On November 4 Iran was once again shaken by mass demonstrations. Normally this day is used by the regime to celebrate the anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy in Iran. The masses used it to mobilize against the regime, shouting slogans such as “Death to the Dictator”, revealing a deep-felt desire to see an end to this regime.
People sometimes predict what they wish to happen instead of what is actually likely to happen. That is why you heard a lot of pundits pondering about the “dying down” of what they thought may have been a short-lived movement. For those of us who support this revolutionary movement and understand very well its great potential, it is evident that this is the beginning of a revolution that will not simply “die down”. The genie has come out of the bottle and it won’t easily just go back in. Revolution is alive, it marches on and it keeps imposing itself on everybody, from the Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad to the “reformist” candidates Mousavi and Karoubi, from the self-proclaimed counter-revolutionaries in London and Toronto to the White House and Mr. Obama himself.
Last week, hundreds of thousands of Iranians came out on November 4 all over Iran in what became one of the most militant days of anti-government demonstrations. Masses of people filled the streets in Tehran, Shiraz, Rasht, Mashhad, Isfahan, Ahvaz, Tabriz, Arak, Yasooj, Tafresh, Shahre Kord and many other cities. Reports show a different situation in every city but everywhere we saw clashes of people with the police and Basij and the injury and arrest of a large number of people.
The Revolution in Iran adopted the clever tactic of coming out on November 4, another government-sanctioned day that people used to their advantage to expose the contradictions of a counter-revolutionary regime that presents itself as a revolutionary one. November 4 is the thirtieth anniversary of the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran by Khomeini-supporting students. The regime labels this day as “a day of struggle against World Arrogance”. (“Arrogance” was a term that Khomeini cleverly chose to avoid using the Marxist term “Imperialism”). This is a day, like so many others, that the regime has always used to try to put on show its supposed social base; a day of boring government-staged demonstrations that were always obviously and pathetically fake. It is exactly here that the current revolutionary movement comes into play and uses the regime’s contradictions to its benefit: people once again filled the streets on a day that is supposed to be a day of national demonstrations. With a slight difference… their main slogan was: “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to Khamenei!”
The regime, of course, expected demonstrations and tried its best, especially in big cities like Tehran and Tabriz, to counter it with its usual methods: crowding streets for hours before with police forces, shutting down the Metro stations (in Tehran) and mobile phone networks. But did they succeed in preventing the demonstrations from taking place?
There is no police force in the world who could counter the will of a revolutionary people that wants to come out. All the reports prove that we had, both in content and in manner, a most militant of demonstrations on November 4 all over Iran. Not only has the slogan “Death to the Dictator (or Khamenei)” clearly become the main slogan of the movement, but people in different cities went on to burn the picture of Khamenei (and, in the northern province of Mazandaran, that of Ahmadinejad) and tear away the government posters that carried his picture. This is for many people reminiscent of “Death to the Shah” which was the popular slogan in the anti-monarchy revolution of 1979; everybody knew that that slogan was not simply wishing death for the Monarch himself but showed the desire for the entire monarchist regime to be overthrown. The same is true today. “Death to the Dictator” for revolutionary people demonstrates their will and intention of bringing the Islamic dictatorship down.
Troubles of US imperialism
Unlike the monstrous accusations, of some among the so-called “left”, against the revolutionary movement of the Iranian masses that claim it to be in favor of or a product of US imperialism, the author of this article believes that this revolution has created a terrible nightmare not only for the ruling regime in Iran but for the US imperialists and capitalists as well.
Barack Obama, the new head of US imperialism, had a lot of dreams for Iran and other countries in the region. All his talks of “engaging” the criminal regime of the Islamic Republic boiled down to a simple intention: giving the Islamist government in Iran the role that the Shah’s government had before 1979, i.e. that of the region’s “policeman”. All Obama wanted in Iran was a stable government that could effectively keep down its own population and give the United States a hand in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is why Obama, on the occasion of Iranian New Year, gave his video greeting card to “the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and also wrote letters directly to Khamenei himself. The ruling regime in Iran, of course, welcomes this with open arms. Let us remember that if the ugly creature of Islamism came to power in Iran through the bloody suppression of the great 1979 revolution, this only happened with the direct aid of the United States and other western powers who were ready to invest in any reactionary force that could counter the force of the workers and socialism in the region. The ultimate goal of this regime is nothing else but to be “accepted” by the imperialist powers as the natural ruling regime of Iran.
But on November 4, the moving on of the revolutionary movement once again came as a rude awakening to both the ruling mullahs and the US imperialists. The people once again declared that they want to do away with this entire regime and no matter how much the imperialists try to make deals on their “Nuclear question” with the mullahs, the people will not stop in their fight to remove this regime. The US imperialists are naturally worried about what could replace the ruling dictatorship of the present anti-left, anti-socialist mullahs in Iran. They are beginning to see that they are dealing with a regime that is doomed.
Radicalization of the movement and “sentimental” objections of the Right
As we said, we saw a further radicalization of the movement on November 4. This was demonstrated in both the form and content of the demonstrations. Class-conscious left-leaning students played a greater role this time as did the women who had a clearly increased presence and appeared more militant than ever.
The most popular slogans at the moment are for the overthrow of Khamenei and his regime. “Death to Khamenei” and similar slogans like “Khamenei is a murderer; his reign is not valid anymore” (it rhymes in Farsi!) were the dominant slogans on the November 4 demonstrations all over Iran. This is a very important development as it shows that the Iranian people are willing to fight the regime in the streets and bring it down with their own revolutionary will and action, as opposed to all the formulas of “reform” and “non-violence” advocated by a thousand and one stripes of counter-revolutionaries from inside and outside the regime, from Tehran to Paris and Toronto.
It is funny to see how certain advocators of “non-violence” today ‑ those same people who at one point of their lives backed horrendous executions and murders carried out by the Islamic Republic and/or the bloody reign of US imperialism the world over ‑ have suddenly become so sentimental and are asking people not to use “Death” in their slogans and be more kind to the dictators.
One should make no mistakes about these elements. When they talk about “compassion” and their opposition to “death” slogans, this is only a mask behind which they hide their real counter-revolutionary nature and their great fear of the revolution. Each of them dreams of a different way of coming to power in Iran, but they all share something: their great fear of the huge presence of workers and the masses on the streets.
However, when we talk about the apparent will of the people to use revolutionary means and their desire to bring the entire regime down, we should not rule out the possibility of illusions being fostered in the “Reformist” mullahs. The revolutionary movement in Iran is not a homogenous one. There are undoubtedly more advanced layers that are ready for an insurrection, even tomorrow morning. But there are vast layers of the movement that are yet to be won to such a perspective and still have confidence in Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoobi and are calling for a “National Green Government” in their slogans, right after they pronounce the words “Death to Khamenei”. There is still a lot of confusion that characterizes the movement. To wit, the revolutionary movement in Iran is naturally working like any other such movement. It has targeted the illegitimate government of Ahmadinejad and his Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, but it lacks a leadership that could lead it to overthrow this regime and replace it with something else. There is a vacuum that has yet to be filled.
If there were a force that could offer such a leadership, the regime’s days would be numbered. But the Rightist forces can’t offer such leadership: the “Reformist” Mullahs have good reason for not doing so because they know that the people would not stop there but would then go after them as well after overthrowing the rule of Khamenei. The other Rightist forces of the pro-western bourgeoisie are discredited in the eyes of masses and have no chance of leading them.
The left and the movement
So where is the left alternative, we have to ask ourselves. The truth is that there are thousands of people who consider themselves Socialists, Communists or Marxists all over Iran. These include both the revolutionaries of the previous generation that have been further energized and come out in the wake of the current protests and also a new fresh layer of Marxist-leaning youth who are abundant in the Iranian student movement and organized labour. What they lack is a programmatic unity and a Party that could unite them into a single force.
Organized labour in Iran is not as strong as it could be and is limited to the more advanced layers in some factories. However, unlike the claims of some on the “left”, this layer of organized labour has played a heroic role in the current movement. A very good example is that of the Trade Union of Sugar Cane Workers in Haft Tapeh that has lead the way in strikes and actions. As this article goes to print, most of the leaders of this trade union are in jail because of their struggles. But this hasn’t stopped more than 1000 seasonal workers in the Haft Tapeh Agro-business of Neigol from going on strike. Another, even more telling example, is that of the pipe workers in Ahvaz who not only came out en masse on strike but also joined the people in three-day street demonstrations against the regime.
What the left has to realize is that this movement will only bear fruit, if the workers come out en masse and stop the wheels of industry. Some naïve observers ask why the Socialists are so “interested” in workers coming out and what differences do they have with other people. The answer is evident: the workers are the motor force in any society and only they have the power to bring it to a halt. It was the strikes of the Oil workers that made the revolution of 1979 possible. It is the “Blue-collar workers” (to use the language of the bourgeoisie) that the regime is most afraid of, because no police or security forces can counter the massive force of working class. What we need is a general strike of the workers all across Iran with the aim of bringing down the Islamic Regime.
All the genuine Marxists, Socialists and Communists in Iran should devote themselves to such a programme and towards building what is missing: a revolutionary party of the working class. A period of disarray exists among the left. They all come from different traditions and are now are increasingly discussing problems of the movement and the way forward. What is important is that they are an active part of the revolutionary movement in Iran and are playing a role in that capacity. Left-wing papers like “Khiaban” (The Street) have been created through the collaboration of leftists from different traditions (from the “traditional” Left to Worker-communists) and were printed en masse in the streets of Iran (issues of “Khiaban”, by the way, have included Farsi translations of articles of the International Marxist Tendency on Iran and other questions). While continuing in playing this role of offering a socialist perspective to the masses, all the left activists should put the most important task on the table, that of how to build the revolutionary party of the working class and how to be united under a single revolutionary program that would appeal to the masses and the working class.