Iran’s 1979 revolution devoured its children, as revolutions so often do.
At Open Democracy, “Fred Halliday suggests”:http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after the current upheaval in Iran is, in some ways, an attempt to do it all over again — and perhaps even get it right this time.
Many who know the modern history of Iran – be they Iranian or someone like myself who followed (and in part witnessed) the events of 1978-79 when the Islamic Republic came into being – will be struck by the many parallels, insights, warnings and differences offered by that earlier moment and the post-election upsurge of 2009. The apparel, slogans and precise demands may seem far apart, but at heart the opposed forces are similar.
The urge to repress, and above all the contempt for the peacefully and democratically expressed views of others, were evident in the first months of the Islamic Republic; they reached a critical point in the mobilisations of summer 1979, when left and liberal forces – seeking to defend press freedom, the rights of women and of ethnic minorities – were confronted by gangs of hizbullahi thugs, mass pro-Khomeini demonstrations, and the newly established pasdaran forces, all determined to subdue the yearnings for such freedom and rights.
I recall, in particular, an educative encounter in August 1979 with a Revolutionary Guard who had come with his colleagues to close down the offices of the independent newspaper Ayandegan. When I asked this pasdar what he was doing, he replied: “We are defending the revolution!”. “Why are you therefore closing the paper?”, I asked. “This newspaper is shit”, he declared. When I suggested that 2 million people read the paper, he replied, without reservation: “All right, then these 2 million people are shit too!” Thus was my induction into the political culture of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
In the same way that Lenin and the Bolsheviks pushed aside not only their Czarist opponents, but also Russian liberals, social-revolutionaries and Mensheviks, so Khomeini and his associates set out to monopolise the post-revolutionary state and extinguish both their political rivals and the very memory of their contribution to a history that belongs to all Iranians. It is the great contribution of the brave citizens of Iran who took to the streets in June 2009, and affirmed their rights in peaceful and dignified fashion, to have reclaimed this truth.
Their demonstrations thus have opened a door to Iran’s past as well as the future. Another slogan of the epic popular tide of 1978-79 – marg bar fascism, marg bar irtija (death to fascism, death to reaction) – may yet combine with the marg bar dictator of the marches of 2009 in a way that heralds the end of the demagogic clique that now rules Iran. The people of Iran, and their friends and admirers the world over, can only hope that this day comes sooner rather than later.