24 July 2011

Stolen Revolution: 1357/1979

Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini and his followers stole the Iranian Revolution of 1357 (1979), just as surely as they stole many of its elements and symbols.

In the beginning, the Iranian Revolution was almost completely secular, led by liberal democrats, secular nationalists, and modernist Islamists (such as the Freedom Movement, of which Islamic liberation theologist Ali Shariati was a co-founder). The bazaar was a main partner from the outset, as were progressive artists and writers and students. The first major action, though, involved none of these elements, but rather the mostazafin of South Tehran, 50,000 of whom drove out police and bulldozers in Mordad 1356 (August 1977).

The official slogan of the Islamic Republic, “Esteghlal! Azadi! Jomhuri-e Eslami!” (1), was stolen from the secular democratic National Front. Not used until late in the fall of 1357 (1978), it was a corruption of the original slogan of the Iranian Revolution, “Esteghlal! Azadi! Edalat-e Ejtemaee!” (2), first coined by Mohammad Mosaddegh.

(1) Esteghlal! Azadi! Jomhuri-e Eslami! = Independence! Freedom! Islamic Republic!

(2) Esteghlal! Azadi! Edalat-e Ejtemaee! = Independence! Freedom! Social Justice!

The Khomeinists threw out the call for social justice, but none of them, including their Leader, were never that much interested in it anyway. Neither they nor their Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Moussavi Khomeini, were ever shy at using pseudo-populist rhetoric to better position themselves against their rivals. That is how too many of the citizens of Iran got taken in during the Revolution, and that is the lie for which too many who want change today appear to be falling.

Even much of their false propaganda is stolen. Their populist rhetoric during the Revolution was “borrowed” from the Mojahedin-e Khalq and other leftist groups, and in particular its designation for the poor of Iran, “mostazafin” (dispossessed), was stolen exactly in the same form.

This is not to say that the Mojahedin-e Khalq at the time were anymore sincere about their concern for the mostazafin; they are certainly not now. But they did coin the term.

Though concern for the “mostazafin” vanished from the program of the Followers of the Line of the Imam, their Leader, and other architects of the Islamic Republic, the word remains in two important institutions. The Bonyad-e Mostazafin replaced the Pahlavi Foundation, taking over its assets and adding to those. The Basij-e Mostazafin, founded at the beginning of the three-year Iranian Cultural Revolution (1359/1980), would likely be chagrined to learn the true origin of their name.

The political clergy were not a factor in the Revolution until mid-fall 1356 (1977), but even then mostly served as a conduit between the revolutionaries and Khomeini rather than leading anything. They didn’t become actively involved as participants until Dey1355 (January 1978).

That protest (against an article slandering Moussavi Khomeini) resulted in a series of demonstrations, each commemorating the dead of another demonstration forty days previous, that lasted the rest of the winter and through the spring.

In June, the labor strikes began. Initially called by political clergy for the anniversary of the 13 Khordad 1342 (3 June 1963) uprising against the Shah’s White Revolution and supported by secular forces in the name of unity, these took on a life of their own. Workers across Iran increasingly went on strike the rest of the summer, and continually in the fall and winter, until the country was ground to a halt.

It wasn’t until Aban 1357 (November 1978) that the secular political forces put themselves under leadership of Moussavi Khomeini.

By this time, workers had organized a national strike committee, and many were setting up shoras (councils) to take over management of their workplaces. Citizens across the country set up komitehs for security and to handle distribution of goods and services.

The workers were supported by the political clergy and their followers, secular nationalists, liberal democrats, and the bazaar. Though the demands of the workers were initially better conditions, they turned increasingly political.

The religious elements led by Moussavi Khomeini had their turn at attempting revolution in 1342 (1963) and lost. The armed campaigns of the Fedayan-e Khalq, Mojahedin-e Khalq, and other groups ended badly. The secular nationalists and liberal democrats had been lost and bickering since Mosaddegh was overthrown in 1332 (1953). It took the workers acting in their own interests and those of their fellow citizens to accomplish the goal of all factions.

The workers took the lead themselves. The only thing the religious leaders actually did was co-opt the propaganda machine as a first step to disenfranchising its political rivals. Even the armed action at the end, all two days of it, was carried out by military rebels along with guerrillas from the Fedayan and the Mojahedin.

Moussavi Khomeini’s followers moved swiftly to seize the reins of power.
The Council of Islamic Revolution was organized in Iran on 22 Dey 1357 (12 January 1979), a month prior to the fall of the Shah’s government.

On 23 Bahman 1357 (12 February 1979), Moussavi Khomeini announced the establishment of the Central Revolutionary Komiteh to supervise the activities of the komitehs scattered throughout the country and conduct an ideological purge.

on 29 Bahman 1357 (18 February 1979), the Islamic Republican Party was established, and its Central Committee set up an association of thugs known as the Hezb Allah (Party of God) to terrorize its opponents and disrupt their activities.

On 27 Esfand 1357 (18 March 1979), Moussavi Khomeini abolished the Family Protection Act, less than three weeks after he “retired” to Qom.

On May Day (11 Ordibehesht) 1358 (1979), workers seized the former national trade union federation headquarters, and workers also across Iran begin walking out on strike.

On 16 Ordibehesht 1358 (6 May 1979), Moussavi Khomeini formed the Sepah-e Pasadran-e Enghelab-e Eslami (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) both to crush the workers movement and to assist the Central Komiteh in its ideological purge.

The very people who had brought down the Shah were soon crushed.

A year later in Khordad 1359 (June 1980), the Cultural Revolution, the purge of leftists and liberals from the universities around the country as well as the destruction of any but “Islamic” student associations, began, shutting down institutions for two years.

Just a little over a year later, Khordad 1360 (June 1981), the Reign of Terror against leftist political groups began, lasting until Azar 1361 (December 1982). Eventually, the purge targeted even leftist groups supporting the regime. Most leftist organizations were all but destroyed, the liberal democrats, secular nationalists, and modernist Islamists cowed into passive acquiescence.

At the vanguard of the Khomeinist assault on the freedoms of the Iranian people were The Followers of the Line of the Imam. Formerly also called Maktabis and now rebranded as “reformists”, they are trying to rebrand themselves yet again as the leadership of a movement with which they have had very little to do.

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