Revolution #177, September 27, 2009
Iran: It's Right to Rebel Against Reactionaries! No U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran!
Upsurge Erupts Again in Iran... Protests Planned at UN
Like lava pushing up through cracks between the plates of hard rock that form the surface of the earth... the seething anger of the Iranian people again erupted in the streets last week.
Seizing on the opportunity provided by Quds ceremonies (rallies and marches organized by the Iranian regime supposedly in support of the Palestinian struggle) tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the cities of Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Tabriz, Kermanshah, and elsewhere on September 18. As we go to press, details of the protests are hard to come by, but what is known is that protesters defied police, the chain-wielding Basij (a reactionary militia linked to the regime’s armed forces); and the threat of prison, where the regime has been systematically torturing, raping, and murdering jailed protesters. Web sites report that in Shiraz, protesters skirmished with Basij militiamen and freed a group of fellow protesters who were being arrested.
This week, the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad—who symbolizes the repressive, oppressive regime ruling Iran—is scheduled to speak at the United Nations. Iranians from around the world will be coming to New York City the week of September 21-25. They will be joined by others in protest when Ahmadinejad speaks. A cutting edge of the protests will be exposing and opposing the horrific crimes carried out by the regime against those who were part of the initial wave of protest that involved hundreds of thousands after the Iranian election on June 12.
All who hate oppression and injustice should support the Call for Protest Assembly Against Islamic Republic of Iran in Front of UN, by a group of ex-political prisoners and the families of those political prisoners executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran [IRI] (see call in Revolution #175, September 6, 2009 or online at revcom.us).
* * *
The current wave of uprising in Iran was sparked by the perceived theft of the June election by Ahmadinejad. Millions of Iranians were desperate for real change and hoped that the election of one of the opposition candidates would be the beginning. Instead, within hours after the vote the Islamic Republic blatantly lied about the election, claiming it had hand-counted millions of votes and Ahmadinejad was winning in a landslide.
People were outraged and immediately took to the streets. Iran’s rulers responded by insulting those who wanted change, comparing them to disappointed soccer fans, even dirt; they tried to censor news of the protest, and they threatened marchers with arrest, even death. They failed. The revolt was joined by literally millions in street protests, chants from rooftops, and in many other ways. Young people and women—the future of Iran—were in the forefront of the battle.
The uprising in Iran, and the fearlessness of the people, is remarkable and inspiring in many ways. For three decades, the Iranian people have suffered under a dark-ages theocracy. That regime came to power on the backs of the Iranian people’s uprisings thirty years ago when the hated U.S. puppet, the Shah—a king put in power by the CIA in a 1953 coup—was overthrown. The Shah was despised for turning Iran into an outpost of U.S. imperialism in the region and a feasting ground for global capital and the rich, while millions lived lives of bitter poverty and his opponents were savagely tortured by the U.S.-trained secret police.
But the people’s dreams for liberation turned bitter when the revolution was hijacked by Islamic theocrats led by Ayatollah Khomeini. There was no fundamental uprooting of the relations in Iranian society, just the refashioning of them. The new regime strengthened feudal relations. It continued the oppression of nationalities like the Kurds. And it imposed Islamic Sharia law on women, forcing them under veils and denying them basic rights. The Islamic fundamentalist regime jailed tens of thousands of opponents, executed thousands of communists, and ever since has reacted to any form of protest with vicious violent repression.
The recent outpourings in urban areas and especially among youth, students and women—the largest since the 1979 revolution—are the eruption of decades of discontent and alienation over the suffocating, dead-end and dark-ages character of Islamic rule—and a determination to change things. This is reflected in protest slogans: death to dictatorship, freedom of thought, freedom or death, and the widespread demand for an end to press, artistic, and intellectual censorship and suppression.
And the regime’s response has been brutal and deadly. Peaceful street demonstrations have been attacked with clubs and teargas, broken up with motorcycle charges. People have been shot in cold blood—like 20-year-old Neda Agha Soltan, a woman student. Thousands have been arrested. Many have been tortured or raped while in prison and some have been murdered.
Perhaps nothing concentrates the reactionary depravity of the IRI and its ideology more than the systematic rape, torture and murder of prisoners, throughout its rule, and with a vengeance in response to the post-election uprisings. (See, A World to Win News Service, “Iran: rape, torture and murder of prisoners as regime policy,” September 7, 2009 and the New York Times blog, “The Lede,” August 28, 2009.)
Seventeen-year-old Saeedeh Aghaee was arrested by Basiji militiamen because she was shouting slogans on a rooftop. In prison, she was first tortured, then raped, “and then burnt in acid from the knees upward to destroy any evidence of the rape and other kinds of torture.” Twenty days later her mother identified her body in a morgue in south Tehran, but the authorities refused to hand over her body unless her family paid a huge ransom, which they couldn’t afford. The regime also pressured the family to publicly state that her death was due to “kidney failure,” even though she had no history of kidney problems. Only an investigation by friends and family members led to the discovery of her murder. Today, there are many other cases like Saeedeh’s.
The Green Wave
The regime’s response to the protest has deepened the anger and alienation felt by millions of Iranians and has sharpened the deep divisions within the IRI establishment over how to keep the Islamic Republic in power. Reformist forces within the IRI who opposed Ahmadinejad in the election, like Mir-Hossein Mousavi, have denounced the election results (and to some degree denounced some of the brutality and torture and rape against protesters) and have serious differences with the Ahmadinejad “hard liners.”
But the reformers are not against the Islamic Republic and all it stands for. Their differences with the hard-liners are around how to shore up, reinvigorate, and uphold the Islamic Republic. They have adopted the green color of Islam as their banner. And their stated and objective agenda is to re-legitimize the Islamic Republic, and renegotiate, not break out of, the terms in which Iran and its oil-based economy and regional influence fit into the global system of capitalism-imperialism.
As we wrote shortly after the election:
“These forces represented by the electoral reformers are by no means minor players or any type of friends of the people. While having real differences with the current core forces of the regime, and while currently isolated from the heart of power, they are as essentially reactionary as the “hardliners” represented by Ahmadinejad. The main representatives of this movement are not only loyal to the main institutions of the Islamic Republic, many of the key players in this movement were actually central to the initial emergence of the Islamic regime after the revolution against the Shah. Some directly oversaw the extremely brutal suppression of progressive and revolutionary forces in the 1980s, which included massive imprisonment, torture, exile and the outright executions of thousands of people. Mousavi himself was prime minister in this very period, from 1981-1989. (“Uprising in Iran,” by V.T., Revolution #169, June 28, 2009)
A communiqué from the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) put out on the morning of June 20 posed, “Mousavi’s trademarks are the slogan ‘God is great’ and the [Islamic] color green. Many of you think that these symbols are important for your unity. But they are first and foremost the symbols of the society that Mousavi promises to build—nothing but the same Islamic Republic with minor reforms to make it stronger.
“Is this really the kind of society you want? Is it worth so much sacrifice? Why can‘t we make sacrifices for much higher and loftier goals? Why not struggle for a fundamentally different society and future? A society free of all oppression and exploitation. A society where everyone shares and cooperates. Where the equality of women and men is a fundamental and self-evident principle. Where the beautiful scenes of collaboration, mutual help, and consideration we are witnessing in our common battles today would be institutionalized. A society that is rid of boredom and stagnation, and always lively and active.”
Iran Needs a REAL Revolution
Today, we’re told that the only options for people in the world are either U.S.-style capitalism-imperialism and the “democracy” that serves it on one hand, or medieval Islamic fundamentalism. The oppression women face in Iran is held up as one concentrated example where perhaps if nothing else, the model of U.S. democracy is preferable to what exists today in Iran for women. But it is under the perverse economic and social relations of the global system of capitalism—presided over and enforced by the United States—that millions of women from all over the world are trafficked in sexual slavery and that inside the U.S. itself women are still looked at as breeders of children and objects of sexual gratification while the rates of abuse and rape of women are staggering.
The March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran-Afghanistan) said in a statement issued for International Women‘s Day (March 8) this year:
“It is a system that we are facing. Misogyny and women’s slavery, poverty, homophobia, racial and gender apartheid, child labor, religious slave mindedness, wars, holocausts and genocides are continuously produced by this system...The road to the world capitalist imperialist system has been paved by the enslavement of women. The road to its undoing deeply depends on the women of the world consciously rebelling against it.” (“For An Internationalist March 8—The International Women’s Day Revolutionary Women Cry Out: Revolution Is the Way Out for Humanity,” reprinted in Revolution #157, February 22, 2009, and available at revcom.us)
Iran’s own history graphically illustrates how the U.S. has brought oppression and misery to Iran, first through the Shah, but then even facilitating the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalists—with all the horrors that has meant for women and the vast majority of Iranian society (see “The Role of the U.S. In Iran—Then… and Now,” in this issue and at revcom.us). This shows how imperialism incorporates and integrates feudal and semi-feudal forms of oppression into its web of oppression and exploitation. And it shows how imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism reinforce and feed off each other—even as they sharply clash in many ways.
The country of Iran remains in the grip of the world capitalist-imperialist system. Ahmadinejad and the dominant forces in power in the IRI pose as standing up to (some) foreign powers, even as they try to maneuver within the relations of the imperialist world-system. And the U.S. hypocritically poses as the enlightened opponent of the obscurantist and tyrannical Islamic Republic. The truth is that neither of these forces represents any kind of pathway for liberation of the Iranian people.
Neither the U.S. nor any faction within the Iranian ruling class aims to break the people of Iran out of the system of imperialist relations in the world. And it is this system—with all the relations it props up and enforces—that lies at the root of the oppression of the Iranian people.
The solution to the situation the people of Iran face lies outside the parameters of either U.S. imperialism or the Islamic regime. It lies in a REAL revolution that BREAKS the chains that bind Iran to the global system of capitalism-imperialism, not in trying to maneuver for better terms within those chains as both the Iranian “hard-liners” and the “reformers,” in different ways, are trying to do.
This REAL revolution would overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran and put in its place a liberating society which opens the road to uprooting all oppressive and exploitative relations and ideas—including the oppression of women.
As we wrote in “Uprising in Iran”:
“There is the potential for revolutionary forces, even starting out small, to take advantage of the upsurge and strengthen the influence and organization for a revolutionary solution. If such forces are among the people in revolt, and if they struggle to change the terms of the revolt and divert it out of the channels of fighting just for a ‘reformed IRI,’ then a social struggle that at the beginning and spontaneously is confined essentially within the terms of opposition, between two poles which are both, fundamentally and ultimately, reactionary (e.g., bourgeois democracy vs. fundamentalist absolutism), provides both the necessity and the possibility to transform this into a dynamic in which there is a growing pole of radical opposition, breaking out of those confines and with a revolutionary communist force able to enter into and contend within the dynamic process and grow in strength through the course of this.”
As the past few months have demonstrated, the road ahead for the people of Iran is full of twists and turns, unpredicted outbreaks and tense calms...and the masses of people will be called upon to make great sacrifices as they go up against brutal repression. Conflicts within the ruling regime in Iran have opened up space for the struggle of the masses to break through. There is an opportunity for the interests of the masses to be brought to the fore through a tortuous and complex struggle. There is the potential for something good, in fact, something great, to come out of all this.
The path to that is building a truly revolutionary movement in Iran. This is something that all who hunger for fundamental radical change—for revolution—should not only fervently hope for, but politically support.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.