Chavez supports Iranian dictators
Hugo Chavez, the populist President of Venezuela, supports the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad dictatorship in Iran. This is what he said in his weekly program:
We send our support and respect for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the great leader of Iran, and to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian people. We call on the world to respect Iran because protests are trying to undermine the strength of the Iranian revolution.
We ask for respect from the world. The victory of Ahmadinejad has been an ample victory in all corners. They are trying to tarnish Ahmadinejad’s victory and with it the Islamic government and revolution. But I know they will not be able to bend them.
Chavez has also blamed imperial powers for the unrest. Unrest! This is a revolt against the dictatorship, a genuine uprising looking for a political outlet for its expression and leadership.
It is not about supporting this or that faction of the ruling class but rejecting both of them and siding with the protestors and waiting and praying for the day the working class as working class enters into the battle against the dictatorship. To quote from Socialist Alternative’s magazine insert on Iran:
Back the mass protests not the leaders
Such mass struggles are the lifeblood of socialist politics. We have nothing in common with the hypocritical advocates of Western imperialism who say they back the movement. They have no interest in the rights of Iranians.
While Socialist Alternative has defended Ahmadinejad against the lies and slander hurled at him by imperialism and Zionism, he is not an anti-imperialist fighter, or a hero of the poor. He runs a right-wing, authoritarian regime that is an implacable enemy of Iranian workers, and of democracy.
Nor can we offer any support to Mousavi, the main opposition leader. He is not a “liberal”, even in the narrow sense of being a genuine advocate of basic democracy, let alone a friend of the working class and the poor. He is firmly a part of the authoritarian establishment of the Islamic state. He was prime minister from 1981 to 1989, presiding over mass killings of some 60-80,000, and the introduction of draconian laws curtailing the rights of women. Now he attacks Ahmadinejad from the right economically – championing the discredited policies of neo-liberalism.
But the fact that Mousavi is a reactionary, and is backed by reactionary elements in the West, is not the key issue – the unleashing of mass struggle is.
What is happening in Iran now shows the potential of struggles to go far beyond the divisions at the top of society. As British Marxist Chris Harman put it,
a popular movement fomented by one set of ruling class or imperialist interests to damage their rivals can take on a life of its own and damage them both. As rulers pour abuse on each other, exposing each other’s crimes, there can, on occasions, be an opening for independent forces to emerge to challenge both. That is why you cannot simply write off every movement against a regime the US dislikes as operating at the behest of the CIA.
There is considerable potential for this movement to have such a dynamic.
In the first place, this conflict is not being driven by the US. It is not a repeat of the CIA-backed coup against Mossadeq in the 1950s that installed the Shah. The movement is, in the first instance, being driven by a conflict within the Iranian ruling class, not a conflict between Iran and US imperialism.
In fact, the US has been reserved in its support for the opposition. What the US is most concerned about is not which faction of the Iranian ruling elite holds power, but that stability is maintained. What they most fear is a movement that gets out of hand and starts to turn into a genuine popular revolution.
Mousavi wants an orderly transfer of power – not a revolution, not an end to the Islamic republic and the rule of capital and the clerics. Mousavi has tried to emphasise the narrow demand for a new election, and has opposed any move to broaden out the movement to be a challenge to the Islamic state. But this has not been wholly successful. For example, there have been continued attacks on the basiji militia, which he has repeatedly and specifically opposed, and chants against Khamenei have spontaneously broken out.
Now the regime faces danger no matter what it does. Attempts to repress the movement could lead to a full scale revolution. But making concessions gives the movement confidence and legitimacy.
This is not a battle between imperialism and Iran. It is a struggle within the Iranian ruling class about the way forward for capitalism in the country.
It has opened up a space for the Iranian people to enter onto the stage of history. I and other socialists are with these ordinary Iranians fighting this brutal reactionary regime.
Chavez is with the class enemy.
There is nothing surprising about this.
Chavez is not a socialist. He is a bourgeois nationalist and populist who sees state control as socialism and is imposing that vision from above on Venezuela.
But in doing that he has alienated US imperialism. So he allies himself with the butcher Ahmadinejad because the Iranian regime also happens to be anti-American.
This has nothing to do with socialism but represents the desperate search of one faction of the Venezuelan national bourgeoisie for allies in its fight against imperialism. Dictators are evidently fine if they serve the purposes of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie in the international chess game with US imperialism.
I’m with the Iranian protesters and nascent Iranian revolution.
We have posted a number of articles on Iran on this site, including Iran pauses, Between revolt and repression in Iran, Iran boils over, Iran: prospects for revolution: rough notes for a talk, Iran: the interrupted revolution erupts.