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Workers' Liberty 3/5: Revolution and counter-revolution in Iran, 1978-9
The Iranian revolution 1978-79 was one of the seminal events of the twentieth century, rich in lessons for working-class socialists. It is a story of class struggle, female self-assertion and the awakening of national minorities. The Iranian workers were the decisive force behind the toppling of the hated regime of Mohammed Reza Shah.
The Shah left Iran on 16 January 1979. Crowds celebrated on the streets of Tehran. His last prime minister Bakhtiar, appointed only at the end of 1978, lasted less than a month. The sense of liberty, throwing off the shackles of years of repression, was tangible.
On 29 October, workers at Ahwaz oil formulated a wide-ranging set of demands:
Fewer than half of the people of Iran in 1979 were Persian and spoke Farsi. Suffering oppression under Shah, the national minorities, Kurds, Azeris, Arabs, Balushis, Qashquaia and Turkmans participated in the movement to overthrow his regime to further their demands for self-government and self-determination.
“We the workers of Iran, through our strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations overthrew the Shah’s regime and during these months of strike we tolerated unemployment, poverty and even hunger.
The Iranian working class was the decisive social force that overthrew the Shah in 1978-79. But workers did not go on to create their own state, but instead came under the rule of a regime no less repressive than that of the Shah.
Socialist Worker (28 October 1978) compared Khomeini to Father Gapon to justify their tail ending.
During the late 1970s the forerunners of the AWL published a weekly paper, Workers’ Action, which contained extensive coverage of the Iranian revolution.
A mass meeting held at the Ministry of Justice on 10 March produced the following resolution:
“Considering that human beings are both free and the gift of freedom belongs equally to all regardless of sex, colour, race, language and belief;