Crisis in the Iranian Ruling Class

Everything that had been planned by the Iranian state, prior to the disputed election of 2009, seems to be falling apart. As a result the power struggle among factions of the ruling class has been intensifying on an almost daily basis. There is no end to it. The split between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad came more obviously to the public’s attention when Ayatollah Khamenei reinstated the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, whose “resignation” was accepted by Ahmadinejad a few days earlier. Apparently, approval of intelligence appointments by Khamenei, has been an established procedure which all previous Presidents had followed.

Ahmadinejad reacted by staying at home, not reporting to his office for eleven days in tacit protest. He only returned to his office once the MPs signed the petition for impeachment of the President with the implicit encouragement of Khamenei.

However, the battle intensified between Ahmadinejad and Iran’s judiciary as the arrest of his close allies, charged with sorcery and witchcraft, began! Then he hit back by saying in an interview:

I will hold myself responsible for defending the cabinet … the cabinet is a red line and if they want to touch the cabinet, then defending it is my duty.

Guardian Friday 1 July 2011

The following weeks witnessed a further escalation in the war of words:

Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, said in a recent interview that the responsibility for dealing with a “deviant current” (the term used for those around President Ahmadinejad’s by his opponents) is with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He added that the Revolutionary Guards will participate in setting the criteria and conditions for holding parliamentary and other elections in the future (2).

As the tightening got worse and more of his allies were arrested, Ahmadinejad hit back again in the following statement in a conference on “The new strategies in preventing and combating smuggling and currency fraud” which was censored by the Iranian official media,

Between 55 to 60 billion cigarettes are consumed in Iran which is equivalent of two billion dollars. This figure tempts the first class traffickers, let alone our own “smuggler brothers” (3)!

This was a hint about the Revolutionary Guard’s involvement in illegal activities.

The Revolutionary Guard’s involvement in smuggling goods goes back as far as the establishment of the Islamic Republic itself. The fact that the Revolutionary Guard have been in charge of many entry points to the country which are exempt from customs duties and smuggles illegal alcohol, cigarettes, cosmetic goods …etc. are all well known to the great majority of Iranians, so he was not revealing anything new except that he was warning his “smuggler brothers” not to push it too far.

The following statement by Parviz Sarvari, member of the Parliament’s Commission of National Security sheds further light on the nature of the dispute:

...the problem that we witness, is the activity of a deviant current which has been preparing the ground for the upcoming elections much earlier than March 2011. This may even go back 3 years when the deviant current started to hold its meetings to announce their policies and began to organize their campaigns (4).

From both statements by the Revolutionary Guards and the one above, it appears that in general the issue of controlling and manipulating the upcoming parliamentary election in March 2012 is central to both factions.


Focussing on the election is not limited to the current factions in power. The main two camps, conservatives and the reformists, led by Khamenei and Rafsanjani, are trying to settle their differences through the upcoming parliamentary election and have come up with a formula for power-sharing to repair the damage that the state suffered following the 2009 disputed election. (for further information see Revolutionary Perspectives 51 2009) But they are facing two major problems; first the presence of the element of distrust among themselves, which may well require both camps to make some sacrifices/changes in their personnel and structure and put their house in order by calming down their “extreme elements” or else just to get rid of them, so the ground for re-establishing the trust of each other is prepared, without either camp losing face. The reformist camp has taken the necessary steps in this direction. Despite having their two leaders under house arrest and hundreds of their activists in prison, Khatami recently summed up this as such:

If injustice has been done, which has been done, let’s pardon each other and look for the future, if the Islamic Republic and its leader have been have been oppressed then for the sake of the future, it could be forgiven and the Iranian nation will forgive the injustice that has been done to its children (5).

The second problem is how to regain public trust in election and preferably by creating yet another hyped up election atmosphere, as they did in 2009. No one is more tuned in on this than Rafsanjani:

I believe that mutual trust between people, political activists and the media with the Islamic Republic, will solve the problems -- and he added that... -- in the current situation of the country, I do not know of any other alternative to the Islamic Republic of Iran and to its supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei (6).

Furthermore, the election dispute in 2009, has made all elements of the ruling class more aware of the potential existence of a revolutionary movement, capable of questioning the Islamic Republic as a whole. So the one major element that pushes them to unite is saving the Islamic Republic, on which all of them depend. In every case it will all be under Khamenei’s leadership albeit with a reduction of his power. This will allow the ruling class to prepare for the post Khamenei period too, possibly in the form of a collective/selected leadership which Rafsanjani has been tacitly promoting for a while. This has been further galvanised by the recent uprisings in other countries in the region. This has made “free elections” more possible, which as a result may ease international pressure too. It will also help both camps concerns regarding the role of the army in the political process.

Addressing Revolutionary Guards’ personnel Khamenei said

This is a time when a deviant current stands against the revolution (7) in order to suppress the revolution ... as happened in the 2009 events, on other occasions, the move it is not about toppling the government, and thus probably it is about differences of opinion and different tactics. They should be kept in low profile. To ignite this type of disagreement is harmful (8).

This general tendency towards resolving differences through the parliament at the same time manoeuvring to have the upper hand in controlling different institutions, such as parliament, the ministry of intelligence...etc., despite a war of words and hostile posturing, seems to be establishing itself even for the loose elements like Ahmadinejad.

In his recent interview he said:

The members of my government are there to serve the public without expectation of any rewards, just as a servant and whenever the time for serving is up, they will be set aside, however they will not waste a second in carrying out their duties (9).

The real split among the ruling class, which has shaken the whole state to its marrow and has resulted in fighting amongst all the bourgeois factions, is of a temporary and reactionary nature. Almost certainly they will be united against the working class soon or later. Their fight perhaps could be summed up by an old Iranian proverb

When the carriage horses get to the top of the hill, out of breath they bite and turn to kick each other.

Whilst they are kicking each other, under the grave weight of the current economical crisis, however, they will carry on their business as usual to prepare and present the same old status quo as a new alternative.

The Alternative

Their business is to prepare the ground for the next elections. In other words, along the way, all of the ruling factions and the opposition, including the Green movement are gearing up to mobilize for the coming election in 6 months time. Along this path, each faction and opposition group will play with their specific cards. Some will use the religious card, referring to verses of the holy book to endorse their policy.

Others will use the nationalist card, with references to Cyrus, his justice and the great Persian Empire! Some will use the suffering of their “prisoners”. Prison notes and poems will be circulated in ceremonial gatherings to introduce the living “heroes” as our saviours. All to maintain the focus of attention on the various bourgeois agenda; election, civil disobedience....etc And they will receive support from their global partners such as the IMF which had this to say on the targeted subsidies plan, the very plan that has pushed so many of the working class families below the poverty line.

The mission commended the authorities for the early success in the implementation of their ambitious subsidy reform program. The increases in prices of energy products, public transport, wheat, and bread adopted on December 19, 2010, are estimated to have removed close to US$60 billion (about 15 percent of GDP) in annual implicit subsidies to products.

Press Release No. 11/228, June 13, 2011

But their plan is only one possible scenario. The second possible scenario which will dismantle all their plans is the working class’ arrival on the scene.


Against all their manoeuvres, despicable appeals for leader’s mercy... and all the usual nonsense on religion, nationalism etc., the working class has its own card to play, the class struggle. The presence of the current crisis, which has reduced the living condition of millions of the working class families to an unbearable level is still pushing the ruling class to come up with more austerity plans, such as the recent subsidies plan (for more details see Revolutionary Perspectives No. 57), the high level of unemployment etc. show.

This has left no other choice for the working class but to revive the class struggle.

The presence of hundred thousands of protesters in the streets, from Syntagma to Al Tahrir square, to streets in Spain, Tunisia... is not only a testimony to parliamentarism’s dead end, but it is also testimony to the global nature of the crisis.

As the austerity plans in Greece, UK, Spain, Italy... manifests the world capitalist united action against the working class, so the response can only be united world working class resistance. The formation of the political organization which deals with the root causes of the crisis, with the anti-revolutionary nature of reformism and the limitation of street protests, is the first step in raising the flag of working class resistance.

Damoon Saadati

(1) jul/01/iran-state-tv-censorsahmadinejad-speech

(2) f7_alireza_nader_commentary_on_ahmadinejad_vs_revolutionary_ guard/24268086.html

(3) jLRhk

(4) pages/?cid=36713


(6) iran/2011/05/110516_l17_khatami.shtml

(7) The word ‘revolution’ in the official language in Iran is taken as synonymous with the Islamic Republic.

(8) f11_iran_postelection_ahmadinejad_nes_statement/24261798.html

(9) pr/2011/pr11228.htm