The Iranian government today announced a program of nationalization for industry that will bring virtually every major private industry under state control in accordance with a decision taken by Iran's secretive, clergy-dominated Revolutionary Council.
An announcement by Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan on Iran radio this afternoon described the nationalization as "yet another gift to the barefoot people of Iran" following the nationalization of banks and insurance companies last month.
The nationalization will apply to all metal-processing industries including aluminum and copper, all industries involving the assembly of cars, ships or aircraft, as well as "big industries and mines whose owners amassed large fortunes through illegal relations with the previous regime and illegal use of public wealth."
Bazargan's government has not, however, given any details of the nationalization program. No mention has been made so far of compensation for foreign companies from the United States, Europe and Japan which had widespread holdings in industries that now are apparently nationalized.
Among the most prominent foreign investors are General Motors, which had a 45 percent stake in the assembly of Chevrolets and Jeeps, and DuPont, which had sunk substantial capital into a joint venture for the manufacture of synthetic fibers.
From Europe, Renault and British Leyland were partners in vehicle assembly operations while the Royal Dutch Shell group had a 30 percent interest in Pars Oil Company.
Just how far the program will go at this stage is not possible to determine. According to one of the criteria announced by the prime minister this afternoon, all industries whose debts exceed their assets will be swept into state control.
In the economic chaos of post-revolutionary Iran, observers point out, this clause could apply to a broad sector of industry in an economy in which investors as a rule made use of foreign money.
But the most far-reaching provision of the nationalization program was the takeover of all interests of 51 industrialists who had spearheaded the industrializations drive under the shah's government.
The list of names broadcast on Iran radio reads like a Who's Who of Iran's biggest industrial entrepreneurs, who had built up massive family empires and personal fortunes under the shah.
The program will be the most challenging that Iran's revolutionary authorities have so far undertaken in their bid to gain total control of the economy. In particular the nationalization will be a major test of their ability to find new mangement that can reconcile the demand of worker committees for higher pay and other benefits with normal commercial pressures.
While economic affairs are increasingly pre-occupying authorities, further clashes between the left-wing Islamic revolutionary organization, Mujaheddin-e-Khalq, and the supporters of Iran's religious leaders have also aroused concern. The latest incident was a grenade attack on the training grounds of the Islamic revolutionaries in the holy city of Qom.
Three members of the Mujaheddin were arrested after the attack and others were taken into what was described as protective custody when mobs reckoned at several thousand persons strong stormed the Qom headquarters of the leftist organization. The clashes came after several days of protest marches and sit-in demonstrations outside the Ministry of Justice in Tehran over the arrest and alleged torture of a member of the Mujaheddin.
But even more worrying for Iran's revolutionary leaders are reports of unrest within the armed forces.
Sources within the military police reported that 20 persons have been arrested and would be expelled after a strike in a Tehran-based regiment.
At the same time, junior officers (homafars) have warned that they will commence sit-ins at a number of air force bases if the military authorities do not respond to their demands for a council that would undertake the purge they are seeking of the Iranian air force.