Sunday, December 13, 2009

Socialists Inside Iran Differ on the Green Movement

Recently, Alborz, an Iran-based site devoted to a critique of political economy, has published articles which represent differing views among socialists inside Iran concerning the future of the Green Movement. Below are excerpts from two articles which represent some of these differing views.

The “Green Insurrection:” From Dream to Reality
Author: Mohammad Gharagozloo
Translated by Frieda Afary

November 19, 2009

. . . In the first few weeks after the [June 12, 2009] election, many appropriated the color green and chanted slogans which insisted on the cancellation of the election results and called for a new election. Now however, the protest movement has taken a different direction. Starting from the July 16 Friday Prayer to [the September 18 ] Jerusalem Day and November 3, the appearances and the slogans of the protesters --even the ones dressed in green –have not matched the primary and secondary goals of the green insurrection and its election-time leaders. . .

Let us grant that there is a green insurrection whose class hegemony (political, economic, social and cultural) is in fact under the control of the two protesting reformist candidates. In an article entitled, “Are the Economically Impoverished Among the Forces of the Green Movement?”( Mohammad Maljoo correctly points out that during the 16 years of their participation in the leadership of the fifth through the eighth government, these candidates have been economically “market-oriented”

Everyone knows that the neo-liberal plan called “economic transformation” or “targeted monetary subsidies”[reference to the current government’s plan to phase out existing subsidies on basic goods and gas --tr.] which is now being placed as the first item on the agenda of the tenth government and the eight parliament, is a proposal made by the World Bank. The main preparatory steps were implemented through the “economic modification” plan of the fifth and sixth governments under the name of economic development. These steps were continued by the reformist governments. . .

Mohammad Maljoo’s emphasis in the aforementioned article is quite true and objective: “The economically impoverished have not benefited from the economic actions of either side of the June 12 dispute.” In their debates, speeches and half-baked electoral promises, the two reformist candidates have not proposed any article or amendment through which any “favor” is done for the working and the economically impoverished classes. . .

My question for Mr. Maljoo is the following: Based on what material evidence is he so optimistic about the future of the liberals as to write: “At a time when the economic policies of the hurried tenth government do not promise economic growth or social justice, perhaps the political elite of the green movement would have the unique opportunity to not repeat their past calamitous actions concerning the economically impoverished, but instead take up a justice-seeking discourse to officially call on the working classes and the urban poor to join the growing ranks of the Greens. The most important barrier to such a call is the domination of the market-oriented economic discourse among extensive numbers of the political elite of the Green Movement.”

Mr. Maljoo must certainly know that in order to change the direction of the economy from the free market or the closed market (capitalism in any form) , to a “justice-seeking economic discourse to defend the working and urban impoverished classes,” or what I would call a socialist mode of production and the abolition of the sale of labor power, the decision-making body cannot be the “political elite of the Green Movement.” . . .

A Critique of the Perspectives of Mohammad Gharagozloo:
From Repeating Cliches to Understanding Cliches
Author: Yassir Azizi
Translated by Frieda Afary

November 22, 2009

. . . I wish this proclaimed leftist, who happens to be a true representative (based on being on the left side of the spectrum and not based on his correct thinking) had as much sense as one of the liberal candidates, to comprehend that “the color green has turned into a fluid signifier.”(Statement from Mir-Hossien Mousavi in a post-election speech to a group of university professors) Therefore, this signifier does not represent any particular signified or concept. Having said this, let’s move on to the heart of the issue.

1. The Unity of Theory and Practice

“It is not enough that thought strive to actualize itself; actuality must itself strive toward thought.”
Karl Marx. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Any reflection on Marx’s thought and his methodology clearly shows that theory to him is not an abstraction from reality. If it were, he would have never ended his Theses on Feuerbach with the historic statement which challenges the official role of philosophers: “Philosophers have interpreted the world in different ways. The point is to change it.”

For Marx, the unity of theory and practice was the most important and the best way to achieve the change that he called for. But a change in what? Changing the world to Marx meant changing the reality around you. To be changed, that reality has to be comprehended first. Then that cognition, as theory, becomes concomitant with and coordinated with objective and conscious practice. It is the lack of such [a concept] that Marx criticized among his predecessors whom he called “utopian socialists.”

He called the likes of Fourier, Owen and others, “utopian” not simply because they sufficed themselves with giving sermons and did not engage in objective action. He called them utopian because of their defective comprehension of reality. . .

Simply drawing up a plan and posing a singular paradigm for action which is not in harmony with the present pulse of history, only strengthens the mental capacities of those who are tourists in the world of theories and not the efforts of those who want to step forward in the rough trails of social reality.

2. The Origin of Today’s Movement

“To be radical is to grasp matters at the root. But for the human being the root is the human being herself/himself.”
Karl Marx. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

Regardless of the interpretations which call it a middle-class movement, the present people’s movement in Iran is a manifestation of the unity of theory and practice. Leftists such as the one discussed, offer an insufficient analysis. This movement’s material and social form is not that of a working-class movement with a limited conceptual definition, but a middle-class movement which is supported by large sectors of the lower classes. At this sensitive historical moment, based on its experiences and its real sense perception, this movement has found itself preoccupied with political practice. This position is not defective from the standpoint of Marxist theory. In fact, it is based on comprehending reality and transforming it into a theory of action. . .

Of course I believe that a socialist has to clarify her/his horizon, general position and distinctions. Nevertheless, there can be a balance between grand goals, the realization of which seems further on the horizon, and actions with results which may make life a little easier. . .

No one can claim to be a leftist and not have the benefits of the impoverished classes and specifically the working class in mind. . . .We have to ask where the majority of workers in our society—those who have “nothing to lose but their chains” according to Marx—stand as far as the levels of general consciousness and self-consciousness are concerned. The lack of support for the present movement and its slogans, on the part of a spectrum of the impoverished, does not seem to arise from a class standpoint. Rather, realistically, it arises from their lack of consciousness and their having been co-opted by parts of the ruling ideology on the one hand and their being deceived by the donations of the ninth government, on the other . . .

Carefully examining the existing realities of society and the direction which the “Revolutionary Guard” has taken in expropriating the economy and transforming the form of Iran’s economy into a type of “military rule of capital,” should illuminate the challenge which the majority of the unemployed face in their struggle. Given the current situation in which hiring is shifting toward using the members of the Basij (militia --tr) and consequently those who pass the ideological test, we need to pay additional attention to comprehending what position workers would take.

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