With the kind of brutal logic of which often only dictators are capable, Stalin once said: “He who casts the vote decides nothing. He who counts the vote decides everything.”
How many democratic elections since he uttered those words have borne out the truth contained in them? For despite the massive propaganda the world has been subjected to since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, designed to hammer home the dominance and moral superiority of western-style democracy as the only system of government worth having, a system in which the people vote for their government every four years in open and transparent elections, with contending candidates of different parties putting forward their manifestoes, the fact remains that the only democracy truly worthy of the name is popular revolution.
What is taking place in Iran may be, just may be, the continuation of the 1979 revolution, taking the process begun with the toppling of the Shah to its logical conclusion in a society around which a religious straitjacket has prevented the aspirations of the people for social and economic justice being fully realised.
Conversely, we could be witnessing the first stirrings of counter-revolution, in which a new generation of western-leaning, educated youth, in conjunction with a wide layer of Iran’s denuded middle class, have grown weary of their relative isolation and role as bulwark against US imperialism. Perhaps they aspire to the consumer, Hollywood-inspired lifestyles of the West? After all, the cultural imperialism led by Hollywood is not to be underestimated in its ability to promote western values of the self realisation and eternal happiness to be found in the shopping mall? Indeed, who could argue that in this regard this method of persuasion is far more effective than any number of Apache Helicopters and Hellfire missiles? Perhaps they just want to exist without the threat of war hanging over their heads? Moreover, perhaps it’s a combination of both or none of the aforementioned at all?
At this point it is impossible to know with any degree of certitude what is happening in Iran. News pictures of mass demonstrations in support of both sides are tempered by the distinctly anti-regime nature of the coverage and commentary thus far. For example, apart from a brief interview with a representative from Press TV on Newsnight last night, we’ve yet to hear or read any substantive interviews or opinions from an Ahmadinejad supporter on the nature of the current crisis. Surely such an omission can’t merely be put down to the inability of the news media to find them, as there are millions of Ahamdinejad supporters in Iran? And more than a few of those, we are entitled to expect, will no doubt be able speak English. And I just don’t buy the notion that the tens of thousands of people who’ve come out to attend pro-Ahamdinejad rallies and demonstrations have been forced out by the government-sponsored militias. The rallies on both sides are far too big to make that feasible or realistic proposition either. And what of the rest of the country? Up to now there’s been little if any news from other parts of the country outwith Tehran.
Meanwhile, the latest from Obama is that he has no intention of meddling in Iran’s internal affairs. The fact is, he’s probably had more of an impact on Iran’s internal affairs in just the few short months of his presidency than every US administration has since Mossadegh was toppled in the joint US and British coup which ushered in a decades long, brutal dictatorship under the Shah. Obama’s speech from Cairo recently, platitudes and insincere attempt to assume the role of honest broker aside, sent a tremor to the heart of every regime in the region, including Israel. The result has been a sense of people filled with hope in response and leaders frantically attempting to adjust to the lofty rhetoric of change, a new beginning and the mea culpas which have fallen from the President’s lips in every foreign policy speech he’s made.
But make no mistake, the need for economic hegemony demanded by the US economy remains every bit a driver of the foreign policy of the Obama administration as it was under Bush and the neocons. The only difference is in method, with Obama walking the well trodden path of previous Democrat administrations in adopting a multilateral approach towards the same objective.
The election of Obama as US president was based on his promise to change tact both domestically and internationally, a result of the inability of the US military, and its Israeli proxy, to break the Arab resistance after six years of brutal war and occupation. This impacted US society at home in spiralling debt and the entrenchment of social and economic justice to an extent unparalleled since the 19th century.
Despite the prevalence of dictatorial regimes throughout the Middle East, for obvious reasons this is the most politicised region in the world, where politics bubbles under the surface of everyday life in ways we in the West would find difficult to comprehend. The tension produced acts as a centrifugal force, threatening to burst asunder to unleash years and years of pent up anger and frustration. Exactly such an unleashing of anger has taken place in Iran, with spontaneous demonstrations of tens of thousands of people erupting in response to a contested election result. You only need compare this to the apathy of the American people which met the constitutional coup d’etat which ushered in the Bush administration back in 2000 to get an idea of how politicised the region is.
As for Mousavi, if I were him I wouldn’t be salivating at the prospect of the Presidency just yet. As a pillar of the establishment, who can bet that if this outpouring of anger continues it won’t overtake him and begin to breach the very foundations of the Islamic Republic itself?
In which direction such a development might lead at this moment in time is anybody’s guess. Right now, all that anybody can say with any certainty is that those foundations are starting to look very shaky indeed.