Mario Saenz 6/20/09

The recent elections in Iran raise significant issues regarding the scope and means of democracy.

I think there are good reasons not to think that there is strong evidence that Ahmadinejad stole the elections. At any rate, right now there is more evidence that Bush stole the elections in 2000 than Ahmadinejad stole his own in 2009.

Nevertheless, those real or fraudulent results are wrongly used to lend legitimacy to attacks against labor leaders, labor organizers, and women’s rights activists. The theocracy in Iran wanted to use an electoral victory to strengthen its hand in those attacks, much in the same way as the protofascist regime we lived through in the U.S. during the Cheney-Bush years used its real or fraudulent electoral victories to justify attacks against the constitutional rights of citizens and residents. In fact, the last 8 years had moved us towards the establishment of a national security state and a permanent state of exception in which constitutionally protected rights are no longer operative for the long duration of the so-called war on terror.

It remains to be seen if the secular bourgeoisie in the U.S. will be able to dismantle the protofascist elements of governance they inherited from the fundamentalists in power until 2009. So far, however, they have only administered the mechanisms of the nation state including those created by their predecessors. We await with similar curiosity the unfolding of events in Iran: Will the secular bourgeoisie that is organizing itself around the figure of Mousavi succeed and be able to dismantle those repressive elements most closely associated with the theocracy?

We must also ask ourselves: Is freedom only for the bourgeoisie enough to establish democracy, that is, participation by the people in the governance of a nation? How far and wide and how effective is bourgeois right? The rights of workers to unionize have been under attack for years in both the U.S. and Iran. Also, in both the U.S. and Iran, significant sectors of the population are marginalized and persecuted. They are nothing to the ruling castes of each country: “Flotsam,” “Unhappy fans after a soccer match,” said Ahmadineyad after the election results were challenged in Iran. “Terrorists,” say the political pornographers in the U.S., to defend torture, disappearances (“extraordinary rendition”), and the persecution of people whose crime is no crime at all but simply their country of origin or, say, Muslim faith: the physician Rafil Dhafir in upstate New York and the university professor Sami Amin Al-Arian in Florida are only two examples of legal proceedings based on the political and religious filiation of the accused (for more information on the violation of the human and civil rights of Dhafir and Al-Arian go to and

It is good to dream for democracy abroad. It is better to realize democracy at home.

Mario Saenz is a professor of philosophy at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York.  His publications include  The Identity of Liberation in Latin American Thought: Latin American Historicism and the Phenomenology of Leopoldo Zea and Latin American Perspectives on Globalization: Ethics, Politics, Alternative Visions.