Examining the Authenticity of Dialectical Marxism in Practice

The Role of Religion in Mobilizing the Masses towards Revolution

The last few decades of the last century witnessed a new phenomenon, namely the Islamic revolution of Iran, where religion demonstrably played a major role in mobilizing the masses for the purpose of a national cause, simultaneously inspiring aspirations of International proportions with regard to the oppressors happily hogging their way around the globe. However, there are some politically observant and strategic analysts who have tried to trivialise or belittle the role of religious ideology in forming and motivating the forces of the revolution.

In his book: \'Six theories of the Victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran\', Haghighat edited an article entitled: \'The Role of Ideology, Leadership and People in the Islamic Revolution\' by Manoochehr Mohammdi that states that religion was the main factor for the victory of the Islamic revolution. Analyzing the main ideologies that could and eventually did influence the destiny of the revolution, we read in the article by Mohammadi:

\'In Iran, since long ago and from the early years of the present century, three different eastern and western ideologies have attracted different social groups. These are Nationalism, Marxism-Leninism, and Islam. Their advocates have endeavoured to gather a following by painting their own picture of ideal society. Nationalism, in the minds race, incorporates historical background,

language, culture and traditions of people, who have gathered inside a set of geographical boundaries as an undissociatable unit, and considering such, honour it as friendly and otherwise as alien and enemy. The Marxist movement, despite the extensive efforts made, was less successful than nationalism in Iran for two reasons:

The atheistic structure and materialistic nature of Marxism-Leninism contradicted the Iranian society\'s nature and their deep religious beliefs. Thus, it could not find popular acceptability.

The extensive affiliation of Marxists to Moscow resulted in their becoming regarded "as a result of the bitter experiences of Iranian-Russian relation",

or as a group of Russian puppets. However, Islam as a divine school of thought had historical roots in the minds of various classes of people. A society with 98% of its members being traditional Muslims, and most of them adhering to their divine book\'s commands, is well prepared to accept revolution.\'

Many have rejected the idea that religion, and in particular Islam could have played a strong role in the people\'s motivation towards revolting against the Shah. Mohammadi writes:

\'Among the main arguments against this ideology being used as the ideology of the revolution are:

Many years of western imperialist propaganda had inspired the notion that, "Religion should be separated from politics and have no relationship with socio-political problems". This program of insinuation had affected various classes of people and even some of the clergy and religious authorities. The ideal society that Islam intended to establish belonged to 14 centuries in the past and many believed it impossible to establish its orders in the modern era. Doubts existed whether it could answer the present epoch\'s conundrums.

Reliance on some of the Islamic principles, such as dissimulation and waiting for the advent of the 12th Imam in Shi\'ah tradition and obeying the designated guardian among the Sunnis, had left no room, not even in the minds of some true Muslims, for the idea that Islam could be wielded as a revolutionary ideology for changing the prevailing values.\'

After discussing many of the abovementioned points he insists:

\'The evidence in all of these popular and mass movements proves that the essential accelerating factor in the revolution had a purely religious aspect and was related to the insulting article as follows:

From January 10, 1978 till the victory of the revolution, all of the demonstrations had a religious aspect and were performed using religious traditions, ceremonies and festivities, (like Ashura, the 40th day mourning ceremony, and religious festival), and had no other distinguishing traits.

The starting and ending points of the demonstrations were at mosques and the regime showed its enmity to religion by attacking the Great Mosque of Kerman, Habib Mosque in Shiraz, and Lonradeh Mosque in Tehran, trying to stop these gatherings.

Invitation for the gatherings for street marches and leadership of the demonstrations were accomplished by the scholars. Non-religious leaders never had any role in administering and leading the demonstrations. Even when the National Front, trying to test its power, declared a strike and street march on the 40th day of mourning for the martyrs of Black Friday, it was unsuccessful.

These initiatives had no relationship with the more open political atmosphere or Carter\'s human rights, policy, but they were brutally and ruthlessly answered. Even American so-called human rights supporters encouraged and supported the Shah in these acts of brutality.

People\'s slogans and requests were religious and political, and were based on two axes: Firstly the Shah\'s leaving and the fall of the Pahlavi regime, and secondly, establishing an Islamic state. Non-religious groups had no choice but to join the Muslim masses and were thus forced to abandon their own slogans so as not to face popular objection.

He concludes at the end of his article:

\'The greatest role in the victory of the revolution in Iran was played by religion and the school of martyrdom. Any attempt to relate it to issues such as Carter\'s human rights policy, the coalition of various forces, nationalistic movements, and so on, is distortion of reality and disagrees with documented historical facts.\'

This fact is also shared and confirmed by sharp and astute Western writers, such as Fred Halliday who, in an article titled: The Contradictory Legacies of Ayatollah Khomeini: The Iranian Revolution at Twenty presented in a London International Conference in 1999, wrote describing the above mentioned elements as follows:

"Khomeini had built a regime that combined religious and ideological authority with strong security system….The Iranian revolution claimed to be a novel kind of revolution, and many outside Iran agreed with this: this was a revolution made in the name of religion, and led by the clergy. This has never happen before in the history of modern revolutions.

There were indeed other elements of novelty: this… Its ideological character was evident in the fact that it did not seek to invoke a long set of predecessors: Khomeini insisted…. The only model was that of the Prophet in the seventh century.

It is explicitly emphasizing that the Islamic revolution produced a new model for revolution in modern history that was both ideological and religious. Two factors combined to demonstrate in favour of Islam at the beginning of the third millennium.

The revolution faced many challenges and succeeded in stabilising and dynamically carrying out its functions. What was remarkable to observe was the domino effect collapse of the Communist states which had for so many years served as staunch rivals to the capitalist model. This has provided an extremely significant opportunity to revive the role of religion and the Divine values within the everyday life of the human being.

The transformation or the influence of Divine values on the International arena was witnessed by politicians and strategists. Referring to this remarkable change, Shirin Hunter wrote the following in an article entitled: "The Post-Soviet International System and the Dialogue of civilizations":

  • "Between 1950s and 1970s, these efforts (referring to the United Nation Charter and the activities of other countries struggling to achieve independence within the International arena) were related mostly to issues of political and economic independence and to trying to [become part] of the International political system.

In the 1980s, however, cultural and value-related issues acquired greater importance, and this trend was strengthened in the 1990s, following the Soviet Union collapse. Today, cultural and civilisational issues are key elements of the International discourse and inter and intra-state relations."

While ideology and religion - especially Islam in the case of the Soviet failure in Afghanistan - provided an indispensable service in effecting the failure of communism, one could have possibly prognosticated the ideology, in general, and Islam in particular, to be central to the mind of strategists and theoreticians alike were it not for the number of remaining doctrinaires who were either not vigilantly engaged in scrutinizing the International arena, or who wilfully ignored this enormous ideological role, preferring to jettison the importance of religion.

Some leading political figures espoused the idea of a "New World Order" with the existence of a single world Mega Power. However, they felt less at home with the resulting un-confrontational vacuum; having an adversary served well for uniting inner fronts in the face of a (real or imagined) major external enemy.

In order to groom the everyday minds of leaders, minions and masses actively in the same direction, it was assumed that Islam could fill the void and become the perfect alternative bogeyman. Speaking about a \'New World Order\' was a politically motivated vague formulation and an attempt to present American Western hegemony over the rest of the world. It was not, however, shaped as an intellectual theory nor received as a well formulated theorem from a charismatic individual.

The reason should be intrinsically clear as simply highlighting a fact is not an exceptional accomplishment, nor a great task entrusted to a magnificently charismatic global leadership.

Again, it was left to an American thinker to produce a theory to serve as Trojan Horse, saving ship, and dynamic vehicle within the \'New World Order\'. The theory of the \'Clash of Civilizations\' was introduced in a book by Samuel Huntington. He, a US political scientist, was "the director of security-planning for the National Security Council" in the White House regime of Jimmy Carter. Huntington has had access to a lot of very interesting behind-the-scenes data denied to lesser mortals.

The ideas in this book were first presented in a lecture at the Washington "American Enterprise Institute." One of the crucial purposes and motivation for Huntington\'s brainchild lay in this factor, as, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some considered the world could finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief due to the death of the cold war.

According to the ideas in Huntington\'s book, however, one should not take that breath of relief as humanity\'s destiny has been ensnared, once again, by a huge, profound and wider global Clash. As he put it, paving the way for presenting his brainchild, namely 'The Clash of Civilization': true friends require true enemies:

"For peoples seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity, enemies are essential, and the potentially most dangerous enmities occur across the fault lines between the world\'s major civilizations." (p. 20)

Within and between these lines one is able to discern a crucial insidious factor, i.e. a shift from emphasis on ideology to something rarely, if ever, discussed within the circles of strategists, due to its fluid character the very nature of which escapes clear definition based on solid background: civilization.