Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday called for closer economic and security ties with China, saying Iran had never trusted the West, as the two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade more than 10-fold to $600 billion in the next decade.
I recently returned from a six-week trip to Iran. While the primary purpose of my trip was to visit family and friends, I also made some general enquiries into the state of the country’s stagnant economy. These included informal discussions with various strata of economic agents or market players: manufacturers, bankers, shopkeepers, miners, farmers, livestock breeders, workers, teachers, and more. Sadly, most of these economic actors painted pictures of pessimism and distrust of the country’s economic conditions. The economy is mired in a protracted stagflation, with no government plan or macroeconomic policy for recovery. While the Rouhani administration boasts of having contained or slowed down the inflation, the Iranian people do not cherish that tempering of inflation as it has come about at the expense of deepened recession; that is, at the expense of heightened unemployment and weakened purchasing power. As a retired school teacher, who now works as a taxi driver, put it, lowering inflation by worsening recession is no cause for celebration (paraphrased).
Tired of the oppressive financial hardship, wrought largely by the imperialist economic war against Iran, the Iranian people elected Hassan Rouhani president (June 2013) as he promised economic revival. He premised his pledge of economic recovery mainly on his alleged ability to bring the brutal sanctions against Iran to an end and integrate the Iranian economy into world capitalist system. His promise of removing or alleviating sanctions, however, seems to have been based on an optimistic perception that a combination of the so-called charm offensive and far-reaching compromises over Iran’s nuclear technology would suffice to alter the Western powers’ sanctions policy against Iran.
Part 1 of this series described the birth of the nationalist-religious movement in the early 1940s, and its development all the way to 1977. In the present article, I describe the efforts of the nationalist-religious groups and activists between 1977 and 1979. As this article makes clear, the Iran of that era has striking similarities with the country and its state of affairs today.
Beginning with this article, I will describe the history of the nationalist-religious movement, its key figures, and the role that it has played in Iran's modern history. The present article describes the history of the nationalist-religious movement from its inception to the 1979 Revolution. Part 2 will review the work of the nationalist-religious groups since the Revolution. In Part 3, I will look at the lives, thinking, and accomplishments of major nationalist-religious figures.
Despite the critical role that economics play in the ongoing power struggle in Iran, that vital role does not usually receive the attention it deserves in the analyses of the country’s socio-political developments. Instead, most observers of those developments tend to attribute them to purely religious, ideological, or political factors. Yet, it can demonstrably be argued that, for example, Ayatollah Khamenaei, the “supreme religious leader” and his conservative cohorts derive their power more from real vested economic interests than from pure or abstract Islamic principles.
U.S.-Iranian relations of the recent past have been marked by unique and somewhat contradictory developments. While economic interactions between the two countries have been steadily expanding, political relations seem to have deteriorated as the so-called “battle of words” between Washington and Tehran has escalated since Bill Clinton’s arrival to the White House. Such conflicting developments in the areas of economics and politics have, understandably, been quite confusing to observers of the relations between the two countries, and have therefore led to rather divergent, sometimes even diametrically opposed, judgments regarding the future of these relations.
On 3 December 1979, almost one year after Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi left Iran, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran replaced the monarchical constitution of 1906. The new constitution was to guarantee that the monarchy was abolished and the Islamic Republic system of government was enforced in its place. The constitution was to observe the Islamic and the nationalistic aims of the revolution with regard to the demands of a public that came from various social, religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds. Thus the 1979 constitution included differing components, which necessitated the amendments and the modifications that were added to the constitution in 1989.
During July and August 1979 I visited a number of Iranian factories. There I held discussions and interviews with militants and activists of different political hues, and with ordinary working people, about the workers’ councils that have appeared in Iranian factories since the February 1979 revolution. My distinct impression is that large numbers of Iranian industrial workers have been through an extraordinary experience, which no outsider, even the most sympathetic, can record or convey. As far as I can gather, there has been little effort to institutionalize this experience, to generalize from it, or to coordinate activities among the councils of different factories. There seem to have been as many different instances of “workers’ control” as there are factories in Iran. This article cannot substitute for a proper record of these events, now perhaps irretrievably lost, but I hope it can convey a sense of the variety of these experiences, which may be regained at some uncertain point by a successful renewal of the struggle.