Ahvaz Steel Workers' Strike

published in MER88

The workers of the Foster Wheeler-Tehran Jonub Company, part of the Ahvaz Steel Industry Contractors Company, today ended their 56-day strike following a meeting with Hojjat-ol-Islam Jannati and Engineer Gharavi, governor of Khuzestan. Dr. Sheybani, member of the board of directors for the National Iranian Steel Company, promised that the workers’ salaries for the strike period, as well as their new year bonuses, will be paid.

Commenting on the strike, Hojjat-ol-lslam Jannati explained that the decision to pay the workers for the strike period was based on the fact that these workers were the victims of a plot.

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Iran's Oil Workers

Ominous Silence

by Joe Stork
published in MER88

A shroud of silence seems to have enveloped Iran’s oil industry since last fall when the top oil official Hassan Nazih was dismissed under charges of treason, allegedly for failing to purge non-Islamic elements from the ranks of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Even production and export figures have become state secrets. Reports of difficulties in maintaining the officially sanctioned production level of 3.5 million barrels a day are almost impossible to confirm.

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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.


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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