The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Strikes for Wages—And against the Regime

May 1, 2023

This article is translated from the April 28 issue #2856 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

A wave of strikes started on April 22 in the oil and gas industry in southern Iran near Asaluyeh. The strikes spread to other cities and other companies, especially metalwork.

The strike was prepared by activist networks formed during previous strikes. In particular, a committee of oil and subcontracting workers had formed during a strike for better working conditions in 2020 and a strike for permanent jobs for gig workers in 2021. The call to strike was also relayed by other informal committees, such as one which led a teachers’ strike in 2021, and by regularly-repressed unofficial unions, such as among workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar mill. Links forged between militants during the revolt against the police killing of Jina Mahsa Amini last September 16 help spread information—even if only on social media—which is otherwise withheld by the Islamic Republic’s media.

The initiators call this the “1402 campaign,” as they launched it on the second day of the second month of the year 1402 of the Persian calendar. They waited until after the important Persian New Year holiday of Nowruz and after Ramadan, in order to launch the strike in the best possible circumstances. The strikers listed their demands. The main demand is for an 80% increase in all wages, including for workers in subcontracting. Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi proposed 27%. But annual inflation is well over 50%!

According to information circulating on social networks, the strike seems very popular in the South Pars gas field, which brings together more than 10,000 workers in dozens of refineries and factories. The strike spread to big oil and metalwork factories in Kerman, Yadz, Isfahan and Shiraz. The demands are shared by millions of Iranian workers in all sectors. They have every reason to join the fight, faced with shortages, the high cost of living and the regime’s corruption.

The strikes started at the same time the regime is contested despite the harsh repression it deploys. Images of a student cadet in the pro-regime Basij militia interrupting a speech by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali Khamenei went around the world. A video showing a young couple dancing in front of the Azadi Tower monument in Tehran—with the young woman’s hair flying free—has spread on social networks.

That young couple was sentenced to 10 years in prison but despite the risks, other young people are challenging the regime in different cities in Iran. Thousands of parents accuse the government of permitting, organizing, or actually ordering gas or chemical poisonings of schoolgirls in recent weeks. These poisonings aim to frighten young women who publicly refuse to wear the Islamic headscarf and who also shout, “Death to the dictator!” These reprisals prove that the fire is still smoldering. Acts of defiance show that mass revolt can break out again at any time.

The “1402 campaign” shows the organizational capacity and the indispensable social and economic role of workers in Iran, far beyond the oil sector. Their combativeness and their weight in society make workers a force that could take the lead in the revolt against the regime—without letting the revolt be taken over by the various coalitions active in exile, which all respect the social order.