Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 29, 2009

Two important articles on Iran

Filed under: Iran — louisproyect @ 6:25 pm

Iran and Leftist Confusion

by Reese Erlich

When I returned from covering the Iranian elections recently, I was surprised to find my email box filled with progressive authors, academics and bloggers bending themselves into knots about the current crisis in Iran. They cite the long history of U.S. interference in Iran and conclude that the current unrest there must be sponsored or manipulated by the Empire.

That comes as quite a shock to those risking their lives daily on the streets of major Iranian cities fighting for political, social and economic justice.

Some of these authors have even cited my book, The Iran Agenda, as a source to prove U.S. meddling. Whoa there, pardner. Now we’re getting personal.

The large majority of American people, particularly leftists and progressives, are sympathetic to the demonstrators in Iran, oppose Iranian government repression and also oppose any U.S. military or political interference in that country. But a small and vocal number of progressives are questioning that view, including authors writing for Monthly Review online, Foreign Policy Journal, and prominent academics such as retired professor James Petras.

They mostly argue by analogy. They correctly cite numerous examples of CIA efforts to overthrow governments, sometimes by manipulating mass demonstrations. But past practice is no proof that it’s happening in this particular case. Frankly, the multi-class character of the most recent demonstrations, which arose quickly and spontaneously, were beyond the control of the reformist leaders in Iran, let alone the CIA.

Let’s assume for the moment that the U.S. was trying to secretly manipulate the demonstrations for its own purposes. Did it succeed? Or were the protests reflecting 30 years of cumulative anger at a reactionary system that oppresses workers, women, and ethnic minorities, indeed the vast majority of Iranians? Is President Mahmood Ahmadinejad a “nationalist-populist,” as claimed by some, and therefore an ally against U.S. domination around the world? Or is he a repressive, authoritarian leader who actually hurts the struggle against U.S. hegemony?

Full: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/06/28-10

Tehran, June 2009

Kaveh Ehsani, Arang Keshavarzian and Norma Claire Moruzzi

June 28, 2009

(Kaveh Ehsani is assistant professor of international studies at DePaul University. Arang Keshavarzian is associate professor of Middle East and Islamic studies at New York University. Both are editors of Middle East Report. Norma Claire Moruzzi is associate professor of political science and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago.)

The morning after Iran’s June 12 presidential election, Iranians booted up their computers to find Fars News, the online mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus, heralding the dawn of a “third revolution.” Many an ordinary Iranian, and many a Western pundit, had already adopted such dramatic language to describe the burgeoning street demonstrations against the declaration by the Ministry of Interior that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sitting president, had received 64 percent of the vote to 34 percent for his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi. But the editors of Fars News were referring neither to the protests, as were the people in the streets, nor to the prospect that the unrest might topple the Islamic Republic, as were some of the more wistful commentators. Rather, the editors were labeling the radical realignment of Iranian politics that they wish for. This realignment would complete the removal of the old guard, as did the “first” revolution of 1978-1979, and consolidate the rule of inflexible hardliners, as did the “second revolution” symbolized by the US Embassy takeover of 1979.

Whatever history’s verdict on the desiderata of Fars News, neither the institutional structure nor the political culture of the Islamic Republic will emerge unchanged from the crisis following the 2009 election. The stakes are nothing less than these: Should the protesters persevere, the limited traditions of political and civil rights and citizen participation in the Islamic Republic may be considerably strengthened. Should Ahmadinejad and his supporters prevail instead, the political system in Iran may lose all remaining meaningful traits of a republic.

As in 1979, or in 1997, when the “reformist” cleric Mohammad Khatami captured the presidency, or in 2005, when Ahmadinejad won his own (highly contested) landslide victory, the Western media has been caught off guard by events on the Iranian stage. The crudest analysts insist upon seeing an epic battle between the government and “the people” — but neither of these actors is unitary. Others, writing from left, right and center, extrapolate theories from the supposed characteristics of the dramatis personae. Hence “the opposition,” urban, educated, technologically savvy and broadly supportive of Mousavi, is said to be arrayed against the poor, exaggeratedly pious peasants and plebeians who back Ahmadinejad. Such interpretations are also far too simple. They fail to explain why the election campaign was so competitive and why the popular reaction became so virulent once the scale of the fraud employed by the regime to fix the election for Ahmadinejad became evident.

The conflict over the 2009 election has sent multiple, cross-cutting fracture lines both through the core of the regime and through Iranian society.

Full: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero062809.html

10 Comments »

  1. The professors are very circumspect in their assessment; Erlich is more straightforward. Both seem to agree that the protest is a spontaneous eruption of democratic energy. This begs the question of whether either candidate or camp has any fundamental reform in mind. And, still, it’s not clear to me which side “workers” as a whole are favoring. What do you think, Louis?

    Comment by senecal — June 29, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  2. I don’t know about the workers, but I do know about the Iranian left. They are opposed to Ahmadinejad and are using the openings of the pro-Mousavi protests to press their own demands. If most Iranian workers favor Ahmadinejad, that does not force me to tow the line. If I have been able to resist Obama’s blandishments, why not Ahmadinejad’s?

    Comment by louisproyect — June 29, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  3. Iranian fantasies from Max: http://www.maxajl.com/?p=1463

    Comment by Jenny — June 29, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  4. Louis: what do you mean by the Left as distinct from workers?

    Comment by senecal — June 30, 2009 @ 3:04 am

  5. re #4: I understand your next post, on Rosa, is the answer to my question.

    Comment by senecal — June 30, 2009 @ 3:09 am

  6. Why doesn’t the left get it — there is no simple correspondence or agreement or convergence between the program of Mousawi and the protesters from below. The ‘anti-imperialist’ left, unfortunately including Monthly Review, thinks in such rigid categorical terms and thus cannot grasp the fluidity and dynamism of the protests and the movement of contradictions within the demonstrations. some of the protesters likely support the neoliberal agenda of mousawi; others just want to protest the authoritarianism and repression of the state; other are surely leftists. In other words, there is no simple model of working class vs middle class or empire vs. self-determination to capture these protests. What we saw instead was a cross class political/ideological movement erupt in the context of an intra-elite electoral dispute, a movement which quickly raised demands about the policies and structures of the Islamic Republic. It is a contradictory movement, which contains important progressive democratic currents, which must be recognized and supported by the international left. otherwise we are siding with the vile ahmadinejad and the clerical establishment. our message is simple: no imperialist meddling and support the democratic movement from below against the repressive state.

    Comment by boston — June 30, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  7. iranians living in the US…wow thats going to be an independent source!

    ‘That comes as quite a shock to those risking their lives daily on the streets of major Iranian cities fighting for political, social and economic justice’

    ahem you mean people like this:

    he sign is in english,..now who in iran speaks english???Not the poor workers who voted for Ahmadinjed!

    ‘I don’t know about the workers, but I do know about the Iranian left. They are opposed to Ahmadinejad and are using the openings of the pro-Mousavi protests to press their own demands. If most Iranian workers favor Ahmadinejad, that does not force me to tow the line. If I have been able to resist Obama’s blandishments, why not Ahmadinejad’s?’

    remarkable!!! What evidence have you Ahmadinejad engages in ‘blandishments? Just maybe hes sincere, after all Chavez and Morales think so!
    Here your analysis is failing, Louis..wonder why?

    ‘The conflict over the 2009 election has sent multiple, cross-cutting fracture lines both through the core of the regime and through Iranian society’

    thts the idea…its standard colour revolution tactics…
    http://gowans.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/the-role-and-aims-of-us-democracy-promotion-in-the-attempted-color-revolution-in-iran/

    Comment by brian — July 11, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  8. Souter, do you accept responsibility for this:

    Angry Hitler Had the Right Idea, by Brianct

    Look at whats happening in Gaza, the Jewish Zionist war machine doesnt stop! Look at all the civilians, women and children that are being targeted! Hitler did have the right idea when he decided to try to eliminate all the Jews. Hitler was the real prophet, who was able to predict that if the Jews wont get eliminated, then they will cause a bacterial infestation throughout the world. He was right! Jews are behind all the wars, Jews were the cause for all the wars, and Jews were the ones who started all the wars! Jews are the ones who are also behind the Global collapse of the economy, look at Bernard Mardoff for example, Wall Street also is infested with Jews, plus many many more!!!!!

    Here in my hometown of Australia this week, the Jews have been demonstrating all week non stop in support of the bastard state of Israel. Yes, here in Australia we have these viruses (Jews) too! The killing of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust is a hoax, the unfortunate thing about it, is that it IS a hoax, the numbers were much less unfortunately! It would have been great if Hitler REALLY killed 6 million Jews, in fact he should have killed all of them!

    Heil Hitler, Death to Israel!
    __________________
    Brian Souter,
    Flat 12, 56 Crest Road
    Queanbeyan, NSW 2620, Australia
    Email: briansouter@yahoo.com.au

    Comment by louisproyect — July 11, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  9. Why are you posting this fraud with my address onit Louis? please remove that last post.

    Comment by brian — July 11, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  10. Im waiting Louis…

    Comment by brian — July 11, 2009 @ 2:10 pm


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