Category Archives: Revolution

03 Jan

The new Iranian revolution

I just write this blog and I have no part in compiling the speeches of Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump. But the other day I suggested: “No doubt the Israelis and the Americans are making all efforts to encourage the Iranians who have seen the possibility of a change for the better.”

Then Mr Netanyahu said: When this regime, the Iranian government, finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again.”

And Mr Trump declared: “The people of Iran are finally reacting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their own pockets.”

I am encouraged by the comments of these leaders to notice that, in their support for the Iranian uprising against the mullahs, at least some western leaders are backing the right side this time. That is not what the west did in its foolish enthusiasm for the so called “Arab Spring” that began with the Tunisian revolution on 17th December 2010.

The Tunisian Revolution effect spread strongly to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where either the political establishments were toppled or major uprisings and social violence occurred, leading to insurgencies and in Syria civil war. Sustained street demonstrations took place in Morocco, Iraq, Algeria, Iranian Khuzestan, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Sudan. Minor protests occurred in Djibouti, Mauritania, the Palestinian National Authority, Saudi Arabia, and the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. A prominent slogan of the demonstrators in the Arab world was ash-shaʻb yurīd isqāṭ an-niẓām – “the people want to bring down the regime.”

In Egypt “the people” – or rather the Muslim Brotherhood – did succeed in bringing down the government and President Mubarak was deposed. Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and not composed of bright-eyed teenagers on their mobile phones and avid for “democracy” – as neocons in the west firmly believed. And so the fatuous hopes of western politicians were dashed. These starry-eyed political enthusiasts in the west reminded me of William Wordsworth’s words when the French revolution broke out in 1789: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was very heaven.” Willie soon changed his tune when the Reign of Terror got going, Madame Guillotine toured the country and Englishmen abed feared that the revolution would catch on over here too.

The French got Napoleon, Egypt got Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Syria got a genocidal war which is hardly finished eight years later, and the world got the fundamentalist psychopaths of Islamic State.

Why did the west for so long and so consistently back the wrong side? For decades – for centuries, dammit – it was obvious that the real danger to western civilization was the same as it has been for 1400 years: a militant Islamic insurgency. 9/11 should have removed finally any doubts that remained. This insurgency was first rebuffed by Charles Martel at Tours in AD 732, later at Lepanto and then with the relief of the Siege of Vienna, 1683. How come we didn’t notice?

Long ago, Amos confessed, “I am no prophet, but a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit” (Amos 7:14). I am not even a herdsman, or even a half-competent gardener, but I saw what was going on and warned of it in my lecture Apocalypse Soon? which I gave in St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in 2003 and, a little later, in the introduction to my book The Secular Terrorist.

02 Jan

How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?

“Do you need to be told that what has been can still be?” asked T.S. Eliot in his Choruses from the Rock (1934).

It seems a daft question which we answer emphatically, “Of course it can!” Not if you’re a Marxist though, for whom historical events are “inevitable.” So the communist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the punishment of the capitalists will all happen necessarily, as if decreed by the laws of the Medes and the Persians.

There, I’ve gone and done it and mentioned the Persians and so the mind turns to thoughts of Iran. Could it be that Iran is about to present us with one of those historical surprises which Karl Marx said do not and indeed cannot happen? And, if so, might this happening be a bit of good news – perhaps even a lot of good news – for a change?

For six days, Iranians have been protesting in the streets of towns and cities right across the country and so far at least twenty-one people have been killed in these disturbances. It’s hardly surprising that the population is discontented and unhappy. The cost of living has more than doubled in a decade. Unemployment stands at 12.6% and, crucially, 29.2% among young people. The average wage is about £60 per week and the minimum wage £4 per week.

Censorship of the press is ubiquitous and strictly enforced in Iran – one of the worst countries in the world to practise as a journalist. The Ministry of Islamic Guidance decrees what music the people are allowed to listen to and which plays and other entertainments they can enjoy. Discos and nightclubs are illegal and when their location is discovered by the religious police, they are closed down. Women are jailed for campaigning for the ordinary liberties which are taken for granted in the West.

It didn’t use to be so thoroughly oppressive. In the days of the Shah, before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iranians enjoyed a lively and varied cultural existence. The government spent lavishly on the arts. There was music and dancing with wine and beer in the cafes.

Then arose the puritanical totalitarian Ayatollah Khomenei to breathe Islamic fundamentalism. And the land grew grey from his breath.

After 1979, everything looked set and fixed, as nicely and as inevitably as any Marxist could wish for. But, just as 16th century Europe was revolutionised by the invention of the printing press, so today’s world has been radically transformed by the Internet and social media. Of course, the mullahs in that Ministry of Islamic Guidance try to control this new media.

But they can’t. And a new question arises in succession that the one asked by T.S. Eliot. And the new question is the one asked in the (probably banned) popular song: “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm now that they’ve seen Paree?” Thanks to the new media, the Iranians – particularly the 70% under thirty – have glimpsed something like Paree and they will not go back into the shadows of sharia.

So, as we see, nothing is inevitable – not even the triumph of Islamic fundamentalism.

No doubt the Israelis and the Americans are making all efforts to encourage the Iranians who have seen the possibility of a change for the better.

I do hope that our man in the foreign office, Boris Johnson, will lend all his weight to this cause.