A recent diary raised the question of whether or not a revolution in Iran was desirable. The argument of the diarist was that "internal" revolutions never make things better, but only make them worse. It generated an interesting discussion of a whole variety of questions and I was pleased to see that most Kossacks rejected the argument.
The events in Iran are exciting not just because of the prospects they raise for the Iranian people, but precisely because they put the general question of revolution before the eyes of people all around the world.
While some people are worried about the prospect of another revolution in Iran for essentially conservative reasons ("all revolutions end badly") there are some on the more radical left who are opposed to a revolution on supposedly "anti-imperialist" grounds. As a proud member of the "far left" and as someone who takes quite seriously the need to support those who fight U.S. imperialism, I was pleased to see A Question Over Iran: Can the People Make History or Not? by Mike Ely on the Kasama blog.
Ely acknowledges the interests of US imperialism in regime change in Iran and the liklieness of US meddling in the present events:
We have opposed (and must seek to oppose much more powerfully) the U.S. imperialist threats against Iran — and its whole long-term push to fully dominate the central oil fields of the Middle East. We know that the U.S. and Israel will pursue their geo-political strategies here. And we must understand and oppose those moves. In many ways the only hope the U.S. has had for a "victory" in Iraq involved (somehow) causing a "regime change" in Iran. In the media, all the talk is about Israel’s fear of nuclear weapons, but there is another more-unspoken issue: the Iraq war has long ago morphed into a U.S.-Iranian power struggle over the control of Iraq (and of this region). And so for the U.S. there are very high stakes in the eruptions in Iran."
But then Ely insists that:
our brains are capable of grasping more than one thread and dynamic at a time — it is not just possible (but inevitable) that great events draw into them the attentions of MANY and DIFFERENT players with many different interests. The U.S. hopes to have a pro-U.S. government emerge from all of this. We all know that. They are intevening in countless ways — seen and unseen. This is undoubtedly true.
But who says that a pro-U.S. outcome is the only possibility? Who says this means that the current government should be supported? Who decided that the people of Iran have no agency, no hopes, no possibility of upsetting that whole table of "choices"?
The world is full of very reactionary governments and forces who are in sharp hostility — but there is certainly no reason to believe that we (or the people generally) always just have to pick to side with one reactionary force over another. Sometimes the clash of oppressive forces create great openings through which radical, secular and even revolutionary forces can emerge, learn, organize and act.
Ely then tackles an idea that has gained certain currency at least among self-identified members of the radical left, namely that the student and middle-class character of many of the people in the streets of the cities of Iran is a reason to oppose them.
Some have argued that supporting the people in Iran’s streets lack a certain "class understanding." Presumably that is because the demonstration in Iran have drawn in urban middle class (but not so many of Iran’s working class and even less of the peasantry). But is that how we understand class? If "the workers" support a U.S. war, and "privileged college students" oppose it — should we be confused by that? Is that kind of crude reductionist "class analysis" we want to uphold? If Iranian students and urban middle classes are the first to strike out against a brutal and theocratic regime, even if they bring their prejudices and illusions with them — is that so bad or unusual? History is packed with examples to discuss. (Is the Chinese revolution imaginable without the heavily-urban heavily-educated intellectual movement the 1919 May Fourth Movement. Were the trade union aparatuses automatically right in the French may 1968 events?)
It is a good thing when college students take to the streets against a repressive government (with or without some workers). It is a good thing when secular, urban youth and women march against a theocratic regime that enforces medieval morality, and the veil, and much more (with or without some peasants). It is a good thing when people find their voice in a society that stifled them. And such openings are the path by which radical politics stirs even more widely — including precisely among the working people (who are sometimes slower to move).
There is much more to chew on in this piece and those who are interested in looking at these important events in Iran from as many angles as possible would do well to read the whole thing.