Let’s Fight for the Unity of the Working Class of Iran!

Class governments and capitalists are afraid of workers' strikes. We saw an example of this during the revolution of 1979 in Iran. We saw the changes that were created by the potential power of the workers’ guild. They were able to send the Shah's regime to the dustbin of history with their nationwide strike over their demands for better living conditions and job security, the right to strike, and the right to establish trade unions. The governments that came to power after the revolution under the guise of supporting the oppressed and poor were aware of this power. They considered the organisational power of the working class as a means to shake the country's economic foundations and political pillars. With their class perspective, they were afraid of the danger of the unity of Iran's labouring society and sought to prevent it by using underhanded methods to create division among the working class. At the beginning of the revolution, Iran’s Labour Law had to consider many workers' rights. The working class, through its struggle and its decisive role in the revolution, imposed its demands on the post-revolutionary governments. But at the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, President Rafsanjani‘s mafia government, under the pretext of Iran's reconstruction and undoing the war damage, adopted the destructive and anti-Iranian policy of neoliberalism. Rafsanjani followed the economic orders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to loot the Iranian economy through privatisation and by suppressing the struggles of workers and violating their legal rights. This destructive policy is still being implemented in Iran.

It was customary for the government and employers to enter into formal or permanent contracts with workers for permanent jobs. However, the number of these contracts decreased due to the weakness of the labour movement to such an extent that today, this type of contract includes only a third of all contracts signed with the workers in Iran. Next to that, there is another type of contract called direct temporary contracts. These are negotiated only for a short period of time or for the realisation of certain projects. Such contracts comprise approximately 14% of all contracts. And finally, there are also contracts called a “temporary agreement.” Such contracts make up 57% of contracts. In practice, there are one-year, three-month, and even one-month contracts that include jobs where the nature of work is continuous and permanent. By implementing these types of contracts for a limited employment period, which can be extended after the expiration, the employers use modern slavery with the support of the government and its labour laws.

After the eight-year war and under the presidency of Rafsanjani, in order to establish the law of modern slavery and serve the neoliberal policy of the World Bank, a new interpretation of the labour law against the working class was announced. According to this interpretation, if a time clause is included in the contracts for jobs that even have the nature of continuous work, the contract will no longer be permanent. This insidious interpretation legalised the use of temporary contracts for jobs of a permanent nature. This interpretation was continued during the presidency of the reformist Khatami. And from then on, the employers transfer the hiring process to the private companies. Now the private companies conclude contracts with the workers and then rent them to employers.  The same method is also applied in big capitalist countries as Germany. With the effort of the chancellor Gerhard Schröder from the "leftist" social democratic faction, the Ministry of Labour was dissolved and replaced with organisations or job searching centres that mediate between workers and capitalist employers. Through such a sinister plot, they have absolved the capitalists of any kind of responsibility. They have created private companies that are responsible for providing manpower to and signing contractual agreements with employers and the government.

The first concern of the workers in Iran is the lack of job security because at the end of each year, the private employer can fire the employees. This arbitrary firing is used by the government of the Islamic Republic in its assumed capacity as an employer. In this way, the lives and livelihoods of workers are in the hands of private companies and of the capitalist government. We are facing the silence of the Iranian bourgeois opposition, even in cyberspace, on these violations of rights. These violations are not just crimes against a person or a violation of the human rights of a few political prisoners; rather, they are a violation of the human rights of millions of people who are forced by economic necessity to do very hard work as de facto slaves. The bourgeois opposition of Iran has closed its eyes to all these crimes against the working class. Even during its protests for “the realisation of human rights or the defence of political prisoners”, the bourgeois opposition is silent on the situation of the labourers and does not even mention the struggles of imprisoned workers and activists. The protests of the bourgeois forces that have taken place under the demagogic and populist mottos of “All together” and "Women, Life, Freedom" are alien to the fate of Iran and its working class. The workers should never trust these hypocritical bourgeois forces and should seek to consolidate and organise their fragile forces so that they can achieve their legal rights.

There are no independent labour unions in Iran. This is the weakness of the working class. The struggle for the formation of independent trade unions is the first promising field of struggle for this class. Essentially, a trade union is an organisation in which workers unite as a class to express their solidarity. The working class establishes trade unions to create a bulwark against the class that owns the means of production. In this way, the working class not only defends itself against the constant attacks of the capitalists, but it also directly attacks the exploiting class. Through trade unions, the labourers try to realise general rights and improve the most basic working and living conditions such as wages, working hours, continuous and permanent contracts, work safety, work leave, elimination of temporary contracts, the right of assembly, the right to strike, etc. Trade unions are born out of the objective needs of the labourers in the class struggle. They represent the most basic level of worker-organisations based on their strength and class consciousness.

Trade union activism has a much longer history than working class party activism, because the daily realisation of economic awareness is much easier to achieve than gaining political awareness in the spectrum of the working class. A long time is still needed for the working class not only to wage its independent economic struggle but also to end its political role as the fifth wheel of bourgeois politics and emerge as an independent political organisation of workers that has political and class goals. For this reason, from the very beginning of labour unions, this dialectical difference was evident in the two fields of struggle of the working class. These two struggles should not be put into one pot and stirred as this would distort their different levels and distinctions.

Why is working in unions necessary?

Work in mass organisation is one of the most important areas of a revolutionary's activities. This practical struggle provides a means to know how close the world view and political action of an involved individual are to the objective reality of the life of the working class. This participation in the real struggle of the working class will distance the revolutionary and communist person from subjectivity and revolutionism and will keep him grounded in reality. Work in a mass organisation also forms the necessary foundation for any revolutionary development. Without the energetic support of a large section of society and without the sympathy—or at least the benevolent neutrality—of the rest of the masses, no revolutionary insurrection can establish a stable, surviving government. To gain this sympathy and popular support, especially from the working class, revolutionaries must actively communicate and transfer their worldview to the working masses and demonstrate the validity and application of it in the daily lives of the labourers. Revolutionaries must work where the masses are, but above all, they must work where the working class is.

Anyone who wants to work among the working masses should not shy away from union activities. The necessity of trade unions for the revolutionary struggle relates even more to their actual position in the working class than on their proletarian essence. But working in a trade union does not mean that a trade union is the party of the working class, nor that it should take on the party duties. Activities in trade unions are undertaken to realise the rights of workers against the capitalists, to give the members experience and knowledge, to raise the level of their class consciousness in practice, to strengthen their self-confidence and belief in union power, to strengthen the understanding of democratic work, and to create a material basis for social transformation in society as a whole.

As Lenin stated in “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder:

“To refuse to work in the reactionary trade unions means leaving the insufficiently developed or backward masses of workers under the influence of the reactionary leaders, the agents of the bourgeoisie, the labour aristocrats, or workers who have become completely bourgeois” ( Engels’s letter to Marx in 1858 about the British workers).

The experience of all labour struggles around the world shows the importance of the social roles of independent trade unions. Unfortunately in Iran, the working class is deprived of the right to have an independent labour union. In the first place, the labourers of Iran must fight for the recognition of this natural right, which has a social and historical background and will certainly be supported by the vast majority of the working class. When the working class engages in the trade union struggle, then the workers will benefit from educational facilities, labour education at universities, permanent strike funds and legal support from prominent labour lawyers, press activities, support from intellectuals and academics, and many other sources. We have to fight to achieve the aforementioned labour rights in Iran. This fight has the support of the nation. Even among the authorities of the Islamic Republic, after the protests against the mandatory hijab and the Guidance Patrol, there are whispers that if the ruling class does not listen to the demands of the labourers and protesters, then they will have to face widespread violent consequences.

Society is made up of different classes, and it is impossible to manage society with the theory of "insiders and outsiders", "believers and infidels". Every individual in the country is a member of the nation, and the wealth of Iran belongs to the entire society. The assets of the country cannot be confiscated for the benefit of "insiders". The rhetoric of “insider, outsider” and “believer, infidels” from the beginning of Iran’s revolutionary period are dead today. An opinion is forming among government officials that it is necessary to create opportunities for dialogue with various sections of the society, including teachers, women, retirees, workers, etc., so that the government does not lose power as a result of resorting to violence. This current situation, which has been one of the achievements of recent events, has created a favourable environment to emphasise the desire to establish independent labour unions even more so than before. The condition for the success of this demand is to avoid mixing the tasks of the working class party and of gaining political power with the tasks and capacity of a labour union. If the deviant and anarcho-syndicalist ideas of the "left" organisations dominate the trade unions activities, and if there are adventurers who try to promote the idea of gaining political power through the creation of workers' councils (soviets) and mislead the struggle of working masses, the opportunity for the creation of independent trade unions will not be used optimally.

The first barrier that stands in the way of Iran's labour struggles is the lack of a labour union, whose task is primarily to try to improve the living conditions of workers. There are some petty bourgeois subjectivists who think the “bolder” and more extreme slogans they put forward, the more revolutionary they are! They support the "one-day revolution" theory. This shows their lack of trust in the masses and lack of understanding of the revolutionary process. They do not grasp that it takes some time for the struggle of the masses to grow and to gain strength in both economic and political fields and to educate the workers to join their own independent party. They are regularly engaged in misleading propaganda among the working class and want to turn every justified and just strike into a "social revolution". These mindless leftists do not understand that, in the end, the result of a successful strike is a compromise with the employer, not the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Those engaged in the sabotage of the labour movement destroy the unity and integrity of the working class. They fail to understand that social struggles have different levels, and therefore, people should be organised in various organisations according to the interest of their strata. The struggle of the working class in trade unions is a struggle in the economic field. The specific demands of the trade unions are not separate from the general demands of the people. Therefore, the workers in the trade unions also defend the most general demands of the people. But this kind of support does not change the nature of the trade union to a political party. The struggle of the working class against the inhumane sanctions on Iran is a general democratic struggle, which is not contrary to the trade union demands of workers. The attempt at the confiscation and management of a factory, which will be a failure from the very beginning, is a destructive and deviant action. The call to the workers by some political groups to seize political power and to establish councils (soviets) in the factories, instead of a call for the establishment of independent trade unions, is a deviant and destructive call that hurts the organisations of the working masses. Such calls are approved by the agents of the capitalist regime of the Islamic Republic who seek to disrupt the unity of the working class.

Trade unions in Iran should not be formed on the basis of ethnic affiliation. Ethnic national chauvinists in Iran want trade unions to be formed based on ethnicity or nationality. Their intention is to destroy the unity and integrity of the working class of Iran. Naturally, even if they are not suspicious, their approach is deeply reactionary and anti-labour. It should be fought against as the slogans of the psychic "lefts" for the establishment of worker councils (soviets) instead of labour unions. Iranian workers must fight for the establishment of a unified and independent labour union which is widely accepted by the people. Our Party supports this class and democratic demand that serves to democratise Iran's political environment.

The Party of Labour of Iran (Toufan)