Following the much controversial Iranian summer elections, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was among the first in the international community to publically express support in what he viewed as the legitimate victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Chavez owes his democratically elected victories in Venezuela as a champion of progressive and pro-working class legislation and on the promise of extending those gains in a country where more than 80% live under the poverty line. On the other hand, the Islamic Republic is a theocratic state where electoral candidates must pass the judgment of unelected mullahs and where anti-worker legislation is fierce. In this resource wealthy country, 90% live in poverty – a huge regression from the Iranian people’s aims during the 1979 revolution.
The overthrow of the Shah in Iran saw a huge rise of labour involvement in the political process of the nation. The oil workers general strike brought the needed potential which weakened Shah Pahlavi's dictatorship and readied the country for revolution to free itself from the yoke of American imperialism. Before the Islamic Republic consolidated power, millions of workers had joined established councils (shoras) to occupy factories and rid them of capitalist administration, and the mass peasantry had occupied land to farm and live off of. The Iranian revolution was betrayed when these gains were reversed by the further repressive Islamic Republic.
The aims of Chavez’ Bolivarian revolution and the actions of the Islamic Republic stand on two ideological opposites. Where Chavez has encouraged workers of his nation to occupy factories and establish councils, the Islamic Republic has replaced all worker councils with Islamic councils banning worker strikes and organisation. Where Chavez has encouraged the peasantry to take the land, the Islamic Republic has taken land won by the peasantry in the revolution and has given it back to the landowner.
With so much ideological contradiction, the unity of these two nation states must be observed in how they both interact and react knowing full well their position in the global economy. As both are top oil-producers, and as both have had foreign overthrow of their respective democratically-elected governments (1953 Iran and 2002 Venezuela), there exists a legitimate resounding anti-American imperialist sentiment.
With the two nations’ prominent positions in OPEC (Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries) and their outspoken anti-American imperialism, the pair’s dependence on one another has only come naturally. With the outcasting of the two in the international capitalist community, Chavez and Ahmadinejad’s alliance has been tied on dependence of industry among themselves as a means to strengthen one another as well as the necessity of policy to undercut American imperialism.
In the last year alone, Iran has started two cement factories in Bolivia, is producing 16,000 cars for Venezuelan roads and the two countries have started a joint bank of $200 million (USD) starting capital. As of 2006, the Iran-Venezuela trade volume hit $11 billion (USD).
The alliance of Venezuela and the Islamic Republic therefore are not rooted on ideological grounds but rather one of a very unfortunate necessity for Venezuela. The words of Hugo Chavez in his unconditional support of Ahmadinejad will likely go down in history as a move that betrayed not only the Iranian working class but also the aims of Chavez’ own much supported Bolivarian Revolution.
The legislation of Chavez in Venezuela is something that the Iranian people could benefit greatly off of. From his redistribution of oil wealth from the greedy claws of a wealthy minority to the needy hands of the impoverished majority, the occupation of factories by workers into co- operatives, and the return of land to the peasantry, he has proven to be an honest friend and ally of the working and the poor. Those in his country who support Chavez come from the same walks of life as those who have taken to Iranian streets to overthrow Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic.
In judging the character of his mistake, we should not put Chavez in the same light that we would reserve for those which have directly interfered in Iranian politics such as the imperialists of America. Chavez has proven to be a friend of the working class and friends can make mistakes. American imperialism, on the other hand, has proven to still be the greatest enemy to the international working class and must be attacked for every mistake it makes.
Had it not been for American intervention and imperialism, the Iranian people would not have had to meddle in decades of coups, dictatorships, revolution(s), theocracies and revolution(s) betrayed.