Linkages of oil and politics: oil strikes and dual power in the Iranian revolution

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Looking at the oil strikes during the Iranian revolution (1978–79), this article challenges dominant narratives of the relationship between oil and politics and the processes that shaped the outcome of the revolution. The main arguments of the article are developed in a critical dialogue with Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy. Firstly, the article argues that the scale of the oil strikes and their central role in the creation of organs of revolutionary power call into question the generalization about the material characteristics of oil that supposedly prevented mobilization. Secondly, the article argues that the fact that oil workers were able to organize mass strikes, but failed to create an independent organization, calls for an explanatory approach that combines material factors with the role of consciousness, ideology and organization. This leads to a rereading of the Iranian revolution that highlights the essential role of the oil strikes in the emergence of dual power in early 1979, and the contingency of their outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalLabor History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Iran
  • Labor
  • Strikes
  • Oil


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