One year ago this week, the country of Iran erupted in a way never seen before. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, was arrested by “morality police” and died in custody—almost certainly murdered. Horrific as that is, it was not something that had never happened before. That, or something not so very different, happens all too often in all too many places.
It was what came next that was unprecedented. For the murder of Mahsa Amini—or Jina—was one murder too many. Women—thousands, then millions—poured into the streets, many defiantly tearing off their regime-mandated headscarves (hijab) in the face of clubs and bullets. They demanded an end to the religious-based laws that dictated what they must and must not wear. No country had ever witnessed such an outpouring of women against their oppression, up against such violence. Nor had what happened next ever been seen—the coming into the streets of hundreds of thousands of men joining with these women, of hundreds of thousands of oppressed nationalities demanding an end to their oppression as well, and of millions and millions of people raising the demand for freedom, all inspired by this fight against women’s oppression.
This uprising lasted months. People braved beatings, prison sentences, torture, murder and official public execution. Eventually, the struggle subsided. The question now poses itself sharply—what next? As the one-year anniversary statement from the Communist Party of Iran, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist (CPI[MLM]) says:
The cry for freedom has been on the lips of millions in Iran—but the burning question is, will this be freedom for the oppressed to seize on the turmoil that is tearing apart the old order to make revolution, overthrow the regime along with all relations of oppression and exploitation and replace it with something much better? Or will exploiters and oppressors be free in one form or another, either to continue the old regime or continue the same conditions of oppression and exploitations with new faces at the top?
In this special section this week, we are featuring important work from the CPI(MLM), from Osyan (Rebellion), and quotes from Bob Avakian, all devoted to helping answer that question in a way that will actually bring liberation.
From the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) www.cpimlm.org
Quotes from BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian on women
You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can’t say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.
This takes us back to the very important point from “The End of a Stage— The Beginning of a New Stage” about unresolved contradictions under socialism. What is said there is another way of expressing the understanding that the struggle for the complete emancipation of women will be a crucial part of “the final revolution.” In other words, it will be a crucial component in propelling and driving forward not only the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the rule of capitalism-imperialism but to continue the revolution, within the new, socialist society itself, in order to advance on the road toward the final aim of communism. The point is that, among the unresolved contradictions which will remain in socialist society, and which can be a driving force propelling that revolution forward, the continuing ways in which the emancipation of women will need to be fought for and fought through will be one of the most decisive aspects and expressions of that.
Look at all these beautiful children who are female in the world. And in addition to all the other outrages which I have referred to, in terms of children throughout the slums and shantytowns of the Third World, in addition to all the horrors that will be heaped on them—the actual living in garbage and human waste in the hundreds of millions as their fate, laid out before them, yes, even before they are born—there is, on top of this, for those children who are born female, the horror of everything that this will bring simply because they are female in a world of male domination. And this is true not only in the Third World. In “modern” countries like the U.S. as well, the statistics barely capture it: the millions who will be raped; the millions more who will be routinely demeaned, deceived, degraded, and all too often brutalized by those who are supposed to be their most intimate lovers; the way in which so many women will be shamed, hounded and harassed if they seek to exercise reproductive rights through abortion, or even birth control; the many who will be forced into prostitution and pornography; and all those who—if they do not have that particular fate, and even if they achieve some success in this “new world” where supposedly there are no barriers for women—will be surrounded on every side, and insulted at every moment, by a society and a culture which degrades women, on the streets, in the schools and workplaces, in the home, on a daily basis and in countless ways.
The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances—this is a powderkeg in the U.S. today. It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms and through extremely violent means. The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement.
(First published in 1985 and cited in a number of works by BA since then.)