Friday, June 19, 2009

A Straight Forward Choice

It doesn't get much more straight forward than this. Either you side with those struggling against an oppressive state, facing down armed thugs and paramilitaries on the streets - those being beaten, intimidated, threatened and shot - or you side with oppression. You don't need to support the apparent 'leaders' of the movement - in fact you can find them quite repulsive - and you don't need to have any illusions about their democratic credentials. What matters is that a genuine popular movement against a repressive state is sweeping through Iran and that it brings with it the promise of real democratic gains and the extension of liberty. Movements like this develop a dynamic of their own - and one that it is often difficult for its fundamentally conservative leaders to contain. It is clear that a wide range of political and social forces are throwing their weight behind the anti-government demonstrations including the Iranian Left and other progressive forces.

This movement, and right now only this movement, can smash the most reactionary aspects of the Iranian state regime - the legally embedded misogyny, the murderous homophobia, the stonings, the hangings, the execution of children, the repression of trade unions, the incarceration of political prisoners. With (a lot of) luck it may even go further than this - this sort of struggle can take people beyond liberal demands into a much more radical consciousness very quickly.

It's deeply depressing then to see sections of the British Left equivocating and fence-sitting in relation to the anti Ahmadinejad demonstrations - refusing to take sides (although I suspect that this refusal often masks - very thinly - a preference for Ahmadinejad). Worse still, some individuals have come out openly in support of Ahmadinejad and the reactionary regime he heads. Galloway for example - who surely now shouldn't be touched with a ten foot pole.

It's clear that this is shaping up to be a watershed moment for the UK Left and one that could have very liberating effects - whatever the outcome in Iran. It looks to me like a lot of the more noxious baggage gathered over the past few years can now be, and must be, dumped and some basic principles reaffirmed. We can ditch the apologetics, the theoretical acrobatics and the bad conscience. We can start to breathe freely again.

Some socialists have chosen the wrong side - or at best, refuse to choose the right side. This is simply the logical outcome of some of the bad politics of recent years - some became so thoroughly immersed in it that they drowned. But they are clearly in a minority. Thank god.

Robert Fisk in the Independent

Robert Fisk again

Azar Sheibani in Red Pepper

Peter Tatchell in Red Pepper

Shourideh Molavi: The Socialist Project

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