By Elaheh Rostami-Povey
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 319

The Islamic Republic and the World

This article is over 14 years, 6 months old
Maryam Panah, Pluto Press, £35
Issue 319

Within the academic world it has become respectable and fashionable to use Marxist language to justify neoliberalism. This book does just that. It is certainly very well written and researched. Marxist and Weberian theories of state, revolution and development have been used to analyse the socioeconomic developments in pre and post 1979 revolution in Iran.

In assessing the process of industrialisation under the Shah, Panah suggests that the policy of the state in that period was to guarantee the conditions for the reproduction and expansion of capitalism. She acknowledges that the success of capitalist enterprises depended on maintaining the emerging industrial capitalist class. But she does not see the dominance of foreign capital, and the enormous gap between the rich and the poor, as issues which contributed to the emergence of the revolutionary movements and the 1979 revolution.

The book claims that there is a theoretical vacuum within international relations studies in treating “revolutions as international events”, and the book is an attempt to fill this vacuum. In this context she discusses the impact of the Iranian Revolution on the opposition movements in the region and correctly criticises the essentialist notions of “Islam”. She argues that Islamic movements are diverse and grounded in differing social structural conditions.

However, the book does not discuss why there is a rise of diverse Islamic social movements in the region and why these movements, despite their religious (Shia, Sunni) and numerous ethnic, class and national diversities, support the role of Iran, and its stand against US military intervention.

In the author’s view, Iran portrayed the Iran/Iraq War as a “counter-revolutionary plot of imperialist powers to destroy the 1979 revolution”. Yet many Iranian scholars and scholars on Iran, especially those who have Marxist or socialist worldviews, also argue that the war was imposed on Iran with the support of the West for Saddam Hussein to counter the 1979 revolution.

The author’s economic analysis of the 1990s when Iran embraced neoliberalism under global economic pressures is quite accurate. However, for her the economic problem in Iran is due to not enough privatisation. Contrary to this view, many scholars, including non-Marxists, have argued that economic problems in Iran and many other developing countries are the direct result of neoliberalism, privatisation, less state intervention, “NGOisation” and opening up to the global markets.

She correctly argues that the 1979 revolution in Iran challenged the international status quo and its prevailing global order, and development and democracy in Iran have to come from indigenous movements. But, contrary to her view, further development and democracy means turning away from neoliberalism and continuing to challenge imperial interventions in the region.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance