Saturday, January 21, 2012

Reflections on the Iran-US Cold War

Thanks for this, we agree with the points made here, some of which have been made before, not just by this blog but also by writers, activists and analysts on leftist Persian language sites.

Some Reflections on the Iran-US Cold War
By: Rostam Rakhshian / Jan. 19, 2012

A lot of people in the western left continue to misread the situation in Iran and the western powers' posturing toward Iran.

We have seen cycles of intensified rhetoric on a regular basis for at least six to seven years now. Every time the rhetoric heats up, the armies of commentators on all sides get into their now familiar routines. The western powers and their allies insist on the usual demands for accountability from the Iranian regime regarding its nuclear program, while the Islamic Republic regime insists on its inalienable right to pursue nuclear energy, and the various west-residing lobbyists for the Iranian regime start their frenzied petition gatherings, letter/commment writing, and warn everybody of the disaster a war would create for the people, and so they call for open, unconditional negotiations (implicitly asking the western powers to recognize the Islamic regime as a legitimate entity representing the people). And of course, the western left continues to see things only in a black and white picture, in which the U.S. and its western allies are the baddies and the Iranian regime is a poor, overly oppressed entity; in the process conveniently forgetting all the terror this regime unleashes on the Iranian people on a daily basis.

Just about everybody forgets the people of Iran, who continue to be held hostage by a mad policy of nuclear adventurism, just so the Iranian regime can gain some bullying rights in the region.

The western powers, however, do not seem to want an open war with Iran. Sabotage, yes. Diplomatic and economic pressures, of course. But, no open war.

To this end, in the past week we have seen the U.S. putting pressure on Israel to tone down its war rhetoric against Iran, and now president Sarkozy is warning the world about the dire consequences of a military attack on Iran.

Here are some points to consider:

1) It should be noted that any open war with Iran would actually help the trend to solidify the regime, not change it. Any military moves, much like the current sanctions and sabotage campaign, would be intended as an act to induce change of behavior without fundamentally changing the regime.

This is exactly why the militant faction inside the Islamic Republic regime would actually welcome a limited military confrontation.

The people of Iran will be the only losers, as they are the only losers now. They and only they, as they do now, will bear the cost in life, health, in economic deprivation, in increased social misery, in more violence and terror hanging over their heads, and of course it is the people who will suffer from further militarization of their society, and the dominance of various mafias, including the state-controlled and related ones.

The further misery for the people is exactly what the imperialists want. One major point here missed by a lot of western left is that, by equating the people of Iran with the state, they actually forget that for the Iranian state too, the people are dispensable. The mullahs' regime has a historical record to prove this disregard for people's lives.

During the Iran-Iraq war, by 1982 Iranian forces had repelled the Iraqi forces from all Iranian territory that had been invaded. At this point, the war could have ended, but the war had proven invaluable in the consolidation of the clerical regime, so they continued it for another SIX years; in the process, sending hundreds of thousands of people (on both sides) to their deaths under the slogan, 'The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad'.

An open fight with the Great Satan can definitely be put to the same use; especially, considering how hated the regime is by the majority of the Iranian people right now. Such open confrontation can be used most efficiently to more effectively suppress any form of dissent.

2) I really don't think the U.S. wants an open war. They are fully aware of the fact that Iran has TWO SETS of militaries (three, if you include the millions-strong - according to the state itself - Basij forces). This military force, unlike what happened to Iraq before being invaded, has NOT been bombarded for a whole decade and some, and its infrastructure has not been completely destroyed. The Iranian regime has vast capabilities, totally intact, including their own military industries, developed during the Iran-Iraq war and well financed ever since. They have their hands in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and can make those places put some real heat on the Americans. So, if or when push comes to shove, the Iranian side is well capable of shoving back. The blustering by the Americans may be loud, but everybody with eyes can see that this great imperial power is incapable of pacifying even Afghanistan.

3) The most reasonable explanation I've come across is that the present rise in rhetoric and covert actions could indeed be hot air and maneuvering before the sides sit down to negotiate, so the Iranian state has chosen to go on the offensive of its own (in response to the offensive by the west, and instead of backing down) with the aim of raising the ante and maneuvering for a negotiating position to its benefit.

4) I think the path of economic sanctions is the Americans' preferred path to achieve change of behavior by the Iranian regime. The Americans know that the Iranian regime is illegitimate, which is exactly why they want it in place (even if some of the faces have to be changed). The Americans therefore know well how mafia-infested the Iranian state apparatuses are. And because they know this, they also know that the regime needs cash to buy its foot soldiers. So, if they can cut the flow of cash, the foot soldiers can then be bought by the rivals and certain modification can be achieved without a hugely costly war, which if it really breaks out in the open, could truly and seriously be too costly for the Americans, and the end-result of it is truly unknown.

5) On the key question being used as an excuse to put pressure on Iran, the nuclear issue, the argument has long been lost. Neither the Iranian opposition (the people, that is, not the reformists), nor anybody else is calling for a complete and total stoppage of all nuclear activity based on environmental and safety grounds. Even after the horrible and ongoing disaster in Japan, a country that compared to Iran is far more technologically advanced and far more thorough-going as far as safety is concerned, even after it has been established that the nuclear plant in Bushehr is sitting on top of an active tectonic plate, even after is has been established for thirty-three years that the Iranian government is not responsive, accountable or responsible toward the Iranian people and in fact considers them as cannon fodder for its bankrupt and expansionist ideology; even after all these factors have become self-evident, still nobody is talking about the most rational and most people-oriented solution: stoppage of all nuclear activity in Iran.

As a result, the skirmishes between the western powers and Iran over its nuclear program have become, and will continue to be, the convenient bone of contention to be picked with the Iranian regime.

Gone is any global attention to the atrocious human rights conditions in Iran, gone are the workers' rights, women's rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, gone is attention to the extremely dire situation of the political prisoners. Gone is any form of love for and solidarity with the people of Iran.

For the state powers involved, as well as for a good portion of the western left, the Iranian people have been collapsed into the Iranian regime, and whatever the Iranian regime or the western powers say becomes the criteria for the discussions. And, unfortunately, the western left continues to reproduce this same rhetorical line. We see leftist publications that point to all the horrors and the implications of the Japanese nuclear disaster for the nuclear industry in the U.S., yet the same publications are rabidly jingoistic in supporting even a military nuclear project carried out by a theocracy, under which not a single one of those western leftists would be willing to live, not even for one day.

The Iranian people alone (and in their utter loneliness) remain the only factor capable of enacting true liberation from this madness. Unless the Iranian people take to the streets and intervene with the demand for BOTH no military attacks or economic sanctions AND against the Islamic regime, i.e., unless the Iranian people once again take their collective fate into their own hands, their future will remain one of despair and helplessness, and they will remain the hapless pawns in the power games of the western powers and the Islamic regime.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Letter Writing 'Movement' and Crisis of Collective Subjectivity

Take Back the Street! Take Back the Leadership!

Translation of an article from Sarbalaee weblog, by Amin Hosuri. This is a very valuable analysis of the role played by the Iranian reformists in imposing their own leadership over the movement that arose after the June 2009 electoral coup, how they snuffed that movement, and how they continue to use its corpse to their benefit. We thank the writer for this insightful article.
[See the original, in Persian, here]

Letter Writing 'Movement' and the Crisis of the Collective Subjectivity
Amin Hosuri / December 24, 2011

1) In a society in which the collective struggle for change - for any number of reasons - is on the wane, conditions are created for hero-worship. Heroes are those who, in their own way and with a particular approach, express and reflect a part of the people's grievances and demands. Lack of social movements and lack of the processes of collective dissent creates a situation, in which, faced with the significance of reflecting and expressing (a part of) the collective grievances, it is not noticed how this 'incidental representation' came about or what its effective content is. People, who consider themselves powerless in the face of the ruling system, see their own un-actualized subjectivity realized in the existence and the acts of a hero. In this way, a flood of moral support flows in the direction of the hero, so that with its spread in the populist media and its reproductions throughout the society, the mythical dimensions of the heroic act can grow. Eventually, an unwritten legitimacy is afforded to the heroes, so that they can present their own understanding of social demands and the methods for political/social change as if they were the demands of the totality of the society, and inadvertently reflect a reduced and distorted view of the social conditions.

The most important criteria for the emergence of tendency toward heroic actions and its social acceptance (hero worship) is the supposition that it's as if the heroes, through their individual acts of sacrifice, open up a new battle front against a tyrannical system, a path that was deemed impenetrable through collective actions. In this trend of social struggles becoming individualized, not only does the struggling subjectivity is reduced to an individual or select figures, but the tyrannical system too inevitably is expressed and personified in the individual faces; for example, Mohammad Nourizad versus Seyed-Ali Khamenei; or a short while ago Moussavi versus Ahmadi-nejad.

2) Social engineers of the reformist trends, with the aid of the 'Green Industry' media and the apostles of 'real politic' amongst the right liberals and the left liberals, during the entire period when the oppositional movement had an active presence across the society in the public spaces and the streets, deployed a systematic and all-out campaign to impose a particular political discourse on the movement, and within that frame they drew and established their own limits and red-lines for the internal developments and the external horizons of the movement. All this, in spite of the fact that this [reformist] political discourse was incompatible with both the wide array of the demands and the roots of the people's dissent, and despite the fact in its political content and strategy the reformist discourse lacked the ability to spread and lead the movement forward toward horizons for change and the growth of the 'collective subjectivity'. In fact, the reformists and their apostles directed all their criticisms and warnings at the mal-intent 'radicals' and their alienation from realities of the society, and in spite of all these claims, they pursued the systematic elimination and distortion of their critics, so as to impose their hegemony on the movement.

Now that it is nearly a year since the oppositional movement has disappeared as a result of the domination of the aforementioned discourse, these power-oriented trends, through their numerous media outlets and through the myriad platforms they enjoy inside and outside the country, not only do not allow for any critique of their past actions, they actually pretend as if the movement is still alive and thriving, so as to be able to profit from the moral capital of the movement for their own benefit! From a certain viewpoint, the reformists are right: what is left (alive) of the movement is exactly that very 'standard' and desired pseudo-movement which, during the one year and some months of the social existence of the actual movement, they tried to transform and engineer the movement into: a pseudo-movement that is symbolic and virtual and that the 'expert overlords' can leash completely. It is therefore not shocking that the players and newsmakers and the dissidents of the 'virtual movement' are singular figures and that the model for struggling should also be of the type exemplified by letter writing to the rulers.

However, the heroic halo that the 'Green Industry' media draw around today's heroes' heads is of the same kind that they drew around Moussavi's and Karroubi's heads during the course of the oppositional movement, so that everything shall be measured according their ideas and strategies, and so that, as a result, only the 'figures' closest to them shall have the right to exclusive interpretation of their strategies and actions. Therefore, the turn to heroic acts and today's social acceptance of heroes have their roots in the populism that is a painful problem that grew in the heart of the 'Green Movement'. Just in the same way that the collective inability that gave rise to hero worship caused the defeat of the movement in overcoming its internal contradictions, and hence its inability to elevate the level of organizational development and people's belief in themselves as a fighting force.

3) To induce an illusion regarding the existence of the movement (as opposed to developing and strengthening people's organized resistance for future leaps), although not productive in creating progressive political and social change, has definite and important use for keeping the monopolistic position of the reformists (and their allies) as the main opposition to the current political system. This fact is especially important because when a tyrannical system reaches its unstable stage, at any point there exists the possibility that the crises and the accumulated discontent, in the various economic, political and social fissures, can explode in the form of mass rage and can place the foundations of the system on the verge of collapse. Against such a background, heroic acts find multiple goals and methods: on the one hand [...] the ultimate strains of the continuation of the current situation can be illustrated as a warning to the ruler (ruling system), and on the other hand those trends supporting heroic actions can still remain within those red lines, so as to leave open the path of return to 'political rationality' (to bring the ruler back to his senses).

On the other side of this coin, the 'alternative building' project for the system is hidden. Alternative building, in this context, means creating the conditions for inhibiting or taming the inevitable and unpredictable developments that face the crisis-ridden society. The current belief of a majority of the people and even a great part of the opposition forces is that the reformist trends are committed to protecting the current system, and since they have no interest in its downfall, they want to lead the developments within the confines of the limits set by the Islamic Republic. However, from about the half point of the oppositional movement, when the ruling regime stubbornly showed that it is not willing to tolerate any change whatsoever, it became well clear that the reformists' strategy changed in the direction of a two-pronged game. Based on this strategy, at the same time that the reformists pretended adherence to the legal struggle within the system, they were busy shaping the social subjective conditions in the direction of imposing themselves as the alternative to this system with its shaky foundations. In fact, the first phase of the 'alternative building' project for the Islamic Republic regime had started many years prior: at the time when a part of the reformist forces turned to 'political migration', and with the aid of their financial and organizational capabilities, and with the widespread support of western governments, in a systematic way they started the trend of the destruction of the traditional oppositional forces outside the country, in order to replace them. ('Alternative building', as it happens, is an important and customary, semi-hidden aspect of the foreign policies of western governments.) Along this trend and with the intensification of internal disputes, other intellectual heads of the reformists also joined this arm of their ilk outside the country; alongside this segment of the 'figureheads', a young generation of journalists who had been trained in the 8-year class of reformism [of the Khatami presidency, 1997-2005 _ translator's note] also joined this political organizational structure in migration, and became its bureaucratic and executive body.

The process of rendering uniform the oppositional discourse and its permutation into the 'virtual green movement', to a great extent was due to the widespread activities of the organizational arm [of the reformists] outside the country, under the cover of the atmosphere created by the western governments' media. (The impact of the more-or-less uniform political positioning of the western governments' media such as 'BBC Persian', 'Voice of America and Parazit', Radio Farda, Deutsche Welle, Radio Zamaneh, etc., in strengthening and consolidating the reformist discourse in the political consciousness of the public cannot be ignored.) This, along the fact that even the dominant atmosphere in the oppositional activities outside the country was under the influence of the reformist discourse, is an obvious objective display of the success of the alternative building project. (Not to forget that certain layers from within the traditional opposition, such as Fedayee'an-Majority, and the Union of Republicans, with their political stance of the recent years, have facilitated the further smoothing of the path for the ultimate success of this project.)

So, the wishy-washy oppositional moves of the reformists inside the country, in the form of their repeated flirtations with the issue of parliamentary elections and such, and their more aggressive moves outside the country, in the form of leading the 'virtual movement' (in websites like 'JRS' and 'Kalameh', 'Green Voice of Freedom', and 'Green Transformation', etc.) are all at the service of the alternative building strategy, which aims for the taming of the inevitable future developments. The repeated and limitless exposes in the form of speeches and articles by the reformist leaders, or the heroic letters by their allied figures should be analyzed in the context of this strategy.

4) Based on the above, the actual audience of the letter writings by such people as Nourizad [whose letters to the supreme leader Khamenei is a hot topic in the reformist media _ translator's note] is not intended to be the glorious leader of the Islamic regime, but the general public of the country, and in particular the disgruntled and the potential dissidents, so as to give the 'hero' the legitimacy of representation and for the people to yield to the authority of the trends supportive of the hero and their allied political discourse [...]

From a general viewpoint, writing letters to the rulers smacks of the usual gaze directed at the top [to the powers-that-be] which is usual for the reformists and a wide segment of the Iranian human rights activists, who, in order to bring about political change, place their emphasis not on the people but on the institutions of power. The fact that in such texts/letters the people are rarely addressed is not accidental, since in the outlook of social engineering (which, due to its power-oriented nature, it considers the political field as the field of managing the people and events), people's role is ultimately that of the mass of pawns, whose supportive presence is necessary for the power-oriented to capture the seat of power. In order to attract the mesmerized or docile support of the people, they must be brainwashed with ambiguous and populist discourse: people's grievances must be spoken of and yet their intervention must be kept to a limited sphere. In other words, the people are viewed as tools (means) for change [at the top] to a 'desired' set of experts, not as [active historical] subjects!

[...] The dominant cliché present in the campaign of letter writing of the last two or three years is to warn the rulers, in view of the protests of the enraged people, about the particular dangers in case of continuing to disobey the 'original principles and ideals of the revolution'. The rulers are invited to correct their ways, and of course it is implied or explicitly stated that the rulers should 'come to their senses' and stop insisting that the reformists must be eliminated from power. In other words, the structural contradictions of the system and the deeply anti-people foundations of the system are reduced to the mistakes and excesses of certain individuals, and it is implied that in order to get rid of the insufficiencies it is necessary to reform from above.

The other aspect of the current letters [to the rulers] is that the history of the deviation from the 'acceptable path' goes back to the point at which the reformists started to be eliminated from power, and the return to the path of sharing power through elections (and not even elections with participants from all political trends) is introduced as the way to a final solution. [...]

In general, those who, due to their 'revolutionary' record or due to their familial labyrinth-like connections to those in power, who enjoy a certain level of immunity, while using their immunity to pursue their factional political agenda, pretend that they are acting to realize people's rights while they put in danger their own and their families lives and well-being (e.g., Nourizad, Tajzadeh, etc.). One can more easily come to terms with such heroic acts as a part of the bitter social realities and reflections of the society, if the heroes and their media supporters, instead of pretending that the heroic acts are representing the interests of all the people, would come clean and tell their audience which social class or political layer is being represented by such acts.

Of course, there is the possibility that some of these heroes - with a sense of selflessness and personal sacrifice - would be used as tools of power-oriented trends. And some of them, by committing such acts of self-sacrifice, in a vague and unclear manner believe or pretend that they have drawn a line against their own political past, whereas in their actions they continue their pervious political line and help their side to reach political power again.

5) Reformist media apparatuses, in order to push forth the 'virtual green movement' and in the service of their 'alternative building' project, in addition to their tame exposes and protest letter-writing and reliance on calendar-driven occasions, have other arsenals as well, one of which is the issue of political prisoners; meaning, while selectively supporting some political prisoners and under the cover of human rights, they also pursue delicately the process of creating political figures (editing the political identity of the prisoners), so as to expropriate the unjust and oppressive nature of prison and the totality of the resistance by political prisoners to the benefit of 'particular' reformist ideals. This means that going to prison and the resistance of the political prisoners and also their symbolic actions inside prison are all used in uniform fashion in conjunction with a particular reading of the 'green movement', so as to use the popularity of certain prisoners among the people and the society's sense of solidarity with the oppressed political prisoners, in order to push forth and proliferate a particular model of 'ideal' form of struggle which falls within the framework and strategies of the reformist camp.

Another campaign tool which has been inaugurated recently is this: those reformist factions that are active are using the opposition to a military attack and economic sanctions to prove that they are 'of the people'. This is a progressive slogan, but without any real backbone and indeed a lie! First, if the opposition to foreign intervention is proposed from the usual human rights angle, it will inevitably involve some sort of war and/or economic sanctions. Another thing is, the opposition to military intervention and economic sanctions can be bereft of any contradictions only when there is a real adherence and commitment to the collective people's subjectivity.

In the case of the our reformist fellow countrymen, however, this commitment (to people's subjectivity) was clearly contradicted by their monopolistic domination over the oppositional movement and its metamorphosis into 'virtual pseudo-movement', and also by the trend of their implicit cooperation with western governments in the process of building an alternative for the current regime (both trends are still being pursued and completed). However, under the conditions in which both the Islamic regime and the dominant global powers beat on the war drums with their own particular interests in mind, we can escape from this nightmare of 'humanitarian imperialist war' (which is becoming more real by the day) only when and if the people build an all-out movement which connects the opposition to war with the opposition to the power structures. Such a necessity requires the growth and nurturing of the collective 'self-belief' and oppositional organizations of the people; and neither of these two factors is compatible with the reformists' political record and their current strategies.

It therefore seems that by raising such seemingly 'radical' slogans in opposition to war and economic sanctions, the reformists' goal is to prevent the radicalization of the social fissures that are created by the military threats and economic sanctions, and to transfer to a more manageable sphere those potential fissures. Just as this was done under the 8-year project of 'religious yet people-oriented rule' under the reformists [i.e., Khatami's two terms as president], and just as the same was done when the 'Green' discourse was imposed on the oppositional movement after the [June 2009] elections.

In short, creating an 'illusory movement', which is reproduced through the media outputs of the 'virtual green movement', is nothing other than the denial of the people's subjectivity and delaying the process of growth of the 'collective subjectivity' with the aid of obfuscating matters and confusing the people. This pseudo movement has been engineered to not serve the ideal of political change, but in particular to serve the 'alternative building' project of the reformists for the inevitable transfer of political power in Iran. The 'virtual green movement', in order to actualize its perspective must create artificial 'events', so as to produce 'heroes' for the society.

Activists and actors who are incapable of distinguishing between the popular foundations of the people's defeated oppositional movement and the power-oriented goals and monopolistic strategies of the reformist trends, are prone to take cover under nostalgia and deny the defeat of the movement, and would find legitimacy for any voice that is raised in the name of the movement. In other words, the fetishism and idolization of the movement causes great many people to turn to passively repeating and proliferating the power-oriented discourse of the reformists, with the illusion of doing some service for the movement and with the hope of progressive change. Not only does this phenomenon not help in building a movement for an alternative (to fundamentally break with the discourse that dominated the previous movement), but it also helps to divert and mislead people's social consciousness and inadvertently to block the formation of the collective subjectivity.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year End Message: Regarding Taxation

Things have been quiet here at the blog.

No matter, though. Things have been exciting outside this blog. Thank GOD!
The revolution in the Arab world continues to deepen in Egypt, and for that we are thankful. In Libya, unfortunately, the counter-revolution stole the wave of people's rage before the revolution could even get started decently. And in Syria, the people's struggle to break a most brutal dictatorship continues on unabated and unbroken.

AND ... Thankfully, the people in the U.S. have finally been awakened to the fact that their system is rigged against them. The Occupy movement is a genuine and societal expression of the realization that people are NOT represented.
Movements need all forms of social tools in the course of their development. But, above all they need organization, which is the social tool to become and stay independent of the power structures. They need organization internally in the structures they build as they struggle, and they need organization in areas that define the quality of their relationships with the world outside them.
Movements also need good ideas. Revolutionary ideas that see the ever-present problems in a new frame, and for which there can be a remedy right now!
In this year-end note, we would like to submit once again our idea of Direct Representation for Taxation. The Occupy movement can potentially change the way the American society is organized. This is going to be a long struggle, however, and the opponents of the movement are some of the most powerful and most powerfully organized group of people on earth. So, at the early stages the movement needs to focus on objectives that are achievable but very costly for the system to concede on.
Emanuel Wallerstein has a good take on this. He says (to paraphrase) basically take the system at face value and force them to face up to the glorious propaganda they dish out, by calling them on it. They say this system is democratic, so fight to see how democratic it really is, and push the limits. I think Marx had the same basic approach: find the cracks in the system and push against them, and in that process you learn how to transform the system. The system does not change according to blue prints by social engineers, it transforms through the real and actual struggles that the people do put up, and within historical limits set by generations before them.
One great place where the system can be pushed to its limits is the question of taxation. And for that, we present below a case for pushing the limits on the taxation front.
Happy New Year to all the good people, to all those who fight for freedom and justice, and to the spirit of all the martyred in that fight!

Direct Representation for Taxation

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been spreading fast and wide, has sprung up in part in response to the social realization that 99% of the society is not represented in any form or shape.

As the police and city administrations in city after city move to destroy the Occupy movement's encampments -- and as we are barred from using our public spaces, the parks, the city hall grounds, the commons, to petition for redress of grievances -- new tactics will become necessary, in order to continue the occupation of various public spaces in different forms.

There are certainly a variety of demands present in the Occupy movement, but it can also be stated that there are fundamental commonalities in all the myriad demands that have brought the citizens to the point of having to take to, and occupy, public spaces in order to voice their grievances about the status quo.

One of those commonalities is the realization that 99% of the citizens recognize they are not represented by the system, as it is set up. They realize it's a fixed game, which by design disenfranchises them. The legislators answer only the call of their billionaire and corporate donors, and the lobbyists for those interests literally write the laws and the regulations. And now the people have expressed, in a loud form of a social rebellion of occupations, that they realize the system is setup against them. And they want it changed.

For the past thirty years, at least, no matter which dominant political party has occupied a majority in the Congress, and no matter who has been the president, there has been a steady and constant erosion of the benefits that the majority of the people have paid for in their taxes.

The corporations, meanwhile, pay a smaller and smaller portion of the overall taxes collected. In newspaper articles published back in 2004, it was reported that: "[A Government Accounting Office] report showed that 61 percent of US corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1996 through 2000, a period of rapid economic growth and rising corporate profits," (Boston Globe, April 11, 2004). The same article states: "The percentage of federal tax collections paid by corporations has tumbled from a high of 39.8 percent in 1943 to a low of 7.4 percent last year [2003]. But since World War II, the share paid by individual income tax filers has remained relatively stable, bouncing between 40 percent and 50 percent." This trend has continued to date, with sixty percent of corporations still paying no taxes, and some corporations such as oil companies even receiving tax rebates, collectively to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year.

The debate about taxation has always been limited to who pays how much in taxes. The progressive taxation being that which gives the poor a relative break (there is always the sales tax to make sure that everybody pays up), and the rates increase as the incomes rise. The other way around would be regressive taxation, which has been in force since the offensive of the Reagan years. But, it's time to change the debate.

Time for a New Conception
The conceptual table can be fundamentally turned to the advantage of the 99%, however. The question of taxation can be connected overtly to the political dimension that it possesses. One need only remember that a major pillar of the American Revolution and the War of Independence that a third of the population of the original colonies conducted against the British overlords, was crystallized in the slogan, ‘No Taxation without Representation!’

Today, with the statistical sciences available and with the technology that is at hand, the representative for the taxes paid can be the very individual who pays the taxes. This can be the first real form of direct democracy to be implemented.

What does that mean? A new system of taxation can be one in which we the people dictate a priority list, submitting to the government our instructions for spending our tax money. In other words, at the same time that we hand our money over, we dictate to the government the order of priorities for the expenditure of that money.

So, for example, when paying taxes, the person paying the taxes can tell the government to spend, say, 20% of it on education for undocumented immigrants; 20% on the healthcare for the poor and the undocumented; 20% on environmental clean up in poor neighborhoods and towns; 15% on social infrastructure building in working class neighborhoods; 15% on job training and youth centers in working class neighborhoods; and 5% on proliferation of artistic activities among children in poor neighborhoods, etc. Individuals can choose any number of priorities, and rank them in any percentage they want to.

Such a demand for direct representation, by nature, will bring together all the ‘big-issues’ activists (such as anti-war people, the anti-imperialists, the socialists — i.e., the ‘Grand Narrative’ people) and join them with ‘single-issue’ activists in an immediate alliance, both strategically and organizationally. All the activists who are trying to bring about environmental change, those wishing to change the penal system and the medieval drug laws, those wishing to bring pressure on the government to spend more on healthcare, education, environmental cleanup and infrastructure, all those yearning for cleaner air, water, soil, and food, and all those wishing for more liberal arts education in our schools, and more resources in communities, such as libraries, youth clubs, clinics and hospitals can all unite around and push for a new system of taxation to help bring about a realistic mechanism for having control over the political-financial decisions that shape our lives.

The question of taxation is one that every man and woman can relate to. The current taxation system is the equivalent of a shopping situation, in which the shopkeeper demanded and got whatever amount of money he thought he could get out of you, and in return gave you whatever he wanted to give you!

The move for a tax reform for direct representation can start at the ballot-initiative level, state by state, thus building at the grassroots; a grassroots that can slowly, yet with a growing and realistic confidence, demand a new taxation as a practical necessity; this can in turn transform the way political power is wielded: dispersed and therefore more directly representative.

A movement for direct representation for taxation can ignite the imagination of those potential allies who are yet to be moved enough to join up in the struggle for social justice, and can help the Occupy movement grow.

Let us demand unashamedly and loudly: Direct Representation for Taxation!

See links below for more explanation of this taxation idea:


Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Critique of Ideology-phobia

Translation of the second installment in a series by Amin Hosuri, on the current conditions of the opposition movement in Iran. This article focuses on the role played by ideology, and how the dominant discourse of the reformists tries to distort this concept.
[Read the original article, in Persian,
here ...]

Movement in Labyrinth-2:
In Critique of Ideology-phobia

by Amin Hosuri / June 29, 2011

Introduction: Nowadays, the dominant discourses (whether limited to the dimensions of a political movement or across the norms of the 'global village'), while basing their hypothetical legitimacy on the idea that their discourse is independent of any ideology, are fearful of, and spread fear about, any ideological outlooks entering [people's] beliefs and social movements. In fact, the dominant ideology insists that its generally accepted assumptions and teachings, exactly because of this general acceptance, must be taken as obvious and in fact the crystallization of (political) rationality itself, all exactly because it is not ideological. Naturally, for such trickery to be accepted, appropriate platforms and objective conditions must exist for its spreading, and, as well, the mechanisms for the reproduction and continuation of the 'dominant ideology' must be hidden; meaning, history must be systematically distorted and oppositional/critical ideas must be suppressed or boycotted. For example, in the last two years we have witnessed repeatedly that many independent activists in the [Iranian] opposition movement have been accused of having an 'ideological outlook' by media outlets of the 'Green Industry' or the supporters of the dominant discourse, and have been pushed to isolation. This political literature, which bears very outstanding signs of a very particular ideology on its own forehead, has been constantly issuing excommunication orders against those who do not believe in the prettified ideology of theirs, under the banner of 'Green Movement'. And, while it daily and increasingly merges the Green symbols of protest with the political outlooks of the reformists, with this very Green drawing of lines, it has reduced the boundaries of the movement to the limitations of their own beliefs and the political interests of their own dominant layers; all the while without failing for a second to repeatedly remind us how 'beyond ideology' the movement is.

On the other hand, and on a global scale also, a grand discourse that defends human rights, by depicting the sphere of human rights as apolitical, fits human rights into a non-ideological category. By ignoring the social background and conditions for vast, constant and systematic violations of the most basic human rights (in the grandest possible of dimensions), this outlook has turned the concept of human rights into a 'victim-oriented' fantasy, which actually is a proper global alternative for our late-contemporary depoliticized world, because it preempts in advance any discussion of power structures and grand mechanisms of domination and tyranny. In order to rationalize its de-politicization, 'human rights' discourse generally portrays ideological [state] systems as the cause of the atrocities in the contemporary world, and naturally negates [mass] political actions because of their connectedness to ideology. As a result, the human rights discourse, aided by its threads of neutrality and innocence (and which arise from its inability to understand the hidden ideological origins and consequences of its own views), plays a large role in spreading the game of 'fear of ideology', a fear that at times reaches mass phobia.

Based on this understanding, and since any purposeful political act must at the same time be the object of its own critical gaze, some reflection on the category of 'ideology' is a necessary phase of preparing for a conscious collective struggle. It is with such a motive and for the sake of collective thinking regarding the question of 'What is to be done?' that this text has been put together; a deeper consideration of this question requires a great amount of preliminary discussions. We owe the start of the discussion regarding ideology to a text that was recently published online, in the Mikhak publication, entitled, Green Movement's Myths: 1-Ideology.

1) In contemporary times, a great many people hold assumptions and presuppositions about social/political and cultural/ethical concepts and issues, which have not been chosen consciously by them but have been imposed on them as if they were self-evident ideas. The reason why the obviousness of these assumptions are rarely questioned is their widespread existence and their uninterrupted repetitions by the education systems, the accepted social and discourse customs, and also due to the dominance of the intellectual norms set by the mass-media; that space where general norms and values, much like other mass produced goods, are produced and reproduced. With the passage of time, these assumptions have in actuality become part and parcel of the dominant culture (the hegemonic discourse) that produces the teachings of 'common sense' for the general public.

One obvious example of these generalized teachings is the un-critiqued approach of opposing ideology or fearing ideology; this approach is mainly based on the assumption that in the era of scientific knowledge and wisdom, ideological teachings are not scientific and are based on fantasy and ossified thinking, and if accepted widely, will create disastrous results! (As if the current state of global collective existence is free from disasters.) The practical result of this repulsion or fear from ideology is that any belief or outlook that challenges the current system, or critiques its foundations in any serious fashion, will immediately be classified as an 'ideological view' and without any examination or reflection whatsoever lose all its credibility and credit. As a result, the domain of the popular 'common sense' can be brought to a state whereby, contrary to all the claims to scientific orientation and belief in reason, we must put aside objective propositions about reality/actuality, without any intellectual valuation or testing, and find recourse in pre-determined rulings. In other words, despite the fact that ideology-phobia accuses holders of ideologies of fantasizing [about political realities], 'fear of ideology' itself produces a form of ossification and escape from reason, which [...] further prevents it from critically understanding social reality and prevents it from correctly perceiving and understanding the [social] necessities.

However, can we truly avoid ideologies? Since our collection of intellectual beliefs, norms and our subjective assumptions (whether learned consciously or acquired by default) about the world around us externalize our criteria for judgments and for taking positions on particular affairs, any approach to the human world will inevitably contain some ideological components. The domain of this phenomenon includes even the methodology for viewing oneself and facing oneself, and in this way it also includes a framework within which we define or realize our interests, and also methods to choose from for pursuing our interests. The fact that an individual (or group) outlook is, or is not, filled with ideological assumptions and components is independent of whether or not the individual (or group) holding those ideas has put a name on it, or even that a particular historical name is available for an actually gathered collection of 'beliefs-assumptions'.

2) The customary accusation of 'being ideological', with all its negative semantic weight (including dogmatism, narrow mindedness, etc.) is mainly hurled at individuals and groups who are conscious of their own intellectual-political approach and express it with clarity. However, although the dominant discourse considers the unpleasant implications of this accusation as inevitable consequences of ideologies, it seems that the real problem is not in having an ideology since, as explained before, utilizing some form of personal or collective ideology (whether chosen in a thought-out fashion, or adopted unconsciously through induction and not so well-thought-out) is inevitable for facing social life in the real world. The real problem is when the holder of an ideology lacks the position of being self-conscious toward that ideology, or loses this position [of consciousness] over time. In this case, intellectual dynamism and vitality and the critical gaze toward those internalized beliefs lose their color and impact, and the tendency toward dogmatism and bias starts to grow. Therefore, just because a set of political ideas are close to this or that name or 'forbidden' -ism -- and considered separately from the human holder of those ideas -- we cannot take that alone to prove dogmatism. On the contrary, if we take the human holder of those ideas as the basis for judgment, any political thought/idea can include dogmatic forms and ways of looking at things within limited perspectives. And this is a general characteristic of all ideologies, not simply those that have become taboo nowadays. However, if we wish to escape from dogmatism by not participating consciously in choosing and forming our ideologies, this would be akin to wanting to avoid possible accidents by not ever crossing any streets at all. And, of course, this choice can only exist if the necessity for crossing the street is not that serious; as a result, in actuality, we'd have to be dependent on the willingness and the efforts of others, who are capable of building over-passes above the streets for the safe crossing of pedestrians!

3) Bias and dogmatism are in fact akin to being color blind regarding the realities; realities that were constituted by the social existence of humans and therefore reflect that existence. Therefore, it seems that the best way to avoid bias and dogmatism (for which, at least due to some psychological factors, all individuals have a talent) is to try to understand the dynamics of social existence and [to have] a critical view toward all levels of human world's realities. However, the main point is that the way we understand grand social realities, whether we like it or not, will inevitably be mediated by ideology to a large extent and occurs within the space of ideology (there are no absolute outside observers). This is so because social theories, which are our [intellectual] tools for understanding social existence, are themselves social products shaped by history; as a result, [social theories] are both the basis for different political ideologies and affected by them at the same time. Based of this, it can be said that, since social existence is the stage on which [socially-existing] conflicts and contradictions reveal themselves, the internal dynamics of society are the basis for the formation of different cognitive methods/schools, and for the emergence of different ideologies, and which in the final analysis account for the different (political) tendencies in the society. However, can we, based on this observation and based on a relativistic approach, assign equal value and credibility for all ideologies and deem all ideological choices as equivalents? (For example, by reasoning that everybody has a right to pursue their own interests and therefore can choose an ideology that matches those interests.) A positive answer to this question would mean either to deny the importance of consciously choosing from different ideologies, or to negate that it is possible to evaluate ideologies critically (the first one means the inevitable passivity of human beings and the negation of humans' historical subjectivity, and the second means not believing in the human ability to know and understand critically, which in turn confirms the first).

The actual fact is that, despite the social differences and divisions that are considered the material bases for the rise of different ideologies, there are glaring qualitative differences among the different ideologies [...] at least in terms of the quality of methodologies of their foundational theories, in terms of their ability to explain social complexities (or, by contrast, to hide or mystify them), in terms of their sympathies or animosities to grand human ideals (like freedom and equality), and in terms of their liberating, as compared to conservative, social potentials. In order to better understand how invalid the 'relativism' trick is in this regard (approaching different ideologies), it suffices to mention two points: first, even in a particular area of interests (more or less equivalent) that cover some social layers or a class of society, these interests can be represented by different ideologies. The other point is that, due to the functioning of grand structures of power on a societal level (which itself renders irrelevant the equality of powers assumed by relativism), the social reach of different ideologies are extremely different, and in actuality the dominant classes impose their own favored ideologies on others (internalize it into others) through many different means at their disposal.

As a result, those who values their human sense and intellect and who see their own growth as dependent on the growth of society, must consider it as an utmost important duty to understand the mechanisms of different ideologies and choose from them; this [acquisition of a critical outlook] is a duty that challenges all the senses and our knowledge and intellectual capabilities, and is the basic necessity of any collective and conscious effort that seeks fundamental social transformations.

Based on all the above, and in reference to the customary fears regarding the harmful impacts of ideology, it must be said that the main danger lies on the other side: If we take an approach filled with abhorrence and repulsion toward any ideology, without any independent studying and personal meditation and thinking about social theories and historical experiences, and purely based on some current assumptions considered self-evident -- then, doubtless, we will surrender ourselves completely and vulnerably so to the dominant ideology; that which due to its omnipresence has become invisible and, although it induces us to fear ideology, itself escapes our revulsion!

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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Iran: 30th Anniversary of 20 June 1981

Translation of an article by Hamid Nozari about a very important historical event in Iran, a pivotal "founding moment" of the Islamic Republic of Iran's regime: the group executions of June 20 1981.

[image to the right: front cover of Ettela'at newspaper announcing the executions of demonstrators arrested on 20 June 1981.]
[Read the original article, in Persian, here.]

20 June 1981: Revisiting a historical event in Iran
by Hamid Nozari / Berlin, 20 June 2011

On the evening of June 21, 1981, Islamic Republic's television networks announced, "15 people convicted of corruption on earth and fighting against God were executed by firing squad in Evin Prison."

Iran's Islamic Republic's prosecutorial authorities issued two statements regarding the 'instigators of the June 20 [1981] riots/disturbances'. In one piece of news, the execution of seven, and in another the execution of eight more were announced. Those executed, however, had been arrested and imprisoned way before 20 June 1981, and had been arrested with charges of committing other "crimes". What happened on 20 June 1981? A look at the then-two and a half year old Islamic Republic can give us the answer.

The Islamic Republic from its inception was an untimely phenomenon in contradiction with its era. The political leaders and functionaries of this so-called republic, during the struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, and particularly in the major arenas of political activity (universities, intellectual spaces, the prisons and the opposition abroad) were in the margins and the peripheries. It was with the intensification of the people's movement that slowly they were brought from the margins to the center, and subsequently, due to factors and reasons that are beyond the scope of this text, they took hold of power and in an undemocratic referendum, they named it 'Islamic Republic'. Some of the founders and leaders of this power bloc, who had the experience of doing political-organizational work and had been imprisoned, were well aware of the determining impact of the presence, or lack of presence, of opposition political figures, leaders and/or political organizations on the life and vitality, or death and demise, of social or political forces/movements. They also knew that eliminating some of the leaders and the cadres of opposition trends and forces would mean, materially, the weakening of and rendering ineffective oppositional movements, and this would drive them back for the next phase (or phases) of struggle.

It was because of this that very shortly after coming to power, they put the policy of elimination of opposition forces on their agenda, and began to implement it semi-officially. The concerns of the newly-enthroned were not limited to eliminating political figures and organizations, but expanded to preventing the formation of any independent organizations or associations and any organization opposed to the system on principle.

It was thus that organized violence against dissidents was put into practice. Executions without trials, or trials lasting merely minutes, of former leaders and cronies of the previous regime; attacks on Baha'i centers of worship and the killing of their leaders; attacks on women's demonstrations; military assault with live bullets on the assembly of Turkmen's [in north-northeast Iran] and assassination of their leaders; bloody murder of those fighting on the path for "Democracy for Iran - Autonomy for Kurdistan"; the assaults on newspapers and organizations; the shutting down of the universities under the pretext of 'Cultural Revolution', and on and on -- all these created the material conditions for the founding of various institutions of the Islamic Republic (Assembly of Experts [of Constitution-], Islamic Consultative Assembly [parliament], etc.) and the ratification of the constitution, based on which the discrimination between men and women, between Muslims and non-Muslims, and religious and non-religious, etc., became legal. Ratification and execution of laws of Islamic punishments, stoning, eye-for-an-eye justice, torture and terror and abductions became the tools by which this constitution was enforced.

On 31 January 1980, the second coordinating meeting for confronting "counterrevolutionary" parties and organizations finished its work. After distinguishing between "hostile groups" and "dissident groups", this meeting issued a statement in 15 paragraphs. List of participants in this preparatory meeting to plan terror and murder is available.

Protests against this daily, planned violence organized by the government was the everyday work of different political, social and civic groups and social forces, in the first two and a half years of the revolution. Not a day passed that we did not hear news of somebody being tortured, abducted/disappeared, secretly assassinated, etc. [...]

The January 1980 plan was ratified in [late] March. It is worth emphasizing that large numbers of those executed on 20 June 1981, were arrested shortly after this plan was ratified in March 1980, and were imprisoned, charged with various "crimes."

On 20 June 1981, in protest to a clerical coup against the then-president, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, a massive demonstration was held in Tehran with five hundred thousands participants, called for by the People's Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization of Iran. Some of the forces on the left, liberals, democrats and nationalists participated in this demonstration. This peaceful demonstration, much like other oppositional demonstrations and gatherings, was drenched in blood. From June 21, 1981 until the start of 1984, an unprecedented wave of arrests, tortures, killings on the streets and executions were carried out, which were intensified after the armed operations of Mojahedin-e Khalq on 27 June, 1981. Newspapers were reporting executions of tens and [up to] hundreds of people on a regular basis. There is no precise information about the exact numbers of people killed in these two years and some months, and at times we have seen numbers above ten thousand.

20 June 1981 is an important turning point in the short history of the people's democratic battles in Iran, after the 1979 revolution. From that date on, a [type of] regime took hold in Iran, for whose newly formed intelligence ministry it became an established and official duty to kill and terrorize the opposition, both inside and outside the country.

Despite all that, this very important historical event was gradually forgotten, due to different reasons and by different political, social and civil forces.

Today's reformists in the Islamic Republic, a great part of which were the Hezbollahi's of yesteryears, were among the planners and executors of this policy of oppression; of course, in cooperation with other factions and layers comprising the Islamic Republic. The irony of history is that these same people are now called the "new seditionists" and "traitors" and "being manipulated and playing along with foreign forces and governments", and the same labels and accusations that they used to direct at others in the first decade of the revolution are now meted out to them. [...] Nonetheless, when talking about the events of 20 June 1981, they sound exactly like the conservatives and other former colleagues of theirs: extremism and armed struggle by the opposition caused the violence. These lies have gradually become the official story.

This story by the reformists goes along with their overall political line of thinking, which is appeasement of those in power. They have never imagined a deep-rooted break with this system of ignorance and terror, nor have they ever thought of a real confrontation with them. The reformists believed in and still believe in the foundations of this criminal system. Believing in the "values of the Islamic revolution" and its "constitution" are indicative of the fact that the fight between the "reformists" and the "conservatives" is over political power. This battle is neither a historical battle, nor a battle over values, and not even a serious battle over the intellectual and philosophical foundations of Islamic governance.

If these [reformists] wanted to find the roots of the violence of the last 32 years in Iran, they should start with the intellectual and religious foundations of this system and must pause on Islamic rules of punishment. Analysis of the events of 20 June 1981, however, requires political, intellectual and ethical temerity and courage, which the reformists severely lack. Their speechifying nowadays regarding 'civil institutions', 'civil society', 'human rights' and so on, can have meaning only when based on [real] people's sovereignty, people's rule, separation of religion from state, freedom of conscience (whether we believe in different religions or none at all), political freedoms, freedom of thought and speech, freedom to form organizations and parties, equality of men and women, mechanisms to ensure the peaceful coexistence of different ethnicities and nationalities in Iran, and also social justice. Otherwise, it is essentially a fight to gain political power and over how to share power.

Silence regarding 20 June of 1981 is not solely the practice of the reformists, but many of the "nationalist-religionists" and "leftists", who at that time were fellow travelers and supporters of the reactionary criminals, also remain silent regarding that crime and walk right by it. Further, there are still people among these political forces who rationalize regime's violence and portray it as inevitable. One tendency that can be observed clearly among a large segment of these forces is that they always synchronize with one of the factions of the Islamic Republic, and they adjust their tactics and strategies in harmony with the [reformist] defenders of 'values of the Islamic revolution' and its 'constitution'.

Large parts of the opposition also have effectively forgotten this political event, or else they present a distorted version of the events. The most important of these are the Mojahedin-e Khaq organization. On the one hand, they claim ownership over the entirety of the events leading to and including 20 June 1981. On the other hand they refuse to accept the fact that their turn to armed struggle and carrying out of too sudden and shocking military actions, was an immense mistake in analyzing the balance of forces and the people's subjective preparedness [for an all-out battle]. Their tactic reduced the "people" to an audience of the political scene, and it also inadvertently led to the defeat of the movement that had shaped against the clerical coup [that ousted Bani-Sadr].

Available documents and evidence indicate that leftist trends, despite their intellectual confusion, deviations and shortcomings, and despite their superficial understanding of the complexities of a democratic battle, were more or less aware and conscious of the importance of the battle that had been foisted on them, and their supporters were present in the battle. With the defeat of the movement, and with the retreat and exile, an opportunity arose for analyzing the shortcomings and weaknesses, which unfortunately was not used very well. The monopolistic moves by the Mojahedin, in their turn, caused this part of the left to distance itself from a realistic analysis of these events and their impacts, and consequently a part of the values, traditions and the ideals of the democratic movement of the Iranian people were slowly forgotten. 20 June 1981 is one of the most important forgotten events of the contemporary history of Iran.

Today, thirty years after that historical event, and after the ebb in the movement that occurred in Iran two years ago after the tenth presidential so-called elections, again many have been killed, imprisoned, tortured. A large part of the reformists and their social and political activists have been exiled, and a great amount of the media space outside the country has also been given them as a platform for this force, which enjoys overt and covert support from many sides.

After that facing off of June 2009, the Islamic Republic has stepped into a new phase of dealing with its [internal] contradictions/conflicts. The current government finds itself confronted by some of the major factions of the Islamic Republic itself and also by the people, as well as those who oppose it on principle. It seems that in this new facing off, neither of the regime's factions, whether those in power or out, has the ability to eliminate the other faction, or, to put it more precisely, neither [ruling] political layer can eliminate the competing political layer.

Among the serious contradictions, we can point to the contradictions among the ruling factions and layers in Iran, economic problems, and the unity of voices of a part of the regime with the people.

That faction or layer of the regime that is now in "opposition", in order not to lose its social base, has had to voice some of the people's demands, at times implicitly and at times explicitly. Because of this, some among the forces that belong to the regime, or used to belong to the regime but were thrown out of power in the previous phase, have had to provide some explanations regarding the system and the logic of terror and oppressive crackdown of the first decade of the Islamic Republic. Among these forces, there are still those who consider those crimes as necessary, and some look at that period critically and find some similarities between today and those years. The fact is that the logic of the crackdown of the first ten to fifteen years of the regime, both inside and outside the country, was based on the complete elimination of the dissidents; at any price. The logic of the crackdown of the past two years has been based on intimidating and silencing the internal opposition, and to bring to a halt the spontaneous movement of those whose position is to overthrow this entire tyrannical system.
* * *

20 June 1981 was a turning point in the history of the democratic battles of Iranian people. Despite this, that historical event, which turned the path of life of the society and large numbers of people upside down, and which brought a huge catastrophe to the country, has been [mostly] forgotten. Examination of opposition media shows that this historical event does not hold its deserved place in the political life of the exiled community, and it is feared that it will sink into the hole of lost memories.

Ignoring 20 June 1981, however, does not merely mean forgetting an important historical event on purpose or by default and not paying respect to those who were murdered by a criminal regime. It also means that the fact of the presence of leftist forces, of democrats and freedom lovers, in an important contemporary historical event will be wiped out and eliminated from history.

*With gratitude for the help of my friend and scholar, Nasser Mohajer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Iran: Anniversary of Neda Agha Soltan's Killing

From Amnesty International.

20 June 2011
AI Index: MDE 13/061/2011

Iran: Second anniversary of Neda Agha Soltan ’s killing highlights near-total impunity for officials

Two years after the death of Neda Agha Soltan was captured on a mobile phone and came to symbolize the brutal repression meted out by security forces after the disputed presidential election of 2009, Amnesty International is renewing its call on the Iranian authorities to end impunity for officials responsible for unlawful killings, torture and other human rights violations.
Footage of Neda Agha Soltan’s dying moments, after being shot in the chest on 20 June 2009 spread around the world via the internet. No one has ever been brought to justice for her death, and instead of investigating it impartially, the Iranian authorities – following an entrenched pattern of cover-up of abuses – resorted to threats, counter-accusations, obfuscation and further violations to try to evade responsibility. A member of the Basij militia witnessed by onlookers as saying, “I did not mean to kill her”, whose ID card was posted on the internet, has never been put on trial, but appeared in a documentary shown a year ago on state television, denying responsibility. Arash Hejazi, the doctor who was present at the scene, was forced to seek asylum abroad, fearing for his safety. Neda Agha Soltan’s family and friends were made to appear on state televison denying the state was responsible, although her father Ali Agha Soltan told BBC Persian in December 2009 that “her killer can only be from the government”.

Neda Agha Soltan was one of over 70 people killed during the unrest that followed the election. The only instance where any officials have been tried in connection with abuses is in relation to the Kahrizak detention centre where at least four men died as a result of torture or other ill-treatment. Twelve men, believed to be 11 policemen and one detainee, were later tried, two of whom were reportedly sentenced to death, but it remains unclear what has become of the 11 the authorities said had been convicted in connection with abuses against detainees held there. No action has been taken against more senior officials who were implicated by a parliamentary investigation.

Other families also remain in the dark about the exact circumstances of their children’s fate such as Parvin Fahimi, who has campaigned to find out the truth about the death from a bullet wound to the heart of her son, 19-year-old Sohrab Arabi. He disappeared during a demonstration on 15 June 2009 and his family was then unable to find out any information about him until 11 July when they recognized him from photographs of dead individuals in court. His body had apparently been at the Coroner’s Office since 19 June. There remains no information as to what happened to him between 15 and 19 June 2009, including either the exact date, or the circumstances, of his death. The killer of Kianoush Asa, who died from a gunshot to the neck during a demonstration on 15 June 2009, has also never been identified.

Claims by the Iranian authorities to have investigated the events at a Tehran University dormitory on the night of 14 June 2009 appear to have resulted in victims being imprisoned rather than perpetrators. Up to five students were reported by student organizations to have been killed – although the university authorities later denied this - and many others seriously injured when unidentified plain-clothes forces stormed the dormitory, arresting hundreds. In May 2011, the Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie (who was Minister of Intelligence at the time of the election) said that 40 individuals had been sentenced to prison terms and fines for the event. However, according to a statement by Tehran University’s Islamic Association on 15 June 2011, those in prison are students who were arrested at the time, not those responsible for the attack.

Article 2 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Iran is a state party requires states to provide an effective remedy for human rights violations, including the possibility of judicial remedy, and for such remedies to be enforced.

Read the complete statement here ...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Time Is On Our Side

Demonstrators in Syria burning pictures of Nassrallah and Khamenei

On the second anniversary of the electoral coup, the news of overt resistance to the regime is not at all good. Despite the intensification of all social problems, and despite the fact that the infighting between different factions of the regime are still going as strong as ever -- this time it's between Ahmadinejad faction and the Khamenei/principlists faction -- and despite the intensification of economic hardships for all after the elimination of price subsidies, the people's movement is still struggling to find a way to topple the system.

According to reports from Iran, due to the very heavy presence of security forces on key streets and squares in Tehran, the silent march (called for by the Coordinating Committee of the Green Path of Hope) to mark the second anniversary of the electoral coup, or the rebirth of the people's movement, attracted only some thousands of people, who were outnumbered by security forces easily, and who were dispersed, while some were arrested. This is NOT an indication of the movement fading out, but more so an indication of the success of the regime in effectively occupying the streets militarily and not allowing any assemblies to form. People's rage, however, builds up daily.

Meanwhile, the general news from Iran keeps getting increasingly more depressing and bleaker by the day. Political prisoners keep dying in greater numbers, not just from executions, but also from prison conditions. Others are being killed by regime security forces and plainclothes thugs outside prisons, including at funerals: after the death of a dissident, Ezzatollah Sahabi, while in prison (we can easily say the Iranian regime sentenced him to death by 'prison conditions'), the regime thugs then went ahead and killed his daughter, Haleh Sahabi, by physically assaulting her while she was attending her father's funeral. Iranian people do not even have the right to attend a funeral in peace. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, we heard about another political prisoner, Reza Hoda Saber -- who had gone on hunger strike to protest the killing of Haleh Sahabi -- who died in prison under very suspect conditions, which usually means the security forces beat him to death (and officially reported the cause of death as 'heart attack'!).

Even people such as economists expressing their professional opinions are not safe from random state tyranny (see here).

One of the most widely reported pieces on the second anniversary of the stolen elections was the piece by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, which was a released video testimony from a young female detainee describing in detail her severe torture and repeated rape after her arbitrary arrest.

The political leadership of the country, meanwhile, is increasingly sounding more insane. Some of the mullahs are demanding the erasure of thousands of years of our history and want to wish away all Iranian-ness altogether, for they consider it un-Islamic! There are influential mullahs who want to eradicate entire thousands of years of cultural and historical accumulation, and they want to pretend that Iran is only about 1,300 years old -- all the rest preparing the ground for the real birth of the nation; and not only that, 1,300 years old religiously speaking, but only 32 years old politically speaking (since all those years of seemingly secular monarchic rule were un-Islamic). There is no end to their irrationalities.

These insanities are incredible enough as they are. We should add to this insanity just in passing, and not in any detail, that there is support given to this barbaric antiquity of a regime by some western 'leftists'. We mention this just to emphasize the bleakness of the situation facing Iranian revolutionaries. When the world is upside down to such an incredible degree that some living leftists lend a helping hand to a bunch of ultra-misogynistic, anti-democratic ... forget that, anti-human, barbaric, pre-historic creatures that run one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, then you KNOW you are living in Dark Ages. This is no post-modern age; this is pre-historical. Brute force, pure violence and no pretense to any worldly legitimacy.

But, we digress. Despite all the bleak news coming from the surface of things social in Iran, the depths of the society are most assuredly experiencing much upheaval.

On the International front, Iranian regime's propaganda and influence among the Arab people, thanks a thousand times to the Arab revolutionary moves, have lost much of their credit. We have had the message of solidarity from the Egyptian revolutionaries to the people of Iran from Tahrir Square; and very significantly, thanks to the uprising by the people of Syria, the aura of Iran's regime being a friend of the Arab people has been smashed to pieces.

There has been some local/regional effects of this loss of legitimacy of discourse. For example, Lebanese Hezbollah and Nassrallah in particular are losing face daily among the Arab people for their call on the Syrians to NOT rise up and demand their rights as human beings, just because it was to the political advantage of Hezbollah's sectarian interests to keep a good face for Syrian AND Iranian regimes (and themselves by extension). Hezbollah now stands as an unambiguous defender of tyranny (OK'd, when exercised by their own allies); and to that degree, Islamists in the Arab world are losing moral and ethical ground, as well as political ground. This creates an opportunity for secular progressive forces in the Arab world to forge forward, much more than they would have been able to under conditions whereby Islamists seemed to have the moral upper ground.

Back to Iran's internal conditions ... though the picture of the political situation is bleak now and getting bleaker daily (it seems), the prospects for the Islamic Republic regime are even bleaker. To start, the most ardent supporters of the regime now openly refuse to agree with the 'Republic' part of the title. For them, the legitimacy of the regime comes from God. Period. No questions allowed. Further, no reforms (in the sense of any opening up of the socio-political conditions) can be allowed. The reform project was shut down long ago. Even if (as some hopefuls think possible) the 'reformists' are allowed back near the houses of power, no real and actual reforms ARE possible.

At the same time, a great many functionaries and supporters of the regime can see clearly that the official ideology, based on the absolutist rule of the religious jurisprudence (velayat-e motlaqh-e faqih), is bankrupt and hardly worth defending. Hence, the Ahmadinejad faction that wants to refashion the official ideology to an openly fascistic form of rule that is not too hung up on the supreme leader, is not too bothered about the Islamic cover (hijab for women mostly), either, and follows a pan-Iranian line of cultural thinking, and for the Islamic part of its rule believes in the Messiah himself; no intermediaries needed (the 12th Imam of the Shiite religion is supposed to appear when socio-historical conditions are ripe). The emphasis on the importance of the Messiah is pretty clear to all the mullahs who support and are allies of the Khamenei faction (the Velayat-e faqih faction): if the messiah is about to come and is the source of all authority for the Velayat-e faqih, then who needs the Valiy-e faqih? Valiy-e faqih is just a link to the messiah, therefore dispensable.

A phenomenon that exists in complete and total contradiction with its living environment, will forever create contradictions within itself. If there is no conflict between 'reformists' and 'hard liners' then there is some conflict between different shades of the hard liners; once that is resolved, there shall be other conflicts that will arise, because this regime is a regime of exceptionalities.

This is a regime that the counterrevolutionary forces of society in Iran (with ample help from counterrevolutionary forces internationally) could put together at a historical moment 32 years ago, when they were caught by surprise by the people of Iran who took to the streets in 1978-79, and fought hard to topple the previous dictatorship, so as to have freedom of speech, to have freedom of assembly, to have the right to form independent organizations (be they political, economic, cultural, social or whatever they desired), the right to have a free press and the right to choose their own representatives to the representative political bodies, regardless of political philosophy or anything else. In short, we had a revolution to have the right to be fully human.

At that historical juncture, 32 years ago, the Iranian counterrevolution won (just like it may win in Egypt or Tunisia or Syria or Yemen, etc.). However, the counterrevolution didn't win in one quick step. It took a good decade before it had stabilized itself. And during that decade, the regime literally fought street battles with demonstrators, protestors and dissidents in a variety of forms, on many social levels (and in many countries; the regime killed many dissidents abroad). That is why today the Iranian regime is such an efficient machinery of oppression and brutality. You can bet all you have that they are involved in helping Syrian and Iraqi regimes with their street protestors (mind you, Syria's Assad had a pretty good teacher in his dad; however, material support is something else and always appreciated, as all counterrevolutionary forces in the region are well aware of!).

In sum, the Iranian counterrevolutionaries, in the form of a medieval theocracy, won the battle back then, 32 years ago. Since then, the Iranian people have been grappling with the horrendous challenge of overcoming this counterrevolution. The future, however, belongs to us. Those who oppress us cannot last forever. If and when any state, any regime, is reduced to ruling by sheer force and openly violent brutality ALONE, that is indeed the end of that state/regime. Time is on our side even if it takes some time to topple these brutal murderers.