Sun Dec 03, 2023
December 03, 2023

Protests in Iran and the Lessons of an Interrupted Revolution

The social unrest has been taking place in Iran for over 30 days, since the assassination of the young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the so-called “Morality Police” as she was absurdly detained for “improper use” of the Islamic headscarf.

By: Soraya Misleh

The women-led revolution has won over other groups, with the entry of the working class, and has been responsible for standstills and barricades on highways.What first seemed like a protest against the enforcement of wearing a hijab and against women’s oppression, such as those in the Kurdish minority, despite violent repression has turned into a generalized outcry against the regime: “Death to the dictator.”

An important aside: unlike the repeated Orientalist narrative,the headscarf itselfis not the issue, rather its enforcement is, imposed by fundamentalist regimes like Iran’s to maintain control over half of the population. An expression of this is that the protests sparked by the violence of oppression have revealed, in little more than a month, that the demands for democratic freedoms merge with economic demands, against austerity and other neoliberal measures, for better living and working conditions, and better wages.

The world faces the intensifying of a new capitalist global crisis, and the protests in Iran are happening amid this process that precedes revolutions and wars. This was the case in 1979 when the Persian country led a powerful revolution with the slogan “Death to the Shah!” It was an interrupted revolution, as described here in Marcos Margarido’s article.

As the protests in Iran intensify, with no signs of weakening, and may eventually lead to radicalization and even the establishment of a revolutionary process, some historical lessons appear emblematic for the country.

The powerful revolution of 1979, whose workers’ strikes, especially by oil workers, resulted in the fall of Shah Reza Pahlevi and his despotic and ancient monarchical regime, did not resolve what Trotsky called the “crisis of humanity”: the crisis of revolutionary leadership.“Only the Tudeh [Party], of Stalinist origin, was able to organize part of the workers in the revolutionary period. But its traitorous role during its period of legality, historic capitulations, like supporting the Shah’s White Revolution, and unconditional submission to the Soviet bureaucracy prevented it from transforming into an alternative for the working class,” explains Margarido in his article.

Consequently, although the fall of the Shah and the regime did liberate revolutionary forces that succeeding in establishing dual-power organs (people’s committees), because they did not resolve the crisis of leadership, they ended up being hijacked by bourgeois leadership represented by Ayatollah Khomeini, and due to class interests, weren’t able to fully carry out democratic tasks. On the contrary, the opposition was destroyed by a counterrevolution.

Towards Socialism

Without the social subject of the revolution—the proletariat—being able to solve Iran’s leadership crisis, the consequences are shown with the current installed regime, and the country’s situation that is bringing people back out into the streets.

Under the leadership of the national bourgeoisie, represented by the Ayatollah, the process was interrupted and could not advance towards what Trotsky details in “The Permanent Revolution”: “In other words, the dictatorship of the proletariat would become the instrument for solving the tasks of the historically-belated bourgeois revolution. But the matter could not rest there. Having reached power the proletariat would be compelled to encroach even more deeply upon the relationships of private property in general, that is to take the road of socialist measures.”

For Trotsky, the revolution would not come in stages—democratic and later, socialist—but in a permanent and, therefore, interwoven manner. Achieving democratic tasks, guaranteed full freedoms, agrarian reform and national independence would not be the conclusion of a stage to only subsequently fight for socialism. Rather, the revolution would continue and be the starting point on the route to socialism. For that to be accomplished, we need a new revolution in Iran.

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