The revolution of the women and peoples of Iran

Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish girl, died on 16 September after being tortured by the so-called Iranian “morality police”. She had been accused of “wearing hijab inappropriately”. This murder triggered a revolutionary uprising of masses, led by women, that created a revolutionary process against the dictatorial regime. At the time of writing this article, the mobilizations in the country had already entered their second month.

Pioneering the protests after Amini’s death, women took to the streets in many cities across the country, removed their hijabs and paved the way to extend the mobilization to the working class and other popular sectors by rebelling against Sharia oppression,[1] patriarchal violence and the capitalist exploitation they have been suffering under the dictatorial regime of 43 years. With the slogans of “Woman, life, freedom!”, “Abolish the morality police, close the Ministry of Irshad (Moral)!”, “Basij (repressive militias), out!” and around their demands, women, youth and workers participated in protests in almost all the cities of the country such as Kurdish, Arab, Baloch and Azerbaijani cities, by targeting the institutions of the regime.

The attempt of the mullah (Islamic priests versed in the Quran) regime, army, Revolutionary Guards, Basij and civilian paramilitary forces to repress the masses through violence quickly turned the popular uprising into one that directly targeted the regime itself. In two months, the regime murdered almost 500 people and arrested over 15,000. However, the fire ignited by the murder of Amini enabled the Iranian peoples to overcome the wall of fear created by 43 years of oppression and violence, and unite the anger of women and working people against the mullah regime.

The past of the revolutionary process

Actually, the peoples of Iran have a significant experience fighting against the mullah regime, the capitalist exploitative order, patriarchal violence and poverty. In 2009, the suppression of the “Green Movement”, led by the reformist wing represented by the former President Khatami, by the conservative wing of the Islamic Republic brought about a process of repression in the country. A period of stagnation in the fight against the regime started as many activists lost their lives and many more were arrested or exiled. However, the failure of the “reformist process” also helped to dissolve the belief that the oppressive and dictatorial regime of the Islamic Republic could be defeated through reforms. The natural result of this is that in all the mobilization processes that have taken place since 2009, they have become relatively independent from the reformist or conservative wings of the regime, which has allowed them to develop their own struggles.

The “White Wednesdays” (i.e., the struggle of Iranian women against the mandatory hijab law), the strike waves of working class that marked the years 2018-2020, and the poverty revolt against price hikes of gasoline in 2019 fit exactly into this plane. Although none of these waves of protest turned into a mobilization directly against the mullah regime, they brought important ruptures in the consciousness of the Iranian people. Against the regime, which did not tolerate any organization with legal excuses, the women developed their own methods of struggle. With the wave of privatizations in the 2000s, which brought more casual, flexible and temporary work, the Iranian working class began to build its own means of struggle. In doing so, they rallied around independent trade union groups by building upon the experiences of the shuras or workers’ committees of the past and the 1979 revolution. More importantly, the Iranian working class has taken the lead in a significant part of the processes of struggle that have been taking place since 2009. And it was precisely this process that made it possible for an anti-regime accumulation of anger and courage to emerge among the population under 30 years of age, which today makes up 60 per cent of Iranian society.

Discontent with the current order, which has become massive but has not yet directly targeted it, also manifested itself in 2019. The uprising, which began in a significant part of the country after the rise in gasoline prices, was crushed by the dictatorial regime with intense violence. According to Amnesty International data, 1,015 people were killed and, according to Iranian sources, almost 4,000 people lost their lives and around 10,000 people were arrested. The counter-revolutionary regime of the mullahs crushed the working people through oppression, but could not erase the 2019 mobilization from the memory of the masses.

So much so that, at the time of writing this article, the working people of Iran, who are mobilizing against the dictatorial regime, have called for a three-day general protest in memory of those who were massacred in the 2019 uprising. In many cities in Iran, from Kurdistan to Baluchistan, the masses are in the streets, university students are boycotting classes, shopkeepers’ shutters are drawn, and the working class is on strike in factories in different sectors. Because today’s uprising has a different dimension from past examples.

The present of the revolutionary process

The working people of Iran have surpassed and developed their past experiences of struggle, which they have accumulated in their memory. Women, youth, the working class, and the oppressed nations turned their democratic, economic and social demands into a popular revolutionary uprising against the regime of the mullahs.

This spontaneous mobilization of the working people of Iran, which is manifested in the slogans “Women, life, freedom!”, “We do not want the Islamic Republic”, “Death to the dictator, death to Khamenei!”, “Death to the tyrant, whether he is the supreme leader or the shah!”, has been going on for two months without relenting. The regime’s massacres and terror arrests reinforced their struggle even more rather than pushing back the masses.

The mullahs know that they have lost their legitimacy in the eyes of the masses and that their regime will not survive if they step back from their policies of oppression and violence. This is why they are trying to increase the dose of repression to intimidate masses. In the Iranian parliament, 227 of its 290 members have called on the judiciary to sentence 14,800 people arrested during the demonstrations to death on charges of “gathering against national security”, “conflict with the Islamic Republic” and “corruption on earth”. However, this call from the representatives of the regime did not scare the masses who were aware that the regime would attack them with greater violence if they retreated and fell into a “defensive position”.

The Islamic Republic regime, which has historically been able to prevent unifying the anger directed at itself by dividing Iranian society into national and religious minorities, has also again resorted to this weapon. During the current uprising, much more intense violence and massacres were carried out against the most oppressed sections of the Iranian population, especially the Kurds and Balochis. Bombings were carried out at the offices of political parties and in some cities in Kurdistan. In Balochistan, it carried out massacres against the civilian population. In this way, by trying to push the organizations in Kurdistan and Balochistan (the most economically, democratically and socially oppressed region of Iran, where predominantly Sunni population lives and averagely 60 per cent of the country’s annual death sentences are applied) to more radical positions (for example, by provoking the radical Islamist organization Jaish al-Adl [Army of Justice] in Balochistan), the regime tried to weaken and divide the struggle of the Iranian working people. The mullahs who attempted this policy, which their brother dictator Bashar al-Assad (Syria) implemented “successfully” with their help, so far have failed in these maneuvers.

The revolutionary uprising did not allow the anger and united struggle against the regime to be divided. Today, in many cities of Iran, the Kurds send messages of solidarity to the Balochis, the Balochis to the Azerbaijanis, the Azerbaijanis to the Arabs and the Arabs to the Persians during the mobilization.

Diminishing of the belief to transform the Islamic Republic through reforms following the defeat of “Green Movement” in 2009 is reflected also on the current struggle of the working people of Iran against the regime. The mobilized masses do not demand anything from the regime. Their common demand is the overthrow of the regime. Another important point of the current revolutionary mobilization is that the masses no longer trust the official opposition whose interest lies in the continuation of the capitalist order of exploitation and which makes propaganda to take advantage of the uprising that shook the mullah regime. And the head of this opposition is the Shahist, pro-monarchist wing, whose voice was very weak at the beginning of the protests in the country and with a weight living abroad. However, the mobilized working people have made a de facto break away with the dictatorial regime and the capitalist system of exploitation. And this breaking away lies in the slogan “Death to the tyrant, whether he is the supreme leader or the shah!”

This revolutionary process bringing about such motives is deepening with demonstrations that have been taking place in more than 138 cities and towns for two months, boycotts organized in more than 137 universities and many high and elementary schools, and strikes in many sectors such as public transport drivers, workers in oil, natural gas, iron and steel, metal, sugar cane, glass, and education. And as the mobilizations deepen, the crisis within the regime increases. One of the two major issues that have come to light in this regard thus far has been the reflection of the presence of elements within law enforcement agencies that refuse to use violence against the masses. Another critical issue is the participation of the Bazaar (the merchants) in the mobilizations in some regions as the merchants occupy an important place in Iranian society and have been one of the ideological pillars in the construction of the regime of the Islamic Republic.

The future of the revolutionary process

The most important factor behind the fact that the mass uprising in the country has continued for so long and is deepening the political crisis of the regime even more is that the mobilized workers have started to create their own self-organizations. The Iranian class struggle, which had the experience of the shuras during the 1979 period, also built important organizations of workers’ councils in the wave of workers’ strikes that took place between 2018-2020. In today’s process, an attempt is being made to develop the previous council-type initiatives in the striking class sectors, on the one hand, and on the other hand, an attempt is made in that direction in the sectors where it has not yet been built. In addition to these class organizations, the workers create their own mobilization bodies through the creation of local/regional committees.

The spread of local committees and workers’ councils, which are the cores of dual power, will be decisive in the evolution of the current panorama, dominated by an impasse between the regime and the masses. The dissemination of these bodies and their transfer to a national coordination point would guarantee the continuity of the struggle of women, youth, the working class and the oppressed peoples.

When the regime of Islamic Republic starts to weaken, it will lead both region countries and imperialism and the bourgeois wing opponent to the regime within the current political atmosphere of the country to attempt to protect their own interests. At this point, we have already mentioned that the mobilized masses in the country do not embrace the reformist and monarchist focal points.

The Islamic Republic of Iran regime has proved that it is one of the most important counter-revolutionary forces in the region, by providing support to oppressive regimes in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. It has collaborated in suppressing the revolts in the revolutionary process in North Africa and the Middle East that began in 2010, or by intervening according to its regional interests. Now, the regime itself is going through a similar process. It would be naive not to think that its weakening and danger of falling will push the region’s exploitative powers and imperialism, whose interests depend on the overthrow or survival of the regime, to attempt various maneuvers.

At this point, the statement of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers quotes the best example of the attitude that should be taken for the benefit of the working people of Iran: “Our conflict is with the whole system of exploitation, oppression, crime, discrimination and poverty. We conflict with this whole class system. Not only in Iran but also in Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, UK, the United States, Russia, China… We do not need the support of the regimes of these countries. We are the working class. We will wipe them out by uniting with our class brothers and sisters nationally and internationally!”

The victory of such a revolutionary line will be possible through the coordination of local committees and workers’ councils on a national scale, taking the strikes into an organization of a national general strike, providing this coordination with an action program aimed at ending the dictatorial regime and the capitalist order of exploitation, and creating a revolutionary leadership on this path.

One of the pillars of the current struggle is to consign the mullah regime and its oppressive constitution to the dustbin of history, and to establish a new constitution by a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly that will guarantee the democratic, social and economic rights of women, youth and the working class as well as all democratic rights of the oppressed peoples including the right to self-determination, and that will be convened by these elements.

But more importantly, to lead the fight for the construction of a workers’ government that will carry the struggle to a definitive breaking away with the regime, the capitalist system of exploitation and imperialism, and that will guarantee the victories of the working class and all the oppressed sections.

As IWU-FI, we call on all organizations in the world that claim to be democratic and leftist, the unions, and the organizations of women and LGBTQ+ to show solidarity by carrying out united actions in support of the mobilization of women, the working class and the peoples of Iran.

[1]              Sharia law are rules that that lay down the governing principles for spiritual, mental, and physical behavior that must be followed by Muslims. Sharia law is essentially Islam’s legal system.

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