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Those damn poor people

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday June 20, 2009 11:53 PM

Here's an interesting item, brutally redacted with scholarly ellipses mostly omitted, from James Petras:

“Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation... Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.” --Financial Times

Western leaders rejected the results because they ‘knew’ that their reformist candidate could not lose.

For months they published daily interviews, editorials and reports from the field ‘detailing’ the failures of Ahmadinejad’s administration; they cited the support from clerics, former officials, merchants in the bazaar and above all women and young urbanites fluent in English, to prove that Mousavi was headed for a landslide victory. A victory for Mousavi was described as a victory for the ‘voices of moderation’, at least the White House’s version of that vacuous cliché.

What is astonishing about the West’s universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count.

As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an immanent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive....

... the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.

.... over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds “comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groups” (Washington Post June 15, 2009).

The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class.

The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.

That about says it all, but the whole piece is well worth reading, in particular for its dissection of the Azeri Gambit.

Comments (16)


I'm not sure Petras really knows. He uses words like "far more numerous", "the bulk of", and "largely" to describe the relative participation of the poor and working class versus the middle, student, professional class. Robert Fisk (in the guardian?) gives a different picture of the demonstrators, seeing equal numbers of poor, women and workers among them.

Michael's basically recommending a skeptical attitude, based on the judgement that the protests are "largely" middle class. I'm skeptical because at this point the picture is changing daily, the supreme Ayatollah seems to have made a mistake, conflicting opinions cancel each other out, and my support doesn't mean a thing to the final outcome.

In times of crisis, leftists have an irresistable urge to say something (we've been bottled up and consigned to irrelevance for SO long!)

Mike Hunt:

I've read that A has strong support outside the cities. That is where the majority of people live. That the rioters are more or less city dwelling Liberals.
If we disregard the CIA, and it has definitely been reported that there is an Iran destabilization plan, and the 134.5 billion dollars in bounds captured in Italy and bound for someone somewhere we see a handful of reactionaries protesting.
A million man march. Substantially less I imagine.
A had 62% last election and about 62% this one.
So how is that rigged?


MK Bhadrakumar's article on Asia Times (Asia Cautions US on Iran, June 20) is the best I've seen so far. He sees the event as an ill-considered and dangerous attempt by the clerics, using Rafsanjani as lead, to counter the erosion of their privilege and authority threatened by Ahmadinejad.

Juan Cole's headline "Tehran Burning" is wildly exaggerated. Reportedly there were only 3,000 people involved in the demo.

I'll go one step farther than hce. I doubt Petras knows.

His reporting is false for one thing. Reports of a coming landslide for Moussavi? Balderdash. Hyperbole isn't social science or reportage.

Petras seems to fancy himself a world scholar. I very much doubt that.

This is also the guy who, despite his occasional sputtering about class analysis, has switched over to contending that a ZPC is running the world.


I note
Pwog Students and professionals don't always remain isolated from their national wage smurfs

Sometimes the people follow
once they see
Enough open space
Hard to imagine quiet desperation
Is only a middle class mood

Of course seeing those euro- yup types out there might just turn the qd
Of a lot of toiling class smurfs
into a
Vengeful god and country mob

We know of this here eh?

The high 60's revolt among blacks and joe college types remained largely
Nixon used
hard hat street theatre
On occasion to a nice media amped effect
And as to the burn baby burn gig
Gub reagan dined out on it


Not all middle class defiance is reactionary
Nor ineffectual
At spreading itself

One thinks of the prc gig vs the east german gig later that same year
A trend may grope all over the planet's landscape from nation to nation feeling for a brake thru point
And along the way
The class content can morph as the grope moves across borders

The state is needless to say crucial
Iran's islamic republic like the prc in 89 and yankville in 68 perhaps still legitimate enough in the eyes of the masses to weather the shake and bake

I take no delight in this ringo starr playing a. Sand dune george wallace
A congenial enough fraud

Prezicating iran
Has become a nasty assignment indeed

To couple him with hugo strikes me as off the beam

The gordon riots


"A trend may grope all over the planet's landscape from nation to nation feeling for a brake thru point And along the way The class content can morph as the grope moves across borders." (OP)

The "Multitude", eh?


Much as I hate to disagree with my old pal Owen, this is one of those occasions. It's a mistake to compare bottom-rail-on-top, chip-on-the-shoulder "populist" movements on the periphery with those in the metropole. The underlying psychic determinants may well be very similar, but the results are likely to be quite different.

Our ZPC theorist quotes the Financial Times (!) to the effect that proles can have either lifestyles or food.

Why this Manichean crap after all these years? I don't get it, or like it, and doesn't that sound rather familiar/Stalinoid?

In any event, I'd wager very heavily that the great ZPC theorist, despite his self-advertising 50-year "ownership" of a vanguard ticket in the class struggle, knows no more about Iran than we pedestrian SMBIVA-vistas do.

I'm with hce: This is a moment for the left to refrain from taking sides, other than the obvious "Hand off Iran" side.

A straight, raw, ball-busting analysis for sure, and one that I'm largely down with -- but an analysis which ignores the larger, more important issue:

Is she hot, or what?

Son of Uncle Sam:

She's hot.. women of the mid east usually remind me of Jedi knights on tatooine....the winds of change hmmmm....think she's into gentrification?!

Michael Hureaux:

I'm not so sure all of this is going to unfold one way or the other in such a brief period of time. There were probably hundreds of thousands of people out at these demonstrations, I'm not convinced they were all just English speaking, middle class hangers on. And like Mike D. here, I'm not so sure it's an either/or question. This week may not have been about the pre-revolutionary struggles in Iran the ISO and Alan Woods and others thought it was, but something's shifting over there, and it seems as though it's too early to tell just exactly what it is.


I really liked this article by Jews sans frontieres' Gabriel Ash. lenin has also been good on this. Yoshie, not so much.


What was wrong with my comment?


Nothing at all was wrong with your comment, StO, except that you might have used the "preview" option and forgotten to type in Hillary's name again. An irritating limitation of the software I'm using.

I found it and tried to fix it. If it still hasn't shown up, contact me directly and I'll try again.


For some reason my last comment didn't go through though I did get a confirmation message.

I just wanted to point out that the flag she is waving is the flag of Iran under the Shah, and not the modern Iranian flag.


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