TEN TUMULTUOUS DAYS
Ardeshir Ommani, July 11, 2009
The ten days of turmoil in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election sharply divided world public opinion into two opposite poles: those who believed in and supported Iran’s sovereignty and independence, mainly the working people of Iran and the peoples of the developing countries, on one hand, and those whose interests lie in believing in U.S. hegemony in the Middle East and the domination of monopoly capital over the world’s human and natural resources, on the other.
The latter camp consisting of the White House and the State Department spokespersons, the reporters and so-called “Iran Experts” of the corporate and liberal media outlets, the gurus of the financial establishments, the Trotskyites of the Fourth International, the neo-conservatives and the world Zionist entities, the infamous Iranian terrorist group, Mojahedin Khalq (MKO), and the remnants of the late Shah’s monarchial regime, all in unison hailed the defeated Iranian Presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, as winner and heralded his raucous and revolting supporters as the champions of freedom, human rights and progress.
During those ten tumultuous days, the domestic supporters of Mousavi shut down a large part of the city of Tehran, the capital, and as a consequence forced the business establishment, the lifeline of the country’s economy, to close and a minority of the demonstrators brought about considerable destruction and human casualties by putting the cars, trucks, buildings and police precincts on fire and as a result of confronting pro-Ahmadinejad supporters, caused the deaths of twenty persons, including eight security personnel who were not equipped with fire arms, unlike the heavily armed machine gun-toting U.S. riot-control SWAT teams.
Pre-Emption, A La Bush
Although the legal avenues and lawful channels suggested to Mousavi by the Guardian Council, the highest judicial institution of the land, to investigate his alleged discrepancies in the electoral process, data collection and reporting the final results, he seemingly preferred to reach a solution by the weight of demonstrations and sheer use of pressure on the streets. Through the use of violence by some of his supporters, Mousavi intended to force the government to annul the election result and hold another election.
The reasons for refusing to attend the meeting of the Guardian Council held specifically for the purpose of discussing his frivolous claims of “wide-spread electoral fraud” were his awareness that such charges had already been leveled by him and his domestic and foreign supporters well before the actual election which was held on June 12th, and secondly, he declared himself the winner of the election sixteen hours before the election results were announced on national medi a b y the Office of the Interior Ministry. Hossein Mousavi and his domestic and foreign enthusiasts in Washington, D.C., London, and Paris knew well before the election that judged by the sense and socio-economic interests of the Iranian working people, including the vast population of small farmers and manufacturing entrepreneurs, the incumbent President Ahmadinejad would be far ahead of Mousavi by at least ten million votes. They resorted to pre-emption, a la George Bush.
Therefore, Mousavi and his cohorts decided to follow the examples of power grabs in Ukraine, Georgia, and the lately unsuccessful attempts in Zimbabwe and Moldova, hoping that a long enough period of social tensions coupled with U.S.-U.K. supports for Mousavi would split the body of clerical hierarchy – the Society of Scholars of Qom Seminary – the Guardian Council and the Revolutionary Guard, which would ultimately, they wished, draw in some layers of Iran’s lower middle class to the western-reformist camp. This was a major element in their plan that never materialized, leaving them instead with just wishful thinking.
But in general, all social and political upheavals in a single country or in a region involving several nations, tend to polarize the societies into two or more distinct and antagonistic forces with certain class characteristics. In the epoch of imperialism, the splits take shape simultaneously along the class lines and the relations of these social forces to imperialism. From long before the Iranian presidential election, two of the most pronounced criticisms of Ahmadinejad’s administration by the reformist camp and its neo-liberal newspapers were centered around Iran-U.S. foreign policy and the allocation of economic resources in Iran .
As to Iran ’s policy toward the U.S. , the objection of the reformists to Ahmadinejad was that as a result of his inflexible foreign policy, the country is suffering from isolation in the international community. Doesn’t this criticism sound like George W. Bush’s rhetoric? By “inflexible” foreign policy the reformist in fact were advocating that Iran should have accepted the conditions laid down by George Bush for having dialogue with Iran, meaning Iran would have been popular in the eyes of the U.S., the Europeans, and the reformists if it had suspended its uranium enrichment process and given up its right to independent development of nuclear science and technology.
Is Iran Isolated?
The second criticism launched by Iran ’s reformists against Ahmadinejad’s management of the economy was that he favors the working families and small farmers over big business interests. We clearly see, the reformists have been pro-West internationally and pro-haves domestically. Furthermore, the claim by the defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi and former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, that Iran is internationally isolated is baseless and could only serve the U.S.-Israeli rhetoric and hegemony in the Middle East region. According to a June 23, 2009 report by AP, from Frankfurt , Germany , Europe is a major trading partner of Iran , exporting everything from rail equipment, machinery, transport goods, including trains and automobiles worth Euro 14.1 Billion worth of goods in 2008, up nearly 1.5% from the year before. For Europe, Iran is a crucial partner for energy, which accounted for 90% of the Euro 11.3 Billion in EU imports from Iran .
The reformists are fully cognizant of the fact that Iran can always look eastward to Russia and China for goods, stoking fears of competition and lost profits for Europe . China is already Iran ’s largest single trading partner, responsible for 14.3% of exports to Iran , and 14.5% of imports from Iran in 2008. Russia is Iran ’s seventh largest trade partner and Russian-Iranian trade turnover was worth $3.2 Billion in 2008. Russia buys about 5% of Iran ’s export, mainly food-stuffs, and supplies steel and non-ferrous metals, wood and machinery to Iran , according to Russian officials.
To test the veracity of their accusations, Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karoubi should travel abroad and ask the working peoples of the Arab countries, Turkey, China, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sudan, People’s Republic of the Congo, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and many more to find out the truth about Iran’s extensive international relations, which have improved during the four year term of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.
The recent post-election unrest in Iran not only polarized the economically top half of the population inside Iran , but also had a similar impact on the well-to-do Iranians living in the West. Put generally, most of the Iranians who, until a year ago, to some degree, opposed U.S. war threats against Iran , this time around they sided with the western foreign policy objectives of meddling in Iran ’s internal affairs and possibly placing a pro-U.S. regime in power. The Iranian western intellectuals who in a span of a few decades have been able to climb up the socio-economic ladder in the former colonial citadels of Britain and France and par excellence in the United States, and occupied, generally speaking, privileged positions in these societies, naturally sided with not only Hossein Mousavi, but also his domestic and international backers who for a long time have been waiting for any kind of unrest in Iran to take shape.
Behind the Human Rights Agenda
The western media had found a gold mine to be exploited at the utmost. Overnight, the care-takers of the media corporate interests turned to up-to-then unknown individuals who had not even visited their motherland for decades into “Iran experts” and coached them on prime time TV shows to say anything, whether substantiated or not was irrelevant, to show their opposition to the Islamic Republic of Iran and support for the U.S. standard of “human rights”. These were the kind of Iranians, most of who never appeared in public gatherings to oppose the U.S. maneuvers in Iraq , Afghanistan and now Pakistan . Maybe we can’t blame them, because they are only “experts” on Iran and don’t care about the rest of humanity.
Among others, Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) appeared on CNN every day at the beginning of the election struggle to supposedly analyze, but mainly approve the U.S. interpretations of the events taking place in Iran . Parsi expressed all the views that the interviewer was expecting to receive and “safe” for the viewers to see and hear. He did his best to construct an image for the American listeners that the demonstrators represent the opinion and the ideals of the entire population of 72 million people, that the government of Iran is brutally repressing the rights of “peaceful” demonstrators and Tehran does not have respect for human rights. Hopefully, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, BBC and many other corporate media received their money’s worth.
Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University was another “Iran specialist”, appearing on ABC’s NightLine special, as well as CNN, WNYC Radio, NPR, ABC Radio and not to mention the West’s superstar, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, who was interviewed by Radio Canada, The National Interests, Justin Rosenthal, Media Line, CNN, The New York Times, Talk Radio News Service, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Der Spiegel Online, and the Nation Press Club, just to mention a few.
We venture to ask if any of these major media outlets is brave enough to invite analysts holding the opposite views about Iran and the elections? To our knowledge this has not happened and raises the issue about the so-called free press, which appears to be entirely a monopoly outlet serving one class’s view of the world.
Clashes with no Class Interest?
Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York in his article titled: Iran Conflict isn’t Class Warfare, which appeared on CNN online, tries to show that the current upheaval has no roots in class nature of the Iranian society and the existence of the U.S. as a heavy-weight and the most developed capitalist country has no influence on the aspirations of Iran’s capitalist class. To prove his hypothesis, Dabashi borrows from another scholar of 19th century Iran, Abbas Amanat, that the current clashes between close to a million people living in northern Tehran, where a single family house is marketed for over 3 million U.S. dollars, is the result of the “rise of a new middle class whose demands stand in contrast to the radicalism of the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the core conservative values of the clerical elite…” Framed as such, Hamid Dabashi tries his best to hide the class nature of the struggle by limiting it to the sphere of culture and superstructure in general. However, according to a May 2008 Business report in Gulf Daily News, “A luxury 1,400-square- metre penthouse sold recently for $21 million at $15,000 per square metre in swanky northern Tehran, while the average monthly salary of Iranians stands at $300 to $460. Property prices there compete with upmarket neighbourhoods in Paris at a range of 60m to 100m rials per sqm ($6,500 to $10,700). "You have to spend at least $1m to buy an apartment in northern Tehran where the average property is 200 sqm," says real estate agent Ali Meshkini.” Mr. Dabashi, to us Northern Tehran seems pretty “classy”.
Secondly, no one has claimed that a mass demonstration, albeit rough and tumble, is warfare. The term “class warfare” is usually cried out in the halls of Congress by the most conservative U.S. senators, whenever issues are laid out that involve, however modest, demands of the American working class. The use of the term in the classless society of Columbia University is intended to deny the existence of class altogether and secondly intimidate those who even speak of class interests and class conflict. For Hamid Dabashi’s information, the use of “class” as an economic category is used daily in a less conservative school of higher education, like the Universitat Frankfurt am Main, in Germany .
Corporate Media and “ Iran Experts”
Professor Dabashi is a turncoat. Until recently he supported Iran ’s right to nuclear technology, sovereignty, and independence. When he appeared on ABC and CNN four different times and began attacking the Iranian government for its “repressive and bloody” response to “totally peaceful” demonstrators (at the same time covering his tracks by off-handedly mentioning that he knew there were ‘some individuals whose anger got the best of them and were not behaving peacefully’), he was fully aware that by characterizing the Islamic Republic with hot-button slanders used during the Bush Administration Axis of Evil days, terms as “oppressive, dictatorial, brutal, bloody, etc.), his views were in line with the U.S. foreign policy objectives of de-stabilizing the Islamic Republic. People who knew Dabashi in the Palestinian movement were stunned and baffled at his complete turnaround, asking themselves “What has happened to this man?”
Individuals like Hamid Dabashi and certain Iranian historians like Ervand Abrahamian , who are brought to the front of the media’s cameras and are introduced as “ Iran experts” have an important role to play that assists the system in carrying out its objectives. It doesn’t matter that for all practical purposes, these professors have no followers or legitimacy among the Iranians in the U.S. in general, and certainly much less among Iranian masses inside Iran . With the exception of infinitesimally small circles in academia, the common men and women have not heard the names of these “scholars” let alone are listening and acting upon their conjectures. Mr. Dabashi’s prescription of “human rights”, which are devoid of any class content, solely pleases the pipers in the State Department and the liberal mass media, not excluding such layers of population as neo-liberals and neo-conservatives, who eternally seek to prove the supremacy of the U.S. liberal-democratic system of government. These bourgeois intellectuals presume that by the force of their “expertise and position in the universities” and with a little assistance, financial or otherwise, from the official establishment and corporate-medi a b ackers, they will be empowered in cyberspace, to export their brand of human rights to Iran, not recognizing that the real battles among the social classes and within the organs of the government of the Islamic Republic are fought for much more worldly and tangible issues, namely taxes on profit, allocation of money for first-time home buyers or for builders in housing construction, offering salary increases to teachers, nurses and civil servants, division of the shares of the privatized state industrial and financial assets between workers or between the owners of capital, the level of rents, rent stabilization, monopoly of trades in control of a small number of domestic and foreign traders, which often contributes to higher rates of inflation rather than excess liquidity, etc.
What Factors Influence Price Levels and Inflation?
In other words, price levels come under the influence of many more factors, such as the sophistication of technology, the rate of labor productivity, the availability of materials, the expanse or dimensions of the market, the price of commodities imported and the value of the currency, than simply the volume of liquidity in the market. To say that the price levels are simply a function of liquidity in the market is not understanding how under capitalism the prices are formed. Unfortunately, many of these experts, scholars, social analysts, historians and human rights advocates, do not have a b asic understanding of the law of value.
Our esteemed professors may quickly retort that the “Green” masses either do not understand or they are not affected by these earthly issues, and are more interested in the concepts of “social freedoms and dressing choices, etc”. Quite wrong, Professors! Every thoughtful worker, farmer, shop-keeper and student and teacher in higher education will line up these issues in their conversations with Iranian American tourists visiting the country for even a short time. Our Western-educated intellectuals, especially historians, who pay very little or no attention to the subject of political economy and the evolution of social classes under capitalism and the essential requirements of normal life, make a caricature out of a real social movement.
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Ardeshir Ommani is an Iranian-born writer and an activist in the U.S. anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for over 40 years, including against the Vietnam War, and now the Iraq war. During the past seven years, he has participated in the U.S. peace movement, working to promote dialogue and peace among nations and to prevent a U.S.-spurred war on Iran . He holds two Masters Degrees: one in Political Economy and another in Mathematics Education. Co-founder of the American Iranian Friendship Committee, (AIFC), he writes articles of analysis on Iran – U.S. relations, the U.S. economy and has translated articles and books from English into Farsi, the Persian language. Please visit AIFC’s website to learn more about Iran and Global issues at www.iranaifc. com . Two of his recent articles, “Capitalism’s Sign Post” can be viewed at: www.tehrantimes. com, and “ Iran , the NIE and the Empire” at www.mathaba. net. The author may be contacted at: ardeshiromm@ optonline. net.