Despite terrible beatings handed out by state thugs, despite leaders of opposition groups being gaoled, despite attempts to close down all communications by e-mail, phone etc., and despite the full force of the reactionary, clerical-fascist, Iranian State warning protesters not to demonstrate, hundreds of thousands of Iranians have continued to take to the streets to protest at the fact that their votes have been robbed from them.
The spearhead of the demonstrations appears to be students, but also about half of the demonstrators have been women, whilst on the Government organised rally on Sunday only around 2% were women! This is an indication that opposition to the reactionary nature of the Islamic regime is rising, this is no longer just a middle class objection to Mousavi losing the vote. In fact, Moussavi seems to be trying to tone the protests down. Not surprisingly, because he has been a stalwart of the Islamic regime himself. He must realise the possibility that the protests will go way beyond simply changing on bourgeois, clericalist politician for another!
But, whether that happens or not depends upon the actions of the Iranian working class. The demonstrations in Greece, recently, demonstrated that so long as opposition remains at the level of street, protest the system remains secure. Eventually, protesters get fed up of coming out on the streets, and the revolt fades, because it has nowhere else to go. Protest requires a direction, and within that direction it needs a strategy and plan. In France in 1968, the protests went way beyond just the street demonstration. Workers occupied the factories, and recognising that simple strike action harmed other workers, the strikers and those occupying the factories set up committees to ensure that production was carried out to ensure vital supplies were produced and distributed to those that needed them. As the period after the February revolution of 1917 in Russia demonstrated you cannot simply remain on strike for ever. Workers need things to be produced too. Occupying the factories is pointless, unless it is used to introduce workers control over production in those factories to meet the continuing needs of workers in general.
None of that can be done without some kind of plan, without some kind of co-ordination and without some kind of democratic structure to decide what to produce, and how to distribute it. It also requires workers to create their own militia to defend those factories and the goods to be distributed, from the inevitable attacks that will be launched against them by the State, by fascist gangs, and by just criminal gangs, though often these are indistinguishable from the fascists anyway.
As in France, in 1968, the students can play a vital role in setting the ball rolling, in giving workers the confidence to take action, showing that the state apparatus is not invincible. But, it is only workers that can take the struggle forward, take over the bosses property, and begin to organise production and society on a different basis. But, that is not enough either as the events of May 1968 demonstrated. Economic and social power, is only one of the three types of power in society. In addition three is political or Governmental power, and there is State Power.
In a fascist or clerical-fascist regime like Iran these latter two are effectively fused together. Even had Moussavi or some other more liberal politician won, real Governmental Power resides with the Mullahs, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini, and it is those same forces that control State Power. But, in France in 1968, and in a bourgeois democracy in general, Governmental Power can reside with a force that stands in opposition to the State Power – for example Allende’s Government in Chile. Under those conditions, what is decisive is who controls the State Power. If in 1968, DeGaulle had been brought down – for example, in the way Ted heath was brought down in 1974 – and a more Left Government been brought in, then that Government would immediately have found itself under pressure from the State Power to tone down its programme, and ultimately if it refused, then it would end up going the way that Allende’s Government went, indeed the way some within the ruling class and British State were conspiring to send Wilson’s Government.
To prevent that it is vital that the working class not only seize control of the means of production, and begin to organise production and distribution to meet their own needs, but it is vital that the working class smash that existing state machinery, and establish a Workers State, committed to defending the interests of the working class against the inevitable attacks of the bosses.
As 1917, showed, that cannot happen right away. Workers need to create their own organs of power, their own democracy, and learn that they can control their own destiny. They need to establish Factory Committees, Neighbourhood Committees, Militia, and Workers Councils to discuss, decide and execute actions. They need to understand their real situation, and the nature of the enemy that faces them in the form of the State. In the meantime, to the extent that the protests are led by sections of the middle class, workers and socialists should support the protests, and any democratic and progressive demands that are raised, but they must keep their own political and organisation independence of those forces, who as soon as the struggle goes beyond bourgeois limits will turn against them. The workers should welcome any democratic reforms as strengthening their position and hastening the fall of the clerical-fascist regime that oppresses them, but only by joining their own demands to those democratic demands can the workers begin to take the lead in the struggle and rally the rest of the oppressed behind them.
It is up to the international working class to give them every support in achieving that.
Workers of the World Unite. Forward to the Iranian Workers Revolution.