by Felix Quigley

We examine the role of Stalinism in Iran. These are common experiences and had a definite bearing on the way the Serbs were divided under Tito in Yugoslavia, setting them up for destruction at the hands of Imperialism and Islamofascism.There is a major problem with how the issue of Yugoslavia, and especially the issue of Srebrenica, has been approached until now. It has been torn out of the whole political history of the need for revolutionary leadership and indeed particularly the role of Stalinism.

How to explain the position of those who have been the main supporters of Izetbegovic, an Islamofascist who was in the closest union with the Fascist Mullahs of Iran. Izetbegovic who planned and carried out the Srebrenica hoax was a huge admirer of Khomeiny Islamist Fascism.

You can see immediately the need for an international revolutionary party able to draw the lessons on an international scale and apply these lessons in the struggle against reaction.

We know that Tito was a Stalinist and he carried through in Yugoslavia a policy of collaboration with Islam and suppression of the Serbian national liberation struggle which lay at the heart of Yugoslavia, in the context that Yugoslavia was a mechanism to cope with Fascism and extreme reaction. The roots of this Titoist betrayal- even though Tito had tactical differences- lay in the policies of the Comintern under Stalin. A very similar process happened in Iran where the programme of Stalinism was particularly disastrous and was to impact itself on Yugoslavia. It is thus important to look at Stalinism in Iran.

This is a good though skimpy account of Stalinism in Iran. It is not a totally complete account but it is necessary to start somewhere in trying to understand what happened. If people have disagreements then they can correct it. The history goes right back into the late 19th century where the transformation of feudal into capitalist was taking place. But this story taken from Wikipedia begins in 1921 with the formation of the Communist Party arising of course out of the Russian Revolution and the Congresses of the Third International. The whole story is very valuable but it needs to be supplemented. For example when the Communist Party was set up in 1941 with the victory of the Allies it declared itself to be a “liberal” party, not revolutionary socialist, which of course was in line with the disastrous programme of Stalin and Popular Frontism. People need to have read Trotsky’s struggle for the United Front and against the Popular Front of Stalin at that time, an issue which reverberates into the present.

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The Communist Party of Iran was founded in June of 1920 in Bandar-e Anzali, in the province of Gilan, as a result of the first congress of Iranian social democrats. Heidar Amou Oghly, who was one of the leaders of the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, became the secretary-general of the new party. At the same time, Mirza Koochak Khan Jangali, another major leader of the Constitutional Revolution and also leader of the revolutionary Jangali (Foresters Movement), established the Soviet Republic of Gilan with the assistance of the Soviet Red Army.

The British, who were a dominant influence in the Qajar court of Tehran, sent agents to infiltrate the Foresters Movement in a carefully prepared plot which would ultimately result in the defeat of both the newly formed Soviet Republic of Gilan and the Communist Party, which came to be banned and persecuted by the central government. Communist and social democrat activity once again went underground. In the early 1920s the Qajar dynasty finally collapsed, and Reza Shah ascended to the throne in 1925, establishing the Pahlavi dynasty. The new Shah introduced many reforms, such as limiting the power of the Shi’a clergy, but also in turn established an authoritarian dictatorship.

In 1929-30 the party organized strikes in an Isfahan textile mill, the Mazandaran railways, Mashed carpet workshops, and most importantly, in the British-owned oil industry. The government cracked down heaviliy and some 200 communists were arrested, 38 were incarcerated in Qasr Prison in Tehran. “Seven died there – all from natural causes.” Along with the Stalin purges, which took a heavy toll from Iranian communist exiles living in the Soviet Union, these arrests meant the Communist Party of Iran “ceased to exist for all practical purposes outside the walls of Qasr.” [1]

[edit] Foundation of the Tudeh Party

The Allied invasion of 194142 resulted in the end of Reza Shah’s reign and his forced exile to South Africa. Many political prisoners were subsequently released and under this new atmosphere, nationalist and socialist groups once again flourished. On 29 September 1941, the Tudeh Party was officially founded, electing Soleiman Mohsen Eskandari as chairman.

Initially the party was intended to be “a liberal rather than a radical party,” with a platform stressing the importance of “constitutional” and “individual rights”, protecting “democracy” and “judicial integrity” from fascism, imperialism, militarism. “At Soleiman Eskandari’s urging, the party intitially barred women from membership, organized Moharram processions, and designated a special prayer room in its main clubhouse.” However the party moved “rapidly to the left” within months of its founding. [2]

In 1944, the party entered the 14th Majlis elections and eight of its candidates were elected. Two event that tarnished the appeal of the Tudeh in 1944-46 were the Soviet demand for an oil concession in northern Iran and the Soviet sponsorsing of ethnic revolts in Kurdestan and Azerbaijan. Despite the fact that Tudeh deputies in the Majles had vigorously demanded the nationalization of the whole petroleum industry, the Tudeh party supported the Soviets on grounds of `socialist solidarity`, `internationalism,` and `anti-imperialism.` [3]

From this point on the party grew immensely and became a major force in Iranian politics. By early 1945, the party had managed to create the first mass organization in Iran’s history. Police records later revealed it have an estimated 2,200 hard-core members – 700 of them in Tehran – “10,000s of sympathizers in its youth and women’s organizations, and 100,000s of sympathizers in its labor and craft unions.” [4]

[edit] 1949 Crackdown

In 1949 the party was blamed for a failed assassination attempt against the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and was banned. The Shah cracked down on many opposition groups but the Tudeh bore the brunt. Accusing the party of attempted regicide, “the government banned the Tudeh, confiscated its assets, dissolved affiliated organizations, especially the Central Council and rounded up some 200 leaders and cadres.” [5]

However, the party continued to function underground for a time before being able to operate in the open once again in the early 1950s. During this time, Iranian public support was growing for nationalisation of the British Anglo Iranian Oil Company (AIOC)[6] — later British Petroleum (BP) — whose profits had greatly exceeded its royalty payments to the Iranian government.

In 1951 Mohammad Mossadegh, who supported nationalisation, was appointed prime minister by the Shah and established a close partnership between his nationalist movement, the National Front of Iran. Mossadegh oversaw the oil nationalization issue and rising tension in Iran as the AIOC withdrew its employees and established a boycott of Iranian oil, causing great economic difficulty and polarization in Iran.[7] Despite this nationalizatoin was at first enormously popular in Iran and Mossadegh capitalized on it to establish emergency rule, by which he could bypass the Majles and institute socialist reforms. Although the Tudeh did not support Mossadeq[8] it strongly supported nationalisation and other reforms and grew in popularity during this period.

According to one observor:

One must admit that the Tudeh was a major force participating in the struggle to nationalize the oil company. … although diverse elements participated in the July uprising, the impartial observer must confess that the Tudeh played an important part – perhaps even the most important part. … If in the rallies before March 1952 one-third of the demonstrators had been Tudeh and two-thirds had been National Front, after March 1952, the proportions were reversed. [9]

In 1953, the American CIA and British intelligence agents, aided retired General Zahedi and Colonel Nassiri in a coup d’etat against Mossadegh which ended with the prime minister being forced from office. The coup was a major event in Third World and 20th Century history and there is debate as to how much of the blame for the overthrow can be traced to bribes paid by the CIA and how much to domestic dissatisfaction with Mossadeq[10]; and how much of the motivation of the British and American coup plotters was desire for profits from Iran’s oil and how much desire to contain Soviet hegemony, and its influence in Iran. Whatever the motivations Mohammad Reza Pahlavi thereafter assumed dictatorial powers and banned most political groups,  (It has been remarked that the one group that he did not ban was the religious Islamists! FQ)including Mossadegh’s National Front, which along with the Tudeh Party, continued to function underground.

[edit] Post 1953-Coup Crackdown

In 1955, many military personnel were discovered to have been active in the Tudeh Party and were arrested and eventually executed. Around this time many internal problems within the party surfaced and the party leadership were found to have been acting against the membership. As a result the Tudeh Party was unable to resist the attacks made against it by the Shah’s government and the movement fell into decline. The Central Committee of the party was eventually reorganized by the late 1950s.

In the mid 1960s the U.S. State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 1500.[11]

In 1965 the party faced a second division between the mainstream of the organization and the splinter faction which advocated violent struggle against the government by arming the tribes of southern Iran. This faction caused a great deal of damage and three years passed before the unity of the party was restored.

In 1966 several party members, including Ali Khavari and Parviz Hekmatjoo of the Central Committee, and Asef Razmdideh and Saber Mohammadzadeh, were arrested and sentenced to death. This sparked international outcry and hunger strikes in Europe which forced the government to reduce the sentences to life imprisonment. These events created much international sympathy for the worker’s struggle in Iran and helped unify the party after the split. The Tudeh Party from this point on becomes established as one of the strongest underground movements and helps to pave the way for the forthcoming Iranian Revolution of 1978.

[edit] The Islamic Revolution

In the early 1970s the Iranian guerrilla movement began in northern Iran in the province of Mazandaran. The 1970s also witnessed the birth of widespread worker’s strikes and demonstrations, and university campuses became a hotbed of revolutionary activity. The Tudeh Party drastically increased its activities, recruiting many youth and organizing regional committees.

After the revolution, many political prisoners were freed and the Tudeh Party and other leftist groups were able to participate in the presidential and parliamentary elections for the first time in many years. However, the majority of seats in the Majlis were won by the Islamic Republican Party of Ayatollah Beheshti and leftist and nationalist organizations were forced out of the loop. The newly elected President, Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who had originally been close with Khomeini, also became increasingly frustrated with the developments that had been taking place and opposed the domination of the clergy and the religious factions in Iranian politics.

In 1981, the Majlis, dominated by the Islamic Republican Party, forced Bani Sadr out of office, which initiated a wave of protests and demonstrations from all segments of the populace. Bani Sadr later fled the country. Armed revolutionary committees loyal to Khomeini (which came to be known as the Pasdaran) arrested many thousands of youth and activists from both nationalist and leftist groups, many of whom were later tried by Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, who was infamously known as the Hanging Judge, and executed.

Attempting to take advantage of this situation, which saw many leftist groups (and rivals to the Tudeh) eliminated, the Tudeh Party leadership decided to take part in the new regime and to collaborate with the clerical establishment. (I do not think there is a more stark example of the nature of Stalinism than this…a completely counter revolutionary force! FQ)This ultimately failed, and in 1982 the leadership were arrested and imprisoned, and later more than 5,000 members and supporters of the party were also arrested. The party was banned in 1983.

As a result of these purges the party gradually collapsed, with a great number of members leaving the country into exile, while many party leaders renounced communism and reconciled with the government of the Islamic Republic. Over the years thousands of political prisoners, including many members of the Tudeh, were sentenced to death and executed. (This must be remembered…the ordinary members of the Stalinist Party paid dearly with their lives)

However, the party managed to survive and continues to operate as an underground political organization in Iran, with the new Central Committee, elected in 1992, based in exile. It is currently led by Ali Khavari.

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This report from Wikipedia of course only gives the bare bones of the role of Stalinism in the workers movement. But perhaps enough to give a glimpse of what it was and how disastrous it was. The essential issue was that they joined with Khomeiny against the youth and students and for what, to themselves be hammered by the Islamofascists when their usefulness had ended.

What is much neglected is the role of Stalinism in Yugoslavia that led to the defeat of the Serbs and to the dismemberment of their country.  Tito played a completely disastrous role and in many ways he cuddled up to the Islamofascists, in practice anyhow, and opened the door to the counter revolution.

By the time 2005 and Srebrenica came along and in the absence of a revolutionary socialist (Trotskyist) leadership those few hundred Serb soldiers who went in to take Srebrenica were walking into an elaborate trap set up for them by US and EU Imperialism in alliance with Islamofascism. Just like how Iran was betrayed  and fell into the trap set up by the Iranian Mullahs in alliance with Carter on behalf od US Imperialism’s CIA.

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