[Marxism] Iranian Privatization (was: Models

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Mon Aug 21 14:27:40 MDT 2006

On 8/21/06, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> 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.

Sometimes, workers have conscious or unconscious ends, reforms or
revolutions, to attain which they can seize hold of available means;
other times, they don't, and available means basically go unused.

Some rights and freedoms, such as the right to abortion and the
freedom of speech, are ends in themselves as well as means to further
political advancement.

That said, my point is that what looks like opaque faction fight
matters a great deal, be it in Japan or Iran; that sometimes the
weight of institutions, e.g. bureaucracy in the case of JPS
privatization in Japan, and other political and economic
considerations, e.g., the need to counter US threats in the case of
privatization in Iran, can prevail against the desire for neoliberal
reform on the part of some classes and factions; workers can and
should learn to see what is at stake in each political struggle,
whether it plays out as a faction fight in one ruling party or an
electoral competition between parties or an armed struggle.

> 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.

Who will challenge the system in Iran from top to bottom and how?
Masses of workers need capable leaders whom they can push to change
the system, should they become desirous of changing it.

> 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 Revolutionary Guards and the Armed Forces are both under the
command of the Supreme Leader: "While the two bodies were once
separate, the army under the control of the president, and the
Revolutionary Guard under the control of the supreme leader, during
the administration of President Hashemi Rafasanjani, both bodies were
placed under a joint general command under the direction of the
supreme leader. Today, all leading army and Revolutionary Guard
commanders are appointed by the supreme leader and are answerable only
to him" (William O. Beeman, "Elections and Governmental Structure in
Iran: Reform Lurks Under the Flaws," Brown Journal of World Affairs
11.1, Summer/Fall 2004, pp. 4-5).

Any political leader in Iran who cannot transfer the allegiance of
critical masses of soldiers in both the Armed Forces and the
Revolutionary Guards to himself, away from the Supreme Leader, will be
incapable of making any significant social change, let alone changing
the system from top to bottom, for he and his supporters will be
vulnerable to the Supreme Leader's use of those institutions.  That is
why I regard Ahmadinejad's Revolutionary Guards backgrounds and his
service in the Iran-Iraq War as a positive.

Unless you are planning to wage a Maoist-style People's War, whose
prerequisites do not exist in the predominantly urban and proletarian
Iran today, you'll have to bring the Army and the Guards on your side.
 Otherwise, you and your supporters won't last.

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