Iran: Neither Ayatollah, nor Shah! Workers’ and peasants’ government!

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The uprising against the Islamic regime

On 13th September, Masha Jina Amini, a 22-year student, while visiting her family in Teheran, died in the hospital Kassra. A few hours before, she was arrested by the morality police for having let a strand of hair out her hijab (headscarf).

Jina’s murder caused a popular uprising which threatens the regime, which originates from the 1979 Islamo-fascist counter-revolution. The protests started in the Rojhilat (Kurdistan in the Iranian State), where she lived, and they rapidly spread to 140 cities, all over the country. As a whole, several million people demonstrated against the duty imposed on women to cover their limbs and head. The protestors were shouting: “Women, Life, Freedom!”, a catchword from the Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and “Death to the Dictator!”, which is aimed to the Supreme Guide, the Ayatollah (which is the title given to the Shi’ite Muslim clergy’s dignitaries) Ali Khamenei, 85.

The young workers and students initiated the revolt. Despite the risks they were facing, many removed their headscarf and cut their hair. It is an historical revenge by working and student women, after the first protest against the Islamic counter-revolution in March 1979. It is a blow against all the world reaction, whether it is Christian, Muslim or Hindu, which discriminates women on a legal basis, which dictates them a dress code, which prohibits them from aborting, which subjects them to the male domination and to male-dominated violence…

Demonstrations were particularly huge in Kurdistan (West of Iran) and in Balochistan (South-East). On 18th November, the museum dedicated to the Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the regime, was burned down. Each day, mullahs (Chiite priests) have their turban torn in the street. More and more workers and small shopkeepers join the protests. All universities are hit.

As it is often the case in popular uprising, the established power and the media accuse the culprit abroad. The Supreme Guide, the president Ebrahim Raïssi, the TV channels and the journals (all are Islamic) denounced a plot from Israel and from the Western imperialist powers.

these riots and the insecurity were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime [Israel], as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad… In recent incidents, it is above all security forces including the police and Basij, as well as the people of Iran, who were wronged. (Ali Khamenei, 3rd October 2022) The Pasdaran (revolutionary guards), the Basij (volunteers), some Corps of the Army (including the 65th airborne brigade) and Islamist militiamen from Lebanon (Hezbollah) or from Iraq (Hashd Al-Sha’bi), who name themselves as “God’s whip”, clubbed and arrested people, they used shot pellets and even bullets. 18.000 protestors, journalists, bloggers, singers, were arrested, some were tortured and forced to public confessions.

Iranian security forces are targeting women at anti-regime protests with shotgun fire to their faces, breasts and genitals… While an internet blackout has hidden much of the bloody crackdown on protesters, photos provided by medics to the Guardian showed devastating wounds all over their bodies from so-called birdshot pellets, which security forces have fired on people at close range… Shots to the eyes… were particularly common. (The Guardian, 8th December 2022) During the night of 15th and 16th October, the Evin prison in Teheran –where the political prisoners are held– burnt, resulting in four deaths, according to the authorities. On 19th November, the forces of suppression entered Mahabad (Kurdistan) with tanks and fired with machine guns at everything that moved. At that time, the State repression occasioned 510 dead and thousands injured (Reuters). 18.000 people were arrested. National minorities paid a high price: besides the Kurds, more than a hundred Balochis were murdered. Islamic courts condemned many protestors to death for “enmity against God”. The government Khamenei-Raïssi had Mohsen Shekari (server, 23) hanged on 8th December, Majidreza Rahnavard (seller, 23 too) on 12th December, Mohammad Mahdi Karami (sportsman, 22) and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini (worker, 39) on 7th January 2023.

On 28th September, on 14th and 21st November, in Iraq, the Pasdaran shelled the premises of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and of the Communist Party of Iran (CPI), which armed wing is now the Komala. At the same time, the Turkish State, led by Erdoğan and based on the Islamist AKP bloc and on the chauvinistic MHP, unleashed an attack against Rojava, the Kurdish territory of Syria controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing YPG, connected with the PKK.

The 2023-2024 budget presented on 22nd January by president Raisi to the Parliament plans a 45% increase of the prisons’ public funding, 50% for the police, 50% for the intelligence services, 50% for the Pasdaran, 55% for the office of religious propaganda.

Yet the popular movement has not ended. The masses are mobilizing to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran44 years after it was introduced.

A despotic, patriarchal and colonial regime since 1979

The 1979-1983 counter-revolution led by the clergy and its Islamo-fascist militias maintained the key element, the Shah army and officialised new punitive agencies, it established censorship, suppressed the women’s movement, banned the workers’ organizations and eliminated its activists, crushed the Kurdish resistance, discarded the workers’ councils (shoras)…

Since then, the Shiite clergy has been enforcing its exclusive political rule, its incursion in private life, the sharia (Islamic law). Since December 1979 referendum, the constitution formalizes the rule of the Supreme Guide over the institutions, he is appointed for life by an “Assembly of Experts” which consists of 86 elected clerics. A “Council of Guardians” chosen by the Guide ensures that the laws comply with the Islamic religion and selects the candidates for running the elections of the “experts”, the general elections and the presidential election. The president elected for four years by universal suffrage is in charge of governing under the rule of the Guide. The Majlis (Islamic assembly) consists with 285 deputies (elected among Islamist candidates), votes the budget and other laws under the control of the Council of Guardians. The State separates men and women within the public space, it sets out the dress code, it condemns homosexuality (from whip to death penalty). The Civil Code allows less rights to women than to men, it enables fathers to marry their daughters as soon as 13. In 2020, the Raisi government put an end to the free distribution of contraceptives and it restricted the right to abortion. The Penal code includes sentences of flogging, of blinding, of amputation… Even minors are killed. Torture is the rule during interrogations.

Because of the massive conscription of men during the war against Iraq, women were reintegrated in paid employment. To ensure the accumulation of capital, the bourgeoisie preserved education for the most. Building on the endeavours initiated under the monarchy, the higher education developed, including young women. The State also funds a parasitic clergy supervising the population, and a very large State bureaucracy offering jobs as civil servants or as paramilitary and military bodies to some of the urban outsiders and some of the ruined peasants. The repressive machinery (Pasdaran army, police, morality police, Basij, judges, jailers…) and the ideological apparatus (clergy, television…) of the State absorb a large part of the social surplus value, which impedes the accumulation of capital.

The religious institutions were already big landowners during the Shah’s rule, in the name of charity, which serves as a social security. New capitalist participants appear, especially the religious foundations that are subsidised by the State and avoid any taxation (Mostazafan Foundation, Foundation of Martyrs…). The Islamist institutions (religious foundations, Pasdaran’s shell companies…) became real capitalist groups that produce and sell weapons, energy, telecommunications, chemical and pharmaceutical products, food. According to the official data, a third of the economy (building, telecommunications, mines…) is controlled by the Pasdaran’s firms.

Just as the Jewish and Christian sacred texts, the Koran condemns interest-bearing loans. A 1983 act on banking operations formalized the ban on interest in Iran. However, since no capitalist economy can work without any credit, it only amounts to a semantic change, where the words “profit” and “service load” replaced “interest”. Like in Saudi Arabia, the “Islamic finance” makes up all kinds of financial and legal arrangement for concealing the interest. The big banks that were nationalised in 1979 are facing competition from any sort of banks controlled by the Bazaari and by the Pasdaran, who often speculate, while they escape the control of the Central Bank (Bank Markazi Jomhouri Islami Iran).

Thanks to the oil rent secured on the world market, the State subsidises the domestic energy (fuel, heating) and the basic food commodities. Yet, even when the barrel price is high, these funds cannot satisfy the population, much larger that in Saudi Arabia.

Since 1979, the Islamic Republic fully continues the monarchy’s attitude against minorities, whether they are Iranian (Kurds, Balochis …), Turkish (Azeris, Turkmens …), Arabic… who as a whole represent almost half of the population.

In 1984, Khomeini revitalizes the Shah’s nuclear program. This unleashed the anger of the US government, while it is not disturbed by the fact that Israel, India and Pakistan have it, regardless of the international conventions, not to mention what the imperialist powers (US, Russia, China, France, UK) have. The Persian bourgeois State takes a regional leadership with a role in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Yemen, Sudan…

A capitalism relying on the world imperialist system

The Iranian economy ranks 2nd in the region, after Turkey. Its GDP recently exceeded Saudi Arabia’s. Yet, the extended reproduction of capital keeps stunted, the inflation doesn’t stop, the unemployment is important, the bourgeoisie favours trade and housing over manufacturing industry.

Since 1979 the US, sometimes followed by the European Union, imposes economic penalties to Iran, on an almost permanent basis, under different pretexts: occupation of the embassy, war with Iraq, attacks, path to the nuclear weapon. Besides, Israel is repeating military incursions in Syria against the Iranian troops, as well as attacks in Iran itself. The recent setting up of the Netanyahu-Gvir-Smotrich increases the risks of conflicts.

Even if the effect is tempered by the connivence of several neighbouring States or of other imperialist powers (Oman, Tajikistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Emirates, Turkey, Russia, China…), the working class is the main victim of this economic pressure, as always in similar cases. In contrast, the quasi-public sector (foundations, guarding companies) builds its wealth on smuggling, on black market and on currency trafficking. From 2013, income and wealth inequalities increased. In addition, the Ayatollahs’ regime is using the argument of the penalties for justifying underdevelopment, for stirring up nationalism, for justifying repression. Ostensibly burning the US flags in front of the cameras does not prevent the Islamic Republic to cooperate with the US when they invade Afghanistan in 2001.

To make up for the US enmity, Iran is dealing with other imperialist powers, especially Russia and China, that became capitalist since the early 1990s, but the competition in gas and oil exports restricts the exchange with Russia. In March 2021, the Islamic Republic and the PRC signed a 25-year strategic partnership. In 2023, Iran will join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) under Beijing’s patronage. On the one hand, in case of an open conflict between Beijing and Washington, Iran is the only oil exporting country that escapes the US pressures. On the other hand, the Iran-US tensions represent an opportunity for China, in order, inter alia, to acquire the Iranian firms cheaply and to export its commodities, from consumption goods to new technologies (5G, artificial intelligence). Obviously, the relation between the two States is basically asymmetrical. The combination of Iran’s diplomatic isolation with the US sanctions and with a strong economic crisis forces the country to seek sponsorship of another power. On the Chinese side, Iran is an option among others.

Like in most capitalist dominated countries, State corruption is not the exception but the rule. Since 1989, the Ayatollahs’ State, as well as the other American, European, African and Asian capitalist governments, has privatized, reduced the subsidies on essential products, enhanced the job flexibility. In gas and electricity for instance, 90.000 workers have permanent contracts, while 160.000 (64%) have fixed-term or temporary contracts. The informal sector occupies 40 to 50% of the labour force, as more or less independent workers or as wage-earners with no contract. Besides, the bourgeois State has systematically repressed the strikers and union activists since they appeared.

With 130 000 deaths, Iran is the country in the Middle East most hit by the covid pandemic. If oil export benefits from the war in Ukraine and the rise in energy prices, if economic growth is at 3%, unemployment is officially at 9,4% of active population and the prices on consumer goods officially rose by 40% within one year, probably much more. Wages and pensions did not follow. The majority of the 82 million Iranians lives below the poverty line defined by the UNO, one quarter of the population is poorly housed.

Youth is more educated than in many other countries in the region, but can hardly find employment, so that a significant part of graduates emigrates, joining a political and economic diaspora of 2 to 3 million people. Small shopkeepers are ruined by new commercial centres (400 created between 2010 and 2015). After having been self-sufficient in food until the years 1960, Iran has become one of the greatest world importers of agricultural products (from 30 to 50% of its needs). Agriculture is more and more capitalist, with big private farms from 100 to 200 hectares that become local poles of production where are hired working farmers from neighbouring villages, as a complement to their own small family farming. Others try their luck in towns because of the concentration of lands and repeated droughts.

Within 5 years, the Iranian rial lost 90% of its value on the exchange markets. The public deficit could be of 7% of the GIP (equivalent to 10 billion dollars), which raises the question of the extent of military spendings and of the help provided to other governments in the region, especially as Iran draws less economic gains than Russia from its military and financial help to Syria (one exception is the acquisition of the majority of shares of Wafa Telecom by a Malay society in the hands of the pasdarans of Iran).

To pandemic and economic difficulties, one must add an environment crisis. Air pollution, caused among others by 3 million cars (of which there are 1.2 million in Berlin and 1.4 in New-York), harms the health of inhabitants of the capital city. Water shortage is dependent on the climate disturbance, but it is aggravated by the bad management of the natural resource, wasted by capitalist agriculture. For instance, the Salt Lake of Urumiyeh has lost half of its surface.

For the working class to take the lead of the movement

National minorities hate the yoke of the Persian State. A significant part of the working class is Kurdish, Azeri, or Arab.

Youth longs for freedom: in 1999, student riots are violently repressed by the Basidj in several towns.

In 2009, the proclamation of results of the presidential election leads to a mobilisation of the petty bourgeois classes of towns in support of a wing of Islamism that does not question the regime, but belongs to it and lives from it. 150 demonstrators are killed. The multiple rapes by the Basidj are denounced. But this protest prepares others, much more plebeian.

In 2017-2018, the most authoritarian fraction launches demonstrations against the so-called liberal wing, but they get overwhelmed by workers who attack the whole regime. The power accuses the United States. The repression causes around 20 deaths.

In 2019, inflated prices lead to demonstrations on a wide scale, crushed at the price of hundredths of deaths, particularly in Kurdistan. As usual in totalitarian regimes, arrested demonstrators are tortured in order to wring from them public confessions. In 2021, workers and farmers demonstrate in the province of Khuzestan, at least 8 of them are killed.

Since the beginning of the century, strikes take place. Even trade unions independent from the regime appear in public transports and refineries, despite a ferocious repression.

Since several months, the spontaneity of Iranian masses is formidable and attracts the admiration of the exploited and the oppressed in the whole world. Despite all, the murderous regime is still in place. The Iranian bourgeoisie has lost nothing essential and the ayatollahs are not overthrown. They still hold the bourgeois State, its finances, its armament, its tribunals, the centralisation of information, the means of communication, the intelligence and repression forces, facing workers and students who remain without strategy, without programme, without leadership. That is why one needs watchwords beyond first wave slogans. That is why one must identify the class able to overthrow the old order and to create a new one. That is why one needs self-defence and self-organisation organisms. That is why one needs a strategy of permanent revolution. That is why one needs a party.

Otherwise, the terrain will be occupied by “reformers” of the regime, by monarchists supported by Washington, by “democratic” bourgeois, by Balochi jihadists who want to imitate the Taliban, by Kurdish bourgeois nationalists who want to imitate the Barzani clan in Iraq, by false communists (Tudeh) who want to fit up the Islamist regime, by false communists (WPI, PCOI-WCPI) who call on monarchists to speak in demonstrations of exiles or who call on imperialist States, by the Mujahedeen sect sold to American secret services.

The enemies of the enemies of the proletariat are not necessarily its friends. In 1978, in the name of the anti-imperialist united front, opportunists (Tudeh, Fedayeen …) were ready for anything, including submission to Islamists, in order to overthrow the Shah, which facilitated the counter-revolution of 1979-1983. Today, in the name of democracy, they are ready for anything in order to overthrow Khamenei, including submission to western imperialist powers.

But the imperialist States had in 1953 helped to set up the monarchy in Iran with the help of Islamists, they betted on ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, they have since destroyed Iraq and Libya, they gave up Afghanistan to Islamists.

The priority is to answer in a progressive and proletarian way to the watchwords launched by the masses: “Woman, life, freedom!” and “Death to the dictator!”.

  • How to prevent the formidable repression apparatus from killing, from tearing life out of youth, women, and oppressed national minorities?
  • How to conquer equality for women?
  • How to obtain freedom?
  • Par what to replace the dictator?

For the hegemony of proletariat

In order to defeat repression from a State that is not dislocated, in order to thwart attempts at patching up the regime from its pro-Western fraction, in order to bring the finishing stroke to the Islamist regime, in order to avoid the restoration of monarchy, in order to thwart the manoeuvres of the “democratic” opposition to save Iranian capitalism, the proletariat must rush on as a class in the fight. It can do it only through a party regrouping the vanguard and linking with its brothers and sisters in the whole world, in the tradition of the League of Communists, of the International Association of Workers, of the Workers’ International, of the Communist International, of the 4th International.

Without delay, all workers’ organisations must establish a united front in order to organise the general strike, to defend themselves by arming working women and men, to create shoras in enterprises, administrations, universities, neighbourhoods, in the open country, and to centralise them.

A decisive way to give confidence to the working class and to open a revolutionary political perspective to society is the general strike. Iranian revolutionary forces must not act with an economist perspective or to obtain concessions from the regime, but with the perspective of bringing the working class to power. The destruction of the Islamist bourgeois State, the dispersion of its forces of repression, the establishment of a workers’ and farmers’ government resting on workers’ councils must be the central aim of revolution.

A general strike shows the strength of workers, arising from their position in production. Beyond immediate demands, the mass strike with occupation puts into question the sacrosanct capitalist property, the appropriation by a minority of society of the means of production created by producers, which makes of it capital and transforms producers themselves into the exploited. The general strike may not last long, but it raises practically the question of knowing which class must lead society.

From the aspiration to freedom, from self-defence, the general strike and workers’ control, will the shoras inevitably be born again. Strike committees, workers’ councils must not limit themselves to places of work, and must extend to places of education, to places of life, to unite all workers together, to unite them to future and former workers, to the unemployed. They must instore a direct democracy. Each party, each current will be able to present its analysis and make its propositions. The shoras will settle.

For a federal workers’ and farmers’ republic

Communists are, without restriction, for democratic freedoms. Their conquest was sketched in Iran in 1905-1906 and again in 1979. Knowing that never, even in 1906, there was an assembly elected at universal suffrage, communists support free elections for a national or constituent assembly, having done away with the political monopoly of the ayatollahs, the institutions of the Islamic Republic, the censorship …

But communists do not hide that their goal is much more than a falsely democratic regime where capitalist groups govern in the shadow of the parliamentary chambers, and where apparatuses of professional liars serve them while filling their pockets in passing. They support a much superior democracy, of the type of the Paris Commune of 1871, or of soviets in Russia of 1917, which is the adequate form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The generalisation and centralisation of councils demands the armament of the masses, they prepare their taking power and the expropriation of national and foreign capitalist groups. All the wealth of society comes from nature and the collective labour of producers, workers must take the control of social wealth while sparing nature.

Facing Pasdaran, Basidj, policemen and professional militaries, the self-defence of demonstrators, the creation of workers’ militias, their armament, are urgent tasks. The working class produces weapons, transports them; it manages bank accounts, the pay of policemen and militaries. It must disarm the mercenaries of the bourgeoisie. Within the army, one must wage a systematic work of agitation and propaganda to win conscripts to the revolution, so that they turn their weapons against the generals and political leaders who are the executioners of women, of workers and of national minorities.

The activity of workers’ militias will start with self-defence. But, as in 1979, it will have to go through the offensive: to capture by storm police stations where activists are detained and tortured, in order to liberate them, the caserns to arm themselves, the ministry of intelligence to paralyse it, the seats of Islamist power in order to disperse them and destroy them, the Islamic tribunals in order to punish executioners.

  • Internationalist solidarity of workers’ and women’s organisations in all countries with the struggle of Iranian masses!
  • General strike! Self-defence of demonstrations! Creation of shoras on places of work, of life and of study, in caserns!
  • Freedom for women to wear or not to wear the veil and to dress as they want! For equality between men and women!
  • Down with the Islamist dictatorship! Abolition of the supreme guide, of the assembly of experts, of the council for discernment! Constituent Assembly!
  • Dissolution of the bodies of repression! Democratic freedoms for conscripts! Election of officers!
  • For the freedom of relations between youths! For the respect of homosexuals and lesbians!
  • For the respect of religious minorities and atheists! For secularism! Separation between the State and the Shia clergy! No subsidy of the State to any religion!
  • For the liberation of political prisoners! For all democratic freedoms (freedom of expression, freedom of organisation, right to strike, right to demonstrate …)! For free elections!
  • Right to self-determination of national minorities! Right for the Kurds of Iran, of Syria, of Iraq, of Turkey to establish, if they desire it, their own State!
  • Freezing of rents, immediate indexation of wages on the cost of life!
  • Expropriation of lands of big capitalist farms and of religious foundations! Collective management of water! Cooperatives based on voluntary participation!
  • Workers’ control over production and distribution! Expropriation of big enterprises and of foundations! A single public bank!
  • Social protection! Secular, public and free education and health!
  • Lift all American sanctions and end all Zionist assassinations!
  • Close all military bases (French, Chinese, Russian, British, American) in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean, exit of the American fleet from the Arabo-Persian gulf, from the Indian ocean and from the Mediterranean!
  • Workers’ and farmers’ government! Socialist Federation of the Middle East!
January 13, 2023