The Mousavi campaign in Iran and the lessons of past color revolutions

Published on Global, by Niall Green, July 5, 2009.

The political movement of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, named the Green Wave due to its campaign color, has striking parallels with the US-backed color revolutions in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

Like the campaigns to bring to power pro-US regimes in Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004), the campaign around Mousavi has been backed by powerful sections of the Iranian establishment and supported by Washington, the US media and the European powers. As in Tehran, better-off layers of the urban middle classes dominated the large opposition protests in Tbilisi and Kiev.

In the absence of a socialist alternative, the masses of Iranian workers and poor voted for the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has built a base of support among them by adopting a populist persona, denouncing corruption within the clerical elite, and providing a measure of social welfare assistance. The working class remained aloof from the anti-Ahmadinejad protests, seeing nothing to support in the pro-market policies of Mousavi …

… The counterrevolutionary history of US imperialism’s involvement in Iran, from the CIA-backed overthrow in 1953 of the elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh, to its support for the brutal dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlavi, to its sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic, has prevented the Obama administration from adopting as open a position of support for Mousavi as it did in previous “color revolutions.”

This necessity for a somewhat more subtle US government intervention that would not undermine popular support for Mousavi has been reflected in President Obama’s more muted rhetoric on the election outcome and protests. However, Washington does not play a passive role in Iranian politics. US Special Forces have operated deep within Iran for several years, according to veteran American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, and only the most naïve would believe that US intelligence agencies do not have extensive contacts in Iran, including within ruling circles.

The main role in backing the opposition around Mousavi has fallen to the US media, and to a lesser extent the governments of Europe. The New York Times, CNN, the Nation magazine, etc. have utilized allegations of voter fraud in an effort to bring about a change of government in a country seen as vital to the interests of their national bourgeoisie.

While some vote rigging may have taken place, no evidence has been presented to support Mousavi’s claim, uncritically taken up by the US media, that he defeated Ahmadinejad, while for Mousavi and his powerful Iranian backers, claims of a rigged election serve as a means to advance their position in a policy struggle within the Iranian bourgeoisie.

The first point of dispute is not democracy in Iran, but the clerical regime’s relations with Washington. Even here, the differences are of a tactical, rather than a principled, nature. Ahmadinejad and his main backer, supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, also seek to strike a deal with US imperialism. The Iranian regime has cooperated with Washington in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, using anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric primarily to boost its “anti-imperialist” credentials domestically.

Mousavi and the sections of the elite behind him see this rhetoric as a stumbling block to normalized relations with Washington. They also seek to open up the Iranian economy to Western capital by privatizing state-owned industries and ending subsidies, a policy that threatens the interests of weaker sections of Iranian business, such as the bazaar merchants who formed a major base of support for the 1979 revolution and who remain a strong constituency for the Islamic Republic.

Faced with severe difficulties in the Iranian and world economy, both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi would support the imposition of austerity measures on the working class. The “reformer” Mousavi no less than the “hardliner” Ahmadinejad would meet with utmost brutality an upsurge in the struggles of the Iranian working class, who are struggling under rampant inflation, shortages, unemployment and restrictions on democratic rights. No section of the bourgeoisie can realize the social and democratic aspirations of the Iranian masses. That can be achieved only by a politically independent movement of the Iranian working class on the basis of a socialist and internationalist perspective. (full long text).

(Global Research Articles by Niall Green).

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