Iran solidarity: mobilise for 26 June!

June 21, 2009 at 9:23 pm (Iran, Jim D, unions, workers)

Support trade union rights on 26 June
“The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company fully supports this movement of Iranian people to build a free and independent civil society, and condemns any violence and oppression.

“…the Syndicate requests that 26 June, which has been called by international trade union organisations a day of action for justice for Iranian workers , include the human rights of all Iranians who have been deprived of their rights.”


Several international trade union federations (ITCU, EI,ITF, IUF) have called an international day of 'Justice for Iranian workers', showing support to workers in Iran who have been imprisoned and harassed by tghe Iranian state for trying to organise trade unions, and calling for Iran to respect international labour standards.

This was before the current turmoil surrounding the elections. It is more important than ever now to show our support for democratic rights in Iran. Please circulate this information and attend the protest – with banners where possible.

Friday 26 June, 12.30 -1.30pm, Iranian embassy,
16 Prince’s Gate, London SW7 1PT

More details:

href=””>Vicki writes:

Iran_flyer_26_June.pdf (73KB)
Please find attached a leaflet for the protest on 26 June. I did one since the TUC one is not very good! Please send to contacts and, if you can, come on Friday. We’re hoping that pictures can get back to Iran of the protest, so union banners would be a big encouragement to the trade unionists there. The Vahed busworkers are expecting, apparently!
Joe and I were at the HOPI meeting yesterday. About 30 people, mostly old/middle-aged, in far-left groups (people like me, then!). Yassamine Mather and Moshe Machover spoke for a couple of hours, there was an open debate. I had notes of the speeches, but thankfully videos of the speeches have been posted on the HOPI website!
Moshe Machover did not say much that one would not expect. He did mention ‘Matgamna’ scathingly! I tried to defend the honour of the AWL but probably did not do a very good job of it – I hope that is not on the tape.
I have not followed HOPI (enough); they were very lukewarm about Friday’s protest – they will go but to intervene with a leaflet, rather than build it. There has been some scandal about a Canada based workers’ solidarity campaign getting involved with someone connected to someone who was advocating ‘regime change’ in Iran, all linking back to the ITUC… I do not know the ins and outs but will investigate.
I think I have been hanging out with the trades council too much, because the whole meeting struck me as being too narrowly focused and concerned with getting the line right, rather than building lots of solidarity, which I am sure can be done.

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Slash and Burn!

June 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm (capitalist crisis, elections, Max Dunbar)

It’s become the conventional wisdom of These Troubled Economic Times™ that whoever wins the next election will have to make serious cuts in public spending. This is bad news for Labour which can no longer present itself as the party of investment versus Tory cuts. Rather, the debate will focus on what will be cut and where – points on which the politicians remain nebulous.

I always think it would be fun to be the guy tasked with coming up with a list of things that can be cut from public spending. Here’s a few things that the treasury would stop paying for if I had my way:

  • ID cards, of course.
  • Corporate welfare.
  • Homeopathy on the NHS – in fact any treatment that has no clinical evidence to support it.
  • Irritating government-produced information campaigns on commercial radio, particularly the anti-smoking and DVLA ones.
  • Useless jobseeking courses that serve only to waste the claimant’s time.
  • Any faith-based group that receives government funding would have to prove a clear benefit to its service users and comply with human rights legislation or have its money cut off.
  • Fire anyone in local government who earns more than the Prime Minister.
  • Fire anyone who has more than three words in their job title.
  • I’d also cancel Olympics 2012.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Further suggestions more than welcome.

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Stroppy digs Ornette

June 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm (blogosphere, Blogroll, jazz, Jim D)

Strops assures me that she thoroughly enjoyed the Ornette Coleman concert. Good!

A bit like this:


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SWP on Iran Protests

June 21, 2009 at 10:33 am (Iran, SWP, voltairespriest)

There has been mention in comments here about the SWP having come up with a “line” on the Iran protests over the past week. Many would claim it represents a change of tack from lines taken over previous political questions, whilst others (including no doubt the SWP themselves) would say it is consistent. That’s a part of the age-old dance that is sectarian Trotskyite political discourse in the UK, and it is unlikely to change massively in the near future – waiting for Trots to stop squabbling about questions of political consistency is a recipe for, well, a very long wait.

Either way, here’s an article from Socialist Worker that seems to encapsulate that new line in a reasonably concise manner:

People power rocks Iran

There is a new popular power sweeping Iran. In one of the biggest mass demonstrations since the toppling of the US-backed Shah in 1979, some one million people descended onto the streets of the capital Tehran to protest at an election widely seen as rigged.

The mass demonstration grew out of an unprecedented protest that took place on Friday night – the day of a key presidential election. Many believed that a popular reformer, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, would win the vote.

They were shocked when the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was declared the winner just hours after the polls closed.

Fearing that the election had been rigged, Mousavi’s supporters staged a series of public protests. In a mass show of defiance Iranians took to the roofs of their buildings to chant “Marg bar diktator!”, which means “death to the dictator”.

This was the slogan of the 1979 revolution.

On Saturday Ahmadinejad held a “victory rally” in Tehran. But across the city, and in other parts of the country, spontaneous demonstrations erupted where people chanted, “Our votes were stolen.” In the southern city of Isfahan riot police were driven out of popular neighbourhoods.

Police and regime militias attacked the protests. Demonstrators responded by setting buses alight and building barricades.


That night, amid growing fear of a massive crackdown, students held secret rallies and called for more demonstrations. The government-backed militia attacked Tehran university campus killing five students.

But the protests did not subside. On Monday a mass demonstration was called in defiance of a government ban. This time many ordinary people joined the throng of students and activists who form the bedrock of the reform movement.

Government thugs opened fire on the crowd and killed seven protesters. Their deaths bring back the memories of the mass repression unleashed by the Shah in the dying days of his regime.

On Tuesday, Mousavi called off further demonstrations after the government caved in to demands for a recount. As Socialist Worker went to press, reports were emerging of mass arrests. Former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtah is thought to be among those detained.

Yet whatever happens over the next few days, the people of Iran have shown their power – and their thirst for change.

Original article here.

For whatever reason it has happened, I’d have to say that there’s nothing in the article which I’d disagree with. If it means that the SWP intend to take solidarity actions with the people of Iran very seriously, then that is only to be welcomed. Let’s see what happens.

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Give the marbles back!

June 21, 2009 at 12:49 am (history, hitchens, Jim D)

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatch’d thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!

Lord Byron, “Childe Harold”

With the opening of this wonderful new museum , there is no longer any excuse: give the marbles back!

More than 200 years after a British diplomat arranged to have large sculptures from the Parthenon shipped to Britain, Christopher Hitchens says the objects should now be returned. A new state-of-the-art museum in Athens wants them, but officials at the British Museum plan to hold on to one of their most famous collections.

Listen to Hitchens talk about the subject here

… and see also new article in NY Times on the same subject… A Home for the Marbles.
H/t: Will at the Sots

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Iran: the workers mobilise

June 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm (class, democracy, fascism, Free Speech, Human rights, Iran, Jim D, unions, workers)

By Al Giordano

The workers of the Khodro automobile company in Iran today issued the following declaration (translated for The Field from the original Farsi by Iraj Omidvar):

Strike in Iran Khodro:

We declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran.

Autoworker, Fellow Laborers (Laborer Friends): What we witness today, is an insult to the intelligence of the people, and disregard for their votes, the trampling of the principles of the Constitution by the government. It is our duty to join this people’s movement.

We the workers of Iran Khodro, Thursday 28/3/88 in each working shift will stop working for half an hour to protest the suppression of students, workers, women, and the Constitution and declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran. The morning and afternoon shifts from 10 to 10:30. The night shift from 3 to 3:30.

Laborers of IranKhodor

This announcement – to my knowledge this is the first place it appears in English anywhere – obtained by The Field by the auto workers of the largest automobile producer in Iran, is significant on multiple levels.

The obvious one is that once the workers begin to flex their muscles on the means of production, no illegitimate regime can continue standing.

Another is that it reveals the malicious lie spread by some that the Iranian resistance is an upper class phenomenon restricted to one or two regions for what it is: untrue.

Another is that it reminds us that the early resistance movement that led to the toppling of the Shah in the 1970s was not primarily theological, but secular and from the left. These workers, many of them, are the children and grandchildren of union organizers and members from that era. They remember.

If the aut o workers work slowdown and protest begins to spread to oil workers and other sectors of industrial labor, watch out. That is the one factor that could most hasten the fall of the regime.


(Note: the photo above is a file photo of Iran Khodro workers, not taken today.)

Update I: Translations of original news reports in Farsi are starting to come in. The following are also by Iraj Omidvar…

The slogans carried by the people in photos published by BBC Persian are as follows:

Epic of Chaff and Straws

Martyred brother, sleep in eternal paradise. I am awake in defense of your blood.

Congratulations, Brother, on Your Martyrdom

Imam Khomeini, You Are Not Here to See that They Stole Our Votes and Smeared Our Blood on Dirt

Democracy (image of leaves and branches growing from a baton)

Give Us Our Votes Back!!! (English)

Where Is My Vote? (English)

Silence Is the Loudest Scream

Election or Selection? (English)

Selections from the main news article:

BBC Persian sites Guardian as having estimated the crowds in the hundreds of thousands.

Mousavi wore black like most protesters

No sign of Basijis

Apparently a man talking to a Wall Street Journal reporter was approached during the interview by a paramilitary man, targeted the man’s neck and killed him…

Update II: Here is what’s on Pyknet right now, translated by Iraj Omidvar for The Field:

MAIN HEADLINE: News from behind the coup curtain: Proposal for a referendum for accepting or rejecting the election results.

In some informed quarters in Iran, it is being said: H. Rafsanjani has informed A. Khamenei of the results of his consultations in Qom. Some have interpreted these consultations and their result as a call for assembling the Council of Experts behind closed door with some of the main figures of the Council. What has been divulged through hints about these consultations is that it has been suggested to the leader, that he for ending the current situation, without supporting any side, should support a national referendum to answer people’s question of “”whether they accept or do not accept the election results.” The results of this referendum will decide whether a new (presidential) election is needed or no. . . . .


NOTICE: It has been reported from the demonstration in remembrance of the victims of the people’s protest against the coup of Khordad 22 in Tehran that Mir Hossein Mousavi, at the end of his short speech to the people, has said that in order to avoid conflict and violent activities, the Green Movement will not participate in tomorrow’s Friday prayers in Tehran.

Update III: Here’s a super-interesting report from Al Jazeera about the Ayatollah Khamenei and his “big speech” tomorrow that is intended to save his ass set things right:

The Supreme Leader has many options on the table, from annulling the election to announcing a violent crackdown on the resistance. Friday is going to be a very interesting day…

Update IV: Andrew Sullivan’s got a gripping YouTube video up from the city of Ifsahan, filmed from a rooftop in an apartment complex where Basij “revolutionary militias” are raiding homes. Here’s a summary of what is being said by the video makers on the roof:

The man and woman speaking are seemingly family from this neighborhood. They are witnessing (and saying this on the video in disbelief) the attack of the basijis on people’s homes, they are invading people’s homes and shooting at them, chasing them up to their own roofs and shooting them down.

The woman speaking is trying to reach her mother but the phone calls don’t go through. She is taking the video and crying at the injustice, saying “How can I take this video and just watch people getting killed inside their own homes.” The man yells at the basijs or police “Shame on you heartless people, don’t shoot at people” and the woman cries out “I hope you all die” and the man runs off for help presumably and asks her to keep filming.

It’s difficult to understand the mentality of the regime’s defenders. They don’t believe it, but that level of brutality is what they are shilling for…

Update V: Iraj Omidvar translates from Entekhab News for The Field:

2:51 PM, 28 of Khordad 1388 (That’s today our time)

According to measurements in the demonstrations by the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi in the Azadi Square, at least three million people were present.
A representative of the Principalist faction (caucus) on the sides of yesterday’s public meeting of the Majles (parliament) stated unofficially that according to the report submitted to the Majles from Mohamad Bagher Ghalibaf, mayor of Tehran, in the demonstrations by the supporters of of Mir Hossein Mousavi in the Azadi Square at least three million people were present.
Three million in a city of 7.5 million population. Think about it.

H/t: Bob from Brockley

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900 sacked at Lindsey: unofficial action spreads

June 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm (Jim D, Socialist Party, unions, workers)


Lindsey Oil Refinery strike: 900 sacked, support grows

Yesterday, solidarity action spread in support of the Shaw workers (sub-contractor at Lindsey) who had been laid off.
Now Total, who run the Lindsey Oil Refinery, have gone on the offensive. They have sacked 900 workers.
The strike has now escalated dramatically! Solidarity messages of support must be urgently sent to or texts sent to 07706 7 10041.
Please also try to get leading figures in Trade Unions to send them too.

Below is the text of a Socialist Party LOR Newsletter dated 18 June 2009

Socialist Party LOR Newsletter

Supported by Keith Gibson ex LOR strike cttee, Trevor Grewar Hull Amicus/Unite branch chair, John McEwan national stewards forum, Steve Jones LOR steward (all in personal capacities)

The Facts:- Last Weds 10th June, 51 Shaws workers were given “imminent redundancy notices” to take effect from Friday 12th.

THERE WAS NO CONSULTATION. On Monday 8th June, Blackett & Charlton (RBC) had taken on 61 recruits in almost identical numbers and trades to those being sacked by Shaws.

The Shaws workers were given NO OPPORTUNITY TO TRANSFER. Remember that RBC are only at LOR as a result of the 102 new jobs created by January’s strike which was provoked by a third of Shaws contract being awarded to anti-union firm IREM.

On Thurs 11th, Shaws workers walked out of the gate, supported by scaffolders from S.G.B, electricians for B.K., and other trades from B.I.S.

O’Hares and RBC, and have all stayed out on strike. Jacobs’ management, who’s strings are being pulled by Total, have refused to negotiate unless there is a return to work.

But have stated that the 51 will still be sacked anyway. Faced with this ultimatum, a mass meeting of LOR workers yesterday (Weds 17th) voted unanimously to continue the strike until the 51 redundancies are withdrawn.

It is clear now that the LOR bosses are using this dispute (caused by their own mis-management and their reneging on agreements made in February) to seek revenge for their forced climbdown by the strike earlier this year.

Taken with the leaked ECIA advice to employers on subverting the official union strike ballot, the bosses have declared war against the trade unions, shop stewards and the NAECI agreement.

That is why we appeal for your support. Unity is strength. Together we will win. AGAIN.



  • Continue the Strike at LOR until 51 redundancies withdrawn
  • Place pickets at all LOR gates and appeal to tanker drivers not to cross
  • Call for solidarity strike action across all NAECI sites


Fiddlers Ferry (since Monday)
Aberthaw (300 walked out yesterday)
Conoco (2-300 walked yesterday and joined LOR pickets)
Dragon, BOC Scunthorpe & Hartlepool Power Station


Ferrybridge, Stanlow, BP Saltend, Eggborough, West Burton, Cottam, Ratcliffe, Staythorpe, Wilton and maybe more.

H/t: Socialist Party

See also Comrade Dave

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In This Dawn

June 17, 2009 at 1:24 pm (elections, fascism, Iran, Islam, Max Dunbar, Middle East)

There is an opinion, expressed here, and here, that says: We must ‘cease propping up Arab despots and adopt a blatant bias towards democracy and its brave defenders… If that means accepting Islamist governments from Rabat to Islamabad, so be it.’ The first part of this sentence is absolutely bang on. The realpolitik idea (which the West has not entirely abandoned) of supporting convenient autocrats has brought violence and misery on both sides of the deal.

But does Arab democracy mean Islamist government? The evidence is unclear. In recent elections in India, in Lebanon, in Indonesia and in Iraq, the parties of God went down to defeat after humiliating defeat. From these results it could be argued that most people in the developing world don’t want theocratic government and, given the choice, will reject it.

As I write, there is growing unrest in Iran, reasonable allegations that the regime has rigged the recent election and repression of dissent and demonstration. What particularly got to me was this report of protestors coming to the aid of a police officer who had been injured in the clashes.

Something is happening. The mullahs’ propaganda channel can’t block it. Nor can the regime’s professional apologists with their tired and sordid arguments that the Iranian farmers all love Ahmadinejad to bits and that the demonstrators are all rich kids in North Tehran. That dog won’t fight, not any more. This revolution, if that’s what it is, will not just be televised but Twittered and YouTubed. Read Azarmehr:

This is the critical mass I have always talked about. This is what tips the balance, when people see such large numbers, their fear disappears and at the same time the riot guards become more unwilling to beat up the protesters and scared of their own future. We have now reached that point. So long as people lead with their demands and are not fooled by compromises designed to take the sting out of their momentum, then our day has finally come!

I hope this is the beginning of the end for theocracy in Iran. It’s too early to say. All you can do from the UK is watch, hope, show solidarity… and demonstrate. You are not alone. Viva Iran: death to fascism.

With that in mind, I turn to CiF where the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan answers the question ‘Can religion save the world?’ with an unqualified affirmative. From the jukebox of anti-secular arguments he claims that ‘religion and religiosity are on the up’ and asks: ‘Incidentally, so what if religious ideologies dominate over political ideologies?’ To combine a couple of cliches, this is one pro-faith leftist who has his head buried in sand and is way behind the times.


(Image from the Guardian)

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Desperately Seeking Liberalism

June 15, 2009 at 7:10 pm (Feminism, Human rights, Islam, Max Dunbar, religion)

bensonMy editor at Butterflies and Wheels, Ophelia Benson, recently released Does God Hate Women;  co-authored with fellow philosopher Jeremy Stangroom, the book is an exploration of the misogyny inherent in religious scripture and practice.

Last week Ophelia went on Radio 3 to debate the book with Humera Khan who, according to her website, is ‘one of the most important Muslim voices speaking and writing in Britain today’ and ‘a pioneer in the struggle to have faith-based identities – especially that of Muslims – recognised’. Ophelia was also up against Madeleine Bunting, a writer who, at least on a political blog, needs no introduction.

The debate begins around 23:30 minutes in and is well worth listening to – and be quick, because it’s only up for another couple of days. What’s great is that Rana Mitter, the moderator, seems really clued up and asks hard questions with a Paxmanesque zeal.



Isn’t there a fundamental point that there’s a patriarchal centre of religion that doesn’t really change?


There’s clearly evidence of patriarchy across all religions, and that’s because men have always tried to control female sexuality. But to get from that to the conclusion that ‘God hates women’ I find that absurd, you might as well ask, ‘Do men hate women’ and clearly there are a lot of nasty misogynist men out there but there are nice men as well.


The title, of course, is metaphoric, and it wasn’t meant to be taken literally.


I disagree with Madeleine, personally I can only talk with any confidence on Islam as a religion, is that the root of it I don’t believe there is patriarchy, I believe that in a sense patriarchy or matriarchy can evolve according to circumstances and people put values and meaning and can perpetuate oppressive systems, it doesn’t mean to say that I think there aren’t oppressive systems and there is a lot of oppression in the Muslim world.


That’s a very interesting abstract point, Humera, but isn’t the reality of the history of let’s say Islam, in practice there has always been patriarchy, where is the Islamic matriarchy?


Well, if you go to Indonesia, you find some tribes in Indonesia and other countries, you do find some matriarchies, and also if you look in Britain, in some Muslim communities, they are quite driven by women, you do find that the men have very little role in the family. We have a lot of work to do in questioning the way the texts have been interpreted and sometimes women have been excluded from the public space and you could argue that women have been hurt by misinterpretation of religion.


Ophelia, isn’t there something in that argument that religion provides a public space that women can occupy?


I suppose there is, but that space comes at a terribly high price, what Humera says is true enough, but what she’s saying when you read between the lines is that this is an extremely minority phenomenon and that the overall picture still is one of patriarchy and of basic misogyny and of people resisting change.

Later, we return to this theme:


I find it hard with these kinds of discussions because people like Ophelia always come from a Eurocentric tradition –


But Islam is universal, like all religions, isn’t it?


When we’re trying to unpick what’s happening in society today, you know the violence, the negative – I mean, not all patriarchy is bad.


What is the plus side of patriarchy?


Well, I’ve had this discussion with many people, who say that patriarchy actually can work where there’s justice, where people are negotiating –


Give us an example of a situation where that would be the case.


Well, we have to define patriarchy first, I mean, not the general term –


Briefly, I fear –


(starts talking very fast)

That men have a role where that role is outside the home and they negotiate it, but they have equal role in making decisions and democratic decision making, for the well being of the family and the well being of the community and they share certain values, and that’s what I’d say, in the same sense you have matriarchal societies that do that, I’m not advocating any of them, all I’m saying is that there’s possibilities that people can negotiate them.


So Ophelia, could there be a good patriarchy, is that something that could come into your model?


No, it isn’t, patriarchy I think by definition really does refer to a form of inequality and I just don’t think there is a plus side to inequality.

There’s one particularly good point made by Mitter to Khan:


Aren’t these sorts of arguments that yourself and Madeleine Bunting use just an attempt by religious people to find a liberal narrative that isn’t really there?

Got it in one.

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A night out with Dave, Stroppy…and Ornette

June 14, 2009 at 7:00 pm (blogosphere, jazz, Jim D, liberation, music, strange situations)

Friends and fans of Mr Osler and/or The Stroppy One might fancy a night on the town in their agreeable company. However, it will also involve listening to this:


Look at that audience of fun-seekers…do you see yourself there? Even with Dave and Stropps? Quite.

But for those who fancy a  good-time night on the tiles with this unlikely trio…

…contact Dave:

I’M OFF to Lisbon for a couple of days to, er, watch a building being opened. I may or may not post, depending on whether I can work out how to use the office laptop at the airport.

Meanwhile, a short commercial interlude. Because my mate Jerry couldn’t make it, I have one ticket spare for two of the gigs at Ornette Coleman’s Meltdown next week.

Best seats in the Royal Festival Hall – and no other seats in the RFH are worth having – are available for Charlie Haden (with guests Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt) on Saturday and the king of harmolodics himself on Sunday.

And you get to sit next to me and Stroppy. Going at face value if you are a genuine fan. Email me if you are interested.

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