By Ghader Anari
A rebellion sparked by a hike in the price of gasoline began this week in Iran. The protests, which started in the southern province of Khuzestan, have spread to almost all the states and cities of the country. Gasoline prices soaring up to triple their previous rates caused the masses to pour into the streets. But as soon as the protests began, slogans went beyond the anger against the gasoline hike and targeted the regime. In an interview he gave two days before the protests began, the Minister of Petroleum replied to a question about how much the government would raise the price of oil, saying: “up to the level that the people keep silent”. Nevertheless, two days after this statement, the Iranian people poured into streets and proved that they will raise their voice.
The Price Hike and Inflation
With the new petrol hike, drivers are entitled to a price of 15,000 rials (US $ 0.13) per liter for the first 60 liters of each month. The price for each liter after 60 will be 30 thousand rials (0.26 US dollars). Before the hike, drivers had the right to buy 250 liters of gasoline at 10 thousand rials per liter. It is also known that the gasoline hike is the beginning of a new wave of raises in the price of all basic goods; that means a general inflation raise. The main reason behind the rebellion sparked by the price hike is that Iran has already been experiencing a high inflation for a long time.
Twelve banks in the city of Behbahan, 15 banks in the city of Karaj, the National Bank of Iran, and many private banks in numerous places were set on fire by protesters. Cars blocked highways and traffic was stopped by pouring sand onto the roads.
These radical mobilizations of the masses pouring into the streets, motivated by anger against intense exploitation, oppression and the economic crisis, shook the country.
Although the regime conceals the number of people who lost their lives in the protests, it has been reported that at least 15 people have been killed so far. In contrast with the 2017-18 protest wave, the regime has been more aggressive this time.
The protests attracted all sub-classes in urban centers. Workers, artisans and the Bazaar (Tehran), students, and large sectors of laborers take part in the protests.
Despite the current harsh weather conditions in Iran, with cold weather and snow, people take to the streets for long hours and do not return home.
The Rebellion Targets the Regime
In December 2017, the “bread and freedom rebellion” took place in Iran, in almost all cities. After weeks of protests, the masses had to withdraw, but in many places there were ongoing aftershocks and social movements. Now, with the experience of recent years, the working people of Iran have been reborn from the ashes and poured into the streets again. This time, the protests are more massive and the capacity of resistance is higher.
Unlike the 2017 protests, the masses, instead of retreating against the police and the military, attack the institutions identified with the regime of oppression and the regime of exploitation, such as police stations and banks. It is important for the Iranian people, who are struggling with poverty, economic crisis, inflation, and unemployment, to adopt a political attitude towards the regime. The decades-old Mullah regime is based on exploitation and repression. In recent years, economic problems have increased with the impact of the crisis. The gasoline hike was the last straw.
With its members living in luxury, and the huge income gap and inequality it created, the rotten regime paved the way for a massive political break of the Iranian people. In Iran, where there will be no change without targeting the Mullah’s system, the materialization of this political break was an important move forward.
Compared to the 2017-18 protests, the massiveness and radicalism of current protests show that the struggle of the working class against the regime is progressing.
An Untied Knot: Unorganized Masses
The biggest deficiency of the social struggle in Iran is the absence of an organized alternative. Although the socialist left is weak and scattered, a solidarity movement developed to support the workers’ struggle. But it is hard to say that a unity has formed.
Similarly, the liberal, pro-Shah, and Islamist wings of the opposition do not have organized forces in the country, either. Moreover, the opposition of these groups is more in favor of imperialist interventions, etc. than a radical mass movement. In this case, it would be right to say that the left, which is the only political force that could lead the mass movement in Iran, has insufficient physical capacity.
For this reason, an organized alternative must be developed in the heat of the struggle in order for the masses to obtain a victory. This task is difficult, but without effort, it is impossible.
The International Protest Wave
In recent months, social upheavals and rebellions have been developing around the world, from France to Chile, from Iraq to Lebanon. This process is not independent of the global crisis of the capitalist system. All over the world, the economic crisis, unemployment, poverty and lack of a future cause such mass uprisings.
The rebellion in Iran must be understood as an accumulation of anger, which had already generated two previous waves of protest, and as a part of the international social movements.
The ongoing economic crisis in Iran is both due to the sanctions imposed by the US, and the structural economic crisis that shakes the world in general. In other words, developments in Iran cannot be read independently from the crisis of the international imperialist capitalist system.
The causes and development of social uprisings and their weaknesses are similar everywhere. The masses that take to the streets in Iraq, Lebanon, Chile, France and, finally Iran have difficulties in achieving victory because they lack an organized vanguard.
In the face of these international developments, our struggle must be internationalist, as well. Now is the time to organize an international struggle, while protests are shaking the world!