Iran: Interview with student leader

“The people have woken up”

“After the presidential elections, the Iranian regime met with a mass movement that they did not expect. In this movement, the anger which has been bubbling for the last thirty years in Iran suddenly surfaced. The “reformist” wing of the regime, which ‘lost’ the election, were also taken by surprise by the emergence of this movement. They found themselves, unintentionally, as figureheads of a movement which they could not control.”

Parisa said that the first people to hit the streets were the ‘middle class’. However, the protests grew quickly to include all layers of society.

Iran was shaken by a mass movement during the summer

“Students, workers, women, the social movements, and LGBT campaigners became involved in the movement. A rapid radicalisation developed, and the movement became much more than just a struggle against electoral fraud. It was a movement against the whole regime and its dictatorship”, she says.

“Mosavi and the “reformists” were caught up in the middle of the mass movement, and had no other choice but to follow it. But we socialists always distanced ourselves from them. They offer no alternative; they are a part of the regime. They have no solutions to the situation that workers, women, students and other oppressed people are facing. They have no alternative economic policies.

“As a result of the struggle, the movement realised that it had to continue, and that Mosavi and other “reformists” offered no solution, but were being used as ‘symbols’ against the regime.

“The struggle in Iran today is at a sensitive stage. It has to take new steps in order to move forward. The students today play an important role in radicalising the movement. The student movement has a radical tradition in Iran, and are one part of the youth movement that has been the spearhead of the struggle for womens’ and other oppressed peoples’ rights. The majority of the Iranian population is under 30 years old.

“It is a dangerous situation for everybody, but the struggle is necessary. One important difference from before is that people have lost their fear of the regime, despite the brutal repression. One thing is certain; they will never be able to turn back the clock to before the elections. The people have woken up.”

Parsia tells us, with great confidence, the alternative she sees to the thirty-year dictatorship, which she has been living under her whole life.

“Change for the future lies in the self-organisation of the working class. Workers have participated in the mass movement, but not as an organised class. We try to make the working class play a bigger role in the movement.

“There have been strikes and workers’ protests. However, these have taken the form of isolated actions in different workplaces. A united struggle is necessary.”

She explains that today there is a big difference from before.

“As workers in Iran have mostly had temporary jobs, they have not dared to go on strike in many cases. Now it is a totally different situation, where workers have not been paid for several months, and therefore feel that they have no other choice but to fight.

“Socialists are not alone in understanding that the working class are the ones that have the power to fundamentally change society. The regime itself knows this, and this is the basis for the brutal repression it uses against workers in struggle. Workers today lack a class organisation of their own. They have no mass party and no real trade unions. That is why the movement has not advanced more.”

Parisa indicates that one of the weaknesses in the movement is the fact that the working class has not fully participated as a class.

“That is why we students have put a lot of time into trying to make connections between the workers and the students. The workers not only have to be integrated in the movement, they need to be to its forefront.”

She is convinced that the working class in the near future will step forward on a massive scale. The recent oil workers’ strike has been one radicalising factor. In Iran today, there is one strike every 5 days.

Parisa explains that the working class will move into struggle because they are being hit not only buy the state’s repression, but also as a result of the economic crisis. She explains the horrible situation facing workers.

“Workers live in inhuman conditions. They face poverty, have bad working conditions, need two or three jobs – and still are not guaranteed to get their salary. The words of Karl Marx have never been more true: ‘Workers have nothing to loose but their chains’.

“The Iranian regime uses propaganda against western imperialism to break down on the movement. However, the people see through their empty phrases.

“The economic and political crisis of Iran has led up to a point were the regime’s propaganda no longer has an effect.

“I have difficulties in seeing how the US would succeed with an invasion in Iran. It would not be as easy as when they entered Afghanistan and Iraq. There are not the same conditions. The Iranian population has seen what it has meant for the people in these countries. Besides, there is a lot of double standards for both Iran and the West. They have trade relations with each other, but no one wants to mention this because of the propaganda war.”

Parisa is convinced about what can solve the desperation of the Iranian people.

“The struggle for democracy is a struggle for socialism. I do not believe that we can receive democracy through the social democratic leaders or other reformists. They have nothing to offer in our struggle for freedom and social justice.”

Parisa gives her view of the future, influenced by the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution.

“The future of Iran is important for the Middle East as a whole. Iran is like an imperialist power in the region. They give their support to Islamic groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But Iran will play a more important role in the future. The whole region would change if socialism was victorious in Iran. A victory would rapidly spread to other countries in the region. The Middle East will fundamentally change due to the events in Iran.”

Parisa sees a new Iran and a new kind of organisation.

“The traditional Left is shattered and has made huge mistakes. The Stalinist Tudeh party supports Mosavi, and also Hezbollah and Hamas. They have ruined their connections to the people. Other groups are sectarian and are standing aside the movement, but they are totally isolated” Parisa explains.

“Among the youth, discussions are on a completely different stadium. Socialist Students and the youth we organise in the movement, are not sectarian. Neither are we opportunists. We argue for socialism, but do not give our support to any of the small parties in existence in Iran.

Trotskyist ideas have been popular in the universities and amongst study groups meeting in secret.

“We state that what is necessary is a socialist mass party, a revolutionary workers’ party. A progressive party that has its roots in the working class, the student movement and the social movements. This can only be built by socialists intervening in the movement and giving guidance. Ultimately, it depends on the actions of the working class. Today, there are big opportunities for socialists to gain support. We want to build a mighty socialist movement, for a socialist Iran linked to the struggle for socialism internationally.”

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October 2009