A strike that does not put pressure on the economy is not a strike, it is a collective begging*
When seamen and sailors in the port of Sunderland in NE England protested against their living conditions, low wages and poor working conditions, in 1768, and gathered in front of the city’s bakeries and butchers whom with their low income they were unable to buy bread and meat from, a term was created in the Anglo-German dictionary (Strike), which has its roots not in these gatherings, but in what these workers subsequently did on the moored ships in the harbor: lowering the upper sails of the ships (Strike the sails). By doing so, the sailors not only shut down the ships, but also made it clear to their masters in seafaring language that victory belonged to them. In naval battles, lowering the ship’s upper sails was a sign of surrender. The Sunderland sailors stopped working and went on strike that year, and finally achieved their goals. In the same year, coal miners in London and the hatter’s class staged similar protests, and the same word was used symbolically as the Sunderland sailors. A new word was born, a new concept which its spiritual core was to “strike.” It was a new word. Battle, by no means.
The village that is today in the west bank of the Nile River in front of the present-day city of Luxor “Deir al-Madinah”, more than three thousand years ago was a village called “Set Maat” in front of an ancient city which is referred to in historical sources as “Thebes”. The name “Set Maat” has been translated as “Valley of Truth”. The “Valley of the Kings”, the tomb of the sons and successors of Ramses the Great, was built near this place, and its builders were once the inhabitants of the town of “Set Maat”. The Museum of Ancient Egypt in Turin holds a copy of a papyrus with the inventory number “P1880”, on which a description of the oldest workers’ strike in history ever found is engraved by the Amun Nekheth’s palace historian.
According to Amun Nekheth, guild craftsmen such as woodcutters, plasterers, stonemasons, builders and other guilds stopped working on November 4, 1159 BC, chanting “We are hungry!” They marched to the Great Temple and from there continued their protest march to “Medinet Habu”. The workers returned to their homes at night. The next day, bread was distributed among them, but the workers did not break the strike and went back to Habu. This time the workers stayed overnight. The priests came the next day and paid all the workers’ arrears, but the workers continued their strikes.
Amun Nekheth reports three periods of labor strikes in ancient Egypt, the last of which took place on February 25, 1158 BC. All three strikes are recorded in the history of labor struggles as successful examples of union demands. All three give valuable lessons to labor activists of all times:
The employer understands only one language and that is the language of economics.
Achieving demands is not possible except through unity and solidarity.
Stability and endurance in the strike is the first condition for success.
One should never be satisfied with anything less than all the demands; Promises or granting of part of the demands, is the trick of the employers to break the strikes.
Strike means hitting. This was understood by the Egyptian workers too.
More than a week has passed since the massive strikes of oil, gas and petrochemical workers in Iran. Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers’ strike passed its 59th day. The employers, who failed to break their strike after two months, sent clerics and missionaries from their temples to deceive the workers in their religious garb.
The women of Haft Tappeh strikers also took to the streets in support of their husbands:
On Qeshm Island, park workers also went on strike to protest the non-payment of their salaries and benefits for several months and staged a protest march:
Hepco Arak workers who are on strike for the tenth day in a row have been threatened with arrest and harassment by employers. According to telegram channels attributed to the workers, the management of Hepco first promised them to pay part of their arrears, and then threatened the workers with arrest when they refused to break the strike and refrain from gathering in front of the company. In response to these events, the Hepcois issued an open letter on Wednesday. A part of this letter states:
“Recently, in an interview with the Asr-e-Markazi, the director general of the Markazi Province Labor Office said that nothing would happen with the protests of the Hepco workers, and while supporting the current incompetent and unfaithful managers, promised to deal with the workers who have blocked the workplace. It is as if all the problems and issues of Hepco are due to the improper performance of the workers!
Dear Mr. Abai, incidentally, the suffering workers of the company have no interest in protesting and going on strike especially with the possibility of contracting coronavirus has increased more than before, concerns about security and the issuance of court rulings have added to this lack of interest, given previous records. […] We must inform you that the main concern of the workers of the company is not the payment of salaries; rather, the most important is the collection of empty promises made by the officials regarding solving the company’s problems; Most recently too, the transfer of the crisis-ridden Hepco to social security in lieu of government debt, and concerns about the fragmentation of controlling stakes and their sale, have doubled our concerns.”
Thus, according to the latest reports from labor activists in cyberspace, today, Wednesday, August 12, 2020, about 50 industrial centers in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, as well as power plants and other industrial centers are on strike. Workers want their arrears paid, wages raised and their living, work and housing conditions improved. They have learned their striking lessons and gained a lot of experience. The mullahs deceptions no longer affects them.
Translation of this post by Sahar.
*: Jürgen Peters, Head of Laborers Union, IG-Metall, 1944