Building Up Illusions in Iran

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The left should not be surprised at Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad's election in Iran.

Peyman Jafari's excellent article, 'The Other Iran' (September SR), shows that the theocratic regime has been unable to dampen down the class struggle since the 1979 revolution when the Shah was overthrown. However, there are four points which need to be highlighted:

(1) The split among the ruling class is a result of the struggle by workers, students and women in Iran which has forced differences within the religious hierarchy towards the politicians in parliament.

The victory of the new president, Ahmadinedjad, is a reflection of how deep these splits among the ruling class are, and also of their inability to deliver the demands of the working class.

(2) Ahmadinedjad is enough of a pragmatist to realise this, and has presented a mix of Marxism and state socialism - without referring to socialism and anti-imperialism in name in order to gain the necessary support for his cause. This is not very different to the Third World nationalism presented by Chavez in Venezuela or Fidel Castro in Cuba.

(3) The Iranian working class gave him their vote because of both his populist appeal and the failure of both Rafsanjani and Khatami when in office. Furthermore, some middle class intellectuals built up illusions and hope among the students and workers that Khatami was going to be their saviour, which proved to be far from the case.

(4) Finally, the need for an independent working class organisation is essential for workers, students and intellectuals to break with any illusion that Khatami and now Ahmadinedjad can bring any real reforms to Iranian society. In office Iran's leaders, whether conservative like Khomeini and Ahmadinedjad, or pragmatic and reformist like Rafsanjani and Khatami, have all shifted and changed their position due to pressure from below.

There will be more divisions within the Iranian ruling class, and different interpretations will be given by the religious elites to justify and maintain their rule.

Similarly the struggle for democracy, justice, freedom of expression, trade union and women's rights will continue to make itself felt, whatever the shape and form taken by any future regime in Iran.

The lesson for socialists is therefore to address the issues and questions thrown up by that struggle without creating illusions in so-called reformist organisations and groups.

Farhang Tabrizi
London