All of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in an uproar currently over the result of the elections of friday, when incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won with a surprisingly large margin. It was widely expected that he would win a plurality against his main competitor, the more liberal reformer Mousavi, but that the latter would be able to enforce a second round in which his chances of victory looked solid. Mousavi supporters, relying on uncertain but significant circumstantial evidence, are now claiming election fraud, and Mousavi as well as minor candidates on ‘left’ and ‘right’ have formally lodged an appeal with the theocracy’s main clerico-judicial body, the Guardian Council. In the meantime, Teheran has been the scene of many riots and protests by Mousavi supporters as well as Ahmadinejad supporters, and police as well as unidentified armed motorcyclists have operated with violence against the protesters. Even now, a massive demonstration in favor of Mousavi is taking place, and a general strike has been announced for tomorrow.
From a Communist perspective, the situation is complicated. Ahmadinejad appears from what information we have to be favored by the reactionary clergy as well as by the Revolutionary Guards, who control an estimated one-third of the country’s wealth and operate as a paramilitary force for the clerical elite, parasitical upon Iranian society. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad has attempted (albeit with little success) to improve the lot of Iran’s majority of rural poor, and he has a stronger reputation as anti-imperialist than Mousavi does. Mousavi was Prime Minister during the height of the clerical repression, at the time of the conflagration between Iraq and Iran, and as such cannot be said to have a great record when it comes to political repression and state suffocation of democratic forces in Iran, despite his depictions in the Western media as hero of liberalism. It is of course possible that Mousavi would now fare a better course, and he has been campaigning on slightly relaxing the religious strictures of clerical rule in daily life that enforce the submission to the theocracy, but how serious this is is impossible to determine.
It is telling also that Mousavi has the support of the billionaire former President Rafsanjani, who likely sees in him a candidate who can defeat the Revolutionary Guard-supported Ahmadinejad and their economic competition to his interests, which range from transport to oil. Moreover, Mousavi’s presumed new liberal course fares well with the Iranian bourgeoisie, whom Rafsanjani represents, in its various larger cities. Especially Teheran is generally accepted by both parties to be relatively pro-Mousavi, although according to the official results, Ahmadinejad won even there with 52%. The most pro-socialist candidate is the reformist cleric Karroubi, but it was clear from the start that he had no chance of winning. One ought nonetheless to support the most left-wing candidate available in any election, but the fact the Guardian Council pre-emptively removes all candidates except those vetted by them makes of Iranian democracy as much a sham as the American one is, even if it is clearly an improvement over the days of the Shah.
Ahmadinejad’s base of support is generally identified as the rural poor in Iran, peasants as well as rural petty bourgeoisie, who in any nation tend towards conservatism and nationalism. Mousavi can count on the support of the Iranian bourgeoisie, while the clerical class is divided between the supporters of the old order, including the Supreme Leader Khamenei, and liberal clerics inclined to economic if not political reform, such as Rafsanjani himself as well as Khatami. A factor which makes the class division more complicated still is the youth of the Iranian people – the median age is merely 26.4. In any nation, young people are more inclined to support change, of whatever kind, and are more activist besides. They will also identify less with the ‘Islamic Revolution’ of 1979 and the clerical establishment resulting from it, especially in the cities. So while the class divisions currently still favor the clerics, the demographics do not.
What complicates the issue more is the external pressure constantly exercised against Iran’s independence by the United States, Israel, and their lackeys. As always, the imperialists achieve the opposite of their public intent. The Iranian people will reject any threat to their independence from outside, and the greater the threat, the more militarist the system becomes, favoring nationalist and militarist considerations over any other. This sort of militarist deformation resulting from external pressure has been seen before in such countries as the USSR and North Korea, but also in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, and it shows again how imperial posturing is bad for the peoples it threatens, regardless of how tyrannical their rulers are, and even when the imperialists are impeccable liberals. The result of imperialism is not the removal of tyranny, but its strengthening.
Khamenei has apparently announced that an inquiry will be held by the Guardian Council into the voting count. Regardless of further developments and the real winner of the vote, it is to be encouraged that Iranians use the opportunity to pressure their government into further democratization and into reducing the power of the clerics to channel it towards priestly authority. The greater the power of God, the smaller the power of the people, and the greater the power of God’s representatives, the smaller the power of the people’s representatives. Iran does not need or want the dubious help of America to liberate itself. The Iranians have a chance to do so on their own.
I’m not a communist, so I have many underlying disagreements, but well put. It’s a different perspective.
Richard Seymour opens his latest blog post (he’s already linked on the side, so I won’t bother repeating): “I think it’s a consensus on the liberal-left in the US and UK that the Iranian elections were fixed. If they are right, we are watching a bloodless coup turn into a bloody one, as protesters have been beaten and are now being shot at and killed by cops.”
Well, I think it’s a coup by the Ahmadinejad clique. The question that’s burning a hole in my mind — beyond the analysis of voting patterns, class loyalties, etc. — is what happens next and what this means for the 1979 Revolution. You bring up the Revolutionary Guards, who are “parasitical” in Marxist lingo. I’d call them mobsters. Is this an attempt to do away with the religious government, replaced with a right-wing junta operating under the veneer of religious sanction? Is Ahmadinejad a Stalin? Is the old school responding to the destruction of the revolution in its name? I fear that whatever means to control what is happening have been lost. Perhaps Mousavi may succeed at a reform before it goes too far, otherwise the whole system may implode, or the clique will crush the resistance and Mousavi too.
Great survey of the situation given the famine of reliable information on the ins and outs of power politics in the IRI.
As we hear more, though, I’ll add that it seems that Mousavi’s support cuts across faultlines previously thought to be much harder. I’m speaking primarily of the IRGC and powerful clerics (Qom).
According to Laura Secor, an Iran scholar blogging at the New Yorker, Mousavi’s status as a favored son of Khomenei means that his presence drives a wedge in the main clerical councils, as well as the military ones. Maybe 80-88 veterans look up to the man, and I’d be willing to bet that there are Iranians, ordered to take part in a crackdown on their fellow citizens, who have second thoughts.
As for the American reaction: frankly, I’m shocked, because everyone seems to agree that the way to treat this is with restraint and sympathy, and also patience.
Yeah. I’ve noticed a lot of constraint from the government, in the United States and more so in the European Union — although this is my admittedly cursory and uninformed opinion. Even the liberal-left is saying: stay out of it. (For the most part, at least on the national, government level.) There is, of course, a difference between diplomatic language and plain language. Whatever the American President says will be translated, interpreted and garbled in every which way. If he says something that is very critical of the regime, then he will be accused of meddling, imperialist interference, etc.
But, well, I’ve been reading Monkey Smashes Heaven. The “line” over there is that you have to support Ahmadinejad unconditionally. They also say, YOU must not criticize otherwise YOU will be meddling. And I think, damned if they tell me I can’t meddle in the affairs of the Ahmadinejad regime. You know? They clump whole nations, groups of people, into these monolithic blocs of enemies that must be imprisoned, “reeducated” or turned into slaves. I mean, this is stupid, crazy, insane. They say: well the opposition isn’t Maoist-Third Worldist. Well, what is? It’s just so irrelevant, outdated, impossible. It is, um, a dead ideology. They’re marching around like reanimated zombies.