December 24, 2010

WHEN THE PRICE OF BREAD GOES UP REGIMES COME DOWN:

A spirit is haunting the mullahs (AMIR TAHERI, December 24, 2010, NY Post)

[F]or the first time, the message of independent trade unionists appears to be finding some resonance among Iran's working people at large.

There are several reasons:

First, the government's decision to end subsidies for bread, water, electricity and gasoline is beginning to hit low-income groups. By the government's own estimates, the end of subsidies could add more than 20 percent to the cost of living.

The government is trying to ease the burden for the poorest families through direct cash payments. But such payments don't cover more than half of the higher cost of living, according to official estimates.

Second, is the emergence of a new generation of activists among independent trade unionists. Older leaders such as Osnaloo, Shahabi and Mahmoud Salehi (a bakers' union leader who's also in prison) remain an inspiration. But the actual task of fighting for workers' rights has revolved to younger leaders.

Where the older leaders had been careful to steer clear of politics, the new leaders appear to believe that without political reform workers' conditions can't be improved.

Finally, international sanctions are beginning to bite, forcing the closure of thousands of private businesses and dozens of state-owned concerns.

The Labor Ministry says the Iranian economy is losing an average of 3,000 jobs a day -- and many workers blame Ahmadinejad's "adventurous" foreign policy.

The stage is being set for a showdown between Iran's workers and the Khomeinist establishment. The outside world, including the international media, had better pay more attention.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2010 8:02 AM
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