Sunday, 28 June 2009

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Saturday, 27 June 2009

Reclaiming Economics Part 4 - Production, Exchange and Profits

Subjective and Objective Value

In Part 2, I showed that the concept of “Subjective Value” was meaningless, and that orthodox economics goes about defining it in a way that is essentially fraudulent. It removes, from the determination of this “individual”, “subjective” value, the most important factor in any economy based on exchange, let alone production for exchange, the Exchange Value itself of the commodity!!! It has to do this, because it wants to create a model in which this Exchange Value is not an important determinant of “Subjective Values”, but vice versa, that Exchange Value is nothing more than an aggregation of subjective values.

But, everyday life contradicts this. Ask someone, “how much do you think this piece of modern art is worth,” and they will not tell you how much they think its worth based on their personal preferences, but based on how much they think it will sell for. If I see a brand new Rolls Royce for sale at £1,000, I am likely to buy it, even if I hate Rolls Royces, for the simple reason that my “subjective” valuation of it will be based not on its merits for me as a car, but the fact that I will be able to re-sell it at its much higher market value!!!! A Capitalist does not buy the Labour Power of say a joiner, because he wants and enjoys the products of the joiner for himself, but because he knows that he can sell those products – indeed can sell them (or believes he can) for more than he pays the joiner in wages. In fact, in a market economy my “subjective” valuation, to the extent that means anything, of any commodity, will always be based ultimately, not on what it is worth to me for my own consumption, but what I could sell it for, less the transaction costs for me to do so, or put another way what I expect others to sell that product for. Just look at the people who hand over money at Car Boot sales, for all kinds of tat that they have no interest in for themselves, but who think they can re-sell it somewhere else at a higher price. In fact, the same thing could be said about people who speculate on the Stock Market – they buy shares in companies because they believe that the current price is less than the true “objective” value of those shares, as a result of inadequate information by market participants, but that means that they realise that there is some “objective” value that exists separate from the current sum of all “subjective” values. They believe that as market information improves those “subjective” values will come into line with the “objective” value, and they will be able to sell, and make a Capital gain. In all these cases, their “subjective valuation”, is based entirely on what they assess the objective value, the Exchange Value, to be!

See Part 2

Exchange Values and Costs

In Part 3, I showed that, in fact, this exchange value, which determines the value that individuals then place on commodities, is itself a function of the relative costs of production between different commodities, which itself comes down to the amount of labour-time required for their production. It is not the relative preferences for potatoes or carrots of the individual, which determines their relative prices to him, in terms of how much of each has to be given up, to acquire more of the other, but the objective constraint of how much labour-time is required to produce them. His preferences have no other function than to determine the proportion of how that labour-time is allocated.

This is Marx’s Law of Value, which applies to all societies other than a fully-fledged Communist society, which has raised production to such a level of abundance that a decision to increase the output of A can be made without recourse to the question of what has to be foregone to achieve it.

I then demonstrated that the assertion that prices (Exchange Values) are determined by these “subjective values” is clearly false. The example given to prove the assertion, “Prices are demand determined even though they appear to be changed with changes in costs”, was fraudulent. It was based essentially on a Monopoly situation, which prevented other suppliers from moving in to increase supply and reduce prices, where an increase in demand led to a temporary rise in prices and profits. In fact, experience shows that far from a rise in “subjective values”, manifest in a rise in demand, resulting in a consequent rise in prices, the opposite is frequently the case. Commodities, which once had only limited demand and high prices, demonstrate that as demand rises and supply rises to meet it, this new supply is lower-cost, because of economies of scale, and competition amongst suppliers forces prices down accordingly. In short, it is precisely costs of production and the average rate of profit, which determine prices, not demand or subjective values. I will examine exceptions to that in a later part of this series.

See Part 3

The Role of Exchange in Determining Value

If we look at things from the situation of the individual, self-sufficient producer of potatoes and carrots, then we can think of them having some kind of “subjective value” for each, based on their particular preferences. The point is that this has little or no economic significance. The fact remains that whatever these preferences or valuations, the “price” he has to pay is determined by the relative costs of production. An economic analysis is concerned not with the prices people THINK they should pay, but the prices they ACTUALLY DO pay, and why those prices are what they are.

The individual, self-sufficient producer does not have to concern themselves with exchange Values, either in forming their own “subjective value”, or in determining their production decisions, because they do not produce to exchange but only to consume. But, Economics would indeed be a dismal science if it restricted itself to analysing only such a world. It would tell us nothing about the world we actually live in.

Once we introduce the concept of Exchange then everything changes for this producer.

Suppose our producer now lives in a world where there is another individual who has a large pot of gold. He offers to Exchange this Gold for half of the potatoes and carrots. The Gold has taken as long to produce as all the potatoes and carrots. But our producer of vegetables has no interest in Gold. In Marxist terminology it has no Use Value. All commodities must have Use Value, or else they are not commodities, or put another way in Marxist terminology, the Labour expended on their production was not socially necessary. So, the Gold has no Exchange Value. However, now assume a world outside our two producers, and in this world there is a demand for Gold. It has acquired both Use Value, and Exchange Value. Now, our same vegetable producer, whose attitude to Gold itself, and his own personal uses for it have not changed, is overcome by a miraculous conversion, because his subjective valuation of the Gold now is suddenly transformed from zero to some positive number!

In fact, his first reaction, in determining whether this offer of Gold for his products is good value or not, is not to compare the utility of the Gold, for him, compared to the vegetables he exchanges for it – we have already established the Gold had no such utility – but to look at what others in the market are prepared to give in exchange for this Gold. We have already uncovered what the process is for determining it. He did it himself in understanding that the price of carrots for him was how many potatoes he had to give up to produce them, which was nothing other than the comparative amount of his time it took to produce them.

We could have asked instead, had he devoted some of his time to producing Gold not potatoes, how much Gold production would he have had to give up in order to produce a given amount of carrots. Furthermore, recognising that within society there are different levels of productivity between different producers of Gold, Carrots and Potatoes, I suggested that, by simply aggregating all of this production, it was possible to get an average amount of labour-time that would be required to produce a given amount of Potatoes, Carrots or Gold.

A producer can look at the amount of Gold he is being offered for his carrots and potatoes, and determine, whether he believes that he is being offered a good deal or not, and that will have nothing to do with his previous “subjective” value of Gold, which we know to have been zero! Why would he now be interested in the Gold? For the simple reason that although it has no Use Value, no “Utility” for him for his own consumption, it does have Exchange Value, and in an economy where exchange takes place, it is increasingly Exchange Value not Use Value, which is dominant. He may have no personal use for gold, but he may well have use for the other commodities, which he can, in turn, exchange the gold for. Just like the person who buys tat at a Car Boot sale, has no use for the tat, but has use for the things they can buy with the money they get from re-selling that tat.

Its all very well suggesting this, but is this what actually happens. After all, although none of us actually does what orthodox economics suggests we do – compare the utility of a certain amount of this commodity compared with the utility derived from all the billions of other choices we could have made – we do not either compare the labour time required to earn the money we spend with what the labour time required is for the goods we buy!!! Though sometimes we do, if thinking about whether to paint the house or employ a painter and so on. In fact, as I will show in a later part of this series we do not have to do that, the market does that calculation for us. However, whilst there is no evidence to show that decisions in a market are based on “subjective” values or that such values exist in anyone’s head, there is lots of physical evidence that people DID calculate, and in some parts of the world still do calculate, Exchange Values, based on the amount of Labour-time required for production.

See: Historical Proofs of Value Theory

The Source of Value

It is interesting that having created an economic model, that begins with the exchange of products, whose existence has not been explained, in order to remove their cost of production from the calculation, that market participants undertake to value them, orthodox economics (I am continuing to use the work by Alchian & Allen here as a proxy for orthodox economic theory) comes to some amusing conclusions. Having simply assumed these commodities into existence, they are able then to “demonstrate” that the exchange of commodities has “produced” additional value. How? Because if A exchanges his X for B’s Y, it must be because both “subjectively” value the product they acquire higher than that they have given up.

Is this true? No. Even if we examine this argument in its own terms it is fraudulent. Suppose A values his X at 9 units (there is, in fact, no means of measuring this as orthodox economics admits, I am just using notional units to prove the point), but values B’s Y at 10 units. Meanwhile, B values his Y at 9, and A’s X at 10. They exchange. Now, both have 10 units of value whereas before they had only 9. Hey presto, exchange has “produced” 2 new units of value that did not previously exist! Has it? No, it’s a bit like the trick where you count up to 5 on one hand, and down to 6 on the other to “prove” you have 11 fingers. What is the reality? Its necessary to total up all the Value before and after the exchange. There are basically three legitimate ways of doing that all of which come to the same conclusion. If we are using “individual” values to determine what values exist then we have to measure the total value that exists as seen by each individual or both together. In the above example, from both A & B’s individual perspectives the total amount of value in the economy is 9 units in their own possession, and 10 units in the possession of the other. What is the position AFTER the exchange? There is still for each person the same amount of value, but now that value is distributed as 10 in their own possession, and 9 in the others possession. The TOTAL value in the economy remains as it was before 19 units. All that exchange has done is to place that value into different hands! It might represent a situation of greater welfare for each person, each may feel that their own utility is greater, but even using “subjective” value as the yardstick no increase in value has arisen! If we combine both people’s valuations to get a sum of value all that changes is the number to a total of 38 rather than 19.

Yet, this fraud is used as a fundamental element of orthodox economics to justify concepts such as a supposed “consumer’s surplus”, or even “profit”.

Amusingly, not only do A&A attribute to this kind of exchange the potential for creating value, but also they give it the PRIMARY role! They say,

“Production also can occur when the physical attributes of resources – including their time of availability, place or form – are changed.”

In other words, wealth is created by exchanging things, but actually making things to exchange also has some role to play! Is it any wonder that modern capitalism has created the delusion that wealth can be created simply by exchanging bits of paper, giving ownership rights of shares and commodities, whilst the mundane task of making things can be left to others! Could there be a greater exposition of the fraudulent nature of the economic theory that leads to that conclusion than the recent Financial Crisis?

The exchange of goods, in the previous example, did NOT produce wealth as orthodox economics contends. If the goods had not been produced – that is has Labour not been expended upon their creation – they could not have been exchanged. Looked at from the perspective of this two-person economy, as a whole, it is at the point that these goods come into existence, even considered from the perspective of subjective value, that their value is created. The fact that, viewed from the perspective of either or both members of this economy one of these goods is not in their possession, does not change the fact of its existence! Actual production created the Value, created the wealth of this society, all that the exchange did was to affect its distribution.

It is important to bear this in mind then when considering the way orthodox economics treats actual production and exchange relations. In particular, as I will now show using A&A’s presentation, orthodox economics perpetrates yet another fraud when talking about comparative advantage and the source of profit.

Back To Part 3

Forward To Part 5

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Friday, 26 June 2009

The King is Dead

They always say that when people of your own generation start dying around you, it reminds you of your own mortality. I know my Mum seemed to get some pleasure out of knowing she had outlived her contemporaries, even if the last 6 years of her life were spend stuck in a bed. The truth is, no one knows when, or for what reason, the Grim Reaper is going to come knocking. This week, two, well-known, people, sort of my generation, have died. Farrah Fawcett and, yesterday,Micheal Jackson. He earned the name King of Pop, though for me, his eternal youthfulness always seemed to make the title Prince more appropriate.

I have to say that, although I am a Soul Music afficianado, he was never one of my favourite singers. Partly, that is because the title King of Pop is appropriate, his music always was Pop Music rather than Soul Music, though the roots of it were always there. For the same reason, I always preferred the earlier music with the Jackson Five, rather than the later stuff, even though that was technically superior. In part that's probably also that you naturally tend to favour the music you grew up with, but mostly its due to being more concerned with the actual sound that is produced by the singer and the musicians, than how some technician can enhance it. But, no one can dispute that Michael Jackson was a huge influence on music and entertainment. Its only right to pay some kind of tribute.

Like many people of my generation, most specifically those like myself that were into dancing, and the all-pervasive Motown and Soul music that dominated every dance hall in the land at the time, I remember hearing Michael Jackson first when I was still at school. We had our own Fourth and Fifth Form Common Room in the school, with a record player, from where, everyday, the sounds of the Temptations, Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight, Junior Walker and Smokey Robinson, and occasionally the Stones, would issue forth. Yet, the first time I heard, "I Want You Back", although the tradition was obvious, there was something different, something novel about the sound. It was I think, the sound produced by Michael Jackson, who, at the time, must have been soemthing like an 11 year old kid, but who was singing this song about adult things, as though he was himself a mature adult!

In fact, a couple of years later, in 1972, I was sitting in the Wagon & Horses with my girlfriend - now my wife - trying to stretch out a couple of drinks as long as possible, because we had no money, and it was cold outside. You never knew when everywhere was going to go pitch black, because the 1972 Miners Strike was on, and every so often there would be a power cut. As we sat there, possibly gazing into the others eyes! - the sound of Michael singing "I'll Be There", came on what I think must have been the radio, because I don't think they had a Juke Box. I remember we talked about how you couldn't imagine the other young singing sensation of the time, Jimmy Osmond, singing that song, I was going to say, or at least not with anything like the same effect, but no, you just can't imagine it.

I suppose the next period I associate with Michael Jackson is some years later around the late 70's and early 80's. I remember, particularly when my oldest son was just born, and I was lecturing part-time, I used to spend alot of time with him, and we'd dance around the living room, if the beat was right and the mood took me, I'd probably also do a bit of diving over arm-chairs and so on. My son must have imbibed some of the music, because he still likes music from that time now. It was a time where the old soul music of the 60's and 70's had given way to its younger sibling Disco, along with a plethora of films like Saturday Night Fever and so on.

I think I'm right in saying it was the last record Michael made with his brothers, before going solo. And within a couple of years he had become a superstar. It was a far different world in 1984, when the Miners were once again on strike, this time not for more money, but trying to protect jobs and communities, compared to 1972. And now also, the Michael Jackson who produced a string of huge hits was not the same Michael Jackson, the kid who sang "I'll Be There." Nor was the production that went into "I Want You Back" apparently even in the same century as that which went into the production of "Thriller", which broke ground not just as a song, but in being essentially a mini-film attached to the music. There's not much music I can remember let alone want to remember from the 80's, but I can still remember vividly driving from one Miners Picket line to another during that period with "Thriller" playing on the tape in the car.

I suppose the final piece of music I can relate to is "Smooth Criminal", because it coincided with my youngest son, being at the stage of dancing about to music, and he's always been interested in music and video and films, which I suppose is why he works in media now. I remember going to a cousin's wedding, and he was dressed up in a waistcoat and bow tie, and I joined him on the dance floor, for a bit of moonwalking. In that regard, as a bit of hoofer, I suppose I should also end by saying soemthing about Michael Jackson and the dancing. Apparently, Fred Astaire was a big fan, and said he watched in awe the first time he saw Michael Moonwalk. In fact, Moonwalking was only an adaptation of something we used to do back in the late late 60's, except then you basically remained in one spot, with your feet sliding forward. It was something, mostly skinheads used to do, as I recall wearing white butcher's trousers that glared under the ultra violet lights, dancing to what we used to call Reggae back then, but what would probably be called Ska today.

Like many other black performers, Michael says that he picked up most of his moves from earlier singers who also danced energetically on stage, in particular, Jackie Wilson, and James Brown. James Brown in particularly well known for his slides. But, as you would see if you saw the "Stax" film on TV a few months ago, if you watched Sam Moore, of Sam & Dave fame, you would see many of the moves, including those we developed as Northern Soul Dancers, like the Backdrop. In fact, nearly all the Northern Soul dancing can be traced back to people like Sam & Dave, Jackie Wilson, and further back to people like the Clarke Brothers, as well as to all those unnamed Jitterbuggers who came across with the US armed forces, and strutted their stuff in dancehalls across Britain during the 1940's and 50's.

There was nothing new in the spins and feet movement, we'd done it all before, after hours of training, but Michael Jackson as with his music brought a degree of technical excellence and polish to it.

Dance On Michael

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Door Opens a Crack

As a result of a Freedom of Information request, the BBC is to publish the salaries and expenses of its top 100 executives. BBC Expenses . That is a start. But, why only the top 100 executives, why only the BBC. Over the last few weeks there has been a feeding frenzy in the newspapers and TV about MP's expenses, but in reality those expenses claims, disgusting as they are, are small fry compared to the millions of pounds in expenses that go to the really rich and powerful in British Society.

As I reported in my blog Greed Is Not The Problem , according the the Financial Times,

“The UK parliament has been humiliated by an expenses scandal of Augean stench, prompting Martin Bell, an anti-sleaze campaigner, to suggest such abuses could never occur in the business world. “If our cabinet ministers worked for a private company or public corporation, half of them would be out of a job this morning,” he said. “They would have been shown the door. Their employers might then call in the police.” Sadly, he is wrong. Shareholders are taken for a far bigger ride by their C-suites than UK taxpayers are by their MPs.

Shareholders have little insight into the perquisites enjoyed by executives: the jets, country club memberships and season tickets are never disclosed in remuneration reports. Every so often, daylight reveals shocking shareholder-funded extravagance. Ex-Tyco boss Dennis Kozlowski, for example, supplied himself with a $15,000 umbrella stand, a $17,000 “travelling toilette box” and $2,200 wastebasket. More recently, opponents of John Thain leaked to the media that the one-time chief executive of Merrill Lynch had treated himself to a $1.2m office makeover, with $87,000 rugs, $25,000 pedestal table and $68,000 credenza. But for every case that makes headlines, thousands do not. Which accounts department queries the spa treatment in the boss’s hotel bill or questions helicopter trips to far-off golf courses?

C-suites around the world are, with few exceptions, hypocritical in the extreme, demanding austerity from workforces while living high on the hog themselves.”

Last week, we saw that the expenses for Prince of Wales had risen last year by a whacking 25%. The defence given for that is that it was for travel abroad he had been asked to undertake by the Government. But, does that travel require all the undoubted trimmings that go with it??? I hear that you can get to most places in the world quite reasonably on Easy Jet, and other similar airlines!

The MP's are nonentities in all this, they are in reality like the bloke down the line in a company who gets the blame that should go to the top bosses! That a Freedom of Information request has been made to the BBC to open the books on their affairs is a start. But, the only reason this has happened is because the BBC is Public Corporation. Private companies are protected against such disclosure by the laws on commercial confidentiality. The law should be changed so that we can see what these executives get and claim - indeed even the ordinary shareholders ought to want this information too! - and what links they have to otehr organisations that affect our lives, and frame our ideas.

After all, one of the BBC's newsreaders, when challenged by an MP, admitted she was paid £92,000 a year, or half as much again as an MP!! Actually, we ought to question for doing what. £92,000 a year seems a hell of a lot of money to sit and read an autocue of questions, and statements - especially when for some reason nowadays it takes two people at the same time to read thee News! - especially when they are the same bits of news repeated ad nauseum every 15 minutes! We know that the BBC screens its journalists before they are employed to make sure tht the vast majority are acceptable to the status quo, could it be one reason for such high salaries is to ensure that these important information formers know which side of the bread is buttered? But, I don't want to pick on the BBC, the connections of journalists in the Capitalist media with big business is also well-known.

Most people are pushed o know who their own MP is let alone other MP's, fewer still actually understand what they stand for in detail. Yet most people know the newsreaders who are on our screens everyday, for many hours of the day. They are "celebrities". And these people, day in day out provide us with the information on which we judge those lower paid politicians! Should we not know their affairs in at least as much detail as those of the MP's. We should have a register of interets for the top journalists like that for politicians. Like politicians every time there is something they are speaking on, in which they have some connection, they should have to declare an interest, and we should have a full list of their salaries and expenses, as well as details of what companies they and their close family have any connection with.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

All Out For the Lyndsey Strikers, Bust the Anti-Union Laws

Following the example of solidarity strike action in support of the Lyndsey Oil Refinery workers earlier this year, thousands of other workers around the country have walked out in support of the new strikes resulting from the sacking of 647 workers at the site who came out against the redundancy of 51 workers in contravention of a previous agreement to redeploy workers within the site.

See: BBC Report on Strike .

The management’s tactics here are a clear attempt at union busting, and must be defeated. But, more is at stake here. Not only is the action of the workers at Lyndsey illegal under the anti-union laws, because it was taken without an official ballot, but the action of other workers in support is also illegal under those same laws. But, as the similar Gate Gourmet dispute demonstrated without the ability to respond immediately to bosses actions against workers, without the ability of, especially small groups of workers, to obtain the collective support of their comrades in other workplaces, workers are at a huge disadvantage in trying to defeat the attacks on them by rich, powerful bosses. This dispute is a perfect opportunity for workers to finish off Thatcher’s anti-union laws, once and for good.

Back in 1978, after year’s of workers being kept down by the Social Contract stitched up between the Labour Government and the TUC, workers frustration eventually boiled over. Ford workers struck in defiance of the Social Contract, and won a Pay Policy busting rise, that opened the door for other workers to flood through. Many did in the private sector, but Callaghan’s Government decided to use its position by trying to maintain the Pay Policy in relation to Public Sector workers. It led to the Winter of Discontent, and the election of Thatcher.

With Labour already in dire straits, with it looking as though it will have to ditch the Post office privatisation programme or face a huge rebellion by Labour MP’s already shitting themselves over the prospect of having to get a job if they lose their seats, its hard to imagine that Labour would want to repeat that experience by gaoling workers, or trying to impose huge fines on the unions that still largely fund them ahead of an election next year. If workers and the Labour Movement push through the anti-union laws now by direct action in support of the Lyndsey strikers we can consign the anti-union laws to the dustbin of history, whether or not the Government legislates them away. But, we should then still demand on the back of that that those laws are formally removed from the statute book, demand a fight by the union leaders and the Labour left, for at least that minimum commitment to the working class.

Problems Ahead For The BNP

As I predicted a few weeks ago, the BNP is now facing a legal challenge over its membership rules. The BBC reports, as I said that the law states that any organisation that receives Public Funds must comply with the law on Discrimination. See: BBC Injunction Threat To BNP .

But, of course,as these laws are written by a BRITISH Parliament, to protect the Rights of BRITISH citizens, guaranteed under a BRITISH Constitution, then a BRITISH National Party, should of course welcome them, shouldn't they? And after all, given the Expenses Row we wouldn't want BNP Councillors and other representatives having to pay back thousands of pounds in expenses they weren't entitled to, and facing the wrath of the Public over claiming them!

Now of course, the BNP might want to claim that people who live in Britain who are not white, are not really BRITISH, and so justify their discimination against them on that basis. But, in that case, what other fundamental rights would the BNP deny to these British Citizens? How would they determine who was white, and who wasn't?

The BNP's attempt to be clever and hide their true fascist nature under expensive suits is beginning to fall apart. It is wracked with contradictions, of which, this is just a small example. The divisiosn within its ranks between Griffin and those who want to present the best-suit approach, and its rank-and file base of assorted boot-boys has already manifested itself in splits and threats of splits. If as a result of Griffin's policy it faces the possibility of having to open its doors to non-whites - who iknows maybe all those thousands of Ghurkhas and their families some BNP members campaigned to be brought to Britain, in the hope of catching a populist bandwagon - then those divisions will explode, and the BNP with it. You can bet that the secret state already has its agents working away inside the BNP, to bring that about by whatever means it has available.

This is just the start of Big Capital and its state's moves to reign in the BNP. At the moment it may attract the backing of the odd maverick small capitalist, but Big Capital has no need of the BNP at the moment. It only needs to back fascist parties like the BNP when the working class is strong, and when its grip on power is weak. Neither, of those things are true at the moment, and so the BNP is a destabilising force for it. Although, the BNP crow over their recent election victories, the truth is that Griffin's vote in these elections actually FELL compared to the BNP vote in the previous Euro elections! If the BNP could not do well udner the condiitons of a severe economic recession, of a collapse of Labour, and the universal condemnation of all the mainstream parties due to the expenses scandals, it could never do well. For, Griffin's vote to actually fall udner those conditions does not at all bode well for the BNP in the next period. On the contrary, the internal divisiosn that must now open up due to the obvious contradictions, that wrack it, the turn in the economic climate, the fact that the expenses scandal will fade from memory in the next year, and the fact that the Capitalist State will begin to put the screws on the BNP mean it has seen its high-point, and it was not that high. Its now up to the Left, to get its act together and finish the BNP off.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


The following video of the fatal shooting of Neda is becoming a rallying cry across Iran. Neda who was out on a peaceful protest with here father in Tehran on Saturday was shot by a Bassij rifleman from a rooftop. The Bassiji are religious fanatics who perform the same role for the clerical-fascist regime as the Nazi stormtroopers fulfilled for Hitler. Now the proteters are using Neda's name as their new battle cry along with "Death to the Dictator", by which they now mean Ayatollah Khamenei not just Ahmedinejad.

The video is graphic.

Civil War in Iran?

According to reports, the children of Rafsanjani have been arrested. In addition, Moussavi, who is reported to have addressed crowds yesterday who came out in defiance of the orders from Ayatollah Kamenei to stay away or be shot, has now said that he is prepared to be martyred rather than give in. Well, we’ll see about that one; these people have been good at sending women and young kids as suicide bombers, but as with all such people rather reluctant to put themselves in the front line. Either way, and with the crowds on the streets now openly shouting “Death to the Supreme Leader”, this has now gone beyond simply a call for a new election. It is a challenge to the entire regime of political Islam. As one reporter put it, Moussavi is now being led by the masses not vice versa. If he retreats they will simply sweep him away along with all the others.

CNN’s “Larry King Show”, had a good one hour programme hosted by Christianne Amanpour. See: CNN . Reports were made from Channel 4’s Lyndsey Hilsum, and the New York Times’ Roger Cohen, both of whom have, along with many other journalists been forced to leave Iran. Both reporters said that the protests continue to draw more people into the streets despite the repression. Cohen reported seeing, yesterday, one policemen pleading with the crowds, because he did not want to attack them, and also reported, in addition to these individual cases, whole sections of the police wavering if not yet cracking. The main violence comes from the Bassiji, who are the ideological thugs of the regime, fulfilling the same kind of role as that played by the Nazis stormtroopers, or BNP thugs, in using violence to intimidate their opponents. However, the crowds are now so big, and so confident that they are beginning to take them on, and beat them up where they can pick them off.

In another worrying sign the regime has begun calling the protesters “terrorists”. At the same time there are reports of a “suicide bomber” blowing up the monument for Ayatollah Khomeini, as well as other reports today of petrol stations being blown up. That is alongside the attempts by the regime to divert attention on to Britain and the UK, to whip up nationalist feeling against the protesters, again a typical fascist response. If these reports of explosions are true they are almost certainly acts by the regime itself. When Hitler came to power, he had some of his thugs set fire to the Reichstag building in order that he could use it as a pretext to establish his Dictatorship, and to blame Communists for it. The Iranian regime is after all fascist even if clerical-fascist. In its case the clericalism serves the purpose of a populist covering for the real purpose of fascist parties, to smash the power of the working class, just as Nationalism and Racism does for other fascist parties like the Nazis, or the BNP. In fact, often these parties throw in a dollop of religious mysticism alongside their nationalism and xenophobia. Hitler was an occult nut, as well as a lunatic, and the Nazis had as one of their slogans KKK, standing for Church, Children and Kitchen, which is what they though the role of women should be, just as the BNP think that women’s place is in the home subservient to men. And even today some of these parties have members who are Christian fundamentalists, even being so wacky as to deny the Theory of Evolution!

As, Yasmine Mather says, in this week’s Weekly Worker,

“However, it is reassuring to see that the unique position Hands Off the People of Iran took - against imperialism, against the threat of war and for the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic regime - has been vindicated by the events of the last two weeks. Imagine what would have happened if during the last year we had witnessed a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear industry, or various US plans for regime change from above had materialised. Political Islam in Iran and the region would have been the undisputed winner of such a scenario. We were right to argue that positive change can only happen from below and from inside Iran and we will continue to maintain this position.”

No Iranian, worker could under current conditions trust or be seen to be associated with anyone on the left, such as the AWL, who only a few months ago were arguing that surgical bombing of Iran by the US would be a “good thing”, and that a huge strike by Israel, possibly requiring even the use of nuclear tipped bunker busters, would be “understandable”, and that it would be difficult to see on what grounds it might be “condemned”!!!! To do so, would not only put them in severe danger from the regime, who would be able without difficulty to label them as agents of imperialism and/or Zionism, and just as much danger from other Iranian workers who would quite rightly see them in exactly the same light!!!!

Mather and HOPI are absolutely, correct, socialists oppose any outside intervention in this struggle by any Capitalist states. The task of defeating the Iranian fascists, and the Capitalist regime falls to the Iranian workers and oppressed masses along with whatever assistance we in the international Labour Movement can provide.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

19 Shot, protests Spread To Isfahan and Shiraz

According to CNN tonight 19 people have been shot by the Iranian clerical-fascists on the streets of Tehran today. CNN 19 Shot Dead . But, as john Simpson of the BBC stated, today could have turned out to be a turning point. On previous days the state has not tried to prevent demonstrators congregating. Today they had made it clar they would, and hundreds of armed police, as well as teh Bassiji storm troopers were out on the streets. Yet, still tens if not hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out in Tehran alone, and were too strong for the state to prevent them dominating the streets, despite being shot at, and repeated attacks with tar gas, as well as more crude tactics by he Bassiji, who use razors to slash at their victims.

But, tonight CNN also reports tht there have been widespread protests in Isfahan and Shiraz, two of the other big Iranian cities.

Iran – Splits in The Ruling Theocracy

The escalating protests of last week in Iran have opened up splits within the ruling theocracy as CNN reports here . Indeed, in another report last week CNN set out the degree to which the real combatants of the last week have been not Ahmedinejad and Moussavi, but Khamenei, and Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani’s daughter even yesterday was out on the streets, encouraging people to come out today to protest in a direct challenge to the Supreme Leader. Today, Moussavi’s wife is still calling people out on to the streets.

Interestingly, and tying in to the comments I made the other day - An Iranian Revolution? - Rafsanjani is according to CNN not just one of Iran’s richest men, but one of the world’s richest men. It is becoming clear that what I said there is a large part of the reason for the current divisions within the ruling clique, the Iranian bourgeoisie can no longer tolerate the effects on the economy of the clerical-fascist regime, and in particular of the effects of Ahmedinjad. For that reason, however, it is clear that the original figureheads of these demonstrations, will temper their criticisms, and attempt to channel the protests if they begin to feel that their own interests are threatened by the mass popular movement, and in particular if, as we are beginning to see in the actions of the Iran Khodro car workers, and the Tehran Bus Workers, the working class begin to mobilise and to press their own demands and interests. It is important, that the working class be prepared for such retreats by the bourgeoisie, and that they build their own independent action and organisations.

Today could be a significant turning point. After Khamenei’s threats yesterday at morning prayers, the first reaction seems to have been to defy his call for the protests to stop. Some of the other candidates have called off their rallies planned for today, but as CNN reports the range of groups and organisations in society joining the protests is growing by the day, as is the spread throughout the country of where those protests are taking place. The protest by Iran’s footballers in Korea, in wearing green wrist bans, itself is an indication of that, and given the degree of support for football throughout the country, could itself be a powerful propaganda victory in undermining the attempts to pass of the protests as just the work of vandals or foreign agents. But, the regime has reportedly stationed hundreds of armed police with machine guns ready to meet the protesters. Is that just a show of force, to try to face down the protest? Possibly. If not it is a big gamble. Opening fire on a peaceful demonstration of thousands of people, possibly led by Moussavi or Rafsanjani’s daughter would effectively be a declaration of Civil War. Moreover, Rafsanjani himself, who has a powerful position, as head of the Assembly of Experts – not to mention the power that always comes to those who have the kind of wealth that Rafsanjani has – is also reported to have his own military support within the Revolutionary Guard.

Either way, it demonstrates the need for workers to develop appropriate tactics. Workers strength lies not in the streets, but in the factories and in the workers districts. It is important to begin to develop Factory Committees, which can act to begin to impose workers interests and workers control in the factories and other workplaces. But, such committees will need to link up in each area to support each other, as well as linking up with workers neighbourhood committees that can begin to discuss in a truly democratic way the solutions to their problems. And, if the regime is stepping up its level of violence, the workers must be ready to meet it with their own. Its necessary to begin to develop workers militia under the democratic control of these Councils. Workers in the arms factories should begin to arm the workers so they can defend themselves.

One of the problems, in a country like Iran, is the level of militarisation of the society. But, in such societies the troops are often largely drawn from the peasantry, whilst the officer corps are drawn from the middle classes. The fact, that it is in the countryside where a large reservoir of reactionary support for the regime resides can be a problem in that respect. It is what makes it crucial that the workers find ways of relating to the needs of the peasants and rural poor. But, all armies always have links to the workers too. Usually, those fulfilling technical roles, engineers and so on, come from the ranks of the workers, and these sections have a vital role in winning over the armed forces to the revolution. That was the role that this section of the armed forces played in the Kronstadt Garrison, and elsewhere in 1917 in Russia, in winning the troops over to the revolution. Given the size of the armed forces in all its varieties, it is inevitable that individual troops will have family ties to those out on the streets demonstrating. That is always one of the first things to cause the troops to waver and then to crack. I remember back in 1974 during the Miners Strike when things were getting to a stage where it was being discussed to bring the troops out to break the strike, and when their were rumours of a military coup. Even with Britain’s professional army, I remember talking to a young squaddy from a mining area who said that if the officers told him to open fire on the miners as far as he and many of his comrades were concerned it would be the officer that got the first bullet.

But, workers cannot rely on the troops coming over. In fact, their own organisation, their own strength is the best means they have of bringing that about. If the protesters back down today, they have probably lost for now. However, this is just the latest in a series of protests against the vile clerical-fascist regime in Iran. If this one fails there will be more. No fascist regime can last for long, precisely because of its function in trying to repress the vast majority of society. This one will go sooner or later, just like all the others have done. We should do all we can to help the Iranian workers get rid of it sooner rather than later.

In a footnote, that should also be a lesson to all those – often the same people who supported Ahmedinejad and the other reactionaries as some kind of “anti-imperialist” friend of the workers – Hugo Chavez, has demonstrated his real politics by coming out in support of Ahmedinejad, and against the Iranian workers. That should tell the Venezuelan workers all they need to know about the bourgeois politics of Chavez. Socialists in the PSUV, should put forward motions of condemnation of Chavez, and motions at the least calling for his censure and a public retraction by him of these statements, or better still calling for his expulsion from what is after all a Worekrs’ Party!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Iran Car Workers Strike

In my blog yesterday, "An Iranian Revolution", I commented that in 1979, at the beginning of the protests there were a series of strikes, which over a few months brought the economy to a halt. I commented that so far Iranian workers had not begun to exert their influence or to assert their class interests, by such strikes.

According to Yasmine Mather of "Hands Off The People of Iran", in this week's Weekly Worker, a tentative proposal for a General Strike, was put off so that workers organisations that have been playing an increasing role in the protests, could "improve the left’s intervention in current events before contemplating such ambitious calls."

See: WW - "death to The Iranian Regime .

Now according to US publication "Narco News", Iranian car workers have begun to move.

Iran Khodro Workers Take Action .

and Tehran Bus Workers, whose strikes in recent years have resulted in the gaoling of their leaders have issued a statement:

Iranian Bus Workers Statement .

Thursday, 18 June 2009

An Iranian Revolution?


Any understanding of events in Iran requires an understanding of its history, and how it differs from its Arab neighbours. That being one of the first differences, of course, Iranians are not Arabs. The name Iran actually means Land of the Aryans. Unlike, its Arab neighbours who were for a long time, nomadic peoples with no settled territories, the Persians are one of the oldest civilisations on the planet going back to around 7,000 B.C., and the Persian Empire was for a long time a powerful world force. Indeed, unlike its neighbours Iran was never conquered and colonised. It did fight a number of wars with the Russian Empire, and lost considerable amounts of its territory to both Russia and Britain, but it remained an independent state.

In fact, the main consequence of the repeated external attacks on it, and the inadequate response of the weak Qajar Dynasty that ruled the country, was probably the bourgeois democratic revolution of 1906, which established the first Parliament, though like Britain within the context of a Constitutional Monarchy. In 1925, Reza Khan overthrew the Qajar Dynasty, and became Shah, initiating an industrialisation drive including large-scale railroad construction, and the creation of an education system. Unlike, its neighbours this process created from a much earlier stage a significant Iranian working-class, under conditions of national political independence.

However, that political independence during most of the 20th century has not meant complete freedom of action for the Iranian state. The closeness of Reza Shah to Nazi Germany – especially given Iran’s oil resources, and strategic Gulf position – led to a combined action by Britain and the USSR to replace him with his son Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After WWII, in the context of the Cold War, and again given Iran’s resources and strategic position, Britain – which had significant investment in Iran through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) – and the new global imperialist power in the US, both feared the possibility that the USSR could expand to the South, obtaining a grip on vital western oil supplies, and a warm water port.

When the newly elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who was elected in 1951, and enjoyed huge popular support, nationalised Iran’s oilfields, in 1953, there response was quick. Britain and the US, using the CIA and other resources hatched a plot that overthrew him, and handed complete power over to the Shah. However, it is important to remember that, however, brutal and undemocratic the Shah’s regime, it did have the effect of rapidly industrialising the Iranian economy, thereby expanding further the Iranian working class, and of modernising and secularising Iranian society.

Dictatorship and Democracy

It is important to remember the political consequences of these factors – the creation of a large industrial working class, brought together in large cities, and the history of secularism and modernity and culture that has characterised a large part of Iranian society during the last 100 years, when looking at the current social conflicts developing – as all modern revolutions do – out of the cities and large towns, often, at least initially, in opposition to vast reserves of reaction in the more backward countryside. The modern revolutions that have been successful going back to the Great French Revolution – with the exception of course of the counter-revolution launched in the Vendee – have all managed to tie the needs of the towns and cities, with the aspirations of the poor peasants. The fact, that this is a religious dictatorship does not change that fact. All of the feudal regimes that were overthrown by modern revolutions also relied heavily on religious mysticism, and the support of the faithful. It was often the case, that the Monarch was tied by economic interest to the peasants. For example, in Britain it was sections of the Landlord class, and the rising Capitalist Farmers and squires that sought to steal land from the peasants though Enclosures, whilst the Crown, opposed them in the name of traditional society. Yet, the facts are that for the ordinary peasants, although, they might go to Church and hold strong religious beliefs, they often vented their anger at the actual representatives of that religion, who they saw incarnate as the force, which oppressed them and leached off them on a daily basis. Strong religious belief should not, therefore, be equated with strong support for clerics. (Good background historical data on these revolutions is given by Barrington Moore Jnr. in his book, “The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy”, though I would disagree with many of his conclusions.

What IS different in Iran compared to those other modern revolutions – I am using the term “modern” here because the same argument applies to both the bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th, and 19th centuries, and the proletarian revolutions of the twentieth century that carried through at the same time the tasks of the bourgeois revolution, as well as those Peasant Revolutions such as in China and Indo-China led by Stalinist forces – is that in Iran, the bourgeois revolution was long ago completed. No social revolution in Iran is required to establish Capitalism, or a Capitalist State; it already exists. The revolution, if that is what it turns out to be, in Iran at the moment is not for now, a SOCIAL revolution, but a POLITICAL revolution. It is a revolution essentially instigated by the Iranian Capitalist class, to overthrow the clerical-fascist regime they were forced to resort to in 1979 to head-off the potential at that time, of the political revolution against the Shah, from carrying over into a social revolution against Capitalism itself.

Such political revolutions are nothing new. What is important in the context of a political revolution is, which class has clear domination. The English Civil War was a Political Revolution. A weak, newly emerging Merchant Class, with ties to the English nobility reflected in its ideas the needs of the new society. It did so in a very unclear manner, obscured across class boundaries with other issues such as religion. The political revolution it carried through reflected that. At first vacillating in its relation with the King, and unable to exert its own class rule directly through its own political representatives, it ceded power to Cromwell, whose state reflected those unformed social relations, remaining in large part a feudal state, but carrying through some aspects of the bourgeois revolution. Even though, bourgeois ideas had become dominant by the end of the 17th century – as reflected for example in Locke’s “Second Treatise on Government” in contrast to Hobbes earlier “Leviathan” – as the power of the merchants, and Capitalist farmers, not to mention the growing power of a class of Money Capitalists growing rich from lending to finance trade and colonisation, merged with those of at least sections of the landed classes who were using their wealth to build financial empires, and who were increasingly lured to become themselves Capitalist farmers, or mineral extractors of one form or another, and these ideas, developed through the new University Departments financed by them, came to dominate those who made up the Permanent State apparatus, it was not until 200 years later, with the rise of the industrial bourgeoisie, whose interests – unlike those of the merchants and Money Capitalists – diverged almost completely with those of these older classes, that the Capitalist class secured full political rule, via a series of reforms, carried through on the back of large movements of social unrest. Although, we tend to think of the Peterloo Massacre, for example, as an attack on working class people, it should be borne in mind that in fact, many of those involved were themselves Radicals, and representatives of industrial Capital.

The history of France has similar parallels. Not only did France go through the regime of Bonaparte, but also of Louis Napoleon, before the industrial bourgeoisie eventually achieves sufficient social dominance to achieve outright political control in the form of the Third Republic. Similar Bonapartist regimes have been seen in other parts of the world where weak bourgeois classes have been forced to cede political power to a modernising state apparatus, due to its own inability to rule via its own direct political representatives. Mexico under Cardenas was a later example, Egypt under Nasser an even later one. Trotsky made a distinction between these forms of Bonapartism reflecting a rising progressive bourgeoisie (or in the case of Soviet Bonapartism a rising, progressive working class) and those examples of Bonapartism that reflected rather a bourgeoisie that was weak, because it was faced with a rising working class challenging it for power. If the former represented a price that the bourgeoisie had to pay to prise power out of the hands of the aristocracy, and develop the economy, the latter was the price it had to pay to keep it out of the hands of the working class, and to prevent the crisis in the economy from destroying it. Of these Fascism was a particular form of Bonapartism, a form specific to this latter variant.


Under conditions where the working class is relatively young, weak and presents no threat to the bourgeoisie the former kind of Bonapartism is possible. Under conditions where the working class has developed into a modern powerful force, it is not; only the latter kind is possible. But, for that very reason it can never satisfy the real needs and interests of Capital, and to the extent that it is able to exert political power AGAINST the immediate interests of Capital, and individual Capitalists it represents an encumbrance to it. For those reasons Capital will only tolerate it, for as long as it serves a purpose for it.

But, it’s important to make this point here. In the USSR, the Stalinist Bonapartist bureaucracy fulfilled the same function, but even when the working class had become more socially dominant by the 1960’s, simply transforming that social dominance into political dominance, is no straightforward matter. By definition, the fusion of political power and state power that marks a Bonapartist regime, along with the power of that state, the vested interests of its upper echelons, and the frequently repressive nature of such states makes the job of putting an end to this encumbrance no easy task. As Trotsky said, the Political revolution in the USSR would probably be almost unmistakeable from a social revolution. History suggests that is one scenario; the other is a long slow series of revolts such as those that secured political power for the bourgeoisie in Britain and France.

In Germany and Italy, and in Japan whose regime has many similarities with fascism, the task of removing the fascist, Bonapartist regime was done for the Capitalists by the USSR, and the German Capitalists international brethren alongside their own military defeat, though many of the fascists themselves were left in positions of power by the Allies, after the war in business, in the Courts and in Government, whilst in Germany, in particular, the Left was suppressed with laws such as the Berufsverbot. In Spain, the fascist regime of Franco was able to stay in power for 40 years, before Capital was able to replace it, with a bourgeois democracy through which it could once again exercise its own direct political control. In Portugal, Capital had to rely on a popular revolution, and military support to remove the fascist regime of Caetano. This latter example may turn out to be a model of what might transpire in Iran, depending upon the correlation of forces. It was probably the most likely means by which Capital would have removed Hitler in Germany had it not been for the military defeat.

Yet another example in some respects, though, is the Russian revolution of 1917. In Russia, an increasingly Capitalist economy, along with a Capitalist State, was sat upon by an autocratic Tsarist political power. Ultimately, the political or Governmental power is weak, when confronted with the social power of a dominant class, and the power of that class’s State. In February 1917, the Tsarist political power collapsed. Its hold over certain sections of the State power – which every Governmental Power will exert to some degree due to its political legitimacy – was overwhelmed by those sections of the State Power already in the hands of the bourgeoisie and its allies amongst the nobility. The masses in the streets gave the bourgeoisie the popular mandate to sweep the Tsar from power.

In many ways that has its reflection in Iran today. Those acting as figureheads of the protests are not workers representatives, nor even from their records representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie. On the contrary, they are as much butchers of the clerical-fascist regime as Ahmedinejad, and Khameini. But, their current position, the support from other sections of the clerics such as from Rafsanjani, are probably a reflection of a mood and a move within the Iranian bourgeoisie that senses a need to have done with the clerical-fascist regime. On the one hand, that regime has badly mismanaged the economy over the last 30 years. Like every such dictatorial regime whether it be Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, they can do some things – such as developing heavy industry, building infrastructure etc – well, but for everything else that requires, drive, initiate, creative and critical thinking etc. they do badly, precisely because such regimes stifle all of those qualities. That mismanagement, at a time when oil prices have risen to historic levels, and when every economy in the world has been booming, in a country with all of the natural resources and other benefits that Iran possesses, seems to have increased dramatically in the last five years under Ahmedinejad. Not only that, but the regimes increasing belligerence, its confrontation with the US and UN over the nuclear programme looked to be setting the country on a collision course for war, and possibly the kind of Occupation and chaos that has been inflicted on Iraq.

There has been an interesting debate on exactly what the divisions between Ahmedinejad and Khameini on one side, and Mousavi on the other represent at Permanent Revolution

The Working Class and the Revolutionary Party

Not only are those conditions similar to those that led to the 1906, bourgeois revolution in Iran, but also they are similar to the conditions that led to the February Revolution of 1917 in Russia. What makes this more like February 1917 in Russia than 1906 in Iran is the role of the working class. In February 1917, the majority of workers who came out into the streets were not demanding socialism. Nor were the troops whose social roots ran deep into the Russian Peasantry. For both the immediate concern was an end to the War. For both too, there was a demand for food as the consequences of the War had left people in dire straits. As a way out of its condition the Peasants demanded land distribution, whilst for the workers the way out was better wages, and shorter hours.

All of the parties offered an end to the War. The Peasant Party, the Social Revolutionaries offered land reform, whilst the socialists of the Mensheviks offered better wages, and shorter hours for workers. At this time in 1917, when the Tsar was overthrown, and placed under house arrest the Bolsheviks were a tiny Minority. In fact, most of their leaders were not even in the country. Lenin did not return until April. Of the others some of the first to return were Stalin and Kamenev, who simply fell in behind the positions adopted by the Mensheviks, much to Lenin’s disgust.

A lot has been written about the nature of the Bolsheviks, their tight discipline, and so on that enabled them to overcome their position, and take the leadership. Having read Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”, and much more besides, having looked at the positions taken by many of the leading “Old Bolsheviks”, at the divisions within the party that led many Bolsheviks on a day to day basis to be hardly distinguishable from the Mensheviks, I think that much of this is mythology written after the event. I do agree with Trotsky in his History on one major point, that gives nothing away to the theory about the role of the individual in history – the decisive factor was Lenin himself. But, it seems to me that the Bolsheviks were able to assume the position of leadership they did for the very simple reason that the other parties, having promised the workers and peasants those very basis things, then, having secured political power in the provisional Government, simply reneged upon them. Trotsky says they had to because of who they were. I am not at all sure that is correct. But, they did, and largely because of Lenin’s leadership and decisiveness the Bolsheviks were able to win over the vast majority of workers and peasants.

In a sense there are parallels with a Trade Union. For most of the time, the kind of people you want in positions in a Trade Union Branch, are people who can listen patiently to the members, who can talk through problems, and deal with the routine mundane affairs of administration. But, when a strike breaks out, a completely different kind of person is required. All of those qualities of patience, diligence, application to routine and so on are impediments to the need to be bold, decisive, provide leadership and so on. That is why Strike Committees are set up, and why during such periods new leaders come forward. The Bolsheviks, and Lenin as their embodiment acted as such a Strike Committee for the revolution. It’s likely that in every such revolution, such an organisation, and such leadership are required. I make the distinction here between such an organisation being needed for the success of the revolution, and needed for the establishment of socialism. Generally, speaking Strike Committees do not make good union officials outside of strikes. Outside of workers revolutions, the working class needs to be strong enough, and organised and developed enough to be able to put its own revolutionary Strike Committee back in its box, and to exercise its own democratic rule.

It was the lack of such an organisation in 1979 that led to the establishment of the clerical-fascist regime. It will be the existence or not of a similar organisation now that will determine the outcome of the current events. Those who do not remember those events, perhaps find it difficult to understand exactly what happened at the time. The Victors always write history, and for their own class reasons western Capital has always presented the 1979 Iranian Revolution as being a clerical revolution from the beginning. However, for the reasons referred to earlier concerning the size of the Iranian working class, its own long history going back to the beginning of the twentieth century, its own organisations, including a number of “Marxist” parties, such a description is completely false. Although, the spark for the revolution was the autocratic rule of the Shah, the beatings, the torture, the role of the SAVAK secret police and so on, as well as what was seen to be the Shah’s connections with US imperialism – which along with his modernism, and secularism was certainly a pole of opposition for the reactionary and religious segments of the opposition – as with all such social eruptions, that spark led to the outpouring of a wide range of social grievances. In other words, as always occurs in such situations, a general popular revolt rapidly sees the emergence of class interests, as different sections of society assert their own demands arising out of their own class position. Unlike, so far, in the situation today in Iran, at the beginning of the revolt, which began in 1978, the country saw not just street protests – which tend to be typically a middle class form of protest – but widespread strikes, which crippled the economy.

(A good background to the events is Fred Halliday's book “Iran”.)

As the Russian revolutions of 1905, and the two of 1917 showed, even workers organisations forced to operate underground, can quickly flower once such revolts occur. They can become the basis of workers organisation and opposition. Such was true of Iran in 1979 too. But, as with many other situations, for example May 1968 in France, and the uprisings in Eastern Europe after WWII, the lack of a revolutionary party with the decisiveness, the flexibility of tactics that Lenin was able to impose upon the Bolsheviks in 1917, meant that the workers were at a disadvantage compared with the bourgeoisie, which DOES have a number of forms of organisation, does have the advantage of controlling state power and so on. Given the size and power of the revolt had the bourgeoisie not acted, then even without such a Party, the working class would have stumbled its way to some kind of power. But, that is the point; under such conditions the bourgeoisie always WILL act.

In 1920, in Italy, in the face of mounting workers revolt, the establishment of Workers Councils across the industrial cities, and implementation in many of the large factories of Workers Control, the bourgeoisie acted in the face of indecisiveness by the workers and the Italian Communist Party to extend that movement to the seizure of State Power. It financed and promoted Mussolini’s Fascists, as a populist movement, rallying behind it the frightened sections of society, the middle classes, the richer peasantry and so on, as well as utilising those less well educated, atomised and backward sections of society, the petty criminals, the long term unemployed and so on, to act as its strong men on the streets. The Nazis, followed a similar course, and today the BNP like every other fascist party, plays by the same rulebook. In Italy in 1920, and in Germany in the 1930’s, the bourgeoisie responded to a threat to its power from the working class, by promoting fascist parties, who gathered around them these backward social elements to mount a physical strike against the workers, and the workers and their parties having missed the chance to seize power, the bourgeoisie then places its faith in the fascists to save its skin, even at the expense of giving up its own direct political power.

See this collection of Trotsky’s writings on Germany for the fuller details Trotsky On Fascism in Germany


In essence this is what happened in Iran in 1979. Faced with a massive popular revolt, and the threat of it turning into a social revolution led by the working class, the Iranian bourgeoisie looked for an alternative, and found it ready made in the charismatic figure of the exiled Khomeini, whose charisma was enhanced further by the media attention focussed on him by the media of the world. As a single figurehead, and with a ready-made organisation behind him in the form of the clerical-establishment, and its direct access to the most backward elements in Iranian society, he was able to hijack the popular revolution. Worse still, the Left both in Iran, and in the West that should have known better from history, failed to warn the Iranian workers of the danger, failed to ensure the necessary separation of workers organisations from those of the clericalists. The rest as they say is history. The Shah packed his bags within days and went into luxurious exile. The clerical-fascists having assumed power did what all fascists do and turned upon the workers and their organisations.

As an indication of the size of the workers organisations, in the blood purges carried out by the regime after its establishment tens of thousands of Marxists and other Leftists were murdered. Yet, despite the repression, despite the continued gaoling of Trade Unionists, workers have continued to resist the regime with sporadic strike action. If at least sections of the bourgeoisie are now playing with the idea of dismantling the clerical-fascist regime it must be because either they are desperate at the condition it has brought the economy to, or because they believe that any workers protest can be contained, or both. They may see as a model the experience of Poland, where in conditions of similar protest at the Stalinist regime, even the adoption by workers of Trotskyist “Transitional Demands”, the bourgeoisie was able to use the charismatic figure of Walesa, and the organisation of the Catholic Church behind him – and it has since transpired the resources of the CIA – to divert the protest into safe channels.

The message from history is clear. If the bosses think that the workers will challenge the rule of Capital, the bosses will stop at nothing to save their skin. But, that cannot be a reason for workers NOT to challenge the bosses. Our task is to push the workers struggle as far as possible, as successfully as possible. If the current struggles in Iran lead only to a replacement of the current fascist regime, with a bourgeois democracy that at least, will be a step forward, the creation of better conditions within which workers can press their interests. But, even that will only be possible if the workers take the lead of this struggle.

Once again the lack of a world party of revolution hampers the prospects of a successful workers solution. Despite that our task is to be revolutionary optimists under such conditions.

Victory to the Iranian Workers. Workers of the World Unite. Forward to the Iranian Workers Revolution.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Analysis From The Bullet

There is an analysis of events in Iran from the Canadian comrades at the Socialist Project

Iranian Leaders Play Hard and Soft

Faced with mounting opposition in the streets, and obvious divisions even amongst the clerics, the Iranian leadership has offered a partial recount of votes, and is now describing the election results as "preliminary". That is a clear attempt to demobilise the protests without making any real concession. At the same time they are using increasingly brutal methods. They have been arresting protest leaders, taking satllite dishes and other communications equipment away, and in addition to closing down mobile phone and other communications, they have withdrawn permits ffrom foreign journalists to prevent them reporting on the rising tide of opposition that is spreading from Tehran to other cities.

But, both are a sign that the ruling clique are worried. They have never faaced protest and opposition on this scale. Yesteray, Government militia opened fire from the militia buiding on a peaceful crowd. Its now reported 8 people dies last night. Today, the Government shipped in bus loads of supporters to a pro-Ahmedinejad demonstration called rapidly to coincide in place and time with a demonstration by oppositionists, reminiscent of the provocations of the July Days in Russia in 1917. But, Moussavi and his supporters were able to use electronic communications to effectively call of their demonstration, and move it elsewhere. In addition, demonstrations have been springing up ad hoc in the most unlikely places, such as a protest on the underground!

But, today's events show the danger for the opposition. The Government retains a monopoly of violence. In addition, it probably retains significant support in backward rural areas. The socialist and democratic forcess in Iran, has to find waays of at neutralising that section of the population, and if possible winning them over behind the working class. That requires a programme designed to meet the needs of peasants and rural workers. Once again, it becomes clear that even a democratic revolution in Iran can only be achieved on the basis of a determined workers struggle that combines a programme of Democratic and Socialist demands.

It is vital thaat socialists and Trade Unionists begin to give some leadership to this struggle, carrying it into thee workplace, and into the workers communities. The Day of Global Action on 26th June is a good opportunity to build for a general Strike in Iran. Iranian workers need to impose their own stamp on these demonstrations by creating Factory Committees able to prepare to take over the main enterprises, we need neighbourhood Committees that can exercise democratic controlover a workers militia to defend the workers against inevitable attacks from Government forces. And such committees will need to link up across the country to support each other, and prevent the regime from dividing workers in one part of the country from those in another.

These protests are far ffrom a workers revolution at the moment. It may well not get that far. Either way, it is the job of socialists everywhere to support the Iranian workers, and in the whole of this struggle it is the interests of workers for which we have regard. Even if this struggle only results in the overthrow of the current regime, and a more democratic set-up, that will be a step forward for Iranian workers and for workers throughout the region. It will show that tin pot despots can be challenged by the working class, and real improvements won. But, from history we know that the bouregoisie will try to keep the struggle within its bounds. If it thinks the workers pose a threat to its rule it will quickly switch to a return to the current or some other fascist gang to protect its interests. The workers should not restrict itself to just bouregois demands, but must rely only on itself, and try to mobilise it the wider mass of oppressed and exploited Iranian people.

Victory to the Iranian Workers

Monday, 15 June 2009

Iran Shooting, Pictures & Video

There are pictures and video of the shooting of a protester here at MSNBC .

Newsnight Video of Student demo at Tehran University


and video of shots fired


Mobilise For 26th June!

A Global Solidarity Action Day to demand union rights for Iranian workers has been called for 26th June. We should do all in our power to mobilise support for this demonstration. But, more than that we need to mobilise through the Labour and Trade Union Movement to provide real practical support to Iranian workers.

for details go to justice For Iranian Workers .

The struggle of the Iranian workers against clerical-fascism is the best answer there could be to the recent gains of the British fascists of the BNP. British workers should take heart from the Iranian workers fight to smash the Iranian fascists, and begin to create a better society and respond in like manner to the BNP and the British bosses, whose agents the BNP are.

The Guardian also has more on the killing of a protestor by the Iranian state.


Statement By The Worker Communist Party of Iran

Worker-communist Party of Iran statement on people’s protests following the election farce

The protests that have engulfed society are the eruption of people’s repressed hatred and anger towards the entire Islamic regime of Iran. These struggles took place in the form of a protest to the election farce and its even more farcical results, but are rapidly surpassing it and turning into a revolutionary offensive of the people against the Islamic Republic. Now even for that section of society which for any reason believed that it could bring about change through elections, it is quickly becoming clear that not only the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad gang, but the entire Islamic regime must be targeted.

The election show, with the campaigns and TV debates of its candidates and with the mindboggling way in which its results were decided and announced, was a shot in the foot for the regime. During this “election” the highest leaders of the regime laid bare the dark record of 30 years of their system’s crime, repression and plunder. Thus, the Islamic regime by its own admission and in front of millions of people issued the verdict of its own illegitimacy and condemnation. The victors in this “election” were not Ahmadinejad or Khamenei or any other state gang, but the people’s revolutionary movement for overthrowing the regime. People are voting with their feet to finish off this vile regime. The people’s repressors have set up a ‘power manoeuvre’, but in fact this is a show of the power of the people which is rocking the streets. Today, the absurdity and futility of reform and gradual change, on the one hand, and the legitimacy of revolution, the necessity of revolution and the desirability of revolution, on the other, is gaining ground and drawing strength in society. People are rehearsing revolution.

Today the revolutionary movement of the people to overthrow the Islamic regime, and the Worker-communist Party as its standard-bearer and representative, have gained a greater validity and a more favourable position in society. The WPI welcomes this situation and calls on the revolutionary people of Iran for street demonstrations around the slogans and policies of the Party, announced everyday on New Channel TV, the ‘Channel of Revolution’. The Party calls on the people to take over the streets with their demands for freedom and equality, with the slogan ‘We don’t want the Islamic regime’. We must stop work everywhere and turn every factory, university, school and neighbourhood into a barricade of revolution against the Islamic Republic. We must remove the hejab and abolish sexual apartheid with the power of the people. We must impose political freedoms on the Islamic regime with the revolutionary power of the people. We must call for the immediate release of all political prisoners and open up the prison gates. We must widen the splits within the ruling Islamic thugs. We must draw the body of the security forces and soldiers to the rank of people’s revolution, paralysing the regime’s armed forces and effectively putting them out of action. We must bring about a situation where people come out to the streets in their millions and send the Islamic Republic, with its executions, stonings, poverty, unemployment and hejab, to the dustbin of history.

The condition for the victory of the revolution against the Islamic Republic is provision of unity and organisation and an intelligent and determined leadership over the revolutionary movement. WPI is the party for this task. We call on all revolutionary people to organise around the Party’s banner. We, the Party and people, will turn the predicament that the Islamic Republic is now caught up in into a revolution against this detestable regime, into a revolution for freedom and equality.

Down with the Islamic Republic!
Long live a socialist republic!

See: WCPI Statement

Protester Shot Dead By Iranian State

According to the latest reports from Tehran a protester has been shot dead.


Protesters Defy Iranian State Threats

Despite terrible beatings handed out by state thugs, despite leaders of opposition groups being gaoled, despite attempts to close down all communications by e-mail, phone etc., and despite the full force of the reactionary, clerical-fascist, Iranian State warning protesters not to demonstrate, hundreds of thousands of Iranians have continued to take to the streets to protest at the fact that their votes have been robbed from them.

The spearhead of the demonstrations appears to be students, but also about half of the demonstrators have been women, whilst on the Government organised rally on Sunday only around 2% were women! This is an indication that opposition to the reactionary nature of the Islamic regime is rising, this is no longer just a middle class objection to Mousavi losing the vote. In fact, Moussavi seems to be trying to tone the protests down. Not surprisingly, because he has been a stalwart of the Islamic regime himself. He must realise the possibility that the protests will go way beyond simply changing on bourgeois, clericalist politician for another!

But, whether that happens or not depends upon the actions of the Iranian working class. The demonstrations in Greece, recently, demonstrated that so long as opposition remains at the level of street, protest the system remains secure. Eventually, protesters get fed up of coming out on the streets, and the revolt fades, because it has nowhere else to go. Protest requires a direction, and within that direction it needs a strategy and plan. In France in 1968, the protests went way beyond just the street demonstration. Workers occupied the factories, and recognising that simple strike action harmed other workers, the strikers and those occupying the factories set up committees to ensure that production was carried out to ensure vital supplies were produced and distributed to those that needed them. As the period after the February revolution of 1917 in Russia demonstrated you cannot simply remain on strike for ever. Workers need things to be produced too. Occupying the factories is pointless, unless it is used to introduce workers control over production in those factories to meet the continuing needs of workers in general.

None of that can be done without some kind of plan, without some kind of co-ordination and without some kind of democratic structure to decide what to produce, and how to distribute it. It also requires workers to create their own militia to defend those factories and the goods to be distributed, from the inevitable attacks that will be launched against them by the State, by fascist gangs, and by just criminal gangs, though often these are indistinguishable from the fascists anyway.

As in France, in 1968, the students can play a vital role in setting the ball rolling, in giving workers the confidence to take action, showing that the state apparatus is not invincible. But, it is only workers that can take the struggle forward, take over the bosses property, and begin to organise production and society on a different basis. But, that is not enough either as the events of May 1968 demonstrated. Economic and social power, is only one of the three types of power in society. In addition three is political or Governmental power, and there is State Power.

In a fascist or clerical-fascist regime like Iran these latter two are effectively fused together. Even had Moussavi or some other more liberal politician won, real Governmental Power resides with the Mullahs, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini, and it is those same forces that control State Power. But, in France in 1968, and in a bourgeois democracy in general, Governmental Power can reside with a force that stands in opposition to the State Power – for example Allende’s Government in Chile. Under those conditions, what is decisive is who controls the State Power. If in 1968, DeGaulle had been brought down – for example, in the way Ted heath was brought down in 1974 – and a more Left Government been brought in, then that Government would immediately have found itself under pressure from the State Power to tone down its programme, and ultimately if it refused, then it would end up going the way that Allende’s Government went, indeed the way some within the ruling class and British State were conspiring to send Wilson’s Government.

To prevent that it is vital that the working class not only seize control of the means of production, and begin to organise production and distribution to meet their own needs, but it is vital that the working class smash that existing state machinery, and establish a Workers State, committed to defending the interests of the working class against the inevitable attacks of the bosses.

As 1917, showed, that cannot happen right away. Workers need to create their own organs of power, their own democracy, and learn that they can control their own destiny. They need to establish Factory Committees, Neighbourhood Committees, Militia, and Workers Councils to discuss, decide and execute actions. They need to understand their real situation, and the nature of the enemy that faces them in the form of the State. In the meantime, to the extent that the protests are led by sections of the middle class, workers and socialists should support the protests, and any democratic and progressive demands that are raised, but they must keep their own political and organisation independence of those forces, who as soon as the struggle goes beyond bourgeois limits will turn against them. The workers should welcome any democratic reforms as strengthening their position and hastening the fall of the clerical-fascist regime that oppresses them, but only by joining their own demands to those democratic demands can the workers begin to take the lead in the struggle and rally the rest of the oppressed behind them.

It is up to the international working class to give them every support in achieving that.

Workers of the World Unite. Forward to the Iranian Workers Revolution.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Violence Continues in Iran

Despite the calls from the supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini for people to accept the clearly fraudulent election of Ahmedinejad, protests by large numbers of Iranians continue on the streets of Tehran, and according to the BBC tonight, it seems to be spreading to other cities. There were also rreports that reformist journalists had been locked in their offices by armed police.

According to the Huffington Post ,

"Potentially stunning development. The National Iranian American Council links to a Farsi language story saying the President of the Committee of Election Monitoring has requested that the election be canceled.

Hojjat-ol-Eslam Yali Akbar MohteshamiPour officially requested that the Guardian Council to cancel this election and schedule a new election balanced and moderated democratically with the widespread and national presence of the people.
Also from NIAC:

According to Mousavi's website, a group of employees in the Ministry of the Interior in an open letter warned that the votes have been changed and manipulated in the state election commission. In this letter, which was addressed to the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, the President, the of Majlis of Iran, the heads of the legislative and judicial branch and several other government agencies, a group of employees stated that "as dedicated employees of the Interior Ministry, with experience in management and supervision of several elections such as the elections of Khamenei, Rafsanjani and Khatami, we announce that we fear the 10th presidential elections were not healthy."

Mousavi has called on his supporters not to resort to violence, but this is beginning to look s, though, it is moving out of his or other reformist politicians control, as Iranians vent their anger and frustration that has been suppressed by a reactionary regime for 30 years. Once people realise that they can come out on the streets, and video evidence shows that th demonstrators have been holding their own against the armed police and Revolutionary Guards, the fear that encompasses an atomised population can rapidly turn into its opposite.

It is important that Iranian workers use their organisations to establish leadership of he developing movement, and workers, Trade unionsts, and soialist organisations should send them fraternal greetings and support to encourage them in their struggle.