[Marxism] Iranian Privatization (was: Models

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Mon Aug 21 13:40:32 MDT 2006

On 8/21/06, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> Lou Paulsen wrote:
> >I think it is certainly true though that Ahmadinejad had the APPEARANCE at
> >election time of an anti-privatization candidate.  And he has, as Yoshie
> >said, stalled the process somewhat.  Do we know that Danesh-Jafari is
> >really Ahmadinejad's "hand-picked" candidate?  As opposed to being chosen
> >by Khamenei or as the result of some compromise?  I'm not saying that
> >because I have a great deal of faith in Ahmadinejad's  standing firm
> >against privatization, but because I really don't know what to expect and
> >am looking for clues.
> But isn't that what is wrong with Iranian politics? It is like trying to
> decipher policy developments in the Kremlin during the late 1950s.
> Everything is filtered through the theocratic maw. Khamenei, who is
> supposedly really running Iran, tells the world that "This government
> [Ahmadinejad] is the most favorite government of Iran since 100 years ago".
> But it is Khamenei who is pushing for the very policy that Ahmadinejad is
> opposed to. That's why Iran needs DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS, so that workers can
> press for their own demands without having paternalistic leaders speaking
> on their behalf. Lenin fought for democratic rights not because he had a
> fetish for such things but because they would facilitate the struggle for
> socialism.

You ever take a look at politics in Japan, where all basic democratic
freedoms (e.g., competitive multi-party election, proportional
representation, freedoms of speech, press, association, etc., workers'
rights, women's rights, etc.) that capitalist states allow exist,
unlike in Iran, and where workers have mass institutions on the Left
-- i.e., the JCP, Zenroren, and civil society organizations allied
with them in a Popular Front style -- (such as they are), unlike in
the USA?  And yet, much of politics on most important issues still
takes place exactly in the way that politics in Iran is conducted, as
a faction fight in the one long-standing ruling party.  E.g., take the
politics of privatization of the Japan Postal Service, for instance:

<blockquote>If some in Japan's business and financial circles had
convinced themselves that a new era of dealmakers and 'value' had
thrown the old bureaucrat-run economy into permanent eclipse, behind
the scenes Japan's Ministry of Finance—and its offshoot, the Financial
Supervisory Agency—was still calling the most important shots. This
was evident in the bill to 'privatize' the postal savings system, upon
which Koizumi hung his spectacularly successful September 2005 call
for elections to choose a new Diet. On the surface, this seemed the
perfect contest between the dinosaurs of old, bureaucratic Japan and
the new order. Postal savings have been the central financial pillar
of the 1955 system. Collected through a dense network of post offices
that blankets the country, they form the world's largest pool of
discretionary cash. This has traditionally been turned over to the
Ministry of Finance, which has used the money to sop up Japanese
government bonds, finance projects in the districts of ldp politicians
and support the dollar. Post offices offer slightly higher interest
rates, more branches and friendlier service than the traditionally
haughty banks. Postmasters, particularly in rural areas, are important
local figures, often with ldp connections; it is not unusual for the
position to be passed from father to son.

Koizumi ostentatiously burnished his 'reform' credentials by picking a
fight with ldp backbenchers who opposed the Japan Post 'privatization'
bill. They understood that it represented a first step in draining the
source of their power—the networks of rural ldp supporters whose jobs
are financed, directly or indirectly, by postal savings. But the
notion that the bill heralded the emergence of a shareholder-driven
economy overlooked the fact that the bill had been written by the
Ministry of Finance (Koizumi admitted that he had not even read it);
it implied that mof bureaucrats were prepared to cede control of
restructuring the Japanese economy to investment bankers and capital
markets. To be sure, Koizumi pulled off an impressive political
sleight-of-hand. His opponents in the ldp, closely linked to the
rural-based construction industry and the post office bureaucracy,
fell for his ploy of announcing he would call an election if the bill
were defeated. They voted it down, allowing him to define the election
as a choice between 'reform'—himself and his handpicked candidates—and
those 'against change': anyone who opposed him. The manoeuvre sucked
out of the system the oxygen that might otherwise have permitted
genuine champions of reform to start a small fire.

In reality, Koizumi's 'landslide' re-election in September 2005
entrenched the power of the Ministry of Finance over the Japanese
economy. The Japan Post bill was promptly reintroduced and passed.
There was never any possibility that the postal savings were going to
be suddenly withdrawn from the markets for us and Japanese government
debt securities, in order to chase higher returns elsewhere; for at
least ten years the money remains largely at the disposal of the mof,
which has no desire to spark soaring interest rates or a currency
crisis. What the new law did do was create a situation in which less
of the postal savings need be diverted to rural white elephants and
more can be devoted to dealing with Japan's sagging public finances
and restructuring the financial system.  (R. Taggart Murphy, "East
Asian Dollars," New Left Review 40, July-August 2006,

That said, one of the reasons why I look on Ahmadinejad's rise
favorably is that his popularity checks the power of leaders who are
not directly elected, such as the Supreme Leader, the Expediency
Council, the Guardian Council, Head of the Judiciary, and generals of
the Armed Forces.

<blockquote>The role of the supreme leader in the constitution is
based on the ideas
of Ayatollah Khomeini. The supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali
Khamene'i, appoints
the head of the judiciary, six of the members of the powerful Guardian Council,
the commanders of all the armed forces, Friday prayer leaders, and the
head of radio
and television. He also confirms the election of the president. The
supreme leader is
chosen by the clerics who make up the Assembly of Experts. Tensions between the
office of the leader and the office of the president have often been
the source of political
instability. These tensions have increased since the election of
President Mohammed
Khatami—a reflection of the deeper tensions between religious rule and
the democratic
aspirations of most Iranians.  (William O. Beeman, "Elections and
Governmental Structure in Iran: Reform Lurks Under the Flaws," Brown
Journal of World Affairs 11.1, Summer/Fall 2004, p. 4)</blockquote>

The Supreme Leader, however, is indirectly elected, i.e., chosen by
the directly elected Assembly of Experts: "The responsibilities of the
Assembly of Experts are to appoint the
supreme leader, monitor his performance and remove him if he is deemed
incapable of
fulfilling his duties. The assembly usually holds two sessions a year.
Direct elections for
the eighty-six members of the current assembly were last held in 1998"
(Beeman, p. 5).  While "[o]nly clerics can join the assembly and
candidates for election are vetted by the Guardian Council" (Beeman,
p. 5), the assembly election is another way through which masses can
press for change.  The next election is due to take place in October

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