Workers' Councils in Iranian Factories

by Chris Goodey
published in MER88

During July and August 1979 I visited a number of Iranian factories. There I held discussions and interviews with militants and activists of different political hues, and with ordinary working people, about the workers’ councils that have appeared in Iranian factories since the February 1979 revolution. My distinct impression is that large numbers of Iranian industrial workers have been through an extraordinary experience, which no outsider, even the most sympathetic, can record or convey. As far as I can gather, there has been little effort to institutionalize this experience, to generalize from it, or to coordinate activities among the councils of different factories.

A New International Division of Labor?

by James Petras
published in MER94

A number of theorists have recently put forth the notion of a “new international division of labor” in which the old colonial division of labor involving Third World exports of raw materials and imports of finished goods has been transcended. [1] According to this thesis, Third World countries have been industrialized to produce cheap labor-intensive manufacturing goods for export to the core capitalist countries in exchange for more advanced capital-intensive imports. The proponents of the new division of labor argue that this process reflects the new world capitalist rationality and logic.

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"I Have Not Seen a Good Day in My Life"

published in MER94

Interview with Hilmi Zaki:

Are you married?

Yes, and my wife is an orphan. I chose an orphan woman so that she struggles with me the way I struggled when I was young. Her father was a lawyer -- he died when she was young.

Where do you live?

"I Am Definitely a Product of the Revolution"

published in MER94

Interview with Ibrahim Araq:

We would like to begin by asking you the usual questions about your marital status, your salary, your age and so forth.

I am 31, married, but with no children. I work as an accountant at the National Library in Cairo (Dar al-Kutub). My net monthly pay is 29.77 pounds. My wife is a nurse at the Diabetes Institute and makes 28 pounds. I live in Maadi. My rent is 16.55 pounds a month; I pay 6 pounds and my wife 4 pounds for transportation each month. (At the exchange rate of the time, one Egyptian pound was worth $1.78.)

Could you describe your job for us?

Formation of the Egyptian Working Class

by Joel Beinin
published in MER94

The roots of the Egyptian working class reach back into nineteenth century when Muhammed ‘Ali (1805-1849), founder of the dynasty which ruled Egypt until 1952, initiated his abortive industrialization program. Beginning in 1819 his regime built European style factories in three major sectors: Military production, agricultural processing and textiles. The leading element was textiles. With the dramatic expansion of long-staple cotton cultivation after 1820, by the early 1830s 30 cotton mills were in operation with a labor force of 30,000. [1] But a decade later most of these new factories had failed because of inexperienced management, lack of adequate natural resources (especially fuel), peasant resistance to factory discipline and competition from Europe.

Origins of the Algerian Proletariat

by Mahfoud Bennoune
published in MER94

In the first part of this essay, not included here, Bennoune notes that in pre-colonial Algeria’s rural sector land was the basic factor of production, consisting of four predominant subsistence activities: agriculture, animal husbandry, fruit tree plantations and horticulture. Ecological conditions fostered a broad regional specialization of production. The precolonial rural population consisted of big landowners, peasant producers, and impoverished, landless cultivators. Both the economic structure and legal system regulating the property relations generated differential access to property before the French conquest. All the urban classes -- rulers, merchants, artisans -- depended on the land for their food and primary raw materials.

Introduction

by James Paul
published in MER94

The embryonic proletariat of the towns is in a comparatively privileged position. In capitalist countries, the working class has nothing to lose.... In the colonial countries the working class has everything to lose.
—Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Such are the workers of the Middle East. Considering their lot, one can hardly expect them to act as a unified political force. Their most direct and immediate competition is with each other.
—Manfred Halpern, The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa

The Syrian Labor Movement

by Elisabeth Longuenesse
published in MER110

‘Abdallah Hanna, al-Haraka al-‘Ummaliyya fi Suriya wa Lubnan, 1900-1945 [The Labor Movement in Syria and Lebanon, 1900-1945] (Damascus: Dar Dimashq, 1973).

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Social Bases for the Hama Revolt

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER110

During the first week of February 1982, serious fighting broke out in Syria between residents of the north-central city of Hamah and the government’s armed forces. A Syrian army raid on a number of buildings that were suspected of being hideouts for local cells of the Muslim Brothers precipitated the fighting. Brother militants foiled this operation using modern small arms and grenade launchers. They then attacked a variety of government installations, including the Hama headquarters of the police and of the Baath party, and also the airfield on the edge of town. By the second day of the fighting, mosques in some sections of the city broadcast calls for a general uprising against the country’s rulers.

The Yemeni UFW Martyr

by Nadine Naber
published in MER273

In the summer of 2014, director Diego Luna released Cesar Chavez, a feature-length retelling of the story of the 1973 grape pickers’ strike in California that inspired an international grape boycott and made Cesar Chavez a household name. In the film, the first person killed on a farm worker picket line was a Mexican bracero named Juan de la Cruz. In fact, de la Cruz was the third of five “United Farm Worker martyrs” to die violent deaths struggling for social justice in the vast fields of American agribusiness. The first was Nan Freeman, a young Jewish student helping a sugarcane strike in Florida, and the second was a Yemeni migrant called Nagi Daifallah.

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