Tehran, May Day 2006
Unlike last year, when the Labour House (1) held its May Day celebrations inside a hall, this year the ceremonies were held in the street. This is because the Labour House knew that it could not have complete control over a big gathering of workers in a hall. When a large number of workers have gathered in a hall, then if a group in a corner starts chanting a slogan it can be a factor in spreading the slogan to the rest of the hall.
But in a street rally, because the assembled ranks are spread across the length and breadth of the street, then if a section of the ranks begins chanting a slogan it will be difficult for it to spread to the rest of the ranks. Therefore, if a section of the ranks gets out of the Labour House's control, it would still be possible for the officials to keep the other sections under their control. Nevertheless, the pressure on the workers has reached such a level that all sections of the ranks were chanting radical slogans and it was not possible for the Labour House administrators to keep control.
The Labour House administrators' problem went beyond the problem of controlling the ranks in the way they wanted. Their problem was to keep possession of the microphone and try to direct and influence the proceedings with what they said on the microphone.
From 9am on Monday May 1st, from all the routes that lead to Taleghani Street, opposite the former US Embassy, the workers came to the assembly point on buses or on foot. Once there the ceremonies began with a speech by Mohammad Sadeghi, one of the Labour House officials. Right from the start the workers who were at the front, and near the platform, tried with to chant slogans like "Leave Palestine alone, do something for us" and "Look at France, do something for us" and thus tried prevent anyone [supporting the regime] from speaking. This went so far that it made the presenter of the programme try rousing the religious sentiments of some of the workers by shouting "Woe, [Imam] Hossein has been killed" several times. This was meant to control the proceedings that were going to get out of the Labour House's control and to regain the upper hand. But they were not successful, because this slogan can be used everywhere except when the backs of the workers and toilers is under the crushing pressure of the capitalists and also the workers can pose their own slogans.
The workers from the various provinces were wearing headbands, all of which had slogans on them. On the headbands of workers from Qazvin it was written "Strike, strike". On the headbands of the students it was written: "Organisation is our obvious right" and on the armbands of the stewards "The Labour Code is a memorial to the Imam"! (2)
When the organisers saw that the situation might become dangerous, they tried to bring the proceedings to a quick end; as a result Mahjoob and Rabiee spoke quickly and left the event.
The force of the slogans was such that Sadeghi did not have the chance to read out the resolution. Slogans like "Nuclear energy is our obvious right" and other government slogans that had been prepared earlier petered out among the mass of workers.
The intensity of the workers' chanting kept growing by the minute, so much so that, the presenter announced that the ceremony had finished! This was because the workers had surged towards the platform and wanted to grab the microphone. At this time the presenter shouted at the workers to not surge towards the platform and finally was forced to throw himself at the mercy of the security forces by saying: "Brothers of the security forces stop them". Things got so far [out of their control] that a few workers got up on the platform and hung on to it with all their strength. This was when Sadeghi was pleading with the workers to get down. At this point the workers denounced the speaker with the slogan "Useless minister, resign, resign" and the microphone was cut off.
With the slogans "Employment, employment, is our obvious right; job security is our main demand" and "Unity, unity, workers, unity" the workers began applauding and at the same time repeating the slogans. These slogans were repeated for 10 minutes and after that the workers calmly moved towards Tehran University. The workers from Qom were walking at the front of the rally and carried a large placard with "Temporary contracts must be revoked" and "End slavery" written on it.
At the same time the workers from Bushehr [on the Gulf coast], who with their big drum had the biggest role in disrupting the proceedings, made a lot of noise whenever the presenter was putting forward his slogans. So much so that Sadeghi had to shout and ask them to stop the drumming! But more than ever before the workers continued with the march and, in tune with the drum beats, were saying: "Today is a day of mourning, the Iranian workers are in mourning today!" and the crowd continued on its route.
At this time the commander of the security forces came among the workers and told them to end the rally!
The workers went to the area near Hafez Bridge and the security forces tried to stop the ceremonies but met with resistance from the workers and had to retreat. At this moment the workers chanted the slogans "Jailed workers must be freed" and "Organisation is our obvious right". Taleghani Street was booming.
Various press agencies were there and most workers held interviews with the BBC. When the reporters from Agence France-Presse heard the slogan "Look at France, do something for us", they were surprised as well as amused.
In amongst these events, the interesting point was the help of the workers from Qom province who led the rally and, more than anyone, warmed up the proceedings with their slogans and encouraged other workers to continue with the event. And even more interesting than this was the fact that workers were attacking the cameras of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, and would not let them have any interviews, as they knew that the interviews would be broadcast in a selective way. The protests had gone as far as Palestine Square when some workers were attacked by [the regime's] plain-clothed officers. The [uniformed] security forces, who were afraid that there might be a riot, intervened and no specific clashes took place.
Workers' Action Committee (Iran)
1 May 2006
Translated by Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network
According to various sources over 100 thousand men and women took part in the Tehran May Day protests.
(1) The Labour House is a body that for over 25 year
has served as a tool of the Iranian regime in suppressing genuine
workers' organisations. For example, in May 2005 it was used to attack
the independent trade union set up by the bus drivers of the Vahed
Company in Tehran.
(2) The Labour Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran was enacted when Ayatollah Khomeini (the Imam) was in power. Although it offered very limited protection to workers it has since been weakened even further on a number of occasions.