By Satar Rahmani
Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) despite 34 years of bloody repression is still engulfed in economic and political crisis. Political crisis, tensions and conflicts between factions has always been a characteristic of IRI, but the current split within the ruling classes marks a new era.
Islamic Regime lacked a clear economic and political agenda in the beginning and its survival was not clear. Thus, the regime used the elements of Liberal religious tendency to overcome the growing economic and political crisis. Tensions between the ruling factions and Islamic extremists, Ayatollah Khomeini’s fraction, were revealed during Bazargan’s and Bani Sadr’s administrations. Early political tensions dominated Iran, and it eventually led to the complete exclusion of the “Liberals.” There were also tensions in subsequent “Reformist” period in late 90’s during Khatami’s administration.
Since its inception, IRI has represented the interests of the Capitalist order and Capitalists in Iran. Differences between the various factions of the regime, each with different title such as fundamentalist, conservative critic, moderate, reformer, green, etc., is to gain and keep political power with certain patterns that is essentially a management of existing establishment and capitalist system. All the factions accuse each other for the growing political and economic crisis and the current catastrophic conditions. Reformers seek a more rational response to the existing capitalist crisis than the Conservatives. But reformists lack continuity or consistently to carry this out. Another reason for the contest is the failure of Ahmadinejad’s policies at the international level, thereby ensuring IRI’s global isolation. These factions’ internal conflicts over political leadership and economic influence remain acute.
With this situation working class in Iran has no fundamental interests to get involved in any election organised by the government. The election with any changes within the current economic and political structure would not make any meaningful difference in conditions of the working class in Iran; therefore, voting for any of the selected candidates would be a vote to diminish working class struggle in future. In other words this election has nothing to do with working class and it is only to legitimize the regime in the eyes of outside viewers.
The Guardian Council (Shoraye Negahban), which is controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vets candidates and decides who is allowed to run for presidential election, i.e. only the candidates who are in supreme leader’s side or those who are less critical to supreme leader and present infrastructure of the IRI. Those who are either in “deviant faction” such as Ahmadinejad and his associated group, or Rafsanjani on the other hand, who has long been a staunch critic and bitter political rival of Ahmadinejad, were both disqualified.
The economic situation is uncertain, and current circumstances are prone to get even worse, regardless of who is the next president of Islamic regime. Keeping labour costs low or cheap labour to reduce the production cost and to promote domestic production is an agenda item for any newly “elected” president. Another priority is to improve the relationship with West and US in order to open the doors for foreign investments.
But working class struggle is growing and capitalism globally has no alternatives for the present economic shambles, and the Islamic Regime has tighten its politics, imprisons workers’ activists as much as possible, and banned all opponents from political activities and even opposition have no alternative to overcome current economic and political shamble.
In the 90’s we witnessed an increase in workers’ protests, which were largely absent after early 80’s (due to state sponsored crack down on independent labor movement). Such activities include protests against closure of manufacturing industries, workers’ expulsion, temporary labor contacts, below poverty line minimum wages, non-payment of wages… All these protests against employers occur in the context of state apparatus and its military-political organization “Islamic Revolution’s Guardians Corps” becoming the biggest corporation of the land.
As much of an advanced these struggles in the 90’s might seem to earlier decade, without strong independent organisations workers will not be able to seriously challenge IRI and employers. Therefore the urgent need and immediate action for labour activists in Iran is to establish their independent labour organisations, trade unions and other forms of organisations which are vital to any step forward in achieving their demands, and another steps towards a free and egalitarian social order in the country.*
* I wrote the above article before the presidential election’s results were announced by the Iranian state officials on Saturday night of 15th June 2013. Recent election result was a victory for Mr. Rouhani, one of the few Clergymen close to Ayatollah Khomeini in Qom in 1961 and a close friend of Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was a commander in charge during the Iran-Iraq War, deputy commander of air defense and deputy commander in chief of the whole country. He was Hashemi Rafsanjani’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council with responsibility for the period from 2002 to 2005. He was also an MP during the fourth and fifth Majles and was Representative of the Assembly of Experts and Expediency Council member. Hassan Rouhani was named as the man behind the curtain in 1986 who had been engaged in secret talks with American officials, the negotiation that was known as “McFarlane adventure”.
It has been reported by Iranian officials that 72.2% of the 50 million eligible Iranian voters cast ballots to choose the successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; that is 7 out 10 eligible voters’ participation in the election. As there was no independent witness to the election process in Iran, it is not possible to verify the correct number of voters.
Reformists once again saved IRI from total political illegitimacy, providing as a timely utilitarian safety valve. Rouhani provides a most suitable facade for IRI. He has held high positions at the center of armed forces and state security apparatuses, yet he has also cultivated an aura of diplomacy and moderation, two elements needed most for a politically isolated, economically bankrupt ruling class. The most likely course of events in the “newly elected” administration is a recourse and resort to the old administration of Rafsanjani and his introduction of neoliberal policies to Iranian economy and working class. In face of these continued neoliberal attacks on Iranian working class and poor, workers’ unity and self-organization remains the most valuable resources, and it is through such resources that workers will be able to achieve their demands.