Like most nations across the world, Iran was also hit by the coronavirus or COVID-19. The deliberate hesitation by the theocratic regime in Iran to warn the country about the threat of the virus and it’s slow start in taking the proper actions to contain and combat the spread of this virus has proved catastrophic for the country and especially the poor and working class. The regime gambled with the safety of the nation in the hope of securing significant participation by the people in the pro-regime street demonstration organised for 11 February, and also to hold a “successful” parliamentary election ten days later, in the face of a widespread boycott of the elections by all the progressive forces and the overwhelming majority of the population. On both accounts the regime suffered a massive defeat.
Iran’s Minister of Health has admitted that his advice to the cabinet regarding the need to announce the spread of the virus was rejected by the government and the Supreme Leader (Ali Khamenei) because of the damage it could cause to the level of the people’s participation in the parliamentary election on 20 February. Both domestically and internationally, [the regime’s response] has been severely criticised by the people and experts. This deliberate delay resulted in massive casualties and caused unprecedented grief for the people and the medical professionals across the nation.
The Tudeh Party of Iran, in an urgent statement as early as 27 February 2020, warned against the deviousness, incompetence and obscurantism of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran in confronting the severe threat of the endemic spread of coronavirus [in the country]. Our Party was extremely concerned about the covert and minimalist approach of the Islamic Republic towards this deadly disaster and raised the early alarms: “The approach of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran towards the coronavirus, much like their approach in dealing with the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane with military missiles, killing 147 Iranians, is based on lies and giving priority to the survival of the regime and the interests of the reactionary heads of the regime by any means possible. Dismissing the instructions and advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the successful experience of other nations in containing the coronavirus - including dismissing the significance of isolation and quarantining public places, as well as providing the necessary medical equipment and devices - will undoubtedly have very alarming and concerning consequences for the Iranian people.”
Now, several weeks later, the country is in a disastrous situation. Under the current circumstances, wage earners are understandably concerned about their jobs and livelihood. They do not know whether they should go to work or stay at home and lose their jobs. In this very critical situation, just like other marginalised strata of the society, they feel that they have no support and nowhere or no-one to lean on. There exists concrete evidence that the information about the risk of the spread of coronavirus from China and via its preliminary epicentres in Iran - i.e. the [holy] city of Qom - was conveyed to the Supreme Leader of the regime by President Rouhani in mid-January, and the need to discontinue flights from China and isolating Qom was discussed. However, the Supreme [Religious] Leader deemed the spread of the virus to be fake news and strongly opposed the taking of any such measures.
The regime only acknowledged the first impact and presence of coronavirus on the afternoon of Friday 21 February when it was reported that two victims of the virus had died in Qom. According to the regime’s own officials, it was already at the stage that the virus was wreaking havoc and had spread to several other cities and provinces across Iran. On Tuesday 25 February, while the virus was spreading fast from Qom throughout the country, President Rouhani, following the Supreme Leader’s orders, told the Iranian people: “From Saturday [29 February] everything will return to normal.”!! The responsibility for such an ominous decision lies squarely with the theocratic Supreme Leader Khamenei himself. [For it was he] who had downplayed the life and livelihood of the people, and the importance of isolating Qom. This was how [preparation] to combat the spread of coronavirus started so late, haphazardly, unorganised, and shambolic. Various agencies and institutions of the government were advocating opposing views and approaches.
The regime’s policy towards the coronavirus epidemic has proved too costly: As of 8 April, according to the regime’s official statistics, 64,586 cases of coronavirus patients, 4,000 people dead and the number of patients in very critical condition needing ICUs is 3,956. The WHO has expressed doubts about the figures released by the regime. They believe that the figures have been significantly underestimated. Independent reports from Iran also support this suspicion.
4 decades after the victory of the 1979 Revolution, and amid the dominance of Political Islam in Iran, the basic demands of the people - including freedoms, a national healthcare system and its development - have not materialised. Instead, since the 1990s, each and every government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has replicated the neoliberal economic template set out by the global capitalism and imperialism - supposedly the sworn enemy of Islam and Islamic Republic of Iran - and created a plutocratic society and a hollowed-out national economy. And, now, the theocratic regime has put the national security, life and livelihood of the people at the risk of frequent and dangerous crises. The anti-people policies of the regime’s leaders have increased the mistrust of the people towards them. The misery of the Iranian people is compounded by the imposition of inhumane US financial sanctions. The US government has blocked a 5-billion-dollar emergency loan application to the IMF by Iran needed for combating the COVID-19 epidemic. It is clear that the US sanctions against Iran will be intensified as part of Trump’s attempt to make leverage of the coronavirus epidemic in reshaping US imperialist global policy. We condemn these actions of this dangerous ultra-right US government.
The working class - and indeed a broad spectrum of the wage-earner working people - along with the unemployed and the poor are the primary victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling dictatorship has once again shown itself to be incapable of dealing with yet another crisis and, as usual, reverts to lies and misinformation and “managing-out” this crisis in order to protect itself from the huge distrust and resentment towards it from across all sections of [Iranian] society.
With the spread of the virus and as a result of the incompetence and betrayal of the leaders and authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, our nation is in a dire and very alarming situation now. Therefore, the strategy of the regime leadership, specifically the Supreme Leader, is to deceitfully and deviously manoeuvre without provoking the anger and discontent of the people - particularly amongst the urban and rural poverty-stricken citizens - until this crisis is over. Its resistance to establishing the minimum wage for the new Iranian calendar year must be evaluated with that strategy in mind. While nurses and medics are fighting heroically in the frontline to contain and combat coronavirus, the theocratic regime and its cronies continue to deny the legitimate demands of this sector.
The disastrous crisis of coronavirus and the serious structural deficiencies in Iran owing to three decades of neo-liberal policies compounded by the inhumane sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, have all led to an antagonistic contradiction between the continuation of the absolute rule of theocratic regime and the urgent demands of the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people [for socio-economic progressive changes].
We hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be contained sooner rather than later through science and the shared knowledge of humankind. What this crisis has made clear is that having well developed socio-economic infrastructures, and implementing proper nationwide plans, is necessary for successfully fighting natural disasters like this - be they a virus, flood or earthquake. Unfortunately, in our country, Iran, under the reactionary rule of theocracy, the path for a progressive and people-oriented development of the society is blocked, and the regime is prepared to sacrifice the life and livelihood of our people for its own survival and to secure the domination of Political Islam. However, the objective conditions in our society and their impact on the lives of the working people indicate that, from a historical perspective, Political Islam in Iran has reached the end of its life.
The Tudeh Party of Iran has continuously emphasised that the only way forward is through the complete elimination of the absolute rule of the theocracy and the establishing of a democratic and accountable state in its place that would be capable of implementing an economic plan for growth that is based on socio-economic development at the national level.
There is an effective way to defeat COVID-19
The Tudeh Party of Iran - in line with the views of other communist and workers parties of the world - in combating COVID-19 by relying on the medical professionals and other experts in various fields of science and technology; through international cooperation and effective management of the crisis through central planning; preventing large scale and monopoly capital profiteering from the disaster; supporting and protecting the lives, health and livelihood of the working people as well as small and medium-scale businesses and self-employed (both unemployed or working under the current critical conditions), sincerely appreciate and much admire the efforts of the medical frontline workers in Iran and all countries across the globe in caring for the citizens.
A vast number of people in the world today can see that Cuba, China and Vietnam have been able not only to overcome the grave challenge presented by coronavirus but also to come to the assistance of other countries by sharing expertise and generously offering resources. This was at the time when Italy and Spain were left defenceless in the fight against the virus and the EU was unwilling to come to the assistance of these EU members. The fight against coronavirus has clearly demonstrated the supremacy of a socialist-oriented response and the significance of central planning, efficient and well-resourced public services, and people-oriented policy making.
We hope that with the help of the modern science and technology, the efforts of the experts in the field of healthcare, and through the utilising of the local knowledge and capacities in each nation - including in Iran - that humanity will be able to put an end to this crisis with minimum losses.
Compiled from 3 issues of Nameh Mardom (issues 1098, 1099 and 1100), the Central Organ of the Tudeh Party of Iran