National Sections of the L5I:

The Iranian revolution has begun - how can it win?

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The Iranian revolution has reached a critical point. For weeks, thousands, probably millions in total, have been taking to the streets. In the Kurdish regions, general strikes have paralysed public life. The universities are a stronghold of resistance and strikes have also been spreading across the country.

The masses have been demonstrating that they no longer want to live as they lived before. Their strength, their heroism, their resistance, which is still led by young women, could not be broken by the regime - despite massive repression, despite hundreds of deaths, despite thousands of people injured and arrested and despite staged pro-government marches.

But the movement itself is also reaching a critical point. It has been able to shake the Islamist regime; but so far it has not been able to break it. The mullahs still have a centralised state and repressive apparatus at their disposal. They still control the country's wealth, the media, the public institutions and, above all, hundreds of thousands in the police forces, army units, intelligence services and militias like the Pasdaran and the Basij-e Mostaz'afin, who are ready to commit any crime to drown the mass movement in blood. Unashamedly, the leaders of the reaction, such as the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hussein Salami, threaten with words like: "The demonstrators should not try the patience of the system." What is meant by this is shown in pictures from Mahabad, where regime forces fired into the crowd on 28 October.

So far, despite the brutality of the regime, the movement has held firm, indeed for weeks it has spread and increased in size. But day-by-day we are approaching a point where the regime will try to retake the offensive. For the movement, therefore, the question of its survival is: how can the mass movement become an organised force that is able to break and smash the apparatus of the mullahs? How can the revolution win?

The spark that ignited the powder keg

The murder of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini was the famous spark that exploded the powder keg. Three days after being arrested by the so-called morality police for allegedly violating the reactionary dress code, the young woman died.

Her fate was far from an isolated case. Arbitrariness, mistreatment and humiliation of women and national minorities, oppression of the youth and exploitation of the working class are part of the moral image of a "righteous" theocracy whose supposed moral authority regularly turns into barbarism. This regime claims thousands upon thousands of victims every year, whose fate, whose names, whose relatives and friends, disappear into anonymity under the pressure of repression and oppression. The rule of the Islamist regime encompasses all levels of the state, permeates society through all religious and other reactionary institutions and is closely intertwined with the economic elite.

But this all-powerful state, clerical and economic apparatus, this Moloch that threatens to devour the entire Iranian society, has lost its halo of omnipotence since 16 September. The contradictions of Iranian society that have accumulated for years and decades have since come to light.


Every day, thousands of women across the country risk their lives, spearheading the movement. They publicly take off their hijabs, cut their hair, risk their own lives to fight for a future one. Their heroism, their determination, reveal the depth of the current movement. They strike at an ideological and material core of the Islamist dictatorship, gender oppression. Secondly, however, they also show that the vast majority of Iranian women, and the population as a whole, refuse to go on living as they have been. Many fear a life of bondage, patriarchal and clerical oppression more than death.

This heroism testifies to much more than the courage, willingness to sacrifice, the will to fight and indomitability of individuals. The fact that it has become a mass phenomenon, that it took hold of broad strata, illustrates the revolutionary potential of the masses.

Expansion since September

In recent weeks, the movement against the regime has expanded. In the Kurdish areas, the struggle has partly taken the form of local uprisings. In Sine (Sanandaj) security forces were pushed back from parts of the city in early October. The regime tried to put down the movement with brutal repression, militarised police and indiscriminate killings, provoking the Kurdish movement into a premature armed confrontation.

A decisive reason why the regime has not been able to break the movement so far is that it has taken hold of all layers of society, women, students, the oppressed nationalities, but above all the working class. Their social situation has deteriorated dramatically over the years. For a good decade, the official inflation rate has been 10-20 percent. 11.3 percent are officially registered as unemployed. Women, young people, but also people with university degrees and national minorities, are particularly hard hit.

Already in the spring and summer of 2022, there were important illegal or semi-legal strikes against price increases, poor working conditions and for the payment of outstanding wages. It is therefore no wonder that the working class quickly rallied behind the protest movement in September.

Since then, the strikes and actions have spread rapidly. Since 10 October, they have also affected the oil industry. Workers at the Asaluyeh and Kangan oil and gas plants, the South Pars gas field, Bushehr in southern Iran are on strike. On 19 October, workers from Asalouyeh Petrochemical, Bandar Abbas Petrochemical, Abadan Petrochemical, Bushehr Petrochemical, South Pars Petrochemical, Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company and Neyriz Ghadir Steel in Fars, were on strike.

The attempt to respond to the opposition with their own pro-government Islamist mass rallies proved to be a political own goal in September. The staged actions fell far short of the protest movement in terms of numbers. Obviously, the mullahs cannot simply restore the old order, either through massive repression or through staged displays of their own supporters.

While the regime is badly shaken, however, it will not give way voluntarily because of street protests and uncoordinated occupations and strikes. On the contrary, it is gathering its forces, reorganising them and has a centralised apparatus that, although on the defensive, has remained intact. It continues to monopolise the media and public propaganda, has a monopoly of the armed forces and is closely linked to the ruling capitalist class.

The movement, in turn, cannot remain at this level forever. Rather, it must take a decisive step forward if it wants to transform the pre-revolutionary crisis into a real revolution, to overthrow the regime.

The demonstrators on the streets, the students at the universities, the workers in many companies, have long since combined slogans like "Jin Jiyan Azadi" (woman, life, freedom) with the call for the fall of the regime. They have long been aware that a revolution, a fundamental upheaval, is needed to achieve their goal of equal rights for women and a life free from Islamist and patriarchal domination. Other strata of the oppressed are also aware that they are at a crossroads, faced with a clear alternative: Either the movement, the revolution, or the bloody counter-revolution of the regime will win.

This question is inseparably linked to that of which social force can show the revolution its way, lead it to victory and fulfil the democratic and social demands of the masses.

The current movement appears to be spontaneous, but its actions are coordinated at the local, university and workplace levels, led by illegal or semi-legal groups or by trade unions that have formed underground in recent years. In the Kurdish areas, there is also a coordinating committee of parties that have, of course, been illegal up to now. But the movement has no nationwide, alternative centre of power and coordination that could paralyse the regime's apparatus or even take it on.

And such coordination and centralisation cannot come from individual local actions, strikes, demonstrations. Rather, what is needed is a form of struggle that unites the movement and can shake the whole country - and that can only be a political general strike to defend the movement and overthrow the regime.

This would not only paralyse the country's production and infrastructure and exert economic pressure. The workers would also have to decide which production to maintain in order to supply the people. Above all, such a general strike would have to create organs of struggle, action committees, based on mass assemblies that would link up with the councils of the Iranian revolution, the shoras.

Such bodies would of course not only be workplace structures. They could just as well be elected at universities, in the neighbourhoods and in the countryside through mass assemblies. What is crucial is that they be brought together at local, regional and national levels, in effect into a central organ of the movement.

The general strike would thereby at the same time act as a shield against the regime by enforcing forms of revolutionary legality, i.e., creating dual power organs that represent an alternative to the state apparatus.

This necessarily requires the formation of protection units for the general strike itself, of workers' and people's militias. This policy would have to be complemented by calls to the soldiers to refuse allegiance to the regime, to form soldiers' councils, to disempower the officer caste, to disarm reactionary forces and to open arsenals for the workers' militias.

For this to happen, however, the working class itself would not only have to emerge as a socially active force. It would not only have to give the movement the power to win, it would also need its own programme for advancing the revolution and what new order to impose in Iran.

In the Iranian revolution of 1979, a core problem was that the working class and the oppressed bore the main burden of the struggle against the Shah, but their interests were subordinated to those of the alliance with other classes against the throne. At that time, the Stalinists in particular led the working class and women to put aside their own liberation interests and class demands in favour of an alliance with supposedly "anti-imperialist" forces and the "national" wing of the bourgeoisie. This policy led to women renouncing their emancipatory goals so that the mullahs could be won over to an alliance against the Shah and US imperialism. It also led to the idea that, to achieve a so-called "democratic stage" of the revolution, the working class should put aside the expropriation of capital and the struggle for a socialist upheaval. Far from this policy leading to any "democratic" stage, it led directly to the Islamist dictatorship, the disenfranchisement of women and the working class.

This mistake must not be repeated in a different form today. Just as it was wrong to restrict the Iranian revolution to a bourgeois-democratic stage because it helped the counterrevolution to victory then, the wage-earners, the women, the youth, the oppressed nationalities must not entertain any hope of an alliance with the monarchist or democratic-imperialist bourgeois opposition today.

What is needed is a programme that combines the democratic tasks and the social question in a revolutionary way, with the aim of creating a workers' and peasants' government that makes the revolution a socialist one. The core demands of such a programme should be:

- Equal rights and full self-determination for all women! Abolish the reactionary dress codes and all other discriminatory laws!

- Full democratic rights for the youth! Abolition of all reactionary regulations which interfere with their intellectual activity, their freedom of movement and expression!

- Abolish censorship and all restrictions on freedom of expression and publication! For the complete separation of state and religion!

- Right to self-determination for all nations and nationalities like the Kurds and Baluch! Equal rights for refugees like the 3 million Afghans!

- For a constituent assembly, convened under the control of the revolutionary masses and their organs in the workplaces and districts!

- Immediate programme to fight unemployment and poverty! Minimum wage and minimum income for the unemployed, young people and pensioners, so that they can live in dignity, determined by workers' committees, constantly adjusted to inflation!

- Massive taxation of corporate profits and private wealth! Cancellation of foreign debt! Confiscate all assets and companies of the mullahs, various semi-governmental organisations loyal to the regime and re-nationalise the companies privatised to favourites of the regime!

- Workers' control over nationalised industry and enterprises! Expropriation without compensation of the big landowners, wholesalers, big industry and banks, and foreign corporations under workers' control! For an emergency programme to feed the masses, renew infrastructure and production according to the needs of workers, peasants, women and youth and ecological sustainability!

- Stop supporting Russian and Chinese imperialism and reactionary despots like the Assad regime! No support for the USA and other imperialist states in the region! Solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle! Alliance with the working class, democratic and anti-imperialist forces against their reactionary governments and imperialist intervention!

- Smash the Islamist regime and the reactionary state apparatus! For a workers' and peasants' government based on councils and militias, expropriating the ruling class and introducing a democratic planned economy!

- For the extension of the revolution! For a Federation of Socialist States in the Near and Middle East!

Revolutionary Workers' Party

Such a programme will not simply emerge spontaneously from the struggle. It needs conscious revolutionary forces to further elaborate it, to advocate it among workers, students, women, national minorities and to gather forces. In order to fulfil this task, all those revolutionary and class struggle forces who share this perspective must now organise themselves, create a new revolutionary workers' party, a party that must skilfully combine legal and illegal work. Time is pressing in any case. The next days and weeks can be decisive for years.

There is no question that it will be extremely difficult to create a party of revolution in this short period of time, a force that is truly anchored among the masses and can lead this working class to victory in alliance with the oppressed. But there is no alternative to this.

This article appears in Chinese translation at:伊朗革命开始了——如何才能胜利?