The Sixties, the time of the PMOI's birth, are defined in black and white. Perhaps the colours red and white would be more accurate since the East-West conflict deeply divided the mid-20th Century world. On one side, the Soviet bloc under Moscow's command gathered in the Warsaw Pact. It was held together by a rigid Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. On the other, stood the western countries inside the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) led by the United States. They were bound together by their belief in the triumph of capitalism. Yet, this bipolarization of the planet never led to any big armed conflict, nuclear or conventional, between the two blocs.
However, right up until 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and Communism as a governing system began to recede rapidly, many crises threatened world peace: like the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Happily, the two super powers, equal in force, always avoided using their nuclear arsenals other than as strategic dissuasion. A direct clash between the Soviet Union and America would have inevitably led to the destruction of whole populations.
Moscow and Washington, on the other hand, set off local points of conflict which opened the way for their bids to control strategic regions. Whether it was in Asia, Latin America, or Africa, these centripetal forces led back to the Kremlin or the White House. It was basically in the Middle East that the East-West rivalry found its most serious field of action: the key to access to extraordinary oil reserves.
It is in this basic paradigm that it is best to understand the birth of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran. Like many similar organisations, the PMOI was not bom ex nihilo. It comes right out of our contemporary history. This was a period of chances and changes which shed light on the triple political nature of the PMOI: political, religious and social. Like his "colleagues" elsewhere, Massoud Rajavi invented nothing new.
Today, the movement harshly denies its references to Marxism:
"The label of Islamist Marxist was used by the Shah's SAVAK and imitated by Khomeini's regime to be used as an attempt to subvert the Mojahedin 's social base." (11)
The organisation is not fully wrong in its denials. In 2003, it is true; the movement is no longer Marxist or even Islamist in the traditional sense of the term. Having adapted progressive political ideas and Koranic interpretations, the Great Leader has forged a personal syncretism which owes little to Das Kapital, the bible of pure socialism, or to a Koran of unbreakable laws. Rajavism has clearly eclipsed all other references.
Coming on stage
Despite a rhetoric which today seeks political correctness behind many invocations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the PMOI is deeply marked by the revolutionary principles adopted at birth.
As Ahmad Goreishi and Dariush Zahedi have analysed it, the revolutionary process follows a very precise cursus, one which is applicable as a common model for all movements regardless of peoples and borders.
"Revolution is a process which sets off basic political, socio-economic and ideological changes. The revolutionary end to an existing regime is brought about by the meeting of two sets of correlating variables: the internal defects of the regime and its vulnerability and the coordinated action of social groups and indi¬viduals who oppose it. The achievement of a successful revolution requires a conscious effort of the revolutionaries aimed at the fall of the existing order. Finally, the relation between popular dis¬content and the fall of the regime depends on the skills of the revolutionary leaders and (in)competence of those in power". (12)
Iran, by its geographical position and richness beneath its ground, is at the point of conflict between the Americans and the Soviets. Having organised the fall of Dr Mossadegh in 1953 and restoring Reza Shah to the throne, the United States won the first round. They moved into Iran like a conquered country, overarming the sovereign's troops. The Shah himself reigned as an absolute monarch in Teheran to play the policeman of the Persian Gulf. But, in the Sixties the hopes of the popular majority formed the base for the demands of groups who, concluding that legal and non-violent political struggle was impossible, chose armed struggle.
In Iran, as the authors of Iran in the 20th Century emphasise, '"the new generation was still fascinated by the Mossadegh expe¬rience and had other models taken from revolutionary and inde¬pendence movements in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Latin America. For these young militants, ideological barriers did not exist. They no longer rejected Marxism, which they knew well, without, at the same time, turning away automatically from Islam. Less fascinated than their elders by the technical and economic success of Europe, they were more aware of the violence caused by imperialism". (13)
Like the Red Brigades and Prima Linea in Italy, the Rote Armee Faktion of Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhoff in Germany, the Red Army of Japan and Action Direct from France, guerrilla move¬ments inspired by Marxism-Leninism broke out around the world.
These were groups that cultivated their knowledge with readings of Leon Trotsky, Fidel Castro and, above all, the movement best¬seller, Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book.
They included combat cells that took Che Guevara and General Giap as their models.
"Rigid, violent and doctrinaire, these groups seemed more Sta-nilist than Stalin. Iron discipline, a reflex for secrecy, self criticism, and private life sacrificed to the organisation: a sect syndrome", suggested Jean Sevilla. (14)
Young Iranians crossed the Rubicon and organised resistance combat groups. Moved by the ideology of the Ultra-Left, they aimed to install proletarian rule by terrorist attacks.
"Many of the young intellectuals who saw the repression of June 1963, who had seen the hopes for political representation held by the National Front for the Liberation of Iran and even Tudeh swept away, turned to more radical solutions, often close to despair", according to historians. (15)
"Who are these people? Sons of merchants, civil servants stu¬dents and engineers. With no hope of being followed by the people, they chose violence because the old nationalist and revolutionary forces of the Fifties had had their day and decomposed. They also saw that all the hopes of the Opposition were used against them by the regime. Thus they think only defiance and sacrifice can provide the examples to keep youth from submitting," reports the French weekly L 'Express. (16)
The first, the People's Fedayeen took action. They were led by Bijan Jazani (executed in 1975) who had learned his craft in the Tudeh (the Iranian Communist Party). After bloody skirmishes with the army and police, they took terrible losses and were con¬tained. But the example had been given. The Sazeman-e-Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the People's Mojahedin of Iran was created on 6 September 1965 by Mohammad Hani, as well as Sa'id Mohsen and Ali-Asghar Badi'zadegan, two other young intellectuals. It was about to enter on the scene.
"Mohammad Hanifnejad, the founder of the People's Mojahe¬din of Iran was an agricultural engineer and a Moslem intellec¬tual. Born in 1938 in Tabriz, capital of Azerbaijan province, he was an anti-Shah activist. " (17)
Condemned to death by a court martial, he was executed on 25 May 1972.
Soon others would join and together they would decide to act. Analysts point out that "The founders of the People's Mojahedin bom between 1938 and 1940 came to the same conclusion as the People's Fedayeen about the impossibility of a parliamentary solution... They met each other at the University of Teheran and, beginning in 1965, they formed study groups inspired by Marxist models and by Shi'ism in several cities. Some of them joined Palestinain training camps in Jordan and Lebanon after the Six Day War of 1967. This helped radicalise the organisation". (18)
12.- "Prospects for regime change in Iran (Islam and Demo-cratization)" - Vol. 5 - Middle East Policy - by Ahmad Ghoreishi and Dariush Zahedi -January 1997
13.- L 'Iran au XXs siecle - by Jean-Pierre Digard, Bernard Hour-cade and Yann Richard - Paris, 1996
14.- Le terrorisms intellectuel - de 1945 a nos jours - by Jean Sevilla - Paris, 2000
15.- Digard, Hourcade and Richard, op. cit.
16.- "Les victimes de la Revolution blanche" -L'Express, 28-5 march 1972
17.- "Democracy Betrayed", op. cit.
18.- Digard, Hourcade and Richard, 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...