The Aesthetics of the post-Aban Uprising
Written by Hassan MaarifPour (Philosophy student at Heidelberg University, follower of the Hegel-Marxist tradition and Lukács school follower.)
Translated by: Frahad Sharífi
Aban 98 (a time reference to the Persian calendar indicating the month of Aban 1398 equivalence roughly to November 2019) is one of the critical turning points in the history of Iran. The uprising of November 2019 is unprecedented in the history of modern Iran. This article discusses the aesthetics of the Aban uprising, the position of different forces in this uprising, the role of the opposition, and the role of other alternatives. The goal is to redefine these narratives. It is essential to understand that the Aban uprising was formed upon the foundation of a preceding uprising (in Dec-2017) which itself had negated all bourgeois alternative movements such as the “Khordadi’s Second Reformation,” the “Green Movement” and the “Heroic Compromise” of Violet movement. What made the Aban Uprising more noticeable was the following facts: it was carried out on a broader dimension, more radical and militant, and had a deeper reflection of the slogans & demands of the laborers and marginalized people. Although Aban Uprising was suppressed by bloodshed and mass killings, it became the basis for the workers and the urban laborers to reflect deeper on their struggles. The continuous protests and strikes of workers, teachers, women, and retirees between 2017 – 2019 clearly show that the working class considers the “one step forward, two steps back” policy (a tactic that has been effective to a large extent) as a logical and revolutionary tactic and as a tactic which allows them to look back to their positionality and struggles.
Within two years (2017-2019), we witnessed different political developments, such as the intensification of the class struggles of the workers on the one hand and the increase of the struggle of the bourgeois classes against the workers on the other hand. The bourgeoisie of Islamic Iran manifests itself to the workers through the imposition of inflation, increased cost of housing & food, and commodification of various areas of people’s lives. On the other hand, the “proletariat” tried to dissolve and expose the pro-regime labor structures by radicalizing and deepening the labor struggles, ideological war with the defenders of capitalism and the labor “aristocracy” and advancing the genuine communist line in the society and among the workers.
Iran’s society has undergone serious changes in the past year. The balance of power has changed in favor of the workers. We can never compare the uprising of Aban 1398 (Nov 2019) with the uprising of Dey 1396 (Dec 2017). On the one hand, Iran’s bourgeois political structure has reached a politico-economic dead-end and has no desire to resolve the people’s economic problems. On the other hand, it uses the current condition of the economic crisis and the sanctions in favor of accumulating more capital to spread regional terrorism. The primary victims of economic sanctions were the weakest strata of the working class. Over time, these sanctions generally led to the proletarianization of society, poverty, and misery of the vast majority of people, which comprises about ninety percent of the country’s population. It also led to the proletarianization of the petty bourgeoisie and the destruction of the vast majority of the middle class. Except for an ostentation nostalgia, nothing is left of the petty bourgeoisie (the middle class) in Iran. Iran’s bourgeoisie, hoping to return to the era when gasoline was cheap, has also some sort of mental orgasm with the memories of the past. This is very similar to the pre-Covid condition of Europe and similar to the crisis of the petty bourgeoisie in Germany (in 2008) who had nostalgia for the good old times of “Mark” before the formation of the European Union.
Aesthetics here is a tool to judge what is ugly, beautiful, good & bad, opportunism, Marxism, and showing the essential nature of phenomena by going beyond their apparent form. An aesthetic that does not fit within the framework of vulgar Marxism or the division of aesthetics into “materialist” or “idealist.” Here we talk about Marxist aesthetics, which does not examine a mechanical opposition of form and substance or the primacy of spirit over matter, and neither it examines the objective and subjective aspects of phenomena separate from each other; but, as a unique aesthetic, tries to examine the relationship between parts and the totality, the general and the particular features of things to make [these relationships] visible to those who cannot see it otherwise. For a better cognition of phenomena, we need a Kantian aesthetics of power of judgment. Therefore, in Marxist aesthetics, one can find traces of Kant’s idealistic aesthetics elaborated in his book the Critique of the Power of Judgment.
For example, in the materialistic aesthetics of “Chernyshevsky,” in the aesthetics of “Hegel” as well as George Lukács book “Unique features of aesthetic”; one can find the same lines of thought in “Aesthetics of the uprising,” a book by Peter Weiss who is also another revolutionary Marxist and who defends Luxemburg and Karl Korsch. Similarly, the unique work of another prominent Marxist [Critique of commodity aesthetics, a book by Wolfgang Fritz Haug] can be considered works influenced by Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment.
Very un-related to Marx/Marxism, we see a trending model attributed to Marxism by the vulgar Marxists, discussions on [a priori & posterior/or Primary & Secondary], “spirit & matter,” “idealism, materialism,” the base (or substructure) & superstructure, “form and substance,” “existence and essence,” none of which is true to surpass one over the other. It must be acknowledged that the subjective and objective elements are in a dialectical relationship with each other; in Marxism, and in what we know as “Marx’s method of historical materialism,” we have what we call a “simultaneous” process which was proposed for the first time by Karl Korsch. The same thing that Marx and Engels proposed in the German Ideology: “Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence.”
In such a situation, Marx and Engels [criticized] all the [un-Marxist] narratives propagated by the defenders of French vulgar materialism; they [criticized] writings of Baron d’Holbach, La Mettrie, Helvétius and others who were talking about [a priori & posterior/or Primary & Secondary], form and substance, matter & mind and so on; these were the debates that were continued by [Friedrich Albert Lange] in Germany in a different form and became the basis for misunderstanding between Darwinist Marxism and reactionary-mechanical Kantians. Later, this same reactionary vulgarity and anti-dialectical narrative, which is a kind of mechanical materialism, was used for the first time by Peter Josef Dietzgen and was repeated by Georgi Plekhanov and became popular among vulgar Marxists in the name of dialectical materialism, a concept that never existed with Marx and Engels. This reading of Marxism, along with a socialist-realism narrative, which is extremely popular but unrelated to historical materialism and dialectical method, spread in the most vulgar way possible through Stalin and Stalinism.
In other words: dialectic is nothing but a method for the relationship between the general and the particular, the part and the whole in a totality. It can be said that dialectics is a method that considers the truth as a whole. Through the examination of this whole, by applying a substantial principle, the dialectic method tries to discover what is behind the curtains of phenomena; it reveals the nature of social movements, political parties, and events, modes of production, and different ideologies contrary to their apparent forms and brings people one step closer to the truth. Hegel founded the dialectical method or essentialist dialectic with his book on Logic. A method used in its best form in Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse to illustrate the nature of capitalism. The summary of Hegel’s logic is this: “Being by itself is nothing but nothingness”; when we do not understand the essence of being, and in order to understand the essence of existence, it is necessary to have “concepts” that can reveal the essence of existence through these concepts. Hegel finally says: “Being must present itself in the form.”
Examination of post-Aban political changes with a Marxist aesthetics
The fact that more than 1,500 revolutionary people (mainly urban workers and toilers) were killed is as painful for real revolutionaries as a broken bone in the wound. It is necessary to mention that in the thinking of the anti-working-class aristocrat, influenced by the ideology of the bourgeoisie, these people were nothing but a series of numbers. After the mass slaughter in Aban, we witnessed the Ukrainian-Plane disaster shot down by the Revolutionary Guards. Those who previously were looking away from the killing of more than 1500 working people suddenly became defenders of human rights and advocates. What is the matter [and why such a blatant double standard?] Is it personal advocacy? Were the marginal workers’ lives less worthy than those killed in the Ukrainian plane? The disgruntled laborers had only lost any prospect of commuting to work due to the sudden 300% price increase of gasoline and, as a result, had spontaneously come to the streets on a large scale.
The problem is the bourgeois ideology which still contains the inhuman thoughts of the ancient “aristocracy” and does not recognize workers as subjects or capable human beings. To the bourgeoise, the number of those killed is of no value, no matter if 1500 or 100 thousand people are dead, because, in their thought, workers are only numbers that resemble other numbers such as profit or cost of production.
After only three years, that is, from Aban 1398 to Shahrivar 1401 [from Nov 2019 to Aug 2022], the working class of Iran learned and suffered from the lack of organization. [the oppressor] who then had these unorganized laborers, had an easy task to massacre 1500 of them in November 2019; however, that experience led the non-partisan workers to get self-organized and [in some part radicalized] during those three years.
At the same time, as briefly mentioned above, disruptive activities: those affiliated with the police, staged alternatives by the government such as the Basijis (a paramilitary volunteer militia established in Iran in 1979 by order of Ayatollah Khomeini), the so-called Justice-Seekers fascists, the thugs of the Sepah (army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution also Sepāh or Pasdaran for short), the lumpen affiliated with the Workers House and the Islamic Labor Council, other sections and layers of the Workers’ aristocracy, and in general the defenders of Iran’s fascist capitalism like that of “Reza Rokhshan” who tried to stand by the fascists with all their strength for smear campaigns and dirty work against the workers. Scoundrels like Reza Rakhshans and other Sepahi mobs of the “resistance axis” for the Islamic fascists are doing the same work as that of the thugs affiliated with the “Mahdi Kohestani” group in his “Solidarity Center.” Wherever a group or an organization wants to organize itself, the regime organizes dozens of fascist disruptors and mercenaries to stop it. Disruption and liquidation, opportunism, and dirty work were not limited to thugs in labor organizations formed in the Haft Tappeh area, similar things happened in the teachers’ movements also.
A series of destructive parasites like the self-proclaimed intellectual celebrities of the government reformers, the traitorous social democrats in favor of the [Communication Action Theory] or defenders of trade unionists; generally, the entire Frankfurt left, as well as lovers of “cultural criticism” and the school of critical theory all of which formed a seeming opposition with a reformist tendency had turned into a stinking corpse. They were suddenly sent to the dustbin of history by revolutionary people who radically came to the streets in Aban and Dey [November & Jan-December].
It was the uprising of Aban and Dey that forced the boot-licking reformers of fascism to turn into abolitionists once and for all; because the demand of the marginalized workers and the poorest part of the proletariat was not to reform Islamic fascism but to end it. The crystallization of this demand was brought to the fore in the general slogan: “the principled reformer, the story is over.” This revolutionary demand, which came from the depths of the boiling society and the heart of class struggles, gave such a shock to the reformists that it turned them all into pseudo-abolitionists.
In a situation where the counter-revolutionary “Social Democracy,” the “Khordad the Second Supporter,” the “Green Movement,” and the “Purple Scream,” along with fascism, shed tears and lit candles for the victims of the shooting tragedy of the Ukrainian passenger plane but doesn’t show the slightest sympathy to the massacre in Aban 98 [November 2019] which was almost ten times the number of those killed in the Ukrainian plane, in such a situation, one should doubt their defense of “human rights” and their crocodile tears for “humanity.” One of the reasons for the indifference of the reformist, the petit bourgeoisie, the old greens, and the advisors of the fascist government, i.e., social democrats, towards the marginalized proletariat who protested in Aban [November] is the fact that these groups did not identify themselves with this class; a class without which no revolution and no change will be possible. The petty-bourgeoisie, who by now have become proletarianized after the Covid 19 crisis, have nothing left of itself except a pretentious petty-bourgeois and petty-bourgeois lifestyle; they are the ones who identify themselves with those who were on the Ukrainian passenger plane but do not feel any kinship with the excluded and the oppressed.
Let’s examine the history of labor and communist struggles and compare bourgeois historiography with materialist historiography. We will see that thousands of workers, who have paved the way for human liberation with their blood in revolutionary and labor uprisings, have remained almost completely unknown. No one knows their names or gravestones. But a cheap “intellectual” who defends fascism can be engraved in the minds of the masses for centuries and become a “national and historical hero”. The one for whom the blood of workers, communists, and revolutionary people is the least important and does not show the slightest sympathy, but turns into a twenty-four-hour advocate and “human rights” defender for others shows the double standards and their vileness; [understandably enough, it could be due to the “objectification” of their ideology as a result of “studying abroad”].
Based on the Marxist methodology, communists do not adhere to the general concept of “man,” “masses,” and “nation” without addressing the class status and class interests of individuals. Therefore they do not attach the slightest value to bourgeois human rights. They believe that merely calling man in general and humanity in general is just a bourgeois ideological fantasy; just as “nation” and “national interests” are nothing more than myths and legends, which the rulers use to suppress the working classes and impose [false consciousness] on the workers. Communists are the voice of the proletariat and want the liberation of the human through the liberation of the proletariat and all marginalized people; because in the bourgeois world and the commodity relations, where even human right has become a commodity, no one wants and does not want to be their voice and advocate for them.
When the middle class (i.e., the parasites) who had and have a common sense of class solidarity and identify themselves with the “educated” and the “specialists” inside the Ukrainian plane, but cannot understand that a child laborer is starving, shows that they do not want to understand the reasons for poverty and misery. They don’t know and don’t want to know why millions of people in Iran can’t afford to pay their rent; these people are members of the legendary petty bourgeoisie who can’t understand what it means for daily wage workers to return home after waiting full day in the city square, but can’t find anyone for whom he can work and receive a wage; the petty bourgeoisie cannot understand the worker who has to return home empty-handed and is ashamed in front of his children that he has not been able to find work again. If one cannot understand what economic sanctions have done to the working class, cannot understand what it means to live under the domination of fascism that implements the most predatory neoliberal policies, cannot understand that in Iran we have more than seventy million people below the poverty line (based wholly on a poverty line set by the ruling fascist government for whom such issues are not of concern and defend even more sanctions), cannot understand that misogyny is a class issue and the upper classes of society have a completely bourgeois and aristocratic lifestyle, cannot understand how much a person is humiliated as a second class citizen under the rule of fascism, cannot show any sympathy to the Afghan migrant workers but with the death of people who were one-tenth of those killed in Aban 98 loses all hopes and dreams of studying in the West to become “modern” and live “modern,” such a person cannot be in the line of the proletarian revolution. He can never represent from the standpoint of the working class and its revolutionary and liberational view; such a person is a charlatan who can become a celebrity easily hired with money and the promise of the comfortable facility to promote the most anti-human policies through him and his ilk.
The German revolution of 1919 and the post-revolutionary period that was ultimately defeated. Thousands of workers were massacred by the extreme right, the SS-Helmets, the free army, and the early fascists who later became criminals and Nazi officials in Hitler’s crematoriums and death camps; few people might have accurate statistics on the number of people killed because those killed were workers and a less number of “bourgeois intellectuals,” less number of “journalists,” a less number of “organizations/parties” felt a sense of belonging toward them. Thousands of communists have been massacred by the bourgeoisie without their names and traces recorded in official historiography. If there is any discussion about them, they are mentioned only as a series of estimated numbers. For example, it is said that in the uprising of the Red Army in the Ruhr area, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, after the events related to the 1919 German revolution and the revolutionization of various German regions, more than a thousand Red Army soldiers were killed. Communist historians have recorded the names of more than 1,200 communist soldiers and “revolutionary anarchists,” but the estimates are higher; however, from the point of view of the ideology of the ruling class, these are just a series of numbers, a few hundred more or less does not matter in the slightest.
The middle class, i.e., more prosperous layers of government payroll employees in Iran, is largely immersed in the contradictions of bourgeois thought. This class reproduces the ideology of bourgeois slavery. This class, which has accepted bourgeois ideology as embodied abstraction in its mind, is constantly reproducing bourgeois relations through bourgeois praxis. Their biggest political act is “not eating fat” and “reading Sharq newspaper.”
For years, they have voted for the regime that executed and shot tens of thousands of left-wing, communist, and Islamist political prisoners without a trial. Even today, they ideologically defend this fascist regime. Now that the horizon of the revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the destruction of Islamic fascism has become a reality in society with the formation of the revolutionary uprising of the masses, these layers of the parasite attached to the reformists and, in many cases have aligned themselves with royal fascism or attracted to the discourse of western liberal democracy. [This means similar] to the economic and imperialist policies that the government thugs in the Revolutionary Guards have promoted and are promoting as the biggest economic monopoly and a type of regional imperialism far more extreme than any neoliberal model in the world.
Government fascists and murderers of defenseless workers of Aban 98 and Dey 96 (Nov 2019 and Dec 2017), those who killed the current Iranian revolution, those who directly shot the revolutionary workers in Iran and are doing so, should know that these infernals of this land of slavery, sooner or later, are going to be armed on a mass level. At that time, the ground would be so narrow for the fascists that they would flee one after another before being tried by revolutionaries in revolutionary courts. [victory will be because of] all the workers who sacrificed their lives for the collective liberation of mankind during the shameful history of Islamic fascism, especially those who came to the streets in Aban and Dey with the revolutionary slogans of: ” the principled reformist, the story is over.” They forever destroyed all the sanctity of Islamic Fascist bourgeois ideology in Iran and buried any illusions of reformism and reforming the system by crushing it and turning the reformists into abolitionists, though [these reformers] maintained the same anti-revolutionary and reactionary tendencies of the past.
Marxist Aesthetics is a tool for examining opportunism and Marxism, [is a device for examining the philosophy of art], and is a theoretical system for separating Marxism from opportunism. It is the intellectual apparatus of distinguishing a celebrity from an organic intellectual and a professional revolutionary. It is considered a means of understanding petty-bourgeois and proletarian positions and viewpoints. A tool for judging history, which recognizes the true nature of movements, activities, and political positions of individuals through examining the relationship between the totality & the part, the general & the particular, and finding specific issues in common. It shows the position of political parties and forces, the position of individuals in the class struggle, and lets society know who is the traitors of the working class and communism.