Thursday, April 29, 2010

Khiaban No. 66: Tehran at Center of Struggle

Translation of a lead article from the latest Khiaban newspaper.

Tehran at the Center of Struggle
Government: Tehran will be butcher
Society: Tehran will be recreated

by Amir K.
Khiaban #66 / Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In recent days, Ahmadinejad proposed a contentious plan. Using the excuse of possible earthquakes in Tehran, Ahmadinejad's faction is talking about a plan for the largest mass population transfer/relocation in Iran's history. He has announced that more than five million of Tehran's residents must be relocated to other places, and all the nation's existing structures must be reorganized accordingly. One of the early phases of this plan includes the transfer of all universities to locations outside Tehran. Ahmadinejad's view of the future is this: by relocating certain of Tehran's functions out, people will also accompany those functions and leave the city. This plan clearly demonstrates the importance of Tehran as the most crucial focal point of the current juncture. Everything is tied to Tehran.

Today's Tehran has been the historical product of the growth of modern Iran. Tehran could not have taken its current form without the presence of despotic governments in Iran that have shaped it: a small ancient town, which was chosen as the capital and was turned into the center of power with all its requisite institutions. From the centrality of government departments and offices and the banks, to the security forces, as well as higher education and research and medical institutions and hospitals, to communications systems. However much of a mega-city Tehran might be, and though it has been the seat of power to the kings and the clergy, the modern urban mentality in Iran was usually found in other centers, which were closer to modern production. That same mentality nurtured a demand for a new way of life and with its human agents would target despotic governments. Tabriz in the Constitutional Revolution (1905-11) and a constellation of southern cities in the 1978-79 Revolution were the centers of that urban mentality, which, by becoming gun-wielding Constitutionalists or striking oil workers, respectively turned into the end points of the Qajar dynasty and the house of Pahlavi.

Tehran of 2009 (1388, Iranian calendar), however, was a newly born Tehran in the history of Iran. For the first time, the ruling class was caught in a street storm in Tehran. This new Tehran is a Tehran that is the product of the late dynamics of world capitalism and domestic capital as a moment of its global totality. Tehran is no longer necessarily only the seat of power for the government; it is a ripe sample of a neo-liberal mega-city. A new system has emerged, in which the concept of state and citizens/subjects has changed, and a new composition of relations between capital and labor is dominant. Since everything has been economized/commoditized, Tehran has been elevated to a new vanguard location of social production, and it has nurtured within itself a new urban mentality, which cannot tolerate the existing stifling government. A full explanation of recent social economic developments of Tehran, which has led to the current moment, cannot be fitted into this short article. However, we must point out that the current social movement in Iran is tied to Tehran's characteristics and particularities, and the movement's strengths and weaknesses come down to the current situation and position of Tehran in today's Iran. This city has turned into a focal point, whose future direction will shape the fate of the society. Tehran, much like the political arena in Iran, is faced with three urban management plans: Ahmadinejad's plan, the Green plan, and a plan that is socially oriented or socialist.

Ahmadinejad's plan contains within it the program of some parts of the ruling classes, who currently hold the political power. The total uprooting of the people's revolution is tied mainly to the destruction of its objective conditions of existence. This new urban mentality, which like a monster has risen to challenge the ruling mullahs, will have to be controlled by destroying the political geography that gave rise to it. It is therefore not bewildering that Ahmadinejad would propose such a plan. The expulsion of the university from the city as well as the relocation of productive units, and consequently the transfer of urban labor forces to other locations, seeking to guarantee the Supreme Leader's subjects the ability to reside in the capital, along with the total management of the different urban layers, is Ahmadinejad's answer to their current predicament. His fascistic plan has objective conditions for existing also. Tehran is a problematic, a complication. It is a big can of worms that a majority of its residents would admit to it being so. Ahmadinejad is counting on Islamic Goebbels, so as to mobilize certain layers of the society in support of his fascistic plan.

The Green, or reformists', urban plan is completely similar to their Green political plans. Nothing will be touched or moved from its current place. All will be as before. Just like those past golden days, when they (today's reformists) were in power. In politics, they support not touching the constitution, and in urban matters they support not touching Tehran. They are part of the ruling class, but a part that does not share in political power at the moment. Today's Tehran, just like the current constitution, has elevated them to their current class heights. If Tehran with its current arrangement ceases to exist, how could they make huge profits? How could everything be packaged and sold? How will the markets for parts companies and auto companies be provided? If there were no Tehran, how could they sell overcrowding and market shares for housing, and how could they commodify everything, including healthcare, and sell them to make more profits? They have become ruling elites in the existing Tehran, and only this Tehran will recreate the conditions for them to remain ruling elites. Therefore, since they avoid raising 'death to' slogans, their slogan is this: Long Live Current Tehran! Just like their political slogan is: Long Live Islamic Republic!

A socially oriented plan, however, does not start with the interests of the ruling elites. It starts from the interests of the society. Tehran's existing situation simultaneously facilitates and obstructs the movement of the people toward freedom and equality. The very urban mentality that carries the political movement against the ruling government carries with it also the mark of the unequal fabric that governs the totality of our society. The cafes, books, bookstores and the learning halls, which help in shaping that modern urban mentality, are not available to lots of people. In Tehran itself, large segments of people experience the city only in its margins. Lack of rationality, which now rules over the city, grinds away billions of hours of the citizens' lives in traffic instead of spent on the citizens' productive, cultural and social growth and development. It is life in tiny rented rooms, deprived of decent standards of living, that has caused a huge segment of these very urban dwellers to pour onto the streets in an uprising against the ruling misery. On another level, Tehran has been built up at the cost of the deprivation of provincial towns and cities. Concentration of capital in Tehran, concentration of construction and development in Tehran, concentration of research and educational institutions in Tehran, concentration of everything in Tehran, has on its other side the deprivation of the rest of the social fabric. If in Baluchestan the dissident leaders are violent Islamic fundamentalists while in Tehran women students carrying stones, this is due to the large schism between the center and the periphery. A socially oriented plan cannot accept the continuation of the existing conditions, since it is these very conditions that block people from achieving what they need. Tehran and the whole of society need a new organizational re-arrangement. However, socially oriented transformation has fundamental differences with fascistic machinations. Yes, we too say that several existing institutions' existence in Tehran is harmful. However, instead of expelling the universities from the city, we should abolish the Revolutionary Guards bases and Basiji garrisons. Instead of relocating workers to satellite townships without any facilities, and instead of the city remaining in the hands of the military-security-industrial rulers, the city must belong to the urban laboring forces. [Additionally] the center-periphery distinction must be brought to an end.

A social revolution will be the evolution of Tehran's street movement to a widespread and universal social flourishing.

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