A number of Rouhaniʹs policies are carried out in the name of moderation and adjustment: changes in labour law, bank loan conditions and housing programmes; the employment plan; the introduction of tuition at universities and remaking of curricula. But they are in fact brimming with radicalism, a plot to conserve and entrench class divides.

A controlled parliamentary democracy along neoliberal lines is the preferred political mode of the age and the instrument of its advancement is a weakening of the role of the human sciences and a removal of all intellectuals – save for free-market economists – from the circle of major decision-making.

Workers protest against labour laws in Tehran (photo: ILNA)
Resistance to legislation that disadvantages workers and facilitates wage dumping: Iran is no stranger to local strikes and people demonstrating over factory closures or unpaid wages. Taking to the streets in such a strictly monitored country like Iran is however very risky. Not only do the security forces take a dim view of unauthorised protests, those who participate could end up facing long prison sentences

Given such conditions, what we see unfolding in the streets of Iranʹs smaller, poorer cities should come as no surprise. We read in Hobbes that if people are sufficiently scared, they will do anything. A kind of fear that works more strongly than anything else: a collective fear which manifests itself in situations of collapse. Poverty, corruption, earthquakes, a polluted environment and other calamities are stoking the fears of Iranian society.

The recent events are not at all unexpected, in fact. Iranʹs deprived classes have spoken of their fears long ago: in small street protests, in their demonstrations and occupations before the parliament, factories.

Of protesters and agitators

Various political and social movements in Iran have, as in other countries, been labelled "subversive protestors (or agitators)" intent on undermining public security through the destruction of public property and other disturbances. We should recall that the principal agitation and disturbance is in fact to be found at the level of our collective life. The true agitators are the mechanisms and actors who have, through their conduct and policies, thrown our common collective life into chaos, leaving it reeling: the powerful, leaders of the major economic and cultural monopolies, and all who have helped implement the economic programme of social immiseration.

The protests are the outcome of circumstance and nothing else, e.g., the meddling of a foreign enemy. The efforts of both wings of Iranian politics to justify their ignorance and fear of protestors with charges of "agitation" and working for a foreign power, will disillusion their last hope. "Reform" means being answerable to the current situation – not denying it.

Amin Bozorgian

© Open Democracy 2018

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Comments for this article: It's the economy, stupid!

It is a good short piece. Surprised to find on the mainstream Qantara.

Nadim09.03.2018 | 11:38 Uhr