Some Comments on the New Iranian Revolution

protest slogans on iranian currency (130K)
protest slogans on Iranian currency

by Michael Karadjis

January 1, 2018. The new mass revolutionary uprising in Iran is already far in advance of the 2009 Green Revolution uprising, even though the rallies then were more massive. In certain respects the difference is similar to the millions who mobilized in Cairo in early 2011 compared to the more scattered protests at that point in Syria. What the incipient Syrian uprising at that point, and Iran's current uprising, have in common is that they mobilized working class and regional poor people from around the country in uprisings which were from the outset more class-based. That does not mean that the middle classes were/are not involved of course - in both cases, students, teachers, intellectuals etc. are there from the start. But the massiveness of Cairo in early 2011 and Iran in 2009 also reflected larger mobilizations from the middle classes whose aims were largely democratic, but limited, but where the real hard grievances of the impoverished masses had not yet come to the fore as sharply.

In particular, in Iran in 2009, the movement was led by the "reformist" wing of the theocracy, who aimed for a quasi-democratic change within the bounds of the reactionary 'Islamic Republic' regime. While the movement and its democratic demands were eminently supportable, these leaders included both genuine regime "reformists" and various opportunists, and even the billionaire corrupt Rafsanjani wing of the clerical dictatorship nudged their way in as "reformists" - Rafsanjani being closely associated with the slaughter of 10's of 1000's of leftists in the darkest period of the mullah regime's repression in the 1980s, including the famous prison massacres of 1988.

In contrast to then, the current uprising is far more working class in composition and inspiration (the idea that "economic" demands are not "political" is a new one to me); far more widespread across the country; and clearly opposed to all wings of the reactionary "Islamic" Republic dictatorship, "hard-liners" and "reformists" alike. "Death to Khameini" and "Dath to Rouhani" are both slogans. Some whole towns have been occupied, the protestors are attacking the fascistic state organs like the "Revolutionary" Guards (IRGC) and the Baseej. They are strongly targeting the regime's bloody massive intervention in Syria where it leads the genocidal counterrevolution. There is no doubt this is a genuine people's uprising, beginning on a more advanced level than the 2009 green revolution. The Mideast Spring continues.

However, as a raw mass uprising, without ready-made "leadership", all kinds of confused slogans can be found here and there among the mass movement, even if the key economic and political demands against the regime are clear enough. Many have pointed to slogans such as:

"Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my soul is the redemption of Iran"

"Leave Syria and think about us"

as evidence that the protestors are narrow nationalists only concerned about themselves and opposed to "helping" other peoples in the region. While the misunderstood reference to Gaza does raise justified alarm bells - as I will comment on below - the demand to leave Syria is a manifestly internationalist slogan, similar to demands of the US antiwar movement for the US to leave Vietnam. After all, that movement did not begin as pure "internationalism" - many wanted to end the state spending all that money destroying Vietnam and spend it at home to improve livelihoods. How many times have leftists in the West raised the slogan "money for jobs not war"? What's the difference?

The sheer gravity of this issue knocks out any other potential negatives, such as the misunderstood reference to Gaza. For years, the Tehran regime has filled the region with sectarian militias that have slaughtered across Syria and Iraq and carried out a Nakbah-style mass sectarian-cleansing campaign. Of course, most success has been in Syria where this campaign neatly dovetailed with Assad's genocidal response to the Syrian revolution, thus the 5.5 million Syrians expelled from their homeland (overwhelmingly Sunni) and a substantial proportion of the 7 million internally uprooted are unlikely to return. Add to this the horrific crimes that have been carried out against the Sunni population of Iraq by US- and Iran-backed Shiite death squads, essentially acting as a Shiite version of ISIS.

In carrying out this region-wide Nakbah to advance an Iranian sub-imperial project, the mullah regime has mobilized its death squads on a sectarian basis, from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, alongside thousands of regular Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). In this context, whatever Hezbollah's ancient glories (it drove the Israeli occupation out of southern Lebanon *18 years ago*), its 7 years of anti-Arab slaughter in Syria should by now be long enough to ascertain that it is no longer anything but another part of Iran's constellation of sectarian death squads. Sure, it can make anti-Zionist noise as it slaughters Arabs for Assad, but while the Israeli-Lebanese border has been stone-cold quiet since 2006, most Arabs are unconvinced by the idea that the "road to Jerusalem " runs through Homs, Hama, Aleppo etc.

As such, the Lebanon part of "Not Gaza, Not Lebanon" raised by some protestors should not be considered any problem whatsoever.

Obviously of more concern is the Gaza part of the slogan. One may rightly ask "what has Iran ever done for Gaza anyway?" (ie, nothing). But first let's make a few more points.

First, in a raw mass uprising of the millions, all kinds of contradictory slogans will inevitably get raised. The raising of this obscure slogan, with little practical impact, by some demonstrators is far from evidence of any widespread anti-Palestinian sentiment among the crowds (likewise far too much attention has been given to the odd pro-Shah slogan apparently expressed by some demonstrator, somewhere - the idea that this is a movement to bring back the Shah can only be believed by some western lefties really re-living their past).

Second, this *exact same slogan* was raised, even more often, in the 2009 protests and led to the same discussion. Possibly more serious then because at that time the Lebanon part of the slogan had a different context to now.

Does Iran do anything for Gaza? In the distant past it sent Hamas some rockets. However, from when Hamas bravely sided with the Syrian uprising against Assad in 2012, Iran cut off its support. Defending Assad's genocidal regime was more important than its cheap anti-Zionist noise.

The "conflict" between Iran and Israel is one based on rhetoric, where for both theocratic projects, having an imaginary existential "enemy" is useful. This war of rhetoric is safely predicated on geographic distance. While making this noise against each other, it strangely always seems to be the Arab populations living between them who get slaughtered by both. In the context of the Saudi-Iranian geopolitical rivalry being largely fought in sectarian terms across the region, the presence of one unifying "Islamic" goal in Jerusalem is useful for the more distant (and it happens, non-Sunni and non-Arab) state in this rivalry, giving the outlier a card with which it can safely pose from a distance (Gaddafi's Libya used to do the same, "steadfastly" fighting "Zionism" from the middle of north Africa).

While I'm in no position to speak for the rising Iranian masses, my guess is that overall there is probably more political sophistication than what we give them credit for, and that even those raising this unsophisticated slogan are aware enough that the mullah regime's noise about Gaza or Jerusalem is nothing but empty rhetoric to justify tyranny at home and war against Arab peoples abroad.

Having said all that, of course we should be aware of politically confused slogans being raised by sections of the movement and warn against any potential dangerous paths they could take it. But my sense is that at this stage, such odd slogans are overwhelmed by the enormous positive potential of this wonderful new people's uprising.

Forward to the victory of the Iranian revolution and for the revival of the Arab Spring!

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