This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, an event dubbed by Christopher Hitchens as simultaneously a revolution and a counter-revolution. The leftists and others who threw their lot in with the clerical leaders of the rebellion to depose the Shah soon found they had made a mistake, for they were among the first to be suppressed when Ayatollah Khomeini took power.
Whether liberal regime change in Iran comes from internal opposition or external force, we in the west, not to mention the Iranian opposition, must be prepared to face the real risk of religious extremists and ancien régime forces slaughtering and oppressing Iranians who dare to vote freely and speak openly, as happened in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Much of the liberal-left abandoned the trade unionists and socialists of Iraq after Saddam’s ousting, preferring instead to attack American policy (not always wrongly, of course), and in some cases openly supported al-Qaeda and the Baathists- far-right fascists, racists, and theocrats euphemistically referred to by the media as ‘insurgents’ or as a ‘resistance’. If the left is ever to recover from this shame it must realise that western democracies are not the root of all evil in the world and that poorer countries are just as capable of producing fascism which must be opposed on first principles as the west is.
In previous articles for this series, I have outlined some of the history of Iran, discussed some of its dissident movements, and criticised western foreign policy and the betrayals and failures of much of the western left, stemming from its cultural relativism, which has led to its tacit support for fascistic theocracy. There is, of course, much more to this subject than what I have been able to discuss, and I urge readers to seek out further information and arguments.
The Iranian regime is an odious one, as I hope to have shown, whose tentacles extend far beyond its nation’s borders; not least with its funding of international terrorism and its assassinations of exiles. The regime’s nuclear aims are just cause for concern. It is not merely sabre-rattling or warmongering for the west to be concerned by the possibility of nuclear-armed clerical fanatics.
Most of all, the regime is a burden on the people of Iran. Women are imprisoned for shunning the hijab. Secularists are oppressed by theocratic tyranny. Members of the opposition are tortured, killed, or exiled. Gay men are executed- using the word ‘odious’ to describe the regime is something more than an understatement.
Also indescribably awful are the hypocritical and cynical actions of western governments down the years, and the abandonment of the western left of their formerly cherished principles of internationalism and solidarity for the vacuous doctrines of cultural relativism and upside-down anti-imperialism.
Blinded by hatred of the west the left cannot see the good about western democracy and cannot bring itself to unequivocally condemn non-western tyrannies because any enemy of capitalism or American ‘hegemony’ must therefore also be an ally, even if that enemy is fascist and tyrannical.
That grand master of crankery Michel Foucault represented the worst of the modern left when he dismissed the Iranian regime’s abuses because Iran had a different ‘regime of truth’ than ours. In other words, non-western people must be sacrificed on the pious altar of cultural relativism. That this condemns millions of Muslims, for example, to oppression and injustice does not seem to worry many on the left, nor does it seem to strike them as disguised racist condescension.
While we must be mindful of the abuses of western military power we must also not forget that there are many decent, intelligent, secular and liberal-minded people in and outside Iran, who yearn for the day when their country can be free- and, for reasons given in this series, it does not seem too much to hope that the regime will not live to see its fiftieth anniversary and that Iran will once more be a beacon of civilisation. It is imperative that those Iranians are supported in whatever future circumstances arise.
I shall sign off by annexing an old leftist slogan which is the main argument of these articles on Iran at its most succinct: ‘Death to fascism, freedom to the people!’ This outcome is what the Iranian opposition and many Iranian people desire, and it is one I wish more people in the west, particularly people on the left, would support wholeheartedly.