Why Washington hates Iran - free pamphlet download

The following is the introduction to Why Washington Hates Iran: A Political Memoir of the Revolution That Shook the Middle East, a new Socialist Voice pamphlet published by South Branch Publications. The entire pamphlet is available for free download from http://readingfromtheleft.com/PDF/WhyWashingtonHatesIran.pdf.

The author, Barry Sheppard, was a member of the US Socialist Workers Party for 28 years, and a central leader of the party for most of that time. In 2005, Resistance Books published the first volume of his political memoir, The Party: The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988. The new pamphlet is a chapter from the second volume, now in preparation.

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By Barry Sheppard

The United States and its client garrison state of Israel are openly saber-rattling against Iran. The immediate issue is Iran’s nuclear program. Both Washington and Tel Aviv have stated that it would be “unacceptable” for Iran to develop the capacity to make nuclear weapons, and threaten a pre-emptive military strike possibly including atomic weapons.

Iran states its nuclear program is for peaceful uses only. But even if Iran wants to have a future capacity to develop its own bomb, the US and Israeli stance is patently hypocritical, as both are armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. They seek to preserve Israel’s status as the sole nuclear power in the Middle East. However, more is involved. Washington seeks to turn back Iran’s growing influence in the region resulting from the failed US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Widening the war to include Iran and possibly Pakistan, however irrational it would be, could be a desperate gamble for the US to somehow pull its chestnuts out of the fire.

If there is such an attack, the Iranian people will unite to oppose it. Iran has many cards to play. Its armed forces are stronger than Iraq’s were before the US invasion. It has middle-range missiles. It has important influence with its ally, Syria, and armed sympathizers in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine Partisans of Iran are capable of waging irregular warfare (“terrorism” in Washington’s jargon) against US interests throughout the world. The recent escalation of tensions between Washington and Moscow has redrawn the map of international relations and thrown a monkey wrench into any plans to attack Iran. As of this writing cooler heads are prevailing in the US administration, but this could rapidly change in the current unstable situation.

The confrontation with Iran is the latest manifestation of the hostility the US has maintained against that country for three decades, since the 1979 Revolution. A central thrust of that Revolution was the overthrow of US imperialism’s direct control of Iran through its proxy regime of the Shah. This anti-imperialist aspect of the revolution was very deep and survives to this day, which explains why any attack on Iran will be met with a mobilization of the Iranian people.

This pamphlet consists of a chapter which will appear in the second volume of a political memoir of my time as a central leader of the US Socialist Workers Party and earlier of its youth group, the Young Socialist Alliance. It tells the story of the first year of the revolution from the prism of my involvement in it. I was in Tehran during the February 1979 insurrection, and returned twice. It isn’t a history of that year, and it doesn’t cover the development of Iran in the following years and decades. Other chapters of my book will include information on the years 1980-1988 in Iran, including the violent suppression of the left and the US-backed Iraqi war against Iran.

My companion Caroline Lund and I were living in Paris in 1979. We were part of the leadership team of the Trotskyist Fourth International, representing the Socialist Workers Party. I was assigned to go to Iran early in 1979, and Caroline went back to New York while I was in Iran. That is how I happened to be there during the insurrection.

I agree with the editors of Socialist Voice that publication of this chapter at this time, before the book is published, will help explain US hostility toward Iran and the anti-imperialism of the Iranian people as a background to the present crisis.

The chapter also, I believe, sheds light on the contradictions of the Iranian Revolution, contradictions which persist to the present day. Many on the left internationally have a one-sided view of the Iranian Revolution, and tend to dismiss it because of the capitalist Islamic clerical regime that emerged from it. It is beyond the scope of this pamphlet to describe present-day Iranian reality, but the contradictions between the capitalist regime and the demands of the workers, peasants, women and oppressed nationalities continue, with the regime being forced to make concessions while at the same time continuing repression to maintain its rule.

Iran’s response to the imperialist threats suffers from the fact that it is governed by a capitalist regime, beset by corruption and conflict within its leadership, while the workers’ movement in the country is not politically independent although it has waged some militant struggles for better wages and living conditions.

Another aspect of this chapter is the heroic role that was played by Iranian revolutionists, in spite of the small size of their organizations, in the cauldron of the revolution. They got it right. They were intransigent supporters and defenders of the revolution unlike many Iranian leftists who turned against it in face of the repression of the new capitalist regime. At the same time, as they formed the Iranian Socialist Workers Party, they retained their independence and intransigent defence of the workers, peasants, women and oppressed nationalities — the backbone of the Iranian Revolution.

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Download the full text of Why Washington Hates Iran: A Political Memoir of the Revolution That Shook the Middle East at http://www.socialistvoice.ca/?page_id=223

Purchase the first volume of Barry Sheppard’s political memoir at http://www.barrysheppardbook.com (North America) or from Resistance Books.

lmost three traumatic decades after the Iranian revolution of 1979, left-wingers everywhere have difficulty understanding how a socially and theologically conservative Islamic government could find itself more and more linked with left wing and revolutionary forces, such as the leadership of the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions. Bolivian president Evo Morales has been visiting Iran recently, and finding warmth and friendship, and expanded bases for economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic. Here's some late news about that:

Bolivia's Morales visit Libya and Iran for energy cooperation
Why is Washington still so hostile to Iran, and more and more as time marches on today?

Iran’s real crime, in the eyes of the Pentagon and the corporate oil giants who determine U.S. policy, is that it is determined to use its resources for the further development of its own economy. The other oil-producing states in the region are corrupt semi-feudal regimes, each with a compliant and dependent ruling class. These regimes are under the total control of U.S. corporations and banks. The largest portion of their vast revenue from oil sales is wasted in purchases of U.S. weapons systems or invested in U.S. banks.

Millions of Iranian people participated in the 1978 revolution that overthrew the corrupt U.S.-backed shah. Since then, great social advances have transformed Iran. Once the people liberated their oil resources from the control of giant U.S. and British corporations, billions of dollars were available to develop Iranian industries and social services.

In less than two decades, Iran moved from 90 percent illiteracy for rural women to full literacy; more than half the university graduates are now women. Stunning improvements in totally free as well as subsidized health care meant record-breaking improvements in life expectancy, birth control and infant mortality. Even according to World Bank figures, Iran has exceeded the social gains of any other country in the region.

This is what U.S. policy makers are determined to reverse. They want control of the vast wealth that comes from every aspect of exploration, pumping, transport and refining of the planet’s most valuable and needed resource. They are willing to destroy millions of lives and spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war in this struggle.
SOURCES: http://www.workers.org/2008/world/iran_0731/index.html
Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

Let’s impose the release of the labor activists and other political prisoners on the Islamic Regime of Iran with our united struggle

The attacks by the oppressive Islamic Regime of Iran against the activists of the labor movement, the women’s and students’ movements as well as journalists, teachers, cultural activists and other freedom-lovers has been continuing fiercely and everyday more political fighters are arrested, tortured and executed.

Meanwhile, under the dark rule of the capitalist state, poverty, unbearably high price rates of the basic necessities and inflation can be seen all over the Iranian society and the increasingly spreading effect of these due to the economic sanctions imposed by the western countries over the regime’s atomic dispute, has led to a risky and hard life for the workers and toiling people. Following shows few cases of the regime’s dark records in taking measures against the labor activists and other political prisoners:

- Afshin Shams Ghahfarokhi, one the activists in “ The Coordinating Committee for Forming Labor Organizations” and a member of “Mahmood Salehi’s Defense Committee” as well as “The Assembly of the Caricaturists”, was arrested by the regime’s agents on the 3rd of July 2008 at his workplace in the city of Aligoodarz and was transferred to a prison in Isfahan.

Mansoor Osanloo, the labor activist and the Head the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, is still in prison. The arrestees of the May First rallies in Sanandaj have been sentenced to long imprisonments and other antihuman punishments such as receiving lashes.

- As measures to prevent the commemoration of the anniversary of “Tir 18” (8th of July), many students among who are Sajjad Rajabi, Mohamad Mizban, Anoosheh Azadfar, Mohamad Poor Abdolla, Nassim Soltan-Baygi, Bizhan Sabagh, Abed Tavancheh, Towhid Dawlatshenas, Mohamad Zara’ati, Farzad Hassanzade, Asgar Akbarzadeh, Habibolla Latifi and Hossein Hosseini were arrested during several attacks by the regime’s oppressive forces and put in jail.

- Numerous political and cultural activists, fighting teachers and progressive journalists and Weblog writers have been jailed and several of them been sentenced to death. Among these activists are Farzad Kamangar, Kamal Sharifi, Farhad Hajmirza’i, Sadigh Mina’I, Farhad Vakili, Adnan Hassanpour, Hiva Bootimar, Anvar Hassanpanahi, Sasan Baba’i, Mohamad Sadigh-e-Kaboodvand, Arsalan Awlia’i, many of whom have been on food strike during the last days in different cities.

- Hana Abdi, Fatema (Vida) Dehghanian, Zinab Bayazidi, Roonak Safazadeh, Shahnaz Gholami, Parvin Ardalan, Jolveh Javaheri, Maryam Hosseinkhah, Nahid Keshavarz and tens of other women rights activists have been arrested and imprisoned for fighting against the regime’s medieval laws and regulations.

Imprisonment, terror and assassination of the workers leaders and activists and the political dissidents and imposing a political dictatorship has been the continuing policy of this anti-worker and anti-freedom regime from the first day. The Islamic Regime in Iran not only has deprived the workers, the women, the students and all the freedom-loving people from their rights of self-organization, freedom of speech and all other political and social rights but has also answered to any just voice by police violence, terror and torture.

At the same time, the wide protests by the workers, the glorious actions by the leftist and freedom-loving students, the efforts and struggles by the women movements and other political activists and prisoners has shown to the anti-worker government of the Islamic Regime that the increasing wide mass protests are irreversible and that the labor activists, the leftist and freedom-loving students and other political activists, the working class or any other social movement will not be frightened by the wave of the oppression and imprisonments.

While condemning the arrest and the imprisonment of the labor activists, the students, the women and the progressive intellectuals and artists, we stand up for the freedom of all the political prisoners and call up on all the workers rights institutions, the leftist and communist organizations and progressive and freedom-loving public opinion to defend these struggles and put in serious effort to release all the labor activists and all other political activists. Only through a united and constant struggle by the working class and other progressive and freedom-loving movements inside Iran, the wide international support and solidarity and revealing the regime’s policies of terror and oppression, we can set a retreat on the Islamic anti-worker and anti-freedom regime in Iran.

The Political Prisoners Must Be Released!

Long Live Freedom, Equality and the Working Government!
The Abroad Committee of the Communist Party of Iran
September 6th 2008
Communist party of Iran of Abroad Committee
Box 2018, 127 02 Stockholm-Sweden
www.cpiran.org E-mail: kkh@cpiran.org


Barry Shepherd says: ""The SWP did what it could to oppose the threat of war through its election campaigns, forums and sales of The Militant. Our task was to tell the truth about the history of US imperialism’s role in Iran and about the revolution. We were fighting against the stream, as Washington’s chauvinist propaganda made headway among the American people....
""Many others on the left were disoriented by the ruling class’s campaign and were swept up in its wake. Another factor was that many had turned against the revolution, conflating the Khomeini leadership with the revolution itself in the belief that the Iranian masses were rightist religious fanatics....
""A few in the SWP and YSA were also affected by the jingoist pressure, and dropped out because of our uncompromising stand.""

Ï agree that in the first year or two after the overthrow of the Shah, the US SWP was largely correct in its approach to to Iranian revolution. But over time a number of errors began to develop.
The SWP failed to recognise that within two or three years the revolutionary upsurge in Iran had been largely contained, and a relatively stable bourgeois-nationalist regime established. Popular militancy was either repressed or channeled into mass organisations that supported the government and did not threaten capitalist property.
The SWP was correct to defend Iran against the imperialist-backed Iraqi invasion, which occurred in 1980. However the SWP made an error by supporting the Khomeini regime's attempts to carry the war into Iraq, after the Iraqi invasion of Iran had been defeated. This was based on the false assumption that the Iraqi masses would see the Iranian bourgeois army as an army of liberation.
Another problem was that the differences between the SWP and most other US leftists over Iran fed the SWP's growing sectarianism. The SWP became increasingly contemptuous of nearly everyone else on the left, who were seen as capitulating to imperialist propaganda on Iran. The SWP became reluctant to cooperate with others on the left even on issues where agreement existed (e.g. defence of Nicaragua against US aggression).
The SWP campaigned vigorously in support of the Iranian revolution, including by expressing solidarity with the students who took over the US embassy in Teheran in November 1979 and held US diplomats and embassy staff hostage for 444 days.
The students occupying the embassy were motivated by a justified anger at the role of US imperialism in Iran. The role of socialists in the US was to explain this anger and oppose imperialist intervention in Iran, which the SWP certainly did.
However the prolonged holding of the hostages gave the US ruling class an opportunity to stir up chauvinism amongst the American people to fever pitch. The SWP courageously defended the embassy occupiers, but could do little to stem the tidal wave of US chauvinism. The political climate in the US moved to the right, resulting in the election of Reagan. The left was marginalised.

In writing about the embassy seizure the SWP focused on solidarity with the occupiers (who were motivated by genuine anti-imperialist sentiments), without adequately analysing the motives of the Khomeini wing of the government, which planned and organised the occupation (See Dilip Hiro: “Iran under the Ayatollahs”, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1987, p 136-7).
The occupiers called themselves “Muslim students following the Imam’s [i.e. Khomeini’s] line”. The embassy seizure was a weapon used by Khomeini’s supporters against the “liberal” wing of the government, led at that time by the prime minister Mehdi Bazargan; but it was also a tactic used to help marginalise the left. The Khomeini faction used the occupation as a way of gaining credibility by appearing to be the most intransigent anti-imperialists, and thereby attracting radical youth and workers away from the left groups and into the network of pro-Khomeini organisations (the Revolutionary Guards, the Jihad for Reconstruction, the Mobilisation Corps of the Oppressed, etc).
However some articles in the US SWP magazine Intercontinental Press were unclear about the nature of these organisations. Some of the Iranian socialists interviewed by IP seemed to see the pro-Khomeini organisations such as the Revolutionary Guards, Jihad and Mobilisation Corps as inherently revolutionary (See for example “Interview with an Iranian Socialist”, Intercontinental Press, October 18, 1982). It is true that some members of these organisations did at times take progressive positions on certain issues and sometimes came into conflict with reactionary actions by the government. But fundamentally they were bourgeois organisations, loyal to the bourgeois Khomeini regime. They coopted radicalising youth into becoming supporters of this regime.
The SWP continued to talk about “the Iranian revolution” even after the elements of dual power which were created in 1979 had largely been suppressed or coopted by the bourgeois state. It argued as follows: “By attacking the rights of workers, peasants, oppressed nationalities, and women, the Iranian regime has dealt significant blows to the gains of the revolution. But it has not crushed the revolution, as can be seen by the massive mobilizations of Iranians today to defend their revolution from Iraqi attack”. (“The US left and the Iraq-Iran war”, IP, May 14, 1984)
The revolution may not have been “crushed”, but by 1984 it had been contained. The bourgeois government had been stabilised. The upsurge of worker and peasant struggles, while not totally ended, had been dampened down. This was partly a result of repression, but partly also the success of the regime in drawing radicalising youth into “Islamic” organisations loyal to the government.
Economically the revolution had begun to retreat. The threat to the property of the capitalists and landlords had begun to recede.
During the first year of the revolution a lot of capitalist enterprises had been expropriated. This continued at a slower pace for a couple of years. In the countryside peasant land seizures occurred. The reaction of local authorities varied - sometimes the peasants were repressed, sometimes not. A land reform law was introduced in an attempt to regulate the process.
But by the end of 1982 an “economic thermidor” had begun (Shaul Bakhash, “The Reign of the Ayatollahs”, Basic Books, 1986, p 211-216). The Council of Guardians issued a series of rulings defending private property. They declared the land reform law invalid. Government officials in 1983 began offering to return the nationalised enterprises to their former owners.

I am prepared to accept that “the Iranian revolution” had not been crushed, provided we are clear that what survived was a bourgeois revolution with a bourgeois leadership. But similarly it is arguable that the Iraqi revolution had not been crushed either. The Iraqi monarchy, overthrown in 1958, had not been restored. Land reform had not been reversed. The Iraqi oil industry, nationalised in 1972, remained under state ownership. The Saddam Hussein regime had the support of a section of the Iraqi population on the basis of its Arab nationalist ideology, despite its repression of the left. (Admittedly in the early 1980s the Iranian regime probably had more genuine popular support than Saddam’s regime)
Economically the two regimes were similar. Both governments had nationalised most of the foreign-owned industries operating in their countries. This is one reason why both were later included in George Bush’s “axis of evil”.
The SWP however saw Iran and Iraq as qualitatively different. This led it to support the Iranian regime’s attempts to overthrow the Saddam regime by sending Iranian troops into Iraqi territory (after the Iraqi army had been driven out of most of the Iranian territory it had captured). Intercontinental Press (October 18, 1982) published without criticism an interview with an Iranian socialist who opposed a call from the Tudeh (Communist) Party for the Iranian regime to offer a peace agreement.
The Iranian socialist seems to have assumed that the Iranian armed forces would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi masses. However the Iranian army had very limited success in capturing Iraqi territory. Of course this was partly due to imperialist aid to Iraq; but it was also because most Iraqis did not see the Iranian bourgeois army as an army of liberation. Dilip Hiro argues that: “...the Iranian invasion of Iraq aided Saddam Hussein at home: he could convincingly brand his opponents as traitors”. (“Iran under the Ayatollahs”, p 232) A public offer of peace would have been more threatening to Saddam than an Iranian invasion.
The war dragged on inconclusively until 1988. The US backed Iraq because it was worried that an Iranian victory would inspire radical Islamist movements in other Middle Eastern countries that might replace pro-imperialist regimes with relatively independent capitalist regimes.
At that time, Iraq was allied with pro-imperialist regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. But this alliance was not set in stone, as the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait showed.
Iraq and Iran, both societies which had experienced bourgeois revolutions, had more in common with each other than either did with Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. The Iraq/Iran war undermined the gains of both revolutions. The Tudeh Party was correct to call for peace. Those Iranian socialists who opposed this demand were wrong. And the SWP was wrong to endorse the line of continuing the war.

The great majority of what Comrade Slee says does not concern this pamphlet, which is only about 1979. I will deal with the SWP after 1980, and Iran, in my next volume. Comrade Slee will then be able to asses my viewpoint on those matters after my next volume appears.

Barry Sheppard

It is easy to forget the sheer scale of the Iranian revolution and the massive mobilisations that drove it.Today there is such misrepresenation in the bourgeois media that it's hard to sort out the history of the country.

But to get around all that dross, the Iranian cinema carries a very different message. Abbas Kiarostam's  10 is an thoughtful insight into Iran today, especially on the status of women, as is the recently released Marjane Satrapi's Persopolis.

Satrapi comes from a Iranian communist family.

The main reason why the US is having a hard time to convinced other countries to stop trying to obtain nuclear technology , the fact that they have a stockpile of nuclear weapons makes these countries who at present at odds with the US administration understandably nervous.

I think if they want to convince others to stop their nuclear ambition then they should get rid of their own nuclear weapons first.

-Dino Delellis