Can’t Keep a Good People Down

More than a hundred years ago, Iranians were as loudly present in the streets demanding constitutional governance, freedom from random harassment by the state and a legitimate representational system as they are today.

In 1906, as a result of that national surge demanding true legitimacy from the rulers, Iran established the first parliament on the Asian continent, and forced an absolutist monarchy into accepting constitutional rule by a parliament chosen by the people.

That parliamentary system, by 1920, had been overthrown by Reza Shah, and an absolutist dictatorship was reestablished, which in turn was overturned by the people by the close of 1940s, and by 1951 the people had regained their relative sovereignty. In 1953, that too was overthrown by a coup carried out by the CIA against our popularly elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh, and the second phase of the Pahlavi dictatorship ensued, which lasted until 1978.

Ever since the establishment of theocracy in 1979, we have witnessed repeated occurrences of mass uprisings in Iran. The last major wave was in 1999, led by university students, and was swiftly crushed by the government (at the time headed by a ‘reformist’, Mohammad Khatami).

So, throughout the twentieth century, we as a nation did not stop grappling with the hugely complex social problem of legitimacy of the state, as different dictatorships arose and established themselves as newer, more effective machineries of oppression, and as we struggled against them. That fight continues today.

When reality happens in equally painful and delightful leaps, such as we are witnessing now, and as it speeds right past rigid minds standing by with gaping mouths, mouthing knee-jerk, reflexive thoughts not considered at all, we salute reality!

And hope we can keep up.

* * *

One left-seeming analysis being presented about the election results in Iran is the ‘class analysis,’ epitomized by a few articles that have appeared in recent days (no names necessary, since that makes things personal, and I’m trying to keep it political here). I even heard the ‘class analysis’ (sic.) used on the BBC! The BBC’s approach was actually not too different from those presented by some on the US left.

Real class analysis looks for and explains historical and materialist trends in a society (‘materialist’ meaning here, containing real social substance); all else is superficial journalism.

Not taking into account Iran’s complex social history at all — and amazingly enough not even considering the very context of a theocratic setup as relevant, superficial journalism’s entire argument is constructed on a presupposition never examined: that Iran is just another regular country, with a generally democratic-looking system, with its own peculiar way of holding elections, which we must respect, run as best as they can (of course, they have problems, but who doesn’t?); but, all in all, there’s regular opportunity for people to express their choices, just like in the US (and God knows America has deep problems of its own with democracy). So, no matter how disappointed the losers in the Iranian elections, they simply ‘should bite the bullet,’ and move on.

At least eight people (some reports from inside Iran claim 32) have indeed taken bullets. These are peaceful, unarmed demonstrators shot dead (and there are video clips to prove this, thanks to the resourcefulness of our people) by sharp shooters from windows overlooking streets where peaceful demonstrations were being attacked by plain-clothes government vigilantes breaking up massive spontaneous, again, peaceful demonstrations expressing outrage at an excessively oppressive machine that had just stolen their votes in broad daylight.

Why the need for attacking peaceful demonstrations if the elections were truly won cleanly? Why the need to arrest and detain hundreds of people, of political leaders and intellectuals of the reformist camp? Why the need to disrupt communications?

But, I am digressing.

Along with the ‘bite the bullet’ attitude, some analysis must be presented, of course, since we are writing a political piece. So, let’s see what it is. It is claimed that, first of all, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got exactly the same proportion of votes as he did in the 2005 election when he beat Hashemi Rafsanjani. But, since that’s the only historical reference looked up by lazy journalism, all the social changes that have happened between then and now lose their significance in the accounts of superficial observers.

A crucial thing missed here is that back in 2005, there too were loud claims of vote rigging against Ahmadinejad, who had been greatly helped by the Revolutionary Guards’ and the Basijs’ disciplined mobilization for vote getting. Those complaints died out eventually. But, from right after the 2005 elections, it became clear to Iran observers that major political maneuvering had begun between, on the one hand, the elite siding with the powerful Hashemi Rafsanjani and, on the other, those siding with the conservatives aligned with Khamenei, whose front man is Ahmadinejad. In this year’s elections, Hashemi Rafsanjani lent his political weight to the reformists who, just like the Democrats in the US, are the only ones with realistic, if not the best, chances of inspiring large participation in the elections.

It was for these very reasons that the reformist factions knew very well that major vote rigging would be tried again. If it could be done twice in the US, it sure as hell could be done twice in Iran. And for these very reasons, for months before the election day the reformists had studied well the procedures in place, looking for flaws, had found plenty, and had proposed remedies aplenty, all of which had been turned down. So, going into the ring, they knew they were stepping into a fixed match.

Ahmadinejad’s camp, sure enough, was prepared, both for the ballot-casting day and for the lead-up. They used the first-ever live TV debates between presidential candidates in Iran the same way a sensationalist lawyer would in some courtroom scene in a TV series. Picture a closing presented in a case looking bleakly headed south; lawyer strikes out by throwing a complete and utter Hail Mary pass: espousing the most astonishing stories, filled with accusations and innuendoes, muddying the water to the nth degree, making it all sound like he really didn’t want to say any of this, but was forced to reveal the truth, no matter how rude, for justice must be served. Amen!

And we saw how they conducted the actual ‘elections’. (For those interested in facts: even Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, the most senior cleric in Iran, a huge, lifelong fan of theocracy, came out in defense of the opposition, stating that nobody in their right mind would believe the announced results.)

To get back to the class analysis thing . . . For the ‘class’ part of the analysis, it is stated that Ahmadinejad’s constituency, beyond the ideological armed forces of Revolutionary Guards and the Basijis, consists of the working class, the peasantry and the poor; in short, the way more numerous classes. In other words, in this highly simplistic picture, ALL the Iranian working classes, all the peasants, and all the poor were unanimously behind Ahmadinejad.

This is a very improbable claim. Its TV version was backed by repeated loops of reportage by CNN- and BBC-type news agencies, right before the elections, when their film crews were sent to a few rural spots that had benefited from the Ahmadinejad government’s handouts, where enthusiasm was displayed for him. These scenes from a handful of villages, in a country whose rural population adds up to about 33% of 70 million people, are definitely not representative of the larger picture of rural Iran.

The real rural Iran is beset by desperation, more than anything else, and most likely can’t be bothered with any such niceties as ‘elections’ (Iran’s rural population has historically been very deeply apolitical). Due to government mismanagement, consistent over the thirty years of this regime’s existence, farming infrastructure has been deteriorating steadily, leading to a huge migration from the country to the city. In the past 30-year period, the urban-to-rural ratios have exactly reversed.

During the same period, the population of Iran has grown very rapidly also; it literally doubled from 35 million to 70 million. Yet, another factor: all these demographic transformations were occurring in a country whose government relies on the sale of oil as a main source of revenue (more than 50% of its income. I’ll explain why this is important, below).

Add another historical-transformational trend: with the rise of theocracy by 1979, and considering that the mullahs are tightly allied with the merchant (bazaari) classes, the overall stewardship of the national economy was transferred from the hands of the industrial to that of the commercial bourgeoisie. Consequently, commerce, buying and selling, instead of production, has become the more significant economic activity.

Except for military (and related) industries, of course. There, successive governments have consistently invested well. But, just about all other branches of industrial capital, mostly private, have not had an easy time of developing; definitely not nearly as rapidly as the population growth coupled with rural-urban migration would require, in order to maintain a stable employment level and to have some, even if modest, economic growth rate.

Remember that oil, as an industry, is not labor intensive at all; it is highly capital intensive. So, though it brings in the dough for the state, as an industry it doesn’t employ a significant workforce. (In any event, most oil workers in Iran enjoy a very healthy tradition of leftist thinking and have proven their progressive mettle in many historical battles. You can bet they are not deluded on a mass scale.)

The socio-historical trends mentioned above (the doubling of the population, plus the mass migration from rural to urban areas, plus a much lowered rate of development of labor-employing industries) all add up to a huge number of buyers and sellers of lots of things, haggling constantly, hustling endlessly and, much more importantly, this has led to endemically excessive rates of part-employment and underemployment, creating a situation in which millions of people must weave at least two, three (at times more) jobs, just to keep their head above water, just to make a living. All of which becomes much more painful under hellish inflation rates, which shot up rapidly during Ahmadinejad’s rule.

Now add to that already socially heady mix the insults thrown in by a highly intrusive dictatorship that claims to hold power and authority over your most private acts even, and what you get is a lot of very hard working people who can get really pissed off very easily, and very quickly. Do you see where this is going?

Now, let’s bring it back to the elections. The situation in Iran has changed dramatically in the four years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency. The world in general has changed dramatically in four years. The economic situation in Iran has gotten far worse, not only because of Ahmadinejad’s mismanagement (which has no doubt had its effects), but also intensified by all the above-mentioned trends, plus the effects of the sanctions, and all of these within a worldwide depression of the last two years.

But, and this is important, the economic deterioration during Ahmadinejad’s first term occurred in a time of very high oil income for the government, making it more difficult to explain away the economic troubles as general results of the world depression. In the four years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iranian state income was nearly twice as much (in oil revenues) as it was during Khatami’s eight years.

So, a majority of the Iranians were quite rightly very disillusioned with Ahmadinejad’s mismanagement. No amount of radical sounding rhetoric can hide these things. No wonder then that he felt compelled to hand out potatoes to the abject poor, to avert starvation. But his sacks of potatoes, or insurance for the rural poor, as welcome and necessary and popular as they are (even if they didn’t cover everybody in need), are mere Band-Aids on a shotgun wound after the horse was dead.

* * *

We come to the final element to be considered when providing a ‘class analysis’ of the Iranian political life: The most class-conscious, the most politically active of the Iranian working classes are by far the most anti-government. How do we know this? We know this because they invariably end up in jail.

It is interesting that articles claiming to be presenting a ‘class analysis’ completely ignore the significance of all the jailed labor leaders in Iran, and ignore the anti-labor posture consistently displayed by all governments in Iran’s modern history: that the current government is structurally anti-labor is well understood by those segments of Iran’s working classes not ideologically in the service of the regime.

Why else would the government bother imprisoning a mere bus driver, Mansoor Osanloo? (for his and others’ info, see here) How much of a political threat can a bus driver be? Them be shaky foundations, indeed, that tremble at the sight of organized bus drivers. Osanloo is the head of the bus drivers’ union in Tehran, and has been a political prisoner, in and out of jail (currently in) for the past five years. That’s just one example. There are lots more (and you can read about some of them (in Farsi) here and here; if you can’t read Farsi, find an Iranian friend).

The most organized of the working classes represent a significant portion of the class of people affected most deeply and painfully by a badly managed capitalist economy. This has political consequences. Vast numbers of Iranian working people have turned apathetic, and simply do not participate in the political machinations of the system. When they do participate in significant numbers, as was the case in these last elections, it is because they see a realistic chance for using the differences between the rulers for opposing the establishment candidate, and perhaps winning some concessions from this oppressive system; demands that are likely to inspire participation among the lower middle classes and the middle classes.

Incidentally, the so-called ‘middle classes’ are working classes. They are simply more likely to be the better educated, better paid part of the working classes. That’s all. The fact that the word ‘middle class’ was invented by Americans to suppress the perception of actual existence of classes in North America is something to be studied in its own place, but, as somebody said once, “A rose is a rose by any name.”

So the most fundamental distinction to bear in mind is that those segments of the working classes who do participate in the electoral process in Iran are by no means representatives of a homogenized class, and thankfully cannot automatically be assumed as representing all the working classes, all the peasants and all the poor.

Just like all other classes in Iran, the working classes are also divided in many ways: between believers (in theocracy) and secularists, between supporters of the system and opponents of the system, between the different camps of the system, and our working classes, too, contain large segments of non-participants and non-believers who occasionally like to show up and cast protest votes.

And another thing: Just because somebody is from the working class (in any country) does not mean they are universal angels, and whatever they exhale is divine. Remember that the European fascists’ most numerous support-base was among the working classes. And the American leftists should be well familiar with the phenomenon known as ‘Reagan Democrats’: i.e., white working class people who voted against their class interest.

* * *

The one crucial thing to bear in mind is that these ‘elections’ would not be called elections by anybody in the American left if those exact electoral procedures — complete with the allegiance to the Bible as the requirement to participate — were replicated in the US, overseen by a government run by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (yes, back from dead) and their amalgamated gang of the American televangelists and their social support networks and vigilantes. If you can do the mental switch and still find that you have no problem participating in such Christian evangelist-conducted ‘elections’, then go ahead and call the Iranian ‘elections’ elections. Call it a horse, for all I care.

The reality is that the situation in Iran has by now moved beyond the technicalities of the electoral procedures; the Iranian people have forced the situation into one of a crisis of legitimacy for the regime.

The Iranian people sensed a deep fracture within the ruling establishment — something that was clearly expressed in astonishing language and tone in the televised-for-the-first-time live debates between the candidates — and they have seized their chance to use the divide between their rulers to their own advantage.

The people may have taken to the streets under the excuse of the elections, and may have been encouraged by the rhetoric of the ‘reformist’ camp in favor of some breathing room in the suffocating political and cultural atmosphere imposed on them, but they have forced the debate further. They are openly, and in millions across the country, questioning the legitimacy of the establishment, represented at the moment by Ahmadinejad. The people, in short, have moved beyond Mousavi and the reformists, but are still willing to go along with the tactics formulated by reformist leaders . . . for the moment.

We will see how things unfold. Most likely, a heavy hand is just around the corner, trying on some spiked gloves. For the time being, though, hundreds of thousands of people in Iran are opting not to ‘bite the bullet’ and move on, but to make a movement and, even, take bullets. A much more courageous stand that generates a lot more inspiration!

Salute!

Reza Fiyouzat can be reached at: rfiyouzat@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Reza, or visit Reza's website.

34 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Iftekhar Sayeed said on June 19th, 2009 at 2:39pm #

    “Iran’s rural population has historically been very deeply apolitical”. This, according to the Economist, is wrong: 66% of poor and rural voters vote as against 33% of the urbanised middle class. But never mind that.

    A ‘class’ analysis doesn’t take that modern fact into account: the agent provocateur. In this brilliantly researched article by Seymour Hersh, he shows in vivid detail how America has been priming the pump in Iran:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh?currentPage=all

    Also try : Iran mosque blast plotters admit Israeli, US links: report:

    They also admitted carrying out “one or two minor operations,” the agency said, without providing further details except to say the group launched military operations a year ago.
    http://tinyurl.com/5row5r

    Besides, we know that people are dumb: they must and will be led and manipulated. Leo Strauss’s Iron Law of Oligarchy has always held true.

    “They are openly, and in millions across the country, questioning the legitimacy of the establishment, represented at the moment by Ahmadinejad. The people, in short, have moved beyond Mousavi”. Millions of people out of a population of 70 million, most of whom are above 15? That doesn’t sound like “the people” to me: it sounds like the impressionistic and ill-educated Gucci class of Iran.

    I have seen it happen time and again in Bangladesh: a couple of people take to the streets, and they call it a revolution, when the vast majority is farming or fishing.

    The writer mentions the misery index: inflation plus unemployment. Inflation has always done nutty things to people, especially the middle class because they see their savings eroded; unemployment creates the hooligans who take to the streets.

    What the writer failed to mention was the multiplication of the number of university students: whenever this happens, society becomes unstable. An educated middle class is the worst calamity that can befall a nation: it led to the violent break-away of East Pakistan from West Pakistan in 1971, to the anti-British attacks of the Bengal terrorists earlier.

    A wise government, like Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s, would have kept tertiary education down to a minimum and maximised primary education. However, sooner or later, tertiary education becomes necessary, and then you have lunatic movements like ‘reformasi’ and Tiananmen.

  2. duaner said on June 19th, 2009 at 3:05pm #

    A damn fine article, with the kind of nuance that has been sorely lacking in other articles on the subject that I’ve read. I abhor misquotations, however, so…

    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;

    -Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

  3. Michael Dawson said on June 19th, 2009 at 3:44pm #

    Thanks once again, Reza!

  4. reza said on June 19th, 2009 at 6:26pm #

    Michael Dawson,

    Thank you! I wish you best of luck and perseverance in your skirmishes with idiocy, which unfortunately lies around every corner. God speed!

    Reza

  5. Michael Kenny said on June 20th, 2009 at 8:30am #

    This is all very well, but so what? I assume Mr Fiyouzat is not proposing Bush-style “regime change” and at that point, it is up to Iranians to change their country (or not change it) as they see fit, without any interference from foreigners. They whys and the wherefores of the Iranian situation are thus irrelevant. As for bus drivers, don’t forget that a little shipyard electrician brought the whole communist system crashing down!

  6. AM said on June 20th, 2009 at 5:26pm #

    Reza Fiyouzat…Damet garm Agha! Damet garm!

    A very well written and articulate piece. Thanks for writing it.
    Unfortunately I have lost all patience for such debates. To me it’s like explaining counter melodies to someone who is completely deaf. Americans are convinced of being “Exceptional” and oh so very “Special”. So naturally when they read a couple of articles and buy a couple of books off the internet and read them, they believe they “know it all”. Much more than an actual Iranian who was born and raised there, knows the players and the playbooks and is possibly in the thick of things. And the reason they demean this movement is to cover up the fact the they feel quite impotent in their own country. These guys also don’t know what happens when the Left goes to bed with the Islamists. We do. One of them ends up in mass graves and it ain’t the Islamists. Agha some of these guys are what we used to call Malikhulyayee. Ok? :o)

    One little request though, please don’t call the plainclothesmen, vigilantes. They are anything but. These are groups funded and supported by the government and given a card blanch to quash dissent by any means. To call them vigilantes relieves the government from any kind of responsibility. Ten years ago they used to be called “Ansare Hezbollah”, remember? I guess they haven’t got a name these days but a lot of them still don’t speak Persian. Militia, Shocktroops, Fascist…they all work. Thanks.

    Also these guys are old hands at rigging elections (or selections). Remember about 30 years ago that whole referendum on what sort of government do you want? Total sham. People did not choose an Islamic Republic. The government was illegitimate from the beginning. That is why it always had to be overtly repressive and brutal. It has no base among the people. It has always been on shaky ground.

    I am on the horn, on the internet and watching the Iranian satellite TVs because people keep sending footage to them. The chants and slogans have gone from “death to this anit-people government” (marg bar in dowlate mardom seteez) to “death to dictator”, “death to dictatorship” and eventually, today, “death to Khameneii”. Wow!

    You gotta love the Iranians though. Over one hundred years of struggle for Democracy and they still haven’t lost their sense of humour. A woman showed up at one of the demonstrations carrying her baby. On the baby’s shirt there was a sign that read “Obash”. :0)
    (That means thug! Since the government claims that the demonstrators are nothing but a bunch of rioting thugs) However the Dubya’s evil twin (if that’s at all possible) Ahmadinejad claimed they were people who broke the law and were punished/apprehended. Like someone who crosses a red light and is punished/apprehended. Amanpour is too much of an asskiss to have followed that up but, MAN!….That country must have a lot of red lights!!!! :o)

    Mr. Dawson,
    Thank you for your singular observations and comments. You are right. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. And we have been trying to make the left of the Western world understand that for years. But unfortunately it fell on deaf ears. As Iranians we have very few effective street level activists especially outside the borders of the country. Because it has always been an extremely risky endeavor. You are always afraid that they are going to take it out on your family. And they do. Our phones have been tapped, our e-mails intercepted and I knew people who had a “Minder”. And yes this is in the US of A. But in the post 9/11 world, many in the Left became apologists for the Islamists. (They won’t even use the term “Islamist”) Every time we asked them to sign a bloody letter for human rights, they ended up giving us a lecture on the glory of Islamic civilization and the horror of the sacking of Jerusalem. Then they called us right wing, conservative and my favorite Islamophobe, which frankly is not an insult. But I was extremely offended by being called right wing conservative. So I do feel a great deal of rage and animosity towards most of the left in this country. They not only abandoned us, they took every opportunity to slap us down. And that I will never forgive, because human life was involved.
    And there lies the main difference between this Left and that Left. Most people who gravitate towards the Left in Middle East, get there through the path of Secular Humanism. (at least in the post soviet world) They simply consider left wing ideas to be the best tool for bettering the human condition. Not because they desperately need a new religion.

  7. Max Shields said on June 20th, 2009 at 6:10pm #

    I’m unclear who the Iranian people are in this situation. Are they the people rioting? I mean, are they a particular group of people within Iran? Are they workers? Are they students? We’ve seen that here over the past several decades; and in France and here and there. But the government doesn’t change.

    But again, perhaps we need to peel back and ask who are those in the streets? Are they against Ahmadinejad, or the entire theocracy? If so, was there a candidate who represents those who are in the street?

    What set these “riots” in motion? What triggered them? Is it just spontaneous or was there something that readied this rioting, that provoked it?

    Riots can certainly be spontaneous. Ask Rodney King, or the Watts and Newark and Chicago riots…and the rioters who set this country aflame in the 60s. But spontaneity has a parent. There is something that brings it to a boiling point.

    Why does it appear that Fox News and CNN sound so identical in their messages concerning Iran?

    In the end, however, does anyone think Iran will really change? Perhaps Iran should have a political, social and economic existence that is not so tied to the US/Israel regional hegemony. Perhaps, then we would have a clearer view of what is taking place….or if it would have taken place at all without these ties to the geopolitics of the region.

    The vote rigging thing, just from a USA perspective, sounds so so so retro. Our politicians have learned that a billion dollars or so of marketing works even better – rigged, well only if you think having your elections bought and paid for by a fascistic corporate cabal is rigging the election…but heavens we don’t use that kind of language here.

  8. Max Shields said on June 20th, 2009 at 7:03pm #

    Just read Iftekhar Sayeed post. While I’m really not sold on the idea of controlling education levels to keep a state stable (think of me as a decentralist green), even though, from a statist view I see the reasoning. But for that, all and all well said, Iftekhar.

    There was no “reformist” in the pool of candidates as far as I can tell. I’m suspicious of this “uprising” not because I think theocracy is good, or the state of Iran is particularly healthy (we’ve got much worse on the planet) but because it smells like the handy work of the infamous CIA (or some facsimile).

    Most of these riots (over time, and elsewhere) are frequently not what they are cracked up to be. The media likes to pounce on it. I remember the French riots a few years back. That’s when France was on the US’s shit list. The talk was endless about what that was all about.

    I think it’s horribly naive in this world for anyone who’s lived a bit to conclude that these riots are the “voice” of the Iranian people. I’m uncertain, as I said above, as to who these rioters are but I rather doubt that they are what might be called part of a “people’s movement”.

    Also, it was just a few years ago, when the talk of what that oil money was converted into: citizens dividends, subsidizing a variety of Iranian needs. Realize oil prices plunged (are on their way back up) but a government that offers such a dividend is not one that is callous about bread and butter. Also, I think the writer would be hard pressed to compare Iranian human conditions to those of much of India and vast areas of China and hundreds of other countries where people are truly desparate for meager sustenance.

    Again, I ask, who are these people rioting?

  9. stephan geras said on June 21st, 2009 at 12:56am #

    This from someone I am aquainted with in Teheran, that he isn’t a supporter of either candidate, in fact didn’t vote in the election because, as he says it, “I never voted in this regime because i believe in the real change in iran not changing the color of the current regime,so I’m not a supporter of Mousavi but now it became a real opportunity for our people to demand a real change ….
    and i am in the middle of this movement to reach a real Freedom and Democracy …
    I hope the demonstration results in this real change in Iran”. He’s a theater artist and a recent university graduate.

  10. Hue Longer said on June 21st, 2009 at 2:13am #

    This all reminds me of Venezuela and Chavez and angry management class college students being used by US backed interests

  11. Antonio said on June 21st, 2009 at 4:37am #

    Just a few points:

    Incidentally, the so-called ‘middle classes’ are working classes. They are simply more likely to be the better educated, better paid part of the working classes. That’s all.

    In the sense of economic class, this is perfectly true. Yet to say “they’re all working class economically speaking” is to ignore the point. It elides the very real differences in social class and culture that significantly differentiate working and middle class. The fact they are “better educated, better paid” closely matches cultural preferences and social concerns and therefore is a crucial element of analysis.

    The fact that the word ‘middle class’ was invented by Americans to suppress the perception of actual existence of classes in North America is something to be studied in its own place, but, as somebody said once, “A rose is a rose by any name.”

    This is simply untrue as the term “middle class” had its origins in Europe going back at least as far as the early 18th century with the beginnings of the rise of capitalism – used to describe the new class sitting between the old aristocracy and the peasantry. The idea that it was “invented” in some instrumental sense is grossly simplistic, in any case.

  12. Max Shields said on June 21st, 2009 at 7:07am #

    This discussion is sounding more like the Tibet “rising” a year ago.

    I don’t disagree that these issues have their own nuances, and millions of perspectives; probably each protester walking around with their own mission (???)

    The 1970s Revolution was directed toward a US backed Shah. The replacement was a theocracy and the “enemy was the US/West.

    We hear that Iranian “love” the US. If that’s true, does that say something about these Iranians? What do they understand about the US and yet “love” the US?

    Again, there’s an odor coming from this “rebellion”; and you don’t need to read a book to smell it.

  13. dan e said on June 21st, 2009 at 1:11pm #

    Quick pt for commenter I. Sayeed: Did Leo Strauss speak of the Iron Law of Oligarchy without attribution? The phrase comes from the 1911 book by Robert Michels. cf Wikipedia.
    Please don’t take this as a comment on your thesis; have not yet finished reading/considering.

  14. Suthiano said on June 21st, 2009 at 2:15pm #

    “We hear that Iranian “love” the US. If that’s true, does that say something about these Iranians? What do they understand about the US and yet “love” the US?”

    Yes, there are Venezuelans who love the U.S…. they live in mansions and take their private yachts to Miami on the weekend.

    Similarly there are Bolivians who like the U.S… like the idea of keeping their mansions and they’re obscene privileges….

    So some Iranians too love the U.S… Perhaps these Iranians believe they will also be living in mansions, watching American idol soon.

  15. Max Shields said on June 21st, 2009 at 3:16pm #

    Suthiano, you got my point, exactly!

    When these stories are told, I think of the upper classes in Chile and their pots and pains “rebellion”; I think of the anti-Hugo Chavez crowd, the old Batista crowd who live in our midst now. They all love America, land of the free, home of the brave…god bless America. If only Iran could be like America, if only Chile and Venezuela and Peru, and Cuba, could be like America…what a wonderful world this would be.

    Come one and all to America where you can plot with the CIA the overthrowing of your former country. They love us….they really really really really do.

  16. Max Shields said on June 21st, 2009 at 3:19pm #

    But you know what the pisser is, Suthiano? These Fiyouzats who say we don’t understand Iran; and with each word they demonstrate they don’t understand a thing about the USA…clueless.

  17. Don Hawkins said on June 21st, 2009 at 5:03pm #

    the CIA was behind the assassination of Julius Caesar! I knew it all along. You humans are different I must say. You see I landed in a corn field my ship was destroyed and I have been sending out signals for a while now with no luck. Anybody know where I can find a good used interplanetary spacecraft? Where is area 51? Those question marks you humans use in your writing strange symbol.

  18. Max Shields said on June 21st, 2009 at 5:36pm #

    From Foreign Policy Journal (before the election). Pretty insightful and lays out the facts:
    http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2009/06/13/on-the-table-and-off-the-map-threats-lies-and-iranian-elections/

  19. Shabnam said on June 21st, 2009 at 6:49pm #

    The Iranian elections turned into a battle field between different factions of ruling elites and their associates. There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad’s victory against his rivals is legitimate. Those who claim ‘the election was stolen’ are either fools or opportunists looking for expansion of enemy’s influence in Iran like under the Shah
    Ahmadinejad won the elections by 2 to 1 margin on June 12, but Mir Hussein Mosusavi thinks otherwise since one of his supporters early on into the night told him that “we are going to win.” Mousavi has taken this stupid remark as the final elections outcome, but all the signs and statistics indicate that Ahmadinejad is the legitimate winner of the 10th elections in Iran.

    Ahmadinejad is known among all social classes due to his frequent trips he made during the past 4 years and earlier as a governor or the mayor of Tehran when he entered the race for the first time.
    He is genuinely interested in helping the poor people thus the disadvantage groups have benefited the most from his policy especially those in the rural areas. Ahmadinejad is also popular among people in small towns and cities and working class. He is not, however, popular with the rich and the 5th column western educated phony
    ‘intellectuals’ who are cooperating with the US project, “New Middle East” in the region like Sadeq Ziba Kalam, a university professor, Hamid Zaid- Abadi, a journalist, who has been recently arrested . Both are Mousavi’s supporters. The middle class are split between the two candidates.
    The fight among leadership is between Khamenei’s camps where Ahmadinejad is associated with and supporters of Rafsanjani, a corrupt businessman cleric who has used his power in the government to accumulate vast amount of wealth. There is a rumor that his son has taken 15 million dollars bribe from Total, French oil co., to promote their interests in an oil deal. The fight is not only about financial corruption but also about political influence in the matter of economy and state. Rafsanjani is known as pragmatism and elected president for two terms from 1989 to 1997. He ran for a third term in office, winning the first round of elections but losing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the run-off round in the 2005 by wide margin. Rafsanjani is associated with the Iranian business class and is hostile to Ahmandinejad’s circle and his economic policy. Rafsanjani advocates free market economy and is against hand out to the poor.
    Ahmadinejad’s slogan, “to bring oil money to people’s dining tables” won him the elections against Rafsanjani by 2 to 1 margin in 2005. The west tried to paint the elections 2005 as fraud by its puppets especially sell out Iranian ‘oppositions’ like Mohsen Sasegara who works for VOA, but was not successful since Ahmadinejad received millions more votes against his rival Rafsanjani. Thus, the west could not carry its campaign of lies and deception for longer time.
    In the 10th Iranian elections, June 2009, a debate was introduced into the elections process where greatly helped Ahmadinejad re-election due to his superior debate skills, ability to use language effectively, and having a strategy to throw the ball early on into Mousavi’s yard and keep it there for the rest of the night, where left Mousavi stunned, confused, not to be able to express himself clearly and his frequent use of ‘be-estela’ and ‘cheese’ – in Persian means ‘ meaning’ and ‘ thing’ – , and lack of energy and passion, let to his defeat in the debate against Ahmadinejad and never recovered.
    Ahmadinejad presented himself as a victim of corrupt Iranian elite led by Rafsanjani and his associates, the ‘reformists’ including Khatami and Mousavi and pointed out number of serious corruption charges against few families from ruling elite including Rafsanjani, Nouri and other people.
    I must confess that neither Rafsanjani nor Mousavi were part of the ‘reformists.’ In fact Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard were supporters of Ali Shariati, an Iranian sociologist trainted in the west who used religion as a tool to move the population against colonial and imperial west to free Iran from American influence and its puppet the Shah. Shariati was popular among certain faction of intelligentsia including Mujahedeen Khalq, a terrorist group who designed the Islamic dress code for women, long coat and scarf, used since the revolution. MEK is on list of terrorist groups of State Department where the neocons close to Israel at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, Patrick Clawson, and elsewhere are trying very hard to take Mujahedeen’s name off the list so they can be used effectively in their destabilization program, bombing and killing. The leadership of Mujahedeen escaped the country early 1980s and settled first in France and later in Iraq cooperating with Saddam, Israel, US and the neocon for regime change. During Mousavi premiership in 1980s, he was silent on terror and violence and has lived in isolation working on his ‘painting’ since he left the office in 1989. He implemented state control economy and introduced rationing for basic necessities during his time in office. Therefore, it is very interesting to see that he has changed his economic views on for Iran and now he supports market economy siding with Rafsanjani and Khatami, American style. He has suddenly brought into the political scene after 20 years of inactive political life.
    When Rafsanjani’s two terms came to the end in 1997, Mohammad Khatami became president from 1997 to 2005.
    During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, and an economic policy supporting free market and foreign investment where let to a wide gap between the rich and the poor supported by the rich Iranians, thus, they are called ‘reformists.’ Khamenie’s camp including Ahmadinejad is called ‘hard liners’ by the west, because they place the interest of Iran first, like other independent countries and they are not against privatization but Ahmadinejad is against fast implementation of privatization policy into Iranian economy since he thinks we need to prepare the infrastructure of the economy first.
    Khatami was an impotent president because he was not able to fulfill his promises and compromised the vital interest of Iran regarding the legal uranium enrichment program yet received close to nothing for his services to the west. He was helpful to George Bush in Afghanistan and neutral in Iraq yet Iran was demonized by ‘axis of evil’ label created by a Zionist Jew, David Frum, to benefit Israel. Ahmadinejad supporters claim that Khatami had promised the west to stop Iran legal enrichment program permanently or for a long time, in exchange for economic and technical assistance, and security guarantees but received nothing but more sanctions and threat of a nuclear war. As a result Iran became weak and vulnerable and chance of an attack by a foreign enemy increased many folds under the ‘reformists’ headed by Khatami, therefore, the ‘reformists” lost credibility throughout the country. What has been achieved during the ‘reformists’ in power, however, was more privatization in Iran following the instruction of IMF and World Bank. The ‘reformists’ received heavy losses in 2005 elections.
    The charge of fraud brought by Mousavi and Karrubi, who received only 0.88 percent of the votes, is laughable. They did not follow rules of the game either meaning to send a written compalain about the points of disagreement. Instead Mossavi submitted a letter to the Council of Guardians asking for a new elections. How can Iranian people accept a ‘leader’ who presents himself as protector of law yet he refuses to follow the law and keep insisting on his stupid demand calling for a new elections where provides opportunity to the enemy of state, the agent of the west to destabilize the country over a legitimate elections’s result where was foreseen by an American independent source, ‘THE NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION’ where conducted a survey in Persian from Turkey by phone 4 weeks before the Iranian elections. Their poll shows that Ahmadinejad is the winner by 2 to 1 margin.

    Mousavi, Karrubi and the circle around them are guilty to provide a golden opportunity to the enemy of state to turn Iran into chaos to compromise improved relations between Iran and the US achieved under Ahmadinejad leadership. It was a golden opportunity for the enemy of Iran to sabotage the work of Ahmadinejad.
    The protest was not voice of majority of Iranians rather a segment of society who imitates the West more than others and want a normal relations with the west to have the opportunity to travel with no problems. These groups are consumerist of the western goods and want the sanctions to be removed. Mr. Mousavi is guilty because the protest turned into violence yet he did nothing to control the violence and insisted on his stupid position and did not follow rule of law. The riot was used by destabilizing forces in Iran supported by Israel and the US using their puppets, Mujahedeen Khalq, MEK, let by a traitor by the name of Masoud Rajavi, a terrorist group to foment violence and compromise improve relations between Iran and the US to help Israel’s agenda and paint Iran as a ‘dictatorship’ run by a dictator, Ahmadinejad. EU removed the name of MEK from the terrorist list more than a year ago and Maryam Rajavi, a political whore of the Zionist who has accepted THE WORLD RELIGION, HOLOCAUST, visited Holocaust Memorial in Germany a few months ago.

    http://ncr-iran.org/content/view/5807/1/

    Iranians are not fools to forget what the West, with US leadership, has done to Iran’s interest around the world for the past 30 years. American policy of terror and destruction is known to majority of Iranians. Iranians have not forgotten Iran- Iraq war where majority of Iranians hold the United States responsible for lost of million Iranian lives by WMD and Chemical weapon provided by the west including the United States and paid by the Arab countries especially the so called “moderate Arab States” where are working with Israel and the US against Iran in the region and beyond. Israel, US and their puppets, The Arab head of States, feel threaten by Iranian resistance for the past 30 years despite the fact that Iranians have paid a high price for their independence. Iranian resistance becomes a model for other countries in the region fighting against Zionism and colonialism, in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, to some extend Syria. Ahmadinejad is widely popular among Arab people. Thus, they are using any means to destabilize Iran for regime change and partition to change the map of the region to benefit Israel and create non-Arab allies for Israel. This is the neocon’s plan for the region and American people must unseat fifth column Zionists from the power in the US.

    The population of the West should not be fooled by the mass media printing only the opinion of English speaking Iranians where many of them are trained in conferences held in Dubai by a rich Zionist by the name of Peter Ackerman who runs INTERNATIONAL CENTER ON NONVIOLENT CONFLICT where promotes ‘democracy’ Zionist style through fomenting ‘color revolution’ in Islamic countries. Iranians do not have the means or the time to write their opinions or send a video clip abroad except those agents who are working with destabilization forces in Iran. Those Iranians you see on TV or hear them on the radio are mainly western educated, either living in Iran or abroad and are supported by the “human rights” organizations that have close relations with intelligent agencies of the west. The phony Iranian ‘left’ who used the language of ‘Down with Imperialism’ does not exist anymore since majority of them are in the pocket of the US and Israel.
    Many of the Iranian phony ‘left’ are cooperating with the Zionist/imperialist destabilization project including the Kurds.
    What we are going to see in the coming weeks in Iran is the continuation of Israel/US destabilization policy through their agents in Iran who are going to use the golden opportunity provided by elite representatives Mousavi and Karrubi and their supporters. We may witness isolated act of terror and bombing around the country. Iranian government has the responsibility to protect Iranian citizens from these agents and must act firmly and effectively against any act of violence in the coming weeks.

  20. Don Hawkins said on June 21st, 2009 at 6:58pm #

    Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
    Carl Sagan

    How long 10,000 years well the next twenty will not be boring trust me on this one.

  21. Shabnam said on June 21st, 2009 at 7:50pm #

    The following link shows the detailed list of votes cas in each province of Iran reported by Iran’s Interior Ministry.

    http://www.payvand.com/news/09/jun/1150.html

  22. reza said on June 21st, 2009 at 8:04pm #

    OK … this is my last two cents on the numbers part or the elections (for those who say Ahmadinejad got the same voters’ percentage in this year’s elections as he did in 2005); (this info is available on Wikipedia, no radical bastion of Imperialist planning):

    The 2005 elections were held in two rounds. In the first round the voter turnout was about 63%, but (and this is the significant number) went down to only 48% in the second round.

    Why? Because in the first round, a ‘reformist’ candidate (Karrubi) was in the running, but he got bumped off in the first round. So, people faced with the very uninspiring contest between Mr. Corruption himself (Rafsanjani) and Ahmadinejad (former Pasdar), they chose to stay home for the most part. So, Ahmadinejad’s 61% in the second round back then, was from only 48% of the voters. That is NOT equal to (in fact, it’s just over half) the same percentage of 85% the government says participated this year.

    There is another significant piece of knowledge in the above numbers. If you pause a little and pay attention to the difference between the elections turnout in the first and the second round in 2005 (going from 61% to 48%), you should be able to see what Iranians know for a fact: that the turnout increases ONLY when reformists run. So, the huge jump from 48% turnout to 85% can be attributed to the fact that people had come to vote Ahmadinejad out of office! The fact that millions of people have taken to the streets across the country proves it.

  23. Max Shields said on June 21st, 2009 at 8:15pm #

    While the candidates in Iran may be vetted (as they are here by the corporate clerics), can you even imagine a 3+ candidate race with run off in this country?

    The article in the Foreign Policy Journal lays out the Iranian economy. Overall solid. Ahmadinejad has no foreign policy or nuclear program authority, but where he does have influence an authority he has used it to make sure there is distribution of state’s wealth. He is clearly a populist.

    So far it’s another bourgeois revolt, with an election as pretext. We’ve seen this movie before.

  24. Max Shields said on June 21st, 2009 at 8:22pm #

    reza you looking for something that isn’t there.

    Elections have been contested since there have been elections. But playing back 2005 is just a waste of time.

    In 2009 Ahmadinejad has the popular vote. Things happened in Iran that grew his constituency and he was an incumbant.

    I would question more the spontaneity of these riots than the election.

    Again, a bourgeois revolt, is not a revolution. I will not speculate about what fomented this outburst until the dust settles and there is more sunlight and less, brewhaha with the mainstream media.

  25. Shabnam said on June 21st, 2009 at 9:39pm #

    Majority of the middle class who supported Rafsanjani in 2005, voted for Ahmadinejad in 2009 due to their improved economic status. In addition to middle class, many intellectuals who were Rafsanjani and Khatami supporter in now support Ahmadinejad because they believe:
    “ [H]e’s done a tremendous job in terms of strengthening Iran. Iran today is a regional powerhouse with considerable international influence. He has defended Iran’s nuclear right, and he has also made conciliatory gestures towards the United States and has offered to enter into dialogue.”

    http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/afrasiabi170609.html

  26. dino said on June 21st, 2009 at 10:10pm #

    Reza,from your article i see that any threat not hover about Iran.The first problem is economic and the aiatolah regime which not allow to exist a true democracy.In Israel people are also convinced that “Islamic democracy” is an oxymoron ,but “Jewish democracy” is something very vibrant.”The free world” is as much convinced by this “evidence” that is ready to bomb Iran ,maybe with nuclear weapon,to put an end to this contradiction.But this possibility of an Israeli or American attack on Iran not exist in article.Will not be possible that a population really threatened by two unfailing gendarmes ,one with the ideology the latter with the army,to push the majority of Iranians to elect at whom seam more dedicated to stand this row injustice?Iran,after the “free world” hasn’t the right even to possess the know how on nuclear technology.How explains the “free world” the large manifestations in Iran you could find in Haaretz in an article by Zvi Barel:”Some of them oppose his economic policies, others his nuclear policy; some object to his denial of the Holocaust or his anti-American stance, or perhaps all of these things together.”
    So these are the real problems for those whom oppose the dictator:they want to learn more about Holocaust,they not want “his” nuclear policy (although polls showed that all Iranian people agree with Iranian claim to possess nuclear technology).These are the liberties that Iranians want ,the left over, as economical problems a dictatorship could solve its even better than a democracy.Sorry,also to change the so weird ,incomprehensible “his” anti-American stance

  27. Suthiano said on June 21st, 2009 at 11:09pm #

    There’s no question where the money (impetus) behind the most hard line protesters is coming from.

    Same tactics employed in Georgia, Venezuela, Bolivia, etc.

    The media frenzy is evidence in itself. Why else has CNN been devoting over 50% of their airtime (other than commercials) on these riots. BREAKING NEWS BREAKING NEWS!

    There have been deaths at many riots in “Western” “civilized” countries. Most recently a man died at the anti-g20 protests in London. Where was the massive coverage of that? What about the protests during the summit of the Americas, how many straight days was the media showing images of police brutality during those events?

    It’s a fucking joke. The Jerusalem Post has a permanent link at the top of their website besides the News, and Weather sections entitled “Iranian Threat”…. what a joke.

    Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran? It’s almost as if there was a pattern….

  28. dino said on June 22nd, 2009 at 12:30am #

    I copy here a fragment from an article written by Daniel Luban where the author claims ,contradicting Reza explanation of the nature of riots,that the rioters in its great majority are believers and have nothing against Islamic Revolution by contrary,they support it
    “This tendency toward projection has always been characteristic of neoconservative foreign policy thinking, even if it is rarely as obvious as in Krauthammer’s column. Constantly inclined to view foreign policy as a Manichean struggle between light and darkness, the neoconservatives have never really been able to grasp that anyone might be in the middle, and that the Iranian or any other people might share some — but not all — of their goals. Thus the assumption that if Iranians are repelled by the authoritarian abuses of the their government, they must by the same token be secular, pro-American, anti-political Islam, anti-Islamic Republic, and clamoring for the United States to free them from their oppressors. It does not seem to occur to them that although many of the protesters may be secular, many are devout Muslims; that although some may want to overthrow the Islamic Republic, most respect its basic legitimacy; that although most want to avoid confrontation and conflict with the West, few are overflowing with admiration for America or Israel; that although none want to instigate a regional nuclear holocaust, the vast majority support nuclear power as a matter of national pride.

    It has frequently and rightly been said in recent days that the U.S. should avoid an over-enthusiastic embrace of the demonstrators because the regime will use it to delegitimize them and paint them as tools of a hostile power. What has not been said enough is that any attempt to coopt the protests in the service of American goals risks delegitimizing the movement not merely among the public at large but among its own members. By and large the protesters have no interest in being enlisted in the grand battle between Islam and the West that the “clash of civilizations” crowd so ardently seeks. If their self-proclaimed American supporters persist in trying to turn their admirable political struggle into something that is alien to them — by insisting that in marching against fraud and repression they are really marching against Islam, against the 1979 revolution, and for American interests — then these alleged supporters may succeed only in convincing the protesters that the movement is something they want no part of.

  29. Max Shields said on June 22nd, 2009 at 4:30am #

    Anybody looking, the US is still killing in three countries that we know of!

    There you go dino, the Iranian people and their “struggle for democracy” are so precious the US and Israel is actually thinking of dropping atomic bombs on their country.

    Oxy-moron!

    THINK!

  30. Don Hawkins said on June 22nd, 2009 at 4:59am #

    That’s an Oxy-moron alright.

  31. Jeff said on June 22nd, 2009 at 3:49pm #

    And is anyone aware of there own backyard? This is just beautiful. While most Americans are concerned with this more of their rights are being obliterated in the name of national security. Is this not just perfect. Our entire system is being hijacked while the “news” is being force fed. Let the Iranians take care for themselves. Americans once again have not mowed their own lawn to see the critters which move about infesting the place. I can appreciate brotherly love, BUT when your own home is a shit hole how can you in good conscience tell someone else to clean their toilet!

  32. AM said on June 23rd, 2009 at 12:09am #

    Shields, you didn’t have to go out of your way to prove my point. What? Your ego is too fragile to withstand a glance in the mirror?

    And once again, everything became about United States, Israel and Palestine. How self absorbed and arrogant and predictably pathetic.

    And we do know you very well. You’re only two hundred years old. You’re not that hard to figure out. We have you down. Come back and talk to me in sixty eight hundred years. By then you might be weened.

    Now if you will excuse me, I am through playing with children. I have to do some grown up things now. Body counts, finding the location of secret prisons, where have they taken the wounded, who’s dead and who’s not, that sort of a thing. So stop throwing a tantrum, get off that chair and go play with your marbles….if you haven’t lost them already.

  33. Max Shields said on June 23rd, 2009 at 4:54am #

    AM,

    First, stop it with your “grown up things”. You probably spend half your day on Twitter and the other half on facebook when you’re not here.

    Your positions are being presented with great regularity in the US on Fox and CNN. Have no fear. DV is an alternative to that constant barrage.

  34. Max Shields said on June 23rd, 2009 at 6:56am #

    The problem with yours and Raza’s “analysis” is that it lacks any sense of objectivity. It’s totally wishful thinking based on some kind of emotional chanting of evil.

    If you stepped back, instead of bashing, and just looked at the US history of elections you’d see how strange your “logic” appears when you are assuming bizzare things happened in the Iranian elections. Incumbancy is a powerful advantage in and of itself. Candidates frequently lose their home towns/villages and region/states all the time (ask McGovern, Gore or Edwards).

    I’ll assume you are Iranian and add that if you are passionate about change in Iran work for some kind of change. We in the US are having a hell of a time getting that through elected officials and I can assure you that you would not see real change in Iran had Mousavi won. Isn’t it he would is asking Iranian youth to confront and even “die” for him? (Aint no Martin Luther King, Jr. in that man’s bones.) Using the same system that gave us George W. Bush, to “change” the policies gave us Barack Obama whose policies are fundamentally the same (and in some case, with a smile added for good measure, even worse).

    It is known that Iran has been in a struggle with the West for decades; and a long war with Iraq that had US support; and wars around its borders and embargos, etc. And yet, it has continued to have elections, more than any other nation over the last 35+ years.

    So, think. Why would an almost unknown, with all the polls showing the opposite, win this election? Do some Iranians have a beef with this theocracy? Sure. I wouldn’t want to live in a theocracy and don’t. We have plenty of demons right here in the US to combat. We’re engaged in two acknowledged wars in three countries. As a result we have killed, maimed and created refugees of millions. During this same time, what war has Iran engaged in?

    http://www.counterpunch.org/amin06222009.html