The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 23           July 7, 2003  
 
 
Support student protests in Iran
(editorial)
 
Washington has tightened the noose around Tehran by using the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The agency rebuked Iran for some violations of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and demanded more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities. It set another meeting in September to assess whether the Iranian government met these requirements. The U.S. rulers, now with firmer support from their imperialist allies, thus took another step along their course toward toppling the regime in Iran—their goal since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah, one of the main pillars of imperialist domination in the region.

Working people around the world should denounce these steps by the U.S. and other imperialist powers and demand “Hands off Iran!”

At the same time, the student protests in Tehran and other Iranian cities that began in early June deserve wholehearted support. These actions are pushing toward greater democratic freedoms. They can result in greater space for political expression and organization of working people in Iran. While there is no indication that this democratic movement is going or will go in a proletarian direction—that is, toward the working class and its allies and a class-conscious vanguard assuming the leadership—it is progressive. The regime in Tehran has had a hard time clamping down on the protests through the use of goons; for that to happen, they would need a quick victory in putting down the demonstrations. But that’s not what transpired. The government had to come out denouncing, to a degree, the goon attacks and even arrest some of the ringleaders, but couldn’t quickly find an adequate substitute. It remains stuck with them.

This position is a correction of the line presented in last week’s Militant. The subhead of the lead article in the last issue said, “Washington tries to use student protests in drive to oust regime.” It gave the wrong impression the Militant somehow backed the arguments of the regime in Tehran that the protests are “objectively” counterrevolutionary, largely instigated by the CIA.

It’s true the U.S. government is trying to take advantage of these protests to pursue its goals in the region. That’s to be expected from any imperialist power trying to subvert a semicolonial regime that’s a thorn in its side and faces internal unrest. But there is no need to put a negative everywhere the imperialists put a positive sign.

Any progress toward opening more political space in Iran will undercut the hand of imperialism in its designs to attack the country. That’s the Militant’s central and always its first point. The three main arguments Washington has used in its campaign pushing for “regime change” in Iran have been: 1) nuclear weapons development, 2) support for “terrorist” groups, and 3) denial of basic human freedoms. On the nuclear issue, Washington is making steady progress. But there are indications that Tehran may back down and make more concessions on its sovereignty and even its right to systematically develop nuclear power. On the “aiding terrorism” charges, Tehran has been showing a degree of collaboration with Washington, but only enough to whet the appetite of U.S. imperialism and make the situation worse for Iran. One of the imperialists’ stronger cards is the denial of basic democratic rights in Iran. So a movement that can push back existing restrictions on basic rights and push for more space undercuts the hand of U.S. imperialism and its allies. The U.S. rulers can’t use the same arguments against Tehran they used against Baghdad, that the hated Baathist regime killed thousands of its own people now uncovered in mass graves. But Washington does use the fact that there are many restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom to meet and organize, and it especially takes advantage of the prejudicial treatment of women in Iran.

Most reports in the bourgeois press, however, have not been able to paint these demonstrations as pro-imperialist. Very few people are quoted by the media saying “We want the Americans to come here to free us like they did in Iraq.” Other chants like “We want neither shah nor supreme leader” seem to be more prominent.

For some time the biggest danger to the remaining gains and dynamics of the anti-shah revolution has been the regime in Iran. Class-conscious workers are for the Iranian toilers and their allies changing that regime. So any protests like those by the students that tend to further weaken the regime and its restrictions in a way that doesn’t weaken sovereignty but gives space to the toilers are positive, progressive, and should be backed—when they are inside Iran. Demonstrations organized in the United States or other imperialist countries to support the student protests in Iran will tend to have a pro-imperialist character, unless they are clearly aimed at the imperialists and their main thrust is “Hands off Iran!”

There is no threat of the reinstitution of shah’s Peacock Throne. There is no imminent invasion or bombing of Iran being prepared by Washington either. If there was a military attack on the horizon, class-conscious workers everywhere would act accordingly, placing as number one task defense of the Iran’s sovereignty. U.S. imperialism is pursuing its campaign against Iran through economic sanctions, by pushing on the nuclear issue, raising the specter of interdicting ships and planes that they say carry “contraband cargo”—and surely they are also carrying out CIA actions. The Militant has and will continue to write about all these measures every week. It will continue to call on working people in all the imperialist countries to demand “Hands off Iran!” including hands off the Iranian regime. Anything the imperialists are doing to promote toppling the Iranian government must be opposed. But that’s not what’s happening at the moment.

Some of the Militant’s past coverage may have also conveyed the impression that the current Iranian regime, in a warped form, is a defender of the remaining gains of the revolution. But that’s not true. The reality is that there remains little momentum from the 1979 revolution today. It’s been more than 20 years since the early 1980s when the Iranian toilers poured to the battlefront to defend their country from the U.S.-inspired invasion by Baghdad aimed at destroying the gains of the anti-shah revolt.

The great revolution against the monarchy did strengthen the Iranian nation vis--vis imperialism. It was truly one of the magnificent popular revolutions of the last quarter of the 20th century. But after 24 years the gains in the relationship of forces have been eroded.

Last week’s Militant also gave the impression that the arrests in Paris by the French police of members of the People’s Mujahedeen contradicted U.S. interests. The opposite is the case. Washington is leading an international coalition of imperialist powers and their allies under the banner of “smashing terrorism” to defend the imperialist system and extend its domination. They are doing it by concentrating on their most vulnerable foes—armed opposition groups able to maintain themselves as an alternative because of the declining political prospects of the national bourgeoisies in the semicolonial world. The U.S. and other imperialist powers have wide support for going after all these groups that often carry out suicide bombing attacks and other similar such actions. There are no disagreements among the imperialist powers, or within bourgeois public opinion, on the policy of targeting “terrorists.” Washington has kicked its French competitors around enough with the war on Iraq and is successfully pushing Paris to get back in line as a deputy sheriff helping to maintain the world imperialist order. This is what the arrests of the Mujahedeen by the French police are all about. They have a little, but not much, to do with Paris trying to appease Tehran.

In 1999, following student demonstrations at the time at Tehran University, working people came out in solidarity, and then workers raised demands to have unions and legalize strikes. Of course, the Iranian bourgeois politicians remember what workers were able to do from mid-1978 through 1979, when the toilers were in the frontline trenches of the anti-shah rebellion.

The working class so far has not come out visibly to back the current student actions. But these demonstrations and their democratic demands are important to hold and expand the political space working people, women, and oppressed nationalities have been able to maintain. This creates the best conditions to keep the imperialists out. The autocratic clampdown on toilers that the regime has been pursuing—based on the authority of scriptures—is reactionary and tends to immobilize the masses against any imperialist offensive. For this reason also the Militant is clearly on the side of the students and explains the significance of their actions for Iran’s toilers and in the fight against imperialism.
 
 
Related articles:
U.S. government tightens noose around Iran, using report of UN nuclear agency  
 
 
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