[Marxism] What Do the Iranians Want?

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Thu Jul 13 16:40:24 MDT 2006

What Do the Iranians Want?
by Yoshie Furuhashi

The priority of the Iranian people, according to the Zogby poll
released on 13 July 2006,1 is economy: 41% say economy should be
Iran's top priority, a far larger proportion than those who regard
nuclear capability (27%) or freedom (23%) as the most important.  The
correct priority if you ask me, as the Supreme Leader of Iran --
wishing to check the growing popularity of the President of Iran2 by
allying more with the Shark (aka Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani) -- plots the country's entry into the World Trade
Organization and hopes for a grand bargain with the United States a la
Nixon in China.3  In reality, the economically disenfranchised in Iran
face struggles on two fronts: to defend Iran's sovereignty against
Western imperialism (first economic sanctions and then war and "regime
change") and to fight for an economy that serves their needs, rather
than the interests of what Tariq Ali called the mullah-bazaari nexus.4

To be more precise, struggles over Iran's economy and sovereignty are
inseparable.  It is no secret that the West's ire against Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad originates in part in his economic program: among others,
wage increases, lower interests for the poor, investment in education,
subsidies for the newly wed, and redistribution that favors rural
areas: "In recent weeks, he has proposed a $4 billion national
school-renovation program and has raised not only salaries for workers
in Iran's vast, government-controlled industrial sector but also the
minimum wage for everyone else.  He doubled government grants for
newlyweds and forced banks to lower interest rates by several
percentage points";5 and "expenditures in rural areas increased by as
much as 180 percent in his first year as president."6  Above all, his
opposition to privatization has irked the rulers of the multinational
empire: "I have ordered the economy and industry ministers to stop all
privatisations, where people's rights have been trampled,' Ahmadinejad
said on June 8.  'This government does not allow some people to
plunder public property.'"7  Ali Khamenei's aforementioned gambits8
are designed to kill two birds at the same time, placating the bazaari
interests spooked by the expansive fiscal and monetary policy that
favors the poor9 and making overtures to the West, whose rulers covet
Iran's assets and no doubt want to put the Iranians on a diet of

How does gender figure in this two-front struggle?  More men (43%)
than women (33%) prioritize economy, and "[w]omen were more likely
than men to say they wanted a more liberal, secular society."10
What's the implication of Iranian men and women's opinions about
economy and freedom?  A movement that seeks to advance women's
rights11 strictly on the liberal grounds of equal rights, divorced
from the struggle for economic justice for both men and women, is
likely to appeal to only a minority of Iranians who can afford to
prioritize freedom over economy (which is why voters rejected
neoliberal reformists in the last presidential election in Iran12),
thus doing a disservice to women who need and want equality.

Here, the twin success of liberal feminism (prevailing over
working-class feminism envisioned by socialist women) -- whose goal is
the equal right to exploit or get exploited -- and economic
neoliberalism -- which restored profitability by busting unions and
eliminating union jobs in the male-dominated manufacturing sector,
exploiting women and undocumented immigrants in the low-wage service
sector, and getting rid of or radically contracting social welfare
programs -- in the United States should serve as a cautionary tale for
Iranian women.  The feminism that is in the interest of all Iranian
women (rather than benefiting rich women at the expense of poor
women)13 is not the kind that fits into the ethos of economic
neoliberalism, whose results are the feminization of poverty and the
criminalization of the poorest working-class men in the United States,
but the kind that empowers women as equal partners to men in their
joint struggle for political and economic democracy and
republicanism,14 i.e. the vision of the Bolivarian Revolution in



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