The tragedy of the Iranian Left ALI MIRSE PA SSI
The story of the Iranian Left in the build-up to the revolution of 1979 is instructive in several important ways. The telling of this story, of course, amounts in the final analysis to the explanation of a tragic modernist failure. In all fairness, however, one should consider that the Iranian Left was confronted by a very difficult and complex situation for which it was not ready. The Islamic discourse and the pre-eminent role of clerics were explained away as “superstructural” manifestations, spontaneous religious expressions, and transiently superficial features of the revolutionary process.3 This overconfidence in theories of modernity and secularization (which scientific Marxism, as well as a range of other modernist ideologies, embraced) mirrored, and perhaps exceeded, the Pahlavi state’s own dogmatic and unrelenting attachment to predigested and hegemonic conceptions of modernity. The Left’s dismissal of religious politics as merely instrumental in their potential not only overlooked a towering and important source of revolutionary force, but resulted in support of Islamic politics, based on the same imperceptive reason, by many leftist organizations and intellectuals.4 We can say that the Left, not unlike many other Iranian political forces, was a victim of the general modernist failure to see Islam as the forceful and violent spring of power that it was. How destructive and unhelpful it proved, in their case, to cling to those rigidly preconceived modernist boundaries when things were unfolding in front of their eyes along profoundly different lines; and the conceptual blindfold
which dispensed with the need for self-doubt remained affixed seemingly until the final and bitter moment of reckoning.