This Open Letter is an assessment and a partial but, we believe, vital critique of the Joint Charter of Basic Demands issued by 20 independent working-class and social organisations that have been fighting within the Iranian rebellion “Woman, life, freedom” for over five months. It is written on behalf of DIP (Revolutionary Workers Party), an internationalist working-class party from Turkey, a country neighbouring Iran, a party that has unswervingly supported the Iranian popular rebellion since its first day. It is, hence, written in a completely friendly spirit and should be taken as a warning plea and not an assault on the movement.
The reader can inspect the full text of the Iranian organisations for themselves, as we are publishing the Joint Charter of Basic Demands as a separate piece.
As our major criticism regarding the Joint Charter concerns its approach to relations with imperialist countries, the photographs above represent the two different dynamics that are at play regarding the future of Iran in the world should the Islamic Republic be ousted. The first one is a typical demonstration by working-class and popular Iranian women that are the proud backbone of the rebellion and the second one is the show put forward at the World Economic Forum in Davos by the partisans of imperialism from within the Iranian diaspora, who, despite their feminist and democratic pretensions, ally even with the so-called crown prince, the descendant of the deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi aspiring to ascend the throne once again.
Dear sisters and brothers of the Iranian working class,
We are a revolutionary working-class party based in Turkey, your next-door neighbour. We do almost all our organising within the ranks of the working class of Turkey, in factories, in shipyards, and other workplaces where the proletarians of the country toil and try to make a living, subject to constant exploitation by capitalists.
We are based in Turkey, but we are an internationalist party. Let us explain our attitude on this question by referring to the Communist Manifesto, that still relevant and valid programmatic text of the international working class, a document whose 175th anniversary workers all around the world are celebrating these days. The major battle cry of that seminal program was formulated as: “Workers of all countries, unite!” The emancipation of the working class and, along with it, of all humanity will necessarily be an international process. This is our indispensable principle.
Full support to the Iranian popular rebellion since mid-September 2022!
It is in this spirit that we are writing to you. As a corollary to our proletarian internationalism, we have been on the side of the popular rebellion in Iran from the first moment when it erupted in the wake of the death of Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Ershad police. In the more than five months of demonstrations and other actions since then, we have published many pieces, news, documents, commentary, statements by our party, on RedMed. The DIP as a party put forth its assessment of the Iranian popular revolt in two different statements, here and here, the former on the occasion of the third month of the rebellion and the latter on 11 February on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the collapse of the Shah’s regime under the weight of the Iranian revolution of 1979. We are unreservedly on the side of the popular rebellion, which we think has the potential to turn into a full-scale revolution. On the other hand, we constantly warn against the hijacking of the rebellion by the pro-imperialist forces of the diaspora and the so-called crown prince, descendant of the deposed Shah.
It is for the victory of the popular masses from below that we have advocated from the beginning the self-organisation of the masses in struggle against the Islamic Republic (IRI). So it was with great hope and excitement that we greeted your joint charter of basic demands. We have already published several statements by Iranian organised forces from within the movement, here and here and here and here, and some of your organisations are well-known to us. All the more reason why we felt jubilant. For us the most important point about this joint charter was not this or that particular demand but the fact that 20 organisations from within the movement came together to form a pole of attraction for the masses and the nucleus of a self-organisation of the Iranian popular rebellion.
We are in broad agreement with your objective of “bring[ing] an end to the formation of any kind of power from above and to start a social, progressive, and human revolution for the liberation of peoples from any form of tyranny, discrimination, colonization, oppression, and dictatorship.” This later finds more concrete expression in your rejection of the exploitation “not only by the current Islamic Republic regime but also the monarchist regime that preceded it.” (Demand No. 9)
Regarding the demands you put forward, we are in agreement with a majority of these including but not exclusively “the freedom of all political prisoners” (Demand No. 1), “freedom of belief, expression, and thought… Freedom of media, unions, and people’s independent local and national organizations” (No. 2), “prohibition to issue or execute any kind of death verdict… and all kinds of emotional and physical torture” (No. 3), “complete equal rights between men and women” (No. 4), the defence of secularism (No. 5), “workers’ safety, job security, the immediate increase of monthly wages… as well as old age pensioners, … independent and national organizations, and unions” (No. 6), equality between the nationalities of Iran and their languages (No. 7), “direct facilitation and continuous participation of people in governing the country, through local and national councils” (No. 8), redistribution of resources and expropriation of illegitimate funds form their present owners (No. 9), “banning of child labor… a strong social security organization… Education and health care free for all people” (no. 11).
We regard the absence of a clear trajectory for the revolution to move ahead as a serious shortfall. The major question for every revolution is the question of power and therefore there needs to be a government formula in order to turn power over to the people. However, the major problem lies elsewhere.
Has imperialism evaporated?
The last demand on the list (No. 12) casts a long shadow on all the previous ones. Let us look closely at that item on your list:
12. Normalising foreign relations on the highest levels, with all states of the globe on the bases of equal relations and mutual respect. Prohibition of nuclear weapons and aiming for world peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, this sounds like a solemn but empty catechism coming from the United Nations. On this level of generality, one cannot find anything but empty phrases. “Based on equal relations”, “mutual respect”, “prohibition of nuclear weapons”, “world peace”: these are pious thoughts impossible to achieve in a world full of inequalities between countries and nations.
Let us ask some questions and see whether this demand will serve anything to solve them: What good will these principles do to the workers of foreign-brand car assembly plants in Iran that employ Iranian works at low wages and under exhausting working conditions? “Equal relations”, “mutual respect”? We fear these principles will have no effect whatsoever on the plight of Iranian car workers.
What does “prohibition of nuclear weapons” mean? The unilateral abandonment of Iran’s nuclear programme or the reciprocal prohibition of all nuclear weapons including those of the USA? We fear that the second alternative is the most utopian demand ever made on the US and that your principle would imply directly the unilateral abandonment of Iran’s nuclear programme. We then ask another question: why is it that Iran should wind up its nuclear programme when its most proximate state enemy, Zionist Israel, possesses nuclear arms? Perhaps you think that as soon as the IRI is dismantled, Israel will cease all hostility to Iran? Why is it that Israel was an enemy of Saddam’s Iraq as well, which was one of the most secular (“civil”) states of the Arab world?
What is the principle of “world peace” good for in a world dominated by NATO? Do you advance this principle in full knowledge of the new NATO Concept adopted at the Madrid Summit in June 2022, which defines the conditions under which NATO and its members promise to start a new world war if those conditions are met? Do you believe that NATO countries can be brought to promote peace on the strength of a combination of nice words brought together?
More generally, do you not see that once you open up for collaboration with the imperialist countries, they will exploit your working people and your natural resources to the full and if there is an attempt to break away from that servitude on the part of countries like Iran and Turkey, they will raise hell in our countries and prepare all kinds of provocations meant to lead eventually to civil wars and dictatorial regimes?
And more specifically now, what does the phrase “normalising foreign relations on the highest levels” mean if not extending a friendly hand to the imperialist countries and Zionist Israel, since those are the only ones with which today Iran has “abnormal” relations?
No, brothers and sisters, you cannot have a genuine revolution and at the same time befriend imperialism.
We implore you to study what happened in Sudan. Having started a revolution in 2019, the Sudanese movement unfortunately refrained from going all the way. The Sudanese modern petty-bourgeoisie, which was, at that stage, the leadership of the revolution, tried to attract the assistance of the imperialist world and did receive a lot of assurances, particularly from Norway and other Nordic countries (beware them!) In the end, the imperialist countries arranged a government of peaceful coexistence between the revolutionary forces and the military leadership of the counter-revolution, butchers of the people. Under that government, Sudan engaged in an Abrahamic accord with Zionist Israel. Then the military ousted the representatives of the revolution from the joint government and we are almost back to square one, the butchers of the people again monopolising power.
So, in a world of inequalities between countries and nations, you cannot “normalise” relations with everyone and still enjoy full sovereignty of the people, “from below” as you say, either internationally or within your country itself.
If you pursue this line, we fear that you will find yourselves in a situation akin to the miserable servitude of the Iranian people under the Shah Reza Pahlavi.
Drop demand No. 12 and replace it with proletarian internationalism!
The only way forward for the Iranian rebellion, for the potential revolution in Iran is to join hands internationally with the workers and toilers of the world and the countries subordinated to and oppressed by imperialism. Without this clear compass to show the way, without this Northern star, the revolution will be lost at sea.
We are writing all this in the friendliest spirit. We are your unbending friends as long as you take the road of the revolution. Whatever we have written is for the good of the five-month struggle that you have heroically waged.
Forward, then, Iranian sisters and brothers! Be a beacon to all the peoples of the Middle East so that we also join the revolutionary road and create an invincible Federation of the Middle East!
(Revolutionary Workers Party)
25 February 2023