'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Iran's New Labor? 

A fascinating interview of Iranian trade unionist Homayoun Pourzad, a representative from the Network of Iranian Labor Unions, by Ian Morrison of the Platypus Review. Morrison interviewed Pourzad following Pourzad's appearance at a US Labor Against the War conference. It is well worth reading in its entirety.

Here is an excerpt:

IM: Do you think there are any possibilities for a party of labor in Iran? That is a problem all over the world. Different labor organizations meet up, and there are groups that believe in various trade union rights, and they release statements to that effect. But there is no political body that consistently stands up for working people.

HP: I may have sounded too much of an alarmist, for I emphasized the dangers. But the opportunities are also great. Like I said, you have almost eight million workers in need of organizing. They will even be able to organize themselves, if the situation changes. The Green Movement holds promise, I think. It came totally out of the blue; no one expected it, from the Ministry of Intelligence to the opposition and the foreign governments. This means there are elements that could coalesce into a progressive and democratic labor party. It should not be forgotten that Iran not only has a huge working class, but also a tradition of left-wing activity going back some 100 years. The working class in Iran, moreover, is not semi-proletarian as it was during the Iranian Revolution. This generation of workers has advanced political skills and a mature political worldview. You are no longer dealing with peasants just come to the city. Iran is fairly industrialized in many ways and these workers have their own subcultures. We have a good situation in that sense. So yes, there is a good possibility that we will have a strong labor party. The conditions are there, but none of this will materialize without a strong, deeply rooted labor movement.

So what needs to be done? We must put across to other sectors of society what the working class stands for. The protest movement is now primarily middle class. That is its primary weakness. But once labor strikes get under way in the next few months, we hope they will change how the Green movement sees the workers, themselves, and their moment. It is our job as labor activists to put across a genuine working class platform and to familiarize the country with working class demands.

We cannot, as some Left groups do, start condemning the Green Movement just because it lacks a strong Left component. It is the Left's job to influence the movement and to see that its demands and wishes are incorporated -- not just with respect to Mousavi, but to the movement as a whole.

Again, please consider reading the interview in its entirety. Pourzad also has some enlightening things to say about the conflict between the US and Iran over the country's nuclear program and the consequences for the left if the US launches a military attack.

If the left outside Iran expects to play any meaningful role in relation to events within the country, it should consider starting with understanding the perspective of workers who are actually organizing there. By incorporating such an indigenous perspective, it can escape the extremes of romanticizing the revolutionary prospects of the Green movement, describing the movement as one manipulated by US/Israeli covert operations and pessimistic acquiescence to the perpetuation of the theocratic regime, extremes that have dominated left discussion to date.

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