Below is a brief note from a striking worker, Mahmoud from Assaluyeh. Not only is it a good illustration of how the leading strikers in Iran today are thinking and how their discussions are shaping up, it also gives us an insight into the potential of the working class movement when we see how far the workers have advanced. It is a window into the future, showing what could be created, not only throughout Iran but also beyond.
In the first place, such a move would silence the desperate theories that the middle class pundits are constantly repeating about the Middle East. Then it could undermine all the political manoeuvres of those who are preparing for war in the region. The opportunity to promote working class unity and emphasise that workers have no country would easily extinguish reactionary political Islam and its harmful sectarianism: a serious step towards the formation of internationalist battalions. These are not just a series of dreams, nor are they the inevitable outcome. They are simply the possibilities opened up by the current situation. Internationalists do not shy away from taking these tasks on. They first of all applaud it, and dare to be at the forefront.
More than 4 months have passed since our strike as project/contract workers began. Regardless of the results and consequences of this strike, I’m thinking about what would have happened if there was no Organising Council [i.e the Council for Organising Protests by Oil Contract Workers].
If there was no Organising Council, this year would have been the same as last year. We would be thrashing about in bewilderment amongst false promises, and the employers would have ignored the workers’ demands, without having any fear of the labour force re-raising their heads.
But we see that this year, due to the existence of the Organising Council and its intervention at every moment of our struggles, the employers with the help and alliance of the security forces, have done all they could do to end the strike but have not got anywhere and inevitably have retreated.
If it were not for the Organising Council, that disgraceful group would have chosen someone out of the ballot box as a strikers’ representative, put them in charge of us with the usual dirty tricks, and we would have never witnessed the holding of mass general assemblies in different cities and with striking workers speaking out at the mass assemblies.
Were it not for the Organising Council, our voice of protest would have remained at the same level as last year, and we would not have had a large number of working class supporters and workers’ solidarity institutions from around the world.
If we had not established our Organising Council, in the early days of the strike the workers who were called to return to their cities would have disappeared from the strike environment, so we could not have imposed our demands on the employers at the highest level. Like last year they would have put an end to the case very soon. But with the formation of our council, we managed to keep a more radical part of the workers around the council and with timely statements, managed to keep the workers in most of the camps so that we were all aware of the strike situation and the employers’ performance and the need to keep up with our protest nationwide.
If we had not created this Organising Council, there would have been no protest against the non-vaccination of labourers in the oil centres. But the council issued a statement expressing solidarity with our co-workers in Haft Tappeh over the death of a worker due to Covid 19, and demanded that all workers be vaccinated, and I saw that this started to happen in the oil fields and we succeeded.
Also, in the light of the clear guidance of the Organising Council, by coordinating our action, we managed to attend successfully at the series of picket lines and, with our statements, opened up the discourse about creating General Assemblies as our decision-making body and electing real representatives in these assemblies. And by using these mass assemblies we managed to make collective agreements one of our demands and succeeded in this way.
If it were not for the Organising Council, we, workers, would have been deceived into returning to work without having written contracts. They would have been able to create divisions among us, for example, in the divisive statements of the piping groups, but we overcame this problem as well.
Were it not for the Organising Council, we would not be able to link our demands to other sections of society, and show a united form of protest for the nationwide demands of the workers.
Were it not for the Organising Council, we could not keep the skilled and unskilled employees united, as the bosses and regime had sharpened their teeth to separate them. One of the council’s smartest actions was to demand that no worker should get paid less than 12 million Toman and this managed to represent all sectors of oil workers.
And finally, if it were not for the Organising Council, the two demands, the removal of the contractors and abolition of the Free Zone special laws, would have not become an immediate object of our protest. Today, I consider myself a member of this council and I call on all my colleagues to work with the Organising Council. By doing so, we will both strengthen our struggle and give an emphatic reply to those who question our wisdom. (Mahmoud, Assaluyeh)
For our previous translations of the statements from the Council for Organising Protests by Oil Contract Workers see: leftcom.org