The Green Movement leaders in Iran used the opportunity of Khameini’s call for support for the Egyptian people to call for demonstrations on 14 February. They said these demonstrations were to defend the Egyptian people and pushed the establishment not to attack them. That did not happen. [The demonstrations were attacked with tear gas and one person is reported killed].
The Iranian secret services are well trained and stopped the demonstrations from becoming a big force. In the end there were several sizeable demonstrations around Tehran, of 5,000 and 10,000, marching from and to different points.
However, these demonstrations were organised by people with a mullah’s point of view. The Green Movement leaders, Mousavi and Karoubi, do not want to overthrow the Islamic Republic — they want to reform it. This is why the demonstrations probably won’t continue.
There is a lot of confusion and political difficulty around how to mobilise in Iran, especially around the immediate issues such as free speech.
I think a political call for a Constituent Assembly is very important all over the Middle East. The Constituent Assembly, we say, should be based on neighbourhood assemblies, trade unions, citizens’ groups and sections of the army that have been split away. The left also needs slogans to neutralise the army. Such an Assembly would be an opportunity for different layers in society to discuss how they relate to the workers and what they think about alternatives to capitalism.
During the last two years there have been important developments in Iran, for the workers and for the youth and students.
Subsidies (on food etc) have been cut. This is affecting the workers badly, has affected their confidence. In the important oil industry workers don’t have rights and they have become conservative. The new generation of workers don’t have the same experiences as the older and this affects their ability to organise.
Youth and students have now recognised the need for undergound organisation. But they have no political leadership. The left is very weak and has no clear programme. Most come from a Stalinist tradition, but have now become “ultra-left”. They adopt a minimum-maximum programme and do not understand transitional demands and ideas such as the Consitutent Assembly.
There are three key democratic demands in the Middle East and in these countries. These are democracy; secularism; and the constituent assembly.
In backward countries such as these, with dictatorships, existing in the advanced capitalist world, these demands become transitional. For example any movement for “free speech” quickly becomes radicalised and wants to move towards to overthrow dictatorship.
That is why things are moving so quickly right now.