Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Green Movement

This translation came through the mail. Many thanks to the translator!

The Green Movement
by Mina Khanlarzadeh

The Green Movement is at a juncture, at which, in order to expand deeper into different social layers, it had better incorporate different trade and class demands, in order to change/transfer the focus of the movement from personalities to socio-political and economic demands of different social layers and classes. For example, women have had an extremely active presence in the Green Movement, and it would be good to render this presence more goal-focused by infusing it not only with supra-class demands (such as the eradication of laws discriminatory to all women), but also with class interests. It would be beneficial for the students, journalists, teachers, the unemployed and the rest to raise their trade demands in the Green Movement's discourse. At the moment, different social layers and classes with different socio-political outlooks are active in the movement, and in order to bring their goals into better focus and to have a more effective presence, it is good to raise trade/economic demands in the movement. For a people who are struggling, a clear statement of goals and demands, with precise and concrete definitions, reduces the chances of deviating from the right path and ending up in dead-ends.

Why We Need Class Discourse
Some believe that the Green Movement aims to revive justice and the citizens' socio-political freedoms, and that the class discourse takes the movement off its path and is in conflict with the principles of the movement. This claim is erroneous since individuals from different classes are active in the movement, and obviously class demands do exist in the movement, even if not expressed explicitly. To explain what I mean, let's look at the women's movement: one of the weaknesses of the women's movement is that it is presented as a class-less phenomenon, and the demands of working class and poor women are less frequently heard in the women's movement. Doubtless, changing of discriminatory laws will be to the eventual benefit of all women from all social classes; however, the issue remains that in order to expand the movement to different social strata there is no way other than to include class in the movement's discourse. And there will be no justice in women's lives unless class discriminations are also considered in the women's discourse at the same time that those discriminations are fought against. For as long as class domination exists, gender domination will also exist. For example, even if all the discriminatory laws against women have been eliminated, if grand economic discriminations still exist in the society, it is possible for women from dominated classes to be still forced into relationships similar to temporary marriage, solely based on economic needs. Imagine that temporary marriage is also illegal but a woman, for example after a divorce, is deprived of her most basic rights such as inheritance or providing for her children. So, if the goal is to establish social justice in the lives of all classes, we must fight against class domination as well as gender domination, otherwise justice will be had only in the lives of some women from more well-to-do layers of the society.

The same argument applies to the Green Movement, as well. Contrary to the claims of some statesmen or some who are opposed to the Green Movement, those active in the movement are not all from the middle class or higher, and their homes are not all in northern neighborhoods of Tehran; the Green Movement is not composed of one homogenous class of the society. Such claims are mistaken. The evidence for this is the presence of people from different social classes in the regime's prisons, including 'Starred Students', who have been denied their right to education (mostly unemployed), imprisoned workers and teachers, journalists whose incomes are at the poverty line level, [as well as] famous and adroit filmmakers such as Ja'far Panaahi, or politicians from pervious governments who are in prison. We can also look at the martyrs' occupations and places of living: such as cabinet making workers (e.g., Mahmood Re'isee), students (e.g., Sohrab A'raabi), or else, martyr Mehdi Farhaadi-raad, who was killed in Ashura (Dec. 28, 2009) and lived in Shahr-e Rey (a poor neighborhood in southern Tehran).

Once we accept that people from different classes are participating in the movement, it is obvious that, if our goal in this movement is to establish social justice, we must incorporate the basic demands of the dominated classes into the movement. However, the question remains: Why is it that despite the presence of different classes in the movement, the working class does not have its own class discourse in the movement, or else its discourse is not heard.

Admadinejad government has illusions that the working class supports him, and that is why most government supporters claim that the Green Movement's protests take place in northern neighborhoods of Tehran, and they conclude from this that the movement has no proponents in the lower classes, and in a strange way they equate this with the support of these lower classes for the neo-liberal and nepotistic policies of Ahmadinejad and previous governments, and that these classes have no grievances; which, as mentioned above, is a superficial and erroneous claim.

Protesting in the southern neighborhoods of Tehran can bear heavier costs, since in those areas people recognize each other's faces more readily and it is easier to identify protestors. As a result, those who for example live around Raah-Aahan neighborhood will rally and protest in Revolution Square, where identifying them is more difficult. On the other hand, analyzing the class status of unemployed students who depend on their families is extremely complex. Nobody can claim that all the students participating in the movement are from middle and upper class families. Is it possible that the children of the lower classes do not go to university? And what is the class nature of the children of a middle class family? Are such students [automatically] members of the middle class? Another point is that, since the Green Movement has not incorporated the trade/economic and class demands of the workers into the movement (since it is a new movement), dominated classes cannot risk paying the price of being in the movement as a class/trade, even though they participate in it as individuals and, as mentioned before, have been imprisoned or killed. The lack of trade/class-conscious presence of the workers in the Green Movement does not mean that the working classes consider their struggles for justice and socio-economic freedoms as useless or without merit. No, not at all. When you have not been paid for months, or if you have been paid but it is a fraction of what you need, for the moment you prefer to participate in independent protests that strictly demand that you be paid immediately or get a pay raise, rather than risk ending up in prison, since going to prison means your family will not be getting even the below-poverty-line income that is owed to you.

Working Class Realities
The reality is that a working class that for the past thirty years has been deprived of independent unions, and whose wages are still merely a percentage of the poverty level income, has no hopes invested in either the principalists/hardliners or the reformists. It is true that Ahmadinejad's is the most anti-worker government since the revolution, but the reformists too never worried too much about economic justice [...] In order to create the conditions for a persistent presence of the dominated classes in the movement, we must insert the trade demands of these classes into the Green Movement's discourse. Next year, the [start of the government plan for] rationalizing of the state subsidies will create a serious crisis among the working and poor classes, and the Green Movement should prepare itself for reflecting the pain caused among this part of the society. And let us not forget that the movements for better wages started from early years of the Ahmadinejad government; proof of this can be seen among the struggles of the bus drivers' union of Tehran municipality, trade struggles of the teachers and widespread protests around the country, scattered protests of workers who had not received wages, or else the arrests and beatings of the workers who gathered in Laleh Park (in Tehran) to commemorate and celebrate May Day, almost a year ago. The Green Movement, by raising the demands of these movements alongside the demand for socio-political justice, can integrate these movements within itself. However, it may be asked, why should the Green Movement do so?

A. Ahmadinejad government has tried to belittle the demands for freedom and socio-political justice by portraying them as demands of the middle and upper classes, and at the same time spreading the propaganda that the lower classes support the government, and thereby fashioning a self-styled legitimacy for itself. Therefore, by including the trade/class demands of the lower and dominated classes in the Green Movement's platform, that self-styled and deceptive legitimacy of Ahmadinejad government will be exposed and challenged.

B. The working classes and the poor constitute a huge part [a majority] of our society. They are our brothers and sisters and they suffer tremendously trying and struggling to secure a minimum of their needs. The struggle for political justice, even if initially successful, will not be complete unless the movement includes the struggle to find a remedy within itself for the suffering of these classes, alongside its other struggles.

C. Raising within the movement demands that increase the political and ethical legitimacy of the movement is extremely beneficial for the movement's progress [and for its morale]. [...]

D. [...] In order that the struggle for freedom and socio-political justice carried out by the people is not muted and replaced by empty promises of "I'll put the oil money in your pockets", or such like, it is necessary that economic justice demands are entered into the Green Movement's discourse. Or else, an anti-working class [populist] person like Ahmadinejad can gain power by empty promises, even in a free and democratic Iran, if the people are still struggling to meet their most elementary needs.

Fight the Sanctions!
Another issue that affects the movement and its development and its spreading in the society is the economic sanctions and the threat of war against Iran. Although several months ago Mr. Mousavi announced his official position against economic sanctions, and [it has been repeated by many others that] economic sanctions work against the people in Iran, and although it is obvious that even the threat of war -- let alone a war itself -- will work against the people fighting in the Green Movement and the movements for better wages/living conditions, it is still necessary for the Green Movement to more coherently and loudly voice its position on this issue.

Economic sanctions mean blockading bread and medicine from the people's lives in Iran. It means the growth of the underground economy, which leads to more power for (at least some of) the militaristic forces. It means a crisis that causes the growth and spread of militaristic and criminal economy and, at the same time, drives more people into the margins, forcing them to seek whatever means with which they can feed themselves (survival economics). As a result of the intensification of sanctions, people will increasingly be captives to earning a piece of bread, and at the same time their vulnerability increases, so if they engage in any struggle, it is more likely a struggle for some immediate income rather than a struggle that seriously questions a system that produces discrimination and inequality. In the event of the intensification of the economic sanctions, a larger group of people will depend on the state for income, which can lead to increasing numbers of military/security recruitment, which in fact leads to more militarization in the society. At the same time, the regime will get a chance, even more than previously, to spread the income from our national resources among their own cronies and groupies. Military options against Iran mean bombs dropping on the houses and the heads of the very brave people who fight valiantly in the streets in the face of government bullets. The threat of war gives an excuse to the regime to choke dissident voices, and to militarize the society ever more so under the name of 'preparing for the military invasion'.

One cannot support the Green Movement, which, if stripped it to its essentials, is fighting for a better life for the people of Iran, and yet stay silent about the dangers of economic sanctions or the threat of war against Iran, or else justify them or even recommend them [...] If the economic sanctions or the threats of war were going to weaken the military forces of the regime, today we would not have a few military forces silently and confidently occupying all the major economic positions of the country and they would not be interfering in all political matters in the country. The threat of war and the economic sanctions are [indeed] the most important reasons for the escalation of militarization in Iran.

Ahmadinejad's Phony Anti-Imperialism
Ahmadinejad government, in order to create false legitimacy for itself, has used many tricks. One is to create the illusion that it is seeking justice and its goal is to fight against economic discrimination; which is, of course, contrary to the truth. Other tricks can be summarized into a superficial anti-imperialism, symbolized by anti-Holocaust slogans and American flag burning, and a make-believe support for Palestinians. At the same time, nuclear issue has been advertised as a nationalist symbol, a stance against the West, a 'Marching to the Gates of Civilization'. Meanwhile, in the past several years, few people could question the financial, political and environmental costs of nuclear energy, and for some time, writing about nuclear problems by journalists was even banned. One of the ways that the Green Movement can fight against the current government is by questioning the factors in this artificially constructed legitimacy; by questioning its anti-imperialism or its defense of Palestine.
Maybe some people will ask if it is necessary for the movement to take anti-imperialist positions, or whether the Green Movement is anti-imperialist at all. Another question could be whether or not the Green Movement needs to come to the defense of the Palestinians or other justice-seeking movements in the region, or can the Green Movement lock itself within the borders of Iran?

Is it truly the case that the Green Movement is not anti-imperialist? Obviously, the Green Movement defines itself in terms that go beyond empty anti-American slogans and flag burning. But, is it the case that just because the Green Movement is not anti-American, it is not anti-imperialist either? The answer would have been positive, if we had the anti-imperialism of the Cold War type in mind, but the truth is that the world is no longer a bi-polar one and the U.S. is not the only world power. In recent years, small manufacturing units in Iran have gone bankrupt due to the volume of imports of cheap goods from China. Many farmers have lost their livelihoods as a result of cheap agricultural goods from China. Those factories that cannot compete with imported goods have had to lay workers off -- meaning, the unemployment of large numbers of workers -- or else are on the verge of bankruptcy. Many people, including ayatollah Karroubi, believe that Russia has also been a culprit in the events following the elections. Russia has economically manipulated the sanctions against Iran and has extracted a very heavy price from Iran, for example, with regards to the nuclear industry. For these reasons, people active in the Green Movement have been raising slogans against China and Russia in the streets. In effect, the Iranian regime, by portraying only part of the reality, has been trying to showcase the U.S. as the only imperialist world power, and by taking some superficial actions, it has pretended to be anti-imperialist. In reality, however, people by raising slogans such as 'No to Russia, No to U.S.; Iran is for Iranians', have expressed their penchant for economic and political independence. During Quds Day (September 19, 2009) protests, [officials] were encouraging the people to shout 'Death to the U.S.', but people would answer, 'Death to China'. As if to say, "You're a fool if you think you can trick us into thinking you're anti-imperialist, yet let the country's economic life be conquered by cheap Chinese goods". People [also] raised the slogan, "Obama, Obama; either with us or with them!" Meaning, the people are not fond of powerful countries like the U.S. compromising with the Iranian regime based on political-economic interests, or sitting at negotiating tables with a regime that is considered illegitimate by its own people, and thereby undermining the people's movement. In effect, the people were asking the U.S. president to respect their non-recognition of the Iranian government, and to support the Iranian people at the same time that they respect the Iranian people's independence. People in the Green Movement do not like in the slightest to see powerful countries [negatively] impacting their movement. Therefore, the claim that the Green Movement is not anti-imperialist is not supported by the reality of the people's attitude in the movement, and is a claim that is completely separate from what is happening on the streets of Iran.

True Solidarity
It is completely understandable that the people in Iran are not too taken by discussions of what happens in Lebanon and Palestine because they consider [one of the sources of] their poverty as being the export of their national resources and money to places like Lebanon and Palestine. Also, they think that empty anti-Holocaust slogans have increased the likelihood of international sanctions and threats of war against their country, and give further ammunition to the propaganda campaigns of Israeli warmongers. And, also because they had no interest in holding a Holocaust Conference in Tehran, they raised the slogan, 'No to Gaza, No to Lebanon; My life only for Iran'. This slogan was in fact indicative of the people's desire to deflect international tensions. We have this 'No to Gaza, No to Lebanon; My life for Iran' slogan on the one hand, and on the other we have tens of slogans comparing Iranian people's predicament with that of the peoples of Lebanon and Palestine. The regime's mass media have turned Palestine into a regime-only pet issue, and maybe for the Iranian people Palestine is considered a propaganda tool. However, what is obvious to the people is that what happens in Palestine as well as Iran is cruelty and injustice, and nothing else.

From the ethical point of view of legitimacy, it is proper for the Green Movement to support justice-seeking movements in the region and to try to show that the reasons why somebody takes up stones in Tehran [or other Iranian cities] is the same as those reasons that drive a Palestinian to take up stones. Limiting a movement to its geographic limits reduces the chances of international, or at least regional, solidarity for that movement. [...] Taking the borders between nations too seriously will damage the movement since doing such is in contradiction to people's real well being and interests. The Iranian regime, by taking over two characteristics from pre-revolution movements, has been seeking to gain ethical recognition in two areas, be it that only a caricature of those has been enacted: one is supporting the Palestinians, and the other is anti-imperialism of the Cold War type, which reduces anti-imperialism to anti-Americanism and flag burning. In reality, however, the Iranian economy has been taken over by cheap imported goods of other nations. Instead of leaving such arenas to the regime's caricature-like maneuvers, it is better for us in the Green Movement to show the healthy face of supporting the Palestinians and standing up to imperialism, such as was evident in a poster by a protestor, which said, "My Palestinian friend, now I know your pain better!" Therefore, establishing solidarity between the people in the Green Movement and the Palestinians is not only to our benefit ethically but also strategically. People in the Arab countries (or at least some of them) worry that the Iranian support for the Palestinians comes purely from the government and not from the Iranian people, and therefore if the Green Movement takes power, support for Palestine will end. [...] We need the solidarity of the Middle Eastern people for our movement, so, first, we need to announce that the Green Movement will not stop supporting the oppressed people's movements in the region, such as the Palestinians' movement.

Today, we are all Palestinians. Palestine is the place where cruelty rules and where there are no courts of justice that would listen to us. It is the place where people are humiliated. Palestine is the interrogation stations. Palestine is the place where innocent people fight with nothing but stones. Palestine is humanity with a stone in hand, in the face of oppression. Palestine is the place where paved streets are covered with innocents' blood. Palestine is where people hate those in military uniforms, hate firearms, but will fight to the end with empty hands and with tooth and nail. Palestinians are all those who have to pay in order to receive [from the authorities] the bodies of their [executed and murdered] loved ones killed by the bullets of oppressors. [...] We are Palestinians.

Palestine is nobody's family inheritance, so nobody decides who is and who is not allowed to stand with the Palestinians. Those who use the cruelty against Palestinians to justify their monopoly over political power are in the wrong. We are the Palestinians and we must free Palestine not only from the hands of the expropriators but also from those who abuse Palestinian suffering in order to monopolize political power. Palestine belongs to people who raise their voices against oppression, and not to those who stay silent in the face of tyranny, or those who have chosen to use the Palestinian suffering for their own benefit. We are Palestine, and we will not allow their issue to be monopolized by the regime, or to be used as a tool of oppression. Palestine belongs to us and to those who suffer under tyranny but are still hopeful.

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