form either an alliance or broad radical left party, where different tendencies can co-exist. Previous arguments that such a development might be ‘premature’ make little sense today.”(www.swp.ie). They propose the adoption of the People before Profit model. But while the call for unity is welcome and needs to be built on, the basis of such a project should not be a fudge. The working class throughout Ireland is already painfully aware of the problems of capitalism. What they need is Marxism, not radicalism.
There is a danger that sections of the left will push for unity with the Labour Party. But the Labour Party does not even pretend to be socialist. It is more interested in forming a coalition for government with Fine Gael, the main centre right opposition party.
As of today the Socialist Party has not responded to the call for unity. They have announced that they are currently considering the new circumstances and will respond soon. But there is great pressure to form a more cohesive and ambitious left. The opening up of a debate and struggle around the formation of a party is to be warmly welcomed. All working class militants must encourage and take part in this development.
Anne McShane

Sunday, June 7, 2009

For a democratic secular republic

The publication of a report on systematic child abuse in religious-run institutions in Ireland has stirred deep anger and resentment throughout society.
The report has unleashed a tremendous wave of hostility towards the Catholic church. Previous revelations about the appalling treatment of children at the hands of religious orders entrusted with their ‘care’ had already greatly harmed the church’s reputation over the last 10 years. Now, in the aftermath of the Ryan report, it appears damaged beyond repair.
The televising in 1999 of a series of documentaries by Mary Rafferty, entitled ‘States of fear’, brought the truth about institutional care out of the shadows. The fact that it could even be broadcast illustrated how much Ireland was changing. The dark days of economic hardship and emigration seemed over and the church was losing its cohering force as the voice of the nation. The programmes showed that sadistic cruelty and sexual abuse was being perpetuated within state-funded religious institutions throughout the country. The public outrage that ensued pressurised the Fianna Fáil government into taking measures to avert a crisis. It was potentially a major disaster for the establishment. It needed to be dealt with carefully to preserve the status quo.
A commission of inquiry was set up to look into 18 religious orders involved in education and the provision of care to the ‘vulnerable’ (an apt word). Spurred on by their abiding anger and determined to put the shameful humiliation of their treatment behind them, some of the victims began to take on the perpetrators in the courts. This created alarm within the corridors of power. Urgent action had to be taken to protect the clergy from public vilification as common criminals.
So in 2002 the government set up the Residential Redress Board. An indemnity against prosecution was given to 18 congregations, in return for their payment of a mere 10% towards a compensation fund. Hearings would take place behind closed doors, in the hope that the church would escape with minimal embarrassment. The commission of inquiry was also set up on the firm basis that none of the findings could be used to substantiate prosecutions. The then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, himself a devoted follower of the clergy, was not going to take any chances. The extent to which the church was let off the hook was astounding.
But the commission had to report at some stage - and now, after an incredible 10 years, it has done so. Religious orders were certainly responsible for some of the delay, destroying documentary evidence and employing teams of lawyers to get round or divert the questions put by the commission (Ahern had also ensured that their legal fees would be paid for by the taxpayer).
But now it is finally clear that the church can no longer evade responsibility for the inhuman regimes it maintained within its so-called care homes. The report documented the sheer immensity and systematic nature of the abuse. It showed how the Irish state had used the church to oppress and frighten the working class into subservience. Ireland has long been portrayed as a devout nation, full of enthusiastic followers of the pope. The report has revealed a rather different reality. It shows how state and church colluded to try and cow a people into submission.
The main abuse up to the 1980s took place in the state-funded industrial schools run by the religious orders. These were fed a continual stream of children, put into care either because of alleged neglect or petty crime. The role of the Irish Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) was crucial in delivering the children of poor working class families into the arms of these despicable abusers.
Families of 10 were not uncommon up to the 1980s - contraception was forbidden and women were expected to submit to endless impregnations. The special position of women as the backbone of Catholic Ireland was written into article 41 of the 1937 constitution, which upholds the family as “the natural primary and fundamental unit of society”. It stipulates that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”. “Woman” had to give up her job and independence on her wedding day. It was not until the 1970s that she was allowed to work after marriage.
This ‘special place’ within the constitution was, of course, itself a deliberate and institutionalised form of repression. Women were almost powerless, and struggled to cope on their own with children too numerous to manage - men had often been forced to emigrate to find work. The ISPCC stepped in to take control of the situation. It was essential to have power over the poor in order to prevent them becoming a problem for the ruling class. Particularly important was the need to wipe out “immorality and neglect endemic among the poor”.
The ‘cruelty man’ would visit and frequently remove children from impoverished homes, often described as ‘cesspits’ of drunkenness and poverty. They were then placed with the religious orders, which put them to work on their farms, in their laundries or in other clerical industries. The state funded these placements, many of which lasted to adulthood and beyond.
No fewer than 216 of these institutions are named in the report as being centres of systematic abuse. Many personal accounts are just too painful to read. Sexual abuse is described as particularly organised within institutions for boys. But an extraordinary degree of physical and emotional abuse, including the imposition of hunger, was inflicted on occupants of the industrial schools, orphanages and educational institutions. Children had no rights and were often treated worse than animals. The poor were despised by both church and state.
The commission heard evidence from 2,000 former occupants of religious institutions from 1940 right up to 2000. The problem is not an historical one, one that can be confined to the bad old days of rural Ireland. The industrial schools no longer exist, but the church continues to run over 80% of schools, as well as numerous hospitals and many care establishments.
And, while presiding over some despicable regimes for the poor, the church continued to run its ‘centres of excellence’, its elite schools devoted to the education of those born to rule. Many of the political class today come from those elevated establishments run by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy, among others. These institutions were in fact financially subsidised by the industrial schools and their child slaves. So Brian Cowan and his ilk have a lot to thank the church for.
Today this same Brian Cowan bleats about “our shame as a nation”. The Catholic church assures us it would have acted if only it knew the scale of the abuse. What rubbish. Everybody knew that to be sent to an industrial school was synonymous with being dispatched to a gulag. Everybody knew about the terrible treatment meted out by the clergy to those too poor or vulnerable to defend themselves. To resist them was an act of social hari-kari. Parents of children who suffered abuse were accused of being liars when they tried to intervene. Enormous cover-ups took place and are only now being unravelled. It was a conspiracy of silence.
The main debate centres now on financial compensation for the victims. Under pressure to act, Cowan has been forced to ask the clergy to make a greater contribution to the Financial Redress Board. Having dragged its heels, the church is now prepared to fund a new deal which it hopes will save it. But the clergy can trust in Fianna Fáil. They share a long and ignominious history back to the 1930s. Fianna Fáil is the preferred party of the Catholic church. If they can’t depend on Brian Cowan, what has the world come to?
But the issue of financial compensation, while no doubt important to the victims, is being used to divert attention from the real question - the glaring need to separate church and state: in other words to challenge the 1937 constitution, the creation of Eamonn De Valera, founder of Fianna Fáil and architect of the Irish Catholic state. In his efforts to constitutionally separate the 26 counties from Britain he had attempted to end the oath of allegiance and all references to the British monarchy within the 1922 constitution. He turned to his allies within the Catholic church to create an Irish nationalism founded on religion.
It is he who can be ‘credited’ with article 41, which sacrificed Irish women to his zealous quest for so-called Catholic purity. The constitution in its entirety was designed to meet the needs of both the church and ruling class - and to create a bastion of De Valera-inspired Irish nationalism.
The church’s privileged position was constitutionally enshrined until 1972, when formal equality was extended to all religions. But the reality is that, although by no means as powerful as it once was, the Catholic hierarchy continues to dominate, particularly on social issues.
Abortion is still illegal. A successful campaign by the church in 1983 ensured that this illegality is constitutionally guaranteed. Divorce - despite a major struggle - is still restricted to couples who have been separated for four out of five consecutive years. And now new legislation is being introduced to outlaw ‘blasphemy’.
The preamble to the constitution states that all power is derived from the “most holy trinity”, and acknowledges “our obligations to our divine Lord Jesus Christ”. Article 44 commits the state to uphold the public worship of god - “it shall hold his Name in reverence and shall respect and honour religion”.
Despite all this some on the left have claimed that the privileged position of the church and the role of the state in upholding religion are secondary issues. Ordinary workers are not interested in questions of democracy and secularism. Tell that to the thousands of victims of indescribable cruelty at the hands of state-authorised abuse centres!
It is true that the church has now fallen from grace. Vocations to the priesthood have crashed from over 1,000 a year in the 1980s to just a handful now. Secular attitudes have become more widespread and church attendances have plummeted. But still the state remains a religious one. This disgraceful situation must be ended once and for all.
While religious expression must be guaranteed on the same basis as for all social ideas, there must be complete separation of church and state. The role of the church and of religion must be expunged from the constitution. The church’s responsibility for running state-funded schools, hospitals and care institutions must be completely removed. Religious indoctrination (as opposed to the teaching of religion as an academic subject) should have no place in the curriculum of state schools. Preparation for religious ceremonies such as communion and confirmation must not be part of the school syllabus. Individuals and families must be left to make their own choices about their religion and if and when they practise it. The left needs to take up the question of secularism in a serious way now.
What do the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party, the two principal leftwing organisations in Ireland, have to say on all this? The SP website has an article by Joe Higgins on the abuse scandal, but makes no mention of secularism. The SWP’s position is better, calling for an end to the church’s role in education, etc. But this hardly constitutes a fully rounded position.
Deep anger remains - there is talk of a march in solidarity with the victims of abuse. However, without the intervention of the left, the church could regain control with pleas for forgiveness and promises of compensation. A democratic secular republic must become a key working class demand.

Anne McShane