Report of the campaign’s founding conference

On 8th December 2007, over 80 people gathered in central London for the Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) founding conference.

HOPI was started early in 2007 by Iranian activists in the UK and UK left groups, to oppose imperialist war with Iran whilst supporting the struggles of the Iranian people. It has grown into a group with a diverse range of support, and the conference reflected this – there were people from several UK and Iranian left groups as well as trade unionists and non-affiliated individuals.

HOPI activists in Glasgow demonstrating against the Iraq war
HOPI activists in Glasgow demonstrating against the Iraq war

One of HOPI’s most essential aims is stopping imperialist war with Iran – an effective form of solidarity and perhaps the one we can do most for. The US National Intelligence Report, which had been a bit of a shock in stating that Iran had no nuclear weapons after Bush’s repeated claims that it did, was published less than a week before the conference. In their opening briefing papers, Mike Macnair (CPGB) and Israeli socialist Moshe Machover said that we couldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security by this – Bush and his allies had already stated that Iran is still a threat, and the possibility of war is still very real.

The conference resolved to build a network of local branches that can respond quickly to international political developments, and to campaign for trade unions to commit to protests in the event of war. Links will be built with other, similar groups nationally and internationally.

However, in late 2007, HOPI tried to affiliate with the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and were refused, for rather spurious reasons (including that HOPI is “entirely hostile” to the aims of Stop the War – perhaps because of the ambiguity of StWC’s stance on the Iranian regime, or perhaps because of sheer factionalism). The conference firmly agreed that it was essential to keep on trying to work with StWC, and HOPI will not give up despite the determination of the StWC leadership to exclude us. There were members of StWC at the conference, and, on the ground, there is considerable support for HOPI within StWC. A motion on the subject, passed overwhelmingly, urged HOPI members to join StWC and support its activities, as well as arguing for the unity that is so badly needed in the movement.

Motions were passed to focus HOPI’s other activities on solidarity with women, students and trade unionists over the coming year. The issues surrounding lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender people in Iran were brought up, as the founding statement did not mention them. Homosexuals are liable for the death penalty in Iran, and it is obviously important to acknowledge and support their struggles against the regime – the conference readily gave them equal precedence with the struggles of the women’s, workers’ and students’ movements.

David Mather (HOPI Glasgow) emphasised, in his briefing paper, the need to think about sanctions. He pointed out that sanctions ultimately affect the people more than the government, and that, in fact, the Iranian regime is already using threats such as sanctions as an excuse to crack down on dissidents in the name of national security. An amendment to the founding statement, from HOPI North West, was passed, cementing HOPI’s opposition to sanctions.

Permanent Revolution proposed an amendment to the founding statement cutting out the line For a nuclear free Middle East in a nuclear free world. This was hotly debated, several comrades arguing that Iran should have the right to nuclear weapons while its main enemies have them. This argument was not directed towards getting that view into the statement; it was used to argue for HOPI to take no line on it. However, other comrades felt strongly that we should be directly opposing the idea of nuclear weapons, as in the event of any nuclear attack – instigated by the ruling class – would affect the working class the most, and for socialists to take a neutral stance was not an option. The amendment wasn’t passed, but the emphasis was changed to call more obviously for the nuclear disarmament of the US, Britain and Israel.

The conference allowed plenty of time for the discussion of all these issues and showed all motions and amendments on a screen which was updated as amendments were put forward, which meant that all the proceedings were clear. All this led to lively debate and a sense of optimism at the diversity and democracy of the campaign, which bodes well for the future of HOPI as a new and promising force in the anti-war movement.

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