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Iran : Mass protests erupt

vendredi 26 juin 2009, par Robert Paris

The largest mass movement since the 1979 revolution

Mon, 22 Jun 2009.

Since the declaration by sitting president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he had won the June 12 election, mass protests have followed one after the other in Iran

Kristofer Lundberg, from Offensiv (weekly newspaper of CWI Sweden)

On Monday up to two million people lined the streets of the capital Teheran in what was the largest demonstration in Iran since the revolution of 30 years ago. Not since the Iranian revolution of 1979 have so many people dared to take to the streets. In an attempt to win some time and in the hope that the protest movement will ebb out the Guardian Council, a kind of religious overseeing government body, has promised a recount of certain electoral districts. But that little sweetener comes too late and is not enough to stem the people’s struggle. The Guardian Council’s announcement regarding a recount does, however, confirm that the protests have divided the ruling class.

The rulers are becoming evermore desperate and isolated – when dictatorial regimes come under the amount of pressure from the masses that Iran is currently witnessing they tend to split into two factions. One side saying ”more repression, if we introduce reforms they will gain self-confidence and we will have to deal with a revolution”, the other saying, ” we must introduce reforms, otherwise we face a revolution”

But during the struggle the demonstrations have been radicalised and Ahmadinejad’s main rival, Mir Hossien Mousavi, is not in control of the mass movement either. The violence of the regime’s supporters and state oppression as well as censorship have raised the stakes. At least seven protesters were killed on Monday with reports also stating that student protestors were killed the previous day. The Iranian masses have only their own strength and solidarity to rely on. In order to take the struggle to the next level, with general strikes and other mass actions to split the state’s and the islamists’ forces, the workers and the impoverished need to organise themselves. What we are witnessing could be the beginnings of a fresh Iranian revolution, this time against the Ayatollahs’ dictatorship.

Working class struggle in Iran has escalated during the last few years. Since Ahmadinejad assumed office in 2005 thousands of workers’ protests have taken place. Workers’ leaders have been imprisoned and murdered, but despite such brutal oppression the protests have grown.

Mass protests and the economic crisis have driven a wedge into the ruling class, which was reflected in many ways during the election campaign. The presidential candidates openly criticised each other on live television while strong accusation of corruption and electoral fraud have been made.

This year’s election saw just four candidates approved by the 16-man Guardian Council – appointed by the Ayatollah Khamenei as the highest ruling body. The approved candidates were the sitting president Mahmoud Ah­madinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi who served as prime minister 1980-88, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai who previously led the infamous Revolutionary Guard.

The media had called it as essentially a choice between the ”reformist ” Mousavi and the conservative Ahmadinejad. All candidates were, however, approved by the regime and therefore no real reformist could have been allowed to stand. All four are rich politicians, loyal to the regime with 471 candidates prevented from standing and no women were allowed to participate. Mousavi is amongst those who believe that the regime will come under threat if more repression provokes greater numbers into turning against the dictatorship.

Mousavi has primarily succeeded in winning support among the urban middle-classes who have tired of Ahmadinejad. In reality this is not a signal of support for Mousavi but rather a hatred of Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad entered the 2005 presidential race with populist promises of less corruption, lower inflation and unemployment and a fairer distribution of Iran’s oil resources. Since then poverty, inflation and corruption have increased, while oppression has simultaneously increased against the working class.

All of the candidates are accused of corruption in their own right – Iran is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, the Mullahs have spent their time thieving and taking bribes on a grand scale. The regime loyalists have secured their own wealth while poverty among workers and farmers has risen in the wake of the crisis. People are starving and it is not at all uncommon for an ordinary worker to have to hold down two jobs in order to survive. The average wage is not enough to meet a typical family’s food bill. The economic crisis has meant high unemployment and inflation.

Those are the decisive factors that explain the extent of the protests, although the election was the trigger. Even if Mousavi had stormed to victory the political difference would have been marginal. He himself is responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of students during his reign as prime minister.

Besides, it is the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who holds the real power. He has control of foreign and security policy, appoints supporters to key posts in the judicial system, state-run television, the military and the Guardian Council, which has the power of veto over the parliament’s laws and decides who may stand in elections. Khamenei first urged the people to respect the election result but has now been forced to agree to a partial recount.

Today’s struggle is for every fundamental democratic right : the right to freedom of association, the right to protest and strike, the right to organise as political parties or trade unions, for free and democratic elections.

In order to succeed, the fight for democracy must unite with the anti-capitalist struggle – for socialism. An programme of action is required for democratic rights as well as social improvements (improvements in working conditions, housing, education and health) and socialist production controlled by the workers and farmers. When the working class steps in the regime’s days are numbered, as demonstrated in the 1979 revolution.

Just as the regime of today, that of the Shah had a wide-reaching apparatus of control and oppression that steered the population’s lives in detail. The Shah had at his disposal all the weapons of repression : the military, police and a ruthless secret police. But these were literally crushed by the workers’ decisive struggle. The revolution of the poor and the working class in Iran toppled the Shah but was soon after hijacked by islamists – those who led the revolution were harassed, imprisoned, tortured, murdered or driven into exile.

A socialist breakthrough in Iran would ignite inspiration in workers and the impoverished in neighbouring countries. But a countrywide mass movement is necessary for this.

The socialist and communist parties in Iran should, together with other workers’ organisation and independent unions, unite on a common programme, with a view to co-ordinating protests across the entire country and, with a socialist plan of action set the goal of bringing down the mullahs’ dictatorship.

Iran : Mass protests erupt

China info

Tue, 23 Jun 2009.

New phase of struggle opens up

Tony Saunois, CWI

Mass protests and demonstration have erupted in Iran in protest at the apparent rigging of the Presidential elections by the Mahmoud Ahmedinejad regime. According to reports, the largest anti-government demonstration of over one million people took place in the capital Tehran. Reports coming out of Iran claim that over a dozen have been killed in clashes with the police and hated Basij militia. With heavy press censorship, much of the movement has been co-ordinated through the use of ‘Twitter’ – Iran has the highest number of internet ‘bloggers’ per head of population. Although the picture is unclear at the time of writing, reports of mass protest in other cities such as Shiraz are also emerging. Tehran University has been surrounded by armed police and brutal repression has been reported of students in their dormitories. Other reports speak of gunfire being heard throughout the capital during the night following the election. Ahmedinejad, who announced victory within a few hours of the polls, has apparently simply left the country and is in Russia attending diplomatic meetings.

Turning point

These mass demonstrations against the regime in Tehran have taken place despite the threat by the regime to authorise the use of live ammunition against the protestors. Although the situation still remains unclear it appears that big sections of the urban population have lost their fear of the regime and are prepared to take to the streets to protest against it. This represents a crucial turning in the struggle against any dictatorship. BBC video footage of the protests shows protestors refusing to disperse when faced with attacks by the military police. To the forefront of these protests have been the students but clearly with the active support of older sections of the population – especially white-collar workers. There are divisions within the regime about how to deal with this mass movement. This, combined with the mass mobilisation of the middle class and students, clearly indicates that important elements of a pre-revolutionary crisis are developing. At this stage however, the working class has not yet decisively joined the struggle and there is confusion in the political consciousness of those involved reflected in some of the religious slogans which are also being chanted such as “God is great”. However, it should be remembered that the first demonstrations of the Russian revolution in 1905 were led by a priest, Father Gapon.

How this movement will now develop is not yet clear but it has already forced the regime into an abrupt about turn. The Guardian Council, in the face of this mass opposition, has been compelled to overturn its previous decision and allow a recount of contested votes. This is a clear attempt to calm the situation as the regime fears that the protests will erupt further and develop into an uprising against the regime itself.

Fuelled by rising mass unemployment and a yearning for democratic rights, especially amongst the youth – 60% of the Iranian population is under the age of thirty. The urban youth in particular are in revolt against the theocratic repression which they have suffered. An important feature of this movement have been the mobilisations of young women, demanding “equality”. This was reflected in the enormous popularity of Zahra Rahnavard, wife of the main opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, during the campaign. It is unprecedented in Iranian elections for women to play such a leading role. At the same time, while the mass opposition in the cities has rallied to Mousavi, he is no socialist or defender of the working class and the poor. A former Prime Minister, his pro-capitalist programme is limited to reform of the current theocratic state. However, the attempt to rig the election by Ahmedinejad has possibly opened the flood gates to a mass movement that could topple his regime and open a new era in Iran. At the same time there is an apparent division between the rural poor and some sections of the most down trodden and oppressed in some of the cities and urban centres who have tended to support Ahmedinejad because of his right-wing reactionary populist stance against corruption and the rich liberal elite and “anti-western imperialist” stance.

Iran has been transformed in recent years with nearly 70% of the population estimated to be living in the urban areas with a highly educated layer of young people.

The decisive question in the short term is if the working class now moves into action following reports of trade unions discussing calling a general strike which is the main fear of the regime. At the time of writing the opposition has called off a mass protest scheduled to take place in Tehran to avoid clashes with pro-government forces. This illustrates the fear reformist pro-capitalists like Mousavi have of unleashing mass mobilisations which can easily get out of their control and move in a more radical revolutionary direction. It is possible that Mousavi may try and reach a compromise with the existing regime to avoid bringing the masses onto the streets. Alternatively, the regime may be forced to accept Ahmedinejad’s defeat in order to try to maintain control of the situation. Attempts may also be made to wind down the protests for fear of their consequences. Mousavi has already called on protests planned for tomorrow to be cancelled.

New phase of struggle opens up

However, the genie is now out of the bottle and a decisive new phase of the struggle has been opened in Iran. The struggle for genuine democratic rights, the right to strike, to hold free elections, form free trade unions, political parties and equality for women needs to be fought for by all workers, youth and socialists. The emergence of the working class into this movement can give it the necessary cohesion and power to defeat the regime. The formation of democratically elected committees of struggle from the workplaces and universities linking with the middle class and urban poor can form the basis of a united struggle. The calling of a general strike and forming a defence militia along with a class appeal to the rank and file of the army are steps which are necessary to take the movement forward to overthrow the regime. Such committees could also convene elections to a revolutionary constituent assembly to decide the future of Iran. The guarantee of democratic rights and a solution to the mass poverty and unemployment can only then be assured with the formation of a workers’ and peasants government on a revolutionary socialist programme to transform society in the interests of all working people. (Further analysis to follow)

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