Revolution #169, June 28, 2009

From A World to Win News Service

Iran: fires still burning bright


For more background on this situation, please check out these other articles:

June 29, 2009. A World to Win News Service. Despite the brutality of Iran’s Islamic regime, protests continued in Tehran and many other cities two weeks after the upsurge began. They are on a much smaller scale than the first days, but it is extremely significant and inspiring that many youth and other people are determined to persist even in the face of gunfire, beatings, arrest and possibly torture. They are expressions of a broader popular rage that will not be easily quenched.

There were reports of people gathering June 25 at the Behesht-e Zahra graveyard, the burial place of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman shot dead by a Basij militiaman during a demonstration, and others killed by the security forces. Thousands of people assembled at Enghelab Square in north-eastern central Tehran on June 27. The families of those arrested and killed in the recent revolts planned to get together in Laleh Park, north of the square, but security forces had taken control of the park and surrounding streets. When protestors in Enghelab square were attacked, they scattered and then reformed on Keshavarz-Tohid Boulevard. They headed for Laleh Park, but were again attacked. They fought to come back together until late in the evening. Several were beaten and arrested. On June 28, after a legally authorized memorial service for a long dead founding father of the Islamic regime whose family is now allied with opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi, thousands of people again chanted "Death to the Dictator" and were tear-gassed in retaliation.

The Islamic Republic's various security organizations have been acting with a level of ruthlessness unseen since the massacre of political prisoners in 1988. The Basij volunteer militia has been mobilized to break into homes at night, whole blocks and even neighborhoods at a time, to harass people, rubbish their apartments and sometimes kidnap youth. Some of these attacks are meant to chase demonstrators or those who go onto the roofs to chant anti-regime slogans every night at 10 pm. Others are just to intimidate the people.

Witnesses using their mobile phones have captured much of the brutality. But the extent of the repression is far beyond what the world has seen. It is said that more than a thousand protestors, including hundreds of students, have been arrested. Their families have no news about them and fear that they might be undergoing torture in the notorious Evin and other prisons.

According to reports, many partisans of Mousavi and fellow opposition candidate Mehdi Karoubi as well as numerous journalists working for  newspapers favorable to them have been arrested. Also under detention are people who held high-level governmental posts during the Mohammad Khatami presidency or have been his advisors.

At the end of the Friday prayers June 26, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (no relation to the former president) said that those responsible for the "riots" were "waging war on god," a capital offense under the Islamic Republic. He said, "I want the judiciary to punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson." The Islamic Republic has carried out mass executions on such charges before and there is good reason why such talk strikes fear into people's hearts.

The intensification of two important contradictions

One of the most important features of the recent Iranian people's upsurge is the sharp intensification of two major contradictions, one between the people and the ruling power structure and the other among the factions in the political establishment.

It is common knowledge in Iran that the confrontation within the establishment is not limited to the dispute between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief electoral rival Mousavi over the outcome of the voting. Underlying that is a struggle between Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and the regime’s official "Supreme Leader" Ali Khamenei, the two most powerful men in the Islamic regime. It has been going on for years and is now reaching a boiling point. There are rumors about Revolutionary Guard commanders and other major figures being killed in factional fighting over the years. On the eve of the election, during the televised debates between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, backed by Khamenei and Rafsanjani respectively, each of these two men went beyond the usual empty promises and generalities and exposed some of each other’s crimes. Ahmadinejad went even further and attacked Rafsanjani as corrupt, while Mousavi refrained from even indirectly attacking Khamenei until a week after the election, when Khamenei dropped his pretense of neutrality. While bitter factional disputes among Iran’s ruling circles are nothing new, this kind of appeal to the masses is unprecedented.

This is a big part of what has allowed the long simmering discontent and anger of many sections of the people to burst through to the surface. In turn, the mass anger and initiative has reacted back on the inter-regime rivalries, creating a situation that has taken on a life of its own. Neither side may be in a position to back down, or to bring the crisis to an end.

This rivalry is especially complex because there are not really two well-defined sides but rather shifting coalitions of cliques, with conflicting as well as matching economic interests, political visions and ideological features. There are two main points that need to be understood about this. One is that Rafsanjani and Mousavi, no less than Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and all the major political figures without exception, are fighting to preserve the Islamic regime and restore its legitimacy in the eyes of at least certain sections of the people. The other is that the U.S. has been and remains determined to overthrow or dramatically reconfigure the Islamic Republic, and the regime's inner squabbles have been driven by considerations of how to deal with that and who will come out on top in that inevitably bloody process.

Both sides seem more than willing to make a deal with the U.S. if they can make one that the American regime will accept while saving their own political rule. Ironically, even as each side tries to claim for itself the regime's ideological and political legitimacy and fights for what it thinks can best preserve it, the confluence of their infighting and the people's sentiments and sometimes uncontrollable protests have left that legitimacy in tatters.

The inter-tangling of the contradiction between the people and the regime and the regime’s own inner contradictions has brought advantages for the revolutionary interests of the people, but it has also brought disadvantages. Not the least of the dangers is that it spreads new illusions among the people even as it challenges some old ones.

There are many powerful factors, both in the propaganda of Voice of America and BBC television and that of the regime, and the workings of life itself, that strengthen the idea that the conflict is between Islamic fundamentalism and Western-style electoral democracy, and especially various mixes and shades of the two. Bourgeois democracy, in which elections disguise the dictatorship of the monopoly capitalist class in the imperialist countries, is even more of an illusion in countries dominated by imperialism like Iran for many reasons. One of them is that the imperialist powers have always used force and the threat of force to further their interests there, along with the crushing might of their capital. But these illusions are strong anyway, especially because they correspond to the prospects of Iran’s further integration into the capitalist world economy and U.S. President Barack Obama's aggressive plans to succeed where his predecessor George Bush failed in reconfiguring the Middle East.

So the entanglement of different contradictions is an important feature of the current crisis and current upsurge of the people. But what started as a quarrel between rival reactionaries doesn't have to finish that way. One factor is that the unexpected people's upsurge has upset the plans of all these reactionaries. The other is that this situation provides conditions in which communists can intervene and lead the masses of people to better understand their revolutionary interests and rupture with all the reactionary paths now competing for their loyalty, either on the basis of their belief in them or on apparently more pragmatic—but no less incorrect and stifling—ideas about what is possible. Huge numbers of people have shown their readiness to go much further than where the Islamic opposition wants them to go and where the imperialists are advising them to go.

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.

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