The titanic struggle on the streets of Iran unleashed by the disputed results of the presidential election contain a revolutionary essence that has the potential to take on a momentum all of its own.
To march in their hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, through the streets of the capital in defiance of the authorities, to gather in the universities to denounce president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a dictator, to use social networking and Internet sites to mobilise and to reach the outside world amounts to a significant challenge to the state which not even the killing of seven marchers can halt.
The marchers chanted defiant slogans as they moved down Azadi Street yesterday towards an iconic monument built by the country’s former despot, the Shah. "Death to the dictator", "Death to the lying government" the chants rang out. "Iranians, why are you silent," went another slogan. "Iran has become Palestine. We will take back our votes even if they kill us," was another.
Masses of people believe that their votes have been stolen. They cannot credit that Ahmadinejad won almost two-thirds of the votes in last week’s presidential election, defeating former prime minister Hossein Mousavi. Whether Ahmadinejad did or not is now irrelevant, however. The decision today of the powerful Guardian Council to authorise a partial recount will not suffice. Even Mousavi has rejected the move, with a spokesman saying that nothing less than re-run of the election will do.
In 1979 millions rose up to overthrow the US-backed Shah’s dictatorship. To the shock of many liberal Westerners, the revolution took hold under the auspices of an Islamic clergy and took refuge in the safety of the mosques to escape the notorious Savak, the Shah’s secret police.
Now the momentum is towards the completion of that revolution through establishing popular, secular power. Mousavi will not be able to deliver anything like because he is also part of the state establishment which tries to balance between the masses and capitalism. That is what has come unstuck.
Motivation for the present upsurge is all too apparent. Despite being the world’s fourth largest oil producer, Iran is suffering from massive inequalities and a denial of basic democratic rights. About half its 71 million people are under 25. But more than a fifth of them are unemployed. Soaring unemployment has led to a "brain drain" from the country, leaving it short of (among others) health professionals, particularly doctors and dentists. Annual inflation is more than 25%. The wildly fluctuating price of oil is adding to the crisis facing the state.
The 1979 revolution was part of a great tide of national struggles throughout the world against imperialism for independence and self-determination. In the 21st century, these are beginning to assume a more definite social, anti-capitalist character as, for example, in Venezuela and other parts of South America.
In Iran, an election has re-opened the floodgates of mass confrontation in the streets between the state forces who back Ahmadinejad and the millions who voted for Mousavi. As commentator Robert Fisk, who watched yesterday’s mobilisation in Tehran, remarked: “Government is not about good guys and bad guys. It is about power, state and political power – they are not the same – and unless those wanly smiling riot police move across to the opposition, the weapons of the Islamic Republic remain in the hands of Ahmadinejad's administration and his spiritual protectors.”
As Ahmadinejad hob-nobs it with Russian and Chinese leaders – who know a thing or two about putting down social unrest – the momentum is running against him. Whether or not the present struggle succeeds in forcing the Holocaust-denier Ahmadinejad out, Iran can never be the same again.
AWTW communications editor