In the past few days the protests, the rallies and the rebellion of the Iranian people, the people of the lower depths, has been gradually speeding up. In the very short time of 3 days, protests from the major city of Mashhad in north east, spread to all major and big cities in Iran. In the second and third day, almost 40 cities called for protest, setting the time and the place to start.
Popular slogans calling the government a thief or slogans which were ultra-nationalist and anti-Arab, changed to more radical, politically aware slogans such as, “We have no jobs,” “Bread, shelter, freedom”, “Capitalist Mullah, give us our money”, “Death to the dictator”, “Worker, teacher, student, unite unite!”, “Free political prisoners”, “ Reformist, Fundamentalist, this is the end of your story”, and many more.
There have been protests, workers strikes, almost every day in last few years in Iran. But none of them could connect to each other to make a general and massive popular uprising like now.
In the beginning of the current wave of protests, and as usual, “the Left” was behind, and very suspicious. They thought this could be a conspiracy of the other side of the regime in opposition to the government. But this view was quickly replaced by wonder and astonishment at the speedy radicalisation of the core of the movement. Now leftist trade unionists, women, writers, university students are joining the protests and trying to influence them politically.
From the day after the great 1979 revolution, the regime tried to crush, imprison, kill, exile the activists, workers’ organisers, members of revolutionary parties. In 1981, the regime succeeded in achieving this by imposing the years of terror and almost wiping out all Marxist activists. At the moment there is a huge gap between two generations of Marxist and leftist activist. The connection is cut off. But the new generation are more eager and quick learners.
In the 2009 massive uprising, despite the disagreement of the older generation, the leftists and most activists fell for the reformists. This time one of the amazingng differences is that no one cares for the reformists. People see their future in the left and its plan and movement. They are progressively leaning toward the left. Unfortunately everything that is happening does not have organisation and leadership, which the left should quickly take. This time almost all left movements in exile and inside the country are on the same wave.
This uprising hasn’t been in the making for a few days or months or even years, but for a long time. The last time (2009), the excuse for popular unrest was “vote rigging” and the reformists, who were part of the establishment, were the leaders. The regime crushed that uprising after a few months and imprisonment the leaders. But this time there are no visible leaders or organisations to cut off. That has made the regime commit many mistakes so far and respond in a confused manner.
The last uprising in 2009, was mostly controlled by the middle class and the urban petty bourgeoisie. In 2009, the working class came late to the movement and were not in charge. But this time, the uprising is totally a class struggle wave of rebellion.
Another noticeable difference is the presence of women in the front row and fighting the police and even leading the slogans. And different from last time, the uprising has started mostly outside of the capital city of Tehran, and instead in cities which have a more impoverished working class population.
The wages are at a historic low and necessary items of living have become more and more expensive. Almost one third of Iranians live under the poverty line. Living expenses are nearly 50 percent more than average wages. People have massive debts to banks and the majority of the working class, cannot see any better future for their families.
The only way to have any success in this great revolutionary upswing is to be organised, and for Marxists and other leftists to be in the leadership. There are potential and capable activists in Iran who have been less affected by Stalinism than the previous generation. They don’t have any illusions about the regime and its knee-jerk anti Imperialism.
The regime defiantly and eventually will find the way to supress the movement but until then, the major duty of the movement and its future leaders is to discover a correct tactic to resist and fight back the system. We are still in the beginning of the revolutionary upswing. That should be the main understanding. Any revolution needs time to progress and develop. At the moment people cannot tolerate the system anymore, and regime on the other hand, is losing control of the situation day by day.
This article originally appeared at the Alliance of Middle East Socialists.
Photo: A university student attends a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police on December 30, 2017 [AP].