Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts and related links on Iran

Of course, the media circus surrounding Michael Jackson's death has had the inevitable effect of distracting attention away from events in Iran. But, as lenin reminds us, there is still much to unpack in that situation. In that post, lenin is discussing the image of Ahmadinejad as some kind of populist leader:
The more that comes out about the elections, the more it is clear that they exposed a raging war in the ruling class over political ascendancy and property, with relatively minor differences on other matters exaggerated. The second point is that the right-wing bloc behind Ahmadinejad has tended to use anti-imperialist rhetoric to justify the most naked transfer of wealth from the public sphere to capital, particularly to more influential players in the bazaari class and state-affiliated capitalists. They shake their fists at Washington just as they're about to go further toward neoliberalism than even the IMF proposed. And they justify it by referring to the need to break the sanctions imposed by Washington. This policy is obviously designed not to enrich the poor or sustain them in the long term, or strengthen their bargaining power as workers, but specifically to reduce their long-term wealth and purchasing power by redirecting a larger portion of socially produced wealth to a specific sector of the capitalist class.
As ever, lenin's been very sensible about the events in Iran, allowing his own analysis to unfold over time (with posts here, here, here, here, here, and here), while also allowing for various conflicting posts from Yoshie (for example, here and here), which has enabled some very interesting discussions to unfold at Lenin's Tomb. I have also appreciated posts from Richard Estes at American Leftist, here and here. In addition, he has again reminded me that I should be reading Angry Arab, As'ad Abukhalil's blog, more regularly.

I highlight these posts in particular because I've been suspicious of the rush to judgment, the rush to interpret these events in terms reduced to our debased sense of political process and our woeful understanding of the history of the region, along with all of our cultural biases about Iran. I am not very knowledgeable about Iran. I do know something about what the British and Americans have done in Iran, from the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 to meddling in the Iranian revolution of the 1970s, from the Iran-Iraq War to Iran-Contra. I know a lot of facts about these things, which I could string along as some sort of semi-coherent narrative about American imperialism and capitalist accumulation in the post-WWII era. Most of what I know about these things is cobbled together from books like Edward Said's Covering Islam, William Blum's Killing Hope and Rogue State, Tariq Ali's The Clash of Fundamentalisms, and Mahmood Mamdami's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, not to mention various Noam Chomsky titles read over the years. But I don't know anything about Iran, about Iranians, the actual people, and I'm not likely to become well-versed enough to write well on the topic.

For this reason, I appreciated another recent lenin post ("The pitfalls of premature eloquence") in which he decried this rush to judgment, the tendency towards "instapunditry":
The dilemma faced by commentators of all kinds, not just bloggers, on the Iranian protests can be summarised by a single, annoying portmanteau word: instapunditry. The pressure to take a view prematurely in such a situation can only produce a series of stock responses, either based on CNN filtered news, or speculation from various samizdat-style websites, or material provided by the Iranian media itself. And after all, while these protests had precedent in previous student and workers rebellions, the sheer scale of upheaval had no precedent in the entire history of Islamic Republic. How to relate to that?

It has been possible to be both eloquent and consistent only [by] relying on an analysis made for a different situation that seems to fit.
My own time constraints aside, this is exactly why I have previously not written about the protests in Iran (and, frankly, why I generally avoid writing about unfolding current events as they happen, except insofar as they seem directly related to something specific I may be reading--for example, the financial meltdown happening as I'm reading Marx or Harvey or whomever).

In any event, lack of sufficient knowledge to form my own coherent analysis does not prevent me from noticing that something has been going on. It may not be quite the clear-cut conflict favored in the liberal press (or, certainly, the conservative press), but still, as lenin puts it:
anyone on the left who doesn't see an emancipatory dimension in the protests is politically defunct. The bloodless lack of enthusiasm for what is manifestly a democratic movement in some of the commentary reflects not anti-imperialist sensibilities so much as political timidity. The key here is universality: these protesters are no different from those who have been beaten or killed in Genoa, in London, in LA, in Athens, and everywhere that the state is challenged by a democratic movement and responds in this way. Their case for solidarity is not diminished by the fact that they live in a society that has been threatened by imperialism.
So it goes without saying, though here I am somewhat belatedly saying it, that I stand in solidarity with the people of Iran. Indeed where previously this blog has taken time to argue against the facile demonization of Ahmadinejad, it has been precisely because this (ongoing) characterization of him in the American press and by American political leaders lays the groundwork for a potential attack on Iran, which of course threatens not Ahmadinejad at all, but the lives of those very people protesting (a point made well two weeks ago by Glenn Greenwald, link via both Andrew Seal and Aaron Bady; the latter, incidentally, also has written a thoughtful post on Iran and non-violent action).

Finally, to close this scattershot entry, this statement of solidarity (link first seen at Lenin's Tomb) from the Venezuelan Revolutionary Marxist Current is well worth reading--it contrasts the current events in Iran with the Bolivarian Revolution, while also offering some useful history about the Iranian Revolution itself and the counter-revolution that has been the Islamic Republic.

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