In his Book of Embraces, Eduardo Galeano says:
Chicago is full of factories. There are even factories right in the center of the city, around the world’s tallest building. Chicago is full of factories. Chicago is full of workers.
Arriving in the Haymarket district, I ask my friends to show me the place where the workers whom the whole world salutes every May 1st were hanged in 1886.
‘It must be around here,’ they tell me. But nobody knows where.
No statue has been erected in memory of the martyrs of Chicago in the city of Chicago. Not a statue, not a monolith, not a bronze plaque. Nothing.
May 1st is the only truly universal day of all humanity, the only day when all histories and all geographies, all languages and all religions and cultures of the world coincide. But in the United States, May 1st is a day like any other. On that day, people work normally and no one, or almost no one, remembers that the rights of the working class did not spring whole from the ear of a goat, or from the hand of God or the boss…
To mark International Workers’ Day, May 1st, there has been a call for a general strike in the US and worldwide.
This year may not end up being a day like any other.
No work, no school, no shopping, no banking, no trading.
Are you in?
By Hamid Taghvaee
On May 1st of this year in Iran, all heads turned to the workers’ movement. From a few weeks prior to May Day, workers’ problems, plights, demands and protests had already turned into a discourse within the nation, media, political opposition groups, and so on. Leftist groups and workers’ organizations, institutions and labour activists welcomed the International Workers’ Day by, like every other year, issuing messages, calls for actions, resolutions, and prepared themselves for holding protests and assemblies. But May 1 assumed wider social dimensions. It drew the attention not only of the various sections of society as such but also that of the right wing opposition. The reason for this society-wide attention is obvious: for more than 10 months the society had been going through a seething revolutionary period. Under such conditions, International Workers’ Day, which symbolizes the deep rooted causes of freedom and equality, would not only not remain a cause for communists, labour activists and workers’ organizations but also become a cause for the masses who, sick and tired of the regime, have entered the arena to rid themselves of it.
The ruling murderers too, aware of the significance of this year’s May Day, had prepared all their hellish medley of forces to prevent the spread of demonstrations and protests on that day. Security forces, Basij and “plainclothes” murderers as well as herds of other kinds of thugs were dispatched to the streets. They created an unprecedented military atmosphere in Tehran and other cities. These measures were effective in containing the size of demonstrations and preventing the formation of assemblies of masses who had come out to celebrate the day. But they failed to prevent the extensive communication of workers’ demands to the masses. Nor did they succeed in preventing the society from shifting its attention towards the workers’ deep critique of, and protest against, the present conditions. May 1st of this year was indeed an opportunity for the mass movement that had been challenging the Islamic Republic for 10 months prior to the day to hear its own critique and protest this time from the workers’.
Our party has, since the very start of the current movement, constantly and with full power strived for, and emphasized on, the necessity to deepen and radicalize the content of its protests and demands, the need to create open organizations and institutions in order to declare the demands of various sections of the society through them as well as through individual activists. In general, our party’s constant endeavour, since the very beginning of the movement, has been aimed at the need for increasing clarity, articulation and organization of various dimensions of the revolution. A significant condition for the revolution to advance in that direction is entering into the arena of the workers’ movement at the forefront of the protesting masses, bearing the standard of the workers’ protests and demands on a broad social scale. May1st of this year was an important and decisive step in this direction. The 15-point resolution issued by 10 workers’ organizations on the occasion of May Day, both for the content of its comprehensive, radical demands, and as an action per se, is a significant indicator of that progress.
In that resolution workers have issued their indictment against “the capitalist system of Iran.” They have advocated the “unquestionable right of workers and all Iranian people to a life in accordance with the highest standards of life of today’s humanity.” They have demanded the rights to organization, strike, assembly, and freedom of speech for themselves as well as “all Iranian people.” They have demanded that the government scrap its plan to cut subsidies on essential items, and increase the minimum wage to 1 million Tuman [approximately $1000] per month. They have demanded the abolition of death penalty. They have demanded the abolition of all discriminatory laws against women. They have demanded the abolition of child labour, and that children be provided with free, equal education and welfare facilities irrespective of their parents’ social and economic status. They have condemned all kinds of discrimination against immigrant workers from Afghanistan and other countries, and declared their support for teachers, nurses and other working sections of the country.
These are all, indeed, the demands, objectives and ideals of the masses of people who have risen against the entirety of the existing anti-human conditions. They form the workers’ full-fledged banner of the quest for freedom and equality, hoisted from the heart of the current revolutionary movement to clearly show the society how to seize at the very root and throw the gauntlet to the Islamic state in its entirety; so that the society would hear and recognize its revolutionary and deeply humane alternative from the workers, as opposed to the right opposition and the efforts of the regime’s “green” faction to distort the people’s demands for freedom and equality to fit within “the framework of the constitution” or “Islamic human rights” or democracy of the New-World-Order or the “human rights harbingered by Cyrus- the-great”. The masses of people have been challenging the regime for more than 10 months by chanting “down with the dictator” and “down with the principle of theocratic supremacy,” while the workers’ resolution translates, defines and articulates these “structure-breaking” slogans [, as both factions of the regime call them,] in the language of crystal clear humane, freedom-loving and equality-seeking demands.
Furthermore, all the said facts indicate that on May 1st of this year the workers’ movement not only entered the arena in defiance of the regime but also in practical distinction from, and critique of, all the right forces. May 1 showed that, unlike all the forces that try to limit the protests and demonstrations within the framework of the constitutional of the regime, it is only the workers who demand and defend unconditional rights to strike, protest, organization and association – for all the people. May 1 announced that, unlike Iranian/Arian-monger nationalist tendencies, workers oppose any kind of discrimination against any worker, including those of other nationalities who live and work in Iran – Afghan or non-Afghan. It announced that workers, unlike the nationalist-religious tendencies and the Islamic feminists, strive for abolition of all kinds of discrimination against women. Finally, and most important of all, on May 1, workers placed an issue at the core of their demands and protests that the whole right opposition has silently passed over: the issue of poverty and misery ravaging the society, as well as the real, root causes of it. They raised the issue of wages that are as low as a quarter of the [officially announced] poverty line. They raised the issue of lay-offs, employment insecurity, the plan to cut subsidies and the fact the objective of this anti-labour plan is to intensify exploitation and increase profitability of capital. In a word, they condemned the capitalist system as the root cause of all these miseries. This was the worker’s May Day message to the society – a clear and explicit message that separated, with a political dimension and on a social scale, the ranks of the workers from the right forces in their entirety.
Our party has long since emphasized the fact that the left and its critique of the existing social condition in Iran is a wide and strong tendency as well as a wide and strong current. May 1st this year itself was yet another vivid manifestation of that fact. On this day, the workers rose and came on the scene, not as victims of the capitalist system, a depiction of workers the right opposition recognizes and is OK with, but as the active avant-garde and standard bearer of masses struggling for freedom and equality. This socio-political self-assertion is unprecedented even in the trade unionist labour movement suffering from reformist syndicalism in the West, and clearly indicates the status and power of the left in the workers’ movement and in the Iranian society as whole. May 1st of this year was the day the left’s critique of, and the left’s indictment against, the status quo was communicated through the workers’ movement. The workers’ movement can and should advance in this direction more actively, more broadly, and in a more united and organized fashion than before.
May 1 also shows the way to other institutions, organizations and activists in the other protest movements, especially the women’s freedom movement and the student movement: unite and organize; declare your demands and objections under the signature of your organizations, institutions, and NGOs of various kinds; issue messages, resolutions and calls to action; declare your solidarity with other protest movements, and organize combined protest actions with them. The current revolutionary movement is in need of organizing and clarifying itself through ever clearer articulation of the demands and the protests of the workers and masses by the masses themselves; and May Day presents the society as a whole with a clear, practical and facilitating guideline for advancing these causes.
First published in Anternasional (International) weeky, No. 347, May 7, 2010
May Day is the day of international solidarity of the working class; the day of workers’ worldwide protest against poverty and inequality. On this day millions of workers throughout the world stop work, take over the streets, declare their outrage at the countless calamities that capitalism has imposed on humanity, and shout out the cause of liberation from oppression and exploitation and the building of a better world.
The protest at the hardships of the capitalist system and workers’ call for equality echoes around the world at a time when in Iran the celebration of this day is banned; right now many organisers of May Day 2009 have either been sentenced to prison or are threatened with heavy sentences, and tens of worker activists and leaders are in prison for building workers’ organisations and defending their human rights.
Such horrific lack of social rights is being imposed on workers in Iran at a time when capitalism in Iran, three decades after the 1979 revolution, has cut the workers’ pay to a quarter of the poverty line; by not paying workers’ wages on time, by mass firings and layoffs and through temporary and so-called ‘blank’ contracts, it has imposed appalling impoverishment on millions of working-class families. In addition, to ensure ever more profits for capital, they are abolishing subsidies and closing down factories, so as to take away the last means of sustenance from the tables of workers’ families to pockets of capitalists.
But as we showed in the 1979 revolution and have shown in the past few years, we the workers of Iran will not put up with such impoverishment and lack of rights, and despite imprisonment and repression, we will stand up to the violation of our most evident rights, at the forefront of the people of Iran, and will not let them ruin our livelihood and the right to life even further. We are the main producers of the wealth and resources of society, and regard it as our right and the right of all the people of Iran to enjoy a human life at the highest standards possible for humanity today.
Towards this end, while protesting against the current situation which since May Day last year has subjected workers and people of Iran to repression and lack of rights, we insist on the following demands and call for their immediate and unconditional realisation:
1- It is our indisputable right to set up organisations independent of the state and employers, to strike, to protest, to demonstrate, to assemble and to exercise free speech; these rights should be recognised as the inviolable social rights of workers and all the people of Iran;
2- We regard the plan to abolish subsidies (so-called ‘goal-oriented’ subsidies) and a minimum wage of 303 thousand tomans [US$300 dollars] per month tantamount to imposing a gradual death on millions of workers’ families; we call for the immediate stoppage of the plan to abolish subsidies and for the rise in the minimum wage to one million tomans [US$1,000].
3- Workers’ delayed wages must be paid immediately and without any excuses; failure to pay wages must be made a prosecutable offence, and workers affected reimbursed with damages;
4- Firings and layoffs under any excuses must be stopped; all unemployed persons and all those who have reached the age of employability and are ready for work should be provided with unemployment benefit at a level which affords a dignified human life;
5- We demand the abolition of temporary and ‘blank’ contracts; we demand job security for workers and all wage-earners, the highest possible standards of hygiene and safety at work, and the dismantling of all government-sponsored bodies in the workplace;
6- We demand the abolition of the death penalty and the immediate and unconditional release of Ebrahim Madadi, Mansoor Ossanlou, Ali Nejati and all worker activists and all activists of other social protest movements, and the revoking of all judicial actions against them;
7- While condemning any attack against workers’ and people’s protests, we regard protesting against lack of rights and free expression as the indisputable and inviolable right of workers and all people;
8- We demand the repeal of all discriminatory laws against women and full and unconditional equality of women and men in all fields of social, economic, political, cultural and family life;
9- We demand the provision of a prosperous life for pensioners, free of economic worries, and an end to any discrimination in payment of pensions, as well as the provision of social and medical care;
10- Child labour must be abolished; all children, irrespective of their parents’ economic and social status, and regardless of gender and national, racial or religious attributions, must be provided with equal and free educational, welfare and medical services;
11- We declare our support for all social movements which are demanding freedom, and strongly condemn the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of their activists;
12- While declaring our categorical support for the demands of teachers, nurses and other working people in society, we regard ourselves as their allies and call for the immediate realisation of their demands;
13- We are part of workers of the world, and condemn the firing of, and any discrimination against, immigrant Afghan workers and workers of other nationalities;
14- While expressing our appreciation for all acts of international solidarity with the struggle of the workers in Iran, and while categorically supporting the struggles and demands of workers around the world, we regard ourselves as their allies, and more than any time before stress the international solidarity of workers for liberation from the hardships of the capitalist system;
15- May Day must be recognised as an official holiday and designated as such in the national calendar; any prohibition of and restrictions on the celebration of this day must be ended.
Long live May Day
Long live workers’ international solidarity
1st May 2010
- Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs United Bus Company
- Union of Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company
- Free Union of Workers in Iran
- Committee for the Re-opening of Metal and Mechanical Workers’ Union
- Committee for the Re-opening of Painting Workers’ Union
- Association of Kermanshah Electrical and Metal Workers
- Follow-up Committee for Setting Up Free Workers’ Organisations
- Co-ordinating Committee to Help Set Up Workers’ Organisations
- Association to Defend Sacked and Unemployed Workers of Saghez
- Women’s Council
[Translated by the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. [email protected] www.kargaran.org]
Hamid Taqvaee’s Message on the Occasion of May Day:
This May Day in Iran is the day for expanding and deepening the revolution, which has been challenging one of the most corrupt and atrocious capitalist states of our time. This revolution, due to objective conditions and to the context of its formation is a worker revolution: this is the revolution “of all victims of oppression”. This is a revolution of a society that has been suppressed and pushed beneath the line of poverty; it is a revolution against poverty, discrimination, oppression, and deprivation; it is a revolution for a humane life. The Iranian society had welcomed the ongoing revolution through its workers’ strikes, its May Days slogans such as “a humane life is our right!” and in Student Day chanting of “Socialism or Barbarism.” This is the revolution of a society that has continuously been challenging sexual apartheid regime through its permanent anti-veil movement; this society welcomed the ongoing revolution through its city uprisings while chanting “we don’t want Islamic rule!” The ongoing revolution aims at toppling the entirety of the anti-human Islamic regime and has expressed this goal through its slogans such as “down with Khamanei” and “down with cleric rule!”
Deepening and expansion of this revolution is possible only if the masses are mobilized around the access of working class humane goals and horizon, that is, socialism. This May Day is a day for taking a first huge step toward this goal. May Day is the day of international working class’ plea against inhumane capitalist system; in Iran this plea has being declared on the streets for almost a year against one of the most atrocious capitalist states.
Working class movement can and should raise this flag in front of the revolutionary masses of people; working class can and should use its own organizations and institutions in order to declare the protests and demands of masses against the Islamic regime of capitalists. Under the existing circumstances, where the atrocities and oppressive measures of the regime alongside the obstructions made by pro-regime and right-wing opposition against the “deconstructive” offensives of the people have suspended street rallies and protests, working class’ entry to the scene of revolutionary struggle has become an essential and determining factor for the advancement of the revolution. This May Day not only can be a new beginning for street rallies and protests, but also can be a turning point in deepening and expansion of the revolution beyond the scopes of street demonstrations.
This May Day is the day to protest poverty and wages that are one third of the poverty line; is the day to plea against massacres and executions, especially those of the last year; is the day to demand immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners; is the day to demand unconditional right to assembly, organization, and strike; is the day to demand unconditional political and social freedoms; it is the day that working class declares solidarity with women’s, students’, and youth movements. This May Day is also another opportunity to acquire the support of the international working class and the entirety of freedom loving people of the world for the ongoing revolution in Iran. Working class movement should realize this task; this depends on how aware working class activists and organizations are of their role. Last May Day, two months prior to the revolutionary outburst of street demonstrations, ten working class organizations welcomed the revolution through the call for May Day meeting in Laleh Park in Tehran. This year everybody expects and hopes that the working class enters the scene but this time in order to play its determining role and push the revolution ahead. The revolution needs the showcase of working class power in order to deepen and advance.
Long Live May Day the International Day of Working Class Solidarity!
Long Live Revolution!
Long Live Socialism!
Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
April 22, 2010