By the INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT OF THE INTERNATIONAL WORKERS LEAGUE-FI
This is the third month of widespread protests and mass mobilizations in Iran. This wave of struggle, which has massively mobilized three major social forces (women, youth and oppressed nationalities), has put the Islamist capitalist’s regime into crisis. The depth of the mobilization is deeper than the ones that occurred in the past five years, and so is the degree of repression against it. Khomeini’s dictatorial regime is 40 years old and today a new generation is rising against it, claiming its right to have a future, where democratic freedoms and social welfare and economic rights will be guaranteed.
The IWL-FI actively supports the right of the Iranian people to overthrow its government; take their destiny into their own hands, free from any foreign government intervention; and to lead their revolution till the end to secure the social material basis of their freedom. This is why we support and stand in solidarity with the ongoing struggle.
Facing increased government repression, protesters change tactics
There are several reports by international organizations on the scope of the regime crackdown against protesters. In the Kurdish areas, at least 80 protesters have been killed in West Iran, and the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), which is based outside Iran, counts a total of 419 deaths. There are reports of 15,000 protesters arrested, of tortures occurring in prisons, and the regime has already proclaimed 3 death sentences to activists under the charge of “moharebeh” (waging war against God).
Furthermore, The Economist reports that armored-car columns of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “[rolled] into cities including Mahabad and Javanroud in Iran’s Kurdish north-west, firing with machine guns on protesters” and that “helicopters [flew] overhead … circling drones broadcast martial songs.” The most severe repression is happening in the Kurdish zones with firing on the crowd with live ammunition, but other oppressed nationalities, such as the Baluchis in the southeast and the Arabs (most of them Sunni) in the south, have suffered it as well.
Due to the repression, protesters are changing tactics, moving away from mass rallies where the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shoot at the crowd to spontaneous flash mob protests. Protesters are setting on fire symbols of the Iranian state, such as police stations, and even Khomeini’s ancestral home, which is today a state museum. Many videos on social media show hundreds of daily protests with chants against the regime and for women’s rights, such as “the pervert is you, the free woman is me” in the metro stations of Tehran.
Der Spiegel quotes an activist that explains, “We are screaming from the windows, even if security forces are opening fire more frequently. We are boycotting companies that advertise on state television. We are using cash instead of credit cards, collecting money for the people in the Kurdish areas. It is difficult to get help to them, but some people are trying. When we cross the streets, we give each other the V for victory sign. We cry ourselves to sleep and wake up with new hope.”
In the Kurdish areas street-fighting manuals have begun to circulate among the activists to ensure self-defense from state repression, and at least 60 Iranian soldiers and police have been killed by protesters. The Economist also reports that “supporters of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (pjak), based in neighboring Iraq, say they are smuggling weapons and protective gear across the mountains into Iran.”
Labor unrest continues
Strikes continue throughout the country and are on the rise, with continued labor mobilization combined with the now armed resistance of Kurds and the generalizing protests of women and youth. The shopkeepers have been striking on a regular basis since the beginning of the movement. At the end of November truck drivers joined the protests and they are today the vanguard of the labor resistance to the regime. They have gone on strike in several cities such as Esfahan, Bandar Abbas, Qazvin, and Kermanshah in support of other strikes from industrial workers. This last strike action began Nov. 26 when truckers called for a 10-day stoppage, delivering a significant blow to the regime.
Furthermore, Iran International, one of the news outlets of the opposition in Iran, reports that “numerous workers at steel and automobile factories” (such as Esfahan Steel Company, Alvand SarmaAfarin Incorporation, Morattab Car Manufacturing, Safe Khodro Car Manufacturing Company, Qazvin’s Pars Appliances Company) are in motion. It also reports that in the past weeks “workers at dozens of industrial units, including automobile manufacturing, household appliances, heavy industries, petrochemicals, oil, gas, sugarcane” have staged local strikes and that there have been protests and government repression in more than 140 universities.
The regime’s crisis is deepening
The IRGC functions like an economic caste that controls key sectors of the economy, very similarly to the military in Egypt. Der Spiegel explains that it “has control of huge swaths of the economy: airports, oil terminals, hospitals and universities.” This corrupt national elite is universally detested today by working people in Iran, especially in the current context of galloping inflation. The Iranian government serves the interests of a capitalist system of exploitation in Iran. The ruling classes are eager to obtain, but have failed to secure, sufficient imperialist investment to develop the national economy further. Their project is weakened by U.S. and EU sanctions, and so they are desperate to maintain an iron hand over labor, as well as the poor and oppressed nationalities through reactionary ideologies.
The deepening crisis of the regime was obvious at the Qatar World Cup, for which the regime orchestrated a heavy communications campaign. First, despite having taken pictures smiling with the top leaders of the regime, the football players of the Iran team refused to sing the national anthem. This was the result of tremendous popular pressure against them siding in any public manner with the murderous regime. In addition, many Iran soccer supporters are boycotting the game to oppose the regime, and many were intending to bring flags and banners in support of the protests, but were forbidden to do so by the Qatari police. When, in the subsequent games, the Iran team sang the anthem, it became clear to everyone that it was because the regime had threatened the lives of their families. Yet, the most incredible manifestation of the crisis was the spectacle of Iranians publicly rooting for the defeat of their own national team as an indirect way to humiliate the regime. On Nov. 29, when Iran lost against the U.S. (a team deeply hated in Iran due to the disastrous sanctions that Washington has placed on the country, sanctions that hurt working people) the country erupted in big cheers and street celebrations. In that context, celebrating the defeat of his national team, that Mehra Samak, a 27-year-old Iranian, was shot by the regime.
Yet the regime, headed by the president Ebrahim Raisi, is not a monolith anymore. Cracks are opening and could widen. The official media in Iran is now publicly quoting dissident voices who have proposed a referendum on the future type of government. Also quoted are [people who are] suggesting elections to deflect the popular unrest. Some analysts are openly speculating that “the IRGC will waive some Islamist requirements, such as women having to wear the veil, as the price for staying in power.”
There are reports that the Guidance Patrol (hijab police) could be dissolved, which would be a tremendous victory for the movement. In fact, numerous reports state that more and more women are not wearing any veil in the streets. This includes women from many different generations, both in urban and rural areas, and in all the geographical parts of the country. Women are asserting their rights in action, collectively, protecting each other in the street and signaling to each other their commitment to liberation.
The way forward
Today, the protesters in Iran are not restricted to voicing demands around women’s rights or economic demands. The protests are now unified around demands for the end of the regime. For real social change to occur, the Islamic regime must be overthrown by the people of Iran, and only by them. The success of the ongoing revolutionary upsurge depends on the ability to coordinate of the resistance nationally, on the further development of the methods of working-class self-defense, and on the emergence of an independent working-class leadership. Key to this process is the role the industrial proletariat can play by organizing a general strike that could completely paralyze the country and cut the profits that feed the IRGC cast. Therefore, all ongoing strikes must be fully supported and extended to other sectors and to other geographical areas, and they also need to be unified at the national level in order to topple the regime.
The Iranian regime is today an ally of Putin and is providing arms (in particular drones and missiles) to crush the Ukrainian resistance. A victory of the Iranian people against Raisi and Khomeini, with a resounding affirmation of democratic rights, especially the rights of women and the oppressed nationalities, would further isolate Putin and galvanize the Ukrainian resistance.
As socialists, we oppose the narratives relayed by neo-Stalinist currents that toe the line of the Iranian regime and characterize these protests as instigated by “foreign agents” to discredit them. These narratives only strengthen the murderous regimes of Raisi, Assad and Putin, which camouflage their capitalist interests and justify the bloody repression of working people under a fake and empty “anti-imperialist” rhetoric.
We believe that the current regime in Iran should be replaced by a working-class government. Only a government made and led by workers, farmers and the oppressed nationalities will be able to put control of the entire economy in the hands of working people to build a society free of exploitation, with free health care and education, and ensure all democratic rights, including the right to seccession to oppressed minorities, and full equality for women and the LGTBQ communities.
All over the world we must demand the immediate liberation of the more than 15,000 political prisoners and the end of U.S. and EU sanctions that lower the living standards of Iranians. We must join the solidarity protests and demonstrations. Working people all over the world must provide material solidarity to those fighting in Iran, amplify the voices of working people leading the struggles and support their struggle against the bloody regime, by mobilizing their unions, student and community organizations to join in solidarity actions and campaigns.
Photo: Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration following the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran, in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 2, 2022. (Dilara Senkaya/ Reuters)