Friday, June 04, 2010

Defense of the “Iranian Revolution”?

Is there anything left from that revolution worth defending?  The February 1979 insurrection toppled the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah.   Since that time many, particularly on the left, are struggling to digest that event and its aftermath.  The advocates in general see a continuation of the revolution through the rivalry between the Islamic Republic and the west, especially in its animosity toward the United States.  You can hear the “anti-imperialist” propaganda from the leaders of the Islamic Republic everyday and it is this subterfuge that hides all their failures and keeps them in power.

The Iranian Revolution, born through its opposition to the dictatorship of the Shah’s regime achieved this central goal by overthrowing that regime.  This was the defining moment of the people as a nation.  After a few days, with the disintegration of the entire Shah’s state apparatus, important among them the army and the police, it was obvious that the Shah could not return.  What remained was choosing the way forward.

Khomeini as the central leader of the insurrection did not move in the direction of nation building and reconciliation, and instead took a reactionary direction.  The old regime was already finished but the first item on his agenda was revenge.  Through the creation of the Revolutionary Courts, large and small the functionaries of the old regime had summary trials and were put to death.  It was only a competition in savagery with the old regime.  As an institution, the Revolutionary Court proved to be nothing but a tool for the intimidation of Khomeini's critics and later the wholesale elimination of them.  The second was the assault on women’s rights which began with his endorsement of the Islamic extremists’ violent attack on the commemoration of International Women’s Day, March 8th 1979 demonstration in Tehran.

The majority of the left which had raced to support Khomeini against the Shah during the tumultuous days of 1978 and early 1979 could not reverse itself, particularly with the momentum that Khomeini had acquired.  Khomeini was riding on a backward looking, conservative, extremist wave; while the left and the intelligentsia were trying to reconcile the existing situation with their ideologies and illusions.  Cut off from their roots, the western democracies, the left and the Iranian intellectuals were beaten back every step of the way, squealing their “anti imperialist” bravados.

The worth of each revolution is not in the purity of the theories of its leaders or in their illusions, each leader is bound to have some of both, but in the institutions that it creates and how those institutions endure the test of time.  In this respect the Iranian revolution has been an utter failure.

Are there any glimmers of hope in Iran?  Obviously yes, otherwise it would have been an utter failure as a wannabe nation.  The complexity of the Iranian society has the Islamic regime at an impasse and it will continue to create new waves of resistance.  A sober assessment of the past can only be illuminating.

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