It is fortunate for the Iranian regime that it has a loyal network of supporters outside its borders, prepared to defend it against the “terrorists” as the Iranian opposition are now known. Some of the most outspoken defenders are not, as one might expect, brother clerics but… people on the “liberal” and “socialist” left.
The Morning Star was ready to quote approvingly the words of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, quick to welcome Ahmadinejad’s re-election. According to Chavez it was a win “for all people in the world and free nations against global arrogance."
However, the Morning Star is under other pressures too. It felt a need to be evasive, or in its own words, “dialectical”. “Labour movement activists in Britain have to take a more dialectical approach than simply standing four-square with the theocratic regime or its imperialist adversaries.”
George Galloway was deliberately credulous. Yes, the Iranian elections were not only free and fair but much more democratic than UK elections!
“More than 85 per cent of the electors turned out to vote — compared with 35 per cent in our own elections recently. That’s nearly 40million Xs on ballot papers.
“This massive exercise took place without trouble of any kind — the polling stations were kept open longer than required to facilitate the huge lines of people outside. “ And so he went on, and on, and on...
Seamus Milne, writing in the Guardian on 18 June, was both credulous and confused.
Milne equates the movement against Ahmadinejad with the “supporters of Winston Churchill” after the Second World War, opposing the introduction of the welfare state under Clement Attlee. Similarly, he says, the Iranian opposition ignore the wishes of the masses of Iran and are irrational in their belief that the election is fixed.
Milne choses to echo the words of the Supreme Leader: “It is hard to believe that rigging alone could account for the 11 million-vote gap between the main contenders.” Only hard to believe it you badly want to defend the Iranian regime, perhaps.
Milne admonishes the western media for failing to acknowledge “the other Ahmadinejad”, the one “who is seen to stand up for the country’s independence, expose elite corruption on TV and use Iran’s oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority…” Milne’s spin is that Mousavi stands for the market forces ravaging the lives of the Iranian people and Ahmadinejad stands for a welfare state (like Clement Attlee perhaps?!)
The facts are so much more complicated than this. Ahmadinejad does not stand against “market freedoms”. It’s just that he would like to see a particular layer in the capitalist class (one which he can “network” with) enriched. The government’s handing out of subsidies has been partial, ideologically driven and not systematic. It has been more about ensuring social stability than social justice. Ahmadinejad is no friend of the workers, especially of those workers who want to organise trade unions. They have been locked up and persecuted.
For Milne — and he is right enough on this — the split in the regime is about differences over how to respond to Obama and new diplomatic overtures from Washington. For Milne, behind the diplomacy lies a ratcheting up of conflict in the Middle East and a recasting of “occupation”. Above all, Milne’s assessment satisfies his need to put the boot into “imperialism” — as there can be nothing in the world worse than US influence, and anyone at odds with the USA must be at least relatively good.
It means preposterously boosting Ahmadinejad. How can such a toxic point of view possibly help us make solidarity with the people who are now getting beaten in Iranian jails, and now being hauled before special courts to be tried as traitors of to the Islamic Republic?