A Century of Revolution: Social Movements in Iran

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The ulama were not uniformly mobilized as a cohesive class across the principal urban sites of protest, whereas the affected merchants were. Just as in- dividual ulama had varying material and ideological interests motivating their support of or resistance to the monarchy and the British, so the merchants used religious symbolism and their organizational assets to address definite economic concerns.

Islamfacilitated rather than caused the movement, and the economic and cultural dimensions of the struggle were inextricably and complexly linked to one another. In chapter 2, Janet Afary draws attention to previously underanalyzed aspects of the constitutional movement of to , in particular to the roles played by peasants and ethnic communities, and to socialist ideals in the struggle.

Com- bined with her other pioneering work on the roles played by peasants and women, this strongly suggests that this movement, known in Persian as the Mashrutiyat, had the potential to be a truly social revolution, that it was in some sense deci- sively class and gender based, and that only by making genuinely radical de- mands for more than could actually be obtained did it make some of the striking gains it actually registered. The intensity and ultimate exhaustion of these sharp internal struggles provided a crucial opening for the outside intervention of that sealed its defeat.

Afary's contribution provides an important counterpoint to Moaddel's reflections on the relationships between class and ideology in social movements, by making crucial connections among the largely neglected activities of the most radical secular groups in the period, their political cultural frame- works, and the outcome of the movement.

This work, and her forthcoming book on the subject, promises to bring the socialist current in the Constitutional Revo- lution into the clear light of day, where it will be found closer to the political center of gravity than has hitherto been recognized. In his contribution to this volume, Michael Zirinsky assesses two of the key unresolved historical issues in the fateful rise to power of Reza Khan in the early s.

The conclusion he reaches here is that al- though this aid was not the result of a unified London-based strategy, the actions of British officials on the spot probably determined the success of the coup. Sec- ond, Zirinsky explores the context of Reza's subsequent accession to the throne in the period from to , with due emphasis placed on Reza's ability to defeat serious domestic challenges from the northern Jangali rebels and other local movements, to garner further Western support as the strongman needed to safe- guard Western interests in the country, and to maneuver astutely in the maze of political parties and key social groups constituting the Iranian polity.

Zirinsky's two contributions judiciously resolve some rancorous polemics that have domi- nated the literature on the rise of Reza Khan and the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty. Amir Hassanpour tackles in chapter 4 the knotty and controversial subject of the postwar nationalist social movements in Kurdistan and Azarbaijan, offering a thorough, trenchant overview of the politicized historiography on this period.

He acknowledges the historically contingent and external factors that World War II and Soviet occupation afforded the Kurds and Azarbaijanis, but insists on the salience of the internal determinants of these movements as national movements. Hassanpour's linguistic and ethnographic analyses trace the deep cultural and historical roots of the identities of the Azeri and Kurdish peoples. Similarly, Has- sanpour assesses the achievements of the two movements and their differential degrees of radicalism attributed to their dissimilar economic structures and social bases.

He views the outcome in terms of the intersection of international, national, and local balances of forces, with emphasis on Soviet pressures on the leadership in Azarbaijan and the limited possibilities for further resistance in Kurdistan. He thus sketches a dialectic of resistance and ultimate defeat owing to the failure of larger forces to support or facilitate the very real and deep grassroots movements. The nature of nationalist protest is dissected in chapter 5 by Sussan Siavoshi, who finds that Musaddiq's oil nationalization movement had much in common with other Third World liberation movements of the s and s, but that Musaddiq himself was, in addition, a committed democrat.

The United States, trapped in the prism of the Cold War, was unable to make any fine-grained dis- tinctions among such movements.


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Siavoshi argues that the coup would not have occurred without U. Siavoshi therefore traces the ideo- logical and personal conflicts within the constituent parties of the National Front to the diverging political and economic horizons of the leaderships and social bases of each. The complex role played by the Tudeh Party in this equation is as- sessed from the perspectives of the party, the Front, and the United States. The resulting analysis lays bare the political logic of the movement's defeat.

The fiscal crisis of the newly institutionalized Pahlavi state toward the end of the s intersected with powerful external pressures from the world economy and the Kennedy administration to force the shah to accelerate the structural transfor- mation of Iranian society. Parsa then locates the June uprising in its larger context of secular, trade union, student, and bazaar protests attendant at the start of structural reforms undertaken by the Pahlavi state. The failure of "the" movement then becomes evident in terms of the distinct nature of this series of separate movements, and their relative capacities faced with the various strate- gies employed by the state.

The several key actors were effectively isolated from one another, and a combination of cooperation and repression allowed the state to emerge stronger than ever, with fateful consequences leading to a social revo- lution some fifteen years later. In chapter 7,I take up the vast literature on the causes of the revo- lution in light of current trends in the sociology of revolution, and try to use each to inform the other.

In the process, I offer a synthetic multicausal approach to Iran's recent revolution and a potential model for other Third World social rev- olutionsMexico , Cuba , and Nicaragua among them. The revolution is studied at the intersection of the mixed results of the shah's model of capitalist industrialization in a dependent and authoritarian con- text, the diverse political cultural responses to this experience articulated by sec- ular and religious opponents, and the fortuitous opportunity afforded by an eco- nomic downturn and perceived pressures for reform emanating from the United States in the late s.

The events should be viewed as the latest in- stance of Iran's populist alliance, in which a multiclass urban coalition came tem- porarily together and used creative tactics to topple the monarchy. The aftermath has been at best ambiguously more successful than previous efforts in the twen- tieth century, as the coalition abruptly disintegrated in ways recalling other in- stances of social change in Iran. In the penultimate chapter, Val Moghadam examines this outcome in more detail. She uses elements of neo-Marxism, feminism, and discourse analysis to cast Iran's postrevolutionary transitional experience in the context of Third World populist movements, which she thereby enriches.

The effective use of such pop- ulist symbolic elements as anti-imperialism and social justice by Khumaini and then the Islamic Republican Party immobilized many potential opponents among the left and liberal groups that had contributed to the seizure of power. Com- bined with the skillful control of key institutions and ultimate coercive force, the party successively isolated its rivals and consolidated its grasp on civil society.

Mog- hadam's chapter represents a significant step in linking social change in Iran to larger trends such as populism, and in establishing how struggles over politics, economics, and gender can be mutually constitutive in a concrete case. In my concluding chapter I reflect on the broad comparative, theoretical, and historical issues posed by the study of Iran's century of revolution.

Theoretically, I locate this project with respect to the very different literatures on social move- ments and on revolution, arguing that Iran's pattern of persistent rebellions has much to say to social theorists interested in the specific gravity of social move- ments in the Third World, which possess certain distinctive characteristics mark- ing them off from social conflict elsewhere.

In addition, the comparative-historical study of Iran's social movements with each other and with revolutions elsewhere in the Third World can yield insights about the circumstances under which revo- lutions occur and the factors that shape their chances of success. Finally, I close the volume with some thoughts on where Iran may be heading as its first? What ties these chapters together is the effort on the part of a younger genera- tion of Iran scholars to contribute to the historiography of Iran and larger debates on social movements by offering carefully researched historical accounts in- formed by both well-established and emerging approaches to social change.

Century Of Revolution: Social Movements in Iran (Social Movements, Protest and Contention)

Each has been asked to review the state of debates on the movement in question, and each has elaborated a distinctive position vis-a-vis the literature. Taken as a whole, this book thus offers the beginnings of new ways of thinking about social move- ments in Iranian history, challenging in important respects a certain amount of received wisdom and in other ways confirming past work on the basis of new data.

I hope that readers will benefit from these soundings and carry the discus- sion forward. The tobacco protest movement of is one of the most celebrated events of nineteenth-century Iran. In this movement, religion played a significant role in mobilizing the people against a concession granted by the Qajar shah to a British company.

Because religion was so crucial to the success of the movement and the religious tactic used by the opposition so effective, the event provided a historical precedent and justification for subsequent intervention of the Shi'i es- tablishment in politics. It has generated considerable debate among historians and area specialists as to the causes of the significance of Shi'i religion in Iran's political affairs. In this chapter, I first critically evaluate the existing explanations of the politi- cal role of religion in Iran, offering an alternative explanation, one that focuses on the role of social classes in the historical trajectory that culminated in the tobacco movement of I then extend the lessons of the empirical case of the to- bacco movement to the relationship between ideology and class capacity.

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Explaining Shi'i Politics in the Nineteenth Century The existing literature offers three dominant interpretations of the role of Shi'i Islam in the politics of nineteenth-century Iran. The first is constructed in terms of the specificity of the political theory of early Shi'ism. The second interpreta- tion considers the institutional autonomy of the Shi'i ulama within the context of the weakness of the Qajar state. The third considers the de facto separation, yet mutual reinforcement, of political and Shi'i hierocratic domination in the Qajar polity.

In the first interpretation, the ideology of Shi'ism is presumed to have an in- dependent role, directly dictating the political actions of the ulamathe learned religious scholars and organized men of religion.

Iran's Revolutions: Crash Course World History 226

For example, Hamid Algar, fol- lowing Montgomery Watt, derives the oppositional role of Shi'ism from its politi-. Given that Shi'i Muslims believe in the Imamate, a succession of charismatic figures who are believed to be the dispens- ers of true guidance after the death of Prophet Muhammad, and that the twelfth Imam is in hiding or occultation, no worldly legitimate authority has been left on earth.

Thus, "insofar as any attitude to the state and existing authority can be deduced from the teaching of the Imams, it is one that combines a denial of le- gitimacy with a quietistic patience and abstention from action. Nikki Keddie questions the centrality of early Shi'i political theory in explain- ing ulama politics.

Instead, she relates the new doctrinal development among the Shi'i ulama in the late eighteenth centurythe rise of the Usuli school and the decline of the Akhbarito the growth in ulama power. The Usuli, who demanded that all believers pick a mujtahid a high-ranking cleric to follow and abide by his judgments, "gave the living mujtahids a power beyond anything claimed by the Sunni ulama, and gave to their rulings a sanction beyond anything merely decreed by the state.

These interpretations face two problems. First, they assume that the ulama are politically a homogeneous category. As will be seen, the ulama were not uni- fied vis-a-vis the tobacco concession. Second, they fail to address the question of how and why Shi'ism shaped the political action of certain social classes in so- ciety. Neither the specificity of the political theory of early Shi'ism nor the ulama's conscious effort to protect their traditional social status adequately explains how a significant number of people decided to participate in protest movements be- hind the banner of Islam, for it is evidently true that without devout followers any attempt on the part of the ulama to oppose the state was doomed at the very outset.

The ulama demanding that they should be followed is one thing; the laity actually following their lead is quite another. A third interpretation is advanced by Said Amir Arjomand, who follows Weber in using the concept of hierocracy to describe the social organization of the Shi'i religion.

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He argues that the Safavid period marks the transition of the Shi'i ulama from a privileged sodality to a hierocracy. The Safavid rulers en- joyed a caesaropapist admixture of political and religious authority. With the consolidation of the Qajar political order, the hierocracy gained power and influence. Indeed, these two forms of political and hierocratic domination began to reinforce each other, representing "the twin functions of imamatesupreme political and religious leadership of the community.

Indeed, at one point he seems to imply that his theory of ulama institutional consolidation has little bear- ing on the actual political behavior of the ulama: The clearly defined and sharply stratified hierarchy of deference was incapable of generating action, or of controlling the individual members and disciplining them as a unified organization and in consistent pursuit of doctrinal and insti- tutional interests As an organization, the hierocracy was poorly isolated from its sociopolitical environment and was therefore permeable by envi- ronmental forces.

The forces of its political environment, extraneous factors emanating from the interests of the state or of social groups, could easily impinge upon the action of the hierocracy or prevent such action from being initiated.

Century Of Revolution: Social Movements in Iran by John Foran

Although Arjomand does not seem to contemplate the implications of these state- ments for his explanatory model, his emphasis on "extraneous factors" is con- sistent with the argument advanced here. A common problem with the existing explanations of Shi'i politics in Iran is the tendency to conflate Shi'ism and the ulama into one category. For Algar, the ulama are the carriers of Shi'i religion, and their behavior is dictated by the teachings of Shi'a Islam. For Keddie and Arjomand, it seems that the ulama are coterminous with Shi'ism, and the dynamic of Shi'a Islam, as a world religion, is reduced to the dynamic of ulama action.

In this chapter, I treat Shi'ism and the ulama as two analytically distinct categories. The ulama are a group of learned religious scholars and jurists who have interests in maintaining reli- gious uniformity and protecting their culturally advantageous position and social privilege.

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