Bullet points on the Iranian revolt
…on the basis of limited evidence and sparse independent journalism for now
1. There is a split in the ruling elite. The masses know the Rouhani wing can’t crack down without strenghening its hardline enemies. Numerous statements and briefings from 2009/Green movement reformists show they are not enthusiastic about the revolt
2. The economic deal the elite made with the masses on the basis of the JCPOA/BARJAM in 2015 is not working; there’s not enough foreign investment and …
3. …the continued subventions to (a) foreign wars (b) the Islamist institutions (c ) corrupt IRGC-run businesses are draining the dynamism of theocratic capitalism to the extent that it can’t even deliver to its own mass base.
4. The people on the streets are from the youth, the lower middle class and the working class, and not mainly the salaried upper middle class. I cannot discern, at this distance, the extent of secular, liberal, participation but the diaspora seems split, with some supportive but some 2009-era reformers hostile to the idea of independent mass participation (ie with no clear political faction to support).
5. The slogans moved quickly from economic discontent to calls for the overthrow of the regime. The demos spread without any clear leader or programme; on the basis of all previous mass revolts in history that indictes widespread economic discontent and subcultural dislocation which the regime’s intelligence services didn’t pick up.
6. Slogans include calls for a secular republic, end to foreign interventions and, in some cases, for restoration of the monarchy
7. The scale of the unrest, combined with the split in the elite, looks like it’s been a restraining force on the Basij/IRGC — they know they could face popular justice. However they clearly have not yet been given orders to inflict mass slaughter
8. Trump, Israel, Fox News and the global neocons will use any crackdown to try and end the 2015 deal, reimpose sanctions, boost the Saudi position in the Gulf. But their rhetorical support does not delegitimise the mass upsurge, nor does it mean the EU and Western democratic countries should stand back and ignore the repression.
9. Putin, Assad, Hezbollah and all their cheerleaders in the alt-right and Stalinist left are already trying to smear the protests as pro-imperialist. The revolt shows, once again, that Stalinism is not a dead issue in the progressive movement, and that its remaining advocates want only an authoritarian “anti-imperialist” regime to support.
10. Iran has a sizeable industrial, urban working class. Their failure to fully support the Green movement in 2009 was significant; which in turn was because the 2009 reform leaders had an inadequate social/economic programme, and did not look like they were serious about revolt on the scale needed to give the organised workers confidence to break from the regime. It’s not clear whether today’s (2 Jan) strike call has been successful.
11. Two potential outcomes:
a. another crackdown, which, after it happens, will further destabilise the factional balance inside the ruling elite but not destroy the discontent
b. some economic and secular-tolerant reforms, no crackdown and a space opened up for a democratic and socialist opposition, including the revival of working-class base committees
12. The global labour movement, unions, social democracy, human rights NGOs and radical left should try to support the progressive elements on the demos, strengthening them against the pro-monarchy people, providing them with communications support. That means opposing the regime crackdown, sending solidarity statements, calling for the West to refrain from hostile diplomatic intervention.
13. The cold panic running through the Putin-Assad troll-osphere indicates they all realise a bitter truth: once one of these murdering kleptocratic states falls, they all will.
14. It’s not a revolution, yet, but all the “experts” saying it can’t become one are wrong. No matter how limited the split in the elite is, the masses are educated and seem well informed. They are highly capable of comparing current reality to the possibility of Iran as a democratic, socially-just and relatively prosperous country, integrated on its own terms into the global order, with Mosque and state separate.
15. The Fox News slander that the left is “not supporting” the revolt is largely unfounded. UK Labour has called for an end to the repression, while remaining non-commital about the poltical character of the demos for now. Most of the surviving far left groups in Britain have put out critical support statements, though the usual Stalinist/Assadist suspects, especially in the USA, have been all too willing to slander the revolt.
Watch this space.