The Iran protests that are sweeping the covers of bourgeois newspapers and prompting US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley to put Iran “on notice” for violating “human rights” must be understood in their proper context in terms of the struggles of different classes in Iran and not in terms of a struggle for “democracy” and “human rights”.
In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup to overthrow the popularly elected national bourgeois prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh due to questions of nationalizing the oil industry. After he was overthrown, the US installed a puppet government in Iran with Shah Reza Pahlavi as the absolute monarch. With this, came the repression of political parties, especially leftwing parties, that continues till today. Iran was opened up to foreign finance capital and turned into a semi-colony of the US. Iran became a dependable police for the US to control the region and became an ally of Israel. In 1971, various forces started to engage in armed struggles against the monarchy. Among them prominent were the Marxist-Leninist Fadaiian and the secular Islamic Mujahedeen (MKO). Besides these two groups, the other group to gain prominence was the Islamist group led by the Shiite cleric. In the 1979 revolution, the Islamist group was able to take control of the masses and came to be in power. Thus began the Islamic Republic that exists today.
Today Iran is a capitalist state, with the clergy serving various strata of the capitalists. Leftwing parties are repressed and political freedom is almost nonexistent. Though some freedoms are granted, such as right to protest, the Islamic Republic controls the media and the internet. The current protests come out of popular discontent among the masses due to rising prices of basic goods such as eggs and poultry and gas prices. The new budget also proposed to cutback subsidies for fuel. The Rouhani government also proposed to cutback on the money poor families receive from the government, a program that is highly popular among almost 90% of the population. These led to the protests that developed in the outskirts of Iran and then slowly moved into the cities and got picked up by students and workers.
The demands of the protests initially were primarily economic: more price control, less unemployment, more subsidies for basic goods. However, a section of the protesters were also calling for the overthrow of the entire Islamic Regime, challenging the basic structure of the government. A different section, however, was calling for the return of the monarchy. Among the slogans of the reactionary sections were slogans calling for cutbacks in funding for Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria.
The imperialist media focused primarily on the second group since it allows them to propagate a narrative for regime change. Donald Trump and the entire bourgeois media apparatus sang the song of “human rights” and “democracy” and how the protestors should be allowed to peacefully protest to overthrow the regime. As skillfully as they always do, the bourgeois media is using pictures from protests in other countries, such as ones in Bahrain or in Egypt, to claim that these protests were taking place in Iran. They have gone so far as to use pictures from pro-government rallies to paint them as pictures from the popular protests that are taking place now. CNN and BBC are churning out report after report about how much the Iranian people are tired of the government and how the Islamic Republic is violently repressing the protestors. Though the accusations of repression are true in some cases, these are highly exaggerated with only one thing in mind: to topple the current government to install an even more reactionary government that allows foreign finance capital to exploit Iran. One hardly needs to remember how the masses are treated in the US for protesting against the police killing civilians to see the hypocrisy in these veiled statements about democracy and right to protest, let alone talk of human rights and liberty.
However, it cannot be denied that popular discontent with regards to living conditions and the Islamic Republic exists among the masses, even though a section of the population are still pro-government and supportive of the Islamic Revolution. Multiple statements from the Tudeh Party of Iran, a longstanding Marxist-Leninist party heavily suppressed by both the Shah and the Islamic Republic, reinforce the points that these economic and anti-government demands must be amplified, without the movement being hijacked by foreign or reactionary forces. Currently the protests rose spontaneously and are without any leadership. However, the Tudeh Party has called for a united anti-dictatorship front for the following causes:
· Rejecting the Supreme Leadership Regime and the rule of clergy over our nation, and to put an end to the despotic regime,
· The unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners,
· Putting an end to the poverty, marginalisation, high prices, economic hardship, corruption, and oppression of the ruling regime,
· Putting a stop to the atmosphere of repression and suppression and the returning of all suppressive forces to their garrisons,
· Transition to establish a national and democratic regime and for the people to determine their own destiny
Nevertheless, they repeatedly stress the importance of rejecting the phony sympathies of Trump and Netanyahu. For obvious reasons, the current protests cannot be turned into a protest organized by foreign forces. For if the US and Israel were successful in toppling this reactionary government, they would only install another reactionary government who would not only continue the repressive measures of the Islamic Republic but also add on top of it the exploitation of the foreign imperialists by opening up Iran to finance capital.
The task of socialists and progressives outside Iran is not only to understand these conditions but also to teach others and to work against an imperialist intervention in Iran. Meanwhile, the chauvinism and demagoguery about “democracy” and “human rights” by bourgeois leaders and the bourgeois media must be scrutinized, criticized, mocked, and ridiculed to expose the hypocrisy of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The US, UK, France, Germany — these imperialist states and the UN and others can not be allies of revolutionary forces in Iran. The fate of Iran lies with the people of Iran and they have a right to self-determination: be it earning only concessions from the government, toppling the government to establish a bourgeois democratic republic, or establishing a socialist republic.