Category Archives: strikes

Workers of the Wagon Pars Factory on Strike

Wagon Pars

Wagon Pars

Workers of the  (the Wagon Pars Company was founded in 1974 and started manufacturing different types of rolling stock in 1984; it is situated in an area of 33 hectares in the industrial township of Arak, approximately 260 kilometeres from Tehran-Iran), in the continuation of their struggle for several months of their confiscated wages were on strike for five days.  On August 25, 2009, they blockaded the main entrance gate of the company by sitting on the ground and prevented all managers from entering the factory.  In response to the worker action, the managers initially through threats and intimidation attempted to disperse them; including the dismissal of the remaining contract workers, judicial complaints against senior workers, and the involvement of anti-riot forces permitting them entry into the factory.  Workers that had not received their regular wages for months were not intimidated and were not giving up with these threats.  However, they were more angry and determined to continue the resistance and not accept the dispersal of their sit-in.

Wagon Pars factory used to be one of the giant state companies, and following the announcement of Policy Article 44 related to privatization, Iran Khodro (the largest automobile producer in the Middle East) purchased more than half of the factory shares.  As soon as the factory transferred ownership the company went through a severe financial crisis.  The managers of Iran Khodro, the new owners, withdrew more than 500 billion Toman (approximately $500,000,000 USD) from the state bank which was extracted from the exploitation of workers, in the name of a loan for the restructuring of the factory.  According to the workers the enormous loan was not spent on the Wagon Pars factory, rather it was spent on subsidiaries of the Iran Khodro company and no penny of that money was allocated to the large restructuring of the Wagon Pars industry.

On Tuesday August 25th, 2009, after the protesting workers resisted against the threats of the company managers, the owners began to implement different criminal tricks.  The direct manager of Wagon Pars factory after contact with the main shareholders, announced that 250,000 Toman (approximately $250 USD) will be paid to each worker on Wednesday August 26th.  His goal along with other capitalists was first of all, to overcome the current resistance of the workers in order to put an end to their strike, and second of all, to put off the workers’ back wages which is from approximate $1500 to $2800 USD for each worker, to delay for a few more months.  After the workers returned to the factory, the capitalists in their ongoing tricks and conspiracies against workers, announced with atrocity and brutality that all overtime and benefits would be cut and all contract workers would be sacked.  The capitalists with the same brutality and atrocities added that they do this to punish workers.  The Wagon Pars workers on August 25th, 2009, stopped the wheels of work and production completely.  The workers announced that if the managers do not cancel their decision fully, they would do a new form of protest and struggle against the owners of the company.

Simultaneously with these events occurring in the Wagon Pars factory, a number of Arak municipal employees stated that some of the economic mafia of which at the head are senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards of the central province, have decided with the pretext of further development of the city of Arak, to shut down three giant industrial factories and sell their lands for astronomical profits.

This rumour has become especially strong when people noticed that there is a new highway going right through the lands of the Iran Combine Manufacturing Company and the Machine factory; they had done this very quietly and now they are paving the highway with asphalt.

August 27, 2009

Source:  Coordinating Committee to Form Workers’ Organization

Show trials and apologetics

Protests still going strong

Just as Iranian ex-leftwingers in the west call for reconciliation between the two wings of the Islamic regime, the ruling faction clamps down on its rivals. Yassamine Mather reports


The Stalinist show trial of Saturday August 1 – when a number of prominent ‘reformists’ appeared on Iranian state TV to ‘thank their interrogators’ before repenting – was not the first such event in the Islamic republic’s history. Leaders of the ‘official communist’ Tudeh Party were similarly paraded on Iranian TV to denounce their own actions in the 1980s, while in the 1990s we had the trials of ‘rogue’ elements of the ministry of intelligence.

However, this time the Islamic leaders forgot that a precondition for the success of such show trials in terms of imposing fear and submission on the masses is total control of the press and media. What made this particular effort ineffective – indeed a mockery – was that it came at a time when the supporters of supreme leader Ali Khamenei have not yet succeeded in silencing the other factions of the regime, never mind stopping the street protests. So, instead of marking the end of the current crisis, the show trials have given the protestors fresh ammunition.

The paper of the Participation Front (the largest alliance of ‘reformist’ MPs) stated: “The case of the prosecution is such a joke that it is enough to make cooked chicken laugh.” The Participation Front was one of nine major Islamic organisations which ridiculed the prosecution claim that the ‘regime knew of the plot for a velvet revolution’ weeks before the election. Some Tehran reformist papers are asking: in that case why did the Guardian Council allow the ‘reformist’ candidates to stand in the presidential elections? Perhaps the Guardian Council itself should be put on trial!

Former president Mohammad Khatami, candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi and other ‘reformist’ politicians have denounced the trial as “illegal”, yet they do not seem to realise the irony in this criticism. First of all, no-one but the ‘reformists’ within the regime has any illusions about Iran’s legal system (both civil and sharia law). Second, the time to oppose show trials was two decades ago, not when you yourself are a victim of the system and there is no-one left to defend you. It was not just in the 1980s that messrs Khatami, Moussavi, Karroubi, etc kept quiet about similar trials. As late as the 1990s, during Khatami’s own presidency, they did not exactly rebel against the show trials of the intelligence agents who ‘confessed’ to having acted alone in murdering opponents of the regime. Some of the most senior figures implicated in that scandal, a scandal that was hushed up by the Khatami government (‘for the sake of the survival of the Islamic order’) – not least current prosecutor general Saeed Mortazavi – are now in charge of the ‘velvet revolution’ dossier.

For the Iranian left the trial and ‘confessions’ have also been a reminder of the plight of thousands of comrades who probably faced similar physical and psychological torture in the regime’s dungeons in the 1980s, although only a handful of them ever made it onto TV screens – many died anonymously in the regime’s torture chambers. Of course, we do not know if the Iranian government has improved its torture techniques since those times, but some senior ‘reformist’ politicians appear to have broken down much more easily than those thousands of young leftwing prisoners.

Those ‘reformist’ leaders who are still at liberty are not doing any better. Despite facing the threat of arrest and trial themselves, they maintain their allegiance to ‘Iran’s Islamic order’, reaffirming their “commitment to the Islamic regime” (Khatami) and denouncing the slogan promoted by demonstrators, “Freedom, independence, Iranian republic”, as Moussavi did on August 2.

A couple of weeks ago there were signs that negotiations between Khamenei and another former president, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, had made some progress and once more there was the possibility that, as the two factions of the regime buried some of their differences, the mass movement could become a victim of reconciliation amongst senior clerics.

The show trials not only put an end to such illusions, but promised an unprecedented intensification of the internal conflict. But this came too late for the authors of the statement, ‘Truth and reconciliation for Iran’, signed by a number of academics and activists who are notorious apologists of the Iranian regime and published on a number of websites, including that of Monthly Review.1 The statement has one aim: to save the Islamic regime by advocating peaceful coexistence between the two warring factions or, in the words of the statement, “the vital unity of our people against foreign pressures”.

In explaining the background of the conflict with imperialism, the authors state: “… despite Iran’s cooperation in the overthrow of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, the administration of George W Bush labelled the Islamic Republic a member of the ‘axis of evil’.”2 I am not quite sure why Iran’s support for US imperialism in the terrible Afghanistan war should be put forward as an example of the regime’s reasonable and moderate behaviour by anyone who claims to be anti-war.

The statement goes on to praise the wonderful election process, failing to mention that only four candidates loyal to the regime’s factions were allowed to stand or that voting for a president of a regime headed by an unelected ‘supreme religious leader’ is a bit of a joke … But this marvellous ‘democratic election’ is used to legitimise Iran’s nuclear programme.

The statement contains some seriously false claims: “… we have advocated the human rights of individuals and democratic rights for various groups and constituencies in Iran.” I am not sure which universe they think the rest of us reside in, but until the escalation of the conflict between the two factions of the regime many of the authors of the statement were insisting that everything in Iran’s Islamic Republic was great.

According to the defenders of ‘Islamic feminism’ amongst them, Iranian women enjoy complete political and social freedom – which no doubt would have come as a shock to tens of thousands of young women who joined the protests precisely because of their opposition to draconian misogynist regulations imposed by the religious state.

Many of the signatories are associated with Campaign Iran and the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, which have made a virtue of not advocating “democratic rights” for Iranians, since that would confuse those simple-minded ‘ordinary people’ at a time when Iran is under threat. They insisted that the existence of a women-only fire brigade was proof of gender equality in Iran and the fact that the ‘crime’ of homosexuality is punishable by death is no reason to declare the regime homophobic – after all, liberal Iran has a very high rate of sex-change operations.3 The signatories are mistaken if they think they can rewrite history and portray themselves as defenders of “human rights” in Iran – we will neither forgive nor forget their disgraceful pro-regime apologetics.

Our ex-leftists clearly fail to understand the significance of the street protests: “The votes of a great portion of the Iranian society for both Ahmadinejad and Moussavi show that the best solution is negotiations for reconciliation and creation of a government of national unity from the ranks of principlists and the green movement and reformists.” While even bourgeois liberals and Moussavi supporters admit that the protests have now reached the stage where the green movement has no alternative but to tail the masses and their anti-regime slogans, the signatories’ advice to the ‘reformists’ is to ‘negotiate’ with those who have killed dozens of demonstrators, tortured hundreds and imprisoned thousands, including some of Moussavi’s allies.

When the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ statement tries to look at the causes of the current unrest, it gets things wrong: “However, in the view of a considerable number of Iranians who are discontented and frustrated with the restrictions on civil and political freedoms, there were various irregularities in the elections, including the suspension of reformist newspapers and mobile telephone SMS service on election day. This caused mass public demonstrations in support of nullifying the election.”

In fact both wings of the Islamic republic have made a lot of people “discontented and frustrated” and restricted “civil and political freedoms” since the day the regime came to power. There have been disputed results in at least three previous presidential elections, but what differentiates the current crisis from previous ones is ‘the economy, stupid’. Not only is the global economic crisis being felt far worse in the countries of the periphery, but the effects in Iran are compounded by a government that based its 2008-09 budget on selling oil at $140 a barrel; a government that aimed to privatise 80% of Iran’s industries by 2010, thus creating mass unemployment, a government that printed money while pursuing neoliberal economic policies; a government whose policies resulted in a 25% inflation rate, while the growing gap between rich and poor made a mockery of its populist claims to be helping the common people.

Last week I wrote about the political stance of Stalinists who, by supporting Moussavi, are advocating, as they have done throughout the last decades, a stageist approach to revolution.4 The signatories of the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ statement have taken things a step further: they do not aim for the next ‘stage’ any more, advocating instead the continuation of the religious state with peace and harmony amongst its many factions. The protests might have pushed Khatami, Moussavi and Karroubi to adopt slightly more radical positions, but they certainly have failed to influence our conciliators.

The demonstrators in Tehran shout “Death to the dictator”, but the Casmii and Campaign Iran educators condemn “extremist elements who used the opportunity to create chaos and engaged in the destruction of public property”. Anyone who knows anything about events since the election is aware that it is the state and its oppressive forces that have used violence against ordinary people. How dare these renegades condemn the victims of that violence for resisting this brutal regime?

What is truly disgusting about the statement are the pleas addressed not only to leaders of the Islamic reformist movement in Iran (to make peace with the conservatives), but also their requests to Barack Obama and other western leaders to be more accommodating to the Iranian regime. As if imperialist threats and sanctions have anything to do with the good will, or lack of it, of this or that administration. The language and tactics might change, but just as a bankrupt, corrupt and undemocratic Islamic Republic needs external threats and political crisis to survive, so US and western imperialism needs not only to offload the worst effects of the economic crisis onto the countries of the periphery, but also to threaten and occasionally instigate war. Our movement must aim to stop this lunacy, but in order to do so we need to address the democratic forces in Iran and the west rather than pleading with imperialism and Iran’s reactionary rulers.

The open support of the supreme religious leader for the conservatives has radicalised the Iranian masses. Separation of state and religion has now become a nationwide demand and we must support the demonstrators’ calls for the dismantling of the offices and expropriation of funds associated with the supreme leader and of all other religious foundations. The abolition of sharia law, of the religious police and of Islamic courts is part and parcel of such a call. Even as the show trials were being broadcast, Iranian workers were continuing their struggles against privatisation (Ahmadinejad’s first economic priority in his second term is the privatisation of oil refineries) and the non-payment of wages.

These days capitalists who say they are unable to pay their workers blame not only the world economic situation but also current events in Iran itself. Yet many of them do make profits and quickly channel them abroad. Iranian workers have been demanding representation at factory level to monitor production and sales, and calling for the total transparency of company accounts. We must support these immediate demands as part of our own anti-imperialist strategy.

At a time of crisis it is inevitable that the bourgeoisie, both in the developed world and in the countries of the periphery, will act irrationally. However, it is sad to see sections of the ‘left’ adopting a different form of irrationality. If we are to expose the warmongering endemic to contemporary capitalism, we must base our approach on the independent politics of the international working class.

That is why the idiotic, class-collaborationist ‘theories’ of Casmii, Campaign Iran and the current dominant line in Monthly Review are such a disaster for the anti-war movement.

Notes

1. Over the last few weeks Monthly Review has published a number of statements defending Ahmadinejad, which has led to resignations by some members of the board and has been condemned by socialists in the US and elsewhere.
2. ‘Truth and reconciliation’, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/iran010809.html
3. See ‘Lies cannot stop imperialists’, http://www.hopoi.org/lies.html
4. ‘Out of step with the masses’, July 30.

Hunger Strike in Berlin

Crackdown on Iranian oil workers

Hopi activists have heard  that a number of oil workers and  employees at the Tehran Oil refinery havee been arrested – a clear sign that the regime fears a strike.

The oil workers’ militancy is in part due to their anger about Ahmadinejad’s  silly attempts to artificially create a better price of oil per barrel (looking like double the world market price)  by suggesting that 200-litre barrels should be used instead of 100-litre ones.

In other news, there has been a demonstration by Protest by Parris Rissandighi (textile) workers in Sanadaj in front of the government offices. They are demonstrating about the closures of plants and widespread  job losses.

Calls for Civil Disobedience on July 21

Hopi activists have been informed that there is talk of civil disobedience  in order to shut down the electricity network in Iran on Tuesday July 21. This has predominantly come from technicians and workers in the power service, but they are also calling on people to help by switching on all power to force a shutdown. We will keep readers posted on developments as they happen.

‘Beginning of the End’ by Yassamine Mather

Ayatollah Khamenei’s June 19 speech reminded many Iranians of some of the utterances of the shah in the last months of his rule: former president and current chairman of the ‘assembly of experts’ Ali Akbar Rafsanjani cannot be corrupt – he has been the supreme leader’s friend for over 50 years! Everyone in Iran had accepted the results of the elections: it was all the fault of foreign powers and foreign media that some people are now doubting them! Conspiracies are all around us and, just as in colonial times, the British are behind it.
The problem with most dictators is that, even in their dying days, they believe they can stop the movement by simply passing orders or blaming ‘foreign powers’. Some supporters of the shah are still under the illusion that he was not overthrown by the 1979 Iranian revolution, but was deposed thanks to a plot by Britain and the US. In fact, as he went on speaking, attributing strange comments to Obama (the US president has apparently admitted in public that he had been looking forward to the demonstrations that have rocked Iran), one wondered if Khamenei, well known for using opium as a painkiller for his injured arm, had taken a double dose that morning.
He said that he liked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and agreed with most of his statements (one assumes that includes denial of the holocaust, the claim that Ahmadinejad had introduced Venezuela to Islam, that inflation is going up in all European and western countries, that Iran’s economic problems have nothing to do with government policy, but are solely the consequences of the world economic crisis … ).
Yet the supreme leader did rebuke his president on one issue: he was wrong to accuse Rafsanjani and his own adviser, Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, and their relatives of corruption. Both families were his friends, pillars of the Islamic state and he did not want to hear such “baseless accusations”. This, it seems, is the only comment made by Ahmadinejad in his four years as president which is a lie or an exaggeration.
However, if Khamenei and his advisers had thought this speech would put a stop to the protests, they were mistaken. In the absence of a clear lead by Mir-Hossein Moussavi or fellow ‘reformist’ candidate Mehdi Karroubi (neither of whom persevered with their previous calls for further demonstrations) Saturday’s protests were far more radical, challenging the very existence of the Islamic state. For the first time since 1979, crowds shouted “Death to the vali faghih” (supreme religious leader) and “Death to Khamenei”. By Monday the slogans were aimed against the whole order: “Death to the Islamic regime”, “Death to the Bassiji” and, in another flashback to 1979, the taunting of the security forces with “Be scared of the day we are armed”.
It is now clear that the attempt to impose Ahmadinejad on the Iranian people for another term has thrown the entire regime into terminal crisis, as calls for a general strike are gaining support. On Sunday June 21, Karroubi, still dreaming of a compromise, commented that the regime could yet save “the Islamic order” by annulling the elections. But the failure to do so, combined with the hesitation and dithering of the ‘reformists’, means we are seeing the beginning of the end. No doubt the process could be drawn out and its outcome unpredictable, but it has begun and no-one can stop it.
Of course, the expulsion of foreign reporters and banning of many newspapers have reduced media coverage of the protests, including the new slogans and changing nature of the demonstrations, but most bourgeois journalists still in Tehran could see that by June 23 the very existence of the Islamic republic regime was being challenged by demonstrators. In central districts of Tehran, youths were attacking banks as well as government offices and military barracks.
The calls for a general strike, sit-ins and other forms of civil disobedience are gaining momentum and the protests have now clearly spread to many provincial cities and even some smaller towns, despite the regime’s resort to increasingly repressive methods. Contrary to the claims of apologists for the Iranian regime and some reporters, the demonstrations were not and are not dominated by the middle classes. In fact Iran does not possess such a huge middle class and those who did turn out took courage by the presence on the streets in the first week of large sections of poorer classes.
Those of us who can identify the class composition of demonstrators from their clothes and accents have not had the slightest doubt about the predominance of workers and wage-earners (including teachers, nurses and public employees) on recent protests, but for the benefit of those who have no knowledge of Iran and who keep telling us the demonstrators are ‘middle class’ let me explain some basic facts.
If you live in a country where the ministry of labour claims that over 80% of the workforce are employed on limited contracts and reassures capitalists that by 2010 the figure will have reached 100%, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?
If you live in a country where in the year ending March 2009 despite the repression there were over 4,000 workers’ actions against privatisation and job losses (unemployment stands at 30%, while inflation has reached 25%), including sit-ins, the kidnap of managers, as well as strikes, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?
If you live in a country that has been praised by the International Monetary Fund for its firm pursuit of neoliberal economic policies, all under a certain Mr Ahmadinejad, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?
If you live in a country where teachers and nurses have waged at least four major strikes in the last two years against their government’s economic and political stance, who do you think will join protest demonstrations?
Let us stop talking of the ‘middle class’ nature of these specific protests. However, a number of points have to be considered. Contrary to comments by people such as George Galloway, the Iranian revolution of 1979 was not started by the working class. Students, many of them children of middle class families, initiated the anti-shah protests, which were confined at first to university campuses, and the same students were later in the forefront of the first major demonstrations. It is no secret that the actions of a minority of middle strata can sometimes spark a mass movement.
In 2009, however, the working class has not been slow off the mark – as early as last week the idea of a general political strike has been in the air. It is the left and its activists who have been slow to respond to such calls.
On June 18 Iran Khodro car workers issued the following statement: “We declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran. Autoworkers, fellow workers, what we witness today is an insult to the intelligence of the people, and disregard for their votes, the trampling of the principles of the constitution by the government. It is our duty to join this people’s movement.
“We, the workers of Iran Khodro, … will stop working for half an hour on every shift to protest against the suppression of students, workers and women and declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran.”
Similarly, the union of Vahed bus workers declared on June 19: “In recent days, we continue witnessing the magnificent demonstration of millions of people from all ages, genders and national and religious minorities in Iran. They request that their basic human rights, particularly the right to freedom and to choose independently and without deception, be recognised. These rights are not only constitutional in most countries, but also have been protected against all odds.”
The statement went on to condemn the “threats, arrests, murders and brutal suppression” and called for support for the protests, which “demand a response from each and every responsible individual and institution”. It continued: “… since the Vahed Syndicate does not view any of the candidates as supporting the activities of workers’ organisations in Iran, it would not endorse any presidential candidate in the election. Vahed members nevertheless have the right to participate or not to participate in the elections and vote for their individually selected candidate.
“Moreover, the fact remains that demands of almost an absolute majority of the Iranians go far beyond the demands of a particular group … [We] fully support this movement of Iranian people to build a free and independent civil society …”
Oil workers have also used well established channels of communication to discuss the possibility of a strike. Meanwhile a general strike has affected the whole of the Kurdish province, with most cities and towns practically closed down. Calls for a nationwide general strike are growing by the day.

Message from Iranian Workers’ Free Trade Union

Message from Iranian Workers Free Trade Union

23 June 2009

FTUIW

Forty-eight days have passed since the suppression and arrest of workers’ gathering on International Labour Day – May Day. During this time our country has witnessed important events and we witness widespread and amazing changes in the social movement.

During their televised debates the presidential candidates repeatedly accused each other of violating citizens’ rights, embezzlement, theft, mismanagement, and incompetence. But none of them had any objection to the laws that have allowed the disastrous events affecting the majority of the population. None of them had any objection to legislation that takes away a worker’s right to strike, sets his wages at a quarter of what is the government’s poverty line, takes away the workers right to set up their own organisations, allows mass lay-offs, forces workers to sign blank contracts a one-month temporary contract .

The presidential candidates failed to take up issues regarding freedom of speech, the right to choose one’s dress, and hundreds of other inhuman laws that today govern our society. When they raise any issue it was in a superficial way, every one of them attempted to clear himself and accuse the others, as if his opponent had been more strict than himself. In all those debates, clearly and in confronting each other, the candidates themselves proved that they accept all the current laws and conditions and that their only quarrel is on who should be in power.

Therefore, we workers, under the present conditions, when social protests have taken the form of a mass and a huge movement has come on the scene to achieve its demands, see it as our right to put forward the demands of fellow workers and to raise our banner. These demands are as follows:

  1. Immediate increase in the minimum wage to over 1 million tomans [$1010] a month.
  2. An end to temporary contracts and new forms of work contracts.
  3. The disbanding of the Labour House and the Islamic Labour Councils as government organisations in the factories and workshops, and the setting up of shoras [councils] and other workers’ organisations independent from the government.
  4. Immediate payment of workers’ unpaid wages without any excuses.
  5. An end to laying-off workers and payment of adequate unemployment insurance to all unemployed workers.
  6. The immediate release of all political prisoners including the workers arrested on May Day, Jafar Azimzadeh, Gholamreza Khani, Said Yuzi, Said Rostami, Mehdi Farahi-Shandiz, Kaveh Mozafari, Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi, and an end to surveillance and harassment of workers and labour leaders.
  7. The right to strike, protest, assemble and the freedom of speech and the press are the workers’ absolute right.
  8. An end to sexual discrimination, child labour and the sacking of foreign workers.

Workers! Today we have a duty to intervene, to pose our demands independently and by relying on our own united strength, together with other sections of society, to work towards achieving our human rights.

The Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers