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In Support of Democracy in Iran

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We support the right of the people of Iran to be treated with dignity and respect, free from oppression, threats and violence, free to assemble peacefully, and free to choose their leaders in an open, transparent, fair, democratic electoral process.

A. General Strike | Three Types of General Strike
How an Iranian Green Flu General Strike Might Look

The French General Strike of 1968

B. A Possible Negotiated Solution Where Neither Side Would Lose Face

A. General Strike
One way to attempt to get a new election in Iran would be to have a General Strike.  (The general strike in France of May 1968 ran for two weeks and nearly caused the collapse of the government.)

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Three Types of General Strike
There are at least three types of General Strike ranging from least active and least dangerous to violent-confrontational and most dangerous.

1. In the least active kind of General Strike, the protest is done by staying home on a workday. People would quietly study, pray, read, spend time with their families, discuss the state of things and what to do about it in their homes. People would call their jobs saying they are sick and not go to work. In Iran this might be called The Green Flu

The effectiveness of the protest could be measured in number of absences from work, how few people were seen on the streets during the normal commute time, and the degree to which normal business and governmental activities were slowed or stopped.

A repressive regime would find it more difficult to find citizens to beat, arrest, and abuse during the use of this approach.

2. A more active form of protest involves attempting to hold peaceful demonstrations, without seeking confrontation. When this succeeds, it can be very effective because the number of people protesting can be easily seen by all. 

The hard problem is that a repressive regime can beat, arrest, and even murder the protesters, sometimes with impunity, all the while falsely claiming it was the peaceful protesters who were being violent.

3. An even more confrontational form of General Strike involves large, non-peaceful demonstrations, where the protesters throw rocks at security forces, damage property, and in general offer violence to others. Sometimes the protesters occupy government buildings or other sites or they engage in street battles with the police.

This was effective in France in 1968, but only because the French government was unwilling to ignore civil liberties and did not brutally, violently suppress the protests.

Which sort of tactic, if any, may be worth considering in the case of the disputed elections of June 2009 in Iran is perhaps at this moment an open question.

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How an Iranian Green Flu General Strike Might Look
Those who want a new election would simply not show up for work. Those with their own businesses would not open the business.

No demonstrations would be needed. No confrontation, less chance of bloodshed.

Exceptions could be made so that services vital to the people of Iran would still be available, services such as, drinking water, medical clinics, power generation, etc.

Services essential to the ruling powers in Iran but not essential to the people of Iran would not be supported, such as, TV and radio broadcasts of messages by the current rulers of Iran.

People could quietly stay at home and study, pray, read, spend time with their families, discuss the state of things in Iran today and what to do about it.

The Basiji would have no one to abuse, the police no one to warn, the rulers no one to blame for any provocations caused by the Basiji.

The rulers of Iran would come to realize how much they depend on the good will of the people of Iran.

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Description of the More Violent French 1968 General Strike
“May 1968” refers to the period when the strike occurred, and was the largest general strike that ever stopped the economy of an advanced industrial country, the first wildcat general strike in history, and a series of student occupation protests. 

The prolonged strike involved eleven million workers for two weeks in a row, and its impact was such that it almost caused the collapse of the de Gaulle government of France... 

Many saw the events as an opportunity to shake up the "old society" and traditional morality, focusing especially on the education system and employment. It began as a long series of student strikes that broke out at a number of universities and lycées in Paris, following confrontations with university administrators and the police. 

The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quash those strikes by police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in the Latin Quarter, followed by a general strike by students and strikes throughout France by eleven million French workers, roughly two-thirds of the French workforce. 

The protests reached such a point that de Gaulle created a military operations headquarters to deal with the unrest, dissolved the National Assembly and called for new parliamentary elections for 23 June 1968. The government was close to collapse at that point (de Gaulle had even taken temporary refuge at an air force base in Germany)...

May '68... had an enormous social impact. In France, it is considered to be the watershed moment when a conservative moral ideal (religion, patriotism, respect for authority) shifted towards a more liberal moral ideal (equality, sexual liberation, human rights) that today better describes French society, in theory if not in practice. Although this change did not take place solely in this one month, the term mai 68 is used to refer to this general shift in principles, especially when referring to its most idealistic aspects.

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B. A Possible Solution Where Neither Side Would Lose Face
In “New Protest Builds in Iran” (news article, June 17) Abbass Abdi summarized the Iran election situation, “There is no legal solution... we need a solution that neither side would lose face.”

One possible, perhaps cynical, solution that may come to be considered would be to blame the recent obvious election fraud entirely on President Ahmadinejad. 

1. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has already set an investigation of the election in motion.

2. His investigation may discover widespread irregularities in the vote.

3. Ayatollah Khamenei might express surprise and outrage at the flawed election process discovered by his investigation.

4. His investigation might show that flawed process was engineered by President Ahmadinejad.

5. Ayatollah Khamenei might offer new elections to challengers, such as Mir Hossein Mousavi, in private negotiations about how power would be shared after the new elections had been carried out.

6. With terms agreed to, new elections could then be held, without much lasting loss of face on any side.

7. President Ahmadinejad might go into exile in Russia. He would not need to actually be punished and so his supporters might be less inclined to oppose such an agreement.

8. The people of Iran would get their much-deserved new election.

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Mahatma Gandhi, who helped to deliver India from an unjust rule, was once asked what he thought of Western (European) civilization. He said, “I think it would be a good idea.”

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