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.

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