by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
Unfortunately, the final part in this 11-part series on modern Iran arrives at a time of major economic instability, perhaps the worst since the end of the Iran-Iraq War.
For the sake of argument, let’s be honest about what concrete steps Iran would have to take in order to finally get the sanctions called off.
We should totally ignore US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 Points speech in May (which is what everyone in Iran did): all of those claims, which essentially perpetuate the false, 1980s-era notion that Iran supports terrorism, are designed solely for unquestioning Western consumption. They also totally obscure the real aims of the West in Iran: They want Iran’s natural resources and a compliant government – that’s capitalism-imperialism.
So what exactly would Iran need to terminate to placate the West?
Firstly, ending the post of the Supreme Leader (held by Khomeini and now Khamenei), the “soul of the government”, seems like a must – the post is basically one non-stop civic exhortation to patriotism, morality, social justice and international justice. That requires rewriting the democratically-approved and democratically-supported constitution, which is entirely too modern & revolutionary by Western standards; Iran would obviously have to adopt a West European (bourgeois) model to finally win the approval of Western governments, media and NGOs. The Basij is impossible to dissolve, but since the post of the Supreme Leader is gone they can be put under the ideological control of the military and be reduced to a purely jingoistic and neo-fascist group, I suppose. The military can no longer include the Revolutionary Guards because such a group only exists in socialist countries and never capitalist ones. Secularism must be enforced, and that logically translates into some sort of formal edict by the Shia religious establishment that clerics cannot hold civil power, as the Roman Catholic church did in 1983; who cares who that in 2013 Iran voted in Rouhani in a first-round sweep, even though he was the only cleric among eight candidates. Forget about the hijab law, even though Muslim women say it is an obviously feminist solution to male superficiality, and say hello to miniskirts for women and shorts for men in public (buy stock in sunscreen companies!). Legalisation of alcohol is a must, and also drugs eventually (even though drugs are already incredibly cheap in Iran because they are right next to the poppy fields of Afghanistan). Undoubtedly, Iran has to recognise the colonisation of Palestine, and also do a 180-degree shift in their policies towards Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, despite Iranian democratic support for such policies.
These are the big issues, but they aren’t the lucrative capitalist-imperialist prize….
Above all, the only thing which will calm the West is economic domination: Iran needs to go full-globalisation and sell off majority control of their companies to foreign stockholders. Iran has, per my estimates detailed in this series, roughly 100% state control of the non-Black Market economy – there is no doubt that Iran is a socialist country economically. That would have to be slashed to window-dressing levels, perhaps to French standards: the French state, following the sell-offs of Chirac and all who followed him, now only has $100 billion of shares in national corporations, even though their CAC40 stock index is worth $1.9 trillion. I can’t imagine Western capitalists ever being content with allowing the current 10-20% of the Iranian economy to be legally controlled by the bonyads, or state-controlled religious charity cooperatives, so that must be rewritten by law to now fall under private control.
I think you are crazy if you think the West would make peace with Iran while they kept any of these policies, because they are all – without a doubt – revolutionary, anti-capitalist & pro-socialist. Iran could totally satisfy Pompeo’s absurd demands – which essentially call for a foreign policy the same as the US, and unheard-of openness to foreign inspections – but it wouldn’t lift one sanction.
And Iranians know this, and they know it now more than ever. It’s the pain of this knowledge which is causing the instability in Iran, which is purely psychological: It has fully hit home that there will be no real detente, but only more totally-unjust Cold War against us.
And so people are freaking out, overreacting, getting angry, thinking desperate thoughts and feeling hopeless. Iran’s leaders and citizens have spent five years politicking, discussing, deciding, negotiating, signing, waiting and hoping that the JCPOA agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy program would end the sanctions…but the West has not honoured their word.
And pain for the average Iranian has truly increased since 2012, because that’s when the sanctions really went to wartime levels – non-Iranians just don’t understand how unprecedented these UN-US-EU sanctions are, and how unjust & devastating they are. I’m very sorry to report that in the past six years Iranians as a whole has become less secure, more desperate, more coarse, more greedy, less humane – Iranians have become more like a Western capitalist country. That is terrible, because Iranians are incredibly warm, gentle and generous people, but Iranians admit this change is taking place.
I admit that truth because: That has always been entirely the West’s goal. It is no exaggeration to write that they want to starve Iran into acting like animals until they start biting each other, then install a dogcatcher to rule them on behalf of the West’s needs – that’s capitalism-imperialism, and if you don’t see the injustice of it now I doubt you ever will: it is soul-destroying, in every sense.
The same is true for North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and other socialist-inspired nations – it is the West who provokes the most pain, by far, and not their systems & vanguard parties.
And yet there is no way – NO WAY – Iran will take any of those steps I listed in order to appease the Western aggressors. It will not even be considered by the Iranian man and woman on the street, I can assure you.
The patriotic motivation of the 1979 revolution – “Neither East nor West” – was always the strongest force, and that has not diminished; conversely, it has only been strengthened after 40 years of war by the West, war with Iraq and seeing our neighbors invaded & their societies destroyed. On the positive side of the ledger, seeing Iranian-guided economic redistribution cause an economic renaissance since 1979 – which has only been paralleled by South Korea, China and Vietnam – Iranians KNOW they can run Iranian business better than any foreigner, and that will not change no matter what the pressures.
Giving up these policies the West wants to end is akin to suicide and certainly a betrayal of our sense of self…but continuing these policies will only engender more pain (through no fault of Iran’s own). That is the best explanation of why Iran is suffering from rather huge angst and economic instability right now.
The good news is: Iran is fundamentally quite healthy, thanks to the fruits caused by 40 years of a modern political revolution. This fever will pass because Iranians know there is no other solution but to sweat it out.
Hillary would have been no different than Trump – betrayal is what the US does
Unlike in the US, Iran grasps that “blame Trump” is a pathetic, near-sighted political analysis….
Fully implementing the JCPOA meant one thing: Iran becomes the first successful transition to a post-oil economy in the Muslim world – that’s historic.
The economic ramifications of that would be enormous and would drastically change the current capitalist-imperialist order. The cultural ramifications – given that Iran is the only modern, democratic, socialist-inspired nation in the Muslim world (with a nod to Algeria) – would be equally enormous as well.
Admiration for a highly-functioning Iranian model, and subsequent possible emulations, drastically changes the entire order in the Muslim world. Even though it would good for the Muslim world’s inhabitants, and thus the entire world, it should be obvious that none of that can be permitted by Western capitalist-imperialism.
Unfortunately for the American people and the entire world, political lobbies in the US make peace with Iran impossible, and the JCPOA’s failure makes that clear (yet again). As I described in an interview with Sputnik shortly after the US broke their word (again) and pulled out: US politics is based solely on lobbies, not ideology or morality or democratic public opinion or the fair-minded soul walking on Main Street. And not only is there not a single pro-Iran lobby in the US, but there are many powerful anti-Iran lobbies. The same holds especially true for Cuba.
Let’s say Iran races to a nuclear breakout or starts blocking Persian Gulf oil deliveries, and Trump loses re-election in 2020 – could his successor come in and resurrect the JCPOA in order to calm things down? Unlikely, as pro-Iran lobbies are not going to magically appear, nor will the anti-Iran lobbies disappear. That’s why even though a failed Iran policy from Trump theoretically implies that another presidential candidate could win votes via promoting detente with Iran, the “lobby reality” undermines this democratic possibility.
The idea that war-hawk Hillary would have rolled out a red Persian carpet for Iran is…absolutely untethered from reality or history. Iran and Cuba were the only two countries who Trump truly bashed during his election campaign, but even though Iranians knew more pain was coming many still believed, rightly, that Hillary would have been worse.
But blaming Trump for Iran’s current problems is simply what fake-leftist US Democrats do over and over: they cry bloody murder when conservative presidents follow the exact same policies as Democratic ones. Why didn’t Obama jump-start the Iran deal when he was in office through a myriad of executive orders? It was finally signed in July 2015, so he had half a year. Why did he wait so long to get the deal arranged in the first place? Why did Obama immediately undermine his similar deal with Cuba, via billion-dollar sanctions on European banks for working with Cuba (such sanctions are now the reason Europe won’t defy Washington with Iran)? The answer to both is simple: the US never has any intention of peace with Iran, Cuba or anyone else who is socialist-inspired and democratically revolutionary.
You shouldn’t have to be a Native American or an Iranian “hard-liner” (one person’s “hard-liner” is another’s “ardent revolutionary”) to know that the US never keeps its promises.
And this is why there is so much angst and instability in Iran right now: Iran is coming to terms with the reality – warned of by many in Iran – that the West will never compromise and never cooperate. The only way forward for Iran is more Cold War and…how can that not be frustrating? How can that not provoke anger, instability, resentment, scapegoating, etc. inside Iran – it was hard enough for Iranian revolutionaries to change Iran, but now they have to change the entire world, too?!
The fake-leftists in the West choosing to focus on women not attending football games or men not being able to parade in public wearing hot pants…do they really think the average Iranian is worried about that amid economic warfare and the prospect of continued Cold War? Do they really think Iranian women and men would gladly accept the coarsening and impoverishing of our society in return for such insignificant “rights”? But what can be done with fake-leftists…not much, of course.
The good leftists in the West, such as the World Socialist Web Site, whose 3-part pamphlet against my reporting on “Iranian Islamic Socialism” was the impetus for this series, made a major mistake last winter by assuming that sanctions-caused economic protests would somehow lead to (Trotskyist) socialist policies and revolution; their big mistake was not realising that the former has already existed from the beginning of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.
The larger problem is that Western leftists totally misunderstand Iran, and thus how could they properly support it? The goal of this series was to eliminate a ton of Western misconceptions via facts nobody can deny: about the state-run & socialist nature of the Iranian economy, about Iran’s almost unparalleled success in economic redistribution, about the falseness of using the words “privatization” and “Iran” in the same breath, about the undeniable socio-political redistribution of power caused by revolutionary ideas such as the Basij, about the way Shia Islam was philosophically reworked to incorporate modern socialist ideas far more than the any non-Iranian can probably even imagine.
I earnestly defy anyone to refute my long-standing claim that Iran is truly socialism’s ignored success story. I hope that I have given plenty of ideas to challenge and scrutinise in this 11-part series.
Back to reality, in which Iran is essentially unaffected by the lack of Western support: Because of the failure of the JCPOA Iran is not having “revolutionary doubts”, “revolutionary failure”,” or “counter-revolution” but “revolutionary fatigue”. This is caused by the Western war on Iran, as our current problems are unthinkable in an Iran which is not so persecuted.
But no matter: Accepted by the West, or not, “more revolution” is sure to come in Iran, and cannot but succeed, eventually.
Plan B is failed, but Plan C will eventually work
It seems as if Iran’s Plan B has also failed: winning over half of the West – Europe.
That would have been a historical sea-change…but European firms won’t risk sanctions to work with Iran – they saw what Nobel-winner Obama did with Cuba.
The EU absolutely could counter the US sanctions on their firms, but all 27 nations would have to sign off on that, per EU rules. The EU – it must always be remembered – was rushed through after the fall of the USSR and is the most undemocratic and neoliberal capitalist model in the world. Therefore they have no intention of doing the right thing for anyone but international stockholders, and certainly not for Iranian Islamic socialists.
France’s Total Oil has pulled out of the South Pars oil field project -the bellwether deal – and so have plenty of other top European corporations.
Compared to the US, Iran’s business is not so vital. Not just yet…and that bring us to Plan C – China.
If the West will not incorporate revolutionary Iran fairly into to the world economy, then Iran will just have to remain firmly revolutionary until China does it from the other end. This is, as I see it, the only solution for Iran following the end of the JCPOA.
And China is willing and able to do this, thanks to their Belt and Road Initiative (New Silk Road plan). Iran is the central hub in this plan which will allow the world’s two top economies – China and the EU – to trade. Europe will have to break with the US when that goes online. How can they lose out on the huge price savings and trade which China can offer over the US? Like I said, one must totally disregard any consideration but the purest (neoliberal) capitalism in the European Union project.
Why do you think the West is so desperate now? Once BRI goes online, the unprecedented power of the US-led sanctions – which have always been based on Europe going along with them – will be hugely diminished.
BRI won’t be fully completed until 2049, but it’s getting close to “now or never” for the US regarding Iran. Europe sees the writing on the wall and thus wants to work with Iran rather than keep losing out, but the US remains especially willing to do anything to maintain their faltering domination. The US simply had to blow up the JCPOA, as they are capitalists who do not believe in “mutually-beneficial cooperation” (like Iran & China). For a country which in 2003 was certain of dominating the Middle East, a Middle Eastern economy dominated by Iranian exports must be especially galling; it would also further increase Chinese influence, and also help the EU if they finally allied with Iran – there is no way the US allies with Iran as long as Iran remains anti-Zionist.
But it’s not all bad: the JCPOA, even in its failure, will be remembered as a way Iran started chipping away at the 40-year US-EU tag-team to topple Iran. Frankly, I’m surprised it even made it this far! I am quite skeptical about the diplomatic intentions of capitalist-imperialists….
You can’t miss what you never had, and Iran has never had Europe since 1979. It would be nice if Europe honoured the agreement, mainly to immediately reduce the banking pressures on Iran. But Iran and the EU had just $20 billion in trade in 2017 (and that was a very good year), whereas Iran and China have not just a 10-year plan worth $600 billion, but a 25-year strategic plan. What Iran needs from Europe is just a second supplier to keep China honest – that’s just capitalism (and just socialism, whether of the Chinese or Iranian Islamic variety). But they don’t need Europe in order to thrive. Heck, Iran has thrived without Europe just fine.
EU prestige has also been chipped away: The failure to uphold the Iran deal means – especially if Iran decides that their only solution is to get “break out” nuclear bomb capabilities, as stopping nuclear proliferation has been the main propaganda effort in Europe – that the EU’s political system will be even more gravely undermined at home. The “international prestige” Europe arrogantly assumes it has is all in their head (racists, hypocrites, egotists, imperialists & capitalists who remain cancers on the developing world is how they are viewed by the developing world), but failure to implement the JCPOA shows just how much of a lap dog the EU is to the US, and thus will undermine the EU’s image domestically. Not tremendously, of course – it’s not like Iran hasn’t been the victim of a huge propaganda campaign for 40 years and is a political persona non grata – but this is one of those little thorns in the skin (ignored Maastricht votes, Brexit, Catalonia, etc.) that will continue to nag, fester, annoy, frustrate and undermine the subconscious of Europe. It’s clearer than ever that there is no “European model” – the EU is becoming more like the US in every way, and not just Macron-led France.
Of course, this became the case long ago: examine the neoliberal, corrupt structure of the Eurozone and one finds an American system, not a European one.
So the failure to keep the JCPOA will hurt Europe more than it will Iran in the long run.
What the JCPOA’s failure means in Iran: back to business as usual
It’s the same old thing – denial of humanity to Iran, and the denial of Iran’s humanity.
Iran’s economic goals will remain the same either way: national development, increased economic & social justice at home, and the (obviously politically opposed) re-negotiation of its place in the global economic order as a producer rather than mere exporter of natural resources (with Islamic and socialist-inspired constraints self-imposed as well).
Iran has no illusions about what the West wants: they want us to go the Yugoslavia and Libya route, but that’s impossible for two reasons: Firstly, there is no “Croatia & Slovenia” nor “Benghazi-Eastern Libya” to demand secession – Iran’s minorities (Kurd, Arab, Baloch, etc.) are all incorporated into the socialist-multiethnic-patriotic ideology. Yes, they are continually targeted by Mossad, the CIA, et. al, and yes this “promote racism” plan has worked so well for the West in other parts of the world, but there is no comparison between the success of Kurdish integration (for example) in Iran as compared with any other nation with a Kurdish minority.
Secondly, the incredible growth and popularity of the Basij makes such splits impossible. Like them or not, it’s a rather genius idea for national stability. The Basij proved in 2009 that they will fight against counter-revolution / huge political changes and, as I detailed in the 4-part sub-series on them, the coming years will only see more Basiji students, more Basiji jobs, more Basiji members, more Basiji government workers, more Basiji parts of the economy – as I concluded: they are on a path akin only to the Communist Party in China.
And that’s why we have the economic and political Cold War – the only route available for the West is internal implosion.
Again, that’s just business as usual – only Iranians who are not paying attention miss this reality. The same goes for Western journalists, like those who missed US Secretary of State John Kerry accidentally (but finally!) admitting in Paris that the goal of Iran sanctions is to “try to implode” Iran- he says it right here in my 2013 Press TV report at the 0:58 mark.
So the JCPOA’s failure is not new and the answers for Iran are not new: they must maintain the same revolutionary course, which means more socialist redistribution of wealth in order to keep everyone as reasonably contented as possible amid near-wartime conditions.
Iran will need more protectionist economic policies, but combined with the economic reality that Iran now has even fewer customers to sell to and these customers want more favourable terms to sell their goods inside Iran. There is no way out of this, because Iran cannot eat oil; the idea that acquiescing to this reality means that Iran & President Rouhani have “gone neoliberal” is totally absurd, and I won’t debunk it again here – simply read Parts 2 & 3 of this series.
Iran doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel…although they will be forced to become early adopters of things like a national crypto-currency. They are already testing and planning to go full-bore on crypto, and unlike Venezuela they have the national unity and bureaucratic unity to really make it happen. Indeed, Iran will soon say “God bless crypto-currency”, as it is such an obvious boon to those who hate and who are hated by neoliberal capitalists.
Lastly, I will simply say that Iran does not need another modern revolution in response to the failure of the JCPOA – they just had one, after all. What they need to do is not make the concessions the West is demanding because that is CERTAIN to decrease social justice, increase inequality and increase instability – such concessions are inspired by capitalist-imperialists, after all!
It’s just like Khamenei just said, and I don’t parrot him because I work for PressTV: there will be no negotiations and no war. That’s business as usual, and only because the West is (as usual) making such insane, sovereignty-violating, capitulation-declaring demands in order to even start negotiations; negotiations are done because…they are done – it was called the JCPOA!
However, it should be clear that “no negotiations and no war” is a temporarily depressing formula for a country which hoped for the first detente in 40 years.
But it’s the only formula, because conceding to insane, immoral Western demands is never been an option…and at least it’s not war. Iran – unlike armchair hawks in America – appreciates that.
Modern class issues in Iran – it was easier when it was everyone versus the Shah!
The Green Movement of 2009 proved two important things within Iran: The Revolution had created a new middle class – yet not fully won them over (because their demands changed) – and the Revolution had greatly abolished – and also won over – the lower class.
Class solidarity is never a given thing, except for the 1%: They are always united in working to preserve their own interests.
What did not exist in pre-revolutionary Iran was a middle class: studies showed that in 1976 just 500,000 workers (5% of the employed workforce) could be considered middle class (and 80% of them worked for the state, making them essentially an extension of the 1% because that state was monarchical-reactionary). However, due to the socialist economic policies of the Revolution – which I detailed in parts 2 and 3, and also in the sub-series on the Basij – Iran’s middle class jumped to over 30%.
That represents not only a huge socialist success but the BEST socialist success: if socialists are not primarily defined by “empowering the average worker at work” then they are primarily defined by economic policy, and the first responsibility of socialists is to get people lifted out of the lower class. Again, given the nationalist insistence for decoupling from Western capitalism, the anti-capitalist mandates of revolutionary Shi’ism, and the hard facts of the Iranian economic structure post 1979 – this more than 600% increase in the size of the middle class was all achieved by Iranian Islamic Socialism, baby!
But I write that in 2009 Iran had “not fully won them over” because the rich truly are different: middle class demands are different from lower class demands.
What the middle class does is complain about secondary cultural issues, having largely secured answers to life’s main economic problems, which are education, health care, jobs, status, etc. Whether it’s the Democratic anti-Trumpers or the Greens in Iran, they pretend like they have gotten to their privileged position via their moral superiority and hard work when (in Iran’s case) it was due to socialist economic central planning and modern revolutionary structures. This narcissism is likely because such middle classes are largely influenced by Western capitalist culture, which unambiguously says on every billboard, magazine page and song lyric: be discontented, get more for yourself, forget solidarity with your “stupid, non-hustling” peers.
So the Green Movement in 2009 truly heralded the power of this new middle class – that’s good, and proof of huge success.
Unfortunately, they marched mainly in order to preserve their interests amid the the social justice policies of the Basiji Ahmadinejad, and also to do what the middle class does worldwide in modern, 21st century countries: complain about cultural issues and hold rather fake-leftist positions.
The good news for the government is: the middle and upper-middle classes don’t do counter-revolutions if the lower class has been won over. The middle and upper-class simply do not have the fire to overpower the numerically-larger lower class, and they eventually admit their existence is already pretty settled and good.
Look at Brazil: Roussef was a leftist president, but Brazil never had even a mild leftist revolution. This is why the lower classes did not take to the streets when Roussef was impeached and Temer installed – there was not that much for the lower class to defend! Venezuela had a much more than mild yet not-complete revolution, and in 2017 they had their version of a Green Movement, which was four times as deadly as Iran’s, but their lower classes got deadly because Chavismo did win over the lower classes, unlike in Brazil.
So the real risk for Iran post-JCPOA is like what happened in the USSR – betrayal by the upper-middle class, i.e. the biggest beneficiaries of the revolution: all polls in the late 1980s showed overwhelming, democratic, mass support for socialism and continuing the USSR, but their “talented 10th” betrayed it.
Regardless of one’s sympathy, or not, with the middle and upper-middle classes – Iran must win them over: That is what all governments are tasked with – winning over all citizens via good & responsive governance; that is the source of democratic legitimacy (or not).
To win over the middle and upper class, Iran will have to keep tweaking the balance between Revolutionary Shi’ism and personal freedom; keep tweaking the balance between a revolutionary culture-corrupting glasnost and allowing boundaries to be intelligently pushed. This is the domestic cultural war in Iran…but it takes a backseat to economic issues, and now more than any time since the end of the Iran-Iraq War due to the sanctions.
Iran really only resembles China & Vietnam in this sense, because Cuba & North Korea are not there economically : the challenge for modern, socialist-inspired countries is to combine the affluence of capitalism with a revolutionary spirit. Iran, having had their revolution 30 years after China, is obviously further behind in winning their Western Cold War and also in solidifying their affluence.
I would posit that, after their tantrum in 2009, the middle class is being won over.
Just look at recent polls, voter turnout and citizen participation in a 10-25 million person group like the Basij – Iranians support their government structure in a huge majority (and, certainly, there is no huge majority support for scrapping the constitution or inviting a Western puppet to rule). Furthermore, given the failure of the Arab Spring after 2011, there is increasing acceptance that the middle class will actually NOT prosper under a new government, as some may have thought previously. The US-EU-UN triple sanctions of 2012 are designed to make this class crazily desperate that they can’t Keep Up With The Kardashians, but it’s just not going to work.
But the only way to win over the middle class is: keep winning them over with good governance. That is life and that is politics….
The hard part in Iran is done (and this is the source of its revolutionary stability): winning over the working class
The working class is the opposite of the 1% – it’s the hardest class to truly inculcate class solidarity into, as it is so broad and thus full of differences. However, Iran has done exactly this, and that is no longer deniable.
Those who led (and the children of those who led) Iran’s “Revolution of the Barefooted”. or as I say an Iranian “Trash Revolution”, in 1979 proved in 2009 that the military does not need to get involved: there will be no counter-revolution. Therefore, 2009 proved who is really in charge in Iran: the working class – the democratic majority. Modern Iran is no military junta; and as I detailed in this series – the military has been weak in Iran for more than a century.
The West has not won over their lower class economically and politically (the Western lower class subsists and persists on the bigoted “I may be unempowered Trash, but at least I’m not a slave / colonised subject”), but China has. Both China and Iran have stated goals of classless societies and of immediately prioritising the poorest sections of their societies; Western neoliberal capitalism’s stated goal is to create just enough social welfare that people are not dying in the streets and in public view. Anybody who has needed to collect unemployment insurance or has cashed their grandparent’s social security check knows this – former Rothschild bankers who married chocolate heiresses, like Macron, have no idea.
By winning over the lower class, Iran’s government has shown that it does not have to keep tweaking the balance between Islam and democracy.
Indeed, the capitalist-imperialist Western desire to rewrite Iranian democracy is proof that my declaration is correct. The West, on the other hand, will only continue to strangle its citizens as long as it has such neoliberal & anti-democratic structures underpinning the Eurozone, and a woefully-outdated and uber-bourgeois structure still being worshipped like divine revelation in the US.
But in Iran it is clear that the democratic will is maintained and that social redistribution of power and money have taken place on a nearly unprecedented scale since 1980. This is the economic war, and Iran actually fights this war, unlike the West….
The Iranian lower class, having not reached the economic comfort of the middle and upper-middle class, will thus continue, with enormous governmental assistance, to work, agitate and organize in the manner they have done for 40 years. That explains why institutions like the Basij will continue to grow in influence, prominence and power as a result of the JCPOA’s failure – the “hard-liners” will reap the political benefits.
The Basij and other Iranian-state linked economic ideas are denigrated as “clientism” – LOL, as if this is a bad thing! Allegiance to the state is always a function of their ability to allocate resources properly – this is merely a modern retelling of China’s “Heavenly Mandate”.
Anyway, true “clientism” is unthinking support for the government produced by selfish self-interest: this underestimates the ability of Iranians to judge for themselves as well as the morality of individual Iranians. Considering the exceptionally high level of education in Iran, as well as the exceptionally higher level of moral-religious-spiritual education in Iran, I reject such charges as unfounded. Are there “opportunists” – of course; are they the overwhelming majority – no way; are the “true-believers” large enough to keep the revolution from turning into a counter-revolution – no doubt.
The only way to win over the working and lower classes is: keep winning them over with good governance. That is life and that is politics….
So to wrap up this article: Iran will have to wait for detente a bit longer. The alternative – appeasement – is sure to debase Iran in every way, and thus is not an option and we all know it and hear that reality every day.
The Basij, the working class and the Principlists (conservatives) will gain from the JCPOA’s failure: they have been proven right that the West cannot be trusted, and that protectionism and the unique (revolutionary) economic structures in Iran, which are misunderstood and derided as “clientism” by the ignorant, is the only possible way forward; they will argue economics must stay an intra-Iranian affair as much as possible & combined with the social justice of revolutionary Shi’ism; they will say that the cuts to the Basiji, whose only criterion is to support the government, cannot be justified morally and cannot be risked politically-culturally by the government.
Or to put it in modern Western terms: the incumbents, having failed, will give way to the opposition party, as usual. This is what few people get about Iran: the great news is that the incumbents were revolutionaries, too! Truly, marinate on that reality and you’ll understand Iranian politics much better.
In capitalism the goal is speed – to get rich quick. In Iran the goal has been to reach a destination – a society governed by a modern, socialist-justice obsessed ideology of Iranian Islamic Socialism and not neoliberal capitalism-imperialism.
The world does not, and should not, decide the goals of Iran – the torpedoing of the JCPOA by the US ultimately makes no difference to Iran.
Hopefully the world learns a bit more about Iran’s true goals, and why they should support them.
What’s going on Iran is much bigger than just Iran: it always has been.
Just as the US, French and Russian revolution terrified privileged reactionaries thousands of kilometres away, so the Iranian Islamic Revolution is similarly frightening.
I say this as a completely objective journalist: it is obvious that even if Iran is not a “global revolution” like the three previously mentioned, it is an enormously important regional revolution – that region being the Muslim world.
For four decades Iran has been the leader of Muslim Trash Revolutions: should the West ever call off their war on Islamic democracy, other Muslim nations would surely follow the Iranian democratic model (with local adjustments), and that threatens Western neo-imperialism on a massive scale.
This is already happening in Iraq: You have Islamic nationalists allying with Iraqi communists and pro-Iranian groups in order to wipe away the US-linked comprador establishment. Afghanistan would be the same thing. In Syria Assad will likely push 100% nationalism when the terrorists are ousted, but in the end he will be fighting the same forces as his father – the democratic inevitability of Islamic Socialism.
Anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, Islamic democracy – all of these things are anathema to the West…and yet Iran has pursued them successfully despite both hot, cold and perpetual war.
It is quite easy to blindly give statistics which show that Iran’s revolution has not achieved its socialist economic aims, and that too much money is still concentrated in too few hands. Hey, idiot: no nation has good statistics when it comes to standards such as these, as all nations are woefully far from economic equality on an absolute scale! Such analyses are political nihilism and lack both nuance and understanding.
But nobody who is actually familiar with Iran would deny that since 1979 a massive redistribution of wealth and power – one dreamed for if not centuries then certainly for decades – has taken place. The changes have been unbelievable – undoubtedly a Great Leap Forward. Come visit and see! Truly, preventing just such a Great Leap Forward in other Muslim nations has been the guiding light of the policies of Washington, London, Paris & Tel Aviv.
Iran is also not one of those tiny, unimportant, Arctic-touching, isolated, Scandinavian nations the Anglo-Saxon-led West so often points to as the world’s most superior model: Iran is at the heart of the world, filled with and surrounded by black gold – and foreign gold has made Westerners mad since Columbus returned with tales of riches. Confronted with a million more challenges than the Nordic nations, Iran thus has many policy solutions to modern political problems which the world could learn from and adapt to their own needs.
But when it comes to Western leftists and socialists who insist on forced atheism, Iran’s biggest sin is that it talks about sin – it is religious – and this renders irrelevant everything else about Iran. Yet Iran is far from being the “fanatics” – it is they who are guilty of that, not us!
Western leftists remind me of the delusional, paranoid, sexually-dysfunctional General Jack Ripper in the movie Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, especially when he was finally confessing his rationale for unilaterally launching nuclear war. Permit me just one change:
“I can no longer sit back and allow
Communist (religious) infiltration, Communist (religious) indoctrination, Communist (religious) subversion, and the international Communist (religious) conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”
We would feel sorry for General Ripper…were he not hell-bent on destroying the world rather than accept and tolerate a few ideas of the Communists. The Western (fake) left views Iran from a perspective which is similarly divorced from reality, but hopefully this series will change a few minds.
I react similarly to those Iranians who claim that Iran does not have revolutionary Shi’ism, but “clerical Shi’ism”. This denies the modern, democratic structures, the checks & balances, and the voter oversights of the Iranian political model. And, LOL, you must desire a LOT of “revolutionary Shi’ism” because you are apparently not content with the the MOST revolutionary Shi’ism government in world history?!!!
But this absurd “I’m-a-patriot-but-not-this-government” position – which is not any different from anti-Trumpers (who rarely know their elbow from their behind, politically) – is essentially fake-leftism. Playing the blame game – scapegoating – instead of examining structures and reasons for possible failures (cough cough US Democratic Party cough cough) hides not progressive politics but intolerant authoritarianism. Similarly, the refusal to accept Iran’s revolution(ary Shi’ism) – despite its imperfections and the huge handicaps placed on it by the West – when a vast majority of the Iranian nation does – makes such Iranians out of touch and obvious opponents of democracy. They are elitists, plain and simple, who know better and who should rule over us Trash.
I would like to thank the World Socialist Web Site for their 3-part series, as it was informative, albeit in a very blinkered and limited way; it was not really dedicated to “anti-Ramin Mazaheri thought” but their claim that “Islamic socialism is a sham”. I wonder what they think after reading this 11-part series? I humbly suggest that they did not know much of what I related, and that is not really the fault of non-Iranians: after all, in the Western languages one never hears anything about the Basij, the bonyads, supporting the 1B Sector, the progressive political goals of Imam Ali, or nearly any of the many other points I raised. Westerners are not just denied balanced media on Iran but are bludgeoned with three main propaganda lines: religious fanatics, terrorists, hijab law. I hope my series gave a fuller picture of modern Iran, especially in the economic and socio-political arenas.
I am certainly eager to hear anyone’s rebuttal…but I predict that any such rebuttal ignores concrete economic and political facts – which has been the Western leftist tactic for 40 years – in favor of redrawing the definition of “socialism” according to their preference and experience.
This enforced stultification of “what is socialism” perhaps explains why the Western left has been in such an atrociously bad state ever since 1979; “Socialism” must grow, must change, must adapt – because otherwise it loses the war waged on it by capitalism-imperialism.
I think the most useful part of this series was the discussion of the Basij – a 10-25 million organisation which the West knows nothing about simply had to be talked about. It’s crazy that I am the first to give an objective accounting. And, of course the West doesn’t talk about it: the Basij has undeniable components of economic and socio-political redistribution – the West NEVER talks about such ideas. But 2009 proved the Basij is the decider in Iranian politics – if they go the “Chinese Communist Party-dominance of the government” route, well, that’s going to lead to unprecedented (revolutionary) results. The first good accounting of the Basij but likely not the last…
I reiterate my neutrality on the Basij as being good or bad – all I did was relate facts, structures and ideological motivations. The Basij as a vehicle for redistributing money, power and influence to the lower classes of society simply cannot be denied logically. It is also undeniable, logically, that the Basij was not produced by the ideals of revolutionary Iranian Shi’ism. But whether or not the Basij achieves those ideals is a question which I will not answer, and leave up to the reader, and that is truly the most important question.
The JCPOA…Iran will get over that – the fake-politics of the West are nothing new, after all.
The real question is: Who will take over for Khamenei when he passes? From a purely objective point of view as a journalist: no leader in the Muslim world has been as successful as he has since in 1989 (it’s rather a landslide, too).
One certainly believes that Khamenei’s success is due to the revolutionary structure of Iran as a whole, of course, but will his replacement have the revolutionary gravitas to be the Supreme Leader – who is also the only leader of the Basij – and will he have the human depth to be the “soul of the government?” Iran will be much like Cuba in 2018, when Raul Castro stepped down as president.
I have good news on that front, as I reported from there during that process: I cannot recall meeting even one person who did not support and who was not truly happy about the election of Miguel Diaz-Canel. Cuba is much poorer and even more sanctioned than Iran – if they can survive amid even worse hardships, Iran surely can make it. Diaz-Canel was a very well-known quantity, and a bureaucrat who rose up through the ranks thanks to repeated success in governance; he was not just a king’s son, a lobbyist’s puppet or an advertising agency’s creation, after all.
So I think that the new Supreme Leader will be similarly selected and similarly welcomed. Certainly, when Khamenei does pass on Iran’s intense nationalism will kick in like a lead boot across the country, LOL. Iran will be 100% on guard as well, as the West will be salivating for signs of discord. But Iranians are also more wilfully contrarian than Cubans, so far as I can tell – perhaps Iran should move 100 kilometres from the Imperial homeland and see what one risks by playing “devil’s advocate”?
In the end – and I toss this in as a reward for anyone who read this far – I have always felt that what makes Iran truly different, and often not understandable to the West, is that there is a huge difference between “public” and “private” for Iranians.
Americans walk around in public exactly how they walk around their own living room – there is no concept of boundaries. West Europeans can’t imagine not insisting on their “rights” to do anything they want in public as long as it does not result in immediate violence – it’s not that life is a beer garden to them, but that they seemingly want people to know that they are on the very precipice of discovering a new “right”, and one which they seemingly hope will make you uncomfortable. The Catholic Western nations are a bit more formal, I’ll grant, but they have a love of making a spectacle out of personal drama and tension which is truly abhorrent to the Asian mentality – the end of summer weather in Paris means the weekend-night spats between wife and husband or boyfriend and girlfriend must now move indoors, mercifully.
Iran is not like that. There is home life, and then there is social life, and never the twain should meet. Iranian culture fundamentally insists that there must be a difference in one’s behaviour in these two different realms. To give an extreme, but quick, example: Some women in Iran wear the hijab in public but short skirts at home, and they would do this even if wearing the hijab in public was not the law…and no Iranian would deny this is true. This is the “public face / private face” nature of Iranian culture.
This makes Iran fairly subject to accusations of hypocrisy – I can’t deny that. However, it also implies a level of public courtesy, respect, generosity and consideration via the virtues of self-denial and self-sacrifice. This virtues are denied by many Westerners, but mainly because Westerners don’t perceive or look for such things anymore, I think. As is usually the case in life – the good and the good are both true at varying degrees…and hopefully the scale is balanced positively in Iran’s favor.
What is certain is that something like Iranian Islamic Socialism has been created via the decades-long discovery, installation and victory of Iranian Revolutionary Shi’ism, and this progressive political advancement remains open to the world. The rejection of monarchy, imperialism and capitalism is not limited to Iranians, nor to Shia Muslims, nor to Muslims, nor to Middle Easterners, nor to anyone else.
However, one needs an open mind, first! That is difficult, given the decades of anti-Iranian propaganda – I hope this series definitively defeated that for some readers.
Perhaps what is required is the smashing of the final irreligious idol – the Western concept of “unfettered individualism”, which is the foundation of anti-social, immoral & destructive imperialist-capitalism. Certainly, if the West cared anything about someone besides themselves and their ideas, Iran would be allowed to follow their unique & revolutionary model in peace, finally.
One day, Inshallah. Peace to all.
This is the last 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 which have been published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
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.