Social Justice and Democracy in Iran: In Search of the Missing Link

Taking the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-11 as the marker of Iran’s entry into political modernity, a movement inspired by the spirit of democracy and for the realization of civil society and accountable government, we can observe that Social Democracy has also been an inseparable component of political modernity in the country. This means that the struggle for democratic sovereignty has been concomitant with the struggle for social justice and equality of conditions for the Iranian peoples. The Green Movement of 2009, according to most scholars, is a return to the democratic spirit of the Constitutional Revolution, but despite staggering social and economic inequalities in the country, the social justice component of the people’s demands has had little opportunity for discursive articulation, partly due to the absence of the organic intellectuals of the subordinate classes—a function that has been traditionally fulfilled by the Left. It seems as if at the current nexus of politics in Iran, the struggles against tremendous social inequalities have been discursively overdetermined by the language of constitutionalism and rights. This paper discusses the intellectual conditions of the renewal of a Left that would articulate the nexus between social justice and civil and human rights.