SATURDAY 20th JUNE: As reports are coming in about clashes between protesters and police
in Tehran, it is clear that the movement against the fraud has reached
a critical point. Khamenei’s speech yesterday threw down the gauntlet
to the movement and threatened repercussions for continued protests but
the organised working class are now joining the struggle against the
In his sermon on Friday prayers at the Teheran University Mosque,
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threw all his authority
behind Ahmadinejad and issued a strong warning against those protesting
electoral fraud. He rejected any claims of vote rigging and declared
Ahmadinejad’s “definitive victory”. He also accused the West of
meddling in Iranian affairs. His sermon had two clear messages. One,
the Islamic Republic cannot be questioned. He said that “The dispute is
not between groups within the Islamic establishment and outside the
Islamic establishment. This is not a dispute between those for and
against the revolution. This dispute is between elements within the
framework of the Islamic establishment. And the people who voted for
the four candidates did so by depending and trusting in the Islamic
establishment.” This was clearly a response to the fact that the mass
protests of the last week have started to question not only the
validity of the elections, but the system itself and this is very
worrying. The fact that Khamenei, who usually refrains from
participating directly in politics and moves the strings from behind
the scenes, has come out in such strong terms is a measure of how
worried the ruling class is of the challenge that the mass movement
poses to the very existence of the Islamic Republic.
The second message was a strong warning against further
mobilisations. “It is wrong for some people to assume that by taking to
the streets, they can pressure the Islamic establishment, and pressure
the officials into forced compromise. It is a mistake to make such an
assumption.” And he backed this with a threat:
“Street challenges are not acceptable after the election. I want
everybody on all sides to put an end to this method. If they don’t, the
consequences and the riots should be shouldered by those who don’t put
an end to it… If there are any consequences, it will directly affect
the leaders behind the scenes.”
Not only demonstrations are not allowed, but there will be riots if
they continue, and by talking of the leaders behind the scenes, he was
probably referring to Rafsanjani, as well as Mousavi. For a whole week,
hundreds of thousands and probably even millions of people have
participated in what they knew were illegal demonstrations, which had
not been authorised, and the regime was powerless to stop them. Now the
state has warned that it will not tolerate this situation any longer.
It cannot, at the risk of undermining the basis of its own power.
Khamenei’s warnings were backed by further threats by the state
apparatus. Iran’s Security Council (part of the Interior Ministry) sent
a letter to Mousavi making him personally responsible for what happens
today, when the opposition has called for yet another mass rally. “It
is your duty not to incite and invite the public to illegal gatherings;
otherwise, you will be responsible for its consequences.” The orders
from the Security Council to Mousavi are explicit: “It is your
responsibility to prevent the public from attending such rallies
instead of making accusations against the law enforcement”. They also
repeat an accusation made by Khamenei in his speech on Friday: the
people are manipulated by foreign agents: “We believe this is an
organized network which is most probably affiliated to foreign-related
groups and deliberately disturbs the peace and security of the public.”
Any oppressive regime thinks that the movement of the people is the
work of “foreign agents” and “agitators”, not being able to admit that
any genuine mass movement of the people has its roots in social and
economic conditions. As if more than a million people could be led by a
small “organised network” of “foreign groups”!!
The Security Council letter is also very explicit on what the
security forces will do if more demonstrations are held: “Of course we
have already ordered the law enforcement forces to deal with the
issue”. This is the stick.
But, as a matter of fact even Khamenei’s address contained a
“carrot”, a “concession” designed to offer Mousavi a way out, that of
pursuing his allegations by legal means. On Saturday, Iran’s Guardian
Council made the offer more concrete: “Although the Guardian Council is
not legally obliged … we are ready to recount 10 percent of the
(ballot) boxes randomly in the presence of representatives of the
candidates”. Both Mousavi and Karroubi, the two “reformist” candidates,
boycotted the meeting of Guardian’s Council, to which they had been
invited, and only “conservative” candidate Rezaei attended. Rezaei
alleged that he had really received between 2.5 and 7 million votes,
instead of the 680,000 of the official results.
The problem is that a promise of a partial recount is too little too
late for the mass movement, which in any case is not under the control
of Mousavi at all. In fact, many of the demonstrations last week have
followed this pattern: a demonstration is announced by someone close to
Mousavi, then it is called off, but as the masses gather anyway,
Mousavi makes sure he is present and seen by the crowds in order not to
lose his “leadership” of the movement.
Already Tehran is full of rumours of the mass rally this afternoon
having been called off. The “reformist” Combatant Clerics Assembly, led
by Khatami, has announced that since no official permission has been
granted, “there will be no rally” today. But even if Mousavi himself
announced the calling off of the protest, it is likely to go ahead
anyway and he would risk losing control of the movement altogether.
"Often these protests can take on a life of their own and if the
leaders call off the protest that does not mean the people will not
come out on the streets and their will not be a resulting crackdown,"
said Reva Bhalla, an analyst with Stratfor, a global intelligence firm.
Today is therefore a crucial day in the movement. It is clear that
the state cannot allow the demonstration to go ahead and they will use
all forces at their disposal to do so. Any revolution reaches a point
where the masses are no longer afraid of repression and when repression
might back fire and escalate the movement. This might be it. There have
already been indications in the last week of protests that sections of
the police were sympathetic to the protesters. It is likely that more
reliable forces will be used against today’s march.
In a crucial development, over the last few hours we have witnessed
the beginning of the entry of the working class into the mass movement
as a clear force with its own identity. On Thursday 18, the Vahed
Syndicate of Bus Drivers issued a statement in support of the mass
movement. This is significant since this is one of the most militant
sections of the Iranian working class, having carried out a protracted
struggle for the recognition of their trade union organisation despite
brutal repression on the part of the Islamic Republic. The Vahed
Syndicate had correctly stated before the elections that none of the
candidates support the interests of the workers of Iran, but now, also
correctly recognises “the magnificent demonstration of millions of
people from all ages, genders, and national and religious minorities in
Iran” and states clearly that “the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and
Suburbs Vahed Bus Company fully supports this movement of Iranian
people to build a free and independent civil society and condemns any
violence and oppression.” (The Field: Iran Bus Workers Join the Resistance)
But even more important is the action taken by workers at the
massive Khodro car factory. The workers at this car company, the
largest in the Middle East with nearly 100,000 workers, 30,000 of them
in one single plant, have already taken strike action on Thur, 18, in
support of the revolutionary movement of the people. In a short
statement that we reproduce in full they say:
“We declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran.
“Autoworker, Fellow Laborers (Laborer Friends): What we witness
today, is an insult to the intelligence of the people, and disregard
for their votes, the trampling of the principles of the Constitution by
the government. It is our duty to join this people’s movement.
“We the workers of Iran Khodro, Thursday 28/3/88 in each working
shift will stop working for half an hour to protest the suppression of
students, workers, women, and the Constitution and declare our
solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran. The morning and
afternoon shifts from 10 to 10:30. The night shift from 3 to 3:30.
“Laborers of Iran Khodro” (The Field: Iran Khodro Auto Workers Begin Work Slowdown to Protest the Regime)
These two statements and the strike action of Khodro workers are
indeed extremely significant. These are two of the most advanced
sections of the Iranian working class, at the vanguard of the new
emerging trade union movement. They are expressing the thoughts of
millions of other workers who have not yet put them in formal
statements. As Alan Woods explained on Thursday,
“The working class has a power that can paralyze society and the
state. Without its permission, not a light bulb shines, not a wheel
turns, not a telephone rings. We refer to the general strike. The idea
of a general strike has been raised but it has not been carried out.
This is the key question!” (Iran: how can the movement go forward?)
The strike of the Khodro workers could be the beginning of a strike
wave. In 1979 it was the strike of the oil workers which finally
brought down the Shah. It is the duty of revolutionary Marxists to give
full support to this movement and particularly to its most advanced
layers, the organised working class.
Saturday June 20 – article first posted on www.marxist.com
IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF
THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION?
Next Thursday 25th June 7pm.
Room 2c, ULU, Malet St.
(Meeting hosted by ULU Marxists Society)