This is a transcript of the first part of Amin Kazemi’s speech at the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty conference on Sunday October 27. The second part is about rebuilding a revolutionary international.
Comrades, thank you for inviting me to your conference and I hope you’ve had a good conference so far. I’m going to talk about Iran quite briefly and then move on to the very important subject of building a revolutionary international.
I’m sure you’ve read in the newspapers about Rohani going to New York, talking to Obama on the phone and various other initiatives taking place, including then a meeting in Geneva where the 5+1 powers have talked to the Iranian regime’s representatives and there is going to be another meeting in about two weeks’ time; to try start finding a resolution to this long-running crisis and disagreement about Iran’s nuclear energy or weapons’ programme.
There is a lot of talk about Rohani being a new, fresh and open person who wants to deal with the powers. That is true. But also there’s a lot of talk about him representing something new internally, some kind of a liberal who has somehow got in and is going to change things for the ordinary workers, the other layers, women and so on. But that’s not the truth. The truth is that Rohani is very much a central figure in the regime, dating right back to when Khomeini was in Paris waiting to return to Iran. He was also the main negotiator during the Iran-Contra affair, he was negotiating with Oliver North and Robert McFarlane in 1986 during Reagan’s presidency. So he’s an important figure in the regime, he’s no liberal, he’s no moderate really and his record as far as saying anything about the massacre of political prisoners after the war in 1988, or any of these abuses, there is nothing there. He’s never done anything to question anything that the regime, the majority of the regime, has been doing.
The reason they are appearing very moderate now is the very dire situation economically. On top of their own many failures, their own theft – basically, of the assets that belong to the workers – we’ve seen that the sanctions, especially the ones that were put in place about a year and a half ago, have hit the regime very hard, and of course they’ve hit the workers very hard. The poverty rate during the eight Ahmadinejad years has gone from 22% to 40%, this means that 40% of the population is below the poverty line. Youth unemployment is very high, even according to the official figures that are always underestimating what is really happening. Youth unemployment is about 26% and unemployment generally is 12.2%. The economy shrank by 5.4% last year, inflation officially is 42% and for foodstuffs is 60% – and there is a $28 billion budget deficit.
This is why they’re here trying to make a deal with the Americans and the other imperialist powers so they can save their own skin. There’s nothing for the workers in this, or any of the other oppressed layers and classes. In fact, for example, just yesterday they executed 16 people that they accused of being rebels. There are always executions going on in Iran. There’s a new law that’s about to be passed, where they’re proposing that a man can marry his step-daughter – and you know what that really means in a place like Iran – there is a whole load of these initiatives going on, and this man is basically there to present a face that’s acceptable to public opinion in Europe and America. It’s to let the regime get off the hook.
When I went to a CWU [Communications Workers’ Union] branch meeting about 8-9 years ago in East London, I went on behalf of IWSN, the Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network. When I was talking about defending Iranian workers, Iranian labour activists, an SLP [Socialist Labour Party] member there denounced me for helping the American imperialists to weaken the regime in the face of imperialism and so on. Given what is happening now, given what they themselves are saying, of course, there could some upsets, it could take 6-12 months to resolve this issue.
We can see clearly that any activity we do in terms of defending Iranian workers is not going to endanger this relationship that they have developed with the imperialist powers. So anybody that you know, in your trade union branch, student union or whatever, who in any way tries to say that we can’t do anything against the regime, you can say to them that this is a ridiculous thing, this nonsense can stop now, look at them, look at what they’re doing now with the imperialist and look at what they’re doing to the workers and the other oppressed and exploited layers in society.
So this is the time to really put pressure on your workmates, other people you’re in contact with, to really roll up their sleeves and get involved with solidarity work where Iranian workers are concerned. This is when they really need it and all excuses have gone out of the window now.
The comrades of AWL have been very active in supporting Iranian labour activists. Recently they started a petition campaign to collect 10,000 signatures in support of Shahrokh Zamani.