Background on the Iranian uprising

The following is a brief by the Tudeh Party of Iran sent to international workers and communist parties to help explain the background of the ongoing struggles for democracy in Iran.

Background to the election Iran entered the 10th presidential election in difficult socio-economic conditions. Four years of Ahmadinejad's government and the neo-liberal policies it pursued (dictated by the IMF and World Bank) meant that the overwhelming majority of the Iranian working class and working people were suffering from unprecedented hardship and poverty. Examination of the policies of Ahmadinejad’s administration reveals the specific characteristics of the direction taken by this government, which is affiliated to grand mercantile capitalism and the bureaucratic bourgeoisie of the country, and some of the reasons behind the people’s mass movement against this reactionary regime. The principal direction of the socio-economic policies of Ahmadinejad’s government and some of its consequences can be summarised as follows:

Neo-liberal privatisation Debate about the economic path the country should take was one of the most important battle-fields between the reactionary and progressive forces, right from the first day after the 1979 revolution. Inclusion of Article 44 in the constitution was one of the accomplishments of the February 1979 revolution. [Editor’s note: According to Article 44, the Iranian economy consists of three sectors, the state, cooperative and private sectors, but “all large-scale and mother industries” of the country are entirely owned by the state. This article was amended to allow for privatization.] It was revoked by Ahmadinejad’s government, following an executive order issued by the Supreme Leader of the regime. The consequence of these policies is to bring the macro policies of the regime more than ever into line with the policies and prescriptions of the IMF and World Bank, as already tried out in various countries. The disastrous consequences of these policies could be clearly observed in the developing countries of the world. The executive order of the Supreme Leader in 2007 regarding Article 44 was warmly welcomed by the IMF. In a report about the economic prospects of Iran, the IMF stated: “Recently the government has been pursuing privatisation more seriously. According to the executive order issued by Ayatollah Khamenei regarding Article 44 of the Constitution, more than 80% of state-owned enterprises must be privatized in the next 10 years. The executive order on Article 44 revitalized privatization plans. Privatisation of state-owned enterprises will be completed by the end of the 5-year plan.”

Mounting foreign debts and destruction of national production Another key political decision by the Ahmadinejad government has been the opening of domestic markets to the import of consumer goods more than ever before, damaging domestic production and swelling Iran’s debts. According to reports published by Iran’s Customs, in the first 4 months of the current Iranian year from spring of 2008 (in parallel to the increase in value and weight of imported industrial raw material as a result of the imposed sanctions), the import of luxury consumer goods like cars, fully automatic washing machines, fridges, cigarettes, audio equipment, decorations, cosmetics and the like, has drastically increased. The other important economic indicator is that despite the enormous increase in oil revenue, Iran’s foreign debt not only failed to decrease during Ahmadinejad’s term, but soared at an increasing rate. Kargozaran newspaper, 9 March 2008, quoting from ISNA wrote: “Business Monitor International stated in its latest report that Iran’s foreign debts would increase in excess of $8 billion in 4 years. In its 2nd quarter report of 2008, BMI estimated Iran’s foreign debt in the last year at $23.3 billion, which would increase by $500 million this year to reach $24 billion. BMI believes that Iran’s foreign debts in the coming years will grow; in [Iranian] years 1387 (2008) and 1388 (2009) it will increase to $26.3 and $28.1 billion, respectively, and following the same increasing trend, it will soar to $29.2 billion in 1389 (2010). A one billion dollar increase will mean a total national debt of $30.2 billion in 1390 (2011). In 1391 (2012) Iran’s foreign debt will hit $31.6 billion which is $8.1 billion more compared to national debt in 1385 (2006).”

Growing mass hardship and poverty Although finding accurate and acceptable statistics regarding poverty in Iran is very hard, reading between the lines of existing statistics, the concrete conclusion can be drawn that poverty and destitution has exacerbated during Ahmadinejad’s government. For instance, recent studies by the Central Bank [of Iran] indicate that the number of people living under the poverty line increased during the first two years of the ninth government, from 18 percent to 19 percent. Based on these figures, currently between 14 and 15 million people are living under the poverty line. Noandish website on May 8, 2008, quoted Ali Asgari, Economic Deputy of President Office of Planning and Strategic Control, as saying: “according to the published economic index, about 20 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. The dimensions of the escalation of poverty and unemployment are clearer when inflation numbers and the rise of cost of living are considered. This past summer the central bank of the regime reported that “the price of some food items shows an increase of 40 to 45% in just about a month.”

Working class under attack Our Party’s Central Committee in its enlarged plenary meeting of December 2008, highlighted the issues listed above and paid particular attention to the plight of the working class and the increasing attacks of the regime against progressive forces. The document of party’s meeting stated:

“Clearly, the harsh living conditions of working people will trigger a growing discontent and dissent among them. Last year we witnessed tens of labour protest movements, demonstrations by educational workers, vast protest movements by students, and also a continuation of women’s struggle against the government and its policies. The working class of Iran was also faced with a hard challenge last year. One of the important arenas of the trade struggle of the workers is to fight against temporary contracts, which were promoted by Ahmadinejad’s administration and its anti-labour Ministry of Labour and have had an unprecedented growth. According to statistics released earlier this year, 80% of workers in factories and in manufacturing industries are working under temporary contracts covering a working term from only 2 months and 10 days up to 6 months. A large portion of temporary workers that are covered under the Labour Law, work under the most harsh slavery conditions. This situation has had an adverse impact on the efforts of labour activists to form and brace independent labour organisations. Furthermore, in the past few months, Ahmadinejad’s administration and the reaction's parliament started talking about changes to the Labour Law and taking away the rights of the workers more than before. Labour organizations and activists swiftly reacted to this stance. In recent years, our party has repeatedly stressed that dispersion among workers and labour movement, for whatever reason it may be, will impede the growth of the trade union movement in the country at the moment, and ultimately will give the chance to the regime to divide the struggles of the workers and suppress them one by one. The efforts of labour activists to form independent labour organizations have been faced with brutal and suppressive action from the security forces of the regime. Due to arrests and further pressures on labour movement activists, efforts in this area have been faced with ever increasing difficulty.”

Our party’s plenary meeting went on to conclude that: “The regime, faced with the discontent of the masses across the country, parallel to having adopted anti-popular economic and social policies, and in order to prevent harmonisation and synchronisation of the protests of working people and ultimately escalation and expansion of these protests, has intensified its pressure and suppression policies. However, continuing pressures and organised attacks against The Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburban Bus (Vahed) Company and keeping Mansour Osanloo [Chair of its Board] detained in the regime’s torture chambers, and also intensifying the activities of suppression forces, even in the “Islamic Associations of Labour”, and a rise in firing labour activists, are all part of policies that the regime is pursuing in order to suppress the labour movement in the country. Suppressive policies of the regime are not limited to the labour movement, but are also equally enforced against the student movement and the women’s movement. Last year, the student movement was faced with extensive confrontation by the regime’s security forces.”

Imperialist intervention and Iran’s progressive and democratic movement Iran has had a long and painful history of imperialist intervention and indeed one of the goals of the great Iranian Revolution of 1979 was to put an end to the US-British intervention in our country’s affair. In recent years the world has witnessed the constant stand–off between the Bush administration and the Iranian regime.

In the final year of the Bush presidency and with the growing threat of military intervention in Iran by U.S. imperialism, the progressive forces in Iran, including our party, joined the growing social forces in mobilizing a nationwide peace movement comprising the national, democratic and progressive forces. This peace movement which aimed to mobilise against the risk of war and the U.S. attack against Iran, was systematically suppressed by the regime. This movement encompassed largely the same forces that are currently fighting the regime against the election frauds and includes: a relatively wide spectrum of political forces, the women’s movement, the students’ movement and the labour movement. It is also important to reiterate that the growing tension and imperialist interventionist policies against Iran was supposedly linked to Iran’s nuclear policy. It is imperative to reiterate that the issue of nuclear crisis and the resulting international tensions, which led to issuing a number of resolutions by the security council of the UN against Iran, and escalation of friction in the Persian Gulf region between Iran’s regime and Bush administration - while Iran’s neighbouring countries are burning in war, bloodshed and occupation of foreign forces, and are facing an immense human disaster - truly concerns the national and patriotic forces. In recent years, the Tudeh Party of Iran has consistently insisted on defending the national rights of the country, including the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, and has asserted its strong opposition to any foreign interference in Iran’s domestic affairs. We have, at the same time, stated that promoting and taking advantage of these policies by the Supreme Leader [Velayat-e Faqih] regime is used as a disguise to suppress the rights of people and to distract public opinion from the escalating domestic problems and to intensify repressive policies. The aggressive and destructive policies of imperialism in the region, which have led, under various guises, to a total military occupation of two neighbouring countries, and its unprecedented military presence in the Persian Gulf, are other concerning issues that cannot be neglected.

Election and current crisis Therefore the Iranian presidential election on 12th June took place against a background of growing hardship and poverty for the masses, increasing suppressive policies against the working class movement, students and women’s movement and against the intelligentsia.

The four candidates approved by the “Council of Guardians”, the reactionary watchdog body controlled by the right, were all dedicated personnel and leading figures of the regime over the last thirty years.

Mr. Mousavi was Iran’s Prime Minster during the eight-year long imperialist-imposed Iraq-Iran war, and was quite often referred to as the “red Prime Minster”. He was credited for introducing tight state control over all private institutions and creating a “ration” system to support the poor. He was also Prime Minster during the crack down on the political forces including our party. It is a historic fact that during his tenure as Prime Minster he had significant clashes with Khamenei (the current Supreme Religious Leader) who was the President of the Republic at the time. The main policy clash was the desire by Khamenei to move towards neo-liberal policies and mass privatisation of industries which, Mousavi opposed. The clashes were so intense that Khamenei openly stated that he did not want Mousavi as his Prime Minster, but this was overruled by Khomeini the leader of the Islamic Republic at the time. Following Khomeini’s death, the new pact between Khamenei and Rafsanjani abolished the post of Prime Minster and created the post of executive presidency, which was given to Rafsanjani with Khamenei appointed as the Valyi-e Faqih (Supreme Religious Leader).

The other candidates are also well known. Karoubi was a leading and senior figure during the Khomeini era, acting as the Speaker of Parliament for years. Mohsen Rezaie, the fourth candidate, was the commander of the revolutionary guards in 1980's and was seen as one of the most reactionary figures in the guards responsible for savage suppression of the democratic forces in Iran. Ahmadinejad was a little unknown figure, in the Special Forces unit of the intelligence gathering of the revolutionary guards, accused as being part of the terror team that assassinated the Kurdish leader Dr. Gasemlou in Vienna and brought to fame, when during the last presidential elections in 2005, Khamenei openly backed him.

Election results There has been much dispute about the election results and there are detailed complaints lodged by all three candidates about the fraudulent nature of the election. The fact that the election results were announced within two hours of polls being closed (with some 40 million votes to count) speaks volume. Furthermore the regime itself has come to confess that at least in 170 ballot boxes there are more votes than voters, as well as the fact that, having analysed the result of every ballot box, it transpires that for every Mousavi vote there are two Ahmadinejad votes with an error margin of 0.1 percent speaks volumes about the validity of the results that are in dispute.

The mass protest movement that has engulfed the streets of Tehran and all major cities against the regime's shameless attempt to steal the election is a natural phase of the movement of Iranian people for peace, democracy and social justice.

As has been feared since Friday 19th June, when the regime's unelected Supreme Religious Leader stated that the falsified election results will be enforced, the full military and repressive might of the regime has been deployed to regain political control and silence the popular movement. Well known political leaders and prominent journalists and student leaders have been arrested and transferred to unknown detention centres, universities are declared close, non-governmental media including the newspapers and internet sites have been closed down, military and security forces are deployed in the main squares of Tehran and other main cities. There are reports that the some detained leaders of the reform movement are subjected to inhumane treatment and psychological pressure to 'confess their misdeeds'. But the fact is that those who are demonstrating in the streets of Tehran, Tabriz, Shiraz and other cities in Iran are the workers, women and youth of Iran and they are challenging the rule of the reactionary, dictatorial and free market clique who has ruled Iran by brute force. The regime has driven the country to social and economic ruin. And the people are calling for change of course. They are calling for the true enactment of ideals of the Iranian popular revolution of February 1979, which were betrayed by the theocratic regime. People are trying to achieve their goal through the democratic process and by peaceful means. During the presidential election campaign people called enthusiastically for change and against Ahmadinejad's government that has brought unprecedented levels of unemployment, sky-high inflation, full scale privatisation of the economy, corruption and widespread suppression. In the June 12 election people voted against advocates of neo-liberal economic policies and the free market. The people who voted for change in the presidential election on June 12 were protesting against censorship, against attacks on trade union and workers movement, against the suppression of national, ethnic and religious minorities and the full scale onslaught against the left, communist and progressive movement. They voted in millions for the pro- reform candidate, Mir Hussein Mousavi. As is the case with all despots and corrupt dictators, the regime's leaders are desperately trying to portray the mass movement of women, youth and working people as being a product of external orchestration. Unable and unwilling to accept that what people are demanding is progressive change and reform, that the people want the fulfilment of independence, democracy and social justice, the ideals of 1979 revolution, that were not fulfilled, the regime blames external forces for the protest movement, exactly as did the Shah's regime on the eve of the 1979 popular revolution. The regime's response to the popular demand to respect the true result of the election is in effect a declaration of war against the working people who are campaigning for peace, democracy and social justice. On Saturday, June 20 the regime unleashed security and military forces against peaceful demonstrators in all major cities. There are confirmed reports of security forces shooting at un-armed demonstrators, killing scores of demonstrators and in effect imposing an emergency situation in Tehran and major cities, prohibiting the peaceful gathering of people. The Tudeh Party of Iran is fully supporting the struggle of the Iranian people against the dictatorial regime. Our cadres, members and supporters have these days been demonstrating in the streets of Tehran and major cities in Iran and helping to organise this noble struggle for change, for peace, democracy, and social justice. We are calling on your fraternal party for prompt and urgent action. We would urge you to consider issuing a statement of solidarity with the people of Iran and their demands for:

Condemnation of the regime's attempt to steal the election;

The annulment of the fraudulent results of the election of June 12 and a re-run of the ballot;

Condemnation of the use of brute force against the demonstrators which has already resulted in the murder of scores of innocent peaceful protestors;

Immediate and unconditional release of those arrested during the recent demonstrations peace, democracy, human rights and social justice in Iran.

You can access other recent publications of the party about the recent events and in particular the analysis of the party about the situation in the country at the English pages of our website at: .

We rely on your continued international solidarity and standing with the Iranian working class in defence of peace and progress in Iran.