Small steps back by the regime is combined with continued repression
Events are beginning to speed up in Iran again as protests increase.
A brief attempt to intimidate the thousands of Haft Tappeh sugar cane workers who have been on strike since June 14 (see Haft Tappeh sugar cane factory workers return to strike action) was pushed back when four strikers who had been arrested after attending a protest in Shush on July 14 were released late on the following day. The local governor had hoped to use these arrests as a way to force the Haft Tappeh workers to negotiate. But this did not work, the strikers continued with their regular protests and threatened to intensify them.
This struggle is particularly significant because of the wide range of the Haft Tappeh workers’ demands including payment of back wages, reinstatement of sacked workers and re-nationalisation of the privatised company. In a previous strike at the end of 2018 there were calls by Haft Tappeh workers that a renationalised company should be “managed by the workers’ council and based on collective decision-making”. The struggle of these workers, and others, are a key to building a genuine independent workers’ movement that can both overthrow the dictatorial regime and also struggle for a socialist alternative to capitalism in all its forms.
The release of these four strikers shows both the divisions and weaknesses in the regime. Facing an economic crisis, a renewed upsurge in Covid-19 infections and a new wave of protests the regime is both weak and divided. The combination of the fall in oil prices, the world economic crisis and the Trump regime’s economic sanctions is hitting Iran hard. Last month the Iranian rial was trading at 130,000 to the US dollar, this week the figure was 230,000.
Amidst the deepening economic and social crisis a renewed wave of protests and strikes has begun in many areas. In the last few days there have been protests in Tehran, Behbahan, Esfahan, Shiraz and other cities. In Behbahan thousands are reported to have demonstrated on July 16, chanting “Fear not, fear not, we are in this together” alongside slogans against the regime’s foreign interventions – “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my life for Iran” – and, most significantly, “Down with the Islamic Republic!”
The regime is reacting with both repression and concessions. Some sections of the state believe that the protests can be simply crushed. While the arrested Haft Tappeh workers were quickly released, another Haft Tappeh striker was sentenced on July 16 to 222 lashes for “insulting officials” and “publishing lies and slander”. The day after the Behbahan demonstration the regime said it would deal “decisively” with further protests.
These zigzag tactics were also seen when, on July 15, the regime suggested that it might allow an appeal against the previous day’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the executions of three young men – Amirhossein Moradi, 25, Saeed Tamjidi, 27, and Mohammad Rajabi, 27 – who had participated in the nationwide uprising last November against an increase in fuel prices. All three denied the regime’s accusations that they were in the MEK, an opposition group that for years now has had links with the US neo-cons.
The threat of their execution produced a wave of opposition in Iran, supported internationally. Protests on the streets were seen in different places. On the morning of July 15 the hashtag #DontExecute (in Farsi) was the most tweeted in Iran, with maybe 5 million posts, despite government attempts to disrupt the internet.
Trying to portray himself as a defender of democracy Trump tweeted on July 15 “Executing these three people sends a terrible signal to the world and should not be done! #StopExecutionsInIran”. Trump, of course, ignored the executions of oppositionists already carried out, or threatened, by his friends running the dictatorial Saudi and Bahraini regimes. This shows why no trust at all can be put in capitalist leaders like Trump. They have no principles apart from defending the profits, interests and rule of their own ruling classes.
But the Iranian regime will not simply give up. As part of its repression it executed, on July 14, two Kurdish men who had been convicted in 2015 of planting a bomb at a military parade in Mahabad in 2010, something they denied, saying that their ‘confessions’ had been given under torture.
In this situation it is the responsibility of the labour movement to defend democratic rights and support working people in struggle.
Calls need to go out from trade unionists and others worldwide demanding the release of political prisoners in Iran, an end to repression and the organisation of activities in solidarity with the protests and the Haft Tappeh and other strikers!