Iran – Time for the West to Butt out

Last Thursday, on Christmas Eve of all days, the New York Times ran a longish (1500 words) article by Alan Kuperman calling for a military attack on Iran by the United states. Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard, warns on his blog “against believing that Obama’s election and the evident bankruptcy of the neoconservative approach to foreign policy had ended the prospect of a war with Iran. …[if you think there is no danger] the incoherent, war-mongering op-ed by Alan Kuperman in last Thursday’s New York Times should encourage you to reconsider. As Jim Lobe points out on his own blog, the fact that the Times accepted this piece in the first place is not an apolitical act, and it may herald a tilting of the public debate in a way designed to legitimate a subsequent U.S. attack.”

As Walt argues “Kuperman’s arguments in favor of war merely rehearse the same sort mixture of paranoia and over-confidence that was used to buffalo the country into attacking Iraq. In particular, Kuperman assumes that a decision not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities will yield a series of Very Bad Results (though at least he doesn’t claim that Iran would immediately bomb Tel Aviv), yet he also assumes that our launching an attack won’t have any serious consequences.”

Personally, I am still quite sceptical about the prospects of overt military action by the USA against Iran in the foreseeable future, but the perception of Iran as being a strategic obstacle to US interests certainly prevails. There have of course been concerted efforts by American newspapers, particularly the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to misrepresent and exaggerate Iran’s alleged non-complaince with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to create a hysterical narrative about Iran achieving nuclear weapons.

There has even been speculation of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors. However, according to Haaretz, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke in the Knesset this week to say that Iran’s civil nuclear facility near Qom can withstand conventional bombs. Chinese news agency Xinhua has also cast doubt over whether Israel has sufficient air power to bomb Iran, which has substantial air defence capability enhanced during 2009, and who would probably receive early warning from Russian or Chinese sattelites, and points out that Israel would need to refuel their aircraft in air for the return flight and to have adequate combat time over Iran, and the Israelis would require direct US assistance in overcoming the diplomatic hurdles to gain a flight path to Iran

This is the context in which the recent reporting of the civil disturbances and political violence in Iran has been shaped in the Western media. Whereas reporting of political violence in Bolivia, or Honduras or Haiti, or the recent spectacular militant protests by Maoists in Nepal, have been largely unreported in Britain and the USA, the internal political situation in Iran intersects directly with American interests in the region; and as such is newsworthy.

Cyrus Safdari lists no less than 28 lurid articles from respected American newspapers over the last ten years all of which report whatever latest blip in Iranian politics as heralding the immanent end of the Islamic regime.

We also need to understand the current economic and political situation in Iran. Inflation reached 30% earlier this year, and now runs at around 15%. It is remarkable how orthodox the response of the government was to the recession; despite a substantial state owned economic sector, and an income from oil exports, the Iranian government sought to deflate the economy to control inflation instead of boosting demand. The result has been a fall in domestic expenditure. These domestic economic policies reveal the divergence of views within the Iranian government, as Ahmadinejad himself favours a more interventionist approach, but does not control economic policy.

It is in this context, of many people feeling the pinch financially that the government is seeking to remove subsidies on energy. This is actually not entirely straight forward, as the energy subsidies are a regressive social measure that disproportionately benefit the well off, by selling fuel for cars below the cost of production. So the removal of subsidies has been opposed by some economic liberals, but supported by Ahmadinejad’s followers, as the president is fighting to use the money saved for more targeted assistance for the poor.
As Professor Djavad explains

General subsidies have been a big part of the welfare state in post-revolution Iran. They grew out of the rationing system during the war and the government’s committment to the poor, and over time increased in volume, especially for energy products as world energy prices increased while consumer prices in Iran stayed low. The results have been both good and bad. Food and medicine subsidies have played an important role in increasing child nutrition, lowering child mortality, both of which contributed to lower fertility (and hence the modernization of the average Iranian family). The important role of subsidies in these transformations becomes evident when we note that they started in the mid 1980s when the economy was still in a very bad shape –that is, they are not the consequence of economic growth as in other countries.

So as the reform of subsidies has progressed through the Iranian parliament, (majlis) , and on to the Guardian Council for enactment, there is a political battle over who decides where the money saved will be deployed. The subsidies amount to US$ 60 billion per year, and the current bill shaves 15% off of that. Ahmadinijad seeks to use this fund for populist redistribution to the poor.

However, we need to understand that the reduction of subsidies affects everyone, so there is a loss of a universal benefit in exchange for a targeted one to those below median income. But it is those below median income who have suffered most during the recession. So despite the potential progressive aspect it will still be immediately perceived by many on low incomes as a blow to their welfare.

It is not surprising that these economic and political battles have poured fuel onto the fire lit by the disputed June 12th election. Indeed the social conditions that produced the post-election protests have not been resolved, despite the defeat for the Mousavi faction, and the protests themselves have left a legacy of acrimony that means that further protests have a lower threshold before both sides turn to violence. The much greater potential for violence by supporters of the government, and their legal impunity, is reflected in the tragic outcomes. This relative autonomy of violence in politics once unleashed has been a long remarked upon phenomenon.

The election of Ahmadinejad in June almost certainly reflected the will of the Iranian people, and Cyrus Safdari does a fantastic job of systematically dismantling the claims of widespread electoral fraud here and here

So the disturbances that followed the election are symptomatic of the fact that deep political and social tensions were not sufficiently reflected in or resolved by the Iranian political system, and where the Mousavi opposition considered the stakes to be so high that they were prepared to resort to extra-constitutional means to attempt to overthrow the result of the election, despite Iran having a system of democracy, that while deeply flawed is sufficiently mature to allow transfer of power between rival parties.

At the time Alistair Crooke in the Los Angeles Times summed up the differences between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi as follows:

“What we are witnessing is not a frustrated East European-style “color revolution”; nor is presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s movement an uprising of liberal, Westernized sympathizers against the principles of the Iranian Revolution. It was Ahmadinejad who campaigned against the wealth and self-interest of some of the clerical elite. Mousavi was more closely allied to those interests.”

By this analysis Ahmadinejad is more of a reformer than Mousavi. There are also  generational issues with a layer of state officials and army officers who were young men at the time of the Iraq war, and have now reached a level of influence, and resent the level of corruption and self-interest among the older generation of clerics who came to power in the revolution; as I understand it this social layer are broadly supportive of Ahmadinijad, and his populist stance. There is also the inherent division within shia Islam in the religious scholar class: where there are educated, university based scholars who serve the ideological needs of the state, and there are also more modestly educated populist preachers, equivalent to the Sufis of the Sunni religion, with a mass audience, again this social layer are broadly supportive of the president. Ahmadinejad has a wide constituency of support, including many of the poor who benefit from the welfare system.

The language of “reform” in Iran, (and in particular in the well heeled end of the Iranian exile diaspora) exhibits a confusion between political social liberalism and democratic civil rights as if this is the same thing as economic liberalism and laissez faire deregulation. Of course a similar phenomenon has long obtained in China, and in Zimbabwe, which means that progressives need to avoid a simplistic polarisation between different strands of elite opinion both of which are disadvantageous to the mass of the population, but in different ways

As a result those protesting against the clerical government represent a confluence of differing political interests. There is a section of the Iranian middle class who resent Iran’s diplomatic isolation from the West, and who are ashamed of some of Iran’s social policies; there are others who believe that the Iranian economy needs to be deregulated and privatised to fit in with the Washington consensus, this is a common view among Iranian exiles who have some influence upon the Iranian opposition; there are economically conservative figures who wish to clip Ahmadinejad’s wings and oppose his populist and redistributive social welfare policies; there are others who genuinely oppose repressive aspects of Iran’s socially restrictive policies for progressive reasons; and there are people who have been economically disadvantaged. There are also trade unionists and other progressives who hope that they can exploit divisions among the country’s rulers to win improvements in the condition of ordinary working people.

I don’t think that Alistair Crooke is entirely correct in dismissing the analogy with the colour revolutions, but his position is a useful corrective in pointing out the relative bankruptcy of any analysis based upon reformers and conservatives, where Ahmadinejad is cast only as a conservative. These categories don’t easily transpose from the West into Iran’s different political context.

The point about the colour revolutions, (and although not usually recognised as one, I think that Helmut Kohl’s destabilisation of the former East German DDR after the wall had come down and in the lead up to the 1990 election is the classic exemplar) is not that the social causes of the protests are a confection, but that legitimate protests are channelled towards outcomes that favour not the ordinary protesters, but the interests of the rich elite.

In so far as the Iranians protesting on the streets wish to remove the more oppressive aspects of Iranian society, then they are to be applauded. In so far as organised labour wins the right to prosecute trade union struggles to benefit ordinary working people then they are to be completely supported.

But it is not true that the best outcome of these protests is for the current Iranian government to be overthrown. Overt Western support for the protestors for oportunist reasons entrenches and polarises attitudues within Iran, and makes the dialogue and compromise required for a peaceful win-win resolution less and not more likely

Firstly, we need to recognise that Ahmadinejad did win the election, and that even where this is disputed we should recognise that he commands substantial and determined support from around half the population, and especially among the armed forces. Revolution might mean civil war, more bloodshed, and more disruption. But secondly, within the confines of Iranian domestic politics, an overthrow of the government is highly unlikely to lead to a left wing and progressive alternative.

The politics among the opposition on the streets seems to be highly diverse, and were they to prevail the most likely outcome would be victory for those who wish to further the deregulation of the economy, to make cuts in progressive welfare and food subsidies, and to worsen the social conditions for many Iranians along the neo-liberal consensus. Nor would this necessarily even mean any substantial improvement in regressive social attitudes. Despite the wishes projected upon Mousavi by Western liberals, there is little evidence that he or his supporters are any more supportive of, for example, womens’ equality, than Ahmadinijad.

And it is this question of projection that worries me most about the trite cheerleading from the West. The opposition on the streets of Iran seems to represent all things to all (wo)men. The last thing that Iran needs is outside interference in its affairs, and a narrative of plucky “democracy demonstrators” defying “evil mullahs” is one that encourages the same instincts that we saw with Iraq and Afghanistan of liberals drawn to the simplistic options of sanctions and war.

124 comments on “Iran – Time for the West to Butt out

  1. Silent Hunter on said:

    Firstly, we need to recognise that Ahmadinejad did win the election,

    Yeah! Just like George W. Bush won Florida!

    I watched the interview between Jon Snow and Ahmadinejad and I was struck by just how much he reminded me of Comrade Stalin. The man is evil.

    If you think he really ‘won’ the election; then I can understand why a large proportion of the world’s historical dictatorships had the word “Socialist” in their title.

  2. Strategist on said:

    Good piece, by the way. Just because a country or guy is on the receiving end of the western propaganda machine doesn’t make them OK or our ally, necessarily, but it is important for westerners to be aware of the propaganda they are getting and to factor that in before coming to judgement.

  3. Saying that the overthrow of the government would cause turmoil, or that a revolution could cause bloodshed, rather ignores the fact that in the here and now it is the regime which is deploying guns against the protestors, not the other way round.

    Also, it is far from necessarily the case that revolution=protracted/bloody civil war, the 1979 Iranian revolution and Portuguese revolution of 1974 both didn’t.

    Obviously western intervention will not help the situation at all. Mainly because it helps the regime mischaracterise the opposition.

    But the rest of what you say does not flow from that. Socialists are not just for peace and reconciliation, as if defending Iranian political ‘stability’ (whatever that means) is an objective of ours. Why would it be?

    “a narrative of plucky “democracy demonstrators” defying “evil mullahs” is one that encourages the same instincts that we saw with Iraq and Afghanistan of liberals drawn to the simplistic options of sanctions and war.”

    OK, so can people who are anti-war not say this? Why does the one have to follow from the other?

    All of what you say about the likely policies of a ‘green’/Mousavi government (there was one already) sidesteps the point that it is not for the current government to decide whether or not to allow democratic rights in line with whether or not it approves of the opposition’s programme!

  4. Given that he was ahead in the polls, and had the election been fair, he might well have been able to win legitimately. The cack-handed way that the results in areas where he had little support were obviously manipulated, however, cast doubt over the whole business and his claims of legitimacy. The Iranian people are not stupid, and do not like being treated like as such, never mind the brutality.

  5. Nothing on the new SWP website about Iran yet. There is some material on CWI and IMT sites for what its worth.

  6. he was leading in the polls, before the election.

    I don’t see why this should be treated as certain evidence that Ahmadinejad won the election.

    Plenty of individuals or parties ahead in the polls in the run up to competitive elections have subsequently lost the election. Labour in 1992 for example.

  7. Stephen Marks on said:

    ‘despite Iran having a mature system of democracy’

    Surely this is a joke? No system in which you cannot stand for election without being first approved by an unelected self-perpetuating committee of clerics can be any sort of a democracy – by definition.

    The proof? Andy would not be allowed to stand for election in Iran on the basis of his own stated politics on this blog. If secular socialists – or indeed anyone with a socialist class critique of society – were banned by law from standing for election in this country, would he say that we had ‘a mature system of democracy’?

    So why does he have a racist double standard for Iranians, who are apparently expected to be grateful for a ‘democracy’ we would never tolerate for ourselves?

    This alone can only discredit the rest of the post – which is a pity since it makes a number of serious points.

  8. Iran happens to be an Islamic Republic, therefore by definition the parameters of its democracy are configured accordingly. Just as Israel is a self declared Jewish State. This is reflected in the fact that Arab political parties were banned from taking part in parliamentary elections last year and it means that non-Jewish Arabs are excluded from forming a govt.

    Every democratic system contains within it contradictions and distortions. In the US you have electoral colleges, which were responsible for ensuring that George W Bush won back in 2004 despite having the least votes cast in his favour. In all western democracies money is all. Without financial backing you have no chance of having your voice heard as a party or as a candidate.

    Iran democracy reflects the cultural and social development of Iranian society. As does democracy in this country, which reflects an economic system predicated on profit.

  9. #10

    Well Mousavi was allowed to stand, wasn’t he; and it was his supporters who took to the streets, not people who had been excluded from the poll. The policies of Mousavei were within the envelope of mainstream Iranian politics, which normally finds expression through constitutional avenues

    Iranian democracy is imperfect, but it includes universal suffrage and allows different options to be put before the electorate, representing strategic choices. The recent electioon allowed all candidates substantialm TV time, for example. It is no more flawed than the US presidential system where only candidates with massive wealth and corporate backing can compete.

    Iranian politics in the majlis has developed a mature party ssystem, with stable blocks around the “reform” and “conservative” camps – this is a bit more fluid than the Britsh political system but effective, and it is not uncommon for government bills to be defeated in the majlis. Also the fact that Ahmadijejad has a different constituency of support from the majlis, and is often in tension with the Guardian Council suggests an effective form of constitutinal democracy; with some seperation of powers, and space for political opposition.

  10. ecolefty on said:

    The ban on non Jewish parties was overturned, by the Israeli high court, although the fact it was contemplated is a reflection of the racism in that country.
    Whether Ahmadinejad would have won or not is not the only issue, he and his regime has clearly increased its level of brutal supression.
    Oppose western intervention but support the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom.

  11. #5

    “Also, it is far from necessarily the case that revolution=protracted/bloody civil war, the 1979 Iranian revolution and Portuguese revolution of 1974 both didn’t.”

    Yes but both the Fascist dictatroship in Portugal and the Pahlevi regime were politically and socially bankrupt.

    In contrast, Ahmadinejad has support of roughly half the population, the officer corps in the army, and the basaji militia.

    The more likely comparison is modern Zimbabwe.

  12. I think events in Iran show both that external intervention is unneccessary (ie there is politics in Iran) and that those struggling for a more open system should be supported against an increasingly brutal regime. I see no inconsistancies between these positions.

  13. Karl Stewart on said:

    Thanks for this Andy. A well-thought out article, which makes some extremely important caveats with regard to the opposition, although, on balance, you seem a bit more sympathetic to Ahmadinejad than I would be.
    However, for me, this is the key par of your piece and, in my opinion, the most important aspect of this situation for us on the UK left to keep uppermost in our minds.

    “In so far as the Iranians protesting on the streets wish to remove the more oppressive aspects of Iranian society, then they are to be applauded. In so far as organised labour wins the right to prosecute trade union struggles to benefit ordinary working people then they are to be completely supported.”

    This is absolutely spot on I think. We’ve got to take our cue from the working-class and left forces actually on the ground protesting in Iran and offer them our full solidarity and support.

  14. “he commands substantial and determined support from around half the population, and *especially among the armed forces*. Revolution might mean civil war, more bloodshed, and more disruption. But secondly, within the confines of Iranian domestic politics, an overthrow of the government is highly unlikely to lead to a left wing and progressive alternative.”

    So left wing politics are determined by the support of the armed forces.

    The tyrants of this world can sleep calmly.

  15. #15

    But we also need to recognise that the current state defends aspects of universal social welfare and state ownership of the economy that benefits ordinary Iranians; and that dominant voices among those calling for a more open political system are also calling for more economic liberalism, deregulation and the bracing wind of the free market.

    That is why socialists should be wary of being drawn into a false choice between two strands of elite opinion.

    We shoudl be for defence of the social welfare and state ownership of the Iranian economy; and for more political openness, and for womens’ equality, etc; but don’t have any illusions that overthrowing Ahmadinejad will be a simply gain for progressives – that might well become a defeat for working people and the poor.

  16. #17

    “So left wing politics are determined by the support of the armed forces. ”

    That was cerainly the calculaton by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in July 1917 when they oposed an insurrection by the Petrograd workers and the Baltic fleet.

  17. What seems to unite all commentators on the current Iranian crisis at the moment is that they just don’t know exactly what is going on. Information is extremely sketchy, and sadly the left does not have any organisation or supporters on the ground who can fill in the blanks and provide a more illuminating perspective.

    But that said, it is surely not too problematic to state, broadly, that we are both opposed to western government intervention and bellicosity towards Iran whilst at the same time supportive of the right of Iranians to protest against the regime without being shot down, arrested or tortured.

    we should also bear in mind that popular movements are developing and dynamic things. If the movement persists, there will be disagreements and debates opening up about exactly what it should be trying to achieve and how to achieve it. We can either take the position that the Iranian regime is somehow ‘anti-imperialist’ or that it represents the best of all possible worlds in Iran at the moment and should not be challenged, or we can support at least the possibility of a movement developing which can challenge the sytstem on a far more democratic basis.

  18. But the real question is whether the social gains are in the long term compatible with the current repressive posture of the regime. I think not. Given that Iran is an unequivically capitalist country, given that it is locked into precisely the same global system of any other capitalist country, in the absence of greater freedom to organise, these social gains will be erradicated. To imagine anything else is utopianism.

  19. Mohammad on said:

    The situation in Iran is indeed complex. One can not simply embrace one side and condemn the other; the opposition are no saints. As an Iranian student living in Tehran, I think that
    1. The election outcome was probably genuine. Several independent polls (conducted by TFT and WPO and Iranian ISPA, which is a respected polling body, mostly run by reformists) before and after the election support this view. I’m not aware of any one which concludes the opposite.
    Moreover, the opposition has failed to provide enough evidence that a huge, centrally-coordinated fraud happened; they’re constantly pointing at small-scale irregularities -which are quite probable, given the mostly hand-operated voting process- and some unverifiable claims; that’s despite the fact that detailed vote counts of all polling stations have been released, while Mousavi had representatives in more than 90% of the stations, and about 500,000 people -most of whom are not gov’t employees- were involved. So it should be easy to uncover a massive rigging, if existent. I have heard numerous reports from supervisors, even in reformist websites, admitting that the released numbers are consistent with their observation. I haven’t seen a single one expressing the opposite.
    Of course the opposition supporters won’t agree with me (even if sincere) since the largest group of them live in Tehran, and Tehran, even by official numbers, voted for Mousavi. They can’t believe that country-wide, he didn’t get the vote. But two-thirds of Iranians live in rural areas and small towns, to most of which Ahmadinejad has traveled in the last 4 years, gathering support for himself as a ‘man of the people’. His support base mainly comes from the less-educated, poorer people and most of the conservatives.
    2. The security forces did a very bad job confronting the protests, which resulted in injuries and several deaths. It in fact legitimized and empowered the protest movement, who no longer had to prove an election fraud. The security officials couldn’t differentiate between the hooligans and thugs who attacked public and private property after the election, and the sincere majority of the protesters; so they treated the peaceful protesters just as their treated the vandalizers, a very provoking and disgusting move.
    3. The Iranian government sucks in crisis management and public relations. The leader did a strategic mistake when congratulating Ahmadinejad before election outcome had been fully approved (a practice done in the past elections btw). He didn’t quickly realize that this time the situation was different, a result of exceptionally overly-heated election campaigns.
    4. The emotionally provoked opposition, which are in average more literate and political-savvy, have successfully depicted themselves as the ‘oppressed voice of the people of Iran’ through intense media activism, leveraging the chain of mistakes by the government. The real majority, who also are less politically-active and at the same time can’t support the government because of the its ineffective and undefendable post-election actions (despite they voted for it in the first place), have been marginalized. As soon as they turn out to protest the opposition (as happened several times, e.g. December 18th), they’re ridiculed or accused of getting financial incentives for their support of the government. As a result, they aren’t covered as much as the opposition in the media.

    I think the coverage of Iran’s events by the Western media is too simplistic, depicting the tensions as good vs. the bad. I hope the Iranian government finally realizes that by restricting the media, is doing more harm than good to itself. Opening up of the media will allow Westerners, instead of relying on opposition’s accounts of events, to come and see the people who are more in numbers but have a lower voice because of their lower access to Web and other media.

  20. Armchair on said:

    In Britain the head of state currently has to be a member of the Church of England and Archbishops have automatic seats in the second chamber, and yet not many people would deny that Britain is a (bourgeois) democracy.

    I also suspect that the true reason that Blair waited until he had left the office of Prime Minister to become officially RC was due to the constitutional questions that would have been asked.

    On the question of the armed forces, I would add Venezuela.

    On the article itself, I tend to agree with Karl Stewart here (as I often do).

  21. I think there is a problem for socialists invoking “silent majority” type arguments. Think of the attitude of the right here to demonstrations. I remember enfuriated right wingers after the massive STW protests. Given the scale of repression the turn-outs on these demonstrations are far more socially significant then anything seen here during the entire period of protest against the war. This just does need to be registered.

  22. Johng – ‘Given that Iran is an unequivically capitalist country, given that it is locked into precisely the same global system of any other capitalist country, in the absence of greater freedom to organise, these social gains will be erradicated. To imagine anything else is utopianism.’

    Completely absent from this simplistic analysis are the specific material conditions under which Iran exists, not to mention the historical events which gave rise to its current state of development. To describe Iran as an ‘unequivocally capitalist country’ on a par with western capitalist states is in itself to denigrate the huge suffering and distorting influence of western intervention in Iran’s internal politics going back decades. You simply cannot isolate present day Iran from this history. To do so is to lapse into the mindset of a B52 liberal, supporting the right of our own ruling class to intervene wherever it sees fit. The demonisation of the present Iranian govt and huge anti Iranian propaganda being propagated by our own media should be questioned and resisted, not pandered to. The same with the recent attacks on China over the execution of Akmal Shaikh. There has been no attempt to understand the seriousness with which China takes drug smuggling as a consequence of the history of the British led opium trade which did so much damage to the country and conjurs up China’s colonial subjugation at the hands of the British Empire. When you have an idiot like David Milliband making stupid, inflammatory statements criticising China’s human rights record in the same week as he attacks Iran, while at the same time British troops are occupying Afghanistan, and when Britain played a substantial role in the destruction and devastation of Iraq, you know that the world has been turned upside down.

  23. #17

    ‘So left wing politics are determined by the support of the armed forces.’

    Workers in uniform, isn’t that how Marxists view the armed forces?

  24. #25

    25.Johng – ‘Given that Iran is an unequivically capitalist country, given that it is locked into precisely the same global system of any other capitalist country, in the absence of greater freedom to organise, these social gains will be erradicated. To imagine anything else is utopianism.’

    Well those social gains have lasted these last few decades, indeed during the Iran/Iraq war the SWP, cliff in particular, was adamant that there were still social gains from the revolution to be defended, despite the theocratic government.

    The welfare state, and the state ownership of the economy simply should be defended, and to argue that because they might be lost in the future that socialist shouldn’t defend them in the here and now is a bit bizarre.

  25. There is nothing bizarre in suggesting that as the Iranian government moves further and further towards, as you put it, conventional economic remedies for what is a global crisis, that the possibility of defending basic gains and living standards rests on the freedom to organise to defend them. Ahmedinajad is widely percieved by conventional commentators as offering a populist sop to these discontents, as the government continues on its way. If this is the case what can be bizarre about suggesting that backing repression against protest on the basis of these sops is a ludicrous strategy?

  26. An appeal for unity on said:

    Isn’t it about time for a new international of progressive parties and organisations led by countries such as Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and with supporters e.g. from this blog, Die Linke, the Parti de Gauche, the Workers Party (Ireland), Respect, the CPB, etc.?

    We could all achieve so much more together than just writing on blogs.

  27. prianikoff on said:

    “Iran happens to be an Islamic Republic…”

    The fact that Iran has historically been an opressed semi-colonial nation isn’t an argument against fighting for consistent democracy there.
    The defence of Iran against Western intervention doesn’t require the defence the Velayat-e faqih system, which gives the clerics an undemocratic veto over all elections.

    The US and British governments have never stood for democracy in Iran and they don’t now.
    They would prefer the system to be retained, but to do a deal with the more pro-Western elements in the clergy.
    This is because it offers a bulwark against any potential challenge from the left, just as it did in 1979 when the Mullhas hijacked the Iranian Revolution.
    The Iranian regime was also very useful to the USA and Britain when the Taliban government was overthrown in Afghanistan.
    They won’t risk anything which completely destabilises Iran.
    Nor will the Israelis won’t act against Iranian nuclear facilities unilaterally, short of an imminent threat of nuclear attack.
    At which point, they would use nuclear weapons.
    That possibility is at this point, very remote.

    In contrast to imperialist governments, Socialists, fight around the programme of consistent democracy.
    They push democracy to its limit, at which point socialist tasks are placed on the agenda.

    Exactly the same argument applies to the execution of Akmal Shaikh by the Chinese government. I’m just waiting for some tosser in Respect or Socialist Action to open their mouths on this one!

    This brutal act can’t be justified on the basis of cultural relativism.
    Nor does opposition to it rest on his alleged “mental illness”.

    One of the first acts of the revolutionary government in Russia in 1917 was to abolish the death penalty. It was only reinstated due to the situation of civil war that developed the following year. It should never have been retained once social peace was restored.

    It’s barbaric and ineffective and the high level of state executions in the USA, China and Iran are a sign of the social backwardness.

    The faceless state bureaucrats that order the executions of these lowly unfortunates should have their teeth smashed by the socialist proletariat.
    I’m against cruelty to animals, but any of their poodles in the blogosphere need to be given a good slap.

  28. prianikoff on said:

    #32 edit at line 11

    “Nor will the Israelis won’t act against Iranian nuclear facilities unilaterally”

  29. “Isn’t it about time for a new international of progressive parties and organisations led by countries such as Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and with supporters e.g. from this blog, Die Linke, the Parti de Gauche, the Workers Party (Ireland), Respect, the CPB, etc.?”

    In short. No.

  30. An appeal for unity on said:

    Why not john? I’m sure that many readers of this blog and commenters and writers would support it.

  31. #28

    “backing repression against protest on the basis of these sops is a ludicrous strategy”

    I must have missed it John, who is supporting repression against the protests?

    What is ludicrous is to buy a pig in a poke and support the “Green movement”£ comoing to power without checking what their programme is.

    itr is interesting that the only socialists in a comprable position, the IS in Zimbabwe do not call for the MDC to come to power, and support neither Mugabe nor Tsvangari, becuase they recogniswe that a Tsvangari government would reverse some aspects of the ZANU-PF government’s polices that benefit poor and working class Zimbabweans. It is quite possibel to hold this posuition withjout supporting Mugabe

  32. Have you thought through the possible consequences of not supporting popular protests in Iran Andy?

  33. Much as I admire Andy competence on Iranian politics and no doubt fluent Farsi, I will always agree with what comrade Yassamine Mather says. Which is that the contradictions with any democratic demands are too great for the regime to stand. Any progressive politics depends on how this is resolved.

    Us lot, organised in HOPI, stand full square with the Iranian opposition. In so far as they are democrats.

    Marg bar Diktator!

  34. “The welfare state and state ownership simply should be defended.”

    But this is what I meant when I said that we seem to know very little about the protest movement developing in Iran. Is it calling for an end to welfare provision? Is it pushing a neoliberal agenda? Is it calling for foreign intervention? Or is all this merely the ‘most likely outcome’? And how do we know this, exactly?

    When right wing mobs go onto the streets in Venezuela, their agenda is pretty clear. They are in the main made up of the middle class and the rich, bound together by the solidarity of privilige and outraged that a government should be using even a fraction of the counrty’s wealth to benefit the poor. In Iran, the situations is not nearly so clear cut. Demonstrations have spilt over into working class districts, and Moussari seems to have won at least as many working class votes as Ahmadinijad. Working class living standards are already under attack as price rises are outstripping wages. The wealthy are still doing ok, of course and inequality is rising.

    This crisis has clearly been prompted by a split within the ruling class. Its outcome is impossible to predict at this stage and by no means pre-determined. There are many directions it could take. What some seem to be suggesting here is that protest simply shouldn’t happen now in Iran, full stop. That jusat seems strange.

    One more thing. The idea that socialists should be uncritical of states that are, or have been in the past, subject to western intervention reaches a new depth of abject stupidity with the comment from someone here that it was wrong to condemn the recent execution of Akmal Shaikh in China. If you’re happy with shooting a mentally ill man in the back of the head to demonstrate “the seriousness with which China takes drug smuggling” I guess that you would defend pretty much anything. A curious idea of socialist internationalism, let alone basic human decency.

  35. #35 “35.Have you thought through the possible consequences of not supporting popular protests in Iran Andy?”

    but as I said in the orignal post John, with emphasis in the original

    “In so far as the Iranians protesting on the streets wish to remove the more oppressive aspects of Iranian society, then they are to be applauded. In so far as organised labour wins the right to prosecute trade union struggles to benefit ordinary working people then they are to be completely supported.”

    There are aspects of the protests that are progressive, there are aspects that are far less positive.

  36. #36

    “the contradictions with any democratic demands are too great for the regime to stand.”

    when I was in the SWP we used to argue that apartheid could not be removed from south africa without a socialist revolution.

    that was wrong too.

  37. paul fauvet on said:

    It makes a pleasant change to see Johng talking sense. Of course socialists should support the mass protests against the theocratic regime! Of course we want to see an end to the parody of democracy permitted by the mullahs!

    Just as we want – or should want – to see an end to the abominable regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, which is a millstone round the neck of the entire southern African region.

    It is in the nature of popular protest that we cannot predict exactly what will happen. Perhaps the Iranian uprising will lead to a pliant, pro-American regime. And perhaps it won’t. That will depend on the balance of forces on the ground.

    But Andy Newman has bought into the regime’s propaganda and paints the millenarian thug Ahmadinejad as some kind of misunderstood Islamic social-democrat.

    There are only two sides to a barricade. On the one side are the socialists and communists of Iran (persecuted, jailed and tortured by the Islamic Republic), the jailed trade union leaders, the persecuted national minorities, and all those women who reject the demeaning role allocated to them by the regime. On the other side we find Ahmedinejad, Supreme Leader Khameini, the basji death squads, and the rest of the repressive state apparatus.

    And Andy Newman – admittedly with all kinds of mealy-mouthed qualifications- casts his lot in with the regime (and even has the nerve to quote Lenin!)

    But my comrades are in the jails (and cemeteries) of Iran, not in the palaces.

  38. #39 Andy,

    you say..
    “when I was in the SWP we used to argue that apartheid could not be removed from south africa without a socialist revolution.”

    Out of genuine interest, and in no way hostile, do you actually have a written reference to support that? I constantly hear this yet it seems odd.

  39. Yes, as I remember it, we didn’t believe in the 1980s that the Aparthied regime could be overthrown without the mobilisation of the workers movement. One thing I think we underestimated was the way in which elements in the trade union movement, traditionally hostile to the ANC, would swing round. We backed the ANC of course, but also believed that it was unlikely that Aparthied could be smashed by it. We were wrong about that. It should be said that despite being wrong about this, Southern Africa after Zimbabwe by Callinicos still repays reading in terms of the developing contradictions of Aparthied (between reform and revolution is worth reading as well). We were just wrong about were those contradictions were going (outside the theological world of sects this is fairly common).

    On Iran though Andy, I think your position is in danger of resembling those who opposed the war on terror on principle but were worried by the hetrogenious political composition of the movement. Of course there are negative and positive features of the movement.

    And as with the movement in South Africa there are a number of contradictions in the movement itself. But you can’t pick and choose in a situation like this. You have to be wholeheartedly on-side with the movement before you can put foward arguments trying to turn it in a socialist direction.

    This was ABC for us here in Britain with the anti-war movement. In Iran you’d run the risk of duplicating the kind of absurd position put foward embarressingly enough, by those supporting me here.

  40. Thanks johng, useful as ever however I’m still a little baffled. I accept I need to get round to re-reading AC’s work in this regard.

    But in response to your points, the apartheid regime did give way AND there was a ‘mobilisation of the workers movement’. I can see that there may have been a misjudgement regarding ‘elements of the trade union movement’ but that seems a long way from insisting on ‘socialist revolution’ being the only way to defeat apartheid. Was that explicitly stated? Or were there ambiguous mattterings or maybe some ‘sloganeering’?

    I’m mindful of Tony Cliff’s work on ‘deflected permanent revolution’ and in the light of that it would seem, albeit retrospectively, that a transition from one method of capitalist rule to another could quite easily occur without socialism.

    Moreover, we already had the example of Zimbabwe to draw on here. In fact Smith eventually felt obliged to give way to ‘majority rule’ as his former allies, the South African apartheid regime, abandoned him.

  41. There are some so many errors in this article.

    Your biggest mistake is seeing Ahmadinejad and the militarist faction as somehow maintaining welfare and state control over important industries. Ahmadinejad’s populist slogans which gained him support from the poor and rural population were hollow. He has continued and quickened the pace of privatisation and the creation of temporary contracts and jobs. “In early September 2006, Mahmoud Jahromi, Iran’s Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, declared that currently 65 per cent of Iranian workers are on contracts, and that if those working in the construction and transport sector were included that the figure rises to 85 per cent. Ominously for Iran’s workers, in the same interview he predicted that over the next two to four years all workers in Iran would be put on contracts.” This quote is from a study on how the governments policies are affecting workers at Iran Khodro and the working class in general in Iran, it was written by David Mather, Yassamine Mather and Majid Tamjidi and was printed in Critique Journal but can be accessed here: ‘Making Cars in Iran: Working for Iran Khodro’ : http://www.critiquejournal.net/carsiran.pdf Apart from Hand Off the People of Iran’s (HOPI: http://www.hopoi.org) extensive coverage of workers statements and struggles, the IMT affiliated Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network (IWSN: http://www.iwsn.org) has excellent English language coverage of workers struggles in Iran. These struggles always become a political struggle, whether it is over the non-payment of wages or arbitary changes in contracts. It is also wrong to think that Mousavi would abolish the limited welfare provision that exists in Iran anymore than Ahmadinejad would, as if the mass movement that has been sparked because of the fraudulent elections would give up on the minor welfare policies that exist.

    The working class and the poor in Iran, on the whole do not support the government of Ahmadinejad, and if you were in any doubt you just need to wonder whether the upper and middle classes of Iran are millions strong? Because millions, possibly up to 6 million in Tehran alone have been on the streets at major demonstrations over the last few months. I would also question whether we should be up for trading freedom of association, press, assembly etc for small welfare provisions?

    Your article also misses completely the processes that were unleashed by June protests, we have gone from a movement that was simply calling for a re-run or inquiry into the elections to a mass movement against the Islamic Republic itself. It is also an error to say that the green movement wants to open the door to the imperialists, one of the most common slogans at the demonstrations is ‘Independence, freedom, Iranian Republic’. You should note Independence means an independent state not controlled by the Imperialists. What is left of the organised working class in Iran has supported the protest movement whilst criticising Mousavi et al and writing unequivocal anti imperialist statements.

    The greatest threat to the restoration of Iran as a client state is the crushing of this movement and the democratic aspirations of working class and majority of the population. The Islamic Republic is not a consistent anti-imperialist force, it welcomed and cheered on the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and does anyone remember the Iran-Contra affair? The only consistent and reliable anti-imperialist force is on the streets of Tehran, it is the working class, that is who we must support not the clerical hierarchy. This is not a colour revolution. There is no “win-win” situation for the majority of Iranians unless the entire regime is overthrown.

    Another error Andy makes is on military support for Ahmadinejad and the government. Over the last few weeks the military and security forces have begun to crack and fracture. On December 7 soldiers at Qom airbase and other smaller garrisons protested in solidarity with demonstrations taking place on National Students’ Day, in the recent protests the first division of the special forces refused orders to shoot protestors and many police refused to attack protestors, taking drinking water from them. And to top all of this off sections of the army have stated that they will not participate in the crushing of the protest movement if ordered to by Khamanei.

    Andy is also wrong on whether Israel can hit Iran’s nuclear sites without US support, Israel has recently carried out refuelling and long distance manouveres, which was successful. Haaretz looked at the chance of success if military action was pursued by Israel alone: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1085619.html

    Now, what kind of socialist would call Iran a democracy, let alone a ‘mature democracy’? Maybe the widows of the thousands and thousands of murdered communists, trade unionists, social democrats, gays, bisexuals, lesbians and trans people should be comforted that their family members were killed by a ‘mature democracy’. You should rename your blog Andy, you are no socialist. Marxists would also defend a mass movement for the widening of democracy whether Ahmadinejad won the election or not, surely moves to undermine the oppressive apparatus that exists and invades all areas of Iranian peoples lives is positive?

    The tasks at hand for the movement in the UK are very clear. It is of the utmost importance that the anti-war movement takes on a serious campaign against sanctions, HOPI launched the only national campaign against sanctions that could be taken up by STW and others, we must win the argument that sanctions are not a soft option but are stepping stones to military action and they destroy working class struggle through impoverishing the masses. An attack on Iran is on the cards in the next 12 months, just like the mass murder in Gaza, it may come when we are not expecting it. Alongside our primary anti-imperialist tasks we have to support, investigate and at times critique the mass movement and its tendencies in Iran. This means publishing the statements and stories from our comrades, raising money for workers organisations and socialist organisations.

    Andy, what you have written is ill-informed. We have written extensively on the movement, what is actually happening on the ground and how imperialist threats and sanctions impact on the mass movement. You should have a look at these articles:

    27 December: Iran’s bloody Sunday: http://hopoi.org/?p=933
    Fighting over the corpse: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/798/fightingover.php
    Student protests accelerate regimes collapse: http://hopoi.org/?p=850
    Show trials and apologetics: http://hopoi.org/?p=594
    The Iranian elections and the crisis: http://hopoi.org/?page_id=31
    Facts on Mir-Hossein Moussavi: http://hopoi.org/?page_id=38

  42. vildechaye on said:

    RE: despite Iran having a mature system of democracy.

    In “mature democracies,” a ruling religious council, islamic or otherwise, does not determine which candidates are fit to run for office and which are not. Candidates are not disqualified from running because an outside unelected body considers them “too reformist.” This is a routine part of the current system in the Islamic Republic. Some “mature democracy”. Where do you cook this stuff up?

  43. Prianikoff #31

    Spoken like a true Trotskyist. Yes, regardless of the social forces involved in these protests, let’s just blindly jump onboard.

    The fact that Iran has emerged from a semi colonial status and is currently isolated and lying in the crosshairs of western imperialism is absolutely fundamental to what it taking place there now.

    If there are progressive forces amongst the protesters able to take things beyond the realm of supporting the western leaning section of the theocracy and ruling elite, then we’ve yet to see it emerge.

    You state that the protesters are calling for more democracy. Many of them may well be. But democracy is not what this is about at its heart. As Andy rightly states in the original post, and as with every political crisis, at its heart is a battle for control of the economy and orientation towards the West.

  44. prianikoff on said:

    #31 “Spoken like a true Trotskyist. Yes, regardless of the social forces involved in these protests, let’s just blindly jump onboard.”

    Except that’s not what I said at all.

    I made no comment about the current demands of the Iranian protestors whatever.

    There are often situations in which a regime can either fall to the left, or right.
    Think of Kerensky’s regime in Russia for instance.

    I simply stated what Socialists should call for.

    * No Western Intervention in Iran
    * Consistent Democracy against Clerical restrictions.
    * A socialist republic.

    What’s not to like?
    Except maybe it might queer the pitch on Press TV for some aspiring Poodles.

  45. Anonymous on said:

    Here we go again – you guys are supporting a right wing dictatorship! What’s socialistic about that?

  46. Regarding “mature democracy” and the pre-selection of candidates: I suggest reading the political classic by Walter Karp entitled Indispensable Enemies. Basically, in the US, the political parties vote for the constituents (rather than the reverse) by means such as drawing voting boundary lines so as to limit competition and ensure that the two-party system is not fundametnally challenged. We in the US pre-select our candidates by gerrymandering and financial contributions from capitalists.

  47. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irJGeKlQ4lQ

    This man, named Alaattin Karadag, had been spent time in jail in Turkey for membership of an “illegal leftist organisation”. He was released but court proceedings were continued against him. He was given an additional prison sentence as the prosecutors thought he hadn’t done enough time. Rather than go back to jail he went on the run, but was gunned down by police in Istanbul on November 16.
    The corporate media concentrating so hard on events in a neighbouring country pass over this sort of occurrence in silence.

  48. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Minor correction – he was shot dead on November 19, not 16.
    The Youtube shows pictures of him lying dead in the street, and a protest.

  49. steelcityred on said:

    Andy, your are way of the mark on this one,people like us will be put agains a well and shoot in Iran ,

  50. Anonymous on said:

    “Andy, your are way of the mark on this one,people like us will be put agains a well and shoot in Iran”

    Not all bad news then!

  51. “there are educated, university based scholars who serve the ideological needs of the state, and there are also more modestly educated populist preachers, equivalent to the Sufis of the Sunni religion”

    ??? Almost all Sufi orders are Shi’a. But certainly Sufi orders have often been deeply involved with popular protest against ruling elites – that’s generally where they originated in the third Islamic century.

  52. #46

    Why should anyone accept the analysis of people in HOPI who are mainly at the outer fringes of planet ultra-left, and the same people who present themselves as so knowledganble about Iran have opinions about British politics that are litteraly laughable. It is also simply a truism that as soon as you quote Yassamine Mather as a source, then you have relinquished the right to be taken seriously!

    One point you make which is well founded is that is misread my source on Israels military capoability. they do have in-flight refueliing, their dependence on the USA for long trips is not technical, but in providing the diplomatic cover for the flight path through Turkish and Iraqi airspace.

    Iran’s air defence capability has been upgraded during 2009, both in terms of ground to air misslies, and a new and more efficient command structure. They had extensive exercies in Novemeber, and would be able to relly on advance warning from Russia or China based uupon satelite surveillence. Iran has 300 modern combat aircraft, and a significant capability to retaliate, especially against US targets in Afghanistan. They would be a high risk target.

    With regards to the reliability of the military. remember that the Beijing garrison also refused to move against demonstrators before Tiananmen square. From what I gather the military are loyal to the Islamic republic, especially the layer of senior officers that i mention who cut their teeth in the Iraq war. It is one matter refusing to act against demonstrators, it is entirely another to matter to join the rebellion yourselves.

    the scale of the rebellion you describe, being millions strong and calling for the overthroww of the Islamic republic is simply not one I recognise, I just telephoned a friend of mine to check, who is a refugee from iran, and who speaks every days with her familly back there. She doesnt recognise that desciption from her familly’s accounts. the events are serious but no where near on the scale you are suggesting.

  53. #60

    Well i stand to be corrected, but my source for this is the quite well respected work of social anthropology, “Muslim Society” by Ernest gellner, Cambridge University Ppress, 1979.

    Pages 42 and 43

    Gellner says:

    “Significantly Iran even in the past had two different kinds of ulamma , religious scholars: on the one hand, administrative bureaucratic ones, and on the other, populist-mystical ones – the former serving religion and the state, the latter catering the religious needs of the masses.
    “The contrast between reverence for the law and for the sacred person, which emerges in Sunni Islam as the opposition between scholar and Sufi, is with shi’a Islam incorporated into the scholar class itself”

    Gellner also discusses how confusion of nomenclature bedevils Western discussion of Islam.

    By his definition Sufism takes a number of different structural forms depending upon the rural or urban environment, and is a catch all terms for various saints and mystics, and of various religious clubs and brotherhoods.

    You are of course correct that the distinguishing form of shi’a islam is particularly associated with revolt and rebellion. Gellner describes Shi’a Islam colourfully using Christian terminology as being analogous to the situation where St peter organises a posse to revenge the crucification and overthrew Pontius Pilate.

  54. johng #44:

    “One thing I think we underestimated was the way in which elements in the trade union movement, traditionally hostile to the ANC, would swing round. We backed the ANC of course, but also believed that it was unlikely that Aparthied could be smashed by it. We were wrong about that.”

    Well, good for you for admitting that you (ie, the SWP) were so- ridiculously- wrong about the liberation struggle in South Africa… but who on earth were these traditionally ‘hostile elements’ to the ANC in the trade unions- from whom, presumably, you took your lead?

    The liberation movement was led by the tripartite alliance- of the ANC, the Communist Party, and the Trade Union organisations (SACTU, now COSATU). In which the workers in the trade unions actively participated through strikes and other actions.

    By the way, your claim “We backed the ANC of course” is also rather suspect. In what way did you back the ANC? I didn’t notice your organisation throwing its weight behind the Anti-Apartheid movement.

    And, I have to add, your strident enthusiasm for the anti-government protests in Iran contrasts with the SWP’s total absence from the solidarity campaigns with the people in Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, etc.

    Given the huge importance of the revolutionary struggles in Latin America, this is remarkable.

  55. Why should anyone accept the analysis of people in HOPI who are mainly at the outer fringes of planet ultra-left, and the same people who present themselves as so knowledganble about Iran have opinions about British politics that are litteraly laughable.

    Actually, nearly every Iranian leftist living in exile agrees much more with HOPI than it does with Andy Newman or Yoshie Furuhashi. Go to New Left Review or even Monthly Review (not the wretched Zine that Yoshie edits) and you will find nothing vaguely resembling the analysis here. But then again those are Marxist publications that proceed from an entirely different set of premises than found here.

  56. You seem to lack the capacity to respond in a mature way to my post, shame.

    Andy Newman wrote: “Why should anyone accept the analysis of people in HOPI who are mainly at the outer fringes of planet ultra-left, and the same people who present themselves as so knowledganble about Iran have opinions about British politics that are litteraly laughable. It is also simply a truism that as soon as you quote Yassamine Mather as a source, then you have relinquished the right to be taken seriously!”

    Ultra-Left? Maybe the PCS, ASLEF, Green Party, Jewish Socialist Group and many many others will be interested to learn that they are part of an ultra-left anti-war campaign . I suppose everything to you is ultra-left when you defend a regime that has killed tens of thousands of our comrades. Yassamine Mather is a respected academic and inspirational Marxist militant who took part and stayed on the correct side throughout the revolutionary period in Iran. The article appeared in Critique which is also an excellent and respected journal, maybe you should take studies by Marxists from Iran seriously? Your attacks on HOPI and comrade Mather are simply a way for you not to admit that you are wrong, and that your pathetic apologia for a murderous and reactionary regime are easily proved wrong.

    Whether the military will go over to the side of the opposition, remain neutral or prop up the regime is yet to be seen. Clearly the security forces are cracking, I suggest you read the reports we have recently posted on the HOPI site.

  57. Read Why the Islamic Republic has lasted for 30 years:

    “The Republic’s constitution—with 175 clauses—transformed these general aspirations into specific inscribed promises. It pledged to eliminate poverty, illiteracy, slums and unemployment. It also vowed to provide the population with free education, accessible medical care, decent housing, pensions, disability pay and unemployment insurance. “The government,” the constitution declared, “has a legal obligation to provide the aforementioned services to every individual in the country.” In short, the Islamic Republic promised to create a full-fledged welfare state—in its proper European, rather than derogatory American, sense.

    In the three decades since the revolution, the Islamic Republic—despite its poor image abroad—has taken significant steps toward fulfilling these promises.”

    (SOURCE: http://www.merip.org/mer/mer250/abrahamian.html)

  58. I post on SU I support HOPI, ah well may be I am ultra left.

    Fair point of course from Noah about the SWP.

    Don’t mention Latin America, may be this is what ‘socialist from below’ really looks like.

  59. #68

    The article posted by Cyrus is extremely useful in explaining the progressive aspects of the Islamic state, which are direct gains from the 1979 revolution.

    It also refers to the huge expansion of graduates from Iran’s universities who face an uncertain future. This is illustrative of how a social success – expanion of numbers in higher education – can lead to a social problem as a developing middle income country does not have the opportunites to provie everyone with the sort of high status jobs that graduates expect; and the diplomatic isolation of Iran exacerbates that problem.

  60. I notice you comment on me, you don’t comment on the substantial point, a contradictory process of grassroots social change is unfolding in Latin America, not interested!

    Hurt feelings over my comments more important than politcal engagement, surely not.

  61. #46

    “It is also an error to say that the green movement wants to open the door to the imperialists, one of the most common slogans at the demonstrations is ‘Independence, freedom, Iranian Republic’. ”

    You should read history more. In 1989 none of the demonstrators in East germnay called for merger with the Bundesrepublik, no one called for the restoration of capitalism or currency merger, none of them called for privatisation, certainly none of them called for membership of NATO.

    Yet within a year these were the only options on the table.

  62. derek – don’t be an ass. The SWP has written plenty on Latin America if you take, say, three seconds and go to their website. Its political impact has hardly been on the level of the anti-war movement or the importance of anti-fascist work so, no, they haven’t thrown the party into it. They have brought over speakers from Latin America. I’m sure you will tell us how it’s on the top of the Green Party’s election manifesto. As for being part of solidarity committees, here in Toronto we have one or two members who are part of the Venezuela solidarity committee. It’s hardly a mass movement and has had about a tenth of the impact of the Sandinista revolution on politics up here.

  63. Of course one must have every sympathy with those among the protestors in Iran who are motivated by the regime’s repression of womens’ rights, trade unions, etc.

    However. It is far from clear that the result of an overthrowing of Ahmadinejad would be a better regime, either for the majority of people in Iran or in terms of Iran’s position in global politics.

    The fact that left-wing groups are involved in the current protests does not mean that those groups would have any involvement in, or influence on, the government which would be constituted should Ahmadinejad be deposed.

    Of course, the same could also be said of the Western media, the US-funded ‘pro democracy’ organisations, etc. But perhaps, sadly, with less confidence.

  64. Ah, we may not get what we wanted so we ought not to fight and should instead accept the devil that we know. That’s a pretty pathetic reason to not support the protest movement.

  65. “You should read history more. In 1989 none of the demonstrators in East germnay called for merger with the Bundesrepublik, no one called for the restoration of capitalism or currency merger, none of them called for privatisation, certainly none of them called for membership of NATO.”

    And it opened the door, twenty years later, for the first pan-German far left party since 1933. Things don’t always proceed as we think or would hope but it was naive to think that the revolutions in the Eastern Bloc would end in any other way than with people expecting to be saved by the market. It was the logic of 50 or 60 years of stalinist and western propaganda. And nothing else was on offer. Iran is, in any case, not the former Soviet Bloc.

  66. Incidently, it is to the credit of the SWP, that they – IIRC particularly Cliff himself – did indeed grasp that much of the progressive significance of the 1979 revolution was retained after the theocratic regime consolidated itself, and even after the islamic state turned on the leftist Mujahadeen al khalq. progressive gains in terms of commitment to social welfare, etc.

    This was a bone of contention with some of the other sister groups in the IS temdency, some of whom like the Australians took a more negatve view of the Iranian regime much earlier.

    It is interesting of course to note that the actual position of women in Islamic Iran has improved compared to the Pahlavi era, with more access to professional employment, higher numbers in higher education, more financial independce, etc, etc. Thus despite rhetoric of modernity under the shah, there was a sense of disempowerment that excluded women from taking advatnage of opportunities.

  67. #80 While it is true that the SWP and most IST groups for instance called for the defeat of Iraq in the Iran/Iraq war once the US intervened on behalf of Iraq, and recognized the social gains of the revolution, I don’t think that we saw those gains as being the result of the establishment of the Islamic state but as a result of the power and radicalization of the Iranian people’s mobilizations. So, the enshrined social rights were there as a residue of the struggle, which had been suppressed by the victors of the upheaval. Following on from that I doubt you’d find Cliff et all defending the Iranian regime against a mass movement of the Iranian people – the regime is not the guarantor of the social gains but uses the social gains as part of sustaining its hegemonic legitimacy, even as it dismantles the welfare state.

  68. @ redbedhead. In Britain, the SWP has no involvement whatsoever with either the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign or the Committee against the Coup in Honduras.

    You say: “here in Toronto we have one or two members who are part of the Venezuela solidarity committee. It’s hardly a mass movement and has had about a tenth of the impact of the Sandinista revolution on politics up here…”

    ‘A tenth of the impact’ – is that really the case? I would by no means deny the significance of the Sandinista revolution. But now Venezuela is leading a practical and successful movement towards socialism, and against imperialism, across Latin America. Is that really having hardly any impact in Canada?

    Or perhaps it is that you love the idea of socialist revolution in theory- but only in theory, never actually in practice.

  69. Hey Noah – thanks for the question, followed by the personal and totally unsubstantiated dig. Perhaps you might let me answer before you slander me.

    When the Sandinista revolution happened there was a bigger left than there is now. And it provided a ray of hope when things looked otherwise grim – and it was much more dramatic than the slow process of what’s going on in Venezuela, inspiring or not. Sandinista speakers would fill out major halls in Toronto and there were sizeable protests against US intervention there. I happened to waiter at a reunion event about two years ago for one of the organizing groups (there were numerous initiatives to support the revolution) that had about 200 people come out to it. That was going on thirty years since the revolution and twenty since it collapsed. The last Venezuela event that I am aware of had about 60 people at it – which is not to say they aren’t doing good work but just to keep things in perspective.

    But you’ll be glad to know that people like yourself also denounced us then for being critical of the Sandinista revolution which, for instance, was treating the Nicaraguan indigenous people not very well and which wasn’t allowing the FMLN to cross over into Nicaragua IIRC.

  70. “It is in this context, of many people feeling the pinch financially that the government is seeking to remove subsidies on energy. This is actually not entirely straight forward, as the energy subsidies are a regressive social measure that disproportionately benefit the well off, by selling fuel for cars below the cost of production.”

    This, btw, is a dangerous way to approach social programs. We heard the same kind of arguments from the right wing in Canada around universal social programs like pensions and healthcare and childcare: “Why should the rich get benefits. They should pay for them.” Of course this was just a cover to cut state expenditure and the first step on the road to full privatization. Socialists ought to be for universal social programs with no opt outs for the rich who want to seek a higher tier of care or whatever. It should be paid for with a highly progressive taxation of income.

  71. redbedhead #78: “Ah, we may not get what we wanted so we ought not to fight and should instead accept the devil that we know. That’s a pretty pathetic reason to not support the protest movement.”

    ‘We’ ought not to fight? Who on earth is ‘we’ in this situation? And what is ‘the’ protest movement?

    Nobody on this blog is marching in the streets in Teheran. Those who are, on the anti-government side, are of disparate interests and ideologies. Unfortunately, there’s not much evidence to indicate that the left-wing forces have, or are likely to attain, predominance in any successful move in the near or medium term to unseat the Iranian government.

    In which case, the risk that- as in the previous ‘people power’ regime changes- the new regime will be worse than the “devil that we know”, especially by being more compliant with US imperialism, should not be underestimated.

  72. 1) the use of “we” is a rhetorical device. a parody of your position by summarizing it in a satirical way.

    2) “disparate interests and ideologies” – unlike say…every other movement in human history? As for left wing forces – how do we or you know this? The truth is you don’t – for one because the IRI has shut down any free reporting or internet usage so the news is spotty. Certainly, it seems that the level of militancy has gone up, if Sunday’s battles are anything to go by. And the rise of left wing forces and the length of the crisis that a militant movement can unleash are not foretold in advance. A regime crisis can turn small groups into very large ones overnight – as happened with the 1979 revolution.

    3) and how should a left rise without a radicalized population?

    4) the “risk” of a more pro-imperialist regime: where does this look likely? Based upon what statements, slogans, policies, is there any evidence of this. Certainly, as Chris from HOPI noted above, Ahmadi and the present regime have been more than happy to cooperate to quite some length on Afghanistan and Iraq. And the success of a revolt in Iran could easily influence popular revolts in other countries throughout that region.

  73. redbedhead:

    ““disparate interests and ideologies” – unlike say…every other movement in human history?”

    Utter rubbish. For example, the Latin American revolutionary movenents are quite coherent in their opposition to US imperialism and their advocacy of the interests of the poor masses against the rich elites.

    Also you ask: ” As for left wing forces – how do we or you know this? The truth is you don’t – for one because the IRI has shut down any free reporting or internet usage so the news is spotty.”

    Sorry, but that’s ridiculous optimism. Unfortunately, the left wing forces in Iran are very weak. You are sadly deluded if you imagine that ‘spotty news’ is a sign of impending proletarian revolution.

    Further: “it seems that the level of militancy has gone up, if Sunday’s battles are anything to go by…” Hmmm. But even were that the case, being militant and being left-wing are not the same thing.

    And then: “the “risk” of a more pro-imperialist regime: where does this look likely? Based upon what statements, slogans, policies, is there any evidence of this.”

    Well, one could take history for a guide. All the previous ‘people power’ regime changes, backed by the USA’s ‘pro-democracy’ institutions and the Western media, had that effect. To take as one example out of several, the unseating of Milosevitch in Serbia- which, as I recall, was also backed by the SWP.

  74. “Utter rubbish. For example, the Latin American revolutionary movenents are quite coherent in their opposition to US imperialism and their advocacy of the interests of the poor masses against the rich elites.”

    Yes, and of course they sprang fully formed from the heads of Lenin or Marx. They had no process of development, no halfway measures. Well, there was all that terrible Stalinist stuff and support for repressive coups and dictatorships. And then, there’s the problems with Peronism in Argentina. And the FARC and Shining Path, they were a bit of a disaster for the left (especially the non-aligned leftists, peasants and trade unionists that they killed). And prior to that there was the national liberation movements of the white elite that won independence from Spain and Portugal. Bolivar was not particularly radical. Many other movements were sectional. Even Chavez started his political career with a thoroughly adventurist – and nationalist more than socialist – coup attempt. In other words, your narrative is pure horseshit.

    “You are sadly deluded if you imagine that ’spotty news’ is a sign of impending proletarian revolution.”

    Nobody said this because nobody believes it, certainly not me. I just said that you have no idea about the left because Iran is not a free society and has a bad habit of slaughtering open leftists. And there are definitely socialist student groups but I just have no idea of their size or of the depth of radical ideas amongst a more informal layer of the student population. Neither, I suspect do you.

    “But even were that the case, being militant and being left-wing are not the same thing.”

    It’s true but fighting back against the repressive forces of a capitalist state, seizing police stations and the like, in the name of things like freedom and democracy, seem like a pretty good place to start on the road to freedom.

    “Well, one could take history for a guide. All the previous ‘people power’ regime changes, backed by the USA’s ‘pro-democracy’ institutions and the Western media, had that effect. To take as one example out of several, the unseating of Milosevitch in Serbia- which, as I recall, was also backed by the SWP.”

    You’re right. We’re not Stalinists – we actually believe that socialism comes from the struggle of working class people. We also believe that history is not a straight line as you seem to with your ridiculous cartoon narrative of the history in Latin America.
    It is certainly the case that people in those countries like Serbia are more free to organize having gone through revolutions. That doesn’t mean that they are all one-way streets; if they were, after all, they would be socialist. So, there are elements of different class pressures and demands that win out, depending on balances of forces, in any such “people power” movement. But it is never foreseeable in advance how things will shake down. Attempts to justify quietism on the basis of the people “not being ready” are just the usual conservative point of view dressed up in a few Marxist phrases.

  75. #90

    redbedhead

    ‘It is certainly the case that people in those countries like Serbia are more free to organize having gone through revolutions’

    Only a fool would describe the western influenced and supported break-up of a socialist country, Yugoslavia, as a revolution.

  76. jock mctrousers on said:

    ” … Go to New Left Review or even Monthly Review (not the wretched Zine that Yoshie edits) and you will find nothing vaguely resembling the analysis here. But then again those are Marxist publications that proceed from an entirely different set of premises than found here.” Louis Proyect

    What’s Proyect talking about? Neither NLR nor MR have written on Iran for ages – has he got advance copies of the next editions not available to us lumpen proles? By ‘that wretched Zine’ does he mean MRzine, which is a sideline of Monthly Review, and carries a variety of views on the current Iranian situation?

  77. paul fauvet on said:

    Cyrus is most impressed by the Islamic Republic’s constitution.

    Yes, Constitutions are wonderful bits of paper. I particularly like the phrases in the constitution which repeal restrictions on voting and add universal direct suffrage and the right to work to rights guaranteed by the previous constitution. In addition, the Constitution recognises collective social and economic rights including the rights to work, rest and leisure, health protection, care in old age and sickness, housing, education, and cultural benefits. The constitution also provides for the direct election of all government bodies.

    This constitution, we are told, provides economic rights not included in constitutions in the western democracies. and the man who drafted it is described as “the genius of the new world, the wisest man of the epoch”.

    Oops, sorry ! Wrong constitution, wrong country – the words above describe the Soviet Constitution of 1936. But what’s the difference? One fairy tale is as good as another.

    Some people on the left fall prey to constitutional cretinism – they look at the beautiful words on the shiny bits of paper, and don’t bother to check whether they are an accurate description of reality.

  78. prianikoff on said:

    It’s certainly the case that the Islamic government of Iran could fall to the right without the intervention a working class revolutionary party.

    The “In Defence of Marxism” website has always had the most accurate and up to date information on developments in Iran, derived from reporters in the country.

    They reported on the situation there in the article “Iran: Power slipping to streets” , written by Babak Kasrayi on December 28th. It concludes as follows:-

    “The most important absent element is the direct role being played by the working class. Workers coming on the scene, with their very own general strike, putting a pause to society would be truly the final death sentence for the Islamic regime. However, the lack of a revolutionary leadership and poor organization of workers is the cause of this not happening yet.

    Events of December 27 proved once more and more decisively than ever, the regime’s power is being eroded and it will come down, this or that day, with this or that method.

    The fall of the regime, however, will be only an introduction to a period of acute class struggle in Iran. The duty of Iranian Marxists remains forming a revolutionary independent party of the working class that could lead the workers to victory in this period. Important battles lie ahead!”

    In full at:
    http://www.marxist.com/iran-power-slipping-to-streets.htm

    Also cited by this article is the following blog which contains up-to-the minute reports from across Iran:
    http://persian2english.wordpress.com/

  79. #93

    Yes, as with the US Constitution, the French, and so on. This we know, because as socialists and Marxists we understand constituions of nations which rest on capitalist economic foundations as legal and institutional attempts to conceal the property and social relations of that society. The tensions in Iran that we are seeing being played out on the streets are the result of economic conditions, climbing inflation, poverty, unemployment, which are largely the result of Iran’s economic isolation at the hands of the West. If we had comparable economic conditions in this country you could be sure there would be riots here too. Remember Brixton, Toxteth, etc?

    Iran is under a de facto siege in economic terms. This is impacting increasingly on the more affluent sectors of Iranian society, exacerbating the contradictions between the state sector and private sector. Shrill denunciations of Iranian democracy, which would not look out of place in the New York Times, fail to factor in the economic contradictions that lie at the root of what is taking place.

  80. Well said indeed Chris #66.

    Since Jim Jepps, who I believe has somthing to do with Socialist Unity, is our Treasurer (HOPI) perhaps you should ask his opinions.

    Is “jock mctrousers” the same one who accused of us of going to the “same North London Synagogue”, eh?

    Where such racism is found it can’t be kept long underground.

  81. #90

    Redbedhead

    ‘It is certainly the case that people in those countries like Serbia are more free to organize having gone through revolutions’

    Which is like saying workers who lose their jobs becasue theie factory closes have more time for politics

  82. #93 – Paul. To be fair to Cyrus, the article by Abrahamian he cites isn’t seeking to prettify the Islamic Republic, but to explain the social roots of its support. And, whether we like it or not, the Islamic Republic does still seem to enjoy a wide legitimacy within Iran, not least because of its welfare measures. I may be quite wrong, but I strongly suspect that those who claim that the Islamic Republic is about to topple are engaging in a great deal of wishful thinking. One thing I am fairly sure of, though, is that Western sabre-rattling can only enhance the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic, and the anti-imperialist credentials of its ruling elite. Bad regimes throughout history have justified themselves by reference to external threats. If we can persuade our governments to stop the war rhetoric, that might be, paradoxically, one of the best ways to help the democratic forces in Iran.

  83. Noah you are being ridiculous. That there were tensions between what were called ‘the workerists’ and those called ‘the populists’ (inside south africa inside the movement) was well known to all. The question of the significance of the burgening new unionism (which occured outside of the framework of the exiled COSATU in the early 1980s) was the signal of a revival of the struggle after the long night that followed the repression of the Soweto uprising (itself led by BC rather then the ANC). There then followed the township uprisings. The question of which way the regime was going to jump were real ones at the time. De Klerk has stated for the record that the decision to jump the way they did was prompted by Gorbachev, that experiance leading the regime to conclude that it was better to jump early rather then late. For the record the SWP was centrally involved in setting up Anti-Aparthied groups up and down the country in colleges and workplaces during the 1980s. The SWP also did everything possible to build up connections between the new unionism and British trade unionists during the period but was concerned not to allow these political differences in south africa to undermine unity of the broader movement in Britain.

    Stuart, I think in the context of the political divide which existed in the early 1980s between the new unions and the ANC leadership, it was felt that BECAUSE the new unionism was a decisive force (and indeed explicitly argued that the problem in Zimbabwe had been a failure to bring workers to power), there was a slide from a correct recognition that the workers movement would be decisive to a belief that that such a movement would proceed only under the banner of socialism. What actually happened was that as power came closer the leadership of the new unions buried their differences with the ANC. This was, in other words, not a conventional case of permenant revolution deflected.

    But what then followed revealed the hollowness of claims that the Charter embodied a roadmap to socialism. There was not a move by one inch towards that goal. Perhaps Noah would like to explain this.

  84. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    “And it opened the door, twenty years later, for the first pan-German far left party since 1933.”
    Oh well. Capitalist restoration is all right then.
    Die Linke isn’t even that impressive, and debatably “far left”. It is recycling social democracy when the SPD is abandoning it, and it has shown itself to be rather quickly intimidated when the right-wing press starts up about the GDR pasts of some of its representatives.

  85. johng’s memory isn’t quite on the mark. The exile organisation was SACTU (South African Congress of Trade Unions) – COSATU was the workerists’ organisation. It’s certainly true, though, that for several years after the independent unions first emerged, the ANC and their supporters in the trade union movement here were actively hostile to the new unions, and tried to block any form of solidarity action with them. This flowed from an equally dogmatic attitude that said that any independent organisation was impossible under apartheid, and that therefore the new unions must be stooges of apartheid. The reality of the struggle in South Africa forced a rethink inside the ANC inside South Africa, which was then transmitted to the solidarity movements – in itself an importnat sign of the shift of power inside the movement.

    The SWP did try to build solidarity groups, but outside the framework of the official Anti-Apartheid Movement, precisely because of the way in which the AAM sidelined the new unions.

  86. What’s Proyect talking about? Neither NLR nor MR have written on Iran for ages – has he got advance copies of the next editions not available to us lumpen proles? By ‘that wretched Zine’ does he mean MRzine, which is a sideline of Monthly Review, and carries a variety of views on the current Iranian situation?

    A Bazaari Bonaparte?
    James Buchan, NLR 59, September-October 2009

    Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism
    Samir Amin, MR December 2007

  87. Is it my memory or my spelling? One correction though. I can remember being exposed to the wrath of one Alex Callinicos when I stupidly attempted to combine a debate about the workerist issue with setting up an anti-aparthied group. Quite rightly so as well. My memory (obviously failing!) is that we did in fact combine joint work with the anti-aparthied movement with a seperate solidarity campaign with the new unions, keeping the two seperate. I can also remember taking a group of students to Barclay’s bank to ask if it would be possible to withdraw some blood, sweat and tears (on another issue: what was FOSATU, as opposed to COSATU?).

  88. There were of course other divisions in the Anti-Aparthied movement. The RCG’s perpetual non-stop picket of south africa house providing the focus for another faction.

  89. As the above makes clear the key to Alex’s developing analyses was the shift in the locus of the contradictions of Aparthied from rural to urban areas, and the explosive impact this was likely to have on the struggle against Aparthied and its politics (a different dynamic to the struggles seen in the front-line states, which further deepened those tensions). In terms of this general orientation his analyses seems to have stood the test of time. These shifts, as chjh notes, had to be registered both by the ANC and the Anti-Aparthied movement in the early 1980s (and I can remember the arguments attempting to suggest that the new unions were ‘stooges’ of Aparthied: an analyses utterly wide of the mark, but only later withdrawn).

  90. ecolefty on said:

    Lets face it our discussions here will have little influence on the ground in Iran. We can only offer solidarity to the Iranian left and more importantly against any imperialist adventure or attack from the US, UK or Israel.
    I think some people are mistaking a bit of populism on the Iranian theocratic/fascist regime’s part as `progressive’, more comparable to Mussolini or Peron than any type of socialism however distorted.

  91. Armchair on said:

    #102

    COSATU formed an alliance with the SACP and the ANC.

    The SWP, like, but separately from, various other leftist groups in Britain and elsewhere, used the figure of Moses Mayekiso to build a separate solidarity initiative from the Anti- Apartheid movement.

    Moses then joined the SACP.

  92. johng: “But what then followed [after the end of Apartheid] revealed the hollowness of claims that the Charter embodied a roadmap to socialism. There was not a move by one inch towards that goal. Perhaps Noah would like to explain this.”

    Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to explain.

    The overthrow of the Apartheid regime took place in the global context of that time- the defeat of the USSR & nearly all of its socialist allies. When the ‘socialist bloc’ existed, a revolutionary Third World country had somewhere to turn to for investment, technology, non-capitalist trading relationships, and global political and diplomatic support.

    With the defeat of the Soviet Union, the possibilities for Third World countries moving towards socialism were drastically closed down. Cuba managed to survive, despite dreadful loss of GDP, its population half-starved, under an intensified blockade. For several years, the speculation was that the Cuban revolution would also be crushed.

    The position of some Western ‘Left’ organisations which joined in the vile triumphalism over the defeat of the USSR, while at the same time denigrating Third World leaders for their failure to advance towards socialism, is utterly disgusting and hypocritical.

  93. Mark Victorystooge:

    “Die Linke isn’t even that impressive, and debatably “far left”. It is recycling social democracy when the SPD is abandoning it, and it has shown itself to be rather quickly intimidated when the right-wing press starts up about the GDR pasts of some of its representatives.”

    Despite this, I think that the emergence of Die Linke, with its opposition to the neo-liberal ‘reforms’ consequent on the defeat of socialism, is rather impressive.

    However, your main point is quite correct. A ‘leftist’ claims that the defeat of socialism in Germany is vindicated, because as one of the outcomes of that defeat, a party has arisen which is against some of the negative outcomes of that disaster!

    Redbedhead, Johng etc. You are in love with revolution in theory, but despise it in fact. You are the patron saints of lost causes- until those causes show any chance of success. No actual revolution will ever be good enough for you.

  94. prianikoff on said:

    #110 “When the ’socialist bloc’ existed, a revolutionary Third World country had somewhere to turn to for investment, technology, non-capitalist trading relationships, and global political and diplomatic support.”

    So does this mean that the socialist programme is now off the agenda everywhere?

    As far as I recall, when the ANC took over Joe Slovo and the SACP were having a serious identity crisis about what socialism actually was. So perhaps it’s not suprising that the ANC leaders who looked to it for political leadershipaccepted a compromise deal that fell short of the demands of the “Freedom Charter”

    How did the Bolsheviks manage without a “Socialist Bloc”, I wonder?

  95. Just a quick note when quoting Alistair Crooke, (as Andy Newman does in his article) He is a former MI6 officer – albeit one who appears to have gone slightly ‘native’ in the Middle East – and the access he has to groups and opinion formers in the region is based on that background.

    His curious article in Red Pepper last month, calling on the left to develop a more nuanced understanding of political Islam, has to be seen with that context considered.

  96. Ah so Noah’s explanation is that the weather was bad. Armchair leaves out of account that the ANC had to change its position towards the trade union movement (its prior policy having been deeply sectarian). Should socialists have gone along with the charecterisation of the new unions as ‘stooges of aparthied’ (a position which the ANC recanted a few years later)?

  97. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    #111. Actually, I am a little amazed at the over-enthusiasm for Die Linke, especially coming from that particular quarter. And the idea that 20 years of capitalist restoration are as nothing compared to the establishment of Die Linke made me wonder what had been imbibed over the holiday period.

  98. Armchair on said:

    Johng it was absolutely no thanks to those who took a sectarian attitude to the ANC and the SACP that both organisations evolved their position in relation to the independent trade unions imo. And I don’t recall the SWP or others changing their orientation towards the ANC as a result of this evolution. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Prianikof- how did the Bolsheviks manage without a socialist bloc? Very badly according to most analysis of the Russian revolution, particularly trotskyist. I thought the October revolution was premised on proletarian revolution spreading to the West, and particularly Germany, and that the devastating events under Stalin were down to the isolation of the Soviet Union.

  99. Armchair on said:

    #101- I auspect that the DDR past creates difficulties for some members of Die Linke bacause the experience of that past, while postive in terms of job security, welfare etc in comparison with the present, included quite a lot of negative stuff as well, to put it mildly.

  100. I was not attempting to suggest that the ANC changed its position due to the SWP. I was suggesting that it can hardly be described as “sectarian” not to denounce South African trade unions as stooges of Aparthied or refuse to work with them when they ask for solidarity. On the question of the ANC our position was quite consistant. We supported them in the fight against Aparthied but did not submerge our politics into theirs. And thank goodness for that!! Imagine our position now if we had done. Incidently its very hard to work out what the practical consequences are of a position which suggests that because of the collapse of the soviet bloc it was impossible to move towards socialism (despite the fact that there is no indication whatsoever that this was the original plan). Perhaps one should simply have agreed with the neo-liberal path actually embraced?

  101. #118

    “We supported them in the fight against Aparthied but did not submerge our politics into theirs. And thank goodness for that!! Imagine our position now if we had done. ”

    JOhn, are you saying that the SWP is currently better placed in South Africa to influence events than the SACP

  102. Armchair on said:

    #118 “…despite the fact that there is no indication whatsoever that this was the original plan.” The programme of the ANC- the Freedom Charter- was explicitly socialist. The programm of the SACP continues to be a socialist one. You may have deep disagreements with the current orientation of the SACP but that does not prevent it from being a party with a socialist programme.

  103. prianikoff #112: “So does this [the defeat of the USSR] mean that the socialist programme is now off the agenda everywhere?”

    Not any longer, I’m very happy to say- as we can see from developments in Latin America. The rise of China and, to a degree also the re-emergence of Russia, with foreign policies and international economic relationships which are independent from those of the imperialist bloc (USA, EU, Japan etc) is a crucial factor which is now facilitating the re-emergence of socialism.

    Then you remark: “… when the ANC took over Joe Slovo and the SACP were having a serious identity crisis about what socialism actually was. So perhaps it’s not suprising that the ANC leaders who looked to it for political leadership accepted a compromise deal that fell short of the demands of the “Freedom Charter” ”

    For sure. The defeat of socialism in ‘Eastern Europe’ & the USSR had massive and terrible global impacts, not merely economic but political, ideological and psychological. The SACP, like most other progressive forces, was negatively affected.

    And your last quip: “How did the Bolsheviks manage without a “Socialist Bloc”, I wonder?”

    Hmmm. Are you really suggesting that the outcome of the Russian Revolution proves that ‘socialism in one (Third World) country’ is possible?

    The Bolsheviks won power not in a small country, but in an area with a vast territory and population- a partly European country; and not just in Russia but in the many nations of the former Russian Empire.

    And even with that, the USSR did not begin its rapid economic development (which allowed it to become a superpower) until, in the late 1920s, it imported Western technology on a mass scale and put it to use through the 5 year plans. This appropriation of US and W. European technology was only possible because the Capitalist West had not yet united in a single disciplined front against the communist threat represented by the Soviet Union.

    And even that amazing and wonderful success was marked- as I am sure you would be among the first to acknowledge- by terrible problems; which are routinely and stupidly characterised as the results of ‘Stalinism’, but which a materialist analysis would consider in the global context of increasing threats & reality of war, and trade & technology blockades, by the world’s richest and most economically developed countries.

    There never has been, nor is there now, any easy road to socialism.

  104. johng # 114: “Ah so Noah’s explanation is that the weather was bad.”

    Presumably, by ‘the weather’ you mean the global political strategic, economic, political and ideological context, in the wake of the defeat of socialism in ‘Eastern Europe’ and the Soviet Union.

    Yes, guilty as charged; this is my explanation. And I don’t claim any special credit for this, because it’s the obvious explanation- for the downturns in practical socialist aspirations during the 1990s.

    Yet socialism is rising from its 20th Century ashes. Inspired by Cuba and led by Venezuela. And where are you in this process? Absolutely nowhere.

  105. ecolefty on said:

    Certainly events in Bolivia, Venezuela etc are inspiring.
    It makes the petty sectarian arguments of the UK left look pedantic and irrelevant.

  106. prianikoff on said:

    TUC protests at execution of Iranian teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar

    TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the Iranian Ambassador to protest at the execution on Sunday 9 May of Farzad Kamangar, Iranian teacher and trade unionist, on the charge of ‘enmity against God’.
    His letter is part of a growing international trade union campaign – and union and individual protest action is likely to be mobilised later this week.

    Brendan Barber’s letter in full
    HE Mr Rasoul Movahedian
    Ambassador
    Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
    16 Prince’s Gate
    London SW7 1PT
    Dear Ambassador
    The execution of Farzad Kamangar, teacher and trade unionist
    I am writing to you on behalf of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national centre for British trade unions, with 58 affiliated unions and 6.3 million members, to protest at the execution on Sunday of teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar.
    The TUC has been informed that Farzad Kamangar, together with four other prisoners, was executed on Sunday 9 May. He was sentenced after a court process which did not meet international or Iranian standards for a fair trial.
    The TUC is opposed to the death penalty and unequivocally condemns the execution. It also denounces the inhumane treatment of Farzad Kamangar’s family, who were not even informed before the execution took place. On Mother’s Day, his mother was not even allowed to say goodbye to him.
    The TUC has consistently denounced the persistent repression of trade unionists and all Iranians who do not share the views of the government. The brutal execution of Farzad Kamangar confirms the repressive nature of the Iranian regime, and your government’s complete lack of respect for international obligations or human rights.
    The TUC will support the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to which we are affiliated, in its complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association about this gross violation of the principles of the ILO.
    The TUC will call on its affiliates to denounce this inhumane act, and show solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters. In that respect, we continue to express concern about the other teachers and trade unionists languishing in Iran’s jails, such as bus workers leaders Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi.
    I cannot emphasise enough the damage that this execution has done to the reputation of Iran and your government.
    I urge you to let your government know how abhorrent British people feel this execution to have been, and urge your government to halt any further escalation of trade union repression and human rights abuses against trade union members.
    Yours sincerely
    BRENDAN BARBER
    General Secretary
    Copied to:
    Rt Hon David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
    Clive Betts MP, Secretary, All Party Parliamentary Group on Iran

    http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-17917-f0.cfm