Today, 11 February, is the anniversary of the collapse of the Shah’s regime in Iran back in 1979, in a revolution that was won thanks not only to the Islamist forces of Ayetollah Khomeini, as the Islamic Republic would have us believe now, but to the selfless struggle of millions of workers, urban poor, peasants, youth, women and others, most of them organised in the ranks of the Iranian left. We salute the revolutionary courage and fervour of those millions. However, because of the horrible mistakes made by the left, the Khomeini forces took over the leadership of that revolution and created the Islamic Republic.
The people of Iran, with women in the forefront, have been waging a tireless struggle against the oppression of this Islamic Republic for the last five months. On the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, the diaspora in the United States and Europe is taking to the streets to march in demonstrations in order to win over the leadership of this rebellion of the people. The DIP, a steadfast friend of the Iranian working class and toiling people, is firmly against the disfiguration of this rebellion of the people of Iran by the bourgeois, indeed royalist forces that dominate the diaspora. We present, once again, our assessment of the ongoing Iranian people’s rebellion and appeal to the international working class and socialist movement to support the rebellion in its twin battles against the Supreme Guide and the Shah. Do not let the Iranian people’s revolutionary rebellion be hijacked by the ruling forces, this time in reverse direction!
1. Once again the peoples of Iran have taken the revolutionary road. Since 2009 there has been little respite for the Islamic Republic. Especially since the mid-2010s, not a year goes by without an effective action by the working class, teachers, women, youth, the oppressed national peoples etc.
2. The current people’s rebellion is now moving on to five months. For five months, despite the ferocious repression, the struggle has not lost its elan. The death toll is said to near 600, around 70 of them children. The number arrested is reported to near 20 thousand, of which close to five thousand have been identified. Torture is reported to be rampant. Close to ten fighters have already been executed, many of them in Baluchistan, and many others are in death row, in Tehran or elsewhere.
Despite all this brutality, the struggle is alive and kicking. Women are in the forefront and have already won de facto the right to disregard the forced hejab rule in many neighbourhoods in metropolitan cities. But it would be totally misplaced to regard the current rebellion as a women’s movement alone. Youth, both university and secondary education-level students and the youth of poor neighbourhoods, are extremely active in more than 160 settlements, small and large. The working class is an integral part of the struggle as well, although it is difficult to organise strikes and factory/workplace occupations under conditions of harsh repression and ruthless layoff policies.
All regions and national groups have joined the movement. The first woman murdered by the so-called Ershad Police (“morality police” as it is sometimes called), Jina Mahsa Amini, being Kurdish, the struggle was kicked off in Rojhilat (Kurdish for Eastern Kurdistan). However, the movement quickly spread far and wide, from all Farsi regions, and the Turkish-dominated Caspian region in the north all the way to Baluchistan in the southeast, the Arab-majority Khuzistan in the southwest, as well as the Bakhtiari people. A striking aspect of the rebellion has been the deliberate expression of solidarity among different peoples, whereas in ordinary times the peoples of Iran have been inclined to go along with the provocations of this regime and the previous one ruled by the erstwhile Shah with the purpose to divide and rule.
Another point of considerable importance is that no political illusions are voiced regarding the so-called “moderates”, the supposedly “reformist” wing of the Islamic Republic, whereas the so-called “Green Revolution” of 2009 was marked by a clear affinity to that wing, which flowed directly from the class character of that uprising, supported preponderantly by the modern well-to-do petty-bourgeoisie.
The demands of the rebellion go way beyond the elimination of forced hejab or women’s rights in general. The most popular slogan “Jin, jiyan, azadi!” in Kurdish or “Zen, zendeke, azadi!” in Farsi (Woman, life, freedom!) mingles with “nan, kar, azadi” (Bread, jobs, freedom!). The youth demand the elimination of the stifling atmosphere at universities and schools. Workers mobilise with demands of freedom to organise, for wage increases and improvement of work conditions.
3. Even the struggle against forced hejab alone is of historic significance. In no country in the Islamic world has the domination of religious law and prejudice been challenged by the revolutionary struggle of the masses of working and toiling people. Secularism has always been the privileged hunting ground of the Westernising ruling classes and spread only marginally beyond them and their hangers-on. The only exception to this can be found in the case of the Islamic populations of the republics of the former Soviet Union. No struggle against the religious establishment has been undertaken by the toiling masses themselves in any other country. Hence the ease with which the “opium of the people” gets hold of the masses whenever an Islamist movement of considerable organisational and ideological capacity gains prominence. By taking off their hejab and uncovering their heads in militant fashion Iranian women in their multitudes show the way for both the emancipation of women and secularism. By playfully striking off the headgear of mollahs on the street the youth are doing the utmost to demystify religion. This is the gateway to a popular, working-class secularism in the Middle East. This is given all the more historic significance by the fact that alongside women, relatively young, who uncover their head, women who themselves are still wearing the hejab, usually of the older generations, struggle as arduously. Thus, it becomes obvious that the objective is to fight the trampling of women’s freedom. It is not religion per se but its use as an instrument for repression that the Iranian masses are fighting against.
4. However, the dynamics set off bears the seeds of permanent revolution, i.e. the growing over of a democratic political revolution into a social revolution with the proletariat and its allies coming to power. The peoples of Iran have a glorious history of revolutionary uprisings. Iran was the first country among the Asian non-colonised peoples to rise up in its so-called Constitutional Revolution of 1906, immediately after the Russian revolution of 1905. Turkey followed suit in 1908 and China in 1911. In the upheaval that gripped the Middle East in the post-World War I period, the Persian Soviet Socialist Republic of Gilan, in the northwest Caspian region came into being, but proved short-lived, surviving from June 1920 to September 1921. The aftermath of World War II again saw two such republics, both supported by the Soviet Union. The Republic of Mahabad, established in Iranian Kurdistan, lasted from the beginning to the end of 1946. The Azerbaijan People’s Republic was established in late 1945 and survived again till the end of 1946.
Then came 1979, which was an extraordinary festival of the people until the mollahs entirely crushed the revolutionary fervour of the people with their attacks on all the freedoms won from the Shah’s regime to shut the entire country within a dungeon ruled by religious bigotry. The foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, facilitated by the suicidal support provided by the Iranian left, not only the Tudeh, the “official” communist party so to speak, but also the Majority wing of the Fadaiyan-e-Khalq and other smaller organisations, was a counter revolution within the revolution. This revolution turned out to be a harbinger of the ambivalent outcome of all future revolutionary uprisings in countries with an Islamic majority (Egypt and Tunisia first and foremost) and a revolution that was stolen from the people ready to sacrifice their lives for bread and freedom.
5. Rebellion and revolution have re-emerged in Iran in the 21st century. The “Green Revolution”, already mentioned above, was a massive backlash against the election-rigging that brought back the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for a second term in 2009. This was a movement that was hegemonized by the upper strata of society, the modern and well-off petty-bourgeoisie, the liberal professions above all, including certain sectors of the bourgeoisie that saw their future in a more liberal Iran, more integrated with Western imperialism.
After a lull of several years, relentless waves of rebellion of the Iranian masses unfolded, starting from the end of 2017. On 28th December of that year, the masses walked out in protest against the high cost of living, corruption and other economic problems. February 2018 saw the revolt of Iranian women in Tehran and other cities against forced hejab. Then came the explosion of June 2018. This was a moment when the earlier contradiction that surfaced in 2009 within the ranks of the bourgeoisie and the well-to-do petty-bourgeoisie was articulated to the revolt of the proletariat and the poor masses. November 2018 saw the workers of the sugar factory Haft-Tappeh struggle against the conditions they had been working under for a time, most importantly the arrears on wage payments. Thus, all throughout the period from late 2017-early 2018 to the end of the latter year, Iranian society remained in ebullition.
November 2019 saw the most widespread, courageous and the most plebeian so far of all the rebellions of the 21st century. The tables had turned in the full decade that linked 2009 to 2019. The signature action of the masses that took to the streets was the burning of banks. This was the result of the class nature of the November insurrection, which was the exact opposite of the “Green Revolution” of 2009. The regime responded all the more viciously for this reason. Hundreds of people were murdered in an uprising that lasted but for five or six days.
Hence, the present popular rebellion, already almost a five-month long social movement, is not a bolt from the blue. Recent Iranian history has been one of constant challenge against the regime. It is this that gives us the confidence to say that this is a revolutionary rebellion, with the potential to bring the toiling people of Iran to power.
6. The major weakness of the popular rebellion is the lack of political organisations that can lead the masses in their quest to bring down the Islamic Republic. Organising there is, but at the level of universities, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, small towns etc. It would be safe to say that it will turn into a full-scale revolution once the movement creates the political organisations that will confront and threaten to bring down the regime. When that happens the working class and the toiling and oppressed masses will be well-equipped to take power. This will complete the unfinished business of the 1979 Iranian revolution, aborted by the violent throwback caused by the Islamic Republic.
It should be noted also that a phenomenon that has not been seen in the earlier uprisings from 2009 on has emerged this time: hesitations and oscillations within the ruling cadres and contrarian elements questioning the wisdom of the cruelty displayed by the regime. This is an important aspect in the advance of a revolution.
7. There are of course serious dangers regarding the outcome of the rebellion. Iran had gone through a long period of Westernisation and integration with the Western imperialist bloc ever since the 1920s and, in particular, in the post-war period, in the three decades until 1979. It thus has a wing of its bourgeoisie that refused to live under the diktat of the Islamic Republic, many of whom have chosen to live abroad, in particular in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany. Apart from a left-wing minority that had to leave the country in the 1980s under threat of extinction, this diaspora is a milieu whose interests greatly coincide with the imperialists’ dream of reconquering Iran and making it a pillar of imperialist rule over the Middle East as under Reza Shah in the three decades after the CIA-engineered coup against Mossadegh in the early 1950s. This diaspora has the money, the organisational structures, the intellectual capacity, and the exploitative drive to reach for power in case the Islamic Republic collapses under the overpowering strength of popular rage.
The slogan “Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Guide” shows that the popular movement has, for the moment, deep distrust of a solution favoured by imperialism. But when the two sides, the regime and the rebels, have tired each other to exhaustion, the fresh forces of the pro-imperialist bourgeois opposition may certainly find an opening. Thus, the Iranian masses and the proletarian forces within the country are really fighting two different forces simultaneously.
8. The international ramifications of the Iranian rebellion promise to be momentous. The most important consequence will probably be seen in the fortunes of Islamist movements of different stripes. The winning of secularism from below through the struggle of the masses is bound to inspire the women and the young generations of many a country in the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region).
If Iran returns to the imperialist camp, on the other hand, this will change the balance of forces in favour of both imperialism, on the one hand, since up until today Iran has been a dependable ally for Russia and China, not only in the region but in the entire Eurasian region, and Zionism, on the other, as Iran is at present the most formidable state foe of Israel.
Finally, if the revolution wins in Iran and brings the working class and the toiling people to power, this will start a new era not only in the MENA region but will surely have repercussions across the world.
9. Iran is in the throes of a profound crisis. The international working-class movement has not yet been up to the significance of this crisis. The enemy, on the other hand, is not sleeping. The Iranian diaspora is bustling with ideas to pull the mass movement towards cooperation with imperialism and makes endless appeals to the governments of imperialist states to intervene ever more forcefully in the struggle and in the mass movement. Imperialist states themselves do not stand idly by. Macron has accepted “opinion leaders” that blatantly wish to make Iran a country subservient to the imperialist West. The latest vote within the United Nations in favour of Iran’s exclusion from the women’s group is not a progressive move, but a step in favour of imperialism. The presence of Iranian women celebrities like Nazanin Boniadi and Masih Alinejad in a much-publicised panel discussion on Iran at the World Economic Forum in Davos is of great significance. The same jet set has now been invited to the Munich security conference.
The international left does not respond to the crisis in a manner that will fortify the resolution of the Iranian people and help the mass movement organise the rebellion towards victory.
We send an unambiguous message to the peoples of Iran. The DIP stands in complete solidarity with the women of Iran in their quest for liberation from the yoke of a state that dictates to the people its own religious beliefs and practices as law. The DIP stands in solidarity with the young and very young in Iran in their challenge to the stifling life that the Islamic Republic has been offering them. The DIP stands in solidarity with all the different nationalities of Iran, who have suffered as much under the Islamic Republic as under the Shah. The DIP stands in solidarity with the entire people of Iran in their fight for dignity, freedom and bread.
Above all, the DIP stands in solidarity with the working class of Iran and its vanguard, which is trying to develop the mass rebellion towards its full potential with all the possibilities that it can make use of.
10. We call the entire international working-class movement, its trade-union and political organisations, to display much stronger acts of solidarity with this movement. We need to provide the utmost support to the Iranian people so that we can together overcome the machinations and manipulations of imperialism, Zionism, and the Iranian bourgeoisie in exile, including the partisans of the descendants of the former Shah.
Zen, zendeke, azadi! Jin, jiyan, azadi! Kadın, yaşam, özgürlük! Woman, life, freedom!
Stop the repression of the Iranian masses in their quest for freedom and bread!
Stop political executions immediately!
Free all political prisoners!
Prosecute and punish the butchers that instigate the murdering and torturing of the people!
Grant all demands of Iranian women!
Freedom to the students and youth of Iran!
Independent trade unions, free strike action, freedom of association and political parties for the Iranian working class!
Imperialist and Zionist hands off of Iran!
Neither Guide nor Shah! Let the people rule!
For workers’ power in Iran within a Socialist Federation of the Middle East and North Africa!
Revolutionary Workers Party, Turkey
11 February 2023