Iran: Class War against Imperialist Pretensions

Iran: Class War against Imperialist Pretensions

Day and night, as the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran approaches, its leaders arrogantly harp on about their imperialist achievements and shout about the "Islamic-Iranian model of progress" and "Islamic Civilisation" ... At the same time, while the multi-coloured opposition to this regime pursues its reformist and nationalist goals, by bargaining and begging for their share, the working class is entering the scene.

The following article was written before the announcement, on Tuesday 8 May, that the United States is pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which is intended to prevent the Iran nuclear programme from enriching uranium to produce a bomb. The ICT as a whole will comment on the wider consequences of this unilateral action by the United States later, but as far as the Iranian regime goes it is a blessing in disguise, at least in the short term. As the article makes clear, the bankrupt Islamist ideology of the regime has about run its course. Workers are simply refusing any longer to accept the notion that they should make sacrifices for the imperialist ambitions of their rulers.

In a certain sense the actions of the Iranian workers, and the bellicose imperialist rhetoric epitomised most clearly now by Trump’s actions, are both products of a global economic crisis. This crisis has been disguised for decades behind the piling up of debt and the printing of fictitious capital. Today though even the pundits of the financial press around the world recognise the system is stagnant. Workers have seen their share of GDP go down since 1979 but have until now been slow to fight back. However after decades of fragmentation and dislocation there are the first signs (as in Iran) that they will take no more. (For more on this see our May Day Statement Against Nationalism and War).

The capitalists on the other hand are already contemplating their reduced options and the abandonment of the Iran nuclear agreement is a sign of their alternative. If the world economy is in decline, the powers fight the harder to get their share of the lower profits that can be made. And of course bellicose nationalism works the same everywhere. Just as the rednecks get behind “America First”, the Iranian regime, which was coming under pressure from its own working class, can play the “national unity” card against the striking workers. Opposition is not tolerated at the best of times but in a near-war situation it will not be tolerated at all. Certain sections of the regime around Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard (who control much of the economy) will actually welcome Trump’s decision. Iran has benefitted very little from the JCPOA so far because the US still applies some sanctions and, as a result, European and Japanese companies fear to invest in Iran in case they end up on some US blacklist in the future. The Iranian hardliners are thus prepared to see the agreement scrapped and return to producing the weapon which can counter the only other nuclear power in the area – Israel (with whom, alongside Saudi Arabia, the current US regime identifies). In short this is another step towards war which can only be prevented by the working class fighting for its own agenda and against nationalist war preparations. As ever our slogan remains “NO WAR BUT THE CLASS WAR” and we earnestly hope that the courageous workers in Iran will take that up for themselves.

CWO
9 May 2018

Iranian Workers Mock 'anti-imperialist' Slogans

Day and night, as the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran approaches, its leaders arrogantly harp on about their imperialist achievements and shout about the "Islamic-Iranian model of progress" and "Islamic Civilisation" ... At the same time, while the multi-coloured opposition to this regime pursues its reformist and nationalist goals, by bargaining and begging for their share, the working class is entering the scene. Following a growing number of strikes during last year,1 and in particular the recent protests,2 which are part of an ever-changing political atmosphere, the working class is making its presence felt. A key aspect of this is the adoption of a new and noticeable set of its tactics as revealed in the type of slogans being chanted in several strikes during the last few months, and which were copied in many regions. The creation of these slogans involves nothing but the denunciation of the "anti-imperialist" slogans of the regime, in the form of black humour which ridicules them.

Deepening crisis, dead-end policies of both factions

At the beginning of each year, the leader of the Islamic Republic, in his congratulatory message, names the New Year with different titles. The first decade's religious titles such as "Imam Khomeini", "Imam Ali", "In honour of Imam Hussein", "Prophet Mohammed", .... are a sharp contrast with the economic titles of the last decade, such as "Double the Effort and Double the Work", "Economic Jihad", "National Production and Support for Iranian Labour and Capital", "Economy of Resistance: Production and Employment" ..., not only demonstrates the true historical place of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, who famously remarked that the "economy is for the donkey", also indicates something else: That is the continuation of the economic crisis and the deepening of its impact, which is the main reason for choosing these titles, albeit with a deceptive intention.

Now the economy has become publicly and officially the main daily chatter of all the regime's pundits as well as their thugs. The "resistance economy",3 which the Iranian “Supreme Leader” has continuously been preaching for the past few years, has achieved absolutely nothing. It has remained inside the mosques and religious gatherings in the form of a sermon, and that’s all. For many years, the regime has been able to blame economic problems on Western hostility and this has managed to provide an economic lifeline for the regime at the expense of the lives of several generations of workers and toilers. Now the situation both politically and economically, internally as well as internationally, is getting critical for the Islamic Republic. The nuclear deal has not delivered anything tangible. The financial system is totally bankrupt (using Islamic terminologies for ‘interest rate’, ‘investment’ ... etc. didn't help after all! ). There has been a rapid increase in the number of unemployed and inflation is the order of day. Ayatollah Khamenei, is well aware of this and knowing that rock bottom has been hit with Friday sermons and prayers having no effect whatsoever, has come up with a new trick. On 16 February, at a meeting with the members of the "Central Committee of the Congress of 14,000 Martyrs of the Workers' Union" he directly linked the workers' strikes and protests to counter-revolution and the enemy within, he said:

"I have repeatedly said in speeches to our dear workers, that the counter-revolution of the country from the very outset focused on workers, so they could provoke the workers' community against the Islamic Republic in its entirety, from the first day of the revolution's victory. ....

One of the main aims of our enemies is to try to create a stagnant situation in our factories by means of workers, in our work places, especially large ones … But our workers have always resisted during these years, they always been firm, they always disregarded the hands of the enemy with their insight, and this is very important."4

In this meeting he touched on everything except the issues that workers currently face on a daily basis. Instead, he made continuous reference to the early days of the revolution, how workers supported the regime and how they willingly participated in war .... tediously repeating anecdotes that he has been saying for more than two decades. However, this time he took one step further and directly linked workers’ protest and strikes to ‘the enemy’ and warned them of the consequences of strikes, or any attempt to sabotage production. This is an indication of nothing but fear of a workers’ movement, which he instinctively feels might be on the way. He is well aware of the workers' movement potential. He remembers very well the mass strike by oilfield workers in November 1978 which shook the Shah's regime and delivered the final blow to its existence. Nonetheless, now he is playing the innocent and pretending that during this past forty years of murderous and barbaric rule of a capitalist regime, the workers have not gained any experience and will fall for the same tricks that were played forty years ago, hoping maybe once again they will see the image of his Holiness in the moon.5 No Your Holiness, those days are gone. Four decades of continuous repression and the imprisonment of labour activists, massive arrears of wages, unemployment ... is enough. When the workers of Aghdarreh gold mine6 were flogged in full daylight just for demanding their outstanding wages, where was His Holiness? Was he praying for their health?

There is no doubt that the dire situation has now inevitably forced the regime of the Islamic Republic to abandon its holy scripture and, by linking strikes and protests ... to the enemy and counter-revolution it basically has two aims; first of all, by giving a wrong label, they are hoping to create divisions within the working class (we will come back to this point again); and second, they are preparing the ground for a brutal attack which now seems imminent. As always, in the early days of strikes and rallies, thugs and mobs, better known as plain clothes agents, are present alongside strikers and protesters, whilst the arrival of the Revolutionary Guards at a later stage, is certain.

In any event, the situation with the other ruling class faction, is not much better. The nuclear deal, The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which, with the aid of the genie of the lamp, was supposed to open the doors and overcome economic stagnation, has itself turned out to be a problematic and controversial issue! If gold rusts, what can iron do? Now talk of moderation and expediency for millions of working people is nothing but drivel. Even if the nuclear deal has opened up an opportunity and breathing space, in an absolute sense it has been for the regime only. During the last month alone, the value of the currency (Rial) has fallen by 30%. Even if the government of Rouhani has not been directly involved in this sudden fall of the currency (which is an unjustified assumption), it has been a blessing in disguise as the government budget deficit, in any case for now, is resolved.7 Yet at the same time the recent 10.4 percent increase in the basic minimum wage, which is considered as an accounting book achievement of the reformists, in a matter of seconds melted into thin air. Let’s for a moment put aside the fact that the main reason for the government accepting the need for a minimum wages increase was the persistent strikes by workers, in particular the recent protests, and look at what is happening from the standpoint of the working class.

At any rate, under the weight of these strikes and protests, the atmosphere of fear has cracked and consequently has caused other social strata to participate in the street protests. Hijab protests known as ‘The Girls of Revolution Street’,8 protests over national identity, protests for protection of the environment, of farmers ... and so on, are increasing. It is vitally important for the working class to maintain its class independence and in a single minded way, right from the start, to emphasise the future soviet/councils style government with an internationalist perspective. By leading the struggle and by using new initiatives, the working class can and must demonstrate the supremacy of the soviet/councils style to a parliamentary system as the only human and possible alternative to run society as a whole. So what about the new workers’ initiatives?

And this is how it started ...

On Monday, 16 February 2018, the enraged workers of the Hepco factory in Arak demonstrated in protest against 18 month pay arrears. With the bitter and black sense of humour they chanted "Death to the Worker, Peace be upon the Oppressor". The following days witnessed more demonstrations with new slogans, "The desperate worker must be executed." “A corrupt financier should be freed”. These slogans resonated elsewhere. Over the course of several weeks, the content of the slogans became sharper and ridiculed the "anti-imperialist" slogans of the regime: "They do not pay our wages, Death to America". Over the course of a few weeks, the sarcasm was dropped and the authorities were addressed directly: "Friday Imam, listen to us, we are workers not mobs" or "our enemy is right here, it is phony (regime saying) it is America". There is no doubt that these slogans have shaken the uniformity of the atmosphere of protests, and there is also no doubt that the numbness of society has been broken and heads are turned toward the workers' movement. What remains to be seen is the impact on the struggle in the coming months. Is a new chapter in the struggle of the Iranian working class opening up?

False division within the working class

A main cornerstone of the Islamic Republic, right from the first day of its establishment, was to frantically chant "anti-imperialist" slogans and these have never stopped throughout the last four decades. The leader of the Islamic Republic unveiled what exactly these slogans mean to him. On Monday, 22 April, 2013, in addressing women university professors and elite academics. He said:

“Westerners, particularly European races, are savage. They have a neat appearance, they wear ties and they use perfume and other such things, but they still have the same savage nature and they still behave in the same wild way that they have always behaved throughout history. They easily kill people and they cold-heartedly commit crimes. Therefore, it is not surprising if women are beaten in the home by the Europeans and by the Americans.”9

These words, coming from a "Supreme Leader" of a country that has the highest number of executions in the world, says something about the abundance of obscenity that exists among these people. Anyhow, it makes no difference whether such deplorable racist comments are cynically made for domestic consumption or whether they are derived from his reactionary thoughts. For the ruling classes, xenophobia and hatred of "others" are just tools to divide the working class by religion, nationality ... etc just to protect their class domination. When Vladimir Putin (wearing tie) presented a special edition of the Quran to Ayatollah Khameni, the western brutality of the presenter was not an issue, because he had been attending the 3rd summit of Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Tehran. Yes, it is as simple as that – common class interests are all that really matters. The same principle applies to the other faction: whether their everlasting praise of western democracy stems from demagogy or from illusion, again does not make any difference. Their nonsense about cultural differences, diversity, pluralism ... more than anything else are aimed to undermine working class unity and that is in line with their class interests too.

In a word, whichever faction that may represent the ruling classes, they just make sure that one way or another, the division and discord between people in general and the working class in particular, are preserved. The classic example of this was during the 2009 election dispute, when both Mousavi and Ahmadi Nezhad supporters were gathered around the University of Tehran. Supporters of the Green Movement were chanting "Death to Russia", and the supporters of Ahmadi Nezhad were chanting "Death to America". An issue that both factions are still using to divide the working class today. In recent protests, the slogan of "Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, my life for Iran” was chanted in many regions. A faction hypocritically under the auspices of the Palestinians is fomenting hatred of the Israelis, and the other faction, by praising the "democratic" state of Israel and denouncing the terrorist nature of Hamas, denies and ignores the Palestinian workers dire situation.

Communist militants and comrade workers

The victory of the Assad regime in Syria not only is not a victory for the Syrian workers, it will not unravel the knot of the problems of the working class in Iran. Similarly, a victory of pro-Western groups will not bring anything for the American workers, nor for the workers of Israel and Saudi Arabia. In short, if this issue had remained within the ruling classes itself, then it would not have been our concern at all. But the point here is that these issues have been dragged into the class struggle of the workers. It is here that internationalist policies must stand up against all the politics of hate and xenophobia. The interests of the working class, whether in United States or Russia, whether in Iran or Saudi Arabia, whether in Israel or in Palestine, ... are everywhere the same and that is to bring down and get rid of national boundaries.

The politics of all factions of the Islamic Republic with their international supporters, and the reformist calls of the last two decades, have all reached a dead end. The Nuclear deal, not only did not achieve economic prosperity, and not only failed to remove the shadow of war from Iran, on the contrary, now its mere existence itself has become the cause of warfare. This is yet another example of how capitalism’s historic role is well over. Even within its own structure, in its reform framework, it is completely powerless and paralysed. It is not even capable of embracing even its own reactionary commitment, its international organisations lack any of the powers and credibility that they themselves have set for them and, just as the Iranian workers have done, they only deserve mockery.

Finally, once again we would reiterate what we wrote on December 18, 2013 in the article on Iran: The Ruling Class Unites Around Rouhani’s Nuclear Diplomacy:

"Whether the current negotiation between Iran and the West gets anywhere or stays at a stand off as it has been for the last ten years, whether Iran gains nuclear technology or is prevented from it, none of it will reduce the world wide growing tensions and stop the capitalist world’s general tendency towards war. None of this will end unemployment and poverty. The only way out of this situation is to intensify the class struggle and recognise the fact that our emancipation, as a battalion of the world proletariat lies in the emancipation of all the other battalions of the world working class. At no point in history, has our destiny been so intertwined as it is today and never before has the formation of an internationalist party been so vital and so necessary.”10

Damoon Saadati
5 May 2018

Picture: "Labour protesters from the Haft Tapeh sugar plant. It was here on that Esmail Bakhshi, armed with a microphone, exhorted a crowd of striking workers to take over the operation if they weren’t paid several months of back wages.

“They say they have no money,” he said to applause in January. “We have no money either. But the difference is that we are experts in sugar cane processing, and we will manage the operations ourselves.” That night, masked men assaulted Mr. Bakhshi as he left the factory before bystanders helped him. After four days of strikes at Haft Tapeh in February, authorities arrested more than 30 people, including Mr. Bakhshi. He was arrested again in April. Mr. Bakhshi, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was again freed and back at work, according to co-workers."

Information from the Asa Fitch's Wall St Journal article "Labor Strikes and Protests Erupt Across Iran: "This is Slavery"". 6 May 2018

  • 1. From May day 2017 to May 2018, in average 17 strikes a day. These figures are just for official and reported strikes. bbc.com
  • 2. leftcom.org
  • 3. leftcom.org
  • 4. bbc.com
  • 5. During the 1979 Iranian Revolution, rumor was made that Ayatollah Khomainei image could be seen on the moon. Moon in Islamic theology, has a sacred value/
  • 6. leftcom.org
  • 7. In Iran, the government budget is worked out in dollar and government is the sole source of supplying of dollars (selling) to market. As its revenue from oil is in dollar. There has been a rumor that the revolutionary guard, in preparation for the possible post nuclear deal cancellation, as well as weakening of Rouhani's government, has been transferring currency to outside Iran and it seems that the market has reacted to this by a sharp drop in value of the Rial.
  • 8. bbc.com
  • 9. english.khamenei.ir
  • 10. For the full article see leftcom.org