To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
January 2, 2018
RE: Solidarity with the mass protests in Iran!

1. Solidarity with the mass protests in Iran!

Starting on December 29, Iranians have been coming out onto the streets to protest all over Iran. The demonstrations aren't just in the capital, Teheran, but in dozens of other cities, and they are most vigorous in these other cities.

The Islamic Republic is known for showing no mercy to dissidents and protesters, but the ruling clerics have been taken by surprise by the power and extent of this movement. There are hundreds of arrests and at least a dozen dead, but the movement grows, involving particularly working people, women, and youth. And the regions inhabited by Kurds and Arabs are prominent in this upsurge.

Various groups have sought to influence the movement, but it does not appear to be organized by any one political trend. Its power is that it taps into a vast anger at austerity, unemployment, unpaid wages, corruption, and religious tyranny. The Islamic Republic may appear stable, but it has been decaying under the surface, and it has been shaken by one mass upsurge after another. There was the "Green Movement" in 2009 against the stealing of the presidential election by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And for years now there has been a persistent series of labor protests, taken despite the lack of legal channels, the ban on independence unions, and the draconian punishments. Today there is a mass outpouring centered more on workers and the poor than the Green Movement was.

These mass struggles are the real voice of the people, while the theocrats of the Islamic Republic make a show of guided democracy, in which you can vote, but only for those candidates whom the clerics (represented by the Guardian Council) allow; the votes will be counted, but the count may be clandestinely adjusted if the highest cleric (Supreme Leader) thinks it necessary; and the parliament can legislate, but only for those laws which the Guardian Council accepts.

We don't know how long the present upsurge will last. But what's already clear is that it shows a radicalization of the working people, many of whom are opposing not just this or that faction of the theocratic ruling class of the Islamic Republic, but the regime as a whole. The country has changed since the protests of 2009 when large numbers of people took to the streets to demand that the moderate fundamentalist Mir-Hossein Mousavi be president instead of the hardliner Ahmadinejad. Today there are slogans against both the hardliner Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and against moderate president Hassan Rouhani.

The immediate background to the demonstrations seem to have been the presentation in mid-December of the national budget for 2018. Rouhani is a so-called moderate, but his neo-liberal budget contains severe austerity, cuts in subsidies for social welfare, and increases in money for the military and the police. This exasperated the population, and in late December the hard-liners staged some demonstrations against Rouhani, probably making use of his major cutback to how many people would receive the general subsidy implemented by the previous president, hardliner Ahmadinejad. At the same time, this year the budget contained some information on the huge sums going to the clerical institutions: the priests and their friends grow fat while the people are supposed to pull in their belts. These figures aren't usually publicized, and perhaps their release was intended as a slap at the hardliners. In any case, the resulting mass anger overflowed the maneuvers of the clerics, and the people have come out en masse against both the moderates and the hardliners. Neither religious fundamentalism, moderate or hardline, nor market fundamentalism will satisfy the demands of the Iranian working people.

What happens in Iran affects the entire Middle East. The Iranian, Saudi, and ISIS fundamentalists may be at each other's throats, but they all seek to smother the rights and struggles of the working people. The Iranian intervention has, for example, played a major role in suppressing the uprising against the Syrian dictator Assad and bludgeoning to death the Arab spring. When the Islamic Republic crumbles, it will encourage democratic forces throughout the region.

By Joseph Green, Detroit Workers' Voice <>

2. Frank Arango of Seattle Workers' Voice on the mass protests

From a FB comment:

I think there is much to be hailed about this new mass upsurge. The workers and poor are right in the forefront with demands for bread, jobs and freedom, and with demands for Iran to leave Syria. Other chants or slogans include: "Death to the dictator," "People are paupers while the mullahs live like a god," "Down with Khamenei," "Down with Rouhani," (or death to them) "Free all political prisoners now," "We want no Islamic Republic," "Death to a government that is run by the clerics" and more. Lots of women are participating, and the Ahwazi Arab and Kurdish regions of the country have been very active. But there remains the undeniable problem of disorganization, as well as the problem of royalist and other opportunists trying to divert the movement into dead-ends. One of those dead-ends is Persian chauvinism, and I think it should be on the basis of opposing Persian chauvinism (not defending a religion) that we should oppose the slogan "We are Aryans! We don't worship the Arab [God]."

3. An Iranian American progressive on the difference between the protests now and in 2009

December 31, 2017

Excerpt from an article by Frieda Afary

The protests that started in the city of Mashhad on Thursday  December 28  have quickly spread to more than 40 cities including Tehran, Kermanshah, Rasht, Isfahan, Shiraz, Hamedan, Kerman, Zanjan, Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, and even the city of Qum, Iran’s religious capital. The participants are mostly young people under 30 but in some cases have included parents with their children. So far, at least 5 people have been killed in Lorestan and over 50 people have been arrested by heavily present security forces. Some government buildings and banks were set on fire by the protesters and pictures of Khamenei and Khomeini have been burned.

In comparison to the mass protests that arose in 2009 after the fraudulent presidential election, these protests are different in several important respects: 1. They directly oppose poverty and  systemic corruption. 2. They include the wide participation of the working class men and women, many unemployed. 3. Demands include an end to the Islamic Republic, Death to Supreme Leader Khamenei, Death to president Rouhani, Death to the "Revolutionary Guards" and an end to Iran’s military intervention in Syria and Lebanon. 4. In some cases, individual women have bravely taken off their headscarves or veils in public places and have encouraged others to follow them.

No one can deny that these protests are arising after at least a year of almost daily labor actions and strikes against non-payment of wages and terrible working conditions, as well as protests by impoverished retirees, teachers, nurses and those who have lost their meager savings in bankrupt banks. Slogans have also called for freedom for all political prisoners and an end to dictatorship.

For the whole article, see https://www.iranianprogressives.org/reflections-growing-anti-regime-protests-iran

4. A picture of the labor movement in Iran

Shahla Daneshfar Nov 25, 2017 (excerpt)

The labor movement in Iran is undergoing a transformation. Labor protests in Iran are widespread and in a growing process. These protests have become more radical every day and we can see protests of workers are against poverty, discrimination, inequality, state embezzlement, unemployment, wages that are severely below the poverty line, the Islamic government's violations of people and their livelihoods, and generally worker protests for a decent humane life.

In recent years, long-term strikes in Iran have become routine and sometimes have lasted for a month or even more. More and more large industrial centres are striking every day despite the fact that gatherings and organizations are prohibited in Iran. Workers and protesters gather every day because of their urgent demands. They march in the middle of the city and chant and shout out for their wishes to be heard.

In Iran, workers and teachers are deprived of the right to organize, but they have independently and by their own formed several organisations such as the Free Trade Union of Workers of Iran, The Vahed (city bus company) Syndicate, the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Syndicate, the Coordination Committee for the Establishment of Workers 'Organizations, the Follow-up Committee for the Establishment of Workers' Associations, the Kermanshah Electric and Metal Association, the Labor Defenders 'Association, the Alborz Painting Workers Syndicate, the Workers' Union for Electric and Metal Workers and Trade Unions in various fields of construction and bakery, and other organizations like the Teachers' Association and so on. ...

A remarkable phenomenon in the last two years is the workers protests on a national scale. Workers, teachers, retirees in their social media groups are more organized every day. In these groups, they mobilize their forces and call for protests for specific days. As a result, protests have become more global this year which have provided the basis for further demonstrations as people gain more confidence and momentum in their actions. An example is a large number of retirees who gathered several times in recent months in large numbers and were very organised and well articulated. ...

A clear evidence of the rising popularity of protests in Iran is the officials' remarks about the size of the protests: In the year 2015, a government official in Kerman declared the number of labor protests in this province as 6500 in the first six months of the year. Also, according to published official reports, the number of labor protests in 2016 increased significantly compared to 2015 and 2014. Statistics over the course of 2016 shows that workers protested in 653 production and service centres for their demands, which was an increase by about 27 percent compared to year 2015. In 2016 there were 1264 workers' protests, which mean that there were more than three protests happening every day. It is noteworthy that the workers' protests grew in 2016 and has been growing in 2017. In August 2017 Sardar Kiomars, Azizi, the provincial police commander told reporters that since the beginning of the year, 118 gatherings have taken place in the province, a 240-percent increase from the same period last year.

Another important issue is the daily protests of the workers are against the unpaid wages and against expulsion from work. In Iran, the wages of a worker, a teacher and a retired person are not paid for months and this trend have become a normal policy by almost all employers and government. Workers see this as a crime and robbery and stand against it. The centrepiece of the labor protests demands in Iran are the increase in wages, against unpaid wages and layoffs, and for official and direct employment by employers instead of the middle men and brokers. Other main demands are equal pay for equal work, free education, free healthcare, the right to organize and other basic rights of the people. ...

People also are protesting the huge funds spent on terrorist policies in the region, including in Syria. Slogans like 'an embezzlement less, our problem is solved', 'Leave Syria, think about us,' 'Astronomical salaries, public misery', have become common slogans that have turned into protests by workers, teachers, retirees and all people. These slogans challenge the entire government. ....

Campaign to Free Jailed Workers (Free Them Now)

Shahla.danesh

far2@gmail.com

http://free-them-now.com/

The full article is at https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid= 1696287677097717&id=1002846533108505

5. Juan Cole on how the demonstrations started (excerpt)

Jan. 1, 2018

The rallies certainly began as protests against inflation and joblessness. Iran’s economy is set to grow 4% this year, but inflation is at 9%, which means that Iranians will get 5% poorer. Moreover, the clerical ruling class will be held harmless from that decline in real purchasing power. The four percent growth is mainly because of increased petroleum sales now that international sanctions have been lifted, and because oil prices have firmed up to $60 a barrel. The petroleum proceeds go straight to the government, i.e. to the ruling clerics, who head up a range of foundations and businesses that get government subsidies.

Borzou Daragahi has argued that in a bid to be more transparent, President Hassan Rouhani released budget numbers recently that revealed the extent of government support for clerical foundations, angering workers who not only do not get subsidies but who are going to see their real purchasing power drop 5% again this year.

It also appears that the protests began last Thursday with support from hard liners who were hoping to embarrass President Rouhani. The latter had put a lot of political capital behind the nuclear deal with the Security Council, on the grounds that it would end sanctions and improve the economic situation, which had become dire under Obama’s severe sanctions. The joke turned out to be on the hard liners, who started a wave of protests but lost control of them, with crowds chanting not just death to Rouhani (what the hard liners were going for) but death to Khamenei and death to the Revolutionary Guards (the very institutions the hard liners wanted to strengthen).

The full article is at https://www.juancole.com/2018/01/protests-economic-political.html <>


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Posted on January 15, 2018
Some typos have been corrected.
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