Soviets in Iran: Is a Revolution Underway?

‘Nuevo Curso’ on the dynamic of resumed workers’ struggles (Haft Tapeh, Foolad Steel)

» We have been following the rise of the class struggle in Iran since last December. At the end of last year a wave of mass strikes spread, crossing the border of Iraqi Kurdistan, to mobilize the whole of the workers in Iran. (1) The workers took to the streets and, what is most important: they did it under their own leadership, without subordinating themselves to the petty bourgeoisie of the bazaar and the university that rejected the movement. This massive and class character of the movement prevented widespread repression and temporarily halted the course towards aggravation of the war in the Middle East. It so much frightened the ruling classes that, when protest mobilizations began in Jordan, all powers allied to inject billions (2) and stop the movement before it reached a maturity similar to that of Iran. «

The Iranian mass strike however found an abrupt end due to its own weaknesses. (3) As soon after in Tunisia, the absence of a massive organization, of workers assemblies and councils, prevented the movement from escalating and going further in its ambitions. Lacking the capacity to organize as a dual power, the mobilizations suddenly stopped.

The strength of the initial movement was later seen in the regime’s inability to find “culprits” to crush. The subsequent repression, brutal as always, which affected thousands of workers, did not succeed in “decapitating” a movement that had not depended on individual leaderships. The regime then used the rupture of the nuclear agreement by the USA (4) to start a crushing campaign of patriotic propaganda. But nationalism had already been questioned from the first moment by the struggles, it is impossible not to do so if the course towards war is to be thwarted. (5) In May we reported the chronicle of an Iranian comrade of the ICT, (6) [relating] a new awakening of the struggles that not only directly confronted the official discourse but also the nationalist and democratic slogans of the clandestine leftist opposition (the mujaheddin).

During the last few weeks news and videos about the struggles of sugar cane workers in Haft Tapeh, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan bordering on Iraq and the Persian Gulf, have filled the social networks. Thanks to the aforementioned comrade of the ICT, we have come to know that the speaker is a workers’ delegate named Ismail Bakhshi, who has addressed the assembly saying:

“ (…) We must say a few words before we start our soviet tasks, in fact this gathering is for that. Today, we came to decide for ourselves to say what the workers’ soviet means is this. We decide for ourselves and make decisions and act for ourselves. We are working for our future and destiny…” (…) “…Today we have gathered to see what the meaning of the Independent Workers’ Soviet that we keep talking about is, it means to get together, not to have anything to do with anyone else. If you have put your hopes on the state’s help, if your hope lies with the private sector, I do not know, but if you hope that someone else will come to rescue us, let me put your mind at rest. It’s going to be the same, it will be the same soup and the same bowl all over again.” (…) “Our alternative is a Soviet, a collective one. We are not person-centred and we do not want individualism. Individualists, nationalists, racists and reactionaries do not associate yourselves with us. Our alternative is a workers’ soviet; collectively we will decide for ourselves, we will issue demands from the below. Enough is enough!” (…) “…we need solidarity and unity. There is nothing wrong in disagreeing, nothing at all. We have now come together. We want to work together and put our minds together to find a way forward and reach a conclusion.” (7)

We are witnessing the formation of the first workers’ councils, the passage from the independent organization of a strike to the organization of a parallel and alternative power of the workers. The qualitative leap which, if extended, would mark the passage to a revolutionary situation. As the Iranian comrade of the ICT points out in his article:

“ (…) we would like to briefly note the other two strengths of this mass meeting and its demonstrations, which took place after a few days in front of the governor of the city. Demonstrations that were also attended by other workers and their families from the city of Shush. They cried out for the solidarity and unity with other workplaces and cities that are facing similar issues with the management. In particular with the current dispute and strike that is taking place in the Foolad steel factory in the nearby city of Ahvaz. The slogan “Long live the unity of Foolad and Haft Tapeh”, broke the barriers to class unity and solidarity. This was well received by Foolad’s workers and the next day they responded with the same slogans in their demonstration.” (8)

What we are seeing is the development of centralism as expressed in a class struggle. We are seeing the proletariat being constituted as a universal political class, fighting for universal needs and including everyone in the struggle, confronting one by one all forms of exclusion and discrimination not by ideology, but by their very nature, not because individuals and their “identities” change but because it is a necessity of the struggle in defense of their unity. It is the struggle of the class as such and not the “cultural change” or feminist interclassism that already transforms, in the course of the struggles, the situation of working women.

What we are seeing in Iran is the affirmation of a pre-revolutionary situation in which a state and a national capital, oriented with all its forces towards the imperialist war, from Yemen (9) to Lebanon and Gaza, collapse, and a proletariat that affirms the basic human needs, life, livelihood and future of the species, in the face of the destructive needs of national capital. It is a first example of the only way in which the historical dilemma to which a terminal capitalism has led us, can be solved: war, death and misery or revolutionary transformation of the foundations of society.

What is also emerging and we see in Haft Tapeh, [for example in the photo above], is the role of those minority of workers who are able to draw lessons from the past, from the victories and defeats of the class. They are the nucleus of something fundamental to being capable of moving forward: a class party. For the time being, they are just relatively isolated seeds. But breaking out of that isolation, at some point a product of circumstances, is not a responsibility that falls exclusively on them. The development of the class struggle will come to nothing if it remains at the national level. It is up to us, all over the world, to prepare ourselves and construct the tool that will enable us to rise to the occasion: to organize ourselves, to learn and to intervene in order to break out of that isolation and to extend the struggles that are now breaking out around the globe to turn the generalization of the imperialist war in course into a world revolution.

Nuevo Curso, November 23, 2018


Translation: H.C., November 27, 2018


1 See ‘Nuevo Curso’ on the proletarian movement in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran (1): Mobilizations of workers in the Middle East or ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.2#1, February – March 2018, p.17.

2 Al Jazeera, June 11, 2018: Gulf nations pledge $2.5bn economic aid package to Jordan [notably Saudi Arabia]

3 See Nuevo Curso’s second article at the time: Why is the movement in Iran in reflux? (Ibidem, p.18)

4 See The nuclear treaty and the Argentine rescue are two sides of the commercial war (‘Nuevo Curso’, May 9, 2018) in: Two internationalist statements on the American withdrawal from the Iranian ‘nuclear agreement’ (May 17, 2018): or ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.2#3, June – July 2018, p. 18.

6 Source: D. Sadaati, Iran: Class War against Imperialist Pretensions: (May 10, 2018)

7 Source: D. Sadaati: The Crisis and the Rise of Workers’ Militancy in Iran (November 19, 2018)

8 Ibidem.

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