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Iranian protesters deserve support Print E-mail

I AM writing to express my concern about the insistence by some far left groups to refuse support for the movement unfolding in Iran against the current theocratic government.

The assumption is that, because it would serve the interests of U.S. imperialism or was completely orchestrated by CIA, and that opposition candidate Mousavi raised the notion of friendlier relations with the West, any movement that started because of an election stolen from him is not legitimate.

Unfortunately, this misled perspective leaves folks lending political support to a government while it is cracking down with brutal force against a pro-democracy movement.

Of course, we should oppose U.S. intervention in Iran--as any anti-imperialist should, given the history of military intervention for so-called "humanitarian efforts." But we certainly should not end up supporting a contending ruling class just because the movement there is not politically developed or revolutionary enough. This is a horrible way to answer the question of which side you are on.

It's true that the struggle in Iran is not a socialist one. It's true that many, but not all, protesters see Mousavi, a neoliberal capitalist politician, as a leader of their movement. This is not sufficient justification to abandon it to its fate.

Movements are dynamic and transformative events that do not follow a steady line from start to finish. The people in the streets challenging the Iranian state are not mindless drones following orders; they are thinking, breathing human beings fed up with how their society is run, and looking for and trying to create an alternative. In many ways, they are searching for and acting in ways far beyond what would-be puppet masters would like, such as calling for general strikes against the government and the creation of shoras (workers councils).

We must be in solidarity with the demands being raised, such as doing away with the Guardian Council (which currently decides who can run for president), freeing political prisoners, freedom of speech and the press, the right to strike and assemble, the right to organize independent trade unions, an end to forced veiling, and the call for unemployment insurance and a minimum wage.

I don't know to what extent these demands are put forward by the movement as a whole, but insofar as they do exist, it is because people who hold those ideas promoted them in the struggle against the government.

If radicals there were indifferent to the legitimate plight of people because destabilizing Iran would help the U.S., the movement's demands and organized expression would likely be weaker.

Besides, I think the last thing the U.S. wants is a mass movement challenging an undemocratic government in that region, because so much U.S. foreign policy depends on similar regimes maintaining order. The U.S. may actually want this movement to lose so as not to provide a positive example. Opposing this movement might actually help U.S. imperialism!

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THE BIGGEST problem I have with the political perspective that mistakenly dismisses the protesters as stooges for U.S. imperialism is that leftists are turning their backs on the people that they should be engaged in struggle with.

Socialists do not just wait around until a movement is sufficiently socialist to participate or support it. We should engage in real world movements, especially when they are bringing masses into motion, to deepen their politics, harden their demands and strengthen their organization. What better circumstances to discuss what can be done with the power of the working class than when it is in motion?

Opposing this movement and refusing to take its side does nothing but disregard the people of Iran with no support, no solidarity. What does this accomplish? You end up granting legitimacy to reactionary bloodletting in Iran done by the government and by the right-wing militias roaming the streets. The movement against these forces and for democracy is a progressive one and must be supported.

Too many on the left have decried this movement in the name of "anti-imperialism," and some even suggest that Iran's opposition to the U.S. is from some such principled position.

Let us not forget that Iran fits into a competing imperial order. Iran has capital investments outside of its borders and is contending with the U.S. for influence in the Middle East. Iran is an observing member in a regional strategic alliance called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization headed by Russia and China, countries with their own imperial projects. In addition, the current government under Ahmadinejad is selling off state assets to private investors and is seriously opposed to workers' right to organize independent unions.

Ahmadinejad's opposition to the U.S. is no reason to come down on his side in the confrontation developing in Iran, and that logic is in contradiction with internationalism. Supporting this right-wing government against the protesters is not the same as supporting a national liberation movement against occupation.

Refusing support to the movement in Iran does nothing to advance the cause of socialism. We should not confuse support for the right to self-determination in Iran without U.S. interference with support for Iranian capitalism and repression against people in the streets.

No doubt that if I was in Iran, I would be in the streets fighting for democracy against the current government, and promoting socialism as an alternative to this system of injustice and brutality. I think most people who want to transform the world into a better place would be there as well.

Much solidarity to the movement in Iran.
Ben Daniels, Madison, Wis.

  1. [1] http://socialistworker.org/department/Readers%27-Views
  2. [2] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0
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