HURSDAY, JUNE 25, 2009
Open letter of support to the demonstrators in Iran!
This morning Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded an end to the massive and forceful demonstrations protesting the controversial result of last week's election. He argued that to make concessions to popular demands and 'illegal' pressure would amount to a form of 'dictatorship', and he warned the protestors that they, rather than the police, would be held responsible for any further violence.
Khamenei's argument sounds familiar to anyone interested in the politics of collective action, since it appears to draw on the logic used by state authorities to oppose most of the great popular mobilisations of modern times, from 1789 in France to 1979 in Iran itself. These mobilisations took shape through a struggle to assert the principle that sovereignty rests with the people themselves, rather than with the state or its representatives. 'No government can justly claim authority', as South Africa's ANC militants put it in their Freedom Charter of 1955, 'unless it is based on the will of all the people.'
Needless to say it is up to the people of Iran to determine their own political course. Foreign observers inspired by the courage of those demonstrating in Iran this past week are nevertheless entitled to point out that a government which claims to represent the will of its people can only do so if it respects the most basic preconditions for the determination of such a will: the freedom of the people to assemble, unhindered, as an inclusive collective force; the capacity of the people, without restrictions on debate or access to information, to deliberate, decide and implement a shared course of action.
Years of foreign-sponsored 'democracy promotion' in various parts of the world have helped to spread a well-founded scepticism about civic movements which claim some sort of direct democratic legitimacy. But the principle itself remains as clear as ever: only the people themselves can determine the value of such claims. We the undersigned call on the government of Iran to take no action that might discourage such determination.
Middlesex University, UK.
Goldsmiths College, UK.
This letter is also signed by:
Alenka Zupancic, Institute of Philosophy of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Alexander Garcia Duttmann, Goldsmiths College
Etienne Balibar, Paris X, Nanterre, and University of California, Irvine
Eyal Weizman, Director, Centre for Research Architecture, Dept. of Visual Cultures
Goldsmiths, University of London
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (retired), MIT, Cambridge MA USA
Philip Pettit, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University
Rada Ivekovic, Prof., Collège international de philosophie, Paris.
Slavoj Žižek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and the European Graduate School
Duane Campbell, Calif. State University -Sacramento
and hundreds more
And, the International Federation of Trade Unions
Iran Day of Worker Solidarity Action
Will Be Organized As Repression Continues
The ITUC, EI, ITF and IUF today expressed their
solidarity with the many Iranian workers who have
joined the demonstrations in the streets to call for
respect for their fundamental democratic rights.
Protests for democracy in Iran, organized by trade
unions, will be held in countries around the world
"The violence against those demonstrating for democracy
has left many people dead and several hundred injured.
This heavy repression of peaceful demonstrations and
lack of respect for human rights is completely
unacceptable," said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.
Trade unions across the world have been appalled at the
Iranian authorities' targeting of independent trade
union action in recent years, with workers attacked and
arrested for demonstrating peacefully for workers'
rights, most recently on 1 May as they attempted to
hold a peaceful May Day rally at Laleh Park in Tehran.
Repression of fundamental rights has now intensified
and widened, with particularly violent reaction by
security forces to the many demonstrations in the wake
of the election, and the arrest of hundreds of people."