The first revolutionary wave in Persia in early 1920s, though ebbed after its defeat by betrayals of right-wing socialist-nationalists, but it proved abortive to facilitate the collapse of Qazar dynasty.
In 1921 Reza Khan, a military officer in Persia’s Cossack Brigade, staged a military coup against the crumbling Qajar Dynasty, and declared himself ‘Shah of Persia’. After a civil war, in 1925 Persia witnessed the fall of Qazar and rise of Pahalvi dynasty headed by Raza Khan. With his ascendance to throne, Raza Khan, in order to stabilize his power, introduced reforms, curtailing power of Shia clergy. While Qazar dynasty was adhered to British imperialists, Pahalvi dynasty took to the US Imperialists.
The new regime was no less oppressive than the old one, except that it started opening Persia more and more to foreign markets and offering its natural and human resources to global capital.
Amidst the global economic crisis of 1929-30, workers in Iran responded through a mighty strike movement all over the country. Workers in Isfahan Textile Mills, Mazandaran Railways, Mashed Carpet Workshops, and British owned oil companies went on indefinite strike. The government of Raza Shah reacted with fury and violence and brutally suppressed the strike, apart from declaring the communist party illegal. The leadership of the communist party failed to respond to this repression as the party was totally disoriented that time under the dictats of the Stalinist Comintern. The bent of the leaders was not to fight back the repression of Shah regime but to purge Trotskyists from the party.
Alongside the repression at home, the Iranian communists suffered a major blow abroad, during 1930’s, as Stalinist bureaucracy resorted to purging of hundreds of Iranian communist exiles staying in Soviet Union, on accusations of association with Trotsky.
The movement was marginalized by repressions and the party broken to ashes.
During 1941-42, at the start of WW-II, after Stalin broke with Hitler to join British and French Imperialists, a joint British-Soviet occupation in western Persia, forced the Shah to escape to South Africa, leaving throne to his son.
Right-wing leftists under Iraj Iskandari and his colleagues, supported by Stalinist bureaucracy in soviet union, founded the mass based ‘Tudeh Party’ on September 29, 1941, with Suleman Mohsin Iskandari as its Chairman.
Imprints of Stalinism were apparent on the Tudeh Party, right from its inception. The party not only had most conservative elements in its leadership, but also banned women in its ranks, limited itself to constitutional reforms, celebrated Moharram processions and even dedicated one room in its office for offering Namaz, etc.
Despite its conservativeness and its failure to break away from reactionary camp in Iran, workers and peasants threw so immense support behind Tudeh Party that in its very first intervention in 14th Majlis elections in 1944, the party could beg eight seats. Party could also raise its armed wing, TPMO. With 2200 core members, 700 in Tehran alone, the party mobilized twenty thousand under its youth and women wings and another ten thousand in its labour and craft unions. Party’s newspaper ‘Rahbar’ had over one lakh circulation
The Tudeh Party had wide following within the Iranian working class. In the 1940s, it emerged at the head of a mass movement. In 1944-1947 and again in 1953, it could have challenged for power. But the Tudeh Party had been schooled by the Soviet bureaucracy in the Menshevik-Stalinist two-stage theory of revolution, which held that in countries of belated capitalist development, the working class must not aspire for any independent role, but only assist the national bourgeoisie in carrying out “its” democratic revolution.
In 1951, nationalist Prime Minister Mossadeq with the help of soviet union, deposed the Shah and nationalised British oil interests. Stalinist Tudeh Party adhered to Mossadeq.
During 1953, Iran was the scene of massive anti-royalist demonstrations that posed revolutionary danger for the regime of Mossadeq too, which Stalinists had assisted and looked upon as friendly regime.
In August 1953, Mossadeq, yielding to US pressure called out the army to brutally suppress mass anti-royalist demonstrations. Confused, Stalinists were thrown out of gear and lost their nerves. Two days later CIA intrigued overthrow of beleaguered and quarantined Mossadeq government. Masses offered no resistance to the coup. Shah was reinstated.
Over the next 25 years, the Stalinists continued to move more and more to the right. They associated themselves with every bourgeois or military leader, who opposed Shah. Alongside, Stalinists also continued to toy with the idea of assisting and reconciling themselves to the perpetuation of the Shah’s regime if only it agreed to take to a constitutional cloak.
The Soviet and Chinese Stalinist bureaucracies, meanwhile, developed extensive diplomatic and commercial relations with the Pahlavi dynasty.
In late 1977, US President Jimmy Carter flaunted the Shah’s oppressive regime as “oasis of stability.”
But soon this oasis was to convulse by mass uprising!
For the Iranian people, the Shah was the personification not simply of oppressive-corrupt rule, but of all the indignities and violence to which imperialism had subjected Persia for a century.
In 1978, millions of Iranians took to the streets of Teheran and other major cities to protest soaring unemployment and inflation, the squandering and outright theft of Persian oil by the royalists and their cronies, above all, the monarchy.
Savage repression followed. In a single day, September 8, 1600 demonstrators were gunned down. But violence failed to quell the unrest.
The working class, employing the methods of proletarian class struggle, strikes and workplace occupations, increasingly emerged as the principal social force behind the impending revolution. Ultimately, the oil workers’ strike broke the back of the Shah’s regime.
Thirty seven years ago, the Iran’s despotic, US-sponsored regime under Shah, crumbled in the face of a mass uprising.
Deposing of the Shah, was a huge setback to US imperialism and its policy in the middle-east, as his US-sponsored regime had been the most reliable outpost of US for the last two decades in the oil rich region.
In the wake of the Shah’s overthrow, the revolution widened. Workers seized factories and peasants, lands. Iran was repeating Russia’s February 1917, but with double force.
However, unlike Russia, despite all energy that working class produced and the militant spirit that it demonstrated, February could not develop into October in Iran. The state power could not pass into the hands of the Iranian workers, for there was no workers party armed with a Bolshevik program that in turn could arm the working class with such program and rally the multi-million toilers behind it. Advance to the socialist revolution as the only means to achieve genuine national liberation to address the needs of Iran’s toilers, was thus subverted.
The Stalinist Tudeh Party was taken completely unawares by the mass eruption against the Shah’s regime in 1978-1979. Its response was to adapt to Khomeini and the mullahs.
Stalinists, guided by the stagist theory of revolution, misled the workers and toilers to subject them to Khomeini and Mullahs led by him, in the name of democratic revolution, of which, in their opinion, Khomeini and Mullahs were natural leaders. Stalinists made the working class to surrender the posts without a contest and rather actively assisted Khomeini to take power.
What emerged from the revolution thus was a clerical-led bourgeois nationalist regime, an Islamic Republic, under Khomeini. Stalinists celebrated the rise and establishment of this counter-revolutionary regime as ‘revolution’.
Khomeini regime however defended capitalist property, restored bourgeois order and ruthlessly suppressed the working class. By 1983, all left-wing organizations, including the youth and labor unions were banned and broken up.
The populist Shia Islamic rhetoric of Khomeini helped to blur the antagonistic interests of Iran’s workers and peasants, who fought the Shah’s regime as the bulwark of their class oppression, and those of the Mullahs, merchants and other propertied layers, who resented imperialist domination and the Shah’s crony capitalism because it restricted their possibilities for profits and exploitation. This popular Islam of Khomeini was a direct weapon in violent attack on atheist Marxists, apart from its role as guarantor to the bourgeoisie and private property. “As long as there is Islam there will be free enterprise”, declared Khomeini.
Khomeini invoked anti-imperialist demagogy to toe to popular upsurge and mass sentiments against the old regime and to pressure imperialists. The takeover of the US embassy in Tehran by students, in response to the Carter administration’s provocative decision to give asylum to deposed Shah in New York, was cleverly used by Khomeini to flaunt the regime as revolutionary and anti-US. However, it negotiated a secret deal with Ronald Reagan, Republican presidential candidate not to release the hostages prior to the 1980 US election.
Supported by the big business, oil magnates, Mullahs and merchants, the reactionary Shia clergy elevated itself to ruling clique. The rights of women and ethnic, religious minorities were reduced to minimal and clerics were armed with extraordinary powers to strike down laws that they consider not in line with Islam, dismiss un-islamic parliamentary candidates, and elect the supreme leader of Iran.
The limited social reforms, that the cleric regime was forced to grant in the revolution’s immediate aftermath, were snatched back. The start of 90’s witnessed in Iran gory privatization of companies seized from Shah and his hangers-on, courting foreign investors with huge concessions and eliminating subsidies in essential commodities.
Three years later of coming to power, Khomeini regime attacked the Tudeh Party using the clues and intelligence supplied by the CIA.
Till then, the Tudeh Party supported the creation of the Islamic Republic, often echoing the regime’s pseudo-leftist Islamic rhetoric. Stalinists continued to support the Khomeini regime even when it systematically suppressed all independent working class activity.
The tragedy of the Iranian revolution is that the working class proved incapable of playing the political role comparable to its social weight, militancy, sacrifices and heroism that it demonstrated in the struggle against the Shah Monarchy.
For this, Stalinism was entirely responsible. Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the most conservative elements in opposition to Shah and powerless at that time in face of armed workers and toilers, was able to successfully capture the power, only due to the flawed policy of Stalinist Tudeh party. Stalinists had perpetuated the decades-long subordination of the working class to the discredited bourgeois politicians, who continuously exhorted Shah to become a constitutional monarch.
While Khomeini regime uses all sorts of demagogy to pose it anti-imperialist and anti-US in the eyes of tis citizens, the fact goes that over decades it has collaborated with all sorts of crimes perpetuated by the US in the region, including the US invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Islamic Republic under Khomeini, while showcasing their opposition to US, have developed good relations with Russia, China, Germany, Japan and other western powers.
To distract the social anger and frustration of its workers and toilers away from its corrupt and oppressive regime, and its inability in meeting the aspirations of people from their failed ‘Islamic Revolution’, the government under Khomeini deliberately engaged in war against Iraq during September 1980 through August 1988. The war that served sectarian purposes of imperialists to weaken the rival states of Iran and Iraq and that of mullahs to emerge as regional power, proved a catastrophe to the working people of middle-east.
Despite of its huge oil wealth, Iran today is home to abominable poverty and deprivation of working and toiling masses, ever intensifying social inequality, and economic insecurity, deeper than under earlier regimes.
It is spectacular that the Islamic regime formed through abortion of the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, has failed to give anything to the workers and toilers of Iran. It is living proof of the historic fact that the national bourgeois in the backward countries cannot accomplish the tasks of the democratic revolution, including national liberation from clutches of imperialism. The same can be achieved only through the socialist revolution of the working class that leads behind it the billions of toilers.
Check this also: http://workersocialist.blogspot.in/2016/03/how-first-revolution-of-1920s-was.html