At this stage, large swathes of the Iranian masses have illusions in the ‘reformist’ Mir-Hossein Moussavi. Unless the protest movement becomes stronger and clearer in its aims, there is a real danger that the trend around Ahmadinejad will use the pretext of the disruption to launch a wave of repression across society as a whole. There are already signs of this with a growing number of deaths and increased belligerence of the state-sponsored militias. The key to ensuring this upsurge makes real, solid gains for the working people of Iran is boost the fighting capacity of those masses, not to sow illusions in any establishment politician, particularly Moussavi. Here are some facts on him:
Moussavi and the other reformist candidate in the recent elections, Mehdi Karroubi, are no radical opponents of the regime. For eight years, Moussavi served as prime minister of the Islamic republic – during some of the darkest days of this regime. He was deeply involved in the arms-for-hostages deals with the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the affair that came to be known as ‘Irangate’. He also played a prominent role in the brutal wave of repression in the 1980s that exterminated a generation of Iranian leftists. During this period, thousands of socialists and communists were jailed, with many of them arbitarily executed while in prison.
Moussavi has attempted to refashion himself as a ‘conservative reformer’ or a ‘reformist conservative’ by expressing his allegiance to the supreme leader and by claiming to have initiated Iran’s nuclear programme, which he has promised to continue. He also criticised the release of British navy personal in 2007 as “a humiliating surrender”. Defending his government’s anti-Western credentials, Ahmadinejad then counter-claimed that “prime minister Tony Blair had sent a letter to apologise to Iran”. Within a few hours, the foreign office in London issued a stern denial that such a letter was ever sent – an unprecented intervention which was a clear indicator who the west’s preferred candidate was. Moussavi tried to exploit this Ahmadinejad gaffe.
But he clearly failed. The supreme leader could not tolerate his former protégé Moussavi. Although his politics are almost indistinguishable from those of Ahmadinejad, he was just a bit too ‘progressive’ on two points:
He promised to be more liberal over women’s dress code and said he would expand women’s rights –within the parameters proscribed by the religious state, of course
He promised to use more diplomatic language and a more amenable attitude in dealings with the West, especially the USA. Despite this diplomatic ‘packaging’, however, he remains committed to defending Iran’s nuclear program (including the right to enrich uranium)
These elections themselves were a “charade” from the day they started. All four candidates were supporters of the existing system. All supported existing neo-liberal economic policies and privatisations that have pauperised wide swathes of Iran’s working people. All four are in favour of Iran’s nuclear programme.
But we should not underestimate the anger of the Iranian population against this blatant manipulation of the results. Iranians had to choose between the lesser of two evils – and when the worst was declared winner, they showed their contempt for the system by huge demonstrations culminating in the massive protests of June 13 2009.
Until early June, most Iranians had shown little interest in these elections, as they knew that no candidate would produce real change. But it was the live TV debates that swept away the apathy. The debates betweeen Ahmadinejad-Moussavi and Ahmadinejad-Karroubi were unique events in the history of the official media of the Islamic Republic. The debates confirmed what most Iranians know through their personal experiences – but which they had never before heard on the official media:
• Ahmadinejad stated that Iran had been ruled for 24 years (up to his presidency) by a clique akin to an economic and political mafia. ‘Elite’ clerics such as the reformers Rafsanjani and Khatami had “forgotten their constituents” and were corrupt
• Moussavi stated that the economy has been in a terrible state, particularly in the last four years
The situation in Iran is very fluid. Over 900 protesters and 100 ‘reformist’ leaders have been arrested, including the brother of former president Khatami. Moussavi and his wife have gone underground. There are signs of the beginning of an internal coup. Thirty years after the Iranian revolution, there is an irony in Iran’s supreme leader using suppression against an opposition to a rotting, totally discredited regime. The parallel is with the chain of events that led to the overthrow of the Shah’s regime in 1979. The foundations of the Islamic Republic regime are shaking.
The protests of June 13 were the largest demonstrations since 1979. After the euphoria of the last two weeks, when Iranians participated in their millions in demonstrations and political meetings, no state – however brutal – will be able to control the situation. The events of the last few weeks show that there is real hope that the Iranian people can get rid of this regime – be it in the guise of Ahmadinejad or the no less undemocratic and corrupt ‘reformists’.