Iran: Oil and gas workers on the move. Regime strikes a conciliatory tone as repression continues

Photo from video: oil workers in in Bushehr participate in a protest against the regime on Oct. 10.

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Aníbal and Fredo Corvo

In the current situation, opportunities and threats arise for workers in Iran and in the energy-producing region from Saudi Arabia to Algeria and from Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan. With the movement of workers in Iran’s vital energy sector, there are the first signs of a reversal of the regime’s hitherto unrelenting repression against street protests. In this article, we examine the doubts of workers in the companies to respond to calls from multiple sides to strengthen street protests with strikes.


The extent of strikes in Iran’s oil and gas sector is still unclear. Various videos are circulating on sites of Iran’s political opposition in exile and social media. The Spanish liberal newspaper El Mundo reports the following:

“Several videos shared on social media on Tuesday, which have not been independently verified, show dozens of workers marching across the pipelines and offices of phase two of the Abadan refinery and chanting slogans against the authorities. The region in the southwestern province of Khuzestan is home to the main oil wells of the world’s fourth-largest oil-producing country. (…) While there is no indication that the strikes in Abadan were widely followed, the strike in Assaluyeh, where one of Iran’s main gas processing plants is located, was also significant. According to the semi-official IRNA news agency, the protesters were workers demanding higher wages. Sources from the protesters told several media outlets that some colleagues were arrested, without specifying how many, and called for further strikes.” 1

All commentators agree that if labor unrest were indeed to increase significantly – especially if it reached the entire oil and gas sector – the Ayatollah’s regime would falter. After all, the same thing happened in 1979, when, under pressure from strikes in the oil sector, the real powers behind the scenes – the military and the secret services – ended the Shah’s regime. After that, the Ayatollahs came to power. It is worth recalling that Rafsanjani, the prominent architect and strategist of the current regime, said years ago, “We will not repeat the Shah’s mistake and we will never back down.” The notion that Khamenei or his successors will abandon the Shiite government in Iran and the Shiite quasi-imperium in the region to avoid a bloodbath is therefore dismissed by some Iranians in exile.2 A source close to the Moroccan and Spanish foreign ministries, Atalayar, concludes that the crackdown on the protests “is now giving way to a new scenario in which dialogue with the Iranian government seems closer than ever.”

What does the regime’s supposed opening to dialogue consist of? Atalayar writes:

“Now, for the first time, under Raisi’s presidency, the country is paving the way for dialogue because, according to them, at this point it will be very difficult to end the protests without sitting down and talking to the protesters.

At first, Tehran labeled the protests as a foreign conspiracy, but eventually, all doubts were dispelled. And those doubts have nestled within a government that fears for its control. One of the figures closest to Khamenei, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, president of Iran’s Supreme Court, was the first to offer dialogue to the protesters. This first step is seen by observers as a clear sign of concern, as they find it very difficult to end the demonstrations through police repression, as on previous occasions, and are forced to follow a different path.

Iranian society is not willing to remain under the yoke of the Ayatollahs’ dictatorship, and they have made that clear on every day of the protests since the murder of Mahsa Amini when she was detained by the police for wearing the wrong veil. This display of strength from the Iranians has forced Ejei to assure them that ‘they should know that we are listening to protests and criticism and that we are ready for dialogue. In a truly surprising statement from one of the supreme leader’s strong men, he also admitted that the Iranian political system may have ‘weaknesses and flaws’.

Not all of the supreme judge’s words, however, were self-critical. He also pointed out that he is ‘willing to listen to suggestions and to correct any mistakes but that a ‘distinction must be made between peaceful protests and violent unrest.” 3

The release of prisoners previously reported by us4 can also be understood as an attempt to contain the unrest:

On Tuesday, Judiciary spokesman Masud Setayeshi reported that 1,700 detainees had been released in recent weeks. The head of the judiciary continued, reaching out to the protesters. I am ready. Let’s talk. If we made mistakes, we could correct them, said Gholamhusein Mohseni Ejei, who is known for ordering a crackdown on protesters during previous protests.5

It is striking that the new scenario consists mainly of words and empty promises. For example, the crackdown on protesters throughout Iran and insurgent movements in the Kurdish region continues as usual. On Oct. 11, reports emerged that a column of tanks was on its way to the insurgent Kurdish region.6 Nor is there any negotiation with striking workers, not through the official Shuras (similar to legal works councils) and certainly not with the underground unions, some of whose prisoners have now been released. So there is no opening yet on the part of the regime. More importantly, there are also no signs of the real power hidden behind it – the secret services, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC or Revolutionary Guards, or Pasdaran)7 and the leading structure of the army – will push the Ayatollah regime aside. As we wrote earlier, it is doubtful that the continuation of the unrest will lead to disagreements in the IRGC on how to handle the protests:

” The IRGC-controlled “system” has based its power on Khomeiny’s ideology. Too much to give a fraction of IRGC the idea that it can distance itself from it without losing all power. Such “division” in the IRGC can only occur when its power is weakened much further than by the current headscarf protests, regional tensions and labor unrest.”

But we also noted that

“… what if labor unrest increased significantly – for example, crippling the entire oil sector as it did in 1979, leading to the fall of the Shah? In that case, could the IRGC become as divided as the army and secret service were at the time? But as mentioned, the IRGC and today’s secret services are stuck on ideology. Not a national strike, but a workers’ revolution will sway their power. …
The workers should not allow themselves again, as in 1979, to be deprived of the power of their councils. Therefor, it is of the utmost importance that the workers develop their independence as a class in thought, in words, in deeds, especially in their organization independent of all bourgeois and nationalist influences.” 8

This is not yet the case. Let us look at the real doubts among workers, their opportunities, and threats.

The “unity of the people” in the headscarf protests

The headscarf protests have evolved into a struggle against the regime and a movement involving women and youth from all parts of Iran’s population, directly, or indirectly through family ties, “at the kitchen table” as they say in Iran. This broad popular support is thoughtlessly or with particular intent translated as “people’s movement.” But the word “people” has multiple meanings. In the common language, people means “the ordinary people,” or even the poorer parts of the population or those who do not belong to the rich and powerful. Workers may identify with such a concept of the people from their social situation. Some workers will be pleasantly surprised at the presence in this “people’s” movement of women and young people from better neighborhoods. Others will have their doubts. The more class-conscious workers understand that the bourgeoisie, as an exploiting class that owns the means of production and rules through the state, uses the concept of “people” to hide class divisions.

The obligation to wear a headscarf and other religious precepts affect bourgeoisie and working-class women differently. Damoon Saadati of the CWO gives some striking examples of how this plays out for bourgeois women.9 Unfortunately, he fails to point out that the once-won “freedom” from religious oppression also will have a different effect on different classes. The bourgeois woman, like bourgeois men, gains the freedom to participate in the public, corporate, and state exploitation and oppression of the working class. The proletarian woman, like the proletarian man ─ and children, for that matter ─ remain oppressed and exploited. We are advocates of removing religious oppression, but we underline that the class struggle between labor and capital remains. We will show that class difference is already expressed even in the current struggle.

In Iran, the slogan of the unity of the people against the regime seeks to eliminate any thought of the different class interests at the fall of the Ayatollah regime. The general idea is that first, the regime must fall under a united movement of the people, and then there will be room for different views on how to proceed: a secular republic, a constitutional monarchy, or a republic with the son of the last Shah as president, liberal capitalism, socialism, or a mixed economy, more or less autonomy for the different peoples, mainly the Kurds. Even a council republic ─ whatever that means ─ is not considered out of the question. Only …. later. All kinds of bourgeois groups are now calling on the workers to support the “people’s” movement against the regime with strikes and sometimes even to organize independently and/or in workers’ councils. The same groups will want to end strikes and dissolve independent organizations, by force if necessary, after the regime’s fall, at a moment that suits them.

National minorities

Iranian-nationalist undertones and even slogans are already emerging in the protests. Unity of the people, but what about Iran’s different peoples and languages? Besides Persians and Kurds, there are Azeris, Turkmen, and, more recently, Afghans (often extremely exploited as illegal aliens), among others. Despite constitutional protections, minority rights are under pressure.10 The current wave of protest began in Iranian Kurdistan at the funeral of Makhsa Amini, and quickly spread across Iranian Kurdistan, and then throughout Iran. The movement sometimes takes on the character of the struggle of national and religious minorities:

  • In Kurdistan, the movement has now taken on insurgent forms. Especially in Sanandaj, there have been many casualties in struggle with the forces of repression. As we reported earlier, since 11-10-2022, the regime has tried to put down the insurgency in Iranian Kurdistan with tanks. There are also reports of an upcoming IRGC attack on Iraqi Kurdistan.11
  • The southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan witnessed one of the fiercest episodes of this wave of demonstrations. Ali Mousavi, provincial intelligence chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was shot dead in an attack claimed by Jaish Al-Adl, a jihadist militant group based in southern Iran.12
  • Baluchistan is an area in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Riots broke out in Iranian Baluchistan on Friday, September 30.13 We translated from Farsi the following excerpt from a report of the riots:
    “Bloody Friday continues in Baluchistan, the number of deaths in this brutal massacre is increasing and has reached the 100 mark, and the condition of three hundred or more people hospitalized is critical due to the lack of blood, lack of hospital facilities and necessary medical personnel. Meanwhile, harassment and threats from the army and security forces have increased in hospitals. Many wounded do not go to the hospital for fear of arrest and security threats and are treated at home. In such a situation, the hated security mercenaries are busy arresting and detaining those who participated in the protests and denounced the crimes of the regime, or who have a history of political and civil activities. Meanwhile, they are arresting many ordinary people for no reason. The arrest of Baluch activists continues even in other cities and provinces. Doctors and nurses who helped the wounded outside the hospital and outside the control of the security apparatus have been threatened. The doctor confirmed that repression forces shot fleeing people from behind has disappeared. Universities and dormitories are surrounded by soldiers, and even entering balconies is dangerous for students. In fact, unannounced military rule has been established in Baluchistan.
    The people of Baluchistan, along with other Iranian peoples, have revolted in protest against the brutal murder of Gina Amini, against misogyny and forced hijab, along with anger over 43 years of crimes against people, especially discrimination, humiliation and insult to oppressed nationalities. But with the revelation and confirmation of the rape of a 15-year-old girl by Ebrahim Kochzai, the Chabahar police commander, their anger increased, and they protested Friday. But the regime’s repressive apparatus had already prepared for a bloody massacre.
    Bloody Friday was a deliberate plan to shoot defenseless people without any precaution. A barrage of bullets ─ not plastic bullets ─ rained down on people from all sides. People running away were also shot at from behind, while helicopters shot at people from the air. Then bullets were fired during Friday prayers, killing and injuring many who were not even present at the protests. Several children aged 12 to 14 and even a 2-year-old was killed next to his home. The crime in Zahedan on Bloody Friday and beyond shows the height of brutality of an exploitative and oppressive government, the brutality of which cannot be described in words. (…)” 14

It is unsurprising that bourgeois commentators have expressed fears of Iran’s breakup. At the same time, this possibility has whetted the imperialist appetites of every regional bourgeoisie of Iran as well as those of neighboring countries and superpowers.

The workers of Iran do not fear the “threat” of the disintegration of the Iranian state. They should be worried about their unity as a class against capital in all its forms. The position of council communism from the KAPD to the GIC is clear. See Anton Pannekoek, Klassenkampf und Nation (1912).15  Every nationalism is an ideology of the bourgeoisie. This is true of Iranian nationalism in all its forms: the Shah, the mullahs, the liberals, and left bourgeois parties that call themselves “socialist” and “communist. It also applies to the bourgeoisie, which now sees an opportunity to win a constituency, foot soldiers, a clientele, a willing labor force, and, above all, cannon fodder for their capitalist interests based on Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Baluchistani and Arabic languages. Against this, we contrast the international proletariat as a community of class interests. As Pannekoek argued, a community that defends being allowed to speak its own language, just as it supports the interests of the poorest and most disenfranchised sections of the proletariat – such as refugees and landless peasants.16

Changes in Iran’s petty bourgeoisie

MondAfrique reports that Iran’s so-called “middle class” *) is abandoning the clerical regime:

“The merchants (the Bazari), the workers, the civil servants, the executives of the private sector had been careful in the past to take sides against the mullahs’ regime openly. The freedom to do business and get rich was worth a few sacrifices to freedom of speech and the position of women. But today, the balance seems upset, and the middle class openly expresses its anger.

*) Although various categories may identify with a supposed “middle class”, and this is of political significance, we point out that this social middle segment consists in part of petty-bourgeois with the property of means of production ─ from small capitalists and shopkeepers to land-owning peasants ─ , of wage earners who, given their managerial position and position in the hierarchy, objectively belong to the bourgeoisie, and wage earners who, despite their higher and middle income and lower position, belong to the proletariat.

The middle class, which used to be able to reproduce itself thanks to a solid education system, now represents only half of the population, down from 60% some time ago. These populations have suffered for years under US and European sanctions following the nuclearization of Iranian weapons. They suffer from unemployment and skyrocketing inflation.

Due to structural unemployment (10%), the children of the bourgeoisie are struggling to find jobs. The supply of jobs has shrunk by 7%, and wages of skilled workers have fallen by 20%, according to an International Monetary Fund study released in late September 2022.

Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and shopkeepers are also seeing the value of their assets shrink due to inflation. And sometimes, these assets are even reduced (selling a car or a flat) to finance daily life.

A third of Iranians live below the poverty line (20% in 2015). With the salaries of oil industry workers and teachers, heads of families can no longer feed their children. Wage earners suffer from rising prices for staple foods such as spaghetti and minced meat.

It is no longer uncommon to see workers and unionists joining protesters alongside middle-class women in their 50s throwing off their headscarves.

A poll of 1,000 people conducted by Iran Poll a year ago for the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies found that 63% of Iranians accused their leaders of economic mismanagement and corruption. Today, 68% believe the country’s economic situation is deteriorating. The segments of the population now showing their discontent are also discovering the violence of repression.

As a result, the regime, which pursued a cunning policy of income redistribution in favor of the poorest categories, no longer has a sufficient budget to subsidize basic foodstuffs, schools and health care.

Inequality is also highly unpopular. According to Iran’s Ministry of Social Affairs, the wealthiest 10% of Iranian households now receive 31% of total gross national income. In comparison, the poorest 10% receive about 2%.” 17

Every regime tries to maintain the “middle class” as a buffer between the big bourgeoisie and the proletariat. General dissatisfaction in the “middle class” is considered a danger to the existing order. But that still makes regime change without interference from the proletariat unlikely. And if the proletariat does indeed move, it is of the utmost importance that it realizes what the workers’ interests are in doing so and what those of the “middle class,” especially of the actual small bourgeoisie which, from its social position, identifies itself with the big bourgeoisie. The small bourgeoisie, from its social position, is obliged to follow intensively the lines set out by the big bourgeoisie and the middle bourgeoisie. At the same time, it maintains tensions and contradictions with this more powerful bourgeoisie that strongly influences the state and capitalist business. This is going on in Iran right now, and much petty bourgeois see their social and economic status deteriorating. The specter of proletarianism hangs like a shadow over their existence.

The appeals to workers

During the demonstrations against the headscarf and for the fall of the Ayatollah regime, workers in the companies ─ especially in the vital oil and gas industry ─ were approached by several sides with calls to join in strikes. They did not immediately comply ─ to the frustration of the senders of these calls ─ with these calls. Some calls subsequently took a sharper form, for example, toward Haft Tape workers. The most penetrant odor spread following calls for the “socialist solution”:

“… The official oil field workers of the National Oil Company should know that they are indebted to the working class of Iran. Over the years, thanks to their expertise and hard work, they have been able to live a prosperous and peaceful life thanks to the key role of oil, that is, this national capital. If there were no oil, they would not have the technical and technological skills and talents to live a middle- and high-level life amidst the working class of today’s Iran. In fact, they are not only indebted to the working class of Iran, but they are, in a sense, members of the people. Therefore they are indebted to the whole people of Iran, from Baluchistan to Kurdistan, from Sarkhs to Chaharbahar, and all parts of Iran. They should know that their ancestors and predecessors have fulfilled this historical duty well in thorny situations in the country. Today this responsibility rests on their shoulders and they must try to join the people before more youth, girls and boys fall and bleed and before torture prisons and now other military headquarters are filled with Iranians. By reviving the historical experience of oil workers’ strikes in Iran, they must grab the Islamic Republic by the throat, with which it breathes, for so long until this regime can no longer squeeze the throats of the Iranian people. 18

One can guess the attitude of these kinds of defenders of the “national capital” and, of course, the “national capital” of the Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Sarkhs, and Chaharbahar region. They will stick the Bolshevik label of “workers’ aristocracy” on it when strikes, factory occupations, and independent workers’ councils do NOT serve them anymore. Rightly M. Jahangiry – one of the few, if not only, internationalist voice among Iranian exiles – observes on Oct. 11:

“From the right wing of capital to its left, all know from their historical memory that history has shown that it is not possible to overthrow the Islamic bourgeoisie without the participation of the workers in social protests. And that is why they ask the workers to take to the streets and finish the job. In other words, they want the working class to form the auxiliary forces of the campaign against the dictatorship so that the change in the political superstructure of society is not only possible, but sooner.

On Oct. 10, 2022, workers at the Bushehr and Damavand Asalouye petrochemical plants and the Abadan and Kangan refineries joined the protest and strike. Workers with the slogan Death to the dictator! entered the scene of the protests. Even though this was not a workers’ class slogan, but an anti-dictatorship slogan, it is an absolute necessity for the class struggle that workers come out to fight. But it must be emphasized that our slogan must be against wage slavery and exploitation, and in other words, directed against the foundations of capitalism. We must fight for our own class interests. We must never lose our class identity or our revolutionary capacity to form ourselves as an independent social force in the development of society through class struggle. Only the working class as a social class can put an end to the misery of the capitalist world. We can only repel the attacks of the bourgeoisie from our own class ground. The working class must not be dragged into the pro-democracy movement, and worse, become the auxiliaries of the pro-democracy movement which would weaken and incapacitate the working class.” 19

Jahangiri is telling the truth – as Lenin wrote about Pannekoek in 1914 20– when he concludes his highly read-worthy article as follows:

“The real power of the working class lies not in stopping the accumulation of capital, or in overthrowing dictators, but in asserting itself as a social class conscious of its historical duty. The question is what this social class is historically compelled to do, because only this social class is capable of bringing about the global communist revolution.
Long live the war between the classes!”

The bourgeois opposition to the regime now needs the workers. It flatters them to participate in the struggle for regime change, sometimes already threatening it, as we saw above in the call for the “socialist solution.” Indeed, after any victory over the Ayatollah regime, bourgeois forces of all shades will adopt a hostile attitude toward the working class, which will remain exploited and oppressed. Then their openly anti-worker attitude will also show conclusively that many of the present “left” organizations are the left of capital. Therefore, it is essential that the workers take up the struggle against the regime as a class organized separately from and, if necessary, against the bourgeois organizations, under their own workers’ slogans.

Many workers rightly wonder what a new regime will look like. It will depend on circumstances, foreign influences and interference, the balance of power between the various bourgeois groups, and especially on the balance of power between capital and labor during and after the change of government. The more the workers already organize themselves as a class, in general assemblies that decide what the positions of the councils they elect will be, in minority organizations based on working-class positions, the more the balance of power will be in the workers’ favor and the better able they will be to develop a counterforce against the state. After the bloody era of the Shah, the Ayatollahs took over his terror state and further strengthened it, especially against the revolutionary workers, with mass executions – tacitly supported by the “free” West. Similarly, the current political opposition will again take over that same terror state from the Ayatollahs and start manning it (with some women if necessary) to further strengthen it under the ideological banner of Freedoms and Democracy …., especially against the workers.

What about the ultra-left? See, for example, what task of the party ─ besides revolutionary-sounding words ─ can be found in a proposed resolution of the tenth party congress of the “Workers’ Communist Party” – Hekmatist Tezhai:

“G – Trying to shape the government emerging from the insurrection as the government of the insurgents, using the instruments of the government to expand the class struggle and mobilize the working class to continue the revolution and organize the labor revolution.” 21

What is being proposed here is nothing more than the formation of a government along the lines of the Council of People’s Commissars, which, after the October 1917 revolution, stripped power from the Workers’ Councils in favor of the Bolshevik Party.

This government and the “instruments of government,” that is, the bourgeois state, will again turn against the workers if they do not develop a sufficient counter-power through their movement of workers’ councils. Eventually, the workers’ councils will have to destroy the bourgeois state if the workers are not to perish in new terror, imperialist wars, and economic and environmental crises.

The unions can probably do their work legally under a new regime. But only on the condition that they promise the regime that they will keep the workers’ just struggle within the limits of capitalism. Those limits go beyond the hunger line for the workers in a period of “reconstruction,” of “struggle against foreign interference,” or even under the false banner of “the struggle against imperialism” continued intervention by Iranian armed and intelligence forces in neighboring countries and even distant places like Western Sahara (see next chapter).

The old terror state in new suits, and an occasional dress, will marginalize trade unions that do not want to subordinate themselves to the new rulers. By seizures, bans, and imprisonments, they will be reduced to semi-legal or illegal minority organizations that will, at best, take on working-class positions. At best, they will wage the struggle against the roots of proletarian exploitation. And at worst, they will be more or less frustrated candidates to exercise the union role of fighting the most extreme forms of this exploitation and collaborating with the corporations to increase the production effort.

Foreign interference

It goes without saying that governments, secret services, military leaders, and multinational corporations are watching what is unfolding in Iran with unease.

With the fall of the Shah, the United States and the imperialist bloc dominated by it saw the disappearance of a reliable ally. We have previously recalled that Western imperialism watched with approval as Khomeini used imprisonment, torture, and assassination with far greater success than the Shah’s secret service to drive all far-left organizations back to shouting from the sidelines abroad. Instead of bringing Iran back into the US imperialist bloc with a military invasion, the US limited itself to trying to keep Iran in line through a prolonged Iraq-Iran war, economic boycott, and blockade. It is doubtful that the US will actively support regime change in Iran. Only when it inevitably takes place will it put forward “democratic” and liberal forces, including the son of the former Shah. See here Jahangiri’s observation:

“… the statements of Robert Malley, the US special representative for Iran, are worth pondering and better reflect the views of the West. He said, ‘It is not a policy of regime change. It is a strategy of support.’
In condemning the Islamic bourgeoisie and supporting the protests, the Western bourgeoisie is pursuing two goals. The first is to pressure and weaken the Islamic bourgeoisie so that it will accept the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a weak and obedient regime, give up its imperialist ambitions in the region, and in the current critical situation help with the West’s energy crisis so that the West is better able to exert economic pressure on Russia. The second goal is to prepare an alternative to replace the Islamic bourgeoisie on a rainy day. If the need arises to arrange a shift of political power, the Western bourgeoisie can present its alternative, as it did in 1979.” 22

In 1979, the Western bourgeoisie pushed back the Shah in favor of Khomeini. His successor Khamenei may also be pushed aside again. But unlike in 1979, the US does not have the close ties it maintained at the time with the military and secret service of its ally Iran through arms supplies, training, joint exercises and exchange of information. Iran’s army has been subordinated to the many times larger IGRC, which so far sees its wealth and power at risk should the Ayatollah regime fall. Only if the regime falls under much greater pressure than in 1979 will the IGRC also disintegrate. More on that later.

In his dislike of the United States as the “Great Satan” who supported the Shah, Khomeini, while stabilizing his power, was also open to Russia, then the USSR. But ties with Moscow grew closer mainly because of the isolation the US was pushing Iran into. This gradual rapprochement has now progressed during the war in Ukraine to the point where we can speak of a Sino-Russian-Iranian imperialist alliance.

Russia’s main alliance is the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of Russia and five other states in the former Soviet Union: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus. The organization is a counterpart to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a successor to the Warsaw Pact.23 Under pressure from the war in Ukraine, Russia is losing allies. In particular, the regime in Kazakhstan ─ saved by CSTO forces from a workers’ revolt as recently as January 2022 ─ refuses to recognize Russian annexations and is not cooperating in circumventing Western sanctions. For now, this drives Russia and Iran closer together as international pariahs. Moscow and Tehran are concluding all kinds of treaties for economic and military cooperation:

  • Relations between Russia and Iran have grown as both countries have been subjected to sanctions by the US and had to look for new trading partners. The two countries signed a significant energy sector agreement worth $20 billion in 2014.
  • Russian-Iranian cooperation on the Caucasus, along with Armenia against Georgia and Turkish ambitions toward areas that used to belong to the Ottoman Empire.
  • Iran produces many weapons of its own but also imports weapons from Russia. Iran supplies primitive but cheap and effective drones to Russia in the Ukraine war.
  • Russia and Iran share a common interest in limiting US political influence in Central Asia. This common interest led the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to grant Iran observer status in 2005 and offer full membership in 2006. Iran’s relations with the organization, dominated by Russia and China, are the most extensive diplomatic ties Iran has had since the 1979 revolution. Iran and Russia also co-founded the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries with Qatar.
  • Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Iran and Russia have become the Syrian government’s main allies in the conflict by openly providing armed support. Meanwhile, Russia’s own relations with the West have plummeted due to the Ukraine crisis, the 2018 Skripal poisoning incident in Britain, and alleged Russian election interference in the West. As a result, Russia has shown an increasing willingness to engage militarily with Iran. For example, with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Russia finally approved delivering the S-300 system to Iran.24

About the most recent summits between Iran and Russia, the following came to light:

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Hosein Amir Abdolahian said on Sept. 15 that cooperation ties between Russia and the Islamic nation are progressing satisfactorily. He reiterated that joint efforts are needed to boost bilateral relations in all fields. During a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the Iranian diplomat said the main purpose of his official visit to Moscow is to promote actions to resolve the crisis in Ukraine and analyze the development of the two countries bilateral cooperation agenda, as well as the situation in Afghanistan. “We are satisfied with how our bilateral relations are developing. They are reaching a new qualitative level, which will lead to an important interstate agreement. Work on this document is now in the final stage,” Russian Foreign Ministry head Sergey Lavrov said. Lavrov added that Russia supports Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Amir Abdollahian said Tehran stands ready to strengthen trade and economic ties with Moscow, stressing that there are opportunities to expand the existing partnership, including in the energy sector.25
  • On Sept. 15, Iran’s President Raisa and Russia’s Putin met in Moscow as part of the SCO summit. “In the final stage, work is underway on a new important agreement between Russia and Iran, which will mark the transition of relations to the level of a strategic partnership,” the Kremlin chief stressed in a conversation with the Persian leader. The two countries on Aug. 9 launched the Khayyam satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for remote sensing of Earth, “cooperation is developing positively,” Putin said. According to the Russian president, mutual trade increased 81 percent last year and another 30 percent in the first five months of this year. Vladimir Putin announced that a Russian delegation of about 80 companies would travel to Tehran next week to discuss areas of economic cooperation. Russia supported Iran’s request to join the CSO in Samarkand. 26

The Washington Post reported on 4-8-2022 that Iran’s Khayyam satellite “will significantly increase Tehran’s ability to spy on military targets in the Middle East” and give Tehran “unprecedented capabilities, including near-continuous monitoring of sensitive facilities in Israel and the Persian Gulf.”

Back in May 2014, China‘s President Xi Jinping said at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Shanghai, attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hasan Rohani, that “the CICA should become a platform for security dialogue and cooperation and establish a defense consultation mechanism to establish a security response center in case of major emergencies.” XI Jinping’s remarks were preceded by the signing of a historic agreement with China on the supply of Russian gas worth $400 billion. The signing of this agreement was attended by Iranian President Hasan Rohani, whose government, from that date, has also entered into talks, agreements, and contracts with companies of the Asian giant to cooperate not only in the sale of gas and oil but also in the financing of exploitation projects, the construction of ports, railroads and even systems for gas and oil exploration.

In April 2015, at the fourth Moscow Conference on International Security, Iran announced its willingness to cooperate with the governments of China and Russia in a joint response to the West’s threats, particularly NATO’s missile strategy on its border with Russia, which directly affects the governments of Tehran and Beijing, considered priority enemies by the North Atlantic Alliance. Iranian Defense Minister Hosein Dehqan said at the meeting that “our country wants to support the idea of multi-functional military cooperation between China, India, and Russia to cope with NATO’s eastward expansion and the installation of a missile shield in Europe. I believe we can have a trialogue with Beijing and Moscow. We have already discussed certain aspects of regional security.”

In an article by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya on the Fourth Moscow Conference on International Security, he pointed out that the alliance between China-Russia and Iran realizes the worst nightmares for the United States, predicted at the time by former security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who warned the US political and military establishment of the formation of an axis of Eurasian cooperation that would challenge the primacy of the US and its allies in the world. According to Brzezinski, this Eurasian alliance could evolve into “a partnership between China, Russia, and Iran, with Beijing at its core. For Chinese strategists ─ and Russians and Iranians agree ─ the most effective geopolitical counterweight to the Western partnership, which includes the US, Europe, and Japan, could be to try to form a genuine alliance, linking China with Iran in the Persian Gulf-Middle East region and with Russia in the territory of the former Soviet Union.” 27

These ties strengthen the imperialist ties of Russian and Iranian capital, with the consent and support of China, the main “trading partner” of Iranian capital.

After years of negotiations, China and Iran signed the agreement in 2021, which covers energy, security, infrastructure, and communications. Few details of the partnership have emerged, but the New York Times reported in 2020, citing a draft of the agreement, that it would guarantee regular oil supplies for China. China is Iran’s largest trading partner and was one of its biggest oil buyers before Donald Trump, then US president, reimposed unilateral sanctions in 2018. Officially, China has stopped importing oil from Iran. However, analysts say Iranian crude is still coming in, in the form of imports from other countries.

Wang said on 14-1-2022 that China would continue to “oppose illegal unilateral sanctions against Iran,” according to the Foreign Ministry. “China, which opposes Washington’s sanctions against Tehran, announced Saturday [15-1-2022] the start of the implementation of a strategic agreement with Iran that strengthens economic and political cooperation between the two countries.” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced the start of the implementation of the agreement at a meeting in Wuxi in eastern China on 14-1-2022, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said in a statement.28

Recently sources revealed that with the support of Tehran and Moscow, a North African axis of Algeria, Tunisia, and Mali is emerging against Morocco to counter U.S.-Israeli influence in the region. Major Sunni Arab countries condemn Iran and Hezbollah’s alleged military support for the Polisario Front and declare solidarity with Morocco in the Sahara. The Islamic Republic is taking advantage of anti-Western sentiments and the continent’s many economic opportunities to increase its presence throughout Africa, as Russia, China and Turkey have done in recent years.29

So we have seen that China, Russia, and Iran support each other to limit the influences of rival imperialist regional powers, such as Turkey, and reduce pressure from the US- and EU-led imperialist bloc. Russia and China will ─ each in its way ─ view the possibility of regime change in Tehran with alarm and try to prevent it. Only when it is inevitable will they attempt to influence it through fractions of Iranian capital that are most favorable to them. In doing so, both Russia and China may appeal to anti-American sentiment, for example, among the bourgeois ultra-left, which in many cases views only the US as imperialist. Military intervention on Russia’s part is made extremely difficult now that Russia is suffering heavy losses in the Ukraine war.

However, in the event that a workers’ revolution would take place in Iran, history shows that all capitalist forces unite against the proletariat and intervene militarily against the revolution. Then the fate of the Iranian workers is in the hands of the proletariat in the region and that of the US, the EU,Russia and China. Should a workers’ revolution be victorious in Iran, the international proletariat is the only force that can defend it. This will require the proletariat to fight against its own state and capital. If not, the powers and coalitions of imperialist capitalism will have their hands free for repression, either directly (militarism and harsh terror against the proletariat) or indirectly (non-intervention and letting the Iranian counterrevolution take its course). Solidarity cannot be practical and revolutionary on the democratic terrain. Solidarity is only the struggle to eradicate and overcome capitalism internationally.

Repercussions in and from the surrounding region

Even with regime change in Iran, even if workers in Iran are limited to a helper role in the process as Jahangiri fears, an upsurge in workers’ struggles can be expected throughout the energy-producing region from Saudi Arabia to Algeria and from Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan. There were earlier examples of standing strikes from Iraqi Kurdistan to Iranian Kurdistan and riots by young unemployed workers from southern Iraq to southern Iran. We see struggles and protests in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon ….

For years the Shiite militias controlled and financially supported by Iran through the IRGC have been suppressing by force of arms anything that could develop into proletarian uprisings in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Iran itself, always with the accompanying anti-terrorist and anti-imperialist rhetoric as an alibi. The oppressed proletariat in these countries may see an opportunity in the collapse of the Ayatollah regime. In the Maghreb too, proletarian reactions may emerge in the event of a fall of the regime in Tehran. On the other hand, it is likely that the aforementioned Shiite militias, including Hezbollah, pro-Russian Chechen militias, and units of Wagner fighters, will engage in a civil war in Iran if they are not held back by more pressing tasks elsewhere.

Military aspects of the revolution

As already highlighted in December 2018, regime change in Iran to “democracy” and “liberalization” will not end the imperialist wars in the region any more than the fall of the Shah and his supporters and his replacement by Khomeini and his mollah supporters. The corruption, self-enrichment of the warring ruling cliques, state terror, and exploitation of the workers, peasants, and other non-capitalist classes and strata have only increased under the pressure of the global crisis of capitalism and the increasingly bloody imperialist wars.

Just as World War I came to an end when not only the workers and soldiers in Russia revolted with their councils and took power but also sailors, soldiers, and workers in Germany began to follow suit, the wars between regional imperialist powers and between the superpowers will stop only when the proletarians in uniform turn their weapons against their rulers. Few readers will think it possible that fighters from such ideologically diverse militias, from IS to Kurds, will start mutinies and turn their weapons against their officers, that army units will break up and soldiers will return home with their weapons, that others will operate as insurgent units organized into soldiers’ councils. In the state armies, there are many non-professional soldiers who see on a daily basis that the role of the military serves interests that are alien and contrary to them. Also, in non-state militias, there are elements that can question their role in the service of bourgeois interests of various kinds if they see that the proletariat acts forcefully in a revolutionary manner.

The beginning of this end of the imperialist war may be that manifesting young unemployed people reverse the cat-and-mouse game with Basij [religious police] on their motorcycles and, in more and more cases, do not flee but strike and rob the police of their weapons. Or perhaps striking workers will open the occupied factories to ex-soldiers who can handle weapons and teach this to the workers. Occupies factories will build arms depots, and the arms depots of barracks and police stations will be stormed, in other cases, surreptitiously taken over by let-in revolutionary workers and soldiers.

In this situation, it is of utmost importance that only the workers organized in councils will be armed and that the workers will not rely on any promised protection by insurgent army units such as the COPCON military police in the Portuguese Carnation “revolution,” by “socialist” police forces such as those of Commissioner Eichhorn and the “Volksmarinedivision” in the failed German Revolution of 1918-1923. Iranians who lived through 1978/1979 can tell the younger generation how, after the fall of the Shah, the Pasdaran [IRGC] seized weapons en masse among civilians, often by night and by force, and then filled the prisons with anyone who was or might be against them. Never again!

It should be clear from the foregoing that the proletarian revolution and its expansion are not merely a military or violent issue. Neither is it a question of terrorism of clandestine minority groups, but of general self-organized mass struggle with revolutionary internationalist objectives and means in which defensive and offensive violence is a necessity that must be found in this framework. What we see is the self-liberating rise of the working masses who want to put an end to their oppression and exploitation. Therefore, the proletarian revolution can also end any exploitation and oppression of one human being by another.30

To achieve this requires significant changes in the attitudes of the proletariat. These changes are brought about by the conditions in which the class struggle manifests itself. At the same time, these changes are inhibited and broken by the weaknesses of the exploited class itself and by the actions of various bourgeois forces that seek to exploit these weaknesses to achieve the goals of national and regional reform rather than world revolution. The working class is indispensable because it produces wealth in social labor. Its contribution to the multi-class movements is essential because in them will always emerge interests that seek to put themselves before and above those of communist emancipation of the working class (the nation, national economy, development of civil and national freedoms, democracy, trade union regulation of labor relations).

The proletariat must remember what happened in the so-called “Arab Springs,” where many lives and sacrifices fell in mobilizations. The proletariat did not distinguish itself from other interests and social classes.

We must put our interests first and be aware that, as long as capitalism exists, any economic promise is only a lure to subordinate ourselves to the goals of the bourgeoisie and that any political change or social reform cannot be separated from the stark reality of class relations: the proletariat is used to produce surplus value (labor performed but not paid for by the private, cooperative or state capitalists). This abuse of the proletariat takes place for the benefit of the bourgeois rulers who seek to manage capitalist rule in various ways for their own advantages and those of their imperialist partners. And this happens in the context of enormous social tensions and general competition.

Aníbal and Fredo Corvo, 14-10-2022


1 El Mundo, Los obreros de la petroquímica se suman a las protestas de Irán. 11-10-2022.

2 Shahab Barhan, No more protest, no more revolution, concerns of the decisive period of transition.

3 Atalayar, Irán abre la puerta al diálogo tras la incorporación de los trabajadores petroleros a las protestas. 11-10-2022.

4 See ‘Some Of The Political Prisoners Freed In Iran’ at the end of the post IRAN. Warning of oil contract workers: If the killing of people does not end, we will strike.

5 El Mundo, Los obreros de la petroquímica se suman a las protestas de Irán. 11-10-2022.

6 The Telegraph, ‘Military invasion’ as Iran sends tanks to crush Kurdish region protests. 11-10-2022.

7 Wikipedia, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

8 Iran, an interesting article without proletarian perspectives. Comment by Aníbal and Fredo Corvo. 6-10-2022.

9 Damoon Saadati of the CWO in Iran: On the Hijab as Labour Discipline, and the Slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom.” 9-10-2022.

10 Wikipedia, Ethnic minorities in Iran, consulted 12-10-2022.

11 Asharq Al-Awsat, IRGC Prepares for Ground Operations in Iraqi Kurdistan, 12-10-2022.

12 Atalayar, Irán abre la puerta al diálogo tras la incorporación de los trabajadores petroleros a las protestas. 11-10-2022.

13 First Post, Iran’s Zahedan clashes: At least 82 killed, says Amnesty International. 6-10-2022.

14 A group of revolutionary communists – Iran. Bloody Friday of Zahedan and the protests of the people of Balochistan. Website:

15 Anton Pannekoek, “Klassenkampf und Nation” (1912). Also available in  DutchFrenchEnglish and Spanish.

16 We brought this forward 6-10-2022 in Iran, an interesting article without proletarian perspectives. Comment by Aníbal and Fredo Corvo.

17 MondAfrique, Les classes moyennes iraniennes lâchent le régime religieux. 9-10-2022.

18 Komalah, 4-10-2022, our translation from Farsi.

19 M. Jahangiry, The continuation of the social protests and the entry of the working class into the demonstrations. 11-10-2022.

20 See Introduction to From the 2nd to the 3rd Internationale. Three articles by Anton Pannekoek. The New Review 1914-1916.

21 About The Revolutionary Transformation In Iran And The Political And Tactical Policy Of The Communist Party – Hekmatist.

22 M. Jahangiry, The continuation of the social protests and the entry of the working class into the demonstrations. 11-10-2022.

23 Wikipedia, CSTO.

24 Wikipedia, Iran-Russia relations.

25 TeleSURnet, Irán y Rusia fortalecen relaciones en áreas estratégicas. 31-8-2022.

26 Prensa Lationa, Rusia e Irán fortalecen sus relaciones bilaterales. 15-9-2022

27 IKU, Rusia-China-Irán; Una alianza destinada a romper hegemonias. 6-9-2026.

28 France 24, China e Irán ponen en marcha un acuerdo estratégico de cooperación. 15-1-2022.

29 Nius, La ambición africana de Irán agita el Magreb. 9-10-2022.

30 Based on F.C., Iran: What after the repression of the Haft Tapeh workers and the steelworkers in Ahvaz? 24-12-2018.

2 Comments on “Iran: Oil and gas workers on the move. Regime strikes a conciliatory tone as repression continues

  1. Pingback: Top hats, bowler hats, and caps | Left wing communism

  2. Pingback: Iran more than ever in the crosshairs of US imperialism | Left wing communism

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