Iran,  The Left

A Voice from the Past

At last! A Marxist writing about current situation in Iran whose thoughts owe something to the political principles a certain hirsute long-dead German would recognise. 

Dave’s words, isolated and unusual as they are in the contemporary socialist blogosphere, provide a refreshing change to the woeful scribblings of those little people too timid to deviate from the political line defending the clerical state taken by their leader who can – without much in the way of irony – be described as a lackey of one of the world’s only surviving feudal-fascist dictatorships.

Go for it Dave:

Sections of the British left are obviously finding it difficult to orientate themselves to what is happening in Iran right now. But it seem to me that Marxists – well, those of them that actually have read some Marx, anyway – have an excellent ready-made guide to the political dynamics of a situation in which a rabble-rousing right-populist demagogue, basing himself on the poor peasantry and urban déclassé layer, manipulates an electoral process to secure continued political dominance.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon is the work in which Marx comes up with one of his most frequently quoted aphorisms, namely the observation that when history repeats itself, it does so the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.

The events now unfolding on the streets of Tehran are anything but farcical, of course. But elements of the situation are palpably parallel to a process that has been repeated many times before. Although they have no excuse not to know the script by heart, much of the British left is failing to get a handle on the situation.

Some ostensibly leftist MPs stress that Ahmadinejad enjoys substantial backing from the rural poor, for instance. That is true, as far as we can tell. But as Marx notes, Napoleon III also enjoyed the support of the peasantry and the lumpenproletariat. Indeed, if he did secure anything remotely like 7.5m votes, many workers must have voted for him. Yet rightly, Marx does not find this sufficient reason to extend political support to a reactionary.

I’m also bemused that some of those posting on leftwing blogs counter criticisms of Iran as ‘culturally universalist’, the basic idea here being that we in the imperialist heartlands have no right to proffer any criticism of the actions of third world ruling classes, especially where they seem counterposed to the interests of our own ruling classes.

The reality is that Marxism is a culturally universalist doctrine par excellence. Its aim is nothing less than to remake humanity, obliterating all distinctions of class or race or religion. We can argue about whether this is possible or desirable, but that is very clearly what it says on the can.

What does it say about the ostensibly Marxist left these days that so few of its pracitioners have actually read any Marx, or if they have, why they display no apparent sign of understanding what he was trying to get at? Do they use their collected works of Marx as doorstops?

Update: It seems they do. Socialist Workers Party blog Lenin’s Tomb is arguing that if the Western left display any sympathy with the Iranian protesters they are in effect ‘siding with the elite, upper classes, against the working class.’

There’s more: ‘Strange as it may seem to some, these days, Muslims are, probably on average, better at being historical materialist than Western leftists.’

Translation: I haven’t got a clue what historical materialism means but that’s not going to stop me making excuses for the sort of vicious clerical dictatorship Marx (and everyone else in the Nineteenth Century) would have considered belonged squarely in history’s dustbin.

It seems that Gallowegian lickspittleism is still more powerful than anything resembling Marxism even on those sections of the far left which were well and truly shafted by the moustachioed chancer. Too funny.