Crisis, Repression and Coup in Iran
It should go without saying that socialists anywhere in the world must stand on the side of the Iranian popular democratic resistance to election fraud, violent repression and tyranny. For those of us in the imperialist states and particularly in the USA, an important part of that solidarity with the Iranian people is our demand on our own government: HANDS OFF! The U.S. ruling class has no role to play in the struggle for Iranian democracy and freedom.
At the same time, those of us who are opponents of the empire must be partisans of people anywhere struggling to free themselves. The unfolding events in the Iranian crisis – beginning as a controlled competition within the clerical regime, which stirred democratic passions among the people far beyond anyone’s initial intentions -- remind us, on the one hand, of the magnificent democratic mobilizations in Iran’s own history and globally, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Palestinian Intifada.
Today, on the other hand, they also remind us of some of the great tragedies of our era – the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 in South Africa, the Pinochet coup of September 11, 1973 in Chile, the pre-Olympic massacre in 1968 of students in Mexico City and last year’s brutal military repression against the people of Oaxaca, the 1981 Jaruzelski coup against Solidarity in Poland, the Burmese junta’s slaughter of protesters last year and, of course, the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 in Beijing.
What has happened in Iran? It is plausible, though it will now remain forever impossible to determine, that the Ahmadinejad presidential regime might have been able to win a close victory in an authentic election. Evidently the massive pre-election demonstrations for Moussavi convinced the presidential apparatus, the Revolutionary Guards and the “Supreme Guide” Khamenei that nothing could be left to chance – and certainly that no second runoff round would be permitted.
Even with candidates vetted for their loyalty to the system, the expectation of a massive popular turnout meant that unlike past electoral exercises, the outcome and the aftermath might not be easily controlled. Therefore, a massive election theft was perpetrated, essentially undisguised in broad daylight – ballot box stuffing, unmonitored fraudulent counting (before as well as after the vote), and above all a pre-planned massive mobilization of repressive force against the outraged response.
The pretext of democratic institutions underlying the Islamic Republic has been sacrificed. Indeed, not only the “republic” part of the façade but also much of the “Islamic” part has been stripped -- what’s occurred appears to have many qualities of a military quasi-fascist coup, albeit with Khamenei as an important figurehead.
The question now is whether this still unconsolidated presidentialist-Revolutionary Guard dictatorship can be imposed both on the population and on the decayed and divided clerical elite of mullahs that took control following the 1979 revolution. Moussavi and Rafsanjani, the main figures in the current opposition, are of course part and parcel of that old elite. If the Ahmadinejad-Revolutionary Guard repression succeeds in crushing their efforts, the democratic resistance will find new forms although the struggle will be protracted and costly.
The popular opposition lacks coherent leadership and above all, institutions capable of sustaining a long hard fight under repressive conditions. The statements of Iranian trade union militants for workers’ rights and against the dictatorship are an important stirring and powerful promise for the future, but these are only at an incipient stage. Nonetheless, the Ahmadinejad regime can neither produce economic prosperity nor satisfy people’s demands for freedom from crippling social and cultural repression. Increasingly this regime presents itself to the population as a government of gangsters.
To repeat: Nothing is so harmful to the democratic struggle in Iran as any hint of imperialist intervention, whether in the guise of “sanctions” or anything else. The right-wing politicians and “neoconservative” types who denounce Barack Obama “for failing to speak out forcefully on Iran” understand this perfectly. The existence of an unpopular and discredited Iranian dictatorship is perfectly suited to their agenda of escalating confrontation and ultimately war with Iran – an agenda they share with the Netanyahu government in Israel, threatening the most catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the world.
Standing up FOR the Iranian people’s democratic struggle and AGAINST the imperialist agenda are one and the same struggle.