Socialist Workers Party Wakes Up on Iran?

February 17, 2008 at 12:56 pm (Iran, left, students, SWP, TWP, youth)

The SWP has published an article in the latest edition of Socialist Worker supporting the recent campus protests by Iranian students. This article makes clear that there is now no difference between their position and that adopted by the Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI). They should join us and work together to support the people of Iran against imperialism and the theocratic regime.

Iran: a new left is emerging on the campuses

There have been major confrontations over the last month between students and Iranian security forces. Iranian socialist Behzad of the Iranian Marxist journal Saamaan No (New Order) spoke to Socialist Worker about the new left wing movement rising in Iranian universities.

‘For students in Iran 7 December is an important date. It was on this day in 1953 that students staged mass protests in the University of Tehran at the visit of then US vice-president Richard Nixon.

Nixon was visiting the Shah (the king of Iran) to congratulate him on the coup that toppled the popular nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadeq.

This was a US and British backed coup, and although they got rid of Mossadeq, it did not crush the movement that brought him to power.

The Shah’s security forces fired on the student demonstration, killing three. Since then this date has became a celebration of resistance to dictatorship and the struggle for freedom.

Following the 1953 protests, Iranian students formed the Confederation of Iranian Students to oppose the Shah. Many activists in the confederation were socialist and participated in the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979.

Also among them were Islamist students who were part of the National Front – a movement inspired by Mossadeq focused on nationalising Iran’s oil.


This movement came to an end when universities were closed for two years following the foundation of the Islamic Republic and the rise to power of Ayatollah Khomeni.

These were the years of the Iran-Iraq war and terrible repression. Many tens of thousands were killed or put in prison. The left was defeated.

In the early 1990s a reform movement grew in Iran. It brought to power the “reformist” president Mohammad Khatami. This movement emerged at the same time as the Soviet Union collapsed. So the left was in disarray and dominated by ideas that said there can never be revolutionary change, the best you can hope for are gradual reforms. This movement put all its faith in Khatami.

However, as it became clear that the reformist president could not deliver the changes demanded of him, this created the conditions for a new left to emerge.

One of the centres of this movement was the pro-reform student Islamist societies in the colleges. At the time these were small groups calling for democracy. They did not describe themselves as socialist or left wing.

They put their faith in small changes that would bring greater freedom and democratic rights, a free press and so on. These students became radicalised following the failure of the reform movement, and the closure of Salam, a pro-reform newspaper. Their protests were heavily attacked by the security forces. Some students began to break with the fundamentalist ideology and question reformism and the state.

Gradually through studying the history of the labour movement in Iran and internationally, they began to develop Marxist ideas. They began to organise and publish newspapers, blogs and other literature. They debated everything from art to politics.


Their demands range from improving conditions in universities through to questions of democracy. And the opposition to neoliberal policies of the government has also tapped into wider discontent across the country.

At the same time as a growing radicalisation among students there was a rise in workers’ struggles in Iran. At the heart of this were bus drivers, who established an independent trade union and found themselves in opposition to the state.

The majority of Iran’s 70 million people are under 35. There are over four million students in the country.

Two years ago, left wing students joined with reformists and the Islamic student societies to organise a major celebration of the events of 7 December 1953.

A year later these students began to raise slogans calling for socialism. They could not march in the streets, but they had good mobilisations on campus. The state responded with waves of arrests and repression.

In the first wave 30 left wing students were seized, in the second 11 – one of whom was killed. These arrests galvanised other students into protest behind student action committees.

Since then we have seen a massive growth in the socialist student societies. There are now up to 15 left wing journals and newspapers – most of which are clandestine.

These students have been debating two major political questions. The first is the opposition to imperialism, especially the threats from the US following the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The second is how to achieve real change inside Iran. They see these two positions as being important for the movement for change.

The right inside Iran has been able to use the threat of imperialism to snuff out any opposition at home. The first time was when the US supported Iraq during its war with Iran (1980-88) and now following the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel’s war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Last month there were major confrontations between students and security forces. At the same time there have been strikes and other protests. The re-emergence of the student movement and left wing ideas on campus is a sign of a growing confidence and changes that are developing inside Iran.’

Join the picket to support Iranian students this Saturday 16 February, 12 noon, Trafalgar Square. For more Information about those students go to »


  1. Chris S said,

    You beat me too it. I was gonna post it up on my blog.

    The printing of this article is a step in the right dierection, it is time that the SWP took up principled internationalism.

  2. korakious said,

    I would very gladly work with the SWP in HOPI, although I can’t say I can trust them at all. I mean, their ability for political u turns is uncanny.

  3. voltairespriest said,

    What’ll happen is what always happens with them, They’ll come to an understanding that they “always” supported the left in Iran, and that everyone else in the world should have known that. They’ll then all deny that they “*ever*” supported the Tehran regime. They’ll subsume their errors into a history that they hope nobody will remember. Just like they always have.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Knowing the SWP’s *modus operandum*, within a couple of years they’ll veheremently deny that they ever said anything else but to have condemned the Iranian regime. And so few members will remain from this time, that it will be virtually impossible to prove them wrong…

  5. lenin said,

    You kids are fooling yourselves. There is no way the SWP is approaching the position of a sectarian outfit like HOPI, and I can say this with some certainty. We have been supporting the Iranian opposition for years, and SW has always written sympathetically about their struggle, but we are not about to merge with the HOPI position of demanding that all antiwar activity be diluted with slogans denouncing the ‘theocracy’ (which is a liberal, and not a marxist conception of the working of power in Iran).

  6. Jim Denham said,

    Ah! Mr “Lenin” aka Seymour: there is no way the SWP will prove themselves to be friends of trade unionists, democrats or socialists in Iran; you lot are too compromised as supporters of the Islamofascist regime. No Iranian socialist would trust the SWP any further han they could throw it: as far as iranian socialists are concerned, the SWP are traitors to the cause of socialism, and have shown themselves to be friends of the Islamofascist regime. Seymour is an excellent example; of couse, in yeras to come the SWP’s capacity for lying about its past may very well come into play. They may even rediscover their “Third Camp” politics: if and when they do, I hope I’ll still be around to denounce them for the liars and opportunists they’ll be, are now, and always have been.

  7. Janine said,

    You see, just to prove the previous comments by Jim and Volty to be correct, ‘Lenin’ has started the historical re-write already. Brilliant.

  8. modernity said,

    I wonder if Lenny’s double-think will extend to purging old copies of Socialist Worker or his blog of thier pro-theocracy slant?

    it’s probably got a lot to do with the fallout from the Respect split, the SWP has had to re-think (such a novelty for them) their lines and now don’t know they what to do.

    it is amusing to watch SWP intellectuals at the SU blog defend Rowan Williams’s idea to extend the power of religious groups in society

    you’d never know that most SWPers were atheists and for them to buy into the whole “some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state” is another sign of their amazing mental decline

    I wonder how an Irishman such as Lenny would argue for an increased role of religious groups in Northern Ireland?

    as surely the lesson from there has been that encouraging religious division is poisonous to society and the working class in general

    what linguistical twists and postmodernist gobbledygook will Lenny use to justify greater religious interference in society, and the privileging of religious views over those who do not hold them?

  9. voltaires_priest said,

    we are not about to merge with the HOPI position of demanding that all antiwar activity be diluted with slogans denouncing the ‘theocracy’ (which is a liberal

    And the prize for sheer stupidity goes to Mr Seymour for desperately trying to claim that the state with the supreme leader “Ayatollah” Khameini exists solely in scare quotes. Because, like, you know, that’s how it looks from ULU.

    Enjoy being Bukhari’s puppet when your next talk gets booked.

  10. Lobby Ludd said,

    Jim Denham uses the term “Islamofascist”

    This is something for the Nick Cohens of the world. It is not serious politics.

  11. twp77 said,

    The response from Lenin was unfortunately what was to be expected. They continue to assert that HOPI has called for the anti-war movement to be “diluted” with slogans about the “theocracy” (would Lenin care to explain why he thinks the Iranian regime is NOT a theocracy which is implied by his use of quotes around the term?)

    HOPI has never called for a dillution (what does that actually mean Lenny???) – we’ve called for consistency. It appears however that the SWP is going to continue to try and justify the exclusion of HOPI on some spurious grounds instead of admit that they were wrong on Iran.

    LL – I don’t agree with Jim’s term because I don’t think there is such a thing as “Islamofascism” for one. It’s a sloppy term at best when used to describe Iran but is all to often used to describe anyone that Jim disagrees with as well. I suspect he knows I don’t agree with him on this.

  12. rsgoteborg said,

    interview with iranien Student leader

  13. anti zionism said,

    HOPI IS AN ISLAMOPHOBIA INDUSTRY helping the zionist Jews leftist. The Left in the West is led by the zionist Jews to protect the apartheid state’s interest. That’s why they never bring zionism, the main enemy of the present, into discussion. They have not great damage to Palestinian’s struggle for justice and helped zionist agenda. One example is Chomsky who focuses on ‘imperialism’ to divert attention from ZIONISM and keep people fool as ever, but whoever does not accept the official story of 9/11 is going to be condemned by zionist Chomsky being accused of ‘conspiracy theory’. Give me a break. HOPI’s main activity is against Islam and not against ‘imperialism’ or zionism. They go, like Israel and US, against resistence movement in the region like Hizbollah, Hamas and Iran and leave both US AND ISRAEL offf the hook. HOPI is filled with the zionist jews in the organization who determine the policy. Majority of the ‘leftist’ organization are ZIONIST and control by the Jews, like the White House, the senate, the congress and the banks.

    • roozbeh said,

      “jew zionist”, sounds a lot like the fascoist islamist regime of Irans vocabulary!

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