Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's about Time

Despite all the activism and writing about Copenhagen, few are putting shorter work hours (i.e., consuming productivity gains in the form of more leisure than commodified goods and services) on the environmental agenda. Why?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Peter W. Galbraith vs Hamid Karzai

Apparently, Karzai didn't promise Galbraith as good a deal as the Iraqi Kurdish leaders: "Mr. Eide, who is set to leave his job as head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan by early next year, said Mr. Galbraith's departure from Afghanistan in early September came immediately after he rejected what he described as Mr. Galbraith's proposal to replace Mr. Karzai and install a more Western-friendly figure" (James Glanz and Richard A. Oppel, Jr., "U.N. Officials Say American Offered Plan to Replace Karzai," New York Times, 17 December 2009).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A New John Brown?

"If a new John Brown arose today -- fundamentalist, patriarchal, and yet devoted to the cause of racial equality, or anti-imperialism, environmentalism, or some other good cause -- and moreover employed "direct action" (which would be naturally called "terrorism") to advance the cause, how many leftists would hail him as a hero? Would he not be scorned on account of his less than enlightened views about women, homosexuals, and so on?" -- Suleman Sheikh

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Looking for the Boss

Ever since I began working for Monthly Review, I've had a number of opportunities to see leftists display an attitude that one wouldn't expect from those who profess to stand for freedom, democracy, and the socialist way. The attitude in question basically is one of "I'm gonna complain to the boss if I don't see an employee jump when I tell her to." Today I had it spelled out by one such self-identified leftist, who wrote me: "Please also provide me with the contact details of your supervisor / line manager."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What It Takes to Make Keynes Work

John Ross wrote in the Guardian ("No Secrets to China's Success," 18 August 2009):
Keynes noted in the final chapter of his General Theory, in a point highly relevant to a situation where mass unemployment is again soaring, that "a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment".

That "somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment" is impossible in a private sector-dominated economy. The decisive advantage China has in the present crisis is that it does not have to rely only on indirect means (reduction of interest rates, budget deficits etc) to attempt to reverse the plunging investment that is the driving force of this as with every major recession. China can use its large state-owned company sector to increase investment and instruct its state-owned banks to lend. That is why its economy is growing, while Alistair Darling is still pleading ineffectually for UK banks to increase their lending and while UK investment in housing and transport is plunging by 30% and more.
A good point.

The thing about Keynes is that you can make Keynes work but not under a normal capitalist state in a normal capitalist market economy. It takes something like (1) China's one-party state or (2) war economy (of not capital-intensive wars like today's Afghanistan and Iraq wars but labor-intensive wars of total mobilization subordinating capital and labor alike to the state, like WW2) or (3) the working class so awesomely powerful that it might as well go ahead and do socialism instead of Keynes.

That's what typical Keynesians and typical anti-Keynesians (either of the Marxist or of the capitalist liquidationist kind) don't understand.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

OutRage!ous Censorship of "Gay Imperialism"

The reader of Critical Montages has long been familiar with the problem of Islamophobia in general and its unfortunate manifestations on the (broadly defined) Left in particular in the age of the "war on terror." The reader is also well acquainted with queer variants of it, such as attempts at gay-washing of Israel. Left-wing criticisms of these phenomena, especially by queers of color themselves, are indispensable to our struggle to displace the hegemony of liberal imperialism.

One such queer-of-color criticism of "gay imperialism," a collection of essays titled Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality, however, is being censored in Britain, apparently by Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who evidently felt his sensationalist brand of activism and rhetoric ought to be above critical scrutiny and got the publisher of the book to take the book out of circulation. For more information about this OutRage!ous censorship, see:
How can leftists beat this censorship? In addition to the actions recommended by Aren Aizura, I suggest a couple more, in the short term:
  • Hold public forums to discuss the censorship of queer-of-color criticism of "gay imperialism."

  • Open up your journals, classrooms, and so on (if you work in publishing, education, and related industries) to discussion of this problem.
In the long term, though, we need to work on creating a Queer Left, informed of Marxist Feminism, capable of discussing such questions as religion and sexuality in proper historical materialist fashion (i.e., supplying missing materialist foundations to Foucauldian critique of the dominant discourse on sexuality).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Notes on the Japanese Elections of 2009

2009 Japanese Elections
2009 Japanese Elections
Decades of increasing poverty, inequality, and insecurity, which created a powerful backlash against the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, finally put an end to Japan's de facto one-party state on 30 August 2009. But the backlash only benefited the social liberal Democratic Party of Japan, which increased its seats from 115 to 308 (the DPJ block now enjoys 322 seats, more than a two-thirds majority). The Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party barely hanged onto the same numbers of seats that they had before the elections: 9 for the CP* and 7 for the SDP. On the face of it, it is not a debacle for the Left like those suffered by Communists in India and Italy in the most recent elections. But, one of the items on the DPJ agenda is a plan to eliminate 80 proportional representation seats, and it just so happens that all the Communist representatives are elected to proportional representation seats.

Why did the Japanese Left fail to advance? Take a look at this video of the 21 August 2009 press conference of JCP Chaiman Shii Kazuo (which comes with English translation), and you'll get a clue.

JCP criticisms of the DPJ agenda are to the point more often than not (which you can see in more detail in 「国民が主人公」の新しい日本を -- 日本共産党の総選挙政策), but those criticisms don't amount to a compelling vision of a new socialist society that the party should be presenting.

The strongest point of the JCP criticisms of the DPJ is that the DPJ will pay for its promise to expand the social safety net, including the formerly excluded, by increasing the taxes on working-class incomes, leveling down the existing structures of entitlements such as pensions toward the new social minimums, decreasing public works and public-sector jobs, and so on, the trade-off that the DPJ will make inevitable given its refusal to tax big businesses and capitalists and to cut military spending.

But, in the process of making this point, the JCP ends up defending the old, such as tax exemptions for dependent spouses (usually housewives), which have discouraged many a woman from seeking full-time jobs since wives earning only part-time incomes (roughly up to 1,300,000 yen) are counted as dependents for the purpose of calculating taxes, insurance and pension contributions and benefits, etc. What's good for working-class families in material terms can be bad for working-class women looking to enhance their gender-bargaining power vis-a-vis men, and the structures of the Japanese welfare state that tacitly assume male family wages, lifetime monogamous marriages, female spousal dependency, etc. are textbook cases of the common class-gender contradiction under capitalism. This contradiction is intensifying as more and more Japanese women are clearly losing interest in marriage and childbearing, powerfully demonstrating their sharp rejection of the old gender settlement and silently erecting a strong demographic obstacle to the old methods of restoring economic growth. The JCP, or any other left-wing current in Japan, needs to offer women -- and young people in general -- a new socialist vision that addresses women as individuals in their own right and creates new networks of social solidarity other than biological families, rather than a maternalist Keynesian vision in which women are tacitly assumed to be, or become, or have been wives and mothers.

The same goes for the JCP's defense of the Peace Constitution. On one hand, any constitutional revision that the DPJ will put on the agenda will likely be one that pushes Japan onto the course that Germany took in the process of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, embarking on humanitarian imperialist adventures of its own, not just as a subordinate member of the US-led coalition of the willing. On the other hand, there is nothing democratic, let alone socialist, about defending the constitution that the occupier wrote for Japan, on which the Japanese people have not been allowed to vote. Socialists must present a new democratic vision for Japan. Why not a constitutional assembly in Japan, to write a new constitution as a step toward 21st century socialism?

* The proportion of the total vote for the Communists, however, registered a slight decline, from 7.25% to 7.03%.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Saving the World's Women"

The entire issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this weekend is dedicated to the idea of "Saving the World's Women," essentially prompting the reader to blame everything from poverty to terrorism on patriarchal men in the South and to regard aid and philanthropy from the North as the solution. Such an idea is fit only for satire, but the magazine presents it earnestly, as a new idea, as if the world hadn't been through centuries of tandem development of liberal feminism and imperialism.

What little sense of irony in the issue is found in a short piece on the phenomenon of feminist-hawk spam.

The idea of giving aid to "female deliverance" seems to give a lot of liberals of both sexes the same pleasure as the idea of buying aid for "male enhancement" gives to all too many men. The difference is that the former, unlike the latter, is not felt as a guilty pleasure but on the contrary as a righteous one, especially since it's entirely forgotten that, once upon a time, America paid the same type of fundamentalists -- now featured as dark villains in a new literary genre called R2P, which is part Gothic-novel, part captivity-narrative -- to fight a jihad, throwing acid on the faces of women and castrating men who were, or were seen to be, in favor of the Marxist Modern.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Scandal of Privatization in Iran

Probably the worst thing that the Islamic Republic of Iran has done for its working people is to educate its young economists at "the most prestigious Western economics departments." The horror, the horror! It's not the Western fashion in clothing but economics that the IRI should have kept out, but, as Sohrab Behdad has argued, the idea of Islamic economics met its demise soon after its rise -- much like the idea of socialist economics, I may add.

Despite the resurgence of gharbzadegi in its economics, though, hardly any privatization worth its name has been going on in Iran: "a main buyer of government assets over the last decade has been the para-governmental sector, which includes state banks, government-linked investment and holding companies, religious foundations, and pension funds" (Mohammad Khiabani, "The Great Tehran Expo Privatization Scandal You've Never Heard Of").

That is largely thanks to the Western sanctions, I suspect. It is probably also thanks to the political culture of Iran. Get ten Iranians to speak up, and you'll probably get twenty contradictory opinions about how thing are and why they are as they are in Iran, at least about fifteen of which are conspiracy theories. Nothing changes very fast in a country like that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ahmadinejad to Propose "at Least Three Female Ministers in His New Cabinet"

Reuters reports: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday he would propose at least three female ministers in his new cabinet following Iran's disputed election, an unprecedented move in the conservative Islamic state. . . . It would be the first time a woman would hold a ministerial position in Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution" (Zahra Hosseinian, "Ahmadinejad Plans Female Ministers in Iran Cabinet," 16 August 2009).

Three female cabinet ministers would be more than Iran has ever gotten in its entire modern history, not just in the history of the Islamic Republic. Khatami had only Masoumeh Ebtekar (head of the Environment Protection Organization of Iran) and Zahra Shojaei (head of the Center for Women's Participation) in his cabinet, who were replaced by Fatemeh Javadi and Nasrin Soltankhah respectively in Ahmadinejad's first cabinet. It looks like it's easier to improve Ahmadi's cultural program than reform Khatami-Mousavi-Rafsanjani's economic and foreign policy programs.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Be Fire with Fire

Imperialists are obviously not up to the task when it comes to fighting al Qaeda and its ilk. Nor are international leftists, no matter how many tracts against imperialism and Islamism they publish. I suggest that, more often than not, it takes a mass Islamist organization to liquidate terrorist Islamist cells and neutralize international Islamist jihads: Avi Issacharoff, "Hamas: We Killed Head of Al-Qaida Affiliate in Gaza" (Haaretz, 15 August 2009). "Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire." -- Shakespeare, The Life and Death of King John, Act 5, Scene 1

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mahmoud & Esfandiar's Excellent Adventure

Khanome Yoshie finds Mahmoud & Esfandiar very trippy.

Mahmoud & Esfandiar's Excellent Adventure
MRZine Editor

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, whose daughter is married to a son of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is the President's Chief of Staff.  Mr. Mashaei is known for actions that have appalled certain conservative quarters of the Iranian political establishment, such as attending a ceremony in Turkey where women danced and hosting a ceremony in Tehran where women drumming dafs brought out the Qur'an (don't ask me why this is controversial).  He is also known for making such fascinating remarks as the following, according to Etemaad:
  • "The age of Islamism is over.  It's not that Islamism doesn't exist or isn't growing.  Islam exists but its time is up.  The age of horseback riding is over now, though horses exist, and so do riders. . . .  Of course, it isn't completely finished, but it's getting there."
  • "Iran today is a friend of the American and Israeli peoples.  No nation in the world is an enemy of Iran, though, of course, we have enemies, in fact, faced with the most dastardly enemies in the world."
After the controversial 2009 presidential election, the first thing the President of Iran did was to appoint Mr. Mashaei as First Vice President, causing uproar in the aforementioned conservative quarters, which the president initially ignored.  Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Revolution, had to write a letter telling the president to cancel the appointment of Mr. Mashaei, characterizing it as "contrary to your interests as well the interests of the government."  Eventually, Mr. Mashaei was compelled to resign from the post, after more than a week's resistance on the part of the president, who then defied the disapproval of the conservative establishment to appoint Mr. Mashaei to his present post.

Mr. Mashaei is apparently incorrigible, however.  Here's his latest bombshell, according to Etemad-e Melli today: "Of the 24 million Ahmadinejad voters, 20 million are critical of the system.  These 20 million people are even more critical of the system than the 13 million Mousavi voters, since those 13 million only question the Ahmadinejad administration, whereas these 20 million are saying No to all the past years before Ahmadinejad."


Iran's reformist media have assiduously followed Mr. Mashaei's excellent adventure, a few episodes of which have also been briefly carried by some of the Western media.  Both the Western and Iranian-reformist media fail to ask an obvious question, though: is the man who has stood loyally by Mr. Mashaei throughout his wild ideological trip the kind of guy for whom the guardians of the system, lay and clerical, military and civilian, would work in disciplined cooperation to pull off a massive conspiracy for a massively rigged election?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Not getting any play in the Western media, but the struggle in Egypt is incomparably more promising for the advancement of the Left than whatever is going on in Iran: Per Bjorklund, "Egypt's State-Controlled Unions Under Pressure" (10 August 2009); and Per Bjorklund, "Tax Collectors Repeat Historical Sit-in" (11 August 2009).

BTW, have I mentioned that Hossam el-Hamalawy, referenced in Bjorklund's notes above, is very hot (and about four decades younger than Mousavi who is even older than Ahmadi) in case any of you is looking for a cute Middle Eastern youth to back, the fashion in this political season? He's a revolutionary Marxist, too (unlike probably 99.99999% of the Green protesters in Iran, no matter how cute they are) if that means anything to you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Japanese Lesson for the Iranian Left

The wind of populism blows in Japan, in rhetoric if not in policy, raising the hope of finally putting an end to the world's longest-standing one-party state. Alas, the wind has not filled the sail of the Communist Party, but that of the social liberal party on the center left. Still and all, it ought to be an object lesson to leftists in Iran, the only leftists in the world to line up behind a loser upholding an anti-Keynesian banner in the midst of a global economic crisis.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Banks Make $38bn from Overdraft Fees

From the middle of September 2008 till about the end of that year, I, as editor of MRZine, received a flood of submissions on the subject of the "Crisis of Capitalism" from assorted leftists. That genre of submissions has virtually disappeared, as it became clear to all, even leftists, that -- given the ruling-class alacrity in solving their collective action problem and the working-class difficulty in solving ours -- this is not a crisis of the capitalist class but a crisis of the working class, which is apparently not as exciting a topic for leftists as the idea of the Crisis of Capitalism.

The biggest international news this year so far has been the Israeli bombing of Gaza and the electoral dispute in Iran, which has even eclipsed the first successful military coup d'etat in South America since the end of the Cold War, let alone a little matter of bailed-out banks' ill-gotten gains: e.g., Saskia Scholtes and Francesco Guerrera, "Banks Make $38bn from Overdraft Fees" (Financial Times, 10 August 2009). I suspect a nefarious Zionist-Islamist conspiracy to try to hoodwink international leftists.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Imagining a New Political Majority in Iran

The change that has come to Iran since the end of the Iran-Iraq War is more or less in line with the kind of change that has come to much of the rest of the world (though each nation's change is of course inflected with its own peculiar material and cultural conditions before the beginning of the neoliberal regime of accumulation): a package that combines economic liberalization, cultural liberalization, and political liberalization.

That is not a desirable package, from the point of view of historical materialism, though liberals are happy with it and social democrats adjust themselves to it.

In theory, it should not be impossible to construct a new political majority in Iran taking supporters from both the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei camp and the Rafsanjani/Mousavi/Khatami camp, under a program that puts premium on resistance to economic liberalization, creates space for "rooted cosmopolitan" culture, and develops a strategy to deepen democracy, empowering directly elected leaders (the presidency and the parliament) to eclipse indirectly elected leaders (the Leader and the Guardian Council) as well as promoting democratic participation and political education of the popular classes. But I have yet to see any social force in Iran proposing anything like that.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Truth and Reconciliation for Iran

The following is an extremely good and timely statement, signed by Iranian patriots, some of whom have taken one side or the other regarding the presidential election and post-election conflicts, and others of whom have taken a neutral stand on them. I encourage non-Iranian leftists to support this attempt and others like it.

Truth and Reconciliation for Iran

We are a group of university educators and antiwar activists with diverse political views who are based in Europe and North America. During the past few years we have been active in defending Iran's national rights -- particularly those relating to the peaceful use of nuclear energy -- against the pervasive deception created by western and Israeli-influenced media and official statements. We have consistently taken a stand against the policies of the United States and its allies, including the improper submission of Iran's nuclear file to the United Nations security council, the imposition of sanction resolutions against Iran, covert destabilisation inside the country and repeated threats of military intervention and bombing of nuclear centres on the part of US and Israel.

At the same time, we have advocated the human rights of individuals and democratic rights for various groups and constituencies in Iran. We have emphasised that the guarantee of such rights is necessary not only for Iran's social and political advancement, but also for the vital unity of our people against foreign pressures.

In the current post-election crisis, we see it as our duty to share our views based on years of defending Iran's national rights, and to help develop realistic solutions for the benefit of all our compatriots of whatever political persuasion.

The background to the current situation is the longstanding belligerent policies of the US and its allies, encouraged by the neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby, which peaked during eight years of Republican rule in the White House. Despite President Khatami's conciliatory approach, exemplified by his promotion of "Dialogue Among Civilisations", and despite Iran's co-operation in the overthrow of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, the administration of George W Bush labelled the Islamic Republic a member of the "axis of evil". Following the illegal invasion of Iraq, Bush pushed for regime change in Iran. These provocative and confrontational policies played a key role in the defeat of Iranian reformists in the parliamentary elections of 2003 and the presidential election of 2005.

During the past four years, a whole series of policies have targeted Iran's right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful energy, including illegitimate UN/US sanctions, repeated implicit and overt threats of military attack by the United States and Israel, overt and covert well-funded US destabilisation operations, and aid to terrorist forces seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. These policies have created fears of an externally-instigated "velvet revolution" in the leadership ranks of the Islamic Republic. These fears were used to justify restrictions of civil and political freedoms promoted by the reformist administration of Khatami and, as a result, civil society and non-governmental organisations suffered a setback.

According to critics, these social and political pressures, along with government mismanagement caused by the removal of competent technocrats, have negatively impacted the public interest and put enormous pressure on the middle class, the educated class, journalists and artists. These people must be allowed a more open and free environment in order to fulfil their instrumental roles in service of the country.

On the external front, the Obama administration, facing neoconservative pressure and keeping many of his predecessor's policies against Iran, has nevertheless declared its readiness for unconditional negotiations with Iran. He has for the first time referred to Iran as the "Islamic Republic" and indicated that he is not pursuing regime change in Iran. Furthermore, shortly before the Iranian elections, in a first for an American president, Obama admitted the role of his country in the 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected prime minister Muhammad Mossadegh. These changes in US politics have created room for active and constructive diplomacy for the purpose of solving conflicts and disagreements between Iran and the United States, and for creating a nuclear-free Middle East.

This year, there was in Iran a record level of participation in the elections, unprecedented television debates and, most important of all, widespread participation in election campaigns. Despite some restrictions, the elections took place in an overall constructive climate, perhaps making Iran a model democracy among Islamic nations of the region. A day before the elections, Senator John Kerry, a key US statesman, was so impressed that he dismissed as "ridiculous" Bush's policy of denying Iran peaceful nuclear energy, which in itself exposes the baseless nuclear accusations levelled against Iran and proves the illegitimacy of security council resolutions against Iran.

However, in the view of a considerable number of Iranians who are discontented and frustrated with the restrictions on civil and political freedoms, there were various irregularities in the elections, including the suspension of reformist newspapers and mobile telephone SMS service on election day. This caused mass public demonstrations in support of nullifying the election. The unrest has created a major rift between the supporters of Ahmadinejad, who deem Iran's national sovereignty to be of the highest priority, and the supporters of the two reform candidates Karroubi and Mousavi, who demand increased civil and political freedoms above all.

Each of these two major wings of the body politic includes millions of people and both play a vital role in Iran's progress. The rift between these two must heal in an environment of calm, without agitation and mudslinging, for the sake of Iran's future. This healing must be pursued through the path of constructive dialogue and reconciliation, so that the unity of our people for safeguarding national rights can be achieved.

Unfortunately, a large number of our protesting fellow countrymen have been attacked and injured and even more regrettably, a significant number of them have been killed. Also, a large group of reformist activists and leaders have been arrested and imprisoned after the elections.

Both Mousavi and Karroubi have stressed that all protests must remain within the law. Following the request of the reformist and Green leaders, almost all protesters rallied completely peacefully, and in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, condemned all types of violence, calling the Basijis and Revolutionary Guards their own brothers. Extremist elements who used the opportunity to create chaos and engaged in the destruction of public property were condemned by Mousavi.

The western media, by their one-sided coverage of the post-election developments, portrayed the street demonstrations protesting the election results as the start of a "velvet" revolution against the Islamic Republic. Regime-change advocates also tried to piggy-back on the protests outside Iran for their own purposes. The British government, which claims to follow a policy of non-interference in Iran's internal affairs, did its part by confiscating nearly £1bn of Iranian assets. To make matters worse, the neoconservatives demanded a re-evaluation of the Obama administration's policy of unconditional negotiations with Iran. The US state department also used this crisis to justify its continuation of Bush-era policies of financing anti-Iranian government organisations for the purposes of "spreading democracy, human rights and a government of law and order". For "security reasons" they refused to release the identities of the recipients of the funds. The Iranian government, for their part, deported two British diplomats, accusing them of interference in Iranian affairs and pointing to western governments as the root of the post-election unrest.

Whatever the role of the western media, governments, and regime change forces, it cannot detract from the legitimacy of the massively popular protests. In fact, Mousavi has emphasised his complete loyalty to the Islamic Republic and admonished his supporters abroad to stay away from the anti-Islamic Republic groups. To attribute the roots of the demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Iranians to external interference or to regime-change groups amounts to questioning the independence of the country which has been gained and consolidated by the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands.

In the opinion of millions of Iranians, the current crisis has been caused by restrictions on political freedoms, particularly freedom of the press, economic discontent, and deficiencies in transparency and accountability on the part of government institutions. Although these issues have been aggravated by the US political, military and economic encirclement and the CIA's destabilisation programmes, in the view of this segment of society the problems are ultimately rooted in the government's own policies. After their unprecedented participation in the elections, millions of Iranians have lost their confidence in the system. Awareness of this reality was expressed by the speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani, who indicated on live national television that some members of the Guardian Council openly supported a certain candidate, instead of being neutral during the investigation of the election complaints. He also added that the large segments of society who distrust the declared election results should not be regarded in the same manner as the rioters.

On the basis of the above assessment, and in the interest of resolving the present crisis, we direct all officials and fellow countrymen to the following proposals:

1) Arrests and assaults of reformist and Green movement activists and any use of deadly weapons against the protesters are against the national interest and must be stopped and condemned by the authorities. Of the government of the Islamic Republic, we demand, in accordance with the constitution and for the preservation of national unity, that it release the reformist leaders from detention and observe freedom of the press and other civil rights. Iranian state television and radio must provide time to the protesters to express their views. Permits for nonviolent assembly must be given to the protesters. The government must guarantee the safety of the demonstrators against any violence and those responsible for battering and murdering students and demonstrators must be identified and prosecuted.

2) The current division among the people that separates government supporters and dissenters, under conditions of economic, military and political encirclement, must be reconciled with calm and patient negotiations and reasoning, by condemning any kind of violence and by renouncing name-calling and inflammatory rhetoric. We call on the political forces of both sides to move toward building such a constructive climate and toward creation of an economic, political, and cultural agenda that can respond to all social needs.

3) Of the government of the Islamic Republic, we request that in view of the distrust on the part of a great segment of the country's population, it form an independent truth and national reconciliation commission with representation from all candidates, such that it can gain the trust of the people of Iran and find a reasonable solution for the conflict. The votes of a great portion of the Iranian society for both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi show that the best solution is negotiations for reconciliation and creation of a government of national unity from the ranks of Principalists and the Green movement and reformists. With a comprehensive programme based on Iran's national rights and on people's civil rights, such a government of national unity must address the current challenges facing the country and mobilise in an effective way the totality of human resources and expertise for national development.

4) Of western governments, we request that they cease any and all interference in Iranian affairs and end all their illegitimate economic, political and military pressures aimed at the internal destabilisation of Iran. They need to cease any support for the anti-Islamic Republic opposition and lift the economic and scientific sanctions. The Obama administration should emphasise unconditional negotiations and take steps toward creating a nuclear weapons-free Middle East. Only under these conditions, without any foreign threats, can the Iranian people reach their aspirations of freedom and establish their unity in a framework of independence and national sovereignty.

5) To the leaders of the reformists and the Green movement, we suggest that in order to prevent exploitation of the current crisis by western propaganda and opportunist groups, they unambiguously oppose all sanctions and condemn regime change operations and any foreign support for the anti-Islamic Republic opposition.


Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, SOAS, University of London
Professor the Baroness Afshar, York University
Mojtaba Aghamohammadi, researcher, University of Arizona
Professor Mohammad Ala, Persian Gulf Task Force
Esfandiar Bakhtiar, Georgia Institute of Technology
Professor Abbas Edalat, Imperial College London
Javad Fakharzadeh, Iran Heritage
Dr Farideh Farhi, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Massy Homayouni, independent antiwar activist
Dr Mehri Honarbin-Holliday, Canterbury Christ Church University
Mojgan Janani, independent antiwar activist
Mohammad Kamaali, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran
Fareed Marjaee, writer and democracy activist
Masoud Modarres, independent activist
Professor Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, Tarbiyat Modarres University
Daniel Pourkesali, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran
Rostam Pourzal, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran
Dr Mohammad Purqurian,
Manijeh Saba, independent human rights activist
Professor Mehdi Shariati, Kansas College
Professor Nader Sadeghi, George Washington University Hospital
Shirin Saeidi, University of Cambridge
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, independent antiwar activist
Reza Shirazi, Goftogoo TV
Safa Shoaee, Imperial College London
Saeed Soltanpour, Iranian TV Canada
Dr Alireza Rabi, Middle-East Citizens Assembly
Dr Elaheh Rostami, SOAS, University of London
Professor Rahmat Tavakol, Rutgers University
Professor Farzin Vahdat, Harvard University
Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Mark Weisbrot: It's Time for Latin America to Take Charge

Regrettably, so far there has been no large protest in the US to pressure the USG to reverse the coup in Honduras. Such protests as have happened in the US on this issue appear to have been even smaller than the Iranian Green protests in the US, which have largely consisted of Iranian immigrants of various political persuasions, from leftists to liberals to monarchists and the Iranian Mojahedin (from which most non-Iranian leftists, including vocal Green Movement supporters, have abstained). There is such an immense political vacuum on the US front in the struggle against the Honduran coup that Mark Weisbrot now suggests that the solution has to come from Latin America, without the US: Mark Weisbrot, "U.S.-Brokered Mediation Has Failed -- It's Time for Latin America to Take Charge" (MRZine, 31 July 2009). This shouldn't be impossible, as long as Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, the key powers, act forcefully, 100% united with El Salvador and Nicaragua, as well as Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Human Rights and National Sovereignty

From the perspective of historical materialism, the end of politics is communist society: "an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." The ruling ideas today elevate either "national sovereignty" or "human rights" (narrowly defined, devoid of socioeconomic and international dimensions1) to the end in itself. However, for historical materialists, "national sovereignty" and "human rights" are means to the aforementioned end. This distinguishes historical materialists from simple-minded nationalists and from Amnesty Internationalists.

1 Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized" (emphasis added). Needless to say, there is no worse negation of Article 28 than imperialism, which is antithetical to human rights.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It Could Happen Here

Normally, the Western mass media love the stories of any old conflicts -- from electoral disputes to ethnic conflicts to even workers' uprisings -- in Southern nations of interest to the West, but they don't appear to find this story so amusing, as is suggested by the terseness of the report.
The riot, at the Tonghua Iron and Steel Works in Jilin Province in northern China, broke out after a visiting steel executive from a related company threatened mass layoffs at the Tonghua steel mills as part of a major restructuring of the state-owned company, China Daily said.

The riot followed a pattern of massive demonstrations that have taken place in various parts of the country over the past few years, many involving citizens outraged over government corruption or threatened with layoffs or orders to relocate.

The China Daily report said Chen Guojun, the steel executive who was beaten to death, had threatened 3,000 Tonghua steelworkers with layoffs, which he had said could take place within three days. He also had signaled that larger jobs cuts were likely at the struggling steel mill.

The report said the rioters blocked the police, ambulances and government officials from reaching Mr. Chen before he died. (David Barboza, "China Steel Executive Killed as Workers and Police Clash," New York Times, 27 July 2009)
That is not surprising. Shortly before this incident in China, "Workers at collapsed French car parts maker New Fabris threatened on Sunday to blow up their factory if they did not receive payouts by July 31 from auto groups Renault and Peugeot to compensate for their lost jobs" ("French Workers Threaten to Blow Up Factory," Reuters, 12 July 2009). It could happen here.

Ahmadinejad to Face a Vote of Confidence?

Now, finally good news for Greens in Iran ("Ahmadinejad Throws Resignation Out as Majlis Weighs In," Press TV, 27 July 2009):
As pressure piles up on the Iranian president to return to parliament and obtain a vote of confidence for his Cabinet, more than 200 Iranian lawmakers add voice to the matter by questioning his approach toward domestic politics.

The majority of the 290 lawmakers, riled up over what they see as the president having excessively delayed the reversal of his first deputy choice despite the direct intervention of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, required on Monday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "rectify his conduct".
Just as Mohammad Mossadegh had trouble lining up and maintaining the support of the right (e.g., Kashani) and the left (e.g., Tudeh) of Iranian republicanism, so does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some things never change in Iran. By the way, do you know that Parivash Fatemi, the widow of Hossein Fatemi, who served as Mossadegh's Foreign Minister and was the driving force behind his oil nationalization program, says that Hossein Fatemi's aspirations were fulfilled in the ninth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, characterizing Ahmadinejad as a man of "obvious courage and daring," whose love of his country and people makes him the second coming of Fatemi?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Iran's Ahmadinejad Tells Judges to Free Protesters

This just in from AFP today: "Iran's Ahmadinejad Tells Judges to Free Protesters." That doesn't mean, however, that the protesters will be actually freed within ten days as the president's letter to Shahroudi said they ought to be. Hossein Derakhsahn, an Iranian-Canadian blogger and supporter of Ahmadinejad, is still in prison, arrested by Rafsanjani's people shortly after his return home last year, even though Ahmadinejad has spoken up for him.

In Iran, the presidential power is very limited, especially in the matter of civil liberties, which has been demonstrated time and again, both during the Khatami and Ahmadinejad eras.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Secret Conspiracy of International Leftists against Imperialism

Khanome Yoshie wrote this yesterday for your entertainment:

How Many Leftists Are "United for Iran"?

So, how many leftists are United for Iran?  "8,000 people at the event in Paris, 4,000 in Stockholm, 3,000 in Amsterdam, more than 2,500 in Washington DC, 2,500 in New York, 2,000 in London. . . ," says, the sponsor of the global day of action on 25 July 2009.  The low numbers1 (in marked contrast to the high turnouts of protests against Israel's recent assault on Gaza) suggest that few non-Iranian leftists bothered to show up.

While a number of leftists have made impassioned pleas for solidarity with Iran's Green Movement, (throwing themselves into an obligatory intra-left battle royal that has, alas, eclipsed any battle against the illegitimate authority of unelected clerics in Iran), most leftists still appear to find it -- how shall we put it? -- on balance inadvisable to join such protests against the Iranian government as United4Iran's, devoid as they are of an anti-imperialist point of unity emphasizing "Hands Off Iran" as much as -- nay more than -- criticisms of the Iranian government.

It should be also noted that international leftists were evidently unmoved by an offer of free "Free Iran" t-shirts courtesy of American Apparel.  We find that most meritorious.  Let it never be said that international leftists fail to valiantly resist hipster capitalism.

By the way, it has also come to our attention that a notorious unrepentant Marxist and self-appointed scourge of "flunkies for Ahmadinejad" apparently refused to attend any of the United for Iran protests, curtly dismissing the whole Dutch-linked2 enterprise as "Darfur-like crapola."

Well, that certainly settles it for us: shocking as it may seem to some, there still is a secret conspiracy3 of international leftists against imperialism, whether they are for, against, or just plain indifferent to the President of Iran.4  We hope that this little known conspiracy proves a dangerous one that will grow ever larger, someday putting the fear of the Twelfth Imam into the international capitalists.

1  The turnouts were so underwhelming that the Associated Press felt obliged to mention protests of 20 Iranians each in Brazil and Pakistan to make it sound as if it wasn't the Western Thing that the global South just didn't understand: "In the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, some 20 Iranians -- among them refugees and students -- gathered outside the local press club to protest the Iranian crackdown, yelling 'Death to the dictator!' . . . About 20 gathered in a small square in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to take part in a 30-minute rally" (Jill Lawless, "Protesters Call for End to Iranian Rights Abuses," 25 July 2009).

2  The primary sponsor of the United for Iran protests, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, is a project of the Dutch Foundation for Human Security in the Middle East.  Note that "the Netherlands and the United States are the only countries in the world that openly budget funds to promote political changes" in Iran, e.g., the Hague contributing "630,000 euros" to Freedom House in 2003 for the purpose of establishing Gozaar, "a platform for Iranian opposition figures."  That grant was "part of a larger Dutch project" aimed at "promoting media pluralism in Iran," for which "15 million euros" was budgeted thanks to a bill introduced by "Farah Karimi (Green) and Hans van Baalen (VVD) in the Lower House in 2004" (Thomas Erdbrink and Thalia Verkade, "Haagse subsidie tegen regime Iran," NRC Handelsblad, first published on 16 September 2006, updated on 22 August 2008, Trans. Yoshie Furuhashi).  Ms. Karimi, a former member of the Iranian Mojahedin, just so happens to be a board member of the aforementioned Foundation for Human Security in the Middle East.  For more information about the collaboration of Ms. Karimi with Mr. van Baalen of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), "the most vocal supporter of private enterprise in the Netherlands," see Harm Ede Botje and Joël Broekaert, "Nederlandse steun mediaprojecten in Iran gaat door" (Vrij Nederland, 7 July 2007); and "Iran boos over hulp Den Haag aan radio oppositie" (NRC Handelsblad, 25 June 2009).

3  Objecting to the notion of an international left-wing conspiracy, some cavilers may dare suggest: Aren't most leftists just really too lazy to get up and protest against anything?  Isn't it actually the case that most of them are lacking in sympathy for and solidarity with the oppressed, such as Iranians and Darfurians?  We dismiss such baseless accusations out of hand, which can only originate in the ill wishers on the Right plotting the destruction of the Left.

4  For reasons unknown to us, the international media, across the political spectrum, have found Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really irresistible, as demonstrated by the fact that he has never been out of the spotlight since his 2005 election, no matter how many disasters -- such as the ongoing global economic crisis -- that ought to steal at least a little bit of media attention away from him befall the international proletariat.  We suggest that, in addition to many other much-debated factors such as social classes, perhaps might have also put his rival Mr. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a man of considerable charms himself, at electoral disadvantage, though we are also aware of the noted Iranshenas and Mousavi supporter Dr. Hamid Dabashi's observations on Mr. "Mousavi's poorly run presidential campaign": "ill-advised, ill-prepared, sentimental, full of necessary colour symbolism but lacking substance, a clearly articulated platform, economic detail, political programming or an attempt to reach out to a wider spectrum of his constituency.  His campaign was too elitist, tied in its visual paraphernalia to a northern Tehran sensibility and lacking appeal across an oil-based economy. . . .   [During the presidential debates, he] rambled along, read from written statements in a barely audible voice, ran out of things to say before his time was over."

For more information on the mixed bags of mixed nuts as well as unexpected beauties found on both sides of the current political divide in Iran, consult

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How Many Leftists Are "United for Iran"?

"8,000 people at the [25 July 2009] event in Paris, 4,000 in Stockholm, 3,000 in Amsterdam, more than 2,500 in Washington DC, 2,500 in New York, 2,000 in London. . . ," says, the sponsor of the global day of action. The numbers suggest that few non-Iranian leftists showed up (when leftists join and mobilize for protests en masse, Paris, for instance, sees hundreds of thousands -- sometimes millions -- of protesters easily). While a number of leftists have made impassioned pleas for solidarity with Iran's Green Movement, (throwing themselves into an obligatory intra-left battle royal that has eclipsed any battle against the power of unelected clerics in Iran), most leftists appear to find it inadvisable to join the protests against the Iranian government (such as United4Iran's) that don't have an anti-imperialist point of unity emphasizing "Hands Off Iran" as much as criticism of the Iranian government's conduct in handling the Green protests.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Economic Sanctions = Human Rights Violations

The dominant ideology in the West tells us that human rights mean only civil and political rights and liberties, largely negative liberties of being free from arbitrary powers of the state. This ideology discounts or excludes the rights of individuals and nations to freely develop and enjoy material conditions that allow them to survive and flourish, even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a compromise document between the Western powers and the then still existent socialist states, includes some of such rights, e.g. "the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay"; and "the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

This socioeconomic dimension of human rights is discounted by the dominant Western ideology because, first of all, the United States, the leading power in the West, refuses to grant them to its own citizens, and secondly, even those Western powers that are social democratic at home, such as the West European states and Japan, engage in economic imperialism -- ranging from exaction of odious debt payments to economic sanctions -- that denies such rights to the rest of the world.

In the recent airplane accidents, more than 180 Iranians perished -- nearly ten times the reported official casualties (some of whom were basiji and government supporters) in the post-election conflicts in Iran. Even the voice of the power elite New York Times suggests that their deaths may have in part come about due to the US embargo making it impossible for Iran to perform adequate maintenance of its fleet of US-made aircraft. And yet where are the protests against this economic human rights violation? Are the advocates of human rights who see human rights violations in the Iranian state's action but not in the US state's action (even though the latter has killed more Iranians than the former), as is the case with, true advocates of human rights?

Friday, July 24, 2009

25 July 2009

Two protests on 25 July 2009. One is a grassroots protest against the US-backed coup in Honduras, spearheaded by SOA Watch South Florida. The other is a slickly packaged campaign to "to demand respect for the human rights of the Iranian people and to demonstrate worldwide solidarity with the civil rights movement in Iran" (a topic pleasing to Western powers), spearheaded by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, which is a project of the highly suspect Dutch Foundation for Human Security in the Middle East. You know which one gets more corporate media coverage.


On one hand, the West wants to isolate Iran economically, which distances the Iranians from the West politically and culturally as well; on the other hand, the West wants to gain an ability to broadcast its propaganda into Iran. It's a little schizophrenic. It might be simpler if the West went ahead and ended economic sanctions on Iran. Then, a sizable number of Iranians, of their own free will, would probably import more of the junk that the West wants to dump on Iran, as has been shown by the popularity of many kinds of Western junk in such former official enemies of the capitalist West as China and Viet Nam.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ayatollah Watch

Liberals are trying very hard to read tea leaves, assiduously canvasing clerical opinions: Ayatollah Watch. Now their only hope is that enough unelected clerics would side with Rafsanjani to rein in the elected layman Ahmadinejad -- ironic.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"New Middle Classes" in India and Iran

While it should be clear from a socialist point of view that, in the long term, the interests of the bulk of the Green Movement participants (who appear to be largely of the "new middle classes" whose income and status depend more on their education than their property) and those of the bulk of Ahmadinejad voters (the urban and rural poor, urban and rural petty producers, etc.) are in sync, it would take a great deal of effort to clarify their common interests to both sides in the short term.

That is because, in the short term, the "new middle classes" may actually benefit from the kind of restructuring of Iran's political economy and its relation to the rest of the world (liberalizing its economy and opening it up to the West, while moving away from the NAM) that Rafsanjani, et al. envision. This is not a problem unique to Iran, as Prabhat Patnaik notes below:
Since Left ideas typically get nourishment from the literati and the urban intellectual strata, even though these ideas reach their fruition in the struggles of the workers and peasants, who are the victims of globalization but are sociologically distant from the intellectual strata, the Left movement gathers momentum in situations where the urban middle class has also suffered from globalization and hence makes common cause with the workers and the peasants. But it faces problems in situations where the urban middle class is a beneficiary of globalization. In such cases, the resistance to imperialism and globalization often gets championed by forces other than the Left; or, if the Left remains committed to the interests of the "basic classes" and resists globalization, it often suffers through isolation from the intellectual strata and the urban youth and students. . . .

The current anti-imperialist upsurge in Latin America, which has brought Left or Left-oriented governments to power over much of that continent, is a consequence of the long years of crises that hurt, and hence radicalized, the urban youth, students and intellectuals. On the other hand, in much of central Asia, and now Iran, where the urban youth has not directly experienced the adversity inflicted by globalization, imperialism still retains the capacity to mobilize, or at least claim the sympathy of, vast numbers of the urban population in so-called "orange", "tulip" and "velvet" "revolutions" that are supposed to bring in modernity and democracy together with neo-liberalism. In India, since the adversity of workers, peasants, agricultural labourers and petty producers, under globalization, has been accompanied by high growth rates, and rapid increases in incomes and opportunities for the urban middle class, a degree of pro-imperialism among this class which includes intellectuals, media persons and professionals, and hence a degree of exasperation with the Left's continued adherence to old "anti-imperialist shibboleths", is hardly surprising.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ahmadinejad Defies Ayatollah on Vice President

It turns out that Ahmadinejad's first new cabinet nominee (for the post of first vice president) is Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who caused stir and anger among the "right wing" of Iran last year for his remark that the Iranians are friends with the Israelis: Borzou Daragahi, "Ahmadinejad Defies Ayatollah on Vice President" (Los Angeles Times, 22 July 2009).

In the Iranian diaspora as well as the Western media, Ahmadinejad is often characterized as "hard-line," "conservative," "anti-Western," etc. But I rather think that he is just his own man -- really one of a kind in Iran, very idiosyncratic, sometimes in good ways (as in this case), sometimes in bad ways (as in his statements on the Holocaust).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hamid Dabashi vs. As'ad AbuKhalil!

Watching Hamid Dabashi and As'ad AbuKhalil fight is not unlike watching Bette Davis and Joan Crawford fight. Such divas. BTW, as you may have noticed, by now there's more infighting among leftists than any fighting against mollahs. As for the main event -- the battle of mollahs, between Khamenei and Rafsanjani! -- they don't do any fighting themselves. Instead they let their followers do their fighting. Clever mollahs. I bet that's how mollahs defeated Marxists during the Iranian revolution.

Friday, July 17, 2009


If the Green Movement doesn't have what it takes to deliver what its liberal and leftist supporters and participants in and out of Iran yearn for, it probably has just enough base to strengthen Rafsanjani's hands in Iran's domestic politics. But the Shark is not worth dying for, imho. He'll eat you up at the first opportunity after having used you to regain his power.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

From Iran to China, Skipping Honduras

As far as the Western mass media are concerned, they went from Iran (electoral conflict in an oil-rich country) to China (ethnic conflict in an oil-rich region), skipping Honduras (a coup d'état in an oil-poor country dependent on foreign aid and remittances where the USG has a military base).

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Iran Jews in Israel Prefer Ahmadinejad

Alas, Mr. Mousavi can't get any break. This just in from the Jerusalem Post:
Jul 6, 2009 23:58 | Updated Jul 7, 2009 2:34
Iran Jews in Israel prefer Ahmadinejad

Despite unrest and violence following last month's presidential elections in Iran, some Jewish Iranians living in Israel and abroad say life in the Islamic republic is better under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than it would be under challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.

At a conference of Iranian Jews in Jerusalem on Monday, leaders of the Mashadi Jewish community said that despite Ahmadinejad's blustery rhetoric against Israel, Iran is a safe place for Jews to practice their religion.

"Ahmadinejad speaks badly about Jews, but he is preferable to Mousavi," said Shlomo Zabihi, a Mashadi rabbi. The current government is relatively stable and provides a safe environment for Jews, he said.

Monday's event marked the first meeting of the Global Mashadi Jewish Federation, an umbrella organization of community and religious groups preserving the historical and cultural identity of Jews from Mashad, Iran's second largest city, with a population of about 2.5 million.

During the 1979 Islamic Revolution, many Mashadi Jews fled to the United States, primarily New York City - where some 6,000 Jews with ties to Mashad now live. There are almost no Jews in Mashad today, though an estimated 25,000 still live in Iran, concentrated in Teheran.

"They've found it very safe and pleasant, no problems," said Bahman Kamali, founder of the federation. "Actually, the regime during [the time of reformist president Mohammad] Khatami and the regime now have been very good with Jewish people. There has not been any problem."

Kamali said Ahmadinejad's calls for the destruction of Israel were not the same as condemnation or encouragement of violence against Jews in the Diaspora.

"There's a distinction between the two because Iranians, they respect the religions that have books, Christianity, Judaism," Kamali said. "They respect people freely going to the synagogues and praying there without any problems."

He doesn't think the Jewish community in Iran will face persecution stemming from political unrest following the disputed elections.

"I'm not concerned about that," said Kamali, who downplayed the political involvement of his group. "The purpose of this conference is not political. It's only our heritage, that we are proud of to be from Mashad, Iran, and we would like to preserve that."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Iran: Beyond Electoralism

To get what they want, both Ahmadi and Mousavi voters need to develop an ideology that lets them go beyond electoralism. Winning elections in a class society doesn't mean being able to make major changes, whether voters are looking for more economic justice (Ahmadi voters) or more freedom (Mousavi voters). This is true in any class society, but it's especially so in Iran, with its complex system of checks and balances.

In Iran, you have to win not only the presidency and a majority of the parliament but also a majority of the Assembly of Experts, an elected institution charged with electing or recalling the Leader of the Revolution, who in turn has the power to decide the composition of the Guardian Council.

Beyond the aforementioned elected offices, you have to win over or neutralize the power of those in civil society and the bureaucracy who do not subscribe to your agenda, whether cultural or economic. This applies to all societies.

In Iran, the bourgeoisie do not own the state as in the case of most other class societies, rather they are subordinated to it, but they still wield considerable influence over politics, and they can also use their economic power directly through the market rather than the state, e.g., causing capital flight, withholding investment, and so on. How to counteract that is no easy question.

Cultural obstacles to changes of the sort that Mousavi voters want are more diffuse than economic obstacles, crossing class lines. One Zogby poll of Iranians, conducted in 2006, revealed that 36% "want the country to become more religious and conservative," a slightly larger group than those who want it to become more liberal and secular (31%). It takes a lot of cultural work to convert those fence-sitters in the middle into political actors who actively support change, rather than passively giving consent to the status quo, and to neutralize the veto power of the 36 percent.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rafsanjani, Mousavi Vow Support to End Unrest

See how they have sold out sincere reformers of Iran: "Rafsanjani, Mousavi Vow Support to End Unrest" (Press TV, 25 June 2009)?

The only freedom that men like Rafsanjani and Mousavi care about is investor freedom, so Iranian reformers had no business lining up behind them against the will of the poorer two thirds of Iran, but all too many did. That is anti-democratic. This kind of incoherent anti-democratic coalition happens in every country where economic neoliberals succeed in conning
politico-social-cultural liberals and occasionally some foolish leftists into backing them, from Nepal to Venezuela, Thailand to Yugoslavia, Moldova to the OPTs.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran: This Is Not a Revolution

Let the Iranian people solve their conflict on their own. Defend Iran -- including both sides of the conflict -- from the Western powers. Then, one day, the Iranian people will perhaps choose a man -- or even a woman -- who is truly worthy of their fidelity, someone who thinks like Arshin Adib-Moghaddam and is capable of synthesizing the aspirations of those who voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi (freedom) and those who voted for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (faith and democracy) and uniting people behind the new synthesis.

Iran: This Is Not a Revolution
by Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

Political power is never good or bad, never really just or unjust; political power is arbitrary, discriminatory, and most of the time violent.  In Iran, the ongoing demonstrations sparked by the election results in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicate that such power can never really be monopolized by the state.  Iran's civil society is fighting; it is giving blood for a just cause.  It is displaying its power, the power of the people.  Today, Iran must be considered one of the most vibrant democracies in the world because it is the people who are speaking.  The role of the supporters of the status quo has been reduced to reaction, which is why they are lashing out violently at those who question their legitimacy.

In all of this, the current civil unrest in Iran is historic, not only because it has already elicited compromises by the state, but also because it provides yet more evidence of the way societies can empower themselves against all odds.  These brave men and women on the streets of Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, and other cities are moved by the same utopia that inspired their fathers and mothers three decades ago: the utopia of justice.  They believe that change is possible, that protest is not futile.  Confronting the arrogance of the establishment has been one of the main ideological planks of the Islamic revolution in 1979.  It is now coming back to haunt those who have invented such slogans without necessarily adhering to them in the first place.

And yet the current situation in Iran is profoundly different from the situation in 1978 and 1979.  First, the Islamic Republic has proven to be rather responsive to societal demands and rather flexible ideologically.  I don't mean to argue that the Iranian state is entirely reflective of the will of the people.  I am saying that is it is not a totalitarian monolith that is pitted against a politically unified society.  The fissures of Iranian politics run through all levers of power in the country, which is why the whole situation appears scattered to us.  Whereas in 1979 the bad guy (the Shah) was easily identifiable to all revolutionaries, in today's Iran such immediate identification is not entirely possible.  Who is the villain in the unfolding drama?  Ahmadinejad?  Those who demonstrated in support of him would beg to differ.  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?  I would argue that he commands even stronger loyalties within the country and beyond.  The Revolutionary Guard or the Basij?  Mohsen Rezai, one of the presidential candidates and an opponent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is contesting the election results, used to be the head of the former institution.

The picture becomes even more complicated when we take into consideration that some institutions of the state such as the parliament -- via its speaker, Ali Larijani -- have called for a thorough investigation of the violence perpetrated by members of the Basij and the police forces in a raid of student dormitories of Tehran University earlier this week.  "What does it mean that in the middle of the night students are attacked in their dormitory?" Larijani asked.  The fact that he said that "the interior ministry . . . should answer for it" and that he stated that the "parliament is seriously following the issue" indicate that the good-vs-bad verdict in today's Iran is more blurred than in 1979.

There is a second major difference to 1979.  Today, the opposition to Ahmadinejad is fighting the establishment with the establishment.  Mir Hossein Mousavi himself was the prime minister of Iran during the first decade of the revolution, during a period when the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was president.  Mohammad Khatami, one of the main supporters of Mousavi, was president between 1997 and 2005.  Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, another political ally, is the head of the Assembly of Experts and another former president.  They are the engineers of the Islamic revolution and would never devour their project.  When some commentators say that what we are witnessing is a revolution they are at best naive and at worst following their own destructive agenda.  The dispute is about the future path of the Islamic Republic and the meaning of the revolution -- not about overthrowing the whole system.  It is a game of politics and the people who are putting their lives at risk seem to be aware of that.  They are aware, in other words, that they are the most important force in the hands of those who want to gain or retain power.

Thus far the Iranian establishment has shown itself to be cunningly adaptable to crisis situations.  Those who have staged a revolution know how to sustain themselves.  And this is exactly what is happening in Iran.  The state is rescuing its political power through a mixture of incentives and pressure, compromise and detention, due process and systematic violence.  Moreover, when push comes to shove, the oppositional leaders around Mousavi would never question the system they have built up.  As Mousavi himself said in his fifth and most recent letter to the Iranian people: "We are not against our sacred regime and its legal structures; this structure guards our independence, freedom, and Islamic Republic."

Born in Istanbul and educated at the University of Hamburg, American Universtiy (Washington DC), and Cambridge, Arshin Adib-Moghaddam lectures on politics and international relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.  The author of Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic (Hurst/ Columbia University Press, 2007/2008) and The International Politics of the Persian Gulf (Routledge, 2006), he was the first Jarvis Doctorow Fellow at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford.  He was also elected Honorary Fellow of the Cambridge European Trust Society at the University of Cambridge.  His latest publication Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic is now available for worldwide distribution from Hurst & Co.,, and Columbia University Press.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Western Leftists Lost in the Iranian Elections

. . . is a chance to gain the trust of Muslims, such as Al Musawwir, regarding Western leftists' commitment to truth, democracy, and class solidarity:
Wittingly (for the most part) and (a few) unwittingly, the "western" left is, in essence, siding with the elite, upper classes, against the working class. Now, why are they supporting these elites -- well, the twisted logic is that this has "politicized the Iranian people" and that civil strife of this kind is good, even if the cause they are supposedly fighting for is not real "fraud or no fraud". This is like saying, that running towards a mirage is good, hey, at least you are running, it'll get you energized. That is the kind of nonsense one would expect from those who engage in psyop destabilization, because their aim is to create a chaotic situation, and then swoop down and take the spoils.
Strange as it may seem to some, these days, Muslims are, probably on average, better at being historical materialist than Western leftists, who prefer fantasy to reality.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Be Like Rostam

Had I lived in Iran at the time of the Iranian Revolution, the Islamic republicans running Iran today would have killed me at worst or put me under house arrest at best, like Iran's Red Princess Maryam Firuz in her last years, because I'm a socialist. But still and all, a majority of the masses supported, and still support, the Islamic republicans, because they are populist Muslims, not socialists.

In the history of social revolutions, it often happened that leftists helped to bring about social revolution (socialist or nationalist), and then, after the overthrow of the ancient regime, a faction of revolutionaries (usually centrists) liquidated left-wing and right-wing revolutionaries as well as defenders of the ancient regime.

That's what happened in Iran, too. The revolution did in its leftists, as well as rightists. But, over all, the Iranian Revolution has done more good than bad for a majority of Iranians, making Iran the best country -- the most democratic! -- in the Middle East today.

The fate of leftists in many countries (excepting Cuba) is often the fate of Rostam: serve the rulers who are unworthy of your support, because the nation ruled by the unworthy rulers still must be defended from its many enemies.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ahmadinejad Won

Iran's election commission still hasn't counted all the votes (roughly 32 million votes in total), but, according to the official results based on about 28 million votes counted so far, Ahmadinejad (18,302,924 votes) defeated Mousavi (8,929,232 votes).

Most of the Western media were predicting a close race, and some were even suggesting that a landslide for Mousavi might be possible. But the actual results were presaged by those of the telephone survey of Iranian voters conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, the New America Foundation, and KA Europe SPRL about a month before election day.

Who Will You Vote for in Presidential Elections?

Official Results as Reported by BBC Persian
2009 Presidential Election in Iran

IMHO, it's a class vote again.


Based on the counting of nearly 31 million votes, the results are 19,761,433 votes for Ahmadinejad, 9,841,056 votes for Mousavi, 633,048 votes for Mohsen Rezaei, and 270,885 votes for Mehdi Karrubi.

Official Results as Reported by BBC Persian
2009 Presidential Election in Iran

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Statement by a Group of Iranian Anti-war Activists about Iran's Presidential Elections

Statement by a Group of Iranian Anti-war Activists about Iran's Presidential Elections

Monday 8 June 2009

We are a group of Iranian academic and antiwar activists in Europe and the United States who, in the past few years, have consistently defended Iran's national interests in all areas including its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. Our varied activities in the face of anti-Iran propaganda by the neoconservatives in the West have included organizing press conferences, taking part in radio and TV debates, creating antiwar websites, publishing bulletins and newsletters, writing opinion pieces and letters to editors, attending national and international antiwar conferences and petitioning and lobbying Western politicians and parliamentarians.

We have campaigned against the policies of the United States and its Western allies which have unjustifiably targeted Iran -- including sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council, issuing UNSC resolutions against Iran, secret and public efforts to provoke strife in Iran and destabilize the country, and threats by the United States and Israel for military intervention and bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities. As we approach Iran's presidential elections, we are duty bound to share the lessons of our antiwar activities and highlight what national policies can defend Iran's interests effectively in the international arena without isolating it or enduring U.N. sanctions.

In order to safeguard Iran's national rights successfully, we think Iran's president elect must give priority to the following policies in his programs and plans:

(1) Questioning the Holocaust, which has greatly aided the hawks in the West, must be discarded and replaced with a constructive foreign policy devoid of any provocative rhetoric.

(2) Release of all political prisoners, freedom of press, organization and political parties, as well as peaceful meetings and gatherings. Recognizing the right of all citizens to run for election without any political vetting.

(3) Abolishing medieval punishments, such as stoning and cutting limbs, public executions and execution of minors.

(4) Recognizing full and unconditional equality in all areas for women and ethnic minorities. Recognizing the full citizenship and civic rights of official and unofficial religious minorities.

Disregarding these tasks will seriously hinder the social and political development of the country, and will divide the Iranian people in their resistance against the unwarranted neo-colonial pressure and double standards of the Western powers. It will also provide powerful propaganda tools to hawks and their allies in mainstream media for isolating Iran and denying its fundamental rights in international organizations.

Taking steps to carry out these measures, on the other hand, will put our country on a fast track to progress, will unite Iranians of all walks of life, and disarm the neoconservatives in their aggressive propaganda against Iran.


Professor Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, School of Oriental and African Studies
Professor Haleh Afshar, University of York
Professor Mohammad Ala, Persian Gulf Task Force
Professor Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University
Professor Abbas Edalat, Imperial College London
Ali Fathollah-Nejad, University of Muenster and School of Oriental and African Studies
Dr Mehri Honarbin, Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr Farhang Jahanpour, University of Oxford
Mohammad Kamaali, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran
Professor Mahmoud Karimi-Hakkak, Siena College, New York
Professor Fatemeh Keshavarz, Washington University in St. Louis.
Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, School of Oriental and African Studies
Professor Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, Tarbiyat Modarres University
Professor Davood Nabi-Rahni, Pace University in New York
Professor Azam Niroomand-Rad, Georgetown University
Dr Ali Rastbeen, International Institute of Strategic Studies Paris
Dr Elaheh Rostami, School of Oriental and African Studies
Professor Nader Sadeghi, George Washington University Hospital
Shirin Saeidi, University of Cambridge
Professor Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California
Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Download the statement in PDF:
English, <>;
Persian, <>.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Interview with Farian Sabahi

Interview with Farian Sabahi
by LibrInTerra

Here we publish an interview with Farian Sabahi, an Italian-Iranian professor at Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Turin.  A professional journalist, Sabahi has been writing for Corriere della Sera for several months.  She was a guest of LibrInTerra on the 26th of March, presenting her two books Storia dell'Iran [A History of Iran] and Un'estate a Teheran [A Summer in Tehran] and showing her two documentary films "Out of Place" and "Che ne facciamo di Teheran?" [What Should We Do with Tehran?].  These days, Iran is again under the spotlight, especially due to its difficult relation with Israel, so this interview should be of greater interest to the public, given its timeliness.

Q: In recent months, Iran has been harshly criticized and continually commented on by the media, especially with regard to its nuclear program and difficult relation with the United States.  Does Iran need to produce energy through nuclear power or is the fear about its nuclear program justified?

A: The biggest problem is the lack of trust in Iran on the part of the international community.  That said, Iran's electricity demand amounts to 40,000 megawatts, so it would need forty nuclear power plants like Bushehr.

Q: To what extent can Obama's video message create a new channel of dialogue with Iran, especially in view of the upcoming elections, which will take place on the 12th of June?  What will happen, politically, in Iran?

A: It's difficult to make a prediction ahead of the presidential elections on 12 June, especially since the predictions of analysts have regularly turned out to be mistaken.  But I wouldn't directly link the Obama video to the elections because foreign policy is, like the nuclear program, the exclusive prerogative of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, not of the President of the Islamic Republic.

Q: The difficult relation between Iran and Israel is dealt with in your report "Che ne facciamo di Teheran?"  But the Jewish presence in Iran is proportionally the largest in the Middle East outside Israel.  What is the real relationship between the Jewish minority and the other Iranians?

A: The Jews living in Iran numbered 80,000 at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948, and now the number is estimated to be 25,000.  They have a deputy in the parliament, and they are a recognized minority who have their own schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.  There are families who have for generations -- we might say for millennia -- been living in Iran.  Iranian Jews are considered to be Iranians first and of the Jewish faith second.  And as Iranians they enjoy civil, political, and religious rights and thus have their synagogues and cemeteries.

Click here to watch an excerpt from the film "Out of Place."
Q: In "Out of Place," you tell the story of an Iranian-Jewish woman living in Israel since 1987, who would like to return to her country.  What, conversely, are the relations between the other Israelis and the Iranian minority in Israeli territory?

A: According to a study by the Center for Iranian Studies in Tel Aviv, the Iranian Jews living in Israel would number 250,000.  Some hold positions of prestige, even in politics and the armed forces, while others are simply merchants.  Among them is Rachel, the protagonist of my short film "Out of Place," in which I deliberately left international politics in the background to foreground the issue of motherhood.  And I believe that from the video it clearly comes across that Iran is, for Rachel, a metaphor for her own now faded youth.  In any case on my Web site, you can find, in the "Journalism" section, my article "Essere e non essere israeliani" [To Be and Not To Be Israeli], published in Ventiquattro, the monthly supplement of Il Sole 24 Ore.

Q: You wrote that the color of Iran is black, the black color of women's chador.  Iranian women play different roles in Iranian society, but since the elections of 2005 what has changed regarding the female part of society?  Has the situation worsened in terms of personal freedom, for women?

A: Since the 2005 elections, a campaign against the bad-hejabi, the so-called "ill veiled," has been put into effect.  But at the same time the One Million Signatures campaign was launched to repeal those rules within the legal system of the Islamic Republic that penalize women.

The original interview "Intervista a Farian Sabahi" was published by LibrInTerra on 21 April 2009.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.