[Marxism] Iranian Privatization (was: Models

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 21 13:51:56 MDT 2006

Yoshie wrote:

>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:

I am not sure what your point is. For workers, democratic rights is a means 
to an end. You seem to be talking about bourgeois democracy, which of 
course is characterized by closed-door permanent government arrangements. I 
don't really have to study Japan to understand this. I live in the USA, 
after all.

In any case, I am not pinning my hopes on Ahmadinejad on any improvement 
for working class democracy in Iran. Iran has a theocratic *system*. 
Whatever he has said about privatization, he does not challenge the 
underlying authority of the clerics. Real change will come in Iran when 
this fundamentally anti-democratic system is challenged from top to bottom.

You say that your look on Ahmadinejad's rise favorably because 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."

Interesting that you would omit an institution that serves to intimidate 
people from exercising their democratic rights, one that Ahmadinejad 
proudly served in: the revolutionary guards.

The Observer, July 18, 1999
Islam's warriors scent blood;
The hardline guardians of Khomeini's revolution have turned the streets of 
Tehran into a battlefield as students seek reform.


THE BLOODSTAINED shirt he was wearing sits in a glass case, along with a 
letter Ali Maliki wrote to his mother before he died in the Iran-Iraq war: 
'As a humble member of the Basij, I have fully chosen to go to the front to 
eliminate the enemies of the almighty Allah.'

Here, in the 'martyrs' museum' next to the Chizar mosque, the Islamic 
Revolution continues. Twenty years ago the Basij, an Islamic militia with a 
membership of two to three million, defended Iran against invading Iraqi 
troops. Today the battle lies within; the front line is in the streets of 
Tehran and is patrolled by Basij footsoldiers armed and trained by the 
Sepah, Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

When pro-democracy students marched through the capital last week, Hamid 
Chizari - and dozens of other Basij commanders based in mosques - issued 
the orders. 'I told my men to restore the peace,' Chizari said. 'Some Basij 
around Tehran University who are trained in combat were given batons. 
Everyone had a job. In the war, the Basij proved they would protect society 
until the last drop of blood was spilled. Today their mission continues.'

At the Noorian mosque and clinic complex in central Tehran, a leader of the 
Basij boasted: 'We have cleaned up everywhere and now we are into the final 

As pro-democracy demonstrators shouted 'Death or Freedom' last Wednesday, 
they felt the Basij's bloody blows, backed by intelligence agents shooting 
automatic rifles in the air.

At a less violent rally the day before, when protesters burnt tyres in a 
central square, the Basij swept in to maintain order. 'Freedom does not 
mean the right to create chaos,' Chizari said. 'The Basij did not take a 
side in all this, they just defended our Islamic values.'

The genie that has emerged from the worst protests since the Islamic 
Revolution cannot simply be put back in the bottle. So which Iran will 
prevail? The Iran of hardliners, whose actions are still influenced by 
revolutionary fervour and warlike passion? Or the future republic that 
reformers, such as the students, hope to build? Rising tension between them 
was bound to erupt on a massive scale.

With the 1997 election of the moderate President Mohammad Khatami, the 
struggle was cast in terms of freedom and civil society. But it was always 
about giving society enough room to breathe.

When teenagers drive to restaurants and parties at night, they must pass 
Basij checkpoints. If young women are in the company of men, they must 
prove the couples are either married or related.

When young boys and girls stroll in parks, it is the Basij who check the 
girls' headscarves to see if they conform with the law and cover the neck 
and hair. Knapsacks are inspected in search of illegal music cassettes or 

On university campuses, the Basij act as an arm of the police. They 
maintain their own headquarters, from where their soldiers are dispatched 
to enforce dress codes and other social regulations. Their main role is 
intelligence -gathering, with any information being handed over to 
undercover police.

Chizari admitted the Basij have earned their fearsome reputation. 'Many 
Basij are volunteers and inexperienced, and they act out of emotion and in 
harsh ways. But our aim is to fight for the velayat-e faqh - the principle 
of supreme clerical rule.'

Basij commanders distinguish between their officially sanctioned 
organisation and the unofficial Ansar-e Hizbollah, which enjoys support 
within the clerical establishment. The Ansar, with the help of police, 
started the clash that led to a week of protests. On 8-9 July, they stormed 
the dormitories, beat the students with clubs, sprayed tear gas and left 
many victims in pools of blood.

'Many people think we are one and the same,' Chizari said. 'But we have 
deserted the Ansar - they are too extremist. There can be no justification 
for beating sleeping students.'

Much is unknown about the days of unrest: from the identities of the 
proteesters to the number of arrests and injuries. Even the number of 
students killed in the first clash is a mystery: officials confirmed one 
dead, but eye -witnesses say many more died. One major factor complicating 
an already confused situation is the sacred status of students in Iran. 
They fought to topple the Shah 20 years ago and the loyalty of the 
universities was ensured by the subsequent cultural revolution.

Khatami was elected with the overwhelming support of students, but 
deep-rooted dissatisfaction on campuses today is not something the 
establishment is willing to face. Some who remained at rallies on the 
campuses, he said, were indeed championing democracy. But those who took to 
the streets were part of a 'deviant movement'.

As conservatives and hardliners gathered on Friday for prayers in central 
Tehran, where the pulpit is used as a political forum, many minimised the 
week's tragedy. Others denied the facts. A senior cleric said the tens of 
thousands of protesters could not have been students, because 'they don't 
participate in anti-revolutionary rallies'.

Chizari said he read reports on thousands who were arrested during the 
week. 'Some of these were hooligans who had criminal records.' Indeed, the 
student demonstrators were joined by disaffected citizens. In a clash that 
flared up near Tehran's grand bazaar, windows were smashed at two state 
banks and at least one police car set ablaze. The bazaar was forced to close.

As Iran tries to regain a sense of normality, the two sides are more 
divided than ever. Even Chizari, who is more sympathetic than most 
conservatives to the pro-democracy movement, vows to continue the struggle.

'We must preserve order because our enemies, the United States and Israel, 
are waiting for the smallest opening to achieve their goal of destroying 
the Islamic Republic,' he said, sitting near a poster carrying these words 
of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's late revolutionary leader: 'If you 
are killed you will be sent to heaven.'



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