Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1195. Learning From Our Mistakes: More on Barry Sheppard's Misrepresentation of the History of the Iranian Trotskyist Movement

By Kamran Nayeri, November 20, 2013

Women participated in large numbers in the February 1979 revolution
“One who doesn't know and doesn't know that he doesn't know
He will be eternally lost in his hopeless oblivion!”
From a poem by the 14th century Tajik-Iranian poet Ibn Yamin

1. Introduction 

Barry Sheppard has written a partial response to my critical review of his two-volume book, The Party: The Socialist Workers Party: 1960-1988.  His response is partial because it only deals with Part 2 of my review that is an examination of the major junctures in the history of the Iranian Trotskyist movement to show how the crisis of the SWP was not unique and other Fourth International sections experienced similar crises.

From the perspective of drawing the lessons of the degeneration of the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) as well as the lessons of the history of the Iranian Trotskyist movement, that included participation in a deep-going revolution, for the benefit of the new generation of radicalized workers and youth, there are serious problems with Sheppard’s response, hence the need for this rejoinder. 

Sheppard’s response obfuscates my criticism of the weaknesses in The Party’s central claim and my documentation of how he deliberately misrepresents the history of the Iranian Trotskyist movement and its political context (the reader can review my review for documented evidence of this claim and find more documented evidence below). At the same time, there is some evidence that Sheppard has not even bothered to read my review with a minimum of care as he commits new factual mistakes, preventable by such reading. 

Thus, Sheppard reduces my criticism of his book to “opposition to building of Leninist parties” and instead of engaging my documented account of the critical junctures of the history of Iranian Trotskyism that undermines his own narrative in chapters sixteen and twenty two of volume 2 of The Party, he essentially declares it unverifiable. In some instances where he does speak to the issues I have raised he tries to distort the evidence I have marshaled (e.g. HKE’s reactionary support for the occupation of the universities by pro-Khomeini Islamic Student Associations.  More on this to follow). And he tries to “turn the table” by accusing me of turning my back to the fight against the imperialist-backed Iraqi war, “prettifying Bani-Sadr and the Mujahedin,” and being sympathetic to Mujahedin’s terrorist campaigns among other things. Thus Sheppard undermines a promise of his own book—to share and learn from our collective history, including our own mistakes.  

Of course, there is also something positive in Sheppard’s response.  He acknowledges the need to respond to his critics, myself included, who have taken issue with The Party’s total disregard to motivate the relevance of the idea of the vanguard (Leninist) party.  He also explicitly endorses the legacy of the Zahraie-led Hezb-e Kargaran-e Enghlabi  (Revolutionary Workers Party, HKE). Thus, now the reader of The Party and my review of it can clearly understand why the narrative in chapters sixteen and twenty two of volume 2 glorify Zharaie at the cost of distorting the history of the Iranian Trotskyist movement and its political context, including the history of the 1979 revolution and its defeat. Sheppard needs to tell a story that justifies his new political alliance. It is new because as I will argue below Sheppard as part of the SWP leadership did hold a critical view of Zahraie’s legacy.   

Before I take on Sheppard’s remarks on Part 2 of my review, I would urge those who have not read my review of The Party to do so to verify for themselves how Sheppard’s reducing it to “opposition to building Leninist parties” is an obfuscation. 

Now let’s focus on Sheppard’s endorsement of the Zahrie’s political legacy in general and his Revolutionary Workers Party (Hezb-e Kargaran-e Enghlabi--HKE) in particular.  My goal is to draw lessons from our experience through an examination of our history. At the same time, I will evaluate Sheppard’s views and claims in light of facts.  

In section 2, I will recapitulate why it is helpful to study and learn from the history of the Iranian Trotskyism in order to better analyze the causes of the crisis of the SWP. In Section 3, I recount easily verifiable facts about Zahraie’s suppression of his critics, including by expulsion; facts that Sheppard prefers to ignore or dismiss as “unverifiable.” Sections 4-8 are given to a careful documentation of the adaptionist course of the Zahraie-led HKE that Sheppard now openly endorses.  I conclude that as part of the SWP and Fourth International Leadership, Sheppard has been on record to oppose at least some of the key features of Zahraie’s adaptationist course.  Thus, his current position in support of the policies that failed 30 years ago show a change of heart for him. Also, I show that if we are to take Sheppard’s claimed championship of “Leninist party building” seriously, then he should have favored the HVK, that I helped found and lead not Zahraie-led HKE.  In Sections 9-11, I deal with Sheppard’s attempt to “turn the table” by throwing mud on my own political views and in the process give more evidence of why HVK not HKE defended Leninist party building.  I end this of necessity long rejoinder with some concluding remarks on Sheppard’s views, his defense of them and his conduct in this exchange in Section 12. 

2. The history of Iranian Trotskyism as a case study of the crisis of mini-Leninist parties of the Fourth International

Part 2 of my review, entitled “The Vanguard Party: The Case of Iran,” was primarily composed to delineate how Fourth International parties other than the SWP experienced similar crisis.  While each case is unique and requires independent investigation, I suggested that there is perhaps something common to them all. I would call it the mini-Leninist party syndrome: problems associated with building tiny Leninist parties in isolation from the general movement of the proletariat.  While Sheppard’s methodology of comparing pre- vs. post-crisis SWP can reveal the extend of its degeneration after the rise of the Barnes cult it does not and cannot address the causes for the rise of the cult itself so soon after Barnes became the National Secretary in 1972 and it cannot explain why the cult was successful in securing the support of the majority of the party to revise its historic program and its tradition at the cost of major unprincipled splits. 

As stated in my review of The Party, Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party represent a radical revision of Marx’s theory of the proletariat and its organization, and this in-and-of itself deserve a critical review a century later in light of experience. At the same time, Lenin proposed his theory for a particular situation at a particular time: it was proposed for a proletarian Russian Social Democratic Labor Party with about 22,000 workers. Lenin’s own faction, the Bolsheviks, had some 10,000 of them. In contrast, the Fourth International sections or other Trotskyist parties never reached a comparable size or degree of proletarianization.  The Fourth International (FI) parties of the 1970s were small propaganda organizations largely composed of radicalized youth. The SWP was among the more proletarian and larger parties of the FI, and certainly with the most experience and political continuity.  However, by the mid-1970 its “central leadership” was composed of women and men in their 30s who came mostly from the radicalized youth. 

The Iranian Trotskyist movement was almost entirely composed of radicalized middle class students living in the U.S., Britain and France before the 1979 revolution.  This movement had little knowledge of the Iranian labor movement and never sank roots in the Iranian working class even after relocation to Iran on the eve of the 1979 revolution.  Its woefully brief history was eventful but riff with factionalism. It lasted only 10 years, from the founding of the Sattar League in the U.S. in 1972 to the formal or actual dissolution of its three parties (HVK, HKE and HKS) in Iran by the end of 1982.  By that time, each of these parties had about 60 members. At the peak of our glory in the summer of 1979 the united HKS (of all Iranian Trotskyists) had some 500 members.

If the SWP was a mini-Leninist party, ours were micro-“Leninist parties.”  If the SWP had an unbroken history going back to the Russian revolution and at certain period in its history was heavily proletarian, our movement had no history whatsoever and we neither knew much about the history of the Iranian working class nor the history of the Iranian communist movement and showed little interest in either one.  If the “healthy” SWP degenerated after the rise of the Barnes cult, the Iranian Trotskyist movement was born deformed.  

The very idea of democratic centralism in such situation become a caricature of itself.  My own direct experience with the Iranian Trotskyist movement and the SWP revealed that a certain division of labor between “central leaders” who were presumed to be responsible for the “big questions” and for “communist continuity” and the rank-and-file who were to carry the day-to-day functions of the party settled in very quickly in the case of the former and somewhat slower in the case of the latter. In the Iranian case, the problem was so severe that the HKE that Sheppard now endorses never had a convention, a constitution, a political resolution and an elected leadership. Its Political Committee was unknown to most of its members and was never elected; there was was no National Committee or a convention to do so! And a majority of the HKE membership never noticed that this was an abnormal state of affairs for a Leninist party!  In the SWP, the selection of the National Committee slate by the Nominating Commission was influenced by the central leadership, in particular the National Secretary, directly or through positioning by the National Secretary or his close associates in branches and fractions party members deemed to have “leadership qualities” that favored their nomination. In the Iranian case, even such formalism was not heeded by our “central leaders” because there was no tradition and no demand by the ranks (those who did question it were suppressed or expelled).  

In Part 2 of my review of The Party, I outlined major junctures in the history of Iranian Trotskyism to show how it was riff with crises despite impressive achievements given our small size. I provided details of the specific forms this ongoing crisis took at each juncture and offered my own evidence-based view of the contributing factors.

My account also exposed Sheppard’s misrepresentation of the history of the Iranian revolution and the history of the Iranian Trotskyism. To make Zahraie the hero of his story, Sheppard had to ignore inconvenient truths of our history and the history of the Iranian revolution.  As my account demonstrated using verifiable sources Zahraie never organized his supporters on the basis of any clear political platform. He typically subordinated programatic principles to “tactical” exigencies. He  proved more interested in administrative centralism to ensure his own undisputed control of the party and our resources than political centralism based on true party democracy. He never built a team leadership, his was from the beginning a star leadership model. Yet, Sheppard who abhors star leadership style of Barnes in the SWP adores it in the case of Iranian movement in the person of Babak Zahraie.  

While in Sheppard’s account Barnes’ cult seems to appear out of nowhere, in my account of the Iranian Trotskyist movement the root-causes for the rise of Zahraie cult and its dominance are laid bare.  I also documented how the Zahraie cult was an important contributing factor to the crisis and demise of our movement. 

How does Sheppard respond to these arguments backed with documented facts? 

3. Sheppard refuses to face inconvenient truths

Sheppard does not engage my account at all. Instead, he chooses to divert attention from it by claiming that it is made up of “assertions which can’t be independently verified or refuted.” He adds:

“In my book I didn’t go into the internal differences and personal squabbles in the Sattar League for this very reason, and also because they were not germane to the subject of my two chapters on the Iranian revolution and its defeat.”

As the reader can verify from my review my criticism of Sheppard is not that he “didn’t go into the internal differences and personal squabbles” of the Iranian Trotskyist movement.  Rather, it is that Sheppard has actually done so by telling the story that suits his protagonist. In Sheppard’s account there are no other leaders of the Iranian Trotskyism except for Zahraie and his companion and whatever fraction of our movement that Zahraie-led at any given time.  All other leaders and groupings are sidelined or simply left out no matter how significant their roles. The portions of the history of the Iranian revolution that Sheppard mentions (sometimes with factual errors) are also distorted to fit in with Zahraie’s political course. 

Further, the reader of The Party can assertion that Sheppard does not cite any source at all for his own account of the Iranian Trotskyist movement(except that in his acknowledgement he pays tribute to Zahraie and his companion for reading the manuscript). In contrast, my account in the review of his book is a participant’s account and is based on our publications, discussion bulletins, internal documents, discussions with other participants, my own political diaries, and personal recollection that I tried to verify to the extent possible.  My narrative is supported by references to and direct quotations from sources that can be easily verified.  In addition, almost all participants I noted or quoted are alive today and some of them must have read my review (close to 1,500 non-unique visits on Our Place in the World at the time of this writing). They could provide their own alternative account if mine includes any shortcomings or errors.  I would be obliged to publish their account and reconsider mine if needed.  In fact, two other former leaders of our movement read an early draft of my review of The Party and provided helpful comments (they wished to remain anonymous).  Siamak Zahraie wrote a few lines about my narrative on his blog that I accidentally discovered. I promptly posted it in the comment section of my review with a link to his blog. Understandably, he did not like my account but did not dispute any of the facts that I marshaled. Neither has Sheppard. 

To show how Sheppard refuses to face the facts that I marshaled consider the following easily verifiable cases I noted where Zahraie’s suppression of his critics was registered by the leaderships of the SWP (including Sheppard) and the Fourth International. 


  • On January 22, 1977, Zahraie spearheaded the expulsion of two members of the Permanent Revolution Tendency in Austin, Texas branch of the Sattar League (SL).  In a meeting with the Political Committee of the SL in New York in March 1977, Barry Sheppard went on record to take his distance from those expulsions and similar repressive administrative methods Zahraie and his associated used to silence their critics.  I quoted from a written report by Sayrafizadeh, a co-founder of the Iranian Trotskyist movement: “Barry [Sheppard] said…without being familiar with specific facts it seems to him that the expulsion of the comrades was wrong because the SL as a whole is unclear about what happened and this organizational measure sacrifices political clarity.  He said it is the duty of the entire PC to reverse this process and it is necessary that political views be discussed openly and clearly and to advice branches to return to a calm atmosphere.” Sheppard can easily confirm or deny the truth of this statement. Soon after that meeting, the Zahraie-led PC majority found it expedient to retract their steps. The SL Political Committee reversed the expulsions in the June 1977 National Committee meeting.

  • In its July 1980 meeting in Brussels, the United Secretariat of Fourth International voted unanimously that Zharaie’s April expulsion of Faction for Trotskyist Unification (FTU) was unjustified and urged the HKE leadership to take them back and work towards a convention. Doug Jenness represented the SWP leadership that included Barry Sheppard.  The FTU had 25 members (20% of the HKE), including the entire Tabriz branch, the only party branch in a region of oppressed nationalities of Iran.  Does Sheppard dispute that the the SWP leadership went on record to denounce this expulsion as unjustified? 

  • On December 5, 1980, Zahraie organized a highly undemocratic “conference” in Tehran that ended with the expulsion of the Marxist Faction.  The Marxist Faction was organized by a number of leaders of the HKE on the question of Kargar’s silence on the fratricidal war waged by the Islamic Republic regime against the Kurdish oppressed nationality, for reintegration of the FTU in the HKE and for immediate steps to organize a democratic party convention.  The SWP leaders that included Sheppard were notified of this unprincipled expulsion. The SWP leadership took its distance from Zahraie’s policies and the HKE after these events. Does Sheppard dispute this fact? 
Are these not facts of the history of the Iranian Trotskyism?  Are these not verifiable statements, especially for Sheppard? If so, do they not show evidence of Zahraie’s autocratic style? 

Of course, the problem for Sheppard is not the verification of these well-know episodes in our movement. The problem for Sheppard is that these simple but stubborn facts undermine his story of the Iranian Trotskyist movement and his glorification of Babak Zahraie's political legacy presented in his book. 

Given Sheppard’s interest in “Leninist party building” let me give a sense of Zahraie brand of Leninism that Sheppard now admires.  Let me quote a section of a report by Nasser Khoshnevis, a co-founder of the Sattar League and a leader of the Marxist Faction, on the December 5, 1980 “conference” of the HKE noted above. (In Part 2 of my review, I discuss this “conference” and its grotesquely undemocratic nature). 

“Comrade Babak’s summary [in the original Khoshnevis uses Zahraie’s internal party name] began with reading exerts from editorials of Kargar numbers 46-56. He emphasized and agitated on issues where there is no disagreement in the party and ignored the fratricidal war in Kurdistan where there is a disagreement.  Comrade Babak said that he will submit these editorials to the internal discussion bulletin and that they are in fact the document [political resolution] of the PC majority! Comrades should seriously think about this.  In Leninist parties, usually the reverse is true, Leninists first discuss their political documents among themselves and then make them public. Otherwise, why do we need to organize an internal [written] discussion?

“At the end of his summary, comrade Babak put to vote something that had nothing to do with the country’s political situation or opportunities to build the party. At the last moments of his summary and with an angry posture he asked the meeting to open the way to expel the members of the Marxist Faction and moved for a vote. The assembly became chaotic.  Most comrades were disoriented and confused. Accordingly, comrade Babak and other PC majority members did not heed our appeal to defend ourselves. A group was assigned to push us out.  We were not prepared to leave so easily the party we spend a decade building. We did not want to get into a physical fight that the PC majority comrades had prepared the atmosphere for.  We talked to anyone who was sitting next to us. Comrades who had struggled side-by-side of us for years were in a daze. The atmosphere was so poisonous that expression of solidarity—if not with political views of the Marxist Faction at least with a minimum of our rights—could lead to suppression and isolation by the party leadership. Some of the comrades were heading for the [war] fronts and I, in particular, felt ashamed that this leadership action can demoralize them.” (Nasser Khoshnevis, “The Expulsion of the Marxist Faction from the Revolutionary Workers Party: What Happened in the December 5, 1980 Conference?” (No date as the cover page is missing; however the report was prepared and distributed soon after the HKE conference in early December 1980)

At no time, Zharaie or his associated dispute Khoshnvis’ account of this “conference.” Would it not be interesting to know what Sheppard think of it today? 

4. Sheppard invests in Zahraie’s policies, 30 years after their proven bankruptcy

In his response, Sheppard ignores such inconvenient truths documented in Part 2 of my review. In fact, he digs in deeper: “I do think the HKE (the name taken by Babak’s wing of the HKS) was in the main correct up through 1982.”  That is to the end of its political existence. 

The brief history the Zahriae-led HKE was marked by its accelerated adaptation to the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic regime and purging 40% of its leaders and ranks who opposed this course as documented in my review and noted above. Let us now take a closer look at the HKE adaptationist course. The following account presumes some background knowledge of who Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was and what he represented in terms of class politics.  A brief historical account is provided in the endnotes. 

The February 1979 insurrection occurred despite Khomeini’s efforts to convince the monarchist generals to peacefully transfernpower to his designated provisional government. The generals attempted a bloody crackdown, the armed forces cracked with some going over to the side of the revolution and an mass insurrection ensued heavily damaging the capitalist state apparatus, and opening more political space for the working people and their grassroots movements.  However, no grassroots movement, including the leadership of the class struggle leftwing in the labor movement, was prepared to take power.  Almost all socialist parties that vied for influence in the grassroots movements adhered to the Stalinist two-stage theory according to which the “national bourgeoisie” was to lead the Iranian revolution. The Iranian bourgeoise nationalist movement (Jebhe Melli and its various split-offs) remained fractured, small and with no mass influence. Thus, the power taken from the Shah’s regime by the masses fell in the hands of Ayatollah Khomeini.  Upon his return from exile on February 1, Khomeini had appointed Mehdi Bazargan, the leader of an insignificant Islamic nationalist party, the Freedom Movement (Nehzateh Azadi), as the prime minister of a provisional government that he could easily control. Thus, the February 11, 1979 insurrection brought to power the Khomeini-Bazargan government. At the same time and in parallel to the provisional government, Khomeini organized the secretive Islamic Revolution Council. 

As we know, Khomeini and the clerical forces he led quickly built Islamic state institutions parallel to those left from the Shah’s regime to consolidate their theocratic rule and in opposition to the grassroots organization built by the revolution. Contrary to the Shah’s regime institutions that were build in collaboration with the United States and its allies, these Islamic institutions were built to defend the Islamic Republic in the face of imperialism and monarchist plots. However, the same Islamic Republic institutions were also imbued with an ideology hostile to the liberal and socialist forces as summed up in the often trumpeted slogan “Neither the West nor the East, Islamic Republic.” Khomeini and the Islamic Republic Party that was launched after February 1979 initiated or encouraged Islamic organizations in rivalry with all-inclusive grassroots movements. For example, Islamic Associations in workplaces and on campuses were built in rivalry with the existing workers shoras and students shoras respectively. Khomeini employed mass mobilization as long as he could control and use it for his own purpose including outmaneuvering and suppressing liberal and socialist parties that he considered as threat. 

5. The united HKS program and perspective as the baseline

To appraise HKE’s political trajectory, it is helpful to compare it to the program and positions of the united HKS that preceded it. The united HKS endorsed a programmatic document that the Sattar League leadership drafted in January 1979 entitled “The Manifesto of the Rights of Workers and Toilers of Iran.” This document provided a series of immediate, democratic and transitional demands that culminated in a call for a government of workers and peasants.  Its subtitle was: “No Government Appointed From the Top Will Bring Freedom to to Iran.”  The Farsi word for freedom is Azadi. In the context of the day, it meant freedom from imperialism and freedom from the capitalist and landlord classes and their governments as these were codified in its list of demands.  Yet, on February 1, 1979 upon his arrival in Tehran, Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed: “I will appoint the government; I will appoint the government with support from the people!” (for a video of the full speech in Farsi click here).  

As the editor of Kargar, the organ of the united HKS, Babak Zahraie provided a service to our movement by implementing the perspective laid out in “The Manifesto of the Rights of Workers and Toilers of Iran” in each and every issue of the paper. During this period, Kargar opposed all imperialist and monarchist plots against the revolution while steadfastly holding the capitalist Khomeini-Bazargan government responsible for its relentless offensive to co-opt or destroy the newly won power of the grassroots organizations of the workers and toilers and reconstitute the capitalist state and economy, albeit with an Islamic ideology. The united HKS and Kargar protested censorship imposed on the media, Khomeini’s attacks on women, military campaigns against the Turkeman and Kurdish oppressed nationalities, repression leveled against political parties, the undemocratic referendum to rubber stamp the imposition of the Islamic Republic and much more. The united HKS was the first political party that characterized the Khomeini-Bazargan government as capitalist—recognizing that it is the enemy of our class and our revolution—it was also the first political party that emphasized the dominant role of Khomeini, although he technically held no political office, keeping him primarily responsible for the counter-revolutionary policies of the government. Other socialist parties—centrists and Stalinists—were not sure how to characterize the new government and were searching for their favorite faction in the new ruling elite to support. Illusions ran deep in Khomeini as evidenced by the five million who greeted his return from exile.  

Over the next period, the “left” (I include here the Mujadehin) was divided between parties that supported Khomeini and his clerical followers in the newly constituted Islamic Republic Party and those like the Mujadedin, the Toilers Party (the main Maoist Party that supported Bani-Sadr), Fedayan Minority, and Peykar (a Maoist guerrilla group that split from the Mujahedin in the 1970s) who at one point or another politically supported non-clerical Islamic capitalist forces in the ruling elite such as Bazargan or later Abulhassan Bani-Sadr (who was an aide to Khomeini, a member of the Khomeini-appointed secretive Council of Revolution, and later the first President of Islamic Republic). Thus, the united HKS played a crucial role in forging an independent working class alternative in the immediate period after the February revolution.  That was also the only period when our movement grew rapidly, no doubt partly because of our steadfast revolutionary socialist standing and partly because of the optimism and radicalism that followed the February 1979 historic victory.  

After the unprincipled split of the united HKS in August 1979, two parties emerged that quickly deviated from this independent working class alternative.  Following the “mass vanguard” orientation practiced by the FI European sections in the 1970s, the Rahimian-led HKS (he was the National Secretary of the united-HKS and took the name with him) turned towards centrist socialist currents and quickly adapted to their ultra-left sectarian course that focused its fire on Khomeini and his clerical supporters to the exclusion of other dangers threatening the revolution.  Thus, the Rahimian-led HKS became single-mindedly focused on what they called the “dictatorship of the Mullahteria” (clerical dictatorship) blinding themselves to the centrality of imperialism and the imperialist-backed Iraqi-invasion of Iran. This ultra-left sectarian direction isolated the Rahimain-HKS from militant workers who were still facing their decisive battles in the future. By the mid-1980, the Rahimian-led HKS had retreated from all mass work except in Kurdistan, the only region in Iran it believed the revolution was still alive.
  
6. The Zahraie-led HKE: A history of opportunist adaptationism

The Zahraie-led HKE took an opposite course.  While the HKE correctly welcomed, participated in and helped build anti-imperialist mass mobilizations in the aftermath of the occupation of the U.S. embassy in November 1979, Zahraie soon decided on an orientation towards the “grassroots Islamic currents.” As events quickly showed this orientation meant an adaptation to the Khomeini leadership and the Islamic Republic regime. 

We can only speculate on how this orientation emerged and developed in the HKE. There was never any internal discussion of it throughout the party either in oral or in written form.  Even when Zahraie debated me in a Tehran-wide meeting of the HKE in late winter of 1980 he did not oppose my defense of the program, strategy and perspective laid out in “The Manifesto of the Rights of Workers and Toilers of Iran” with any clear orientation toward the “grassroots Islamic currents.” He mostly agitated about the Jacobins in the Iranian revolution--he drew a parallel to the French revolution rather than the Russian revolution.  I can only hypothesize that this “orientation” probably emerged piecemeal even among the HKE leadership.  Bits and pieces of it was introduced in Kargar’s editorials, its articles, reflected in changes in tone and in attitude towards not only the Islamic currents but also Khomeini and the clerical wing of the Islamic Republic regime. It also was reflected in increased hostility towards the non-clerical wings of the Islamic Republic government as the factional struggle in the regime heated up.  HKE also became increasingly more hostile to centrist and Stalinist groups as well as the Kurdish political parties that defended Kurdish national rights (and some of these sided with the non-clerical wing of the Islamic Republic regime).  Instead of holding the Islamic Republic regime responsible for its continued attacks on the working people, Kargar began to blame imperialism, the never made specific “five hundred capitalist and landlord families” and the old state bureaucracy.  Kargar and the HKE leadership also tended to blame the “leftist” political opponents of Khomeini when they were victimized by the clerical capitalist regime.  This new language and attitude somewhat mirrored those of the Islamic currents, such as the Islamic Associations in workplaces and Islamic Student Associations in colleges.  

Questioning and criticism of this re-orientation was discouraged and even punished by expulsion as I detailed in my review and alluded to above. 

This new orientation damaged our revolutionary socialist program and strategy even though the HKE leaders and members continued to go into industry and the war fronts. It led to important errors as the HKE supported the occupation of universities by Islamic Student Associations who were heeding a call by Khomeini to make universities Islamic.  Meanwhile, HKE denounced the students affiliated with the socialist currents and the Mujahedin, who were victims of this assault on the right of freedom of assembly and expression on college campuses and on academic freedom. It resulted in HKE’s silence in the face of the fratricidal war launched in Kurdistan by the Islamic Republic in the summer of 1980.  When pressed by the Marxist Faction, Zahraie blamed the Kurdish political organizations for the Islamic Republic war on the Kurds. The HKE offered critical support to the Islamic Republic Party’s “labor candidate” in July 1981 elections. Also, the HKE endorsed political statements of the leaders of the Islamic Republic and began a column in Kargar entitled “Friday Prayer Forum” as the HKE re-directed its  propaganda and defense campaigns to the Friday Prayers instead of the grassroots movements of the working people, especially the workers shoras.  In brief, the Zahraie-led HKE began to confuse the class class divide that separated the interests of the capitalist Islamic Republic regime and the interest of our class, the working class, and its allies.  Let me offer some detail on each one these cases. 

April 1980: HKE supports attacks on freedom of association and assembly on college campuses and academic freedom
On April 20, 1980, Kargar (no. 22) published a statement by the HKE and the Young Socialists in support of the occupation of college campuses by the Islamic Student Association (ISA) who were backed by semi-fascist Hezbollah gangs. Islamic Republic Party was influential with, if not in control of, the Islamic Student Associations and certain wing of the party (i.e., Hojatoleslam Haadi Ghafari) organized the semi-fascist Hezbollah gangs. Occupation of the universities occurred the day after Khomeini called them un-Islamic and corrupt. The HKE and Young Socialists statement called this occupation revolutionary and those who opposed it, socialist currents like the Fadayan and other tendencies such as the Mujahedin, who were its victims, counter-revolutionary: “The action of the Islamic Student Association is revolutionary. Opposing it is counter-revolutionary,” proclaimed a subtitle in the statement. The statement itself was a combination of wishful thinking (that the ISAs have taken this action to turn the universities into the centers of anti-imperialist struggle), unjustified attack on political organizations whose offices were ransacked and their sympathizers physically attacked (stating that they stand outside the “anti-imperialist barricades”), and diverting attention from the clerical capitalist government that was leading these attacks and had been on a campaign to roll back the gains of the 1979 revolution by calling for action against the unnamed “500 capitalist and landowner families.”  (HKE and Kargar never told their audience who these 500 families are). 

Once again, Sheppard does not engage the facts of this well-known episode of the Iranian revolution. Is my summary of the HKE statement in Kargar accurate or not? If it is not—then what does Sheppard think the HKE position was?  If my summary is accurate, does Sheppard still approve of the HKE’s support for the occupation of the universities and the Islamic Cultural Revolution that followed it?

Instead of engaging my argument, Sheppard tries to muddle the issue by asserting that I claim “without a shred of evidence” that the Islamic Students Associations were involved in these attacks. But the HKE statement itself says that “the occupation of universities and schools of higher education across the country by Islamic Student Associations and Organization of Muslim Students showed a new advance of the revolution…” We also know that they were responding to Khomeini’s call a day earlier to rid universities of un-Islamic groups and corruption. We also agree that Hezbollah gangs simultaneously attacked the campuses and ransacked the offices of other students groups. 

Does Sheppard maintain that the ISAs occupied the universities to make them Islamic without coming into conflict with socialists and secular organizations and students?  How did the “Islamic Student Association and Organization of Muslim Students” react to Hezbollah’s physical attacks on socialists groups and students? Did they join other student groups to stop the Hezbollah gangs who at the same time were doing exactly the same thing as they were—occupying the campuses to rid them of “un-Islamic and corrupt” groups? Or they proceeded to join the government to purge the universities of liberal and socialist currents along side the Hezbollah gangs? 

Coinciding with the first wave of the occupations, the Islamic Revolution Council issued an order warning all political groups to evacuate the universities, required universities to complete their end of year examinations by June 4, 1980 and ordered all higher education colleges and institutions to close until the Islamic Cultural Revolution Council appointed by Khomeini has completed its work of Islamization of higher education in Iran. Following this decree, there were more attacks on the campuses across the country, many students were hurt in these attacks, hundreds were arrested and jailed, and some were executed later. The universities were shut down for three years.  

What did the Islamic Student Associations and Muslim Student Organizations do?  Did they oppose the decree from the Islamic Revolution Council?  Did they oppose Khomeini’s Islamic Cultural Revolution Council? Did they oppose the waves of attacks, jailing and subsequent executions? Or did they cooperate with the Islamic Republic regime?  Of course, these were student organizations and as such the included varying shades of opinion. However, we know that the Islamic Republic Party was influential in them and at any rate they were followers of Khomeini’s edict. Over the course of the next three years their leadership collaborated with the regime to purge the universities of the socialists groups, the Mujahedin, and non-affiliated secular faculty, staff and students.  Those purged included members of our movement from all three parties. 

The inconvenient fact for the HKE then and for Sheppard now is that the Iranian universities were centers of resistance to the Shah’s dictatorship and they became the centers of revolutionary political activity before and after the February 1979 revolution.  The idea that somehow the universities had to “become centers of anti-imperialist struggle” through their Islamization was the regime’s claim and the HKE’s during its initial phase--the Zahraie leadership was not veered off the revolutionary socialist course enough to maintain this ludicrous initial position publicly for long.  But it did not issue a political correction either.  We know that the HKE politically collaborated with some members of the Islamic Cultural Revolution Council (see section 11 below). 

But 30 years later, it is plain to see that the Islamic Cultural Revolution was a frontal attack on the student and youth movement and part of a broader attack on the labor and socialist movements in Iran more so than McCarthyism was in the United States. Why Sheppard refuses to accept that the HKE made an important mistake supporting it will remain a mystery.

Summer 1980: HKE fails to defend the Kurdish people
I have already outlined how the Marxist Faction was formed in part to correct the HKE’s silence on the fratricidal war waged against the Kurds.  The Islamic Republic campaign to bring Kurdistan under its control began right after the February 1979 revolution. The spring 1979 offensive was taken up again in the summer as part of an all-out wave of repression.  The united HKS’s Kargar condemned these atrocities and defended the right to self-determination of the Kurds.  However, the same editor, Babak Zahraie, who now led the HKE refrained from even reporting of the summer 1980 offensive against the Kurds. Why?

The failure to defend the Kurds had features similar to the HKE’s support for the attacks on universities.  The Islamic Republic claimed that the war in Kurdistan was really part of its military mobilization against the Iraqi invasion.  Zahrie echoed the Islamic Republic charge that Kurdish political parties, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and Komoleh (soon to become the Communist Party of Iran) were supporting the Iraqi offensive. The Marxist Faction wrote a well-documented report that these charges were in fact false and that the Kurdish people were very much part of the resistance to the imperialist-backed Iraqi invasion.  The December 5, 1980 HKE conference was allegedly organized to discuss this and other political differences in the leadership and ranks.  As we know from the Khoshnevis’ report quoted already it did not. Instead, Zahraie moved to forcefully expel the Marxist Faction from the conference and from the HKE.  Years later, Siamak Zahraie wrote the following about these same issues:

“…the fact was that the party did not have any presence in the Kurdish regions and no contact with their organizations.  The Iran-Iraq war was in full swing and the Kurdish regions, being on the border line and part of the war zone, were sensitive areas, where all kinds of provocations blurred legitimate demands and had become a ground for confrontation between the extreme left and the Islamic government.  Tactless adoption of any specific abstract propaganda on this issue could have harmed and jeopardized the security of the party in its strategic work with the Islamic organizations.” (Our Background, October 16, 2005, emphasis is mine). 

The question for Sheppard and all revolutionary socialists is this: could an effective political and military defense of the revolution against the imperialist-backed Iraqi invasion have been organized without defending the oppressed Kurdish nationality against the ongoing war waged by the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic?  Two factions expelled from the HKE comprising 40% of its leaders and membership thought its could not.  So did a majority of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International that included the SWP in its statement entitled “Defend Iran Against Attacks by Iraq and Imperialism!” published in Intercontinental Press of October 27, 1980. 

Presumably Barry Sheppard agreed with the United Secretariat’s  statement at the time. Does he still agree with it now?  Or does he now support the Zahraie-led HKE adaptation to the Islamic Republic, in Siamk Zahraie’s own words; not “to jeopardize the security of the party in its strategic work with the Islamic organizations” ? 

July 1981: HKE critically supports Islamic Republic Party’s “labor” candidate 
As part of its orientation to the “grassroots Islamic currents,” HKE took a favorable attitude towards the Islamic Associations in factories and workplaces and the Worker’s House.  The Worker’s House was established under the Shah regime to foster pro-regime and pro-employer “unions” in the face of independent fighting unions being organized by the class struggle leftwing in major industries in the 1970s. After the revolution, Paykar, a Maoist urban guerrilla group that split from the Mujahedin in the 1970s, briefly took control of the Worker’s House.  However, Islamic Republic Party and its Islamic Associations occupied the Worker’s House in a manner similar to the occupation of the universities by the Islamic Student Associations. Hussein Kamali became the leader of the Worker’s House that worked with Islamic Associations in factories and workplaces to get rid of or bring into fold workers shoras that had emerged from fighting the Shah’s regime and the employers.  The Worker’s House and the Islamic Associations in workplaces argued that now that the factories are nationalized and management appointed by the “revolutionary government” it was necessary for workers to cooperate with management and the government.  They opposed any form of independent working class initiative.  After the invasion of Iran by Iraqi forces on September 22, 1980, the Worker’s House and Islamic Associations went on an offensive to undermine the workers shoras and with the repressive policies of the managers and the government eventually succeeded.

In the July 1981 elections, Hussein Kamali ran as the candidate from the Worker’s House and the Grand Coalition (Ettelaf-e Bozorg) for the Islamic Consultive Majles and won. The HKE and Kargar gave Kamali’s candidacy critical support. The Grand Coalition was a coalition of Islamic capitalist parties. In the previous elections, Kamali had run as a candidate of the Islamic Republic Party (for a criticism of the HKE position see, “The Socialist Movement and the Need for Independent Working Class Program and Policies: HKE’s Support of Mr. Kamali in the Elections Is a Mistake,” Hemmat, Issue No. 16, September 27, 1981).

Spring 1982: The collapse of an illusion: How the HKE’s goal of forging “strategic collaboration with Islamic Institutions” failed

The language, tone and attitude of the HKE and Kargar towards the Islamic Republic changed so radically that they began to confuse their audience as who constituted “us” and “them.”  For example, the editorial in Kargar number 51 (October 21, 1980) praised the Islamic Republic Prime Minister, Mohammad Ali Rajai’s speech at the Security Council, comparing his “uncompromising anti-imperialist policy” to that of the previous “Bazargan government”:

“Liberal capitalist politicians who could not feed the program of the Imperial Council to the masses, whose umbilical cord of dependence on world capitalism and their connections to it, that is to imperialism, was cut by the February [1979] insurrection and the overthrow of the monarchy, have sustained much damage.  They did and do prescribe secret negotiations and compromise and crawl on their belly before imperialism.  However, what we were able to show in the Security Council stands in complete demarcation from the policy of compromise with imperialism and antagonism to the masses that were the hallmark of the provisional government [of Bazargan]. (Emphasis is mine).”  

It is plain to see how Zahraie [who presumably wrote this editorial] politically identifies the HKE with the Prime Minister who belonged to the Islamic Republic Party and claims that Rajaie had an uncompromising policy against imperialism and was non-antagonistic towards the masses! Further, he also revises the united HKS characterization of the government as “Khomeini-Bazargan government” to simply “Bazargan government,” as if Bazargan was acting independent of Khomeini’s authority.   Thus, he can denounce Bazargan and the liberals and embrace Khomeini and his Islamic Republic Party. 

There are ample other examples of this sort of mixing “them” and “us,” confusing the HKE membership, supporters and readers of Kargar and sacrificing our class independence with the hope of pleasing the “Islamic grassroots current” and their leaders, Ayatollah Khomeini and IRP tops.  

However, like all illusions, HKE’s ended up with crashing into the Islamic Republic nightmare.  The beginning of the end came quickly with the arrest of Bahram Attaie on December 11, 1981.  Kargar (number 117, March 8, 1982), identifies Attaie as a member of the Political Bureau of the HKE.  

Attaie was arrested while distributing an appeal to the Tehran Friday Prayer crowd on behalf of an HKE member who was fired from his industrial job after being wounded and subsequently expelled for his socialist views from the war front.  For some time, the HKE had focused on the Friday Prayers as an arena for its activities including by writing an occasional column in Kargar entitled “Friday Prayer Tribune.” This was simply another case of reaching out to the “grassroots Islamic currents.” 

Attaie was arrested by the Islamic Revolution General Prosecutor’s Central Office and eventually taken to the notorious Evin prison, held for 82 days, interrogated about the internal life of the HKE and tortured.  

Many Iranian Trotskyists had been victims of repression under the Islamic Republic. The repression began almost immediately after the February 1979 revolution.  For our movement, it was first simple harassment of the united HKS activists.  Because I was organizing and leading sales of Kargar in eastern Tehran, I was among the first to be arrested a number of times by the Islamic Revolution Committees (see Kargar no. 4, April 14, 1979). These attacks escalated quickly. By early summer of 1979, 14 socialists were arrested in Ahwaz, in the oil rich Khuzestan province on bogus charges of plotting to blow up oil supply lines. Without any due process, Ayatollah Ahmad Janatai handed out death sentences for 12 who were male and life in prison for the two female united-KHS members.  An international defense campaign secured the release of the 14 socialists by winter 1980. The HKE members were also subject to ongoing repression, including physical attacks , kidnapping and imprisonment. 

However, the arrest and torture of Attaie, a Political Bureau member of HKE, represented a decisive change that ran counter to the fantasy of convergence with the “grassroots Islamic currents” and Islamic Republic’s “uncompromising policy against imperialism and non-antagonist towards f the masses” that Kargar editorial celebrated. The response by the HKE leadership showed their dilemma.  

The HKE leadership’s response came in the form of a six and half page Kargar interview with Attaie after his release.  In this interview, the reader learns that the Islamic Revolution Public Prosecutors Central Office arrested Attaie after the Friday Prayers.  Attaie was blindfolded and at one point heard someone asking if he was among those that should be executed, a routine psychological form of torture directed against many political dissidents. Later, he was released only to be arrested again a few days later and taken to the Evin prison. 

At Evin, he spent the first few days waiting in hallways blindfolded at all times. He was then interrogated with threats of torture, placed in situations where he could hear other prisoners’ screams while being tortured, put into a 6 by 6 square meter jail cell with about 60-80 others, and given lashes with a cable on the sole of his feet which he explains sent waves of pain into his teeth by the third lash. Beating political prisoners on the sole of their feet was (and still is) common in Islamic Republic jail, something considered as Hadd-e Sharei (Islamic punishment) that is sanctioned by the penal code.  

He also learned from other political prisoners about other forms of torture. He describes two of them in his interview: “nailing” the prisoner and “scale handcuffing” (dastband-e ghapani).  In the first, the prisoner’s hands are tied or handcuffed and then used to hang the prisoner from a hook (or nail) so that only the tip of the toes touch the floor while the feet were also cuffed. In the second, the prisoner’s arms were twisted one from above the shoulder and another from below and then handcuffed together and the prisoner was hanged in a similar fashion while the feet were also cuffed.  Attaie also reports on weekly executions at Evin, which he says was about 50-70 per week. Prisoners used the coup de grace shots to count how many were executed each time. At some point the shootings stopped. Some hypothesized the executions came to an end and others believed another site was being used. We now know the second group was correct.

Attaie also talks about his cellmates. Half were from the Mujadedin’s, another half from what he calls the “so-called ‘leftists’’’: “Paykar, Fedayan Minority, Razmandegan, Fadayan Majority, Tudeh Party.” He speaks of others who were supporters of obscure Islamic sects and “ a few were related to Bani-Sadr.”  Notably, Attaie’s cellmates included oil workers and other industrial workers who were there because of their labor activities. There were some Kurdish prisoners.  The prisoners were mostly young, between 18 and early 30s.  

Attaie came across Shokrolah-e Paknejad who was a founder of the armed Palestine Group during the Shah’s time who Committee for Artistic and Intellectual Freedom in Iran (CAIFI) led by the Sattar League defended as a political prisoner.  Paknejad was a highly respected man.  Upon his release from prison by the 1979 revolution he was elected as the General Secretary of the Association of Former Political Prisoners.  He told Attaie that from the severity of (bogus) charges against him he believes he will be executed.  Although Paknejad survived Shah’s Evin prison he was executed while Attaie was still in prison. 

There is an amazing schizophrenic quality to Attaie’s interview. Kargar introduces him as “brother Attaie.” He refers to his interrogators, jailers and tortures as “brothers” and speaks of “our Islamic Revolution.” He volunteers that when his interrogator asked him why he became a socialist he responded by saying that there were no Islamic groups in the U.S. when he radicalized except one in Houston that supported the Freedom Front—the Bazargan’s group—which was now disfavored by the IRP dominated regime and presumably his jailers.  When he was asked why he did not become a Khomeini disciple he responds that he had no access to his ideas and offered the following: 

“[As] the Islamic Revolution drew closer our collaboration with Islamic militants and Islamic Student Associations abroad that had just formed increased and after the revolution it has become widespread. Today, we want strategic collaboration with Islamic institutions like the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp and Jihad for Construction, and others [my emphasis].”  

Of course, the claim that we collaborated with any Islamic militants or Islamic Student Association abroad is fallacious.  What is true in Attaie’s statement is the desire of the HKE leadership to have a “strategic collaboration with Islamic institutions.” 

Similarly, Attaie’s interview tries to suggest that the conditions at Evin as bad as they were were still superior to those under the Shah’s regime, that those directly responsible for his arrest and torment and the horrific conditions at Evin were acting without the knowledge of Khomeini and other top Islamic Republic leaders.  For example, he reports conversation among his cellmates who were political prisoners of both regimes with some arguing that conditions were far worse under the Shah. He argues that earlier HKE political prisoners never observed torture. But he concedes that they reported Hadd-eh Sharee (Islamic punishment) in the form of flogging.  This is significant because the HKE leadership was taking a legalist approach to the conditions in prison as they did not condemn Islamic punishment sanctioned by Islamic law as torture. Let’s recall Attie’s own description of how it felt to be flogged.

Of course, in this interview Attaie and Kargar were simply prettifying the repressive practices of the Islamic Republic.  Khomeini’s rule began with acts of repression and extrajudicial brutality and murder. Even in simple harassment cases I personally suffered soon after the February 1979 revolution there was a genuine threat of violence; in one instance a middle age man associated with the Islamic Revolution Committee and the local mosque pulled a revolver and put it on my temple because he did not want me to sell Kargar. A young female comrade we had recently recruited came to my rescue by gathering a crowd that stopped the man. Semi-fascist Hezbollah gangs attacked the protest march by women against Khomeini’s attacks on their rights at about the same time in March 1979. The leaders of the Turkman oppressed nationalities were brutally murdered after their capture during transit to Tehran in the spring of 1979.  The photo of Kurdish fighters being executed on the orders of Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali (nicknamed the hanging judge) during the summer of 1979 with one wounded fighter laying on the ground unable to stand on his feet before the death squad was published widely in Iran and the world as a symbol of Islamic Republic’s human rights violation.  And, the sentences imposed on the 14 united HKS militants in the summer of 1979, including execution orders for 12 of them, were quite real--only political pressure force the regime to back down and release them. 

After the violent clashed with the Mujahedin that began in June 1981, mass arrests, torture and executions became common.  In an article I wrote for the HVK’s Hemmat in the summer of 1981, I cited from the Iranian dailies a report that two teenage female supporters of the Mujahedin were executed on the charge of carrying salt-and-pepper shakers. Their interrogator/judge alleged that they poured salt and pepper on the wounds of government forces!  The national TV carried a program popularly called the Gillani Show where Ayatollah Gillani described Islamic “justice” through gory accounts of how Islamic punishments are handed out. In one show that I watched he explain in bloody detail how to use a spoon to take out the eyeballs of a witness to a crime that did not report it to the authorities. Here he was asking the population to inform on the Mujahedin and others “Moharb” (“those at war with Islam”) groups. A mother in Isfahan was cheered on the national TV for turning in his son who was a sympathizer of the Mujahedin and was subsequently executed. 

Attaie also reports on a TV summary from a speech by Khomeini on the occasion of the third anniversary of the February 1979 revolution in which he promised the “rule of law” including in prisons. He then says: 

“That night when Imam’s message was read on TV… Suddenly, the entire prison exploded with prisoners’ cry of “Allah-o Akbar” (God is great), “Praise to Imam Khomeini,” “We are all your soldiers, Khomeini; ready for your orders, Khomeini,” and “Khomeini, Khomeini, you are my soul.” Their cry filled the prison and the nearby mountains. These continued for a few hours well past midnight…. Prisoners were filled with the hope of receiving pardon, leaving the prison and returning to the society.” 

There is no doubt that Attaie’s account while sounding surreal has some basis in reality. After all, among the Evin prisoner population there were some Tavabin (those who under those horrific conditions recanted their belief, “embraced” Islam, and cooperated with prison authorities), and the Tudeh party and Fedayan Majority members and sympathizers who politically supported the Islamic Republic in general and Khomeini in particular.  But a universal support for Khomeini and his promise of “the rule of law” among the prisoners is surely far from the truth. Attaie himself talks about Paknejad who faced his tortures bravely and was executed. Prison memoirs published by some of the survivors offer a more balanced view of the prison population and the degree of their resistance to the barbarism of the Islamic Republic.  Again, this is another instance of Attaie's and Kargar's search for forging “strategic collaboration with Islamic institutions.”  

Elsewhere, Attaie recounts how the Tawabin (those who recanted) conducted “cultural programs.” In one of these, he says, they sang a song with these lyrics:

“Having visitors is no longer our slogan; let’s go to the war fronts, let’s go to the war fronts!”
“Having good food is no longer our slogan; let’s go to the war fronts, let’s got to the war fronts!”

Attaie claims that the more than 2,000 political prisoners who were brought to this “cultural program” were supportive of the Tawabin chants. But Attaie had no objective basis for this statement. More likely, he was merely projecting his own illusion to the rest of the prisoner population. 

Finally as has been the policy of the HKE Attie blames the victim for the crime. He asserts that brutal conditions at Evin were due to the “mistaken policies of political groups that have made it possible for the big capitalists and landowners to divert the attention of the poor from fundamental solutions for the advancement of the revolution” to the use of repressive policies.  Throughout his interview Attie repeats the same theme in different forms but never once put the blame where it belongs: the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic regime.  His criticism of the prison authorities is that they were erring in imposing illegal and un-Islamic treatments of the political prisoners. Why?  Because of the tragic policies of the Mujahedin and some socialist groups!

The disorientation and adaptationism of Attaie and Kargar had gone so far that they raised no objection to Hadd-e Sharie (Islamic punishment) that includes flogging (Attaie himself was flogged) as these are legal under the penal code.  In a similar retreat from our program and history, presumption of innocence, the right to have legal counsel, the right to have a jury trial, etc. are simply given up in this and in other articles in Kargar.  Thus, Attaie does not even protest that his interrogator was also the judge!  Instead, Attaie and Kargar retreated to the position of pleading with the authorities that have never found anything illegal in the functioning of the HKE despite all the arrest , imprisonment, interrogation and at times torture of HKE members.

It is worth noting that Attaie’s interview is not a statement forced from him by the prison authorities.  To the contrary, the interview was the HKE’s leadership attempt to appeal to Khomeini and IRP tops about Attaie’s arrest and mistreatment and conditions at Evin. In an introductory note, the editor gives a list of authorities who would receive a copy of the interview.  Also, the interview reflects the political views of Attaie, as a Political Bureau member of the HKE, and of the Kargar editor and National Secretary of HKE, Babak Zahraie, and as I have documented above is in continuity with the party’s political line and trajectory over the two-and-half years of their existence.   

7. A balance sheet of the Zahraie-led HKE

Attaie’s interrogator threatened him to “ban Kargar and bring in Babak Zahraie.” That is precisely what happened after Kargar published the interview with Attaie.  The next and final issue of Kargar (no. 118) was confiscated from the newspaper stands and the paper ceased publication. After some back-and-forth with authorities, Zahraie himself was arrested in January 1983 and remained a political prisoner until 1988. 

After Zahraie was taken prisoner, the HKE disintegrated. With the “central leader” not present the HKE leadership dissolved into two warring groups. Siamak Zahraie who was probably the second-in-command vs. a number of other Babak Zahraie loyalists.  I discussed Siamak Zahraie’s version of their disagreements in my review of The Party.  I do not have access to any written material from the second group.  However, within months these disagreements and continuing repression effectively dissolved the HKE that probably had about 60 members.   

The HKE was on a decline for some time as Siamak Zaharie describes it: 

“[D]ay by day fewer and fewer were listening to us and the government had a freer hand in suppressing the RWP [Revolutionary Workers Party or HKE in my abbreviation of the Farsi name].  Members were expelled from their jobs, imprisoned and membership was shrinking.  The circle of sympathizers, the source of party’s growth was shrinking even faster.” (Our Background, October 16, 2005)

There is no doubt that consolidation of the clerical capitalist regime and political repression were responsible for the decline of all socialist parties, including the HKE.  However, in case of the parties that harbored illusions in the Islamic Republic government, the Stalinist Tudeh Party and Fadayan Majority, but also the HKE, the chasm between illusions they fostered and the regime's anti-working class policies and pervasive repression must have weighted heavily on the mind of some of its leaders and members and resulted in political disorientation and demoralization.  

I cite three prominent examples from the HKE.  Attaie, a Political Bureau member, left the HKE soon after his interview appeared in Kargar.  I do not know the reasons for his decision. But when he ran into Sayrafizadeh in the streets of Tehran soon after he offered an apology for his role in abuses Sayrafizadeh had suffered at the hands of the Zahraie PC majority. Attie was the organizer of the Austin, Texas, branch that expelled two members of the Permanent Revolution Tendency in January 1977. Attaie was part of Zahraie’s inner circle when they expelled Faction for Trotskyist Unification and the Marxist Faction in 1980. 

Babak Zahraie loyalists who decided to speak on his behalf after his arrests were also politically disoriented. Siamak Zahraie takes issue with them for their Stalinophobic stance that celebrated the forced “confessions” of central Tudeh Party leaders as proof of the validity of the HKE criticism of Stalinism. 

Siamak Zahraie took a different course.  He decided that the HKE’s carefully hidden “capitalist” designation for the government was an error.  Here is his reasoning:

“Ministry of Revolution Guards and Ministry of Jihand for Reconstruction were organized and these institutions joined the cabinet and the crisis that we predicated would happen did not happen and this did not create obstacles to the advances in the war fronts or expansion of the rural shoras (The Leadership of the Revolution and the Islamic Republic: Critique of the HKE program” (“Rahbari-e Enghelab va Jomhori Eslami,” July 1983).”

In other words, when the “grassroots Islamic currents” were reorganized as Islamic Republic ministries nothing changed in the political reality of interest to the HKE. Thus, in Siamak Zahraie’s view the HKE was confronted with a binary choice: Either these were not “grassroots currents” as the HKE leadership had claimed or the government was revolutionary and there was no longer a need for a call for a workers and peasants government.  While clearly at odds with reality, Siamak Zahraie’s chose the latter option. To accept the former option required a reconsideration of the entire course of the HKE and criticisms of the two factions expelled.  The reader who has followed my documented outline of the HKE’s adapationist course can perhaps agree that Siamak Zahraie decision was not entirely surprising. 

However, in his response to Part 2 of my review, Sheppard tries to absolve Babak Zahraie by attacking his older bother, life-long political partner, and second-in-command in HKE as a “betrayer”and in the process throw some dirt at me. He writes: 
“Nayeri refers to the repudiation in 1985 of Marxism by Babak’s brother, Siamak, under the pressure of the regime’s repression. This did occur.  But Nayeri Slyly insinuates that Babak followed the same course, by referring to a supposed discussion Siamak had with Babak before Babak was arrested. Again, a charge by Nayeri without any shred of proof.” (my emphases)
Once again, Sheppard is both confused and unfair.  The reader of my review of The Party  can verify that the discussion Sheppard is referring to is entirely based on Simaik Zahraie’s July 1983 pamphlet (not 1985 as Sheppard states) from which I quoted four paragraphs in my review The Party. There Siamak Zharie declares the Islamic Republic regime as revolutionary (the break with Trotskyism, not “Marxism” as Sheppard states, comes some years later) and I paraphrase him about his claim that he and Babak Zahraie discussed this idea two year earlier.  Siamak Zahraie’s claim is not to be dismissed easily.  The timing coincides with the aftermath of the December 1980 “conference” where the Marxist Faction was expelled. At that “conference” Babak Zaharie promised a convention. Although no convention of the HKE was ever held, it is not unlikely that the brothers were actually working on a resolution for a convention in which the character of the Islamic Republic had to be discussed.  At any rate, it is not my claim that Babak Zahraie agreed with his brother’s characterization of the Islamic Republic regime as revolutionary. However, I have shown in some detail Babak Zahraie-led HKE’s adaptationist toward the Islamic Republic regime. The reader can decide how politically different the stated "goal of strategic collaboration with the institutions" such as the Revolution Guards is from Siamak Zahrai's straightforward characterization of the Islamic Republic as revolutionary.   After all, building strategic collaboration with the "armed body of men" of the clerical capitalist regime, that is the Revolution Guards (not Revolutionary Guards as the mistranslation made popular by the mass media has it) must presume there is something revolutionary in the Islamic Republic.  And this was precisely what Babak Zahraie and the HKE Political Bureau and Kargar endorsed.  

Sheppard goes even further to glorify Babak Zahraie by claiming that his surviving the Islamic Republic jails is because he never recanted despite of harsh conditions. But this is a silly and ignorant statement.  Paknejad, who Attaie met in Evin prison, who was also a political prisoner under the Shah’s regime, was executed not because he broke under torture but because as he himself told Attaie was too dangerous for the regime. Paknejad never recanted and faced his executioners bravely. He will be remembered as a hero of the Iranian people. To say that Zahraie survived because he never recanted is an insult to Paknejad and thousands of others who were executed by the Islamic Republic to consolidate its rule. 

At the same time, some top Tudeh Party leaders, Kianouri, the General Secretary, and Ehsan Tabbari, its chief theoretician, among them, appeared on the national TV to offer hours of forced recantation. They were set free and died in their homes of old age.  Yet, many other Tudeh Party leaders who did not recant were executed.  So, the fact that Babak Zahraie was eventually release from prison cannot be a proof of his “revolutionary” steadfastness.  

Add to this the fact that Zahraie has not spoken out after his release in 1988 either to give testimony to the horrors of Islamic Republic jails or to set the record straight regarding his “revolutionary resistance" in prison. Basing ourselves on Attaie’s interview in Kargar that certainly reflected the political views of Zahraie and their attitude towards the authorities at the time, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Zahraie conducted himself in prison any differently than Attaie had.  Attaie had nothing to recant. Neither did Zahraie. His brand of socialism was supportive of the “anti-imperialism” of Imam Khomeini, his “Islamic Revolution” and his Islamic Republic, at least when it was allegedly based on “grassroots Islamic currents.”  He aimed for “strategic collaboration with Islamic institutions.”  Further, unlike the Tudeh Party that had a large following and had penetrated even the armed forces of Islamic Republic (including the Navy admiral Afzalli who was promptly executed), the HKE was a tiny group (about 60 in 1982) with no roots anywhere in the Iranian society.  Furthermore, the Tudeh Party represented the influence of the Soviet Union that at the time was arming the Saddam Hussein’s  war machine against Iran. The HKE represented no international force and was not guilty of links with any enemy of the Islamic Republic.    

Likewise, Sheppard speaks highly of the defense campaign to save Zahraie—led by his wife, Kateh Vafadari.  But Zharaie’s imprisonment coincided with the last blow to all open organized dissident in Iran. There could be no talk of a labor/socialist defense campaign strategy. Anything Vafadari or anyone else who had a loved one in the Islamic Republic dungeons could do at that time was to lobby the officials of the regime.  I am certain that Vafadari had more experience and more connections to influential people, who interceded on her and her husband’s behalf, than most political prisoners at that time.  

In his book, Sheppard mentions the “revered” Shams Al-e Ahmad as one such person who helped secure Zahraie’s release. He does not explain why Al-e Ahamd was “revered” and by whom.  Al-e Ahmad was an important ally. In 1981, Khomeini appointed Shams Al-e Ahamd to the Islamic Cultural Revolution Council, the same body that purged the universities of “un-Islamic” thought, personnel and students.  Before Zharaie’s arrest, Al-e Ahmad was a speaker at one or two HKE forums. There was a certain closeness between Zahraie and Shams Al-e Ahmad. 

Shams Al-e Ahmad and his much better known older brother Jallal Al-e Ahmad were sons of Ayattolah Seyyed  Ahmad Taleqani. They were both Islamic nationalist intellectuals.  His older brother had joined the Tudeh Party in the 1940s and resigned protesting lack of democracy and its subservience to Moscow. In his well-known book, Gharb Zadegi (Westification), Jallal Al-e Ahmad had argued that Iran’s economic backwardness is due to penetration of western technology and western culture.  After the rise of the Khomeini in then 1960s, both Al-e Ahmad brothers saw his brand of Islam as a model for Iran’s future.  

It was this relationship (and perhaps others) that proved helpful in lobbying the halls of power in the Islamic Republic to seek Zharaie’s release.  Combined with good conduct, Zahraie was able to have weekend leaves from his prison cell to spend time with his family at home.  By 1988, he was released and was able to begin a computer assembly firm in a beautiful office in northern Tehran. By early 1993 he left Iran with his family and settled in Washington D.C. area. He has since been working as a database specialist at a company Kateh Vafadari, his wife, owns.  

I do not take take up Sheppard’s other claims for fame for Zharaie and his continued claim that Vafadari was a leader of our movement here. Interested reader can consult the endnotes for a brief account of her 5 years of service in our movement). 

It is notable that the year 1988 when Zahraie was released was also the year when the hideous massacre of thousands of political prisoners happened across Iran.  Beginning on July 19, 1988, for about four months thousands of political prisoners, many supporters of the Mujahedin but also supporters of various socialist groups, were executed.  The prisoners were asked if they still held to their political belief. Those who responded in the affirmative were executed. 

8. Sheppard and the HKE legacy

So, what is in the HKE legacy that Sheppard now support? In his response, Sheppard not only asserts his decision to support the HKE’s adaptationist course but also states: “I also think the Hormuz group was wrong in thinking the whole revolution was fascist from the beginning. The HVK group was wrong to think that it was possible to overcome these differences.” 

In the interest of historical accuracy, let me again state that the Hormuz Rahimian—led HKS did not have a position that “the whole revolution was fascist from the beginning.” Let Sheppard show us a proof of his statement—otherwise, it is only another slander. As I stated in my review, there were a few leaders of the united HKS associated with the Kandokav group who claimed that the wave of repression of the summer 1979 resulted in the victory of fascism and they promptly left the movement. They were not part of the Hromuz Rahimian-led HKS that emerged after the split.  

Was “[t]he HVK group wrong to think it was possible to overcome these differences”?  Again, Sheppard is confused.  For historical accuracy let me re-state: it was Faction for Trotskyist Unification—expelled in April of 1980—that included a call for a democratic convention of all Iranian Trotskyists.  I was personally responsible for including this demand in the FTU’s platform. We were never under the illusion that Zahraie or Rahimian would agree to participating in a democratic convention and abiding by its decisions.  The demand was part of our strategy to win over as many as Iranian Trotskyists from both parties to the idea of organizing a truly rank-and-file controlled party. The fact is that we succeeded. The Marxist Faction was formed in the Zahraie-HKE and the Trotskyist Faction in the Rahimina-led HKS and together with the FTU we organized the first democratic convention of the Iranian Trotskyists, adopted key documents and elected a leadership. All these are reported in the Intercontinental Press of April 20, 1981. The Workers Unity Party (Hezb-e Vahdat-e Kargaran, HVK) was the name of the party that emerged from that unity convention in January 1981. The newly founded HVK was approximately the same size as the HKE and HKS.  Contrary to Sheppard’s claim the HVK itself had no plans for unity with the Zahraie-led HKE or Rahimian-led HKS. In the nine-month period leading to the convention, beginning with the formation of the FTU, we had exhausted this process. They had already proved incapable of reform. We turned outward to the workers and the masses. 

How does Sheppard's support for the legacy of the Zahraie-led HKE square with his championing  of “Leninist party building?” As the reader knows by know, it does not.  He should have and he probably did as a leader of the SWP support the HVK.  Here is why:

To be sure, the HKE’s the decision to place the anti-imperialism front-and-center after the summer 1979 split was correct and enabled us to join in the mass anti-imperialist movement that ensued. Similarly, it enabled us to recognize the counter-revolutionary character of the Iraqi invasion that began on September 22, 1980. The seriousness with which we attempted to root ourselves in the industrial workplaces, although this proved a short-lived experience, gave us an advantage in sorting out the problems of the Iranian revolution.  The HKE correctly tried and obtained a legal status for Kargar.

However, all of these is also part of the legacy of the 40% of HKE leaders and members who were expelled and helped form the HVK.

The HVK also tried to obtain and maintain a legal status for Hemmat (Effort), our biweekly newspaper. However, by January 1981 when the HVK was founded it was practically impossible to obtain legal status. By June 1982, we were told to cease the publication of Hemmat or face imprisonment or worse. Given our modest size and practically no influence in the working class and the mass movement, we decided to comply with this order. 

The HVK supported all HKE campaigns in defense of its leaders and members who were fired from their jobs, expelled from the fronts, and imprisoned or abused.    In these, HVK and HKE did not differ and stood apart from the ultra-left sectarian course the Rahimian-led HKS followed. The two parties also shared a similar approach to the international issues of the time, chiefly our focus on the revolutions in Cuba, Nicaragua and Granada as well as the anti-bureaucratic Solidarity movement in Poland. 

However, the Zahraie-led HKE increasing undermined the workers and peasant government strategy and our transitional program that was laid out in The Manifesto of the Workers and Toilers of Iran, the programmatic foundation of the united HKE formed in the aftermath of the February 1979 revolution.  As highlighted above, the HKE gradually dropped or diluted important parts of our program to fit its never discussed orientation towards the “grassroots Islamic currents.”  

The fundamental difference between the HVK and HKE was that HVK continued to hold the capitalist Islamic Republic responsible for it antilabor and counter-revolutionary policies aimed at consolidation of the regime.  While the HKE saw the class conflict occurring between the “grassroots Islamic currents” and the old state bureaucracy with Khomeini and the Islamic Republic Party being sympathetic to its mass base of “grassroots Islamic currents,” the HVK saw the class conflict occurring between the grassroots movement that emerged from the 1979 revolution--the shora movement in particular--that could have possibly served as the basis for a workers and peasant government, and the capitalist Islamic Republic regime.  We supported activities of the Islamic currents that strengthened the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist grassroots movements and opposed them when they helped to consolidate the capitalist Islamic regime.   

Accordingly, the HVK did not take sides in the power struggle among various factions in the Islamic Republic regime (during this period mostly between clerical dominated Islamic Republic Party and non-clerical Islamic “liberal” parties and individuals).  Thus, in the struggle between Bani-sadr and the Khomeini-backed Islamic Republic Party that resulted in the impeachment of the former, Hemmat (Number 11, July 5, 1981) wrote an editorial entitled  “Impeachment of Bani-sadr and the Dead End of Capitalist Factions: For Victory in the War and Revolution Workers Need Their Own Independent Program and Party.”  As documented above, the HKE and Kargar sided with the Islamic Republic Party against the “liberals.”  

It is important to recall what the workers and peasants strategy is about.  First and foremost, it is a strategy to facilitate the formation of a united working class that thinks and acts independently of the exploiting classes and their parties and to win over allies of the proletariat, notably the peasantry. However, the working class can only be united if it supports its most exploited and oppressed sections—women, oppressed nationalities, the youth, religious minorities, etc.  As the 1979 revolution showed, in Iran and other peripheral capitalist countries, even the basic struggle for economic demands of the working class force it to fight for democratic and human rights.  By retreating from defending freedom of assembly, association and academic freedom during the occupations of the universities, the HKE undermined the workers and peasants government strategy. By retreating on the right of self-determination of the Kurdish nationality and others, the HKE did further harm to this strategy.  And, by not holding the clerical capitalist Islamic Republic accountable for such attacks and even praising its leaders’ “uncompromising anti-imperialist policy” and alleged support for the masses they sowed confusion among their audience undermining working class political independence.  

Sheppard should note that the true leaders of the Iranian working class took an opposite course from Babak Zahraie and the HKE.  In 1978, the leadership of the oil workers strike committees harbored illusions in Khomeini and his representative Bazargan who came to Khuzestan to meet with them.  Short of funds, the oil workers leadership accepted large sums of money from the pro-Khomeini bazaar merchants and later for a time even sent a representative to Khomeini’s secretive Islamic Revolution Council. But the oil workers leadership shed these illusions and moved forward to assert their class independence by formation of their shoras (councils) that stood as dual power in opposition to the Islamic Republic appointed managers.  A similar movement swept the most advanced sectors of the Iranian industrial workers.  By the time the Zahraie-led HKE fell into an orientation towards “grassroots Islamic current” with tacit or outright support to the regime, the shoras in key industrial centers were under attack aided by the Islamic Associations represented by the Workers House whose candidate the HKE critically supported in the July 1981 elections. 

It is also instructive to note that Zahraie’s method stood in sharp contrast to the method of the Transitional Program. We had learned from our SWP teachers that to build the Leninist party, it might be necessary to orient towards other sectors of the population in the absence of working class radicalization.  Our criterion was for these sectors to move in the direction indicated by our transitional program.  Thus, the SWP correctly and gainfully oriented towards the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the youth and anti-war movements, etc. However, the Zahraie-led HKE’s orientation towards the “grassroots Islamic currents” and forging “strategic collaboration with Islamic institutions” developed when there was a militant working class movement at conflict with the Islamic Republic and its various “grassroots Islamic currents” and “Islamic institutions.”  Inside factories where HKE and HVK worked, the workers shora activists were often at odds with the Islamic Association leadership that worked with the state-appointed management.  As it turned out, “grassroots Islamic currents” was an invention of Babak Zahraie and his associates to justify their own adaptationist course following the path of least resistance to maintain their legal status.  

Thus, the orientation adopted by the HKE undermined the substance and method of our transitional program and our strategy of workers and peasant government.  The HVK did not invent anything new—we merely resisted this adaptationist course and tried to maintain our revolutionary heritage learned from the SWP and implement it given the realities of the Iranian revolution. Given the sharpness of class struggle and harsh repression not only from the clerical capitalist regime but also from "our own comrades" that was no small feat. 

After 1982 when all three Iranian Trotskyist parties were practically dissolved, some of their leaders and members made their way back to the United States. Not a single Zahraie-led HKE member approached the SWP as a sister party. At least six HVK members—four from its Political Committee—joined the SWP (when Sheppard too was in the SWP). How does Sheppard account for this? 

9. On socialist policy in the Iran-Iraq war

In his response, Sheppard accuses me of turning my back to the fight against the imperialist-backed Iraqi war. Why?

A major disagreement between the HVK and HKE was on the strategy in defense of the revolution in the face of the imperialist supported Iraqi invasion of Iran.  The HVK approach was based on the experience of the Bolsheviks--which we learned from the SWP--that in the face of imperialist, rightist, terrorist and Iraqi attacks the proletariat would give material support, including military support, to the Islamic Republic.  Thus, we condemned all these attacks, agitated and mobilized round them.  At the same time, we resolutely opposed giving any political support to the capitalist Islamic regime or any of its factions in the face of such dangers.   

This was codified in the HVK founding convention document “Tasks of the Proletariat in War and Revolution” (see, Intercontinental Press, April 20, 1981, reprinted in the New International no. 7, 1991, pp. 311-326). After the Iranian forces drove out the Iraqi army from almost all of the Iranian territory following the victory in Khoramshare on May 24, 1982, they went on the offensive into Iraq. This put the Saddam Hussein regime on the defensive. In Part 2 of my review of The Party, I wrote:

“After meeting with the Arab League, Saddam Hussein offered negotiation for peace, offering $70 billion in damages to Iran. Despite some support for negotiation within the Islamic Republic regime, Khomeini rejected this offer. Instead, he decided that the war should continue until Saddam Hussein is overthrown and an Islamic Republic is established in Iraq.  The prevalent slogan was ‘The road to Quds (Jerusalem) is through Karbala.’ 
“We held a PC discussion of this question.  The majority’s sympathy was with the position that while the war was just as defense of the revolution against counter-revolutionary assault backed by imperialism, it is time to sue for peace now that the Iraqi army is pushed out of Iranian territory and the Iraqi regime is forced to negotiate.” (my emphasis)
Accordingly, the Political Committee submitted a statement to the July 23, 1982 National Committee meeting that approved it 13 to 1.  An English translation of this statement was published in the New International no. 7, 1991, pp. 329-333).  Here is the relevant section of this document:
“The war imposed on Iran by the Iraqi regime is still the axis separating the ranks of revolution and counter-revolution in the region. 
“The advance of the Islamic Republic’s forces onto Iraqi soil has taken place in defense of the revolution...”
“At this stage of the war, winning Iraqi toilers to the perspective of unity with the Iranian revolution has crucial importance in the struggle to eradicate the yoke of imperialism. Victory in the war and the advance of the revolution are impossible without winning over the Iraqi toilers to the side of the Iranian revolution...
“...If for any reason the Iraqi workers and toilers see the Islamic Republic’s forces inside Iraq as foreign invaders...the proper political response is to halt the advance inside Iraq and make the corresponding decisions.
  “The struggle to overthrow this regime [Saddam Hussein's] is mainly up to the workers and peasants of Iraq. And it is also the right of the oppressed Iraqi people to choose their government freely. 
“Since the Islamic Republic is a capitalist regime whose point of departure is not the interest of the toilers, it always creates obstacles to the defense of the revolution and its extension.  Therefore, while struggling decisively against the aggression of Saddam’s army under the military leadership of the Islamic Republic government, the proletariat continues to maintain its own political independence in this stage of warIt puts forward its own revolutionary program against the capitalist government and politicians.
 “The proletariat...condemns at every stage all the obstacles ad sabotage created by the Islamic Republic against the defense of the revolution.. 
“The proletariat emphasizes demands such as  land reform; a state monopoly of foreign trade’ workers’ control of production; granting the rights of oppressed nationalities, including the oppressed Arab nationality, and ending the fratricide in Kurdistan; ending the limitations on the Baseej-e [Mostazefan], Mobilization of the Poor]; and extending political liberties. The proletariat also demands the extension of workers’ and peasants’ shoras to all fields of the revolution.”  
Now, I submit that this view--which I shared at the time--is much closer to the Bolshevik teachings than the HKE’s adaptaionist course towards the Islamic Republic in war and revolution that Sheppard now supports.  

Between August 1982 and October 1992, I held similar views that I expressed as speaker at the Militant Labor Forums or other public forums. I have not changed my mind on the essentials of our approach during those fateful days.

So, Sheppard is simply slandering me.

10. On Bani-Sadr, the Mujahedin and terrorism

Sheppar also accuses me of “prettifying Bani-Sadr and the Mujahedin,” and being sympathetic to Mujahedin’s terrorist campaigns. How about these charges? 

In my review, I corrected Sheppard’s factual error that the attacks on the universities was initiated by Bani-Sadr.  It was Khomeini who did that (and Bani-Sadr who was the President at the time endorsed it).  In the interest of historical accuracy, I also noted that Bani-Sadr was pushed out of power by Khomeini and the Islamic Republic Party and that the Mujahedin were victims of systematic and brutal attacks by the regime before they lunched their “revolutionary resistance” (armed struggle) campaign and degenerated into a terrorist organization and a pawn of the Saddam Hussein regime and imperialism.  

None of these can be construed as prettifying Bani-Sadre or the Mujahedin. As I have noted before, the HVK that I was part of its Political Committee opposed all factions within the Islamic Republic and combined defense of political freedoms and promoting mass mobilization for anti-imperialist, democratic and anti-capitalist measures with a principled condemnation of terrorism.  

Thus, the biweekly Hemmat (Effort) the publication of HVK wrote an editorial on the removal of Bani-Sadr from presidency in its issue number 11 (July 5, 1981) with the following title: “Workers Need Their Own Independent Political Program and Party for Victory in War and Revolution: The Impeachment of Bani-Sadr and the Dead End of Capitalist Factions.” 

In the same issue, I wrote an article entitled “The Political Crisis of the Mujahedin of People Organization and the Declaration of June 18,” to criticize their decision to revert back to the “strategy of armed struggle.” It was subtitled “Strategy of Mass Mobilization or a Policy of ‘Revolutionary Resistance’?” In the same issue, we published Trotsky’s “Marxism and Terrorism.” In the same issue, I wrote another article entitled “End the Execution of Anti-Imperialist Fighters.”  This article documents the waves of repression against socialist parties and the Mujahedin, including mass arrests and summary executions. I included the case of two teenage female student supporters of the Mujahedin who were executed for carrying salt and pepper shakers in their school bags. The authorities claimed that they used these to pour salt and pepper on the wounds of the government forces during the clashes with the Mujahedin. 

When the Mujahedin terror campaign ensued, the HVK Political Committee and Hemmat editorial board issued statements and wrote letters to Khomeini to denounce these acts and express our sympathy with the family of the victims. When Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Mujahedin who with Bani-Sadr escaped arrest and found refuge in France took responsibility for these terrorist actions claiming that they have the support of the people, I wrote an article in Hemmat number 15 (September 23, 1981) entitled “Why the Policy of the Leadership of the Mujahedin Helps Imperialism: Massoud Rajavi Distorts the Reality to Justify Terror.”  

Again, in my public speaking as a socialist in the United States, whenever the occasion arose I condemned Mujahedin’s increasingly rightist course.  Today reviewing our conduct of the HVK and Hemmat during that period of heavy government repression, armed street fightings, terrorist bombing, mass arrest and executions I find it truly exemplary. Neither the Zahraie-led HKE or Rahimian-led HKS passed this test.  The former did not stand up to the government repression and the latter did not speak up against the terror campaign.  I am proud of helping to forge these principled socialist positions during that period and I never had any reason to change my mind on any of this. 

11. Did the SWP intervene in the Iranian Trotskyist movement?

In his response, Sheppard takes issue with my statement that the SWP leadership did intervene in the factional struggles in the Iranian movement (he mistakenly limits my statement to the Sattar Leage). 

Let me explain myself in more detail as the “devil is in the details.”  Let’s recall that our movement was formed in the shadow of the SWP.  Mahmoud Sayrafizadeh, the first Iranian Trotskyist, was recruited to the SWP more than a decade before he and others founded the Sattar League.  Moreover, Sayrafizadeh is of the same generation as Barnes, Sheppard and others who became the “central leaders” of the SWP in the 1970s. He always maintained close ties to them. Many of us a generation younger, looked to the SWP of the 1970s as our model and to its leadership, especially the older, more experienced generation, but also the new leadership, with deep respect as our mentors. After all, our sources for socialism were the SWP sources: Pathfinder books and pamphlets, the Militant, Intercontinental Press, International Socialist Review, education bulletins, internal discussion bulletins, and conferences and conventions.  Although organizationally separate some of us--myself included--participated in the mass movement and the SWP/YSA fractions within them.  For us, the SWP was the model; a much bigger party, with much more experience and direct link to the Bolsheviks. 

Given this fact, what the SWP leadership thought of issues in contention in our internal struggles mattered at least to some of us.  I recall when the Permanent Revolution Faction was formed, Harry Ring was visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. I asked him to have dinner with Touran Ostovar and myself at a restaurant in Berkeley Marina to talk about the theory of permanent revolution. It was heartening to us that Harry Ring’s understanding emphasized the historical democratic tasks and allies of the proletariat.  That was in winter of 1997 and Ostovar and I were in the Permanent Revolution Faction (PRF).  

When Sheppard met with the Political Committee of the Sattar League on March 17, 1977, his presence helped calm the factional atmosphere.  Sayrafiadeh later told me and Nasser Khoshnevis--the three of us were serving as the New York bureau for the PRF--that it was his first Political Committee meeting in a long while when some calm discussion took place. Without Sheppard, the other four—Zahraie and his associates—simply lashed out at Sayrafizadeh. When Sheppard expressed alarm about the expulsions of two Permanent Revolution  Tendency members in January and urged a reversal of this administrative measure two of the four PC majority members who had steadfastly supported these expulsions reversed themselves on the spot.  Sheppard’s advice that the PC should work to calm the SL’s factional atmosphere was eventually somewhat heeded by Zahraie and his associates.  When Sheppard suggested that in the event of an split the SWP leadership would need to decide which side to work, those who were preparing one were dissuaded (in my review I cited Zahraie’s statement at the public meeting in Portland, Oregon where he and his supporters had initiated a new branch alongside the regular one with a PRT majority: “You go your way, I’ll go mine.”).  Thus, an unprincipled split was averted and we held an (undemocratic) convention at the end of October 1977.

Gus Horowitz and Doug Jenness who attended the SL convention met with Sayrafizadeh during the convention and urged him to dissolve the PRF.  Although most of the PRF members did not agree with some of the Horowitz’s and Jenness’s assessment of the convention, we agreed to dissolve the faction.  I do not know whether Horowitz and Jenness also met with Zahraie and urged him also to dissolve his secret faction--he never declared a tendency or a faction although he and his supporters certainly acted as a disciplined group in dealing with the PRF.  After the convention former PRF members were sidelined and kept under close watch.  All of them were later expelled as part of a purge of two factions constituting 40% of the leaders and members of the HKE in 1980. 

In February 1979, Sheppard and Brian Grogan of the British International Marxist Group played a role in gluing the Sattar League and the Kandokav group, along with two other smaller tendencies, into the united HKS.  Although other factors, most importantly the February revolution and the desire of the ranks for unity, were important, I doubt that the division of power between Zahraie and Rahimian and their close associates would have gone smoothly without the SWP and the Fourth International leaderships role.  Sheppard  even tells us that he suggested the name of our paper--Kargar.  

When 25 of us in the Faction for Trotskyist Unification were expelled from the HKE in spring of 1980, our hope was to appeal to the Fourth International (and the SWP leadership) to help us fight it.  The fact that the FI United Secretariat, in particular Doug Jenness who represented the SWP, condemned the expulsion of FTU in July 1980 undoubtedly figured in Sayrafizadeh’s decision to organize the Marxist Faction with Nasser Khoshnevis and Nader Javadi, to fight the adaptationist course of Zahraie and for a united democratic convention.  

Later, both Zahraie-led HKE and Rahimian-led HKS broke off relations with the SWP and the European leadership around Ernest Mandel respectively.  The pressure of events in Iran was simply too much for them to abide with concerns with party democracy or other matters raised from New York or Brussels.  

I hope I have made it clear that the SWP leadership did exercise tremendous influence on the life of the Sattar League and our subsequent organizations. Also, I hope it has been made clear that in my view the SWP leadership overreached itself at time using its political influence both in terms of leaning too heavily on us or taking wrong positions. Still, I do agree with Sheppard that what has transpired under Barnes leadership in the post-1982 period is a qualitatively changed relationship between the SWP and its “international affiliates.”  It has become in essence a super-centralist form of international collaboration. 

12. Learning from our mistakes

In his response to my review Barry Sheppard explicitly endorses the legacy of the HKE, the Revolutionary Workers Party of Iran.  I have documented and shown how he has made a grave mistake:

HKE’s brief history (fall 1979-January 1983) was marked by a gradual but steady adaptation to the capitalist Islamic Republic regime as it relentlessly consolidated its power by crushing the grassroots movements that arose out of the February 1979 revolution.  

To accomplish this adaptationist course, Zahraie and his associated in the HKE leadership suppressed all criticism by expelling an HKE leader Farhad Nouri in winter of 1980, the Faction for Trotskyist Unification in April 1980 and the Marxist Faction in December 1980. In all, in its first year of existence the Zahriae-led HKS expelled 40% of its leaders and members.  

The HKE had all the markings of a Zahraie cult (that was consolidated by 1977 in the Sattar League in the U.S.). The HKE was founded without a convention, membership discussion either written or oral, and never had its leadership elected.  Zahraie became the National Secretary and the editor of Kargar  because he wanted to and his associates back him. When some in the leadership and ranks dissented in anyway they were expelled as explained earlier. Political questions raised were never discussed or led to a democratic decision by ranks.  In its entire almost three years of existence (there was no clear “founding” or “dissolving” hence no clear lifespan for the organization), the HKE never had a convention, conference or anything similar to discuss any written political document for adoption. Yet, a majority went along with whatever course Zahraie decided upon.   

When presented with the opportunity, the SWP and Fourth International leaderships condemned the explosions. Of the three Iranian Trotskyist parties—HKE, HKE and HVK that was founded in the January 1981 at the only democratic convention of our movement unifying three factions from the other two parties on the basis of political documents and a constitution—the SWP leadership was politically closest to the HVK.   Four months after the HVK founding convention, our key documents together with an explanatory note about how the convention was organized appeared in the April 20, 1981 Intercontinental Press.  This mutual political respect resulted in 6 former HVK members, including four of its Political Committee members, to join the SWP when they arrived in the U.S.  In contrast, none of the HKE leaders or members joined the SWP or groups that was expelled or split from the SWP.  While Sheppard was in the leadership of the SWP and after he resigned, he never expressed anything different. Thus, his position implicit in The Party and explicitly revealed in his response to my review represents a change of heart.  It is a norm for revolutionary socialists to publicly explain any major change of course. Sheppard has not done so.

From the perspective of the pre-crisis SWP that constitutes a major part of Sheppard’s book, the HKE’s political trajectory and organizational conduct simply clashes with the theory of Leninist party building. 

From the perspective of Leninist party building, Zahraie’s conduct resulted in heavy political and organizational damage to our movement’s ability to sink roots in the Iranian working class.  By the time the HVK was founded in January 1981, there was only two years of rapidly shrinking political space to carry socialist work. Both Kargar and Hemmat were forced to shut-down in spring 1982 and both HKE and HVK were forced to disband by January 1983. In fact, both parties were coming apart politically because of intensifying repression on minuscule socialist organizations (a mere 60 members each). However, only the HKE leadership publicly supported the Khomeini leadership (Attai’s interview in Kargar in spring of 1982 and Siamak Zahraie’s overt support for the Islamic Republic in July 1983 and his rival group of Zahraie associates who publicly supported the forced “confession” of the Tudeh Party leaders as evidence of crimes of Stalinism instead of crimes of the capitalist Islamic Repulic torturers). The Rahimian-led HKS had become politically irrelevant even earlier.  

Now, how did Barry Shepaprd who champions Leninist party building get himself into this mess?  Here is my speculation:

In a book that purports to be a “political memoir,” Sheppard inserts two chapters on Iran. He now claims that these chapters are meant to deal with the Iranian revolution and its demise. But this a tall order for a “political memoir” as Sheppard was not directly involved in the Iranian revolution.  He merely spent a couple of weeks in northern Tehran early after the victory of the 1979 revolution mostly in meetings behind closed doors.  Kate Millet (whose book Sheppard cites in his response to me) spent about two weeks in Tehran in March 1979 but was able to write an entire book about her memoir because she participated in public political gatherings and mass actions. Sheppard does not report anything of the kind. 

Also, Sheppard would make a poor historian.  He does not cites any sources—and many exists—that are devoted to the events of the Iranian revoluion, except a few articles from the Militant.  As I have noted, Sheppard does not do an elementary double checking of Militant reports to verify their accuracy some 30 years later. As a result, he relies on some inaccurate, even false, reporting as in the case of the occupation of the universities. Finally, Sheppard does not read or speak Farsi and is poorly familiar with the Iranian history. He misnames the deposed Shah in his book and in is response to my review identifies Bani-sadre as a prime minister even though I had identified him earlier as the first president in the Iranian history. 

At the same time, Sheppard’s two chapters does clearly include some sort of account of the Iranian Trotskyist movement both before and during the revolution.  While no one has suggested that he should have written about the factional struggles the make up an important part of that history, he has certainly decided to present a peculiar version of it—one that glories Babak Zahraie—and by extension, his companion Kateh Vafadari.  To do so, the events of the Iranian revolution and the Iranian Trotskyist movement had to be told in a way that is consistent with Sheppard’s glorification of Zahraie. That is the source of the problems with the two chapters on Iran in volume two of The Party and Sheppard's proven inability to look at the facts that I have painstakingly marshaled in my review. 

This rejoinder is written bearing in mind the advice of Ibn Yamin, the 14th century Tajik-Iranian poet:
One who knows and knows that he knows... His horse of wisdom will reach the skies. 
One who knows, but doesn’t know that he knows… He is fast asleep, so you should wake him up! 
One who doesn’t know, but knows that he doesn’t know… His limping mule will eventually get him home. 
One who doesn’t know and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know… He will be eternally lost in his hopeless oblivion!
I suppose Ibn Yamin had not run into people who knew the facts but could not tell what they knew—instead they resorted to falsehood.  They are probably worse off than those who do not know that they do not know. 

Endnotes: 

1. Sometimes Sheppard attempts to prejudice his readers against me. For example, he says I “slyly insinuate” that Babak Zahraie agreed with his older brother Siamak Zahraie’s assessment that the Islamic Republic was revolutionary in character. As a matter of fact, Siamak Zahraie who was number two “central leader” in the HKE claims this in his book—I simply paraphrased what he claims.  So, if there is any dispute about this between the two brothers and former “central leaders” it is Babak Zahraie’s responsibility to publicly dissociate himself from Siamak Zahraie’s statement and offer his own view about the class character of the Islamic Republic. However, while Siamak Zahraie has put forward his views publicly Babak Zahraie has kept silent for almost 30 years on this question and on a balance sheet of the HKE. 

Another example: Sheppard cites the Manifesto of Rights of Workers and Toilers of Iran that the Sattar League leadership drafted in January 1979 and adds: “Nayeri presumably agree with.”  In fact, in my review I characterized it as “a good document” and defended it against Babak Zahraie’s adaptionist course at the cost of getting expelled. See my review and this rejoinder for more on this issue.

2.  For example, he states that Bani-sadr was the Islamic Republic prime minister whereas in my review I clearly state that he was its first President elected with over 82% of the vote. 

3. HKE is the acronym for the Hezb-e Kargaran-e Enghlabi  (Revolutionary Workers Party) led by Babak Zahraie, November 1979-December 1982 (these dates are approximation. See the text for explanation). 


4. HVK is the acronym for Hezb-e Vahdat-e Kargaran or Workers Unity Party and HKS stands for Hezb-e Kargaran-e Sosialist or Socialist Workers Party led by Hormuz Rahimian. HVK was founded by a convention of Iranian Trotskyist in Tehran in January 1981 from two expelled fractions comprising 40% of the leadership and member of HKE and a faction from the HKS. The membership figures cited here are my estimates. For obvious reasons, there were never published figures of our membership.  

5. In modern Iranian history, ruling classes of big landowners and capitalists depended on two ideological props: the monarchy and the Shia hierarchy.  Each of these institutions has been dependent on the social structure of surplus extraction and distribution and, in turn, reinforced it as well as the patriarchal system that is thousands of years old. 

By the second half of the nineteenth century, when Iran was pulled into the vortex of the emerging capitalist world economy, layers of nascent middle classes began to be inspired by the allure of capitalist societies of Western Europe. By early twentieth century, national democratic and social democratic ideologies permeated intellectual discourse. These, along with monarchist and Islamists ideologies, were the main ideologies in three revolutionary upsurges in the twentieth century: the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, mass upsurges of the 1942-53 period, and the 1979 revolution.  In each revolutionary upsurge, the monarchy, backed by imperialism, was the target of the revolutionary mass movement and was finally overthrown in 1979.  The Shia hierarchy was split in between those who supported the constitutionalist movement and those who opposed it on the ground of the supremacy of the Islamic jurisprudence. The Shia hierarchy again played a divided role in the 1942-53 revolutionary upsurges but its key representative, Ayatollah Kashani, ended up supporting the CIA coup in 1953. 

The 1979 revolution differed from the earlier revolutionary upsurges in two important ways. Ayatollah Khomeini organized and led a movement for an Islamic regime in Iran. The other significant development was the formation of a class struggle leftwing in the Iranian labor movement centered in the oil industry. A few words on each of these;

Ayatollah Khomeini rose to prominence when in June 1963 he led the Shia establishment against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s so-called White Revolution, a U.S.-backed program of capitalist modernization.  Announced in January 1963, the White Revolution initially included six points, notably a program of capitalist land reform and the extension of the right to vote to women.  

While the June 5-6, 1963 Khomeini-led Islamic protests was quickly crushed and Khomeini himself arrested and later exited to Iraq, it served as the springboard for the formation of the political Shia movement with a goal of an Islamic regime as envisioned in a series of lectures Khemeini gave in the 1970s and later published in a pamphlet entitled Vellayat-e Faghih (Providence of the Jurists).  

On the other hand, rapid industrialization of the 1960s and 1970s that double the size of the industrial working class to 3 millions in just 15 years and absence or extreme weakness of reformist socialist parties (chiefly the Stalinist Tudeh Party) gave rise to the formation of a class struggle left wing in the oil industry and other major industries in Iran. This revolutionary proletarian leadership that emerged from below was instrumental in the decisive general strike of oil workers that broke the back of the Shah’s state of siege and forced him to leave the country opening the way to the 1979 insurrection. Also, this leadership was instrumental in the rise of the factory shora (council) movement, a form of dual power, in all key industries and large factories and workplaces. The formation of shoras among peasantry, in schools and colleges, and in the neighborhoods and the army, combined with the formation of organizations of the oppressed nationalities and women provided the potential basis for a government of workers and peasants. These were the audience for our The Manifesto of the Rights of Workers and Toilers of Iran. 

6. Sheppard’s title is different and somewhat inaccurate: “Bill of Rights of Iranian Working People.”
7. Sheppard proceeds to muddle the issue by quoting a section from the same unfortunate Militant article, that I showed was wrong almost on all important facts, that the Fadayan and Tudeh Party staged rallies of tens of thousands on May Day about 10 days after the first wave of attacks on college campuses. The article does not say these rallies were held at any university.  These organizations continued to enjoy widespread support and they were not crushed until the bloody attacks of 1981 and 1982 still a year or two in the future. 
Sheppard also repeats that supporters of various groups, including Islamic Student Associations, debated each other on Tehran campus after this initial attack. Why is that surprising? The April 19 attacks did not establish the Islamic Republic’s control over the universities. It was the opening of perhaps the most important assault on the student movement in Iran’s history but certainly not its conclusion.  To carry that assault the regime had to close down all institutions of higher learning in Iran in July 1980. 
8. The Shah formed the Imperial Council with Shahpor Bakhtiar, a secular bourgeois liberal politician, as the caretaker prime minister before he left the country in January 1979. On February 1, Khomeini designated Mehdi Bazargan as his prime minister. After the February 1979 insurrection, we called this government Khomeini-Bazargan government and characterized it as capitalist. Zahraie and HKE later revised this history to split Bazaragan’s compromising policies from Khomeini’s “uncompromising policies.”  

9. There is no written record as who they were. But in summer of 1992 when Babak Zahraie took me to his computer business on the pretext of showing me their own manufactured Farsi word processor (which really did not exist) I met half dozen of them who made up the “employees of the firm." 

10. As I recounted in Part 2 of my review and to some extent above, the grassroots movements of the Iranian working people that served as the foundation for the 1979 Revolution and in some cases expanded right afterwards were gradually co-opted or suppressed by “grassroots Islamic currents” such as the Islamic Associations in workplaces and in universities backed by management and/or state.  Freedom of the press, assembly and expression that was won through mass struggle against the Shah’s dictatorship were effectively suppressed in the summer 1979 waves of repression.  During the same period, women were forced to wear Islamic Hejab and wherever possible were forced out of their jobs or were segregated from their male co-workers (more in offices than in factories).  The national movements of oppressed nationalities were suppressed everywhere except in Kurdistan.   By summer 1980, after the government inspired takeover of the universities by Islamic Associations, all institutions of higher education were shutdown for three years while the Khomeini appointed Islamic Cultural Revolution Council purge them of non-Islamic curriculum, faculty, staff and students with the aid of the Islamic Associations.  The Islamic Associations in workplaces worked with the state-appointed management (all large employers were now public enterprises) to require an ideological test for new job applicants and employees were pressured to partake in noon prayers and other Islamic rituals. The imperialist-backed Iraqi-invasion provided the Islamic Republic with an excuse to suppress all independent workers activities and organizations, notably the shoras.  In this the clerical capitalist regime counted on the assistance of the Islamic Associations and the Workers House they controlled.  The oil workers shora was dismantled in part because the Iraqi invasion badly damaged the oil industry and the Islamic Republic regime dispersed oil workers turned into war-refugees across the country. The movement for land reform was pushed back and the big landlords were given free hand in their war against the resurgent peasantry.  The socialist groups and the Mujahedin that initially backed the resistance against the Iraqi invasion were purged from the fronts and from their schools and workplaces and were attacked, often by semi-fascist Hebollah, when they set up literature tables in the street or sold their papers.  

11. Sheppard insists that Kateh Vafadari was a leader of the Iranian Trotskyist movement.  As his “proof” he refers me to Kate Millet’s book Going to Iran (New York: Coward, McCann & Geochegan, 1982) where “Kateh was featured for her role.” 

The book is Millet’s travel memoir, an obviously memorable journey to Iran in March 1979 that lasted less than three weeks.  She was approach by a CAIFI (Sattar League) member named Khallil who was left behind to close down its New York office: the phone ringed and Khallil who she did not know says: “Kate, your sisters needs you in Iran….The women in Iran are going to celebrate International Women’s Day, March 8, they want you to come to speak….You remember Kateh [Vafadari]?” Millet was one of the sponsors of CAIFI.  She replied that she did not remember Vafadari. Millet adds: “There were women in Caifi at the end, more and more visible, but often shy. Once in the wife/girl friend class, one saw them more and more at the end as speakers, organizers. A few. (Going to Iran, p. 25).”   Finally, Millet decides to go to Iran and takes along her partner photographer Sophie Keir. 

Going to Iran describes the chaotic experience of Millet and her companion.  Their host does not arrive at the airport to greet them and at the end they were left mostly on their own when Amir Entezam, Deputey Prime Minister and government spokesman, ordered their expulsion.  In between, Millet is pulled into a number of actions and meetings in defense of women’s rights that were under attack by Khomeini and his provisional government. 

As Sheppard points out, when they finally met Millet was in fact impressed by Vafadari.  There are several pages of her book given to admiring description of Vafadari and her leadership role. These are accurate and well-deserved.

However, Sheppard needs to place these in context. First, those who invited and hosted Millet left her with the impression that they are still working for CAIFI in Iran, a disingenuous posture that was not consistent either with CAIFI’s mission and strategy when it was functioning in the U.S. (It was dissolved when we left for Iran) and inconsistent with our movement’s tradition of honest and open collaboration with other forces and individuals.  Second, Vafadari was acting on behalf of the March 8 fraction of the united HKS leadership.  Her talent and leadership qualities aside, she was not the sole leader of our effort In fact, there were others, notably Azar Tabari who was the chair of the March 7 (we could not find space for March 8) meeting we organized and her photo appears in Millet’s book WITHOUT A CAPTION. Every other person in our movement whose photo appears in the book is identified except Tabari. However, everybody else who Millet met and whose photo is displayed happen to belong to the Zahraie’s grouping.  Isn’t that a coincidence?   Third, The fact is that the fraction itself was not operating democratically.  Millet reports how at the Tehran University rally which we helped lead a split occurred between “the Maoists” who argued against going for a march and Vafadari. Millet herself routed for a march.  When I came across Tabari who was at the margin of the the rally she seemed upset with Vafadari’s decision to push for a march. In fact, the fraction had not decided on a march and nobody was organized to protect it. The march happened as Millet accurately describes it.  Despite its size--about 20,000 which was small for marches those days--it was attacked by the Hezbollah. Many men, including myself, and some women who were in the march attempted to provide a human chain to protect the marchers from Hezbollah attack. However, we never reached Azadi Square. The Hezbollah attacked and marchers dispersed into side streets. Although nobody got seriously hurt, this proved to be the last march in defense of women’s right in Iran to this date.  

I never got to know Vafadari.  I met her first when she came to New York from England where she was going to college in company of Zahraie in the summer of 1977.  Vafadari arrived as the factional struggle in the Sattar League was subsiding. We had our first New York branch meeting in a perhaps a year (I had moved from Oakland, California, to New York to help with the Permanent Revolution Faction’s work at its center).  Zahraie had brought Vafadari to the branch meeting held in an apartment in 135 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.  He briefly introduced her. But there was no motion and a vote to bring her into the Sattar League.  Sayrafizadeh told me later that there was no such initiation at the Political  Committee either.  So, that is how Vafadari joined the Sattar League. Immediately, she was assigned to CAIFI National Office to work alongside Nemat Jazayeri, a capable CAIFI organizer.  In Iran I did not come across her either--except when I discussed including a high school student to the roaster of speakers at the International Women’s Day rally that we organized--that was my radicalizing sister who joined our movement and got a job in an electric factory as part of our turn. Vafadrai agreed.  

Thus, Vafadari’s career in our movement lasted five year--from summer of 1977 to the end of 1982. At no time she was elected to the leadership and aside from the couple of weeks in February and early March of 1979 when she did help lead our women’s fraction, she had no other leadership roles that I am aware of.

About Going to Iran: Kate Millet was among the American intellectuals who lend their support to the work of Committee for Intellectual and Artistic Freedom in Iran (CAIF) in the 1970s.  Millet’s book is very detailed and full of asides, at times informative and interesting, others times tedious, reflecting her own obsessions. For example, she details her sensual admiration for a number of women that she meets, relates gossip (e.g. that Vafadari and Zahraie are about to break up or that two of the women who she meets were romantically involved with each other). She usually does not give dates--unusual and unhelpful for a political travelogue where sequence and time of events matter to the reader.  She also mis-spells many names throughout the book beginning with the name of Vida Tabrizi, a female sociologist who the first woman political prisoner CAIFI defended (Millet gives her first name as Vita, p. 17).

 12. There are a number of editorial errors in this New International section edited by Sayrafizadeh.






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