July 21, 2009

A Retort on the Left and Elections

Recently there has been a ratcheting up of rhetoric that borders more and more on sectarian polemic concerning elections and the left's role, tasks and perspective with regards to them. For the sake of clarity I'd like to propose a series of questions that seem at the heart of the disputes and address each of them. What follows are individual views and should not be confused as representing the line of any particular organization. Anyways, let's get real:

Are elections under capitalism an important area of political work for radical leftists?

Are there conditions when it is permissible, or even wise for radical leftists to engage in politics with flexible tactics - including working within the big-bad Dems?

When Democrats sell us out, and they will, how do we as leftists discuss the implications with advanced and intermediate fighters in our mass movements (what we refer to as the "struggle for summation")?

And given the level of involvement of mass organizations and social movements with electoral politics and the US two party political system, does the left in this country have the ability to shift the focus away from engagement with the Democrats? In the present period, should we even try?

Isolation or Engagement

In the spirit of unity-struggle-unity I want to offer two criticisms of an approach taken by some on the Left with which I disagree. These are not personal criticisms but political differences. Some on the left are so isolated that they lack the ability to see and understand the importance of elections. All attention is focused on are ancient texts, public events where bearded dudes living under self-imposed exile at some villa in France talk about some grand new synthesis - but these folks are not my audience.

A corollary of the former is that the left is so insular that some elements appear not to see the potential of involving those mobilized by the elections in the peoples' struggle. Again these folks are not my audience.

But for much of the left, our practice refutes both points. We see the importance of electoral politics and struggles for reform. We raise pressing issues and conduct organizing among the masses of folks while paying attention to the electoral cycle. We see the importance of many of the folks that elections mobilize and the roles that these folks can and do play in the peoples' struggles.

The main points of difference I will focus on rotates around the issue of flexibility: namely do we engage in elections only through third party, or even anti-capitalist formations and candidates, or do we adopt broader strategies which may include (in addition to working in third party and anti-capitalist electoral formations) work within the Democratic Party (most often characterized as an "inside/outside" strategy)?

Opportunities and Threats: Tennessee

Many of these concerns hit home for me because of the political situation here in Tennessee. The General Assembly in the state teeters on the verge of a qualitative shift. Presently a right-center coalition of Democrats and Republicans holds a razor thin edge in the House, the Senate is firmly under the control of some of the most conservative elements of the Republican Party and Phil Bredensen the lame duck Governor (a Democrat) has done as much, perhaps more to devastate social spending on healthcare for the poor, higher education, state mental health services and special education than any executive in recent memory.

In the political maneuver of this young century the DP leadership convinced a sole Republican to cross party lines, and vote in alliance with the 49 Democrats for himself as a candidate for Speaker against his caucus's nominee and the other 49 Republican votes. This allowed for split committee member and chair appointments.

During the 2009 legislative session a galvanized right wing majority pushed for a proposed constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights, a constitution amendment abolishing the prospect of taxation based on income (which Tennessee does not have presently with the limited exception of some income derived from capital gains), statute preventing any municipality from passing a living wage ordinance, the most reactionary anti-immigrant legislation, continued legislative gay bashing, etc. Through much hard work on the part of social movements across the state these efforts were stymied in the state House but only because Democrats were able to kill the measures in committee.

Democrats, as Bredesen and many other local examples prove, are not our friends. But some of these Republicans are certainly our enemies. Here the only forces that can be targeted by social movement to prevent some really heinous shit from happening are Democrats. No single Green Party candidate appears to be contesting any state House race in Tennessee. In fact in the Knoxville area where I live we haven't even had one run a campaign.

Meanwhile a growing militant, radical right wing movement is a major cause for concern. Already, the far right violence of the Dr. Tiller murder, the Von Brunn incident at the Holocaust Museum, the PA cops who died in the shoot-out with a lone white supremacist hit home in real ways. Nearly one year ago Jim Adkisson walked into Sunday morning services at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, drew a shotgun and began shooting into the congregation as children preformed in a production of Annie. We'd later learn of the fascist's numerous connections to far-right politics. The tea-party movement, the Ron Paul signs, the massive increase in the sale of firearms to white men, and legislative action to expand where these weapons can be publicly carried are real, growing threats.

For these reasons, what happens in the 2010 election cycle, how the small number of mass, base-building organizations in Tennessee are able to propagate our issues during these campaigns, and in very real ways the outcomes of a small number of "in-play" races will determine much of the legal and political landscape for radical left politics over the coming years. Perhaps most importantly, whoever wins next year gets to redistrict - a main target of which will be Tennessee's three Black Belt counties including the city of Memphis. We have some very real shit to loose.

Under these circumstances I feel that it is a main task for radical leftists in Tennessee during the current period to unite the advanced mass and intermediate organizations (those forces directly engaged in base and movement building that participate and lead the segments of various social movements in the state) to win over the intermediate and isolate the backwards - specifically when possible in key House races in 2010. We should use the heightened focus on "politics" that the election cycle brings to highlight issues raised by our movements; we should use street heat and other tactics to force our issues onto the agendas of progressive and even moderate candidates for political office. We should consider forming mass electoral organizations that can unite our forces in concrete ways. And we must be willing to do this work with the broadest flexibility possible. And in order to complete many of these tasks, we are going to have to work to get Democrats elected.

This is a major difference I have with many folks in groups like Solidarity, ISO, the Socialist Party and others (especially those coming out of Trotskyist and Anarchist traditions).

Ultra-"leftism" - A quick path to Isolation

Earlier I dealt with the issue of engagement or isolation around the questions of elections. I stand by my assessment that most socialist forces see the importance of the elections cycle, the gains to be made in raises our issues, and the lengths to which our opponents will go to paint us as so out of touch that no one should ever pay attention to us. I think that the way in which we talk about flexible tactics in elections have another consequence in the struggle for ideas and summation - namely when the Dems fuck us over. Given the relative class origin of most conscious socialists in this country, even those of us who have worked to root ourselves in working class communities, I do not see "I told you so!" posturing as helpful within mass work in the slightest. This is especially true given the history of anti-communism fanned by the ruling class, perhaps acutely in the South.

Instead this attitude is perceived as cocky, arrogant and disconnected form the lived experience of so many. But what's more - it doesn't have to be! When the Dems do sell us out, and they will, we need to be able to call it what it is. But all too frequently groups that refuse to participate in elections except in third party formations that most people encouraged by Democratic party types look at as silly or contemptible don't even take advantage of the situation. They respond to the realities of hegemony and political power with pompous remarks that are more focused on spotlighting their own political stance than on helping actually fuse theory with the lived experiences of advanced and intermediate fighters in struggles for reforms.

Sometimes this is argued by appealing to the need, and serious lack, of radical organization in the US -"Isn't it about time we had a real party of the working class!?"

Certainly the lack of a clearly embodied vehicle for our class's political independence is important. In fact with regards to the key questions facing the socialist movement, I would argue it is dominant in the current period - but we need more than mechanistic application of this analysis as it extends to our work in the mass movements. Recognition of our need for a party does not help us in our work to pass EFCA as "the card check bill" this summer. Just the same, endorsing Cynthia McKinney or Nader for president in 2008 when they had no chance of polling even sufficient numbers to increase their own, let alone the left's, level of appeal beyond the point it currently reaches did little to advance the work of bringing our party onto the scene. No such party exists, but neither would its existence guarantee us victory on the question of EFCA.

With regards to work in the labor movement at the present juncture I would argue the primary task is building and supporting political work that focuses its attention at class exploitation and wins all that can be won while hurting the enemy (which the compromise EFCA of firmer employer penalties, binding arbitration for a first contract, and shorter election timeframes in fact does). If we do this work well there will be new layers of fighters deeply committed to and politicized by local fight backs, who are already at what Lenin called "trade union consciousness" who we should be able to win over to "working class consciousness" more broadly defined and hopefully the fight for socialism itself.

This "left" posturing, where one's actions appear to be left but are actually far from it, appears to be revolutionary, but the net effect undermines our objectives. In the end flexible engagement, rather than a practice of purity, allow us access to many of the fighters in social movements at moments when they are most open to revolutionary ideas. I would argue that these moments often coincide with power fucking us over, and given the reliance of many social movements on work within the Democratic Party, power here often times is ceremonially wielded by Democrats. Folks reach these places not through arguments and interventionist tactics (which are among the weakest of teachers) but from actual struggle and practice - the "be all, end all" of instructors!

Our Tasks, Our Movements

On the final question, I feel that it is not possible for the left to push the scattered, weak, at points nascent and at points declining social movements away from a focus on electoral politics that is largely directed at the political system in this country and its two parties. And yet these are movements that many of us have devoted the better part of our lives to building, movements that are winning some real victories in the lives of millions of people, movements that continue to inspire new waves of fighters to view our goal as that other world we get to glimpse when we roll up those pant-legs and wade into struggle.

This is surely a complicated question, one that I would argue turns a lot more around our internal capacity (and by internal I'm sticking with "left" broadly defined, but folks can reapply the question to individual collectives, organizations, or trends if you like) than around the conditions in which we operate.

But I feel that on the one hand the opportunities, especially given our relative strengths and weaknesses, number too great and the threats pose simply too great of a danger to opt for purity and rely on a misapplication of analysis concerning the need for a revolutionary party. That said, I'm arguing for flexibility and I do believe that there will be many instances where it is worse than simply a waste of our time and limited political resources to make electoral work, especially inside the Democratic party a key part of our work.

I think that this flexibility accomplishes many, at points contradictory, things at once - but it has to be rooted in analysis of certain specific conditions. I also think that often times we gain the most when our electoral work is based in a specific municipality, state, or region, especially when we are doing this work from within independent mass organizations (like a specific union, neighborhood group, or student organization) or with local intermediate movement building formations (like worker centers, Jobs with Justice, or the many movement building strategy centers that are being built across the country).

So, for the comrades that disagree - please respond. Give examples, I want to know what work to build power in the current period that refuses any potential engagement which may include support for Democrats looks like in the labor movement around the EFCA fight, or in the queer liberation movement around Prop 8 and gay marriage, in the immigrant rights movement around opposition to a new bracero program, etc. with details that elevate the analysis above mere sloganeering. I want to know the social forces you think constitute the cohesive element, and the line and method of practice we're going to employ. Please engage in real discussion, and give an argument greater than "they'll sell us out." I guess this is the whole point trying to be made here: we know what they're going to do, so my my question is what can we stand to gain or lose by playing their game in limited, calculated ways right now to position ourselves for tomorrow.

I'm serious, if you think that we can make gains by sitting out or running a third party presidential candidates at the explicit exclusion of engaging within the two party framework in specific ways at specific times in specific places - by all means put out a strategy that shows how we get there from here, explain the tactics we are going to use, itemize some bench-marks, get real about capacity, roles and the shit that is not going to get done because we're going to convince the labor movement, or the movement for queer liberation, or the immigrants rights movement to give up work with the Democrats. Convince me of a plan that can win and I'll give my life to it, and that ain't just words! But right now your line smacks of a kind of purity that lets us criticize from a safe enough distance so as to keep our hands from getting dirty, all the while denying us the ability to build struggle with folks we are going to have to have in our corner (and who aren't there at all right now), and that's amateurishness.

In the meantime, while I wait for that strategy to be shared like promethean fire, I'll be building the base, meeting folks where they are at and fighting for a seat at the table I know that for at least the next couple of years many of the best and brightest fighters I get to work with want to sit at. And in Tennessee over the next two years that is going to mean working with, and at certain points even for Democrats. To me this seems a good bit more productive than "I told you so" quips 6 months after the inauguration.

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July 16, 2009

The "Teenage Kicks" Gap

Back in the Early Mesolithic Era, when I got my rock and roll on vinyl slabs and paid a substantial chunk of my disposable income for it, there were some songs that every up and coming new band learned and covered—tunes like “House of the Rising Sun” and, even before you tackled that, “Land of 1000 Dances” (which conveniently has only one chord). And that was within a couple years of hit versions becoming substantial radio, jukebox and party standards.

This FotM is a tribute to a little-heralded gem, a song that is only a decade younger than those chestnuts, but seems to be one of the definitive tunes young bands take on, right up to the present, 30 years later. It’s a song I suspect relatively few ‘60s-era boomers have more than a vague memory of, but I am convinced that it is one of the greatest tunes in rock and roll history.

Here gentle reader, is “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones, a first generation punk band from Derry in occupied Northern Ireland.

The “Teenage Kicks” Gap appears most strikingly in a book by first generation rock critic and people’s fighter, Dave Marsh, The Heart Of Rock & Soul. Immensely interesting and useful, his annotated list of “The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made” contains nary a mention of this wonderful tune. Yet in the 20 years since Marsh published it, few songs have shown the staying power of “Teenage Kicks.” Probably the most vivid external demonstration of its greatness is the fact that hundreds of bands make it one of the songs they cut their teeth on. If you are willing to spend hours rummaging around YouTube you will find homemade videos of this played (and sung a capella) in garages, living rooms, basements, junior high talent shows, and cruddy bars. To spare you the search—or perhaps to whet your appetite for it--here are the Ice Cold Idiots, a trio with the combined age of 33 when they recorded this.

Yet another sign of a song’s greatness is how well it lends itself to interesting and imaginative covers. Skipping over such worthies as Snow Patrol and Nouvelle Vague, I close my argument with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, doing The Undertones justice.

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July 13, 2009

POP commemorates anniversary 0f 1967 Newark Rebellion

On Sunday, July 12, the People's Organization for Progress returned to the intersection of Springfield Avenue, 15th Avenue, & Irvine Turner Blvd. to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of the 1967 Newark Rebellion (see the Newark Star Ledger report here). POP has held this observance annually for the past 25 years, in recent years mainly at this junction where a monument to the fallen was erected on the 30th anniversary in 1997.

Unique to this year's gathering was the presence of former Mayor Kenneth Gibson, who defeated Hugh Addonizio in 1970 to become the first African-American mayor of Newark, as well as Clifford Minor, the reform candidate running against Corey Booker. The parallels are interesting. Addonizio's administration was a center of corruption and criminal enterprise, as well as the racist apartheid that led to the '67 Rebellion. While Booker is a darling of Hollywood, his administration has become a magnet for racist violence against the city's youth.

As we noted in a previous posting here covering police-violence in Newark, (see The People's Organization for Progress demands Justice for Basire Farrell) "The instances and incidences of police violence against the citizenry has increased since Mayor Booker took office.

"…not that long ago that Mayor Booker proudly proclaimed to TV-networks and print media alike that the kind of police "over-reaction" that led the street rebellion that he describes as the "1967 Riot" are behind us."

In fact, a careful examination of the legacy of 1967 Newark shows us that the rebellion was part of a series of urban uprisings at the time which led to the important Black Power conventions of the next years, particularly the one that took place in Newark itself. Former Mayor Ken Gibson's July 12, 2009 announcement that he was at the commemoration to pay his dues and join the People's Organization for Progress may be and indication that our next ten years will be as revolutionary as the decade that followed the '67 rebellion!

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July 9, 2009

Will Israel Attack Iran Or Is It Selling Wolf Tickets?

Today will be the first test of how well the Iranian people’s movement has rebounded from the wave of repression that hit it two weeks ago and weathered the arrests and repression of suspected activists that have become business as usual as the Revolutionary Guard assumes more and more power.

An Iranian friend wrote me yesterday:

By the way, do you know that a massive silent demonstration is planned for tomorrow. The government has closed the universities for two weeks, but the student are organizing. The streets that marches are going to take place have been published on the web and the organizers have asked people who are afraid to march help the protesters by parking their cars at the end of route or even pretending that there is a car accident so as to block the road and make it difficult for the police to attack.
(Yesterday’s FotM post on Iran and even moreso the Freedom Road “Statement on Iran” of June 28 provide crucial context for today’s events.)

But in the last few days, Iran has been back in the news for a more familiar reason—a renewed buzz in the mainstream media and the blogosphere alike about the imminence of an Israeli missile and bombing raid on Iran. This would target Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program, which means its very real nuclear power program.

What’s up?

I have been among the skeptics about such reports for years, starting when it was supposed to be the Bush administration launching the attacks back in 2004 or so. I remain skeptical but there are issues about the current situation that need some thought.

I first became aware of the new discussion when the worthy Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies forwarded this note from Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel and progressive military analyst:
Six months ago I was a non-believer. I did not think Israel had the military capability to pull off an effective strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. New pieces of information have pushed me to believe otherwise.

First, within the past few months, we have read that production of a conventional Jericho missile has been stepped up. This is an important new capability. This is a new strategic condition

On Friday, there were numerous reports that Egypt has recently allowed Israeli submarines to transit the Suez Canal. (Some sources say all three submarines; some sources report only one transited.) These boats have been operating in the Mediterranean for many years but have not moved into waters that would give them greater access to Iran with their conventional cruise missiles. This is a new strategic condition.

This morning the Times Online is reporting that Israel and Saudi Arabia have an agreement that would allow Israeli aircraft to transit Saudi airspace to conduct an attack. That makes sense from the Saudi perspective, given their position on the Iran nuclear program. This is a new strategic condition.

My new position, Israel is putting the pieces together to conduct an attack on Iran.
Note that Gardiner doesn’t predict an attack, simply argues that Israel is seeking to develop a capacity to conduct such a criminal assault which it has not heretofore had.

The Administration’s Twostep

What put this whole kerfluffle on the front pages, though, were the bizarre remarks Vice President Biden made on ABC's "This Week" when asked about Israeli saber-rattling toward Iran:
Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else. Whether we agree or not. They're entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that's going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed.
For starters, this is hypocrisy of a very high order—hey, never mind anyplace else the US is meddling in, Iran is a sovereign nation and the US is hell-bent on interfering with their building of nuclear power plants or weapons.

More striking to most observers, it seemed like a barely disguised endorsement of an Israeli attack, “You’re sovereign; do what you gotta do.” So great was the outcry at Biden’s statement that the White House made a particular point of “walking it back.” From a Russian trip President Obama denied that this was a green light to Israel, “Absolutely not.” The head of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mullen, hastily chimed in about what a bad idea it is.

Is An Attack Likely?

A lot of this makes very little sense. Take Saudi Arabia. Sure, its feudal ruling family is Sunni and Arab; Iran is Shi’ite and Persian. Let’s stipulate that they are afraid of a nuclear armed Iran and glad that someone else is going to do something about it. Still complicity in an attack by Israel on a Muslim nation would destabilize the rule of the Sa’ud family and its bought and paid for influence within Islam.

What are the calculations in Israeli ruling circles? A go-it-alone attack just might do real damage to Iran’s nuclear program, but bear in mind that those facilities are considered to be widely scattered, seriously hardened and located in some cases in or near population centers. A truly serious effort would have to try and degrade a lot of Iran’s industrial and research capacity, and its military establishment to pull the teeth of a retaliatory strike. This is still well beyond Israel’s capacity—unless, of course, it employs its own nuclear weapons in the attack.

The international rage and disgust aroused by even a conventional attack with low (i.e. in the thousands) casualties would be a heavy price to pay. It may be that the Israeli government and the IDF feel that the tide of global opinion is turning irreversibly against the Zionist experiment after the Gaza invasion and the Obama election in the US, so striking where there’s still goodwill on the plus side of the ledger makes a certain sense. I have seen little to suggest that this is really the case.

Last fall Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was leaving office and gave an interesting interview to The New York Review of Books. In it he fretted:
One senses a megalomania and a loss of proportion to the things that are said here about Iran. We are a country that has lost a sense of scale. The assumption is that if America, Russia, China, England, and Germany don’t know how to deal with the Iranians, but we, the Israelis, will know, and that we’ll do something, we’ll act, is an example of this loss of proportions.
Now that’s a little frightening.

Another Explanation?

Although this is only my speculation, let’s start with the fact that all the previous the-US-and/or-Israel-are-about-to-bomb-Iran scares did serve a political purpose even as they evaporated. They contributed to the demonization of Iran as part of the Axis of Evil invented by Bush’s speechwriters. And in foreign policy think tanks, the task of the day became figuring out really bad but less dangerous things the US and countries following its lead could do to isolate Iran and harm its economy.

Can it be mere happenstance that all this is happening on more time in the midst of an unanticipated mass upsurge in Iran? I sure don’t think so. Remember that the Israeli rulers and their amen corner among US neo-cons have been ardently rooting for Ahmadinejad to come out on top. Meir Dagan, the head of the secret service, the Mossad, told the Knesset: “If the reformist candidate Mousavi had won, Israel would have had a more serious problem because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat, since Mousavi is perceived internationally as a moderate element.”

What has happened is a nightmare for them. As the FRSO/OSCL statement points out:
Perhaps the most important effect so far has been to humanize the people of Iran in the eyes of millions here. The courageous millions who are risking and indeed giving their lives to protest repression and dictatorship have struck a chord in the hearts of freedom-loving people everywhere.
So with this as background, the beating of the war drums takes on another meaning—it amounts to campaigning for Ahmadinejad and his backer, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The threat of military intervention strengthens their call for national unity, directed at the protesters and at disgruntled clerics and makes it easier to paint opposition as unpatriotic. If the regime can be provoked into bellicose rhetoric and thus more easily isolated so much the better.

This is not to say an attack is impossible, but to point out that the best way to forestall one right now is for us to spread the word on the popular movement there and build support for it and to expose Zionist and neo-con schemes to strengthen the Iranian reactionaries’ hold on power.

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July 8, 2009

Tracking the Meltdown: Sweating the Small Stuff [updated]

The big economic news is all over the place—lately the truly dire unemployment figures which have administration officials suddenly hemming and hawing instead of bragging about “green shoots.”

But the unfolding depression is making its mark in a thousand pinpricks of pain as well. A newspaper that will flesh this point out a bit just rose to the top of one of the piles here at Casa FotM. It’s an issue from last month of The Millbrook Independent—a six page weekly whose masthead proclaims “Serving Millbrook and Stanfordville and the Greater Millbrook Region” in Dutchess County, New York.

Along with coverage of wetlands regulations and high school math scores were two articles that illuminated unexpected aspects of the crunch.

One, on the front page, plugged a new “state of the art” storage facility opening in a former bowling alley in Mabbetsville. It struck me as perhaps an unfortunate business to be starting in this climate, but the owner had a quote which led me to reconsider: “With the huge advent of home offices, people now need to store what was once in that room.”

And damned if the NYC exurbs aren’t fuller than ever of folks freelancing after losing their jobs. And one woman of my acquaintance is working most of the week at home on the computer for the big name financial firm she used to commute to every day.

The other story in The Millbrook Independent, on page 5, celebrated a local dairy cow, judged the #2 Holstein in the US. The owner, Stephen Van Tassell, explained that this ranking had permitted him to keep the farm’s finances above water by the sale of Sheray’s embryos. Otherwise things didn’t look so good with bulk milk selling for $11.70 a hundredweight “about as low as it’s been in the past, but our costs are higher, around $19 cwt, so the damage is greater.”

Even more significant, this little seven paragraph piece includes striking evidence of neoliberalism’s effects on US agriculture, combined with the impact of the contraction of global trade since the credit crisis broke:

What happened to getting milk prices pegged to regional production costs?

"It’s gone exactly the other way,” Stephen explained. “Now our prices are based on national and international supply and demand. Last year, we [the American dairy industry] exported about 15 percent of our US production. This year we are down to two or three percent. China seems to be importing less."


A whole other angle on this from my sweetie, Dody. She points out in Cornwall, CT, the nearby small town where she lives, there are now three small dairies which pasture their cows year round and bottle their own milk—two selling raw milk and one pasteurized but not homogenized—and all three are doing well. One guy I know with a largely Jersey herd mentioned that demand for his milk was so great that that he was 20 gallons short on a store order last week.

This may be one of the positive effects of the crisis—accelerating the trend of people turning to healthier, locally-produced foods, including stuff they raise themselves, and in doing so, making smaller scale, environmentally sound agriculture economically feasible again

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Iran: It's Not Over

The situation in Iran has largely fallen out of popular consciousness as the mediagenic street demonstrations have been repressed and arrests of activists have increased. But the political situation there continues to be extremely volatile and, while things do not look good for the forces fighting the regime right now, neither the popular upsurge been decisively crushed.

The best overall summation I know of, at least for progressives in the US, is the "Statement on Iran" released last week by FRSO/OSCL. You can read it here and I highly recommend that you do. I was gratified when a Iranian friend I forwarded it to, a woman who had been active in Marxist-Leninist groups there during the ‘70s and who remains an inveterate revolutionary, sent me the following note:

Your article has covered the main issues and is quite informative. For us, as I am sure you know, the details are important. I guess we are resigned to the fact that the general picture is pretty depressing and try to find a slight ray of hope to cling to. For example, after 30 years, Rafsanjani's daughter and Mosavi's wife are advocating voluntary hejab (Islamic Dress Code) and not forced hejab. It took them three decades to realize that they cannot force women to accept Islamic hejab.

Perhaps, they might decide to ease some restriction for the young as well, however, I do not have that much hope for the change in the system. Unfortunately, the workers strike did not materialized and there is no leadership for this spontaneous movement. At this point the fight is between the clergy and the secular masses who protested by the millions are not organized. There is an obvious lack of political party to lead the movement.

Now everybody is waiting to see if there would be a mass demonstration next week. (18th of Tir).
When the Freedom Road statement addressed tasks for folks in the US, the first thing it called for was our attention.
We have to keep informed. This may require a bit more work than it has in the past. There has never been a political upsurge of this scope in which the new media has been so central, whether organizing on the ground in Iran or spreading the word in the rest of the world.
In that spirit I offer three recent developments for FotM readers to consider. But first let me recommend that folks who want to follow this should, at minimum, visit the Iran liveblogging section maintained by Nico Pitney inside the Huffington Post empire. It contains first hand reports from Iran and aggregates the best and most timely reportage on developments there. It is updated every day, in real time.

So what is up in Iran today?

First, the Revolutionary Guard has moved even closer to the center of power in Iran. With the Army standing to the side and local police shunted to the side, Revolutionary Guard leaders announced to the press on Sunday that it has been “assigned the task of controlling the situation, [it] took the initiative to quell a spiraling unrest.” Guard General Yadollah Javani declared at the press conference:
Today, no one is impartial. There are two currents -- those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it.
Second, the internal differences within the clerical establishment have not abated. The repression or street demonstrations and arrests of activists, and the lack of clear leadership to the mass struggle have made this the main battlefield of the moment. Threats, declarations that dissent is treason and the like have not significantly cowed the reform mullahs who wish to diminish the role of the clergy in the state. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and Mehdi Karroubi, announced they will continue to protest the election they regard as stolen. The day after the National Guard announced “We in charge here,” the party headed by senior cleric, political powerhouse and plutocrat Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke out for the first time since the voting. Its statement declared
We declare that the result is unacceptable due to the unhealthy voting process, massive electoral fraud and the siding of the majority of the Guardian Council with a specific candidate.
Third, the millions who demonstrated, calling for democracy and chanting “Death to the Dictator” have not been crushed—the nightly rooftop chanting of “Allah-u-Akbar” is still going on. 18 Tir, referred to in the letter above, is Thursday, July 9 by our calendar is the 10th anniversary of the last major eruption of protest in Iran, when students protesting the suppression of a popular newspaper were attacked in their dormitory rooms by the police and thrown from the windows in Tehron and Tabriz. Using the excuse of a massive sandstorm, the government has closed all schools and government buildings until after Thursday. SMS transmissions throughout the country are down, without explanation. They clearly fear a revived protest movement.

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