A Synopsis of Revolution and Counter-revolution in Iran


A vulgar retelling of the overthrow of the king of Iran and his replacement by a mullah.

Submitted by westartfromhere on February 29, 2024

It is not radical revolution, not the general human emancipation which is a utopian dream for Iran, but rather the partial, merely political revolution, the revolution which leaves the pillars of the house standing.

It has been over forty-five years since the proletarian revolution that overthrew the dictatorship of Muhammad Reza Shah, and the counter-revolution that led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On revolution in Iran: On February 18th, 1978 a mass demonstration in Tabriz ascended to insurrection. Government buildings and other symbols of the regime were attacked. Within a month, mass demonstrations and riots had spread to over fifty cities. As a corollary to these events, workers’ strikes began. In August, a strike wave broke out in conjunction with the other means of struggle taking place across the country. Many important industrial centres took part, and the wave rapidly gained momentum, eventually becoming a mass strike that would encompass the whole country, in which the entire economy was brought to a standstill.

On counter-revolution of Iran: Attempting to appease the protesters, the Shah promised free elections and appointed a new prime minister pledging more reforms; the Shah attempted to form a civilian government with Shapour Bakhtiar — a leader of the National Front, longtime opposition activist, and former political prisoner — at its head. Bakhtiar accepted the proposal, and was immediately expelled from the National Front, who at this point had thrown its support behind Khomeini. To quell the strikes, the government promised pay raises, benefits, and revisions to the labour law. The Shah fled the country. Khomeini returned from exile and appointed a provisional government consisting of members of the liberal nationalist opposition, employing lumpen-thugs (Hezbollah) to attack opposition rallies and break strikes. When workers returned to work, in many industries they did so under the control of the shuras (workers councils). Political organisations, suddenly free to operate after years of repression, began to flourish. Neighborhoods self-organised under the control of local committees. Universities became bases of Left-wing opposition. The provinces were in rebellion.

Sources: Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7th February, 1844, unknown source and date of transcription; Arya Zahedi, Class Struggle, Autonomy, and the State in Iran, 27th February, 2024, at Ill Will