Why the 1979 Iranian Revolution failed
The 1979 revolution was neither caused by foreign conspiracies nor an alleged “red-black-collaboration” (which refers to an alleged collaboration between the left and clergy), but mainly by dreams of an Islamic utopia. The Islamic Shiite clergymen, Mullahs, fooled a great majority of Iranians into today’s fiasco. The failed revolution is due to the lack of a democratic opposition because under the Shah’s despotism such an opposition could not survive, which left the political arena empty for the Mullahs as the only organised opposition in 1979.
The Iranian intelligentsia was present in the popular protests and naively accepted the supremacy of Mullahs. In turn, Mullahs did not accept the intelligentsia – except as useful tools. Once the Islamic regime was established, members of the Front National (FN) were ousted from the Islamic government. As Mullahs monopolised all power, the leftists and then the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MKO or MKE) suffered a rapid and frequently fatal fate. The revolutionary prosecutor banned the leading left-wing newspapers, activities and rallies. The authorities looked for excuses to persecute them. The regime’s jurisprudents issued warrants for the arrest of their leaders and soon started executions of them. The notorious mass executions of 1988 were the apogee of crimes against the MKO and leftists. Even many members of Toudeh Party / Aksariat (Aksariat refers to a “majority” faction of Marxist People’s Fedai Guerrillas that collaborated with the regime), also fell subject to atrocity by the regime.
One must never overlook the fact that the root cause of the societal and political problems today in Iran are directly attributable in large part to the cult of Islam. Contrary to today’s increasing peoples’ conscience, Islam and its disastrous results in Iran was not at that time discussed or exposed by the intelligentsia. I emphasise that this factor of appeasement was (and is) a failure of the intelligentsia, a factor of self-alienation among our intelligentsia who not only denied the spirit of secularism and democracy, but also very essence of Marxism.
Let me add that this factor was an international paradigm, developed by key capitalist powers for their colonial agenda in the 20th century; the irony was that the appeasement was followed during the Cold War by the two main camps of communism, Russia and China.
The appeasement of Islamic sentiment needs to be recognised as a discursive stratagem that enabled these two communist poles in both their political and economical relations with the Islamic world and “anti-imperialist” Islamic movements. By the communist poles this appeasement was held to be above the “atheist” ideological values of communism and by the West above human rights considerations. The “appeasement paradigm” misleadingly depicts a positive image of Islam, erases its past as an atrocious colonial power and overlooks its retrogressive aims and ambitions despite the fact that for many hundreds of years Islam has used the sword to impose its totalitarian ideology and accompanying religion on many peoples, including Iranians, to the massive detriment of existing cultures and civilisations – many of which were completely eradicated by Islam.
The “appeasement paradigm” also served the colonial powers in order to portray Islam as a part of the Iranian identity.
Thus the Iranian intelligentsia saw the West, as typified by the U.S.A & U.K. as the source of imperialistic and/or (neo)colonial ills, whilst overlooking the coercion of Islam as the first and worst Imperialist coloniser. Consequently there was no intellectual trend in Iran denouncing the disastrous results of the colonial and backward nature of Islam. This is the fiasco our intellectual pioneers failed to realise, not the 1979 revolution itself with its initial impetus of anti-despotism.
Not only the Iranian left, but also the non-Marxists, nationalists, patriots and democrats were influenced by Khomeini and his Islamic movement and mistakenly saw in Islam a progressive source of independence and anti-colonialism. This view dominated the force equilibrium during the 1979 revolution. Apart from the Iranian protégés and followers of the communist camps of the East, many western sympathisers followed this line of appeasement with Islam, and only after the 1979 revolution were they to realise their miscalculation.
It is extremely short-sighted and intellectually dishonest to label the 1979 revolution either as a mistake of “people ungrateful to the Shah” or the product of a (trumped up) “red-black” conspiracy – with or without the active collaboration of foreign powers/forces; notwithstanding the fact that the key powers had to realise the Shah’s day were numbered.
Only the people of Iran (acting for self-determination) toppled the Shah’s despotism, the fiasco happened after the fait accompli, quite independently from the fairness of the anti-Shah revolution.
The fact is the left and secular spectrum of Iranian intelligentsia was not as visible or as organised as were the Mullahs were during the revolution.
The 1979 revolution ended up becoming a “fiasco” because Shiite Islam was propagated by the Shah and thus the shiite Mullahs were the only intact opposition and, worse, these Mullahs were blindly followed by a great majority of Iranians including the intelligentsia, with the inevitable results for Iran that the whole world has witnessed.