The Greatest Entertainer Of His Age

Michael Jackson may have spent his last years mutating into an ever more freakish version of himself, eventually becoming a prize exhibit in the celebrity zoo, but under the outlandish surface was a singer who had come by his fame not via mere eccentricity or a stroke of luck, but through a genuinely remarkable talent that deserved to conquer the world.

For all his tragic flaws as a human being, Jackson could legitimately be seen as the greatest entertainer of his generation, the natural successor to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

Soul music was the idiom from which he emerged, and disco was the vehicle that powered his solo career, but he was more than that suggests. The slender young man in spats who danced to the whip-smart rhythms of Billie Jean and Beat It, and crooned tear-stained ballads such as She’s Out Of My Life, seemed to span the modern equivalents of many timeless idioms, from vaudeville to torch songs.

First and last, however, he was a great singer. When the Jackson 5 burst on to the music scene at the beginning of the 1970s, Jackson was barely out of short trousers and his singing on I Want You Back, ABC and The Love You Save, their first hits, was that of a hyperactive juvenile lead. Listening to I’ll Be There, a quiet ballad that gave them their fourth hit, however, it was possible to detect the signs of something extraordinary.

His careful phrasing, and in particular his terminal vibrato, showed a maturity extraordinary for a boy barely into his teenage years by which time Jackson demonstrated every ounce of the gifts and the potential that would make him, by the end of the decade, the biggest attraction in the world of showbusiness, the star of stage shows of previously unimaginable lavishness.

And that was the world in which he clearly situated himself. He loved the world of glitter and divas, of Judy Garland and Diana Ross. He was the pop star of the era of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, or ET and Star Wars, futuristic in style yet terminally sentimental in content.

For all the superficial allure of that world, however, underneath he was a musician of great creativity and acute instincts. His singing on such albums as Off the Wall and Thriller, some of the 20th century’s biggest selling and best loved records, comprised a textbook of vocal technique and character, from the breathy and fragile to the driving and committed.

Jackson’s high voice linked him to the great tradition of falsetto singing which came out of gospel music and led to such immediate predecessors as Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield. But Jackson went beyond idiom, leaving the emotional immediacy of soul music far behind as, in collaboration with the great arranger and producer Quincy Jones, he created a music beyond restrictions of generation and ethnicity.

Those who felt that his music was weakened as a result, becoming the deracinated product of a man interested in securing an international audience while erasing first the primary signs, and eventually all traces, of his own ethnicity, found themselves very much in the minority.

The day after that Talk of the Town gig in the early 1970s, the Jackson 5 were made available for interviews in a London hotel. The older brothers – Jermaine, Marlon and the rest – were keen to do the public relations thing, as they had been taught.

Michael, however, sat by himself with a pencil and a puzzle book. When he was approached, he lifted his face and confronted his questioner with a pair of huge brown eyes that gave nothing away. Already, he was in his own world.

Courtesy: The Guardian

Richard Williams/Guardian

Michael Jackson’s Greatest Clips:


Are Indians Racist?

Racist attacks on Indians in Australia continue. The press continues to raise a hue and cry. And Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been forced to denounce the attacks to safeguard the interests of the education sector that is Australia’s second biggest export revenue earner after iron ore.

But now questions are being asked here if we Indians are racist as well. Speaking at a seminar in Singapore on June 25, Mizoram chief minister Pu Lalthanhawla startled delegates to conference on water by claiming he too was a victim of racism – in India!

In India, people ask me if I am an Indian. When I go south, people ask me such questions. They ask me if I am from Nepal or elsewhere. They forget that the northeast is part of India. I have told many that see, I am an Indian like you. I am a victim of racism,” he said. Indians consist of three races – “Dravidians, Aryans and we in the northeast,” Lalthanhawla said, airing his angst.

Lalthanhawla has certainly touched a raw nerve. How good are we in treating our fellow citizens? In a recent article (, an assistant professor at AIIMS Dr Shah Alam Khan wondered whether Indians practice equality at all.

He points out we take the wrong sides in our strife against dalits. Protests against the killing of harijans in Haryana and UP in the recent past don’t go beyond a few gratuitous editorials. The Khairlanji massacre is only an “dalit atrocity”.

Indeed, very few upper caste Indian are willing to eat on the same table with an “untouchable”. (Working in AIIMS – the epicentre of the anti-reservation protests and where SC/ST students are forced to stay in separate wings and are discriminated against by the upper caste faculty members who fail them regularly – Shah Alam should know.)

In fact, inequalities are a common or rather a daily occurrence in our country. Abhorrence of people of different faith, low caste and different races is incredible and phenomenal and we even believe and differentiate on the basis of colour.

On the other hand, “fair and lovely” brides are much sought after in a land which was once dominated by the Dravidians, the real inhabitants of India whose DNA can be traced to black Africa.

Shah Alam laments we live through these atrocities as if they are a natural consequence of race and creed. “Unfortunately, our belief in inequalities of caste, creed and religion are so strong that we refuse to raise questions and protest. It is an abject submission to the power of inequality which is rampant in India.”

Contradictions in the Indian society are not new. We preach morality but rank highest amongst the most corrupt nations of the world. We preach Gandhism but stage pogroms to annihilate ethnic minorities (that too in the land of Gandhi!). We claim we have never attacked another country, but we were busy attacking our own churches, our own dalits, our own adivasis, our own peasants, our own men, women and children in the name of caste, religion and race.

These are very important questions. Maybe once things cool down in Australia, we can get down to providing answers to ourselves.

Another US-Orchestrated ‘Colour Revolution’

By Paul Craig Roberts

(If you think my Iran election posts are a left-wing rant, read this piece. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Francois Mitterrand.)

A number of commentators have expressed their idealistic belief in the purity of Mousavi, Montazeri, and the westernised youth of Tehran. The CIA destabilization plan, announced two years ago (see below) has somehow not contaminated unfolding events.

The claim is made that Ahmadinejad stole the election, because the outcome was declared too soon after the polls closed for all the votes to have been counted. However, Mousavi declared his victory several hours before the polls closed.

This is classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the pre-emptive declaration of victory and the announcement of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people don’t see through this trick.

As for the grand ayatollah Montazeri’s charge that the election was stolen, he was the initial choice to succeed Khomeini, but lost out to the current Supreme Leader. He sees in the protests an opportunity to settle the score with Khamenei.

Montazeri has the incentive to challenge the election whether or not he is being manipulated by the CIA, which has a successful history of manipulating disgruntled politicians.

There is a power struggle among the ayatollahs. Many are aligned against Ahmadinejad because he accuses them of corruption, thus playing to the Iranian countryside where Iranians believe the ayatollahs’ lifestyles indicate an excess of power and money.

In my opinion, Ahmadinejad’s attack on the ayatollahs is opportunistic. However, it does make it odd for his American detractors to say he is a conservative reactionary lined up with the ayatollahs.

Commentators are “explaining” the Iran elections based on their own illusions, delusions, emotions, and vested interests. Whether or not the poll results predicting Ahmadinejad’s win are sound, there is, so far, no evidence beyond surmise that the election was stolen. However, there are credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilize the Iranian government.

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”

On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: “Mr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.”

A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: “Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to $400 million, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”

The protests in Tehran no doubt have many sincere participants. The protests also have the hallmarks of the CIA orchestrated protests in Georgia and Ukraine.

It requires total blindness not to see this.

Daniel McAdams has made some telling points ( For example, neo-conservative Kenneth Timmerman wrote the day before the election that “there’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ in Tehran.”

How would Timmerman know that unless it was an orchestrated plan? Why would there be a ‘green revolution’ prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim? This looks like definite evidence that the US is involved in the election protests.

Timmerman goes on to write that “the National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars promoting ‘colour’ revolutions . . . Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds.”

Timmerman’s own neocon Foundation for Democracy is “a private, non-profit organization established in 1995 with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to promote democracy and internationally-recognized standards of human rights in Iran.”

The End Of Objective Journalism: The Iran Election And The Corporate Media

In my last post I had pointed out how the Western corporate media has abandoned any pretence of journalistic objectivity in its coverage of the Iran presidential election. And as the days pass and more protest marches are reported from Tehran, we can see how major news outlets have stooped to brazen propaganda aimed at discrediting the election result.

It is not uncommon for election results to end in charges of fraud by the losing party that trigger mass demonstrations and even armed clashes. Just last April, elections in Moldova ended in violent protests, with the losing party claiming fraud and the winning one saying it was the victim of an attempted coup.

In November of last year in Nicaragua, nationwide local elections in which the opposition claimed irregularities led to confrontations involving thousands of people armed with bats, rocks, machetes and guns.

Last July, charges of election fraud led to mass rioting in the capital of Mongolia. There is no record of the corporate media becoming particularly exercised about any of these events.

But the corporate media uses a different yardstick while reporting Iran. Relying mainly on ‘tweets’ from ‘citizen journalists’ who are partisan at best, leading newspapers and channels – many of who do not even have a reporter on the scene – have not even bothered to report, much less analyse, the vote totals, which are readily available by both city and province and refute the claims made that the ballots were rigged to give Ahmadinejad a 60 per cent margin across the board.

Besides, they have simply ignored commentary from prominent analysts of the region who have suggested that the claims of a rigged election are not supported by the evidence. Mind you, these are men whose motto is “USA First” and they would willingly give an arm and leg to see the Ayatollahs out.

These men include chief military strategy and Middle East analyst for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Anthony Cordesman, former chief Iran analyst on George W Bush’s National Security Council Hillary Mann Leverett, the and her husband Flynt Leverett, a long time CIA analyst and National Security Council (NSC) staffer, who together wrote a column entitled ‘Ahmadinejad won. Get over it’, and George Friedman, the head of the Stratfor private intelligence service.

All of them said Ahmadinejad retained substantial popular support in Iran, particularly among the rural poor and more oppressed social layers, and warned against ‘Iran experts’ who based their analyses on wishful thinking and contact with a more affluent, English-speaking minority in Iran.

Of course, the US has intense interests in Iran, with the country fighting wars on its eastern and western borders. There is, moreover, the long history of hostility between the two countries, stemming from Washington’s previous domination of Iran and its oil wealth through its dictatorial client regime under the Shah, and the revolution that brought that regime to an end.

But given these interests and this history, conscientious coverage of Iranian politics calls for not only objectivity, but also sensitivity to Washington’s intervention in Iran’s affairs and attempts to influence its politics.

The coverage, however, exhibits no such objectivity whatsoever. Instead, it typifies a presentation of Ahmadinejad’s victory over Mousavi as a “fraud” without providing a scintilla of proof to back it up. Instead, the corporate media is uncritically repeating the insistence of the Mousavi camp that it is so.

It is sought to be portrayed that Mousavi won, in some cases, by a 2-1 margin precisely in the areas – the wealthier suburbs of Tehran, Shiraz and elsewhere – that are now the centre of the election protests.

Indeed, the New York Times has actually demanded a new election, portraying Iran’s Guardian Council’s call for recounting ballots a “cynical gesture.” The newspaper is not interested in correcting vote fraud, but rather in bringing pressure to bear within the Iranian state to effect a political coup.

In this context it is particularly instructive to remember the corporate media’s attitude toward the disputed 2006 presidential election in Mexico, when the conservative candidate Felipe Calderon – with just 36 per cent of the vote and amid substantiated charges of gross electoral fraud – claimed victory over his left-nationalist opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

There was no call for a new election then, and the corporate media was largely indifferent to the evidence that the election had been rigged. While the massive crowds that took to the streets of Mexico City were comparable to those seen in Tehran, there was only disdain for the protesters.

On July 7, just five days after the contested vote totals were announced, the New York Times haughtily editorialised: “Mr Lopez Obrador has occasionally furthered his political career by inviting supporters to take to the streets… but he should resist inciting mass protests, which would harm Mexico’s stability and add to his image as a less-than-committed democrat.”

In Mexico, the victim of vote fraud was told to stand down in the interests of “stability,” while mass protests by his supporters were portrayed as a threat to democracy – the exact inverse of the newspaper’s approach to the Iranian events.

Why the difference? In Mexico, the candidate favoured by Washington won, and in Iran, the White House seeks not stability, but destabilisation.

And therein lies a tale.

(Based on a WSWS report by BV Auken))

Lies, Fantasy And Twitter In Iran Elections

By Roger Alexander

Twittering “truth” out of Tehran these days has become an industry in own right. Amazingly, by basing its stories and analysis on “tweets” emanatng from Iran, virtually the entire Western media is unanimous that the Iranian presidential election last week was “stolen” by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the blessings of the “clerical regime.” It is claimed that the fraud was committed to keep out of office the “moderate, secular and pro-US” former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The coverage by the Western corporate media typifies a presentation of Ahmadinejad’s victory over Mousavi, that abandons any pretence of journalistic objectivity. It is sheer propaganda aimed at discrediting the election result.

A typical example: The Christian Science Monitor quoted Farideh Farhi, an ‘expert’ of Iranian elections at the University of Hawaii, saying, “I am convinced they just pulled it out of their hats.” Indeed, it is easy to be “convinced” when you’re half way across the world on the beautiful Waikiki Beach.

I hold no brief for Ahmadinejad. But the manner in which the Western corporate media continues to demonise a sovereign nation and its president borders on the obscene. And they are steadfast in their belief that they, and not the people of Iran, are the agents of social change in that country.

The Western media has conveniently forgotten that Ahmadinejad has strong support among urban workers and the rural poor—the vast majority of the population. That Ahmadinejad (who was previously mayor of Tehran and commands a substantial base among the urban poor and in the rural areas) has retained this constituency is a fact grudgingly acknowledged by various Western commentators.

Besides, it is not mentioned that Mousavi campaigned as no less an ardent defender of Islamic clerical rule than Ahmadinejad. On domestic policy, he vaguely called for more openness, while opposing Ahmadinejad’s “populist” subsidies to the urban poor and the peasantry.

The media has also not sought to explain why the mass of the Iranian people should be expected to support an advocate of the same free market policies that have produced a social disaster throughout the world.

Still, directly reflecting the outlook of the Obama administration, the corporate media promoted the candidacy of Mousavi and depicted a rising tide of “popular support” that was certain to either sweep the “reformer” into office or obtain a close enough result to force a run-off contest with Ahmadinejad.

In their function as conduits for the state and US imperialist policy, the corporate media is seeking to promote the notion that a victory for Mousavi would have represented a “triumph of democracy” and opened up a new chapter in US-Iranian relations. The only possible explanation for Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory, they immediately concluded, was “fraud”. But is there a fraud involved?

There is no reason for anyone to believe Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said yesterday (June 19) that the election was fair. So the next best thing is to look at the analysis undertaken by independent American scholars and reported in the media.

Writing in the online journal Slate, University of Wisconsin mathematician Jordan Ellenberg applied some statistical analysis to what critics identified very early as a suspicious consistency in Ahmadinejad’s results.

Hours after polls closed on June 12, the blog Tehran Bureau pointed out that in the six waves of tallied votes, Ahmadinejad’s total ranged from 62 to 70 per cent. Ellenberg wrote that consistency might look odd to American voters “who may be more used to seeing wide swings in the vote totals” because “our fine-grained media start reporting results when just a few per cent of the votes are in.”

But he found nothing statistically inexplicable about the results. The batches of the votes were sufficiently large, he said, that they naturally absorbed the extremes of popularity that one would expect in a diverse electorate and delivered averages that were more or less uniform but not identically so. “The official numbers may or may not be authentic,” he wrote, “but they’re messy enough to be true,” Ellenberg concluded.

Indeed, opinion polls done before the election indicated that Ahmadinejad – as unpopular as he is said to have become for his handling of the economy – would nevertheless win by more than a 2-1 ratio – the same margin (63:34) as the final result.

An opinion poll sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund conducted on May 11 and 20 across Iran by ‘Terror Free Tomorrow: The Centre for Public Opinion’ and the New America Foundation, showed Ahmadinejad with 34 per cent of the vote and Mousavi with 14 per cent. While releasing the results, the TFT’s press statement said, “About seven in ten Iranians think the elections will be free and fair, while only one in ten thinks they will not be free and fair.”

The Western corporate media is shouting from the rooftops that a “fraud on a massive scale” was committed, citing the “head-scratching” results in Mousavi’s home province of East Azerbaijan where Ahmadinejad took 57 per cent of the vote, an astonishing improvement over his 2005 total of 10 per cent.

But the TFT pre-election opinion poll reported: “Inside Iran, considerable attention has been given to Mr Mousavi’s Azeri background, emphasizing the appeal his Azeri identity may have for Azeri voters. (However), the results of our survey indicate that only 16 per cent of Azeri Iranians indicate they will vote for Mr Mousavi. By contrast, 31 per cent of the Azeris claim they will vote for Mr Ahmadinejad.” In other words, Ahmadinejad was 2-1 ahead even before actual votes were cast.

True to form, the Western corporate media is plumbing new depths reporting Iran. Earlier it was Iran’s “nuclear ambitions,” now it is all about “eye-witness accounts” of sham elections, the takeover of party offices, a massacre on a university campus, an imminent coup d’etat, the possible overthrow of the whole 30-year-old Islamic Republic, and the isolation of an entire country as its communications are systematically shut down. Lies are being palmed off as gospel.

Secret memos and “smoking gun” documents are playing their role in fuelling outrage. Before the election, Newsweek quoted “secret Iranian government polls” that showed Mousavi would win 16-18 million votes and the incumbent a third of that.

After the results were out, a widely circulated letter, “written by the minister of the interior to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei”, sought to prove the results were fixed at Khamenei’s orders. The letter also provides “real” vote totals that more or less tally with the secret polls Newsweek reported – 19 million for Mousavi and just under 6 million for Ahmadinejad.

But the (London) Independent’s Robert Fisk, one of the few Western journalists reporting from Tehran, wondered aloud whether the letter was a fake. “However incredible Mr Ahmadinejad’s 63 per cent of the vote may have been, could he really – as a man who has immense support among the poor of Iran – have picked up only 5½ million votes?”

Fisk is not an admirer of either Ahmadinejad or the theocratic regime in Iran. But he is an objective, old-school journalist and has wonderful stories to tell from the past week. “A day earlier, an Iranian woman muttered to me in an office lift (in Tehran) that the first fatality of the street violence was a young student. Was she sure, I asked? Yes, she said. I have seen the photograph of his body. It is terrible. I never saw her again. Nor the photograph. Nor had anyone seen the body. It was a fantasy.

Earnest reporters check this out – in fact, I have been spending at least a third of my working days in Tehran this past week not reporting what might prove to be true but disproving what is clearly untrue.”

Here’s another beauty: “We had the famous instruction to journalists in Tehran from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance that they could no longer report opposition street demonstrations. I heard nothing of this. Indeed, the first clue came when I refused to be interviewed by CNN (because their coverage of the Middle East is so biased) and the woman calling me asked: Why? Are you worried about your safety? Fisk continued to spend 12 hours a day on the streets. I discovered there was a ban only when I read about it in The Independent. Maybe the Guidance lads and lassies couldn’t get through on my mobile. But then, who had cut the phone lines?”

Fantasy and reality make uneasy bedfellows, but once they are combined and spread with high-speed inaccuracy around the world, they make politically titillating headlines, as Fisk discovered to his dismay.

Take the call I had five hours before the early-hour phone call, from a radio station in California. Could I describe the street fighting I was witnessing at that moment? Now, it happened that I was standing on the roof of the al-Jazeera office in north Tehran, (the most affluent section of the city) speaking in a late-night live interview with the Qatar television station. I could indeed describe the scene to California. What I could see were teenagers on motorcycles, whooping with delight as they set light to the contents of a litter bin on the corner of the highway.

Two policemen ran up to them with night-sticks and they raced away on their bikes with shouts of derision. Then the Tehran fire brigade turned up to put out – as one of the firemen later told me with infinite exhaustion – their 79th litter-bin fire of the night. I knew how he felt.

A report that Basiji militia had taken over one of Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s main election campaign office was a classic. Yes, there were uniformed men in the building – belonging to Mousavi’s own hired security company.

Now for the very latest on the fantasy circuit. The cruel ‘Iranian’ cops aren’t Iranian at all. They are members of Lebanon’s Hizbollah militia. I’ve had this one from two reporters, three phone callers (one from Lebanon) and a British politician. I’ve tried to talk to the cops. They cannot understand Arabic. They don’t even look like Arabs, let alone Lebanese.

The reality is that many of these street thugs have been brought in from Baluch areas and Zobal province, close to the Afghan border. Even more are Iranian Azeris (from Mousavi’s home province). Their accents sound as strange to Tehranis as would a Belfast accent to a Cornishman hearing it for the first time.”

Fisk concludes, “I am reminded of Eisenhower’s comment to Foster Dulles when he sent him to London to close down Anthony Eden’s crazed war in Suez. The secretary of state’s job, Eisenhower instructed Dulles, was to say ‘Whoah, boy!’ Good advice for those who believe in the Twitterers.”

Iran’s Poor Defeat Neo-Liberal Mousavi

For anyone with a serious knowledge of Iranian society and politics, the decisive victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran’s presidential could not have come as a surprise. Widely promoted in the international press as riding a wave of popular opposition, former prime minister Mirhossein Mousavi received just 34 per cent against 63 per cent for Ahmadinejad.

Even Western newspapers that denounced the election admitted that the incumbent had strong support among urban workers and the rural poor—the vast majority of the population. Ahmadinejad has retained this constituency, despite the repressive and corrupt character of the regime, because of the absence of a socialist alternative.

Disappointed supporters, mostly young people, took to the streets, burning vehicles, torching shop fronts and clashing with riot police to vent their anger over the result. But US and Western media have generally inflated the extent of the protests and the police crackdown.

In an on-the-spot report, BBC’s John Simpson breathlessly speculated on whether he was witnessing the beginning of a revolution against the regime—from a crowd that he estimated at 3,000. The Los Angeles Times reported that “huge swathes of the capital erupted in fiery riots” but went on to describe clashes involving “hundreds” of demonstrators.

On what mass base could Mousavi depend for a successful bid to unseat Ahmadinejad? His actual electoral base did not extend beyond better-off-sections of the urban middle class, university students and businessmen.

And as the candidate of the Iranian liberal establishment, he campaigned as no less an ardent defender of Islamist clerical rule than Ahmadinejad. On domestic policy, he vaguely called for more openness, while opposing Ahmadinejad’s “populist” subsidies to the urban poor and the peasantry.

The media has not sought to explain why the mass of the Iranian people should be expected to support an advocate of the same free market policies that have produced a social disaster throughout the world.

Mousavi’s most prominent backer, moreover, was Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a leading figure in the state apparatus and one of the country’s wealthiest men. Rafsanjani, notorious for his corruption, is despised by Iranian workers and the poor.

The outcome is not the “surprise” and “shock” presented in the international media. All of the candidates—the conservatives Ahmadinejad and Mohsen Rezai, and the reformers Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi—were vetted by the unelected Guardian Council and are part of the political establishment.

In the final weeks, the campaign was highly polarised around Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, who represent different factions of the ruling elite. As a result, the very low votes for two other candidates – Rezai and Karroubi – are hardly surprising.

Mousavi speaks for sections of the regime who are seeking to ease tensions with the US as a means of ending international sanctions and opening up the deteriorating Iranian economy to foreign capital. For all the fanfare of its highly-orchestrated “colour revolution”—in this case, green—Mousavi’s campaign was directed at a relatively narrow social base—the urban middle classes, particularly students and youth.

Moreover, his criticisms of Ahmadinejad’s populist policies—particularly in rural areas—would only have alienated broad layers of the working class and rural poor, who, while discontented over rising unemployment and soaring inflation, would hardly welcome the tougher austerity measures advocated by the “reformers”.

Those suspicions would have been reinforced by the support for Mousavi from two former presidents—Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad won an upset victory the 2005 presidential elections by capitalising on the widespread anger among working people over the impact of Khatami’s free market agenda from 1997 and 2005.

He soundly defeated Rafsanjani in the second round in 2005 by promising to put the country’s oil revenues on people’s tables and inveighing against corruption. Rafsanjani, one of the country’s wealthiest men, is widely regarded as a crooked politician.

In the course of this campaign, Ahmadinejad again seized on Rafsanjani’s alleged corruption to posture as a defender of the poor against the wealthy, corrupt elite and to deflect attention from his own economic record.

While boosting Mousavi’s campaign, various Western commentators acknowledged that Ahmadinejad, who was previously mayor of Tehran, had a substantial base among the urban poor and in the rural areas.

A class divide was evident in the reaction in the capital to the election outcome. Young protesters took to the streets in the more affluent northern and north-eastern suburbs. But as the New York Times noted, “the working-class areas of southern Tehran where Mr Ahmadinejad is popular were largely quiet, despite rumours of wild victory celebrations.”

The reaction suggests that significant sections of working people, in rural and urban areas, voted for Ahmadinejad. Their distrust will only have been confirmed by the barely concealed class contempt of Mousavi and his backers for the “ignorance” and “backwardness” of Ahmadinejad’s poorer supporters.

Class Issues At Root Of Racism In Australia

Successive Australian state and federal governments are directly responsible for the attacks on international students studying in that country

Protests by Indian students in Australia over the past 12 days have brought to light an ugly under-current of violent and racist attacks that have produced outrage and deep concern among many ordinary people in both India and Australia.

Once again the suppressed tensions produced by social inequality and decades of free market policies have erupted in a malignant and reactionary form with “foreigners”—this time Indian students—subjected to racist abuse and violence.

The attacks have escalated in the past several weeks. In Sydney, an apartment was firebombed, cars have been set alight and in Melbourne, amid racial taunts, another youth was brutally stabbed with a screwdriver.

On May 31, Indian students responded with a 4,000-strong demonstration through the streets of Melbourne’s central business district, demanding action by police and by federal and state governments to protect their safety.

The Labour government’s initial response was one of damage-control. On June 1, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered assurances that “the more than 90,000 Indian students in Australia are welcome guests in our country”.

The only thing “welcome” is the billions of dollars in fees paid by Indian students annually, part of the $15 billion dollars wrung from international students each year that the Rudd government fears losing.

In reality, it is successive state and federal governments—both Labour and Liberal—that are, along with police, directly responsible for the attacks on international students studying in Australia.

According to Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) spokesman Gautam Gupta, bashings and other crimes against Indian students have grown steadily over the past two years, yet complaints lodged to police have been systematically ignored, with students themselves blamed for being “soft targets”.

While police have allowed muggings and bashings to proceed with impunity, this month’s student protests have received no such leniency. Police repression has been immediate, with the mobilisation of riot police, dogs and mounted police.

After students and local residents assembled at railway stations in Melbourne last week, providing safe escort to young Indians arriving home by train, they were set upon by police. Such is the face of state “protection”.

It is noteworthy that Local Area Command Superintendent Robert Redfern, who led this week’s police operations in Harris Park, was also LAC chief in Cronulla during the notorious race riots that occurred there in December 2005.

Under Redfern’s command, police were held back while racist and alcohol-fuelled crowds brutalised West Asian youth. When the latter retaliated over ensuing days, police repression was swift. The state government passed draconian police powers through parliament and the media vilified “Lebanese gangs” for allegedly threatening “public order and safety”.

Calls have been made by demonstrators for greater police protection, but students must be warned: as in Cronulla, these demands are being seized on to justify further ruthless “law and order” policies, aimed against the entire working class.

The allies of the students are not the police and the state, but the students around the country and the world, and the international working class.

Australia” declared Rudd on June 1, just hours after police violently assaulted Indian demonstrators in Melbourne’s central business district, “is a country of great diversity, harmony and tolerance”. On the contrary, like every other capitalist country, it is riven by enormous—and growing—class divisions.

In the suburbs surrounding Harris Park in western Sydney, and in the western suburbs of Melbourne, including St Albans, where bashings and racial victimisation are on the increase, social tensions are at breaking point, produced by more than three decades of economic restructuring.

Industries, banks and offices that once employed tens of thousands of workers, were closed down during the 1980s and 1990s, condemning entire families to a life of unemployment and poverty from which they have never recovered.

Now, in the face of the worst global depression since the 1930s, unemployment is again rising, with predictions it will hit one million by next year. Over the past 12 months the number of 15-19-year-olds without work has leapt from 10 to 18 percent nationally, with youth joblessness in some areas nudging 40 percent.

The Rudd government, like the Howard government before it, has responded to the deepening social crisis with the stock standard methods of Australian capitalism, seeking to shift public anger and resentment into the reactionary channels of national and race politics.

Over the past 10 years, immigrants, asylum seekers, “boat people”, Muslims and “Lebanese gangs” have all become scapegoats for the failure of the profit system to provide adequate livelihoods and services to millions of ordinary people.

This week, as protests by Indian students continued, Rudd declared on Melbourne radio: “In the last decade, I was advised we had, I think, up to 20 Australians who had either been murdered or had various forms of assault committed against them. That is not the result of Australians being targeted in India, that’s just a fact of violence in cities around the world.”

Rudd and the entire political establishment seek to prevent any serious probing of why the attacks are occurring. That high levels of youth unemployment and poverty have fuelled racial tensions in Australia’s major cities is not an inevitable “fact” of life.

These conditions are a product of the free market policies administered by successive capitalist governments—both Labour and Liberal—and the absence of a politically unified movement of the working class to combat them, offering a progressive, socialist alternative. It is this that has left many young people prey to the reactionary diversions of race and nationality.

In opposition to attempts by Rudd, the police and capitalist media to divide Australian, Indian and West Asian youth along racial, national and ethnic lines, with the real danger that tit-for-tat retaliatory attacks may escalate, the most advanced layers of students and working class youth must turn precisely to the development of such an internationalist and socialist movement in the working class.

Laura Tiernan/WSWS