Monday, June 27, 2005

The Iranian Working Class Rejects Neoliberalism and Imperialism

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received 61.69% of the roughly twenty-eight million votes cast in the Iranian presidential election run-off. The turnout was about 59.6%. That's a landslide victory by any standard. What does it mean politically?

Such adjectives as "reformist" and "conservative," "soft-line" and "hard-line," "moderate" and "fundamentalist," and so on -- all too frequently employed by the corporate media -- do not shed light on what happened at all. Take a good look at what Ahmadinejad said to the Iranian public, and you'll see that his election is, first and foremost, the result of the Iranian working class's rejection of both neoliberalism and concessions to imperialism, represented by former President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and so-called "reformists" who see themselves as "the elite."
  • His [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's] views on the policies he would follow if elected president, as expressed by him during his election campaign, are given in the following sub-paragraphs:

    Domestic policy: "If elected, I would implement development projects on the basis of justice and the wishes of the people. Political, cultural and economic developments are not isolated from each other and at the very core of all of them is justice and public consensus. Among my priorities are removing the problems of the youth related to employment, housing and marriage. My idea of political development is different from its foreign interpretation. We must expand freedoms quantitatively and qualitatively, and determine ways in which freedoms could be used. The way we have been dealing with the youth on the streets does not solve anything."

    Foreign policy: "The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in principle based on the establishment of peace and justice worldwide. For this reason, the expansion of relations with all countries is on the agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I mean balanced relationships, based on mutual respect and observance of each other's rights. There are very few countries that fall outside this scope. If they do, it is due to their blind approach to the Islamic republic. Of course, there are hierarchies in the diplomacy. In these echelons, we give priority to the establishment of relations with our immediate neighbors, then with countries that once fell within the zone of Iran's civilization, then with Muslim states and finally, with all countries that are not hostile towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. We desire an expansion of relations with regional states and the establishment of extensive public contacts. We believe that visa quotas should be lifted and people should visit anywhere they wish freely. People should have freedom in their pilgrimages and tours."

    Relations with the US: "I meet ambassadors from European, African and Asian countries once a week. Iran does not need imposed ties with the United States. When the world formed a united front to fight Iran, our oil could not sell on the international markets and our economy was paralyzed [due to the 1980-88 war imposed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq], the nation did not extend its hand [to outsiders] for help. Now that we have managed to build the infrastructure [for development] and the country has progressed, we do not need to accept any imposed relationship with America. The US severed its ties with the Islamic Republic to harm the Iranian nation and so do those who favor resumption of ties with the US."

    UN reforms: "Global equations undergo changes, this is their nature. Today, the Muslim world is the poorest of the global powers. The UN structure is one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam. The Muslim world should be allowed a chance in the UN Security Council, where certain groups now possesses the right to veto. We consider this privilege essentially wrong. It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege."

    Nuclear energy: "This subject has been given a tremendous amount of publicity. It is a critical subject. Nuclear energy is the scientific achievement of the Iranian nation. Our youth have crowned themselves with this achievement, via domestic technology and by reliance on their own knowledge. The energy belongs to the Iranian nation. Definitely, the progress of a nation cannot be obstructed. Scientific, medical and technical development of our nation is necessary. I believe there are certain individuals that create a false mood. They want to portray the situation as critical, while there is no crisis here. The technology is at the disposal of the Iranian nation. Certain powers do not want to believe this. They resist against accepting such a right, such an achievement of the Iranian nation. Their scientists and experts have admitted that the Iranian nation is entitled to this right. I believe the problem can be solved with prudence and wisdom, by utilizing opportunity and relying on the endless power of the Iranian nation, through our self-confidence. The ongoing artificial mood is political sleight of hand. The mood aims to influence the Islamic Republic's domestic developments.

    "One cannot impede scientific progress. You can see scientific progress everywhere in the world. One cannot obstruct this movement. This is not something that can be prevented with an order. No one can deprive the Iranian nation of this right. They are vainly trying to stir conditions worldwide. They want to fan tension, create crisis to meet their transitory objectives. That's a kind of psychological war. This is as if you want to deprive someone of industrial progress. This is something impossible. Industry is intertwined with the nature of an individual. Technical knowledge has now become an integral aspect of the Iranian psyche. You cannot say that the Iranian nation should not use math, should not have physicians, should not build large dams, or should not be able to build a refinery or a plane. This is an illogical claim; no one accepts it. Fortunately, the world has seen this. God willing, these few arrogant powers will accept it as well. We have relations with governments and nations. The basis of those engagements is guaranteeing and respecting each other's national identities. Iran's present status in the field of nuclear energy is indigenous and it has been gained without reliance upon foreigners."

    Threats to Iran: "The system of domination is founded on depriving nations of their true identity. It seeks to deprive nations of their culture, identity, self-confidence and in this way dominate them. Our dear country, Iran, throughout history has been subject to threats. These were due to its advantages and geopolitical conditions as well as the capacity of the great Iranian nation. The Iranian nation for a long period of time has been the architect of civilization and the standard bearer for science, technology, culture, literature, arts, math, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, and the like. It still holds these standards. It continues to hold the banner of independence and freedom. These threats, however, are not of recent origin. These threats have been with us for a long time. Our enemies can deal a blow to us any time they wish. They do not wait for permission to do this. They do not deal a blow with prior notice. They did not take action because they can't. Our nation is today a powerful nation. Fortunately, Iranians are politically active worldwide. For hundreds of years Iranians have been migrating to many parts of the world. They took Islamic culture to other parts of the world and established it there. Now too, Iranians have a wide-scale influence in the world. They have strong cultural, scientific, political and economic influence. The presence of an Iranian elite, outstanding figures in many parts of the world is a precious asset for the Iranian nation. Iranians defend and present their Islamic and Iranian identity to other people worldwide." (B Raman, "Bush's Imprint," Asia Times, 21 Jun. 2005)

  • [I]n his speeches as a candidate, Mr. Ahmadinejad, the mayor of Tehran, has attracted a following not with his talk of strict Islamic values but by presenting himself as a sort of Islamic Robin Hood, promising to strip away the power and privileges that have enriched a small segment of society and to distribute the nation's wealth to the poor.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    While Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former two-term president, promotes his many years of experience in Iran's government as his credential for election, Mr. Ahmadinejad essentially casts himself as the anti-Rafsanjani: a simple, religious man, the son of an ironworker, who refused to accept his pay as mayor and who, if elected president, will fight for the poor.

    He has promised to deliver pensions, health insurance and unemployment insurance to women. He has promised to shift state money away from more-developed cities to less-developed communities. He has promised zero-interest loans to farmers. He has promised to stabilize prices and give teachers a raise. (Michael Slackman, "Upstart in Iran Election Campaigns as Champion of Poor," New York Times, 23 Jun. 2005)

  • Iran will flush out corruption from the country's oil industry and favour domestic investors in the underdeveloped hydrocarbons sector, Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed on Sunday.

    He has previously promised to cut the hands off the "mafias" he says run the oil business in OPEC's number two producer and has made a pledge to distribute Iran's oil wealth more fairly.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    "Fighting bureaucratic corruption in all sectors, including oil, is part of a definite policy for our government," he told reporters at a news conference.

    "In all fields, including oil, priority will be given to local investors," he added. (Reuters, "Ahmadinejad Vows to Favour Locals in Iran Oil Deals," 26 Jun. 2005)
As for questions of personal freedom, this is what Ahmadinejad has to say: "'People think a return to revolutionary values is only a matter of wearing the head scarf,' Reuters quoted him as saying. 'The country's true problem is employment and housing, not what to wear'" (Nazila Fathi, Blacksmith's Son Emphasized His Modest Roots," New York Times, 26 Jun. 2005).

Whether Iran's new president can deliver on his promises of populist economic and foreign policies, while practicing pragmatic tolerance on cultural questions, remains to be seen. But there is no question that not only his platform but also his working-class family background, his modest manners, and even his simple appearance stood in stark contrast to all other candidates', so working-class Iranian voters, fed up with "an official unemployment rate of 16 percent, and unofficial estimates of 30 percent" ("In Iran, It's Jobs, Not Bombs," Christian Science Monitor, 27 Jun. 2005), cast their lot with him. That's democracy Iranian style, whether Washington likes it or not.

Postscript:

Read Nema Milaninia's insightful commentary on why "[m]ost journalists and bloggers supported reformist Mostafa Moin's candidacy and envisioned significant support for him," completely blindsided by Ahmadinejad's victory ("A Tehran Bias: Why We Iranian Bloggers Were Wrong About the Election," Pacific News Service, 22 Jun. 2005). The short answer to the question is that "[t]he failure by bloggers, reporters and analysts to accurately predict the election results is largely due to our 'Tehran-centricism.' As the country's large metropolitan capital, Tehran is the focal point of most news coming out of Iran. The vast majority of journalists, including bloggers, focus on the ambitions and struggles facing Tehran's disgruntled youths, rather than Iran's disgruntled poor" (Milaninia, 22 Jun. 2005). Fred Feldman adds that the class bias of bloggers, reporters, and analysts may be more accurately called "North-Teheran-centrism," as the city's south side is mostly populated by the working class. The class bias of Iran's liberal reformers is akin to that of liberal reformers in formerly socialist countries.

1 comment:

Al-Masakin said...

Class Card Wins Election
http://www.indybay.org/uploads/hamid30.june05.pdf