The recent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran has not brought stability to the fractured ruling elite. The Iranian parliament has repeatedly blocked his attempts to appoint personal allies to the critical post of oil minister.
The row has exposed a three cornered fight between Ahmadinejad and his hard line, populist camp, a conservative and corrupt establishment, and the reform wing of the regime.
The tensions are spilling out beyond the ruling layer as conservative forces seek to push back the workers and radical democracy movements.
Prominent labour movement activists have recently been given prison sentences on charges arising from their attempts to hold a May Day celebration in the city of Saqiz last year.
Mahmoud Salehi of the Co-ordinating Committee for the Creation of a Workers’ Organisation has been sentenced to five years in prison and two years in exile. Jalal Husseini has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Mohsen Hakimi, Muhammad Abdipur and Borhan Divargar, other prominent figures in the workers’ movement, have been sentenced to two years in prison each. There are calls from prominent international figures, who all oppose military action against Iran, for their release.
A successful strike by textile workers in western (Kurdish) Iran shows that the state has not been able to crush radical opposition.
The strike, in the city of Sanandaj, began two months ago over the sacking of 36 workers. In addition to the reinstatement of the workers, the strike committee is demanding the introduction of permanent contracts and significant improvements in conditions.
After nearly two months of strike action the factory’s management has been forced to meet all the workers’ demands, including paying one month of the wages lost during the action and two months’ insurance.
The strike won a lot of support locally, notably from the workers of Shaho textile factory, as well as from workers around the country.
It points to a central problem facing Ahmadinejad. Part of his support at the election came from him presenting himself as a man of the people standing up to a corrupt elite. The divide between rich and poor has grown sharply over the last 15 years.
But that means he is under pressure to deliver and no amount of clampdowns on supposedly “immoral behaviour” is going to make up for failing to improve working class living standards.
Action Iran, the group campaigning against military intervention against Iran, is holding a fundraising dinner in London on Sunday of this week to help pay for delegates to the International Peace Conference next week. E-mail [email protected] for details.