Analysis and background on the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
Chapter 11/The Great Helmsman at the rudder
As we have seen the People’s Mojahedin of Iran reject any relationship with Marxism or Leninism. These are labels habitually used by orthodox Communist parties and their fronts (or “submarines”). Iran, like many of the countries with enormous natural resources attracted the greed of the Soviet Union. Moscow acted through the national parties that it controlled through its International.
Nonetheless, a significant number of ultra Left groups were looking for their own revolutionary identity. They, therefore, sought other ideological roots. The anti-colonialist struggles of the Fifties and the emergence of a Third World sensibility attracted young people who were looking for a model untainted by a doubtful past. For these movements who had divorced from Communists linked to Stalinism, often portrayed as traitors to the revolution, part of their salvation came from the Far East.
In 1966, a small book bound in red plastic would be brandished by Chinese students calling for support for Chairman Mao against all forms of deviationism. With his “Thoughts”, soon translated into all the languages on Earth, the Great Helmsman took the rudder, influencing revolutionaries throughout the world.
“In Paris, the Little Red Book was translated in March, 1967. Thousands of hot heads dove into this tissue of foolishness, the emblem of one of the most criminal systems in history,” writes Jean Sévilla. (73)
The Little Red Book went hand in hand with the student revolt of 1968 in France and violent street clashes in West Germany in
In Iran, the PMOI made no secret of having fallen under its influence.
“They (the founders) and the new members of the organization studied several schools of thought carefully, including those on Iranian history and those of other countries. This allowed them to analyse other philosophies and other theories in the light of their own considerable knowledge. They developed their own ideology based on Islam as the answer for Iran ‘s problems “. (74)
In the effervescence of the end of the Sixties, the Shah himself did not seem to understand where the “new gospel” was coming from.
“We saw the agitators declare that there was no contradiction between fundamentalist Islam and Soviet style socialism. This surprising finding was brought to us by the People’s Fighters (Mojahedin-Khalq) who had been trained in Lebanon and Libya”, writes the Shah in an attempt to analyse this phenomenon. (75)
This is an understandable mix up during the Cold War when all threats had to come from Stalin’s heirs.
However, without making a serious mistake, he could have looked toward Peking. In fact, all the little groups were showing signs of Maoist thinking, seen as innovative and, above all, without a corrupted past:
“Mao Tse Tung is basically anti-dogmatic and anti-authoritarian. He gives priority to the initiative of the masses over that of the apparatus; he insists on the principles of equality. He repeats that the Party cannot take the place of the masses and that the masses must free themselves” exclaimed a young woman who admired the leader of the Long March. (76)
“We are not the liberators. A nation must free itself to appreciate the value of its own freedom... There should be no limits to the freedom of people, right up to the point of armed rebellion... “, echoed the PMOI without spelling out if it accepted that rebellion could be used against itself. (77)
In the dialectic, as in practice, we can see more and more that “Rajavist” syncretism owes a lot to Maoism:
“The Mojahedin appear to operate under the illusion that, by acting alone without alliances with other opposition forces, they can overthrow the strongly ensconced clerical regime, just as Mao was able to destroy Chiang Kai-Chek’s nationalist forces”. (78)
Like Mao, we shall see the PMOI stigmatise the American paper tiger: the imperialism to defeat, source of all the world’s ills.
By the shedding of blood
“Thousands and thousands of martyrs have given their lives for the people’s interests. Let us raise their flag high, advancing on the route marked by their blood,” proclaimed Chairman Mao. (79)
The PMOI followed his example by continually citing their own “martyrs”, sacrificed on the cause’s altar and whose example must suffuse the entire struggle. The date of the 1963 uprising thus became an heroic gesture which the movement claimed as its own.
“Despite the suffering caused by the pressures brought to bear by the Shah regime, and despite the sufferings of arrests, torture and persecution, each year, since 1972, 5pecial ceremonies have been organised to mark Khordad 4 (‘3 June,) to commemorate the martyred founders of the PMOI... However, the first anniversary of Khordad 4 after the victory of the revolution had a special significance and a special content. American imperialism which held up political power had been smashed by the glorious victory of the February Revolution “. (80)
The struggle against imperialism, in the form of the United States, was the sword’s edge of the International working tirelessly for the Great Red Dawn. Mao issued an unambiguous appeal. If the progressive forces which, almost everywhere, were engaging in subversion and the destabilisation of governments in the Western camp learned how to coordinate among themselves, victory was close:
“Peoples of the world unite to defeat the American aggressors and their lackeys. Let the people listen only to their own courage, dare to give battle, confront difficulties, advance in wave upon wave and the whole world will be theirs. The monsters will be wiped out”. (81)
The People’s Mojahedin of Iran, who had carefully studied the major revolutionary theories, blew the same trumpets:
The explosions mentioned above prove the fact that the peoples must imperatively unite to confront the enemies of the people. those who massacre and pillage nations. The only way of uprooting world imperialism is unity of action “. (82)
Chairman Mao did not limit himself to ideology. He gave useful advice on how to act in the face of an adversary with superior force. This meant transforming an external aggression into a factor for victory:
“In the case of an enemy attack, if the conditions exist to fight back, our Party will surely take the position of legitimate defense to wipe them out, resolutely, radically, integrally and totally (do not lightly give battle, only fight if we are sure or winning). Under no circumstances should we permit ourselves to be intimidated by the terrifying image of the reactionaries”. (83)
The PMOI also included the use of supposed threats which underlay the very nature of imperialism. It was necessary to continually motivate the militants by showing them which devil to fight:
“As long as the fighting people of Iran exist, we can use imperialist threats and pressures to develop our revolution and the freedom of our people. The imperialists and their mercenaries are those who should fear starting another Vietnam for themselves “. (84)
To carry out the struggle against Chiang Kai Chek’s Government, Mao Tse Tung based his action on the Communist Party and its leadership structure. The defeated armies of the Kuomintang (KTM) fell back on the island of Taiwan while Mao gave a country as large as a continent to the Communist Party alone. He lays out his “recipe” clearly:
“To make revolution, it is necessary to have a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party based on Marxist- Leninist theory and Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the great popular masses to victory against imperialism and its lackeys”. (85)
The People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran wanted, for its part, to be an alternative to the Shah’s regime. But it did not want to share that role. Under its banner, it called for all other revolutionary currents of thought to fuse with them. This was a unitary obsession which led inevitably to a single party system:
“The MKO of Iran, by inviting all the parties, organisations and popular forces to come together in cooperation and unity of action against the imperialis,n enforced by Atnerican military teams, is following the lines of its brothers in action against imperialism... It is therefore very clear that the inevitable death of imperialism can only be provoked by a politically correct line, vigilant resistance and the indefatigable will of the people. There is no other way. Let us make Iran the cemetery of imperialism and replace ii by the people‘s will “. (86)
Wiped out before it could put its theories and programmes into practice, the PMOI today promises free elections if, by chance, it ever wins control of Iran. It even swears to accept the will of the majority:
“If people do not vote for us (‘tiller we have overthrown the mullah regime,) we will remain in Opposition and hold firmly to our principles “. (87)
Obviously, the PMOI cannot say so explicitly, but throughout its “transition” programme they clearly explain that the people cannot ignore them since they embody the people. They will show’ that, better than anyone else, they know the people’s hopes.
But even if the Iranian nation turned away from the theocracy under which it lives today, there is no evidence that the voters would overwhelmingly elect Maryam Rajavi and her alter ego: her husband. The former would be the President. The latter would be the grey eminence of an organisation that would not flinch from using violence as the means to reach its goals. History is full of examples in which a minority, attaining power through resignations or dissensions within the ruling group, confiscates the entire country, taking away the use of all rights.
The religious side
While Rajavi’s Mojahedin refuse to admit any official Marxist affiliation, they openly claim to be Islamic. Or, rather, they say that they follow the very specific interpretation of Islam which can be found in the teaching of the thinker, Ali Shariati.
He was born in 1933 and came to France in 1960 with an excellent academic record in Iran. En a country permanently marked by the 1848 February Revolution — the first democratic revolution that succeeded, however briefly in creating equal access to political rights—he learned of the struggles in the Third World. All Shariati spent much time with those working for Algerian independence.
“Among the thinkers who influenced the young was also Ali Shariati who recast Islam as a religion of struggle in the service of Third World liberation and restored a Shi’ism with its original confrontational content: in his view it had to be an anti-imperialist weapon and a vector for the creation of new social relations,” writes Paul Balta. (88)
The People’s Mojahedin took much from Shariati, who was also a noted opponent of the Shah who jailed him in 1975. This did not prevent his writings from circulating in hundreds of thousands of copies by the time he died in 1977.
“Islam, in this view, is underpinned by an ultra Leftist ideology which comes out most clearly with the People’s Mojahedin. They combined Islam with Marxism and made the link between the Moslem community and the proletariat”, write Fahrad Khosrokhavar and Olivier Roy. (89)
The People’s Mojahedin of Iran, like Au Shariati, want to create a “Democratic Republic” in which all class struggle will be banned:
“They share many common themes with the writings and sayings and declarations of Ali Shariati, an Islamic theorist who was not a member of the clergy.
He imagined an ideology through the fusion of certain aspects of Shi’ia Islam and Marxism. Shariati believed that true Moslems, instead of concentrating on the ceremonial and ritual parts of their religion to prepare for Paradise, should imitate the example of lmam Hussein who gave his life in the fight against injustice and tyranny.
Shariati argued that the forces of injustice in the modern world were personified by the arbitrary rules of despotism, as well as imperialism and capitalist exploiters.
Repeating Shariati’s views, the Mojahedin saw the truth in such statements as ‘it is the duty of all Moslems to join in the continuity of Imam Hussein in struggling to create a society without classes and in destroying all forms of capitalism, despotism and imperialism’.” (90)
“The Mojahedin ideology is based on a democratic and progressive interpretation of Islam...,” proclaim the PMOI. But which Islam are they talking about? (91)
The Mojahedin demanded that true believers no longer follow the advice of the religious leaders. They were seen by the Mojahedin as agents of tyranny and exploitation. Therefore, they developed a discourse which led to the logical conclusion that the entire religious Establishment was useless.
This form of ideology is considered anathema by the Iranian religious Establishment, even by those who do not support the idea of velayat-e-fagih (rule by the Islamic jurists). It is also rejected by the commercial class of shopkeepers and bazari, as well as most in the professional and business classes. (92)
73.- Jean Sévillia, op. cit.
74.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
75.- Reza Pahlavi, op. cit.
76.- “Dc Ia Chine” — by Maria-Antonietta Macchiocchi — Paris, 1971
77.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
78.- Ahmad Ghoreishi et Dariush Zahedi, op. cit.
79.- “On coalition government” — 24 april 2945 — Selected Works of Mao Tsé Tung, vol III
80.- “Manifestez a l’invitation des Moudjahidin Khalgh” — Mojahid,4 June 1981
81.- “Declaration of support for the People of the Congo, Against American Aggression”, Mao Tse Tung, 28 November 1964
82.-Mojahid, 19apr11 1980
83.- “Circular of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on Peace Negotiations with the Kuomintang”, 26 August 1945, Mao Tse Tung, Selected Works, Vol IV
84.- “Créons un autre Vietnam”, Mojahid, 9 april 1980
85.- “Revolutionary Forces of World, Unide Against imperialist aggression”, November 1948, Selected Works of Mao Tse Twig, Vol. IV.
86.- Communiqué politico-militaire n0 24 — l’Organisation des Moudjahidin du peuple d’Iran
87.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
88.- Iran-Iraq, tine guerre de 5000 ans, by Paul Baha, Paris, 1987 89.- Iran: comment sortir d‘une revolution religieuse — by Fahrad Khosrokhavar and Olivier Roy — Paris, 1999
90.- Ahmad Ghoreishi and Dariush Zahedi, op. cit.
91.- “Democracy Betrayed”, op. cit.
92.- Ahmad Ghoreishi et Dariush Zahed, op. cit.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli called for tougher measures against the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, also known as the MEK, PMOI and NCRI) terrorist group by the European Union...