Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 6, 2010

MRZine: drunk on its own rotgut ideology

Filed under: Iran — louisproyect @ 8:31 pm

Just as it did immediately after the elections in March of 2008, MRZine is posting material that strives to legitimize the government of Iran. As is widely known, the website functions pretty much as an outlet for Editor Yoshie Furuhashi’s peculiar devotion to Ahmadinejad despite having much useful information. One perhaps might take the same kind of forgiving attitude toward MRZine that one has to Counterpunch, a generally valuable publication despite Alexander Cockburn’s well-known eccentricities. MRZine’s positions were sufficient to cause Barbara Epstein to resign from the editorial board of Monthly Review and earlier on to generate an open letter of protest by Iranian radicals living in the West.

Among the remaining editors, there is only one who shares Furuhashi’s odd predilections–namely John Mage, whose main distinction seems to be membership in the National Lawyers Guild and a long-time position as attorney to the Soviet Union. Mage is too cagey to stake out the high profile position of his co-thinker on the Internet or in print. She recently posted 238 comments defending the Iranian government on the popular Lenin’s Tomb blog prompted by Richard Seymour’s article stating among other things that “There were those, some months back, who tried to characterise the Iranian reform movement as a flash-in-the-pan upsurge of the ‘Gucci crowd’, a collective bed-wetting of the bourgoisie”, an obvious reference to those like MRZine, James Petras, and Edward Herman who put a plus where the State Department puts a minus, as Trotsky once put it.

Among the more interesting items that appeared on MRZine this go-round is a statement from the Venezuelan government that includes the following:

The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela expresses its most energetic condemnation of the attempts at destabilization promoted by the United States government against the government and people of Iran.

The Bolivarian government is surprised that a group of governments, led by the US Empire, is repeating a campaign of violence to divide the people of Iran, thus contravening the elemental rules of peaceful coexistence, non-interference, and respect for state sovereignty.

This implicitly accepts the idea that Venezuela’s leaders have the last word on such matters. While I tend to agree with much of what Hugo Chavez says, I do find myself demurring from time to time, especially when he came out in favor of the “Truther” analysis of 9/11. As a rule of thumb, Marxists in the USA or any other country are better off thinking for themselves than invoking the authority of a Red Vatican somewhere. I understand that independent thinking can be difficult at times, like doing push-ups, but it is necessary and even good for you.

More recently, MRZine has posted items that implicitly endorse Green Movement leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s warnings against “extremists”. In an item headlined “Mousavi makes 5 demands”, we learn that the reformist figure insists on the following: “We disapprove of those who don’t respect their country’s national and religious beliefs and customs. The extremist slogans chanted and (extremist) acts carried out by some protesters on Ashura are unacceptable.” Sounds a bit like what I heard in the 1960s from Spiro Agnew. Considering the fact that MRZine has posted some Weatherpeople nostalgia, it does strike one as a bit of a paradox. I guess it was okay for Bill Ayers to run amok in 1970 but how dare the Iranian students act up in this fashion, especially on Ashura? What is this world coming to?

Of course, we understand that MRZine takes a dim view of student protestors in Iran who must be taking their marching orders and funding from the CIA and George Soros, just as was the case in Eastern Europe, Lebanon and Venezuela. It is fairly easy to develop this kind of analysis. All it takes is a scan of the NY Times op-ed pages. If Nicholas Kristof has kind words to say about student protestors in Caracas and in Tehran, they both must be up to the same dirty business, especially when the Venezuelan government just about says the same thing. Right?

The most recent dispatch is in the same vein. Appearing originally in Asia Times, reporter Kaveh L Afrasiabi poses the question “Iran, from confrontation to reconciliation?” He approvingly points to the closing of the ranks between the “conservatives” and the “reformists” in Iran:

Mousavi’s move toward reconciliation may be interpreted by other factions of the heterogeneous green movement as “capitulation” and, consequently, he must show his followers some tangible gains by making his political “retreat”. Any reconciliation process is sure to be complicated and subject to the strains of a highly polarized polity.

In addition to Rezaee, a number of leading Tehran politicians, including former president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, have called for “unity of all” and a “return to calm”.

Hence, the early part of 2010 will likely feature a qualitative turn-around from the tumult of the past seven months following the controversial presidential elections in mid-June and the intermittent flurry of opposition demonstrations in Tehran and other cities. The protests were most recently motivated by the death of pro-reform Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, whose funeral ceremonies gave the green movement an opportunity to drum up its democratization demands.

A serious miscalculation on the part of the green movement, by holding political rallies last Sunday during the holy ceremonies of Ashura, has clearly backfired, especially since some militant demonstrators turned violent and attacked police stations, threw Molotov cocktails at police vans, and beat up members of the riot police.

Both Mousavi and a number of intellectual leaders of the green movement, such as Akbar Ganji, have explicitly distanced themselves from the violent demonstrators, with Ganji going further and writing that “our problem today is that some notable personalities of the movement and many of its intellectuals have mortgaged themselves to the collective populist action [the opposition street rallies] … Resorting to violence is not justifiable under any excuse.”

This is not the first time that the two-party system in Iran has subordinated its differences in an effort to restore law and order. In July 1999, students organized protests against the closing of a reformist newspaper. Back then the reformists were in power and endorsed the protests, as the July 11 NY Times reported:

A day after a violent police raid on a Teheran University dormitory, more than 10,000 students demonstrated here and in other Iranian cities today, chanting slogans against Government hard-liners and clashing at times with the police.

The nation’s moderate Higher Education Minister, Mostafa Moin, offered to resign in protest against the university raid, which was apparently backed by some Islamic conservatives in the government.

Further, seeking to appease the demonstrators, Iran’s highest security body, led by the moderate President, Mohammad Khatami, condemned the police raid as “intolerable” and vowed to dismiss the official who ordered it.

The protests began on Thursday after the Government closed a leading reformist newspaper, Salam, and Parliament approved new measures to curb the country’s fledgling press freedom.

Just as is the case today, the hard-liners used paramilitary-like violence against the students as the July 11, 1999 Observer reported:

BLOODY clashes erupted in Tehran yesterday for the third consecutive day between pro-democracy students and Islamic extremists, raising fears that a long-expected national crisis is under way in Iran.

At least 10,000 students crossed the line from suppressed anger to open defiance, staging a pro-democracy sit-in at Tehran University, in the heart of the Iranian capital. In the largest protest since the 1979 Islamic revolution, the students demanded the resignation of the country’s parliament and vowed not to end their struggle until President Mohammed Khatami took complete control of the country.

The demonstration was the largest in three days of unrest which began on Thursday evening when hardline vigilantes attacked a much smaller protest across town at the university dormitories.

About 500 students demonstrated against parliament’s approval of a new press law on Wednesday which severely restricts freedom of expression, and a court order banning the leading moderate Salam newspaper, which gives its backing to Khatami.

Conservative extremists from the Ansar-e Hizbollah broke into the dormitories, smashed windows, set rooms ablaze and beat students with clubs on Thursday and Friday. Witnesses said at least three students were killed and up to 300 were taken to hospital. Officials have made no comment on the reported casualties.

Over the next few months, the situation became increasingly polarized to the point where the reformist politicians decided to repudiate the students who had taken up their cause initially. Just as is the case now, they decided to fight for a change in the system and not just cosmetic reforms that would allow a small group of unelected clerics to wield absolute power above the parliamentary façade.

The reformist President Khatami decided that enough was enough and, joining Mousavi and MRZine today, called on the students to disperse as the July 14, 1999 Independent reported:

THOUSANDS OF Iranian students demanding reform defied a government ban on protests to do battle with police yesterday on the very streets on which demonstrators fought the Shah’s security forces 20 years ago in what was to become the Islamic Revolution.

In violent scenes not witnessed in Iran since the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, police fired their guns into the air and showered tear gas on hundreds of young men who tried to storm the heavy iron gates of the Iranian interior ministry as the demonstrations widened beyond Tehran University, the scene of six days of unrest.

By last night the security forces and armed Islamic vigilantes had taken back control of most of central Tehran and President Mohammad Khatami went on television to warn that the riots were threatening Iran’s national security and his government’s reform programme. Under immense pressure to accelerate promised reforms in the face of consistent challenges from powerful conservative clerical opponents President Khatami accused those “with evil aims” of whipping up what had started as peaceful student protests. “I am sure these people have evil aims. They intend to foster violence in society and we shall stand in their way… We take the security of our country and our citizens very seriously.”

By September, the movement had been repressed off the streets and four of the leaders were found guilty of anti-Islamic behavior and sentenced to death in a show trial not much different from the ones that have just transpired.

We assume that MRZine will breathe a sigh of relief once order is restored at the colleges and universities of Iran, where students will cut out all the spring break foolishness funded by George Soros and the CIA and return to their studies.

Cyrus Bina and Hamid Zangeneh, two Iranian scholars based in the United States (Bina is a highly respected Marxist economist), have a different take on things than MRZine. In an Open Letter to Academic Colleagues and the Academic Community At Large that appeared in Political Affairs, the magazine of the Communist Party, they describe the “Para-militarization of Universities in Iran”:

The clerical regime is now transformed into a full-fledged paramilitary state. These paramilitary agents of repression are now in the driver’s seat in both the administrative leadership and the faculty committees, and thus set the academic agenda in major universities. Just a few days into the post-election upheaval, the plain cloth Basij picked up Dr. Mohammad Maleki – a prominent scholar and former chancellor of Tehran University. These plain cloth Basijis are the member of the same unit that in the immediate aftermath of post-election upheaval suddenly (and unprovoked) stormed through the Tehran University dormitories, destroyed much of the structure, beaten and arrested the residents, and tied up several students before throwing them down from the roof on the concrete pavement below to their eventual death. Dr. Maleki has been kept incommunicado in the notorious Evin Prison till the time of this writing. And no amount of appeal to the United Nation Secretary General has so far produced a tangible result. According to his spouse, Maleki – a 76-year old who suffers from advanced cancer of prostate, abnormal heartbeat and diabetes—did not even vote for any of the proposed presidential candidates and certainly had no involvement with Mir Hossein Mousavi’s camp. He is accused of “collaboration with the enemy,” a blanket charge that has been commonly conjured up, and nowadays is rather methodically leveled, against those who defy the arbitrary political arrests by this government and its ruthless and rent-a-cop paramilitary goons. Simply put, barrel of the gun emanates more “reason” than the wisdom of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Rumi, Hegel, Russell and Whitehead combined in today’s Iranian universities.

Now this is the kind of information that MRZine should be publishing if hadn’t become so drunk on its own rotgut ideology.

17 Comments »

  1. Is MRzine different from the actual Monthly Review magazine, which seems like a decent magazine ?

    Comment by Carol — January 7, 2010 @ 4:49 am

  2. It seems to me that it is not necessary to pick sides, the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. What I mean is that even if we can agree that we should oppose the Iranian regime, it simply does not follow suit that that “the protesters” deserve our support. Of course, even that gets more complicated, because even though I am opposed to an elite driven revolution from the Mousavi camp, it does not follow suit that anyone who revolts is following Mousavi. In fact, I think that to the extent that the people decide to reject both wings of the elite, (and draw the ire of the “reformist” camp as much as the right wing of the clerical establishment), it is a good thing.

    Comment by Lee — January 7, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  3. Monthly Review magazine does not have this weird fixation on Ahmadinejad, thank goodness.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 7, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  4. I’m not sure that supporting a capitalist theocracy has EVER had anything to do with ANY ideology associated with Monthly Review. So, Yoshie may be getting high – but it’s not on MR’s supply, at least not as far as I’ve ever been able to tell from reading that magazine. The main apologists I’ve encountered for the Ayatollahs have been the Sam Marcy types. That’s about it. And apparently one editor of MR Zine. Or has that person only included articles that support the Islamic Republic? Including a range of discussion is also not the same as supporting the participants, a point often lost when playing fast and loose, kicking ass and taking names.

    The USA spent over $400 million for civil efforts to disrupt Iran, with the intention of overturning Iranian sovereignty and controlling their land and oil. That’s a fact. Not being disputed, pointing that out is part of the picture of what is happening. Including that in the discussion isn’t the same thing as endorsing such a government. If this editor does uphold a capitalist theocracy, can you point me to the argument?

    Comment by He Said What — January 8, 2010 @ 12:11 am

  5. If this editor does uphold a capitalist theocracy, can you point me to the argument?

    Sure, go to http://leninology.blogspot.com/2009/12/new-iran-protests.html and check the comments. 723 at last count, over 200 from Yoshie defending the government of Iran.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 8, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  6. Today on Facebook, one of the democracy in Iran groups, had a statement of solidarity, from the notorious Venezuelan students. That thread put me into a tough position, attacking Chavez’s position, while attacking the Venezuelan students, and defending the gains of the revolution.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — January 8, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  7. ‘Democracy’ is just a tool used by the U.S. to subvert other governments. When the tool is no longer useful it is put down. Reagan celebrated Polish unions while suppressing U.S. unions. Democracy is best, from the U.S.perspective, when it is the problem of your enemy.

    I am suspicious of any democratic or socialist intervention into Iran originating from the capitalist nuclear arms bearing U.S. Iran needs nuclear weapons due to the unfortunate circumstance of having built their nation on the soil bearing oil desired by the imperial U.S.

    Any nation that does not develop nuclear weapons has an incompetent government. We the people of the U.S. have been proven to be totally incapable of restraining the military industrial congressional complex from destroying less militarized populations; we leave that burden to the threatened nations.

    Comment by Glenn — January 9, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  8. Is MRZine’s editor totally unaware of the Workers Communist Party of Iran? Or is she aware of the party and prefers the mullahfuckers?

    Comment by Larry Gambone — January 10, 2010 @ 2:31 am

  9. Lou: Say for the sake of argument old Trotsky were alive today and witnessed the US launching a military offensive against Iran. He would unequivacably take sides, right? He’d be for the defeat of US Imperialism in that conflict, right? He’d be for the victory of Iran, right?

    Isn’t this debate analogous to how the left fractured when Britain attacked Argentina during the Falklands war?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 10, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

  10. The debate is much more like the one between the Trotskyists and the Stalinists. Both supported the defense of the USSR but the Stalinists combined this with apologetics for Soviet repression. In fact, the show trials in Iran have much in common with the Moscow trials, except today the trumped up charges involve “crimes against God” rather than crimes against socialism.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 10, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

  11. So in a military conflict between Iran and the US you’re still for the victory of Iran, correct?

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 10, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

  12. Absolutely. I would add that Ahmadinejad undermines the defense of Iran through his erratic behavior, such as inviting KKK leader David Duke to speak at a conference examining whether Jews were exterminated by Hitler. This only isolates Iran.

    Comment by louisproyect — January 10, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  13. Agreed, although nothing will isolate Iran more than the UN sanctions that Obama is cooking up.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — January 10, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  14. It would be a shame for the Iranian pro-democracy movement to attain their freedom before achieving the means of maintaining it against the imperial U.S.

    Ahmadinejad is unlikely to bring the type of devastation to Iran that the U.S. has brought to many nations, such as Iraq. Iran is in a fight for its life and its most likely assassin is not Ahmadinejad.

    Until the U.S. abandons its malignant aggression, all nations desirous of sovereignty will be forced into loyalty to the internal devils it knows. Whatever vilification Ahmadinejad deserves should be dished out in greater proportion to Iran’s real existential enemy. Arguments failing in this respect are deserving of suspicions, either of ignorance or covert intent.

    Comment by Glenn — January 12, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  15. The military conflict question is, i think, a different question altogether than the contemporary debate about Iran.
    Suppose we this situation where US has just attacked Iraq, Saddam is still alive and hiding.. i mean fighting.
    Would you say that the Iraqi bathist regime is not a deeply reactionary regime? no. But in the instance of a military attack by the US, would take Saddam’s side? yes, and anyone who takes the side of the US in this imaginated event must not think of himself/herself any different from the average US nationalist.

    When someone like Yoshi throws around the question of military defense, it is to rubbish a totally different point, the point being that Iran is not being attacked by the imperialists in this case, it is not being shelled at all, it sees violent protests by Iranian nationals who are fed up and socialists must not neutral about this.
    UN sanctions falls right there, in the camp of defense against imperialism, this defense must not come to the detriment of civil rights in Iran.

    Comment by Michael T — January 14, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

  16. i can blame it on the migraine hangover, but yet again i can also blame it on the fact that wordpress has no post editing option.

    Comment by Michael T — January 14, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

  17. a good piece by Houshang Sepehr on the topic

    Comment by entdinglichung — January 24, 2010 @ 11:46 am


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