Monday, August 17, 2009

Field, Place, Trajectory

This is a translation of another analytical article by Milad S., a regular contributor to the Khiaban newspaper. This article was first published in Khiaban #36 (August 11, 2009). Thanks to the sender! 

Field, Place, Trajectory
By Milad S.
Khiaban No. 36 / Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1. September

We are witnessing a gradual transformation and redirecting of the slogans. It took less than two months for the people to move from the annulment of the elections to the collective realization that the real nature and the legal framework of this republic are the real obstacles in the way of the movement. The more elaborate forms of mass meetings, organization of thousands of small cells, the increase in capabilities for printing and distributing nightly fliers and news bulletins -- these are all indicative of a widened field for movement. With the joining in of different regions, the movement is also redefined at each stage: the widening of the local protests against Naziabad, 17th of Shahrivar (southern neighborhood of Tehran with a dominantly poor population), is an example of the spreading of the struggle from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Alongside the evolving field of struggle and the spreading of movement from one neighborhood, one place to another, the trajectory and the possible horizons of this movement too undergo changes. The widening of the popular protests is not merely quantitative, just as the rising number of organized groups or the increased facility in printing and distributing two-page night fliers are not merely an improved dissemination of the news. The slogans and the forms of dissent as well as the demands being raised can encompass yet larger segments of the material social reality. This is a movement in which we can already see the capability for the claims, and the inevitability of returning to the basic demands, of the 1978-79 revolution. The experience of the period of 1977-81 means understanding solidarity as organized popular demands. Along this trajectory, the process of popular self-organization at any given place, the communists walk alongside the people.

If the people gradually reach the conclusion that the corrupt police patrols are not protectors of the people but aggressors against their lives and livelihoods, the worst kind of hoodlums, and if they realize from their own practical experience that self-management over their local affairs is a better guarantee for more security, peace and human life; then this practical realization and the end of the humiliation, will mean the practical discovery of a common cause. The experience of the winter of 1357 (late 1978- early 1979), the spectacular fall of criminality, the practical distribution of needed goods in different neighborhoods, particularly in working class and southern districts of cities, all are experiences still remembered today due not only to the mass mobilization of the people but especially due to people's foresight in forming neighborhood committees. The communists stand alongside the people so that this time around nobody shall hijack these committees in the name of ideology or for any particular economic interests.

2. Communists

"Communists" means the collective practice of all those working for connecting the mass struggle for particular and localized demands, with social justice as their horizon, and with a belief in the possibility of self-management/control in places of work and living. Based on these principles communists expend effort in organizing the laboring forces and the people. Acting among the people, in small groups, means multiplying the communist ideals. I believe that this definition helps best in overcoming many obstacles. Communism is an old ideal. In this land of Iran, those in the Mazdaki insurrection (c. 496 AD) were among the forerunners of this ideal. This ideal is based on a single thought: By sharing the collectively produced wealth, by participation of all in the running of society, we will achieve social justice, legal and real equality, and the possibility of growth and freedom for each individual, regardless of color, creed or religion.

This old ideal, with the dawn of capitalism and the development of culture and sciences, nowadays is not only a possible vantage point, but a necessary way out of the existing misery. Our world does not have much forte left for speculative total destruction and private benefit of a few. It is enough to look at the torched earth of Africa, abandoned by Capital, or to look at the destroyed environments in Iran or all over the world. This ideal, today more than ever, is attainable; it is enough to just see that humanity today has achieved levels of science and innovation unparalleled in human history. Production and intellect are intimately connected. Even for farming a plot of land, you need at least some years of schooling. Such were inconceivable only two hundred years ago. The fact that capitalism had a progressive role in this development is not disputed, at least not by communists who have read Marx. The point, though, is that this progressive function is relative and historical, not eternal. And the last two hundred years have shown clearly that Capital's governing logic is today not only insufficient and unfeasible, but is in fact a detriment to both creativity and people's wellbeing. Shantytowns and slums, governance by corruption, torture camps such as Kahrizak and Aslavié industrial complex (a remote petro-industrial complex, infamous for its inhuman working conditions_ trans. note), the Basiji's, and the last thirty years of Iranian history, all attest to this.

Furthermore, I think that the specific form for struggle should be a function of the ideal. Political parties were one of the basic forms in the struggles during the 20th century. Political party formation in its widest social sense, not only in Iran but in the majority of places in the world, was synonymous to communists’ commitment. This, however, in my opinion, does not necessarily mean that this form is extra-historical. Based on historical conditions, and the dominant social relations, including security considerations, we must responsibly ask: Is this form efficient today, does it contribute to multiplication and dissemination of the communist ideal and to organization of the people?

3. Analysis for doing what?

I think that the criteria for evaluating any concept, be it grand or small, about the world, the era or Iran, is the conjectural conclusions of the communists' efforts and organizing experience; otherwise, abstract thinking will waste your labor, and academism will have us happily busy with rearranging and recomposing successive drafts. Understanding capital's mechanisms and dynamics, understanding the present antagonisms and the current movement's place within the world and the region, all these must be discussions and arguments that, just like tools of labor, aim at societal intervention. So, perhaps the most appropriate thing to do is to ask questions whose meaningful absence is an obstacle in the path of the new generation of communists. 

Will the mercantilist capitalists, those in the House of Trade [Otaaqh-e Baazargaani] and Merchants' Associations [Hey'ate Mo'talefe], still exist if this state falls, or will they perish? Why will they perish? If the state were their representative and not the other way around, why would their existence be dependent on that state? Why is it that for the last thirty years, except for the war years, we have faced a constant and increasing growth of the service sector, educational sector, and financial capital? What is the exact nature of the foundations [bonyaad's_ government run, formally 'private' corporations run crony-capitalist style _ trans. note] and the Revolutionary Guards? Why is it that the Iranian banking system can be bankrupt, according to the official sources of the regime itself, yet some capitalists, whom some friends have generously given the honorary label of bourgeoisie, exist? Why didn’t they react? Is it because it is still a weakling of a class, in transition? If that is the case, then where does all this huge volume of liquidity in circulation come from, where does it become capital, and where does it go; where is the circulation of capital?

The experiential givens and tangible facts, which fit our lived experiences and are observable in the available data, must be relevant for our analyses. Why have some friends fallen so in love with "Iran's transition from something to something," or with "Iran's capitalist malformation"? Malformation can only mean that there is a prototype somewhere else. I think one problem is the frequently misunderstood phrase, 'a capitalist society'. Nowhere on earth is the society limited to capitalism, nor is capitalism a laboratory experimental phenomenon. Capital has its own logic, which is fundamentally alien to human considerations. It is the closed circuit of production, distribution and accumulation: neither humans nor their environment find any place in its calculations, unless they are factors for increase or stabilization of the rate of profit. The civil legal codes of a European society (if this is what the notion of malformed Iranian capitalism refers to) is not the exact copy of capital's logic, but the outcome of a long struggle between capital and the laboring forces, affecting the legal institutions of those societies.

Also, analysis must not be merely a 'know-it-all' type of expression. The objective is to better understand how Ahmadinejads can be reproduced in the heart of this society, and how these creatures and the state apparatus is connected to the world capitalist system. And from those two questions, firstly to arrive at conclusions that make it impossible for a system of oppression to exist, and secondly to designate the material conditions of possibility for communism.

In a forthcoming writing, I will return to these questions. In the current situation, I believe that the most important principle must be the readiness, with open eyes, to accompany the movement and to render blunt and ineffective the dreadful and oppressive violence. Wherever the machinery of oppression thinks they have driven us back, we have just avoided the range of their bullets, in order to set up new spaces in our next steps. The cooperation of the street and work place, the neighborhoods and places of work will change the directions taken by the movement. The changes of direction, in order to become stable forms of self-management, will need the knowledge and the effort of those who, in practice, believe in freedom and people's equality, regardless of color or creed.

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