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July 21, 2003

Khatami's Labour Movement?
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

khatami.jpg For the first time after Islamic revolution (without many examples before that) we are noticing sporadic labour movements across Iran in the past 3 years. This is in contrast to the mainstream opinion that in Iran dissent only comes from the students and the elite intellectuals. I am sure those of you who followed the domestic news in Iran, remember the fights and strikes that sputtered across Iran. There are many clues that justify this observation, that I'd like to enumerate:

Power in Numbers Obviously there are more workers in Iran (industry I mean) and this number seems to have passed a certain threshold needed for collective behavior. Also unions are assuming more and more power; Unions that are less and less dominated by hardline-right wing supporters of the government.

Enlightenment The workers (and their spouses for that matter) are getting more education than they used to. This is of course a national trend but has interesting consequences among this social group. Most of them have LEARNED that they have a right to strike.

Poverty Line Although our group's social standing makes it hard to see through the high-rise buildings, new cars and other luxuries that have stained cities like Tehran, there are more people under the poverty line everyday, in fact they exceed what is expected from the overall population growth. Qualitatively (like in the US in the Reagan era) the middle class seems to have vanished! The class-conflict MIGHT become a reality and there seem to be many grounds for it from a Marxist perspective.

Social Freedom Although the intellectuals seem to be missing their freedom of speech, the average man on the street has never found that challenged. In fact you can more easily criticise Khamenei or Rafsanjani than you would criticise Shah before the revolution. This also goes for the workers with respect to their employer, which is mainly the State. Iranian workers no longer trust their official spokespersons (?) such as Basij-e-Kargari or even Khane-ye-Kargar and want to have alternatives in this respect too.

Another important "social class" are the women, which we should discuss at a later time.

Yashar at July 21, 2003 05:04 PM [permalink]:

I totally disagree with the last point. You claim that the average man on the street "never" found their freedom of speech challenged. First of all the degree of boldness and unshyness to express anger towards the government, that you see on the streets of Iran today was not present 6 years ago.
This is mainly the result of the government losing its legitimacy among its supporters, and its power to inject fear deep in the society - mainly as a result of dissidents murders scandal and 18 Tir.
secondly, freedom of speech is still curtailed as soon as the speech gets louder than a certain(considerably low) threshold. which means that of course the workers are free to express their hatred of the government for their fellow workers during lunch, but they can not publish a periodical that tries to inform labourers about their rights, and calls for organised action.
In fact workers that try to organise strikes or take part in them are in many cases treated as bad or maybe worse than student dissidents.
one reason is because unfortunately they dont get as much publicity.

Yashar at July 21, 2003 05:17 PM [permalink]:

i further don't see why this is 'Khatami's' Labour movement.

Kaveh at July 21, 2003 05:26 PM [permalink]:

Well. Still they get more freedom than people who normally speak loudly! and they are more numerous as a class! That was my point but you are right when you say that these people are as suppressed as their more outspoken counter-parts among the political intellectuals.

The reference to Khatami is of course a joke!

Yashar at July 21, 2003 06:17 PM [permalink]:

my objection was mostly to that "never" in your sentence. i agree with most of the rest of your comment. and i think any powerful movement for change towards democracy must insist on the workers' rights and must invest in further organising the workers. if organised they are a much more powerful force than students alone.

Kaveh at July 23, 2003 11:40 PM [permalink]:

I am wondering about this picture: Shouldn't it read "Workers Unite" and not "Worker's Unite"?