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The Green Movement and the Myth of Shame of the Middle Class/Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani

Tuesday 10 November 2009, by admin

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Feminist School:A new movement called the “Green Movement†has recently been born in our country. This newborn movement has its own specific demands, its known representatives and ideological leadership, and a vast and specific network of executive forces and activists. It also has certain technological and digital capabilities and its specific mechanisms to connect its members and mobilize them. Considering the creativity and potential of this civil movement in creating “composite characters†, and since its demands are “more general†than other movements such as the women’s, students’, labour and teachers movement, and ethnic minorities, it certainly has the capacity to mobilize a more general public.

Because the civil demands of this movement revolve around the direct relationship between the citizens and the government, in the long run it has this weakness (or potential) to turn violent as a result of injecting or changing its body with revolutionary “objectives†. Although the reality of its structure and nature of its demands, and in particular its anti violence stance taken by its activists, show that this movement, like women’s movement, is a reform movement because it pursues the “civil demands†of broad sections of the population (different layers of the middle class) to have the right to participate in deciding on the ruling administration within the frame work of lawful and civil struggles. This movement took shape by publicizing these demands through the use of peaceful methods and imposing its demands on the government. Therefore, the foundation of this movement and its components make it one of the reform movements, just like the women’s movement.

However, this movement is under threat from two sides; first, it is threatened by radical and extremist groups (right wing extremists) within the ruling circle that are trying to instigate more violence and shut down all breathing windows – by claiming the theory of velvet revolution – and push the Green Movement towards a “revolutionary/overthrowing attitude†which would provide the perfect ammunition for a “total and historical elimination†of the reform movement in the country. The second threat or danger is from another group who would like to impose revolutionary manners on the Green Movement. This group lies outside the ruling circle and incidentally is part of the opposition. The conscious part of this opposition group is a force that, despite the failure of radical revolutions and the costly and violent consequences of the governments that came to power through revolution, still believes that “radical revolution†holds the key to solving the problems in Iran and the entire world. Certainly my remarks are not aimed at this group who is conscious of its objectives.

But another section of this second group, who unknowingly wants to impose their revolutionary ways on the Green Movement and other civil and democratic movements, is the group who does not have a deep and clear understanding of the grave differences between “reformism†and “revolutionarism†. They swing between extremist and revolutionary values (which they think they have parted themselves from) and reformism. Therefore, although they admit logically and in theory that non-violent social movements (such as women’s movement, Green Movement, etc…) could help establish democracy and grow themselves and the society through grassroots movement and within the society with peaceful means, nevertheless they are still under the spell of the inherited revolutionary values. They are suspending in the air. On one hand they want the Green Movement to remain civil and “all-encompassing†and pluralistic and follow the modern methods of struggle, but on the other hand they wish for “a major and up-root change in the entire political system†. If we are really aiming for a “major change in the political structure†, then in practice we cannot strive to keep the modern social movements (such as the Green Movement, women’s and students’ movement, etc…) “all-encompassing†and pluralistic. This is because for a big change like this to happen, we need a unified slogan, one single unified party, one body, and a single and revolutionary ideology, and lastly we would need an obedient nation (along with a leader or leaders who will have to have charismatic authority or iconic character) so that the “political system†could be up-rooted through bloodshed. Meanwhile, to stay as a pluralistic movement and to publicize and fortify its democratic and pluralistic values, imposes certain limitations too, because the goal of these movements is to change constitutional and civic laws and to promote the rights of the citizens in order to achieve civil equality, and all these changes are pursued by way of non-violent actions, and in a gradual and peaceful process. As a result, there would be no need for an obedient nation and a charismatic father, and just like the Green Movement, its activists and supporters are independent individuals, with a variety of aspirations and political and ideological orientations. The presence of horizontal links amongst the activists and flexible networking structures (and countless voluntary and self-founded cells and groups) characterize these movements and keeps them moving forward. The meaning of “structural reforms†in a patriarchal and totalitarian system is nothing but this.

Green Movement and the myth of shame of the middle class

It has been more than a century that the middle class in most of the underdeveloped countries (such as Iran) has been belittled by the insulting propaganda of the “revolutionary left†as being “petit-bourgeois†, “inconsistent†and “equivocal†. Unfortunately such humiliation and propaganda has been stamped so profoundly in the collective memory and soul of this class that in their mind any move has to be blessed by the “callous hands of workers†. We felt this sense of shame in the women’s movement too; if a few female workers were participating in the campaign we felt better and relieved that now the demands of the One Million Signatures Campaign belonged to “all women†, and we therefore could claim the Campaign belonged to “all†and that “we represent all the layers of the people†!?!

This extremely monopolistic and “altogether†view of “a demand has to belong to all†-which believes it must prove that it is legitimate - seems to be another stubborn myth deep down the past political culture of us Iranians, which inevitably has found its way in some layers of the young generation of the Green Movement. This is while the Green Movement (just like the women’s movement), whether proud or shameful, is a movement that belongs to diverse layers of the middle class of the country.

In fact, the step-by-step struggle for the individual and social rights and freedoms and civil equality, has been carried out in most countries by the modern middle class. The demands of the Green Movement, too, are mainly the very immediate demands of the middle class. The active force of this movement - its driving force - is also the modern urban middle class. And finally we see that the heavy price of this civil struggle is being paid by the various layers of the middle class.

Of course this doesn’t mean that other social layers or classes do not play any role in this civil struggle and do not benefit from the demands of this movement. All it means is that the demand for social and individual freedoms is not necessarily the urgent demand of other (oppressed) classes. And even this does not mean that other classes oppose the demands of the middle class, or for instance detest the demand for free elections and elimination of “approbation supervision†; undoubtedly, they benefit from free elections too. Similarly, changing the discriminatory laws which we pursued in the One Million Signature Campaign and in the Coalition of women movement might not be deemed as urgent by the female workers, but we all know that working women will also highly benefit from equality in rights and social status. The issue, in fact, is that not all the classes and groups of people have to gather necessarily, exclusively and definitely under the umbrella of “one demand†that has such a high “priority†for them that they would take part in the social defense front for it, participate in demonstrations and rallies along with millions of various layers of the middle class, and pay dearly for it.

This exclusive and necessitating view stems from the traditional political culture of previous generations, and is influenced by our religious myths (the Unified “Ummah†or nation), as if only those demands are “legitimate†that all classes and particularly “the working and oppressed classes†pursue, and view them as a unifying string, and by hanging on this string, avoid diversity and pluralism. Although this “mass participation†- if it does take place - is a good thing, but if all the people did not participate in it, then this should not discourage the activists in the social movement, and particularly the activists and leadership of the Green Movement and women’s movement. They should not be ashamed of this reality, because the nature and the limits of the modern social movements does not cover the entire country, and does not need to do so.

The modern middle class can courageously distance itself from that historical shame imposed on it, and struggle for its demands, which generally the whole society benefits from, with pride and a real sense of fulfillment (and moral confidence). The modern middle class not only is vigilant and devoted, has weight, and enjoys modern knowledge and morale, but also has unique and advance means and mechanisms to its avail, which enables it to push forward its humanitarian demands peacefully and impose them on the rulers without the participation of other classes, as it has done so far.

In spite of the presence and stubbornness of monopolistic views in our political culture, which tries to bring all social classes under its own hegemony and demands, times have now changed and we Iranians have entered the digital era. In the era of tele-communications and when the world has become a village with billions of different motives, demands and tastes, the “specific demands†of one class or layer of society do not necessarily have to be the demands of “all the people†anymore. The workers or peasants do not necessarily have to repeat the exact same slogans of the urban middle class without thinking. The concept of justice does not have to be defined necessarily like hundred years ago, i.e. “comprehensive and all-embracing†, and then based on such a definition, deem a modern and civil movement incompetent.

To conclude, any modern, demand-driven social movement that is determined to have its demands represent “all people†, after some time and paying the cost of its activity will find out that its decision is practically impossible and not logical, because such a great expectation in such a large scale will force the movement to expand and add to its demands too much in order to attract everybody to the movement. That is, the movement will be forced to swiftly extend its attitude towards an “alternative political regime†. It is clear in advance that this will cause the course of the social movement shift from “demand-driven†to another (previously tried and failed) path. The experience of the contemporary history of our country has time and again proved that in such circumstances “heavy and intolerable responsibilities†are inevitably imposed on the movement and on its leadership. So there will be only two avenues left to take: it is either forced to “destroy†the competition forcibly and remove it from the way, or it will gradually weaken under the heavy large-scale responsibility on its shoulder, will suffer crisis and internal divisions, and eventually will be “destroyed†easily by the on-guard and suppressive competition…So sad!

Source in Persian:http://femschool.ws/spip.php?article3282

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