INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL HISTORY
The end of the First World War in Iran was marked by the emergence of new political order,juxtaposed with new coercive institutions aimed at building a modern centralized state. The main task of the new state was to diminish provincial and tribal autonomy throughout the country and enhance the degree of interdependencies between the provinces. The new policy of centralizing government power was along with the implementation of widespread political and economic reforms that accelerated the process of urbanization and industrialization, all being underway since the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1909).
With the consolidation of such political development, there was also the refashioning of the civil right and civil society discourse,supported by non-coercive institutions such as political parties, press, guilds and labor unions,cultural associations and private schools; crafted a new identity for the Iranians, an autonomous statues, now being the citizens of a modern nation-state, rather than subjects of an ancient ancient ancient empire.
The arrival of urban labor movement in the country’s public sphere manifested itself in
organized and non-organized workers engaged in mass activities, not only calling for better working and living conditions, but also for the recognition of their civil rights by the modern state, the state that was expected to be accountable against the society at large. Although in interwar period the society enjoyed a persistent development, the endurance and functionality of civil society’s institutions were subjected to the degree of coercive measures adopted by the new state. While during the first half of this period, the political parties, labor unions and cultural associations sustained their activities in the major urban centers throughout the country; in the second half of this period, the accelerated coercive measures led the civil society’s institutions into a dormant state. However, the cultural impact fashioned by these institutions during their functional life, added new dimensions to the civic culture that somehow lasted in the country and extended to the period followed. Indeed, as I argue in this paper, the
outbreak of the labor movement in Iran during and after the Second World War – the largest labor movement in the Middle East – was partly imbedded in the labor movements of the interwar period.
It is the aim of the present study to revisit the emergence of social-democratic and labor movement in the interwar Iran and examine its contribution to the refashioning the discourse of civil right and civil society in the country
T Frances Perkins 4th United States Secretary of Labor