Nov 25, 2019
Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.
The Iranian government’s announcement of high gas prices triggered riots in several cities on November 14. The protests spread over the following days despite a brutal crackdown that left 100 people dead, according to Amnesty International.
The embargo imposed in the summer of 2018 by the U.S. deprives Iran of its main product to sell, oil. Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world. For Iranian people, the embargo causes cruel suffering: the price of meat has doubled and prices of other essentials have shot up. The collapse of the Iranian currency, the rial, against the dollar increases the price of all imported products. More and more Iranians now eat only one meal a day. And these deprivations can be attributed to the U.S., not to the Iranian government.
The increases of 50% and 300% in the price of gas were based on the decision by the three main heads of the government to bail out the government budget by dipping into the pockets of the population. This decision triggered the revolt against the political authorities. Symbolic places such as police stations or regional legislatures were set on fire in Isfahan and elsewhere. Portraits of Ayatollah Khamenei or monuments to the glory of his predecessor, Khomeini, were ransacked in Tehran. Protestors denounced the millions spent each year by the Iranian regime to financially support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.
The announcement that profits made on gasoline sales would be used to raise the minimum wage of 60 million poor Iranians did not stop the revolt. All the dignitaries of the regime are deeply discredited because of the corruption that plagues the whole society, and the gap between the religious hard line they preach and the privileged way they actually live. This feeling seems to be shared by all social categories of the country. At the beginning of 2018, working people especially in the provinces had already rebelled against the high cost of living, the scarcity of water, and unpaid wages. But at that time they were not joined by the petty bourgeoisie, small merchants, or intellectuals. This time, the capital, Tehran, is affected, and several universities are occupied by students.
Faced with this revolt, the regime has unleashed its forces of repression. Before the internet was shut down across the country, opponents of the regime had recorded ten deaths. Recently released labor activists, including Ismael Bakhshi and Setideh Ghaliyan, who have been fighting for months for workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory, were put back in prison. The regime is obviously afraid that the revolt against gas prices will draw all social classes to oppose the government.