Nearly 60 people filled a room in Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs on Jan. 23 to discuss the recent escalation of tensions between the US and Iran. Students and activists advocated for a cessation of violence in the region and debated possible socialist alternatives for both countries as a means of averting war.
The event, “Iran: Stop Imperialist War!”, was organized by Socialist Fightback at Concordia and McGill and attracted students from both universities, as well as dozens of members of the Montreal community.
Fightback activist and former Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) student Julien Arseneau led the meeting with a 40-minute presentation briefly describing the hostilities between the US and Iran. Tensions have recently heightened between the two countries since the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by the US government on Jan. 3. Arseneau linked the socialist movement with the antiwar movement, arguing that, under the capitalist system, another war in the Middle East is inevitable.
“War is a constant threat as long as we live in a system where profit is the most important thing, and in a system where a few big companies dominate politics, [and] benefit from war,” Arseneau said.
Arseneau suggested that alternative socialist systems would divert money away from the military towards public infrastructure and services instead.
“These trillions that go to build tanks and drones and military bases in foreign countries would go to build hospitals, schools, housing, public transport,” Arseneau said. “Obviously this cannot be done as long as the profit motive is overruling everything. We can’t ask [defense technology company] Lockheed Martin to build schools. They won’t do it.”
Following the presentation, attendees participated in an animated discussion during which they expressed their concerns about the current instability in the Middle East and proposed possibilities for socialist revolution in the region.
Banafseh Cheraghi, a sociology student at Concordia, gave a firsthand account of the turmoil in Iran and her perspective on how the socialist movement should achieve its aims.
“As someone who has participated in some mass protests in Iran […] I can […] claim that revolution is not what Iran needs right now,” Cheraghi said. “Before that, [Iranians] need awareness, because when you are blocked from the media for this many years you begin to make your own stories from your reality.”
Cheraghi blamed the dominance of US media in Iran for manipulating public political discourse in the country.
“Even the US is responsible for that because the only foreign media that Iranians have access to are controlled by […] the American news and none of them talk about the real issues,” Banafseh said. “None of them try to […] give [people] knowledge.”
Fightback activist and former Concordia student Fehr Marouf was pleased with the meeting’s high attendance. He believes it is indicative of the increasing popularity of the socialist movement across university campuses and in Montreal.
“Every year, we keep getting more and more people out to these [events] and it just shows how far the process of radicalization and polarization in North America has gone,” Marouf said. “A lot of the bourgeois media is focused on the far right but [I’m sure] that the far left is growing a lot faster. We just don’t get any free coverage for it, except from capitalist media.”