Sunday, April 6, 2008

Will NUS conference oppose war and support Iranian students?

On Sunday 16 March, delegates from universities and colleges across the country met for NUS conference “compositing”, the process by which the various motions and amendments submitted to the conference are quite literally chopped up and reconstructed in more manageable units. Among these was a motion from the National Executive Committee, proposed by ENS supporter Sofie Buckland, and a similar one from Sheffield College, proposed by ENS supporter Heather Shaw, which commit NUS to sharply oppose war and sanctions against Iran and organise practical solidarity with students, workers and others fighting to overthrow Iran’s theocratic government from below.
Unfortunately, the composited motion, which will be discussed as an amendment under the heading “Global solidarity” in the “Society & Citizenship” debate, will be opposed by some on the left, with a formal speech being requested by Plymouth University.Plymouth was represented at the compositing meeting by one of their sabbatical officers, Alison Smith, who is a member of the SWP and Student Respect. Alison and the other Respect comrades argued that, while they do support students and workers in Iran, any sharp criticism of the Iranian regime will strengthen the hands of the US and British governments and increase the possibility of war - even if tied to a strong anti-war stance.
ENS believes this is illogical and ridiculous; the final amendment, which is reproduced below, in any case deals with similar arguments in some detail. We appeal to both the Plymouth University delegation and the Student Respect comrades to drop their opposition to supporting our brothers and sisters in Iran, and to unite with ENS to ensure that the conference adopts a strong and principled anti-war/pro-solidarity position.

Amendment to “Global solidarity” in “Society & Citizenship” debate
Proposed by Sheffield College, National Executive Committee
Conference believes
1. The American government continues to sabre-rattle against Iran.2. The Iranian government continues to repress students, workers and women engaged in pro-democracy struggles, including the repeated imprisonment and physical assault of trade unionists.3. That the arrest of over 50 left-wing Iranian student activists for organising anti-government protests in December last year - and the death in custody of one of them, Ebrahim Lotfollahi - shows the urgent need for solidarity.4. It also confirms our perspective of combining 100% opposition to war on Iran with 100% support for students’, workers’, women’s and other democratic movements seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic from below.5. That in 1999 we elected Iranian student leader Ahmed Bahtebi as NUS Honorary Vice-President, and in 2007 we elected Tehran bus workers’ leader Mansoor Ossanlou to the same position.
Conference further believes
1. That large numbers of students participated in the 2002-2003 movement against the war in Iraq.2. That huge numbers of students have participated in radical, pro-democracy struggles in Iran.3. That while many thousands of students were involved in the campaign against war on Iraq, NUS gave formal support but stood on the sidelines. We should not make the same mistake again.4. That anti-war campaigning will be neither principled nor effective unless it makes solidarity with the people of Iran against the theocratic regime oppressing and exploiting them.5. Just because the pro-war camp might disingenuously highlight Iran’s lack of democracy in its propaganda does not mean we have to pretend the opposite is the case.6. That opposing any war, invasion or other military action by American and/or its allies against Iran does not require us to silence our criticisms of the Iranian regime or put on our hold our support for movements inside Iran working for its democratic overthrow from below.7. In fact, making this support the central aspect of our opposition to war strengthens our position by allowing us to counterpose the imperialist regime change from above advocated by Bush et al to the democratic regime change from below fought for by our brothers and sisters inside Iran.
Conference resolves
1. To oppose any military action, economic sanctions etc against Iran.2. In the event of an attack, to throw the national union into the anti-war movement and support mass actions including occupations to stop the war.3. To continue and expand our solidarity with the organisations and movements of Iran’s workers, students, women, LGBT people and oppressed national minorities.4. To organise a student contingent on the next Stop the War Coalition demonstration with the slogans “No to war, no to theocracy – solidarity with students, workers and women in Iran”.5. To create a section of the NUS website aimed at raising awareness of democratic struggles in Iran.6. To send a message of greetings to our student comrades struggling inside Iran.

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