Iran: Bread. Jobs. Freedom.

Protest in Zanjan, December 30 2017

We are publishing this dispatch direct from an activist in Iran, trying to make some sense of the current wave of protests. The situation is moving so quickly, and the protests sufficiently diffuse, that anyone claiming to know what will happen can be disregarded. The contribution we can make is to ask questions, to look at what has happened, is happening; and only from that speculate about what might happen in the future. We hope that more will contribute to this effort in the coming days and weeks.

Submitted by Mike Harman on January 5, 2018

We have lightly edited this piece for translation issues and to add footnotes.

From Armin Sadeghi, January 4th 2018.

Are we waging a revolution in Iran? Perhaps not. But if we perceive the essence of a revolution as “the abolition of fear”, then everyone has heard (and seen) the Iranian people shouting with no fear that “the emperor has no clothes”.

It is hard to anticipate beyond this, since the conflicting social forces have not yet fully unfolded; and it is almost impossible to grasp a revolution as it's being made. But, we can speculate on the situation, just as Marx wrote to Ruge1 : "The internal difficulties seem to be almost greater than the external obstacles. For although no doubt exists on the question of 'Whence,' all the greater confusion prevails on the question of 'Whither.'" Here we restrict ourselves to the question of 'whence', where the current wave of protests have come from, since there is certainly doubt on this outside Iran.

The course of events has been accelerating faster in Iran (as it has been in many other regions), and it has almost reached the point where no one can generate an cohesive narrative. Still, the political establishment was successful with yet another façade of an election – the same old trick of a false choice between bad and worse, while both parties serve the same class interests 2 .

At the same time, Iran has the most workplace accidents and fatalities in the world. Just before the election more than forty miners were killed 3 , and the the president was booed while he was trying to maintain a popular image by visiting the site. A few months back, the collapse of a commercial building in the center of Tehran (Plasco Building) demonstrated that sentiment is growing among people, and there is a general distrust with the political apparatus as a whole.

After Rouhani’s reelection, the situation got more twisted. Rouhani’s administration – the same people who had advocated the neoliberal project for decades - became too self-confident and waged an all-round war against the working class, precarious and contingent workers. Public healthcare is diminished to almost nothing, the same goes for job security and workplace security. The neoliberal project has been going on for more than 26 years. There was another revolt about two decades ago and it was brutally suppressed by the same people who hold the reformist front today4 .

Since then, despite the apparent political conflicts between sequential administrations, economic programs have been written by the same hand: pseudo-privatization, accumulation by dispossession, destroying all independent workers’ syndicates and councils 5 , precarization of labor and so on. Over the last decade we have witnessed a free fall of the middle class into lower sectors of our society. The doctrine of a metropolitan country has left all the smaller cities and ethnic groups to struggle for survival, while the capital seemed to grow. The rest of the story is too familiar to get into the details; you just have to take a look at the per-capita consumption of fundamental commodities such as milk and dairies (which has fallen to less than a half), red meat which has fallen by more than 70% and many others.

So the background is clear: proletarianization has been going on for nearly three decades, there are no worker’s unions left that could pursue their class interests, there is a dramatic increase in unemployment due to financialization of capital.

The baby boom generation of the eighties cannot fit to any socially accepted paradigm; after graduation (and a considerable part of this generation has gone to college and university), there are no jobs that could fit their skills, and the jobs they could hold onto won't support any sort of decent life. Due to this the current generation can't maintain a nuclear family (which is so crucial to the ideological and economic structure of the political regime in Iran, note that all the official economic data is published per family not per person).

This has resulted in a year of diffuse but contiguous rallies, demonstrations, and sit-ins: The students opposing the privatization and commodification of education; the retired opposing the bankrupt retirement accounts; Teachers and nurses protesting against inhuman living conditions, the bus drivers supporting their syndicate members; and innumerable strikes in various sectors, from miners to sugarcane workers.

Within this context, Rouhani’s administration sought to push his war against the working class one step further after his re-election. He started a new project for unpaid internships which was strongly opposed by a student campaign against all kinds of unpaid or underpaid work. Reza Shahabi, the head of the bus drivers syndicate6 was unlawfully imprisoned, and after more than two months of hunger strike, when he had two brain strokes, the authorities refused to send him to a hospital. These acts were strongly opposed by union activists from various sectors. then along came the catastrophic earthquake.

The catastrophe of the earthquake was not just a natural phenomenon, but it pulled down the curtain hiding the poverty of the western region of the country. The officials couldn’t care less for the people in need of immediate help. They even treated them with a certain degree of contempt. And the people’s circles were created to help our fellow-human beings. This event disillusioned a major part of our society about who is going to stay on their side, and who is only thinking of how to take advantage of every situation. The earthquakes went on, and for months it was happening (with smaller degrees of course) in all parts of the country. Tehran was consumed by restlessness, since it has been anticipating a strong earthquake for decades.

The people were healing from the trauma, when the economic earthquake came: the annual budget engineered by Rouhani’s administration was an insult to everyone. All the damage done by the earthquake was six hundred million dollars, and the government found it impossible to provide a reconstruction budget, leaving it to donations from individuals. While, on the other hand, the budget of certain propaganda institutions was more than 15 billion dollars and it was fully paid for the current year. The price of fuel was to increase by more than 50 percent. There was no budget left for state construction programs. News and infographics were being forwarded between people, and the dissatisfaction went beyond the government's anticipation.

How did it start? Who is on the streets? What do they want? And where to go next?

The Rouhani’s administration accused his so-called rival in the last election of igniting the revolt. But it can’t be ignored that the previous bread revolt (twenty-five years ago) started in the same region. Moreover, Mashhad has been a tax paradise for part of the regime’s economic elite for decades and it has one of the highest rates of growth of slums in the country. All the same, it is of no significance for us to check the conspiracy theories about the beginning of the revolt. The issue here, is its sudden outburst all around the country. Cities were joining the protest that middle class Tehraners hadn’t even heard of before. The body of protesters was mainly the disillusioned youth of 15 to 30 – the No-Future generation of Iran if you like to use familiar terms.

The first demonstrations started with a rage against economic conditions, and the government’s budget for the next year. But it took less than two days for the protest to aim the political apparatus as a whole. Slogans such as “down with high prices” was soon replaced with “down with the dictator”. Slogans against the supreme leader and the regime were cried out loud in the face of repressive forces for the first time.

Still it was clear that the horizontal movement couldn’t easily translate its rage into specific positive demands. Even the slogans against the whole regime had no idea of any alternative. The economic dissatisfaction couldn’t be translated into concrete measures. The reactionary forces within and outside the establishment (mainly including the son of the previous Shah of Iran and his supporters of monarchy! And the Mujahedin-e-Khalgh which is another religious reactionary armed organization) sought to take advantage of the situation. In some parts they tried to invest in the nostalgia of a good dictator who was Reza-Shah, the grandfather of the opposition leader today, in other parts they strived for the support of Trump administration. All this happened because of the systematic suppression of the left since the revolution of 1979. In fact, some argue that the cornerstone of this regime is founded on the suppression of the left and women.

The bright spot among all the confusion were the students. On the third day, they really shifted the paradigm of the revolt, mostly in Tehran, and it spread in many other parts of the country. They opposed the reactionary slogans with “even women has joined us, but you lazy men are just standing by”, they changed the pro-nationalist slogan of “neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, I will die only for Iran” with a much deeper slogan of “From Gaza to Iran, down with the exploiters”. They also added some class-conscious slogans promoting councils, or encouraging people to move beyond the fake dualism of reformists and fundamentalists. This was immediately recognized by authorities as a fracture point. Since then they have been arresting all the students and corresponding activists. The intelligence services saw this situation as the perfect opportunity to suppress the left for yet another decade.

This project is still going on, and all the left can hope for at the moment is to survive this situation and launch a counter attack in due time.

- Armin Sadeghi


Dan Radnika

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Dan Radnika on January 7, 2018

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of concrete information in this article. It's more like a general political rant about what's been going on in Iran for the last few years... But I have a very concrete question to ask about recent events.

Admittedly just from looking at pictures and videos of the protests, I get the impression that the participation of women is much lower than it was in the 2009 protests. During the 2009 "Green Movement" demos it was common to see pictures of significant numbers of women involved (with and without headscarves) - this doesn't seem to be the case this time round. Am I mistaken (just looking at the wrong vids)? Or does this reflect the fact that women in the middle class/student milieu in Tehran are more "liberated" and free to participate in protests, relative to women in working class neighbourhoods in small towns?


6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by noslavery on January 8, 2018


"reflect the fact that women in the middle class/student milieu in Tehran are more "liberated" and free to participate in protests, relative to women in working class neighbourhoods in small towns" IS TRUE, I think.

There is a video clip that a working class woman talks revolutionary against the state from her personal point of view, not from theory. She clearly and passionately says that the state and clergies must go. She says something like that these clergies in top have converted us to prostitutes. Prostitution has grown since the Islamic government took power.

This slogan tells something, but is controversial:

زن ها به ما پیوستن/ بی غیرتا نشستن


Women have joined us / those without honor have not

This says women are there, but could be interpreted as a kind of insult too.

Below is a list of all slogans organized by city. Ask a Persian friend to translate them for you. I may do in future, but my English is terrible.

You can see mixture of political and economical demands. Political demands are not from reformist view. They are simply this: we do not want clergy regime. No communism or anarchism is there. I see only secularism. Iranian's secular capitalists (masters of wage slaves) are very happy now against their Islamic rivals. I think there are huge cracks in Islamic domination's pillars. This movement, no matter what will be the outcome, has been a success for poor Iranian people already. Have you been in a situation being beaten but you had just one good bunch too which will weaken your opponent in the next "round"? It was at least this, a memorable one. You will see antiwar slogans too, like don't spend on war, spend on us. This could be interpreted as a bad slogan. Because some say that it will help the west imperialist war in the middle east. My view is that war is bad no matter what. You see the delicacy of the situation. If war against western imperialism is good, clergies, including the top one and all members of the state must go first. If Trump or any state person think war is good, they should go to the first line of the battlefield themselves. Playing chess is easy, this is what the statesmen and stateswomen do.

تا حقمو نگیرم / به خانه برنگردم
یک اختلاس کم بشه/ مشکل ما حل میشه
نه غزه نه لبنان /جانم فدای ایران،
نترسید نترسید /ما همه با هم هستیم،
اسلامو پله کردید / مردمو ذله کردید
زندانی سیاسی آزاد باید گردد
ایران که شاه نداره/ حساب و کتاب نداره
رضا شاه، روحت شاد
ایرانی با غیرت/ حمایت ، حمایت
یک احتلاس کم بشه / مشکل ما حل میشه
پلیس برو ، دزدو بگیر
مرگ بر روحانی / مرگ بر دیکتاتور
نترسید ، نترسید / ما همه با هم هستیم
 قم :
جمهوری اسلامی / نمی خوایم ، نمی خوایم
آقا خدایی می‌کنه /ملت گدایی می‌کنه،
سوریه را رها کن / فکری به‌حال ما کن
مرگ بر حزب‌الله
سیدعلی حیا کن/ حکومت رو رها کن.
نترسید نترسید/ ما همه با هم هستیم
سید علی حیا کن/ مملکتو رها کن
درود :
زن ها به ما پیوستن/ بی غیرتا نشستن
ارتش حمایت ، حمایت / ایران شده قیامت
نیروی انتظامی/ تو هم میهن مایی
زندانی سیاسی آزاد باید گردد
خامنه ای قاتله / ولایتش باطله
مرگ بر دیکتاتور.
آخوندا حیا کنید/ مملکت رها کنید
رضا شاه ، روحت شاد
مرگ برروحانی
نیروی انتظامی/ حمایت ، حمایت
اهواز :
وای بر آن روز / که مسلح شوم
وای بر آن روز که مسلح شویم
شعار هر ایرانی، مرگ بر گرانی.
مرگ بر دیکتاتور
ارتش فدای ملت / ملت فدای ارتش
این رژیم رفتنیه / حقیقت گفتنیه
رشت :
لاریجانی حیا کن / قضاوتو رها کن
آخوندها حیا کنید، مملکت را رها کنیدنترسید ، نترسید . ما همه با هم هستیم «
مرگ بر دیکتاتور
بسیجی ، برو گمشو
آحوندا حیا کن / مملکتو رها کن
بریز بیرون هموطن/ حقته فریاد بزن
مرگ بر دیکتاتور
بریز بیرون هموطن / حقتو فریاد بزن
ایرانی با غیرت / حمایت حمایت
ما تماشاگر نمیخواهیم به ما مطلق شوید
توپ تانک فشفشه، آخوند باید گم بشه.
ملت گدایی می‌کند/ آقا خدایی می‌کند
می میریم ، می میریم/ ایران را پس می گیریم
سوریه را رها کن / فکری به حال ما کن
حکومت زور نمی خوایم/ پلیس مزدور نمی خوایم
مرفهین بی درد / مایه ننگ ملت
یا مرگ یا آزادی
زندانی سیاسی آزاد باید گردد،
ملت گدایی می‌کند/ آخوند خدایی می‌کند
نترسید نترسید / ما همه با هم هستیم
حکومت زور نمی خوایم / پلیس مزدور نمی خوایم
سر آمد ، سر آمد / کاسه صبرمردم
کارگر ، دانشجو / اتحاد ، اتحاد
کارگر زندانی ، زندانی سیاسی / آزاد باید گردد
اصلاح طلب، اصول‌گرا، دیگر تمام است ماجرا
ایرانی با غیرت / حمایت ، حمایت
دانشجو می‌میرد ذلت نمی پذیرد
رفراندوم، رفراندوم/ اینست شعار مردم
سید علی حیا کن، مملکتو را رهاکن!
سوریه را رها کن، فکری به حال ما کن
نه غزه، نه لبنان، جانم فدای ایران
بسیجی بی غیرت / نمی خوایم ، نمی خوایم
ایرانی ، ایرانی / حمایت ، حمایت
مرگ بر حزب الله
در برابر زندان اوین و خواندن : دایه دایه ، وقت جنگه
اعزام نیرو برای سرکوب جنبش مردم در تهران جاده خاوران در هشتمین روز اعتراضات مردم تهران چهاردهم دی ۹۶
اسلامو پله کردید / مردمو ذله کردید
بهار آزادیه / جای ندا خالیه
دانشگاه تهران:
دانشجو ، کارگر/ اتحاد ، اتحاد
اتحاد ، اتحاد / دانشجو و کارگر اتحاد
این همه لشکر آمده/ علیه رهبر آمده
می میریم ، می میریم / ایرانو پس می گیریم
چه غزه ، چه لبنان / مرگ بر ظالمان
هم سوریه ، هم ایران / مرگ بر ظالمان
کارگران بی مزدند / آخوند ها دزد دزدند
کوی دانشگاه :
نه کاری ، نه باری / پول از کجا بیاریم
دانشجو آگاه است / با کارگر همراه است
آقا خدایی می کند/ ملت گدایی می کند
آخوندا حیا کنید / مملکتو رو رها کنید
جوون بیکار نشسته / آخوند پشت میز نشسته
نه شاه ، نه شیخ ، نه سردار / مرگ بر هر چه ستمکار
خامنه ای ، ننگ به نیرنگ تو / خون نداهای ما میچکد از چنگ تو
سید علی حیا کن/ مملکتو رها کن
ملت گدایی می کند / آقا خدایی می کند
این است شعار ملی/ استقلال، آزادی ، جمهوری ایرانی
تهران چهار راه توحید در تاریخ چهاردهم دی ۹۶ شعار ها :
رفراندوم ، رفراندوم / این است شعار مردم
مرگ بر خامنه ای
کرج :
حسین حسین شعار ما/ تجاوز افتخارما
ارتش ،حمایت و حمایت / ایران شده قیامت ر ما
تاحقمو نگیریم / هرشب همین بساطه
این آخرین پیامه/ هدف فقط نظامه
ملت به رای ملت / دولت به رای دولت
ایرانی می میرد/ ذلت نمی‌پذیرد
کرمانشاه :
یا مرگ / یا آزادی
استقلال ، آزادی / جمهوری ایرانی
ما بچه های جنگیم / بجنگ تا بجنگیم!
زندانی سیاسی ، آزاد باید گردد
ملت گدایی می کند/ آخوند خدایی می کند
بریز بیرون هموطن/ حقتو فریاد بزن
خامنه ای  حیا کن / مملکتو رها کن
ملت گدایی می کند / آقا خدایی می کند
جوان بیکار نشسته / آخوند تو کاخ نشسته
رضا شاه / روحت شاد
لاریجانی حیا کن / قضاوتو رها کن
نه غزه ، نه لبنان / جانم فدای ایران
نیروی انتظامی / حمایت حمایت
سوریه را ها کن / فکری به حال ما کن
  اصفهان :
سید علی ببخشید / دیگه باید بلند شید
مفسد اقتصادی/ اعدام باید گردد
نیروی انتظامی/ حمایت ، حمایت
سید علی ببخشید / دیگه باید بلند شیم
مرگ بر دیکتاتور
روحانی ، روحانی/ تو مال مردم خوری
ایرانی با غیرت/ خجالت ، خجالت
لاریجانی ، حیا کن/ قضاوتو رها کن
چپاول ، گرانی/ ما همه سرنگونیم
یا مرگ یا آزادی
بریز بیرون هموطن / حقتو فریاد بزن
ابوالفضل علمدار/ خامنه ای را بردار
خرم آباد :
ما همگی بیکاریم / خداتونو در آریم
ایرانی بسه دیگر/ غیرتتو نشون بده
شاه سلطان ولایت / مرگت فرا رسیده
شاه سلطان ولایت / آتش جواب آتش
مسجد سلیمان:
توپ و تانک فشفشه / آخوند باید گم بشه
مرگ بر خامنه ای
آخوند خدایی می کند / ملت گدایی می کند!
آقا خدایی می کند / ملت گدایی می کند!
شهرضا :
زنده با ایران آزاد
سید علی ببخشید/ دیگه باید بلند شی
آبادان :
ملت گدایی می کند، آخوند خدایی می کند
سید علی ببخشید، دیگه باید بلند شید
زندانی سیاسی آزاد باید گردد
مرگ بر دیکتاتور
در خطاب به بسیجی ها / بیشرف بیشرف
خامنه ای حیا کن  / مملکتو رها کن
چاه بهار:
خامنه ای حیا کن/ مملکتو رها کن
ایران وطن ماست/ کوروش پدر ماست
زرین شهر اصفهان
نجف آباد اصفهان:
خامنه ای الاغه/ یک دستش هم چلاغه
فولاد شهر :
ایران زمین بداند / نهضت ادامه دارد
نترسید ، نترسید / ما همه با هم هستیم
نه غزه ، نه لبنان / جانم فدای ایران
سایر نقاط کشور:
استقلال ، آزادی / جمهوری ایرانی
توپ ، تانک و فشفشه/ آخوند باید گم بشه
ملت ما بیداز است / از دزدی بیزار است
آقا خدایی می کند/ مات گدایی می کند
ای جوان ایرانی/ بلند شو ، بلند شو
دزد غارت می کند/ دولت حمایت می کند
سوریه را رها کن / فکری به حال ما کن
کشور ما دزد خونه است / توی جهان نمونه است
 سال ۵۷ مردم می گفتند: ننگ با رنگ پاک نمی شود
حالا باید گفت : ننگ با قطع اینترنت پاک نمی شود
ما می گیم خر نمی خوایم/ رنگ  پالون عوض میشه

Dan Radnika

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Dan Radnika on January 10, 2018

Thanks for all that! Google Translate gives you some idea of what the slogans mean, but it would be nice for someone to do proper translations.

مرگ بر دیکتاتور