Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Sukant Chandan's Response to me from 18th June 2009

Sukant Chandan Response to Iran: 1979 & 2009

Thanks Dominic for your very thoughtful piece on current events in Iran. I think it’s an important contribution amongst ourselves as to understand the unquestionably complex and at times confusing events which have been unfolding in Iran of late.

There is much with which I agree in your piece. However, I also sense some contradictions in your piece, and some other points which I would like to bring up and engage you and others reading this with.

I want to come across brotherly and in a spirit of anti-imperialism solidarity in my comments. If I inspire any negative feelings, please excuse me, it’s certainly not my intention.

I would like to start by stating that I am no natural friend of the Iranian regime. I have many problems and differences with it. I am not going to list these here, but my differences with the regime are sometimes quite deep and glaring.

Nevertheless, believing as I do in the maximum non-sectarian unity on an anti-imperialist internationalism basis, I cannot ignore that Iran is a very important state which is contributing massively to the international struggle against imperialism and for a new multi-polar world, a struggle that we need to understand and engage with more and more to contribute to the re-building of that internationalism that we lost since the 1980s.

“… since the early 90’s, which has had to deal with its own strengths and weaknesses. The reform movement has always been extremely broad in nature, encompassing figures such as Hashemi Rafsanjani, the current chair of The Assembly of Experts and former President to women’s rights activists and left wingers. Despite its breadth and in fact most probably because of this, the reform movement has always lacked a clear leadership and direction.”

You are right to highlight Rafsanjani in the reform camp; but in my understanding, he is one perhaps one of the most problematic figures in the regime who has a massive economic estate and protects some of the most corrupt mullahs in the country, something which President Nejad has attacked, but more of this later.

The point I am making is that we need to have a clear idea of what different sections of the opposition stand for, ie., where do they stand on Palestine (and Zionism), on economic rights for Iran’s poor, for relations with the West and the East, what is their attitude towards the Non-Aligned Movement, UN reform, SCO, etc. Only then can we really dissect the pros and cons of the opposition. But like you say, it seems the opposition are united only in their opposition to Nejad. So what IS the big problem with Nejad? More on this issue in a second.

“… Economically Mousavi favours further neo-liberalisation, although this is not something Ahmadinejad is specifically adverse to. The difference may be where Mousavi is happy to trade with the west, Ahmadinejad not so. To a degree this determines their stances on foreign policy. Mousavi ridiculed Ahmadinejad for the way in which he’s made Iran look childish in the face of international diplomacy. The President retorted with the idea that regardless of whether or not Iran does what the West wants, they will always face threats. It is impossible to beat The United States at their own game (i.e. within the arena of the UN).”

This is a very important section of your article, in my opinion perhaps the MOST important, as it starts to delve into what the nature of the crisis in Iran is all about, and what the main two camps – Nejad and Mousavi – stand for and against. I think this aspect, and the attitude towards regional and international issues are the two most important points that we have to look into, make sense of and that which can inform our political positions on the current crisis in Iran.

In my understanding the strategies and policies of these two camps are quite different. Mousavi seems to represent the more elite elements in the regime, and the more affluent urbane (esp in Tehran) sections of society. As you say, Mousavi is in favour of privatisation and liberalising the economy. Also standing in Mousavi’s camp, perhaps the biggest patron is the highly problematic Rafsanjani. On the regional and international positions, Mousavi represents a softer approach to the West, and perhaps not as much solid and forthright support for Lebanese Hizbullah and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

One should also keep in mind that what the West fears most, perhaps more than anything else about Iran, is it’s nuclear program. If Iran reached a stage of technology where it could convert civil use to military use, that would be the end of western and Zionist hegemony of the region. Mousavi is obviously seen by the West as the man/camp able to scupper this. Mousavi is more susceptible to putting the Iranian nuke program in the hands of some western dominated ‘international’ body, whereas Nejad is going it all by the Iranians self.

Nejad has distinguished himself in clear and militant support for the Palestinian Revolution and the Lebanese resistance. Nejad is a great proponent of an anti-imperialist international alliance, allying closely with China, Russia, Cuba, Bolivia, Brazil and of course his great friend and ours –President Chavez of Venezuela.

On these regional and international issues we outside of Iran must place special importance; when I say ‘we’ I mean those of us who believe in internationalism based upon the independence, development and social justice of the oppressed masses and nations of the world, those subject to sanctions, invasions, occupations, covert dirty tricks etc. If we believe in this internationalism then these are the most important issues upon which we must judge the two different camps.

I don’t need to stress that Iran has been under sanctions ever since 1979, has seen the region beset by Western intervention, stunting the economic development of the region, creating divisions, occupations and wars. Those asserting their independence in the world against ‘the great satan’, ie., the heroes of the Palestinian Revolution, an the Lebanese Hizbullah are close allies of Nejad and Iran. Furthermore, Nejad’s Iran has been the leading force behind trying to get the regions powers to come to the defence of the Palestinians, and as such, to the defence of themselves, as there is no progress for the region without an end to US Hegemonic control of the region which is exercised foremostly through its attack dog – the zionist state. Iran is surrounded by two imperialist occupations – in Iraq and Afgahnistan, and have been threatened with a preemptive nuclear strike for some years now.

On the other hand we have Mousavi and his camp, whose slogan is ‘Iran first’, which is a veiled attack on the anti-imperialist militancy of Nejad. Yes, we have problems with Nejad’s comments on certain things, esp the holocaust, but this is a detail and not a strategic problem with Nejad. It is rumoured that Mousavi might lessen support for the Palestinian Revolution and Hizbullah; I am not so sure about this, but one thing is clear: the West know who their preferred candidate is, and I don’t need to say that the West are fundamental to the problems of the region, and their friends are not ours.

What is possibly some of the most interesting aspects of Nejad rule is his populism. Nejad has in a most vociferous and surprising manner attacked the corruption and elitism of ruling sections in Iran, including attacking corrupt mullahs. He has given increased economic rights to some of societies poorest, and is an incredibly humble and modest president – something which is striking to everyone.

It is also true at the sametime that his economic strategy hasn’t perhaps benefitted the economy on the whole as it has led to inflation. But those who follow the reformist press in Iran like myself, know that all the criticism against Nejad’s policies are not to have better policies for the poor, but intended in defending some of societies privileged sections; as the reformist camp support neo-liberal policies. For those of us who believe in a leadership which seeks to empower some of the poorest in society, on a platform of anti-corruption of the elites, with a clear militant anti-imperialist internationalism, then Nejad is your man, and his is your camp. ‘But what about the socialist and left opposition, the too want rights for the poor!’ I hear some cry, more on this in a moment.

“What has been the state response, besides Ahmadinejad’s bizarre trip to Russia to celebrate his victory?”

Why was it ‘bizarre’? Nejad’s trip to Russia and to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is all part of the important anti-imperialist (‘multi-polar world’) rise across the world. The SCO is the closest thing to an anti-imperialist bloc which in the future can push the West out of Asia, and this process is in progress right now with this article outlining these developments:

So I would argue far from Nejad’s trip being ‘bizarre’, it shows him in one of his elements – being amongst those who are leading the rise of a new multi-polar world, ie, and end to US/western hegemony, which is the grand prize for which we have been struggle for since nearly seven centuries.

And as Nejad has gone over for the SCO conference, it is maybe another dig at Mousavi – saying to him ‘this is where my primary allies are, and I am not one for pussy-footing with the west’.

“Yes there has been repression of the most brutal kind. We’ve all seen the images of blood stained University halls, motorbiked thugs chasing protestors and street clashes …
“In addition foreign media has been restricted, the internet and mobile phone calls limited and other repressive techniques that can only be inflicted by state apparatus.”

You mention the brutal repression, but don’t mention the context in which they have taken place. I would put this repression into context of the provocations of some of the students who wanted to burn down the Basij base. It’s tragic and sad, but not surprising that those who want to burn down the building of the revolutionary guards, then see the guards hitting back, it has to be said AFTER they were besieged. Who were these students? What is the sense in these provocations? Tragic deaths are the result, and a deepening of the sense of confrontation, which I don’t think is to anyone’s advantage in Iran.

Students are mainstays of the banned opposition movements, and there has been a long history of student based anti-regime elements, and the regime clamping down on them. It’s been terrible that students have been attacked on their campuses and some reportedly killed, but we have to also put some responsibility at least on those students who are out to overthrow the regime, which results in the regime coming down hard on some students.

As for the restrictions on the foreign media etc, I think Obama let it out of the bag when he successfully for Twitter to keep them online when they were going to be shut today for maintenance work. I don’t think any of us are so naïve as to be blind to the fact that mainstream Western media outlets are arms of the western states and serve their states, not the Iranians. And seeing that the Iranians have plenty of examples as to the dirty role of these agencies in many other peoples affairs,, then no-one can accuse them, let alone those advocating non-western-intervention in Iran, that they have strict restrictions on them.

“One thing that is absolutely clear is that any repression of any protest is unacceptable. People have the right to protest and political expression and any attempts to halt this must be rejected.”

So would you support the protests of people burning down government buildings? The seriousness of the situation in Iran is partly highlighted when you go on to state:

“The simple answer is that as far as the imperialists are concerned, this could be the perfect opportunity to dismantle Iran as an obstacle to the domination of the Middle East. The Iraq war has only strengthened Iran as a regional power; all the worse that it is prepared to stand up to the West. Very few countries are as vocal as Iran on issues such as Palestine and very few countries, if any, can or will not provide the support that the resistance across the Middle East needs.”

So seeing that this is the perfect opportunity for the West to push their strategies in regard to Iran (which I agree with of course) it is natural for their direct and indirect allies to do all that they can in Iran to make things hard for the regime. I am sure you know that there are many kinds of groupings in Iran which are in a war with the state and have backing by the West (the MKO is an obvious example), and many others who are supported, based, financed etc by the West. In this context, I think the Iranian sate is much more relaxed than I thought they might be, with very little police around on the Mousavi protests, apart from when after there was some skirmishes, especially around the Guards base issue.

“… The simple answer is that as far as the imperialists are concerned, this could be the perfect opportunity to dismantle Iran as an obstacle to the domination of the Middle East. The Iraq war has only strengthened Iran as a regional power; all the worse that it is prepared to stand up to the West. Very few countries are as vocal as Iran on issues such as Palestine and very few countries, if any, can or will not provide the support that the resistance across the Middle East needs.

“We must be clear that we will not allow the West to hijack this movement and use it to its advantage. Since 1989 western powers have used genuinely democratic movements to further their own aims, as seen across Eastern Europe and beyond. The same cannot and must not happen with Iran. … The Iranian people are displaying that they are not ‘too oppressed to fight back’ or in any way too weak to fight their own battles. They do not want western intervention and they do not need western intervention.”

“The Iranian left needs to play a better role and provide some organisation to the movement. … Victory to the Iranian people; against both their oppressors in the regime and the global imperialist project.”

The question of the Iranian and anti-imperialism in the context of Iran is a very important issue that needs a lot of debate. My position is that the Iranian left are playing, for the most part, directly or indirectly the job of the West. I saw an Iranian leftist (perhaps some of you know who he is, as I recognise him, but don’t know his name) on Newsnight the other day, giving an Iranian voice to the West’s attitude towards Iran.

Some socialists in the West are supporting the left who are active in the Mousavi camp. This is very ironic, because here you have a ‘left’ allied to a political camp of the corrupt elites, and those who want to water down the Iranian state’s anti-imperialism. This is not new, as this has happens and is happening in many areas around the world from Venezuela, Zimbabwe, China, Lebanon, Iraq and many other places, where the left are allied to the west’s allies who are often some far from socialistic groupings.

If the Iranian left were a major mass force in Iran; if they had a good anti-imperialist practice and position; if they had a good chance at capturing power: perhaps people should seriously consider supporting them. But it seems they are very marginal, so establishing one’s position on Iran from an anti-imperialist perspective based merely on these minute leftist elements is at best missing the whole nature of this clash in Iran, and at worst is avoiding some hard decisions and allowing the West to take the political advantage in terms of how current events in Iran are reported and (mis)understood.

It’s also very dangerous to the left groups in Iran itself to think that they are getting support from those in the West, as it may add to their sense of confidence in confronting the state, which will lead to more arrests, jail and unfortunately deaths for some more.

I don’t know how much you have thought about your concluding slogan:

“Victory to the Iranian people; against both their oppressors in the regime and the global imperialist project”

But for me it raises some problems: when the main clash is between two camps, why should we not discuss this central issue rather than be drawn into subsidiary issues about opposing the West and the oppressors in the regime?

Also those amongst the left who are supporting the Mousavi camp because some Iranian left-wingers are in and around that camp, fail to recognise a much more important issue which effects the Iranian masses and poor and the masses of the people in the region, and in relation to which, the world anti-imperialist movement. For those in the left who believe in social justice on a national and international scale, Nejad’s camp is advocating this, in the face of resistance of the Mousavi camp.

Finally, we have to constantly revise and understand the contradictions within the struggles of the peoples of the South, such as the one taking place in Iran, and also the machinations of the West and especially the USA and UK. This is especially important as we have entered into a crucial phase of the anti-imperialist struggle, where the US and the West have taken a massive beating thanks to the twin tracks of resistance in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan etc, and the rise of the third world economies led by China, but also Brazil, Venezuela, Iran etc. If Obama is a good guy personally, he is being used by the elites to further their aims by other more crafty and subtle means, but trying to enforce their retreating hegemonic position all the same.

Obama’s speech in Cairo, far from a new positive era with the region, has led or perhaps has problematically contributed to the current crisis in Iran, in the sense that Mousavi’s camp and followers think they can throw out the militants (Nejad etc) now they have a ‘good guy’ to deal with in Obama. And also Obama’s speech has egged on those Tehrani elites who think they got a nod from Obama to get rid of that little upstart and friend of the resistance – President Nejad.

The anti-imperialist approach, as expressed by Tupac Amaru, Simon Bolivar, through to Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Leila Khaled, Lumumba and today with Hizbullah and Chavez is never to stop intensifying your struggle; increase one’s assertiveness and confidence in material, spiritual, cultural and armed strength is the ONLY path to complete liberation. In this, I know who I am with in Iran, despites all the hype from the west, a hype which I don’t trust; and I take this position despite my differences, sometimes serious, with the Iranian regime.

Look forward to yours and others thoughts and reflections on this issue.


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