Excerpts from the Political Statement of the 3rd Plenum of the Central Committee the Tudeh Party of Iran- May 2023
More than eight months have passed since the brutal death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s mercenaries on 16 September 2022 and the beginning of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement thereafter. Although daily street protests have subsided in various cities, the notion that the anti-dictatorship movement of our country has been defeated is as wrong and unscientific as that put about by some at the outset of the uprising of “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising that another “revolution” was underway in Iran. The October meeting of the Central Committee of the Party rightly emphasised that in examining the widespread street protests, it should be clearly noted that over the previous two years we have witnessed a wave of mass protests among various social strata that have continued [despite fierce repression by the authorities]. The widespread strikes of workers, farmers, teachers, education workers, retirees, nurses, and students across the country during those past two years have been a constant and unignorable feature of life in Iran and there has not been a day in the cities and provinces around the country when various currents of the people and intellectuals have not taken to the streets to protest the continuing of oppression, corruption, and deprivation imposed by the anti-people ruling regime, despite the manifest risks in doing so.
Pathology of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement
The question posed today by a number of civil society activists and freedom fighters in our homeland – and it is necessary to give which requires a realistic answer, considering the huge significance of events there over the past year – is why the months of courageous street protests undertaken by women and youth across the country failed to bring down the clerical regime.
A bare examination of the various assessments put forward by a number of political forces of the country regarding the events of the past year, and the nature and power of the “Woman, Life Freedom” protest movement, to be essentially thoughtless and lacking in an appraisal of the hugely complex situation in Iran – meaning that their anticipations and expectations in relation to that movement were rendered largely unrealistic.
At the same time [from the other side], we witnessed the propagation of a distorted theory that defended the continuation of the anti-people Velayat-e Faqih [‘Rule of the Supreme Jurist’] regime on the basis that the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement was somehow a “velvet revolution” instigated by imperialist countries whose aim is to overthrow an “anti-imperialist bulwark” government in the Middle East.
Our Party has held the view, from the very inception of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protest movement, that there exists a situation in our country where the objective conditions for the rise of a revolutionary movement and situation are apparent and developing. This situation has led to the narrowing of the social and political base of the regime predicated on “Political Islam” and its ideological bankruptcy. The deepening economic crisis and irreconcilable contradiction between the material interests of the people and the dictatorial regime have led to the direct and sustained entering of street protesters into the arena of struggle in recent months. However, in order to further expand the struggle for the transition from religious dictatorship and make sure that it continues; to bring about fundamental changes in Iran’s socio-economic life for the betterment of the people at large; and to realise the unfulfilled core slogans of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, some of which have loudly resounded in the protests of the last year throughout the country, then we must move forward united, coordinated, and with a common plan.
But the abatement of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” street protests [by the late-spring of 2023] should not lead one to conclude that the popular movement has not achieved and will not achieve anything important going forward. On the contrary, the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement has made significant gains during the courageous struggle of the past year and has been able to force the [hitherto feared] theocratic regime back on several significant fronts. Bringing about an end to the myth of the regime’s “invincibility” and the bold crossing of red lines such as that of the mandatory hijab and rejection of its imposition [one of the central and visible tenets of the Islamic Republic since its inception] along with the people’s steadfast resistance to the regime’s attempts to somehow restore the situation inside the country to what it was before September 2022, are among the significant achievements that have not only served to transform the political climate of the country, but also created serious dilemmas and rifts within the ranks of the ruling regime.
A look at the class base of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement
Some assessments of the people’s protest movement in recent months have identified the class base of this movement as being affluent and semi-affluent. In evaluating the class base of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, it is necessary to pay attention to the important developments and shifts that have taken place in the class composition of Iranian society over recent decades [particularly from the beginning of the 1990s].
The documents of the 7th Congress of the Tudeh Party of Iran (‘The Khavari Congress’) on this issue read as follows: “Owing to the consistent implementation of neoliberal policies over recent decades, along with the accelerated growth of big mercantile capitalism and new bureaucratic capitalism; the unfair distribution of wealth, including the accumulation of vast wealth in the hands of a narrow strata; and the burgeoning of a massive class gap in the present society, the gradual collapse and degradation of the new petty bourgeoisie and the middle strata and the consequent adjoining of this class to the majority of the working people, whether urban or rural, has taken place and greatly accelerated in recent years. The existence of corruption and institutionalised rent-seeking by the Islamist regime, and among mafia gangs, of power and wealth in all spheres of production, distribution, and service, has put a lot of pressure on the country’s petty bourgeoisie (as well as the national bourgeoisie not affiliated to the regime), resulting in less opportunity being afforded to this sector to rise and boast.” (From the collection of documents of the 7th Congress of the Tudeh Party of Iran, Tudeh Party of Iran Publications, June 2022, p. 31.)
In light of these developments, we believe that some of the women and youth who went to confront the oppressive agents of the regime in the daring street protests were drawn from among the working people and layers of the nation who have suffered under the backbreaking economic pressure, as well as the government’s inhumane and oppressive policies against women and their basic rights, leading to their staging of mass street protests. Today, even according to the statistics of the regime’s own statistics and prognoses, the youth comprise the majority among the army of the unemployed in Iran who are increasingly adversely affected by the regime’s neoliberal policies. A look at the backgrounds of a number of the young protesters who were murdered or executed by mercenaries of the regime confirms that many of these freedom fighters were drawn mainly from underprivileged sections of society and workers who, in Karl Marx’s words, had nothing to lose but their chains.
The labour movement continues…
A glance at the events in Iran over the past three years shows that the protests of the workers and working people of the country against the reactionary and inhumane policies of the theocratic regime have not stopped. From the widespread labour strikes in the Sugar Cane factories of Haft Tappeh, and at HEPCO, as well as those involving miners and contract workers of the oil and petrochemical sector, through to the widespread protests of farmers at acute water shortages [and agricultural/land mismanagement by the authorities] and the student unrest of university students around the country… All serve to underline that the regime is continuously entangled in various crises of economic and political legitimacy, lurching from one such crisis to another – leaving its default recourse to brutal repression of the popular protests, and the intensification of that repression, as the only seemingly viable way it can continue. Indeed the arrest of thousands of street protesters and the killing of hundreds of them, as well as the torture and execution of countless women, men, and youth of the country in a desperate attempt to calm the situation is the regime’s common resort to try and save itself from the crisis. It is also important to note that with each new crisis, the task of the regime’s security apparatus to suppress the popular unrest becomes more difficult than before – and the crisis shakes the foundation of the authoritarian regime and even its repressive institutions.
It is precisely because of these economic crises and the increasing poverty and deprivation suffered by tens of millions of citizens that, over the past year, along with the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests, we have witnessed the exponential growth of the parallel protest movement of working people as evidenced by:
- The struggle of oil industry workers to implement the full and accurate job classification scheme, and to return the workforce and administrative staff to the2-week-work:2-week-rest shift pattern, as well as to improve the quality/standards in the workers’ dormitories and labour camps;
- The struggle of project workers in the oil and gas projects of Assaluyeh region and several other petrochemical complexes, in protest at their poor working and living conditions;
- The struggle of workers at the Haft Tappeh sugarcane company for wages and pensions above the poverty line;
- The struggle of the workers in heavy industries, including Esfahan Steel Mill, Yazd Steel Company, Ahvaz National Steel Company, HEPCO, and Azarab Arak against economic liberalisation and privatisation;
- The struggle of telecom workers against temporary contracts and the failure to implement Regulation 89 of the country’s labour code;
- The struggle of rail and subway metro workers struggle for job security and wages in line with real inflation rates and food baskets [the approximate cost of a basket of food essentials/staples];
- The struggle of the country’s miners to ensure robust health and safety standards in the workplace, the implementation of the job classification scheme, as well as job security;
- The struggle of energy/power workers against the sustained assault on their wages and food baskets, as well an often-unsafe workplace;
- The struggle of construction and municipality workers to eliminate labour brokerage agencies [which break the direct contractual relationship between employer and employee], and for wage increases, paid holiday entitlement, and insurance premiums;
- The struggle of educators and education workers against the privatisation and degradation of their sector as well as for a fair wage and measures for the protection of student welfare;
- The struggle of retirees for fair pensions and a decent livelihood;
- The struggle of nurses for job security, enforcement of the law on nursing services tariffs, as well as for decent wages and permanent full-time contracts in hospitals;
- The struggle of all working women to secure the right to work, to eliminate gender discrimination, against the compulsory hijab, and for equal pay for equal work;
- The struggle of environmental activists against continual and unchecked environmental degradation and the looting of natural resources.
The trend of important developments in the region and the manoeuvres of the Islamic Republic of Iran
After eight years of tension and the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, an agreement to begin restoring relations took place in late-March 2023, mediated by China. After years of tension, the two countries moved to resume political and economic relations, which had been severed in 2016 following an attack and incursion upon the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amir Abdollahian, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his Saudi counterpart, Faisal Ben Farhan, met in Beijing on Thursday 6 April. This was the first meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers for over seven years following the aforementioned severing of diplomatic ties. In the text of the final statement of the meeting, the two sides pledged to work together to “build security, stability, and prosperity in the region”.
According to the various interpretations of this important development in the Middle East, it is said that the agreement could pave the way for peace in Yemen, reduce political tensions in both Iraq and Lebanon, as well as expedite and smoothen Syria’s return to the regional fold [including the Arab league]; reduce military tensions in the Persian Gulf; and even have major implications for Farsi media channels abroad – such as Iran International, which is funded by the Saudi government. The immediate outcome of this apparent normalisation of relations was the extension of an invitation to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to attend a summit of Arab leaders [after many years in the cold].
It is the view of the Tudeh Party of Iran that normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia and a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East is a positive development and to be welcomed. However, unlike some of the disinformation campaigns of the regime’s propaganda apparatus, which see this development as representing a victory for the foreign policy of the “supreme leader” and the Raisi administration, we believe that the sharp contrast between the positions adopted by the regime vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia in comparison to that which it takes now at this critical juncture inside Iran, where the authoritarian regime’s very foundations are being challenged and shaken to their core, clearly exposes the regime leadership’s self-touted “heroic leniency” for what it really is, i.e. another measure it is pragmatically exercising in order to alleviate the rapidly mounting crisis it is now facing.
In order to maintain the foundations of its rule, the regime hopes to adopt this policy of “heroic leniency” to normalise relations with the United States and European Union through quiet mediation efforts involving the rulers of the Kingdom of Oman. It is noteworthy that in recent weeks there has been growing speculation about “negotiations” and “agreements” going on behind the scenes between Iran and the US – and many media outlets, especially Iranian and Israeli, are reporting news of an “imminent deal” between Iran and the US on a daily basis.
For many political commentators, the Iran-US deal would be in the fashion of the JCPOA, which could remove the sharp edge of sanctions from Iran’s throat and help “normalize” political and economic relations between Iran and the West.
In this regard, one of the basic and urgent demands of the US and EU for Iran is for a change in the regime’s behaviour of meddling and mal-interference in the domestic affairs of its regional neighbours, as well as a cessation of the Islamic Republic’s support for Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.
Experiences from the recent struggle, and short and long-term solutions
The popular movement in Iran has gained valuable experience in its many years of struggle with the theocratic regime, including the street protests of the past year since the beginning of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in September 2022, as well as the mass workers’ protests and the protests of the country’s education workers and retirees over the last two years. This invaluable experience will undoubtedly aid the people in organising the popular movement and struggles in the times to come.
The Tudeh Party of Iran believes that the struggle to end the dictatorship and progress towards the establishment of a national and democratic republic is by no means a smooth process. Without the presence of a broad organisation harnessing of the various social currents and strata and without political coordination – of a program that includes their minimal demands – this process of struggle will faces many difficulties and setbacks, affording the ruthless and wily regime an opportunity to continue its reign through brutal repression and cunning manoeuvres.
In view of the events of recent months, we have pointed out that the transition beyond the present dictatorship is a difficult but nonetheless achievable goal on the [non-circumventable] pre-condition that there takes place the forging of forming of a common struggle encompassing the material demands of all working people for the necessary and fundamental socio-economic democratic changes in Iran. The anti-dictatorship struggle of the people’s movement must be painstakingly carried out step by step, with the aid of combative forms/modes which are adapted to the concrete objective and subjective conditions of Iranian society, and precisely cognisant of the balance of political forces within the country, removed entirely from the realm of foreign imperialist interventionist forces.
For the statements of the Tudeh Party of Iran and its analysis of major developments in Iran Please visit: www.tudehpartyiran.org