Iranian print workers speak out

July 30, 2009

Over the past decade, an underground labor movement has emerged in Iran. Despite violent police attacks and mass detentions--only state-controlled "labor organization" are legal in Iran--groups of workers have formed clandestine unions.

One of these groups, the Independent Union of Print Shop Workers of Tehran, issued a statement to participants in the protests for the international day of solidarity held July 25.

In the Name of the Creator
Brothers and Sisters:

On the occasion of Iran Solidarity Day, we men and women members of the Independent Union of Print Shop Workers of Tehran (IUPWT) would like to extend to you, halfway across the globe, our deep appreciation for your support and solidarity with our cause.

After an initial period of confusion and self-doubt, the dictatorship has regained its confidence and is determined to crush our country's young democratic movement and arrest or eliminate its leader, Mir Hussein Mousavi.

Our union, IUPWT, is centered on a number of large and mostly state- or semi-state-owned enterprises accounting for the bulk of the books and print media published in the capital. Because of the harsh police conditions imposed against labor organizing, our union activists and the workers who support us have to operate under the constant threat of arrest, imprisonment in solitary conditions, physical and mental abuse, and dismissal from work.

At the time of rising unemployment, the least of these measures, dismissal from work, could have devastating effect on our workers and their families. These are illegal acts that are even against the Iranian regime's own constitution, not to mention all the international covenants to which the Iranian government is a signatory.

Protesters pour through the streets of Tehran following the disputed June 12 election
Protesters pour through the streets of Tehran following the disputed June 12 election (Javad Saharban)

As you all well know, the courage of our people, especially its young, has transformed Iran into a new country. There is mass repression going on against our people, but the dictatorship has lost its aura of invincibility and its mystique of superior, otherworldly power. And for the first time in more than a generation, there is hope again in the country. You could see it in the faces of the old and the young. It is hope for a new beginning, hope for democracy, and hope for a life without tyranny.

Further, the success of the Green Wave movement in Iran could be an inspiration for millions of people in the other countries of the Muslim world. They could see that they could build grassroots democracy with their own hands and without any supposedly benevolent foreign hand aiding and abetting them. The Green Wave movement is democratic, it is nonviolent, and it is independent.

DEAR FRIENDS, at this point, allow us to speak freely to you. There are some dangerous misconceptions about the democratic movement in Iran that must be addressed urgently.

One of these misconceptions is that the Green Wave movement is a rich man's movement, whereas Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government is a pro-working class and pro-poor people's movement, headed by a humble man of the people. This is a gross and blatant lie. Our movement is supported by millions of the poor and the working people. Ahmadinejad is a demagogue who has surrounded himself with ex-Revolutionary Guards and present-day multimillionaires who care absolutely nothing for the poor.

If he is pro-working class, why did he want to end 70 percent of all subsidies last year? Why did he change the labor law against the workers' interests? Why does he systematically arrest, imprison and torture labor activists? This is an insult to the working people of Iran--that they support a petty dictator because he has bought them off by cash handouts and free foodstuffs at election time.

Ahmadinejad is as much a progressive man of the people as Mussolini was pro-working class and anti-capitalist. Further, as reformist leaders have acknowledged, without support from the Iranian working class, this regime will not give an inch to our just demands. After all, it was only after workers--especially the oil workers--went on strike 30 years ago that the Shah of Iran had to leave the country.

We suspect that this myth is bought by those in the worldwide progressive movement that automatically assume anybody who stands up or pretends to stand up to the American Empire must be a noble nationalist.

To these friends, we must say that anti-Americanism is just a fig leaf for the most reactionary and obscurantist forces in Iran, who need it to hide their deeds--namely, their incompetence, their theft of national property and their repression against their own people and their personal enrichment in the name of religion. If Mr. Khamenei has benefited the progressive anti-imperialist cause anywhere, it has been out of opportunism and nothing else!

Let us hope that foreign governments do not try to take advantage of Iran's internal problems for their own selfish goals. Let us hope that the ongoing situation continues to discredit and expose the true intentions of Ahmadinejad and his backers to the world until they are tried in their country for their crimes against the Iranian people. And let us hope that through international solidarity, that day is closer at hand.

Independent Union of Print Shop Workers of Tehran and its Environs

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