Mar 20 2009

Hands Off The People of Iran: Campaign Update

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 17RCN @ 3:36 pm

Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) is an anti-war, anti-imperialist organisation which organises in solidarity with democratic, secular and socialist working-class forces in Iran. It believes that, while regime change is desirable in Iran (as it is in the western imperialist countries), this must come from the Iranian people and working class itself and not through any “intervention” by the United States and its allies. Hopi’s slogans are No to war; no to the theocratic regime. The SSP voted to support Hopi at its conference in October 2007.

Since then, the campaign has been growing and gaining strength. As well as establishing local groups around Britain and Ireland, it has also won the affiliation of two major trade unions; the Public and Commercial Services union, and the train drivers’ union ASLEF. It has also reapplied for affiliation to the Stop the War coalition, after its earlier bid for affiliation was rejected by the STW Conference in 2007 on the (dubious) grounds that it was “entirely hostile” to STW’s work.

Hopi has been holding meetings up and down the country concerning the threat of war against Iran; considering what the election of Barack Obama will mean for US policy in the region; discussing how the brutal Israeli onslaught against the people of Gaza will affect the politics of the region; publicising the struggles of Iranian workers and students for democracy; and, most recently, debating the history and legacy of the Iranian Revolution, 30 years on.

Hopi does not believe the threat of war against Iran has lessened with the election of the new US president; however, it recognises that imperialist aggression can take more than one form. For that reason, at the Hopi national conference held in London in December, it was agreed to launch a new campaign Smash the Sanctions. This campaign, launched on 16th March by John McDonnell MP, will aim to provide solidarity with the Iranian masses which suffer from sanctions imposed by the West, sanctions whose effect is to target and disempower the poor rather than the ruling class, and which are in effect a form of soft war. I encourage all Emancipation & Liberation readers to get involved in the Hopi campaign.

Further information can be found at the website: www.hopoi.org

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Sep 29 2007

What Socialists Stand For

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 15RCN @ 7:09 pm

Scottish Socialist Youth

Review by Andrew Weir

Available from: scottishsocialistyouth@hotmail.co.uk for

What Socialist Stand For

What Socialist Stand For

The Scottish Socialist Youth (SSY) have put together the pamphlet What Socialists Stand For, adapted from a similar pamphlet published by the Democratic Socialist Perspective in Australia, to serve as an introduction to socialist politics. The idea is a very good one; a pamphlet-length exposition of the socialist position provides exactly the right sort of introduction to potential readers, particularly young people, who may be interested in changing the world but are not yet aware of socialist ideas and perspectives on the world.

The pamphlet is written in plain language with minimal jargon throughout. When writing material of this sort, there is always a tightrope to walk between oversimplifying our ideas – or worse, coming over as patronising – and writing in a way that will mystify (or simply bore) the casual reader. Anyone who has ever listened to the frequent debates in SSY around the style of the writing in our magazine Leftfield will know that the SSY often has to approach this problem. The SSY’s publication of a simplified, modernised version of Lenin’s The State was an excellent example of getting this balance right; and What Socialists Stand For also hits the right note in its language.

Good political health

The good political health of the SSY is reflected in the pamphlet’s contents, which are generally excellent. The pamphlet functions in the same way as an abridged version of Alan McCombes’s Imagine; but unlike Imagine, What Socialists Stand For puts forward a consistently revolutionary stance, with no illusions in the power of parliaments to change our world. I don’t intend to summarise the whole pamphlet – you should buy it for that! – but I’ll take a trip through some particular highlights below.

After a brief introduction, the pamphlet opens with a discussion of the environment. As green issues are one of the areas which most frequently radicalise politically interested youth, this is a good place to start; and the pamphlet explicitly links the destruction of the environment and wasteful over-production with the capitalist system and its need to create markets for its products, and the need to turn a profit being considered more important than the long-term future of humanity.

In a section entitled Making poverty history?, the hypocrisy of first world governments and liberal/reformist illusions in the willingness of first world governments to end poverty throughout the world are attacked. However, importantly, the notion of imperialism is also briefly but pertinently presented. For those who are disillusioned with the failure of first world governments to address global poverty, it is important to point out that the system actually requires that this be so, and that other solutions are required.

The section on unemployment addresses why capitalism needs unemployment to function and focuses on the growth of McJobs and casual/precarious labour, as well as the particularly strong alienation that comes along with these; again very pertinent issues for young people. The following section develops the idea of the socialisation of production over history and very clearly explains the socialist conception of class.

The explanation of bourgeois democracy – the Democratic Show, as the pamphlet refers to it – and the function of the state in capitalist society, which could have drifted into very abstract theoretical writing, instead remains pointed and clear throughout, without either oversimplifying the ideas or accommodating illusions in bourgeois politics.

The section on Scottish independence focuses on the republican and anti-imperialist aspects of breaking up the UK state, rather than relying on arguments about the supposedly further left-wing political centre of gravity in Scotland.

The SSY is proud of its principled feminist politics, so it is no surprise that the section on How capitalism oppresses women is particularly well-written, with a clear explanation on why capitalism actively encourages sexist ideas; this then develops into a discussion of the role of the family in capitalist society with an emphasis on LGBT oppression.

The last third of the pamphlet is dedicated to a view of the socialist alternative. It does not go into heavy details about a potential socialist system, although there are some brief suggestions about what a socialist democracy and planned economy might (not definitely will) look like in practice; but on the issue of how we get from here to there it presents a revolutionary perspective, drawing on examples such as the events of May 1968 in France to demonstrate our conception of people’s power. The pamphlet also emphasises the need for socialists and working people to organise to achieve this, consistently and persistently, whether we’re going through good times or bad; and the fact that such a revolution cannot be held in Scotland alone (and survive), but must challenge capitalism on a global level.

Youth protest

Youth protest

Highlights

The highlights of the pamphlet certainly comprise the majority of it; but there are a couple of points where the pamphlet could perhaps have been sharper. For example, although the discussion of casual labour explicitly makes the point that precarious working practices make it difficult to organise workers in these industries, the suggestion offered is essentially simply that young workers should join a union. Now although any emphasis on organising young workers is welcome, the pamphlet has perhaps missed an opportunity to point out that, in a situation where workers are changing job and workplace very frequently, structures other than the traditional trade union will be required in order to organise. It is also curious that, despite the fact that the pamphlet in general does not uncritically accept the existing order in any other area, the role of trade union bureaucrats in stifling or managing genuine rank-and-file action escapes criticism in this section.

Also, the section on racism is good as far as it goes, but does not include the principled socialist attitude towards immigration controls – i.e. total opposition. It also uses the argument that Scotland, with a shrinking population, needs workers to immigrate – true enough, and it is important to counter the swamped by immigrants standard media line, but as the No One Is Illegal campaign points out, we need to point out that we are against controls under any circumstances, not just when it would be economically beneficial for our nation-state. Knowing the SSY’s politics, I suspect that this is an oversight rather than a real political fault, but it is an important point all the same.

However these are very small quibbles when put in the context of the whole pamphlet, which consistently hits all the right notes both politically and stylistically. It will be a very useful tool for the SSY and it will be a good read for new activists – and any non-youth comrades interested to know about the SSY’s political thinking should buy it too!

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