Tuesday, June 23, 2009


For a revolution of any sort to be successful it's almost a requirement that the ruling class that the rebels oppose be divided. On rung one of the "ladder of revolt" it is always the existing state that holds all the cards of force. The dance that is performed between the "forces of order" and the opposition involves, from the point of view of the state, applying just enough force to suppress the opposition, neither too little that gives the opposition the confidence of success, nor too much that might create widespread public revulsion, a mood that may spread even into the armed forces of the state itself.

Ruling groups that appear monolithic always have disagreements festering amongst them. From the lowest squabbles about personal power and reward to the highest disagreements about policy such differences can become acute when actors from outside the ruling class appear on the public stage. if the state has been either too lax or too overbearing in its handling of protest then various actors within the ruling class may seize the chance to either "settle old scores", may adopt a more or less neutral position (as the actual army seems to have done in Iran these last few days) awaiting the winners or may even decide to favour the opposition if they are perceived as the winning side.

Without at least a "wait and see" attitude on the part of armed agents of the state, without also at least a partial defection of some of them to the other side most rebellions fail to become revolutions. The chances for an actual overthrow of a system are also enhanced if various factions of the ruling class take the opportunity to revenge themselves on their own colleagues or initiate a struggle for power because they think they see their chance.

Is the present Iranian ruling class divided enough or hesitant enough that the theocracy will crumble ? There are some indications of this, for instance the apparent absence of the actual army (a conscript force) in repression of the demonstrators as opposed to the police and militia (a volunteer group that bear the marks of a corrupt mercenary force)-with the Revolutionary Guard lurking in the background. But even what seems to be one of the most reliable forces on the government's side may be shakier than it looks. Here's an interest recent item from the International Business Times about possible dissent within the Revolutionary Guards.
Revolutionary Guards commander defies Khamenei's orders to use force on protestors:
A commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has been arrested for refusing to obey Iran's Supreme Leader, according to reports from the Balatarin website.

General Ali Fazli, who was recently appointed as a commander of the Revolutionary Guards in the province of Tehran, is reported to have been arrested after he refused to carry out orders from the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to use force on people protesting the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
For full coverage of the Iranian election protests click here
Fazli, a veteran of the devastating Iran-Iraq war is also believed to have been sacked and taken to an unknown location.

The Revolutionary Guards is a separate body to the mainstream armed forces in Iran and is seen as one of the main and most powerful bodies responsible for protecting the Islamic theocratic regime.

Earlier today the Revolutionary Guards issued a warning on its website threatening to come down hard on Iranians who continue protesting against what many in the country see as rigged elections.
There may also be dissent within the ruling class itself. The mullahs that rule (terrorize) Iran are not all of one mind. The recent elections actually featured only candidates whose loyalty to the regime was certain. I reprint the following, also from the International Business Times, with the caveat that trying to read the entrails of the beast in the city of Qom might make the old 'Kremlin watching' seem clear and straightforward by comparison. For what it is worth here is one unverifiable speculation. No doubt some clerics would dearly love to see a new direction for the Iranian state, but are "some" a majority ?

Reports: Iran's clerics considering removal of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad:
Iran's clerical establishment is considering scrapping the position of the Supreme Leader, currently held by Ayatollah Khamenei and forcing out President Ahmadinejad according to reports. ("reports" ?-Molly)

The country's Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts is reported to be considering the formation of a collective leadership to replace the position of supreme leader, according to Al Arabiya, citing sources in the holy city of Qom.
For full coverage of the Iranian election protests click here
Both groups are headed by former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key rival to Ayatollah Khamenei and a strong supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

On Saturday five members of Rafsanjani's family were arrested for taking part in demonstrations against the controversial re-election of President Ahmadinejad. They have subsequently been released.

The Assembly of Experts, a body of Islamic clerics, is responsible for overseeing the Supreme Leader and can even remove the Supreme Leader should they decide to. The Expediency Council is responsible for mediating disputes between the parliament elected by the people and the unelected Guardian Council.

Members of the Assembly of Experts are reported to be considering making changes to the Iranian system of government that would be the biggest since Ayatollah Khomeini set up the Islamic system in the revolution of 1979, by removing the position of the supreme leader.

Secret meetings are said to have taken place in Qom and included a representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most prominent Shiite leader in Iraq.

Clerical leaders are also said to be considering forcing the resignation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following over a week of unrest since he was elected in what senior opposition leaders claim was a fraudulent election.
Events over the next few days will tell if the Iranian ruling class is indeed divided enough for it to make a difference. What seems to be apparent (at least so far) is that the rumours of a general strike to be called in Iran today were just that...rumours. There is no news of any such events, and it would seem to be unlikely that the independent unions who have been preparing worldwide events (and no doubt events in Iran itself) for June 26 would push their preparations ahead, particularly as the soundings for the strike that was supposed to occur today seem to have been coming mostly from the Mousavi forces who have little (no ?) connection to the long standing labour struggles in that country.

Here are a couple of websites that carry more or less updated news in English about the protests from a labour perspective.
***Hands Off the People of Iran
***Justice for Iranian Workers
***Labour Start (Iranian news section)

Also stay tuned to a blog called "Iranian Riots" for updated general news about the protests. They have recently carried video of some mullahs participating in the protests ie throwing in their lot with the opposition. Also the story about how Iranian soccer players who wore the green armbands of the opposition during the World Cup qualifiers have been banned from the game by the authorities. I find it hard to imagine anything so arrogant and so likely to turn non-political Iranians against the regime as this gratuitous piece of repression. Also, please go over to our sister site Mollymew Polls to express your opinion about 'What Will Be the Outcome of the Present Events in Iran ?'.

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