Morad Shirin from the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency responded to questions from Solidarity.
Inflation, unemployment, and inequality remain high in Iran. There have been big working-class fightback in recent years. And now?
In addition to the long-term dire economic situation, corruption, repression and sanctions, the incompetent and callous handling of the Covid pandemic has led to even more stark social inequalities. These have sparked off hundreds of struggles and protests by pensioners, teachers, medical staff, steel workers, oil workers and so on. (But the regime keeps surpassing itself in its cruel disregard for the suffering of the masses: when people complained about the cost and shortage of chicken, Rouhani advised them to eat fish!)
Of the many big and heroic struggles, the strikes of the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company workers have been the most significant. Recently the regime said that Haft Tappeh’s privatisation had been revoked. Although this is most probably a trick that will be withdrawn after 18 June, it is a demand that the Haft Tappeh workers have consistently called for. They have said they want state ownership with workers’ supervision. This is an important demand that has now become widely known among the workers of Khuzestan and across the country.
This concept of workers’ control is a very important gain in itself. But it needs a clandestine workers’ vanguard party to preserve it in the long-term. A Leninist party is the main guarantor of preserving the gains of the past (both the recent struggles in Iran and historical ones from across the world) and linking these lessons and theories to new struggles in every industry, in all provinces, and mobilising all classes and layers who want to overthrow capitalism. That was the main missing factor that led to the defeat of the 1979 revolution. That is what is needed for victory in the next revolution.
Is a revival of the nuclear deal from 2015 really likely in the coming months, as Iranian government people have suggested?
Yes. US imperialism has already started to lift some sanctions against the oil industry (Financial Times, 11 June). In return the Iranian regime will make concessions, but in a way that they can be hidden from the masses or disguised as victories. This will happen once the “principlists” have their candidate, Ebrahim Raisi (the judiciary chief), installed as “president”. There are still over a thousand US sanctions, so it could be a long process. But all factions of the regime are in favour of having a new deal with US imperialism — and with the “principlists” in charge of everything it will happen more smoothly. A deal is the regime’s only way to stop the looming economic collapse and further social explosions and that is why they made one in 2015 — only for the US to pull out of it unilaterally.
What about the presidential election on 18 June?
This is the most stitched up “election” on the planet. Even by the regime’s own very low standards, it is exceptionally rigged. That is why many “reformists” — including Mir-Hossein Mousavi — are now calling for a boycott! For a number of years — ever since the upsurge in the workers’ struggles in the late 1990s — the principled Marxist position has been for an active boycott of all of the regime’s elections. What that is actually like in each election depends on the concrete situation, which can be different from one province to another.
In general terms, it is a boycott that tries to raise the level of consciousness among the masses, particularly the proletariat. This includes activities around calls for the release of jailed workers and political prisoners; exposing the record of Raisi and other candidates, especially their role in the executions of political prisoners and the general repression during the past four decades; and other forms of agitation, propaganda and activities (depending on the security situation and other factors) that will strengthen independent activity among workers, women, national minorities and the youth.