Omid Rezaei’s report on AAWL Public meeting on how workers are organizing in Egypt, Turkey and Iran

Australia Asia Worker Links (AAWL) organized a meeting on September 4, 2013 in which they examined the role of labour movement in the Middle East and North Africa’s significant uprisings; it was tilted how workers are organizing in Egypt, Turkey and Iran.  AAWL is an organisation that has existed for many years to create links between the Australian working class and their brothers and sisters in Asia and other parts of the world.  They have recently been trying to develop new strategies to develop international solidarity.  They have talked a lot about how the reality of international solidarity work has been when organising on a country by country basis. Historically, it has been difficult to mobilize beyond the exile communities of that country and small groups of ultra political trade unionists.  As a result, the AAWL is going to seek to organise on a company and industry basis through the strategy of the “global picket line”.
 
Everyone present was from the AAWL.  This organisation is made up of trade union activists.  Among participants in the meeting were Piere Moro (AAWL coordinator) Chris Lee and Gregg Platt  (delegates from Community and public service union)  One Iranian comrade called Pouya, a comrade who is convenor for the tertiary teachers union, Andrew Ling from the Public Servants Union and Jiselle Hanna- Communications officer for AAWL. Unfortunately speakers from Egypt and Turkey dropped out at the last moment. 
 
I spoke about the situation in Iran since the beginnings of the Vahed syndicate and IASWI’s work in support of the Iranian labour movement and the Vahed Syndicate in particular.  Comrades were very interested in a number of points, first the level of militancy and organisation in Iran (so I spoke about this issue of precarious (White contract) terms of employment, the lack of the right to strike or form unions and other independent labour organizations, etc.) and areas of high militancy (Tehran transport, Sanandaj and Karaj, South West and Mashad.)
 
I was also asked about the immediate tasks of the workers movement in Iran, and so I spoke about the need for independent union recognition both by international organisations and Iranian state and employers.   We moved on to talk about the repression and I spoke about the recent arrests and trials of members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations. We discussed the most effective ways to build international solidarity.  AAWL seems to be moving from country based campaigns to industry and company based ones.  I said that I thought this a very interesting development, and that I could see it being effective, because of the example of the work IASWI did around building international solidarity with transport workers of Tehran that arguably went some way towards securing the release of certain comrades in Iran.
 
On this note, AAWL are holding a series of workshops on this policy they call The Global Picket Line; they are keen to know if we have any contacts in Australia who would participate.  In my view this idea is a very interesting one and one that could provide a potential way to develop methods of truly international action.
 
Towards the end of the meeting I was asked questions.  Comrades wanted to know to what extent the old pre revolution leftist groups had a sway over the working class in Iran and what new groups exist.  I answered to the best of my knowledge about the current trends in the Iranian workers’ movement. 
 
Because the meeting was very interested in sanctions/possible war etc.  I tried to make a clear and persuasive argument for the position that links the struggle against imperialism with the struggle for independent organisations; an argument I am sure all comrades are familiar with, so I will not recount it here. This was preaching to the converted, it turned out. 
 
I was introduced as a “spokesman” for IASWI; I thanked them but said that I could not speak formally or meaningfully on behalf of the organisation as neither was I an elected spokesman, nor do we have worked out public policies. 
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