by Ramin Mazaheri and cross-posted with PressTV
We shouldn’t be surprised the West doesn’t understand the Iranian Islamic Revolution, even after 43 years. After all, they don’t even understand their own political revolutions.
I’m writing a new book on the brutal repression of the Yellow Vests in France – which should be out before April’s election – and it’s forced me to freshen up on my modern Western political history, which begins with the French Revolution of 1789.
Ask an average Frenchman, and I have asked many – they aren’t taught much about their own revolution, and certainly not the era of Robespierre and Danton.
They are told to have – even if the average Frenchman implicitly feels this is wrong – an ambivalent attitude towards the man who did more than anyone to solidify and defend the primary principles of the French Revolution: Napoleon Bonaparte.
Nor are they taught the history of the mid-late 19th century, when the birth of Western Liberal Democracy created not just famines on purpose in places like Iran, India, Ireland and elsewhere, but the inequalities and catastrophes which literally created the Third World as we know it today. They don’t know who I am talking about when I bring up Adolphe Thiers, the French liberal politician who collaborated with the German Empire’s Bismarck to lay siege to France’s capital for months in what’s known as the Paris Commune of 1871. The treasons of Western Liberal Democracy are as hushed up as they are rewarded – Thiers became the first president of France’s Third Republic.
This is not to denigrate the average Frenchman’s intelligence whatsoever – they are denied a modern political education in a domestic intellectual famine routinely imposed by Western Liberal Democracy. Nor is France exceptional, because the same goes for places like the United States, where the greatest political system ever in the history of mankind was established… by slaveowners who waged merciless war on the aboriginal peoples.
The UK is the most screwed up, being the intractable counter-reactionary subversive of every progressive political movement since 1789, yet somehow seeing in its own mirror the beacon of fair play.
Iran’s primary revolutionary motto was to refuse defining itself in contrast to the history of others: “Neither East nor West but the Islamic Republic”. Admirable, certainly, but after 43 years Iran’s revolution has become entrenched in global political history as the most successful political revolution of our contemporary era. That’s not an opinion – who is even close?
Thus, after 43 years the Iranian Revolution must be seen as what it is: a spectacularly successful redistribution of income and political power towards the lower classes – via totally unprecedented principles and methods – in a revolution which can now only be compared with 1789 and the Soviet Union in 1917.
This is true even if the West cannot see it; even if the West, led by the UK (as always), wages war on it.
They all start the same – down with the privileges of kings and the arrogant
What is the fundamental basis of the Iranian Revolution, even more than national sovereignty? It is the abolishment of monarchy.
Monarchy: the cardinal sin of domestic politics, just as invasion is the cardinal sin of international politics.
It’s truly the root of all political evils; it creates humanity’s most appalling privileges, arrogance and anti-social behavior; it exists today all over Europe and, due to Europe’s propping up, it exists across the Muslim world; it’s truly the first globalist class! Iran continued a fight started in 1789.
Modern political history begins in 1789 because it begins with the fight against the absolute autocracy of monarchy, and humanity’s shift towards greater and greater democracy. It does not begin in 1688 with England’s Glorious Revolution because all that faux-revolution did was legitimise monarchical oligarchy, which still exists today in England, in Saudi Arabia, in Morocco, and in all monarchies because that’s what monarchy is: collusion on behalf of a few against democracy, equality and humanity.
Monarchies, we must always remember, are the worst of all theocracies: the king claims to be God on earth, and even divine. This is not just despicable but socially and politically reactionary. It took until 1789 for the Eastern Hemisphere to realise this; some have learned, but some still have not and chant “God save the Queen”.
The West is ok with monarchy. They are ok with a privileged few. They are ok with inequality. They are ok with invasions. They think Western Liberal Democracy is the apex of political morality.
That’s all not just immoral, but it’s certainly nonsense history.
It may be interesting to supporters of the Iranian Islamic Revolution to know what did Napoleon say was perhaps his biggest mistake? Restoring the property of the old nobility, whom he had allowed back to France in an amnesty.
He did these things in a misguided effort to heal a country truly torn by years of civil war, which is what all revolutions essentially require; in a country whose revolution was attacked by all the monarchies of Europe (which is to say all of Europe, as 1789 was the first salvo against aristocratic privilege, let’s recall) almost ceaselessly for 20 years. The “Napoleonic Wars” are more accurately titled “the Wars Against the French Revolution”.
If we cautiously assume that they are over, the wars against the Iranian Revolution were shorter – only the bloodiest conflict of the last quarter of the 20th century – but the multinational coalition was just as big. And it even included the USSR, let’s recall.
Why? Because of the historic political advancement behind the Iranian Islamic Revolution.
Ultimately, the French Revolution restored the nobles and thus only nationalised the wealth of the Roman Catholic clergy. They only ended monarchy. (Napoleon was voted emperor by millions of people, and the “voted” part is what made it a spectacular political advance for its era, and not just another typical monarchy.)
The Russian Revolution went further: it restored to the people the wealth of both the clergy and the monarchy, fully empowering the lower classes for the first time.
The Iranian Revolution’s genius is to also end monarchy and to fully empower the lower classes, but to not wage war on the clergy. 1979 empowered the lower classes while also elevated a politically righteous clergy, and in France, Russia, China, Cuba and elsewhere – this had never been done. The results have been a spectacular progress which puts Iran on the level of those historic political advances.
Iran has learned from the politically progressive lessons of 1789, as well as the lessons of 1917 (including not emulating their disastrously unpopular attempted eradication of religion), and now it humbly acts to create some lessons for their own people. Sadly, Iran’s acts inspire the same war by the privileged elite as they did in 1789 and 1917.
Every Iranian has witnessed the radical overturning of the political, economic and social pyramid since 1979. They also see the myriad number of failed Western client states, such as Egypt and Morocco – what Iran would have been had they not willed a popular revolution, and willed to maintain it.
Islam works politically, 1979 also proved. Even the Christian/secular/atheistic West is obsessed with Islam now – in stopping it from “competing in a free marketplace of ideas”, to use an oft-heard Western phrase. This is precisely because of the established success of 1979.
The current talk is that Washington is ready to restore the JCPOA. If so, great. If it’s followed by more stalling – perhaps this is just to give Joe Biden and the Democrats an election win for the midterms, or simply more time for their usual anti-revolutionary subversions – then we shouldn’t be surprised: Revolutionary France saw not just one but seven “Coalition Wars” to restore monarchy, privilege, feudalism, torture, inequality and the oppression of an aristocratic elite. They simply refused to make peace with the socio-political and socioeconomic advances of the French Revolution, which the French people democratically chose again and again and again.
If Iran wants to see its revolution continue it should learn from Napoleon: In 1814, during the 6th Coalition’s War Against the French Revolution, Paris – which hadn’t seen a foreign invader since Joan of Arc 400 years earlier – spectacularly fell without even a full day of fighting because the re-propertied nobles had spread defeatism, paid for subversion and colluded to reverse the French Revolution, which of course they still hated.
Iran has encouraged most exiles to return in an effort to heal the country – this is not necessarily the problem: Revolutionary France’s fault was in allowing inequality to return. Iran must ceaselessly implant the revolution’s principles and root out inequality, both political and economic – then the revolution can never be undemocratically subverted from within and from above, as both the French and Russian Revolutions ultimately were.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.