chapter  13
22 Pages

The working class and the Islamic state in Iran


In all the major political developments of twentieth-century Iran, from the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-11 and the nationalization of the oil industry in the early 1950s to the political upheavals of the early 1960s and the 1979 revolution, workers were major participants and demonstrated a high level of militancy. However, governments of diverse persuasions, from the Pahlavis’ modernizing dictatorial monarchy to the liberal nationalists and the Islamists’ pre-modern theocracy, have all ignored workers’ legitimate demands and suppressed their dissent. Many factors account for this situation, not the least of which is the qualitative and quantitative weaknesses of the working class – a result of the specific nature of capitalist development and industrialization in Iran. Because of its own internal weaknesses, the workers’ movement has depended historically on Left social democratic and communist movements both organizationally and intellectually. In fact, socialist and communist ideas about the workers’ right to form unions and emancipate themselves preceded the emergence of the working class itself. Yet dependence on external leadership made Iranian workers susceptible to the theoretical and political wavering and internal conflicts and divisions of the country’s Left intelligentsia. As well, the continuous suppression of the Left by successive dictatorial regimes inevitably also affected the militancy and organizational efficacy of the working-class movement.