Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Young Activist Comments on Class & Social Composition of June 2009 Tehran Protests

A young activist/intellectual and blogger, objects to an older Iranian leftist intellectual who calls Ahmadinejad’s supporters the “youth of the lower depths.”

The Real “Youth of the Lower Depths”

Author: Fuad

Source: bazgooftan.blogfa.com/
Translated by Frieda Afary

Translator’s note: Fuad is a young activist/intellectual and blogger. In his recent blog entry, he objects to an older Iranian leftist intellectual who calls Ahmadinejad’s supporters the “youth of the lower depths.” Fuad describes his own view of the class and social composition of the protests that have taken place in Tehran after the fraudulent June 12, 2009 election. Excerpts follow:

. . . As against all the myths circulating among analysts of all persuasions, I dare say that the main body of this movement consists not of the upper-middle class and the bourgeoisie, but the lower-middle class and “working class individuals” and the poor. (Later, I will explain why I say working class “individuals.”)

I don’t deny that a middle class leadership initiated the protest movement. But the body of the movement consisted of working class “individuals” and the poor. And as time passed, the movement consisted more and more of working class “individuals” and the poor, and moved toward south Tehran neighborhoods.

To prove this claim, one only needed to be present at the recent protests. This fact could be clearly comprehended. That is why I would like to review the recent demonstrations briefly. . .

During the first two days (June 13 and June 14, 2009) there were sporadic protest in all of Tehran’s neighborhoods. All social and economic classes participated. Of course protests were mostly taking place in central and north side neighborhoods. The upper- middle class was present at these protests. But the youth of south Tehran were also demonstrating in central and north side squares, if not in their own neighborhoods. I dare say that it was the youth from Afsarieh, Nazee Abad, Javadieh . . . who started throwing stones at the anti-riot police at Vanak Square. . .

During subsequent days, the situation was different. On June 15, over a million attended the protest from Imam Hussein to Azadi Square. On June 16, a million attended the protest from Vanak Square to Iranian Television and Radio Station Headquarters. On June 17, a million attended the protest from 7th Tir Square to Revolution Square. On June 18, a million attended the protest from Imam Khomeini Square to Revolution Square. I dare say that these four protests that involved millions, were some of the wonders of the world of politics, wonders that are unique to Iran. These demonstrations reflected a popular movement which cut across classes. All classes participated. All economic and ethnic groups were present. There were equal numbers of women and men. All age groups were present. The interesting point was that although the protests were silent, all participants had the equal and unlimited right to write their slogans on placards which they carried. No one objected to anyone else’s slogan. This was the greatest practice of democracy on the streets.

But the main issue is that when these protests were met by attacks from pressure groups or what our so-called leftist intellectual interpreted as the “youth of the lower depths” –of course in “plainclothes” [reference to plainclothes policemen] — it was the poor youth of south Tehran who fought back. . .

At the June 16 demonstration at Vanak Square, when those same “plainclothesmen” or what the so called leftist intellectual likes to call “youth of the lower depths” attacked the people, I personally witnessed that it was once again the youth of south Tehran who faced the bullets in order to allow the elderly women and men to withdraw and not become victims of the axes, truncheons and bullets of the “youth of the lower depths” in “plainclothes.”

Luckily no violent episodes took place in the other two demonstrations that involved millions.

But the real story of the participation of the “working class and poor individuals” began on June 20. As we all know, that demonstration was of a different kind.

The commander in charge of those “youth of the lower depths” in “plainclothes” had issued the attack order. This time the issue was whether you were “present on the street or not.” Leaders of the upper class kind withdrew and took back their call to protest. They asked people to stay home or stay quiet. The ones who were willing to give up their lives in order to stay on the streets, were those who had nothing to lose but their chains. These were the youth of south Tehran and “working class individuals.” Of course I have to admit that the crowd included youth from north Tehran whom I salute for their honor.

After June 20, people’s presence on the street changed. The slogans became more radical and everything became more serious. Based on testimonies from those who were on the streets and in the areas where the major confrontations took place, this time the movement had moved to south Tehran. The main confrontations took place in Sattar Khan, Towhid, Navab, Jomhuri and . . . which are lower-middle class and lower class areas of town.

After June 20, those “youth of the lower depths” in “plainclothes” no longer dared to confront the protesters without being mounted on motorcycles and without support from forces that were armed from head to toe. Despite all the propaganda that the rulers’ media and ideological apparatus had drilled into their heads, they knew that they were not dealing with a bunch of weakling, rich, and westernized youth. They were faced with the “real youth of the lower depths.” . . .

The protesters are young women and men. They are “unemployed, students and wage earners.” They are middle-aged women and men who are breaking under the heavy weight of life expenses for themselves and their families. They are in pain and screaming to the heavens. Even if they “dress well, speak well, don’t have calloused hands, live a modern life, speak a foreign language, smell like perfume, are internet and media savvy, enjoy poetry and music, enjoy dancing, enjoy modern Western culture, enjoy Michael Jackson, Madonna and Sasy Mankan, etc . . .” they are part of the working class. They are either “wage earners” and thus workers or will be “wage earners” in the future because they are “unemployed” or “students” ! ! !

Our dear intellectuals who still act like “leftists,” have a problem. They have turned leftism into a religion. A religion that has certain rites. These rites begin with insulting the U.S. and the West. They include mythologizing the worker. These rites equate a modern lifestyle to being too westernized and Americanized and sissy. They classify anyone in this category as part of the “velvet revolution.” They ignore the fact that the youth who are screaming in the streets and demand an honorable modern life, are mostly from the lower-middle classes. The problem is not that the working class and the poor are supporters of Ahmadinejad and do not protest. The problem lies in the definition and typical outlook propounded by the so-called leftist intellectuals. These gentlemen still define a worker as someone who is “ugly, has calloused hands, is dishevelled, foul-mouthed, lumpen, backward, uncultured, unfamiliar with the internet and satellite T.V., sexist, listens to the music of Ahangaran [reference to Sadeq Ahangaran’s lyrics about war and mourning], rides a motorcycle, smells like alcohol, onions and rose water” . . .Therefore they have the illusion that truncheon bearing, motorcycle riding “plainclothesmen” are the “youth of the lower depths.” . . .

Unlike these friends, I do not want to have any illusions. Therefore, I have to confess that the “working class” has not yet entered the scene as a class. In reality, it is “working class individuals” who have entered the scene. That is why I have often used the term working class “individuals” in this text. The working class has not yet entered the scene with its own class perspective. . .

July 14, 2009

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Monday, July 13, 2009

2007 Open Letter to Ahmadinejad Illuminates Student Demands

The Office for the Consolidation of Unity is Iran’s largest student organization. In this open letter to Ahmadinejad, which was distributed two weeks after his controversial speech at Columbia University in September 2007, readers can find important details about the demands of Iran's current student movement.

Open Letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
From The Office for the Consolidation of Unity
October 7, 2007

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/story/2007/10/071007_bd-tahkim-letter.shtml
Translated by Frieda Afary

Translator’s note: The Office for the Consolidation of Unity is Iran’s largest student organization. In this open letter to Ahmadinejad, which was distributed two weeks after his controversial speech at Columbia University in September 2007, readers can find important details about the demands of Iran's current student movement. Large excerpts from the letter will follow.

Mr. Ahmadinejad:

. . . .We were informed that you have been scheduled to come back to Tehran University [tomorrow]. However, you have not responded to our demand to have even one representative of our central committee pose questions to you at the gathering of selected invitees at the university tomorrow.

The authorities are planning to prevent us from entering the hall or holding our own gathering at the time of your speech. The security forces have contacted students to warn them not to be present on the campus on the day of your speech. Therefore, we are presenting some of our questions now and hope to hear the answers at the venue of your speech and to present further questions there.

University Students:

Three students at Amir Kabir University, Ehsan Mansouri, Majid Tavakoli, and Ahmad Ghassaban who are members of our organization, have been in prison for over 5 months on charges of forging publications. Many believe that your supporters published the forged journals in order to take revenge from the students. At the last court session for these students, their criticism of you at Amir Kabir University was raised [Reference to protests at Amir Kabir University to condemn Ahmadinejad’s sponsorship of a conference to question the Holocaust]. Considering these facts, how could you claim in your speech at Columbia University, that no hostile measures have been taken against your student critics at Amir Kabir University?

From its inception, the ninth government [Reference to Ahmadinejad’s government] branded student activists as star bearers[Reference to university student activists who had been expelled or suspended] and banned them from continuing their education. This year, the ban has been extended to ethnic and religious minorities and teachers who participate in the annual university placement exam. On what legal, ethical, and humanitarian grounds are your organizations and institutions banning students, other critics and minorities from continuing their education?

Discrimination on the basis of gender was practiced at this year’s national
university placement exam. A group of women were not admitted into universities or were sent to universities in remote parts of the country, even though their scores were better than those of males. When protesters questioned the organization that evaluates Iran’s educational system, this [discrimination] was admitted. What legal document are you using to enforce such discrimination? Fundamentally, is this anything other than the open violation of women’s rights?

Although there has been a 25% increase in the number of university students this year, the current national budget for the universities has been reduced. This reduction does not even take the annual inflation rate into consideration. As a result, we have witnessed massive cuts in educational and social services at universities. Why and based on what logic should we be subjected to such cuts in university budgets when there has been a large increase in the government’s income?

In the two years of your incumbency, 550 university student activists have been sent to disciplinary committees, 43 university student organizations have been closed, 130 student newspapers have been banned, over 70 members of our organization have been arrested. The crime attributed to all these individuals, organizations and publications consists of criticizing the ninth government’s mismanagement and irresponsibility. In almost no university in our nation does an organization critical of the government exist. All such organizations of this kind have been either suspended or disbanded or are on the verge of being disbanded. In truth, what does free speech mean to you, and where is the crystallization of this freedom, given that in your speech at Columbia University, you claimed Iran’s level of freedom of speech to be unparalleled?

During your incumbency, over 100 prominent university professors have been forced to retire or have been expelled through the use of seemingly legal maneuvers. For the first time in Iran’s educational history, a person who does not have a university degree has been appointed president of a university. The degree of loyalty to the faction that supports the government has become the determinant for hiring professors. In reality, considering that all undergraduate university students attest to suffering from a shortage of professors, and considering the fact that Iranian universities are not ranked among the top 2000 universities of the world, why are professors being treated in this way?

Human Rights and Freedom of Speech:

Official and governmental news sources reveal that during the two years of your Incumbency, workers and teachers have been imprisoned or laid off simply because they demanded their economic rights and slight increases in wages. Please tell us when and how your support for the low income and deprived sectors of the society will be realized.

Many publications and news services have been closed or banned based on government complaints. . . The newspaper, Iran, has been turned into a government bulletin. The editorial board of the Iranian student press service, ISNA, has been prevented from covering the illegal actions taken against students. What is the reason for this suppression of the press, and how long will it last?

During your incumbency, political parties have faced the most intense suppression. . . Please clarify what you mean by the “nauseating democracy” which you had discussed not too long ago? Explain how it is different from the type of democracy which you defended when you were in the U.S.? In general, do you think democracy is possible without independent and truth-seeking parties?

Women constitute over half the population of Iran. Aside from the gender-based prejudice which you have enforced against female participants in the national university entrance exam, your government has presented a bill on the rights of the family which openly ignores women’s rights.[Reference to a bill presented to the parliament which was not passed under pressure from women's rights activists] This measure has been concomitant with the punishment and imprisonment of women’s civil rights activists who demand equality in men’s and women’s blood money, equal inheritance, and oppose polygamy.

The Economic Situation:

You participated in the [2005] election with two slogans: bringing oil money to people’s dinner tables, and fighting prejudice and corruption. During the past two years, authoritative sources have reported that corruption has increased among Iranian officials. Iran has moved fifteen steps up on the scale of corruption. The People’s low subsistence level is obvious. Given that you are less than two years away from the end of your presidential term, when do you plan to realize your electoral promises?

During the past two years, the oil revenue has increased because of the increase in the price of oil (this is also related to your policies). This revenue has been equivalent to the oil revenue during the eight-year-long presidency of Mr. Khatami or that of Mr. Rafsanjani. Give us a quantitative and not a qualitative report on how this revenue has been spent. How many construction projects have been started and how many infrastructure projects have been completed?

As a result of the government’s bad policies, economic growth has been two percent less than [what was projected by] the fourth development plan, even as the oil revenue has increased tremendously. Within a five year period, this will mean a 70 billion dollar loss, or a $1000 loss for each Iranian. Do you know that some people are unable to provide even their basic means of subsistence? They cannot even imagine a $1000 income in their wildest dreams? The profit on the “justice stock” which you advertised is a lot less than this amount. Consider that the entire budget deficit for Iran’s universities can be made up by the amount of $320 million.

Inflation in the housing sector has increased severely as a result of bad governmental policies. Your government officials admit that. As a result of these policies, officials are now declaring that people who live in large cities should not even think about finding housing. Did you know that most young people cannot get married because of the housing issue? Did you know that as a result of these wrong policies, housing is now the gravest problem that afflicts people? Perhaps housing too is cheap in your neighborhood.

Foreign Policy:

Although the country’s foreign policy is affected by various centers of power inside Iran, the role of the government cannot be denied. Iran has paid an especially heavy price for your thoughtless and irresponsible statements.

The massacre of Jews during World War II is a bitter and undeniable truth. Why do you argue about this issue? Is the Holocaust the most important issue facing humanity? If your goal is to defend the Palestinians, will questioning the Holocaust solve the Palestinian problem?

Your provoking and scandalous statements about [Iran’s] nuclear policy have been critiqued even by your co-thinkers, and are occasionally in conflict with official government positions. These statements make diplomatic observers wonder about your intentions. Isn’t it true that your inflammatory and thoughtless statements have played a large role in sending Iran’s case to the United Nations?

Where are you getting the funds to pay for your frequent trips to South America and your extreme generosity toward the people of those countries? What is your goal? What has all of this achieved for Iran?

Why are you silent about the heavy tolls which China and Russia demand from us? Why are you giving them so many economic benefits? Isn’t it true that your wrong policies in this regard will destroy our resources? Isn't it true that both countries will eventually vote in favor of resolutions against Iran. Why are you selling gas to India and Pakistan at a cost below the lowest price?

Why did you arrest British sailors? . . . .

Last question: In your speech at Columbia University and in other speeches and interviews abroad, you made statements that openly contradict your aims, actions and positions. What is the reason behind this contradiction? One can only conclude that your goals and actions are not defensible and will have consequences even more destructive than what we have seen so far. In essence, this contradiction between word and deed reflects nothing but demagoguery. . .

The Central Committee of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity
October 7, 2007

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Why We Say No to the Compulsory Hijab?

Fatemeh Sadeghi has a Ph.D. in political science and has taught at the Islamic Azad University of Karaj near Tehran. She is the daughter of Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali. In this courageous article, published in May 2008, she challenges the oppression of women in Iran today. Soon after the publication of this article, she was suspended from her teaching post at the University of Karaj. A number of students protested her suspension.

Why We say “No” to the Compulsory Hijab?
By Fatemeh Sadeghi
Source: http://www.meydaan.com/Showarticle.aspx?arid=548
Translated by Frieda Afary

Translator’s Note: Fatemeh Sadeghi has a Ph.D. in political science and has taught at the Islamic Azad University of Karaj near Tehran. She is the daughter of Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali. The following are translated excerpts from an article entitled “Why the Hijab?” which she published in the feminist website Meydaneh Zan (Women’s Field) on May 14, 2008. Soon after the publication of this article, she was suspended from her teaching post. A number of students at the Azad University of Karaj protested her suspension.

. . . Let me tell you about how my painful experience with the hijab started. I remember the day when I had to wear a headscarf for the first time in front of the boys in our family who were my playmates and often competitors. I felt humiliated. I felt paralyzed and crushed in their eyes. I could especially read the following message in the eyes of one of them: “See how your were vanquished?” The story was not just about covering my body. It was much more. On many occasions when I was busy playing or preoccupied with myself, I heard chiding voices from various corners: “Sit properly. Straighten your outfit. All your body parts are uncovered. Pull you scarf forward, Your veil is too far back on your head, Your neck is showing, Your hair is showing etc . . . “ I never knew the meaning behind these reprimands and even why I was being addressed in such a manner.

The personal experiences and humiliation which the hijab has caused me and many others, cannot be found in any of the precious and often reprinted books of the clergy in Qum. Less can it be found in the colorful poems which are force fed us in honor of this momentous task. Let me tell you that after those childhood experiences, the most humiliating sentence about the hijab which I have heard, has been the following: “For a woman, the hijab is like a pearl which covers a jewel.” I could tolerate more respectable sentences such as “Sister, your hijab is a more powerful weapon than my blood.” But I could never tolerate the former sentence.

The former sentence contains an insult which can be understood by any human being. Without having met the creators of that sentence, I can tell that they were experts in the psychology of personality disorders. Can you guess why? This sentence combines praise and humiliation. A woman is praised but only as a being who must be beautiful. Anyway, you know this better than I do. In the latter sentence however, I sense a type of respect. I like its combativeness along with the respect that it has for my femininity, even though it does not understand me and dismisses me as a woman.

As I was growing up, I realized that this story has gained more complex dimensions. Soon I understood that there is a difference between the headscarf and the veil. If the headscarf was to sexually control me --although very unsuccessfully-- or to pull me out of the realm of childhood and force me to become a woman, the veil was something else. I could see that my mother and many other women around me, used the veil in a variety of ways. They did not wear the same veil at all places and they did not cover themselves as tightly in all places. Especially when a grand clergyman was to visit our house or when we were to visit a grand clergyman, they would hold their veils more tightly. Naturally under these circumstances, I was told, “Watch your hijab,” meaning, hold it more tightly. Were these men considered more representative of the outsider category [namahram in Persian refers to a non-kin with whom a man or woman may not associate closely ] than other men? I think so. The higher the class and rank [of a man], the more the [woman’s] face was to be covered. The hijab had an inextricable relationship with power.

The veil was not just a cover. It allowed for thousands of ways of establishing distance, symbolic gestures, blending in, differentiating oneself, and giving or gaining benefits. I too had to learn how to use the veil in the aristocratic hierarchy of power of the clergy. I had to learn how to use it as an instrument of power and impose it on others. I had to learn how to use the cues to become a prominent person among other prominent people, to become recognized, to become seen, to gain benefits. I proved not talented at this task.

Wearing the headscarf or the overcoat was not enough. Thus, the first time I surreptitiously tried wearing an overcoat and a headscarf, I felt naked. Now I know that more than any feeling of physical nakedness, what made me distressed and confused was the loss of the consequences [of wearing the veil], all the symbols, the benefits and distinction and prominence, the aristocracy. Nevertheless, wearing the overcoat and the headscarf had an adventurous and awesome benefit despite the fear and the dangers. Along with many other consequences, losing the social and political benefits that accompanied the hijab and the veil forced me to step in a different direction. By wearing the overcoat and headscard I became empty and lost my identity. Now I needed to build a new identity.

When I asked a very famous clergyman whether the hijab was based on Sharia law, he said something along the lines of the following: “There in no such hijab in Sharia law. The question concerns the civil code.” Another who was a famous clergyman of his time and taught at the Hawzah [Reference to the Assmbly of Seminary Scholars and Researchers in the city of Qum, the largest center of Shia scholarship in the world] and at a university, revealed that in Sharia law, the hijab does not even mean covering one’s head. He surprised me by inviting me to reconsider my own manner of covering my body. Nevertheless, neither of these clergymen ever openly expressed his viewpoint in public. Similarly many others do not. We know that the few who have had the courage to express their views have been defrocked and punished in other ways.

For those who have experienced these times, the works of Mr. Mottahari and his likes cannot answer the above simple questions, even if they are published thousands more times thanks to the large budgets of the Ministry of Culture and the Organization of Islamic Propaganda. Mottahari himself was well aware of the fact that the viewpoint of the reactionary clergy can no longer answer the questions of the new generation. That is why he named his book, “The Question of the Hijab” and tried to adopt a so called scientific attitude toward this momentous subject.

Everyone knows well that there is only one solution to the question of the hijab: Covering oneself should be left to women’s individual choice. If the institution of the family, society and Islamic government depends on the hijab, then the problem is to be found in that institution, the foundation of that family, that society and that government, all of which require bold but necessary revision. But in reality this will not happen, at least not in the near future. Today, the attitude of the Islamic regime or at least important parts of it are more confrontational toward women than ever. Such a confrontational attitude toward women is unprecedented among incumbent administrations since the beginning of the revolution . One has to ask what is causing this brutality of which the attitude toward the hijab is only one of many dimensions.

Hijab and the Mission of the Holy Government

Perhaps no government in the world except the American neo-conservatives or former Communist regimes, is like ours in the following sense: The hold on power and the control over the masses either through luck or through severe repression of dissidents and through the use of force, is considered holy. It is so holy that they dare to take any action against citizens without being concerned about the consequences.

Occurrences such as the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo and others which are intended to export so-called democracy to the world stem from the illusion of a holy mission similar to that which is promoted by the discourse of the rulers of the Islamic regime concerning global justice and the so-called salvation of the world. Clearly this discourse is in fact an instrument for mending the crisis of political legitimacy pertaining to governments which face it internally and externally.

The rhetoric of a holy mission is openly associated with violence because it is deeply connected to the crisis of legitimacy. At a time when our country is on the verge of many kinds of social and economic crises, it is no accident that new plans for social policing arise in new forms and promote violence anew. Of course no one answers the simple question of how this holy mission will be performed given the depth of the internal dissatisfaction.

Why We Say “No” to the Compulsory Hijab

As women we have been critiquing and will critique the varieties of the compulsory hijab for years. We have done so in implicit and explicit ways, with irony, protest, argumentation, civil resistance and in many other forms. Today, given the confrontational attitude of the Islamic regime, it seems that we need to speak about this issue again. We have to say “no” to it. We have to start a new discourse. They cannot put an end to this matter simply and with an order from this or that commander and the arrests of many women on the streets and private companies, and the firing of women office workers. I believe that a major confrontation is on the way. This is a confrontation that the perpetrators of the “social safety plans” and “the elevation of public decency” have initiated. . .

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Speech by Mansour Osanloo of Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate

Excerpts from a speech made by Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate, to the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels, Belgium in June 2007. Upon his return to Iran, he was abducted and imprisoned. He has been in prison since then.

Excerpts from a speech made by Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate, to the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels, Belgium in June 2007. The Persian original was posted on the Syndicate’s website www.syndicavahed.info/.

Translated by Frieda Afary

Translator’s Note:
On July 10, Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate was abducted by plainclothes Iranian government agents and later found at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Despite severe health problems he has been held in prison since that date.

In 2004, Tehran’s bus workers attempted to reactivate their union which had been disbanded after the 1979 revolution. This was the first effort by Iranian workers to launch an independent trade union after the Islamic Republic had banned workers’ independent trade unions created during the 1979 revolution and had replaced them with state sponsored “Islamic Labor Councils” and the “House of Labor.”

In December 2005, 3000 members of the officially unrecognized Syndicate went on strike to demand better pay. Since then Osanloo and other Syndicate members as well as their families have been viciously beaten, intermittently arrested and continually harassed by the Iranian government.

Sisters and Brothers:

It is my pleasure to address the ITUC congress today as a representative of Iranian workers and the Syndicate of the Workers of the United Bus Company in particular.

According to article 26 of the Iranian Constitution our union is legitimate. However, our government has not recognized our union since its reactivation in 2005. We are grateful for the recognition granted to our union by the International Federation of Transport Workers and also for the support of union associated with ITUC and global unions.

As I am speaking to you today, 40 members of our Syndicate have been unjustly fired by the company’s administration for their union activities in defense of workers’ rights. Therefore, we ask for your support in demanding that they be given back their jobs and assisted in overcoming this pain and suffering.

It took us seven years to build the foundation of our Syndicate. We regularly held Syndicate classes on weekends and discussed International Labor Union (ILU) documents about workers’ rights. We discussed working conditions based on the situation of the workers. Some cases concerned health and safety, long working hours and the administration’s corruption. This struggle may not be unlike climbing a mountain. If you rush, you run out of breath but if you do not proceed with strength and discipline, you will never achieve the goal.

I could not have spoken in Brussels at a better time. I welcome the report prepared by the Free Association Cmte. Of the ILU . . . .In this report, it has been stressed that the “House of Labor” could not follow through on the demands of the bus drives. This is not surprising considering that the “House of Labor” and Islamic Labor Councils had been created by the government for the principal role of watching workers at the workers, and not defending them!

It is not only the Bus Company workers and their families in Tehran who suffer from this system. The government is now discussing the plan to privatize over 80% of industrial companies, including banks, the media, transporation and mines. These are currently managed by the government. This is a revision of the economic “principles” that are clearly stated in the Constitution. This will increase the gap between poor and rich. The poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.

That is why we have witnessed protests in the oil industry, among teachers, in the textile industry, food industry, construction and transportation. Even the unemployed workes and women have joned the protesters.

Worst of all are the revisions in the labor laws that will legitimize firing workers and paying lower wages to temporary workers. This revision will leave the door open for firing permanent workers and replacing them with temporary workers. Workers hired by companies that employ fewer than 10, will no longer be covered by the labor law.

Even now, many workers have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is very high. Some unemployed workers have resorted to becoming street vendors, smuggling drugs or selling their children to human traffickers for $150 U.S. dollars out of desperation or because of drug addiction. I know that this is unbelievable. But I myself have seen such a case.

That is why our aim is to rebuild a wider workers’ movement in Iran and not only a movement of the Bus Company workers of Tehran. We hope to start a nationwide federation of unions. As I am speaking to you now, I can say that in different sectors such as construction, painting, baking and even some sectors of large industry, workers are in the process of creating free and independent organizations of their own. Thanks to the support you have given our labor movement, Iranian workers have learned how to organize free and democratic associations, and realize how international labor solidarity will make them stronger and immune to violations. In reality we attempted to start this struggle without basic preconditions such as a meeting place and other material and technical-organizational preconditions. We lost our meeting place and have paid a price for it. In order to expand our union activities, we need your support to obtain computers, other technical instruments, a union office and educational and instructional materials.

In this path, some of us have gone to prison. The imprisoned comrades and their families need any kind of humanitarian and financial and technical support. In fact, we are asking you not to deprive us of your support and solidarity as workers in this struggle against suppression. This support will give us greater strength to withstand to reach our goal. We will be grateful for your support.

I want to thank the secretary general of the ITU. If you had not so quickly acted during the December 2005 Christmas holiday when I was arrested for the first time, our situation would not have received the international support that it has received up to now.

We look forward to your continuing solidarity with our struggles as we step forward in this path. . . I feel confident and strong because I know that the international labor union movement is behind me. Iranian authorities know this as well. Instead, we will remain an inspiration as part of the international labor union movement for global peace and justice.

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Statement by Tehran Bus Workers Syndicate

It is clear to all that the demands of the majority of Iranian society goes far beyond economic demands. During the past few years, we have emphasized that so long as the principle of freedom of organization and choice is not realized, any talk of social freedom and economic rights is more a joke as opposed to reality.

Excerpts from Statement by Tehran and Suburbs Bus Workers Syndicate
Published in http://www.ettehadeh.com/
Translated by Frieda Afary

Translator’s note: The Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate has been in the forefront of Iranian labor struggles since 2005. Their leader Mansour Osanloo has has been languishing in prison since the Summer of 2007. Other members of the organization have been under attack and in and out of prison.

“We Condemn the Suppression and Intimidation of Civil Institutions”

During the past few days we have witnessed the passionate struggle and presence of millions of women, men, old and young, ethnic and religious minorities in Iran . They demand that the government recognize their most basic rights, that is, their right to choose freely, independently and without fraud. This right has been recognized in most parts of the world where every effort is made to protect it. In the midst of this situation, we have witnessed intimidation, arrests, murders and an egregious crackdown which is about to expand and lead to the deaths of many innocent human beings. This crackdown will only lead to more protests among the people, and not their retreat.

The Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate had said the following in a statement that it had issued prior to the June 12 presidential election. “In the absence of freedom of organization, our organization is naturally deprived of a social institution that would protect it. The Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate considers political activity to be the definite right of each member of society. If the presidential candidates present their labor charter and give us practical guarantees on their election promises in relation to labor, workers have the choice to participate or not participate in this election.”

It is clear to all that the demands of the majority of Iranian society goes far beyond economic demands. During the past few years, we have emphasized that so long as the principle of freedom of organization and choice is not realized, any talk of social freedom and economic rights is more a joke as opposed to reality.

On the basis of this reality, the Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate supports those who are giving their all to build a free and independent civil institution. We condemn any kind of suppression and intimidation.

In order to recognize economic and social rights in Iran, Friday June 25 has been declared an international day of support for imprisoned workers and trade unions in Iran. We are calling on everyone to consider this day to be more than a defense of economic rights. Let’s transform this day into a commemoration of human rights in Iran and ask our fellow workers around the world to take actions in defense of the pummeled rights of the majority of Iranians.

For the Expansion of Justice and Freedom
Vahed Workers Syndicate
June 2009

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New Persian Translation of Marx's Capital (Translator's Preface)

A year after its publication, the new Persian translation of Marx's Capital has sold out in Iran and is undergoing a reprint. Translator Hassan Mortazavi explains why he felt compelled to translate Capital anew, years after the publication of Iraj Eskandari's translation in 1973.

Hassan Mortazavi’s Preface to the new Persian translation of Marx’s Capital, Vol. I.
Tehran: Agah Publishing, 2008
Preface translated by Frieda Afary

Any reader of this work will no doubt ask why volume one of Capital has been translated anew. It has been 33 years since the first Persian translation was made by Iraj Eskandari in 1973. Clearly, he was the first to take on the monumental task of translating this work. As such, he has played a worthy role in introducing Marx’s greatest theoretic work. However, during the past three decades, the Persian language, Iranian society and the international situation have undergone great developments. The translation of works written in a variety of languages by thinkers in the field of humanities, the prevalence of critique and examination among Iranian intellectuals inside Iran and abroad, and the relatively common usage of more integral terms for the articulation of economic and somewhat philosophical categories foreign to our history and culture, have created the basis for a development that is unprecedented when compared to the last three decades.

On the other hand, we have seen important transformations on the political geographic and international governmental scenes and hence in the dominant discourse in thought. These have created massive changes in previously held perspectives. Thirty three years ago, during the era of the Cold War, the purpose of translating and publishing Capital was in Eskandari’s words: “To fill the large void in Iranian Marxist literature” (Capital, Vol. I, Eskandari, 1973, p. 16) “A hundred years after the publication of Capital, today, Marxist theories are the sharpest weapons of the toilers of the earth, not only in countries that have broken the yoke of capitalism to make the building of socialist and Communist societies their goal, but also in the entire world, from the most backward places to the most advanced countries.” (Ibid.)

But now we live in an epoch when utopian perspectives, revolutionary theories and Marxist theory itself are facing difficult challenges that demand deep examination and deep thinking. Obviously, one of the means for this examination consists of primary Marxist sources. Clearly, Capital is the most primary source. However, these means have been subjected to different interpretations ranging from structuralist and economistic to humanist ones. More importantly, our knowledge of the creation of Capital itself has undergone important changes which cannot be compared to the time when this work was first translated. In addition to changes in our knowledge, the categories that articulate this knowledge have also been going through constant change.

There is no doubt that the author, and less so the translator of any important economic, philosophic and social work, senses all these tensions and discontinuities, is influenced by the times and its changing categories, and clearly leaves her or his own mark on a work or translation as a result of the knowledge that she or he gains from the process of its creation. Just as Eskandari’s translation was in his own style, a reflection of the spirit of his time, the present translation exhibits the tension-ridden and inquisitive spirit of the present epoch.

Contemporary Marx scholars’ grasp and understanding of the process of creation of Capital have undergone great changes in the last few decades. These changes have been the results of great transformations in the international and social scene. The death of Stalin, the division within the Socialist camp, and the crises of the 1960s and 1970s led to a resurgent interest in Marx and the translation of many of his unknown works. Among these, were the translation of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (First published in the original language in 1933 in Berlin) which exploded the myth that there was a contradiction between the young Hegelian Marx who was not very familiar with material and economic realities, and the old economist Marx who was freed from Hegelian dialectics. The economic language of the young Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts and the philosophic language of the old Marx’s Capital, are not two separate stages but one process of development. Based on this fact, we can see the mechanical understanding of a structuralist philosopher like Althusser who condemns chapter one of Capital for the abundance of its Hegelian expressions and asks readers to start with chapter two which has a “more realistic and economic” language. Unfortunately as Herbert Marcuse argues, Marx adopts a completely philosophic direction in his most economic work and an economic direction in his most philosophical work!

Later, the Grundrisse(first published in the original language during the years 1939-1941 in Moscow) was published in English and French. This product of the mature Marx “destroys the fetishism of historians, and traces instead the movement of history, thereby disclosing people as part of the 'absolute movement of becoming,"as shapers of history." (Dunayevskaya.Philosophy &Revolution.Lexington Press, 2003, p. 63) The two axes of the Grundrisse , that is, “pre-capitalist economic formations” and “Machinery” manifest the integral unity of philosophy and economics. “The failure to come to grips with the Grundrisse has little to do with ‘Hegelianism’ and everything to do with the Marxism of Marx ‘refusing’ to become either a dogmatism or a discipline, be it economic or historic, philosophic or sociological.”(Ibid.)

The next important development was the publication of a new edition of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels (MEGA) in 1991, which in separate volumes included all the other versions of volume one of Capital as edited by Marx or Engels. In this way we can see which important parts of the 1872-75 French edition have not been included in the final version, i.e. the fourth German edition published in 1890 (the edition that Engels considered “final” and which Eskandari used).

The important aspect of the 1872-75 French edition is that it “was no mere translation. Not only did Marx, in editing it himself, make more precise many basic formulations but he greatly expanded some sections, especially the crucial section on Accumulation of Capital, as well as the most discussed section on the fetishism of commodities.” (Kevin Anderson, “The ‘Unknown’ Marx’s Capital, Volume I: The French Edition of 1872-75, 100 Years Later” in Review of Radical Political Economics, V. 15:4 p. 72) Marx himself thought that this translation possessed a scientific value independent of the original and even recommended its reading to readers completely familiar with German. “Marx left with Engels the task of incorporating the changes from the French into a new German edition on which he was working at the time of his death.”(Op.Cit., p. 73) In the fourth or 1890 German edition of Capital, Engels declared that he had “scrupulously followed Marx, and it was so accepted by the post-Marx Marxists and Marx scholars. But Engels was not only hampered in this task by his own earlier attitude and preference for the earlier German edition of 1867, but he did not in fact, incorporate all of Marx’s changes.”(Ibid.)

Here, I do not intend to examine the importance of the French edition in great detail because I have included an article by Kevin Anderson which allows readers to comprehend the value and importance of this edition. I would only point out that for reasons mentioned earlier, Eskandari’s translation is incomplete because it does not include many of Marx’s later additions in the writing of the French edition.

In his preface, Eskandari writes that he first started his translation from the French translation by Joseph Roy (The translator of the 1872-75 French edition). He even points out that “Joseph Roy’s translation is distinctive in that Karl Marx was personally involved in its arrangement and even corrected and composed parts of it in French. . . However, during the course of comparing it with the German text [the 1890 edition by Engels] it became clear that Joseph Roy had engaged in a free style of translation and hence in many cases, phrases in the German text have been either deleted or changed according to the translator’s style.”(Capital, Vol. I, Iraj Eskandari, 1352[1973], p. 16). And this [decision by Eskandari] took place even though Marx, in his response to Engels’ unwelcoming attitude toward the French text, had written that many parts in the French edition were “better than in German.”(Ibid.). Nevertheless, Eskandari felt obliged to compare his translation of the French text with the German text [1890] “sentence by sentence” in order to “remove the previously mentioned defects.”(Eskandari, p. 16) In effect, the fourth German edition became the main source of the Persian translation, without including many of the changes which Marx had introduced in the French edition.

Even worse, based on Eskandari’s translation, it is impossible to tell in what part, Marx’s revision in the French edition has been included, in what part the text of the German edition has changed, and in what part it has remained untouched. It is impossible to tell what constitutes Engels’s additions and finally, where the translators of the English edition (Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling) have introduced changes in Marx’s text. In the end one wonders if this is really a translation of what Marx finally had in mind or a synthesis of various editions of Capital and Engels’s views.

From the vantage point of the ideologues of the Second and Third Internationals and later Russian theoreticians and naturally Eskandari who was following them (and to be more exact, from the vantage point of a generation of Marxists, be they past or present) Marx and Engels have been a single and indivisible body. Consequently, whatever Engels said is what Marx had in mind. It is based on this logic that Eskandari does not doubt that Engels’s edition is the final version even though he can see and read otherwise. And even where he quotes from the French edition, he does not neglect to mention that “following the German edition of Capital which has been published by the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, we include the translation of the aforementioned paragraphs as footnotes.” (Capital, Vol I, Eskandari, 1352(1973), p. 564)

The best way to compare and contrast the various editions of Capital is to follow what has been done in the new edition of MEGA (Marx-Engels Complete Writings). They have published the various editions of Capital and Marx’s own manuscripts and have analyzed the changes and additions in separate volumes. Unfortunately we do not have the capability to translate all the various editions of volume I. However, to the extent possible, we have tried to reexamine this work as it has been published in different editions. In reality, we have attempted to reveal that for Marx, Capital was not a final text with minor changes in subsequent editions. Viewing the text as final is absolutely not compatible with the reality of the creation of the text. So long as Marx lived, he continued to rewrite the text of volume I and even planned to completely review it. (See the Dec. 13, 1881 letter from Marx to Danielson).

And finally, Marx felt the need for a breakthrough in the realm of human thought and further developed that breakthrough. The creation of such a breakthrough (reason or new logic) inevitably transcended the existing language (the inherited product of old reason) and in Hegel’s language was a process of “becoming.” Why? Because it was an untrodden path (language). It was a way to create a compass without having a compass in hand! This compass could only be reached after trodding this path.

Taking this path via the power of “abstraction” is necessary for creating a language that is capable of articulating the new heights of the new reason. This new language will most likely empty the paradigms of the current language of their content in order to partially replace them with new concepts, and to create new paradigms! This task is impossible when pragmatism and the politics of the day are dominant, and theoretically guided action is belittled and denigrated. At best this task is “arduous.”

The new Persian translation of Capital is based on four sources:

1. Capital, Volume 1. London: Penguin and New York: Vintage, 1976. This is Ben Fowkes’s English translation which includes a long introduction by Ernest Mandel that is essentially based on the 1890 German edition.

2. Le Capital, Livre I, Paris: Messidor/Editions Sociales, 1983. This is Jean-Pierre Lefebvre’s very precise and excellent translation which includes his comprehensive introduction. This translation is also based on the 1890 German edition.

3. Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Okonomie. Erster Band, Hamburg, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1991 in volume II/10 of the new MEGA which includes a long appendix that compares all the additions and defects of the previous editions and the latest edition of Capital as well as the differences of the 1872-75 French edition. This volume has been published by a group of scholars at the Berlin Labor Institute, headed by Ronald Nietzold.

4. Le Capital, Paris 1872-75 (Berlin, Dietz Verlag, 1989) in volume II/7 of the new MEGA which includes a long appendix.
First, the entire text of the Ben Fowkes translation was translated into Persian. In the process of this translation many differences between the Fowkes translation and the 1890 German edition were found. Once again, the entire Persian text was compared with Jean Pierre Lefebvre’s translation. This time, the Persian translation was based on Lefebvre’s edition. At this stage, the text was compared with the 1890 German edition.

In the meantime, my friend and colleague, K. Buyeri, compared the Persian text with Joseph Roy’s French translation which had been fully reexamined by Marx. We singled out the changes one by one. Subsequently, these changes were once again compared with Apparat II/7 and Apparat II/10 which are the appendices to volumes II/ 7 and II/10 of MEGA and specify the differences between the French edition and the 1890 edition. Then, to the extent possible, we specified the additions and changes in the second, third, fourth editions and Engels’s additions in the various editions, as well as differences between the Moore/Aveling translation and the Ben Fowkes translation, especially concerning quotations from original English sources. Our text has also been compared with Eskandari’s translation. In cases where Eskandari has better articulated a point or offered illuminating explanations in his footnotes, those points have been preserved.

In order to make it easier for readers, the additions to the French edition that have not been included in the 1890 German edition, have been specified in the margins of the present edtion. In this way, the reader can easily see the differences between the 1872-75 French and the 1890 German edition. These changes fall into two categories: Either whole passages have been added to the French edition, or a passage or sentence has been expressed differently in the French text. In the text and the footnotes, explanations by the English translator, Ben Fowkes, the French translator, Lefebvre, and the Persian translator have been specified with the initials e.t., f.t., p.t. and marked with an asterisk. All other explanations in the footnotes are from Marx and in some cases from Engels which have been identified as such. Explanations within the text offered by the Persian translator, by the French and German translators and by Marx himself have been separately identified respectively. In order to avoid confusion, all the translators’ explanations which concern individuals, events and subjects, have been transferred to the end of the book. On this basis, four indexes have been provided: A Persian-English- French-German glossary, a name index, a subject index, a general index. The book ends with a bibliography of works used by Marx. To the extent possible, all the non-German words, have been provided both in Persian and in Latin letters.

The organization of the fourth (1890) German edition is similar to that of Roy’s French translation and different from the original (1867) German edition or Lefebvre’s later translation. Both English translations have followed Engels fourth German edition. For the Persian edition, we have used the organization of the fourth German edition.

First I need to thank K. Boveiri more than anyone else. He assisted me during the long process of translating Capital. In my opinion, the importance of his work is such that he should be called the second translator. I would also like to thank Mr. Kamal Khosravi who carefully examined the first chapter and made important suggestions. He is the one who translated section 4 of chapter 1, known as “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret” by using the German text. . . .

March 2007

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