Saturday, March 5, 2011

Current Necessities of the Movement

Still demanding the same!

This is a part-translation of a longer piece in Persian by Mina Khanlarzadeh. Many thanks to the writer, who keeps a blog at Revolutionary Fesenjan.

Some Current Necessities of the Movement
by: Mina Khanlarzadeh

The first and most basic deficiency of the movement is the lack of a decision making council that at a minimum consists of activists working for women's rights, unions and workers' rights, students' rights coming from different political trends, rights of national minorities, university professors [etc.] and political activists from different viewpoints. Such a body must be created immediately.

After the February 14 protests, a Coordinating Council of the Green Path of Hope was formed, which we do not know who its members are, and also we do not know how pluralistic it actually is. Let's not forget that pluralism of voices is a favorite slogan of the reformists, which of course they only use when they are addressing the fundamentalists [in the regime] and asking them to let them [the reformists] to play too. Other than that, some of the reformists even stay away from the religious-nationalists. Any coordinating committee or council to be formed for the movement must at a minimum include several people from among activists in the women's movement, unionists and workers movement, student activists, national minority activists, university professors active in the movement, and political activists from different groupings. Otherwise, such a coordinating council/committee would not have a correct understanding of the society [and its demands], and would only pay attention to groups from its own ranks and will remain [willfully] ignorant of others.

For example, if the Coordinating Council had within it some women's rights activists, it would not cancel the March 8th protests; although it did reinstitute it after widespread criticisms. If the Coordinating Council were in contact with workers' rights activists, it would be aware of all the protests and strikes by workers around the country, and could issue statements in their support, thereby creating the conditions for the people to join the workers in their struggle. However, the Council is perhaps completely uninformed about such workers' actions since the word 'workers' reminds it of 'socialism' [...].

Whenever [ordinary] citizens -- those not considered to be regime's base and those who actually constitute the majority -- reach some political-social awareness [that's in opposition to the regime], the regime would call them 'seditious' gigolos who are disrespecting the blood of martyrs [of the 1979 revolution], American or Zionist agents, microbes, [history's] tumbleweeds, CIA spies, etc., or ignore them or with the use of overt violence of its security forces would attempt to disappear them. The reformists [must not use the same methods]. [...]

General Strike
Many are waiting for the workers to go on [a general] strike, and then ask: Why aren't the workers going on [a general] strike]? A general strike is not possible right now for many reasons. First, all forms of independent workers' organizations have been destroyed for [more than] thirty years, and the supporters of such organizations are in prisons, or been fired, or are perishing while chained to some [prison] hospital beds, just like Hashem Khastar, Mahmoud Salehi, or Mansour Osanloo. In order to organize a general strike you need workers' [independent] organizations, which don't exist. Second, many large factories and productive companies were security-privatized [meaning, bought by the Revolutionary Guards], which means that strikes in such militarized plants would have severe consequences for the workers. Third, the [historical] record of the reformists is as problematic as those of the fundamentalists in the eyes of the workers. Even though the workers' conditions are the worst they have been since the revolution, we must not forget that the neo-liberal and anti-independent-union policies have been the overall policy of the entire regime, and are not particular to the current government. On the other hand, the reformists consider the Green Movement as a reform movement, and this too could have led to doubts and suspicions among the workers as a class.

So, now that a general strike does not seem likely, what other means are available [for workers' participation to increase]?

__ One of the most basic necessities is for the participation of unionists and workers' rights activists in the decision-making council of the Green movement [or similar councils formed independent of the reformists but with nationwide structures]; this can strengthen the connections between the workers and the different parts of the movement, and can spread the news about workers' issues, actions and their demands. Indeed, there is a big absence of workers' rights activists to be issuing statements and bringing the workers' discourse into the movement.

__ Another [thing that can be done] is the boycott of imported goods by all who consider themselves as part of the movement. Cheap imported goods [mostly from China] have broken the backs of small producers inside the country, and have caused mass unemployment among the workers [...]

__ One of the bigger weaknesses of the movement is a lack of adequate response to the 'rationalization' of [or, removal of price] subsidies on basic goods. In fact, the elimination of subsidies was the most important events of the past year, and is currently among the biggest [political] weaknesses of the government, but the movement's media lost its chance to use the opportunity to express the protest of the movement [against the subsidy eliminations], exactly because this media is in the hands a particular layer of the reformists with neo-liberal economic tendencies. However, it is not too late. [...] It is here that the reformists must realize that pluralism is a necessity of the movement, and they must find the merits of having a multiplicity of social layers in the movement. By raising the demands of the workers, workers' rights activists and leftist social layers, inside and outside Iran, can combine their protests with demands against the subsidies' eliminations on one of the Protest Tuesdays; which will lead to the growth of the movement [...].

__ Every week, we read some piece of news about hundreds of workers getting fired, or else about protesting or striking workers who have not received pay for several months, sometimes up to a year. In such protests, workers are alone but there is a potential/possibility for the student activists and women activists to join them, and to combine democratic demands and demands for the restoration of human dignity with the workers' demands, since restoring human dignity and achieving democracy are not possible without restoring the workers' rights, and restoring workers' rights is not possible without having real democracy and without respect for human dignity. Workers and the toiling classes know this, and as a result they participate in the protests, even if only as individuals not a social class or layer, and many of them have been killed or are in prisons [...] Workers are present in the movement; it is the movement that must connect with and reflect their demands. [This] of course depends on whether workers rights activists and leftist political activists are present in the coordinating council or the Green media, to issue their statements.

__ Some of the Protest Tuesdays must be used to protest against the conditions of workers in prison, conditions of temporary workers, those who have been laid off and those whose wages have not been paid. Such workers presently participate in the movement, albeit in a voiceless manner, and how painful that some even deny their presence [in the movement]. By protesting against the working/living conditions of the workers [and by raising their demands], first, we destroy the delusional claims by the regime about its popularity among the working classes; second, [we follow the principle that] democracy and justice are not possible without fighting for economic and political justice for the working classes; and third, by bringing into the struggle the workers' [demands and] discourse we create the conditions for the movement to grow and spread. Otherwise, the workers themselves will participate in the movement [as individuals], but their agenda and demands will be absent from the movement.

What about the Kurds?
Some among the Kurds are rightly suspicious of the reformist tendency, and may ask, "Why should we fight in this movement, so that tomorrow when the reformists come [back] to power, we will be their first target?" [trans. note: paraphrased] [...]

[It must reminded that] people who take to the streets in Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran, Eslaam-shahr, Rasht, Tabriz and ... and who shout out their slogans, have never [thought or] said that they are facing bullets in the streets so that the reformists would come to power. They are shouting out, "Death to Dictator!", "Not eastern, not western; Iranian Republic!", "Mubarak, Ben-Ali; Next is Seyed Ali!" and more. They shout slogans in defense of Mousavi and Karroubi because these two figures have stood with the people and have moved forward with the people; however, very few [if any] slogans are ever heard in defense of Khatami, the flag-bearer of reformists. Therefore, reducing the Green Movement to a struggle for bringing to power the supporters of ayatollah Rafsanjani and Khatami is short-sighted, although the danger of such a reduction does threaten the movement, and can become a deeper problem if non-reformist groups [...] start leaving the movement. The danger is not the coming to power of the reformists; the danger is rather that such an interpretation can lead to the defeat of the movement. [...] The reformists [...] have no choice but to move forward with the people since they have been completely ousted from power, and the regime could not let them back into power even if it wanted to, since that would signify a retreat and would lead to its downfall. Therefore, the most effective solution is to minimize the schism between the ranks of the forces of the people in the streets who want the end of dictatorship and the ranks of reformists. [...]

[The same logic applies to the Kurdish question]. In this view [that sees only a scenario of reformists coming back to power and nothing else changing] Kurds do not believe in themselves as a social force and don't believe that with their participation in the Green Movement they can change the balance of powers in their favor. Green Movement is nothing but the struggle of courageous people who stand in front of bullets and are unafraid of death, torture, and truncheons; and not even prison can silence them, and would write letters from prison and would still continue the fight [...] The importance of the relation/connection between the Kurdish people and these people in the streets should not be underestimated, for such would be a historical mistake [...] It should be needless to say that the Kurds are present in the movement anyway, and have been killed in this movement, but as a unique social force, their demands and discourse is not present in the movement. [...]

First, presence of the Kurds as a social force in the Green Movement can lead to the spreading of information [and awareness] about Kurdish people's numerous problems. Kurdish people's predicaments have not yet been raised as they should have, and the Iranian regime has been able to de-legitimize their struggle by portraying the Kurdish rights activists as violent separatists. [...] The presence of the Kurds in the movement can help eradicate stereotypes created by the regime, and the demands of the Kurds can be raised in a language that is bereft of [negative] nationalism and a view that set Kurds and non-Kurds against each other. Let us not forget that the immense and widespread protests, by many different political forces, following the execution of four Kurdish activists (Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alam-houli, Ali Heydarian, and Farhad Vakili) were among the achievements of the Green Movement. Many a times before the onset of the Green Movement, may a Farzad Kamangar's would be executed, but no Mousavi's or Zahra Rahnavard's would issue statements questioning such executions, but the Green Movement made it possible that Kurds and non-Kurds from different political tendencies showed their disapproval to these individuals' executions. This is not an insignificant achievement; though obviously it is not enough.

Whether or not the Kurds enter the movement as a social force, there are many Kurds waiting to be executed, and many more other Kurds are daily suffering poverty, unemployment and lack of safety, as well as systematic violence. Regardless of the absence of Kurds from the movement, will there be an inevitable justice and freedom for the Kurdish prisoners? The answer is negative. Any oppression must first be defined and named, and then must be recognized as an oppression by the people as a result of great effort among the people of different layers, and in this process a [concrete] struggle shapes up for the eradication of that oppression. Presence of Kurds as a social force in the Green Movement can define the oppression against Kurds, and so the groups within the movement can come to understand the problems faced by Kurds as violence against Kurdish people. [...]

International Relations
Green Movement can move [much] more strongly in relation to international events and struggles. Statements issued by university students in solidarity with the student demonstrations in England, women in solidarity with Tunisia and Egypt, and Mousavi's statement in support of Tunisian and Egyptian movements were among the high points of the movement building relations with international events, but of course the number of such statements in the past two years have been very limited. A part of the coordinating council [or various councils] of the movement -- which is supposed to include women's, workers', students' movements as well as political activists of different tendencies -- must be dedicated issuing/publishing statements and building solidarity between the Green Movement and regional and supra-regional movements. [...] The Green Movement must issue real substantive, not clichéd, statements [regarding the current events in the region]. We do need to find legitimacy in the region and the world; that is a reality. For example, we must issue statements in support of Palestinian women and workers, so that the peoples of the region know that the Iranian regime's support of the Palestinians is a pretence, and that the people of Iran are subjected to oppression [like the Palestinians]. For example, [we must issue statements] in support of Libyan people, or the protesting teachers in Madison, Wisconsin, or the Afghans who have demonstrated in support of the Green Movement [...] Every time such a statement [of support is issued and] gets reflected in the international media, it becomes a more difficult job for regime's liars to claim that the movement [against them] does not exist or does not have legitimacy.

Invisible Presence in the Movement
As long as we [...] do not say that we are in the movement, the media can doubt or shed doubt on our existence, and claim that the movement is just a bunch of 'middle class' people from uptown; which god knows what it means! The best way of fighting against this doubt and suspicion mongering is to write various statements coming from various social groups, no matter how small, comprising of workers, university students, women, the unemployed, teachers, mourning mothers [who have lost their kids to the political prisons, or disappeared], and the rest; statements that present to the movement their demands and social needs. It is possible that some will ignore some of our demands and portray them as unimportant, due to the "crime" of being too radical or "against the system' [wishing to overthrow the system]; however, we must insist on our demands and our presence to such a degree that those with more political power and media capabilities would have to take us and our demands into account. It is in such a process, that such groups can be forced into moving forward with the people, or to put it another way, that would lead to more radicalization.

The Women's Movement
On International Women's Day [Tuesday March 8th], it is the best opportunity to combine and connect, by aid of a careful selection of slogans and posters/placards, the different predicaments of working women (whether as home makers or working for wages) with those of mourning mothers, with that of mothers of political prisoners, as well as the predicaments of women prisoners. It is the best opportunity for re-reading, re-remembering and re-asserting women's demands. It is the best opportunity for the women's movement to issue statements and assert their struggle and demands within the Green Movement, and to announce their solidarity with the struggles of women across northern Africa, the Middle East and the rest of the world. Let us not forget that one of the first victories of the women's movement is the creation of a coordinating council in the Green Movement, in which women's rights activists play an active in all its decisions. Success in having a clear and strong voice and entry into decision-making processes must be started from today. Why delay this to the next day?

Video clip (in Persian) of Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park; title of video clip: We Are Standing!

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