Archive for category: Iran
Fascism has never been obsolete. It is omnipresent. The specters of the 1930s have now been reawakened on multiple levels. Mindful of its revenant, Enzo Traverso in The New Faces of Fascism has persuasively made the case that we are now in a post-fascist era. He is careful to make the distinction between ‘post-fascism’ and ‘neo-fascism’. The latter emerges out of the former.
If a full-fledged neo-fascism has not shown its face in the West, at least not yet, the reactionary ruling theocracy in Iran, having the total monopoly on violence, exhibits all the aspects of neo-fascism. Its face is obscenely unique: a bearded male garbed in white and black turbans. The dominant color in this neo-fascism is not brown. Just recently it showed its ugly face on September 16, 2022, in the brutal killing of a young woman aged 22 named Mahsa Amini who had just arrived in Tehran for a visit from the city of Saqqez, located in the Kurdistan province of Iran. She was arrested and condemned for her ‘improper’ hijab (veiling). The brutal act triggered a wave of widespread demonstrations and strikes across Iran. Led mainly by brave women, this movement has forced the world to take notice.
This date will be remembered in the annals of the early twenty-first century as the day that became a cause, with which women all over the world identified themselves and rose in sympathy with the plight of Iranian women. The singular dictum of the ensuing historical moment has been ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’. However, this is a superstructural expression at the political, social and cultural levels, whose base is a corrupt economic inequality that is plunging the nation’s working and middle classes into abject poverty.
Why is it important, even urgent, to bring forward the case of theocracy of Iran and call it neo-fascist? If it is correct that this neo-fascist theocracy presents a special case in the pervasive post-fascism with which our ear is politically identified, then it must be moved center stage in the radical Left discourse, preempting a mild critique by bourgeois liberal democracy that is showing signs of its exhaustion. What is conspicuously absent in the discourse of liberal and left-liberal intellectuals, who are all too eager to draw our attention to the case they make for their political analyses of ‘authoritarianism’, is the total absence of two words: ‘fascism’ and ‘capitalism’. As Max Horkheimer once said, “whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism”. These intellectuals are unable to address the return of fascism, let alone analyze it as a manifestation of the contemporary crisis of capitalism.
Enzo Traverso is among those critical thinkers who have awakened us from our dogmatic slumber, warning us of the danger of fascism today, a danger which has been always lingering in the era of liberal democracy. The political sources of this danger do not go back only to the inter-war years in Europe, but further to the nineteenth-century Bonapartism of the Second Empire in France. And Kojin Karatani is the one who has informed us that, in fact, fascism has its root in Bonapartism—‘qua the prototype of fascism’. In this relation, it is noteworthy to bear in mind the point Karatani makes, namely that we have failed to read closely Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, which precisely revealed the mechanism of Bonapartism and the so-called ‘representative’ democracy, which is always prone to fascism. Karatani further points out that “the crux of fascist movement, as opposed to its stereotype image, lies in offering alienated workers a surplus of life by recovering the authenticity [Eigentrichkeit] of the natural environment’, alluding to a certain ‘fascist ecology’ in our time, adding that ‘It is not the case that fascism always takes the form of jingoism; it is not always involved in the militaristic state. So it is that fascism is not obsolete. It is omnipresent”. In this regard it is instructive to remember the words Theodor Adorno wrote in 1959: “the survival of national socialism within democracy” was more dangerous than “the survival of fascist tendencies against democracy”. We will come back to this relation between ‘democracy’ and ‘fascism’ below.
Here we must mention another failure: not paying enough attention to what Walter Benjamin, who, facing the fascist counter-revolutionary movement of the 1930s, presciently wrote the followings in the epilogue of The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility:
“The proletarianization of modern man and increasing formation of masses are two sides of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly proletarianized masses while leaving intact the property relation which they strive to abolish. It sees its salvation in granting expression to the masses—but on no account granting them the rights. The masses have a right to changed property relations; fascism seeks to give them expression in keeping these relations unchanged.”
If what Benjamin said applies to property relations in the capitalist center in the West, the reactionary neo-fascism exemplified by the theocracy in Iran demonstrates an inability of even denying the masses this same ‘expression’. It brutally represses any ‘right’ to expression aimed at changing the dominant oppressive property relations. This is the crux of the matter. Not only the Western radical intellectuals, but also the Iranian intellectuals, must be mindful of the fact that the struggle against fascism must be accompanied by the struggle for changing the property relations as the defining crisis in current global capitalism. Short of this, radical intellectuals will not be able to address the problem confronting us in our contemporary political predicament. The current oppositional movement against the neo-fascist theocracy in Iran, once it is organized on a national political level with a clear leadership, has every chance of aiming at the highest social target, that is, putting an end to obscene inequality at the economic base. This oppressive economic base is firmly held in place by the regime bolstered and abetted through its ‘Ideological State Apparatus’, to invoke Althusser’s term, wrapped in rabid religious and backward cultural edicts to ruthlessly exercise its rule in the absence of any genuine political representation and any possible mechanism that might allow political and social mobilization to change the dominant oppressive property relations.
Before reflecting further on the character of neo-fascist fundamentalist theocracy in Iran as a special case, let us briefly examine the general trend of post-fascism with a look at the twentieth-century classical fascism of the 1930s, which, it must be noted, had both religious and masculine characters, the reactionary Catholic males, especially in the case of Spain under Franco. This examination is warranted as fascism can no longer be in the ‘realm of historical scholarship’. In 1920–1925 in Italy and 1930–1933 in Germany, the elite industrial classes shifted their allegiances from liberalism to fascism in a desperate attempt to defend their interests against the rising working class and communist movements. At present, it must be noted that the same elite has allied itself with neoliberalism waging a war against the poor. Their political representatives are well known. The process of fascicization in the twenty-first century has engulfed nations in both the global North and South with the rise of far-right authoritarian figures, reviving the ‘State of Exception’ and the figure of the ‘Sovereign’. As a reminder, the notion of ‘state of exception’ goes back to Carl Schmitt (the German intellectual in Nazi Germany, whose influential critique of liberalism has recently got the attention of the progressive Left), who corresponded with Benjamin, as discussed by Giorgio Agamben in his State of Exception. As Schmitt said, “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception”. On the other hand, the political theory of ‘sovereignty’ has its sources in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan that Schmitt discussed in his The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes. These two notions and their sources are indispensable for our understanding of not only contemporary post-fascism but also the ‘political theology’ that underlies the ideology of the neo-fascist theocracy in Iran.
Now, going back to the case of post-fascism in the last decade, we are aware of the multiple figures from the far-right who have appeared on stage, from Trump in America to Bolsonaro in Brazil, Le Pen in France, Modi in India, Erdogan in Turkey, and now Giorgia Meloni in Italy. At the center of these stands Vladimir Putin in Russia. Alain Badiou has a damning label for these authoritarian figures. In his short book entitled Trump and published in 2019, Badiou used the term ‘democratic fascism’. An apt but, as he says, a ‘paradoxical’ designation. He explains that “after all, the Berlusconis, the Sarkozys, the Le Pens, the Trumps, are operating inside the democratic apparatus, with its election, its oppositions, its scandals, etc.” This term might not be quite applicable to Putin who has imperialistic ambitions with his brutal occupation of Ukraine underlined by his hegemonic reactionary ideology.
Along the line of Badiou’s contention, Mikkle Bolt Rasmussen, in an incisive passage in his Late Capitalist Fascism, writes:
“The new fascist parties are not anti-democratic; they function perfectly within the framework of national democracy addressing the ‘real’ population, maintaining a hollowed-out political system by hitting out at people not deemed to belong to the national community. This is not fascist aberration; this is merely fascist parties highlighting a contradiction immanent in national democracies. Contemporary fascism wishes to return to a simpler time, most often the post-war era, and it does not have the swagger of inter-war fascism; it is less about colonial expansion than about returning to an imagined previous order.”
Rasmussen further points out that today we are confronted with ‘an updated fascism’, ‘a functional equivalent’, which is not an ‘exact repetition’ of the inter-war fascism. Now, we must note that this is not the case with the Iranian regime. The essence of the latter is precisely what we can call as ‘undemocratic fascism’, notwithstanding the fact that, according to Karatani, the “parliamentary system is not intrinsic to democracy, but rather to liberalism.” “Democracy requires,” he adds, “first homogeneity and second—if the need arises—elimination or eradication of heterogeneity.” Consequently, “Bolshevism and Fascism, as with all totalitarian forms, are anti-liberal, however it does not necessarily follow that they are anti-democratic’. The clerical rule and its state functionaries in Iran, operating from within the various unelected institutions, are not obliged to obey even a semblance of ‘democratic’ rule. They do not operate within any ‘democratic apparatus’, notwithstanding the fact that they project an image of fake ‘democracy’, imitating the Western parliamentary system by organizing elections, manipulated and rigged under the various supervisions of ‘Councils’ and ‘Assemblies’ run by the unelected clergy, and managed through a process that keeps sending the so-called ‘representatives’ of the people to the majlis, the so-called ‘Parliament’.
None of the figures named above—Trump, Le Pen, Bolsonaro, Modi, Erdogan, Putin—can be the embodiment of ‘pastoral power’ to cite the term employed by Traverso. Compared with the known dictators of classical fascism in the 1930s, namely Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, these authoritarian figures might look incompetent and incapable of being a ‘good shepherd’. In Traverso’s words: “In the 1930s, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco promised a future and appeared as an effective answer to the economic depression, against exhausted liberal democracies which embodied the vestiges of a collapsed political order. Of course, this was a dangerous illusion—struggling against unemployment by rearming and waging war led to catastrophe—but their propaganda worked pretty well until the Second World War.” If the project of ‘regeneration’ was at the core of classical fascism, the emerging far-right authoritarian figures are its incompetent inheritors. Traverso writes that “the premises for the emergence of this neofascist wave lie in the crisis of hegemony of the global elites whose ruling tools inherited from the old nation-states appear obsolete and increasingly ineffective.” He further notes: “As Gramsci explained revisiting Machiavelli, domination is a combination of repressive apparatuses and cultural hegemony that allows a political regime to appear as legitimate and beneficial rather than tyrannical and oppressive’, and from a historical perspective, classical fascism was not only a form of ‘radical nationalism’ promoting the racist idea of nation, but it was also “a practice of political violence, a militant anticommunism, and a complete destruction of democracy. All the same, we must be reminded, anti-communism remains a persistent feature of the current post-fascism, which is on the way to destroying democracy, the ever-exhausted ‘liberal democracy’”.
In regard to the notion of ‘state of exception’ noted above, far-right movements may be good candidates to lead the authoritarian turn towards this state of exception, but they are not capable of managing the biopolitical turn. Borrowing this notion from Foucault, we must note that the neo-fascist theocracy in Iran is a prominent example of this ‘biopolitical’ power. It has exercised for forty years a raw power over women’s bodies, ‘disciplining’ them by forcing on it a veil, the hijab. It has imprisoned and killed with impunity any woman who dared to not abide by it.
The term ‘post-fascism’ might attain a more proper meaning if analyzed according to Karatani’s triadic notion of Capital–State–Nation—a Borromean Knot in Lacanian term. The origin of this triad goes back to Hegel, and later Marx’s critique of it. This term requires that post-fascism be analyzed within the theory of State and Civil Society, which Hegel was the first to bring out in his Philosophy of Right. This means that the analysis of contemporary fascism must be conducted within the critique of capitalism and liberal democracy. In this respect, Rasmussen renders a Marxist reading of fascism by stressing the “relationship between fascism and capitalist accumulation, a crisis-ridden capitalist accumulation” and emphasizes that “late capitalist fascism is national-liberal rather than national-socialist—“law and order” combined with market economy”. In this precise sense, the foundation of Iranian neofascist theocracy and the sources of its crisis of State must be sought in the economics of late capitalism. After forty years of neoliberal capitalism, Rasmussen notes, “the market and individual initiative rules supreme but, confronted with escalating conflicts and never-ending crisis’ that must repress the racial elements of ‘dangerous classes”. At the political, social and cultural levels, this applies equally to some forty years of the rule of the Islamic Republic in Iran with a persistent crisis of legitimacy failing in its project of a total ‘Islamization’ of the Iranian society.
Over forty long years the theocratic regime of Iran has managed to destroy civil society through an organized and at time disguised political violence. No matter the majestic and courageous resistance shown today on the streets of Iran, where brave women are taking their hijab off and thus putting their lives in danger, this spontaneous movement in all probability would not be enough to put an end to the regime. But, as Slavoj Žižek, in solidarity with the courageous Iranian women, has recently said, the West must take note of this and must learn from it. At this point, we should ask this question: What is it that gives a specific historical significance to the collective agency of Iranian women armed with the mantra ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’? It amounts to this: The total disavowal of servitude. September 16, 2022 marks a moment that the Iranian women began to project a self–consciousness, or self-awareness, of freedom. They are acting as if they know very well what the master-slave dialectic in the Hegelian sense is about. Let us take a moment and underline briefly the meaning of this dialectic.
Hegel wrote about the ‘relationship of master [Herrschaft] and servitude [Knechtschaft]’ in his Phenomenology of Spirit and in Encyclopedia. First of all, the German word Herr means ‘lord’, ‘God’, and also any male. In Hegel’s time, as we are told, Herr was reserved for “wealthy landowners, sometime nobility,” but also for the “average man.”  One would have expected that “servants of count and countess to refer to their employers as die Herrschaft.” Herrschaft would be translated as ‘lordship’, ‘supreme rule’, ‘reign’, but also ‘government’, ‘servitude’. Knechtschaft, which apparently has no exact equivalent in English, can be translated as ‘servant, serf, or slave’. So Knechtschaft means a “state of living in material dependence on another person, often without the ability to leave, and working for them under austere circumstances”. Knechtschaft can also have a symbolic connotation at the political level. It can refer to “someone who lives in a country that offers no freedom of speech and no human rights”, that is someone who lives in a state of absolute servitude. What is important to notice is the distinction between the two terms in Knechtschaft itself.
While Knecht refers to singular person, Schaft suggests “the relational involvement of several people”, or in other words, the institutional character of this state of servitude in a country. This country is Iran. Its theocracy in the last forty years has ruled Iran under the reactionary religious dictum of vellayet-e-faghih (‘The Rule of Jurists’), by establishing certain repressive institutions to deny people the freedom of speech and their human rights, and above all, by brutally imposing the hijab on women and keeping them in a state of servitude. That is, until now. In psychoanalytical sense, the Iranian women have reached the point of self-consciousness, or self-knowledge of their owns unconscious. To put it in Hegelian terms, they are coming to their spiritual self-realization to achieve “self-liberating freedom.” This moment of self-knowledge, or self-realization, is irreversible. For the sake of the whole of humanity, the world must support the struggle of the Iranians against neo-fascist theocracy. This regime must come to an end.
 See Kojin Karatani, Transcritique: on Kant and Marx (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
 See Enzo Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism, Populism and the Far Right (London and New York: Verso, 2019), see especially chapter 1 ‘From Fascism to postfascism’. Also see Enzo Traverso, ‘Twenty-First Century Fascism: Where We Are’, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/5257-twenty-first-century-fascism-where-we-are, 3 February 2022.
 Quoted in Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing, Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London and New York: Verso, 2012), 818.
 See Kojin Karatani’s ‘Introduction: On The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, in History and Repetition, ed. Seiji M. Lippit (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012). Also see his Transcritique: on Kant and Marx.
 See Kojin Karatani, Transcritique: On Kant and Marx, n.19, 344.
 Quoted in Enzo Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism, Populism and the Far Right, also see Theodore W. Adorno, ‘The meaning of working Through the Past’, in Critical Models: Intervention and Catchwords, ed. Lydia Goher (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 90.
 See Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technical Reproducibility’, Third Version, in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writing, 1938-1940 , trans. Edmund Jephcott and Others, ed. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), 269.
 See Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005).
 Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, 1.
 See Carl Schmitt, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes, Meaning and Failure of A Political Symbol, trans. George Schwab and Erna Hilfstein, intro. George Schwab, with new forward by Tracy B. Strong (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2008).
 I am specifically referring to Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology, Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. and intro. George Schwab with new Forward by Tracy B. Strong (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2005).
 See Alain Badiou, Trump (Cambridge: Polity, 2019), 13. Badiou prefaces his remarks by pointing out that ‘It is often said that these new political figures—Trump, to be sure, but many others in the word today—resemble the fascists of the 1930s. There is indeed a certain resemblance. But, alas, there is also a major difference: today’s new political figures do not have to confront the powerful and intractable enemies who were the Soviet Union and the communist parties’, 12–13.
 I owe this point to my communication with Todd McGowan who brought it to my attention.
 See Mikkle Bolt Rasmussen, Late Capitalist Fascism (Cambridge: Polity, 2022), 7.
 See Kojin Karatani’s seminal Isonomia and the Origins of Philosophy, trans. Joseph A. Murphy (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017) 16. In this regards Karatani importantly explicates that ‘Modern democracy is a composite of liberalism plus democracy, that is to say liberal democracy. It attempts to combine, therefore, two conflicting things, freedom and equality. If one aims for freedom, inequalities arise. If one aims for equality, freedom is compromised. Liberal democracy cannot transcend this dilemma. It can only swing back and forth like a pendulum between the poles of libertarianism (neoliberalism) and social democracy (the welfare state), 16.
 Enzo Traverso, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/5257-twenty-first-century-fascism-where-we-are, no pagination.
 Enzo Traverso, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/5257-twenty-first-century-fascism-where-we-are, no pagination.
 Enzo Traverso, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/5257-twenty-first-century-fascism-where-we-are, no pagination.
 Mikkle Bolt Rasmussen, Late Capitalist Fascism, 6, 11.
 Mikkle Bolt Rasmussen, Late Capitalist Fascism, 6.
 In this respect see the excellent argument by Reza Afshari in his Human Rights in Iran, The Abuse of Cultural Relativism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), see the ‘Afterward’, especially the section ‘Islamization and Its Failure’.
 See Jon Mills, The Unconscious Abyss, Hegel’s Anticipation of Psychoanalysis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 136.
As the nationwide protest movement in Iran enters its fourth week, the efforts of the regime to suppress it only appear to have had the effect of further agitating the masses and of drawing in new layers.
The youth on the streets and in the university campuses have now been joined by thousands of school students and bazaar merchants, as well as important layers of the working class. Most importantly, a series of strikes have started in the oil and petrochemical sector, the heart of the Iranian economy.
When the regime unleashed a new campaign of violent attacks on street and university protesters on Saturday 1 October, it anticipated strangling the emerging movement in its cradle. Those expectations have now been dashed.
While hundreds, potentially thousands of students have been arrested, and dozens of universities have been shut down, the majority of the more than 100 universities that heeded a call for a nationwide student strike have stood firm.
Meanwhile, the protestors have been joined by a powerful and inspiring movement of female school students, which has swept the country from end to end.
Since schools reopened, numerous videos have circulated every day of large groups of young girls erupting in protest at their schools, taking off their headscarves and swinging them in the air, while chanting such slogans as “Women, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”.
At one school in Bandar Abbas, the students took off their veils and ran onto the streets chanting slogans while being chased by riot police. Another video shows schoolgirls overwhelming a speaker from the basij paramilitary organisation who was invited to address their school with the chant “Basiji get lost!” while swinging their headscarves in the air.
In other instances, there have been reports of parents clashing with security forces after the latter have attempted to arrest their children.
— +۱۵۰۰تصویر (@1500tasvir) October 5, 2022
At the same time, traders of the most important bazaars in Tehran – the Grand Bazaar, Lalehzar, Sepahsalar Garden and Tajrish Bazaar – have also joined the movement, along with the bazaar in Shiraz, shutting down their shops as traders have done in the Kurdistan province and other Kurdish towns for several weeks.
Rather than stomping out the movement, the regime’s repression is whipping broader layers into action. On the evening of Saturday 8 October, in spite of a week of repressive action, the largest protests so far took place across the country, spreading for the first time to poorer working-class areas that had previously stood aside.
In Tehran’s working-class neighbourhood of Naziabad, videos showed relatively large marches, defying a heavy security presence and chanting anti-regime slogans. Similar events were reported across the capital and in many other cities.
In one noteworthy video from Naziabad, a group of riot police removed their helmets and marched alongside the protesters, with one of them patting a marcher on the back in solidarity.
This anecdotal incident demonstrates the degree to which the morale of the regime’s forces of repression has been affected by the relentless pressure of the movement. The rank and file of these forces are often drawn from the same poor conservative layers that in the past few years have exploded onto the political scene in radical, anti-regime protests.
Sensing the latent sympathy of these forces in some instances, protesters have approached them asking for their solidarity. While the moment has not yet come for the armed forces to break, these measures prepare the path for such an event in the future.
For that, however, what is needed first, is to prepare a movement powerful enough to pose a credible challenge to the regime.
Riot police join the protesters against the Islamic Republic.#IranProtests2022 #IranRevolution2022 #MahsaAmini #Mahsa_Amini #مهسا_امینی #IranRevolution #Iran #IranProtests #opIran #IranianLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/3ewhK1Dkk5
— Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) October 10, 2022
Stoking the flames of sectarianism
While state repression has been hard, it is also clear that the regime has (in general) attempted to keep the number of deaths relatively low. It has not yet unleashed the full force of its repressive apparatus on the protests for fear of provoking a larger movement – and probably also because it lacks trust in its own forces.
That is not the case, however, in the Baluchi and Kurdish areas, two of the most deprived areas of Iran.
In Baluchistan province, the regime has killed at least more than 110 people in the past two weeks, 97 of whom were killed on 30 September during a protest against the rape of a 15-year-old girl by a local police chief. This event has since been dubbed ‘Black Friday’.
The regime has falsely portrayed the massacre as a clash between regime forces and a local Saudi-supported Sunni insurgency, which has plagued Baluchistan for years.
The Kurdish areas, meanwhile, as we have previously reported, have witnessed scenes akin to civil war. These areas have hosted the most radical and advanced parts of the movement so far, with a high degree of participation and organisation, as well as a call for a general strike going back to the first days of protest.
Whilst it started with shop owners and merchants, reports indicate that the strike in the Kurdish-majority cities has also spread to parts of the working class. Radical street protests have, on several occasions, succeeded in pushing state forces out of several towns and large parts of the larger cities.
The regime has responded in the past week by stepping up its repression to the point of attacking protesters with artillery and drones. The steady sound of explosions and machine gun fire can be heard in videos emerging from the city of Sanandaj and Saqqez, and the death toll appears to be on the rise. The regime has also warned that it is preparing to make incursions into northern Iraq to attack left-wing Kurdish organisations that have bases there.
In regime propaganda, the false claim is continuously repeated that the present movement is organised by western imperialism in an attempt at regime change, and in order to break up Iran through support for secessionist national minorities.
While it is true that US imperialism – and its Saudi and Israeli allies – have indeed pursued a policy of regime change, and have supported reactionary groups amongst the national minorities, they have not managed to wrest control over the present movement.
There have not been any secessionist demands or chants, neither in the Kurdish nor the Baluchi or any other area inhabited by national minorities. Rather, it is the clear tactic of the regime itself to attempt to divide the movement by diverting sections of it down national and sectarian lines – an agenda that coincides with that of western imperialism.
Nevertheless, these attempts have not had much success so far. On the contrary, the movement has awakened a deep mood of solidarity between the ethnic groups in Iran, which the regime has deliberately attempted to keep divided against one another for decades as a means to maintain itself.
To overcome oppression of the national minorities, what is first and foremost necessary is a united struggle of all the peoples of Iran against their common enemy: the Iranian ruling class.
And crucial to this struggle is the entrance of the working class onto the scene as an organised force.
The workers begin to move
An important step in this direction was taken on the morning of Monday 10 October, when around 4,000 workers of Bushehr Petrochemical, Damavand Petrochemical and Hengam Petrochemical downed tools and walked off their sites in an indefinite strike in support of the movement. Furthermore, Sadara Petrochemical Company was preemptively shut down by the bosses in anticipation of strike action.
These contract companies operate in the Assaluyeh petrochemical complex – one of the largest such complexes in the world. After downing their tools, the striking workers blocked a highway leading into the complex with rocks and burning barrels of tar, while chanting slogans such as “Death to Khamenei” and “Don’t call it a protest, it is called a revolution!” Later on in the day, the workers also set fire to the local private security buildings.
— بیدار🏴🚩 (@M_d_808) October 10, 2022
— گلن اوجا (@GalanOoja2020) October 10, 2022
One worker filming the strike could be heard saying “Long live Iran! Long live Lurs, Turks, Kurds, Arabs and Bakhtiaris!”
This display of class solidarity across ethnic backgrounds is a response to the regime’s accusations that the striking workers represent separatist national minority movements. It shows the instinctive internationalist character of the working class; its potential to unite all layers of society behind it in the revolutionary struggle; and how such a struggle can overcome national oppression.
The workers of several other nearby companies also later joined the strike and rally. It has been reported that local security forces have been reinforced and have blocked the roads leading to protesting workers, so as to keep other groups from joining them.
But only hours after the strike broke out in Assaluyeh, workers also walked off in phase twelve of the South Pars petrochemical complex in Kangan – another huge petrochemical complex – and in the Abadan oil refinery, the historical epicentre of the three month general strike that paved the way for the overthrow of the hated Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the revolution of 1979.
In Monday’s strike, phase two of the Abadan refinery was completely shut down, and the workers were joined by those of several freight companies.
These strikes, which are predominantly amongst casual labourers, were preceded last week by two warnings issued by the Council for Organising the Protests of Oil Contract Workers (COPOCW), an organisation which has led a series of nationwide strikes in the past years.
A similar warning has now also been issued by an unknown group of permanent contract workers, who operate the most essential parts of Iran’s oil and petrochemical industry.
After the start of yesterday’s strike, the COPOCW published the following statement on its Telegram page, which starts with a poem by a contemporary radical poet:
“We will strike: over scrapheap-ready buses, over a life worthy of an animal, over bed bug-ridden dormitories, over contaminated food, over surge hours, over the hour they announce that you have to work overtime, over waking up at ungodly hours, over the cheque that never cleared, over the unpaid [social] insurance, over the clock that shakes you more than than the shaking of a bus, over the ‘forces of the project’, over all of these we will protest tomorrow.
“The Council for Organising the Protests of Oil Contract Workers, calls on all oil workers – be they project employees, those on permanent contracts, or piece workers, fuel transportation and operations workers, colleagues working in national drilling, exploitation, refineries and petrochemicals – to join a nationwide strike in the oil sector in solidarity with the protests of the people.
“In this solidarity strike, the organising council demands the immediate and unconditional release of those recently arrested and all political prisoners, the clearing of the forces from the streets, an end to all repression, and the trial of those authorities and perpetrators responsible for the killing of Mahsa Amini and all those who have been murdered by regimes forces of repression during this period.”
Immediately after the outbreak of the strike in the petrochemical sector, the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company Workers’ Union, a union that is now very popular, and which has stood out for its radical strikes and demands, such as nationalisation and workers’ management in industry, issued a powerful statement calling for a nationwide political general strike.
We publish the full translation of their statement here:
“Comrades! Oppressed people!
The protest and street uprising of the girls of the sun and of the revolution has entered its fourth week.
Fighting girls and boys have shaken the streets and alleys with the slogan, “woman, life, freedom,” in order to achieve freedom and equality through their glorious struggle: freedom from oppression and exploitation, freedom from discrimination and inequality.
Our children on the streets need solidarity and support in order to get rid of oppression, suffocation and discrimination.
In such a situation, in which the blood of our children has coloured the pavement of the streets, the beginning of the workers’ strike in various oil and petrochemical sectors has breathed new life and hope into the body of this struggle.
It could only be expected, for the sake of justice and for the sake of the children of labour and toil, that the fathers and mothers, the exploited sisters and brothers, stand by their side, and stop the wheels of production and wealth from moving.
Today [10 October], the first spark of this unity and solidarity was ignited with the enthusiastic presence of project workers working in Bushehr Petrochemical, Abadan Refinery and Asalouye.
The solidarity of workers in support of their children, brothers and sisters on the street, is the urgent need of this movement.
The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers’ Union for its part, congratulates the workers’ strike in various oil and petrochemical sectors in support of the street protests.
Our children, sisters and brothers expect that other sectors of services and production will join the nationwide strike, because freedom from oppression and exploitation, from discrimination and inequality, is only feasible with unity and solidarity.
Honest and knowledgeable workers and toilers;
The uprising of the girls on the street needs support. The girls of this land have decided to make a huge change, a change that will bring the liberation of women in other areas.
This great and laudable uprising should be linked with the strike of workers everywhere in this land.
To get rid of discrimination and oppression, to get rid of poverty and hardship, to have bread and freedom, let us not leave the girls of the sun and of the revolution alone.
Girls of the sun and of the revolution;
On the day of victory, the whole world will take off their hats in front of you – you gave everyone a lesson in standing up and resisting.
Long live the union and class solidarity of the workers for liberation!
Towards a nationwide strike in the services and production sectors!”
The entrance onto the scene in an organised manner of the working class – in particular in the oil industry – is a decisive turning point.
The revolutionary youth have shown an inspiring amount of bravery and will to sacrifice. But that in itself is not enough to bring down the hated regime. Their position in production gives the workers the power to bring the whole country to a standstill and to stop the regime’s repression in its tracks.
More importantly, a political general strike inevitably places the question of power on the agenda. Who are the masters of society? The ruling class, that maintains itself solely on the exploitation of the workers and poor? Or those whose labour produces all wealth?
The regime is acutely aware of this fact. Those in power now have a clear recollection of the general strike of the 1979 revolution. That is why they have always enforced a zero-tolerance policy on labour activism in the major industries, especially in the oil sector, which is by far the most important sector of the Iranian economy.
Reports are surfacing of worker activists being arrested and security forces being mobilised to important industrial areas to crack down on strike activity. But such repression, as we have seen of late, could have the opposite effect of inciting more layers of the working class to enter the struggle.
The role of the youth
The idea of a national general strike has already captured the imagination of the youth on the streets, in schools, and in universities. The task now is to support the workers and assist them by all means in the spreading of the nascent strike movement.
Such efforts are already underway in many areas. In Isfahan on Monday night, an anonymous group put up leaflets inviting workers to join a general strike on walls and on car windows in parts of the city. Another statement by a university in Tehran was shared widely on Telegram, praising the historical achievement of the strike and calling it an example to be followed in the revolutionary struggle.
This campaign must be put on an organised and systematic footing in order to achieve maximum effect. The revolutionary youth must find ways to approach the workers and help them in all the practical and organisational challenges of organising strike action. They must also listen to the demands of the workers and incorporate them into their own programme.
To systematically carry out this effort, revolutionary committees of struggle need to be set up in every school, university, neighbourhood, and workplace, working to spread the agitation of the strike and to plan the next steps for the movement. This is already happening in some areas.
In the Kurdish-majority city of Marivan, a group of revolutionary youth published the following statement, which has been circulated widely on social media:
Resolution of the revolutionary youth of the neighbourhoods of Marivan
Resolution number 1
Fighting people of Marivan!
Your mass uprising started in protest against the tragic death of Shalier Rasouli and continued along with the nationwide protests of the Iranian people, which were triggered by the government murder of Mahsa Amini.
Today, 23 days after the Mahsa uprising began, more than 100 cities, 50 universities, and dozens of schools have joined the popular protests. Students and teachers have joined the mass uprising of the Iranian people in various forms, and once again the students at Sharif University of Technology became the bastion of freedom.
The youth of the neighbourhoods have been fighting since the first day. The people of Kurdistan have combined the tactic of the general strike with street protests. Meanwhile, the Islamic terrorists killed dozens of people in Sistan and Baluchistan on Black Friday. Parts of the oil workers have gone on strike and workers across the country have threatened the government with wider strikes. In a word, the continuation of protests has gradually provided the necessary opportunity for organisation.
Friends! Iran’s political situation will never return to before the Mahsa uprising. The vanguard women are walking ahead of the rest of society as trailblazers of protest. Women who, after years of suffocating and tyrannical rule, have found an opportunity to shout for their rights, have smelled a breeze of freedom, are dancing and chanting on the streets with enthusiasm. They have nothing in common with the women that existed before the uprising and never will.
So, we, the revolutionary youth of the neighbourhoods of Marivan, have decided to advance our struggles in a more organised way, like our comrades in Tehran and Sanandaj. In this way, we ask all the revolutionary youth of the neighbourhoods of Marivan to join this movement and assist in continuing the protests.
Let us continue the protests with every method and initiative we can. By maintaining our own security, we can continue the protests and gradually prepare more serious struggles and wider organisations.
Another very interesting statement was issued by the students of Isfahan University:
Resolution number one: another step forward, a huge gathering of the public and the conquest of the streets; what are the next steps of our revolution?
Considering that these days, student protests are like the blood flowing in the body of the revolution, keeping the revolution alive and constantly changing the situation; First of all, we need to emphasise the continuation of protests of students all over the country!
The government is currently in a very weak position. Today and tonight, in cities such as Tehran, Karaj, Arak and Kurdistan (Sanandaj and other cities); the government lost a number of city streets and had to retreat temporarily.
Certainly, despite the ups and downs, these victories will soon enter different phases, and with the mistakes caused by the fatigue and incapacity of the repressive forces, we will undoubtedly be able to significantly change the balance of political forces between the revolutionaries and the murderous government.
In this regard, the second point is the urban organisation of people in the form of neighbourhood protest councils. By creating secure platforms for collective action over secure networks such as Signal or Telegram, the protesting people and the protesting youth of the neighbourhoods can make the necessary arrangements for providing food, plan protest actions, weapons of protest and whatever they need. It is only in this way that we can continue the protests and achieve significant successes on the streets.
The third thing, which is very important, is a supplementary element called the expansion of nationwide general strikes throughout society. At present, street protests have recorded significant progress. With nationwide and general strikes, protesting groups in the streets feel more supported. When the strikes reach the industrial mother centres of labour and transportation, the wheel of repression of the government will practically cease to work. No army or corps can survive without heavy military expenses that are directly financed by the country’s oil and petrochemical industries.
Finally, it is necessary to mention:
By keeping the protests alive in the university and outside the university, the students have confirmed their serious and firm decision for a humanistic revolution in Iran. We will win victory and in this way we will destroy every source of oppression and tyranny.
The statements above offer a glimpse of the enormous creative power of the youth, the workers and the poor. The self-organisation of the masses is a hallmark of all true revolutionary movements.
We saw this with the rise of the soviets in the Russian Revolution, and the factory and neighbourhood Shuras (meaning ‘councils’), which for a brief period competed for power during the 1979 revolution in Iran. These structures form the embryo of a future society fighting to be born.
But in order to reach that potential, they must, first of all, reach all layers of the masses, in particular the working class. It is imperative that the committees of struggle are spread as widely as possible, and are connected on a local, regional and national level so as to become the organised expression of the will of the movement itself.
In this way, the as-of-yet unsolved problem of leadership can also be addressed.
The Iranian youth, and young women in particular, have shown enormous revolutionary power, resilience and will to sacrifice. Without any help, any organisation, and with little experience, they have brought about the biggest crisis in the history of the present regime. Their struggles for an end to dictatorship and oppression echo the yearnings of the vast majority of the Iranian masses.
For these, the present regime has nothing to offer but more misery. In a country brimming with talent and willing hands, and with vast natural resources underneath its soil, millions of people are forced to endure chronic unemployment and biting poverty.
Even for those who are lucky enough to possess a job, wages – if they are paid at all – rarely cover more than the bare necessities of life, if that. For the workers, the future only holds increased exploitation and desperation. For the youth, there is no future.
Meanwhile, the sole occupation of the mullahs who run the country, and who preach piety and modesty to everyone, seems to be a ceaseless looting frenzy, leeching off the labour of the workers and poor.
This is not just a reflection of the dead end of the present regime, but of the dead end of Iranian capitalism altogether. It displays the utter inability of the capitalist class to provide a path forward for society. Unable to offer anything but continuously declining living standards, it can only sustain itself by the most inhuman oppression, and by dividing society along gender, national, and religious lines.
The only way for the Iranian people to raise themselves above the present barbaric conditions on offer to them, to achieve true liberation, is to fight against the capitalist system itself; to take power into their own hands, and establish a socialist society free of bosses and clerics, and of oppression and division – where universal equality and solidarity will lay the foundations for a better life for all.
More than 76 people have died and hundreds have been arrested during two weeks of protests in Iran. Protests broke out on September 17, the day the funeral was held for Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman killed while in the custody of the morality police (the baseeji). She was arrested on September 13 for not properly covering her hair as mandated by Iranian law.
Protests have spread to over 80 cities in Iran and across all 31 provinces, with students striking to join the protests and oil workers threatening to strike if the government doesn’t end its repression of the protests.
Iran has provided no information about cause of explosion in Isfahan that injured at least nine workers
A factory that makes Iranian drones has suffered a major explosion days after Israel had claimed that Iran was providing drones to Hamas in Gaza.
The blast at the weekend injured at least nine workers at the petrochemical factory in Isfahan. The Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (Hesa), which produces a variety of aircraft and drones for Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, is located in the complex owned by Sepahan Nargostar Chemical Industries.
Coast guard vessel takes action after 13 Iranian fast boats come within 150 yards in strait of Hormuz
A US coast guard ship fired about 30 warning shots as a group of 13 Iranian fast boats sped toward US navy vessels in the strait of Hormuz, in what the Pentagon called “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers by the naval arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGCN).
The incident marked the second time within the last month that US military vessels have had to fire warning shots because of what they said was unsafe behavior by Iranian vessels in the region, after a relative lull in such interactions over the past year.
The coup attempt that unfolded on January 6, 2021, in Washington D.C., took me back to the summer of my youth in Tehran, Iran in 1953. My grandfather held my hand firmly as we walked to the Majlis (the parliament) in early August of that year to hear Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq debate the nationalization of Iranian oil.
Grandfather, a distinguished jurist of Iran’s High Court and former governor general of the province of Khorasan, was a charismatic raconteur and a man of impeccable taste. He had been invited by the prime minister to witness the debate over the future of Iran’s oil, which was then in the hands of the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
Tension was palpable on Tehran’s crowded streets. On our way to the Majlis, we passed by grandfather’s favorite newspaper offices which were being ransacked by Shaban Jafari, aka Shaban the Brainless, and his votaries. Shaban the Brainless, a favorite thug of the monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was on the payroll of CIA operative, Kermit Roosevelt.
In his book, “Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran,” Roosevelt explains how he was tasked by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and CIA Director, Allen Dulles to overthrow the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mossadeq. From the bowels of the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Roosevelt set up his command post to carry out the CIA’s Operation Ajax.
Shaban the Brainless and his men were paid by Roosevelt to recruit insurrectionists and to harass and beat the prime minister’s supporters. Grandfather and I saw them at the Majlis gate, intimidating visitors. Fearing for my safety, grandfather swooped me into his arms; and for the first and last time in my life, I saw tears in his eyes. He later explained those tears. In his own beautiful way, he said, I brought you here (Majlis) to celebrate democracy and I am afraid we will now have to mourn for it.
The U.S.-British plot to control Iranian oil bent the arc of Iran’s burgeoning democracy toward despotism. Authoritarianism was resurrected when the coup plotters returned the Shah to the throne. With U.S. backing, he resumed power in August 1953 and became the anchor of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
How little Washington knew of Iran was revealed in President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 New Year’s Eve toast in Tehran where he said, “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.”
One week later, Iranians began to participate in massive demonstrations that eventually culminated in one of the 20th century’s greatest and most consequential revolutions.
Iran is still recovering from the U.S.-British orchestrated coup that interrupted its nascent democracy. Both the United States and Iran continue to suffer the unintended and long-term consequences of America’s misguided policy of regime change.
U.S. pundits have been quick to point out that the January 6 violent attack on the nation’s Capitol was an aberration—“it’s not America” they say. But in reality, it is woven tightly into the fabric of America.
In pursuit of its political, economic and military interests, the United States has toppled governments around the world since overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. The CIA’s success in Iran emboldened it to topple the Guatemalan government in 1954 and led to the invasion of scores of other countries; including Lebanon, Vietnam, Panama and most recently Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.
The mob attack on Iran’s parliament that I witnessed as a tyke has been forever seared in my memory. It was also seared into the Iranian nation’s memory. It took Iran more than a quarter of a century to redress their grievances by overthrowing the Shah and seizing the embassy from which the CIA hatched its coup.
At this time in America’s history, it behooves us to recall the words of T.S. Eliot:
“Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future,And time future contained in time past….Time past and time futureWhat might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”
(c) 2021, Dr. M. Reza Behnam
Dr. M. Reza Behnam is a political scientist whose specialities include American foreign policy and the history, politics and governments of the Middle East.
Foreign policy experts are sounding the alarm that U.S. President Donald Trump could launch an assault on Iran in the final weeks of his administration, potentially provoking a full-blown war just days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Fears of a military confrontation are mounting in the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement Sunday that the USS Nimitz would remain in the Middle East — a reversal of Friday’s decision to signal a de-escalation of hostility toward Tehran by redeploying the aircraft carrier out of the region prior to this past weekend’s one-year anniversary of the Trump-ordered assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
The intensification of tensions between the U.S. and Iran also coincides with Trump’s efforts to retain power despite losing his reelection bid in November 2020.
The right-wing coup attempt has grown increasingly desperate ahead of Wednesday’s expected certification of Biden’s victory by Congress, with many observers calling for Trump to be criminally prosecuted following the emergence of evidence that the president on Saturday tried to intimidate Georgia’s top election official into overturning the results.
“Trump may be planning his biggest — and likely most disastrous — stunt yet,” Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, wrote late last week. “Whatever his calculation may be, there is clearly a risk that the last three weeks of Trump’s presidency may be the most perilous.”
Parsi’s concerns are shared by Danny Postel, assistant director of the Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern University. “Trump is a very wounded and very cornered animal in an end-game scenario. He’s got a few weeks left, and we know that he is capable of extremely erratic behavior,” Postel told Al Jazeera in an interview this past weekend. “It may be the case that his most erratic, most reckless lashing out is yet to come.”
Parsi said Sunday night that a former U.S. military official told him that Trump starting a war with Iran is “probable.”
According to what the former official told Parsi, “It will relieve the pressure from the Georgia recording leaks.” Trump’s aggression also comes amid what Parsi called “a showdown in the Senate on Jan. 6 with demonstrations and potential for violence in Washington, D.C.”
Frmr US military official tells me Trump starting war w/ Iran is “probable”:
‘It will relieve the pressure from the Georgia recording leaks & also lines up the 5-6 Jan internal politics. If nothing else, it leaves a mess for Biden. Hopefully, Iran shows some tactical patient…’
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) January 4, 2021
In his attempted justification of the Pentagon’s about-face on redeploying the warship Nimitz, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller cited alleged “threats issued by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other U.S. government officials.”
“No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America,” Miller added ominously.
As Parsi explained last week, “Trump has made more threats of war against Iran than any other country during his four years as President.”
“As late as last month, he ordered the military to prepare options against Iranian nuclear facilities,” Parsi wrote. “Though the New York Times reported that Trump’s aides derailed those plans, U.S. troop movements in the past few weeks may suggest otherwise.” He continued:
Since October, the Pentagon has deployed 2,000 additional troops as well as an extra squadron of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia. It has also sent B-52 bombers on missions in the Persian Gulf three times, kept the USS Nimitz close to Iran, and announced that it is sending a Tomahawk-firing submarine just outside of Iranian waters. Moreover, Israel — whose officials have confirmed to several U.S. newspapers that it was behind the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last month — has sent a nuclear-equipped submarine to the Persian Gulf.
Officially, all of these military maneuvers are aimed at “deterring” Iran, even though Israel assassinated an Iranian official in Iran and not the other way around… Not surprisingly, Tehran has interpreted the measures as threats and provocations, similar to how the United States would perceive Iranian warships posturing off Florida’s coast.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed Thursday that he is aware of intelligence suggesting the Trump administration is engaged in a “plot to fabricate a pretext for war” during its final days in power, as Common Dreams reported last week.
War with Iran could be Trump’s final punishment on the American people for rejecting him & a massive act of sabotage against Biden for defeating him.https://t.co/BdddruvIhA
— Sina Toossi (@SinaToossi) December 30, 2020
In an apparent reflection of the seriousness of the president’s threats to democracy in the U.S. as well as to diplomacy with Iran, all 10 living former defense secretaries — including former Trump officials James Mattis and Mark Esper, along with Iraq War architects Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — on Sunday penned an op-ed rebuking Trump.
The very worrisome question is why all 10 living former Secretaries of Defense, including Trump officials Esper and Mattis, chose to speak out now. What is the scenario they are worried about?
— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) January 3, 2021
“Could Trump seek to start a military confrontation with Iran in hopes of creating enough chaos as to prevent Joe Biden from taking office in January?” asked Parsi. “There is no reason to believe such a gambit would work, yet the insanity of the idea is not a convincing reason as to why a desperate Trump wouldn’t try it.”
Tehran says it will defend itself forcefully as tensions rise ahead of anniversary of Suleimani killing
Iran fears that Donald Trump is preparing to order a military attack on its regional interests in the final three weeks of his administration and has warned it would retaliate against US bases in the Middle East.
Concerns have increased in Tehran over the past week that the US president could authorise a strike against Iranian proxy groups operating in Iraq, or a more extensive attack against Iran, a foe his government has attempted to break through nearly four years of economic sanctions and military muscle.