What’s Going on in Iran?

July 9, 2009 at 12:36 am (Uncategorized)

The events in Iran since the apparent victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12, 2009  have caused a great deal of excitement, but unfortunately little clarity. Most of the commentators have seen in the events exactly what they wanted to see:  The right sees the Iranian masses clamouring for democracy; the Iranian authorities see the hand of the west; the left conjures up a glimpse of workers power. Like the blind men and the elephant, none of these ‘sees’ an accurate picture.

In the lead-up to the election, while many expected Ahmadinejad to defeat former Prime Minister and purported reformer Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the question was how wide Ahmadunejad’s margin of victory would be. Much was made in the western media about how Mousavi’s campaign had energized people in general and youth in particular. And when new voters turn out in great numbers, it isn’t usually to support the incumbent.

Yet with an apparently unprecedented number of voters, Ahmadunejad received over 66% of the vote, even winning in his opponents’ home districts.

Immediately: outcry, and claims that the election had been stolen. In the  weeks since, things went from bad to worse for the regime. The demonstrationshave continued to grow. And did the death toll. Who knows the actual number. Whatever the regime admits, the murder of   Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20, was the worse of all outcomes. Perhaps most significantly, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneiwhile initially endorsing the election results, later called for a cautious investigation (while at the same time decrying the west’s involvement) .

 Mousavi, perhaps sensing that he might still be able to carve out a larger piece of turf for himself regardless of what happens, announced he was prepared to be martyred. This rhetoric may blow up in his face, especially if the protests continue to grow and become more militant. 

The left of course continues to twist itself in knots over the election. Officially, the far-left has not supported any of the candidates in the election, and supported the protests (‘People Power Rocks Tehran’ – Socialist Worker June 20, 2009,) but there is a tension fro them. During the 1979 Revolution, much of the Trotskyist left went beyond simply pretifying Khomenei’s movement. Most notorious was an article by the Canadian affiliate of the United Secretariat, the Revolutionary Workers League, which produced an article on the gains made by women but using a photograph from the 1950s.   

During the Iran-Iraq war, much of the left supported Iran on the grounds of anti-imperialsim (since Iraq was supported by the U.S.). This bizarre anti-imperialism often manifested itself in odd ways. The British Socialist Workers Party for example, felt compelled to defend the Iranian Revolution against the movie Persepolis because while the western media potrays Iran as a brutal medieval theocracy, Persepolis ‘does nothing to dispel this myth.’  Uh huh.

The left also recived a kick in the head from another figure it has prettified as a leftist and even in some cases as a pseudo-Trotskyist, Hugo Chavez. On June 20, the day of Nada’s murder, Chavez was quoted as saying:

‘Ahmadinejad’s triumph was a triumph all the way. They are trying to stain Ahmadinejad’s triumph and through that weaken the government and the Islamic Revolution. I know they will not succeed.

On June 17, 2009, th Worker Communist Party of Iran issued a statement.

An immense revolution is unfolding in Iran. The people have risen to smash the Islamic Republic of Iran’s machinery of repression and crimes and won’t stop until this despised regime is overthrown.

To further strenghten the revolution, secure its gains and facilitate its advance for the overthrow of the Islamic regime, the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI) declares the following demands:

1) Release of all political prisoners
2) Public prosecution of those who ordered and carried out the killings
3) Abolishment of the death penalty
4) An end to compulsory veiling and to sexual apartheid
5) Unconditional freedom of expression, organisation, strike and demonstration
6) One million Toman Minimum Wage.

This is the decree of the people’s movement for freedom. These are the demands of a people who have come onto the streets in their millions with the slogan of ‘Down with Dictator.’ These are the minimum conditions that anyone who claims to be on the side of people’s protests should stand for.

The WPI calls on the people to stress these immediate demands in their demonstrations, assemblies, protests and strikes.

Worker-communist Party of Iran. 

 

While Leninist, and withsome rather misplaced faith in other imperialist powers, the WPI has interesting access, not availabe to others.  

For my part, I agree with a friend’s comments on an internet  discussion list: 

The Iranian situation is extremely fluid. Like Beijing 20 years ago, it’s difficult to make firm predictions about the outcome, though — again like Beijing — the forces of order are more likely to use repression against the crowds, rather than, in this instance, decide to re-do the elections; and repression may indeed work. What we can do, however, is analyze the political and class forces in play. The reactionary nature of the reign of the Mullahs, represented by the power of the ‘Supreme Leader’ seems to me to be less about religion, and Twelver Shi’ism than about a nationalist regime determined to play the role of a regional imperialist in the Middle East and Central Asia in opposition to American imperialism, wielding religious ideology for that purpose. It is precisely the project of economic, political, and military development by this regime, and not it’s turbans, that makes it reactionary in this epoch. Against it is a middle class, an intelligentsia, youth, who want the jobs and freedoms that economic development purportedly should bring (not unlike the Chinese students in Beijing 20 years ago). But such a regime would of course replicate the class divisions, and embark on the same mode of ‘development,’ the same crisis, that characterizes the West. The victory of those forces, however satisfying the defeat of the Mullahs and the Bassiji would be (personally quite satisfying on a viserallevel) would leave the mass of Iranians, and the working class in particular in thrall to another form of the dictatorship of capital, no less reactionary, with all of the consequences that would follow. Nor would such a victory, in my view, constitute a stage on the road to socialism, constitute ‘progress.’  What we have yet to see in the streets of Tehran, and other cities and ports, is the working class, on its own terrain. It is that prospect that pro-revolutionaries need to work for. We have, however, over the past 30 years had ample evidence that the working class in Iran can struggle on its own class terrain, and its reappearance in the streets, not as an adjunct to the middle classes, but as a class subject in its own right, is the only possible ‘progress’ today.

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