What happened in Iran?

Submitted by Newcastle on 16 July, 2009 - 8:22

Now the street mobilisations in Iran have ended, at least for now, how should socialists assess what happened? Here we print the reflections of an Iranian student activist now living in England.

People choose from the available alternatives to improve their daily life. For some people Mousavi represents the stream able to attain that. If in Iranian political life a better choice emerges, they might converge on that.

The “principlists” [Khomeiny-ite hard-libers] have arrested all the key activists of the reformist movement — their political leaders, strategists, campaigners, journalists and even feminists and student activists in order to defend the election result and to avoid further turmoil and tensions.

The Islamic Republic establishment has had two wings with serious disagreements. Is there going to be more repression in Iran? That is still on open question which depends on many factors.

However, Saeed Hajjarian, the reformists’ strategist, who is now imprisoned, has a thesis which goes, “push from below, compromise on above”.

And this is what happened in last month. Reformists demonstrated their power and influence in big cities to show to their rival that they have a bigger proportion of power. However, the most prominent figures of the reformists are imprisoned. So, it is too soon to judge.

Division among the reformists is possible. One part of them will stay with the regime and try to make change via internal, official channels, and another part will separate off.

In the mainstream media, we saw a mass of people rioting in the street, marching, fighting, and throwing stones at the police. This picture seems very radical, but illuminates only part of the picture. I would say the movement was being pumped up by the power of the reformists.

The significant mistake which all the experts made was assessing these incidents as an attempt to overthrow the regime — or more radically as a revolution.

But the motivation behind the movement was a rigged election. Their definition of victory would not necessarily have been anything more than recounting the votes or a cancellation of the election. I don’t think the masses would have stayed in the street if they had achieved either of these things.

This movement reflected the Iranian middle-class demands which are represented by the reformists’ slogans. Most protesters in the street were people who have got access to the internet (Facebook users and YouTube account holders) and people who have got mobiles to record film on the streets. (Obviously it played the role of an alternative media.) But most working-class people in countries such as Iran don’t have access to these things.

The Iranian middle class is a considerable proportion of the society. They live in big cities (like Tehran); they have the social weight to form, shape and present their demands as the interests of society.

You can judge on a movement by its interests, demands and slogans and what they stand for. What is this movement’s main slogan? It is “where is my vote?”, “Allah-o-Akbar” (“God is great”), “Down with Dictator” or something like that.

There are some people who believe that situations like that offer opportunities to express ideas. I agree one hundred percent.

The Iranian middle class participated in these protests and shouted they want to change! But they don’t aim to shut down the government or make a revolution. Iranian people showed that they are ready to make reform and also they are ready to pay for that, even in blood.

In the Iranian revolution, the Iranian working class participated and brought the Shah to his knees, but during the conflicts after the election, the Iranian working class was absent and didn’t participate. It seems they don’t see any mutual interests with the green movement around Mousavi.

Most importantly, Ahmadinejad, speaking about supporting poor people, has gained quite significant influence among the workers. In the last four years Ahmadinejad, by distributing a lot of money to poor people, and offering different types of loans to them, has made himself a reputation and won influence among them.

Consequently, it is not only “principlists” (hard liners) who support the current president; his faction has got social roots.

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