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