Vladimir Lenin had a formula for diagnosing the symptoms of revolution, “Those at the bottom won’t, those at the top can’t.” He argued that revolution required mass involvement, a spirit of courage and commitment, and political engagement. These three conditions do not yet exist in Iran.
The demonstrators who came to the streets of Tehran on February 14 and in smaller numbers on February 20 certainly had courage. They were ready to face anything despite the violence the regime used against mass protests in 2009. And they voiced the most radical slogan yet heard — one that was not heard in the 2009 demonstrations — attacking the normally inviolate Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
They also showed judgment by knowing when to shout slogans and when to keep quiet, how to flee from danger and how to avoid being identified.
There are significant differences between the two demonstrations. On February 14, the regime did not appear to be planning violent repression. Two deaths were reported, but it is not still clear how they occurred.
One reason why the regime was reluctant to deploy violence may have been that Turkish president Abdullah Gül was visiting Tehran. But on the other hand, the regime clearly had enough confidence in its ability to handle the protests that it did not postpone the visit.
A more important reason for restraint may have been that the regime wanted to assess the current state of the oppositi… >>>