Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran: Vox Populi Versus 'Vox Dei'


REVOLT on the streets of Iran's main cities has predictably thrown many on the Left into some confusion. It shouldn't. Right-wing newspapers and politicians may manage to pretend a sympathy for protesting Iranians which they have not shown for Palestinians, nor for Iranians seeking asylum from the Islamicist regime. Some may condemn the Iranian regime's fundamentalism and treatment of women, without ever having got around to criticising the far more reactionary and repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, Britain's valued arms customer.

On the other side , those of us who have been around for a while may wonder cynically whether Socialist Worker will be excitedly telling us "Tehran Shows The Way!", as it has headlined outbursts of popular anger in other places whence its readers were supposed to derive vicarious pleasure. We doubt it. The SWP and its allies in the Stop the War Coalition leadership have done everything to keep out left-wing Iranian voices which opposed the Islamicist regime. It's not that they imagine the regime is socialist or progressive, but they have their allies to consider, and besides, they think it is good enough for 'backward' nations like Iran.

There are good comrades who will hesitate in anguish over whether to support the Iranian opposition, for good reasons. Isn't Moussavi backed by the West? Doesn't Ahmadinejad stand up to imperialism, and support the Palestinians, who surely need every friend they can get?

Think about it again. Ahmadinejad may strike up poses, but behind the populism, his government has not stopped neo-liberal economic policies and attacks on workers' rights. Repression of women and minorities is no recipe for national unity or an advanced society, and imperialism has no problem with religious reaction and sectarianism - witness Saudi Arabia again, or what the occupiers have bequeathed the people of Iraq. As for the Palestinians, they need Ahmadinejad's flirtation with Holocaust-denying Nazi nutcases like a hole in the head. And though Iran's right to develop nuclear weapons to counter Israel's may be alright as a debating point, in the real struggle it is worse than useless. The Palestinians want to regain their homeland, not a radioactive ruin.

It is the right-wing Christian fundamentalists in the United States who dream of a nuclear Armageddon. It is them, their neo con patrons, and their rent boy Netanyahu who need Ahmadinejad as bogeyman, and could almost have written his script. Palestine, and the rest of the Middle East, will be liberated by popular struggle, not presidents wielding real or notional nukes.

But above all, it is the people of Iran who must pass sentence on the Islamicist regime, and to judge from what we are seeing on the streets, they are starting to do so. This is far too big to be compared with the mob that the CIA and MI6 managed to bring out against Dr.Mossadegh's genuinely anti-imperialist government in 1953. Iranian society has come a long way since then. It is much too big to be about Moussavi. If anything it is beginning to resemble the massive unrest from which the Ayatollah Khomeini usurped power thirty years ago.

As HOPI (Hands Off the People of Iran) says in a statement: "Iranian society is convulsed by a political crisis on a scale not seen for over a decade. Masses of Iranian people have taken to the streets since the results of the rigged elections. Their outrage is justified. The levels of blatant vote-rigging on show was crazy even by the standards of Iran's Islamic Republic regime. The final result underlined that the whole process was compromised from top to bottom:

Ahmadinejad was declared winner by the official media even before some polling stations had closed
• Hundreds of candidates were barred from standing in the first place
• The percentage of votes for each candidate were clearly choreographed - throughout results night none of the candidates' vote varied by more than three percent

The main ‘reformist’ candidate Mir-Hossain Moussavi immediately declared the elections a “charade” and claimed Iran was moving towards tyranny. Thousands of protesters (not all of them backers of Moussavi) poured onto the streets and confrontations between the people and the state’s armed forces have escalated by the hour".

Yesterday it was first reported that an opposition rally would be called off, because of fears that security forces would use live ammunition. Or because Moussavi had met with Iran's supreme leader , Ayatollah Khameimi. n fact the people came out in far bigger numbers than expected, and though one man was shot dead and others attacked by club-wielding supporters of Ahmadinejad, the people refused to give up. Students whose dorms were attacked by the regime's supporters have only become united in anger, and there are reports of workplace meetings and strikes.

HOPI says its supporters are in daily contact with Iran and are pushing for maximum solidarity from the workers’ movement here to progressive forces in that country.

"We are determined that the upsurge against theocratic rule is not derailed by demaguoges and sell-out merchants from within the regime itself. The main danger of that comes from Moussavi himself, the ‘reformist’ darling of the Western media. While he correctly denounces these elections as a “charade”, what about the highly dubious results of the nine previous presidential elections in Iran's Islamic Republic? In the 2009 election, he did not bat an eyelid when the Council of Guardians disqualified over 400 candidates. He did not think the process was a “charade” when the supreme religious leader intervened time and time again to defend Ahmadinejad"

HOPI has not forgotten that when Moussavi was in government in the 1980s he played a major part in repression of the workers and students, when hundreds of socialists and communists were jailed. .

"Even now, although he is furious about losing the elections, he is not calling on the Iranian people to mobilise – he fears losing control of the masses. Instead, he is calling on the 'Religious centres of Guidance' (elite shia Ayatollahs) to denounce the result. He is no fan of radical democracy and mass movements. And neither are the heads of imperialist governments like the US and UK, of course. They want to see a safe, orderly transition in Iran to a compliant, pro-western regime.

"And, like his predecessor Mohammad Khatami, Moussavi is well aware that the survival of the 'Islamic order' is in his interests. That is why, even when he is clearly a victim of the supreme leader's lunacy, he cannot afford to see mass protest broaden, deepen and start to demand more fundamental change. This split within the ranks of the regime itself has allowed the smouldering anger below to find expression on the streets. However, we should not confuse the ordinary Iranians confronting the militias with establishment politicians like Moussavi – the interests of the two are distinct and, at the end of the day, in total opposition to each other.

"Hopi stands against any interference by western imperialist governments in Iran – whether this takes the form of military attack, sanctions or a sponsored ‘colour revolution’ a la Moussavi. We say that the Iranian people themselves – the students’, women"s and working class movements – must fight for their own independent interests. A war would be a disaster for the working people of that country; but the barbaric rule of the theocracy is also intolerable and should be fought from below.

"Iranian students report a June 14 wave of attacks on students in the Tehran, Babol and Isfahan universities with many badly beaten and at least one dead. Unless the protest movement becomes stronger and clearer in its aims, there is a real danger that the trend around Ahmadinejad will use the pretext of the disruption to launch a wave of repression across society as a whole. We must do all in our power to stop this and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Iran. We have important work to do".

HOPI has called an Emergency meeting in London to consider WHAT IS BEHIND THE IRANIAN CRISIS.
Speakers are long-standing Iranian leftist militant Yassamine Mather and Israeli anti-Zionist veteran and marxist Moshe Machover.

The meeting is at 2pm on Saturday, June 20, at Caxton House community centre,
129 St. John's Way London, N19 3RQ (nearest tube Archway).

HOPI supporters in Ireland have called a demonstration on Saturday outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 72 Mount Merrion Avenue Blackrock Co. Dublin, followed by a meeting to discuss what next. .
For more on HOPI and its analysis of events in Iran, see



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