[Marxism] Anti-imperialism and the Iranian Revolution

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 2 09:45:29 MDT 2011

Anti-imperialism and the Iranian Revolution: Fetters of the past, 
potential for the future

The question of anti-imperialism has been much debated on the 
revolutionary left–particularly during most of the twentieth 
century. More recently, the question of imperialism has emerged 
once again—in regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but more 
particularly in how the left should approach a popular struggle 
within a nation whose state perceives itself as a bastion against 
imperialism, or more precisely against US domination.

As students demonstrated in the streets in cities in Iran after 
the June 2009 elections, some of the left, particularly in the 
Unites States, was split, or at least confused, about how it 
should relate to this uprising.  Should it support a movement 
challenging a regime that has been considered a bastion of 
anti-imperialist resistance?

The left in Iran already faced this question, with serious 
consequences, in the events around the revolution of 1979.   In 
order to better assess our situation today, we should perhaps go 
back to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to better understand the 
limitations set at that time, in order to better assess our 
situation today.  This question is not only pertinent to the left 
in Iran, but to the US left as well, in its relations to both the 
movement within Iran as well as to the uprisings sweeping the 
Middle East and North Africa.

Going back to the revolution of 1979 is important for many 
reasons. The revolution presents many questions and lessons in 
strategy and tactics for a revolutionary left, as well as many 
questions for theory.  The presentation given here will in no way 
pretend to exhaust all the reasons for the left’s inability to 
maintain a foothold politically after the revolution, or to mount 
a significant resistance to the new regime.   Indeed, many did 
resist and any claim to the contrary is a great affront to the 
memory of those who perished under the regime’s repression, as 
well as those who lingered and continue to linger in the dungeons 
of the Islamic Republic.  When discussing a revolution, avoiding 
an analysis implying “I told you so” is difficult, suggesting that 
if the correct line had been followed, history would perhaps have 
been different.  Perhaps it would have, perhaps not.  An equal 
mistake, on the other hand, is thinking that there is nothing to 
be learned from history.  Understanding may best be gained in the 
tension between the two poles.


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