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February 1973

A Declaration of the Cherikha-ye Fedai-ye Khalq about the Plan of Imperialism, Zionism, and Other Reactionaries and the Need for the [Middle Eastern] Region’s Revolutionary Forces to Unite (Excerpts)

Iranian leftists like the Constitutional Revolution’s Social Democrats, in 1905-1909, and proper Marxists like the members of the Iranian Communist Party—one of the earliest in the Middle East, founded in 1920, and enjoying considerable standing in the Comintern—never succeeded to capture the state in modern Iran. But as works like Maziar Behrooz’ Rebels with a Cause: The Failure of the Left in Iran (2000) and Stephanie Cronin’s edited volume Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran (2004) remind us, Marxism was an influential sociopolitical and ideological force in Iran in the 1920s and especially from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Thus, from its birth as a general leftist party in 1941 via its transformation into a properly Marxist party—memorably analyzed in Ervand Abrahamian’s Iran between Two Revolutions (1982)—to its repression after the CIA-led coup d’Etat of 1953, the Tudeh was the most powerful party of mid-century Iran and the biggest of its kind in the Middle East.

Moreover, from the 1950s to the 1960s Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980; r. 1941-1979) and his regime saw the remaining Tudehis and 1960s Maoist splinter groups in Iran and in exile as a threat. It was against this political backdrop, too, that some socioeconomic policies like the 1963 land reform picked up long-standing communist demands, though that reform had other roots, too, and sought to neutralize Iran’s land-holding urban upper class. And in early 1971, it was a new Marxist group, the Sazman-e cherikha-ye fada’i-ye khalq-e Iran,The Organization of the Iranian People’s Fada’i Guerillas (OIPFG), that launched an armed struggle against the shah’s regime, a history told in Peyman Vahabzadeh’s A Guerilla Odyssey: Modernization, Secularism, Democracy, and the Fadai Period of National Liberation in Iran, 1971-1979 (2010). The Fada’i-ye Khalq denounced the Tudeh for sitting on its hands, excoriated the Soviet Union and soon also China for accommodating the shah, and forced competitors like the Islamo-Marxist Mujahedin-e Khalq to spring to action as well. Many fada’iyin died an early violent death.

Even so, several ones wrote influential theoretical texts while in prison, like Bizhan Jazani (1937-1975), or in the underground, like Amir Parviz Puyan (1947-1971) and Mas‘ud Ahmadzadeh (1947-1972). Although hailing from two different groups that had been active before early 1971 and then joined to form the Fada’i-ye Khalq, they had much in common. Thus, they welcomed Cuban, Chinese, and Vietnamese armed revolutionary experiences, but never saw them as simple models to emulate. They had contacts with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a story and whose long aftermath is analyzed in Naghmeh Sohrabi’s “Remembering the Palestine Group: Friendship, Global Activism, and the Iranian Revolution” (2019). And partly drawing on Regis Debray and Latin American urban guerilla theorists, they most crucially stressed the need for a self-sacrificing vanguard that attacks the state to shatter workers’ lethargy. (As this did not happen, by 1975 some fada’is split and turned to political agitation; some even joined the Tudeh.)

At the same time, there were disagreements, too. Perhaps key was the nature of the US-Iranian relationship. Ahmadzadeh saw the shah as a US puppet pure and simple, whereas Jazani though he had considerable autonomy while under US control. In this regard, the text produced here hews closely to the Ahmadzadeh line, which was dominant at the time of publication, in 1973. The text is an English translation of a Persian text published in the (obviously prohibited) fada’i publication Nabard-e Khalq; it did not have a byline. The text is of interest in this collection not only because of its systemic reference to US imperialism but also because of its region-wide perspective.

November 2, 1946

Cable Nº 37172/37168 from Tehran

Soviet Ambassador to Iran I. V. Sadchikov reports on increased repression of populist organizations, trade unions, and the People's Party of Iran (Tudeh). He requests instructions on how to advise populists who hope to declare a one-day general protest strike.

January 21, 1983

About Activities of the Political Police and the Office for Protection of the Constitution against Iranian Citizens in the GDR and West Berlin

A report on surveillance activities of members of the Tudeh Party living in West Berlin.

July 9, 1982

American Secret Service Introduces Former Highly Placed Officials from the Iranian Secret Service SAVAK in West Berlin

A source claims that a former employee of the Iranian secret service is cooperating with the United States and is "active in West Berlin."

August 13, 1981

Activities of Iranian Left Extremist Groups in West Berlin

A report from a "trusted informal collaborator" claims that Iranian leftist groups will seek to enter East German to protest or attack the embassy of Iran.

April 26, 1946

Cable Nº 12753 from Tehran

Soviet Ambassador to Iran Ivan Sadchikov details Iranian Deputy Prime Minister Firuz Muzaffar's observations on the actions of Prime Minister Ahmad Qavam's opponents. These opponents, Firuz argues, are attempting to remove him in order to increase their influence over Qavam, are distancing Qavam from the People's Party, and are organizing various tribes against the government. Firuz also stresses the importance of a resolution to the Azerbaijan question.

August 29, 1984

Mielke, 'Political Operative Security of the Leadership of Illegally Fighting Communist and Workers’ Parties Staying in the GDR, as well as their Covert Activities'

Head of the Stasi (MfS), Erich Mielke, orders the Main Department II of the MfS to support and monitor political operatives of Communist and Workers' parties forbidden in their home countries and staying in the GDR.

July 24, 1984

Letter, Colonel Schenk to Major General Kratsch

Colonel Schenk requests approval for a draft order aimed at educating Turkish and Iranian political operatives in covert work and suggests an MfS employee with knowledge of Turkish to Major General Kratsch.

August 28, 1984

Letter, General Major Kratsch to Army General Mielke

Note on draft order for the Stasi (MfS) to provide support to the Turkish Communist Party and the Tudeh Party of Iran.

May 17, 1984

Model for a Resolution for the Operative Responsibility in the Support of the Leadership of Illegally Fighting Communist and Workers’ Parties Currently Staying in the GDR

Resolution requesting Stasi (MfS) support for the Communist Party of Turkey and People's Party of Iran (Tudeh) through various protective measures aimed at overseeing and assisting the two parties with covert work, as well as training for foreign functionaries.