Friday, July 31, 2009
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
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.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.
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)
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.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?
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".
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
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
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 United4Iran.org, 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 MRZine.org.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
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 united4iran.org, true advocates of human rights?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
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
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
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Jul 6, 2009 23:58 | Updated Jul 7, 2009 2:34
Iran Jews in Israel prefer Ahmadinejad
By CARRIE SHEFFIELD
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
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.