Recent days have seen more strikes and protests by workers in Iran, more signs of the general revival of the workers’ movement there since 2017.
The May Day statement (below) issued by 15 Iranian workers, pensioners’ and other organisations, was an important development.
This statement is very welcome. It is significant that, despite the massive repression that critics and opponents of the Iranian government face, 15 organisations from many different sectors of the working class issued this joint May Day statement this year.
It is noteworthy that the authors explain how the Covid 19 pandemic has particularly led to the marginalisation of averagely paid workers and parts of the middle class. It can be added that the pandemic has put a burning glass on the already existing problems of capitalism on an international level and has intensified them immensely. The statement rightly emphasizes the role of women workers, whose situation has massively deteriorated against the background of the pandemic and the economic crisis.
It explains how “The absence of an efficient health policy and the refusal of enforcing necessary quarantines, as well as the ever-increasing living costs inflicted by the administration’s decisions have brought the critical living situation of the working class of Iran into an unprecedented catastrophe.
“While workers demand immediate, free, and universal vaccination, and emphasise their rightful demand on every occasion, the powerful elite deliberately refuse to provide vaccines, and instead administer and sometimes create crises to provide for the immediate interests of a faction of the ruling elite. The current persistence on producing domestic vaccines and leaving this issue to the so-called invisible hands of the private sector can be only be perceived in this perspective.”
This statement is true and poses the need for the demand for the health care system to be under workers’ control and management. Furthermore, we would argue that the conclusion from the statement’s criticism of the role of the so-called ‘invisible hands’ of the market is that the production of vaccines internationally must be taken out of the hands of the private pharmaceutical companies and nationalised under workers’ control and management. Only in this way can it be ensured that production is in the interest of the vast majority of the world’s population, not in the interest of a small minority of capitalists.
It is important that the authors emphasise that the handling of the COVID 19 pandemic by the ruling class in Iran is characterized by corruption and factional fighting within the Iranian ruling class. This is especially important because presidential elections are coming up in June, and so it is explained that as a worker you cannot trust any part of the ruling class.
We note, like the statement’s drafters, the significance that the militant workers of Haft Tappeh have put the question of privatisation and its related corruption on the political agenda of Iran. Furthermore, the Haft Tappeh workers’ demand for the “company to be put under the supervision of the Workers’ Council” is of central importance This demands challenges the entire way that the economy, not just Haft Tappeh, is run and could be the basis for a campaign for the key sectors of the economy to be placed under workers’ control and administration, so it meets the needs of the majority instead of the elite and capitalists.
An important step to winning such demands is the development of cross-sectoral labour organisations independent from the state that is raised in the statement:
“Today, the absence of workers’ organisations in all workplaces, regions and on a national level, is felt more than ever and demands immediate and inclusive efforts to establish such independent organizations.
“Without such coherent and national organizations, the struggles of scattered workers cannot result in a decisive achievement, and our labour will become more and more underpaid, precarious, and insecure.”
We see in the development of such organisations, democratic and militant, the opportunity that the struggles can be organized and coordinated across sectors.
The organisation of the presidential elections is another example of Iran’s lack of democratic rights – the regime openly rigs elections. A faction in the elite decides who are the candidates; striving to ensure that all of them fundamentally support the current rulers. Any more ‘oppositional’ candidates allowed to stand are seen by the top rulers as “safe”, as they will work within, and not challenge, the system.
The working class needs its own party, independent from the state, and democratic. Steps towards the formation of such a party, even if initially semi-underground, would be a great step forward.
Such nationwide organisations can contribute to the formation of political leadership to the impending struggles. In our view, one of the central tasks for Marxists in Iran would be to work to build such genuine workers’ organisations, trade unions and political, and for them to adopt a socialist programme and objective.
As already has begun to take place, such organizations could also organize united struggles, for example, for a liveable minimum wage of 12,000,000 tomans (US$ 285). This demand is raised in the statement. We would add to it the demand for permanent jobs and reasonable social security for the unemployed. Especially given Iran’s high youth unemployment this last point is a central one. Equally important are the demands for democratic rights, including the release of political and class struggle prisoners, and for an end to repression.
It is clear that Iranian workers and oppositionists will have no real choice in June’s election. Many will not vote. We see that the semi-official Fars news agency published the results of what it described as a ‘reliable’ opinion poll predicting a turnout of almost 53%. Nevertheless, some may vote for ‘lesser evil’ as a gesture but without much hope for change. The clear fact that no fundamental change will come through these elections gives added importance to preparation for further struggles, something which needs to include discussion on how future battles can be generalised, the role of mass demonstrations, the question of general strikes and the alternative to the regime are discussed.
It is important that the statement clearly states that the Iranian working class will not find its salvation in the hands of foreign ruling classes, but only through self-organisation.
“The path of emancipation, on the other hand, will not be paved if it is accompanied by the slightest proneness towards global powers of any kind, despite whatever realpolitik they pursue. Any cordiality to geopolitical states and corporate powers (both regional or global) would imply giving up the fruit of the labourers beforehand and paving the way for other currents of dominators to exploit and steal our national resources and giving foreign powers the authority to make grand political, economic and critical decisions for our workers.”
However, since such attempts by other countries’ ruling classes will always occur and these attempts of appropriation can only be prevented by building workers’ organisations with programmes independent from capitalism and aiming for a workers’ government. This struggle will be difficult at times and international workers’ solidarity can play an important support role and naturally we offer our support to all workers in Iran in their struggles.
Hail to international solidarity and forward to socialism!
Iran: A joint Statement by fifteen organizations, including syndicates, independent workers’ organizations, teachers’ trade unions, retirees’ independent organizations, and women’s right groups, on the occasion of the International Workers’ Day, 2021
Let us celebrate May Day, the day of international solidarity of all the workers of the world!
This will be our second May Day that we have to celebrate the international solidarity of the working classes while the lives of the working people are deeply undermined by a global health crisis.
The global pandemic of Covid-19, along with the economic crisis, has brought workers and ordinary people with small businesses into an unprecedented dilemma. The dysfunction and indifference of the Iranian government and state have resulted in a more dramatic situation for our labourers compared to many other countries and our own recent past.
The absence of an efficient health policy and the refusal of enforcing necessary quarantines, as well as the ever-increasing living costs inflicted by the administration’s decisions, have brought the critical living situation of the working class of Iran into an unprecedented catastrophe.
While workers demand immediate, free, and universal vaccination, and emphasise their rightful demand on every occasion, the powerful elite deliberately refuse to provide vaccines, and instead administer and sometimes create crises to provide for the immediate interests of a faction of the ruling elite. The current persistence on producing domestic vaccines and leaving this issue to the so-called invisible hands of the private sector can be only be perceived in this perspective.
This dilemma, in turn, has overburdened the vast majority of our population with ever-increasing poverty, including the average and middle-income households, who are being driven out into the slums on a daily basis. Moreover, the women workers are suffering the most; the statistics demonstrate that the escalating wave of firings with the excuse of the pandemic has removed 70 percent of the working women from their jobs.
Considering the means of subsistence, the current wave of precarization and systematic dispossession of wage labourers, has targeted the livelihood of women with a historic discrimination in various forms, such as underpaid or unpaid labour, evermore isolation of women, and “last hired, first fired” as it has always been the case for women workers. The current situation of women is the deepest wound on the body of the working class in Iran. Meanwhile, the situation of women domestic workers who have lost their income is the worst. Gender discrimination, unemployment and bankruptcy have put additional pressures on this section of the Iranian workforce.
Nonetheless, Iranian workers and their allies have pursued an untiring struggle for their rights, even though workers’ advocates and social movements have been undergoing multi-layered pressures and the balance of power is dramatically against them. Various sectors of our industries, such as petrochemical workers, Hepco, Azarab, Haft-Teppeh Sugercane Company, Tehran Vahed Bus Company, Khuzestan Steel Company, as well as teachers, retirees, students, and women’s rights advocates, have pursued their struggles in any possible way, and have explicitly stood up against the ruthless and neoliberal policies of the government and the state. Haft-Teppeh has become very prominent among these struggles, since it brought the critical issue of privatization and unimaginable corruption of the shareholders to the national discourse, and at same time, advocated the reasonable argument of bringing the workers to the centre of the decision-making process in the workplace under the slogan of “Council Administration”. Their struggle was embraced by fellow workers all around the globe through numerous statements and campaigns on behalf of unions, syndicates and other workers’ organizations.
Against this national and international solidarity, pro-capital currents and think tanks suggested numerous solutions one after another. But the workers have learned through their struggles that:
The solution to this crisis could not and will not be presented by the people who were the real source of the problem, to begin with, and are still following their personal interests under various names and titles. The workers will not fall prey to recurring lies including empty promises before each presidential election.
The path of emancipation, on the other hand, will not be paved if it is accompanied by the slightest proneness towards global powers of any kind, despite whatever realpolitik they pursue. Any cordiality to geopolitical states and corporate powers (both regional or global) would imply giving up the fruit of the labourers beforehand and paving the way for other currents of dominators to exploit and steal our national resources and giving foreign powers the authority to make grand political, economic and critical decisions for our workers.
History teaches us over and over again that the global dominating powers under no circumstances intend to protect the interests of the working class and ordinary people in any part of the world. Hence, there remains no doubt among the working people that our only outlet from this dilemma lays in the hand of the class solidarity among the workers and the affiliation among all workers from urban areas to rural parts. The wage-labourers of Iran have to establish and sustain their united and independent front, and shall not allow the tinted offers of their historic enemies to abuse or deceive them, since they have no inclination for social justice or accepting the workers’ role in administering our society.
It is a fact that we, the workers of Iran, are struggling with the problem of undesired dispersion; this should be a sign that despite the efforts and devotion of workers and the apparent solidarity and sympathy among social movements’ activists, without a deep-rooted and organized collaboration of all the workers, we do not stand a chance to fight back against the counter-working class policies, let alone radically changing the inhuman conditions of our prolonged status quo.
Our experience has proved time and again that in the absence of independent workers’ organization and representatives, the issue of minimum wage is a grotesque façade. While the minimum living wage of an urban family should be at least 12 million tomans, and even the state-owned organizations, such as Khane-Kargar (Workers’ House), declare 9 million tomans, the so-called negotiators had no ears even for their own approved representatives.
Today, the absence of workers’ organisations in all workplaces, regions and on a national level, is felt more than ever and demands immediate and inclusive efforts to establish such independent organizations.
Without such coherent and national organisations, the struggles of scattered workers cannot result in a decisive achievement, and our labour will become more and more underpaid, precarious, and insecure.
Under such circumstances, a coalition council among all the workers, teachers, employees, retirees, women, students, and the unemployed proves to be of utmost necessity. This is not just a demand among others, but the urgent platform for aiming at a new organization of work in our society.
Without such coalitions, and without an immediate measure for a national affiliation of various demands, the courageous and persistent power of the scattered movements following their rightful demands will prove to be fruitless and an excuse for their suppression. An endeavour for convergence of dispersed struggles, and deep-rooted and actual solidarity among these struggles will be an urgent and vital necessity for the working people in the coming year.
Organizing strikes and creating independent workers’ organizations are inalienable rights of workers in Iran!
The emancipation of the workers is brought only by the workers’ themselves!
May Day 2021
1- The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Vahed Syndicate)
2- Syndicate of Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company
3- Teachers Trade Association of Islamshahr
4- Teachers Trade Association of Gilan
5- Teachers Trade Association of Kurdistan- Marivan
6- Teachers Trade Association of Aligoodarz
7- Teachers Trade Association of Kurdistan- Saghez and zayvaieh
8- “Bidarzani”, women’s activist group
9- Retirees’ Unity
10- Council of Retirees of Iran
11- National Union of the Retirees of Iran
12- Retirees’ United Group
13- Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers Organizations
14- Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Workers’ Organizations
15- Dialogue Centre of the Social Security Organization’s Retirees
*Translated and re-distributed by Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company