Since May Day 2017 the class struggle in Iran has intensified. There have been around 800 strikes and protests across many industries and in most areas of the country. Given the economic and social situation, it is not an exaggeration to say that Iran is a powder keg. This was clearly seen in December 2017, when protests by a section of the regime’s own supporters in Mashhad spread to over 80 cities and towns throughout the country. The rise in the cost of living, particularly food, is something that most of the population is suffering under.
Most workers’ protests and strikes start from the most basic of demands: to be paid by the capitalists! Unpaid wages are one of the major problems faced by workers in most industries and in the state, quasi-state and private sectors. The most significant struggle for the payment of wages has been the number of strikes by the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane workers. In January 2018 the workers threatened to take over the running of the sugar cane complex as management was clearly incapable of running it. Esmail Bakhshi, a workers’ representative, said: “… we will sit in the management ourselves and we will build up Haft Tappeh ourselves, we will manage it ourselves. They claim that they don’t have any money. Neither have we! But we differ from them in that we have the expertise to produce sugar, so we’ll manage it ourselves. We’ll sit there and manage until we find proper sugar cane managers who can come here and manage.”
Despite some gains this struggle is still going on. Although it is a very radical struggle which has shown that the workers can take many measures to counter state repression, it still needs the solidarity action of other sections of the working class to win and to put the capitalists and the regime on the defensive.
Of course Iran’s workers also face many other problems: unemployment, temporary contracts, low wages, almost no health and safety standards, discrimination against women, Afghan and disabled workers, privatisation and so on. All of these take place with no legal trade unions or any independent organisations and a constantly deteriorating economic situation. That is why any modest and basic demand in Iran can escalate to a confrontation between workers and capitalists – quite often the state, as it is the main employer in many industries.
The victories at Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane and Ilam Gas Refinery clearly show that despite the massive repression of the capitalist state Iranian workers are still able to organise themselves in ways that can win some gains. The way to bigger victories is through class solidarity across all industries in Iran.
Show your solidarity with Iranian workers’ struggles by helping the activities of the Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign.
Long live independent workers’ organisations!
The right to strike is an absolute right!
Free all political prisoners!
Open the books, end all ‘business secrets’!
Iranian workers are not alone!
Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign
1 May 2018