By Sacha Ismail
In the run up to May Day, Iranian socialists and labour movement activists in the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran have launched a new call for international solidarity. The statement puts forward a clear “third camp” perspective against both US war threats and Iran’s theocratic dictatorship, in refreshing contrast to the mealy-mouthed pro-Islamist position of much of the British left.
The initiative could not have come at a better time. An important element of the Iranian rulers‚ show down with Bush is their attempt to create a nationalist release valve for the increased pressure which growing workers‚ struggles have placed on the regime. Faced with rapidly multiplying strikes and protests, ultra-Islamist president Ahmedinejad has combined anti-American demagogy with a crack down on the Iranian working class, as well as on many of the minor freedoms which women gained under his predecessor.
Demonstrations outside government offices in Rasht... dam workers in Elam... pharmaceutical workers in Tehran… Iran-Khodro car workers… The now famous case of the Tehran bus workers is not the only example of Iranian workers fighting back, and not the only one that has met with repression. There can be little doubt that most Iranian workers now hate political Islam, but the driving force behind this wave of struggles is economic. Despite Ahmedinejad’s populist rhetoric, more than 50 percent of Iranians remains officially below the poverty line of about £150 a month for a family of five. The regime’s neoliberal programme — privatisations, lay offs, contracting out, outsourcing, deregulations, non-payment of wages etc — is responsible.
Tehran bus workers’ leader Mansoor Ossanlou has been in prison since 22 December 2005 and is now suffering from a number of serious medical conditions. Although a handful of union leaders have been released from custody, more than 1,000 workers are still locked out, and hundreds of union activists have been sacked.
Meanwhile, a Tehran councillor closely allied to Ahmedinejad is overseeing a crackdown on “un-Islamic dress” in the Iranian capital. From 20 April, police have been authorized to arrest women wearing loose-fitting headscarves, tight jackets or short trousers exposing skin. “Offenders” will face £30 fines — no doubt easily payable by a minority of ruling-class women, but totally prohibitive for the great majority of women workers — or two months in prison.
The bourgeois theocrats in power in Iran will submit workers and women to any brutality in order to maintain their right to exploit and oppress the Iranian people. The international left need to sober up from its infatuation with political Islam and start building solidarity with Iran’s left opposition urgently.
• Send letters of protest to the President of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please copy to us for our info and further distribution.
• The locked-out Tehran bus workers and their families are in urgent need of financial support. Please contribute to Tehran Bus Workers Relief Fund: NatWest, England. Account no: 49606174. Sort code: 600738.
• International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran: www.workers-iran.org
• International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran: www.kargaran.org