Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran: New Perspectives on the Iranian Left

Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran: New Perspectives on the Iranian Left

Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran: New Perspectives on the Iranian Left

Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran: New Perspectives on the Iranian Left

Synopsis

The Iranian left is of great historical significance and a trend of direct relevance to the current situation in Iran and to the evolution of the struggle between 'reformers' and 'conservatives'. Even though the left has never held power in Iran, its impact on the political, intellectual and cultural development of modern Iran has been profound. This book's authors undertake a fundamental reexamination and reappraisal of the phenomenon of leftist activism in Iran, interpreted in the broadest sense, throughout the period of its existence up to and including the present. Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran brings together contrasting views about the balance sheet of a century of leftism in Iran.

Excerpt

The Left has never held power in Iran, has never come close to holding power, even for a brief historical moment. Yet its impact on the political and intellectual history of the country has been profound. From the constitutional period, through the oil nationalization crisis, to the Islamic revolution, leftist forces have played a significant and even, sometimes, a determining role. Their influence, in both organizational and ideological terms, on the evolution of Islamist trends, including on Khomeini himself, has been profound. the leftist forces in Iran, furthermore, have been historically among the most advanced in the non-European world. At the very beginning of the twentieth century social democratic ideas made rapid headway, first among Iranians in emigration in the Caucasus of the late Russian empire and then in Iran itself, and the first social democratic organization in the Middle East was established in Tabriz in 1905-06. in 1920 the Iranian Communist Party, the first communist party in Asia, was founded and local communists joined with the Jangali movement to produce in Gilan the first declaration of a Soviet republic in the Middle East, while, in pre-revolutionary 1978, an extraordinary wave of working-class action swept the country, the massive economic and political strikes erupting between June and December of that year constituting a phenomenon rare, if not unique, in the experience of the Middle East.

The Left in Iran, then, has a history which is both long and of central importance, is indeed coterminous with modernity itself. Yet, until recently, it had received little scholarly attention and there has still, as yet, been no attempt to provide a comprehensive and integrated account of its historical, political and cultural role. Not only has the scholarly study of the Iranian Left been largely neglected, but leftist forces have been the subject of a great deal of ideologically motivated vilification, their history obscured and distorted by the language and preoccupations of the Cold War.

Only in the last few years has the Iranian Left begun to receive the close and sympathetic interest necessary for a proper appreciation of its actual historical role, and several monographs have been published on aspects of the Left's history and politics, the best and most recent by contributors to

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