This is an open letter from Maziar Razi of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency. It does not necessarily represent the views of London Progressive Journal.
Honourable workers of Iran,
We have entered a new stage of mass activities against the threats and intimidation of the capitalist government. You have experienced the vast array of threats and suppression of the past three decades more than any other social layer. There is no social force in Iran today that has experienced the economic, psychological and moral attacks meted out by the despotic government as such as you have.
You have been the only social force in Iran that, despite paying a high price (such as unemployment and unpaid wages, arrests, torture and the murder of your brothers and sisters), has persistently continued its struggles against the government (both during the reformist and fundamentalist periods). Your participation in the May Day 2009 commemoration in spite of suppression and repression, your strikes in various factories against the pressures of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state like the factory security units, the Labour House, the Islamic Labour Councils et al, have been applauded by millions of workers all over the world. Your continuing struggles have kept open a window of hope in the hearts of millions among the oppressed in Iran.
You are the only social force in Iran that has undoubtedly the richest historical experience than any other social strata. Three decades ago, based on your own organisation and strength, you overthrew one of the biggest allies of US imperialism – the Shah’s regime. The strikes of workers in the big industries such as oil, gas, petrochemicals, steel, copper and so on, had a decisive role in overthrowing the Shah. The world knows full well that it was neither the mass street demonstrations, nor the poetry reciting on ‘poetry nights’, nor the actions of intellectuals of political organisations, that broke the back of the Shah’s regime. It was, however, the workers’ general strike that broke it. In view of this, your international allies acknowledge that perhaps after the October revolution of 1917 in Russia, the biggest achievement of the working class on a world scale was made by you, the workers of Iran, and you have passed this on to others. Within a few weeks you organised the biggest workers’ councils and battered down the whole apparatus of the Shah’s repressive state. The capitalist government and state in Iran therefore know well that by arresting labour activists, flogging them, and intimidation and economic pressure on you, they cannot easily bring you to heel.
You boycotted the presidential election 12 June 2009. For example – bus workers before the election held this position: “Today, the workers and their families are encouraged to participate in the election. This has no meaning, because the workers have participated and experienced all elections and presidents even the reformist one (Khatami) for three decades, “(elections and labour organisations – the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company).
Also, 30,000 workers at Iran Khodro (the automobile producer) wrote: “We the Iran Khodro workers do not participate in the coming election. We only participate in a democratic election which preserves the interest of workers. This election is not democratic'”. Your recognition of the nature of the election and the need to boycott the presidential election was correct. But you know well that the events after the elections took another turn. For example, an Ashura demonstration on December 27, 2009 was not called by reformist leaders, it was organised spontaneously by the youth. The youth forced the leaders to follow them into streets. As you know Mousavi cancelled the street rally on Monday June 15, 2009 and the youth, going against his will, came to the streets and forced him to come to the rally. In my view these so-called leaders of the reformists are in the process of doing a deal at the top to maintain their own position. They have no intention of involving the broad masses in a real and democratic transformation. In other words, the spontaneous activities of millions of people – in spite of their conservative and colluding leaders – may have come to nothing. And these activities will not continue for a long time. In the absence of an experienced workers’ leadership, and the absence of specific slogans and proper organisation, the reformist leaders will ultimately extinguish these activities.
The workers, therefore, must have an active presence on the scene. You must grasp the leadership of the mass movement. The million strong masses need you. Your presence, participation and leadership can only be shown by organising widespread strikes in the factories. You are now in a position that, by co-ordinating with and in support of the recent mass movements, and by criticism of all the reformist representatives, you could resist Ahmadinejad’s government. Now is the time for you to come on the scene for achieving your own demands.
It is necessary to form clandestine strike committees for general co-ordination. By co-ordinating together these committees can organise the day and time of factory strikes, and stop work together in various parts of Iran and put forward workers’ demands. You have had very significant experiences. These experiences must be used. A few years ago there were the experiences of the Baresh factory in Esfahan and Kashmir factory, and last year the protests of the workers of the Haft Tapeh factory, Kurdistan textiles and Iran Khodro factories, and so on, all of these can be put to use.
The ‘Right to Strike’ is your absolute right. This slogan must be put into effect until all demands have been met. Trade union demands such as: payment of backpay, pensions and so on. Democratic calls for: the release of all political prisoners, freedom of speech, assembly, press and the right to strike and to form independent labour organisations and so on. These demands can be combined with transitional demands like workers’ control, the sliding scale of wages in line with inflation and so on. If the government blocks these basic demands, you can occupy the factories and bring them under the control of the workers themselves and throw out the managers. Control over production and distribution can be implemented by the powerful hand of the workers themselves. The experience of the revolution against the royal despotism proved to the workers that within a few weeks, without any previous experience, they can form workers’ councils and bring about workers’ control. In the present crisis, when the government is split and a huge mass of people – independent of the ruling establishment – is in the streets every day, the honourable workers of Iran can swiftly achieve their demands.
Your actions will demonstrate the ways and means of anti-government struggles to the youth. In the presence of a workers’ leadership, the youth will quickly break with the reformists and move towards more radical demands. Action by you, the workers, can today bring about a different future to the present movement. Your active presence in the organisation of a general strike with the aim of defending yourself and supporting the democratic rights of millions of Iranian people is the most important action that is on the Iranian workers’ agenda today.
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This post was written by Maziar Razi