The scale and scope of the protests that have been shaking Iran for more than one month have shocked many outside observers. However, for the array of Iran’s socialist and left-wing forces that all have to operate clandestinely, this moment of reckoning for the country’s clerical leadership has been a long time coming.
One of the political forces that has thrown its weight behind this important moment in the struggle against the Islamic Republic is the Communist Party of Iran (CPI).
Formed in 1983, four years after the establishment of the theocratic regime, the Communist Party was a merger of several leftist forces including the armed Iranian Kurdish group known as Komala. To this day, Komala continues to maintain a military wing known as the Peshmerga that is based on the Iran-Iraq border, and it functions as the Communist Party’s Kurdish section.
Marcel Cartier spoke to Marzieh Nazeri and Abbas Mansouran, two prominent members of the CPI’s leadership regarding the current uprising, including how to characterise it, whether it could lead to the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, whether the United States and Israel are behind the protests — as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has asserted — and how significant a role national oppression plays in Iranian society.
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Protests have been shaking the Islamic Republic of Iran for more than one month now. How do you characterise this historic moment?
Our party calls the current uprising “the Mahsa uprising”, referring to Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman who was arrested in Tehran by morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab loosely, and killed in police custody after receiving a traumatic brain injury. Her murder shocked and ignited the rage of the society. In fact, Iranian society was like a storehouse of gunpowder and Zhina’s state murder was a spark.
This uprising is not just a protest or response to Mahsa’s death, but also a continuation of historical demands. It’s due to the acceleration of neoliberal policies, privatisations and deregulations that have been imposed on society. This is in addition to the double oppression imposed on women by the Islamic Republic’s legislation. The imposition of the hijab was actually a symbol of subjugation, slavery and ownership over the body and soul of women. This time the uprising entered a new phase in a more widespread and more united and determined way for the revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic.
The second prominent aspect of this uprising is the leadership of women in the demonstrations. Although women have always been at the forefront of protests and uprisings in Iran, this time the presence of women has been impressive and glorious.
The third feature of this uprising is that it removes political Islam from the private and social life of the society.
The fourth feature is the solidarity and unity of the ethnic groups all over Iran, which is unprecedented in the history of the country.
The fifth characteristic of this movement is the leadership of students, especially schoolgirls. It is the solidarity and support of hundreds of thousands of Iranians outside of Iran as well as freedom-lovers around the world that has made this uprising a global uprising.
How is this current uprising different from previous protest movements, such as the Green Movement in 2009 or the fuel protests of 2019?
During the Green Movement protests that took place in 2009, people took to the streets under the pretext of the presidential elections and were massacred by the regime. When the reformists saw that the people had targeted the entire regime and election was just a spark, they forced people to go home, and this caused the failure of the 2009 uprising.
In 2017, protests were orchestrated by the poorest layers of the society, known as the protest of the hungry. It didn’t achieve its goals because of the crackdown by the Islamic regime and the absence of a revolutionary alternative. During the uprising in 2019, people occupied the streets again when the masses all over the country protested against the sudden increase in the price of fuel. It ended in a short time with the killing of more than 1500 people and thousands of arrests over just a few days.
The biggest difference between this time and the previous uprisings is that people’s illusions of the regime have disappeared, and the protests continue every day and night; young people, especially women, play a leading role and their goal is to bring down the capitalist Islamic regime.
Undoubtedly, this magnificent revolutionary movement will change the balance of power in favor of labour and mass struggles. Also, the Iranian women’s movement will enter a new stage in the fight against gender oppression, compulsory hijab and anti-women laws and regulations of the Islamic regime.
Despite the brutality and violence of the military forces against the protests and despite internet shutdowns, the uprising continues and is advancing both in quality and quantity. Also, people are hopeful after workers in oil and petrochemical industries in Asaloye and Abadan joined the uprising by going on strike from October 10.
The scope and duration of these protests seem to provide a major historical challenge for the clerical regime. However, the Islamic Republic has withstood previous challenges to its rule. Is it actually possible is it that the regime will fall?
The ongoing revolutionary uprising has caused such tremendous changes in Iranian society that no one can hide that the process of overthrowing the Islamic Republic is irreversible. For 43 years, we have never seen the regime’s oppressive forces escaping and hiding from protesters. Now this is an everyday scene! Even school children now talk politics and are taking part in the protests and chanting “We don’t want an Islamic Republic!”, “Death to the dictator”, “death to the tyrant, whether shah or a leader”.
Also, protesters have no choice but to move forward. If women are to be freed from captivity; If the society is supposed to get out of the captivity of capital; If religion is to be separated from government and education; If unconditional political freedoms are to be established; If the death penalty is to be abolished and the doors of prisons to be broken; If we no longer want to see the phenomenon of working children, and if we want to achieve our dozens of other hopes and dreams, the first step is to throw the Islamic Republic into the dustbin of history. All these tragedies, all these calamities, all this poverty and misery, the marginalisation of millions, the enslavement of wage earners, the embezzlement of thousands of billions are the result of a predatory capitalist Islamic system in our society.
Much evidence shows that the pro-Islamic Republic forces are falling. The top officials of the regime have become frustrated and confused. The prospect of the collapse of the ruling regime is ahead.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 led to the overthrow of the Shah, but did not lead to a workers’ government. If the Islamic Republic falls, what will replace it?
The overthrow of this regime does not mean the victory of the revolution. Currently, there is a conflict between alternatives. The bourgeois opposition forces of Iran are trying to get power from the top and to replace the Islamic government of the capitalists with a nonreligious authoritarian capitalist government.
If the demands of workers, women and the oppressed masses of the people are to be realised by overthrowing the regime of the Islamic Republic, we must have a clear picture of what it means to have a revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The victory of the workers, women, the poor and the oppressed masses of the society depends on the fact that the working women and men, the main producers of the wealth of this society and the toilers, who are now the fighters on the street, take political power in form of councils, have a direct role in the administration and management of the society and act both as legislators and as enforcers of the law.
Now that we are witnessing workers, revolutionary students and youth having a more active and radical participation in the uprising — and they have shown how class aware they are in their statements and slogans — there is more hope for a revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic regime, which means the victory of the labour revolution and the continuation of this revolution for the realisation of socialism.
The working class in Iran has taken part in thousands of protests and strikes in recent years, and they have gained valuable experience and training. We hope that they will use these experiences and paralyse the military machine of the Islamic regime with their nationwide strikes. Without the organised, class consciousness and independent presence of the working class, the revolutionary victory of this movement is not possible.
Workers in the oil industry and workers from Haft Tappeh Cane Sugar Company have during many of their strikes and rallies announced that their only alternative to break free from slavery is council management. These days the same alternative is voiced from different parts of Iran by revolutionary youth and students. The realisation of this demand is related to the active, intelligent and revolutionary intervention of the workers.
The Islamic Republic asserts that these protests have been orchestrated by the United States and Israel. How do you assess these statements?
This is government propaganda. This regime has always used this kind of propaganda and imaginary enemies to suppress people and to maintain its backward and reactionary forces and base. In Iran, nobody really believes these claims and it is only for the consumption of a handful of government supporters.
Five years ago, Ahvaz Steel Complex workers and protesting masses in some Iranian cities chanted, “Our enemy is right here!” The nearly 55 million workers, and nearly 15 million high school students, and the magnificent and historic uprising of millions of women in Iran, have all risen to achieve their historical demands and rights. The masses do not accept the intervention of anti-revolutionary forces, including imperialists, in this revolutionary uprising, and the only request they have is to end the support of global imperialism to this collapsing government.
Let’s not forget that all authoritarian and fascist regimes have used imaginary enemies and fabricated crises for maintaining their rule, and make the claim that the masses support them until their last moments.
The politics of the United States and the West is still to save this criminal regime. Of course, these world powers are at the same thinking of the preparation and formation of an alternative to the regime among the bourgeois opposition. If we look at the history of the past 40 years, the Islamic government was established at the Guadalupe Summit in 1978 with the support of the West. The Islamic Republic led the 8-year war against Iraq by buying weapons from Israel, the United States and other western capitalist countries, and the bombing of Iraq was carried out by Israeli warplanes.
Imperialism is trying to organise its counter-revolutionary alternative to bring its bourgeois alternative to power in the event of the overthrow of the regime, just like the previous revolution of 1979, where after the Guadalupe meeting, the Islamic regime lead by Khomeini was brought to power.
But repeating 1978 is not easily possible. A more organised, experienced, and politically conscious working class has emerged in Iran, and the socialist and radical left political organisations will not easily allow the right-wing and bourgeoisie to be put in power in an imperialistic regime change policy.
Mahsa Amini’s murder highlighted the double oppression of both women and Kurds in Iran. How important of a role does national oppression of Kurds and other national minorities play in Iranian society?
The double oppression of capitalism and nationalism on Kurds, Baloch, Arabs, Azeri, Turkmen and others since the formation of the nation state in Iran has played an important role in suppressing mass movements in Iran. Imperialism and the Islamic regime have used the tactic and accusation of separatism, trying to create hatred and discord between Iran’s ethnic groups as a tactic to suppress movements all over the country.
Removing the oppression of nationalities and recognising the right to secession is one and the same. Taken together with the proposal to maintain the voluntary alliance between the workers and the oppressed masses all over Iran, it is a part of our programmatic principles. Guaranteeing the elimination of oppression of ethnic groups and women and establishing equality and freedom and emancipation from the oppression of the nation-state and capitalism, is part of the victory of the labour revolution and the rule of the councils.
One of the achievements of the current nationwide movement has been the creation of nationwide solidarity among all the ethnicities of Iran. Indeed, the name and blood of Zhina (Mahsa) has been the code of this historical solidarity. This magnificent unity, solidarity and resistance in Kurdistan and Khuzestan and from the north, east, west and south of Iran, has destroyed all the efforts of imperialism and the Islamic regime to divide and rule.
The society has risen to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Our target is to continue to march forward towards the workers’ revolution.