Wednesday 26 August 2009


A couple of week’s ago the Professor of Political Science at Toronto, Ramin Jahanbegloo published an article in the quarterly magazine, Dissent, called ‘Reinventing Stalin in Tehran’. It’s an interesting piece. The Professor compares the show trials of Kian Tajbakhsh and Maziar Bahari, and many others in the hands of the Revolutionary Guard’s regime, to the repressions carried out by Joseph Stalin in the Moscow Trials.

It’s a fair comparison, considering the theatrical nature of these events and the dramatic confessions, of the prisoners in the dock, to plots concocted with foreign enemies of the people. The fact that everybody knows that the victims have been tortured and brutalised into self-incriminating lies is irrelevant. What is wanted is the spectacle of once coherent and intelligent opponents humiliating themselves in the theatre of self-abasement and patent falsehoods. Show trials are just the ticket for a regime intent on imposing a reign of terror and insecurity.

The really important point about the trials in Tehran is, however, missed by Professor Janhanbegloo. Comparisons between Stalin’s regime and that of Ahmadinejad’s are all very well, but the really important comparison is not between Ahmadinejad and Stalin, but between the Green Opposition in Tehran, and the so-called ‘Trotskyite-Bukharinite Fiends’ in Moscow. The central problem for the opposition in Moscow was its commitment to the Party and the Communist state. They were incapable of disentangling themselves from the corrupted verities and pieties of the very regime which they were attempting to reform, indeed they saw reform as crucial to the defence of the revolutionary government; they were in thrall to the very forces that were crushing them.

This is exactly what is wrong with the Green Opposition in Tehran. Most opponents of Ahmadinejad are eager to express their commitment to the “true democratic values of the Islamic Republic”; they are committed to defending the ‘revolutionary gains of 1979’. Unless the opposition break from this absurdity they will condemn themselves to yet another generation of bitter repression and defeat.

Neither Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mohammad Khatami, or Ali Akbar Rafsanjani can lead the democratic struggle because they are wedded to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Until the opposition in Tehran realises that the Islamic Revolution is structurally incapable of ushering in sound economic development and the rule of law, they are doomed to perpetuating the very system that is crushing them.