(Translated Excerpts from the Editorial of Nameh Mardom, issue no. 1180, published Monday 24 April 2023)
The disastrous consequences of the intensification of neoliberal policies by the “Supreme Leader” [in an attempt to] “save the theocratic regime”…
Contrary to [President] Ebrahim Raisi’s rhetoric and the fake reports circulated by the official daily papers [in Iran], which describe the country’s economy and people’s livelihoods as being in a good shape, just a glance at the published statistics regarding the prices of goods and their comparison with the [average] income of the majority of people – especially the workers and the poor – paints a different picture.
Most [ordinary] people’s assessment of the reality of the current situation is correct, reached without the benefit of expert economic analysis and based solely on their day-to-day observations – such as the sharp downward turn in real wages compared to the increase in food prices and basic consumer goods, the skyrocketing cost of housing, the increasingly high unemployment, the rampant spread of poverty, and the lack of access to medical services for ordinary people.
With the worsening state of the economy, already disastrous, and its heavy toll upon the livelihoods of the working people – as well as its negative consequences even for the interests and of private and quasi-private capital – the “Supreme Leader” is now becoming aware of the dangers arising from the regime’s present instability and has re-entered the stage once more, this time as an “expert” and staunch advocate of neoliberal economic models!
However, his speech and directives last week are nonetheless important to note in that they underline which classes and interests have benefited up to now from the direction of the economic policies followed by every governmental administration [of the Islamic Republic] so far. This was starkly illustrated in Ali Khamenei’s statement that, “The principle and thinking behind the privatisation and the implementation of policies pursuant to Article 44 of the1989 constitution [which regulates the composition and structure of Iran’s economy] are logical and correct as the government alone cannot manage all of the country’s affairs.”
Reacting to pressure from the influential bourgeoisie strata within the regime as to why the various governmental administrations under the regime’s leadership so far had not implemented the neoliberal policies with the necessary speed and effectiveness, Khamenei emphasised, “Of course, our expectations have not been met. But good things have also been done in the field of privatisation.”
These words by the “Supreme Leader” are reflective of a general approach that considers privatisation as the panacea for solving all economic problems. The application [of these principles] has always been approved by Khamenei and fully supported by the leaders of both the fundamentalist and reformist factions [of the Islamic Republic], all of whom have been staunch advocates of the acceleration and deepening of the neoliberal economic “shock therapy” pursued according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) prescriptions [from 1989 onwards]. This painful “economic surgery”, carried out under the shadow of the theocratic dictatorship, has been acknowledged and praised by both the IMF and the World Bank. Thus, “private wealth creation” has remained the focus and thrust of Iran’s economic growth within the [lax] framework of a “free (unregulated) economy”.
The continuation of price liberalisation, especially paving the way for a “flexible labour market” (which involves abandoning the provisions of the country’s labour code/law as quickly as possible), has been, and will remain, one of the main pillars of this so-called “homogenous regime”. For this reason, it is clear that the current government headed by Raisi will continue to vehemently oppose any protests by justice-seeking workers, trade unions, and political and civil activists that might threaten the capitalist’s “wealth generation”.
What the “Supreme Leader” of the theocratic regime said to the students last week was in reality addressed to the leaders and strategic policy makers of the imperialist and capitalist countries, i.e. that the Islamic Republic, despite all of its internal issues and current problems in its foreign relations, will squarely base Iran’s economy on the “Washington Consensus“. This means that the entire theocratic regime, with the direct support of the “Supreme Leader”, by providing a secure environment for large foreign capital via an “unregulated economy” and “flexible labour market”, welcomes them and is open to cooperating with them to increase their profits.
Over the last four decades, the theocratic regime has acquired a huge private wealth. Through directives from the “Supreme Leader”, safeguarding the regime’s control over this wealth, the agenda has been set to accelerate the implementation of plans based on harshest capitalist economic models for the exploitation of [Iran’s] labour power and environment. These directives by Khamenei, against both the national and people’s interests, are undoubtedly intended to attract the attention of specific imperialist circles and giant global financial-mercantile capitals and bring them closer to Iran’s economy, the wholly corrupt operation of which has only ever served the interests of the major domestic financial-mercantile capital. The unchecked continuation of this process will only lead to a worse and more disastrous situation for the struggling people of Iran.
The theocratic regime as a whole, and Khamenei in particular, have blocked any possibility of a fundamental change to overcome the current multi-faceted crises Iran is facing, both domestically and internationally, which are of course linked and mutually influencing of each other. Through its sharp turn towards right-wing economic programmes and unchecked neoliberalism, the theocratic dictatorship is poised towards inflicting yet worse socio-economic damage upon Iranian society.
Nevertheless, the reality remains that the theocratic regime has been unequivocally rejected across the spectrum of Iranian society, particularly by the workers and toilers. Now there exists a valuable opportunity for the progressive and national forces, especially those of the left, to stop the neoliberal plans of the “Supreme Leader” in their tracks and to push back against the reactionary ruling forces step by step through the strengthening of the popular movement’s struggle at this crucial moment.
For the statements of the Tudeh Party of Iran and its analysis of major developments in Iran Please visit: www.tudehpartyiran.org