Sep 23 2007

Iranian Workers Face Two Enemies

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 15RCN @ 8:06 pm

Yassamine Mather reports on the Iranian people’s need for genuine solidarity

The threat of military air strikes against Iran is today probably stronger than ever before.

Many commentators are speculating about possible ‘shock and awe’ attacks by Israel and the United States on Iran’s nuclear installations and other strategic targets. The US, this time supported and encouraged by the French and other European governments, has succeeded in imposing sanctions against Iran, persuading European and Japanese banks to join their American counterparts in blocking any transactions for Iranian clients.

True victims of sanctions

As a consequence of this, Iran finds it increasingly difficult to raise loans, obtain foreign currency or hold any assets offshore, as it cannot obtain dollars, euros or yen. Inside the country inevitably there is a shortage of many essential items, because the state and the private sector cannot afford to import many goods. Other items have become scarce, as the monopolies importing food and medicines are targeted by sanctions, mainly because they are owned by senior clerics and their relatives. Of course these Islamic capitalists have already found new ways of profiting from sanctions by increasing their involvement in other sections of the economy and in the black market. The true victims of the sanctions against Iran are the workers, the poor and the underclass.

As far as the US is concerned, there are many reasons why air strikes against Iran appear an attractive option. At a time when the US military and the administration announced the withdrawal of over 30,000 troops from Iraq, at a time of major economic upheaval, what better way to divert attention from military, political and economic crises but the start of a new adventure? However, on the surface it seems difficult to understand the logic behind the determination of a section of Iran’s leadership to encourage such a conflict. The reality is that, faced with dissent at home, anxiety at rising prices and fear of shortages caused by declared and unannounced sanctions, the Iranian government is as eager as the US administration to divert attention from its economic failures – branding all opposition to its medieval Islamic laws as part of Bush’s plan for regime change from above.

Contrary to the regime’s intentions, attempts at silencing all opposition using the threat of war have backfired. Most Iranians are becoming increasingly impatient with the regime, blaming its ‘adventurist’ policies for sanctions, shortages and the threat of war. In fact, despite severe repression, the number of public protests has increased over the last few months, with many Iranians blaming the regime, as much as the US, for the hardships they face in their daily life.

Iranian workers act

Over the last two weeks, thousands of unpaid Haft Tapeh sugar cane factory workers in Shoush in the Khuzestan province in Iran have been on strike. The government sent security forces to repress the workers but the strike continues. In early October, three thousand workers from this Company held demonstrations outside the Khuzestan provincial governor’s office in Shoush city (Susa) demanding their wages.

Worker demands at the sugar company include:

  • the payment of all salaries in arrears
  • an end to the sale of foreign sugar on the Iranian market by “mafia” groups
  • the right to labour representation
  • a rise in salaries to reflect the rising cost of living brought about by poor weather
  • right for workers to participate in the election of workers’ representatives
  • retirement of those workers who have reached retirement age
  • provision of adequate safety equipment
  • dismissing the company’s board of directors
  • ending threats to workers.
Iranian students protest at Ahmadinejads visit to Tehran University

Iranian students protest at Ahmadinejad's visit to Tehran University

Students demonstrate

On Monday 8th October, as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed a gathering of pro regime militia at Tehran University, hundreds of students scuffled with police and chanted Death to the dictator outside a hall where the Iranian president spoke.

Students on Monday shouted: Detained students should be released and Fascist president, the university is not a place for you, as they marched towards the campus gates.

In a leaflet published in late September, a group of workers in Iran Khodro, the country’s largest car plant wrote:

Sharivar 22 [September 13] is the anniversary of the death of our fellow worker, Peyman Razilou. On that day in 2002 he died from exhaustion during the afternoon shift.

His death was four years ago and we haven’t forgotten that tragedy – or the untimely death of our colleague, Mahmood Khayami, who died from stress. And this year we have witnessed another death – this time it was Ali Akbar Shourgashti who was killed because Iranian capitalists pay no attention to health and safety regulations.

While the government is shouting from the rooftops that working hours will be reduced during Ramadan, we have not only failed to see any such reduction, but by cutting out our meal break, management has seen to it our working day is actually longer. According to the latest announcements from Iran Khodro, the production shops will start up at 6.45am instead of 6.55am and the early shift will end at 5.45pm. As you can see, the shift is longer, especially as the morning breakfast break is also abolished. Friends, why is it that we have to work with no breaks during Ramadan?

Many of our fellow workers cannot tolerate these conditions. Some are ill, while others will become ill if they don’t eat regularly. What are they supposed to do? The forces of the harassat [factory religious police] watch us like hawks. Even if we avoid them, members of the islamic council don’t allow us any peace.

Contract companies have expanded, full-time employment does not exist any more, work environments are not only more dangerous, but tens of workers have lost their lives at work, while tens of others have been incapacitated because of accidents.

As inflation is rising every day, our real wages are falling, while many benefits are being cut. Production is rising, but we do not benefit from what is exported. Today full-time employment in this factory is just a dream.

Iranians face two enemies, an external imperialist force threatening them with air strikes, further sanctions… and an internal one, determined to maintain power at all costs, defending the privileges and the wealth of the few at the expense of poverty/hunger and destitution for the majority of the population. Genuine solidarity with the people of Iran requires, not only an end to the policies of the war mongers outside Iran, but also against the theocracy in power inside Iran.

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