Revolution #170, July 19, 2009
From A World to Win News Service
Iran: Brave protests commemorate 10th anniversary of student upsurge
July 13, 2009. A World to Win News Service. On July 9, the tenth anniversary of the student upsurge that marked a new wave of the Iranian people's struggle, thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Tehran and many other cities to commemorate the anniversary and continue their protests against the regime. Various authorities, including the governor of Tehran, the heads of the security forces and the Interior Ministry, had all vowed to "crush" any such actions. But despite the clear danger of beatings, torture and death, people came out, and they stayed out to confront baton-wielding police, Basij militiamen on motorbikes, tear gas and warning gunfire. In some cases they did battle with the security forces, and occasionally even overran them.
The people who decided to demonstrate were aware that the regime was not just making idle threats. The day before, the authorities had announced that 500 of the 2,000 people they reported arrested were still being held and would face trial. Since prisoners are not allowed any contact with families or lawyers, many people in Iran – and Amnesty International – fear they are being tortured to produce confessions that foreign powers are behind the protests, and that this could be used as a pretext to justify executions. (AI press release June 29) Many people seem to have "disappeared." There is good reason to believe that the death toll has been far higher than the several dozen reported by the government. (See sidebar, “Tehran doctor: ‘The authorities are covering up the number of dead’”)
The latest news of brutality is the death of a 19 year-old named Sohrab Araabi. He disappeared June 15, and his family was unable to get any information about him. His mother had been going from prison to prison asking about him. Then, on July 11, his family was called to identify his body. At first they were told he had died in prison. Later they found out that he had been shot on June 25, but that the regime had kept it a secret. At his funeral in Tehran July 13, there was a heavy presence of uninvited guests – plainclothes security forces on hand to prevent people from joining the family and to make sure no one chanted slogans.
At the tenth anniversary protests, brave people and especially young women and men were determined to continue with their struggle and put an end to any illusions that the reactionaries in power might have that repression had deterred them from standing up. They saw these threats as howling from a position of weakness.
People this time seized various Tehran streets. Reports indicate that they protested in more than 10 locations in the capital, shouting "Down with the dictator," "Death to Khamenei" (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the regime's "Supreme Leader") and slogans against his son Mojtaba. There are reports that Mojtaba is behind the coup and in full control of the Basij corps, and that he is making an effort to replace his father when the latter dies. People shouted, "Mojtaba, we want you dead so you can never become the leader" and other slogans indicating that the movement has become more radicalized. The wearing of the color green and slogans in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi are becoming less common.
The importance of the July 9 (18 Tir in the Persian calendar) demonstration was its message that the regime is not going to get away with the kind of repression and murderous acts it unleashed ten years ago, but that on the contrary repression will give rise to increasing resistance until this regime ceases to exist. Since 1999, demonstrations on the anniversary of that year's student upsurge have grown, thanks to the impact of that people's uprising that broke down the walls of the universities and spread all over Iran. With their courageous presence in the streets of Tehran and other cities, people declared they are determined to continue their struggle whatever it takes. They chanted, "Water cannons, tanks and torture no longer work," and "We will die but we will not tolerate being treated with contempt."
After 12 days when it seemed that the regime and its military forces had been able to contain the protests and struggles, the July 9 actions were a loud pronouncement that this is not going to be just a battle, but a war that will go on. There are indications that many people have not poured into the street to support the electoral opposition figures like Mousavi or former president Mohammad Khatami or anybody else. In fact, Mousavi did not call for this demonstration. More than that, he seems to have stepped back from confrontation. Mousavi called for people to stop demonstrating in the streets and instead form a political party to work in "a legal framework." He has clearly announced that any differences within the regime are family differences. This was not a surprise, since he is no less afraid of a radical movement than the other regime factions. The intense contradiction between the people and a brutal religious regime and 30 years of oppression in various forms has given way to a powerful struggle that has been able to go as far as it has so far only because of the people's initiative.
The radicalization of the struggle and the determination to continue it is an expression of the intense, deep and fundamental contradiction between the people and the ruling power that has been accumulating for more than 30 years. It is a reaction not only to stolen votes but a stolen revolution, so it should not be expected to die away as soon as the regime had hoped. The regime is, however, armed to teeth. But it has been massively weakened by its own internal contradictions and differences, and it is hard to imagine that it could easily restore its strength to its previous level. The Islamic regime has already suffered a very damaging blow. The legitimacy of its president, and of its leader and the whole system, has suffered a big blow.
However, there are two dangers that really threaten the people's struggle and could lead to the reestablishment of the Islamic regime as it was.
One is the lack of a strong communist and revolutionary leadership able to organize and lead the people's struggles at the present time. One of the Islamic regime's first moves when it came to power was to imprison and then massacre the communists and crush the communist and radical organizations. Partly due to their own errors as well as this brutality, the communists suffered huge damage, and a generation of communists was wiped out. However, those who survived are doing everything they can and fighting hard to build a strong communist vanguard able to lead the people's struggle.
Secondly, and related to the question of leadership, there is a possibility that the imperialists and big powers could help the regime survive its crisis. Russia and China are already on board. The administration of President Barack Obama has given contradictory signals, but overall it has been trying to come to terms with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government. At first, under the pretext of "non-interference," Obama stayed silent. Then, under pressure from both world public opinion and the opposition Republican Party to take a position, Obama turned a blind eye on the coup by the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad clique and on the struggle of the people, and he was careful not to question an election that a clear majority of the world's people had questioned.
In light of the present political situation in Iran, this could be interpreted as support for Ahmadinejad. There could be several reasons why the U.S. imperialists would take such an "unexpected" position. First, even though they might have contradictions with the Iranian regime, the U.S. imperialists are not in favor of revolutionary struggle in the country. They might support some opposition and some protests to increase pressure on the regime, but certainly they hate anything uncontrollable, especially when there is a chance that the situation might get totally out of hand.
The second reason could be that the U.S. prefers the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad faction to the other factions. The reason Obama wants to talk to Iran is not only because of the "nuclear issue" but also because of Iran's role in the Middle East – Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and to some degree in Palestine, and so on. If the reformists came to power, they would be powerless to change Iran's position with regard to such issues as well as the nuclear dispute. The U.S. may think that only the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad faction could actually bring about the changes that it seeks.
Finally, there are reasons to suspect that the Ahmadinejad-Khamenei clique have favored direct negotiations with the U.S. alone, without any real European involvement. Further evidence of this is the fact that the European Union has used stronger words than the U.S. in condemning the regime's use of violence against demonstrators. In fact, some EU countries have gone much further than the U.S. in calling into question the regime's elections and legitimacy.
As for the G8, even though this summit issued a strong warning of further sanctions against Iran regarding the nuclear issue, its joint statement completely ignored the current political crisis. In this critical situation, this could be taken as recognition of the Ahmadinejad government's legitimacy and even tacit approval. This should be expected, given the G8's character as a gang of reactionary powers no less against the interests of the people than the Iranian regime and even more dangerous. If and when they refer to the people's struggle, that is only meant to seek advantages for their interests at the negotiating table.
However, at this point many Iranians are in high spirits and very excited that they have been able to break the myth of the Islamic regime's "invincibility." Many people are positive and optimistic and believe that the struggle will go on. The amount of support from among the different sections of the people is increasing. And while the regime and especially its dominant faction have been able to maintain a tight grip on the organs of power so far, they are increasingly isolated. Even among the reactionary Shia religious authorities who have been a major source of influence and legitimacy for the regime, many see it as much weakened and perhaps no longer able to contain and suppress the people's struggle. Even with imperialist help, this might prove to be unworkable. Such conditions provide a favorable situation for the revolutionary forces to work hard, organize the youth and the people, and raise their consciousness and knowledge of revolution and the path to victory. Otherwise other class forces will grab the people's struggle once again.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), 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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