Is Iran next on Bush's Hit List?

From Class Struggle 51 July-August 2003

Iran is now a prime target of Bush’s administration. The Islamic Republic is facing mounting domestic opposition. The US is openly supporting the opposition. But will it become the next item in Bush’s ‘evil axis’ hit list? We examine the historical causes of the current crisis in Iran, and put forward our view on how workers can defeat the US plans for ‘regime change’, and at the same time overcome all the barriers to the formation of a secular, socialist republic in Iran. 

In Iran today the situation is very unstable. Since 1999 there has been a gradual build up of opposition to the Islamic Republic headed by Ayatollah Khamenei. In the last weeks tens of thousands of students have taken to the streets in opposition to the privatisation of the universities. In Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Esfahan, and many other cities, they have been joined by workers protesting the shortages of water, electricity, prices rises, unpaid wages and poverty. Both students and workers are calling for the end of the Islamic Republic. The mounting unrest is being used by the US to demand a “regime change” from within. Not only has Bush named Iran as one of the rogue states in the ‘axis of evil’, after the victory in Iraq he has made direct threats of unilateral US intervention to stop the development of nuclear weapons in Iran. Not to be outdone, France is arresting and jailing exiled members of the Mujahadeen, a radical militant Iranian organisation. 

Many Iranians after 24 years of Islamic rule do want a ‘regime change’.Some capitalist and petty capitalist elements believe that the US can rescue them from the Islamic Republic and reinstall a Western-aligned democratic regime. But the working masses are strongly opposed to US intervention.Others want the Islamic regime to become more moderate and democratic without reorienting itself to the West. What do we make of these positions?

Whatever is wrong with the Islamic Republic, ultimately imperialism is to blame.So the US cannot be the solution whether it intervenes directly or not. Nor has the crisis of the regime be solved by the politics of religious fanaticism. As we shall see, the very nature of the Islamic Republic as a clerical regime prevents it from reforming itself.We shall show that the unpopularity of the government flows directly from its origins in 1979 as a counter-revolutionary regime that rode to power on the backs of an insurgent working class and poor peasantry, only to turn on the masses and smash its leading organisations. That is why the demand “Down with the Islamic Republic” is becoming the catch cry on the streets with the students and workers. There can be no compromise between the interests of the emerging mass movement and the repressive Islamic regime. 

To understand why this is happening today, and why the opposition in Iran poses a potential threat not only to the regime, but also to the US and the other imperialists, we have to go back to the 20th century history of Iran.

[Much of the material in this article is drawn fromthe Worker-Communist Party of Iran’s webpage: http:/// and “Khomeini’s Capitalism: the imperialists close in”inRevolutionary Communist Papers No 6 Theoretical Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Tendency (Britain) June, 1980.]

British Imperialism’s semi-colony.

[Semi-colonies are oppressed countries whose political independence does not mean that the national bourgeois has any control over the economy which remains dominated by imperialism. They can include neo-colonies like India, but in some cases because they emerged out of existing non-capitalist empires like Turkey and Iran, do not originate as capitalist colonies.]

After the Ottoman Empire collapsed during WW1, British and French imperialism divided up the Middle East and created artificial semi-colonies or client regimes with puppet rulers. Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia etc were all born as the stunted children of imperialism who were destined to remain dependent and could never grow up so long as imperialism ruled. (We must not leave out Israel – in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 the British gave the Jewish capitalist class the green light to settle in Palestine.)The children were stunted because they were trapped in an international division of labour dominated by the imperialist powers, a division which made them exporters of cheap raw materials and importers of manufactured goods. Thus the semi-colonial capitalist ruling classes of the Middle East remained dependent on imperialism and could not follow the path of the US or Japan to economic independence. 

Client regimes were delegated the task of managing the dependent semi-colonial development of capitalism so that the imperialists got the lion’s share of the oil and other wealth created by the workers in the region.While the local capitalists had an interest in negotiating with imperialism for as big a slice of the profits as they could get, they had to collaborate with imperialism for their class survival. Whatever their differences, both imperialists and the national ruling classes had a common interest in profiting from the super-exploitation of workers and poor peasants. 

The difficulty for imperialism was to find semi-colonial regimes that could extract maximum super-profits without being overthrown by the masses. Because the national bourgeoisies were weak, they had to rely on regimes that formed alliances with the petty capitalists and to some extent the working class under the guise of ‘populism’ or ‘patriotic alliances’. Thus when the poor masses resisted their super-exploitation and demanded independence from imperialism, these regimes pretended to be anti-imperialist, and aided by reformist working class parties, made minor concessions to the masses to try to keep them quiet. When the imperialists applied too much pressure this strategy failed and workers threatened to break through the controls of the reformists and overthrow the state.The regimes then had to appeal to traditional petty capitalists as a class base for radical nationalist regimes that posed as anti-imperialist, but whose interest was ultimately to protect national capital by eliminating the threat posed by the revolutionary masses. Not until the masses organised independently of both the bourgeoisie and the petty capitalists would there be a class alliance strong enough to win the poor masses, including the impoverished petty capitalists, to a class alliance that could liberate these semi-colonies from imperialism’s deathly grip.

Iran’s 20th century history followed this pattern. Under Reza Shah in the 1920’s and 1930’s Iran’s economy was dominated by Britain and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (ADIOS). [AIOC later became British Petroleum, now selling itself as Beyond Petroleum, and soon to be Beautiful People.]
The Shah attempted to negotiate a better share for the weak Iranian bourgeoisie. Because Iran had little private capital, he used the state to develop the domestic economy, imposing import controls and creating public monopolies in sugar, tea, cotton, jute, rice and carpets.He then built large scale manufacturing plants for textiles, food processing, forestry and mineral production. But inefficiencies and low quality made these industries unprofitable.When the Shah failed to get financial support from Britain in the 1930’s to prop up the stagnating economy he turned to an alliance with Hitler. To secure the oil fields and a supply line to the Soviet Union the British and the US invaded Iran in the south, and the USSR in the north. This invasion brought to an end this first phase of Iran’s attempt at insulated economic development. 
The war and its aftermath gave a boost to economic protectionism from another quarter. From 1941 to 1951 the wartime economy encouraged the petty bourgeoisie of shopkeepers and small industry to expand to meet the domestic market, particularly the small businesses supplying the occupying military. But there was no large investment by imperialism to allow the economy to take off. This drove sections of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie to adopt a more radical ‘economic nationalism’.[Most semi-colonies experienced this expansion of the domestic economy under wartime conditions because they had to substitute domestic production for imports and got good prices for their exports from countries at war.] 
At the same time the working class which had begun to develop under the Shah’s protectionist policy in the 30s continued to expand during and after World War Two and developed a strong anti-imperialist sentiment. [At the turn of the century 90% of the labour force worked in agriculture. By 1945 this hadfallen to 75%, in 1966 it was 47% and 1980 less than 40%. By 1920 there were at least 12 unions with a total membership of over 20,000. Many of these were affiliated to the Red International of Trade Unions. In the mid-1940s the Tide-controlled Central Council of Unified Trades Unions (CCUTU) had more than half a million members who marched under its banner on May Day 1946.]

The rise of Tudeh

Now the national bourgeoisie had once more to steer a course between imperialism and the anti-imperialist sentiment of the masses. It tried to advance its national class interests by riding the anti-imperialist wave but still keeping the exploitative relationship between the bourgeoisie and working class intact. It was helped in this task by the Stalinist organisations that dominated the political leadership of the working class. Rather than mobilise workers and poor peasants to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the Communist Party took the Stalinist view that Iran had to first develop as an independent capitalist country before it could become socialist. This was a convenient theory that allowed it to ally itself with the national bourgeoisie against imperialism to create a ‘democratic’ Iran as a ‘friend’ of the Soviet Union. But the price of this policy was subordination of the working masses and the nation minorities to the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie and to the inevitable counter-revolution. 

[Trotsky condemned such patriotic popular fronts as leading to the destruction of the working masses at the hands of the national bourgeoisie and imperialists. He called for workers united fronts independent of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie that could take the lead in the fight against imperialism and carry on to overthrow the national bourgeoisie as a ‘permanent revolution’. This was what happened in Russia, and had been prevented in China in 1927 by the Stalinist leadership’s popular front with Chiang Kai Chek (see Class Struggle # 46)]

As we have seen, the working class grew rapidly in Iran along with capitalist industry.It was mainly under the influence of the Stalinist Tudeh party. The Tudeh party was formed in 1941 by the survivors of the Communist Party of Iran. It quickly became the strongest force in the working class. But its policies were always tied to the USSR and to the Iranian bourgeoisie. While the USSR occupied the north of Iran, Tudeh supported the national independence movements of the Azerbaijanis and the Kurds as a means of prolonging Soviet influence and gaining oil concessions. By 1945 both Azerbaijani and Kurdish republics had been formed with the support of the Soviet troops and Iraqi Kurds. But once the interests of the USSR had been served the Tudeh was prepared to sacrifice the national rights of the minorities and the interests of the working class.

The Tudeh joined the government of the bourgeois liberal Prime Minister Qavam in January 1946. He promised oil concessions to the Soviets if they would withdraw their troops. The Soviets did so and the new republics were crushed. [The Azerbaijani republic was invaded in December 1946 and its leaders imprisoned or executed. The Kurdish republic fell soon after and its leader Qadi Muhammed was executed.] Qavam later reneged on his promise. The sell-out of the oppressed nationalities was hailed by the Tudeh as a victory. 

Now Qavam could turn the screws on the Tudeh. He formed the Iranian Democratic Party (IDP) representing the landed aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and a government-sponsored union. Tudeh joined an IDP-led government, providing three cabinet ministers. When the oil workers of Khuzestan staged a general strike in July 1946 and several casualties occurred on both sides, and the British Labour government threatened to invade Aberdan, the Tudeh general secretary Reza Rusta, who was also secretary of the CCUTU, [See note above] went to Abadan and persuaded the workers to call off the general strike without any of their demands being met. The betrayals of the national minorities and workers led to a falling off of Tudeh support at a time when the working class was still on the rise. Even so, its next task was to direct the working class in behind the economic nationalist policies of Mossadegh.

Nationalism serves US imperialism

Between 1949 and 1951 a series of strikes culminating in a general strike hit Iran. The Shah appointed Mossadegh to ‘re-establish social order’. As one Senator at the time observed:

“Class tensions have reached such a point that they threaten the whole fabric of society…The only way to save Iran is to unite all classes against the foreign enemy”. (RCP p 12).
Like the Shah before him, Mossadegh was an economic nationalist, but he went further in his attempts to insulate the Iranian economy. By 1949 he saw the need to harness petty bourgeois and worker support and formed the National Front for a sweeping nationalisation of industry. He calculated that Britain would even tolerate the nationalisation of the IAOC so long as it needed Iranian oil and could make a profit.

Mossadegh wasted no time in nationalising foreign industries including the IAOC. This suited the US which welcomed the loss of its rival’s oil assets.However, the IAOC called Mossadegh’s bluff, boycotted Iranian oil and shifted its operations to Iraq and Kuwait. Iran did not own a single oil tanker and its oil production fell to near zero. This crisis forced Mossadegh to retreat to his core support in the national bourgeoisie and working class against the Shah and the landed aristocracy.He took on more powers and sought to transfer control of the army from the Shah to the Prime Minister – i.e. himself. 

This alarmed the US which saw the mobilisation of the poor working masses and the USSR gaining influence in Iran as a threat to its interests. When the Tudeh joined the National Front in 1951 in support of Mossadegh’s nationalisation plans, this was too much for the US. It started to move against him. The petty bourgeois were already opposed to Mossadegh’s radical plans for land reform and modern education. So the US cut off his loans and isolated him further by offering bribes to the petty bourgeois parties in the National Front. 

“Most of the middle class and petit bourgeoisie soon realised that mass mobilisations against imperialism would eventually threaten their interests. They opted for a deal with imperialism rather than countenance any radical threat to their class position; Imperialism was quick to oblige. As soon as oil production was restarted massive American loans flowed into Iran. Economic policy once again fell into line with the requirements of imperialism” (RCP p 8). 
The CIA and the army replaced Mossadegh in 1953 and the workers organisations controlled by the Tudeh then paid the price of the Stalinist popular front with the national bourgeoisie, becoming the victims of the Shah’s anti-worker policies.[The Shah banned trades unions and imprisoned many militants. New labour laws in 1959 allowed state-run unions but no right to strike combined with paternalist social insurance and profit sharing schemes. The Shah’s secret police SAVAK had spies in workplaces and employed thugs to break strikes.] They had learned the hard way that the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie were more afraid of a insurgent working class and a poor peasantry, than of imperialism. The dominant US imperialism moved to bring the national regime back into line with its economic interests, and under the Shah, the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie also fell into line. Thus ended of the second phase of economic nationalism. 

The Shah as US imperialist puppet

The Shah Pahlavi was installed and ruled Iran for 26 years as one of the many US–friendly dictators in the region. He instituted the ‘white revolution’ designed to eliminate the social barriers of pre-capitalist classes, such as the landlords and the petty bourgeoisie, to modern capital accumulation. His aim was to reorganise the state along efficient lines to allow the free flow of capital. This was not to be another phase of economic nationalism but rather state-assisted capitalist industrialisation dominated by imperialism.The state would invest in new ventures and then privatise them once they were profitable. 

State investment in the economy grew rapidly in heavy industry notably the Esfahan steel mill, Arak heavy metals factory, Tabriz tractor plant, Ahwaz Aluminium works and the Khuzestan petrochemicals complex. [RCP page 8]
Public spending on health, arms etc jumped from 27% in 1971 to 45% in 1976.ehi The traditional bazaar moneylenders were replaced by a state central bank and state banks in joint ventures with British, Dutch and Japanese banks. This period of rapid growth and expansion was possible only on the back of rising oil revenues to cover Iran’s balance of payments deficits. 

The Shah opened up Iran to direct foreign investment and super-exploitation. Rising oil revenues fuelled economic development until the mid-1970’s. Growth rates went from 9% in the 1960s to over 35% in the early 1970s. National capital expanded into the production of consumer goods such as radios, refrigerators and cars for the domestic market. Foreign capital leaped over the import controls and invested heavily in rubber, chemicals, drugs, mining and aluminum.

While the Shah’s agricultural reforms failed to convert the landlords and peasants to capitalist farming, they created millions of displaced peasants.By 1977, Iran, which had been self-sufficient in food production in the 1950s, had to import 16% of its rice, 20% of its wheat and 25% of its meat. By the mid 1970s the increasing dependency on oil revenues left Iraq’s economy heavily indebted to foreign investors and unable to meet its debt repayments. Iran’s inability to escape the trap of imperialist super-exploitation by state-aided foreign investment in industry and agriculture was now obvious in its ballooning debt crisis.

The classes that bore the brunt of this crisis were the workers and poor peasants. The Iranian working class grew from 2.7 million in 1956 to 4.7 million in 1976, and the greatest increase was in the public sector. The failed agricultural reforms forced peasants off the land into the shantytowns around the cities. At the same time a shortage of skilled workers saw tens of thousands of foreign workers employed. Low productivity led employers to force workers to increase their output. In the 1970s opposition began to mount against the rising exploitation of the workers and peasants. More and more illegal strikes and go-slows occurred despite the harsh repression. The regime made concessions to skilled workers such as pay increases and profit sharing, but failed to stem the rising militancy of the working class. By 1978 the Shah was prepared to met this militancy with state force which in turn only produced more strikes culminating in mass demonstrations and the oil workers’ strike of October 1978.Here was a massive working class and poor peasantry, led by a section of militant state workers, ripe for social revolution. 
Meanwhile, what had happened to the petty bourgeoisie, that backward class which the Shah tried to eliminate as a social barrier to modern capitalism? As we have seen, the ‘white revolution’ failed to modernise agriculture. The landlords retained their dominance in the countryside. The bazaar which brought together small traders, craftsmen and businessmen, survived and grew, but increasingly came under threat from the Shah’s modernising policies.The petty bourgeoisie suffered at the hands of the foreign banks and resented the Shah’s plans to replace the bazaars with supermarkets.The Islamic mullahs as a traditional petty bourgeoisie were aligned to the bazaars. So the Shah’s attacks on the bazaars challenged the whole social system of which the mosque was the centre. As the economic crisis further undermined the economic existence of the bazaar, from the early 1960s opposition to the Shah rallied behind the Ayatollah Khomeini. 
So along with the emerging working class and poor peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie had became a force for change. However, rather than follow the course charted by the workers’ interests, the anti-Shah movement was taken over by a petty bourgeois radical Islam with its popular appeal to class unity against the repressive regime.How was it that the modern, expanding, and militantly led working class allowed itself to be dragged backwards into the reactionary Islamic Republic?
The left and the ‘revolution’
The ‘Islamic revolution’ has long been a highly contentious event for the revolutionary left. The basic sequence of events is clear enough. The Shah was overthrown by a bloc of the national bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie, workers, landlords and poor peasants in which the masses provided the troops, and the Islamic leadership, the officers.The bourgeoisie wanted to take back more control over the economy from imperialism but was too weak to do this alone. The petty bourgeoisie and the landlords were desperate to prevent the Shah’s reforms from wiping them out. They rallied to the Islamic opposition. The workers and poor peasants mobilised in their millions to get rid of the repressive regime. They lent their support to what they believed to be a genuine national revolution. 
The first phase of the revolution between 1979-81 was dominated by the workers movement which easily outweighed the petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces. The mass power of the insurgent workers owed nothing to the Tudeh which backed the Shah until September 1978! 

Khomeini had to make concessions and posture as an anti-imperialist to keep the masses’ support. But the revolution while it had the potential to be progressive and lead to socialism, rapidly turned into a counter-revolution.Why? Its ‘anti-imperialism’ was more apparent that real.Its real purpose was to subordinate the revolutionary masses to both the Iranian bourgeoisie and the imperialists. But to do this it had to keep the only revolutionary classes, the workers and poor peasants, on side. This required the collaboration of the political parties that represented those classes.To achieve this the regime had to convince the mass membership of these parties that it was genuinely ‘anti-imperialist’ and ready to break with imperialism and establish an independent, democratic, Iran.

The main parties of the left subscribed to the Stalinist or Menshevik position that the Shah’s pro-Imperialist dictatorship had to be overthrown and an independent bourgeois democratic nation created before the conditions for socialism could be built. As we have seen, this stagist view of history served the interests of the national bourgeoisie, but also imperialism, because no semi-colonial nation can become independent of imperialism unless it is lead by a workers and poor peasant’s revolution. 

[Tudeh’s collaboration with the Islamic regime was a total capitulation.It called Khomeini and co ‘progressive clergy… struggling for freedom and democracy’. Even after Khomeini turned on the workers, closing down party offices and banning left newspapers,the Tudeh was silent. It backed the reactionary Islamic constitution of December 1979. So slavish was its backing of the clergy that the Tudeh general secretary was contemptuously referred to as ‘Ayatollah Kianouri’.]
The main parties of the left – the Tudeh, the Mujaheddin and Fedayeen all supported the Islamic leadership of the revolution. [The two guerillaist groups the Mujahedin (Muslim Marxists) and Fedayeen (Castroists) believed that guerilla action could ‘detonate mass action’, but that action was still limited to a bourgeois democratic stage with an ‘anti-imperialist united front’ of all classes.]
They collaborated with the Islamic Revolution in the belief that it was more progressive than the Shah’s regime. But this was never the case.Khomeini’s forces were based on the Mosque and the Bazaar, the two main institutions that represented the surviving pre-capitalist social relations in Iran and whose adaptation to Iranian capitalism was to foster petty capitalism or a protectionist national state-capitalism.Inevitably, because of its weak position, the bourgeoisie had to rely upon the petty bourgeoisie Islamists to renegotiate a deal with imperialism. Initially this relationship was indirect and mediated by a ‘Bonapartist’ Islamic regime between 1979 and 1981. 
Bonapartism is a form of bourgeois state named after the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte where power is held temporarily by a strong leader or powerful clique standing ‘above classes’ ruling indirectly on behalf of the bourgeoisie when the bourgeoisie is weak and under challenge from below. [Trotsky wrote: “In the industrially backward countries foreign capital plays a decisive role. Hence the relative weakness of the national bourgeoisie in relation to the national proletariat. This creates special conditions of state power. The government veers between foreign and domestic capital, between the weak national bourgeoisie and the relatively powerful proletariat. This gives the government a Bonapartist character. It raises itself so to speak, above classes’. Actually it can govern either by making itself the instrument of foreign capitalism and holding the p proletariat in the chains of a police dictatorship, or by manoeuvring with the proletariat and even going so far as to make concessions to it, thus gaining the possibility of a certain freedom toward the foreign capitalists”. (Writings, 1938-39, Pathfinder, p. 326)] 
The Bonapartist state cannot encourage the masses too much without itself being overthrown. Nor can it balance between the two main classes indefinitely so it must crack down on the masses sooner or later. From 1980 the interests of the petty bourgeois class base of the regime forced it to rapidly align itself with national capitalism and re-negotiate its relation with imperialism. [Khomeini deliberately used a populist mixture of radical Islam, Persian nationalism and the glorification of petty commodity production to activate the petty bourgeoisie as the social base of his regime. The mass base of the regime was the Committees for the Islamic Revolution, led by local merchants and mullahs which formed the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) that have played such a reactionary role in attacking workers and women opponents of the regime.] The outcome was the consolidation of an extremist clerical capitalism in which the Islamic leadership became the dominant fraction of the national bourgeoisie. 
Khomeini’s Capitalism
As we have seen the Shah was overthrown by a workers’ revolution that had the potential to go on and become a permanent revolution for socialism. Instead it became a reactionary capitalist counter-revolution. At first Khomeini maneuvered towards the workers, the oppressed nationalities and women because he was too weak to smash them. Once he had contained them and consolidated his power he was able to establish a police state to secure bourgeois rule. Khomeini’s anti-imperialist rhetoric and his seizure of the US Embassy were ploys to deceive the workers and disarm them while he rallied the petty bourgeois forces for the counter-revolution. 
The US was prepared to pay the price of an Islamic Regime because it forestalled a socialist revolution in Iran. Like the Iranian bourgeoisie, the first consideration of the imperialists was to back a regime that could restore order. Besides it was impossible for the bourgeois government of a semi-colony to break all ties with imperialism. The most it could do was re-open negotiations with imperialism.It sought new contracts with the EEC and Japan to lessen its dependence on the US. Yet the US contracts that were cancelled received full compensation out of oil revenue. The only real worry for the imperialists was the Islamic regime’s ability to contain the workers’ revolution from below. A German businessman expressed this concern:
“Iranian workers seized six employees of a foreign company, locked them in an office and then demanded to see the company’s books. They showed that the company was bankrupt, but they also showed that the European parent company had a bank account in Switzerland. The workers refused to release their European hostages until the parent company dispatched funds to settle all wage claims at the plant.” (RCP, p 23)
As insurance against a workers’ revolution succeeding the US tried to win support in the Iranian army.This failed when Khomeini purged the army in 1984. The US also backed Iraq in an 8-year war with Iran that wasted the lives of millions of workers and peasants and allowed Khomeini to consolidate the counter-revolution. 
Rejecting the ‘white revolution’ of the Shah, the regime embarked on a road to economic nationalisation similar to that taken by Mossedegh in the early 1950s. But it was far too late for economic nationalism as a solution to Iran’s dependence. Under the Shah the Iranian economy had been integrated into the world economy. Cutting off important trade, finance and technical links to imperialism meant that the economy was doomed to stagnate. As a result the Islamic state managers became the most powerful section of the national bourgeoisie overseeing this decline. Stagnating state-owned industries became increasingly the property of ‘millionaire mullahs’ whose cronies benefited while the masses suffered increasing economic hardship. Mounting opposition was met by open repression. 
Over the 24 years of its existence the reactionary class character of the Islamic Republic has become clearer. The mounting reform movements and the militant student and workers’ oppositions of recent years show that once again a mass mobilisation against a repressive regime is building. This has given the US under its current neo-conservative leadership the opportunity to strike a pose as liberators once more in the never-ending war against the evil axis of terror. This time it is Iran’s nuclear arms program that is the pretext for targeting a ‘rogue’ state. But in reality, after 24 years, the Islamic regime has become expendable. Today US imperialism is embarking on military smash and grab raids to try to patch up its crisis-ridden economy. Iran’s oil reserve is nearly as big as Iraq’s, and US imperialism is desperate to make sure that its imperialist rivals, the EU and Japan, do not get access to this reserve of black gold.

The lesson of permanent revolution

What are the lessons for today? A potentially strong working class has existed in Iran since the onset of capitalist development after World War 1. It became a class capable of revolution by 1979 as we have seen. But in 1953 and 1979 workers were betrayed by the Stalinists (and the other left tendencies) who made deals with the national bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois Islamists that led to the defeat and destruction of the most advanced layers of the workers’ movement. 

Today these Stalinist and guerillaist parties will again collaborate with the bosses and the clerics and play their deadly treacherous role. They must be politically destroyed by healthy revolutionary forces. The masses are impatient with the Islamist dictatorship and are calling for democracy and human rights.Revolutionaries must back this struggle for the basic democratic rights necessary for any social progress. But we have to say that only a socialist revolution can win and defend such democratic rights. 

That’s why these basic demands should be accompanied by a complete transitional program of demands that mobilises workers and poor peasants against not only the threat of US imperialist intervention, but the backward national bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and their reactionary Islamic leadership – for freedom of expression, freedom from the veil, release of political prisoners, the rights of the nationalities to self-determination, and the right of Iran to be armed with nuclear weapons to defend itself from imperialism.These demands must be accompanied by those calling on workers to organise and to occupy the factories and form workers’ councils and militias capable of taking power and creating a Workers and poor Peasants’ Socialist Republic as part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East. 

To take this program to the workers and poor peasants in Iran the urgent need is for and armed independent working class movement led by a Leninist/Trotskyist party as part of a revolutionary International.

For a Leninist-Trotskyist party in Iran!

For a Workers’ and Peasants’ state!

For a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East!

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