Sunday, 13 March 2016

How the First Victorious Revolution of 1920's was Stamped Out in Iran?

-Rajesh Tyagi/ 13.3.2016

Direct intervention of ‘Red October’ through creation of Soviet Republic in Gilan province in Northern Iran, was the first big intervention of victorious proletariat in the East after initial setbacks to revolutions in the West. No doubt that a success in the East could have well set-off the eventual impact of defeats in the West.

The victorious revolution, however, was smothered and defeated by the timidity and conservativeness of a section of the right-wingers inside soviet leadership, that immediately found its echo in more conservative Persian nationalism that responded to its call through more aggressive nationalism. The right-wing, organized at that time under Bukharin, inside the bolshevik leadership, opposed Trotsky’s line of aggressive interventions, fomenting revolutions on foreign lands, through its conservative proposal to defend soviet Russia through pacts with bourgeois states like Britain.

The defeat in the East, the final destruction of victorious revolution in Gilan, was the direct offshoot of sectarian-nationalist policy of right-wingers inside soviet regimes of USSR and Gilan. These defeats, finally paved the way to stabilization of reactionary regime in Tehran, stamping out, for decades, a ripe revolution.

How a matured victory was pushed into embrace of crushing defeat by adherents of nationalism, is the telling story in Persian revolution, one among the many in series in its aftermath all over the world, from China to Spain and Indonesia to Chile.

In early 1920, a mighty forest uprising, offshoot of a movement of foresters (Janglis) that took off during WWI on Caspian Sea, in northern province of Gilan in Iran, was shaking Tehran regime to its hilt. Its leader, Ehsanullah Khan Dastdar, second in command to Mirza Koochak Khan, turned to Marxism and contacted the USSR through Bolsheviks in Baku.

Trotsky, at the head of the Red Army in Russia, immediately saw immense revolutionary potential in military campaign towards Gilan. Under cover of pursuit of Russian vessels of defeated armies of General Denikin, the Red Army under Fyodor Raskolnikov and Sergei Ordzhonikidze, entered Enzeli, the port city of Gilan, where British had set-up a whole military base for white armies of General Denikin. British retreated in face of Soviet offensive and Bolsheviks forthwith assisted Emanullah to establish a communist party and under it a government in entire province of Gilan. 

Bolsheviks armed the ‘Jangli’ fighters who captured the power driving out the armed forces of British and Tehran, both. Koochak Khan, offered to pay for arms and ammunition supplied by Bolsheviks, Trotsky refused to accept. Instead, Trotsky demanded establishment of soviet regime in Gilan, and quick expansion of revolution upto Tehran. A Soviet Socialist Republic was thus proclaimed in Gilan in May 1920.

On June 15, 1920, referring to a telegram sent by Revolutionary War Council of Persian Red Army, to Russian Red Army under him, Trotsky wrote:

“The Revolutionary War Council of the Persian Red Army, which is now fighting against foreign and domestic oppression, has sent the following message of greeting to our Red Army:

‘The Revolutionary War Council of the Persian Republic, organised by decision of Persia’s Council of People’s Commissars, sends heartfelt greetings to the Red Army and the Red Navy. With great difficulty and enduring all manner of privations we have succeeded in defeating the internal counter-revolution, which was nothing more nor less than the hireling of international capitalism. By the will of the working people, Soviet power has been organised in Persia, and this has set about creating a Persian Red Army on the lines on which Russia’s Red Army was formed, in order to destroy the enslavers of the Persian people.

‘Long live the fraternal alliance of the Russian Red Army with the young Persian army.
‘Long live the alliance of the working people of the whole world – the Third International.

‘Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council, Mirza Kuchuk.
‘Commander of the Armed Forces, Eskhanulla.
‘Member of the Revolutionary War Council, MuzafferZade.’

Trotsky replied to the message:

‘The news of the formation of the Persian Red Army has filled our hearts with joy. During the last fifteen years the Persian working people have fought stubbornly for their freedom. By so doing they have proved their right to it, in the eyes of the whole world. In the name of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army of Russia I express firm confidence that, under the leadership of your Revolutionary War Council, Persia will conquer her right to freedom, independence and fraternal labour.

‘Long live the free working people of Persia, in the family of free peoples of Asia, Europe and the whole world.’

Bringing this exchange of fraternal greetings to the notice of all Red fighting men, I express my confidence that the bond between the revolutionary armies of Persia and Russia will strengthen and grow, to the great benefit of the working people.”

The right-wing elements inside the jangli movement and the communist party, however took to conservative nationalist position and started opposing the military campaign and further expansion of the revolution deep inside Iran, proposed by Trotsky. These right-wingers refused to carry out the most pressing task of the revolution, the land distribution.

On October 22, the newly formed Communist Party of Persia adopted a resolution that the country must go through a bourgeois revolution before establishing soviet regime. 

Even before founding of Gilan Soviet regime, these right wing elements had argued that first of all bourgeois democratic stage of revolution must be completed and democratic tasks be finished before establishment of soviet regime. Ignoring the opposition, Trotsky however had aided the revolutionary uprising to success and led the foresters to establish soviet regime of their own.

Disputes deepened further and the right-wingers under Mirza Koochak, taking a turn away from soviet government, left the capital city of Rasht on June 9, 1920. Communists, immediately took to power. The new administration under Ahsanullah Khan assisted by Soviet Commissar Obukov, triggered a series of radical reforms: from redistribution of lands among the landless and poor peasants to appropriation of landlords and the rich and attacks on religion. Mirza wrote to Lenin, but Lenin stood firm in favour of Trotsky's policy.

The rightist camp inside the movement was heavily infiltrated by the British and Tehran, who consciously fanned nationalism to subvert the closing international ranks of the proletariat for revolution. The nationalists, inside Jangli movement argued that the intervention of the Russian Red Army and establishment of soviet regime in Gilan has prevented middle classes and other nationalist elements to come over to the movement. 

The right-wing elements inside leadership of the movement and the communist party, opposing proletarian internationalist positions through their nationalist sectarianism, mounted pressure, forcing Lenin and Trotsky to withdraw Red Army from Gilan by September 1921, leaving newly formed Gilan soviet, surrounded by most reactionary enemies, to its fate.

The result of the retreat of the Red Army from Gilan was expected and apparent. Armies from Tehran, actively assisted by the British, entered Gilan without delay and brutally crushed the Jangli movement and the government under it. On September 21, the Soviet Republic of Gilan collapsed. Mirza Koochak escaped to mountains, died of frostbite, was beheaded by a landlord and his head was sent to Tehran for public display. Revolution had to pay a heavy price for the idiocracy of right-wing nationalists inside regimes in Moscow and Rasht. The defeat of the revolution and consequent victory of the counter-revolution in Iran opened a new threshold for reaction in whole of the middle-east, blocking all revolutionary possibilities, for the time being.

Two factors that played critical role in the defeat of the Gilan Soviet, preventing it from becoming a spearhead of revolution not only in Iran but in the whole Middle-East, need be noted: first, the conservative and nationalist outlook of a section of the Jangli movement led by Mirza Koochak, and the other the dominance of nationalist-bureaucratic elements inside USSR that shifted the focus upon ‘defence of the Soviet Union’ in the wake of defeats in the West from 1918-1921, from the ‘world socialist revolution’ as advocated by Lenin and Trotsky.

1 comment:

  1. reblogged to redrave