by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
In the World Socialist Web Site’s 3-part response to my critique of their Iran coverage and their accusation that “Islamic socialism is a sham” (not just Iranian Islamic Socialism), one thing surprised me: Why was there not one mention of the Basij?
After all, it is 10+ million person (low estimate) organisation mainly drawn from the working class – surely the WSWS would at least mention it?
Instead, the bulk of the WSWS’s series was recounting the history of the Tudeh Communist Party, which in 1979 was not primarily drawn from the working class, nor even had .01% the membership numbers of the Basij today. That’s when I was forcefully reminded: The West knows absolutely nothing about the Basij.
Perhaps older readers think of them as being cannon-fodder and mine-clearers from the Iran-Iraq war; younger readers may solely associate them with the political street battles during the historic 2009 unrest following the re-election of Ahmadinejad. Both of these views stem mainly from Western propaganda and essentially tell us nothing about what the Basij really is.
From A to Z the West literally knows nothing tangible about this all-important group in Iran: about its start, its motivations, its support, its successes, its problems, it’s structure, etc. And so, this is the third in a four-part sub-series on the Basij (in an 11-part series on modern Iran) which gives a complete, rounded picture of them.
The Basij can be controversial in Iran and, given my status as a government worker, I should stay out of these conflicts. That is why I am presenting a completely objective & analytical view of the Basij in order to inform, not to promote nor denigrate.
I think Western readers will find an objective analysis of the Basij useful? They can decide if Iranians are right to support, or not support, the Basij…not that their opinion really matters inside Iran.
But I think that Westerners will certainly see that not only are the Basij are too powerful to be stopped, and that they are a force which cannot be ignored in any serious discussion of Iran.
I would imagine that Chavista Venezuelan readers will be very interested to learn about the structure of the pro-government & government-sponsored Basij – it is obviously similar to what Chavistas aspire to given their how they engaged in political street battles in 2017 to defend the government. Those battles were three times as deadly and far bloodier than Iran’s in 2009. Chavistas supporting Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution clearly would like the kind of governmental, legal and economic support the Basij get for supporting the Iranian Islamic Revolution. But the two countries are fundamentally different in that Iran has had a sweeping revolution, while Venezuela keeps playing (almost excessively honorably) by the rules of West European (bourgeois) politics; the former was a hard & emphatic revolution, the latter is a soft, unfinished and quite precarious one.
Cuba has something very similar to the Basij – their Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, but they do not have the economic clout and economic involvement of the Basij. This is why the 4th part of this series made an in-depth comparison with the Chinese Communist Party, as it is the best comparison I can think of.
I got a visit from the CDR one time while doing journalism in Cuba:
They visited where I was staying to have a chat about journalism – somehow they had heard that a journalist was there. Perhaps from the government itself, as I follow all the rules when doing journalism in Cuba, unlike many other journalists… who are then confined to the shadows and thus cannot really show the positives of the country nor its people.
It was one older military man, and two neighbourhood members of the CDR. They took notes, asked political questions and were polite, open and serious. I quoted Fidel, they quoted deeper Fidel, and after 45 minutes they left more confirmed in an analysis they held upon first meeting me: Iran is Cuba’s hermano!
And when they left I thought: “Hmmm, so that’s the Cuban Basij? Nice guys.”
Of course, we are on the same political page; I was not there to undermine Cuba with my journalism, but quite the opposite. But knowing that el barrio tiene ojos – the neighbourhood has eyes…and that this neighbourhood was located in a country under constant Western cold war – was not a foreign concept to me, and thus no problem at all.
However, many are not comfortable with this idea within Iran, and it’s an idea which is often associated with the Basij. However, the Basij is so big that it really is associated with anything and everything in Iran….
What exactly are we dealing with when we talk about the Basij? Let’s dig deeper
Much, but not all, of my statistics on the Basij comes from the book Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran, by Saeid Golkar. It is the only book on the Basij a Westerner can find; it is also, as the title indicates, a book which is against the Basij. I give a review of the book in the previous part of this series, Iran’s Basij: The reason why land or civil war inside Iran is impossible.
The fundamental unit of the Basij is a “resistance base”, and these appear in every social area: mosques, neighbourhoods, factories, offices, schools – anywhere people gather. Undoubtedly, this is the most important level of the Basij because this is where people interact; this is the root of society.
There are probably 60,000 – 80,000 such bases in the country (keeping in mind that there are 72,000 mosques), and about 75% of them are in urban areas because Iran is an 75% urban country. The Basij does not create any urban-rural divide; rural Basij are said to be more ideologically-committed to Basij ideals, and there is probably a grain of truth in this stereotype.
Each of these groups has two resistance teams of at least 4-5 people apiece (so “resistance teams” are technically the smallest subset of the Basij). Each Basij base has roughly dozens to 100 people, all cooperating ideologically. There is essentially only one requirement to join the Basij: one must support the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian Constitution and the unique political system of Iran.
What are these bases concerned with?
All aspects of society. They must have at least seven specialised groups to form a base: security/defense, rescue & relief, culture & propaganda, social services, construction, educational groups and morality police. And then they can expand as they are able to in fields their members are interested in, such as: telecommunications, ideological/ political groups, physical education, culture and art, intelligence & counterintelligence, security, relief & rescue, social services, educational groups, political propaganda, etc.
Where are these bases found?
In more than 20 branches in every sector of society. There is the Workers’ Basij, the Employees’ Basij and the Guilds’ Basij, with career specific branches for doctors, lawyers, artists, clerics, journalists, etc. There is the Women’s Society Basij (the main one for women), the Students’ Basij, the University Students’ Basij, the Teachers’ Basij, the University Professors’ Basij, the Urban and Rural Basij, the Tribal Basij, and the Mosques & Neighbourhood Basij. Of course the biggest, like any union (my novel but inelegant definition for the Basij of “an apolitical Islamic socialist union NGO“, is explained in the previous part of this seris) is the Pubic Servants’ Basij. But the bases are generally found according to residence – the Basij is primarily a neighbourhood institution, after all.
The Workers’ Basij has 1 million members, or 1/7th of the working class. Each workplace with more than 30 workers has been required by law since 2011 to have a Basij base – this obviously can provide the workers with the benefits of increased solidarity and chances for socio-political involvement.
Thus the Basij appears to be a rather clear indication of increased political empowerment of the working class.
Western leftists may object that all worker organisations must be totally independent of the government and, in consequence, also have a generally adversarial relationship with the government: this is not the opinion in working socialist countries like China, Cuba or Iran. I note that Western unions appear to be allied more with their political class than with their members (and certainly not allied with society as a whole) despite their greater perceived independence. It certainly appears logical that in socialist-inspired nations workers and government are intertwined, where as in capitalist-inspired nations they are separate and adversarial. I think these are objective observations and statements.
The Construction Basij often gives its projects to the Engineers’ Basij, in a carbon copy of two related unions working together in the West.
The Artists’ Basij, like any socialist counterpart, is supposed to make art which promotes revolutionary ideals, the government & which confronts Western propaganda.
The Journalists’ Basij was one of the last ones created, probably because we journalists are notoriously unwilling to join anything. I am not a member.
The Religious Minorities’ Basij is for Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and others.
The list goes on and on.
And for Golkar, “…the Basij has successfully destroyed independent civil society in Iran.”
That’s an exceptionally strong condemnation, but is it inaccurate? Is it necessarily a bad thing?
The ultimate backer of “civil society” in 2018 is France: Emmanuel Macron became president, and the two mainstream parties were shunted aside (the Socialists perhaps fatally), partially due to his call that “civil society” should govern instead of the entrenched politicians. A French people, who – per global polls – could not be more alienated or cynical about their domestic politics, clearly saw Macron as a better option than careerist capitalist politicians or the far-right’s Marine Le Pen.
West European (bourgeois) government – and especially in its modern, pro-globalist form – is, according to many, essentially a way for the richest parts of civil society to independently dominate the government: Their lobbies, their lawyers, their contacts to political leaders, their campaign financing, the better trajectories of their privileged children…all this serves to make civil society not truly “independent” at all, but tools of the 1% to impose their will on society and the nation. Given that “liberal strongmen” like Macron are governing via executive order, or that the democratic votes of nation-members in the European Union are routinely ignored by Brussels, it is clear that the individual citizen is losing a significant amount of power and quality of life in this system despite all the talk of “independence”, “freedom” and “rights”.
Socialist democracy has a clearly different ideal – government under strict control of the not-1% and the not-bourgeois classes; group independence & personal freedoms take a backseat. There are, however, leftist ideas which demand total independence from the state – these are “anarchist”, and have yet to be implemented in any nation of any size; it is generally thought that anarchism is the final stage of leftism, and it seems like one cannot skip stages without major problems.
Having read his book, I contend that for Golkar the Basij has “destroyed…civil society” simply because it reflects it in such an obviously full manner. The Basij is clearly a method of social organisation in Iran, and because its only unifying political goal is to protect and promote the 1979 popular revolution, the rather obviously anti-government Golkar cannot support their flourishing.
However, we can all see the Basij are clearly divided into numerous interests, and by doing so there is bound to eventually be not just cooperation but also competition between these interests – that is called “politics”. As this part will emphatically prove, by being a mass membership organization the Basij is not a unified voting bloc in the slightest; by being drawn from all levels of society it is impossible to prevent the appearance of many competing ideologies and ideas about how to protect and advance modern Iran.
Furthermore, Golkar repeatedly indicates that because all these groups and unions are protected and promoted by the government, they are somehow not independent but under total government control: Basij as a form of social control is essentially a paraphrase to the corollary of his title “Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran”. Certainly, not everyone in Iran views it the same as Golkar.
Golkar’s view is less interesting than the point I am trying to make: Clearly, the Basij is far, far more than just a “militia”, as is commonly reported; it is clearly present in every social organization and every neighborhood, and is open to all save those who want an entirely new political system. Thus it should be considered grassroots, democratically representative, and authentic.
What exactly does a Basij member do inside a Basij?
“Ok, so we’re all organised – now…what the heck are we”?
So this is what the Basij essentially is: a bunch of relatively like-minded people getting together, debating, and then occasionally doing social actions together which they deem positive for the community. I would say the Basij is mainly a “hobby” which takes up a few hours each week from active members.
Certainly, this is is not a “militia” who spends their time bayonet-stabbing dummies with Netanyahu’s picture and whipping themselves bloody in the name of God.
First, what must be answered is the question: “What are we?” And that requires training, study and discussion – this is like any serious organisation: the Basij must be mentally organised.
So what do they study? If you join the Basij you are obviously interested in and want to talk about politics, religion, ethics, history, society & contemporary global events. Therefore, they are mostly just like you – because why else are you reading this type of an article? Just like a Basiji, you have volunteered for this. (And I thank you and hope you like it!)
Introductory training has courses like “Basij Ethics & Etiquette” and “Koran fluency”, but Active-level members (the members who can honestly say they are involved a few hours a week) and Basij Team leaders must know contemporary Iranian politics, the history of the Iranian Revolution, the situation in Palestine and contemporary social-political knowledge. To get a job in the Basij bureaucracy full-time means they must have all the above, and also take courses such as “Leadership Ethics”, “Islamic Ethics, Discipline & Education”, “Islamic Commandments”, etc. Of course, in an Islamic Republic the Quran and Islamic ideology are prioritised.
I believe that only people who are totally unfamiliar with the Quran or who are rabid secularists view this as an a priori negative influence. Such a view is certainly anti-democratic, and should be considered in 2018 to be uncultured due to its intolerance. Regardless, it is fundamentally invalid to say that religion and politics cannot intersect, or that leftism and religion cannot intersect; certainly, leftists have no problem with saying that rightism and religion intersect! Where the Basij ideological training falls on the global political spectrum is up to the reader; I only say that Iran, being unique (revolutionary), it is rather difficult to pinpoint and that case-by-case analysis always yields more precise answers than generalisations. As this is the first leftist analysis of the Basij in the West, I think an honest reader will have to rethink the Basij’s placement on the spectrum after finishing this series.
There are 4 main ideological training sessions each year which are offered to Active members. Golkar discusses the Basij’s “Awareness” session, which was a 3-day, 40-hour program that was taken by 1.4 million members in 2003. This was conducted like a basic university lecture course. What’s more interesting is their “Righteousness” plan, because it is more similar to the culture of a Basij base, as there is give-and-take discussion.
“Students form a training circle of 15 to 20 people, and sessions are participatory and conducted like seminars. A high-ranking Basiji or clergyman is chosen by a Basij commander as the educator and is responsible for encouraging students to participate in discussions and to ask any questions they may have about Islam, ideology, or current political issues. The educator, in turn, is expected to provide them with convincing answers….The seminars themselves are devoted to an analysis of current political and social issues; book-reading sessions focusing on ideological books; courses on Islamic culture with the focus on jihad (the perpetual war against sin, not waging terrorism, FYI) and holy defense; and Quranic sessions…the most important textbooks in this program…come from the writings of the late IRI theoretician Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari.””
Motahhari, along with Ali Shariati (who is the only Iranian Revolution-era name Westerns can drop but whom they rarely actually read), were perhaps the two main thinkers of the Iranian Revolution, with Motahhari focusing more on ethics but also Islamic democracy (how silly of Motahhari to focus on something which many Westerners are convinced cannot even exist, LOL!)
Because of Motahhari and Shariati, they are also study something else which will sound revolutionary to many – Occidentology, or the study of the West.
LOL, I bet the reader has heard of “Orientalism” – how does it feel to know Iran has been putting you, your family and your culture under the political science lab microscope?
Fortunately for you Iran is not guided by 19th century racist “ideals”. What is certain is that Iranian Occidentology is far more politically advanced and sympathetic than Orientialism, which Western Europe began with the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt and which colours – in a reactionary, racist and Islamophobic (though I would say “Islam-ignorant”) fashion – their thoughts on the Muslim world today.
“Thus, Occidentology for university students and professors in the Insight plan is about ‘the critique of modernity; crises of modernity (ethical, identity, environmental, economic, and philosophical); the principles of the modern West (humanism, technology, nationalism and capitalism, tolerance and democracy); the Islamic revolution and the West (conflict or compromise); and secular science and religious science.”
(I’m sure it covers Marxism and socialism as well, but these are two terms and philosophical lenses which are totally absent from Golkar’s book, which lends much credence to the idea that this book is a right-wing, anti-Basij tract masquerading as a objective scholarship produced by New York City’s Columbia University.)
The only thing from that passage which should alarm or shock Westerners is that Westerners certainly have no similar comprehensive study of Iran or the Muslim world. Occidentology is a way for Iran to learn about and even from the West – not to swallow it fully, and not to be content with lazy Western stereotyping. If this is what the Basij are studying – the West should and could only reap what it has sown, no?
To be in the Basij as a full-time worker – to work in the Basij’s bureaucracy – is to commit to lifelong political learning, discussion, commitment and involvement with yearly seminars being required. In this sense it is no different from any political party anywhere. However, it is not a party and more similar to a typical worker’s union because, again, there are different political views among Basiji which they subjugate to the idea of a greater common good / need / ideology.
The office of the Supreme Leader is charged with developing the ideological-political training of the Basij – writing the textbooks & pamphlets, preparing the course syllabi, training the instructors, etc. To Golkar, such control is evidence that mass brainwashing for the conservative so-called “hard-liners” is taking place…and yet I am about to show that the Basij voting patterns defy categorisation despite Golkar’s overarching thesis that the Basiji are socially-controlled.
The Basij are clearly political – so what are their politics?
Khamenei has paternalistically fostered the Basij’s growth and stability – nobody champions them more. Golkar and Basij detractors say this is for Khamenei’s selfish reasons of political manipulation; Khamenei says it is because they are (in his words) the ideological guarantee of the success, moral worth and essence of the Iranian Revolution. I am remaining neutral because nobody has ever examined the Basij in the West from an objective perspective.
The irony – or perhaps the beauty – of the Basij is this: Even though the Supreme Leader “controls” the Basij by picking its leader and authorising its ideological directions, Basiji are not being controlled politically.
In 1996 the Basiji helped the Principlist (conservative) party win a majority in Parliament. People were perhaps tired of the “privatisation” policies of Rafsanjani which proved to be no Western-style privatisation at all, as the third part of this series emphatically demonstrated. This was the first time the Basij became openly involved politics. The Revolutionary Guards, who sit atop the Basij in the Iranian government’s hierarchy, and the Supreme Leader were no doubt quite pleased.
But just one year later, in 1997, 73% of Basiji members voted for the Reformist Khatami for president.
The Basij then reverted to “form” to help the Principlist (conservative) Ahmadinejad win two terms.
But then they obviously aided Rouhani, a Reformist, to win an outright first round victory in both 2013 and 2017. The two camps have also swung back in forth in controlling Parliament over the last 3 decades.
Well, if the Basij are all political humanoids, Khamenei’s robot-designing skills leave much to be desired!
This shows the truth: the Basiji are not guaranteed right-wingers – they are regular citizens who can swing either direction like so many modern, 21st century voters. A Frenchman who would have never even uttered a word of support in public for the National Front in 2007 often voted Socialist Francois Hollande in 2012, and then the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in 2017, and then may vote “far” leftist in 2022. The reality is that in the modern age “personality” sways many people more than “party”.
Above all, because the 10- to 25-million member Basij are so clearly drawn from all members of society, the pluralistic political structure of modern Iran seems to ensure that a group as massive as the Basij can never all vote in one way. Therefore, the idea that the Basij are used as “an arm of conservative politics” appears to be rather directly contradicted by their voting records. The Basij – and this is my personal experience – are obviously not conservative, nor reformist, necessarily. Categorisation politically would be, in fact, wrong…except if we classify them as both patriotic (pro-Iran) and pro-Islamic; however, being pro- or anti-patriotic is rather cut-and-dry, but being “pro-Islamic” is certainly much harder to define in Iran as it is all a question of degrees.
Economically, Basiji seem to strongly lean towards socialist principles – being mostly drawn from the lower classes, as everyone in Iran already knows and which I will emphatically prove in my next part, Iran’s Basij: Restructuring society and/or class warfare.
In foreign policy they seem to favour isolation when Iranian Islamic Revolutionary principles cannot be implemented.
While some are staunch backers of Ahmadinejad, most refuse to follow anyone but the Supreme Leader, whether Khomeini, Khamenei or his successor. (Indeed, I would say that the most important question in Iran is if the Basiji will remain so intensely loyal to the next Supreme Leader – if he is not sufficiently popular…that spells major problems for the stability of the Iranian system.)
Indeed, this debate was quite public and quite emphatically decided in favor of the post of the Leader when Ahmadinejad floated the idea of running for president in 2016. Almost universally, Basiji openly proclaimed that their political loyalty is with the Supreme Leader. Their argument boiled down to: Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Leader is permanent; there is no doubt about what he stands for, and no doubt that he works with either Party controlling the Parliament or the presidency. Whether Khomeini, Khamenei or the next one, they back the post. I would add that the Supreme Leader represents the “soul” in the structure of the government of the Iranian Islamic Republic, and that his main role is that of unifier of the different political camps and their ideas.
In the West, identity politics prevails and people often vote for “personalities” and not party, and this has culminated (or perhaps not even yet) with the elections of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron. Certainly in the West, ”respect for the office” has clearly dropped dramatically, and with fair reason – does anyone imagine Trump or Macron to be very “soulful” people? This allegiance to a post which incarnates a mix of modern revolution, religious morals & patriotism may be viewed as an anachronism, as bizarre, or with envy – that is your call.
But the inability to see Iran as a modern electorate with a modern pluralistic democracy is why the West cannot understand the Basij: they incorrectly see Khamenei as a “faction”…as if he is trying to create obstacles for the Reformists when he is really just trying to mediate. That’s what Khomeini did so well – his political genius was not intellectual, but personal: he was so effective in charismatically bringing different groups together by making it crystal-clear where he stood, by relating it in a manner which anyone could understand, and by clearly living his principles.
The West does not realise that, just like their nations, the two mainstream political parties have some, but not total, support among the people; they have some, but not total, access to state resources; they have some, but not all, political levers to get their way politically.
I reiterate this reality repeatedly, but we should not expect Western mainstream media to begin reporting on Iran in the balanced manner informed reporting requires.
Calling the Basij or Khamenei or the Reformists a “faction” is like calling the American Democratic Party, or France’s Les Republicans a “faction” – you could, but you’d be accused of trying to mislead people. No such sensible restraint exists for Iran; no blow is too below the belt; all political parties are trying to do “consolidate power”; the Basij is just a “militia”. Sure – great reporting, pal.…
Lastly – and for good reason lastly – the military role of the Basij
Anyone who has read this far realises that the idea that Basij is a “milita” or “paramilitary” or “armed thugs” is totally, totally wrong. The vast majority of Basiji are not involved in security operations; when they are involved, they do is mostly guard buildings and act as security details at events.
The wartime sacrifices are what make the Basij so often venerated in Iran. It is very easy for Westerners to ignore this: in America wars are only held on other people’s property and thus are viewed from a distance (although they are no longer permitted to actually view them in journalism); in Europe, wars and holocausts are only things which happen on European soil – those they committed elsewhere are less important.
Prior to 2009, the main connotations Westerners had with the Basij were the stories of teenage soldiers being used to clear mines; it is often forgotten that Iran was in no way militarily capable of fighting the far superior Iraqi army.
The Shah, in probably his most fatal of blunders (he was even lousy at being a dictator), kept the army totally divided and weak so they could not threaten his absolute economic & sociopolitical control. So not only were they actually incapable of suppressing the People’s revolution, the national forces – which also saw a major post-1979 Revolutionary purge, of course – were not at all capable of resisting the Iraqi invasion. This is why child soldiers were used – they had to be.
The complaints of Iraqi soldiers were the same as Americans in Korea: a barefoot farmer or teenager attacking with a garden rake still requires the use of a bullet, and eventually you run out of bullets, or are so totally disgusted by the piled-up bodies that life and military victory no longer hold any meaning. That, tragically, is the defense of a poor nation, which Iran certainly was in 1980. This is the Basij’s birth, and the legacy they would certainly draw on in case of another invasion.
The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan caused an increase in state and domestic support for Basij. For all the post-2009 denigration of the Basij, in case of an invasion any objective analysis would have millions – not all – of Basiji preparing to defend even those who domestically opposed them in peacetime.
However, the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran shows that in times of threat, the Basij’s role becomes militarised; but in times of peace, the Basij returns to a cultural role of societal and political involvement. The fact that the Basij did not end its duties after 1988 shows that it is primarily a domestic & cultural institution, and not a security one.
Again, the overwhelming majority of Basiji are not involved in security operations, but the Basiji which are armed are a key part in Iran’s decentralized battle plan in case of foreign invasion, which is evidenced by its name: the “Mosaic Doctrine”.
Such decentralisation means the presence of armed forces and command centers nationwide. This is only acceptable in a country which embraces their military and its doctrines. It is certainly the opposite of a capitalist-imperialist force: a garrison or fort separated from the People, and despised. Golkar quotes a top Iranian military member to describe the Basij’s security role in case of invasion:
“’Basij paramilitary volunteer troops are playing a decisive role in the country’s asymmetric warfare strategies…. What makes up for asymmetries in wars against countries which enjoy technological superiority and hi-tech military tools and equipment, are faithful and highly motivated troops…(the Basij are) a faithful and motivating force playing a decisive, fundamental and pivotal role in asymmetric battles.’”
What this really means is: Basiji in speedboats in the thin areas of the Persian Gulf swarming big US navy boats, and it certainly will work…though it does rely on “faithful and highly motivated troops” who will likely have high casualty rates.
I would be quite pleased to see the faces of invading troops when they see how forbidding the mountains are in Iran, which they would have to fight upwards and in: these mountains are the entire northern and western borders. Just as Rome only prospered because it had the Alps to its back and the sea to its front, Iran only prospered because it is similarly protected and hemmed in by mountains, seas and desert. I clearly ascribe more to the concept of geographic determinism more than the idea of Roman or Persian cultural superiority.
However, to me this is not the main reason why the Basij should discourage invaders: Essentially, the Basij are the “last line of defense” – if you get through the Iranian military and the elite Revolutionary Guards (who command the Basij), then you will also have to fight millions of Basjii.
They are not professional military, but they have some training…but they have a lot of ideological trainingwhich is far, far, far harder to inculcate than military training. They will also have tremendous local support and…all this means the Basij will not make it easy, to put it mildly. They will be a Vietcong of the 21st century, knowing every house, every street, every cave, every cactus; this group, which is dedicated to preserving the modern & popular 1979 revolution & the government & the nation, will be fighting for decades from ideology alone…and then we must also realise that like all invaded nations – they have nowhere else to go.
Not all 25 million Basiji will be effective “terrorists”, as they are sure to be described in Western media, but a few million will be rather a lot deal with, right, military analysts?
So I hope Washington and Tel Aviv are listening – if a few thousand armed ISIL members can’t be taken care of easily, how can millions of ideologically-politically- militarily-trained citizens be easily defeated?
They can’t. It’s not the army, nor their superior weapons – victory in war depends on the People. The Iranian People have been more than adequately organised to be prepared in case of attack.
Were Paris to be attacked, however, I’m sure it would be total chaos – you’d have the police, and that’s it. Were Havana to be attacked, there’d at least be those three dudes from the CDR who came to my apartment to question me…at least 3 dudes in every neighbourhood and village, that is. Were America to be attacked there would be no domestic organisation for their resistance other than “How many guns do you have?” (which is indeed a lot of resistance)
This is why an “invasion of Iran” is so absurd to me. Lots of bombs, fine, but what do the aggressors do when the bombs stop? No country has yet been bombed into complete annihilation if a huge percentage of the People resist, and the Basij resistance bases are set up exactly for that. When the boots go toe to toe, the Basij is a tremendously solid third line to protect the goal, no?
This article has discussed the structure, the ideology-politics, and the security aspects of the Basij – all things of interest to non-Iranians.
However, the next article is the more crucial one for those who really want to understand Iran, as it discusses how the Basij is drastically reordering the class structures of the nation.
In essence, it answers the question: beyond ideology, why do people join the Basij in the first place?
Why do women support the Basij more than men? What is the Basij doing with the money, factories and jobs which have been transferred (privatised) to them? Why is there strong internal opposition to the Basij? What are the economic and social benefits people get from being a Basiji?
The answer to these quests are all essentially “class”…and while I remain objective in the next part as well, I must concede that I am predisposed to answering most social questions with the answer of “class”.
Maybe I overemphasise it’s importance, but I don’t think so. While many leftists refuse to discuss religion, we all agree that the class lens is perhaps the paramount way to examine a society. When I examine the Basij what I see is expressed in the title of the next part: Iran’s Basij: Restructuring society via class warfare & Islamic socialism.
This is the 6th article in an 11-part series which explains the economics, history, religion and culture of Iran’s Revolutionary Shi’ism, which produced modern Iranian Islamic Socialism.
Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
A leftist analysis of Iran’s Basij – likely the first ever in the West
Iran’s Basij: Restructuring society and/or class warfare
‘Cultural’ & ‘Permanent Revolution’ in Revolutionary Shi’ism & Iranian Islamic Socialism
‘Martyrdom and Martyrdom’ & martyrdom, and the Basij
‘The Death of Yazdgerd’: The greatest political movie ever explains Iran’s revolution (available with English subtitles for free on Youtube here)
Iran détente after Trump’s JCPOA pull out? We can wait 2 more years, or 6, or…
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.