1978 is not 1917

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In his "Alternatives to Neo-liberalism" (July/August SR), Alex Callinicos writes: "The great revolutionary movements of the 20th century offered some glimpses of this power - from the workers' and soldiers' councils of the Russian Revolution of October 1917 to the workers' shoras during the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9."

As an Iranian intellectual, I appreciate Alex's high esteem of Iranian workers' struggle against capitalism and imperialism. However, I doubt the councils of the Russian Revolution and labour "shoras" during the revolution against the Iranian Shah have much in common.

Our revolution - politically led by the clergy and financially supported by traditional businessmen in the bazaar - had little concern for workers' living conditions, nor did it recognise their trade union rights. I still remember workers on strike in 1978-9 who used to close down factories and guard businessmen's merchandise against assaults made by the regime's agents.

After the revolution, the government urged workers to liquidate their syndicates and join the "shoras" where factory owners also had official representatives. This meant they had to say farewell to their right to strike action and unionism for decades.

It is beyond denial that many Muslim nations including Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, and also many Muslim immigrants in Europe are now at the very frontline of struggle against imperialism and neo-liberalism.

Despite that, we still have no right to sweep under the rug what shoras did to the Iranian workers.

Bidar Irani
Esfahan, Iran