“On Strike” Against US-Backed Shah
Prof. Richard Nelson Frye’s Letter to New York Times

The Mossadegh Project | Sptember 16, 2021                     


During the 1979 Iranian revolution and tense hostage ordeal, this letter to the editor comparing the crisis to labor strikes was published in the New York Times. The correspondent was a noted Iran-focused academic and author, Prof. Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014) of Harvard.

December 11, 1979

To the Editor,

The New York Times, Selective Outrage Perhaps we can better understand the Iranian crisis if we draw an analogy with union-management disputes.

It is not so long ago that in this country all strikes were illegal, and today some still are. Strike action is one of the last resorts of those people whose grievances are not met. And even though strikes may be illegal, their terminations are negotiated as part of a package, together with union demands.

In Iran, the mob, if you like, took an equivalent illegal action as a last resort in order to force the world, and the United States in particular, to hear their grievances. To demand an end to the illegal action is simplistic, just as would be a demand that unions stop illegal strikes without any mediation or arbitration of workers’ grievances.

The United States is faced with a situation where it needs to deal with both the grievances and the illegal occupation of its embassy. To avoid any repetition of the holding of diplomatic hostages, a respected international body where small nations can be assured of receiving just and equal treatment must be convened.

Moving the Shah to an American military hospital can be interpreted by already xenophobic Iranians as preparation for a possible military move on behalf of the Shah. At this time we need to open rather than close the door to negotiating the resolution of the crisis.

Aga Khan Professor of Iranian Studies, Harvard University Cambridge, Mass., Dec. 3, 1979

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Related links:

Shah Rules Iran With U.S. Weapons | Hassan F. Zandy (1973)

Crying For Blood | The Afro American on Iran, Dec. 8, 1979

“Selective Outrage” on Iran | New York Times letters, Nov.-Dec. 1979

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