Ayatollah Khamenei and a Principled Foreign Policy

by Seyed Mohammad Marandi
University of Tehran
 

Conflicts Forum

One of the most important points to keep in mind when discussing the leadership of Ayatollah al-Udhma Imam Khamenei is the very fact that he was chosen to succeed the towering figure of Imam Khomeini (r.a.). The fact that the late Imam was an extraordinary personality, who revolutionized the role of time and place in Fiqh and Ijtihad, who was an arif or Gnostic, a philosopher and a gifted poet, and a political leader who courageously led an Islamic revolution that has truly changed the world we live in, makes it almost impossible for any successor to fill the enormous void created after his demise.

Nevertheless, Ayatollah Khamenei, who himself has all the personal qualities stated above, has successfully steered the Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic of Iran through very turbulent and volatile times and in a very dangerous world. I venture to say that in some respects his leadership has been even more impressive than that of the late Imam, as he did not have the advantage of being the founder of the Revolution.

Leadership was thrust upon him, despite his own strong opposition. In the brief speech he made in the Assembly of Experts – the constitutional body elected to choose and supervise over the Wali-e Faqeeh, which was comprised of high ranking Mujtahids like himself – he spoke in opposition to the proposal that he be chosen as the Leader. Subsequently he asked the assembly members if they understood the burden they were thrusting upon his shoulders and he also asked whether they would really follow him as their Leader. Key questions — as many of them were older than Ayatollah Khamenei. Some, like him, had played important roles in overthrowing the Shah and were important public figures after the revolution in their own right. However, despite his strong objections they made their decision. Upon being elected by the Assembly of Experts (he voted against), the cameras were directed towards him and it was clear to everyone that he was not pleased. This is an interesting and important footnote to history, because it reveals his view regarding power and authority and how uninterested he was in acquiring both.

Less than a month after the decision, in a speech he said that he did not even want to be a member of a leadership council, something that was seriously being discussed in the last days and hours of Imam Khomeini’s life, let alone becoming the Wali-e Faqeeh. He added that he had prayed he would not in any way be involved in leadership if it was to damage his status in the Hereafter. In the speech, he then said that nevertheless, since this has been thrust upon his shoulders, he will be strong in carrying out this responsibility (3/7/1989) as well as principled. History was to prove him to be correct.

In the early days of his leadership, Ayatollah Khamenei stated to senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials that the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran must be based upon the three principles of honor or dignity (عزه), wisdom (حکمه), and expediency (مصلحه). It will later be explained how the meaning of expediency here does not include the negative connotations about narrow self-interest with the end justifying the means.

According to this view, in order to achieve the higher goals and ideals put forth by an Islamic state and as stated in the Iranian constitution, wisdom plays a pivotal role. According to Ayatollah Khamenei, “work based upon logical calculations, the establishing of strong foundations, taking steps in a level playing field, and refraining from imprudence, ignorance, and arrogance, is what wisdom means “(3/8/1992). He then adds that the Islamic Republic of Iran is “principalist” (meaning that its policies are principled). In an earlier speech he explains this in greater detail and states that “the results of our political and diplomatic moves and efforts must not contravene our Islamic ideals” (12/12/1982).

Four good examples of this are the Islamic Republic’s responses to the two wars between the United States and Iraq in 1991 and 2003, the response to Bush’s so called ‘War on Terror’, as well as the current situation in Libya. In 1990 Iran sharply condemned Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and Iranian animosity towards the regime in Iraq was very deep. This of course, was because of the Iraqi regime’s unjustified invasion of Iran, the slaughter of innocent Iranians, and the attempt to permanently occupy large parts of Iranian territory in 1980, which led to a bloody eight year war between the two countries.

Initially when Iraq occupied Kuwait, the US and its allies were extremely concerned about military confrontation with Iraq. At that time no one knew that from 17th January to 23rd February Saddam Hussein would simply allow the Americans and their allies to bomb Iraqi targets 24 hours a day gradually destroying the Iraq armed forces and the country’s infrastructure and do almost nothing in retaliation. Hence, the US offered numerous concessions to the Islamic Republic during that period in order to draw Iran closer to the American camp. On the other hand, the Iraqi regime was also offering numerous concessions of its own.

Within Iran there were serious debates taking place about what Iran should do and what sort of stance it should take. For example, a well known Member of the Iranian Parliament, who was a radical at the time and who later became a senior member of what is called the ‘reformist’ camp, made an impassioned speech in parliament calling for Iran to join forces with the Iraqi dictator. This reformist MP Mr. Mohtashami compared Saddam Hussein to Khaled ibn Waleed and said that the Islamic Republic of Iran must join him in his battle with the United States.

Imam Khamenei’s careful response to these events and the ongoing debate inside Iran was based on the principle of wisdom (حکمه). He stated that the US and Iraqi regimes had common interests before the invasion of Kuwait and that both had often together committed many crimes against the people of the region. Therefore, his position was that Iran cannot take sides or help either side in any way or form, because both sides had similar repressive and brutal characteristics. This is noteworthy, as it is possible that if Iran had sided with the US in the 1991 war against Iraq, the country could have possibly gained numerous and major concessions and even resolved a number of its key issues with the United States. However, its decision not to do so was based on this idea of wisdom based upon principles.

The same worldview is evident regarding the 2011 attacks on the United States. Immediately after George Bush made the sinister warning on September 20, 2011 that “You’re either with us or against us”, Ayatollah Khamenei responded that Iran cannot stand alongside either the US or its al-Qaeda opponents, as both sides have committed crimes against humanity. A significant point, because at that time the whole Middle East was extremely concerned about the consequences of an American occupation of at least two key regional countries. Even a number of Iranian leaders were deeply alarmed about US intentions towards the Iran. However, Imam Khamenei refused to allow the Islamic Republic to change its policy of opposition and resistance regarding western occupation and hegemony. He repeatedly stated that one step backwards would simply result in western powers making new demands (something that was clearly revealed when the administration of President Khatami insisted on appeasing western powers regarding the Iranian nuclear program). The same principle of wisdom based upon principles applies in the case of Libya, where both Gaddaffi and NATO are viewed as morally bankrupt and as plunderers of the country’s natural resources.

Regarding Iran’s support for groups opposed to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, it should be noted that this support existed long before September 11, 2011. Indeed, the US was a key supporter of Saddam in the 1980s and along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Pakistani ISI, it actually helped the Taliban come to power in Afghanistan. Hence, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s continued support for these movements had nothing to do with shifting US policy after the September 2011 attacks.

From Ayatollah Khamenei’s perspective, wisdom (حکمه) is reaching truth through knowledge and reason, and this can only be achieved through the full incorporation of spirituality and justice. He is quoted as saying that “the Islam we support and encourage is based on the three principles of spirituality, reason, and justice and it is completely different from reactionary Islam or liberalism” (16/8/2000). Hence, according to this worldview, Iran should pursue its national interests, but only within the framework of its “principles and ideals” as he puts it (9/7/1991). He stresses that Iran’s national interests cannot be based on race, language, the color of one’s skin or nationalism (9/7/1991). Perhaps this is one reason why, according to polls carried out by various American and international institutes, despite the enormous amount of anti-Iranian propaganda, constantly being broadcasted through government owned and government funded Arab television channels, which includes a disturbingly large amount of sectarian and racist rhetoric, the Islamic Republic is popular among ordinary Arabs.

Dignity, honor, or pride in the positive sense of the word (عزه) is the second of his three essential principles for international relations. Imam Khamenei states that dignity or honor too cannot be based upon race or nationalism, as he puts it “things through which everyone builds a wall around themselves” (9/7/1991). Rather, honor comes from “having faith in Allah, being kind to and serving Gods creations and people” and not through pride and arrogance (9/7/1991). In other words, honor is in opposition to being oppressed, allowing oppression to take place, and being oppressive to other nations or peoples in the world. According to this view, how a nation or a people act in relation to the concept of honor or dignity (عزه) determines their identity.

For example, when one looks at the issue of defending or regaining territorial integrity, which are wise objectives in themselves, the principle of dignity is what makes such a distinction between different policies in this regard. For example, the former Egyptian regime was able to regain its territory from the Zionist regime without loss of life, but under conditions that were dishonorable and undignified and that was the underlying reason why Ayatollah Khamenei was opposed to the reestablishment of ties with the Mubarak regime over the past two decades, despite the fact that powerful people within the Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad administrations attempted to restore relations. Ayatollah Khamenei believed that Sadat and Mubarak had humiliated the great and honorable Egyptian people.

On the other hand, the struggle of South Africans and Palestinians against apartheid and occupation were for dignity and honor, despite the enormous loss of life and suffering. Therefore, as silence in the face of oppression against third parties runs against the principle of dignity and honor, the Islamic Republic unequivocally supported and continues to support both peoples, despite the significant price Iran has had to pay as a result of this support. Imam Khamenei’s strong support for Lebanon and the Resistance, Bosnia, and the people of Kashmir is also explained through this moral principle. In the case of Bosnia, the Islamic Republic of Iran was the only country in the world to provide the brutalized Bosnians with meaningful support. Indeed, many believe that if Ayatollah Khamenei had not supported the Bosnian people during their darkest hours, there would be no Bosnia today.

Independence and freedom from foreign hegemony is a condition that even some of the most powerful countries are unable to attain, thus leading to a deficit of dignity. Japan, which until recently has been the world’s second largest economy, has been unable to take an independent stance from that of the United States on any major national, regional, or global issue for decades. The same is true for the Republic of Korea (or South Korea). The Saudi regime, despite its enormous oil wealth, is almost completely reliant upon the United States and the European Union at all levels of national security. Despite purchasing hundreds of billions of dollars of US and EU made weapons over the past three decades, they have been unable or unwilling to even create a credible defense industry of their own.

However, under the leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite war and sanctions, has been able to achieve major developments in high-tech fields such as stem cell research, nanotechnology, satellite technology and of course peaceful nuclear energy. Despite enormous pressure from western countries and their regional allies, the principle of dignity and honor again lay behind the country’s steadfast position regarding its nuclear program. In fact, many internal critics of Iran’s foreign policy now believe that the country’s posture of resistance has been vindicated. It is widely believed that this culture of resistance advocated by Imam Khamenei has contributed to the current uprisings and the changes that we are now witnessing. It is also believed that the same culture of resistance has made the Islamic Republic popular in the Arab world.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s approach towards the United States can also be understood from this perspective. He believes that as long as the US behaves in an arrogant and exceptionalist manner and refuses to recognize or speak to other governments on equal terms, negotiating or even talking to the American government is pointless. Interestingly what he and Imam Khomeini have proven over the past 32 years is that a nation can live without having relations with the US and continue to thrive. Indeed, the fact that Iran continues to grow stronger despite a series of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed upon Iran through US and western coercion, shows that imperial powers and their Eurocentric worldviews are not nearly as strong as they would like the rest of the world to think.

The third principle is expediency (مصلحه). According to this doctrine, as the actions of the Islamic Republic must not contravene moral principles, the principle of expediency must not run in contravention to those of honor or wisdom. In other words, choices made by the Islamic Republic regarding regional or international affairs must not be treated with a preference for expediency over the other two, but rather expediency means choosing the most suitable path to wisdom and honor. According to Ayatollah Khamenei, “It is possible that during certain junctures attention may be paid to tactical objectives or using different tactical tools, however this spirit and essence of the foreign policy of the Islamic state, has not and will not change under any circumstances.” (16/8/2004) Hence, despite all the difficulties associated with being almost a lone voice in its principled support for the rights of Palestinians, the Islamic Republic of Iran been firm in its position that Israel as a political entity must cease to exist and that all Palestinians have the right to return to their homes. Unlike what many leftist thinkers have promoted in the past that ends justify the means, the concept of مصلحه which comes from the word صلاح means good and righteous and it is choosing the best paths which are at one with wisdom and morality.

In fact, Ayatollah Khameini’s view on all of the recent upheavals and events in the Middle East and North Africa is based upon this worldview. On the anniversary of the demise Imam Khomeini, he stated that Iran supports all regional uprisings that are based upon three foundations: Islam, popular support, and independence from western interference. He stated that the Islamic Republic cannot support any act that has US or Israeli support, because these regimes will not under any circumstances act in the interests of the people of the region (4/6/2011). This view goes beyond factors such as race, sect, or nationalism. Indeed, he has shown this repeatedly in his support for the people of South Africa, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdish refugees, and Lebanon, who are all from different racial and religious backgrounds.

In order for an Islamic state to function within this moral framework, it needs to have a high ranking religious scholar, who is seen to be just, pious, courageous and who has a keen understanding of political and social complexities, at its helm. Otherwise, it is believed that in the complex and dangerous world that we live in, the principles of honor (عزه), wisdom (حکمه), and expediency (مصلحه) from the Islamic perspective, cannot and will not be honored.

Seyed Mohammad Marandi is Associate Professor of English Literature, University of Tehran, Iran. He is also a regular commentator on various international news and current affairs programmes.

176 comments on “Ayatollah Khamenei and a Principled Foreign Policy

  1. #1

    Why not? Iran is a country at the centre of resistance to western attempts to colonise the region. Surely it is prudent to know what the view is of Iranian intellectuals on Iran’s role in the region and wider world.

  2. Barts on said:

    So your argument is that this man is in some way a friend of progressive politics?

  3. #3

    My argument is that the contradictions that exist in the region are there as a result of years of western intervention and that Iran has the sovereign right to determine its own path.

    I would certainly say that one of those contradictions is that the current Iranian regime is both progressive and regressive, depending on which aspect of its role you care to take.

  4. #3 Well “progressive politics” is a very broad and possibly contradictory concept.

    It would be foolish to deny that there is a legacy of an ideological support for egalitarianism in Iran, following the influence of Ali Shari’ati in the revolution; and that support for sovereign state independence has allowed Iran to support redistributive social policies that would be outside the washington consensus.

  5. Barts on said:

    Well, let me put it this way.

    The Islamic Republic of Iran is a repressive authoritarian state, with a sham democracy, in which thousands of candidates are routinely disqualified from standing in elections, the elections are rigged, opposition figures and trade unionists are put in prison, those who protest against their treatment are shot dead in the streets, or taken off to prison themselves, where they have been anally raped as a punishment. Or, alternatively, they’re paraded on TV to “confess”, and those confessions are broadcast in the UK on their propaganda station, Press TV.

    The State itself hosts conferences and competition in which the subject is Holocaust denial, and to which leading European neo Nazis have been invited. They execute gay men, and then lyingly claim that they were rapists. They sentence women to death for “adultery” and then imprison lawyers for defending their clients.

    So yes, the Islamic Republic’s governing regime is “sovereign”. But the people of Iran are in chains.

    You’ve just published an article praising this system. Well done.

  6. #6

    Well, let me put it another way. The Islamic Republic of Iran emerged as a result of a revolution that toppled the western back and sponsored Shah, the most barbaric regime in the region at the time. Since then it has endured a war with Iraq under the similarly western backed Saddam dictatorship and been subject to international economic sanctions designed to starve it out of existence. It currently exists under threat of military attack by the largest and most aggressive military superpower the world has ever known, not forgetting its Israeli ally, the fifth largest military in the world.

    The fact that you would neglect to factor any of the above into your self righteous denunciation of a nation of 80 million people is revelatory.

    To seek to undertand the complexities of a society and why those complexities exist is not the same as supporting its government. Yet instead you are happy to demonise the country, presumably on the way to supporting that it be bombed and invaded.

    This is Iraq all over again.

    Further, your blanket assertions that gay men are routinely executed for being gay are disputatious. Please provide sources. Incidents of injustice exist in all societies. Many in Iran do not support the current regime. However, many clearly do.

    Iran is only different in this respect due to the huge external pressure it is under making its internal political and social divisions more combustible than they would be otherwise.

  7. Barts on said:

    So, you’re a defender of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I don’t think I really have anything to say to you in that case.

    Just astounding.

    Wait until Iranian democrats hear about this.

  8. #6 and Marandi is well-known as an apologist for the Iranian state repression of anti-regime protests and a supporter of a further wave of Islamist cultural ‘revolution’ – as a quick Google will show.

    Whoever ‘John’ is is open to speculation.

  9. #10

    Well, he’s clearly a supporter of the regime and in this respect speaks for a large constituency within the country. Whether this automatically delegitimises his views or opinions is of course a matter of opinion.

    We are deluged in the West with the kind of views articulated by Bart in this discussion, post Enlightenment attacks on any independent current or regime within the developing world, focusing on the symptoms of its contradictions rather than the causes. It is the product of a colonial mindset in progressive garb.

  10. Barts on said:

    The regime is only “independent” because it murders and rapes its opponents, John.

    You’ve just given a soap box to a defender of that system.

  11. stephen marks on said:

    ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran emerged as a result of a revolution that toppled the western back and sponsored Shah, the most barbaric regime in the region at the time’.

    No. it emerged as the result of a clerical counter-revolution which throttled the democratic aspirations of the anti-Shah revolution and replaced one dictatorship with another

    ‘Since then it has endured a war with Iraq under the similarly western backed Saddam dictatorship and been subject to international economic sanctions designed to starve it out of existence. It currently exists under threat of military attack by the largest and most aggressive military superpower the world has ever known, not forgetting its Israeli ally, the fifth largest military in the world’.

    Which is due to its following an independent foreign policy – which does not alter the fact that it is internally reactionary. Therefore we should oppose the western threats while supporting the internal democratic opposition. You do not do this by giving a platform to one of its apologists.

    ‘The fact that you would neglect to factor any of the above into your self righteous denunciation of a nation of 80 million people is revelatory’.

    He didn’t denounce the nation, he denounced the regime. To confuse the two is like calling critics of Israel ‘antisemitic’.

    ‘To seek to undertand the complexities of a society and why those complexities exist is not the same as supporting its government.’

    But giiving a platform to its apologists is.

    ‘Yet instead you are happy to demonise the country’

    again, not the country, just its regime. And its only ‘demonising’ if it is untrue which you have made no attempt to justify. In fact it is those who confuse the regime with the country who are the real ‘demonisers’.

    ‘presumably on the way to supporting that it be bombed and invaded. This is Iraq all over again.’

    This is a contemptible and hysterical Macarthyite smear without a shred of evidence – concealed and also revealed by the splendidly dishonest use of ‘presumably’. Actually it is worse – it accepts without criticism the imperialist logic that if a country does indeed have a repressive and reactionary regime then it follows that it should be invaded and ‘liberated’ by the West. By his time of life, John should really have learnt how to deal with political disagreement in some other way than by calling people Western imperialist agents

    ‘Further, your blanket assertions that gay men are routinely executed for being gay are disputatious. Please provide sources’.

    He didn’t say ‘routinely’.

    ‘Incidents of injustice exist in all societies.’

    No shit Sherlock.

    ‘Many in Iran do not support the current regime. However, many clearly do’.

    Just like Hitler’s Germany – and no, that is not a comparison, just a reductio ad absurdum.

    ‘Iran is only different in this respect due to the huge external pressure it is under making its internal political and social divisions more combustible than they would be otherwise’.

    Oh so if the US and the West would just leave Iran alone, everything would be loveydovey? Actually the opposite is the case. It is imperialist hostility which builds support for the regime. If the West would leave it alone, the whole rotten Mullocracy would blow up as there would be no external threat to rally people behind their government – just as NATO gives Gaddafi the chance to pose as a patriot.

  12. #14

    ‘It is imperialist hostility which builds support for the regime. If the West would leave it alone, the whole rotten Mullocracy would blow up as there would be no external threat to rally people behind their government – just as NATO gives Gaddafi the chance to pose as a patriot.’

    I agree.

  13. Stephen is totally right.

    Many of us here know Iranians who are exiles from the Islamic regime.

    We actively support campaigns of solidarity with the opponents of the state – as do many trade unions nationally.

    The Morning Star, to cite but one paper gives prominence to the opposition’s struggles, particularly from workers.

    Perhaps Socialist Unity would consider giving these voices prominence, not this sad apologist of tyranny.

  14. #14

    Stephen, unfortunately the rest of your contribution is just the usual rant denouncing anything approaching an attempt to understand the complexities and contradictions of a country that sits in the crosshairs of western imperialism.

    For example, when you write this kind of crap ‘Just like Hitler’s Germany – and no, that is not a comparison, just a reductio ad absurdum’ – you reveal a refusal or inability to evaluate Iran in any other way than through the prism of western propaganda. To even place Iran on the same trajectory as Nazi Germany, your attempt to qualify the comparison aside, constitutes both an insult to the millions of victims of what was an expansionist genocidal regime at the heart of Europe, and a demonstration of cognitive dissonance of the most extreme kind.

  15. Sue R on said:

    The apologists for various Middle East dictatorships are under a lot of pressure at the moment, it’s obviously getting to them. Unfortunately for them, the people of Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Bahrain, even Saudi Arabia to an extent, have got fed up with there despotic regimes. The masses are revolting. (Actually, I don’t think they will achieve much except for more repression as they don’t seem to have a political party to advance their issues, but that’s not the point!). I noticed on ‘Counterfire’ the other day, that an article was arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt were the wrong sort of Muslim, that they liked the nice friendly, cuddly Muslims that were anti-imperialist whiclst the MB had revealed itself as having feet of clay (quelle surprise!!!). Anyway, all these apologists for the lack of a revolutionary alternative in the Middle East have to firm up their supporters in teh West. Just imagine what would happen if the supply of aid monny and oil contracts dried up. It doesn’t bear thinking about!!!!

  16. Anyone who knows Iranian refugees and asylum seekers and has heard their stories will be disgusted by these apologetics for a barbaric regime. To rationalise away what gay people, women and opponents of the regime have faced as “contradictions” attributable, no doubt, like every evil in the world, to the depraved west, is as embarrassing as it is contemptible. And ironically, somewhat colonialist in mindset itself, as it seems to deny Iranians the ability to act as agents in the world and be judged for this.

    Is it not possible that the evils of the world have multiple sources? Can would-be socialists still not get past the logic of my enemy’s enemy is my friend?

    Well done Barts and Stephen.

  17. skidmarx on said:

    “2011″ should be replaced by “2001″ at several points in the text.

    I’m instinctively with Andrew Coates here,though I can see the value in an examination of what the Iranian leadership have to say, and can see a virtue in their rejection of US hegemony.

    Khamenei’s refusal to take sides between Iraq and the US seems to have a lot more to do with the principle of expediency than that of wisdom (as well as an understandable desire to see the murderer of a million Iranians get his come-uppance).

  18. John on said:

    #18

    ‘For people interested in what Iranian socialists think’

    Actually, Louis, it might be nice if at some point you could regale us with the thoughts of US socialists, you know, those living in the belly of the most barbaric empire the world has ever known. I imagine there are socialists in the US who even glean their awareness of the international chaos their own government presides over from sources other than the New York Times.

    Or maybe that’s too much to ask if your own views are anything to go by.

  19. @22 The USA? the most barbaric empire the world has ever known? You have to be kidding

    Ever heard of the Third Reich?

    People actually want to move to the US

  20. I venture to say that in some respects his leadership has been even more impressive than that of the late Imam…

    Is that in the sense that England’s 2010 World Cup performance was “even more impressive” than their effort in 2006? No? Oh dear.

    …the Islam we support and encourage is based on the three principles of spirituality, reason, and justice and it is completely different from reactionary Islam or liberalism…

    The Islam Khamenei’s supported is one that endorses – nay, demands – the oppression of women, homosexuals and, er – musicians. Reactionary enough for ya?

  21. John on said:

    #23

    Hard to believe, I know, but the US over its history has been responsible for more death and destruction in the world than Nazi Germany in its own relatively short but certainly barbaric period of existence.

    An economic system currently dominated by the US remains responsible for millions of premature deaths throughout the developing world. Then there are the endless wars, the propping up of right wing dictators, and on and on.

    People want to move to the US, yes, mostly as a result of the huge cultural domination it wields around the planet, which has succeeded in equating the country with freedom, enterprise, opportunity and streets paved with gold.

    The Third Reich was genocidal in intent and practice. The US kills in order to maintain its economic hegemony and strategic interests.

    For the victims I would imagine the difference is a moot point.

  22. @ 25 Perhaps you would be so kind as to give us some figures to back up you assertion!

  23. Nick Lane on said:

    I am not sure which is worse: The fact that SU uncritically gave space to this absurd hagiography for a brutal regime…

    … or John’s amoral and tortured (sic) logical efforts at making excuses for said regime.

    This is a real low. Why are you making common cause with the enemies of the Iranian left, rather than with Iranian leftists themselves?

  24. Nick on said:

    “People want to move to the US, yes, mostly as a result of the huge cultural domination it wields around the planet, which has succeeded in equating the country with freedom, enterprise, opportunity and streets paved with gold.”

    Because, of course, people in other countries are too stupid and brainwashed to make decisions for any other reasons. Like, for all the US’s complicity in human misery over the years – for all its sponsorship of murderous regimes – for all the economic oppression its version of capitalism entails – there is a real different between being openly gay in Tehran and being openly gay in New York and these things matter.

    Do you know anyone who’s fled Iran, John? Or another country whose politics you reduce to their putative anti-imperialism?

  25. John on said:

    #27

    ‘Why are you making common cause with the enemies of the Iranian left, rather than with Iranian leftists themselves?’

    This is silly. The Iranian left is marginal in the country. The tragedy of its destruction after the Islamic Revolution must give way to an analysis based on the current state of Iranian society and how it has and is affected by the role of the West – i.e. our own govts. To deny this role is to abrogate ourselves from our own responsibilities and obligations as leftists living in the imperialist centres.

    #28

    ‘Do you know anyone who’s fled Iran, John?’

    Actually, I met many Iranian exiles in the US. Without exception they all seemed to be enjoying a good standard of living. They were mostly those or the children of those who’d supported the Shah and left when he was toppled.

    The ‘putative anti-imperialism’ you cite is an objective fact when it comes to Iran. It may not be filling that role out of principle or ideological reasons, but the circumstances of its development and history have made it so. This is the abiding dilemma for progressive forces in the West, at least those that don’t believe that we are the product of a higher civilisation by dint of our military and economic hegemony over the developing world.

    Sovereignty for those states and societies that have emerged after a history of depredations at the hands of their former colonial masters in the West – Iran, China, India, etc. – is fundamental. To us, living in countries whose sovereignty is secure from external interference or subversion, it is not. Failure to fully appreciate this has been a major factor in the flawed analysis that has continually been put forward when discussing the nature of post colonial nation states.

  26. Nick Lane on said:

    @ John,

    “An economic system currently dominated by the US remains responsible for millions of premature deaths throughout the developing world.”

    Statistical nonsense. Please identify for us the examples of places in the world where life expectancy is FALLING, and then explain the causal relation of capitalism to these examples.

    “Hard to believe, I know, but the US over its history has been responsible for more death and destruction in the world than Nazi Germany in its own relatively short but certainly barbaric period of existence.”

    It’s not hard to believe at all, it’s just WORTHLESS EVEN IF TRUE.

    The US has existed for 235 years, whereas the Nazi state lasted 12.

    Which is to say, the US has existed for 19.333 times as long as Nazi Germany did.

    Which is to say that for the US to have caused ‘more death and destruction than Nazi Germany’ over that period, it would only have to be operating at an average ‘barbarism per year’ of about 5% of Nazi Germany in an average year.

    Which, even if it WERE at a higher percentage than that, would show to any sane person that the US is not in any meaningful sense ‘the most barbaric empire the world has ever known’.

    In fact if we are using your peculiar comparative criteria of total deaths spread over extremely variable period lengths – from a decade to hundreds of years, then (taking global populations of the time into count) – ‘the most barbaric empire of all time’ will have almost certainly be one of the ancient ones. But even that would still be a logically flawed method of calibrating ‘barbarism’.

  27. Sue R on said:

    China was colonised by the Japanese, not the West. Actually, they can keep their dusty, empty, devoid of anything countries. Just leave us alone. It was the biggest mistake that the West ever made, getting involved with these no-hope countries, but unfortunaetly that’s the logic of capitalism. I note that you live in America, John. How do you feel about dispossessing the Native Americans, most of whom are relegated to pitiful reservations?

  28. Nick Lane on said:

    @ John

    “‘Why are you making common cause with the enemies of the Iranian left, rather than with Iranian leftists themselves?’

    “This is silly. The Iranian left is marginal in the country.”

    So what?

    The Socialist Unity left itself is marginal in Britain. You won’t be expecting solidarity from anyone else in future, then, will you? Becuase that would be ‘silly’, wouldn’t it?

    Poles are a small minority in Britain. You won’t be making common cause with them in future, will you? Because it’s ‘silly’ to make common cause with small minorities.

    Muslims are a small minority in Britain. You won’t be making common cause with them in future, will you? Because it’s ‘silly’.

    Gay people are a small minority in Britain. You won’t be making common cause with them in future, will you?

    (Okay, that last one’s a bit too close to the truth).

  29. John on said:

    #30

    ‘Statistical nonsense. Please identify for us the examples of places in the world where life expectancy is FALLING, and then explain the causal relation of capitalism to these examples.

    I’m not sure whether or not the above comment was serious, but on the basis that it is a cursory examination of the facts should hopefully clarify matters.

    http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats

    925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of them live in developing countries. (Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010)
    Asia and the Pacific region is home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people;

    (Source: FAO news release, 2010)
    Women make up a little over half of the world’s population, but they account for over 60 percent of the world’s hungry.
    (Source: Strengthening efforts to eradicate hunger…, ECOSOC, 2007)
    65 percent of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
    (Source: FAO news release, 2010)

    Undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
    (Source: Under five deaths by cause, UNICEF, 2006)
    One out of four children – roughly 146 million – in developing countries is underweight
    (Source: The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF, 2007)
    More than 70 percent of the world’s underweight children (aged five or less) live in just 10 countries, with more than 50 per cent located in South Asia alone;
    (Source: Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, UNICEF, 2006)
    10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths;
    (Source: The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF, 2007)
    Iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 billion people. Eradicating iron deficiency can improve national productivity levels by as much as 20 percent.
    (Source: World Health Organization, WHO Global Database on Anaemia)
    Iodine deficiency is the greatest single cause of mental retardation and brain damage, affecting 1.9 billion people worldwide. It can easily be prevented by adding iodine to salt.
    (Source: World Nutrition Situation 5th report ,UN Standing Committee on Nutrition2005)

    N.B. Of course, there is always the possibility that, as many apologists for capitalism would assert, hunger, poverty and disease are natural occurrences, completely disconnected from the economic system that currently dominates the planet.

    There is also the possibility that the earth is flat, there is a monster living in the depths of Loch Ness and the Queen is part of a reptilean conspiracy.

  30. John on said:

    #31

    Sue R, you make a habit out of stupidity it appears. China was colonised at various times by both Japan and the West. The Opium Wars the Treaty Ports, etc?

    I don’t live in the US.

  31. Martel on said:

    After John’s uncritical defence of Stalin’s brutal annexations of 1939-1941, I thought it would be impossible to find his politics more abhorrent.

    After seeing this thread I chide myself for my naivity.

    It seems that John is willing to exercise sychophancy for any regime that engages in token Anti-Western posturing, however brutal that regime is.

    At the start of the Libyan Revolution John was posting Libyan GNP stats to prove the progressive nature of the Gadaffi regime.

    It seems in John’s world as long as you burn a U.S. flag you can get way with as much murder and torture as you want.

  32. John on said:

    #32

    ‘The Socialist Unity left itself is marginal in Britain. You won’t be expecting solidarity from anyone else in future, then, will you? Becuase that would be ’silly’, wouldn’t it?’

    Nick, one thing I have learned with experience is that in life context is everything.

    Your comments betray a distinct lack of both unforunately. We’re discussing here Iran and its global significance as the current bogey man of the West. There is a serious discussion and debate to be had. This is not it, however.

  33. John on said:

    #35

    ‘After John’s uncritical defence of Stalin’s brutal annexations of 1939-1941′

    Actually, I think you’ll find it was a critical defence, though certainly a defence given that I believe the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany was a good thing.

    ‘It seems that John is willing to exercise sychophancy for any regime that engages in token Anti-Western posturing, however brutal that regime is.’

    Whereas you are willing to ‘exercise sycophancy’ for the West as it rampages throughout the developing world toppling any regime it decides has either served its purpose or has the temerity to resist its domination.

    ‘At the start of the Libyan Revolution John was posting Libyan GNP stats to prove the progressive nature of the Gadaffi regime.’

    Well, again, the stats posted were factual, suggesting the reason why the Gadaffi regime enjoys significant support within the country. But of course for you those people don’t count and can be bombed with impunity.

    ‘It seems in John’s world as long as you burn a U.S. flag you can get way with as much murder and torture as you want.’

    So now its yee-ha for America. Last time I checked the guards at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib weren’t burning US flags they were flying them.

  34. Oh Really on said:

    “This is silly. The Iranian left is marginal in the country.”

    Do you think that one factor contributing to the Iranian left being marginal was the Iranian government’s policy of killing them after the revolution and then persecuting them ever since.

  35. I’m sorry, I’m all for interesting discussions on any country in the world if they have a vague link back to general socialist ideas, but a VERY long and tedious defence of the Ayatollah? I’m pretty sure there’s lots going on this week as well…

  36. Omar on said:

    I’m not sure Stephen Marks assertion that there was a “clerical counter-revolution” in 1979 has any basis in fact (as opposed to wishful thinking), whatsoever. Unless he’s too young to remember the news at the time it was filled with images of many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iranians crowding the streets of Tehran upon Ayatollah Khomeni’s return from exile. A much stronger case can be made for the claim that the revolution and overthrow of the Shah would have been impossible without the influence of the clerics.

  37. John on said:

    #39

    ‘Do you think that one factor contributing to the Iranian left being marginal was the Iranian government’s policy of killing them after the revolution and then persecuting them ever since.’

    Yes, I do. But also as a result of the diminuation of socialist ideas internationally with the demise of the Soviet Union and the advance of neoliberalism.

    Specifically, the region saw the eclipse of secularist, nationalist and socialist movements in general, both as a result of their own mistakes in terms of their actions, and the West’s focus on their destruction due to the danger they pose to its interests. Political Islam is a symptom and not the cause of this process. Iran like Afghanistan was and is a society in which an educated urban population that is wedded to ideas of modernity resides alongside a large rural poor population where religion has always acted as the social lynchpin and basis of cultural life.

    Bridging this contradiction will inevitably be the abiding challenge of the left in both Iran and Afghanistan. But in the meantime it remains indisputable that Iran has come under huge pressure from the West not because of its social divisions or the nature of its regime, but because of its strategic role in resisting western attempts to dominate the entire region.

    This is why I think it is useful to read what those Iranian intellectuals who support the regime have to say.

  38. Martel on said:

    #37 ‘think you’ll find it was a critical defence’

    That may be over generous.

    It was more of a macabre resurrection of the old CPGB’s slavishly pro-Soviet take on 1939-41 (an approach that even became unpopular in the CPGB by the 80′s).

    ‘Whereas you are willing to ‘exercise sycophancy’ for the West’

    No, I am perfectly capable of being equally hostile to Western actions that I believe are brutal or unwarranted e.g. I was against the intervention in Iraq.

    However like most somewhat sensible people I will not enter into your simplistic binary (west= bad, anti-west =good).

    I also have moral scruples about writing apologetics for brutal tyrants. Something you seem to revel in.

    ‘the stats posted were factual, suggesting the reason why the Gadaffi…’

    Making sweeping conclusions from such a crude statistical resource as GDP figures tends to tell you little.

    If the figure told us anything it was your lack of shame in seeking to justify any regime, however murderous, respressive and wretched, if it engages in anti-Western postures.

    You do not seem to care about people getting bombed in Libya if it is Gadaffi doing it rather than NATO.

    ‘Last time I checked the guards at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib weren’t burning US flags they were flying them.’

    No one is claiming that the U.S. does not have have human rights issues.

    However they do not negate the abuses in Iran.

  39. another American on said:

    #8

    John: “self righteous denunciation of a nation of 80 million people is revelatory”

    What is revelatory is John’s conflation of the theocracy with the people. As Barts rightly wrote (#6): “So yes, the Islamic Republic’s governing regime is “sovereign”. But the people of Iran are in chains.”

  40. qwer on said:

    Why on earth was my comment deleted?

    Serious question, does SU now consider it unfair and out of bounds to say the Iranian government is anti-semitic and anti-American?

    What on earth kind of progressives are you?

    Never seen anything like it.

  41. Beesat on said:

    #20

    “20.Anyone who knows Iranian refugees and asylum seekers and has heard their stories will be disgusted by these apologetics for a barbaric regime. To rationalise away what gay people, women and opponents of the regime have faced as “contradictions” attributable, no doubt, like every evil in the world, to the depraved west, is as embarrassing as it is contemptible. And ironically, somewhat colonialist in mindset itself, as it seems to deny Iranians the ability to act as agents in the world and be judged for this. ”

    I don’t think that anyone is trying to rationalize discrimination. However, it’s clear that you have never been to Tehran. The place is full of contradictions enough to make your head spin.

    You could write 100 page thesis papers on the evolution of Iranian women and their contradictory role in Iran.

    After the forced veiling after 1979, many iranian women from very religious families were actually more able to go into society and find employment BECAUSE society was veiled.

    They are 65% of the college population.

    They have seen a dramatic rise in access to contraception, literacy, standard of living, lower birth rates, economic independence, and life expectancy since the revolution, all while living under a regime that officially relegates them as inferior to men.

    If you don’t see this is a contradiction, then I don’t know what to tell you.

    The problem is with Westerners is that they get 100% of their information on iran from ‘westernized’ iranian immigrants. This 1% upper crust of society, was very economically and socially free before the revolution, that is the truth.

    What they don’t tell you about is the other 99% of society that was completely marginalized.

    It’s similar to me trying to get a good understanding of American Society in the last 30 years by speaking with my friends in Beverly Hills or Georgetown in DC.

  42. #44

    “So yes, the Islamic Republic’s governing regime is “sovereign”. But the people of Iran are in chains.”

    Flowery language, but in reality the government and the Iranian social system has a significant basis of domestic support.

    I have friends who have enjoyed the hospitality of Iran’s gaols for political reasons, and they would agree that even many of those opposed to the current government broadly support Iran’s political system.

    There may only be a minority actively engaged in supporting the government, but there is only a minority actively opposing the Iranian state as well; while a majority of Iranians get on with their own lives, and as Beesat at #46 explains life is full of contardictions. An Iranian friend of mine who fled the country some years ago recently returned to push her divorce through the courts and get her property back from her ex-husband, and she employed a top woman divorce lawyer in Iran, and got a quicker and better settlement than she would have in the UK.

    My friends tell me that while life in Iran has its idiosyncracies, (and in some cases yes crippling and even murderous oppressions), but for most people, most of the time, it is a functional society where people enjoy personal choice and relative freedom.

  43. Nick on said:

    “‘Do you know anyone who’s fled Iran, John?’

    Actually, I met many Iranian exiles in the US. Without exception they all seemed to be enjoying a good standard of living. They were mostly those or the children of those who’d supported the Shah and left when he was toppled.”

    Breathtakingly evasive but oh, so typical of the left now. I’m clearly talking about those who fled more recently rather than those who were ousted during the Sha’s overthrow. But of course, on your radar, victims of the current regime do not exist unless they’re exiles linked the Shah’s regime and automatically unworthy of pity because of their American ties.

    So I ask you again. Have you met any refugees who have recently fled the vile regime in Tehran? I have met plenty- those who hold no brief for the Sha: real leftists. And gays / transsexuals who would be tortured and murdered if they returned and left for that reason.

    Doesn’t your predictability bore you sometimes?

    Is it not possible to perceive the world in terms other through the juvenile binary Martel pinpoints? That the west might not be wholly bad and the anti-west might not be wholly good? Or can you get away with anything under the banner of anti-imperialism?

    If you are the left, John, the left is dead.

  44. Beesat on said:

    Andy– you tend to overplay the IRI government’s role in redistribution of wealth.

    The recent subsidy reform will be in the negative interests of the working people of iran in the long term. The government’s western inspired cash hand outs (in the US they are tax breaks) not withstanding. If you follow the IMF/ WB, they are quite impressed with what Iran did and there are glowing articles in the economist, FT, etc. That should be a good sign that its in the interests of capital.

    I was just recently there and it has put a lot of pressure on the middle classes. I assume that the lower classes have it even worse.

    But all the restaurants, stores, markets, are packed with people buying and spending like there is no tomorrow.

  45. Beesat on said:

    #48

    Nick—the American Iranian ex-pat community comes in all flavors, but lefitsts are a small minority.

    Go follow any of the little tiny Green Wave organizations they have created. You will find very little anti-war mobilization and anti-sanction discussions.

    They will spend thousands putting on Green Anniversary specials, but you won’t find them say anything about the fact that the US is withholding airplane parts from civilian airplanes in Iran. The reason for this is that because their membership is so wide, they have many members that are actually pro-sanctions and some pro-war (the former monarchists).

    NIAC, despite its faults, actually supports various anti-war and anti-sanction positions.

  46. Nick on said:

    Beesat, interesting, but the social gains you link to the revolution do not justify the oppression and torture of dissidents and those deemed to be in violation of the Islamic code.

    And thanks, I’m familiar enough with parts of the Islamic world (if not of Tehran) to be aware of its contradictions and paradoxes.

    Real progressives do not aspire to an equality based on brutal violence and suppression and a restricted press.

  47. My friends tell me that while life in Iran has its idiosyncracies…

    Idiosyncracies? Where have I heard that one before…

    At enormous cost we have exchanged one of the most exemplary tyrants — an emblem of the triumph of political violence — for what now may be a functioning (if idiosyncratic) democracy.

    Why, of course!

    The “some cases of oppression” is an understatement. Its laws are oppressive – the “cases” are just examples of people who were brave enough to flout them. Christians who speak out of turn; journalists who speak their mind; reformists who speak at all – they’re the symptoms of the sickness.

  48. Beesat on said:

    Nick– where is anyone justifying oppression and violence against dissidents? Why is it that Iran (and ME countries) in general are exempt from nuanced and complex analysis?

    If one were to try and understand the role of the black man in american society, one must start with slavery and chart his path to the present day. This includes huge gains against formal racism, but still much to be gained in the terms of economic, social, and legal freedom. I’m sure you would be ok with such an analysis, but don’t allow for a similar discussions around Iranian women when the latter is probably a subject you know very little about.

  49. Beesat on said:

    #52

    Trying to lump Iran in with gulf and arab dictatorships will lead to incorrect analysis.

    Andy is pretty much correct, what is going on Iran is a dysfunctional democracy in a society that is changing very rapidly both culturally, economically, and politically.

    There are multiple power centers in Iran, and the presidency was in the hands of the reformists from 1990 to 2005. They were able to make some temporary reforms, but ultimately were pushed back by the conservative power structure.

    What the regime lacks, is the ability to resolve political disagreements without accusing the other side of sedition and throwing this or that politician in jail. This is not just the conservatives vs. the reformists. The conservatives are now doing the same to Ahmadinejad’s inner circle.

    If it can resolve this, the iranian people will be much better off.

    Read: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/aam250410.html ; especially the last paragraph:

    “So what is the green movement? At the time of writing, it is the political “other” that has made the re-election and the current policies of Ahmadinejad possible. For the Iranian Right, it is the adversary whose presence calls for mitigated violence. But in the final analysis, the green movement or any of its reincarnations are as much a part of the Islamic Republic, as the supreme leader, the Baseej, the Revolutionary Guards, and President Ahmadinejad. When it becomes impossible to govern the country without the collusion of that “enemy,” the Iranian right wing is likely to accept that in the long run power can never be effectively monopolized. If it remains color blind, however, the state will continue to suffer from political schizophrenia.”

  50. paul fauvet on said:

    “The Iranian left is marginal in the country”

    Indeed it is – just as the German left was marginal after about 1934, and for much the same reasons.

    If a party’s leaders and members are systematically arrested, tortured, murdered or forced into exile – then yes, that party may well become “marginal”.

    Where are the words of solidarity from John with, to take the most obvious example, the Iranian communists of the Tudeh Party?

    The Tudeh Party made the mistake of trying to collaborate with the clerical regime in the early days of the Islamic Republic. But that did not save them from a savage attack in 1982, in whih thousands of party members were arrested.

    Several of them were then filmed confessing to “treason”, “counter-revolutionary activities” etc, and praising the all knowing, all wise Ayatollah Khomenei. Does that remind you of anything, john?

    Those Tudeh leaders who did not break under torture were murdered in jail. But maybe John thinks they were all imperialist agents, in the pay of the CIA and/or Mossad.

    Prison massacres of surviving members of the Tudeh, the People’s Muhaheddin and other left wing groups occurred in the late 1980s. But no doubt John imagines you can’t make a good Islamic omelette without breaking a few leftist eggs.

    Also absent from John’s considerations are the struggles of Iranian trade unions. Or perhaps he thinks that the release of the Tehran busworkers’ leader, Mansour Osanloo, a few weeks ago makes everything all right?

  51. prianikoff on said:

    (Khameini) “was chosen to succeed the towering figure of Imam Khomeini”

    Not in an election though!

  52. Omar on said:

    As reported by Robert Fisk in the Indy yesterday, Ahmadinejad is feeling the heat due to some of his inner circle and allies being subject to corruption investigations which would suggest that the mechanisms of the Iranian Republic are working in the people’s interests. Clearly a more nuanced approach to Iran is required rather than the bog-standard-issue American/Israeli line that gets parroted by many commentators here.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/how-the-demise-of-a-trusted-adviser-could-bring-down-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-2303671.html

  53. Darkness at Noon on said:

    “The Iranian left is marginal in the country”

    Funny how mass torture, execution squads, prison, rape and social oppression tend to ‘marginalise’ the Left. Funnily enough, it’s also marginalised democrats, secularists and minorities.

    Yet some self-proclaimed Leftists defend a regime that would sooner see them dead.

  54. Beesat on said:

    #56

    The supreme leader is elected by the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly of Experts is elected by vote of the people (with gov’t vetted approved candidates).

    So you’re statement is mostly incorrect.

    Morever, until recently, the Assembly was headed by Rafsanjani, who was a reformist president in the 90′s, and one of the main backers of the green movement.

  55. Darkness at Noon on said:

    Omar:

    “…Ahmadinejad is feeling the heat due to some of his inner circle and allies being subject to corruption investigations which would suggest that the mechanisms of the Iranian Republic are working in the people’s interests.”

    It would likely suggest a political power-struggle in a club where terms like ‘corrupt’ and ‘deviant’ are often bandied about to smear rivals. The people are not of interest, only power and those who hold ultimate power are unelected in Iran.

    I actually doubt Ahmadinejad is more or less corrupt than anyone in the Iranian political elite. For a start, the country’s economy is largely in the hands of a military clique, not the ‘people’. Any redistribution/subsidies are political sops to a country in deep crisis.

  56. prianikoff on said:

    @59 Take a look at who is excluded from those elections some time.
    It certainly helps to be a hairy old cleric with testicles.

    This is almost as undemocratic as having a head of state who is born to the position, even though this sometimes produces one who has tits.

  57. Beesat on said:

    #55

    The iranian tudeh commnist party died when it failed to defend mossadegh during the 1953 coup. Khomeini hammered in the proverbial nails in the 80′s, but they jumped in to the coffin themselves with their poor leadership and subservience to the moscow line. Quite sad since they were once a strong party with many members.

    Regarding the people’s mujahedeen. They were probably the most destructive and irresponsible of the left parties, and quite frankly a bit crazy. They conducted a horrific terror bomb campaign after the revolution against the khomeini regime that killed 70 or so of khomeini’s gang. This pushed the khomeini gov’t very rightward and gave them the excuse they needed to crush everyone else.

    They have zero support inside or outside of iran (with the except of neo-con bush administration officials).

    Any analysis of the historic iranian left must focus as much on these group’s own failures to command and maintain support amongst the iranian masses than solely on khomeini’s repression.

  58. paul fauvet on said:

    Shorter Beesat – the Tudeh had a useless leadership so it’s OK to jail, torture and massacre them.

    The People’s Mujahideen were irresponsible leftists, so it’s OK to massacre them, too.

    And, of course, the Trotsky-Bukharin gang of wreckers put glass in workers’ butter, so it was absolutely correct to massace them too.

    Shoot the mad dogs!

  59. Beesat on said:

    #60

    The ahmadinejad gov’t just carried out the single biggest economic reform in the last 30 years. Prices on all items increased, but inflation was kept at a manageable 13-15%. This lead to glowing reviews from international financial capital.

    Now, these subsidy reforms are in the negative interest of iranian working people for sure. But the fact that this was carried out with almost zero social unrest is a testament to iran’s current stability. Time will tell how this plays out.

    Iran may be entering a political crisis of sorts, but that is not the same as an economic or social crisis. That is wishful thinking on your part.

    Even its political crisis is not that unusual. There are far right, conservatives, centrists (both left and right), and reformists all vying for power. I’ll remind people that there are large segments of american right wing (and their contituents) that openly refer to Obama as anti-american and a traitor sent from another country to destory America from the inside.

    What makes the iranian political system more unusual is not that various bourgeois politicians have strong disagreements and hate each other sometimes, but rather that they can’t seem to hash out their disagreements without jailing and (somtimes killing) each other’s supporters.

    Anyway, I agree with you, the people are not of interest in the current factional fight between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.

    Nor were they of interest during the factional fight between the greens (rafsanjani/mousavi/karoubi/khatemi)and Khamenei.

    However, two years ago everyone said that the green movement was on the verge of revolution and any leftist that said anything contrary to that was labeled an ahmadenijad supporter, islamist apologist, khomeini supporter, etc. etc. Not unlike the smears being throw around by the khamenei clique in iran, both agains tthe greens and against the ahmadinejad faction.

  60. Beesat on said:

    #63

    Trotsky’s analysis of the rise of Nazism focused as much, if not more, on the failures of the german communists and social democrats than on the repression of Hitler. And that’s why it is quite a good analysis and still useful today and infinitely more useful to leftists than the hundreds of books that focus on the repression methods of hitler and his evil personality.

    However, kudos on the great straw man arguments and throwing around of insults and smears. You could be a successful iranian politician.

  61. Beesat on said:

    #61

    Oh I agree with you, it’s quite undemocratic. About as undemocratic as having a presidential system that needs about 1 billion dollars in wall street donations to have a chance at winning.

    Welcome to bourgeoise ‘democracy’.

    Enjoy your stay.

  62. John on said:

    #55

    Paul Fauvet, I already acknowledged the tragedy that befell the Iranian left post the revolution. However, I think Beesat makes the crucial point in this regard at #62 over the Tudeh’s wrong turn during the US/British engineered coup that toppled Mossadegh in 1953.

    The Iranian left must bear some of the responsibility for its own demise, as must the left throughout the entire region. Otherwise we are talking about socialism as a religion instead of a means to an end driven by human agency.

    A section of the Iraqi Communist Party welcomed and supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Their hatred of Saddam blinded them to the much greater threat to the Iraqi people posed by the West. The result has been the fracturing of the country along sectarian lines, the slaughter of 1 million people, millions more maimed and made refugees and a concomitant increase in social injustice, racism and reaction at home.

    You of course support the West in its various military adventures, viewing them as missions of mercy to topple despots and dictators. In so doing you have turned the dialectic on its head as you twist and turn and perform intellectual gyrations in order to justify this line.

    These regimes are symptoms of the mess created by the West and in its rapacious policy of asserting control over the developing world the better to exploit its human and natural resources.

    Causation and consequences should never be confused.

  63. Oh I agree with you, it’s quite undemocratic. About as undemocratic as having a presidential system that needs about 1 billion dollars in wall street donations to have a chance at winning.

    Welcome to bourgeoise ‘democracy’

    Socialists are not trying to achieve “bourgeois democracy” but we do favor democratic rights. Why do you think that Marx was so sympathetic to Chartism? Why do you think that Lenin wrote so much about democratic rights? Marxists favor democratic rights because it allows workers to press their own class demands. When it is against the law to assemble, it makes open struggle more difficult. And so on and so forth. This tendency for left-liberals like the people who own this blog to diminish the importance of democratic rights is one of the unfortunate residues of Stalinism. Unless socialists can become recognized as the most resolute fighters for democratic rights, they will have no credibility among working people. I think the attraction for John and Andy in the Islamic Republic of Iran is that it exemplifies a kind of paternalistic approach to politics that used to exist when Stalin, the wise and benign leader of Soviet socialism, was in all his glory. The sooner we dump this baggage, the better off we’ll be. Of course, I understand why some radicals clutch to it like a security blanket.

  64. SteveH on said:

    Great post. Anything that makes Fauvet’s blood pressure rise is OK by me. Maybe a series of them will finish him off for good.

  65. SteveH on said:

    Mr Proyect,

    Why, if ‘democratic rights’ make it easier for people to assemble, did so many assemble in the Middle East against their dictators and so few are assembling in the so called democracies? I really don’t buy into that argument.

    Now, if a government attempted to curtail these rights I would take to the streets but I still don’t buy into the argument that it makes it easier or less easy. I think different factors decide that.

  66. paul fauvet on said:

    SteveH – sorry to disappoint you, but my blood pressure is not rising, since I find it dismally predictable that Andy and Jon (presumably Jon wight, who was so enthusiastic about the wisdom of Stalin in signing his pact with Hitler) would wax lyrical about the Ayatollahs and their regime, while ignoring such inconvenient realities as murdered communists and jailed trade unionists.

    John, unable to answer my points about solidarity with the victims of the clerical regime, claims that I support the west “in its various military adventures”.

    What you mean is that I do not have your knee-jerk reaction to oppose anything the western powers are doing. If, for whatever reason, the dreaded imperialists do something which happens to advance the cause of oppressed peoples, then, yes, I will support it.

    So I am all in favour of NATO assisting the Libyan rebels in getting rid of Gaddafi, and I certainly supported the long overdue western move against Milosevic and his Greater Serbia project.

    As for your description of the US as “the most barbaric empire the world has ever known” – I suppose you don’t read many history books, do you?

  67. Ikram on said:

    Andy Newman’s degeneration goes on…. after becoming a supporter of Labour and bashing the revolutionary left, he now posts articles by Marandi, who is a staunch supporter of the Iranian regime and spends his time defending the repression of the Green Movement.
    I am well aware of the complexities of Iran, its demonisation in Western media etc, but posting articles by criminals like Marandi is taking sides with the oppressor against the oppressed.

  68. Martel on said:

    #72 I imagine those in democratic societies do not hold protest’s demanding a democratic society for a pretty obvious reason.

    Similarly bemusing is your claim that the right to free assembly does not make it easier to assemble.

    Maybe you should try organising a protest in say Pyongyang and compare it to organising one in Marseille.

    There may be a few noticable differences.

  69. Beesat on said:

    #70

    Thanks Louis. I knew deep down somewhere that this post had something to do with the never ending power struggle between lenin, marx vs. stalin. Thanks for clearing it up.

    However, not that Louis brings it up, There is a great article on the bolsheviks attitudes towards islam that is actually quite relevant to the discussion at hand (http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=181&issue=110)

    It covers some of the really crazy things that the bolsheviks did upon seizing power:


    Sharia law had been a central demand of Muslims during the February Revolution of 1917 and, as the civil war drew to a close in 1920-1921, a parallel court system was created in Central Asia and the Caucasus, with Islamic courts administering justice in accordance with sharia law side by side with Soviet legal institutions. The aim was for people to have a choice between religious and revolutionary justice. A Sharia Commission was established in the Soviet Commissariat of Justice to oversee the system. In 1921 a series of commissions were attached to regional units of the Soviet administration with the purpose of adapting the Russian legal code to the conditions of Central Asia, allowing for compromise between the two systems on questions such as under-age marriage and polygamy.”

    The entire article is well worth reading. It describes the strategy of the bolsheviks to reduce religious tensions and bring them under soviet regulation so that class issues could come to the front.

    “The author of a recent history of the hujum points out that, in the early years of Bolshevik power, the idea of encouraging—let alone forcing—Muslim women to renounce the veil had barely entered Bolshevik thought:

    In sum, the veil’s supposed social dangers and harmful effects were at best a secondary matter before 1926. Indeed, party policy before 1926 was fairly clear that [unveiling] should not be a central focus of Zhenotdel [Women’s Department] attention. In fact, the reverse was more the case—many
    Bolsheviks in positions of authority argued vocally against unveiling, contending that it was premature, or worse, a distraction that would only harm party interests.38″

    It then describes how Stalin dismantled all the gains of the early years and introduced forced unveiling. This forced unveiling, was also some inspiration for a similar program that the Shah’s father put in place, that increased tensions with religion and was a nice seed for well, the islamic revolution.

    The lesson? Taking on religion and cultural tradition in developing countries in a head one collision and you will always always lose your head.

    Now in the case of Iran, a different strategy must be employed. But the conditions are not very different. You have a society split between urban secular modernity and rural religious conservatism with the latter having a semi monopoly on state and political power.

    Socialists should be wondering how to reduce the cultural tensions and try and bring class issues to the fore.

  70. Darkness at Noon on said:

    @Omar:

    “Not according to that bastion of Islamism, the IMF:”

    I read the article – do you trust the figures provided by the Iranian regime? Independently verifiable? I suggest you be a bit sceptical over its veracity.

    “And for all the propaganda that Ahmadinejad represents Iran’s “evil intentions” toward the rest of the ME, how much value will that theory have if Ahmadinejad is deposed? I suggest you go back to the drawing-board.”

    I do not fall for propaganda – Ahmadinejad is still a figurehead for a clerical theocracy. The clerical theocracy remains and the Revolutionary Guard still controls large swathes of the economy even if he is deposed for expediency reasons. Ahmadinejad has pursued a many-faceted agenda that finally has gotten the true powers that be worried.

  71. Beesat on said:

    #77

    Iran published their entire basket of goods and how it was calculated: http://www.donya-e-eqtesad.com/Default_view.asp?@=255769

    I suppose then if you want to counter them, then an economist would have to show where he thinks the analysis is faulty or what figures he thinks are incorrect. Not just raise their hands in skepticism and serve that is proof of something.

    I’m sure there are plenty in the iranian power structure that would dispute these numbers to embarass Ahmadinejad. Both in the khamenei camp and in the reformist camp.

    Moreover, I assume the IMF does some checking just before accepting these numbers? They’re not in the business of doing iran any favors.

  72. Omar on said:

    #77
    Correction, not a clerical theocracy, but a clerical democracy. I know you have a hard time accepting that as it cuts against the little mad-mullah narrative your ilk have been running with for the last 3 decades and that has been especially ramped-up since 9/11. And I suspect the IMF has some fairly thorough checks (especially where Iran is concerned) to come to the conclusions they do.

    “Ahmadinejad has pursued a many-faceted agenda that finally has gotten the true powers that be worried.”

    An utterly empty,baseless little conspiracy theory.

  73. Dana on said:

    What kind of a cock are you to publish such an article by some stooge of a religious dictator? You are a disgrace to the word Socialist

  74. Richard on said:

    You really seem to be losing the plot here, Andy. I thought this was a socialist site. Now you have reached the point where your strange buddy John is defending not giving support to fellow socialists in Iran, on the grounds that… er, they don’t have much existing support!

    What’s John’s ‘next progressive’ brainwave? ‘Don’t give hospital treatment to these seriously ill people – they haven’t reached the required fitness level’?

  75. Lawyer on said:

    Shocking to see this stuff on a socialist blog.

    Marandi’s post is an insult to the memory of Neda Agha-Soltan and the many others who were slaughtered by the regime for having the temerity to call for basic democratic rights.

    Socialists must defend Iran against the very real threats of US and Israeli aggression.

    However that defence does not involve dressing up the murderous reactionary Khamenei/Ahmedinajad theocracy in progressive clothes.

    What next? Maybe we could have a regular feature like a daily Socialist Unity Page 3 Beautiful Basiji? “Lovely Mahmoud, 27, likes football, cinema, shooting unarmed protesters and beating homosexuals.”

  76. #81

    Well, Richard, if you think that the label socialist should be considered a catch-all that requires the abandonment of critical thought or evaluation then you’re absolutely right, I am strange. There are socialists in this country I don’t support. Marx didn’t support every socialist in his time either, nor Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, and so on.

    So your attempt to introduce some kind of cult-like group think into the discussion isn’t just strange it is idiotic.

  77. vildechaye on said:

    RE: The fact that you would neglect to factor any of the above into your self righteous denunciation of a nation of 80 million people is revelatory.

    Dear John: Bart did not make a “denunciation of a nation of 80 million,” self-righteous or otherwise, nor did he in any other way conflate the theocratic, dictatorial regime in Tehran with “the nation of 80 million.” In fact, it’s you who seem to be doing the conflating, by making out that criticism of the regime amounts to slandering a great nation. Bart appears to have sympathy for the long-suffering Iranian citizens who have no choice in who governs them; you, on the other hand, make excuses for a murderous thugocracy and pretend you’re defending a nation of 80 million when in fact all you’re doing is supporting its oppressors. pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  78. Darkness at Noon on said:

    @Omar: “An utterly empty,baseless little conspiracy theory.”

    As far as conspiracies go, this one is pretty tame. My theories are based on the supposed accusations of ‘corruption’ and ‘deviancy’ thrown at A. and his appointees by his erstwhile backers. But considering that there is zero transparency within the workings of the higher echelons of the Iranian state or a reliable way to verify, it’s not outrageous to speculate on the displeasure A. has created.

  79. #84

    ‘Bart appears to have sympathy for the long-suffering Iranian citizens who have no choice in who governs them’

    Last time I checked Iran was a democracy. Is it a workers democracy? No. Is is a liberal democracy? No. Are they restricted in the candidates they can vote for on the basis of its Islamic integument? Yes.

    This is one of the contradictions that define Iranian society. We have a few of those in the West also, I’d remind you.

    Long suffering Iranian citizens? This is based on fact or on prejudice and western propaganda? I suggest it’s the latter.

  80. Darkness at Noon on said:

    @Omar:

    “Correction, not a clerical theocracy, but a clerical democracy.”

    Call it what you fucking want. But Socialists, Democrats, Secularists, Trade Unionists, Social-Democrats, Minority parties or even the Monster Raving Loony party are forbidden to partake in it and are actively pursued and persecuted.

    You get to choose between a few shades of ‘clerically approved’ theocrats.

    If you want to define that as ‘clerical democracy’, that’s your call – I’m sure most people no longer fall for the BS.

  81. vildechaye on said:

    RE: Your attempt to introduce some kind of cult-like group think into the discussion isn’t just strange it is idiotic.

    Best example of “pot.kettle.black” I’ve read in a long while.

  82. @72: Why, if ‘democratic rights’ make it easier for people to assemble, did so many assemble in the Middle East against their dictators and so few are assembling in the so called democracies? I really don’t buy into that argument.

    Answer: They put their bodies on the line to get those rights. That is what the IWW wobblies did when they chained themselves to a lamp-post while reading the Bill of Rights. This is what radicals and revolutionaries do. What crypto-Stalinists do is make excuses for the cops, that is all the cops who the US State Department denounces.

    @76: Sharia law had been a central demand of Muslims during the February Revolution of 1917

    Answer: The issue is not whether a people have a right to vote for governments that favor Sharia law. Rather, it is that Iran tortures, jails, and exiles people who want to organize freely against it.

  83. lone nut on said:

    So let’s get this straight, John, you have no problem in characterising the Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish states since 1921 as “a carnival of reaction” but you would hesitate to use such a term to characterise the post-1979 Iranian state?

  84. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    #89 I haven’t followed this thread, so please forgive me. But this “They put their bodies on the line to get those rights” jumps out. Do you really think that the dynamics of the January revolution are captured in this liberal formulation that people put their bodies on the line for something called democratic rights? There was much more to it than that. There’s the matter of class; and three decades of economic injustice, of national/regional humiliation and of the overweening power of a corrupted security apparatus. You are a Marxist: aren’t these considerations of special interest for Marxists, especially when a liberal democratic, Whiggish narrative is being spun to suit the representatives of liberal capitalism?

  85. @91: Do you really think that the dynamics of the January revolution are captured in this liberal formulation that people put their bodies on the line for something called democratic rights?

    Clearly you have no idea what I am getting at. If I wanted to write about the dynamics of a revolution, it would take more space than in a comment on a blog. I was simply arguing against backing governments that imprison and torture bus drivers. The same logic that used to be used to defend Stalin is now being used to defend Ahmadinejad. The left has to be on the side of protesters fighting against the clerical dictatorship in Iran. I call it a dictatorship, btw, because the real power is in the hands of unelected people like Khameini who is being extolled here.

  86. Mike Willis on said:

    Hilarious and embarassing.

    Watch John as he twists and turns to argue that black is white, that up is down, and that grovelling apologism for reactionaries is ‘nuance’.

  87. The spectre on said:

    #92 and of course KO through Galloway, toady’s up to Stalinist regimes such as, Syria, and Iran for their sponsorship. Galloway time and again has had to distance himself when found out. He is making a career out of it.

  88. Anonymous on said:

    #62 The PMOI made the sad journey from fighters against oppression to being mercenaries for Saddam, involved in some of the worst oppression of the Iraqi Kurds

  89. Martel on said:

    # I also like how Kevin trys to imitate Galloway’s speaking style with the the completely inappropriate use of long or obscure words.

    As well as making the posts appear dreadfully pompous, they make them impossible to read without immediate irritation.

    But there is nothing like a fusillade of acateleptic verbiage to make even the most puerile asseverations seem the acme of sagacious perspicacity

  90. The spectre on said:

    Tell us Kevin Ovenden, why your website “Viva Palestina” does not carry a supporting article on the pending ship convoy to Gaza.

    Do we detect a lack of comradeship and partnership with other organisation’s same goals as yourself. We know how hungry Galloway is for acclamation and everything must be his campaign.

    If you are doing something practical or than the Beruit Uni with some attempted global stunt there after please let the organisers know. Maybe there is no mileage in the Galloway brand with the Turks. Please do let us know.

  91. tony collins on said:

    I’ll answer that one, Specs. I know you only ever really post to have a go at Kevin, but let’s share the love, yeah?

    (Oh and Martel, what in Kevin’s post is even slightly pompous? The longest word is “humiliation”)

    Viva Palestina is a charity which is under ridiculous scrutiny, far more than similar charities that, oooh, say, don’t help Palestinians.

    The Charity Commission monitors every word that the organisation says. They will take VP to task for the wrong damned verb being used.

    The latest flotilla is not like the last one. It is clearly a political movement.

    Charities are not allowed to use their time or money to support such initiatives.

    The VP website does say this. It does say that VP supports the flotilla, but in the context of VP’s stated charitable aims, one of which is to educate people about the cause of the conflict in the middle east.

    So, legally, VP can’t be a supporter or participant. The CC would come down on it like a ton of bricks.

    As someone who clearly doesn’t give a fuck about the left or other movements except insofar as you can belittle them, I expect you to be really happy at this. You clearly didn’t ask your question in a comradely spirit.

    I mean, you posted about Viva Palestina only to sneer, so you clearly are not serious. Anyone who looks at your posts can see that you operate on the MO of some parts of the left, which is “never debate, just divert and destroy”.

    I’m sure you’re very proud of your success.

    In the meantime, I’m sure Kevin will be deeply hurt by the fact that you only ever crawl out of the gutter and post under the name “The Spectre” to attack him in an entirely non-political way.

    Sadly, nothing will change with you. But I thought I would share with the less sectarian people on here the reasons why some things happen and some things don’t.

    And Martel, do you really want to be on the same side as this nasty piece of work “The Spectre”?

    I can say “fuck” a bit more if it balances things out on the language front.

  92. The spectre on said:

    Divert and destroy?

    Did not Galloway do just that when in Glasgow in the May elections. He certainly damaged the left for decades. I notice he did not stand in Inverrclyde. So much for his commitment as the next great socialist hope for Scotland. He lacks the moral courage of our convictions

    You know fine I have spoken out at conference. I have never heard you once raising one concern about Galloway. You are blinded and easily led by patter merchants

  93. tony collins on said:

    A person posting under a pseudonym a) ignores every point I made and then b) expects me to grant him/her credibility, despite me not having a clue who it is.

    I also like the way there’s this default position of “must raise concerns about Galloway”.

    No, Specs, I’ve got more concern about trolls posting under pseudonyms who never try to debate or argue, but instead try only to make things unpleasant. There was absolutely no reason for you to bring Viva Palestina into things in such a sneery way.

    So, anon – to use your real name – as I said on here in 2007, when someone claiming to be an SWP member and claiming to know me, said some stuff about my personality but refused to reveal who s/he was: If I don’t know you, then nothing you say about what I have or haven’t done, or what you have or haven’t done, is in any way relevant.

    We might be the best of friends for all I know. You might be a wonderful person in real life. But all you ever do on here is find posts by Kevin and use them to attack Galloway. Not to try to change people’s politics. Not to try to influence people. No, just to sneer. Go back and look at what you wrote above. In what way was that designed to advance the left, to influence readers, to change people’s minds?

    Sorry. It’s not. Good on you for raising your concerns. You never know, I might agree with them, I might not. But the way you raise things on here is not really indicative of someone who has a healthy relationship with honest debate.

    Oh, and: fuck.

  94. Martel on said:

    # 98 ‘Oh and Martel, what in Kevin’s post is even slightly pompous? The longest word is “humiliation”)’

    The comment was refering to his general style rather than this specific comment.

    It is all very well referring to Greek rhetorical terminology in certain appropriate contexts. However I find the usage of such terms in a bid to impress, rather than convery a very specific meaning, rather tedious.

    I think he has just picked it up from Galloway who, for whatever of his merits, has got it into his head that he is a modern day Demosthenes.

  95. The spectre on said:

    Tony, people are having at laugh at you. I posed questions about the integrity of your rump’s spokespersons and you retort I am not left enough or I am disruptive. Well, I do not think you are the sole judge of that. Some will agree with you. The majority believe Galloway is a law onto himself.

    For decades I followed Galloway and only he knows that level of support I readily gave him. To say I am not a socialist or left, even he will chuckle or he may have soured to the extent of that he allows people like you to defend him. I find your ramblings pathetic. Away and find a quiet place and lie down Tony

  96. Nadia Chern on said:

    At Respect’s 2010 conference, only one person outside of the SR supporters who wanted to go along with the SSP, spoke against Respect standing in Scotland. He, as an honest socialist, acknowledged after the debate that he would support the conference decision.

  97. The spectre on said:

    #103
    Nadia you are perfectly correct.

    The same person told Chris Chilvers at the conference he was not renewing his membership but would continue to support Respect. Yes that person also believes in democratic centralism and when it was decided it ceased to be a question for him as a member.

    He left the conference not as a member and continued his opposition.. On a personal note Galloway turned his back on him and it will never be forgotten. That person is not confetti.

    He wants his membership back, but will not ask for it. I agree with him that Galloway done him wrong

  98. Since some ehre mention the dynamics of a real revolution perhpas they will face up to the threats of Tunisia’s Islamists, notably against the daughter of Communist parents and film-maker Nadia El Fani.

    Last Sunday, a showing of her film, Ni Allah, Ni Maître, produced by a woman who declares herself an atheist, in Tunis, by a group defending artistic freedom, was attacked by a gang of Islamists.

    No doubt some here would defend the Islamists’ fight against communist atheists. Marx was after all a European.

  99. @ sackcloth and ashes (30 June, 2011 @ 2:58 pm). Well, if that’s the kind of vile libelous crap you come out with, you ought to be banned.

    Being anti-zionist does not make one a ‘Jew-hater’, any more than those who were anti-Apartheid were ‘White-haters’.

  100. Martel on said:

    On the subject of certain sections of the left’s support for dodgy regimes, here is Harpal Brar (Chairman of the CPGB-ML) in Tripoli. He passes on comradely greetings to Brother Gadaffi.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3ydc9lbluQ&feature=player_embedded

    However, I think the CPGB-ML has now become rather infamous for its support of the planet’s most unpleasant regimes.

    I would personally not regard it as left at all.

  101. Darkness at Noon on said:

    @Noah:

    “Being anti-zionist does not make one a ‘Jew-hater’, any more than those who were anti-Apartheid were ‘White-haters’.”

    First of all, a ridiculous comparison.

    Secondly, there is unfortunately an overlap between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. It has to be acknowledged.

    A case in point being the warm welcomes extended to the likes of David Duke (Anti-Semite, Anti-Zionist…and presumably pro-Apartheid) a KKK leader and prominent white nationalist, by the Iranian and Syrian governments.

    Interestingly, this article praises (directly and by extension) a political and theocratic system that would embrace out and out racists and Jew-haters as long as they figure in the ‘anti-Zionist’ narrative.

  102. Omar on said:

    “I would personally not regard it as left at all.”

    And personally I wouldn’t regard you, Martel, as left in any meaningful sense based on what you post at this site.

  103. Robert on said:

    If Iran is supposed to be so anti semitic how come it has the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel and a Jewish seat reserved in the Iranian parliament?

    The Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa saying that Jews were People of the Book and therefore not to be persecuted.

    Meanwhile the apartheid regime in Israel was a key ally of the apartheid regime in South Africa and helped to give South Africa the bomb.

    To try and conflate anti Zionism with anti Semitism as the troll above did is a disgraceful slur and I agree with Noah that the troll should be banned.

  104. Omar on said:

    #109
    DaN,
    There should, conversely, be an acknowledgement of the racism inherent in Zionism , towards Arabs,non-Ashkenaze Jews and the Black Falasha community.

  105. Martel on said:

    # 110 I agree that I do not regard myself as part of the revolutionary left.

    However, all the socialist achievements in this country such as the NHS, the welfare state, equal rights etc have been achieved by the democratic left.

    So I am quite happy to remain within the democratic left and leave the self-declared revolutionaries to their dramatics.

    However it is a little rude for the Bolsheviks to claim exclusive use of the term socialist.

    Socialist thought is much wider than vanguardism.

  106. Anonymous on said:

    #111 Robert, why ban the zionist troll ? He actually amuses me with his ignorance , to others he must just show his complete intellectual redundancy. It’s be a shame to ban someone who provides such lightweight entertainment.

  107. Martel: “all the socialist achievements in this country such as the NHS, the welfare state, equal rights etc have been achieved by the democratic left.”

    In which case, you are presumably an advocate of the democratic credentials of the Soviet Union- as the above were won with the indispensible assistance of the example of the USSR & other socialist countries, & the threat of communism.

  108. Martel on said:

    #117 ‘you are presumably an advocate of the democratic credentials of the Soviet Union’

    ‘above were won with the indispensible assistance of the example of the USSR’

    It is pretty obvious that I am not going to agree with either of these statements, so it may as well be left at that.

  109. SteveH on said:

    Louis Proyect has still answered my question. I am fully aware of the struggles people go through to get basic democractic rights and I certainly am on the side of those trying to get them. But Mr Proyect said these rights make it easier to assemble and for the class struggle to take place. I don’t buy into that view, I think other factors decide this – the level of class consciouness, state of the economy, etc.

  110. Darkness at Noon on said:

    @Robert:

    “If Iran is supposed to be so anti semitic how come it has the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel and a Jewish seat reserved in the Iranian parliament?”

    I made it clear the regime welcomes and panders to anti-semites, yet you deflect. The fact that there remains a small rump of a once great Jewish community is a sham argument. The majority of Jews in Iran fled the regime. End of story. Those left lead restricted lives and are part of a dwindling community with little outlook.

    I think Jews would prefer full democracy to a seat reserved for an approved poodle of the regime.

    Next you’ll tell me the regime doesn;t discriminate against Bahai.

    “The Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa saying that Jews were People of the Book and therefore not to be persecuted.”

    These ‘fatwas’ are dime and a dozen. Most Jews left after they found themselves living in a theocracy and the state took away businesses.

    “Meanwhile the apartheid regime in Israel was a key ally of the apartheid regime in South Africa and helped to give South Africa the bomb.”

    Oh god here we go again. Israel was a small ally in comparison with the usual suspects.

    “To try and conflate anti Zionism with anti Semitism as the troll above did is a disgraceful slur and I agree with Noah that the troll should be banned.”

    You guys are totally fucked in the head. Totally. I wouldn’t rely on you to fight or see anti-semitism in a million years.

  111. Here Darkness at Noon is spot on

    I’m not going to link but Iran hosted a major conference of Holocaust Deniers around six years ago

    Gov support as well

    Totally vile

  112. curious on said:

    #121 Go on then “link”

    #120 “Oh god here we go again. Israel was a small ally in comparison with the usual suspects.”

    Oh , that’s alright then

  113. Omar on said:

    #120
    “I wouldn’t rely on you to fight or see anti-semitism in a million years.”

    And I wouldn’t listen to the likes of you,sackcloth and ashes et al and your self-serving, manipulative attempts at trying to define what is and isn’t anti-Semitic for the rest of us. You should be ashamed.

  114. #120

    Israel was not just “a small ally” of the apartheid state of South Africa, it was the state which provided the South Africans with the technology to build a nuclear bomb, and was one of the main supliers of arms for the South African Defence Force during the apartheid era.

  115. Robert on said:

    #120 A more useful comparison might be between the situation of Jews in Iran and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Last time I looked Iran wasn’t bulldozing Jewish homes to make way for Shia Muslims.

    Pointing to anti semitism and lack of democracy in the Muslim world is exactly the same defence apartheid South Africa used to come up with. They claimed they were surrounded by hostile black African states with far worse human rights records than the Republic. Guess what? There were seriously brutal regimes across Africa. It still didn’t justify apartheid.

    In any case anti semitism in the Arab world, however deplorable, is very largely a reaction to the crimes of Zionism in the region.

  116. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “Pointing to anti semitism and lack of democracy in the Muslim world is exactly the same defence apartheid South Africa used to come up with. ”

    I agree, but you seem to be doing just this by comparing Israel’s treatment of non-Jews in the West Bank and Gaza with Iran’s treatment of Iranian Jews.

  117. Robert on said:

    Israeli oppression of Palestinians doesn’t justify repression in Iran true.

    However the Zionist Darkness at Noon was attacking Iran for being anti semitic so it seemed only fair to point out that Jews are not persecuted in Iran in the same way Palestinians are in Israel.

  118. vildechaye on said:

    RE: Last time I checked Iran was a democracy. Is it a workers democracy? No. Is is a liberal democracy? No. Are they restricted in the candidates they can vote for on the basis of its Islamic integument? Yes. This is one of the contradictions that define Iranian society.

    How handy it must be to conclude that “the last time I checked Iran was a democracy,” all the while noting that it isn’t a “workers or liberal democracy” and that the “Islamic integument” determines eligibilty for said elections. And how handy to simply call it a contradiction. I’d call it more of a negation of democracy. Of course, John can excuse anything, as long as the so-called enemies of so-called imperialism are those in need of excusing. No John, Iran is NOT a democracy by any useful definition of the term. And yes, John, the people of Iran are long-suffering under said theocracy. You may think they aren’t suffering from your UK vantage point, but how do you get the cheek to complain about “propaganda”, western or otherwise. It’s all you produce, only you think you are passing it off as informed comment. It isn’t.

  119. #128

    Iran clearly is a democracy.

    yes. yes, Much is made of the role of the Guardian Council in vetting candidates for public office, and even vetoing legislation. For example, in the last presidential election, James Buchan noted:

    “Of the four hundred and seventy-five men and women who presented themselves as candidates for President, all but four were rejected by the Council of Guardians. Those were the incumbent, Ahmadinejad; a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards corps, Mohsen Rezai; an elderly cleric and former speaker of the Majlis, Mehdi Karrubi; and a former prime minister living in retirement, Mir Hossein Mousavi. Of the challengers, only Mousavi was given much of a chance.”

    But there are two things to note here; firstly that the election did represent a real choice between the loose but established political coalitions in Iran, the conservatives and the reformers; and secondly that in Western democracies other but equally effective mechanisms are used to create hurdles for outsider candidates. No candidate for US president could get on the ballot in every state without substantial corporate backing.

    The nature of political parties in Iran is different from the European context, but no less substantive: rather than centralised organisations, the parties comprise a constellation of interests that coalesce together. For example, the conservatives are backed by the Militant Clergy Association and the Islamic Coalition Society; while the reformers are backed by the Militant Clergy Society, the Islamic Iran Participation Party, Construction Executives, and the Workers’ House.

    It is necessary to understand that the Reformers have in fact challenged the authority of the Guardian Council, and this therefore reveals the possibility of overcoming the restrictive aspects of the Islamic Republic, within its own constitutional processes. Also contested elections have led to changes of government, with both sides broadly respecting the constitional settlement, which is the hall mark of a democracy rooted in the rule of law.

    The liberal, Hoyyat al-Islam Sayyed Khatemi, won the presidential election in 1997 with 70% of the vote in an 80% turnout, and immediately launched a national newspaper, Khordad that developed a sea-change in the terms of political debate in Iran. They followed this success with gaining 75% of the vote in the 1999 local elections, and in 2000 they won 80% of the votes in the general election, gaining 195 of the 290 Majles seats; and in 2001 Khatemi was re-elected as president, receiving 80% of all votes cast. There was an explosion of state sponsored culture, with subsidies for the theatre, and newspapers; and a series of triumphs for Iranian cinema at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals.

    The Guardian Council did indeed provoke a potential constitutional crisis by striking out much of the reforming legislation as contrary to shari’a or unconstitutional; by bringing charges of apostasy against liberal intellectuals, and closing a number of newspapers. They also banned 2000 candidates from the Majles election, including barring 87 sitting deputies from defending their seats. But it is important to note here that the formal supervision of the legislature by what is effectively a clerical judicial authority imports notions of a seperation of powers from the French constitution. The Guardian council culd also be compared to the British House of Lords, where a century of political reform has been necessary to neutraise the blocking power of the aristocracy

    Indeed the clash with the Guardian Council did not prevent the Reformers from standing a full slate in the elections.

    So why were the Reformers unable to leverage their popular mandate to successfully overcome conservative opposition? This is the key question for understanding the current crisis in Iranian politics.

    There are a number of reasons. Firstly, the Reformers represent an unstable confluence of differing political interests. They did not respond to the set backs in a united fashion, and they split between those who continued to believe reform was possible without changing the constitution, particularly Khatemi himself; and those who wanted to directly campaign against the authority of the Guardian Council; but in the most part their support simply dissipated in disillusionment.

    In 2004 electoral turnout in Tehran fell to 28%. Yet the authority of the Guardian Council should have been vulnerable, not least because its power has no credibility derived from the Quranic authority, and the most globally respected Shi’a cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, an Iranian from the generation after Khomeini, threw his own weight behind a constitution in Iraq that had no hint of this Iranian precedent.

    The conservatives won back control of the councils in 2003, the Majles in 2004, and the presidency in 2005. None of these reverses were the result of electoral fraud; but were because the conservatives made gains in winning over the middle ground. They retained their core 25% of the vote, and achieved a significant additional vote among the poor and working classes. Losing these elections meant that the Reformers had no mandate to challenge the Guardian Council, which in large part explains their turn to extra-constitutional struggle today.

    How did the conservatives turn the tide?

    Firstly we need to understand that many of the Reformers confuse political liberalism with privatisation and deregulation; and they are associated with a layer of corrupt political and business figures who have enriched themselves. The advances for the poor and working people over the last thirty years in Iran compared to the legacy left by the Shah has been truly remarkable, and real and perceived threats to the welfare aspects of the Islamic state have undermined support for the Reformers among ordinary people; this was especially exploited in the 2005 presidential campaign by Ahmadinejad who rallied against the corruption of the new capitalists, and promised to defend and extend public welfare.

    But importantly, when George W Bush declared Iran to be part of the Axis of Evil in January 2002, he torpedoed the Reformers below the water line. This split the Reformers some of whom were seen as being pro-USA. In particular we must understand that the US government deliberately launched this diplomatic offensive against Iran when the Reformers were in power and making headway. The crocodile tears of US liberals about Iranian democracy and social restrictions are a mask for the USA’s real agenda, which is a strategic one against the existence of Iran as a counter-hegemonic regional power. Indeed had Mousavi won the election in June last year, the USA and its allies would still be making the same objections today: it will continue to seek to destablise Iran whoever is in power; at least until Iran capitulates over its uranium enrichment programme, which has become a keystone issue for both countries.

    Iran has a complex and contested political pace, and those who use colourful language about Iranians living in a Theocratic dictatorship are in fact adopting an Orientalist condescension that minimises the mass participation of Iranians in politics, and the way that Iranians themselves are seeking to shape their own country’s future.

  120. The spectre on said:

    #129, John I can be guided by what you say about the democratic governance of Iran . I cannot in anyway accept that you can separate their draconian theocratic laws of stoning, gay bashing and hanging from the Iranian judicial system. In that case it is a democratic system I abhor. It is so dysfunctional that it needs to be brought down from within.

    I notice Galloway belatedly told us he raised the issue of stoning in his interview with the holocaust denier president of Iran.. I doubt that he raised it. Where is the evidence? Galloway somersaulting again

  121. #131

    ” I cannot in anyway accept that you can separate their draconian theocratic laws of stoning, gay bashing and hanging from the Iranian judicial system.”

    There are certainly many deformities in Iranian society.

    But you definition of Democracy stretches it to breaking point.

    Was ancient Athens not a democracy then? Their economy was based upon slavery.

    Was the USA not a democracy in the 1950s when it had the Jim Crow laws, and a regime of terror and lynching against blacks that makes modern Iran look like a liberal paradise.

    Was Britain not a democracy when women didn’t have the vote, and children were sent up chimneys?

  122. #131

    “It is so dysfunctional that it needs to be brought down from within.”

    Yet the Iranian political system does enjoy mass support, even while there is mass oppositin.

    So the call for it to be “brought down” rather than reformed is really a call for civil war, which would undubtedly also lead to foreign intervention, a catastrophe for Iran, all to aware how Western sponsored regime change has played out its neighbours Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Iranian political system is reformable, and the initiative for that must remain with the people of Iran.

  123. John on said:

    #131

    ‘ I cannot in anyway accept that you can separate their draconian theocratic laws of stoning, gay bashing and hanging from the Iranian judicial system.’

    Such practices are clearly barbaric and no one in their right mind can defend them. But clearly such incidents are not the norm within Iran and to focus on them as evidence of the need for Iran to be demonised in the way it has been and continues to be, while coming under extreme external pressure by the US and its allies, is hypocrisy.

    The deluge of vitriol that has met this post is revelatory. I would have thought it pertinent and relevant for the left to listen to the analysis of those within a country that is under threat of military attack and has been hit with sanctions, supported by our own government, if only to try and achieve a greater level of understanding of how supporters of the regime view Iran’s role in the region.

    This doesn’t mean we support the regime in everything it does or doesn’t do, but it surely can only help when coming up with our own understanding of the complexities and many contradictions that define its development.

  124. The spectre on said:

    Andy ,
    Our present societies have moved on from your examples of yesteryear inequalities. Obviously you are putting to all of us that Iran is an under developed third world country that needs time to join the family of democratic nations. Poppycock

  125. John on said:

    #135

    It really is dispiriting when someone responds to reductive arguments, written by someone hiding behind a psuedonym, with a sharp and cogent analysis, only to receive such a woefully inadequate and unintelligent riposte.

    The point Andy was making, and made very well, was that democracy cannot be bandied around as a catch-all word as many do. You have to get behind the word and investigate what it means in practice, which requires factoring in variables such as a society’s state of economic development, the historical and cultural ground on which it rests, and the interplay between external and internal factors that are largely responsible for setting that ground.

    Anything less than that takes you perilously close to the level of discourse offered by Fox News.

  126. #135

    The system of democratic governance in Iran is more mature than in almost any country in the Middle East or South Asia.

    Indeed the degree of religious interfence in Iran’s political affairs is not hugely different from the infuence that the Catholic Church has exercsied in the Irish republic until the very recent past.

    The question of why so many on the left obsess about the deficiencies of this one particular country which is opposed to the West reminds me of Mrs Merton’s question to Debbie McGee “What exactly is it about the millionaire Paul Daniels that you find so attractive”

  127. The spectre on said:

    John Iran gives the west an open goal with their abhorrent laws. Irrespective of my damnation of these, I support the opposition from within and STWC to bring about change that all or most Iranians strive for

  128. Molotov on said:

    Viva Palestina is not allowed by British charity law to support the Freedom Flotilla 2. “The Turks” are not supporting the Freedom Flotilla 2 – including their withdrawl of the Mavi Marmara – for Turkish raison d’etat. The IHH (owners of the Mavi Marmara)are participating in the Summer University of Palestine with speakers and students. At the SUP George Galloway will outline new initiatives by the international netweork of Viva Palestina. This week he was in Indonesia discussing these with VP-Malaysia and a nascent VP-Indonesia. Dogs bark, caravans move on.

  129. #137

    “137.John Iran gives the west an open goal with their abhorrent laws. Irrespective of my damnation of these, I support the opposition from within and STWC to bring about change that all or most Iranians strive for”

    Well if you think that most Iranians during the recent protests were on the streets protesting for gay rights, and abolition of the death penalty then you are living in a dream world. Socially conservative attitides are common in Iran across the political divide.

    When you say you support the opposition, what is it you support? Faster privatisation and opening up Iran to Western multi-nationals?

    And what is your evidence that “most Iranians” are striving for change? one of the most obvious points is that the conservatives won the presidential election, and even if there was marginal electoral fraud clearly around half the population are supportinve of the government, and many of those voting for the reformers might want to see a new government, but still accept the basic foundations of the Islamic Republic’s political system. It was also obvious during the most recent political crisis that the crowds out on the street supporting Ahmadinijad were as large as those opposing him.

  130. Mike Willis on said:

    “John are you employed by press tv.”

    Is this true?

    If so, it explains a good deal, and it should have been declared by John.

  131. Molotov on said:

    If “John” is John Wight – then he does not now nor has he ever worked for Press TV. He probably feels Willis’s question (Spectre is beneath contempt clearly)is unworthy of his response. So I’m doing it for him.

  132. #141

    No but Andrew Gilligan was employed by Press TV until December 2010, and he isnt known as a defender of Muslims and Iran, so perhaps Press Tv is less of a propaganda outfit than you think it is.

  133. John on said:

    #141

    It isn’t true. I’m employed by Socialist Unity and donate half of my 50k salary to the Lib Dems.

    I do enjoy the company car though.

  134. Martel on said:

    # 137 ‘Indeed the degree of religious interfence in Iran’s political affairs is not hugely different from the infuence that the Catholic Church has exercised in the Irish republic until the very recent past.’

    You must recognise that this statement is patently false, and you seem to be buying into unionist anti-catholic ‘Rome Rule’ slurs.

    The strength of the Catholic Church in Ireland has largely been due to its ability to influence public opinion and as a powerful campaigning body.

    It is true that the 1937 constitution recognised the ‘special place’ of the Catholic Church, however this did not have any legal effect and was more a sop to those who wanted the Catholic church recognised as state church. It was condemned by conservative catholics as a liberal compromise at the time.

    The 1937 constitution reflected Catholic social teaching, which is not odd as Catholicism was one of the important factors defining Irish identity. It relected a similar approach to social issues as in other Catholic countries at the time such as Italy.

    However many these Catholic influences were rolled back. The ‘special place’ clause was deleted from the constitution in the 70′s. Ban of divorce has gone etc.

    To compare the Catholics Church role in Ireland to Iran is just bizarre…

    Whereas the Catholic church is a stronger campaigning body in Ireland and strong influence of public opinion it was not embedded in the structure of the state.

    It does not control the media or judiciary, it does not vet parliamntary candidates, or have right of veto over the policies of parliament.

    How you can compare this to Iran were,

    * A Religious leader is responsible for general policy, appoints the judiciary, media chiefs, police chiefs and is in command of the army with a has a right to veto anything that does not conform to Isalmic ideals.

    A Guardian Council, comprised of jurists, can veto parliament if it contradicts Sharia and vets all candidates.

    It really is clutching at straws.

  135. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    #82 – Neda Agha-Soltan’s death was given very wide media coverage, especially in the West, as a symbol of Iranian state repression.
    Media coverage or non-coverage is often a politically motivated choice, however. I would guess the name Metin Lokumcu rings far fewer bells, and few or none on this site would be familiar with the name, though his death is more recent. Lokumcu, a retired teacher with a history of involvement in left politics, died on June 1. He had taken part in a protest against the Turkish government the previous day and a policeman sprayed him with pepper gas at point-blank range. He had a seizure which proved fatal. AKP prime minister Erdogan, then in the middle of an election campaign which he won, laughed off the death when it was mentioned to him during a press conference.
    A little further back in time, an 18-year-old high school pupil of Kurdish ethnicity, Ibrahim Oruc, was shot dead by police in Bismil near Diyarbakir on April 20. He had been taking part in a protest over the banning of certain candidates from participating in the Turkish elections, and the police decided that their more usual riot gas and truncheons were not enough and began shooting.
    Neither death received much coverage in the Western media. But Turkey has been in NATO since the fifties and does not figure in “regime change” calculations – so not much attention is paid to death at the hands of the police there.

  136. #145

    In one situation the religious infleunce is enshrined in the constitution, in the other by the church’s dominany role in civil society including in the health and education systems. But functioally both societies are democracies with a heavy infleunce from the church.

    To use a different example, in the UK constitution until relatively recently, hereditary peers provided a constitutional sheet-anchor to protect welath and privilage, and it took a century of reform to break their power.

  137. The spectre on said:

    # 147 if the people want it that way. Then so be it.

    It is not a model Of democracy I would buy in to and it is open to all kinds of abuse by the clerics and money suits.

  138. Martel on said:

    # 147 Ireland and Iran can not be conflated in terms of political structure.

    The main dividing line being a pretty major one, in that, in Ireland the legislature, judiciary, executive, police, media and military are free of religious control.

    Any influence the Catholic Church has is only in influencing voters, public opinion and through lobbying.

    If should be recognised that the majority of schools are Catholic, however they are under the control of the executive, follow a national curriculum and with their greatest freedom being primarily in determining their Religious Education curriculum. And this control is contested.

    In Ireland it is possible to condemn the Catholic Church, stand on an anti-clerical platform or campign for secular education. Indeed the decline in religosity in Ireland is demonstrated by the weaking of the ability of the Catholic Church to influence public opinion, again similar to Italy.

    To insist ‘degree of religious interfence in Iran’s political affairs is not hugely different from the infuence that the Catholic Church’ in Ireland really is highly suspect.

    You might be able to state that if Ireland was not a functioning liberal democracy but in fact the Archbishop of Armagh veted all parliamentry candidates, could veto any and all legislation and appointed the judiciary, media heads, police chiefs and generals.

    However this is simply not the case. Maybe you are confusing Ireland with the Vatican City who, with a theocrat elected by a religious oligarchy, probably has more similarities with Iran than does Ireland.

  139. #149

    this is idiocy from you, because there clearly is a process of contested political reform in Iran, which utilises the democratic process, and the specific role of the Guardian Council is not unchangeable.

    i.e control is contested in Iran too.

    You have an orientalist conceit that the Iranian people are mere objects of their political system, rather than active subjects.

  140. SteveH on said:

    “Maybe you are confusing Ireland with the Vatican City who, with a theocrat elected by a religious oligarchy, probably has more similarities with Iran than does Ireland.”

    That may be the biggest load of bullshit on this thread so far and the competition is fierce!

  141. #144

    Sorry it is only £50k JOhn, but then you do only work part time. If you would be prepared to put in the hours i would ask Beijing for a raise for you
    :o)

  142. Martel on said:

    # 150 You seem to like the term idiot.

    I am not claiming that there are not movements for reform in Iran or contested institutions.

    I would not call anyone or anyone’s comment idiotic but if I was, I believe that a statement that may qualify would be…..

    ‘Indeed the degree of religious interfence in Iran’s political affairs is not hugely different from the infuence that the Catholic Church has exercised in the Irish republic until the very recent past.’

  143. Martel on said:

    P.S. I do not believe that governance of Iran is like that of Vatican City, I was just pointing out the ridiculous comparison of the Irish Republic with Iran.

  144. Brokenwindow on said:

    Either you oppose torture,execution and murder or
    you approve it. Playing your ace ‘idiosyncracies’
    card means you don’t oppose this behaviour by people
    you support so you are prepared to defend it.

    Surely a rational,socialist could not support
    such crimes in the name of the people who are getting killed trying to fight such a brutal,anti-democratic regime?

  145. #155

    Iran had a revolution in 1979, and revolutins are very bloody affairs, which is why they should be avoided in favour of reform whereever possible.

    But let us be clear, the initial violence associated with the Iranian revolution was much more limited than when revolutions occur in most countries. In the 28 months after the revolution, between February 1979 and June 1981, the government executed just 497 political opponents, mainly supporters of the Shah, including a layer of Royalist army officers. Terrible, but comparable to the French or English revolutions.

    More controversially between June 1981 and June 1985 the revolutionary tribunals executed a further 8000 political prisoners, most of whom had themselves participated in the revolution. The context of these terrible executions was an insurgency by the ultra-left Mojahadin who assassinated around 2000 members of the government and clergy; and a protracted war with Iraq starting in 1980, who we now know had been encouraged to invade Iran by the USA, and which left over 200000 Iranian dead. Besieged from outside and divided within, the Iranian state defended itself with brutal determination. The terror extended beyond the Mojahadin, and much of it was arbitrary and factional, but it was essentially defensive by an immature government seeking to consolidate authority while under siege.

    Those who flirt with the idea of revolution in Iran today need to recognise the bloody reality. The consolidation of political power by the Islamic republic, in historical terms compared to other revolutions, cost relatively few lives. Those who cheerlead now for another revolution to overthrow that republic must envisage a more dreadful death toll, as the Iranian republic has at least as many supporters as those wishing to overthrow it.

    Worst of all was the murder of some 2800 opponents of the regime, mainly socialists and atheists, in the immediate aftermath of the end of the war with Iraq in 1988.

    In the judgement of the historian Ervand Abrahamanian this was a cynical and deliberate act of brutality by Khomeini, who knew he was nearing the end of his life; the purpose of which was to bind the advocates of theocracy together, and to thus abort any future reconciliation between his successors and secular leftists. The theocrats would stand together or hang together. The precedents in earlier revolutions are tragically clear.

    However, for those today bleating about the need to support those out on the streets protesting against Ahmadinijad, the Prime Minister during this terror, who presided over the mass executions of oppositionists, was a man called Mir Hossein Mousavi . the very same man who is currently the darling of Western liberals.

    As James Buchan explains in his interesting but rather cyncial and dyspeptic article in New Left Review: “A disciple (with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard) of the Fanonist philosopher Ali Shariati, Mousavi came to power in that evil summer of 1981 when the first generation of Khomeini’s associates were wiped out in bombings and assassinations by the ultra-leftist Mujahedin. There followed a nightmare of Terror in which not only the Mujahedin but the secular Left and Kurdish separatists were wiped out or driven into exile. Evin Prison became for a while a concentration camp, and as many as three thousand young people went to the gallows.”

    The brutality of 1988 is best understood as the closing chapter of the revolution, representing the consolidation of a stable form of government, and an attempt by Khomeini, as a Parthian shot, to delimit the parameters for its future development. Khomeini’s legacy of the theory of jurists’ guardianship ( velayet-e faqeh ) lives on in the interventionist political role of the Guardian Council.

    So ironically the leader and figurehead of the movement that you say we should all support is the very same man who butchered the left in Iran to consolidate the role of the Guardian Council in the first place?

    So why do Western liberals get moist underpants over Mousavi today> It is not becasue he is a democrat. It is clearly not because he is promising a purge of those responsible for past state terror. He is the very man who literally pulled the trigger in many executions of leftists and atheists.

    So the only reason that Western liberals can have for supporting Mousavi is that he is friendlier to the USA, and a greater supporter of privatisation and subordination of Iran’s economy to the global market.

  146. More controversially between June 1981 and June 1985 the revolutionary tribunals executed a further 8000 political prisoners, most of whom had themselves participated in the revolution. The context of these terrible executions was an insurgency by the ultra-left Mojahadin who assassinated around 2000 members of the government and clergy; and a protracted war with Iraq starting in 1980, who we now know had been encouraged to invade Iran by the USA, and which left over 200000 Iranian dead. Besieged from outside and divided within, the Iranian state defended itself with brutal determination. The terror extended beyond the Mojahadin, and much of it was arbitrary and factional, but it was essentially defensive by an immature government seeking to consolidate authority while under siege.

    Fascinating. This is straight out of the Islamic Republic’s propaganda machine. I do think that it is useful to read such slop on this blog since it effectively quarantines it as a serious voice of the British left. I honestly can’t remember if Andy was this awful 5 years ago or so when I first learned of Socialist Unity but I no longer take it seriously.

    As far as John Wight is concerned, he got his political training from the Marcyite sect in the USA, a crypto-Stalinist group that split from the SWP because it wanted the freedom to back the Soviet intervention in Hungary.

    Truly awful stuff.

  147. Anonymous on said:

    Andy’s making a fair point about the dynamics of revolutions. During the French revolution the republic committed appalling atrocities at a time when it was being invaded by foreign powers and facing civil war from within. That doesn’t justify the Terror, Louis. To explain something is not to justify it.

  148. johng on said:

    so andy thinks we’ve got ‘moist underpants’? that the ONLY reason we have to support democracy movements is because we support privatisation and the left etc, etc. What a rational way of conducting an argument. I think what I find most amusing (as with the amusing defences of the Hitler-Stalin pact) is the belief that if you put on a stern face and start talking about ‘not playing games’ this makes you a serious political figure.

  149. paul fauvet on said:

    So islamic Iran is no worse than Catholic Ireland, Andy tells us.

    Except that in Ireland if you leave the Catholic Church, nothing very serious will happen to you. If you write articles denouncing Catholicism, nothing much will happen to you.

    What do you think would happen if you publicly abandoned Islam in Iran, or wrote articles saying that the Koran is a pile of nonsense?

    We don’t have to speculate about this because right now there is an Iranian protestant pastor, named Youcef Nadarkani, who has been sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy. So in Iran you are not allowed to change your mind on matters of religion.

    It’s more than likely that the pastor will not be executed, but the fact that crimes of opinion exist, which potentially carry the death penalty, indicates how far removed the Islamic Republic is from any modern concept of democracy or freedom.

    There is another made-up crime in Iran that can carry the death penalty – “mohareb”, or waging war against God. Catholic equivalents of this used to exist in Europe, but were swept away by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, phenomena which Andy and John seem to regard as most regrettable.

    Andy asks if British democracy prior to extending the suffrage to women was democratic, or if Athenian democracy, which excluded women and slaves, was democratic. You might as well ask whether democracy with an all-white electorate in apartheid South Africa was democratic.

    For political concepts are not static, but change their meaning over time. Athenian democracy was certainly the most advanced political system on the planet in the fifth century BC, much preferable to Persian absolutism. But anyone who suggested that, in the twenty first century a system which excluded vast sectors of the population could be described as “democratic” would be regarded – to put it mildly – as rather quaint, or as a deluded apologist.

  150. The spectre on said:

    #157, thanks Andy, very informative . The penalties are much worse in Iran. Regime change will have big universal problems, not matter what hue of governance.

  151. The spectre on said:

    #135, John your unintelligent ripostes on posters have now came unstuck. You should be working for Press tv after all.

  152. “The strength of the Catholic Church in Ireland has largely been due to its ability to influence public opinion and as a powerful campaigning body.”

    The strength of the Catholic Church originated in it being the only surviving native structure following the conquest as such it became the uncontested focus of have nots. It was able to influence and campaign because of that unique position. Now of course it has lost that role.

    I would be suprised if we are going to see Persian absolutism developed beyond the use of the phrase in this debate. Never the less the focus on Iran’s deficencies is no sharper for Archemeanid or Sassanian references. More to the point why pick out Iran? What about Saudi Arabia and the Emirates? Surely it cannot be that Iran’s refusal to kow tow to the West is seen as provocative?

  153. #162

    “Except that in Ireland if you leave the Catholic Church, nothing very serious will happen to you.”

    Up until very recently Ireland had some appalling practices. From the Guardian:

    The nuns had been dabbling on the stock exchange. The results were unfortunate. When a company they had invested in went bust, they decided to sell off a portion of their Dublin land holdings to cover the losses. The snag was that the land contained a mass grave. It was full of “penitents”, the label attached to the thousands of women locked up in Ireland’s Magdalene laundries. This particular order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, ran High Park, the largest such laundry in the country.

    The good sisters did a deal with the developer who bought their land. They split the costs of clearing the mass grave, exhumed and cremated the bodies, and re-buried the ashes in another mass grave, in Glasnevin cemetery. However, it emerged that there were 22 more bodies in the grave than the nuns had listed when applying for permission to exhume. Over one-third of the deaths had never been certified. The nuns did not even appear to know the names of several of the women, listing them as Magdalene of St Cecilia, Magdalene of Lourdes, and so on.

    The final number so callously disturbed from their resting place was 155. All had died in the service of the nuns, working long hours in their large commercial laundry for no pay, locked away by a patriarchal church and society ruthlessly determined to control women’s sexuality.

    This week the United Nations Committee Against Torture (Uncat) issued a highly significant statement on the Magdalene laundries. It criticised the Irish government for refusing to acknowledge the pain and abuse suffered by women incarcerated in the laundries, the last of which closed in 1996, and called for a thorough investigation and compensation scheme. In doing so, the UN has focused international attention on what has become a festering injustice.

    Ireland has experience of dealing with the sins of its past. A formal apology was issued by the Irish government in 1999 to the tens of thousands of victims of child abuse in the country’s vast industrial (residential) school system, run by Catholic nuns, brothers and priests. An exhaustive statutory inquiry produced the damning Ryan report, and a redress scheme has now cost around £1bn.

    There has, however, been a strange resistance to any official acceptance of the injustice suffered by the Magdalene women. The state has wriggled and squirmed, claiming that the laundries were private institutions and all the women entered voluntarily. Uncat has now firmly rejected this, confirming what we in Ireland have long known in our hearts. We knew that women who escaped were caught by the police and returned to the punitive and often brutal regime within the laundries. Generations of Irish people colluded in this, using the laundries when it suited them to clean their clothes and control their daughters.

    Some of the women in the laundries were unmarried mothers, others were locked away for what was euphemistically described as their own protection. Yet more were young girls transferred directly from the industrial schools.

    Mary Norris ended up in a Magdalene laundry for disobeying an order. A teenage servant in Kerry, she took a forbidden night off, and was taken away to a convent where the nuns had her examined to see was she still a virgin (which she was). From there she was dispatched to the Magdalene laundry in Cork. Immediately on arrival, the nuns changed her name – standard practice in all the Magdalene laundries. “When I went in there,” recalls Mary, “my dignity, who I was, my name, everything was taken. I was a nonentity, nothing, nobody.”

    The only way out was if a family member claimed you, and Mary was lucky. She had an aunt who tracked her down and got her out after two years of hard, unpaid labour.

    And that of course is the rub. Where were the families of these women? For a society that prided itself on its emphasis on family values, the large numbers of women and children locked away with no one to claim them points to a glaring double standard.

    Irish society was deeply complicit in the incarceration of women and girls in the laundries. In what has been described as a culture of containment, Ireland locked up more of its citizens per capita than anywhere else in the world – not in prisons, but in psychiatric hospitals, Magdalene laundries and industrial schools. Anyone who did not fit within the cruelly narrow definition of good behaviour was in danger.

    This then is the legacy that Uncat is forcing Irish citizens to face before it is too late for the relatively few surviving Magdalene women, most of whom are now elderly and living in impoverished circumstances.

    The previous Fianna Fáil government hardened its heart against these women. The fear was that an apology, inquiry and redress might open the financial floodgates, much as happened with the industrial schools scheme. However, Magdalene survivors at this stage number in the hundreds, and any compensation scheme is likely to be relatively inexpensive.

    In addition, there is a fundamental issue of justice for the women, which can only be addressed by an unconditional apology from the government. There has been considerable optimism that the more liberal Fine Gael/Labour party coalition would confront the past and make amends for what has become a shameful and very public injustice. Many of its individual politicians have in the past made public calls for apology and redress. Their response over the coming weeks to the Uncat conclusions will be an important measure of whether this government’s promises to turn Ireland into a better, more honest and caring society represent anything more than hollow sentiment.

  154. Darkness at Noon on said:

    “So the only reason that Western liberals can have for supporting Mousavi is that he is friendlier to the USA, and a greater supporter of privatisation and subordination of Iran’s economy to the global market.”

    This is a sham argument.

    I suspect that people nominally support this movement because it is the only feasible way to express dissent in Iran, under the banner of another conservative movement.

    If Iran where to allow a secular, non-sectarian reformist movement then that would be supported. but we all know that such a movement would be mercilessly eradicated – like we know see in Syria.

    I couldn’t give a shit about Mousavi, the USA or ‘privatisation’ of an economy already largely in the hands of a clique that surrounds the elite and the Rev. Guards.

    What I continue to find interesting is your defence and deference to people who would sooner see you dead!

  155. georgier on said:

    #165

    You stupid man.

    Of course there was an intolerable link between the church and the state but it is not like that now. But that is beside the point. Whenever the state and religion are linked as they WERE in Ireland and as they are now in Iran. Theocracy in whatever form is an affront to human rights and human dignity

    Your website is a disgrace to any freedom loving Iranian and you are simple minded in the same way as the SWP. Your love in with south american dictators who suck up to the Iranian Imams is sickening for a so called socialist.

    The fact that Iranians have a damn good reason for hating Neo con western Imperialists from the Mossadeq era onwards is no reason for embracing the current regime. My enemy is not automatically your enemy and shows a shallowness of thought.

  156. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    #165

    The current Irish front runner for President is the Protestant gay man David Norris. I will be very interested when Iran has an openly gay man from a religious minority as a candidate for its president; even a no-hoper.

    http://www.norrisforpresident.ie/campaign_news/press-coverage-opinion-poll-on-sunday-19th-june
    http://theirishobserver.blogspot.com/2011/06/president-of-ireland-election-david.html
    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/01/11/poll-puts-gay-senator-david-norris-ahead-for-irish-presidency/

  157. georgier on said:

    #169
    I heard him interviewed by RTE when I was in Ireland 2 weeks ago. I need to look at his politics in more detail but he was impressive.

  158. #169

    Iran has a long road to travel befre we get to that point, but let us not underestimate how much Iralend has changed for that to be possible.

  159. #168
    “Whenever the state and religion are linked as they WERE in Ireland and as they are now in Iran. ”

    And Ireland has reformed WITHOUT a revolution, and without sanctions and outsde interference. As Iran can do through the politcal involvement of Iranians themselves

  160. Martel on said:

    # 171 # 172 You are still under the completely false impression that the Irish Republic, or the Free State, was some sort of theocracy.

    Repeating a rather unpleasant Loyalist slur.

    Lets not forget that The Irish Free State adopted a secular constitution, prohibiting any religious discrimination.

    Article 44 of the 1937 constitution reinforced freedom of religion, banned the endowment of any particular religion and prohibited the state from religious discrimination.

    With Catholicism being the religion of approaching 90 per cent of the Irish population and mass attendence being one of the highest in the world, it is to be expected that the church is a powerful influencer of public opinion. And there have been abuses of the respect attributed to the church.

    And lets not forget the Republics most influencial political figure De Valera was committed to Catholic social teaching and he moulded Fianna Fail in this image.

    However there is no way you can compare the Irish Republic with the Islamic Republic of Iran in terms of political structures or the political influence of religion.

  161. lone nut on said:

    “let us not underestimate how much Iralend has changed for that to be possible.”
    Actually the first Irish President, Douglas Hyde,was a Protestant (at the time he died Catholics weren’t allowed to attend Protestant religious services, so the government ministers had to stand outside Saint Patrick’s in the rain for his funeral). And Erskine Childers, President from 1973-74, was a Protestant. Not sure about gay Presidents, but there was once talk of Gay Byrne running for the post…

  162. John S on said:

    I liked the article. Thanks for putting it on the website despite all the anti-Iranian propaganda. I’ve been to Iran and it isn’t at all like what some people on this board are claiming.

  163. Sasan Taymourian on said:

    I agree John S. It’s a good article. And someone had a lot of guts to put it on this website!