Since my last post I had a couple of discussions, one with a good friend of my own generation, and the other with a young woman who was born in Iran and raised in Canada. They had two fundamental criticisms of what I have been posting. One is that my posts are painting a dark picture and lack appreciation of what is happening in Iran. The other was that sanctions of Iran by the West are not helpful and are hurting the same people who came out in the street celebrating their electoral victory, and in a twisted way tried to show their opposition to the government.
In reading some of the over the top enthusiasm of the ex-Iranians who reside outside and identify with the election outcome, I can only notice the deep illusions that envelope the educated strata of the society, both inside and outside Iran. Some who seem to have broken with their leftist past drag that past behind them in a multitude of ways.
An interesting example is the petition, circulating on the web, that wants to force the government of Canada and its Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, to take back their evaluation of the just concluded election in Iran. Rouhani, a supposedly "moderate" won the tightly controlled election. Mr. Baird dismissed the election as "meaningless". I agree with him--the election is meaningless. That does not mean that the discontent that was displayed through demonstrations and outpouring in the streets of Iranian cities are meaningless. In that outpour the people who voted for Rouhani, as a symbolic rebuff to the regime, and the people who boycotted the election, which their numbers were on par with the numbers that Rouhani received, both participated. The character of demonstrations was much more complex than support for Rouhani.
The petition calls the election a "small, yet effective, step towards a better future". At the same time Khatami the "moderate" par excellence of the Islamic Republic is already warning about "Misplaced Expectations" for Rouhani. And why not, after all the experience of Khatami's election did not produce anything and Khatami wants to tamp down the expectations that he fanned toward Rouhani. Can one count any gains leftover from Khatami's election? There are none, and one should not expect any this time around either. If Khatami is more of a simpleton, and by some accounts personally a well intentioned person, Rouhani is conniving. He is a politician who has survived the ups and downs of the regime and continuously moved up. He probably has more smoke and mirrors than Khatami. In any case all of them are committed to the preservation of the religious oligarchy. Do they present or could they present anything that prepares people against the regime? It is very unlikely bordering on miracle. All they present to the people is that they will give more than the previous president, and will try to cushion the blows of the oligarchy. Khatami said that and Rouhani is saying the same. Their bickering is about the survival of the regime. They believe that they can rescue the regime and prevent its demise. It is a policy issue for the regime. They are committed to the preservation of the rule of the Islamic Republic and the religious oligarchy at its helm.
The petition goes as far as accusing the Canadian government for its "efforts to disenfranchise Iranian voters in Canada through the closure of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa". It is not the Iranian government who is disenfranchising the Iranians by eliminating an overwhelming majority of the fielded candidates and many more unfielded ones who are languishing in prisons or are outside of Iran for their safety. According to the petition it is the Canadian government who is guilty. I am wondering if I should see the hands of an agent of the Islamic Republic in this petition or an opposition enthusiast. I would not be surprised if the hands of both are involved.
This petition is so representative of both the opposition and the Islamic Republic at the same time. The petition talks about non-violence and these days Gandhian non-violence resistance is an emblem that the opposition loves to adhere to and to adopt as a lesson from history. What they ignore is that Gandhi was resisting Britain, a democratic society. I am not fond of violence and one should not begin with it, but I am pretty certain that Ghandi's methods would not have worked against Hitler and Germany of 1930's and 40's. This is a confusion among the opposition that creates a political tie with their enemies and cannot find a way to strengthen an enduring tie with the West, their future.
When I began to re-read Marx, to my amazement noticed that I could hardly find anything in his writings that is worth quoting. I do not find him scientific or historical. He is irretrievably a religious advocate. One thing I could agree with him on is his appraisal of British incursions into India of the 19th century. He thought of it as civilizing although crude. History proved him right and the left's lesson was to discard that assessment in favor of Lenin's theory of "Imperialism", a more leftist political turn than the prophet's assessment. This has been a mantra of the left through the last 150 years, when things do not work just make another left turn. Khatami's election did not produce anything let's try Rouhani, without understanding that their problems lie in these ties that they have maintained.
The opposition both in and outside Iran are overwhelmingly against the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic. They think it hurts the people more than the Islamic Republic. All the reports speak to the effectiveness of the sanctions and it was the center of the staged "debate" between the pre-approved candidates. The Islamic Republic is vehemently against the sanctions. Maybe the opposition should ponder, why are they singing the same political tune as does the regime.
The sanctions of the Apartheid regime in South Africa were vehemently supported by the opposition in South Africa and opposed by the U.S. administration. Reagan used the same pretext for his opposition, that it hurts the South African people. The reality was that the political tie between the U.S. administration and the Apartheid regime determined its opposition and not the needs of the South African people. The same goes for the Iranian opposition. It is the opposition's political ties with religious oligarchy, reflected in this election, that determine their opposition to the sanctions. It is this tie which creates a stalemate and prevents progress and not the strength of the regime. That has been the key to the victory of the 1979 counter revolution and maintains the survival of the religious oligarchy. The opposition has peeled off continuously from the core of the Islamic Republic, since 1979, but has not severed its ties to the regime. The intelligentsia of Iran and the Marxist left at its core has to grasp the negative role it has played since the constitutional revolution of 1905-07 and its central role in the victory of the counter revolution. The shadow of this political backwardness hangs over our youth while they are trying to draw their own lessons.
It is hard to discard one's religious habits, even the Marxist variety.