Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Iran Opposition Movement: Dead or Alive?

Time for negation of the negation ...

Translation of an article by Amin Hosuri, on the current conjuncture of the opposition movement in Iran. A must-read!

[Read the original, in Persian, at Amin Hosuri's blog,
Sarbalaee (The Uphill)]

Movement in Labyrinth-1:
Is the Movement Alive?

by Amin Hosuri / June 22, 2011

Intoduction: My assumption is that the readers of this text consider themselves as sharing the same fate and pains as the people who live in that geographical site of tyranny [Iran]. There are many among them who, no doubt, consider what has been unfolding in these past two years in the form of a protest movement/Green Movement in Iran is important. Considering this movement to be important, however, is independent of the method of evaluation and judgment regarding its composition, direction and the horizons of the movement. It is purely based on the understanding that this movement (at least in the medium-term) will greatly impact our collective fate (directly or indirectly). Therefore, and since every mass movement of the people carries within it a compressed form of historical developments (since it is both the result of past history and the shaper of its future horizons), using Alain Badiou's conceptual system, we can call this movement an 'Event'. In this case, the addressees of this text are those who wish and try to stay "loyal" to this event. (Though, in the end or from the very start, we must distance ourselves from the common sense and brittle aspects/understandings of "loyalty" and think about "true" forms of loyalty; meaning, going beyond the level of wishes and futile efforts, and in effect doing something that leads to prolonging the life of the 'Event' and nurtures the liberating potentialities of the 'Event'.) [...]

Is the Movement Alive?!
We have heard a lot about whether the movement is dead or alive or petering out; and usually in exaggerated narratives. The movement and its being alive is not separate from our collective actions; however, since this 'us', in its widest meaning, is not represented by any particular collective institution, and since it doesn't have any channels to express its internal tendencies, it is not easily possible to judge the upward or downward trend of 'our collective actions'. If we do not over-generalize based on our own personal observations, and if we do not recognize the media chains of the "Green Industry" as a valid framework for discerning the reality of the movement, the factors indicating the vitality or demise of the movement must be sought in the immediate external impacts of the movement. However, in an oppressive system armed with the all the instruments of deceit and censorship, it is not possible to systematically follow such external impacts; unless, at a time when the system undergoes fundamental changes or else is on the way to definite destruction, when thus the presence of the movement is displayed to all!

Under such conditions filled with uncertainties, conditions have ripened for two groups and lines of thought to spread and disseminate their speculations. On the one hand are tendencies that have always denied the validity of the movement or ridiculed it (for any reasons, such as the presence of the reformists in the movement, or the lack of the presence of organized workers in the movement), and now consider the movement finished and destroyed, and based on this "observation" they conclude the correctness of their previous positions vis-a-vis the movement; in the final analysis, to re-emphasize the legitimacy of their politics (which is essentially independent of any 'Event'). On the other hand are those tendencies who are reliant on an instrumentalist utilization of the movement, and who portray the movement "filled with ever-more vitality". It is as if regardless of the method of interaction/engagement with particular external conditions and the way it addresses its internal needs, the movement is forever surging up and ahead, until that time when the "desired victory" is achieved. The necessity for shaping a "victory" that is independent of the path taken requires banging on the drums of hegemonic discourse, which monopolizes the determination of criteria and the definitions of victory, just like it monopolizes other spheres that are reflective of the movement; it is clear that we are talking about the reformist political discourse.

The Reformist tendencies -- due to their political organization, financial capabilities, media support, and as well due to their old connections with and ideological closeness to the ruling system (which still gives them certain possibilities for maneuvering within the system) -- have been able to impose their discourse on the movement and to keep that hegemony to this day. Of course, in this effort, they have enjoyed the close cooperation of Persian language media outlets of western governments. From the political viewpoint of this tendency, and also their allies in some layers of the [real] opposition, the movement has always traversed a vertical path, and has now bypassed its raw initial phases, which were manifested as street demonstrations, and reached the phase for negotiations and compromise with the ruling system (in this regard, Mr. Rajab-ali Mazroo'ie's straight talk with BBC (1), does not differ much, essence-wise, from the sentimentalist article by Ms. Maliheh Mohammadi, in Rooz Online (2)).

In addition to the two political trends already mentioned, we are faced with a vast array of generally unknown individuals who are 'loyal' to the 'Event' and believe that, "Any social movement is an expansion of the 'possible horizons'". As a result, they hoped/wished and viewed the reformists as the 'driving engine' of the movement (with an array of political understandings and analyses), so they inevitably tied up the fate of the movement, more or less, to the way the reformists acted. Today, however, with ever more evidence of the utilitarian/instrumentalist attitude of the reformists regarding the movement (or, to put it another way, with the take-over of the most degenerate faction of reformists in determining their common strategy), and under conditions whereby the movement has not had any tangible progress forward or any achievements, it seems that great number of such people are frustrated/disappointed, and from this vantage point they see the movement on its way to being defeated.

At the same time, a major segment of this third grouping, despite the ever more clarity of the arena of struggle, still retain their hope in the reformists (whether due to tactical and intellectual reasons or psychological ones (3)); even as it is the case that great many of them, in order to keep this hopes alive, have to regularly adjust their political views to the analyses provided by the organic intellectuals of the reformist factions. From the point of view of this segment of population, under the conditions of no alternatives for oppositional struggle -- which is explained only by reference to government's extreme brutality [meaning, without any reflection on the role played by reformist leaders themselves in misleading and wasting opportunities, not to mention not creating any new paths for fighting __ trans. note] -- any source that defends the movement and reminds us of the growth of the movement (which is an internal dream/wish of theirs) is worth supporting and following; a support that, rewarded by "steadfastness" in struggle and excused by the "brutality" of the other side, is mainly uncritical. For these people, in actuality, the only effective way of participating in the movement is to reproduce and distribute the images/symbols that the reformists have presented as reflecting the movement, along with accepting the sterile strategies that come of these images/symbols. It is obvious that the insistence by the government to deny the existence of the movement, and the daily increase in humiliation of the people by the state along with brutal repression of and crackdown on any external sign of [existence of] the movement, encourage and strengthen the persistence of this trend of thought especially among the youth; a trend that has up to now intensified populist tendencies in the movement.

Under these conditions, though, truly, what reliable criteria can we find to evaluate whether the movement is alive or waning? It is clear that the deepening of general dissatisfactions (which is also tied to the increasing spread of social problems and problems to do with making a living) and even the growth of the internal fissures in the regime (which has always been an essential part of its internal dynamics) alone cannot in and of themselves be an indicator for whether or not the movement is alive and thriving. If the criteria for a movement to be alive and well is, on the one hand, people's willingness and preparedness to participate in that movement and, on the other hand, actual existence of channels and strategies for actualizing this collective participation (and ways to ensure its growth and strengthening), then it has to be said that the movement is not dead, but in [dynamic] suspension.

The movement is in suspension due to the fact that despite having the first factor [willingness to participate] (which was confirmed by the February 14, 2011 demonstrations), the people lack the second factor. This suspension of the movement, which is clearly reflected in the suppressed general desire to recapture the streets (as reflected by, for example, small demonstrations of June 12, 2011 and others like it), can after some time lead to its demise and destruction; since, as mentioned in the outline of criteria for vitality of the movement, the first factor is not independent of the second factor. In other words, in the absence of proper and appropriate alternatives for mass resistance and struggle -- something that would provide the conditions for actualizing and spreading different levels/spheres for people's participation in the movement (despite the existence of oppressive conditions) -- without alternatives that would be in harmony with nurturing and expanding the spontaneity of actions and creativity of people in struggle, the collective motivation for participating in the movement will wane sooner or later, and eventually, with the intensification of the crackdown by the regime, the social hope that could have been transformative turns into collective and ruinous frustration/disappointment.

In actuality, lack of cohesiveness and organization in the body of the movement (which is, more than anything else, the result of the dark history of tyranny and oppression) provided enough space to the only organized layer of the movement (the reformists) to impose their discourse on the whole movement. A discourse which, regardless of any political judgment, in practice and in the ever up and down currents of the movement has shown that it is not only incapable of filling the vacuum of the second factor (effective alternatives and strategies for carrying the struggle forward) but even lacking any motivation to do any such thing, and instead by portraying the movement in distorted manner even denies such necessities, and by continuing to act in monopolistic and power-centered fashion (unconcerned with the fate of the movement), the reformists are rendering sterile all the energies, all the creativities and spontaneities of the people.

Based on all this, it seems that the only criterion that at this stage can testify to the vitality of the movement is the spreading of signs that the movement is going beyond its dominant political discourse [of the reformists]. In other words, the movement's vitality will in fact not materialize unless the movement passes the current phase of waiting and suspension, and goes to the phase of dynamic independence; and this is that very necessity, finding the difficult answer to which is the substance of the challenge that must occupy all our collective ability and intellect. This is so because the movement, in order to step into a dynamic existence, has no choice but to shed its old skin, so as to be able to re-find all its social capabilities and its internal potentialities, and to establish the missing links of organization and struggle. I think that the question of "What is to be done?" confronts us on exactly this point, as an inevitable phase of going beyond this purgatory.

Sa'eed Hajjarian is known to have said: "Reforms are dead; long live reforms!" It is time that we also say: "The movement reliant on reformists is dead; Long live people's movement!"

1) See link below:

2) This Was the Minimum Accomplishment:

3) This approach of putting unconditional and indefinite hope in some external source is in fact a result of extreme hopelessness; more specifically, a great portion of the people, affected by age-old oppressive conditions of crackdowns and lack of any people's organizations, do not see any capacity in themselves to prepare for and continue to fight, and inevitably pursue their fight against the source of dominant power-holder by recourse to another source of power.

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