A critique of the positions defended by some groups of the communist Left
The movements of workers in Iran seem to have been ignored for a long time by groups that refer to the internationalist Communist Left. The Spanish group Nuevo Curso who relies on the Spanish Left of De Munis (1) immediately presented the two articles adopted in this ‘Digest’s’ issue: “Mobilizations of workers in the Middle East” (12/29/2017) and “Why is the movement in Iran in reflux?” (01/03/2018). While, at the time of writing, no analysis is yet available from various Bordigist groups, the ICT and the ICC have recently presented their analyzes. The ICT decided to postpone an English translation of both articles from Nuevo Curso to its forthcoming printed version of Revolutionary Perspectives. On its website it has published an article, “Iranian Protests against Austerity” (2) with some notable differences compared to the texts written by Nuevo Curso. The same differences also appear in two articles of the ICC about the movements in Iran. (3) Such a fraternal unanimity of ICT and the ICC is remarkable, given their years of open mutual hostility.
First of all, let me say that the articles in question give an important addition to Nuevo Curso's contributions because they go deeper into the tensions between the reformists and the religious hardliners within Iran, plus Iran's position within the inter-imperialist tensions in the Middle East. (4) In the Dutch media, we can read calls for "solidarity" from the so-called Iranian opposition in exile, calling for support of Trump's efforts to tighten sanctions against Iran and/or to contribute to the strengthening the position of the reformists in Iran. Let me be unequivocally clear about this: the working class in Iran, neither in the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world, has no interest in supporting any of the imperialist forces, large or small, who oppose each other in the Middle East: the USA, Russia, China, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Nor is it in the interest of the Dutch working class to make a choice between conflicting capital interests in connection with exports to Iran or to other countries involved in the imperialist wars. The various fractions of Iranian capital are all equally reactionary to the working class, and the proletariat has nothing to expect from Western 'achievements' such as 'liberalization' and 'democratization' whose wry fruits the proletariat in the West is reaping every day. Nothing special so far. However, when it comes to the analysis of the workers' struggle in Iran, the articles published by ICT and ICC differ from those of Nuevo Curso, who states:
“The class begins to awaken and show its tendency to act politically independently, over national, linguistic and ethnic borders in a place that is the center of the global imperialist conflict.”
How the ICT is hatching an egg...
The events in Iran described by Nuevo Curso confirm the ability of the working class to break free from the ideological influence of all bourgeois movements and to fight for its own purposes. This development is generally called autonomization – workers standing up for their own class interests – or politicization – directed against the state and all its political fractions. As such, the movement in Iran was also a resounding refutation of all kinds of Leninist ideas that maintain a strict separation between 'economic' and 'political struggle'. This applies not only to the positions of the Communist Workers Organization and the Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen (both affiliated with the ICT), but also to those of the ICC. The ICT therefore had to make every effort to keep its Leninist dichotomy afloat with regard to economic struggle and political struggle. Workers would not go further than economic struggle, while for political struggle the party must bring class-consciousness into the class. The formation of the party and, prior to that, the activity of the organization of revolutionaries is thus given a voluntaristic and idealistic character. In the article the CWO has published on January 16, I read the following remarkable 'analysis':
"The movement, “in less than a week, spread to over 40 cities. Then, increasingly they became anti-regime protests, targeting both conservative and the reformists alike. It did not even spare the “Supreme Leader”, and calls of “Death to the Dictator”, “Death to Khamenei” were heard loud and clear in most cities. These outbreaks are fundamentally a product of economic grievances and its root lies nowhere else but in the capitalist system itself and its long lasting crisis.” (Bold by F.C.)
That is the way: at a time when strikes around economic points spontaneously lead to political demonstrations against the war and the regime as a whole, we just say very ‘materialistically’ that this is ‘economic struggle’, that without the Party it will lead to nothing. However, it seems to me that there are some better arguments for the need of the party. The hammering on the necessity of the party can hardly conceal the fact that the remainder of this analysis of the workers' struggle is hardly different from that by Nuevo Curso.
... and the ICC is walking on eggs...
So far the publication on the ICT website. The ICC does even worse, the article by WH even has difficulty recognizing the proletarian character of the movement in Iran. See how the strikes are stashed away:
“For months now there have been demonstrations of discontent by pensioners, the unemployed (28% of young people are out of work), teachers, workers whose wages aren’t being paid. Finally, the 50% rise in oil and basic foods, like the doubling of the price of eggs — there has been talk of a “revolution of the eggs” — lit the fuse.”
(Bold by FC)
In the article by Steinklopfer (6) words such as ‘proletarians’, ‘workers’ are only mentioned twice, first in the title and subsequently one relating to the ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt. On the other hand, the word ‘popular anger’ or its equivalents are used four times.
One might expect that, if someone does not agree with the analysis of Nuevo Curso on the importance of the strike movement that preceded the wave of demonstrations, at least he/she would ask questions or try to deny its factual nature, for instance as "Saudi propaganda". But no, the question is simply evaded.
The development of the struggle into a fight against Iran's war participation is already an abomination to WH of the ICC:
“On top of this, Iran is surrounded by countries at war which makes it very difficult for the workers of Iran to win the solidarity of the proletariat in these countries and strengthens nationalism within their own ranks.”
It is always good to warn of the ‘dangers’ of a repetition of the ‘Arab Spring’, but in this case the ICC simply denies that the movement increasingly has turned against the Iranian war participation. Unfortunately, for the ICC, this real development is a practical denial of its 1970s position that a context of economic crisis is more favorable to the development of the workers' struggle than a context of war, or a post-war situation such as 1918-1923. Here too, the retention of old dogmas dazzles the view of reality.
Nationalistic reflexes and the development of class consciousness
The ICC has never really been able to separate itself from the 19th century idea of proletarian revolutions per country, an idea that has always been opposed by the Dutch and German Left, and other honest Communists. As evidenced by the development of Engymo into a bourgeois group, ICT affiliated groups are not immune to such nationalistic reflexes.(8) In the appendix I give some quotes that illustrate the anti-national position of the [historical] communist Left.
If it suits the ICT or the ICC to respond to this criticism, it is very likely that they will make accusations of 'economism', 'spontaneism', 'luxemburgism' and 'councilism'. This way of 'framing' may be effective to keep their own supporters from independent thinking, but it is not an answer to the real developments that have taken place in Iran. It is also completely inadequate to dismiss this development with 'spontaneity' or 'underground maturation of consciousness' (which the ICC always likes to claim pretending to be right in the absence of facts, but now the ‘old mole’ threw up firm ground, it is simply evaded). Hidden behind spontaneity lies a year-long process in the working class as a whole in which workers individually and in careful mutual discussions have reflected upon their own interests with regard to the economic crisis, the war effort and the propaganda of the reformist and the fundamentalist factions. Once in motion, this development of proletarian consciousness has made huge leaps. The fact that some slogans were immediately recognized as a better articulation of the interests as a class can only be explained from this preceding process. It is also in this way that the class actually feeds the positions of the small groups and on which it will produce the party later.
Fredo Corvo, January 21, 2018
Appendix Proletarian class struggle is international
“The words of Marx in the Communist Manifesto, according to which the workers of all countries must rid themselves first of their own bourgeoisie, have been reduced to nothing. Imperialism has proven that they were erroneous.”
Herman Gorter, Imperialism, the World War and Social Democracy, 1914. (9)
“The previous years witnessed the primacy of the national trade union against the employers separated by trades and nations; against the employers associations, the national trade union federation; against the national government, the national party. Now, in this new stage of capitalism, against capitalism's new organization, against the international trusts and international nance capital, a world trade union federation must be founded; against the imperialism and the policies of all States, a new international party must be founded. Against the national and international dimensions of imperialism, mass action is necessary. This is the stage in which we are living. The reflection of this new theory, the translation of this theory into facts, the practice of this theory: this is what the new International must be, the new International which must be born from the old International and from this war.”
Herman Gorter, Imperialism, the World War and Social Democracy, 1914. (10)
“Class struggle is international; The proletarian revolution cannot, if it wants to win, play itself within closed borders. It is a world revolution. Already in the first battles the importance of internationality came to the attention of the proletariat. Throughout the working-class movement, a common thread is the attempt to establish an international battle front.”
Programm der Kommunistischen Arbeiter-Partei Deutschlands, Berlin, January 1924, p. 21. (11)
“The territorial boundaries in which the proletarian dictatorship is exercised can be joined only at a certain moment in the inevitable international character of the workers' revolution. Choosing the right moment will be one of the most difficult political issues for council power. It is very likely that these borders will not coincide with the current political boundaries or the language barrier. On the contrary, under the pressure of economic and class relations, they will probably be for some time partly narrower, some time wider. The proletarian revolution may temporarily create entirely new territories in its international course, and destroy them on an ongoing basis until the grand goal is achieved, and the borders of the countries are destroyed.
Along the way, with every rising wave of revolution, an explosion of old territorial and national boundaries will take place; on the other hand, when going back, it will be necessary to recognize and to seal off fixed area boundaries for a certain period of time. The absolute mastery of these once necessary limits, the free disposition and complete control over which persons and which goods can be transferred in both directions, is politically and economically a vital condition for the dictatorship. Equally important, however, is to disorganize and sabotage by all means the political and economic border protection of capitalistially governed territories, and to transfer propaganda and organization from the territories conquered into the territories still oppressed. Because the proletarian class struggle is international and can only be victorious in international form.”
Programm der Kommunistischen Arbeiter-Partei Deutschlands, Berlin, January 1924, p. 30/31. (12)
1) See for instance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandizo_Munis, or (in French): “Positions et parcours d’un internationaliste : G. Munis (1912-1989)” on the Controversies web site: http://leftcommunism.org/spip.php?article264&lang=fr.
2) D Saadati, January 16, 2018: “Iranian Protests against Austerity”; http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2018-01-16/iranian-protests-against-austerity
3) WH, January 5, 2018, “Demonstrations in Iran: strengths and limits of the movement”: http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201801/14695/demonstrations-iran-strengths-and-limits-movement; Steinklopfer, January 9, 2018: “Iran: the struggle between bourgeois cliques is a danger for the working class”: [http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201801/14694/iran-struggle-between-bourgeois-cliques-danger-working-class
4) For this reason the aforementioned article by Steinklopfer on the ICC website has been published on the blog ‘Arbeidersstemmen’ in the Dutch language.
5) See the tweet included at the end of Nuevo Curso’s article of December 29.
6) See footnote 3.
8) “Thesis 12. Proletarian Revolution is national in its form and international in its content. It presupposes an international struggle of the working class in each country against its own bourgeois class. Socialism or communism is not built on a national but only on an international scale.” This idea of Engymo in continuation of the Communist Manifesto can be found in the 2012 Some basic programmatic theses (Bold by FC).
Published first on the dutch Wordpress blog [url=https://arbeidersstemmen.wordpress.com/2018/01/21/iran-de-strijd-tussen-burgerlijke-fracties-is-een-gevaar-voor-de-arbeidersklasse/ (Workers Voices). This English translation appeared in A Free Retriever’s Digest. An interested Selection of Articles & News Feeds. Vol. 2 Issue #1 February 1, 2018. Order for free by mailing to [email protected].