On the anniversary of last year’s rigged elections in Iran, there were demonstrations on the streets of Iranian cities, in particular in Tehran. But while the youth in particular organised for the day, the so-called “leaders” like Mousavi did what they could to weaken the movement by declaring at the last minute that he was calling off the rallies. This highlights one very important factor: lack of leadership and organisation. That is what is now being discussed in many underground circles and among exiles.
On June 12, on the first anniversary of the rigged presidential elections, another act of the Iranian revolution was played out. Yet again the masses of Iran took to the streets. But the sacrifice that the masses were ready to make was on a completely different level than the level of leadership that messrs Mousavi and Karroubi were willing to show. The so-called leadership of the green movement, in the most cowardly manner, withdrew their support for demonstrations at the last minute and left the movement divided, with its most courageous elements weakened and vulnerable on the streets.
Tens of thousands of young and old Iranians took to the streets to show their resistance against the regime. The size of the demonstrations was unclear. Some reports indicate that they were small and scattered and others that they were larger. Both accounts could very much be true since the division between demonstrators and regular people on the streets of Tehran was very blurred. Indeed, it was clear that the majority of the population was in one way or the other actively sympathetic towards the movement. In any case, the mood and atmosphere was very tense, militant and confident. In spite of this, the lack of a true revolutionary leadership was obvious to most activists. This is still the main problem of the movement which will have to be solved one way or the other.
Battles in Tehran
As on most occasions in the past, the most militant struggles took place in Tehran. From early morning the atmosphere here was very tense and the presence of heavily armed police and security forces was reported.
The lack of organization of the masses and the heavy presence of state forces created a situation of a deadly kind of hide and seek. The only place where a large and permanent mobilisation took place seems to have been around the Amirkabir University in Tehran. In other places the demonstrations seem to have had a much more scattered and loose character.
However, despite the small size of the mobilisations the activists were rarely isolated because there was an enormous support for the movement within the masses. All over Tehran demonstrations would start out of nothing. As soon as some youth started small demonstrations by shouting slogans they were accompanied by the passersby and people from the neighbourhoods. Mostly they would quickly be scattered by security forces while new spontaneous demonstrations were started in other places.
One report explained the following:
“Iran News Agency reported that a few people were filming the demonstrators from the rooftops of their homes around Imam Hossein Circle when three officers arrested them and captured their phones and cameras.
“As they were taken to the police vehicles, people in the neighbourhood caused distractions and as a result were able to free the arrested youth from the police officers.”
As night came, for a while, the protests seemed to increase. In the area of Saadeghie from 8.50pm the number of demonstrators increased to such a degree that movement between the people became difficult.
Another eyewitness report explained that:
“(Tehran 22.15) In Seaadat Aabaad a wave of people are demonstrating in front of security and plainclothes forces. Everybody, even 10 year-old children are wearing masks and the atmosphere is extremely tense and there are lots of plainclothes officers, but people are continuing their demonstration in an excellent manner and with great courage.”
Another interesting report also indicated the level of confidence of the masses and the forces of reaction:
“At 19.15 people had a highly concentrated gathering in Enghelab Street. There were basiji walking around and trying to identify people. All the streets leading up to Enghelab Street and Tehran University were closed and only buses were allowed to pass. Plainclothes forces were filming people. They had lined up buses in front of the university and thereby blocked it.
“4 young boys were arrested. All the surrounding streets were patrolled by motorcycles so as to prevent gatherings from taking place. In the confrontations between the people and police forces an older man was beaten with a baton.
“People were fighting very courageously saying that the struggle would go on until they had reached freedom. When a girl broke her hand while being beaten with a baton people took her to a nearby store to help her. The surrounding stores were giving shelter to people.
“A point that is worth noticing is the fact that the basijis had lost their confidence. People were saying to me: these basijis do not have any confidence and they don't dare walk anywhere alone in groups of less than 10.”
But the demonstrations did not develop further than that. In fact in most places outside Tehran the regime managed to heavily repress the movement. This was the case for instance in Mashad:
“From this morning the Ferdowsi University and the Ghasemabad Azad University were under heavy control of police and security forces and the concentration of armed forces was extremely high. They would not even permit students who had exams, but who did not have identity cards on them, to enter the university premises. It must also be mentioned that yesterday night the armed forces arrested a university student and beat him violently until the morning. They wanted his passport and laptop and after they received this they let him go.
“From 18.00 special forces units and the new armed forces were deployed to highly populated areas. In general people in these areas were present in small and outspread groups. At around 16.30 some people gathered in Mellat Park but they were not shouting slogans and they were trying to spread out to avoid being arrested. The amount of security forces was large and they had brought three buses. The officers were also filming people.”
The masses and the leadership
From the countless reports that can be read on the internet and that we have received from our contacts, one thing is absolutely clear. The support for the movement has not receded at all - on the contrary it seems that the broadness and depth of opposition to the regime is still growing. In fact it seems like the masses have become more radicalised and angrier. And in increasing layers also, more and more impatient - especially with the leaders of the "reformists".
However, it is also clear to all that the present method of action does not work and, as we explained, a period of lull in the movement has started. For a year the working masses of Iran have been sacrificing everything, coming out to one monster demonstration after another, but they have not had any result yet. People are now asking themselves, "What are we dying for? What is our programme? And by what means and with which plan are we to get there? Revolution is not an amusing endeavour!"
We completely agree. We need a programme linking together the demands of the widest layers in society:
- Freeing of all political prisoners,
- Freedom of assembly,
- Freedom of organization,
- Freedom of speech,
- A living wage,
- Complete right to self-determination for all national minorities,
- All those responsible for violent actions against innocent people to be held accountable,
- For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly to put these aims into practice, etc.
With such a programme, by taking up the main demands of all the progressive forces in society, we can assure the broadest movement possible and also a most dedicated struggle.
We also agree that we need the means to reach these aims. Facebook profiles and internet chat rooms are very helpful, but they cannot become a vehicle for the mass movement. We need organs of mass struggle, committees set up in all neighbourhoods and factories to draw in the broadest layers of the masses to discuss the programme and the plan for action.
We also agree that we need a plan. The present method of unorganized scattered demonstrations and with no definite direction and lead is not working anymore. And retreat will only invite violent retaliation. We must prepare the continuation of the struggle on an organized basis. In the end this should lead to a national general strike. The coming onto the scene of struggle of the organized workers in this manner would shake the regime from top to bottom. It would cut all its lifelines - the oil being the most important.
Again on the leadership
On June 10, just two days before the anniversary of the rigged elections, Mousavi and Karroubi withdrew their support for demonstrations on the anniversary. For several months thousands of activists had been planning and mobilizing for this day. This manoeuvre had a very negative result.
These so called leaders justified their action by saying that they did not want people to die, but this is a hollow statement. First of all, innocent and peace loving people get killed every day by the same system that these gentlemen still defend. Secondly and most importantly, everybody knew that the most dedicated, self sacrificing and honest elements would still take to the streets. With this manoeuvre the reformist leaders in practice divided the movement and laid bare its best elements unprotected by mass demonstrations. This is logical even to six-year old children, who know that it is easier to get away if ten kids ring the neighbours’ door bells than if one does it while the rest just watch.
Fortunately the masses of Tehran were not as cowardly as these so called leaders and they repeatedly came to the support of the brave front runners.
What should have been done?
It is clear that in the temporary lull in the movement and thereby the strengthening of reaction there is not an atmosphere that favours mass demonstrations that would be put at great risk. A true leadership should have seen this long ago and prepared the vanguard of the movement. They could have built up the movement by offering different means of struggle, for instance with the setting up of local committees all over the countries. If the preparation and execution is good enough, such a seemingly defensive step could lay the basis for a powerful offensive in the form of organised mass demonstrations and a general strike.
But this was not organised. Instead, many brave young men and women were saved by the equally brave mass of people (of course, this was not enough to save some from ending up in prison in the end).
There should be no doubts anymore: what is required is a new leadership based only on the masses and not the upper circles of power who see mass demonstrations and their bloody suppression as yet another means of receiving personal concessions. What is needed is a farsighted leadership that is willing to struggle till the end for the cause of the masses, a leadership consisting of the best and most trusted class fighters from every single area in Iran welded together by a socialist programme and the ideas of Marxism.
The green movement charter
The developments on June 12 were very unfavourable for the Reformist leaders. Their hope was to separate the most advanced elements from the mass of the movement. Mousavi was hoping to get rid of this layer that had continuously pressurised him ever since the elections last year. But as has happened many times since then, instead of him pulling the masses back, those very same masses, by showing their ability to move beyond him, have dragged Mousavi a few steps further.
In the wake of June 12, Mousavi was forced to formulate a programme, the so called Green Movement Charter. This programme is hopeless in many ways. First of all its formulation, as others have correctly pointed out, is primarily designed to avoid what the movement needs more that anything from a leadership if one can call Mousavi a leader -and that is action.
Secondly, it continues along the same line as previous statements that the dear Mirhossein is so fond of of defending the fundamental laws and the Islamic state, that same state that has continuously, for 30 years, murdered thousands of innocent people and attempted to suffocate anything that is humane - all in the name of Islam and in the interest of the profits of a small group.
Thirdly, Mousavi again underlines the need for national unity between all groups. He writes that the green movement is open to everyone, except those who do not want national unity (that is, unity between all Iranians regardless of whether it is a poor worker or a murdering commander of the IRGC) meaning that the movement is in fact more open to the oppressing regime than the most advanced elements who have long discovered that one cannot change society by trying to convince the rulers.
Need for discussions and theoretical clarity among communists
All this should be seen in another light. The Reformist leaders would have preferred not to formulate a programme, but they were forced to do it. The dangers involved in coming up with a programme – even such a soft reformist one lies in two places. Firstly, it creates the possibility of organising around something more political and concrete than merely a colour or one man (Mousavi) and secondly, a programme can be criticised and changed! All communists must seize this opportunity to discuss the contents of this programme and also counterpose to it a socialist one.
Already a vibrant discussion is going on inside and outside Iran around this issue. All tendencies will have to have a position on this question. In the latest edition of the publication Khiyaban (a paper, produced by Iranian socialists who had to escape the country over the last few years) there are several excellent articles. In one of these, on the Green Movement Charter the comrades state:
“Only a platform that takes stock of, and bases itself on, the fighters' memories and imagination can stay loyal to society: a platform, whose lines are not niceties and considerations of the people up above, but one that is written by the wrath and the hopes of the people down below.” (Khiyaban, number 74)
The supporters of Mobareze.org and Marxist.com are very much in favour of the above quoted passage. It shows the enormous potential within the Iranian youth. The same paper states in another article concerning the June 12 demonstrations, about which it has a fairly balanced assessment:
“The blood-thirsty Islamic Republic, with recourse to mass killing and repression, has not taken a single step back, and the people have so far not had the slightest gains. Not only has the Islamic Republic not been overthrown but no laws have changed for the better, no political prisoners have been released, the planners and executers of the killings have not been brought to justice, and the people [still] have no say or control in determining their own fate. (...)
“And the obvious reality, finally, is that all know that Moussavi's suggested strategy is meaningless and absurd. He suggests spreading of awareness as the path toward victory, and perhaps considers some Green websites such as JRS [Jonbesh Raah Sabz/Green Path Movement] as the providers of the solutions. However, it is obvious to everybody that our current problem is not that the majority of people are unaware of the ongoing crimes, irrationalities and the oppression. The [main] problem is that, although this regime has no base in the people, it has stayed in power backed [solely] by bayonets.
“This reality calls for a new set of objectives and planning, for new solutions and an effective and practical strategy. Although the distance travelled on the streets in this past year has been bitter and filled with sorrow, blood and injuries, it has nevertheless stored up such an abundance of material experience, awareness and combativeness that if and when another June 15 should come about, the mansions and the national TV and the parliament that belongs to the rulers will be in the hands of the people's power on the next day.”
There are many truths in these lines. The situation calls for new solutions and new strategies, strategies that only the communists are capable of developing. The forces of communism, however, are still too small, weak and dispersed to intervene. Unity on an unprincipled basis will only open the way for further atomisation. What is needed is a period of comradely debate, political rearmament and reassessment of the means and aims, a period where all ideas are put boldly and honestly forward and debated so as to reach theoretical clarity. This should be done in discussion groups both inside and outside of the country. Our tendency will of course participate with full force in such a process with our own ideas and suggestions. To achieve theoretical clarity within the left is the best way of laying the basis for bringing the ideas of communism into the movement as a decisive factor and thereby open the road for its victory.