The following is the SZAC May Day 2019 statement, including a link to our petition for the release of Esmail Bakhshi, Sepideh Gholian and all jailed workers and political prisoners.
May Day solidarity with Iranian workers
Forty years after Iranian workers overthrew the despotic Shah, they are suffering under even worse repression and exploitation. The Islamic regime has continued impoverishing workers and their families; smashing their attempts to set up independent trade unions and labour organisations; depriving them of basic rights like going on strike; exposing them to appalling levels of danger at work (15,997 deaths in just 10 years!) and so on. With every protest, struggle and strike many more workers become aware that they have simply swapped one type of capitalist rule for a more vicious one. This growing consciousness has been behind the new wave of highly organised militant strikes and protests that have included radical demands and some nation-wide mobilisations. As ever, the main response of Iran’s capitalist regime has been to step up repression.
And after devastating floods in many provinces, the regime completely abandoned people needing help. It is no wonder that there have been protests in Lorestan, Khuzestan and other flood-hit provinces against the authorities. All that the regime has done is to arrest dozens of activists who have tried to set up independent relief councils!
Sanctions, a stalling economy and repression
Long before the recent US sanctions made Iran’s dire economic situation even worse, workers have had to endure high levels of inflation, unemployment, unpaid wages, corruption and mismanagement. Even bazaar merchants and truck owners have been forced to protest! Now, with the economy shrinking by 6% and prices rising by almost 40%, over 70% of Iran’s workers are living below the absolute poverty line! The grimmest economic data is quickly superseded by even worse figures.
Iran’s jails are full of people seen as ‘disloyal’ to the system: labour activists, women’s activists, national and religious minorities, teachers and so on. On September 8th – after a totally flawed ‘legal process’ found them guilty – three Kurdish activists were executed for “membership of a terrorist group … and participation in terrorist acts”.
Strike wave, teachers and Haft Tappeh
Despite the repression, in the past year there have been hundreds of strikes in the steel industry, railways and trucks, petrochemicals, and so on. On September 11th, even the pensioners had a country-wide protest. In the autumn the tempo of strikes picked up: two nation-wide two-day sit-ins by teachers, a long strike at Iran National Steel (INSIG), local council workers and many others. Since then there has been a three-day nation-wide teachers’ sit-in as well as many other strikes.
The most important struggle has been at the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane complex in south-west Iran, with most of its 2900 workers going on strike six times between January and November 2018. On top of many basic issues like unpaid wages, this radical strike has posed many more fundamental problems affecting Iranian society and capitalism in general. Esmail Bakhshi, one of the reps who is now in prison, has called for the formation of “independent workers’ councils … to oversee the government’s performance and government institutions” and has said that there are two solutions: either “Haft Tappeh is completely in the hands of the workers … [and their] council” or the government takes it over “but not like before … [but] from ‘zero to one hundred’ of affairs are under the supervision of workers’ councils and workers’ general opinion …”
Iran’s workers can only rely on their own united struggle and the class solidarity of workers in other countries. We call on all trade unionists, socialists and human rights activists to support the many strikes and workers’ struggles in Iran. Help us support the strikes and struggles that will ultimately lead to a general strike in Iran. Sign our petition for the release of all jailed workers and political prisoners.
Long live international workers’ solidarity!
Free all political prisoners!
Long live independent workers’ organisations!
The right to strike is an absolute right!
Open the books, end all ‘business secrets’!
Iranian workers are not alone!
Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign
1 May 2019