Monday, June 29, 2009

Iran and the left, continued

I continue to be sickened by the reactions of some sections of the left to the on-going uprising in Iran. Many on the left demonstrate some version of a Third Worldist or second campist ideology, which says that the Iranian theocracy is somehow heroic because it is defying the Western "imperialist" camp. A prime example of Third Worldist second campism is the American Monthly Review and its blog, MRZine. For instance, Rostam Pourzal asserts that the dissidents are actually simply neo-liberal fiscal conservatives opposing Ahmadinejad's social conservatism; Azmi Bishara admits that Iran is totalitarian, but bizarrely claims it is different from other totalitarian regimes because it is a functioning democracy and its government is popular - and that in fact the Ahmadinejad is pro-poor and its opponents are just snobby bourgeois urban kids. MRZine also publishes Ali Khameni's address, passes on Press TV propaganda, interviews supporters of the regime, and so on.

In Britain, one of the most important hard left blogs, Richard Seymour's Lenin's Tomb, has generally put forward a fairly good line, as in this post. However, the Tomb has also inexplicably published pro-Ahmadinejad stuff by Yoshie, while MRZine publishes material by Seymour attacking the opposition. Another of the main British hard left blogs, Socialist Unity, also passes on MRZine's disgusting rubbish, posted without comment by John Wight.

The conclusion drawn by the second campist left is that the West just needs to leave Iran to its own devices. It's their affair and we shouldn't meddle. This is, of course, exactly the line taken by many on the hard right, paleoconservatives and Kissingerite "realists" like these Republicans, like ex-CIA Cold Warrior Flynt Leverett, like paleocon Jeremy Hammond. In another example of this convergence, the Reaganite Paul Craig Robert's is published by CounterPunch describing the dissidents as basically stooges of America.

Thankfully, there is plenty of criticism of these sorts of positions from within the left. At CounterPunch (a magazine of which I am generally critical), there is a good piece by Reza Fiyouzat - whose Revolutionary Flowerpot blog I'd recommend - criticising the facile equation of Ahmadinejad with progressive positions because he is supported by (some) poor people:
One left-seeming analysis being presented about the election results in Iran is the 'class analysis', epitomized by a few articles that have appeared in recent days (no names necessary, since that makes things personal, and I'm trying to keep it political here). I even heard the 'class analysis' (sic.) used on BBC! BBC's approach was actually not too different from those presented by some on the U.S. left.

Real class analysis looks for and explains historical and materialist trends in a society ('materialist' meaning here, containing real-social substance); all else is superficial journalism.
Similarly, at Dissident Voice (another site of which I am often critical), Billy Wharton shows that Ahmadinejad's government have been far from a social conservative or leftist bulwark against neo-liberalism, but in fact has pushed forward neo-liberal free market re-structurings in Iran.

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1 comment:

Roland Dodds said...

A nice rundown of what some left wing folks are saying about the Iranian upheaval. I have actually been rather surprised and delighted that many liberals in the west have come out forcefully behind the protesters, and as you have been documenting, a number of firm leftists as well.