Basidj open fire to the protesters
Tehran-Karimxan st.30th july!
- Our weekly Podcast program is in regard to social movements with activists and politics analyst from different groups and parties.
We had a friendly conversation with Nasser Asqari in regard to workers movement and asked his opinion about the current situation and suggested ways to face these events.
Nasser Asqari is one of the worker activist and well-known leader’s of the Worker Communism party of Iran; who has been active in fight against the Islamic Republic. You can read his notes in his personal weblog (you can find the link to his blog at the end of this note). Please send your comments via the Podcast comment section.
Listen this Podcast in Farsi:
We are with dear Nasser Asqari and today we would like to speak with him about the worker unions, situation of worker movement, position of worker-class and the recent events which took place during the election in Iran.
- Nasser, I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation. As a first question I would like to ask you what is the position of worker unions, trade unit and as whole the worker movements towards the recent election in Iran?
First of all I would like to say hello to you and all your listeners and the addressors of this topic. Before I begin allow me to clarify something. We do not have the same worker unions with the same meaning as the western counties, or even neighbor countries like Turkey or other third world countries which have some sort of independent worker union from the government. Unfortunately, we had 1 or 2 with the names of firm unit syndicate, or the Haft Tappe Naishekar worker unions which were able to imposition themselves to the government throughout long fighting process, however their activists were either dismissed, put under pressure, or were arrested.
In general in Iran we do not have organized worker union the same as western countries, but we do have worker groups which are very actively and powerfully organize hunger strikes and have positive influence on the worker events. Even prior to the election, their presents was undeniable during the beginning of May OF 1388 (2009) in calling for 10 worker movement (from the known worker unions) such as dismissed and unemployed worker union, firm unit syndicate, and etc…Anyhow, an invitation was sent out to these 10 groups and close to 3-4 thousand workers gathered at the Parke Laleh, and published a radical announcement.
As a result to this gathering and publishing an announcement; government arrested close to 100 of the activists, which they were all were released as time went by late. Of course, this is just how much we know.
Neither one of the active worker unions participated at the election. Majority of them passed the election by heedlessly. The firm unit syndicate; published an announcement around the time of election that the election doesn’t concern the worker class and everyone must report to work. Workers are in a situation which can’t remain unpaid, plus the 4 candidate who has been approved by the guardian council haven’t made any promises in regard to making some changes in worker class situations. In general, long before the election, the worker unions made it clear to their members that the election doesn’t concern the worker class.
I think in a different announcement, the Iran Khodro workers announced that they will not participate in the election where the basic rights of workers are ignored. They even had an interesting slogan “we do not want bad or worse, only a better world”.
This was an interesting slogan for two reasons, one it clearly defined the election in Iran the choice between bad and worse, and also clarified the position of the worker class as the majority of the people in Iran or the third party which was clearly to avoid supporting the election.
- Anyhow, the second question is that we saw the demands of the worker unions throughout numerous announcements, or as an action at the beginning of May or towards the other recent events. Are these movements and announcements are the demands of the worker class itself, or are these being published by the educated class of the union?
You even pointed to the fact that the Iran Khodro workers published an announcement, I didn’t want to name the groups; however, other groups and unions such as the women council, or the Iran Khodro works published different announcements in regard to the election. The majority of them insisted on condemning the election which doesn’t concern the worker class. So, how the announcement we publish now days relates to the situation in Iran has direct relationship with the movement and fighting of the workers unions throughout the years.
Let me put it this way, if the Islam Republic backed up on its positions, or overthrown; the worker class will benefit from it way more than the other people. Majority of the pressure in a society are felt by the worker class and their families prior to any other classes. So now if we see that majority of people are insisting on freedom of political prisoners and if we see that the society is not sitting quite towards injustice, censorships and freedom of speech are direct results of the fight and demands of the worker class.
These demands were brought up 15 years ago when the oil workers marched in the streets and the governed furiously stopped the protests, or the demands and protests of the Khatoon Aabad workers for a better life situation are the same demands you pointed out. They wanted a better world, but the government stood up against them and killed 4-5 workers. So I guess I’m trying to say that the current situation in Iran is a direct effect of activities and fighting of the worker class for so many years. The second thing you pointed out was about the educated class, which in my opinion is not the reflection of the educated class only.
If we see and announcement with the name of a group of workers such as Iran Khodro it is a reflection of the demands of all the workers there which organize the strikes. We know that there have been always objections and protests in Iran Khodro which is one of the biggest factories in the Middle East. The government has tried to separate the different part of the factory to avoid the connection and communication of the workers.
Even the “Yellow Formation” which is an Islamic and government based formation which have been approved by the government are not allowed to be active at places such as Iran Khodro and the Copper or the petrochemical industry. The government know that worker class uses its educate members to voice their concerns, but in general they all are have participated in all the events, voicing their concerns, strikes and etc.
In west if we have something like a union and worker movements the representatives are mainly the educated members of the worker movements. In Iran the union or groups are being handled by all the works and the government in arresting has acted towards the group. In majority of cases, they have arrested unknown workers or are the workers whom are not known to others as the educated members. The situation of the workers in Iran is a lot complicated than the other part of the society.
I think a very radical and humanity demands and concerns were announced this year May 1st on the workers day. Demands such as equal rights for men and women, rights of Afghan worker refugees, children rights and not only defending these, but to taking an action towards these demands were brought up on this day. We also witnessed the attack to the participants and the activists.
I think this is the body of the worker movement; the published announcements are steps ahead of some educated and broad-minded societies which talk about human rights and workers rights. I think the representatives of the worker movements are voicing the people’s demand a lot easier in radical and human way than the others. This is one of the big accomplishments of the worker movement in the recent years.
- The event of the May 1st of this year and the presented demands has an undeniable role in the recent protests of people in Iran, what do you think?
I think the workers on May 1st defined a path. If you look back at few year go clearly from 1383 until now; aside from participating in strikes, workers made the all the May 1sts as a difficult situation for the Islamic Republic which they know how to deal with it.
The demands and fight of people are more radical now, and as result we see that people are chanting for freedom of political prisoners, children rights, equal rights for men and women, freedom of speech and other demands which are the same as the one presented by the workers on the street on May 1st.
This is how the workers defined and showed a path to the other people in the society, event the government it elf has confessed to this fact. Therefore, government has always has the worked on its top list because of they can control the worker class it would a lot easier to control the other people. Just like you said, I think workers have acted very radically on May 1st to show the people how to ask for their rights.
- Thank you. Next question is that what was the reaction of worker union to the recent events? Other than them participating in the protests as the key group; have then been able as a worker group or firm unit to protest in a different ways such as strikes? If so, can you tell us in which firm?
(Aside from governments which has tried to show that this movement belong to the educated and uptown classes in Tehran, I think the people marched to the streets where not people other than the worker class without pay, which live and deal with difficult living situations in Iran).Nasser:
When we face a revolutionary movement, the society as a whole will remain in shock for at least month or two and as result everything gets out of its normal routines. A worker who was preparing itself for a promotion and a pay raise is suddenly facing a complicated situation which anything is possible to occur at any minute which can even be a pay-cut.
Now, after 30-40 days passed the mass demonstrations by people the workers have begin with their protest as well. In general you can’t point out the workers protest since their protest can differ. For example, if the worker class can have an organized demonstration in masses and march to the streets and ask for their unpaid wages the government will be in big trouble.
In Iran majority of events are political, the way people are covering themselves, social attitudes, education and working environments are all fall under politics umbrella and any objection will be consider as political offense. For example, if the workers want to make changes in the factory’s leadership, this demand will be labeled as political demand and will be shut-down right away.
I think the demonstration and protest of workers hasn’t shaped yet, however; the worker class is actively involved in the demonstration, but they haven’t been able to organize mass demonstrations. And the other point, I strictly insist that I do not agree with the statement that the upper-class people are the key members of the recent protests, and the middle and lower-class don’t have any part in it! I believe these are the workers, their children and the people whom marched to the streets and will be benefited the most if the regime collapses. There might be some which would not want to consider themselves as a part of the worker class or ordinary people which is a different argument.
As I mentioned before, worker movement hasn’t enter the demonstration as organized yet, but their participation in the new future with the other groups of people would ease the process of getting ride and the collapse of the regime.
- After our discussion in regard to workers movement, how do you see their future after the recent events? And by future I mean an organized demonstration or strike in order to reach the basic worker rights (union rights, freedom of speech, fair pay and according to them something close to 1 million Toomans per month). How and where do you see the success of the workers movement in the recent months? What should be the strategy and position of the worker movement in this situation?
I was looking at the statics reports which were published by the government itself; either by opposition or Ahmadi Nejad which clearly shows the growth of demonstration of worker during the last period of Ahmadi Nejad’s presidency. I want to get this result out of this statement that there is no hope for a better working situations and life style in the second period of his presidency. As result the worker movement has no choice other than being even more radical. More worker activists are forced to come up; which ends in more demonstrations.
In classic revolutions such as the one in Iran back in 1357 (1979) or the October revolution(in Russia) in the period of 7-8 month the workers did not participate at first, but as the people movement grew they begin to participate. It was obvious that the major stroke to the Shah Regime was done by the Oil workers which ended in the collapse of the regime. In October we know that at first it was the soldiers and the war situation which motivated people, but then the workers united with them and helped the revolution to be a successful one.
I have no doubt that the worker unions are weighting the situation brightly to find a best time and place to get involved and do the last and major stroke. I think the groups and worker unions which are working behind the scenes have to come out and address a broader group of workers and participate with the all the other groups out on the streets. If they do not unit with the other groups and the youngster I an organized demonstration, I think worker movement will be betrayed again. Worker movement has to come and take over the protests to organize and shape it in away to help with its success which is a socialism society.
- What is the role of the worker movements in the recent protests, the tools they have and their capabilities? And why do we think that we have to insist on worker movements as one of the major keys in order to reach our human goals?
I think I answered this one in the previous question. Just as a summary, you can say that if a powerful worker movement such as oil workers which is the main economy maker for the Islamic Republic or a company such as Iran Khodro which is one of the biggest factories like its own in the Middle East; begins to protest can shift the balance and make a powerful protest in one day which can destroy the Islamic Republic.
- That’s what I exactly meant, in the recent street demonstrations we witnessed a huge merge of the society protest. Some believe that these street protests can make the changes. Others believe that these demonstrations must enter and combine with the workers fight and strikes at the factories. The role of these two protests (street and worker protests) being side by side of one another, or against who can we get the best result out of it?
Once protest enters this stage mainly the society relies on its workers. It’s not like a young person or a house wife goes to the street and stand against the regime with our having a demands. The presence of people in the streets is an announcement to all the different classes of the society including the worker class that we are on the street you have to be as well. If the worker movement begins to participate it won’t be the same as a group of people are demonstrating which have been dealt with in different ways and the situation get under control by the regime.
Usually the worker activists publish an announcement and ask all the workers to march in the streets, which ease the process of building worker unions. First of all the society acknowledge that if the workers participate they will be the owners of the demonstration. We remember back in the 1357 (you might be too young to remember) the workers begin with the protest and people backed them up and chanted “Our oil workers are our headstrong leasers” this means that if the workers begin, they are capable of finishing it. Prior to the election whenever there was as protest, people chanted “where the workers are”.
This also means that with uniting with the worker movement, it is possible to be able to deal with the regime more seriously. In my opinion, even now if the worker acts as a leader in the society and announces that in the future government and society I want my deserving place a larger group will join the protests, the movements will become more radical and the group whom are defending Mousavi and Karroubi will join them and chant “down with the Islamic Republic”.
If the workers begin to participate the shape of the current protest will change and would motivate the society.
- And for the last question, what is the role of different parties, organizations, activists, lefties, socialisms, and Iranian communism in workers movement? Throughout the political history, we’ve seen that political roots and fights exist within the worker movements and industrial factories. What is the role of the left movement, socialism activists and communism in Iran recently and through the recent years?
Let’s talk about the worker movements, the role of the different parties or organizations which claim as representatives on behalf of workers and their agendas. It is different in a society like Iran, where talking about a political party can be dangers. In the recent event Mr. Mousavi tried to organize his own party which they were threatened to death by Sharia, let alone a worker comes and declares that I belong to worker communism party or any other party for that matter and my purpose is to lapsed the regime, this is not possible.
In such situations we are not able to announce the number of workers which belong to different parties, but how close is the slogan chanted by the workers to the other slogans of other political parties? In my opinion the parameter here can be the same announcement published by the workers at the beginning of May. If you take a look at this announcement, you will see that the worker activists, those who organize the protests and movements published and announcement which can be seen and red line by line that the communism movement has a direct affect on the worker class and this is how you can size its effect on the workers.
In Islamic Republic, workers are not allowed to have their own party or organization. They are not allowed to publish their own news paper to even talk about workers security, wages, congratulate or condolence with other workers. In such societies, the tools we have are limited to Dish Networks and internet which are being filtered and been under lots of pressure by different companies. However, we still witness that worker movement has been effected directly by lefties and I’m positive that if the situation get a little more radical we will witness a retreat from Islamic Republic. (I’m certain that the listeners have already witnessed some retreats). And as long as the demands gets more radical and the worker movements helps with the demonstration we can slowly see that other parties and lefties will march to the streets and the workers will announce their positions and to which party they belong to.
In this situation we can see the affects of communism among the workers. Now with all the pressure and difficulties a worker deals with they aren’t able to come out and announce their positions. I hope this has answered your question.
Dear Nasser, Thank you for your participation and I hope that we can have you for our future discussions.
For sure, and thank you for your time.