The reign of terror unleashed by the
Iranian government against the demonstrations in the aftermath of the
rigged elections did succeed in keeping people off the streets the last
11 days. But last Thursday this combustible material ignited once again, as
thousands once more took to the streets in a collective show of
Four weeks ago the polls closed and the government announced that
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been re-elected in a landslide
victory. Then there was a spontaneous explosion that brought hundreds
of thousands onto the streets, shaking the regime to its foundations.
The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has confirmed the election,
and the powerful Guardian Council has certified the results. But this
has not pacified the opposition. Four weeks later the mood of defiance
remains, in spite of the government’s uncompromising stance and its
repeated and violent efforts to restore the status quo.
government has used different tactics to try to put an end to the
turbulence: arrests; the violent suppression of street protests; and
attempts to blame the “meddling” foreign nations, primarily Britain and
the United States, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia, for fomenting the
unrest. The reign of terror unleashed by the government did succeed in
keeping people off the streets the last 11 days. People went home to
brood over their discontent. But the atmosphere of simmering anger and
resentment remained, hanging over Teheran like a threatening thunder
cloud waiting to explode.
Although the regime has temporarily succeeded to re-establish some
degree of control over the streets by violent means, they have not
succeeded in restoring the status quo. The political landscape has been
fundamentally modified by the eruption of the masses. Popular
discontent has been driven underground, but its effects are felt in the
darkest recesses of the Islamic regime. Behind locked doors, unseen to
the public, rival factions of political careerists and clerical
die-hards are struggling for power.
The splits at the top are only a reflection of the ferment below,
which can break out onto the surface at any time, like the smouldering
mass of combustible material that lies inert for a time before it
bursts forth as a forest fire.
Thursday, this combustible material ignited once again, as thousands
once more took to the streets in a collective show of defiance. The
immediate cause of the demonstration was to commemorate the students
uprising of 10 years ago. The authorities took measures to prevent
communication between protesters. Cell phone messaging was disconnected
Thursday for a third consecutive day. The government also closed the
universities and declared an official holiday Tuesday and Wednesday,
ostensibly because Tehran has been shrouded in a cloud of heavy dust
But neither the announced holiday nor the stifling air deterred the
crowds. The streets burned with garbage fires. Tear gas settled all
around. And on one street thousands of people pushed on, proclaiming
their solidarity and defiance. The numbers were not as big as they were
a few weeks ago. But the most striking feature of this movement is that
is happening at all. After all the brutal repression, the savage
beatings, the shooting and arrests, the fact that thousands of people
are prepared to come out and protest tells us something very
significant: that people are beginning to lose their fear.
A journalist of the New York Times writes:
“But the mood of the street never calmed. One witness said that if
it had not been for the overwhelming show of force, it appeared that
tens of thousands were prepared to turn out.
“The day was supercharged from the start, with a protest called for
4 p.m. to honor the students who 10 years earlier were bloodied and
jailed during a violent confrontation with the police. Under a hot
summer sun, police officers in riot gear patrolled the streets in
roving bands of about 50. Then the crowds started to form, men, women
and children packing the sidewalks. Traffic stopped and drivers honked
or stepped from their cars in solidarity. The people chanted ‘Down with
the Dictator,’ ‘God is Great’ and ‘Mouss-a-vi’ as they walked along
“It was almost festive.”
How strange these words must sound to many people! Under a brutal
and merciless dictatorship, faced with the batons, bullets and tear gas
of the organs of state repression, with cracked heads and bloodied
clothing, how can there be a “festive mood”? The answer is that such a
mood always exists in the early stages of every revolution. When the
masses are awakened to political life after a long period of inertia,
when men and women who have been forced to remain silent, suddenly find
a voice, when thousands of people become aware of their own power, the
result is a release of long-suppressed emotions, a feeling of elation
and euphoria that is indeed festive: it is the festival of revolution.
An article in New York Times on July 10, 2009, with the title Iran Security Forces Move to Crush Renewed Protests describes the situation:
“Thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran on
Thursday, clapping, chanting, almost mocking the authorities as they
once again turned out in large numbers in defiance of the government’s
threat to crush their protests with violence.
“As tear gas canisters cracked and hissed in the middle of crowds,
and baton-wielding police officers chased up and down sidewalks, young
people, some bloodied, ran for cover, and there was an almost festive
feeling on the streets of Tehran, witnesses reported.
“A young woman, her clothing covered in blood, ran up Kagar Street,
paused for a minute and said, ‘I am not scared because we are in this
“The protesters lighted trash on fire in the street, and shopkeepers
locked their gates, then let demonstrators in to escape the wrath of
the police. Hotels also served as safe havens, letting in protesters
and locking out the authorities.”
There are a number of significant elements in this report. The
remark made by the young woman covered in blood sums up the mood: “I am
not scared because we are in this together.” When thousands of people
come out onto the streets to fight for their rights, they cease to be
isolated individuals and begin to feel their own power. The old fear of
the state, which before seemed all-powerful, evaporates like water on a
A comrade from the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency wrote to us today:
“A few thousands in spite of harsh warning and attacks of police
(the same day) participated. The participation of young women was
prominent. They came with gym shoes and ready to fight and organize.
The busiest scenes were around Tehran University. Among other slogans
they chanted were: free all political prisoners, Death to Khamenei,
Death to the dictator, etc.
“However, not many workers participated. They were mainly youth and
students (although you see in one of photos attached an older woman of
about 50 or so demonstrating). Mousavi and the Reformists had not
called for the demonstration, which was spontaneous, although some
shouted slogans in support of Mousavi.”
Another striking feature of these protests was the fact that the
principal opposition leaders stayed away. Mir Hussein Moussavi, who
claims he won the election, Mehdi Karroubi and the former president
Mohammad Khatami have agreed to pursue their complaints through the
legal system, and to protest only when a permit is issued. Since such
permits are never issued, they are always conspicuous by their absence!
But the movement on the streets has a logic and a dynamic of its own.
It is not organized by anyone and therefore the absence of the
reformist “leaders” does not make the slightest difference to it.
Under such conditions the repeated use of repression is subject to the law of diminishing returns. The NYT article continues:
“One witness gave this account: ‘The crowds are too huge to contain.
Riot police running up and down Fatemi Street, beating people, barely
got out of the way. The crowds just get out of their way and come
“There were scenes like that reported all over the city, though the
main skirmishes seemed to have occurred near Tehran University and at
Enghelab Square. Police shot tear gas into Laleh Park. As night fell,
the scene grew more severe. The air filled with acrid smoke and soot,
and police officers and Basij militia members ran along the streets.”
to witnesses, the security forces did not fire on protesters, and it
was unclear how many people were injured or arrested. Most of the
repression is clearly the work of the Basij thugs and provocateurs in
civilian dress that mingle with the protestors, as the NYT article
“A man in a business suit pulled out a collapsible baton and beat a
person with a camera until the baton broke. A middle-aged woman ran
through the crowd, her coat covered with blood stains. Protesters
hurled rocks at security officers. Two men held a huge floral
arrangement of yellow and purple flowers on green leaves in
commemoration of those killed last month and in 1999, a witness said.
“But still, no matter who stopped to talk, witnesses said, there was
a sense of mission and unity that seemed almost validated by the brutal
government response. A 55-year-old woman on the streets in support of
the marchers said: ‘This is Iran. We are all together.’”
The report continues:
“Many people thrust their hands into the air, making the vee sign
for victory. Even as they watched, and sometimes tried to stop, police
officers and militia as they beat unarmed women and men — and there
were a lot of women on the street as there have been throughout the
crisis — the crowds remained mostly peaceful, an eyewitness said.”
The people are no longer prepared to be cowed and intimidated by
these tactics. Some of them are even prepared to confront the Basij.
The NYT article reports that a crowd of people chanted “please stop”
and chased two Basij away.
“Tell the world what is happening here,” one 26-year-old engineering
student told the New York Times journalist. “This is our revolution. We
will not give up.” And when asked what he wanted, he said simply: “We
These words correspond closely to what I wrote in a recent article.
“What we have witnessed over the last two weeks is only the first
act in the revolutionary drama. It is a scenario that is very familiar
to all students of the history of revolutions. At the beginning of
every revolution, when the working class does not play the leading role
but is submerged in the ‘masses’, the latter bring their prejudices
into the movement, creating a phase of ‘democratic illusions.’ This is
an absolutely inevitable phase in the Iranian Revolution, as was the
February Revolution in Russia, April 1931 in Spain and even the first
eighteen months of the Great French Revolution.
“In the period of ‘democratic illusions’ the powerful thrust of the
mass movement creates the idea that victory is in sight. Everything
seems possible and the processes seem very simple. There are naturally
big illusions in the ‘democratic’ leaders. This was very clearly
expressed yesterday by my young Iranian friend. It will be necessary
that the movement must pass through a period of great difficulties,
defeats and suffering before receiving a harsh education in political
realism, which will finally enable it to leave its illusions behind.” (Iran: regime steps up terror – a general strike is needed!)
The defiant demonstrations this Thursday are a clear indication that
the revolutionary spirit of the masses is not broken. Because of the
lack of leadership, the present wave of protests can die down for a
while, but only to re-emerge with even greater force at a later stage.
The main weakness of the present movement (as against 1979) is that the
working class has not participated in sufficient numbers and with
We have no doubt that the next round (which is inevitable) will be
on a qualitatively higher level, and that the revolutionary ferment
that has inevitably expressed itself first among the students, will
spread to the factories, building sites and oil wells of Iran, as they
did in tsarist Russia in 1905. The Iranian equivalent of 1905 is being
prepared. When that hour strikes the whole world will shake!
London, 10 July, 2009.(WWW.MARXIST.COM)