Mass Demonstrations in Iran: "Tanks, bullets, guards, nothing can stop us!"
Al-Jazerra has loudly proclaimed that the protests in Iran are the "biggest unrest since the 1979 revolution". Protests began in Tehran on Saturday 13th, and as the results from the election started to come out, the protests started to turn increasingly violent. Demonstrations at three Tehran universities turned violent, and protesters attacked police and revolutionary guards. The police have sealed off important sites and in turn protesters have attacked shops, government offices, police stations, police vehicles, gas stations and banks. Rumours coming out of Tehran suggest that four or more people have already died in the protests. The state has also reacted by arresting prominent ‘anti-government figures', and more importantly disrupting the internet telecommunications network, which had been used via SMS messages and websites to organise protests. Western journalists have said that ‘Tehran almost looks like a war zone already'.
That people are dissatisfied with what society has to offer them, and that there is an increasing willingness to struggle is very clear, not only from these events, but also from the recent struggles in Greece, as well as last years struggles in places such as Egypt and France. Just turning to the pages of the newspapers shows that the working class is recovering its will to struggle despite the fears caused by the return of open crisis.
However, it is not enough for communists to merely cheer on struggles from afar. It is necessary to analyse and explain and to put forward a perspective. At the moment, this movement is of a very different character from that of 1979. In the struggles leading up to the ‘Islamic revolution', the working class played a huge role. For all the talk of people in the streets overthrowing the regime, what was clear in 1979 was that the strikes of the Iranian workers were the major, political element leading to the overthrow of the Shah's regime. Despite the mass mobilisations, when the ‘popular' movement - regrouping almost all the oppressed strata in Iran - began to exhaust itself, the entry into the struggle of the Iranian proletariat at the beginning of October 1978, most notably in the oil sector, not only refuelled the agitation, but posed a virtually insolvable problem for the national capital, in the absence of a replacement being found for the old governmental team. Repression was enough to cause the retreat of the small merchants, the students and those without work, but it proved a powerless weapon of the bourgeoisie when confronted with the economic paralysis provoked by the strikes of the workers.
This is not to say that the current movement can not develop and can not draw the working class as a class into struggle. The working class struggle in Iran has been especially militant in the past few years, especially with the 100,000 strong unofficial teachers strike which took place in March 2007, which thousands of factory workers joined in solidarity. 1,000 were arrested during this strike. This was the largest recorded workers' struggle in Iran since 1979. The strike was followed in the next months by struggles involving thousands of workers in sugar-cane, tyre, automotive and textile industries. As for now, of course there are workers on the streets today, but they are engaged, at the moment, in the struggle as individuals and not as a collective force. It is important to stress though that the movement can not progress without this, collective force of the working class. A one day national strike has been called for Tuesday. This may give an indication of the level of support within the working class.
Recently the bourgeois media has been full of talk of various so-called revolutions named after various colours or plants. There have been ‘orange' revolutions, ‘rose' revolutions, ‘tulip' revolutions and ‘cedar' revolutions, and all the while the media have bleated like sheep about the ‘struggle' for democracy.
This movement started as a protest about cheating in the elections and protesters were originally mobilised in support of Mousavi. However, the slogans quickly became more radicalised. There is a huge difference between Mousavi's feeble protests to the supreme leader about the ‘unfairness' of the elections, and the crowd's chants of "death to the dictator and the regime". Of course the Mousavi clique is now panicking and has cancelled a demonstration set for Monday. Whether people respect this decision remains to be seen. On the other hand, Mousavi's calls for calm so far have also been met with slogans against him.
In contrast to these sort of coloured ‘revolutions', communism poses the possibility of a completely different type of revolution, and a completely different type of system. What we advocate is not simply a change of management of society with new ‘democratic' bosses performing exactly the same role as the old ‘dictatorial' bosses, but a society of free and equal producers created by the working class itself and based on the needs of humanity and not on the needs of profit, where classes, exploitation and political oppression are done away with.