These are my notes on attending a rally of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran on the outskirts of Paris.

Sitting on the ferry, it’s foggy and rainy outside. Can see land approaching, bought a flapjack with the last of my £, probably ate it too early, everything on this boat is so overpriced.

People are leaving to get to their cars even though the doors aren’t open yet. They’re hovering nervously on the staircase.

In France now, passed the refugee camp in Calais, can’t remember seeing it from the road the last time I passed here. It sprawls out quite far, looks like a proper settlement.

Learned that our driver is a Labour Party member, candidates are canvassing him ahead of the leadership contest. He didn’t say who he’ll be voting for.

The organiser person is explaining the history of the PMOI to us via the coach tannoy. She spoke for a long time but skipped out the 1980s completely. I wonder what role their National Liberation Army had in the Iran-Iraq war. If they fought against Iran they would have been on Saddam’s side, maybe they don’t want to speak about it.

I recognise that I’ve developed a deep cynicism about these people. Of course I sympathise with their aims, they want freedom and democracy. You can’t argue with that, everybody wants freedom and democracy, but what does that actually mean? With the Tudeh Party the sentiment behind their rhetoric is clear. Their internal and external analysis of their country is consistent, it’s always informed by Marxism-Leninism. The PMOI are different, they make grand speeches but I don’t see any wider idea or culture behind their words.

large hall

The international atmosphere here makes new uneasy too. Maryam Rajavi declared that we shouldn’t ally with Iran to fight ISIS. That’ll be difficult because the main forces fighting ISIS on the ground (Hezbollah, the Syrian Army, the popular militias in Iraq) are all sponsored and supported by Iran. Another speaker (someone British) complains that Iran attacks ‘our ally’ Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Then a conservative American comes on, calling us lovers of liberty, constantly referring to ‘the mullahs’. Join the family of nations of free people. Cast off the chains of tyranny.

All my alarm bells start ringing when John McCain makes a video presentation, all with the words ‘regime change’ scrolling across the screens at the front. He served in Vietnam, hasn’t he learned that you can’t drop freedom onto a country out the bottom of a bomber jet?

A woman just climbed into my row of seats and promptly fell asleep. These speeches are getting exhausting. 3 hours in, 3 to go.

Nobody has yet mentioned who the other members of the council of resistance are, although there’s a stall outside from the Fedayeen.

confetti cannon

The imperialist overtures are too much. We get nice liberal speeches about human rights, followed by booming patriotic anthems and a montage of soldiers showing off their rifles on a parade. I’m not impressed.