Beyond Slogans (Part I)
By Labor • Feb 9th, 2010 • Category: Commentaries, On Iran
Source: Towards the Revolution Weekly (Communist Workers of Iran) –
By: Ahmad Farsi –
Translated by: Behrooz Navayii & Earl Gilman –
Edited by: Yassemine Mather-
Contrary to the claims, analysis and the false comments by various factions of the regime and their capitalist supporters, the basis of peoples protests in 2009 was not the tenth presidential elections or the coup d’état of the military-security wing of the regime. Both the claims about the coup making and about the significance of the reformist wing were introduced as the cause and initiator of the current social crisis in order to divert attention from the real reasons behind these protests and this was done not just by the supporters of the regime but also the monarchists, republicans and capitalists regimes throughout the world. This is a kind of ominous, hidden unity initiated spontaneously by such forces with no need for meetings, negotiations or plots. It is sufficient to be a supporter of capitalism or even a foe who does not have a practical plan to destroy it, to find yourself in this ominous unity. Yes! The current crisis of our society, the same crisis for which street demonstrations represent a new starting point of people’s protests, has its roots in the year 1963, a time when the Land Reform program was initiated. That was the reform that dealt the final blow against the rotten feudal system and moved Iran into the capitalist era.
If one seeks to find out the roots of the current crisis, one cannot rely on claims, analysis and the commentaries of supporters of capitalism, such claims only create confusion and uncertainty. Some of the Islamists blame the current crisis on Reza Shah and, his regime’s unveiling of women. Others consider Constitutional Revolution (Constitutional Monarchy) and disbandment of Islamic values as the main cause. Some of the republicans and nationalists consider the August 1953 coup and downfall of Mossadegh as the root of the problem, while Monarchists – both constitutionalist and supporters of royal dictatorship – consider the downfall of the Shah and the coming to power of the Islamic Republic as the major cause of break down. The military-security wing of the current regime blames the end of the war (with Iraq) and the appearance of the reformists at the root of the current problems and matter amidst all this, the regime’s reformists consider June 12 coup of this year, 2009 as the source of Iran’s problems. But the crisis that has made our society turbulent once again and forced social forces to confront each other is the same crisis that had its origins at the Constitutional Revolution (between 1905 and 1911) and Reza Khan’s (Later known as Reza Shah Pahlavi) coup and, one should look at the land reform and mass migration of peasants to the cities. The first manifestation of this occurred in 1974 in Tehran’s Halabi Abad (‘Tin Village’ a Tehran shanty town) that led to the revolution of 1979 and its continuation during the war between Iran and Iraq and urban uprisings in 1994-1995, political crises 1997, 1998, resurrection of the workers struggles from the first years of 21st century, the Islamic Republic’s regime’s dependence on military and security forces and finally the June 12th 2009 military, security coup.
However which elements of the land reform brought about such a crisis, one leading to further crises and important social turbulences? The answer to this question with all its complexity is simple. Land reform brought capitalism to power in Iran and its development led to expansion of capitalist relations and interrelations in every corner of the country, it turned everything and everybody into commodities that could be bought and sold. At the heart of these relations one could see the formation of surplus value and accumulation of capital. The motivation for social activity was based upon the principle that capitalists should gain profit and create a polarized population with two social classes. In fact it could be said that capitalist flourished in Iran for the first 10 years during which oil money was injected into the newborn economy and fed new capitalists. But after a decade of reconstruction and capital accumulation, its weakness and inability became visible and its crisis and shortcomings began to show. Joblessness, poverty, inflation, housing shortage and bank debts were the first symptoms of this crisis; as the system was incapable of resolving these problems, each one reached a critical degree. If those who consider the 1979 revolution as the root of the crisis want to do scientific research on this issue with no preconceptions and free of political-ideological fanaticism, they should look at the statistics relating to 1972 and onward. They would be able to see that they have confused cause with effect. The revolutionary period of 1974 -1979 was directly caused by the structural crisis of capitalism in Iran. The coming to power of the provisional government and the Islamic republic and the subsequent fleeing of capitalists with their fortune was marked by attempts to prevent the complete downfall of banks caused by foreign debts. The Bazragan government, despite its animosity with state capitalism, reluctantly nationalised banks in order to get production and capitalism working once more, funds from sale of oil was used to bankroll foreign debts. Soon afterwards, other industries, financial and production units faced major debts caused by political uncertainty, the fleeing of owners of production as well as debts to the banks and they all came under direct government supervision or regime related institutions. Other factories and private companies were also controlled by state and governmental institutions. Although these measures temporarily prevented the downfall of banks and breakdown of the capitalist system and, managed to save Iranian capitalist structure, it was not able to heal the chronic crisis. Khomeini correctly considered the Iran and Iraq war as a “blessing for the regime” since, the government managed to involve unemployed youth in the war through their direct and indirect participation in the war fronts, by launching the war economy to increase productions and in particular to force the working class to lower their expectations and endure unbearable economic conditions. Here we don’t want to debate the regime’s political reasons for war such as the use of war for creating political stability through repression and slaughter of opposition forces; however there is no doubt that such centralization of wealth demands concentration of power in the shape of 1980s fascism and the dictatorial years after the end of war.
Anyone who presumes that the capitalist system in Iran can liberalize the regime’s political make-up is dreaming the impossible. As we can see, privatization is nothing but possession of industries, capital by the regime’s insiders. In other words privatization means the ownership of the state’s wealth and corporations is transferred to an exclusive group within the capitalist state. Of course this is not limited to Iran only. A glance over Russia and the Eastern bloc countries and other countries where, encouraged by western enterprises and the World Bank and International Money Fund state capitalism has been privatized we see a similar pattern. Privatization of capital in these countries does not dissolve state monopolies and it would be stupid to assume that such actions lead to “free competition”, “free market” and “free trade” as supposed by Adam Smith’s imaginary ideal capitalism.
With the end of the (Iran-Iraq) war and the beginning of the “productive period” the Islamic republic regime continued to encourage people to live frugally. However as the regime turned to “privatization” and an increase in the role of consumerism, a rise in the consumption of luxury goods, it lead to increased polarization of society. That is the poor becoming poorer and the rich getting richer. Social welfare programs were reduced and a large number of commodities were excluded from the coupon system, the rate of inflation which was invisible until then, moved up. These adjustments had direct effects upon the masses as consumers and led to uprisings of suburban consumers. As an example we could talk about days’ of rebellion in Islamshahr in 1995 when the regime had to resort to military helicopters and missile attacks against the protesters.
As the morale of the protest movement recovered, as people began their struggles, the differences between the various tendencies of the regime on how to deal with such matters escalated, the faction that had been kept out of power returned to government with a reformist mask in order to regain official positions and opportunities they had lost. Victory of the reformist wing on May 23rd 1997 was once again the direct signs of crisis of capitalism and a subsequent social crisis. Unfortunately wishful thinking led sections of the population to believe the hallow claims of the reformists and pursue their complaints through governmental channels, suggested by the reformists. Of course as always, it was the students who were the first amongst those who realised the inability of the reformists to bring about change and to realise their hidden agenda thus the epic events of July 9th 1999 got unfolded. And that was followed soon afterwards, (from 2001 onward) by the working class who was sick and tired of phony pledges and empty promises of the regime’s factions. The working class embarked on the serious road of direct confrontation and this marked a new phase in the revolutionary movement of the people.
On the other hand, being aware of the nature of class contradictions resulting from social and economic crisis and foreseeing inevitable people’s struggles, the Islamic republic regime sill relying on its military-security forces, allowed the reformist faction to hold political power while its military-security wing was strengthening. From the beginning the regime’s reformist faction recognized the power of its foe and complained about the armed forces interference in the economy, politics and especially in elections however, they were also aware of the fact that the regime was unable to run the administration without use of violence. That is why through all these political phases the reformists never petitioned for abolition of the way power was divided. The reason behind it was clear: they knew that without such military support the Islamic republic regime and capitalist state would not survive. Today, we can see that the reformists’ complaints are limited to “excessive usage” of power and execution of “coup d’état” and, they do not challenge their “legal” role in suppression of peoples’ protests.
In these few pages we saw that the current protests of the people has much deeper roots than what the supporters of the capitalist system, from the factions of the regime to the “opposition” forces and the capitalist states of the world are willing to admit. The reasons lie in the crisis that none of them could admit properly. Neither at the time of Pahlavi Shah of Iran, nor during the 1979 revolution, not at the time of war nor, at the times of reconstruction and so forth the above groups would not have been capable of answering basic questions regarding the economy properly. That is exactly why they choose evasion when it comes to economic issues. But when they are forced to state their view, it is the same old well rehearsed opinions; clarifying they intend to fill their own pockets with “Privatization” while their opponents want to do the same but through state capitalism. All of their efforts are directed towards gaining a position so that they can benefit most from the economic crisis so that they can exploit further the workforce and to plunder natural resources for maximum profits. Of course to follow this course they need the support of some incognizant people too; people who are supposedly against capitalism and support various kind of socialism but for various reasons they do not have a true alternative to the existing order or they do not present it.
But to solve these crisis and to prevent their fatal and detrimental consequences what is to be done? Is there, as the capitalists and their naïve supporters claim and believe really no way out? Is it true when they say that the world has always been like this and, that is the way it will always be? Of course not! But the solution is not that easy and it necessitates a social act to use all the natural resources and social labour. But this social act’s incentive ought to be production, to supply people’s lives basic needs and higher standards of living and not in the service of a few capitalist to accumulate more capital and to gain higher profits. Changing incentives and the direction of production renders many of the laws governing capitalist economy absurd and its methods useless. For example the cost of production and price will not be the determinant factor for commodity production. The expenses occurred to produce a commodity will not matter, no effort will be made to determine the price of a commodity in the world market; it would not matter where in the world the commodity was produced cheaper. The important factor would be how many jobs have been saved by producing this item, how will it provide other peoples living wage and needs. An important factor is which resources have been used to enhance production and how these resources are used and maintained in so that human lives and the environment are no affected by their destructive effects…
Of course as long as the capitalists and the capitalist system have political power they would not let us operate in this manner and their repressive forces exist for this very reason. Essentially the role of such regimes is to impose dictatorship in the interest of capitalists; from the legislative force that is there to decorate and justify all plunder and looting (by capitalists) to Judicial Institutions which exist to punish and suppress the people who dare to challenge capitalist ownership; and most of all, the administrative apparatus responsible for the use of military forces upon which capitalism relies. Of course financial duty to collect tax and, to confiscate peoples’ wealth (like oil and…) and gather the expenses to keep the wheels of this huge bureaucratic machine rolling are part of the same scheme. Therefore until this cannibalistic and bloody machine is not exterminated and a government representing the decisions of the people comes all the above plans are only dreams. But with establishment of the government of people, with direct democracy through a Peoples’ Assemblies Republic, the people will have enough political might to impose their will upon capitalists. But how will this government be formed? How much aptitude does it have? What will be its first course of actions? These are complex matters which can only be resolved through complex discussions of historical examples. But since we are at the beginning of such discussions, we will endeavour to present the arguments from the next issue of our paper.
Beyond Slogans (Part II): Is a Republic based on Peoples Assemblies only a dream?
By Labor • Feb 24th, 2010 • Category: Commentaries, On Iran
On the topic of the Republic of Peoples Assemblies as a form of government, the bourgeoisie tries to present it as an unachievable dream. This is because nobody can deny that this is a democratic system of governance; that is a government that gives every single member of society the means for direct intervention in legislative and administrative rule. Of course considering existence of millenniums of living in class societies, imagining an egalitarian, fair society as a real possibility rather than a dream is very difficult. But fortunately for example democracy of Athena lasted long enough until the time when humanity invented writing and recorded history and, therefore it became recorded as a historical paradigm of such a government. With obliteration of the feudal system and transfer of political relations from the countryside into cities and from scattered social relations into concentrated integration, after the transition from self sufficiency into a different type of society with dependence on each other, the contemporary models appeared and by studying them the reader becomes aware that not only such method of governing is real (not a dream) but, at the time of capitalist system’s decline its appearance is inevitable. In a series of articles in the last three issues of our magazine , the articles by one of our comrades has presented the subject , Those articles describe historical examples through which Peoples Assemblies (councils -soviets) have been formed and evolved towards Peoples Assemblies Republic. Our comrade’s articles show that such governments are real from a scientific and historical perspective. Relations, structure and function of this form of governance has also been explained through Marx’s summing up of the Paris Commune. Fortunately Farsi translation of the original source of Karl Marx’s views on the Paris Commune as reported in “the French Civil War” to the (first) International was recently published by “Revolutionary Communist” comrades on the Internet. Therefore we are not short of historical and theoretical resources to respond to this question. However parts of this argument are also present in right wing and liberal publications, and the Iranian bourgeoisie is busy with propaganda against his concept , through articles published in periodicals including some by sections of the superficial masquerading as “revolutionaries” by calling for the “Overthrow of the Islamic Republic.” If throughout the world the liberal bourgeoisie claims that this form of government is “Utopian” and proclaims that injustice and inequality are eternal factors, adherents of bourgeois ideology in the Iranian communist movement say that such a form of government is not possible given Iran’s “concrete conditions”. Regarding the ideological struggle and in response to liberals worldwide , the new wave of communist movements , who like us have recently come to existence around the world fight to establish Peoples Assemblies governments and every one of these groups is busy in its own environment to expose the nature of deceptive bourgeois propaganda. We are a part of this new communist movement, combating the revisionist lines that were manipulating the communist movement during the 20th century and, we are determined to distinguish our line from revisionism. We have taken up this task; but we find ourselves luckier than comrades around the world; since, if our comrades in most parts of the world have to develop their ideas solely through theoretical debates and arguments, we have the advantage of reminding everyone of the historic events of the Iranian revolution from 1974 until 1979 when the working class had the strength to fight against and neutralize such bourgeois ideas in practice. Therefore without getting into direct polemical exchanges with them, we can prove our claim.
In the height of revolutionary movement of the Iranian people in 1979 this movement reached a point where it became evident that it was both improbable and impossible to reach concessions with the reactionary Pahlavi regime. Some consider the incident in Zhaleh Square and the bloody murder of the protesters as the major decisive point. In any case after that incident the slogan “Down with the Shah” became the minimum demand of all people. It was natural for the capitalist class to realize that the days of Pahlavi regime were over and that it could no longer act as the guardian of their possessions and their interests. That was the reason why large numbers of capitalists left the country in a hurry leaving behind those sections of their wealth that could not be transferred abroad. We are not going to get into the details of how they made under the counter deals with bank officials to receive enormous amounts of long term loans, converting them immediately into foreign exchange and transferable capitals as they run away with from Iran, but the result of that process is very important for our discussion, as they left factories and companies whose owners and high ranking managers were in exile and therefore with no owner/manager. Under those conditions, the workers and other employees of these factories and economic units had no choice but to form collective organizations in order to find a resolution to the important issue of continued existence of production, to safeguard their livelihood. These social groups in economic centers were the first signs of the Workers Councils in Iran of 1979. In addition, the continuation of the popular revolutionary movement and the presence of workers councils in these struggles changed the balance of forces significantly toward the revolutionary side and the Pahlavi regime’ administration of the country became weaker and weaker by the day. Finally it was on February 9th 1979 when people attacked military bases and disarmed sections of the regime forces. When the people got armed the Pahlavi regime broke down and along with it parts of the regime’s duties including maintaining security in the neighborhoods and towns and villages. At that time the temporary government of Bazargan – Khomeini was nothing but a title. Therefore when the military and SAVAK and other agents left over from the Pahlavi regime gathered armed group around themselves to steal and plunder from ordinary people, the responsibility to establish local security order fell upon the shoulders of ordinary people. They formed neighborhood committees and armed their own youths, barricaded entrance and exits to their neighborhoods and cities and took over local and city affairs. At the time of their appearance these “committees” were in fact the same neighborhood and regional assemblies (councils-soviets). That was the way regional and neighborhood volunteers gathered together to make decisions, divided the tasks and performed them. There was no centralized armed institution against them to neutralize their wills or to suppress them. And in the same way, with the workers councils getting armed and entrenched in the economic centers, almost unconsciously the essence of their actions meant that in practice the government of assemblies’ republic was born.
The Peoples Assemblies (Councils-Soviets) Republic can take shape based upon necessities of class struggle without needing prior knowledge. This is an imperative principle in connection with our current discussion, The bourgeoisie always wants to claim that Peoples Assemblies government cannot take shape since “human nature” prevents candid cooperation between individuals and “greed and competition of the people” (as if everybody was like them) . But in reality we can see that the birth of Peoples Assemblies government is not a choice that its creation will not simply depend on the will of particular individuals so that their “greedy and competitive” nature can prevent its creation. But its occurrence is due to class interests and objective necessity of class struggle, rather a collective class action that will place it in a deterministic way upon individuals’ shoulder. However peoples’ awareness of its necessity and its historical role for survival and evolution is a very important and determining factor. Lack of knowledge by ordinary people and the masses of the working class regarding the historical necessity to establish a Peoples Assemblies government did not prevent its momentarily short lived birth. But this lack of knowledge prevented its survival, stability and development as the only revolutionary government that can guarantee presenting and keeping democracy and freedom for the people.
After the fall of the Pahlavi regime and announcement by Khomeini that the temporary government of Bazargan is to rule the country, it took two years before the Islamic Republic was established. During those two years, the central government stabilized itself gradually and took a wider range of issues under its control and, to the same extent governing Peoples Assemblies was annulled and was giving their power to central government organizations and institutions. That was due to the fact that no one had ideas about Peoples Assemblies governance. Large and small communist groups were lost in their revisionist and opportunist ideological delusions about the “Democratic Revolution” and necessity of uniting with “Revolutionary Bourgeoisie” , they believed Khomeini was revolutionary and anti imperialist as the representative of revolutionary and democratic petty bourgeoisie and they failed to recognize the revolutionary governing assemblies. They only began thinking of supporting these organizations when all the neighborhood committees had come under the control of the bourgeois regime acting through local mosques. Working place councils were either going through Islamic metamorphosis or they were being suppressed by regimes’ military and repressive forces. That is why if during the revolutionary struggles, after the downfall of the Pahlavi regime and the arrival of relative free political environment if a real conscious proletarian force existed and had recognized the democratic revolutionary groups and Peoples Assemblies government and informed the people about it, perhaps the history of the revolution and its result would be different. It was precisely the absence of such conscious element which led to a situation where instead of definite and antagonistic struggle with the bourgeoisie and becoming and taking power, the councils became the custodians of the interests of the bourgeois regime and kept the society in ‘peace and tranquility’ so that the bourgeois power could rebuild itself without obstacles and problems.
From this part of our discussion we conclude that if the revolutionary struggles of Iranian people continue their progressive development and they are able to overthrow the Islamic republic regime, the seeds of Peoples Assemblies (councils-Soviets) governance will get fertilized and during the occurrence of a political power vacuum they will come to life. Our duty, as communists who are aware of the historical role of this form of government, is to transfer this knowledge through propaganda and public endorsement amongst the masses, in particular so that acknowledgment of its powers can turn it into a revolutionary government capable of transforming the society and developing socialism. Of course simultaneously with our task to overthrow capitalist regime we need to struggle to guarantee the progress of the revolutionary movement in particular until the complete destruction of the Islamic republic’s dictatorial regime. This is another task that we have talked about in other articles and shall get into again later. But in the following part of these articles we will show that following the peoples’ insurrections to overthrow the regime day by day, we can show the benefits of the establishment of the Soviet Republic government for the working masses.