Regime crisis and the new conservatives

Ardeshir Mehrdad and Mehdi Kia, co-editors of Iran Bulletin-Middle East Forum, look at the Islamic Republic's prospects for survival following the victory of an ultra-conservative in June's presidential election

The recent presidential elections in Iran was won by Mahmood Ahmadinejad, an unknown conservative military commander. His victory was surprising, as many had predicted Hashemi Rafsanjani would become Iran's next president. Rafsanjani, perhaps the second most powerful man in the Islamic Republic, was supported by a broad coalition of reformists and pragmatist elites. The shock of this victory may partly explain the crude nature of some of the analyses that followed. Even more striking is the failure to address the deeper causes and background to this event, and to analyse its consequences. This article is an effort to address these issues. Background In the Islamic Republic, elections, including presidential ones, are fundamentally undemocratic, tightly controlled processes. The law deprives many citizens, such as women, religious minorities (including non-shi'ite muslims) and political opponents of the religious state, from standing for president. This is enforced in practice by the unlimited power of the Council of Guardians, an all-powerful, 12-man committee appointed by the 'supreme leader' and given veto rights on elections and laws that in their view are incompatible with islam. This council has consistently rejected anyone it considers unsuitable from the point of view of the ruling circles. In the latest election only eight out of over 2,000 candidates were allowed to go on the ballot paper - and even here the two reformist candidates, Mostafa Moin (minister of higher education in the outgoing government) and Mehralizadeh were only reinstated after serious protest. Those sections of the state that are up for periodic elections, including the presidency, are in general of secondary importance in the power structure. The system revolves round an unelected central core, headed by a supreme leader, the vali-e-faqih, with truly unlimited powers. It is here that all major decisions are made - especially so after the death of ayatollah Khomeini and his replacement by ayatollah Khamenei. The presidency and the administration have ultimately an executive responsibility - or, as the outgoing president, Mohammad Khatami, puts it, they "play the role of a footman". Yet because of the faction-ridden nature of the ruling elites, the individual in charge of the executive becomes important, since this appointment could effect the distribution of public resources and to some extent the ability of the entire state structure to function. Hence control of elected organs, and the presidency in particular, are also hotly contested, and subject to intense bargaining, among the various factions. This contest is particularly acute at times when the internal crisis of the regime is intensified and when the normal bargaining processes are unable to reach a consensus. 'Elections' in such conditions become a mechanism for the reallocation of power, where factions test their respective electoral legitimacy. Until the June election, the normal practice in the Islamic Republic was for all the factions to observe the rules of an in-house democratic game. After the initial weeding process by the Council of Guardians, the power centres did not intervene in favour of one or other candidate outside the 'legal framework' or, more accurately, did not undermine too explicitly legal appearances. What distinguishes the latest election is that for the first time the rules of the democratic game among the regime's various factions have been openly flouted. Manufacturing votes, has always been common practice - whether through stuffing ballot boxes or miscounting this or that voting booth in favour of a particular candidate. The Council of Guardians has frequently declared null and void votes cast for certain candidates. Finally the overall number of votes cast in elections is always massaged. This is a way to claim greater legitimacy among the voting public for the entire system. This fraud, however, always took place by common consent among the factions, supposedly without damaging the electoral prospects of one candidate or another. What is totally unprecedented is what took place in June. The world witnessed structural, nationwide and highly organised deception, led from the apex of the pyramid of power in favour of one candidate that took not just the world, but a large section of Iran's ruling elite, by surprise. The shape and scope of this scheme was such that it would not be an exaggeration to state that Ahmadinejad, a commander in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, took over the presidential palace through a bloodless coup. In the second round the 1.5-million members of the Basij militia were each instructed to bring 10 persons to vote. Revolutionary Guard commander Zolqadr, addressing a large meeting of the Basij, said: "In the complex political situation "¦ we had to act in a complex way, and the principled forces, thanks be to Allah, through correct and multi-layered planning, were able to get the support of the majority of the people in a tight and real competition "¦" (Sharq July). These elections were also held at a time of unprecedented developments in the region. As far as the Middle East is concerned, Iran is in a very strong position, mainly thanks to the military interventions of its long term 'foes', the United States and Britain. To the east, the Taliban regime (with whom it nearly went to war in the late 1990s) is defeated, and many of Iran's allies are back in power as regional warlords, such as the governor of Herat province in western Afghanistan under the pro-Iran warlord, Haji Ismail Khan. However, Iran's main international success has been achieved in Iraq. Without firing a single shot, they have seen not only the removal of Saddam's secular Ba'athist regime - a neighbour they hated more than Israel and the US - but the coming to power of their protégés, the shia parties and the militias of the Islamic Daawa (the Iraqi occupation prime minister's party) and other major parties in the shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which shares power with the Kurdish PUK and KDP. All are organisations well known for getting military, financial and political support from Iran since the 1980s. This, together with chaos created by military occupation, is part of the reason why the Islamic regime in Iran felt confident enough to take unprecedented risks in these elections. As a result of this election, for the first time in the life of the Islamic Republic, virtually every organ and institution of power, electable or otherwise, has come under the complete control of the conservatives. It would appear on the surface that political power is now homogeneous and concentrated at the apex of the regime, in the hands of its supreme leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, there is evidence that the coup d'état that was carried out under the guise of elections was not just directed against reformists, or leading candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani, but against the majority of the existing groupings in the ruling oligarchy. There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad and his supporters belong to the conservative wing of the ruling bloc. However, among the various conservative circles, Ahmadinejad, in particular belongs to groups that have been named 'radical new conservatives'. He was one of the founders of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (abadegaran) and Devotees (isar-garan). Over the last few years, encouraged and supported by the supreme leader, these groups have been taking root, predominantly in the security police and military organs. They espouse populist islamist and value-based slogans that distinguish them from the other conservatives. It is also clear that in the pre-election bargaining of the various ultra-conservative factions, Ahmadinejad was not acceptable to all - the conservatives went into the elections with four candidates. As a result of the June election, for the first time in a quarter of a century a military man, rather than a mullah, takes over as head of the executive. This almost completes the trend of military-security control of the main organs of state, which began at the end of the Iran-Iraq war, and has gained momentum over the past eight years. This trend began in the municipal council elections when the abadegaran took many towns and cities two years ago and was consolidated when they went on to control the majles (parliament). The point cannot be overemphasised that this is an entirely new and qualitative change, one that could have a decisive influence on the relation between barracks and mosque in a theocracy. The open interference by the supreme leadership apparatus in the 'elections', the key role of the military and paramilitary apparatus in shaping and organising the vote, and ultimately the coming to power of the populist new conservatives were contrary to the norms in the present political culture. Not surprisingly they gave rise to an unprecedented wave of protest from among the ruling elite. Such behaviour can undoubtedly upset the line-ups within the regime and leadership apparatus, and specifically further isolate Ali Khamenei. It can weaken his position among the clerical oligarchy, which for nearly three decades has held real power. It is not beyond the bounds of imagination that the Assembly of Experts (elected every eight years from among senior clergy and defined as those with "knowledge and wisdom"), despite being controlled by conservatives, will question Khamenei's suitability to continue as leader - among the role of the Assembly of Experts is to elect the velayate faqih. Rafsanjani's recent proposal to replace the supreme leader with a Council of Leadership could well be taken up seriously with the support of other influential clerics. Why the coup? The 9th presidential election marked a stage where the crises engulfing the regime and the solutions that could harness these crises were simultaneously played out in an aggressive struggle for power. It took place at a time when the existence of the regime was seriously threatened from three directions. At home the regime is fast approaching a crisis of control, increasingly isolated and assaulted by a general wave of disaffection and protest. Meanwhile the regional and global noose is tightening in pursuit of Bush's project of 'regime change'. Finally within the regime the factional splits and quarrels have made it impossible for the ruling elites to make decisive changes and act in a united way. These crises, of course, have structural causes wedded in the contradictory nature of power in the Islamic Republic. They were born with the regime, and have steadily worsened over the last two decades - in particular after the adoption of neoliberal policies and the application of the structural adjustment programmes. They have been deepened more recently by Bush's post-September 11 policies, to the extent that today the regime finds itself faced with real dangers. Over these years, and in response to the regime's crises, the rulers gradually gelled into two different politico-ideological camps. Self-styled 'reformists' faced conservatives. The former believe that without reforms the system cannot survive, although they hold different views as to what reform entails. Some limit it to policies and ultimately the conduct of the state in relation to the people, in particular in the social and political arena. Others go as far as institutional reforms in the power structure. For instance they want a change in the constitution to increase the relative power of elected organs in relation to those that are appointed. They also want to normalise and 'reduce tension' in foreign relations, and abide by international norms. This, they believe, will guarantee the survival of the system and hence their hold on power. During 1999-2001 the 'reformists' attracted the support of a large section of the population and clocked up substantial victories in a chain of elections, occupying almost every institution up for election. Yet at the very moment of victory their dream turned to nightmare. It became obvious to all but the most blind that this repressive and reactionary regime is not only immutable, but the institutional power structure is intertwined with the interests of the ruling groups such as to make any reforms impossible. In addition the appalling consequences of the economic policies of the reformists on the daily life of the millions had not only created major disappointment, but made inevitable the prospect of growing protests. The international scene fared no better, and 9/11 put an abrupt end to Iran's efforts to normalise foreign relations. Khatami's 'dialogue of civilisations' foundered when Bush placed Iran amongst his list of 'rogue states' and officially declared a policy of regime change. It then became obvious that, contrary to the hopes raised by Khatami's inauguration eight years before, in a changing world political environment his discourse and foreign policies cannot provide the regime with any protection against outside threats. The effect of these setbacks was, on the one hand, to weaken the position of the reformist faction within the overall ruling structures, subjecting them to greater pressure from the conservatives; and, on the other hand, to destroy the internal cohesion of the various groupings that made up the 'reformist' alliance. The result was repeated schisms and splits. The conservative bloc has a different strategy to deal with the burgeoning crises: concentrate power more and more at the top and use naked repression and terror through the military and police apparatus. All the cliques within this bloc oppose any change in the institutional structure of power, especially if that means reducing the authority of the leadership apparatus, which to them assures the 'islamic' foundation of the entire system. They are convinced that any flexibility in 'principles and values' will lead to oblivion, and should be ruthlessly resisted. Indeed, they aim to simplify the muddled and contradictory aspects of the regime by doing away with the semi-elected republic in favour of a self-appointed caliphate, with a highly centralised structure. Conservatives also view any relaxation of the political atmosphere and the formation of independent social or political associations as a dangerous threat to their total control of society. Faced with the erosion of politically mobilised social support for the Islamic Republic, they have turned to hired military and mercenary forces as their sole instrument of control. On the international level the conservatives prefer to play the card of islamic movements, terrorist activities and politico-religious conflicts. They also try to open up whatever breathing space they can by manoeuvring in the gaps formed by the competing interests among the great powers, in particular looking towards China, Russia and Japan. To achieve this their main weapon is commercial and economic concessions. Notwithstanding such policies, however, they have not flinched from making behind-the-scene deals and concessions, if this has served to consolidate their power, nor to play the nuclear weapons card. The conservative bloc, particularly since the death of ayatollah Khomeini, have occupied all the key positions of power, including all the organs that came under the command of the supreme leader. In additional to the Council of Guardians, the velayate faqih currently appoints most influential posts, including the heads of the armed forces, the judiciary, along with "representatives of the velayate faqih" in virtually every institution. Thus control over the Council of Guardians, by drawing red lines that cannot be crossed, permits control over every branch of the state, including the bureaucracy and the executive. Yet the despotic and intensely reactionary nature of the various cliques within the ultra-conservative bloc severely limits their ability to deal with the emerging crises. Indeed within a few years of the 1979 revolution they themselves became the main cause of political and social crises, pushing the latter to bursting point. This may be a reason why throughout its entire life this bloc could never extend its support base beyond the military and quasi-military networks and the people under the direct umbrella of the charities run by them. Their track record in dealing with the crisis of legitimacy and the ever-escalating isolation of the regime has been dismal. This can be seen in the proportion of votes for their candidates - never exceeding 25% of the votes cast. They only became electable when the rest have boycotted elections, as happened in the last ballot for the majles and the municipal councils. But for at least the last 10 years, they have been content to tolerate the rival bloc's control over the executive machinery and the legislative majles, while keeping a tight grip on the protective shield of the security forces. However, with the failure of the reformists to keep their support base, their inability to act as a safety valve for the entire regime and the failure of their foreign policy to provide to provide a partial shield against US threats, the conservatives now find themselves in a new quandary. They have only two choices: compromise and gradually abandon their grip on the political system; or face a deadly confrontation and put up with the consequences. Faced with this Hobson's choice, the conservatives have split into various factions: the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (abadegaran), Principled Reformists (usul-garane eslah talab), etc. These new groupings, which could be called islamist new conservatives, have carved their place in the political spectrum of the country by being critical of and rejecting all other factions: the reformists (supporters of Mohammad Khatami), pragmatists (supporters of Rafsanjani) and traditional conservatives. In their view all three have failed in practice and indeed exacerbated the crisis to such an extent that the very existence of the regime is threatened. For the new conservatives, recourse to an immediate, bold and radical solution has seemed unavoidable. And this accounts for their slow consolidation of power, followed by a silent coup. Over the last few years the new conservatives have managed to quietly infiltrate many organs, outwitting their rivals to end up controlling many town councils, the majles and now the presidency. New-conservative policies The new-conservative groups, emerging predominantly from within the armed forces and working under the umbrella of the leadership apparatus, are striving for a new equilibrium. This is an equilibrium that will reduce the internal and external crises and ensure the survival of the system. The aim is to create a powerful, centralised, 'principled' state, cleansed of corruption - one that can count on renewed support from the lower sections of society, as well as the military and semi-military forces, and is armed with nuclear weapons, all funded by petro-dollars. With these tools they believe they can confront both internal and external challenges without resorting to any structural changes, while maintaining the ideological-authoritarian nature of the regime. The difference between the new conservatives and the more traditional conservatives lies, firstly, in prioritising their appeal to the destitute masses to win back their support for the regime. Secondly, theirs will be an interventionist state, a state that will control all the main lifelines of the country, quite unlike the 'privatised' variety of the traditional conservatives. Thirdly, they focus their slogans and discourse on social justice and the welfare of the poor rather than on islamic values and the question of haq va baatel (right and wrong in religious matters). This grouping is still in the process of development, and their exact policies are somewhat ill defined. Indeed they are still in the making. The broad outlines can, however, be deduced from the statements and utterances of its spokespersons. Two central themes are discernible. (1) To centralise power at the apex and embark on a political, organisational and financial purge of the executive body of the state. What they hope to do is to harness internal tensions and block any effort by opponents to use internal splits to further their aims. These are reflected in such slogans as the fight against bureaucratic corruption, the state aristocracy, and the rentiers. (2) The attempt to form a new political movement in order to rekindle the social base of the regime, in particular among the urban and rural poor - something that had gradually been eroded over the last 15 years. In fact they are trying to ride the popular discontent of the victims of the regime's economic policies. Here they hope to cultivate the right material to help them rebuild the crumbling fortifications of the regime. Moreover, they might well be in need of cannon fodder, were the conflict with the US and Israel to escalate. The role of such slogans as social justice, the fight against inequality, the anti-poverty drive, "taking the oil money back to the people's table", the solution to the housing problem, employment and marriage of youth and such like is precisely to serve this purpose. Some supporters of Ahmadinejad have referred to this as the 'third revolution' - one that instead of clergy or students has its leadership in the military (Khomeini called the occupation of the US embassy in 1981 the "second revolution"). Others see this is a rebirth of the idealism of the early revolutionary years and a re-emergence of islamic populism. It was along such a trajectory that the unannounced alliance between a number of new conservative groupings under the leadership of Khamenei's circle were able to use the recent elections, through a carefully planned and executed plan with 'headlights off' until the eve of the second ballot, to go on and occupy the last bastion of the reformists and pragmatists. The ground is now prepared for the absolute rule of the velayate faqih - something the late ayatollah Khomeini had called for but failed to implement successfully. Can this scheme save the regime from the quagmire in which it is sinking? Or is this just a moribund attempt with no other possible outcome than a further weakening, greater isolation and a speeding up of its collapse? To answer these questions we will consider the real conditions, potentials and limitations faced by the Islamic Republic today. However, it is important to first clarify a few issues. Islamic regime * The crisis of the Islamic Republic has structural roots. They are above all the expression of the incompatibility of a religio-ideological, ultra-reactionary regime with its material surroundings and historic setting. It is no surprise that the islamic government has been in continuous crisis since birth, repeatedly surfacing under various guises and at numerous levels. The constant need for political and structural change has been inevitable. At best these efforts, surfacing as political U-turns, have merely shifted the epicentres of such crises from one area to another - avoiding an explosion without removing the underlying causes. Every time the questions were the same: what is the regime's potential, where are the U-turns leading and what will be the unintended effects of any change in policy? For the mullahs ruling Iran, such crises were the norm. We have witnessed moves from 'principle' to 'expediency', from elitism to populism, from decentralisation to the reverse and back again - anything to achieve stability! * In current domestic and international conditions the Islamic Republic cannot survive without totally negating its very existence. The stark choice it faces is either to submit totally to colonial conditions (either keeping up the religious appearance or under a secular mask), as have some of its neighbours, and succumb to Bush's plan for a 'larger Middle East', or surrender to a progressive, participatory and radical democracy. Despite the widespread claims to the contrary, there is no third road. No matter how daring the manoeuvres, or how unexpected the changes and shifts in power and policies, this regime will face a fresh deadlock sooner rather than later, making its collapse inevitable. * The Islamic Republic has come out of the latest election weaker than ever, and will embark on yet another political U-turn, creating an even greater level of instability. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly in order to entice the population to participate in the electoral process, it has had to retreat from what were always considered its fundamental principles and values. The rulers were forced to recognise, and even consider implementing, some of the political, economic and cultural demands of the people. We saw them apologising for the dismal record of the last three decades. Even more astonishing was how all candidates avoided issues relating to 'islam' and 'revolution' and directly or indirectly criticised the authoritarian and oppressive nature of their own regime. Yet despite all the departures and all the tricks, and in spite of the usual threats of dire consequences in the event of large-scale abstention, official sources admit that only 28 of the 48 million eligible to vote were dragged to the polling booths (this figure includes the rigged votes). In circumstances where most of the opposition - those who call for an overthrow of the islamic regime - had called for a boycott, the absence of 40% of voters is a clear and unambiguous sign, not of indifference, but of widespread opposition to the very existence of the system. * In its quest for political homogeneity and unanimity in power, the regime was forced to jettison the ruling alliance that had lasted nearly three decades, an alliance that had helped the system maintain stability. Now, for the first time in its entire existence, the Islamic Republic has to face various challenges, both domestic and external, without the help of reformists and pragmatists in key positions. At a time when it has little room to manoeuvre, the regime has lost one of the main weapons it has used successfully on so many occasions to sow indecision among its domestic and foreign opponents. Right up to the recent election many opposition forces used the presence of reformists within the regime as indicating the possibility of a peaceful transition to a post-Islamic Republic era. The same hopes had been used by, among others, the EU. * Moreover, by choosing Mahmood Ahmadinejad, an extremist counter-intelligence officer in the Revolutionary Guards, with a history of involvement in terrorism and murder, to head the executive, foreign relations - even attendance at international gatherings - will become more problematic than ever before. Not yet ready to fall? Is the regime, then, ready to fall? Notwithstanding the fact that the Islamic Republic has come out of this election weaker and more fragile than before, one cannot necessarily conclude that it is on the threshold of immediate implosion and collapse. It is likely to continue its existence for some time yet. The future of the regime rests on a number of factors and the way they interact. Some of these factors may allow the regime a breathing space while others will do the opposite. Will Iran's rulers be able to implement a series of rapid new conservative reforms to rekindle the support of a significant section of the destitute masses? The experience of the Iran-Iraq war is useful here. It was used to break domestic opponents, while putting up an effective resistance to foreign invasion. So can an anti-popular, utterly reactionary, despotic and authoritarian regime, which was once able to use support from the 'disinherited' to maintain power, do so again? Can a regime, which in pursuit of exporting its revolution, sent these supporters to clear minefields for eight years, dangling a plastic 'key to heaven' round their neck, be capable of regaining their trust? If it makes good use of the opportunities offered, especially those resulting from the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the islamic regime can mobilise some of the poorest in its support and may survive the current crisis. These opportunities include the quagmire of Iraq (which could help the Islamic Republic play its shi'ite card); the current buoyant oil market and the way any new crisis in the Middle East might influence oil prices; the significant foreign exchange reserves they have accumulated and the surplus earnings due to the current high oil prices. These could be channelled into immediate improvement in the living conditions for targeted sections of the population and reducing discontent among them. There is no doubt that the populist slogans of Ahmadinejad have found an echo in some of the poorest sections of society. This has been pointed out by the international media and corroborated by independent sources. What is forgotten, however, is that, while most of the middle layers turned out to vote for Rafsanjani, the majority of the 20 million who did not vote belonged to these destitute strata. This signifies that Ahmadinejad's influence among the layers he has specifically targeted remains weak. This does not bode well for the central strategy of the new conservatives. Then there is the deep crisis among the ranks of the opposition forces, whose potential to fill the current political vacuum has shrunk. There is also the weakness and disunity among radical and progressive forces that could have helped activate the existing class divisions and use it to organise and mobilise the independent organisation of workers and toilers. And finally the regime might successfully use the basij - a nationwide political-military organisation that it controls - and the wide network of mosques and associated charities, as powerful means of communication between the state and the deprived and marginalised masses. However, the new political clique in power must overcome some serious obstacles both within and outside the ruling apparatus. * The contradiction between the economic interests of the mafia-like rentiers at the top and the demands of the dispossessed masses, the core element of the new-conservative's strategy. The regime needs to redistribute public resources (especially oil income) to reduce the burdens of life. But this will require cutting all or at least some of the tentacles of an insatiable monster: an octopus that reaches into the inner circles around Khamenei and the numerous institutions under its tutelage - the Revolutionary Guards, the security apparatus, the newly built palaces of the top families, and the offices of their offspring (popularly known as the aghazadeha - sons of clerics). * The immediate and savage resistance of capital - both domestic and foreign - which will view the slightest deviation from its model of neoliberalism and austerity as anathema. The regime needs to gain its confidence and prevent domestic and foreign capitalists using their most effective weapon - flight elsewhere - thereby squeezing the economy and increasing unemployment. * Repressing or overcoming the demands of working people, key agents of socio-political change. Given the radicalisation of such demands by the masses, the regime will need to block efforts to organise at various levels; entice working people to blindly follow yet another 'saviour'; split the ranks of the labour force; and isolate the more radical sections of the labour movement. * Controlling the political context within which the regime operates: that is to say, first of all, it must crush the popular movements for social equality, cultural and political freedom, and self-government. It must create an environment of fear so that the anti-despotic movements - in particular women, youth, intelligentsia, and non-Farsi nations and ethnic groups - are controlled. It must suppress the rising waves of cultural and civil disobedience and political protest. In short, it must create a schism between the demands for bread and for freedom. * Stabilising the regime's relationship with the world's most powerful states: In particular, preventing the nuclear weapons issue from becoming explosive, and hence being able to divert petro-dollars as before to the regime's coffers. * And finally, preventing the crises outside from infecting the corridors of power and fracturing the political and factional homogeneity achieved by the present coup: That is to say, preventing the singularity of decision-making being destroyed, giving way once again to factional squabbles, obstructions and such like, this time amongst the existing military-economic mafias in the conservative faction. Working class is key To conclude, there is little evidence that the new conservatives will be able to lead a 'third revolution', raising once more the flag of social justice . If the 'first revolution' was a tragedy, the 'third revolution' will probably be nothing more than a nauseating farce. It does not require much imagination to understand that the Islamic Republic has a mortal disease. Ahmadinejad's remedy is only temporary. Inevitable death awaits this regime, so out of keeping with its era. What Ahmadinejad and the regime are vainly trying to save is already doomed. But the fate of the country is not inevitable. In the manifold crises facing Iran, will the country face collapse and break-up, invasion or a real liberating future? That choice, and that future, is being made today. And the answer is clearly not preordained nor totally dependent on how, or at the hands of whom, the islamic regime falls. This future is once again in the hands of the organised working class of Iran. The emergence of a progressive, radical and mass working class movement is the only development that could fill the current ideological and political vacuum which the reactionary populism of Ahmadinejad is trying to occupy. Will the working class be able to tie its strategic potential to the energy and creativity of the social movements? Will it be capable of giving birth to a real agent for social change through combining organisation and organisational ability? If the answers to these questions are positive, then not only the swamp the Ahmadinejads of Iran want to use to create another ultra-conservative and reactionary movement will dry up, but the country will avoid the threat of collapse, break-up or invasion.