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For workers’ power and a socialist Iran
The political crisis unfolding in Iran raises fundamental issues for the working class. The outcome of last Friday’s presidential election has exposed a sharp rift within the country’s clerical regime between the backers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and those of his chief rival, Mirhossein Mousavi.
No one should be hoodwinked by the “colour revolution” being carefully orchestrated by the Mousavi camp to overturn the election result and demand a fresh poll. While there are tactical differences between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, both are tested defenders of the existing regime and the interests of the Iranian bourgeoisie.
Mousavi was backed by those layers of the clerical and political establishment, such as former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, who have been bitterly critical of Ahmadinejad’s anti-US posturing, which has only brought further economic sanctions, and of his “wasteful” handouts to the poor. The large opposition protests in the streets of Tehran and other cities have been dominated by the better-off layers of the urban middle classes to whom Mousavi’s election campaign was directed.
To the extent that students, young people and any workers opposed to the regime have been swept up in the opposition movement, they are being exploited as pawns in what can only be described as an attempted palace coup. While electoral rigging may have taken place, more sober commentators point out that Ahmadinejad retained strong support among the urban and rural poor—the overwhelming majority of the population. Ahmadinejad’s margin of 63 percent over his three rivals was virtually identical to the outcome of the 2005 election, when he won an upset victory by exploiting the widespread hostility to his opponent Rafsanjani. The latter is one of the country’s wealthiest men, notorious for corruption.
Those who paint Mousavi in bright, democratic colours conveniently ignore his record as a hard-line defender of the theocratic regime. As prime minister between 1981 and 1989, he was instrumental in suppressing political opposition, including the jailing and murder of thousands of leftists. In the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, Mousavi also played a central role in marshalling young men, overwhelmingly drawn from the poorer strata of society, into the bloodbath, and imposing savage austerity measures on the working class.
Mousavi has been rebadged as a liberal democrat by an alliance of conservatives such as Rafsanjani and “reformers” like Khatami to press ahead with an agenda of easing tensions with the US and imposing a free market agenda that will heavily impact working people. Having failed to secure a first-round victory or force a second-round runoff, Mousavi and his allies are attempting to leverage the frustrations of their largely middle-class supporters into a share in, if not outright control of, state power.
These efforts are being supported by a blatantly partisan campaign in the US and international media, tacitly supported by the Obama administration and its European allies. No one should be under any illusion that this effort is aimed at abolishing the clerical regime or defending democratic rights for the masses in Iran.
As it has in the past, US imperialism is seeking to exploit the political turmoil in Iran to bring about a modification of the regime more favourable to its economic and strategic interests—in the first place, to secure greater Iranian support for its neo-colonial occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
If Mousavi were to pull off his “colour revolution,” the first to bear the brunt would be the working class and the poor, as the new regime sought to rein in public spending, privatise state-owned enterprises and guarantee the profits of local businesses and foreign investors. The barely concealed class hostility of Mousavi and his well-heeled supporters to working people is summed in their open contempt towards Ahmadinejad’s meagre handouts to the poor.