Monday, June 29, 2009

A Battle on Two Fronts

The polarization in the ranks of the left regarding recent events in Iran is natural and understandable but it stems from a certain narrowness of approach which can and should be avoided.
Iran was and is under threat of aggressive intervention because of the positive elements of its foreign policy and its international position. This truth must not obscure the reactionary nature of the regime and the Iranian leadership. The positive elements in Iranian policy stem from the refusal of the Iranian leadership to succumb to the economic and political pressures by the US and Europe in regards to the exploitations of its major resource, oil. It might be useful to employ an old but quite valid conceptual tool. There is a major, basic contradiction between the whole of the Iranian people and the US-European alliance which aims for the domination of Iranian resources.
At the same time, Iran is a class society dominated by reactionary clericalist circles, which have parleyed their past prestige into a dictatorial system for the repression of all and any challengers to the regime and the leadership. There exists a complex series of internal contradictions between the regime and the popular forces in Iranian society. The social-economic struggle of the workers and the peasants is foremost, but the role of the battle for democratic rights is increasingly important along with the battle of Iranian women and youth against the repressive nature of the Islamic Republic.
I have had recourse in previous communications whose main purpose was to denounce Israeli and US threats against Iran, to be absolutely clear as to the nature of the regime. The strategy of the left must encompass all the elements in Iranian reality. The Iranian policy of national independence is a serious contribution to the frustration of imperial design and must be supported. The battle by popular sections of the Iranian people for their rights must be supported.
No formula, howsoever correct can or should try to evaluate all elements in a particular crisis. But the two elements, i.e., international role and democratic rights are both of equal intrinsic importance. In fact, the left has had a wealth of experience with these two contradictory pressures in many national circumstances. Under the ruse of proletarian internationalism, the Soviet Union and its supporters determined the left position on the basis of “reasons of state” or in simple terms, the state interests of the Soviet Union. On the other side of the coin, the various human rights movements traditionally negate any considerations relating to the battle for independence vis a vis the imperial powers.
In the various responses to the Iranian crisis, one can usually discern the guiding motive for this or that political position. Those who wish to emphasize Iran’s international role can come up with contorted analyses defending the regime and the legitimacy of the recent electoral process and hurry to brand democratic mass movements for democracy as the tools of imperialism. On the other hand, opponents of the international role of Iran will do everything to minimize the importance of the Iranian struggle for independence. The resulting polarization on the left sows confusion and avoidable tensions.
But there is a pronounced historical tendency to reproduce these contradictions – progressive foreign policy and reactionary domestic policy, and they will surely reoccur. We can never be apologists for mass repression, nor should we ever forget the relevance of the battle for national independence.
Naturally, there is a flood of responses (still) coming in via the internet. Most of these express the unfortunate tendency to come down on one side of the question. But one position paper expressed my feelings exceptionally well. It was issued by a progressive group, Stop War, in Vancouver, Canada. The statement is balanced and clear:
STOPWAR COALITION (Vancouver, Canada)
Statement on the Iran crisis
[The Vancouver antiwar coalition StopWar adopted the following statement at its June 24 monthly membership meeting.]
StopWar, the broad-based anti-war coalition which has been active in the Vancouver area since 2002, sends warm greetings and solidarity to all those who are rallying for democracy and justice in Iran and abroad this week. We share your commitment to a peaceful and just resolution of the disputes brought to the surface by the recent presidential election in Iran, and your desire for Iranians themselves to determine the future of their country.
We condemn the regime’s killing of protesters and we join with others in demanding the right to organize, strike and protest, and to free speech and assembly for all Iranians. We demand the release of all arrested workers, students, and political prisoners.
We condemn any attempt by pro-war forces in the United States, Canada, and other countries to take advantage of this situation to push for ‘regime change’ imposed by outside powers. The drumbeat of threats against Iran should remind all peace-loving people of the build-up for war against Iraq seven years ago, which brought a terrible tragedy to that country without advancing the rights of the Iraqi people.
StopWar expresses our full confidence that the people of Iran will achieve their goals without the interference of governments such as that of Canada, which has only hindered genuine progress towards democracy, social justice and gender equality with the ongoing military mission in Afghanistan.
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Clear thinking from Vancouver.