The Iranian government continues to repress labor activists and deprive workers of their most basic rights. Although Iran is one of the oldest members of the International Labor Organization, independent trade unions remain illegal. This week, three activist teachers were arrested and interrogated in an apparent attempt to stop teachers and other workers from demonstrating on International Workers’ Day (May Day). Below is a message of solidarity to all persecuted Iranian workers signed by Columbia University scholar Hamid Dabashi and 23 other prominent academics, including In These Times contributors Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek.
—Jeremy Gantz, Working In These Times editor
To imprisoned workers of Iran:
This year’s International Workers’ Day is approaching at a time when you are in prison. We know that among you there are many like Farzad Kamangar, who sacrificed his life to defend the human dignity of the humble masses that are forced to sell their labour for meagre wages. And there are many more of you who, like Mansour Osanloo, Ebrahim Madadi, Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, Reza Shahabi and others, have languished in prison with many dark years still ahead simply for defending workers’ basic human rights.
Others who have gone to prison for organizing workers have continued to be punished by the ruling legal and political régime after their release, being forced out of work and thus deprived of their only source of income, creating unbearable conditions for them and their families. The government, judiciary and intelligence machinery in Iran have proven that any attempt by workers to establish independent labour organizations and defend their livelihood will be met with swift vengeance, a fact that violates both international agreements Iran is a party to and tramples on the government’s own laws.
This is while the very same government and ruling cliques provide the maximum of resources to owners and managers of wealth so that they can better organize themselves against workers’ and make greater profits. Justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran only exists as long as it does not interfere with easy profits for exploiters and excludes the amelioration of workers’ conditions, who are given the absolute minimum wage possible, equivalent to one third of the poverty rate set by the government’s own statistics.
It shall not be long until the sweet breeze of the revolution of bread and freedom that began in Tunisia, overtook Egypt and is now overtaking the entire Arab world and North Africa shall reach Iran. Any régime that is based on social injustice and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a minority while poverty is concentrated in the masses shall not endure.
Fighting this injustice is fighting for a better and more human world, fighting for true human liberation and not the liberation of capital, and transcending to a level where workers can no longer be fooled by inferior alternatives and false revolutions.
We have not been closer to the possibility of realizing this human world at any time in the last 30 years as we are now. One need only look at the ever increasing protests of the workers of Wisconsin and the struggle of the dignified masses of England, France and other nations. This bright horizon is impossible to miss.
Under such conditions, rest assured that the dignified workers and masses of Iran shall not fail to act. Your time of liberation is at hand. Be hopeful and know that on International Workers’ Day we hold your memory in our hearts and grasp a red rose as a sign of our solidarity with you.
1 — Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York, USA.
2 — Kazem Alamdari, California State University, USA.
3 — Kevin Anderson, University of California- Santa Barbara, USA.
4 — Asef Bayat, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, USA.
5 — Sohrab Behdad, Denison University, USA.
6 — Richard J. Bernstein, The New School For Social Research, USA.
7 — Timothy Brennan, University of Minnesota, USA.
8 — Alex Callinicos, King’s College London, UK.
9 — Noam Chomsky, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.
10 — Simon Critchley, The New School for Social Research, USA.
11 — Hamid Dabashi, University of Columbia, USA.
12 — Nancy Fraser, The New School for Social Research, USA.
13 — Amir Hassanpour, University of Toronto, Canada.
14 — John Holloway, Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico.
15 — Peter Hallward, Kingston University, Canada.
16 — Paul Mattick, Adelphi University, USA.
17 — Behrooz Moazami, Loyola University New Orleans, USA.
18 — Haydeh Mogheysi, York University, Canada.
19 — Farhad Nomani, The American University of Paris, France.
20 — Misagh Parsa, Dartmouth College, USA.
21 — Saeed Rahnama, York University, Canada.
22 — Mehrdad Vahabi, University of Paris VIII, France.
23 — Helena Worthen, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, USA.
24 — Slavoj Zizek, European Graduate School, Switzerland.
Jeremy Gantz is a contributing editor at the magazine. He is the editor of The Age of Inequality: Corporate America’s War on Working People (2017, Verso), and was the Web/Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012.