Iran and public opinion

Published on World Socialist Web Site WSWS, by Barry Grey and David North, 27 June 2009.

The World Socialist Web Site receives scores of letters each week which reflect a broad range of views—from the warmly supportive to the ferociously hostile. They all are read with interest. Occasionally we receive letters—whether supportive or hostile—that strike us as particularly significant because they express with exceptional clarity a definite and broadly-based political and social outlook.

Following the publication of the Perspective column of June 25, entitled “International issues in the Iranian crisis,” we received two such letters from one correspondent which angrily denounced our coverage of Iranian developments. The Perspective to which he objected examined the power struggle in Iran within the context of the long and bloody involvement of the United States in the affairs of that oppressed country. We explained the critical interests that underlay the massive propaganda campaign unleashed in the American media following the election … 

… Of course, it is possible, and we certainly hope, that our critic, when he takes time to reflect on developments, will reconsider his position. But, quite independently of this individual, there is no question that substantial sections of the former liberal-left have moved sharply to the right, and the Iranian crisis is providing the occasion for a vociferous repudiation of old political commitments. The roots of this phenomenon lie in real social processes, related to the extreme polarization of class relations in all the major capitalist countries. This polarization is being further exacerbated by the global economic crisis.

Over a period of decades, the middle-class layers that dominated reformist, liberal and even “radical” organizations have seen their economic position and social status improve. They have grown complacent and satisfied, to the extent that their own complaints have been taken care of.

Their political outlook has become dominated by identity and what might be called “life-style” politics. This is one of the reasons why middle-class public opinion is so easily drawn to the protests of well-attired men and women in Tehran, whose social attitudes seem, at least on the surface, to be so close to its own. The growth of a significant level of social egotism within wealthier sections of the middle class has occurred at the same time that the living standards and social position of the working class have undergone a drastic decline.

Over time, these layers have grown increasingly remote and alienated from the working class, to the point of overt hostility. This has been reflected in numerous commentaries in the “left” press disparagingly comparing the “backward” and “devout” workers in Iran with the educated and economically better-off sections of professionals, businessmen and students who form the social base of the opposition.

What does this signify? The opposition to imperialism now shifts more directly and openly to the only consistently revolutionary force on the planet—the international working class. In Iran and internationally, the fundamental political task is the building of the independent revolutionary socialist movement of the working class.

The collapse of the liberal and ex-radical “left” is an unmistakable harbinger of the reemergence of the working class and the advent of a new period of class convulsions on a world scale. (full long text).

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