As the new wave of nationwide labor strikes develop in Iran, leftist student continue to play a critical role in popularizing the voice and demands of the oppressed workers. Students have been at the forefront of challenging the state-imposed and rigid center-periphery relations that separated the urban middle class from historically and systematically dispossessed, national minority-based and undeveloped margins, areas where the new labor movement is currently arising from.
One of the important creative efforts by students has been the establishment of accessible journals and communication platforms that would regularly cover labor strikes from different corners of the country. Students journalists have been physically travelling to places like Haft Tapeh in Ahwaz to interview the organizers and document their strikes. The online journal “Gam” (step) became one of the largest and most successful platforms with such vision. Founded in 2016, the journal used the Telegram app as well as other social media platforms to reach broad and diverse audiences. The magazine covered a variety of cultural and political topics from leftist perspective and offered critical writings in political economy, art and philosophy in addition to live coverage of labor actions in Haft Tapeh and other parts of the country.
On January 10th, Sanaz Allahyari and Amir Hossein Mohammadi Fard, editorial and founding members of Gam magazine were arrested in their home by state security forces and were sent to the ministry of intelligence prison of Ahwaz. Asal Mohammadi, another labor activist and a student at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Azad University of Tehran which also wrote article for Gam magazine was arrested at her home by security forces on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, was released a month later on bail and is now awaiting the announcement of her court appearance.
Ali (Amir) Amirgholi is currently the fourth and most recent journalist from Gam magazine to be arrested in recent weeks. A source with knowledge of his case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on January 16, 2019, that someone posing as Amirgholi had contacted his father after Amirgholi was detained.
Gam Magazine, Leftist Writers And New Bottom Up Labor Politics
Sanaz Allahyari is a graduate of accounting from Ghazvin university while Amir Hossein Mohammadi Fard studied anthropology at Payame-e-Noor university in Tehran. The two were members and of an important student organization called Association of Students for Freedom and Equality (Daab) which was established in 2006. The organization published critical writings from socialist perspective and organized a variety of labor related seminars and actions such as commemoration events for international women’s day as well as labor day. The organization was brutally oppressed in 2007 and the two spent a period of time in prison. Amir Hossein was also interrogated in the early days of the nationwide protests of December 2017.
In one of his articles Amir Hossein Mohammadi Fard writes:
“ there are two spontaneous movements currently in process: one is the movement of the working class and the dispossessed segments of the society with the desire of freedom from poverty and oppression, and the second movement is the right wing and reactionary movement that aims for the mere revival of the dying economic regime. The spontaneous movement of the dispossessed and accused masses is a hope for freedom from the miserable living conditions across the Middle East, while the answer of the bourgeois movement to the current economic crisis is nothing but reactionary slogans ranging from “return to the glorious past” and “territorial integrity” to religious nationalism whose only message is the destruction of human life in the region!”
In one of his last articles before his arrest Amir Amir Gholi made a thorough critique of Pahlavi monarchists in the diaspora who are hoping to come back to power once the Islamic Republic regime is gone. He wrote:
““monarchy is the plague of humanity…Reza Pahlavi and his followers claim that in order to prevent the fragmentation of Iran and also for the unity of the different ethnic and national groups who live within the geographical borders of so called Iran, we need a national symbol called the King. They imagine all these communities flying around the King like butterflies praising a candle light, and that would keep the holy borders of their Aryan nation intact.” He ended the piece by writing “supporters of the status quo say that ‘the left only knows what it doesn’t want, it doesn’t know what it does want’. Our alternative for running the country is councils. From right now we can see the fear in their beautiful eyes, the fear of an empowered working class. Workers councils in factories, neighborhood councils in the cities. The foundation needed for creating councils across the country in order to manage collective affairs is in people’s hands. People know better than anyone how to run their own affairs, and they don’t need the self-appointed elitist leaders. We no longer need the shiny specter of bourgeois democracy to vote every couple of years to choose who we want in power to dispossess us.”
In an article from the early days of the 2017 popular uprisings Asal Mohammadi wrote:
“During the days when the Islamic Republic was proud of itself for victories against ISIS in Syria, and was enjoying a stable position and hegemony in region, and a few months before it had carried its presidential election with a big turnout and public excitement, it looked as if the new government of Rouhani, with 24 million votes, was enjoying an ideal domestic situation as well as reduced tensions internationally (apart from Trump and Saudi Arabia’s controversies ) But exactly at a time when it was least expected, the state was hit with a mass popular uprising in the streets by people who demanded an end to poverty, joblessness, high inflation and systemic corruption. Instead of listening to people’s demands, the state directed the accusations towards the other political party, but soon all political parties of the state were united and began calling the protests “a plot orchestrated by foreign enemies”. This is a reaction which on the one hand reflects the state’s helplessness in dealing with what its confronted with, a form of denialism, and on the other their disbelief in a power which, in Marx’s words, has nothing to lose but its chains.”
“The nuclear deal which the Rouhani cabinet was so proud of as part of its diplomatic achievements suddenly fell apart with the US exiting from the deal. This worsened the ill condition of Iran’s neoliberal economy. But Iran’s economic illness is neither due to its climatic and geographic positioning, nor is it a natural virus rooted in its flora and fauna. The sickness of Iran’s economy is rooted in its contradictions. You can’t have a capitalist economic base and cover it with an anti-capitalist facade. You can’t implement neoliberal policies under the name of “helping the poor” and then expect cooperation from the people who are suffering under the contradictions. The state knows very well that the people who came to the streets didn’t come out asking “where is my vote” but came out asking “where is my home and my bread”?. But in order to justify the barbaric oppression of this uprisings, both reformist and principalist parties of the establishment portrayed this uprising as a “plot” organized by the US and its regional allies.”
Attacks Upon One Are Attacks Upon All
Gam magazine is a clear example of the emerging third way bottom up politics which neither accepts capitalist greed, tyranny and militarism at home nor external imperialist aggression from abroad.
The current wave of arrest and oppression of leftist students is only expected to escalate as Iran’s nationwide labor uprising continues to evolve. Anti-authoritarian and humanist socialists must be their voice and not allow the Iranian regime’s attacks to continue without international uproar. Attacks against labor, women, students and oppressed minority movements in Iran are an attack upon all voices fighting for a better future in the Middle East and beyond.
January 24, 2019