chapter  1
18 Pages

The Iranian Left in international perspective


From its origins in the 1900s, the Iranian Left was prominent in opposition to the authoritarian Iranian state, of shah as much as of imam, and to the various forms of external intervention to which Iran has been subjected. This sustained record was marked by many a division and twist of policy and, in all but one case, that of 1908-09, ended in defeat. The cost in human life and suffering, and the commitment demonstrated across these decades, were immense. Despite continued repression, the Left did much to shape the course of Iranian politics and intellectual life. No history of twentieth-century Iran can, indeed, be written without a discussion of the role within it of the Left, be it of the current that dominated for much of this period, pro-Soviet communism, or of the many other more autonomous groups, from the constitutionalist social democrats of the Constitutional Revolution through to the Third Force of the 1940s and on to the components of the independent Marxist Left in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the attempts of their enemies, monarchical and clerical, to do this, no measured history of Iran in the twentieth century can, therefore, suppress this record.1