By Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League (section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 8 October 2022, https://the-isleague.com and www.thecommunists.net Like in all countries that have not gone through the democratic revolution, the revolutionary movement in Iran has begun with democratic demands. It began after the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody on 16th September, three weeks ago. The protests are directed against the repressive regime of the Ayatollahs that disposed the hated Reza Shah Pahlavi reign, established as a monarchy in 1921.
Brief History of Iran
Stalinist Russia and the U.K. pushed Reza Shah into exile in 1941, and his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi took the throne. When Britain and Stalinist Russia invaded and occupied Iran in August 1941 (during the Second World War), their principal purpose was to use Iran as a bridge to supply Russia, which was hard-pressed by Hitler’s army, with vital military and other supplies. Believing Reza Shah would not cooperate with the Allies to the degree they required, Britain and Russia engineered the Shah’s abdication. The British took him into exile, first to the island of Mauritius, then to Johannesburg where he passed the last two years of his life. They replaced him with his son Mohammed Reza Shah. In 1953, amid a power struggle between Mohammed Reza Shah and Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who nationalized the oil industry, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.K. Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) orchestrated a coup against Mosaddegh’s government. When martial law, which had been instituted in August 1953 after the coup, ended in 1957, the Shah ordered two of his senior officials to form a majority party and a loyal opposition as the basis for a two-party system. These became known as the Meliyun (conservative) and the Mardom (liberal) parties. The White Revolution as an aggressive modernization program implemented in Iran in 1963, continued until 1979. The reforms, undertaken by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, upended the wealth and influence of the traditional landowning classes and deepened the poverty of the workers and peasants.
“The white revolution occurred amid a turning point in the development of the Iranian state. Industrial expansion had been promoted by the Pahlavi regime, while political parties that resisted the shah’s absolute consolidation of power had been silenced and pushed to the margins. In 1961 the shah dissolved the 20th Majles (Iran’s legislative assembly).”[i]
The new Monarchist regime of Iran during Pahlavi dynasty lasted from 1925 to 1979. During that time two monarchs — Reza Shah Pahlavi and his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi — employed secret police, torture, and executions to stifle political dissent. On 8 September 1978 (Black Friday), troops fired on religious demonstrators in Zhaleh (or Jaleh) Square and 4,000 people have been massacred by Zionist troops aiding the Shah.[ii] The Pahlavi dynasty was a “royal dictatorship”. The masses hated this corrupted and oppressive regime and in 1979, because of lack of working-class revolutionary leadership, the Ayatollahs (led by Ruhollah Khomeini) took power. Members of the National Front, the Tūdeh Party Stalinists and their various splinter groups joined the Ulama (Ayatollahs) in broad opposition (Popular front) to the Shah’s regime which opened the gates for the Khomeini’s counterrevolution.
Protest Movement Today
In the last few weeks, we are witnessing a new uprising in Iran, in the face of great state brutality. It is a struggle for liberation from gender, social and economic oppression. This nationwide revolt was sparked by the brutal killing of a young Kurdish-Iranian woman, Mahsa Zhina Amini, in custody of the state’s Guidance Patrol, or “morality police,” for so-called improper wearing of hijab (headscarf and coverings legally mandated in Iran for women). The protests are raging across Iran since mid-September. Students at Sharif University in Tehran began staging silent sit-ins, including on Sunday, holding signs demanding the release of classmates arrested during demonstrations. After the sit-in the students streamed into the main yard of the university and realized they were under siege. Campus guards were clashing with the security forces to prevent them from entering the school and locked the gates. When four students tried to leave, the Basiji grabbed them, pounding them with batons. One student was taken to the hospital for treatment for a head injury. Protesters have called for an end to the dictatorship; that the policing of women’s bodies be stopped; that hijab be optional according to everyone’s personal choice; an end to discrimination against Kurdish people and other ethnic minorities in Iran; and an end to economic injustice. Women and young people are at the forefront of these protests “There was just a fence and a barred locked gate separating the students from the men with the guns.Trapped in the area behind the gate with the guns pointing at them, the students on the campus of Sharif University of Technology, a storied institution in Tehran whose students are commonly referred to as “nokhbegan,” or “geniuses,” responded with defiance.“Death to the dictator!” they shouted, and a chorus of slurs targeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei erupted among the several hundred students facing the plainclothes militia forces known as the Basiji, riot police and security forces, all armed with guns.The Basiji opened fire through the gate with rubber bullets and paintballs, hitting the students, some on their heads and necks, some on their legs and arms. There were screams for help. Students collapsed, bleeding from their wounds. Others tried fleeing to another gate but found it locked too.” We thought they were going to kill us,” said Mahan, a 25-year-old engineering student at Sharif. “It felt like we were in a war zone and the enemy was hunting us down looking for victims to slay.”[iii]
Most importantly the oil-workers, the truck drivers, the Haft Tappeh workers, the Tehran Bus Company workers, and the Teachers’ Coordinating Committee have threatened to join the protest which would lead to a general strike.
Turn the Protests into a Revolution to bring down the Regime
The reactionary oppressive regime is using not only violence and has killed at least 100 people so far, but it also tries to increase national chauvinism against the Kurds. While the protests have reached each of Iran’s 31 provinces, they have been most intense in the Northwestern areas where most Kurds live. The regime has responded by striking Iranian Kurdish opposition groups inside Iraq. This is a magnificent spontaneous revolutionary movement that lacks a working-class revolutionary leadership armed with a revolutionary program. Such a program must lead from democratic demands through transitional demands (including the nationalization of the big private enterprises and financial institution under workers’ control), fighting for a workers’ government, for a socialist revolution. Crucially important demands are armed self-defense and the break of the army in order to bring the soldiers to the side of the revolution. The lack of a working-class revolutionary leadership allowed the Monarchists, backed by the United States and Israel, to pretend that they want a liberal democracy. “Commenting on the ongoing protests led by Iranian women against the hijab, Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s late Shah said that this is the first modern day revolution for women. It is truly in modern times, in my opinion, the first revolution for the women, by the women – with the support of Iranian men; sons, brothers and fathers,” Pahlavi, who lives in exile in the US, told AFP.[iv] Pahlavi says these days that he is not seeking to restore the monarchy, an idea that has limited support inside Iran. However, in April last year, the son of Iran’s last monarch (exiled opposition figure Reza Pahlavi) called on Iranians to consider creating an elected monarch position as part of any system that replaces the Islamic republic.[v]
He favors a constituent assembly that would write a new constitution. He also opposes the arming of the masses. This is obviously proving that he favors the killing of the masses rather than risking a real revolution. The hypocritical dangerous monarchists must be kicked out from the revolutionary movement!
* Unconditional support for the revolutionary movement in Iran! For a revolutionary working-class leadership!
* Down with the reactionary regime of Iran! For democratic demands including the support for a free Kurdistan in Iran, Iraq and Turkey!
* For the free and independent choice by all women on all clothing, including if they want to wear any form of Hijab!
* Turn the protests into an indefinite general strike to bring down the government! Form armed self -defense units of the workers and oppressed! Split the army to bring the soldiers on the side of the revolution!
* For workers government in alliance with the poor peasants and the urban poor! Kick out the imperialists as part of a regional revolution against the oppressive rulers! _________________ Footnotes
[i] White Revolution. Iranian History, by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/White-Revolution
[ii] Liberalization is the Main Casualty, by J. Gueyras, The Guardian, September 17, 1978 (print)
[iii] ‘Geniuses’ Versus the Guns: A Campus Crackdown Shocks Iran, by Farnaz Fassihi, The New York Times, October 6, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/06/world/middleeast/iran-protests-sharif-university-masha-amini.html
[iv] Son of Iran’s ex-Shah hails ‘women’s revolution’ against the hijab, by Middle East Monitor, September 29, 2022, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20220929-son-of-irans-ex-shah-hails-womens-revolution-against-the-hijab/
[v] Exclusive: Iran’s Exiled Prince Says Future Monarch Should be Elected, by Siamak Dehghanpour and Michael Lipin, VOA News, April 20, 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/middle-east_voa-news-iran_exclusive-irans-exiled-prince-says-future-monarch-should-be-elected/6204803.html