Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2157

Class questions over Mass protests in Iran

I support the protests in Iran wholeheartedly and I’m very excited by the potential for change. If people have more freedom they will be more able to campaign in the future.

But we have to remember that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has, to some extent, helped the poor by doling out money to people.

The protests are made up mainly of students and the middle classes, although there seem to be some workers among them. The reformists are in favour of opening up the state to privatisation and that makes it difficult for them to attract the support of the workers.

Some people compare what’s happening today to what happened in 1979 when the Shah was overthrown, but there are big differences.

In 1979 the Shah had no support on the ground whatsoever. But Ahmadinejad does have some grassroots support.

The second difficulty today is the lack of a left. In 1979 there was a strong left but that doesn’t exist today, so there aren’t people arguing for real changes.

Iran is a regional power and that is what the US and Israel are worried about.

The protests are not pro-US. The people of Iran know the history of US interference in the country, most notably the coup orchestrated by the US and Britain against Mohammed Mosadeq in 1953.

Whichever way the protests go I don’t think the situation will change much internationally. But if the reformists win, it may be harder for the US to push the line that Iran is a problem.

Somaye Zadeh, Central London

I want to sound a note of caution about Iran. All commentators agree that Ahmadinejad’s support is strongest among small farmers and the urban poor because he has supported the welfare state.

The opposition are market reformers, and are strongest among students, professionals and the rich. The protests have been in wealthy North Tehran, not in working class South Tehran where the revolution against the Shah started.

However, I can’t tell if the election was stolen and neither, it seems, can anyone else.

But the reactions of the government, the repression, and the way Ahmadinejad has been absent from public life, all suggest vote rigging.

People have a right to demand democracy and anyone who hates the cops and the state will be drawn to this movement. But don’t forget class.

Jonathan Neale, North London

The demonstrations in Tehran are a revolt by students and women – primarily drawn from the middle classes – against social conservatism, the activities of the religious police, the Basij militia and the role of the religious foundations.

Unless the protests spread to include workers and the poor in the countryside, the pro-democracy movement in Tehran could well be drowned in blood.

For the movement to spread it calls for different kind of tactics. One of them is strike action. Let us hope it moves in this direction.

Mike Pany, Swansea

Greens not middle class

As a working class trade unionist I must correct your over-generalistion that the Green Party is “middle-class” (» Greens pick up left vote across the country, 13 June).

We have attracted support in many working class areas across Britain and the Green Party trade union group specifically aims to work within and across the trade union movement.

Our party has faults, but the fact remains that the Green Party is a viable vehicle for progress to an egalitarian and sustainable society in the eyes of our members and over a million voters.

As those of us who are revolutionary socialists – including those of us in the Green Party – look to counter the monstrous threat of fascism and the environmental and financial crises brought about by capitalism, lets aim to build bridges rather than throwing around overplayed and unhelpful stereotypes.

James Caspell, Lambeth Green Party

Back in the NHS

I would like to thank all Socialist Worker readers who have given me support over the last two years.

As many of you will know I was sacked from my job as a nurse in Manchester after speaking out against privatisation.

My colleagues came out on strike in support of me. I am very pleased to tell you I have just started a new job as a community psychiatric nurse back in the NHS in the north west.

I have always stood up for the NHS, its services and its staff, and fought against injustice wherever I see it.

We see the biggest attacks on the NHS’s very existence as privatisation and marketisation are being driven through by Gordon Brown’s Labour government. Now more than ever we need to organise to defend our public services.

Karen Reissmann, Manchester

It was right to get egg on BNP Nazis’ faces

The Daily Mirror ran an interesting, though flawed, article by Tony Parsons last week.

He rightly argued that Labour will let the Tories in by neglecting working class voters and that the recent antics of MPs are driving many into the electoral arms of the Nazi British National Party (BNP).

Yet he also argued that the protests against Nazi Nick Griffin were counterproductive.

But the egging of Griffin and his thugs didn’t make them look like martyrs. It humiliated them and made them look like the little Hitlers that they are.

We stripped them of the respectability that they were looking to get by posing outside Westminster.

What we did is in the spirit of what Tony Parsons and many others did at Lewisham in 1977 when the National Front march was confronted.

That was right then and this militant spirit is right now.

The Nazis lie about their real aims, which is partly why they should be denied the oxygen of publicity.

George Orwell once said we shouldn’t confuse those who administer rat poison with the rats. Damn right.

But there is more to fighting fascism than egg throwing. The BNP can also be undermined by the fight for more council houses, decent jobs and rooting out corruption at the top of society.

Paul Sillett, East London

Prentis taps into anger at Labour

When Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis spoke at the union’s national conference last week he surprised many delegates by connecting with the anger over Labour.

He was cheered when he said that members are tired of feeding the hand that bites us and called on the union’s Labour Link to suspend all constituency cheques – and only to back Labour MPs who stand for our values.

He rightly said our union is at the crossroads – and emphasised that we’re a strong and independent union.

He went on to say we can’t tell our members to vote for a party that does nothing for them – and pointed out that in a recent survey 70 percent of public sector workers said they would not vote Labour.

Prentis received a standing ovation and united much of the feeling at the conference.

I hope this means that activists can work alongside other trade unions for public services not private profit and that we will be supported in fighting cuts and job losses.

There was a real sense among many delegates that we need to fight and that there is a desperate need for an electoral left alternative.

Janet Maiden, Chair, UCLH Unison (pc)

Why soldiers quit the army

British soldiers are not deserting the army due to mental illness or cowardice. They go Awol because the army puts soldiers through so much harassment and bullying.

The army and government don’t tell you that you will be treated as a slave. The only professionalism in the army is from the ordinary soldier not our leaders.

I’m Awol have no intention of returning, and sorry, no I don’t feel bad about it! The army turned it’s back on the lads but expects us to give a crap? What hypocrisy!

If I had known how unfair, unprofessional, sadistic, demeaning, racist, and bullying the army is I would have never ever signed up for the biggest lie ever!

The army turns brave young lads into fearful oppressed cowardly men who do as their told or else. This is not a professional way to go about doing things.

They can’t get soldiers to respect them so they get them to fear them! It’s an ungrateful evil backstabbing institution.

Soldier, by email

Who should we vote for?

Please can you tell me who I was supposed to vote for in the elections earlier this month?

The three parties took no notice of us – too busy sorting their expenses.

There was nothing on the left. I voted for Socialist Labour. What happened to Respect this time round?

I can understand some working people voting BNP as a protest – unless the left gets its act together they will continue to do so.

Beryl Norman, Market Harborough

Iraq inquiry must be open

Gordon Brown continues to vacillate as to whether to hold the inquiry into the Iraq war in public or private after a flurry of protests by senior army generals.

Initially he wanted to hold the inquiry in private and he appointed people noted for their pro-war, pro-Blair views – such as Sir Lawrence Freedman and Sir Martin Gilbert.

This is as bad as the police investigating the police. Is it any wonder that people think this is going to be yet another whitewash?

However there are very good reasons for truth to be revealed – 179 British reasons and a million Iraqi reasons, their dead and ours.

The Iraq war, the illegality of which is beyond question was the most controversial decision of the last decade.

It dragged the reputation of our country through the mud and is something we should all be deeply ashamed of.

Mark Holt, Merseyside

The music of resistance

Thirty years ago Brummie band UB40 released a classic song about unemployment.

We are now back to one in ten teenagers being without jobs, education or employment. Call that progress?

The lyrics go:

“I am the one in ten
A number on a list
I am the one in ten
Even though I don’t exist.
Nobody knows me
But I’m always there.
A statistic, a reminder
Of a world that doesn’t care.”

We can all join the protest backed by the UCU and NUJ unions at the Labour Party conference on 27 September in Bournemouth.

We should start organising now – and sing this song on the protest.

Nick Grant, West London

Innocent until proven guilty?

The prison Reform Trust is right to condemn the locking up of thousands of young people who have not even been found guilty of any crime.

Half of all those placed in youth custody by magistrates courts are on remand awaiting trial. Numbers have risen by more than 40 percent in a decade.

Sylvia Elgrib, Sidcup, Kent

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Article information

Tue 23 Jun 2009, 18:19 BST
Issue No. 2157
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