Saturday, April 30, 2011

Iran: Joint Statement in Observance of International Workers' Day

Translation of a joint statement issued by a group of workers' rights groups in Iran. Read the original, in Persian here.

[Poster to the right, about workers' action planned in Wisconsin in support of international solidarity, and immigrant and workers rights.]

Joint Statement in Observance of International Workers' Day - 1 May 2011

May 1st, International Workers' Day, is the global day of unity and protest by workers against the tyranny and inequality of capitalist system. This day is a reminder of the global struggles by workers for achieving their human rights. Iranian workers celebrate this day alongside workers of the world, and, in protest against their inhumane living conditions, they get together on this day every year and by any means at hand they raise their voices in order to achieve their legitimate rights.

The excitement and the militancy of the workers around the world on May 1st, and the freedom of millions of workers to protest against their living conditions in most places around the globe shake our world at the same time that Iranian workers -- in addition to lacking any social rights such as forming any organizations or holding street demonstrations -- are daily and hourly under the severest attacks against their lives and their livelihoods. Any form of workers' protests or any demands for their rights get answered by detention and imprisonment of workers. The so-called 'rationalization of subsidies' [elimination of all subsidies for basic goods being carried out by Ahmadinejad government], started by the ruling capitalism [in Iran] and supported by international capitalist institutions, is ever more destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of workers' families, yet nobody has any right to freely protest against this situation. With the dizzying increase in the prices of energy [gas and electricity] and the ever-increasing shutdown of factories, hundreds and thousands of workers are forced to join the millions of unemployed. Meanwhile, they [the rulers] change the terms and conditions for unemployment benefits to the detriment of workers; they obtain franchises in hospitals and clinics that attend to workers, and set different criteria for retirement benefits; they tie up construction workers' insurances with labyrinthine bureaucratic rules; and at the same time that they raise the prices of basic goods by astronomical amounts [for some items, five-eight fold], they raise the minimum wage for workers by an insulting [miniscule] 9.0%.

In our view, for millions of desperate and destitute workers' families trying to make a minimum of living in these conditions, all the mentioned factors have no meaning other than increased destitute in trying to make ends meet, and impose on the workers a daily intensification of poverty and misery. However, we the workers will not [merely] stay as observers of the slow death of our families and will not accept the daily assault on our lives and livelihoods, and we will stand against poverty, misery and the total lack of social rights in a unified and collective fashion. In this context, we the Iranian workers announce our utter abhorrence for the current conditions, and call on all the people in the country to collectively raise their general [nationwide] demands, and in the existing conditions we are asking for the immediate implementation of these demands:

1. Unconditional right of forming independent workers' organizations, of strike, protesting and marching, freedom of political parties, of assembly and freedom of expression and media -- these are our legitimate and obvious rights. At the same time that all state-created institutions must be abolished from work and living environments of the people, these rights must be recognized as unconditional and undeniable social rights of workers and all the people in Iran.

2. We will not accept or go along with a society in which a small minority owns huge wealth while the [overwhelming] majority does not even have bread on the table. In our view, a [mere] 9% increase in minimum wages, especially given the elimination of subsidies and the tremendously sharp rise of prices of goods, is an insult to the human dignity and the right to life of workers. We consider this as an imposition of abject poverty and misery on millions of workers' families on an even larger scale than before, and by rejecting the current method of determining wages we resolutely demand a halt to the elimination of subsidies; as well, we demand that wages be determined by workers' authentic representatives and be based on the highest standards of human living conditions today.

3. We demand the elimination of temporary contracts with "white signature" [not signed], eradication of sub-contracting companies, and the adoption of direct and collective contracts, provision of job security for workers, and adoption of the highest standards of health and safety in work and living places.

4. All wages that are in arrears must be paid immediately and unconditionally and without any excuses or objections, and any non-payment must be treated as a crime punishable by law, and all damages due to non-payment must also be paid to the workers.

5. Firing workers and rendering them unemployed, under any pretext, must be stopped; additionally, all unemployed workers or all who have reached employment age, must be given unemployment insurance commensurate with a humane standard of living, for as long as they can work.

6. The Social Welfare Organization has become one of the institutions with astronomical wealth in Iran as a result of the sweat and money from the workers. Despite this fact, this institution has become a part of the profit production-circulation, and only thinks of reducing health benefits [of the workers] and obtaining franchise [rights] from the sick workers. We consider social benefit insurance as an inalienable right of all the members of society, and demand that the management of this institution be put in the hands of elected representatives of the workers across the country.

7. While condemning any form of assault [by the state] on workers or people's protests, we are asking for the abolition of death penalty and the immediate and unconditional freedom of all imprisoned workers, as well as all the [activists] of all other social movements, from prisons and an immediate halt to all the judicial/legal [harassment] conducted against them, and the lifting of the security-state atmosphere ruling the country.

8. We demand the abolition of all discriminatory laws against women and the guarantee of complete and unconditional equality of women's rights with that of men's in all social, economic, political, cultural and family spheres of life.

9. We demand that all retired people be provided with a good life without economic worries, and we are asking for the elimination of any discrimination with regards to the payment of retirement benefits, and for social and healthcare benefits.

10. Child labor must be abolished. The right of children and their parents to complete and well established social welfare, the right to education and healthcare and social welfare that is free and standardized, regardless of economic or family conditions, and regardless of gender and/or national-ethnic or religious background must be officially recognized.

11. We consider it an inalienable right of all the people everywhere in the world to want to change their societies, and we are in absolute support of the people's protests and struggles in all the Middle Eastern countries, and we condemn any crackdown or oppression of the people's protests, as well as any deal-making between states [east or west] in order to re-direct or divert the changes taking place from above people's heads, and strongly condemn their usurpations and interventions in determining people's fates in Middle East countries.

12. We are a part of the world's workers, and we condemn firings and all forms of discrimination against migrant Afghan workers in Iran or any other national-ethnic workers.

13. While voicing our gratitude for all the international working class and other support for the struggles of the Iranian workers, and in unconditional support of the protests and demands of workers' demands all over the world, we consider ourselves their allies, and we emphasize now more than ever on international workers' solidarity for liberation from the miseries of the capitalist system.

14. May 1st must be declared an official holiday [in Iran] and be entered into the official calendar of the nation, and all forms of limitations or prohibitions against it must be abolished.

Long Live May 1st!
Long Live Workers' International Solidarity!

May 1st, 2011 / 11 Ordibehesht 1390

Signed by:
Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company
Free Union of Iranian Workers
Committee for reopening Painters and Interior Design Workers' Syndicate
Committee for reopening Mechanical Metals Workers Syndicate
Society in Defense of Workers' Rights
Committee for Pursuit of Forming Workers' Organizations
Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Core of Arab Counterrevolution

But will his side still lick the other side?

Translation of the second part of Shalgooni's analysis of the revolution in the Arab world. This installment focuses on the particular nature and structure of the core Arab counterrevolutionary states, at the center of which are the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. The article also looks at some of the differences between the states representing counterrevolution. The original article can be read, in Persian, here.

Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Arab World - 2
by: Mohammad-Reza Shalgooni / April 17, 2011

As mentioned before, the Arab people in different countries have such vast linguistic and cultural connections with each other that [a majority] of them consider themselves as belonging to a unitary national identity, and the concept of "Arab nation" is a well established concept among them. This very speedy spread of the revolutionary movement from Tunisia to other Arab countries and their simultaneous development in different countries showed that the feeling of a collective national identity among the Arabs is not an intellectual phenomenon, but spreads wide and vast among the masses. However, the existence of Arab dictatorships is a substantial obstacle for the unity of the Arabs and drives different Arab countries in completely different directions. The more important point is that most these dictatorships are under the influence of American imperialism, which sees the formation of a political-economic union of Arab countries as a threat to its own interests. A look at the position of different Arab dictatorships within the current world system can clarify this point further.

Arab people and the dictatorships ruling over them
Arab states can be divided into three groups depending on their position within the current world system: oil states; non-oil states with strategic importance; peripheral states.

ONE: Oil States
Oil states are rentier states, a major portion of whose income is provided by sale of oil (and gas). Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Libya, Iraq and Algeria can be placed in this group. All these states, by utilizing the oil income, have great powers of maneuver vis-à-vis the society, and have bribed a small portion of population to be their support base, and try to maintain their rule through a mixture of [bribes] and oppression. In all these states there exists a fat layer of privileged bourgeoisie, which enjoys special economic advantages through its connection to political power. Systemic corruption is a well established and paralyzing reality in all these countries.

However, these oil states can be divided into two sub-categories, depending on the ratio of their oil income to their population. The first group consists of states whose rentier income compared to their population is very high. The second group consists of countries that, although oil (and gas) rent provide the majority of state income, the large population of the country imposes certain limits on the state that don't exist in the first group. The members of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Libya belong to the first group, and Iraq and Algeria belong to the second group. Countries of the first group (minus Libya) have gross per capita domestic products of higher than $24 thousand, while the second group is in no such shape and their per capita product in below $10 thousand. A look at the gross per capita domestic products and populations of these countries shows their position clearly [see end note*]:

Saudi Arabia: population = 26 million; gross per capita product = $24k
Kuwait: population = 2.5 million; gross per capita product = $51.7k
Qatar: population = 848 thousand; gross per capita product = $145k
UAE: population = 5 million; gross per capita product = $40k
Oman: population = 3 million; gross per capita product = $26k
Libya: population = 6.6 million; gross per capita product = $13.8k
Iraq: population = 30 million; gross per capita product = $3.6k
Algeria: population = 35 million; gross per capita product = $7.4k

Oil states of the first group (minus Libya) are all members of GCC. The other member of GCC is Bahrain, which, unlike its neighbors, does not export a lot of crude oil and has the most diversified economy of the Persian Gulf; yet, export and refining of oil and its related fields still play a very important role in Bahrain's economy, and 60% of the income from exports, 70% of state income and 11% of gross domestic product come from these sectors. Additionally, many other similarities it shares with its neighbors, puts Bahrain in this same group. Incidentally, it should be reminded that Bahrain's population is less an million and its gross per capita product is $40.4k. The truth is that the Gulf Cooperation Council states occupy a very special place both in the current world system and in the Arab world. Therefore, any attempt to understand the line-up of the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces in the Arab world cannot yield much without considering the peculiarities of this group [of states].

The most important characteristics of these states are:

1. The biggest share of exports and reserves of oil and gas of the Middle East in the hands of these states, and this region has extraordinary strategic importance for the American empire. It is not accidental that the protection of these states has been put directly in the hands of the U.S.'s own military forces, and the Fifth Naval Fleet and the Central Command are based respectively in Bahrain and Qatar.

2. All these states, having a very high ration of rentier income to population of country, have exceptional maneuvering power and opportunities. It is enough to note that the members of group of Gulf Cooperation Council, with fewer than 39 million people, enjoy a $1.2 trillion gross product. Also, gross per capita domestic product of some these GCC countries is transparently much higher than the average of member countries of OECD, meaning the club of the advanced capitalist countries. For instance, in this regard, in 2010 Qatar ranked first in the world.

3. The economy of all these countries are completely tied with the global economy, and all these states are supportive of American imperial interests. The relationship between these states and the economy of the U.S. and its allies finds particular significance in three spheres. First, the constellation of these states play a very important role in regulating the world oil market. In particular, as the biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia plays a key role in preventing large oil shocks in the world markets. Second, all these states reinvest their huge surplus incomes from oil back into western economies. Third, they are all among the most extravagant consumers in the world market; especially in terms of enormous and meaningless military expenditures. In fact, the honor of having made the biggest military purchases in history goes to these states. [...]

4. Some of the most outstanding characteristics of these states is the severe weakness of their agricultural sector and complete dependence on imports of food products. This is greatly due to shortage of sweet water and arable land. [...] This in turn intensifies the interconnectedness of these countries' economies with the world market.

5. Immigrant/Migrant workers, mostly from Asian countries, play an important role in the economies of these countries. A majority of these migrants who practically live in semi-slave like conditions, doing the most difficult and low level jobs, do not even have the right of an established residency. These migrant who have no rights form a great portion of the work force. [...] In effect, these countries are dependent on the world market even in terms of their labor force.

6. All these states, despite their multi-layered interconnectedness to the world economy, refuse to implement neo-liberal policies inside their own boundaries, and pay out handsome subsidies to their own citizens. Even Bahrain, which was named "Middle East's freest economy" by international financial institutions, was the first Arab country to institute unemployment benefit payments to its citizens. These states know well that they could not continue to exist without keeping their own citizens quiet [and happy]. [...]

7. Although all these states continue to rely on rent income of oil and gas, by investing massive financial means they have been also to create more diversified capitalist economies and been able to distance themselves from sole dependence on oil and gas income. In this regard too, Bahrain is a interesting example, which, despite a sharp reduction in income from oil and gas, has now been able to create a diversified and developed economy with even a high rate of growth.

8. All these states are tyrannical hereditary ruling systems, in all of which the royal families consider themselves the owners of the countries. To this day, in a majority of these countries, the right of people's sovereignty has not been accepted (not even on paper), and political power is completely in the hands of the royal family; the separation of public treasury from the sultans' wealth is practically meaningless and political parties are banned. For example, in UAE and Qatar, there is still not even a hint of the right to vote; in Saudi Arabia, men over the age of 21 can only participate in municipal elections and elect half of the city council, while the other half is appointed by the king. And, of course, women are denied even this "right". In Oman, two 'legislative' bodies exist, one whose members are appointed by the sultan, and both of which play purely consultative roles. Public voting rights and legislative bodies have only recently been introduced in Bahrain and Kuwait, and of course they only have very limited responsibilities and the real power still resides in the hands of the king.

9. Most of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, usually alongside the policies of the U.S. in the region, financially support the Arab dictatorships, as well as those in the Islamic world, supported by the U.S. They also play an important role in financially supporting reactionary Islamic trends in different countries. The role played in this regard by the Saudi dynasty has been particularly considerable, and the Saudi government has been the biggest supporter of reaction and counterrevolution in the Arab world and different Islamic countries. For example, the [Saudi] regime played an instrumental role in organizing a war of attrition against the defensive and progressive nationalism of the Arab people during the Gamal Abdul Nasser era. Also, reinforcing and strengthening reactionary Islam in Islam and Afghanistan would have been impossible with the financial support of Saudi Arabia and UAE. And we must not forget that the 'Taliban' phenomenon was developed/nurtured by Pakistani generals and financial resources of the Saudis and UAE.

Of course, the regimes of Sultan Qabus in Oman and Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Qatar, due to their anxiety over Saudi hegemony, are always pursuing different policies. In particular, support of the Qatari government for the Al Jazeera TV network has proceeded along policies different from those of the Saudis as well as the Americans, and this TV network has played an important role in awakening the Arabs and in strengthening their common identity in recent years, and with the spreading of the Arab revolutionary fires, it has effectively become the platform of the rebellious people.

In view of the points mentioned, we can see that rentier oil states, and in particular the Gulf Cooperation Council states, are considered the primary stronghold of dictatorship and counterrevolution in the Arab world.

TWO: Non-oil states with strategic importance
These are states that, despite lacking oil resources, have played an important role in shaping the ruling political balance of forces in the Arab world, for the past thirty-to-forty years. Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco can be placed in this group. All these (except Lebanon, which has its own exclusive characteristics) are violent dictatorships, but are so different in so many respects that to group them together can be misleading. For example, Egypt, which houses nearly a quarter of the Arab population, and has played a key role in shaping the public opinion of the Arab people in the past century, differs from Lebanon -- with only four million people and a "sectarian" system -- in so many ways that cannot be ignored. However, despite all the differences among all these countries, the main arena of the progress for the revolution most likely lies in these very countries. And, if we consider the Arab world today as the "weak link in the imperialist chain", we must seek the breaking point of this weak link in these very countries. [...]

THREE: Peripheral states
These are that group of Arab states that, due to their underdevelopment and economic and political difficulties, do not play an important role in shaping the political balance of powers in the Arab world, and even today, after the start of the Arab revolutionary fires, will likely not be the arena for big revolutionary rebellions. Sudan, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Somalia, Djibouti, and Comoros islands can be considered as members of this group.

End Note: * all data is deliberately taken from CIA-The World Factbook, and the figures for gross per capita domestic product are based on [the assumption] "equality of purchasing power"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Arab World

Translation of an analysis by Shalgooni about the Arab revolution.
See original, in Persian, here ...

Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Arab World - 1
by: Mohammad-Reza Shalgooni / April 9, 2011

The Arab revolution, whose introduction descended on the region like a thunder, and which brought tens of millions of people with their spontaneous protests to the streets in different Arab countries, is now facing a mountain of difficulties and turmoil. In Tunisia and Egypt, where the dictators were brought down, the dictatorial structures are still standing untouched, and the cronies of the dictators that were overthrown are planning to leash the revolution. In Libya, imperialist powers with the support and collusion of the most reactionary Arab dictatorships, in a surrealistic coalition, have entered the arena in support of the Libyan revolution. [Meanwhile] in Yemen, despite his grumblings about "White House conspiracies", Ali Abdullah Saleh's hands are left completely free in slaughtering the Yemeni revolutionaries. In Bahrain, where the Saudi military forces in support of the Al Khalifa royal family are occupying the place, the Al Jazeera TV distorts the truth in the same manner as Hilary Clinton. And finally, in Syria (despite all the predictions and disbelief of "experts"), where revolutionary waves are breaking the levies supporting the Asad dynasty, the Wahabi king of Saudi Arabia, in order to "neutralize the conspiracy," announces its solidarity with the Alawite Baathist monarchic republic. Can the great Arab revolution overcome these challenges and find a way out? Nobody can yet answer this question clearly, but paying attention to the reasons and the conditions that gave rise to this revolution can give us a better understanding of its capabilities and it horizons.

Conditions that gave rise to the Arab Revolution
Before anything, it must not be forgotten that the Arab revolution is a world even. Without attention to this truth, it will be difficult to understand the alignment of the forces and the ups and downs of the revolutionary process, even within the borders of particular countries involved. The factor that gives this revolution a global character is not merely the fact that it travels beyond the borders of this or that country. It is rather the very important and sensitive position of the Middle East in the current world system.

The Middle East is tied to the heart of the world system (meaning the U.S.) in two ways: through the oil and gas resources and through the issue of Israel. So far as the importance of oil and gas resources go, it is enough to remember that 60% of today's world's energy needs are met by oil and gas, and nearly 60% of known oil reserves and more than 40% of known gas reserves are located in the Middle East. The Israel issue, however, is important because it is the source of constant friction between the people of the region and the U.S. Whether we consider Israel as an outpost or a bridge for the American empire in the Middle East, or an out-of-control regime that even threatens American interests in the region, we cannot deny the reality of two factors: first, the "Israel lobby" exercises considerable influence in the power structures in the U.S. and has tied the American Middle East policy with Israeli interests; and second, the goal of the Israeli occupation [of Palestinian territories] is the complete elimination of the Palestinian people from the map of the Middle East, and this is something that the Arab nations cannot stay indifferent about. It was by putting his finger on this very truth that enabled Uri Avnery to write in the second week of the Egyptian revolution: "The turmoil in Egypt was caused by economic factors: the rising cost of living, the poverty, the unemployment, the hopelessness of the educated young. But let there be no mistake: the underlying causes are far more profound. They can be summed up in one word: Palestine." Considering these realities and truths, then, as long as the U.S. continues its [two-pronged] policy of unconditional support of Israel and the control of energy resources of Middle East, the connectedness of the region to the heart of the current world system will continue. For this reason, the Arab revolution in inevitable fashion is a rebellion against the current world system; and the more this rebellion progresses forward (and, of course, if it progresses forward), the more clearly and transparently will it manifest and display its [anti-systemic] nature. Any change in the Arab world will most definitely change the Middle East's relations with the current world system.

It is necessary here to remind the reader that "Middle East", more than being a geographic concept, is a strategic concept invented by the British empire, and has been employed and institutionalized by the American empire (and more so the English language media), and its boundaries vary depending on American policies. [...] However, the Arab world is a geographic and historical reality, without which "Middle East" (within or beyond any limits) loses its importance for many reasons:

1. A significant portion of the energy sources of the Middle East is located in the Arab world.

2. The Arab world is the most connected part of Middle East. Of course, Arab people live in (more than) 22 different countries, but a majority of them have such vast cultural, historical and religious connections that they consider themselves a united collectivity that shares the same destiny. Arabic is the official language of all these countries with a population of 350 million people that mostly live side by side over a contiguous landmass stretching from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the coasts of Persian Gulf. The mother tongue of nearly 80% of this population is Arabic, and the religion of 90% is Islam. [...]

3. History of Islam and the history of Islamic empires, Muslim holy places, and the Arabic language as the religious language of Islam, has bestowed a special place to the Arab world among the peoples of the greater Middle East and even the Muslim world, and this turns Arab issues into issues for the entire Muslim world, and in turn into truly global issues and sensitivities.

It is all these special characteristics together that make the Arab revolution a world event, with larger global resonance. In addition to these factors, the Arab revolution is taking place in a particular time period/era: after the banner of the thesis of "Clash of Civilizations" had been raised by some American imperialist strategists, and the sharp edge of this thesis pointed particularly at Muslims and naturally the Arabs; after the September 11, 2001 disaster, and a bigger disaster called "war on terrorism," whose sharp blade, again, has been drawn against Muslims and specially Arabs and has caused the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq; after PLO had been shut up and made irrelevant, and after the erection of the Apartheid Wall and the imprisonment of one and a half million Palestinians in the Gaza ghetto, which was made possible through Mubarak's collusion with Israeli government.

And finally, two more factors tie the Arab revolution to the global clock: First, the Arab revolution set things on fire in an era when the revolution in information and communications had ripened on a world and mass scale; as a result, a significant portions of the Arab youth, by turning to the Internet and social media, could bypass dictatorial regimes' media, and competing satellite TV stations (especially since the creation of Al Jazeera TV) could bring closer together all the millions of the Arab masses in different countries. Second, the globalization of capital and the neo-liberal regime of accumulation have led to the biggest economic crisis of capitalism in the last eighty years, a crisis that is still causing unemployment, inequality, poverty and hunger on catastrophic levels around the world, and has had a determining role in starting the fires of the Arab revolution.

During the first days of the February 1917 revolution in Russia, in a series of articles titled "Letters from Afar", Lenin showed that the contradictions of the capitalist system at the beginning of the 20th century, more than anywhere else, had become critical in Russia, and it was from this that the concept of "the weak link in the imperialist chain" was created. And today, we can say with some certainty that the contradictions of world capitalism of twenty-first century are most critical in today's Arab world more than anywhere else, and the weak link in today's imperialist chain is in the Arab world.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The long road to the Arab revolution

Whose cartography is to prevail?

This is from Weekly Worker (a publication of Communist Party of Great Britain), and seems to be a reasonable assessment of the situation in Libya; that, among other topics related to the current Arab revolutionary wave. The text is from "Moshé Machover's address at a recent CPGB aggregate on the defeat of the Libyan revolution, Al-Jazeera, and the goal of Arab unity."

The long road to the Arab revolution
by: Moshé Machover / March 31, 2011

It is very difficult to talk in a coherent way about a process which is unfolding and where things are changing all the time. What I would like to do is to initiate a discussion and explore some ideas about where the revolution is going, and what we should expect in both the short term and longer term.

But, given the contention on the left, I think we should start with Libya. There is a lot of confusion, and I think that this is partly for understandable reasons. I am not referring here to the ‘confusion’ of those who effectively cheer the imperialist intervention. Groups like the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are in my opinion simply social-imperialists.

I am actually talking about socialists - people I regard as comrades, such as Gilbert Achcar, who is not a social-imperialist and is very critical of western intervention and of this ‘coalition of the willing’ (and partly unwilling!) that is being sent to ‘protect’ the Libyan revolution.

There is a genuine problem, and it would be unfortunate to appear callous and uncaring about the fate of those in Benghazi who were penned in and faced the terrible prospect of being massacred. Given the despair they are in, I would not actually be too critical of them for calling on the so-called ‘international community’ for help.

We have to be clear that the ‘international community’ is itself an ideological construct, a term used in order to conflate the US-led global hierarchy of states on the one hand and global public opinion on the other. There is world public opinion - civil society - which has real humanitarian concerns, and then there is the so-called ‘international community’, which is the nom de guerre of the US and its followers.

Why Libya?
Why did they go for Libya and not other places? For me there are three main reasons. Firstly, there is the question of oil. Do not underestimate this factor. Of course, the quantity of oil Libya offers is next to nothing in comparison to Saudi Arabia, but it is its quality which makes them interested in it. It is just about the best oil you can find, particularly for aircraft fuel.

Secondly, they have been asked to intervene this time around, which is crucial in providing them with an ideological and political cover: nobody asked them in Egypt or in Yemen; nobody even asked them in Bahrain.

Thirdly, although Gaddafi’s Libya ceased to be a ‘rogue state’ from around 2003, there is some truth in the claim that, from the standpoint of the imperialists, Gaddafi is still a rogue. Why? Well he is obviously a little bit crazy and very unreliable for them. So, although he is ‘our friend’ now (or was until very recently!), he was never somebody who could be fully trusted, as he is unstable in every possible manner - including mentally. How anybody can take him seriously after hearing him speak is simply beyond me.
It is my view that the Libyan revolution is already defeated. From the moment the Interim Transitional National Council felt it had to invite this intervention it became clear that it was unable to overthrow the regime. As Marx observed a long time ago, revolution is needed not only to overthrow the powers that be, but also to transform the people who are making it - the process of revolution is a transformative one which gives the masses confidence in their ability to change things and to be masters of their own fate. Once you call on other forces to intervene, all this is lost, and in this sense it is a defeat.

The second remark which I think I would add to Achcar’s analysis is this. It may well be that inviting these forces into Libya is the lesser evil, compared to being slaughtered. But it is still an evil. Sometimes one must accept and put up with the lesser evil, but one must never demand it. The people who are not only demanding, but cheering the intervention are renegades to the revolutionary idea. If it is a lesser evil but it comes to pass anyway, then you have to protest against it, you have to denounce it.
Moreover, the no-fly (now no-drive?) zone is dangerous not only in its immediate effect on the outcome in Libya. It also sets a worrying precedent. Once you give these forces the legitimation to act as the global policeman, then next time they will use it as they please - not for the lesser evil, but the greater one. Giving such forces legitimacy is in the worst interests of revolution both in the Arab world and beyond - it is in the best interests of counterrevolution, because that is how they are going to use it. It is not simply this situation on its own, in isolation, but what it implies for the future as well.

Also, when our rulers make war it is very bad for us - this is a point made by Marx.
Whilst I have claimed that this moment marks the defeat of the Libyan revolution, I have not said that it is the defeat of the Arab revolution. I certainly hope it is not! This is just one sector of it, but it is not accidental that this defeat happened in a country like Libya. The reasons are quite clear.

Read the complete analytical article here ...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Condemn Camp Ashraf Massacre

United in Violence and Illegitimacy

On April 8, 2011, the Iraqi government attacked Camp Ashraf, where a group of Iranian dissidents (Mojahedin-e Khalq of Iran) have been staying since 1980s. The U.S. occupying forces assumed the responsibility of first disarming and then protecting the people staying at Camp Ashraf when the U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003. Under the agreements reached between the U.S. and the Iraqi government, Camp Ashraf was supposed to be protected, in agreement with U.N. refugee agency policies regulating such cases. Camp Ashraf came under a similar attack previously, in June 2009.

Amnesty International Calls for Investigation into Camp Ashraf Attack
April 9, 2011

Take Action For Ashraf Resident!

Amnesty International, April 8, 2011 - The Iraqi authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into reports that Iraqi troops killed and injured residents of a camp for Iranian exiles north of Baghdad in an unprovoked attack, Amnesty International said today.

“Iraqi troops moved into the camp this morning and used excessive force against residents who tried to resist them, according to the information we have received,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“This is the latest of a series of violent actions that the Iraqi government has taken against the Camp Ashraf residents, whose continuing presence in Iraq they oppose.”

Clashes broke out this morning after Iraqi security forces took up positions in the camp using armoured personnel carriers and, apparently, live fire against residents who tried to resist them, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. As yet, the number of casualties cannot be independently verified.

The camp in Diyala province around 60 km north of Baghdad is home to some 3,400 Iranian exiles and refugees, including members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).

Read the complete report here ...

1) See a chronology of the bloody massacre here ...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Acknowledging Bankruptcy of Iranian Regime's Official Ideology

"Here's your next assignment. But, don't go eliminating everybody all at once now!"

Translation of an article by Mohamad-Reza Shalgooni, an activist/analyst/writer with Raah-e Kargar. The original article can be read here.

This is an important analysis. From its inception, the Islamic Republic has been in a constant process of purging its own fellow travelers. The initial coalition that formed the first elected revolutionary government was soon (within months) purged of its most liberal layers. The subsequent, long and persistent process of eliminating various factions, and the consequent non-stop positioning and re-positioning of different factions throughout the 32-year history of Islamic Republic -- along with the most ferocious barbarity displayed against the people of Iran and their rights by ALL factions, while in power -- are among the notable constants in the life of this regime.

Any phenomenon (e.g., a political state formation) that strives to live in complete and utter contradiction with its environment (e.g., in a complex society like modern Iran) will forever produce and re-produce contradictions and conflicts within itself. This is axiomatic.

In the article below, Mohamad-Reza Shalgooni shows us the application of this axiom to the current situation in Iran. The latest conflict/contradiction is among the ranks of (what I call) fundamentalist factions, and Shalgooni highlights the significance of their skirmishes.

"Iranian Doctrine": Acknowledging Bankruptcy of Regime's Official Ideology
Mohamad Reza Shalgooni / 24 Marh 2011

Organizing widespread and lavish Norooz celebrations by Ahmadinejad government around the country has once again caused a quarrel within the "Principlist" factions regarding the "Iranian Doctrine." In the last two to three weeks, many of the well known Principlist figures -- from Mohamad-Reza Bahonar to Ahmad Khatami, from Yadollah Javani (head of the political office of the Revolutionary Guards) to Gholam-Hossein Gheib-Parvar (head of the Fajr Battalions of Fars province), from Ahmad Tavakoli to Hossein Shariatmadari -- have all raised their voices in opposition to the "Iranian Doctrine" of Ahmadinejad's faction. Their reactions have gone so far as Bahonar calling it "a huge sedition taking shape," which "wants to emerge out of Principlism, but does not recognize the religious seminaries and [Islamic] Shari'a." Also, Ali Motahari has said in majlis [parliament], "We warn the president that if he continues to insist on spreading the Iranian doctrine, and ignoring the hejab [Islamic cover] issue, we will put the questioning of the president on the [parliament's] agenda." It surely must have been an attempt to prevent the further escalation of these very differences when Khamenei, in his Norooz address in Mashad [in northeastern Iran, burial place of Imam Reza, eighth Shiite Imam], with "admonition and a serious warning to the responsible officials of the three branches," asked them to not display [and quarrel over] their differences in front of the people.

What is this "Iranian Doctrine", however, and what goals does Ahmadinejad's gang wish to pursue by proposing this doctrine? From a look at the hodgepodge of things said in this regard by Ahmadinejad and Masha'ie and their fellow-travelers, it is clear that their "Iranian Doctrine", rather than a well defined and coherent intellectual and political system of thought is in fact a sign of distancing from the official ideology of the Islamic Republic, and is an effort to shape a ruling ideology (one that is more effective, in their belief) in the usual manner: through trial and error, erratic movements and pushing forth in darkness. Apparently, they have realized that the official ideology (especially) in today's world and in a country like Iran, is so out of touch and an obstacle to such a degree that, without an effective mobilization of the regime's support base, it will daily cause an increasing number of the majority of the people into rebellion against the regime. It is with an eye on this issue that they are trying to mix up some elements of Iranian nationalism and Shiite ideology, in an attempt to fashion other tools that are capable of mobilizing, and thus save the Islamic Republic from the current predicament (which has constantly become more suffocating for the regime).

In order to better understand their thinking and their goals, it is important to pay attention to a few points:

1. The central core of the official ideology of Islamic Republic is commitment to Shari'a and carrying out its dictates. In fact, it is the commitment to Shari'a which creates the need for Islamic rule, including the velayat-e faqih [rule of religious guradian]. We must not forget that it was this commitment to Shari'a that, before the formation of Islamic Republic and Khomeini's ideas about velayat-e faqih, in the period of Constitutional movement, which led to the proposed necessity of conformity of the laws passed by the parliament to the Shari'a rulings, which was made possible in the Second Principle/Act of the Amendment to the Constitution, which gave veto power to sources of emulation, [represented] through five qualified, predetermined religious scholars. An institution that was a less violent version of today's 'Guardian Council'.

This very Shari'a, however, and especially its rules and regulations regarding social issues, are the most rigid and cumbersome parts of the Islamic ideology that have become intertwined with the "historical Islam" and the conditions for its emergence [initiallty], and is one of the biggest problems of Muslims in today's societies. For example, it is enough to look at "personal rights", and especially women's rights, to see how far out of touch [such rules] are in today's societies. For [another] example, just the intellectual commitment to the principle of women's lesser worth compared to men, the rule of "women are half of men" and the separation of men from women, or gender apartheid, in today's world (in which the equality of individual rights, at least on paper, has become a universal principle) can lead any government to constant confrontations and an attritional war against the majority of the society. [...]

2. The incongruity of the principle of velayat-e faqih [rule of the religious guardian] is no less of an incongruity than that of the ancient rulings of Shari'a. In today's world, dictatorship is not a rare phenomenon, but most of the world's dictatorships portray themselves as elected by the people and as enactors of people's will, and they insist on showing themselves as republics and as being faithful to the superficial rituals of republicanism. This is so because in today's world, people's sovereignty/rule (at least on paper) has become a universal principle.

The big problem with velayat-e faqih is that not only is it a dictatorship, but on the intellectual level too it defends the necessity and righteousness of the dictatorship of the religious guardian. And it is impossible that, in today's world, this would not cause conflict and crises. Of course, in Islamic Republic too the kingly absolute rule of the religious guardian has been wrapped with the cover of 'republic', and is especially portrayed as having arisen from people's revolution and their choice. However, the insistence on the divine source of their rule and the very limited responsibilities of the elected institutions as opposed to the semi-god like lifetime privileges of the religious guardian, and the domination of elected bodies by institutions of the religious guardianship, are all so obvious and clear that the fig leaf of 'republic' can hardly do its job of covering the real face of the absolutist kingly rule. In other words, in a world in which many dictatorships, in order to justify themselves, resort to [rationalizations such as] "enlightened dictatorship" or "developmentalist dictatorship" as a necessary, temporary and transitional stage, the Islamic republic, in contrast, by resorting to the necessity of the absolutist rule of the religious guardian for enacting ancient reactionary laws of Shari'a, is in effect forced to defend the necessity of "Unenlightened dictatorship" and "Reactionary tyranny", and of course of the divine and eternal type.

3. People's rule, or people's sovereignty, manifests itself in today's world in the form of the sovereignty of the nation because citizens' rights have meaning only within the boundaries of the nation-state. And this creates an opportunity for an active role by nationalism in the dominant politics of countries. Nationalism can be one of the most effective ways of confronting the formation of independent awareness and [collective] will of the people, and of preventing the strengthening of democratic institutions. Nationalism's main role is mostly to unite the people in the nation in the face of "others", and these "others" may/can be a foreign "threat", or other nations (mainly neighbors), but (in nationalism's view) "they" always have infiltrators inside the country, who prevent the complete unity of the nation: from trends and organizations that defend class awareness and solidarity with workers and the poor to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities.

The offensive/aggressive form of nationalism, especially when it sees essential freedoms and democracy and even pluralism [among its own ranks] as obstacles, takes the form of fascism. Fascism's role is to inculcate [a sense of] national superiority and to keep the "nation" mobilized to confront the "others", by leveling out and homogenizing (and mostly centralizing) political and economic structures as well as evaluative systems, and by putting them all under a unified command. For fascism, 'nation' has meaning only in the form of herded masses under the guidance of a unitary leader: a leader who is the expression of the homogeneity of the nation and understands and expresses the "spirit" and the will of the nation better than the nation itself. In other words, fascism is not after divine legitimacy from the skies but, like other modern ideologies, understands its legitimacy to be issued by historical necessity and the will of a homogeneous nation, in herd like fashion, and it creates conditions in which the nation cannot express its will independent of the "leader". And it is this very mechanism and essence of fascism that makes it suitable for Ahmadinejad and his gang, as an attractive substitute for ridding themselves of the [current] meddlesome and ineffective official, ancient ideology of the Islamic Republic.

4. From the very beginnings, the Islamic Republic has always had strong fascistic tendencies within itself, which it strengthened, and some of its most important institutions, such as Revolutionary Guards and the Basij and its security and intelligence bodies, were formed with a fascistic logic and culture. Although these "pilars", due to several reasons -- including the multiplicity of centers of power and the traditional ideology of the regime -- could not become the leading centers of power until a decade ago, today they are clearly in a more dominant position and are trying to bring under their own control different ruling institutions. And it is against the background of the climb to a more powerful position of political power by these "pilars" that Ahmadinejad's gang is raising the banner of "Iranian Doctrine." They try to somehow show their displeasure with the fight against bad hejab, and in different [social] spheres they show signs that mean nothing other than taking a distance from the most obvious elements of the official ideology, and exactly for that reason most of the Principlists portray those moves as [sinful]. Numerous signs indicate that Ahmadinejad gang's "cultural" moves are not unrelated to all the hurried and speedy changes being enacted at various levels of power, and we must evaluate these moves as part of the tendency by the political power structures of the Islamic Republic to turning [completely] fascistic.

5. The process of distancing from the official ideology of the regime is still in its early stages, and (as mentioned) is still progressing by trial and error and in darkness. It is therefore still unclear what exactly Ahmadinejad and his supporters' plans are and what goals they pursue. It is clear from right now however that this distancing is, first of all, an acknowledgment of the bankruptcy of the official ideology of Islamic Republic by some of it most rabid supporters; secondly, it will be faced with a fierce opposition from the Principlists, and it may lead to an all-out confrontation between the Principlist factions. The truth is that with the elimination of the reformists from power, the Islamic Republic has not become more homogeneous, and just like Mohamad-Reza Bahonar predicts, another "great sedition" is taking form, a sedition that this time will emerge from within the Principlists themselves.