[Marxism] Final word on the Islamic Republic

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 25 18:47:07 MDT 2006

Spent some more time today digging into the Proquest newspaper archives 
today to refresh my memory on the working class character of the revolution 
that was eventually shoved aside by the bazaari/cleric coalition. A 
Washington Post front-page article from November 1, 1978 titled "Workers 
Strike Iran's Oilfields; Army on Guard" begins as follows:

"A mass strike by oilfield workers cut deeply into Iran's production and 
export of oil yesterday and troops moved into position around Key oil 
installations to guard against sabotage.

"Informed sources said production was down to 2 million barrels a day, 
compared to a recent output of more than 5.3 million barrels.

"The strike also affected refinery operations, sharply reducing output at 
the Abadan refinery, where normal production is 600,000 barrels daily, and 
cut into exports of natural gas to the Soviet Union.

"Informed sources put the cost of lost oil revenues at $50 million a day. 
Iran is the world's second largest oil exporter and its annual income from 
this source is $22 billion.

"Information Minister Mohammed-Reza Ameli-Tehran said the government 
maintained 60 percent of its daily oil export quota of 5 million barrels 
yesterday. He did not say whether he expects exports to continue."

As it turns out, the oil refinery workers belonged to a trade union that 
was led by Tudeh, the CP in Iran. My guess is that the general strike that 
took place in late 1978 had much more to do with the overthrow of the Shah 
than any calls made by a cleric. To paraphrase Stalin: "The Pope? How many 
divisions has he got?" I'd just substitute the word Ayatollah for Pope.

It wasn't just the oil workers, even though they were the most powerful 
sector of the working class. Just like in May-June 1968 in France, the 
strike was joined by teachers, doctors, hospital workers, clerks, postal 
workers, telephone and television workers, transport and banking workers. 
After the banking workers went on strike, the urban masses burned hundreds 
of banks. They also discovered that in the last three months of the Shah's 
reign, $1 billion had been smuggled abroad by 178 members of the ruling 
class, including the Shah’s relatives. In my reading in Proquest, I could 
not find any reference to these actions being inspired by the Quran.

Around this time workers began to organize councils (shuras) that took 
control of the factories that the bourgeoisie had abandoned. During this 
period they ran the factories just as the Spanish workers did during the 
war against Franco in the 1930s. From September 1979 to June-July 1980, 
order is gradually restored. The Islamic Republic of Iran installed 
managers who were strongly opposed by the workers. As a tactic, the clerics 
set up joint worker-management 'shuras', no doubt appealing to their 
Islamic faith. When appeals to faith did not work, the blackjack helped.

Using the excuse that they were looking for Pahlavi agents (who had already 
been booted out), the Khomeini operatives set up "purging bodies" (Heyat-I 
Paksazi) that would keep an eye on rank-and-file workers. This was part of 
an overall process called "Islamicization" that was designed to silence or 
eliminate left forces, just as was happening in the universities at the 
very same time. They introduced compulsory prayer for the workers just as 
female students were being forced to wear the hejab. It is of course 
difficult for me to understand why Marxists would identify with the clerics 
who were pushing through these changes, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 
Newsweek reported that in this period:

"Islamic radicals and leftists were vying for power at the universities and 
in the streets. Ahmadinejad and some of his friends published a magazine 
called Jiq va Dad (Scream and Shout), to sell in front of Tehran 
University. Often, they argued with Marxists. 'Sometimes things would get 
physical, would come down to fists and kicks,' remembers Mohammad Ali 
Seyednejad, an employee at the Ministry of Education who knew Ahmadinejad 
in the old days."

Although I might have more to say on this when the thread is reopened down 
the road, as events dictate, the ability of people like Ahmadinejad to take 
control of the situation was helped by the utter bankruptcy of most of the 

The Tudeh Party followed the clerics blindly, adopting the same position on 
Khomeini that they have adopted with respect to bourgeois nationalists over 
and over again since the 1930s. Always looking for a progressive wing of 
the bourgeoisie to orient to, it didn't matter that Khomeini showed signs 
early on that he wanted to create an Islamic Republic. I understand the 
need for bourgeois democracy in their terms, but this hardly sounds like 
the Spanish Republic which sought the separation of church and state as a 
fundamental element of the capitalist restructuring of society.

The Maoists in the People's Fedayeen broke down almost immediately into a 
majority and minority faction, with the majority group eventually forming a 
bloc with the Tudeh and even taking up arms against the Kurds in the name 
of Marxism. The minority faction formed its own party and once again split 
into majority and minority groups around the same exact questions.

The Mohajedin were split into Muslim and Marxist factions. I don't have to 
tell you how they responded to Khomeini's initiatives.

If you want to understand the *tragedy* of the Iranian revolution, it is 
useful to study the Chinese revolution. In the late 1920s, you had a 
bourgeois nationalist KMT and a CP that was instructed to subordinate 
itself to the class enemy--all in the name of fighting imperialism. The KMT 
slaughtered the Communists who were not ideologically prepared for the 

To use a cliché, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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