Iran’s New Uprising in the Historic Mirror

Alireza Kia

Summary: A look at the challenges posed by today’s uprising inside Iran. [Image from Ferdowsi Square, Tehran, December 30, 2017] — Editors

It is important to look at the events that happened in this new uprising in comparison to what happened during the 1979 revolution.

  1. The movement we just witnessed was spontaneous. None of the leftist organizations, or People’s Mujahedeen, or monarchist supporters of Reza Pahlavi (son of ex-Shah) claimed leadership of this uprising.  Similarly, the movement that started the 1979 revolution was also spontaneous.
  2. Unlike the last two uprisings during Khatami’s presidency and Moussavi’s candidacy, in which reformers were the leaders and betrayed the movement to save the Islamic regime, this recent uprising didn’t have any illusions about these reformers and was against the totality of the Islamic regime, against both the conservatives and the reformists. The people’s slogan was, “Reformers, conservatives are all the same” (eslah talab, osolgra, ine tamom majara). Reports from Iran indicate that the reformists have an unsupportive attitude toward this movement. Even though they are a sizable political force, they are separating themselves from this movement, especially in the capital, condemning violence from the people, while remaining silent about the brutal police attacks on the people, and even supporting a crackdown. In the 1979 revolution, the slogan was “The Shah must go”. Now the people are demanding that the Islamic Republic must go and chanting, “Down with the dictator,” referring to the supreme religious leader Khamenei! In my view, it would be a big step forward for the people to break with this regime. Overall, it seems that the people have no illusions about the Islamic regime, and believe that it must go.
  3. During the recent uprising, we witnessed major participation of unemployed workers, women, students and youth, mostly under the age of thirty. Women took great risks by taking their scarves off! The youth – mostly unemployed, fed up with Islamic anti gender, anti-social relations – were on the frontline for democracy and freedom. In fact, the main focus of this uprising was for bread and freedom. Reports from inside Iran indicate that, in big cities, this movement limited itself to confronting the government; but in other cities, the revolt is ready to become a revolution. It is a class war against a regime which, in the past, declared their rule as “Rule by the oppressed!”

Iran has witnessed workers’ demonstrations and uprisings during the past three decades. Workers’ struggles in Iran are non-stop.  Before 1979, the majority of prisoners were intellectuals; during the Islamic regime, the majority of political prisoners are workers. They are fearless. There are also daily struggles by workers and workers’ unions in most cities of Iran, against factory management or business owners who are mostly partners of the ruling class.

We don’t know what will happen next after the recent revolts.  Per news we have received, it looks like the recent movement does not have a concrete slogan or specific demands.  But one thing is certain: demands for economic improvement and for democracy and freedom are the main focus of this movement. This movement needs to organize itself from within. It needs to educate itself, both revolutionaries and intellectuals. Because of past failures on the part of the national bourgeoisie to oppose US imperialism, as seen during the CIA’s overthrow in 1953 of Prime Minster Mossadeq’s government, it is clear the national bourgeoisie is not reliable and the revolution in Iran needs to embrace both democratic and socialist demands.

During the current uprising, there are two ideas among the opposition to this regime: 1) those who are for revolution and overthrow of this regime — that is why they are in the streets; and 2) those who don’t want this regime but are afraid of revolution. They witnessed the last failed revolution and are not sure about it. Failure over the past several decades for revolutionary movements in the Middle East created negative ideas about revolution in many people’s minds.  A new Iranian revolution can change that! Iran can move toward a real revolution if the second group were to overcome its negative ideas.

We don’t have any illusion about US president Donald Trump and his claims of support for the Iranian people’s struggles. As we witnessed in Iraq, imperialist regime change always favors the bourgeoisie and reactionaries.

Today we are witnessing the class nature of Iranian economy with new class struggles carried out by working people. Besides responding to this regime’s political repression, I believe that today’s movement is searching for the answer to questions about what to do next? How should it organize itself? What kind of slogans are needed? What is the vision for tomorrow, for after the revolution?  They need to begin to answer to these questions while they are still on the battlefield.


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