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DESPITE THE CREATION OF AN AUTOCRATIC and anti-Semitic regime after the Khomeneiite revolution of 1979, the European Community and later the European Union continued to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran; and even with new, insufficient sanctions in place, trade with Iran continues until today. It is the capitalist state’s primary task to allow the further realization of capital, but there is a certain sense in which politics surpasses this function
Given the recent election crisis and continuing protests in Iran and in light of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, The Platypus Affiliated Society on November 5, 2009 hosted a panel discussion at the University of Chicago entitled 30 Years of the Islamic Revolution: The Tragedy of the Left. Panel participants included Danny Postel, journalist and author of Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism; Kaveh Ehsani, editor of The Middle East Report (MERIP); Maziar Behrooz, historian and author of Rebels with a Cause: The Failure of the Left in Iran; and Chris Cutrone of Platypus. This supplement to issue #20 of the Platypus Review consists of an edited transcript of the discussion, beginning with the panelists’ prepared remarks, followed by their responses to each other, and ending with a series of questions and answers.
TO QUOTE ALDOUS HUXLEY and to paraphrase Atiya Khan in her Platypus Review article “The poverty of Pakistan’s politics,” I represent “a sad symptom of the failure of the intellectual class in time of crisis.” In Khan’s telling, it is the intellectual Left which failed (in) Pakistan, and under its sad banner now congregate blind and mute liberals such as myself. It is a strong, and harshly delivered, criticism and I take it very seriously.
The nature of the present crisis in Iran Chris Cutrone Confusion on the Left around the 2009 electoral crisis in Iran has been expressed both in defense of President Ahmadinejad's claim to victory as well as by support of Iranian dissidents and protesters. Slavoj Žižek has weighed in, questioning prevailing understandings of the nature of the Iranian regime and its Islamist character. Responses to the current crisis have recapitulated problems on the Left in understanding the Islamic Revolution since 1979. All share in attributing to Iran an autonomous historical rhythm or logic of its own, rather than as a symptomatic effect of a greater history. Žižek has come closest to addressing this issue of greater context, but even he has failed to address the history of the Left.
On Thursday April 16 Platypus Review Editor-in-Chief Spencer A. Leonard interviewed the prominent historian and Columbia University professor Ervand Abrahamian on “Radical Minds” broadcast on UChicago WHPK-FM 88.5 on the subject of “30 years of Islamic Revolution in Iran.” Abrahamian kindly agreed to answer some further questions put to him by the Platypus Review to supplement that interview. Included below is an edited transcript of the original interview together with the answers Abrahamian gave to our supplemental questions.