Wednesday, June 17, 2009
CONTINUING UNREST IN IRAN:
The following anarchist comment on the recent events in Iran is from the Irish Workers' Solidarity Movement. This is one anarchist view of the recent events following the election in Iran. The following is, to my mind, realistic, but perhaps a little too pessimistic. Like most revolutions the present unrest in Iran has been precipitated by what may seem to be a very minor affair (at least as revolutions go) ie the allegations of fraud in the recent elections.
For what it is worth Molly is of the opinion that there was indeed fraud in this election. I am also, unfortunately, of the opinion that Mahmoud Ahmedinjad would have won the election without the fraud. All this goes to show that, inevitably, religious holders of power are never content to leave the results of any initiative to "Allah" (or any other god for that matter). From their point of view what does it matter of their are a few 'irregularities. What they want is at least the appearance of massive public support. Why do I believe this ? Simply because, in my reading, that Ahmedinjah made more than a few populist noises well in advance of the election. This would give him a certain credibility amongst the ordinary people of Iran, even if a small percentage of the population recognized that he had been making the same noises for 30 years...and nothing has come of it.
Is Iran at the point of 'revolution" ? Personally I don't think it is. I think that the demonstrations will eventually fizzle out after a due amount of time. Not that I don't admire what the young people in Iran are doing today. Somehow I cannot see the installation of a so-called "reformist" (the goal of the Iranian protesters) as anything even remotely "revolutionary". But there again matters may change and I'd have to change my opinion alongside with the bureaucrats in Iran who pretend to justice and equality.
But maybe not. Revolutions are, by their nature, unpredictable. Looking over the situation in Iran say 6 months ago one would have never guessed that there would be mass opposition to the Iranian state. But here it is now. Personally I take heart from seeing that Islamic fascist dictatorships are not invulnerable-even if I think the oppositionists will fail. This is despite the best efforts of their propaganda machine. But, as I have argued before on this blog, the idea that a fundamental change in social arrangements merely by the force of advocacy is unrealistic. The necessary "link" to people outside of the "opposition" has not been built in Iran. Those sort of links are an absolutely necessary if the unrest in Iran is to be more than street rioting. Not that street rioting is undesirably in this context (unlike some other cases-the majority- in North America).
But who knows how the present challenge to the theocrats who rull Iran wil go ? That can't be predicted, especially for someone like Molly who has a totally different view of the class alignments in Iran, but whose insight is severely limited by distance. Make no mistake about it. The present events in Iran partake not of some abstract struggle over "rights" and "democracy". They are very much class struggles, and the interests of classes who support either the rulers or the oppositionists are often quite clear. On the one side are the theocrats, whose numbers, power and ability to distort the economy make them indeed a "class". As for their numbers the best indication one can get about this is the description of the city of Qom as "the city of 100,000 mullahs. Once having tasted power, and the resulting material wealth, I seriously doubt that the mullahs would go back to a situation where they were dependent clients of either a state or of private benefactors.
On the other side are large numbers of quite educated young people whose lives are frustrated in a state where economic common sense is close to being a dirty word. Many of these young people are either unemployed or underemployed, and their discontent with this situation will be lasting, no matter what the outcome of the present events. Having large numbers of educated young people who, at the same time, have few outlets for their talents and ambitions is a deadly mixture for any ruling class. The only solution is the one found by Saudi Arabia ie "degrade the educational system by turning it over to the theocrats". The resulting class of unemployed youth will be the same, but they simply won't be educated. No matter how much of the Koran (or Bible in the USA) that they have memorized. A ruling class such as that of the Saudi state can easily keep any rebellion in check-and also avoid antagonizing potential rivals to power amongst the mullahs- by "buying off" the potential theocratic competition while at the same time producing an unemployed youth who simply don't have the mental tools to rise to being an opposition.
In Iran the question of "who will win" is very much dependent upon who can best appeal to the ordinary Iranian who is neither a theocrat nor a frustrated manager/professional. From my own reading of the situation the theocrats seem to have the advantage as they can promise the sky to the working class, artisans and rural producers. Their real ability to follow through on such promises is, of course, limited, especially in present economic conditions. The big question is: "can they lie once more and have people believe their promises ?" I don't know. In any case, here is the article.
The Iranian Election a ‘Legacy of Martyred Flowers’:
international repression individual opinion Wednesday June 17, 2009 18:58 by Farah - Jack White branch (personal capacity)
The Iranian government’s campaign to mold ‘model’ Islamic citizens has not only fashioned a profound crisis of loyalty to the religious ‘ideals of the revolution’, it has nurtured action that many have silently prayed for - as the public sphere, the last bastion of the religious elites grip on power, was shot open by their own guns Sunday.
"Legacy of martyred flowers committed me to life,
Legacy of martyred flowers,
Don’t you see?"
--Forough Farokhzad, Only the Sound Will Last
Since the close of polling late Friday, and the hasty confirmation of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s second term in office, protests have broken out across Iran. Many Iranians, who consider the landslide victory for Ahmadinejad a symbol of their country’s deeply corrupt political system, have endeavoured to force the government to nullify the results and hold another election.
In what can only be considered a classic case of state-repression, police and Revolutionary Guards have soaked the streets in blood; shooting into crowds of peaceful protestors, arresting scores of demonstrators, and targeting constituencies known for their criticism of the government. Just yesterday, the Guardian conservatively reported that as many as twelve students from universities throughout the country lost their lives as they courageously and openly opposed state forces.
In a brash attempt to validate the legitimacy of the political structure in Iran, those in the Guardian Council and Ministry of Interior (its civic counterpart) confirmed Ahmadinejad’s ‘win’ and congratulated ‘democracy’. Ahmadinejad seized the opportunity to describe his ‘election’ as a ‘mandate from the people’, before the people unequivocally mandated a recount!
The Western-language media would have us believe that the crucial issue concerning the recent election ‘results’ in Iran centers on the question of whether or not the election was rigged. While general curiosity and speculation around this issue is a healthy aspect of the debate, it cannot moderate the far more profound lessons to be learned from the mass protests throughout the country.
Were the elections rigged? Probably. It is more than likely that the higher voter turn-out for this election came in favor of change. This was not true in the 9th Presidential Elections, four years ago, where an unknown, conservative, Tehrani mayor, Ahmadinejad, was ‘challenged’ by the highly controversial cleric-turned-businessman, Rafsanjani. The election was mostly boycotted or dismissed by many reformists minded voters, and the aspect of its ‘rigged results’ by way of the candidates having been hand-picked the Guardian Council (as is policy), was ignored in Western-language press.
This new eruption of protest over the still hotly contested election outcome has animated the already decades long debates within Iranian politics over civil and political rights, participation and inclusion. Just like many other countries, specific issues and rights in Iran are held like hostages to particular names on the ballot.
For example, a vote for Mousavi is a vote for greater freedoms for women. A vote for Ahmedinejad is a vote against the liberalization (privatization) of Iran’s economy. Though many Iranians remain sceptical of all the candidates that were allowed to participate in this highly contested and unusual style of electoral engineering, the elections are not entirely hollow, as the protests demonstrate. Iranians, like many of their counterparts throughout the world, were made to choose between issues and candidates that did not represent the broad spectrum of their politics, concerns, or aspirations.
However, it is not the engineered outcome of Iranian elections that is at the heart of the protests, though this is certainly a concern. These protests, dissimilar to the swell of similar outpouring in the late 1990’s, are made up Iranians from many different backgrounds, and varied political, religious and social opinions. This is precisely the reason the executive levels of the Iranian government have, with its decades of training in repression of domestic discontent, met the protesters with the full force of state power.
Though the validity of the elections is disputed, what protesters, Ahmadinejad and the Guardian Council seem to all recognize is that the immediate future of the Islamic Republic of Iran remains insecure. The ‘democratic dilemma’ that the state has ensured through its dubious electoral processes is kindling increased opposition not just among the ‘parents of the Revolution’, but most pronouncedly in those twenty-somethings born after 1979 who represent the manifest ‘success’ of the Islamic Revolution.
It appears clear the government’s campaign to mold ‘model’ Islamic citizens has not only fashioned a profound crisis of loyalty to the religious ‘ideals of the revolution’, it has nurtured action that many have silently prayed for - as the public sphere, the last bastion of the religious elites grip on power, was shot open by their own guns Sunday.
This is not to make the mistake that Iran is moving towards, or desirous of, a secular revolution, very much the opposite! However, the iron-clad grip on power that many of the religious elites have enjoyed since the Iran-Iraq war is gradually unravelling at all ends.
Today, reformist-minded voters in and outside of Iran, who watched as their political aspirations were dashed time and again by during Khatami’s tenure, vigilantly braved the vast, violent and manipulative forces of the state and dared not be silent once again in the ballot box. Those who bravely opposed the regime objected to the misuse of religion for political ends – and so the protests continue.
In the thirty years since the fall of the Shah and the gradual instillation of an Islamic theocratic government in Iran, opposition movements have bravely attempted to reclaim spaces in the political landscape of the country. These movements have nurtured democratic ideals in an attempt to assert the human and political rights of the poor, ethnic minorities, and women amongst others.
Over the past two years Iran’s women’s movement most commonly known as the One Million Signatures Campaign has sought to amplify the disparities felt by women on every level of Iranian society. Prior to the Saturday protests, this campaign was the largest and most vocal dissident movement in Iran.
For those of us concerned over securing some notion of ‘the truth’ about what happened in Friday’s elections, or who continue to be confused over the myriad of political mud-slinging in the media over ‘what the protests are really about’, we can be assured no easy answers.
Iran is a country struggling to sustain vast differences of opinion over political allegiances, social policies, and the fine lines that govern the ‘morals’ of their state system. Do not mistake the events currently taking place in Iran as a fight for democracy, or even a ‘better representation’ of the will of the people. What is happening in Iran is a fight for a slightly fairer electoral process. If political pundits, Western-language journalists and solidarity activists wish to support Iranians in their fight for freedom, they should take notice of the few who have been executed and exiled, whose lives have committed the many you see in the streets today to life.