Sunday, June 28, 2009

Call for general strike

Rahe Kargar says the protest movement must not be limited to street demonstrations, but that it has to take other forms

The call for a general strike has been put forward by a number of tendencies active in the current protest movement inside Iran and is gaining increasing support amongst Iranian activists outside.

In my opinion, ignoring such calls is ignoring the challenging potential of the mass movement we and the world are witnessing in total amazement, a protest whose brave steps are witnessed with great admiration.

If we agree that the protests of the Iranian people against the supreme leader’s coup d’etat have entered a fateful time, if we agree that supporting this movement with all its weaknesses and confusions can present a path towards democracy and equality in our land downtrodden by dictators, if we accept that without direct and independent action by the people themselves, no-one will seek a ‘tunnel towards the light’ and if we accept that the continuation and expansion of the scope of the current mass movement is the necessary and primary condition for any revolutionary change, then we must use all our abilities now to spread and expand the existing movement.

A general strike is important for a number of reasons:

  • First, it can reduce the pressure from the repressive forces attacking street protests (the current dominant form of protest). The truth is that street demonstrations have limitations and as the security forces concentrate on the suppression of such protests, the price of participation goes up and the number of those who participate in these demonstrations diminishes inevitably.
  • Second, despite all their importance, street demonstrations do not necessarily go further than the political arena, while a general strike will put the regime under economic pressure. Let us remember the role of the general strike in 1979, in breaking the determination of the royal dictatorship to cling to power and its crucial role in the overthrow of that regime.
  • Third, a general strike inevitably raises the profile of the working class in the mass movement. We must remember that the role of oil workers was crucial without any exaggeration in the victory of the 1979 revolution, while their number in comparison with the total number of wage-earners was not so high. Let us not forget that any strike (never mind a general strike) raises the solidarity, class-consciousness and organisational initiatives of the workforce.
  • Fourth, we must not forget that even the most brutal dictatorships usually cannot suppress people in their workplace as they do in street protests, because they have to consider the economic and political consequences of the damage and disruption caused by such methods.

In any case, currently the mood exists for a general strike and no-one can deny the role such a strike would play to help the continuation and spread of the current mass protests.

However, we cannot forget that a general strike requires great organisation and means of communication and it is difficult to harness such means when the regime is adamant in breaking the communication infrastructure and will increase its efforts in this direction.

If we are unduly optimistic about such a call this will reduce its chances of success. One should not expect that it can come from a single call from those active in the protest movement. However, under the present conditions it is absolutely necessary to draw attention to the crucial role of such actions that can be achieved through a wave of local and scattered actions leading towards a major strike.

We should not forget that the general strike of 1979 came about in the midst of major upheavals in the struggle of the masses and not through a single call to strike.

The important issue is to understand the historic significance of the current situation and to realise that the protest movement must not be limited to street demonstrations, but that it has to take other forms, such as strikes, sit-ins and a boycott and isolation of all state organs. The brave actions of different sections of the population against the coup d’etat by the supreme leader has given us hope that the masses will take up new initiatives.

Joining this just struggle is our civic duty.

Mohamad Reza Shalgouni
Organisation of Revolutionary Workers of Iran (Rahe Kargar)
June 21 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beginning of the end

Beginning of the end

by Yassamine Mather

Ayatollah Khamenei’s June 19 speech reminded many Iranians of some of the utterances of the shah in the last months of his rule: former president and current chairman of the ‘assembly of experts’ Ali Akbar Rafsanjani cannot be corrupt - he has been the supreme leader’s friend for over 50 years! Everyone in Iran had accepted the results of the elections: it was all the fault of foreign powers and foreign media that some people are now doubting them! Conspiracies are all around us and, just as in colonial times, the British are behind it.

The problem with most dictators is that, even in their dying days, they believe they can stop the movement by simply passing orders or blaming ‘foreign powers’. Some supporters of the shah are still under the illusion that he was not overthrown by the 1979 Iranian revolution, but was deposed thanks to a plot by Britain and the US. In fact, as he went on speaking, attributing strange comments to Obama (the US president has apparently admitted in public that he had been looking forward to the demonstrations that have rocked Iran), one wondered if Khamenei, well known for using opium as a painkiller for his injured arm, had taken a double dose that morning.

He said that he liked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and agreed with most of his statements (one assumes that includes denial of the holocaust, the claim that Ahmadinejad had introduced Venezuela to Islam, that inflation is going up in all European and western countries, that Iran’s economic problems have nothing to do with government policy, but are solely the consequences of the world economic crisis ... ).

Yet the supreme leader did rebuke his president on one issue: he was wrong to accuse Rafsanjani and his own adviser, Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, and their relatives of corruption. Both families were his friends, pillars of the Islamic state and he did not want to hear such “baseless accusations”. This, it seems, is the only comment made by Ahmadinejad in his four years as president which is a lie or an exaggeration.

However, if Khamenei and his advisers had thought this speech would put a stop to the protests, they were mistaken. In the absence of a clear lead by Mir-Hossein Moussavi or fellow ‘reformist’ candidate Mehdi Karroubi (neither of whom persevered with their previous calls for further demonstrations) Saturday’s protests were far more radical, challenging the very existence of the Islamic state. For the first time since 1979, crowds shouted “Death to the vali faghih” (supreme religious leader) and “Death to Khamenei”. By Monday the slogans were aimed against the whole order: “Death to the Islamic regime”, “Death to the Bassiji” and, in another flashback to 1979, the taunting of the security forces with “Be scared of the day we are armed”.

It is now clear that the attempt to impose Ahmadinejad on the Iranian people for another term has thrown the entire regime into terminal crisis, as calls for a general strike are gaining support. On Sunday June 21, Karroubi, still dreaming of a compromise, commented that the regime could yet save “the Islamic order” by annulling the elections. But the failure to do so, combined with the hesitation and dithering of the ‘reformists’, means we are seeing the beginning of the end. No doubt the process could be drawn out and its outcome unpredictable, but it has begun and no-one can stop it.

Of course, the expulsion of foreign reporters and banning of many newspapers have reduced media coverage of the protests, including the new slogans and changing nature of the demonstrations, but most bourgeois journalists still in Tehran could see that by June 23 the very existence of the Islamic republic regime was being challenged by demonstrators. In central districts of Tehran, youths were attacking banks as well as government offices and military barracks.

The calls for a general strike, sit-ins and other forms of civil disobedience are gaining momentum and the protests have now clearly spread to many provincial cities and even some smaller towns, despite the regime’s resort to increasingly repressive methods. Contrary to the claims of apologists for the Iranian regime and some reporters, the demonstrations were not and are not dominated by the middle classes. In fact Iran does not possess such a huge middle class and those who did turn out took courage by the presence on the streets in the first week of large sections of poorer classes.

Those of us who can identify the class composition of demonstrators from their clothes and accents have not had the slightest doubt about the predominance of workers and wage-earners (including teachers, nurses and public employees) on recent protests, but for the benefit of those who have no knowledge of Iran and who keep telling us the demonstrators are ‘middle class’ let me explain some basic facts.

If you live in a country where the ministry of labour claims that over 80% of the workforce are employed on limited contracts and reassures capitalists that by 2010 the figure will have reached 100%, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?

If you live in a country where in the year ending March 2009 despite the repression there were over 4,000 workers’ actions against privatisation and job losses (unemployment stands at 30%, while inflation has reached 25%), including sit-ins, the kidnap of managers, as well as strikes, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?

If you live in a country that has been praised by the International Monetary Fund for its firm pursuit of neoliberal economic policies, all under a certain Mr Ahmadinejad, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?

If you live in a country where teachers and nurses have waged at least four major strikes in the last two years against their government’s economic and political stance, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?

Let us stop talking of the ‘middle class’ nature of these specific protests. However, a number of points have to be considered. Contrary to comments by people such as George Galloway, the Iranian revolution of 1979 was not started by the working class. Students, many of them children of middle class families, initiated the anti-shah protests, which were confined at first to university campuses, and the same students were later in the forefront of the first major demonstrations. It is no secret that the actions of a minority of middle strata can sometimes spark a mass movement.

In 2009, however, the working class has not been slow off the mark - as early as last week the idea of a general political strike has been in the air. It is the left and its activists who have been slow to respond to such calls.

On June 18 Iran Khodro car workers issued the following statement: “We declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran. Autoworkers, fellow workers, what we witness today is an insult to the intelligence of the people, and disregard for their votes, the trampling of the principles of the constitution by the government. It is our duty to join this people’s movement.
“We, the workers of Iran Khodro, … will stop working for half an hour on every shift to protest against the suppression of students, workers and women and declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran.”

Similarly, the union of Vahed bus workers declared on June 19: “In recent days, we continue witnessing the magnificent demonstration of millions of people from all ages, genders and national and religious minorities in Iran. They request that their basic human rights, particularly the right to freedom and to choose independently and without deception, be recognised. These rights are not only constitutional in most countries, but also have been protected against all odds.”

The statement went on to condemn the “threats, arrests, murders and brutal suppression” and called for support for the protests, which “demand a response from each and every responsible individual and institution”. It continued: “… since the Vahed Syndicate does not view any of the candidates as supporting the activities of workers’ organisations in Iran, it would not endorse any presidential candidate in the election. Vahed members nevertheless have the right to participate or not to participate in the elections and vote for their individually selected candidate.
“Moreover, the fact remains that demands of almost an absolute majority of the Iranians go far beyond the demands of a particular group ... [We] fully support this movement of Iranian people to build a free and independent civil society ...”

Oil workers have also used well established channels of communication to discuss the possibility of a strike. Meanwhile a general strike has affected the whole of the Kurdish province, with most cities and towns practically closed down. Calls for a nationwide general strike are growing by the day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran Embassy demo report and protest this coming Saturday

Hands off the People of Iran held a very successful demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in Dublin last Saturday, 20 June. We will continue our protest this coming Saturday 27 June at 2pm, Central Bank, Dame Street Dublin.

The demonstration began at 1pm, at the same time that people were taking to the streets of Tehran in defiance of the oppressive state forces. A number of Iranian activists joined us as well as members of Irish left wing groups and campaigns.
We chanted slogans in support of the struggle and called for the overthrow of the Islamic republic. We also made clear in our speeches and slogans that we are against any imperialist intervention in Iran – any US attempt at regime change from above must be opposed. The hell holes created by imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of the terrible devastation wrought by imperialism.One of Iranian comrades did a fantastic job on the megaphone, shouting ‘marg bar Ahmadinejad, marg bar Moussavi, marg bar Khamenei’. He and most other Iranians there were fully supportive of our principled position on imperialism.
However a leading member of a group called ‘Free Iran’ was opposed to our anti-imperialism and said he supported sanctions. We made it clear that we will not countenance any compromise on this vital question. The US, under Bush or Obama is not a friend, but a dangerous enemy of the Iranian people.
We continued our discussions later at a meeting in Seomra Spraoi, where the debate centred on the prospects for the left in Iran and whether the protests are simply about rigged elections. It was a passionate and lively debate and we finished by agreeing to organise another demo this coming Saturday pm at the Central Bank, Dame Street Dublin.
We will also be holding meetings in other cities, with a meeting in Cork on 2 July, 8pm Victoria Hotel Patrick Street.Join us in showing your solidarity. Let’s send a message to the protestors in Iran that we are on their side!Contact Anne on 086 23 43 238

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Demonstrate Saturday 27 Central Bank Dublin 2pm

Demonstrate Saturday 27 Central Bank Dublin 2pm, organised by Hands off the People of Iran. Contact Anne on 0862343238 or

Friday, June 19, 2009

Death to the Islamic republic

Death to the Islamic republic

The dramatic events in Tehran and other major cities following the June 12 presidential election in Iran are clear manifestations of the anger and frustration of the majority of Iranians with political Islam, writes Yassamine Mather

The election campaign of the four presidential candidates was largely ignored by the majority of the population until early June, when a series of televised debates triggered street demonstrations and public meetings. Ironically it was Mahmood Ahmadinejad’s fear of losing that prompted him to make allegations of endemic corruption against some of the leading figures of the religious state, including former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, former interior minister and adviser to supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei.

In doing so he crossed one of the red lines of the Islamic regime. Once that was done, the floodgates were open. The language used by all three of his opponents - Moussavi, Karroubi and Rezaii - became more colourful. As Ahmadinejad continued to rail against 20 years of corruption and political and economic interference by the “economic mafia” associated with important figures, including Rafsanjani (currently chairman of the ‘assembly of experts’ charged with electing the supreme leader), his opponents wasted no time in using equally strong language to condemn his own presidency, pointing out the worsening economic situation, mass unemployment and 25% inflation, as well as Iran’s “embarrassing international profile”.

In response to these accusations, Ahmadinejad’s election campaign made some historic claims. Apparently he is the man who brought Islam to Venezuela and Latin America! He has secured a written apology from Blair (prompting a denial by the foreign office). And he is the only president who is so feared by the US that it has been forced to drop regime-change plans for Iran. At times Iranians must have thought their president and his supporters lived in a parallel universe.
In just 10 days the two opposed factions between them managed to expose every unflattering aspect of the 30-year-old Islamic regime. No-one in opposition could have done a better job - no-one else had such in-depth knowledge of the levels of corruption and incompetence prevalent among the inner circles of power.

It was unprecedented for the authorities, including Ahmadinejad’s government, to tolerate the various election gatherings and slogans. But the eyes of the world were now on Iran and the regime put on a show: Bassij militia and Islamic guards turned a blind eye to women who failed to adhere to Islamic dress code for the duration of the campaign. Comrades and relatives inside Iran were telling us the atmosphere was like the pre-revolution days of 1979. Political discussions were held at every street corner, political songs of the late 70s became fashionable amongst a generation born long after the February uprising.

Those who had advocated a boycott of the elections were constantly reminded that it was the mass boycott of the 2005 presidential elections that had allowed Ahmadinejad to come to power. Consequently many life-long opponents of the regime reluctantly decided to vote, if only to stop the re-election of the incumbent. On polling day the regime’s unelected leaders basked in the euphoria of a large turnout, yet they were already facing a dilemma: how to keep control in the post-election era.

If Mir-Hossein Moussavi did become president, those who voted for him would expect serious change and the supreme leader was well aware that neither he nor the new president would be able to meet expectations. That is why he and the senior religious figures around him decided to do what most dictators do: rig the elections and declare Ahmadinejad the winner. Nothing new in such measures; but the supreme leader and his inner circle made two major miscalculations: they underestimated the anger and frustration of the majority of the population; and they failed to realise that the high turnout could only mean a massive ‘no’ to Ahmadinejad and, by proxy, to the entire Islamic order.

Added to this was the sheer incompetence of the vote-rigging. In previous presidential elections, the vote had been announced province by province. This time the results came in blocks of millions of votes. Throughout the night the percentage of votes going to all four candidates changed very little. It seemed obvious that the interior ministry was playing with the figures to make sure the overall percentages remained constant.

Early on Saturday morning, the supreme leader congratulated Ahmadinejad, which was seen as official endorsement of the results. But by Sunday afternoon, under the pressure of impromptu demonstrations, he was forced to reverse this decision, and called on the council of guardians to investigate the other candidates’ complaints. By the afternoon of Monday June 15, with a massive show of force by the opposition - over a million demonstrators on the streets - he was instructing the council of guardians to call for a recount. By Tuesday there was talk of new elections.

Had our supreme leader studied the fate of that other Iranian dictator, the shah, he would have known that at a time of great upheavals, as in 1979, once the dictator hesitates and dithers he loses momentum, and the thousands on the street become more confident.

The slogans and militancy of demonstrators in Tehran and other Iranian cities is today the driving force in Iran - and not only for the supreme leader and his entourage. These slogans also dictate the actions of the so-called ‘official opposition’. The meek, scared Moussavi, whose initial response to the vote-rigging was to seek a reversal of the results by the “centres of Shia religious guidance”, suddenly gained courage and appeared at Monday’s protests. After promising that he would protect people’s votes, he could not ignore the tens of thousands who on Saturday and Sunday were shouting, “Moussavi, return my vote”, “What have you done with our vote?” and even one of the students’ slogans, “Death to those who compromise”.

There can be no doubt that Ahmadinejad’s press conference and victory rally on Sunday played a crucial role in increasing the size of the anti-government demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. As riots were taking place all over the capital, the reference to Iran as a “very stable country” reminded many of the shah’s claims that Iran was an island of tranquillity, less than a year before he was overthrown. In response to a reporter’s question about protests in Tehran, the president referred to his opponents as “dust and tiny thorns”. A comment that he will regret forever, as the huge crowds on Monday and Tuesday kept taunting him.

Demonstrators in Tehran are also shouting slogans adapted from those of 1979, often prompted by leftists and students: “Tanks, guns, Bassij are not effective any more”, “Death to the dictator”, “Death to this regime that brings nothing but death”. Clearly the supreme leader’s standard response of bussing in supporters from the countryside to put up a well-orchestrated show of force (as they did for Sunday’s and Tuesday’s pro-Ahmadinejad rallies) does not work any more. Sunday’s event failed miserably, with reporters claiming that many of those arriving by bus could only speak Arabic. By Tuesday some of Ahmadinejad’s non-Iranian supporters arrived at the rally with yellow Hezbollah flags. As Mr Ahmadinejad has no supporters amongst Sunni Arabs in the Khouzestan province of Iran, if these reports are correct one could guess that participants at the state-organised rallies included the thousands of Shias invited in June every year from Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan to participate in the events commemorating the anniversary of the death of Khomeini.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few days. However, one can be certain that nothing will be the same again. No-one will forget the fact that both factions crossed many ‘red lines’, exposing each other’s corruption, deceit and failure. No-one will forget the obvious vote-rigging that makes a mockery of ‘Islamic democracy’ - when Moussavi called it a “charade” he was only echoing the sentiments of the masses.

On Tuesday another presidential contender, Mehdi Karroubi, said: “This week ‘the republic’ was taken out of the Islamic regime”. No-one will forget that the immediate response of the regime to peaceful protests was to arrest, beat up and shoot opponents. No-one will forget that at least seven people have been killed in these protests.

There is little doubt that Moussavi /Karoubi/Khatami and Mohsen Rezaii will look for compromises and will ultimately sell out. However, these protests have gained such momentum that already in Tehran people compare the plight of Moussavi (if he does become president) with that of Shapour Bakhtiar - the last prime minister appointed by the shah, whose government lasted a few short weeks before the revolution overthrew the entire regime.

However, before the British left gets too excited and starts sending its blueprints for revolution to Iran, let us be clear about some facts: working class organisation remains very weak during this crucial period; most of the Iranian left is as confused and divided as it was in 1979, but now, of course, it is much smaller. Repression against labour activists and leftist students is harsher than ever.

Yet students’ and workers’ organisations have been very active in the anti-government demonstrations and they have managed to change some of the slogans of the protests, turning anti-Ahmadinejad slogans into slogans challenging the entire Islamic ‘order’. There was talk of a one-day general strike. However the organisations discussing this decided to try to improve the left’s intervention in current events before contemplating such ambitious calls. We should not expect miracles, but one can see that unlike the Iranian exile left (some of whom have benefited from the largesse of organisations offering regime-change funds, while others have tailed rightwing-controlled international trade unions) the left inside Iran has been conscious of the revolutionary potential of this period and, given its relative weakness, is doing what it can to make an independent, principled, but systematic intervention. That is precisely why the authorities’ attacks on university campuses, where the left is strongest, have been so severe; and why we must do all in our power to support comrades in Iran.

When it comes to predicting Iranian politics, no one can claim to have a crystal ball. However, it is reassuring to see that the unique position Hands Off the People of Iran took - against imperialism, against the threat of war and for the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic regime - has been vindicated by the events of the last two weeks. Imagine what would have happened if during the last year we had witnessed a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear industry, or various US plans for regime change from above had materialised. Political Islam in Iran and the region would have been the undisputed winner of such a scenario. We were right to argue that positive change can only happen from below and from inside Iran and we will continue to maintain this position.

At the same time, these events have exposed the ignorance of groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, whose leaders kept informing us about the virtues of Islamic democracy in Iran. We have seen the selection of candidates by an unrepresentative nominated council of guardians; the role of the supreme leader in inventing the results of an election; and the brutal repression of legal and official opponents. If that is what the regime can do to its own, one can imagine the kind of treatment reserved for its opponents.

But even under the threat of beatings and executions, an overwhelming majority of the Iranian people have shown that they do not believe SWP-type apologia. No-one in their right mind should ever make such claims again. Hopi’s judgement was correct and we did not compromise our principles; that is why, now that the Iranian working class is in need of international solidarity more than ever, we are in a good position to help deliver it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran Khodro Workers strike against the repression

First news of workers strikes in protest at the current situation
Iran Khodro car (car plant ) workers have issued a statement : they condemn the repression and say what we are witnessing is an insult to peoples intelligence . Both shifts are on strike.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HOPI demo and meeting Saturday 20 June Dublin

Hands off the People of Iran’ calls for solidarity with the masses in their struggle for liberation! No illusions in Moussavi!
No to imperialist intervention!

Demonstrate Saturday
20th June at 1.00pm - All Welcome
Outside the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
72 Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, Dublin

Demo followed by meeting at 3.30pm
Seomra Spraoi, 10 Belvedere Court,
off Gardiner Street

Join us in showing solidarity with the masses in Iran who have taken to the streets in outrage against the rigged elections. This is a revolt against a deeply repressive state. The situation is Iranian is on a knife-edge. Hopi supporters are in daily contact with Iran. We are pushing for maximum solidarity from the working class movement here in Ireland to progressive forces in Iran. The upsurge against theocratic rule should not derailed by reformists from within the Iranian regime itself. Moussavi was himself a demagogue during his 8 years in power. He is not a solution but a danger to the struggle for mass democracy.

Contact Anne on 086 2343 238 or at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Support the protests in Iran!

Hands off the People of Iran statement. Contact Anne on 086 23 43 238 or at

June 14 2009

Support for the mass protests against Ahmadinejad’s re-election! But we
should have no illusions that Massouvi would have been any better.

Yassamine Mather, chair of Hands Off the People of Iran, assesses the highly
fluid situation in Iran:

It is no surprise that the highly contested results of the presidential
elections in Iran have sparked unrest in Tehran and other cities across
Iran. The level of cheating on display seems crazy even by the standards of
Iran's Islamic Republic regime. Clearly, the results are the final proof
that confirms that the whole electoral process is deeply undemocratic and
rigged from top to bottom:

* Ahmadinejad was declared winner by the official media even before
some polling stations had closed
* His final result was almost identical to what the (rigged) polls
predicted all the way through the elections. This percentage did not ever
vary by more than three percent
* Hundreds of candidates were barred from standing in the first place,
especially those of the left

The main ‘reformist’ candidate Mir-Hossain Moussavi has declared the
elections a “charade” and claimed Iran was moving towards tyranny. Thousands
of protesters (not all of them backers of Moussavi) have taken to the
streets to demonstrate against the re-election of Ahmadinejad.

Of course, Hopi condemns the arrest of over 900 demonstrators and 100leading ‘reformists’, most of the latter ones supporters and collaborators of Moussavi.

But we should not forget that Moussavi does not consider the nine previous
presidential elections in Iran's Islamic Republic – most of them with very
dubious results - a “charade”. In the 2009 election, he did not bat an
eyelid when the Council of Guardians disqualified over 400 candidates. He
did not think the process was a “charade” when the supreme religious leader
intervened time and time again to defend Ahmadinejad.

Even now, although he is furious about loosing the elections, he is not
calling on the Iranian people to support him. Instead, he is addressing the
'Religious centres of Guidance' (elite shia Ayatollahs) to denounce the
result. He is no fan of democracy and mass movements. Like his predecessor
Mohammad Khatami, Moussavi is well aware that the survival of the 'Islamic
order' is in his interests. That is why, even when he is clearly a victim of
the supreme leader's lunacy, he cannot rock the boat.

After all, irrespective of the illusions of their supporters, Moussavi and
the other reformist candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, are no radical opponents of
the regime. For eight years, Moussavi served as prime minister of the
Islamic republic - during some of the darkest days of this regime. He was
deeply involved in the arms-for-hostages deals with the Reagan
administration in the1980s, what came to be known as ‘Irangate’. He also
played a prominent role in the brutal wave of repression in the 1980s that
killed a generation of Iranian leftists. During this period, thousands of
socialists and communists were jailed, with many of them executed while in

Moussavi has attempted to refashion himself as a 'conservative reformer' or
a 'reformist conservative' by expressing his allegiance to the supreme
leader and by claiming to have initiated Iran’s nuclear programme, which he
promised to continue. He also criticised the release of British navy
personal in 2007 as “a humiliating surrender”. Defending his government's
anti-Western credentials, Ahmadinejad claimed that “prime minister Tony
Blair had sent a letter to apologise to Iran”. Within a few hours, the
foreign office in London issued a stern denial that such a letter was ever
sent. Moussavi tried to exploit this ‘weakness’.

But he clearly failed. The supreme leader could not tolerate his former
protégé Moussavi. Although his politics are almost indistinguishable from
those of Ahmadinejad, he was just a bit too ‘progressive’ on two points:

He promised to be more liberal over women’s dress code and said he would
expand women's rights –within the parameters proscribed by the religious
state, of course

He promised to use more diplomatic language and a more amenable attitude in
dealings with the West, especially the USA. Despite this diplomatic
‘packaging’, however, he remains committed to defending Iran's nuclear
program (including the right to enrich uranium)

These elections were a “charade” from the day they started. All four
candidates are supporters of the existing system. All support the existing
neo-liberal policies and privatisations. All four are in favour of Iran's
nuclear programme.

But we should not underestimate the anger of the Iranian population against
this blatant manipulation of the results. Iranians had to choose between the
lesser of two evils - and when the worst was declared winner, they showed
their contempt for the system by huge demonstrations culminating in the
massive protests of June 13 2009.

Until early June, most Iranians had shown little interest in these
elections, as they knew that neither candidate would lead to real change.
But it was the live TV debates that changed the apathy. The debates betweeen
Ahmadinejad - Moussavi and Ahmadinejad -Karroubi have been unique events in
the history of the official media of the Islamic Republic. The debates
confirmed what most Iranians know through their personal experiences – but
which they have not yet heard on the official media:

* Ahmadinejad stated that Iran had been ruled for 24 years (up to his
presidency) by a clique akin to an economic and political mafia. 'Elite'
clerics such as the reformers Rafsanjani and Khatami had “forgotten their
constituents” and were corrupt
* Moussavi stated that the economy has been in a terrible state,
particularly in the last four years

The situation in Iran is very fluid. Over 900 protesters and 100 'reformist'
leaders have been arrested, including the brother of former president
Khatami. Moussavi and his wife have gone underground. There are signs of the
beginning of an internal coup. Thirty years after the Iranian revolution, if
Iran's supreme leader believes he can suppress the opposition, he will be
making precisely the kind of mistake that led to the overthrow of the Shah's
regime in 1979. The foundations of the Islamic Republic regime are shaking.

The protests of June 13 were the largest demonstrations since 1979. After
the euphoria of the last two weeks, when Iranians participated in their
millions in demonstrations and political meetings, no state - however brutal
- will be able to control the situation. The events of the last few weeks
show that there is real hope that the Iranian people can get rid of this
regime - be it in the guise of Ahmadinejad or the no less undemocratic and
corrupt ‘reformists’.