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The uprising in Iran

The titanic struggle on the streets of Iran unleashed by the disputed results of the presidential election contain a revolutionary essence that has the potential to take on a momentum all of its own.

To march in their hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, through the streets of the capital in defiance of the authorities, to gather in the universities to denounce president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a dictator, to use social networking and Internet sites to mobilise and to reach the outside world amounts to a significant challenge to the state which not even the killing of seven marchers can halt.

The marchers chanted defiant slogans as they moved down Azadi Street yesterday towards an iconic monument built by the country’s former despot, the Shah. "Death to the dictator", "Death to the lying government" the chants rang out. "Iranians, why are you silent," went another slogan. "Iran has become Palestine. We will take back our votes even if they kill us," was another.

Masses of people believe that their votes have been stolen. They cannot credit that Ahmadinejad won almost two-thirds of the votes in last week’s presidential election, defeating former prime minister Hossein Mousavi. Whether Ahmadinejad did or not is now irrelevant, however. The decision today of the powerful Guardian Council to authorise a partial recount will not suffice. Even Mousavi has rejected the move, with a spokesman saying that nothing less than re-run of the election will do.

In 1979 millions rose up to overthrow the US-backed Shah’s dictatorship. To the shock of many liberal Westerners, the revolution took hold under the auspices of an Islamic clergy and took refuge in the safety of the mosques to escape the notorious Savak, the Shah’s secret police.

Now the momentum is towards the completion of that revolution through establishing popular, secular power. Mousavi will not be able to deliver anything like that because he is also part of the state establishment which tries to balance between the masses and capitalism. That is what has come unstuck.

Motivation for the present upsurge is all too apparent. Despite being the world’s fourth largest oil producer, Iran is suffering from massive inequalities and a denial of basic democratic rights. About half its 71 million people are under 25. But more than a fifth of them are unemployed. Soaring unemployment has led to a "brain drain" from the country, leaving it short of (among others) health professionals, particularly doctors and dentists. Annual inflation is more than 25%. The wildly fluctuating price of oil is adding to the crisis facing the state.

The 1979 revolution was part of a great tide of national struggles throughout the world against imperialism for independence and self-determination. In the 21st century, these are beginning to assume a more definite social, anti-capitalist character as, for example, in Venezuela and other parts of South America.

In Iran, an election has re-opened the floodgates of mass confrontation in the streets between the state forces who back Ahmadinejad and the millions who voted for Mousavi. As commentator Robert Fisk, who watched yesterday’s mobilisation in Tehran, remarked:

Government is not about good guys and bad guys. It is about power, state and political power – they are not the same – and unless those wanly smiling riot police move across to the opposition, the weapons of the Islamic Republic remain in the hands of Ahmadinejad's administration and his spiritual protectors.

As Ahmadinejad hob-nobs it with Russian and Chinese leaders – who know a thing or two about putting down social unrest – the momentum is running against him. Whether or not the present struggle succeeds in forcing the Holocaust-denier Ahmadinejad out, Iran can never be the same again.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
16 June 2009

Ray says:

The Marxist dialectic of social processes is the only method we can usefully employ to understand the class forces involved in the present stage of the Iranian revolution and where it is going - forced as it is by global events. Students that are following the upheaval in Iran from afar could do little better than study the processes and class forces involved in the Russian revolutionary stages of 1905 and February 1917. These have similar historical and social characteristics worthy of consideration. A study of Leon Trotsky's 'History of the Russian Revolution' would repay the reader giving as it does, a 'historical key' to unlock the seemingly unfathomable events and personages there. Of course this will not be an exact mirror-image of past events, individual leaders or their parties.

Nevertheless a contemporary review alongside living events will give the reader a vital aid to thoughts with a method. Imperialism in the form of the USA and it's regional client Israel, will utilise every agency and amenable ally in their attempts to deflect and derail the present social struggle in Teheran to their advantage. These processes have a universal character and reflect Imperialism's inherent weakness wherein social forces begin to take hold of history. But importantly we must also know that 'for them', there are no final situations that are totally hopeless.

Bruce says:

Great idea Ray, will start reading, for anyone who does not have a copy you can go to the Marxist Internet Archive,

1930: The History of the Russian Revolution (book)

Edward says:

I wish your site had a Facebook connection so that I could share your posts on my FB page. Excellent piece on Iran. The first really good marxist analysis I've seen so far.

Fiona says:

Some on the 'anti-imperialist' left who regard every enemy of their enemy as their friend, are calling this a plot hatched by, or at least influenced by, the C.I.A. and the US establishment. As if Iranians were not perfectly able to take their political fate into their own hands and aim to influence events themselves without outside intervention. Let us hope they succeed. Even a partial victory and the ousting of Ahmadinejad would be something.

Fiona says: It is possible I suppose that even if the C.I.A. didn't actually orchestrate the present protests, they would have taken the opportunity to 'piggy-back' them in order to try and influence the expressions of dissent in a particular direction. Whatever the case here is a pretty poor piece of analytical journalism by Seamus Milne in today's Guardian (18th June) and a differnt view by Yassamine Mahathir of HOPI

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