On the developments in Iran

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.