Hail Ahmadinejad! Hail Chávez!

30 years ago, dead French philosophe Michel Foucault hailed the Islamic Revolution. See : ‘The Seductions of Islamism: Revisiting Foucault and the Iranian Revolution’, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson, New Politics, Vol. 10, No. 1, Summer 2004:

The Iranian experience… raises some serious questions about Foucault’s thought. First, it is often assumed that Foucault’s suspicion of utopianism, his hostility to grand narratives and universals, and his stress on difference and singularity rather than totality, would make him less likely than his predecessors on the left to romanticize an authoritarian politics that promised radically to refashion from above the lives and thought of a people, for their ostensible benefit. However, his Iran writings showed that Foucault was not immune to the type of illusions that so many Western leftists had held toward the Soviet Union and later, China…

Second, Foucault’s highly problematic relationship to feminism becomes more than an intellectual lacuna in the case of Iran. On a few occasions, Foucault reproduced statements he had heard from religious figures on gender relations in a possible future Islamic republic, but he never questioned the “separate but equal” message of the Islamists. Foucault also dismissed feminist premonitions that the revolution was headed in a dangerous direction…

Third, an examination of Foucault’s writings provides more support for the frequently-articulated criticism that his one-sided critique of modernity needs to be seriously reconsidered, especially from the vantage point of many non-Western societies…

The Holocaust-denying-war-hero-with-the-gammy-leg’s magnificent victory in the recent Presidential election has been greeted with rapt enthusiasm by another contemporary hero of the authoritarian left: Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (Chávez congratulates Ahmadinejad, Tehran Times, June 14, 2009):

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has congratulated his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the success of his re-election bid, in yesterday’s poll.

In a telephone conversation with the Iranian president, Chávez said, “The victory of Dr. Ahmadinejad in the recent election is a win for all people in the world and free nations against global arrogance,” Iran’s Presidential Office reported. Chávez usually uses the term “global arrogance” to refer to Venezuela’s arch-foe the United States.

The call came after preliminary results were announced by the Interior Ministry saying that Iran’s incumbent president has won a landslide victory, gaining more than 64 percent of the votes.

Chávez also noted that the Venezuelan people and government always stand behind the Iranians.

In his reply, Ahmadinejad said that, “Despite all pressures, the nation of Iran had completely won (the election) and indeed this victory shows the clear road for the future.”

Before the start of the election too, the socialist leader had wished Ahmadinejad good luck in his re-election bid.

Speaking to supporters Thursday, Chávez called the Iranian president “a courageous fighter for the Islamic Revolution, the defense of the Third World, and in the struggle against imperialism.”

Despite receiving the tick of approval from Uncle Hugo, right-wing, counter-revolutionary scum — obviously acting under orders of the CIA — have taken to the streets in protest at the result of what is alleged to be a fraudulent election.

Fortunately, Iranian police and civilian militias have responded promptly to this latest assault upon revolution, the Third World, and anti-imperialism.


About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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11 Responses to Hail Ahmadinejad! Hail Chávez!

  1. Toaf says:

    I think Chavez’s position needs to be seen less in terms of what side of politics he reckons he represents, and more in terms of the great global energy security game.

  2. THR says:

    I could be wrong, @ndy, but didn’t Foucault also make some more ambivalent statements? And Foucault can hardly be blamed for the theocracy destroying the left, and pursuing its own agenda. In short, I think it foolish to be so dismissive of Foucault. He has his faults, but I think he general theses are essential to anybody who is anti-authoritarian.

    It’s also more than a bit unfair to compare Venezuela to Iran. Chavez, like all professional politicians, can be pragmatic as well as ideological.

    As for Islamism, we need to understand its appeal before we can counter it. There are some very good reasons why the secular left has collapsed in the middle east and the sub-continent, and they are probably linked to its failures in its first (or second, or third) incarnation.

    Having said all that, I hope the protestors in Iran achieve something, beyond that which is offered by the two sham candidates.

  3. @ndy says:


    I agree. I think. That is, there is rhetoric, and then there is reality. In terms of political rhetoric, Uncle Hugo has at various times identified himself as a leftist, a radical, a Trotskyist. In reality, his regime most closely resembles a contemporary form of Peronism — fuelled by petro-dollars. Hence: support for his comrade Ahmadinejad. The point is not ‘Ahmadinejad = Chávez = EVIL’, but that such individuals constitute a handy platform upon which to project ‘leftist’ illusions, and that this is a recurrent theme of certain forms of political philosophy and understanding…

  4. @ndy says:


    Foucault made various statements, not all of which (afaik) are available in English. The essay to which I link has more deets. I’m certainly not blaming Michel for the triumph of theocracy in Iran, or elsewhere — this would be just plain silly. I also do not wish to be understood as dismissing the utility of Mick’s work as a whole, simply because his analysis of the Iranian revolution was flawed — that, too, would be foolish. Rather, as indicated above, I’m attempting to draw something of a parallel between the response to events in Iran in ’79 and the response to events in Venezuela 30 (or so) years later, especially insofar as the philosophers are concerned (French and Slovenian), but also segments of what I term the ‘authoritarian left’. As for the triumph of ‘Islamism’, much of the reason for this may, I think, be located in the destruction of the secular left (especially in the post-60s era): this collapse partly the result of repression, partly the result of its own contradictions (the collapse of communism and various forms of accommodation to ruling powers).

    PS. On Hugo and Juan: Peron & Chavez: Separated at Birth?, The “Subversive Historian”, November 17, 2007. (Don PalabraZ has heaps of totally neat-o stuff, btw: ‘The “Subversive Historian” was launched on August, 6th 2008 to bring daily reminders to the people of their history in rebellion. Audio commentaries filed by Gabriel San Blogman and aired on Uprising Radio in Los Angeles on 90.7FM take a look back at important dates in our social struggle. Realizing that the history of now is lived not studied, San Blogman’s subversive histories bring the past to the present by illustrating the relevancy of our movement legacies. The absurdity of establishment history and the fallacies of right-wing rhetoric are also underscored by the conclusions of his anti-myth mantras. So let’s continue to keep it real and understand why it’s no mystery why they attempt to conceal our history.’)

    Otherwise, on the fire last time…

    The Opening in Iran

    The uprising in Iran is the most beautiful event since the Hungarian revolution of 1956. It has shaken all the ruling powers of the world and exposed their collusion. The Arab regimes are as alarmed as Israel. The Chinese bureaucracy was caught with its pants down: it supported the Shah and denounced his opposition (thus continuing the policy of Mao and Chou, who praised him for his “anti-imperialism”). As for the Russian bureaucracy, far from “stirring up trouble” in Iran, it has always aimed at maintaining a stable, highly policed regime there, as elsewhere on its borders, so as to prevent any contagion of rebellion from spreading to its own people. It has sold arms to the Shah and turned fugitive Iranian radicals over to SAVAK. Only when his downfall seemed likely did it cautiously begin hedging its bets. The saber rattling between Russia and the U.S. was strictly for the benefit of the spectators. American ambassador William Sullivan admitted: “We ran Laos, but in Iran, which is tremendously important to us, there’s not much we, or anyone else, can do. Ironically all the major powers — the U.S., Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union — are alarmed by what’s going on in Iran.” (New York Times, 13 November 1978.)

    The possibility that the mass insurgence might overflow bureaucratic or priestly mediation — this is what lies behind all the powers’ horror of “chaos” or a “power vacuum” in Iran. The Iranian movement is not essentially a religious one; the partial margin of immunity granted religious expression simply provided an opening and a rallying point for it. Women who previously wore the veil as a symbol of defiance to the Shah are now defying Khomeini by refusing to wear it; his emissaries have had to report to him that the oil workers “do not respect religion”; and the momentum and contagion of the movement has already pushed even many of the religious to go beyond his dictates. The destruction of banks, stores and cinemas is not a reaction against “modernization” or “Westernization,” it is the same kind of reaction against alienation that is found in modern revolts in the West, from Watts to Gdansk.

    The clergy, the bourgeoisie and the army all had, and still have, obvious contradictions with each other. But none could do without the other two. In spite of his intransigent rhetoric, Khomeini was negotiating behind the scenes and, like the National Front, had long taken care to keep the army as intact as possible, warning his followers against provoking it. Finally radical elements initiated the final battle without him and forced his hand. The army, on the verge of breaking up, had to give in to his government as the last hope for stemming the popular insurgence.

    As in Portugal in the wake of the fall of the fascist regime, the political untenability of outside intervention plus the weakness and contradictions of the internal ruling forces in Iran may for a while leave spaces for partially free social experimentation. The strikers who have gone back to work only on their own terms; the people who have taken over and run their own towns, “answering only to themselves” — these represent potential dual-power situations that have not been brought completely under control. In spite of Khomeini’s appeals, hundreds of thousands of arms seized by guerrilla groups or distributed among the people have not yet been turned in. And the autonomist movements of the Kurds, the Baluchis and the Azerbaijans are seizing their opportunity and may spread the insurgence to the already crisis-ridden bordering countries where overlapping sectors of those peoples live.

    The rulers and commentators pretend to see in any radical action the work of communists or other leftists. In reality the Iranian “communist” party — the Tudeh Party — has long been discredited for its reformism and servility to Russian foreign policy. Though virtually wiped out by the Shah’s police, it has nevertheless praised his “revolution from above” while denouncing the mass uprisings of 1963 and 1978. Recently it has called for a coalition government to work for the “normalization of the economy” and “put an end to the present crisis as quickly as possible.”

    As for the guerrilla groups and militant students, though largely disillusioned with the various “communist” regimes, they imitate the hierarchical organization and manipulative practice that led to those state-capitalist bureaucracies. Sixty years of Leninist-Stalinist counterrevolution have taught them nothing. They add to the ideological pollution with their wooden language and lower the consciousness of the “hard-working, patriotic workers” (who are thus applauded precisely for their alienation) with their chorus of “correct leadership,” “progressive clergy,” “people’s army,” “workers’ states,” and other such self-contradictions. But who struggles for the real power of the soviets?

    A “popular” government cannot defend the revolution because it has to defend itself from the revolution. But once it has disarmed and demoralized the people, who can defend it from the reaction? Mossadeq set the stage for the CIA coup by using the army against strikers and demonstrators; Ben Bella set the stage for Boumédienne, who destroyed the pockets of self-management in Algeria; Allende (with the support of Castro) set the stage for Pinochet by attacking the workers and peasants who had armed themselves and seized factories and land.

    The fundamental question in Iran is not which combination of forces will hold the state, but whether the workers will affirm themselves autonomously against it. If they don’t speak for themselves the bureaucrats will speak for them. If they don’t communicate their experiences and analyses (by seizing printing equipment or radio stations, for example) the mass media will continue to block out or falsify them. The only way to defend the revolution is to extend it. Even if it is defeated there will be that much more to undo. A reformist or bureaucratic movement will scarcely interest workers who already live in reformist or bureaucratic societies. Only a movement that strikes radically at the global system will strike a chord among them, win their support in resisting intervention, and inspire them to parallel revolt. “The next revolutions can find aid in the world only by attacking the world in its totality” (Situationist International).

    Each time people begin to make their own history they rediscover the highest moments of the repressed attempts of the past. A revolt like that in Iran is an opening, it cuts through the organized confusion and enforced passivity and poses questions in concrete terms. It’s the social moment of truth.

    12 March 1979

  5. Jamie-R says:

    “We ran Laos, but in Iran, which is tremendously important to us, there’s not much we, or anyone else, can do. Ironically all the major powers — the U.S., Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union — are alarmed by what’s going on in Iran.” (New York Times, 13 November 1978.)

    Give me a break. The Soviet-backed Pathet Lao? North Vietnam was not about indigenous culture, geesh the Marxists got away with murder in mainstream history.

    I still remain befuddled by why so many Western countries allowed the Soviets to set the front foot and put them on defence about making these people believe one side was imperialist while the other side was an innocent daffodil blowing in the harsh wind of Westernism. What a joke.

  6. Jamie-R says:

    In that italic statement I see why the yanks lost so much ground in the 60s and 70s, they were conceding the initiative to the Soviets already, acting like they hadn’t spread their tentacles in Iran like the Americans were doing elsewhere. I see America’s funding of the Saudis in Afghanistan in the 80s as revenge for the Marxist interventionism in Iran in the late 70s.

    Victory goes to those bold enough to fight 24/7 and tell the biggest lie, JFK did alright but then the communists fight dirtier and that’s why he died. (I find JFK’s direct assassination attempts of Fidel and the future inevitable signing by America not to assassinate foreign leaders as indication who knocked him off in ’63). You can naively tell what amount to untruths to garner sympathy for attempting something that results in a bland and superficial honesty. Doesn’t seem to work. In a world such as currently is, I guess Hitler and his propagandists were right.

  7. Jamie-R says:

    I dragged off, my point being back in those days:

    Pro-American? Run by local imperialist traitors.

    Pro-Soviet? Run by local proud natives!

  8. Jamie-R says:

    It’s TGI Friday, I’m not as concise. Here is my attempt at concise.

    Winners write history. The Soviets won a lot of 20th century history and though they ‘lost’ the Cold War overall the legacy of history suggests – and the modern world suggests – many things are not settled. And the claim of winner should be left for a future generation to decide.

  9. @ndy says:

    On Laos:

    I doubt that the Ambassador was referring to the Pathet Lao, but rather the Army led by the Meo (that is, Hmong) General Vang Pao.

    The CIA ran operations in Laos from the 1950s through to the mid-1970s — unlike Viet Nam, these were ‘covert’ operations (although the CIA also intervened ‘covertly’ in Viet Nam too), in which the CIA supplied intelligence, arms and other equipment to an army which it recruited from the local population — Hmong in particular.

    An article on US intervention in Laos appeared in Time magazine in 1962: ‘LAOS: Four Phases to Nonexistence’ (June 8, 1962).

    US policy in Laos should be placed in context, which is struggle for control of Southeast Asia. Some de-classified US planning documents concerning this project are available here [PDF] while Alfred McCoy’s book (originally published as The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia in 1972, and re-published as The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade in 2003) documents the CIA’s role in heroin trafficking to help finance some of these activities, in which the same planes that flew in arms and supplies (organised as ‘Air America’) flew out heroin.

    You can read a 1990 interview with McCoy (then Professor of Southeast Asian History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison) conducted by David Barsamian here.

    Also of relevance is Chapter 5, ‘Laos’, in After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, The Political Economy of Human Rights – Volume II, by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman (South End Press, 1979).

    Uncle Noam writes (A Visit to Laos, The New York Review of Books, July 23, 1970):

    The recent history of Laos contributes to the atmosphere of suspicion. The first Government of National Union of 1958 was overthrown by American subversion. As Ambassador Graham Parsons candidly remarked in Congressional Hearings of 1959, “I struggled for sixteen months to prevent a coalition.” An American military mission was operating at the time, headed by a US Army general in civilian guise. In the 1958 elections, of twenty-one seats contested for the National Assembly, nine were won by the Neo Lao Hak Sat (NLHS) and four by the candidates of the Committee for Peace and Neutrality of Quinim Pholsena, a “left-leaning neutralist” allied with the NLHS. Five right-wing and three non-party delegates were elected. The NLHS had put up only thirteen candidates. Its leader, Souphanouvong, got the largest vote and was elected chairman of the National Assembly. The United States withheld funds, thus impelling the Lao elite to introduce a new government headed by “pro-Western neutralist” Phoui Sananikone. Shortly after, Phoui declared his intention to disband the NLHS as being subversive, thus scrapping the earlier successful agreements that had established the coalition. US aid soon resumed and Phoui pledged “to coexist with the Free World only.”

    In December, 1959, he was overthrown by the CIA favorite, Phoumi Nosavan, a Lao equivalent to the military dictator of Thailand (his cousin, as it happens), who was also receiving substantial US support. Although the coup government did not last, Phoumi retained his powerful position as Minister of National Defense, thus controlling most of the budget; and the extreme right won the ridiculous 1960 elections which were so crudely rigged by the CIA and its favorites that even conservative pro-US observers were appalled.

    A coup by paratroop captain Kong Le restored Prince Souvanna Phouma, and civil war broke out, with the Souvanna Phouma government, supported by Russia and China, opposing the American-backed General Phoumi Nosavan and the government of the reactionary prince Boun Oum. Recognizing that its policies were failing disastrously,[15] the American Government agreed to participate in a new Geneva Conference, which took place in 1961-2.

    The settlement reached at Geneva, however, did not last long. After a series of assassinations in early 1963, the two most prominent Pathet Lao leaders, Prince Souphanouvong and Phoumi Vongvichit, departed from Vientiane. As a RAND Corporation study by P. F. Langer and J. J. Zasloff describes this incident, they left “contending, not entirely without justification, that their security was threatened in the capital.”[16] The other two NLHS cabinet members left soon after. The civil war resumed with somewhat different alignments. This time the Americans were supporting Souvanna Phouma and Kong Le, who joined forces with the Lao right (Kong Le presently departed for France, where he now lives in exile), against the Pathet Lao and the “left-leaning neutralists” under Colonel Deuane.

    According to the Geneva agreements of 1962, foreign troops were to depart, along with all advisers, instructors, and foreign civilians “connected with the supply…of war materials.” The United States claims that North Vietnam never adhered to this agreement, leaving 6,000 soldiers in Laos. The Chinese claimed at the time that hundreds of American soldiers simply changed into civilian clothes, as in the late 1950s. The Pathet Lao maintain that “after the signing of the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos, the missions of military ‘advisers’—PEO, MAAG, PAG, USOM—put on a common civilian cloak: USAID.” They claim that there were 3,500 such military “advisers” in civilian camouflage by 1968 and that “the whole system is directly under the US ‘special forces’ command, code-named H.Q.333 and based in Oudone (northeast Thailand).”[17] In their RAND study published in September 1969, Langer and Zasloff estimate that there are about 700 North Vietnamese military advisers with the Pathet Lao.

    Chinese nationalist troops supported by the United States remained after Geneva, 1962, although some may have been evacuated. They were reported at one time to number in the thousands, and are said to be a fairly effective fighting force—the only Chinese fighting in Laos, incidentally. Vongvichit estimates that there were 600 by 1968, and reports that their activities were confirmed by an ICC investigation in December, 1962.

    American-supported Thai and South Vietnamese troops are also reported to have remained.[18] Vongvichit asserts that “thousands of Thai soldiers and agents, especially those of Lao stock and coming from northeastern Thailand, have wormed their way into the royal army, police and administration, or have mingled with the population in strategic areas and economic centres.” Similar reports of Thai soldiers in Laotian uniform are common, and generally believed, in Vientiane. No one has any idea how many CIA operatives remained, or what in detail they were up to, or to what extent they operate under civilian cover.[19]

    Obviously USAID tries to implement American Government policy in Laos and to build domestic support for the American-sponsored Royal Lao Government. A more interesting example of the difficulty of determining just how the United States is intervening in the internal affairs of Laos is the case of the International Voluntary Services (IVS). This is a private volunteer group that has attracted many idealistic young people who are eager to help with modernization and development in traditional societies, without mixing in local politics. IVS has operated in Laos for about fifteen years. In 1962, the group was offered a large USAID contract for work in Laos, and its membership grew to about one hundred. The reasons for this sudden American interest seem clear. Before 1962, most American aid had gone to the urban areas. In fact, less than half of 1 percent of the extensive American aid funds[20] were spent on agriculture, the livelihood of over 90 percent of the population.

    This was, of course, a factor in the support for the Pathet Lao revealed by the 1958 elections and subsequently. As Dommen points out in his book Conflict in Laos, the Pathet Lao needed no propaganda to turn the rural population against the townspeople; indeed the enormous corruption and graft associated with the aid program sickened many city dwellers as well. In 1962 the US therefore decided to channel more funds to the countryside and to do this through an American-controlled apparatus so as to reduce corruption. The plan required the presence of Americans in the villages, and IVS filled the breach. As one volunteer puts it, “IVS became a private agency recruiting young, relatively idealistic Americans to engage in politically motivated counter-insurgency programs in Laos.”

    Many of the volunteers worked in the Forward Areas Program, which is described as follows in an IVS bulletin:

      Forward Area Team operations…[are] composed of one or two IVS men. They move into areas recently secured from the Pathet Lao with basic tools and housing supplies and proceed with the “impact program.” The idea is to help the people in these areas build what they need, whether it be a well, school or dispensary; giving them a concrete example of the Royal Lao Government’s and USAID’s interest in their welfare.

      Since there are no USAID personnel in Forward Area field stations, the IVSer, as a representative of USAID, works closely with the Chao Moung [village leader] and the local military commandant.

    In later years IVS workers were the only Americans in many rural areas. Some were disturbed at the American Government connection. They felt that they were serving in effect as propaganda agents for the US and the RLG by virtue of their control of USAID commodities, and that they were inadvertently giving military information to the American Government. Even in some urban centers there has been dissatisfaction among volunteers with USAID policy, which is administered in some cases by “retired” military officers.

    Since late 1969, IVS workers have been withdrawn to provincial capitals for security reasons (several had been killed), and the scale of the operation was also reduced. Many of the volunteers then joined USAID. In many areas where IVSers formerly worked there is now no American or RLG presence.

    It is difficult to avoid concluding that IVS is acting on behalf of the American Government and the RLG in the midst of a civil war. According to an IVS handbook:

      IVS…in Laos…is working by virtue of government contracts and its activities must harmonize with US government policies in the broad sense. There is, therefore, an obligation on the part of IVS team members to endeavor to understand the nature of US policy and to avoid actions or statements to outsiders that might impair US policy objectives.

    Whether IVS efforts actually help the RLG is open to question; some feel that IVS activities simply reinforce the RLG’s image of incompetence and corruption by showing that the rural assistance program must be implemented by Americans. Nevertheless, the IVS can hardly serve as anything other than an instrument of American foreign policy in Laos.[21]

    Pathet Lao spokesmen have no illusions about the role of IVS. Phoumi Vongvichit writes:

      At present Americans of the “Rural Development Service” [of IVS] go to scores of provincial capitals and district centres, towns and villages, in eleven out of a total of sixteen provinces in Laos to supervise the implementation of that program, collect intelligence data and establish political bases in the countryside.[22]

    It would appear that these suspicions are justified.

    What is true of IVS applies, far more clearly, to the American aid program and, of course, to the direct involvement of the US through the CIA and the military. From the information available, one must conclude that there has been vast American intervention in the internal affairs of Laos in an effort to defeat the Pathet Lao insurgents and establish the rule of the RLG. This intervention includes heavy bombardment, support for guerrilla activity in Pathet Lao-controlled areas (by the CIA and its civilian air arm, Air America), the operations of the CIA Clandestine Army, military operations of the US-supported and advised RLG army, direct support to RLG administration and other programs, and aid and development programs administered by the Americans sometimes by way of purportedly neutral organizations. To a significant extent, these activities are in violation of the Geneva agreements of 1962.

    The American involvement is enormous. The Gross National Product of Laos is estimated at about $150 million a year. In the fiscal year ending in June, 1969, USAID spent about $52 million. In addition, $92 million was spent on direct military assistance. The former US Ambassador, William Sullivan, said this was “much less” than the cost of the American participation in the air war over the northern part of Laos, which is classified…

  10. Jamie-R says:

    I doubt that the Ambassador was referring to the Pathet Lao, but rather the Army led by the Meo (that is, Hmong) General Vang Pao.

    The CIA ran operations in Laos from the 1950s through to the mid-1970s — unlike Viet Nam, these were ‘covert’ operations

    I do not dispute that.

    I was not clear.

    The winners of the region got to abuse the losers. America was not a winner.

  11. Jamie-R says:

    I have a Laos mate I grew up with who became over time a hater of America, and us, Vayakone is his name. From the age of 26, we grew apart big time. He loved America as he grew up then he started smoking weed and hanging around people no good for him. I can tell police and put him in jail for years. About as many illegal firearms as views in this nation. If this is about war, then fuck it. The Soviets lost in Laos, then they won. America and Australia paid the price, because they spread their victory to all parts of this world, just like the US in South Korea.

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