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4 Tudeh Recantations
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4
Tudeh Recantations

I am Nuraldin Kianuri, the Chairman of the Tudeh Party. . . . I am not the same person I was when I entered prison a few months ago. I would like to thank the authorities for the opportunity both to study history and to present here my findings to the public, especially to the party youth. "Kianuri Exposes Half-Century of Treachery by the Soviets, the Marxists, and the Tudeh Party,"
Ettela'at, 28 August 1983


May Day 1983

On May Day 1983, television viewers were startled by the unscheduled appearance of two Tudeh leaders confessing profusely for having committed "treason," "subversion," and miscellaneous "horrendous crimes." In the next twelve months, eighteen others made even more sensational "revelations" in a series of "interviews," "press conferences," and "roundtable discussions." Negating their whole lives, they recanted their beliefs, their party, their colleagues, and their own pasts. The Tudeh protested that their leaders had been "brainwashed" with "mind-altering drugs" provided by MI6, MOSSAD, and the


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CIA.[1] It was as if the Tudeh could not admit—even to itself—that that its leaders could have succumbed to torture. True revolutionaries were supposed to die rather than betray their ideals.

These Tudeh recantations received more publicity than all the others put together. The reasons are obvious. The regime considered Marxism the main ideological rival of Islam. Unlike liberalism, nationalism, and monarchism, it challenged religious metaphysics, held out a utopian future, and offered a comprehensive view of the past and the present. In short, it was a total ideology. Moreover, the Tudeh—despite its Soviet associations—was reputed to be the most experienced and organized of the leftist parties. Unlike the others, it could not be dismissed as a mere university mini-group. Furthermore, it contained "stars"—celebrities, established writers, veteran prisoners, and recent parliamentary candidates. These recantations, writes Parsipour, had "historic significance" for many members of the Iranian intelligentsia had at one time or another supported the Tudeh party.[2] Similarly, E.A. writes that many leftists at first gloated over the Tudeh crackdown but soon found the television recantations bewildering: "They had trouble believing their eyes and ears."[3]

Two months before these May Day recantations, some two hundred Tudeh organizers, including thirty members of the central committee, had been arrested. There has been much speculation about these arrests. Some claim that the defection of the Soviet vice-consul in Tehran to Britain led to the uncovering of a vast Tudeh "espionage" network. But in his memoirs, the vice-consul denies any link between his defection and the arrests. He also reveals profound ignorance of the Tudeh party and stresses that the KGB had explicit instructions to keep away from local communists because they were deemed to be security risks: "Every intelligence officer in the KGB knows that the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party categorically forbids the KGB to approach members of other communist parties."[4]

The likelier reason for the arrests was the party's increasing criticism of the regime—especially after the government closed


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down its newspaper, purged its members from the ministries, jettisoned some radical legislation, especially land reform, and, most serious of all, made the fatal decision in mid–1982 to take the war into Iraqi territory after the liberation of Khorram-shahr.[5] Urging acceptance of a UN peace offer, the Tudeh warned that the continuation of the war would "play into the hands of the imperialists." It also warned that the Hojjatieh Society—a highly conservative group started in the 1950s as the Association to Combat Bahaism—was infiltrating the regime to sidetrack the revolution.[6] Just before these arrests, the Tudeh had published in a Soviet paper articles criticizing the regime on these issues as well as on the sensitive question of women's rights.[7] According to the vice-consul, the Soviet government had predicted the Tudeh crackdown knowing well that the clergy, like the Bolsheviks, had no intention of tolerating rivals.[8]

The May Day program was shared by Kianuri and Behazin—two figures well known throughout Iran. Kianuri was dubbed the "Communist Ayatollah" both because he was the grandson of the famous Shaykh Fazlallah Nuri and because he had often appeared on television vociferously praising the Islamic Republic as the best bulwark against U.S. imperialism. He had been elected party chairman on the eve of the revolution after a bitter struggle with his predecessor, Iraj Iskandari, who had hoped to stem the rise of Khomeini by allying with the secular National Front. Iskandari had lost the struggle when the National Front leader himself had submitted to Khomeini.

Iskandari had disliked Kianuri ever since the early 1940s. He labeled him a "post-Stalingrad Tudehi"—that is, a newcomer who had not belonged to the Fifty-three. He associated him with his brother-in-law Kambakhsh, whom he held responsible for the arrest of Arani and the Fifty-three. What is more, he distrusted him as a dangerous adventurer who had advocated foolhardy policies and permitted Rouzbeh to carry out unauthorized actions. During Iskandari's tenure as chairman, Kianuri—as well as his wife, Maryam Firuz—had been forced out of party politics into semiretirement in East Germany. Ironi-


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cally, this enmity saved Iskandari from the recantation shows. Continuing to criticize Kianuri and the Islamic Republic, he was soon forced to return to Western Europe where he died in 1991—thus becoming one of the last survivors of the Fifty-three.

Behazin, who shared the podium with Kianuri, was well known as the president of the Writers' Association. He had made his literary debut in 1941, when, as a wounded war hero, he had published a collection of short stories. Over the years, he had published more short stories and essays, translated Balzac and Sholokhov, and written an account of his 1970 prison experiences. He had also been very much in the news during the last months of the old regime when he had been rearrested for launching a pro-Tudeh paper and reviving the Writers' Association. Soon after his 1983 arrest, his wife complained to Ayatollah Montazeri that she had not been permitted to see her husband and that her son too had been arrested. "My son," she said, "is being used as a pawn against his own father."[9]

Kianuri and Behazin turned their recantations into long history lessons.[10] Surveying the last hundred years, they focused on flash points when the left had supposedly "betrayed" the people of Iran: the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–9; the Jangali Revolt of 1917–21; the rise of Reza Shah in 1921–25; the Kurdish and Azerbaijan uprisings in 1945; the Soviet oil demand and the Tudeh participation in Ahmad Qavam's government in 1946; and the campaign to nationalize the oil industry in 1951–53. Historians cannot complain that the Islamic Republic does not take the past seriously. They might, however, find its methods of revising history somewhat unorthodox. Like most ideological regimes, it harbors an unhealthy interest in history.

Behazin kicked off the program. He argued that throughout history leftists with "alien ideologies" had "betrayed" the Iranian masses. To illustrate this, he reached back to the Constitutional Revolution when secular Democrats had helped the government disarm those allied with the clerical Moderate party. As he put it, "This was our first deed of betrayal." He


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continued with a long list of crises in which the left had failed to stem the rightists—especially the 1953 coup and the White Revolution. "What better proof of treason than the simple fact that in 1960s the Tudeh called not for a revolution but for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy." Behazin held himself "personally responsible" for these "treasonable offenses"—some of which had occurred long before this birth. He said that Marxism had no future in Iran both because it offered nothing but empty slogans and because Islam in general and the clergy in particular had deep social roots going back "one thousand years" and concluded, "Marxism has hit a cul-de-sac. What is more, Islam with its policy of 'Neither East Nor West' can shield Iran from imperialism."

Kianuri's recantation was equally long on generalities but short on specifics. He conceded that the party had been insincere when it mouthed the slogan "Neither East Nor West": "Because of our historical links to the Soviets we did not really believe in this slogan." "This," he argued, "was the mother of all our other infringements [takhallof-ha ]." He claimed that his recent confinement had given him the opportunity for the very first time in his life to reflect on history and understand why Islam—in contrast to Marxism—had such an attraction for the masses, especially recent migrants into the cities.[11]

As a result of intensive study, Kianuri had come to the conclusion that the communist movement had persistently erred because it was afflicted with four fatal bemari-ha (diseases): vabastegi (dependency); idolouzhi-ye beganeh (foreign ideology); khodparasti (self-worship); and nashenakht-e Iran (not knowing Iran). The first made the Tudeh ideologically, politically, and organizationally dependent on the Soviet Union: "We were subjects rather than comrades of the Soviet Communist party." The second gave it an alien worldview: "We tried to solve the problems of Iran with Marxism—an irrelevant ideology." The third racked the party with personal rivalries, jealousies, and power struggles: "Our party leaders, like the rest of the Iranian intelligentsia, were corrupted by egoism and selfishness." The fourth disease made communists ignorant of their


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nation: "We knew more about Europe than about Iran. We had no idea how our workers and peasants thought because we had not bothered to study our own history." Academics may be flattered by this equation of ignorance with "high treason." One wonders how many politicians would pass such tests.

These diseases explain the most "treasonable mistakes." In 1944, the Tudeh had supported the Soviet demand for an oil concession even though, according to Kianuri, "we had much misgivings on this issue and two months earlier had vehemently opposed the granting of a similar concession to the Americans." "This demand caused as much consternation as the Tobacco Crisis had done in 1892." In 1945, the Tudeh had supported the Soviet-sponsored revolts in Kurdestan and Azerbaijan even though their preparations had been hidden from the party itself. "Our leaders had been kept totally in the dark." In 1946, it had entered Qavam's coalition government although "it is now perfectly clear that this gentleman was an American tool." "Our entry into the coalition cabinet is clear proof of treason [khiyanat ]." In 1948, Rouzbeh had tried to destabilize the government by assassinating the anticourt journalist Massoud. Here Kianuri mentions in passing that the "party itself was not involved in the assassination." In 1951, the Tudeh had failed to support Mossadeq, and instead had accused the oil nationalization campaign of being "dependent on the Americans." "This treacherous act was highly unpopular among the party rank and file." What is more, the four "fatal diseases" account for why the party had remained passive throughout the 1953 coup.

These maladies continued after the 1953 coup. In 1953–54, the Tudeh had "shown signs of weakness." "Some leaders even collaborated with the regime." In 1953–55, it had assassinated four police informers. In 1954, its military branch had been uncovered with disastrous consequences. "This, in effect, terminated party activities within the country." In 1963–64, it had done little to oppose the White Revolution. "Instead of forthright opposition, we said yes to reform, no to dictatorship." "This was another proof of treason as it is now clear that the sole purpose of the White Revolution was to turn Iran into a


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large market for American goods." During the 1978–79 mass protests, it had made no significant contribution to the revolution. "Our party membership inside Iran was no more than a handful." This was yet another proof of treason. Kianuri was embellishing errors and shortcomings into wrongdoings and misdemeanors—then wrongdoings and misdemeanors into treason and high crimes.

After the revolution, Kianuri continued, the Tudeh "ungratefully" exploited freedom to undermine the Islamic Republic. It pretended to support the war effort, even sending volunteers to the front, but in reality favored the UN peace offer. "We committed treason because we did not sincerely believe in the slogan 'War, War Until Victory.'" It also pledged support for the Islamic Republic but, at the same time, looked toward a post-Khomeini era when it would seek more influence—even power. "We hoped to exploit the future, especially if Iran experienced a major socioeconomic crisis."

Kianuri described some "shameful deeds" for which he, as party leader, took "full responsibility." After the revolution, he instructed some party members to keep their pistols. "This was especially serious since our frontline troops were in dire need of weapons." He obtained from the Soviets one thousand tons of paper—"a scarce and lucrative commodity at the time." He recruited military personnel in clear violation of the Imam's decree ordering all political parties to stay clear of the armed forces. He encouraged party members to work hard and obtain promotions in the ministries and universities. He tried to escape from the country when it became clear that the party could no longer function. He also gave the Soviet Embassy handwritten reports on the national and international situation. "Others members of the central committee may have had their own lines of communication with the Soviets. But the investigators would know more than me about this."

Kianuri went out of his way to emphasize that his appearance was voluntary and that Islam was superior to Marxism. He ridiculed rumors "spread by foreign officials" that he had been subjected to drugs and chemicals. "I would like to thank


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the authorities for their humane treatment." He also emphasized that his intensive research into history had shown him that Marxism was divorced from reality whereas Islam, especially the true version espoused by the progressive clergy, had always enjoyed strong roots among the Iranian masses—from the time of the Tobacco Crisis and the Constitutional Revolution, through the Mossadeq-Kashani era, into the Islamic Revolution. And, finally, he said,

I would like to conclude by telling the youth, especially the party youth, that the mother of all our deviation and treason has been our links with foreign ways of thought. I beseech you to study Iranian society and history. . . . If you study diligently you will see that imperialism poses a serious threat to Iran. At present the threat comes in the form of the Iraqi aggression, but in future years it could come in the shape of plots and conspiracies hatched by the imperial powers. This is why it is the duty of all Iranians—even nonreligious ones—to rally behind the Revolution.

Although Kianuri and Behazin avoided the subject of espionage, government newspapers gave these recantations such sensational headlines as "Tudeh Confessions of Spying for the Soviet Union and Plotting to Overthrow the Islamic Republic"; "Kianuri Exposes Half-Century of Treachery by the Soviets, the Marxists, and the Tudeh Party"; "Two Tudeh Leaders Make Sensational Confessions of Spying and Plotting to Overthrow."[12] Thoughout their television appearances, the two kept their hands hidden under the table. Kianuri's hand had been broken during his stage preparations. Behazin's had been injured in World War II. In her protest letter, Mrs. Behazin complained that the authorities were trying to force her husband to "commit ideological suicide" as well as to smear himself as a "traitor" even though he had sacrificed his hand for his country.[13]

Immediately after Behazin and Kianuri's appearance, the government outlawed the Tudeh on the grounds it had "spied


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for foreigners," "infiltrated the ministries and the armed forces," "incited factory strikes," "stored arms to overthrow the Islamic Republic," and "established contact with groups warring against God"—this probably referred to the Mojahedin or the Hashemi group.[14] The regime ordered party members to turn themselves in. Some one thousand party members were apprehended.[15] The same was soon done to the Majority Fedayi on the grounds that it was closely identified with the Tudeh. The same was also done to a small anti-Tudeh Trotskyist group.

In an evenhanded denunciation, Khomeini pronounced both the Bahais and the Tudeh to be "foreign spies" and declared that the Tudeh leaders themselves had "come forward to expose their own pasts": "These gentlemen are in prison not because of their views but because of their espionage activities."[16] In a long series of editorials entitled "Confession," Ettela'at declared these disclosures to be "unprecedented in world history" and to be "living proof of Islam's strength":

No one else has been able to obtain confessions revealing such a large spy network—not even the Shah with all his foreign experts, surveillance equipment, modern police tactics, and up-to-date interrogation methods. Under the Shah, such criminals would spend years in prison without confessing their crimes. But under the Islamic Republic, they are willing to make full disclosures after a few brief months. What better proof of Islam's moral superiority.[17]

The chief prosecutor claimed that the confessions showed the Tudeh had "declared war on God" and was so despicable that it had "betrayed" even the Soviet Union as well as the Islamic Republic. He added that according to the sharia the eventual punishment for those who had declared war on God could be lightened if they came forward willingly and repented before their trials began. "Late repentance will not lessen the retribution. The sharia has strict rules against those who war against God."[18] Ayatollah Janati, the Imam Jom'eh of Qom, declared that the arrests were more important than the takeover of the "U.S. spy den" on the grounds that the Tudeh had been


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trying to "steal our youth" and spread "corruption" (fasad ) and "unrest" (fetnah ) throughout the land.[19] Ayatollah Taheri, the Imam Jom'eh of Isfahan, congratulated the government for saving youth from such a "filthy and corrupt organization."[20]

Hojjat al-Islam Hojjati-Kermani, a former Bani-Sadr supporter, was even more laudatory. Without any sense of irony, he "congratulated the Imam and the community for their great ideological victory," arguing that the confessions buried once and for all the corpse of "historical materialism" and showed to all the towering superiority of Islam. "The leaders of the Fedayan-e Islam—unlike these atheists—died rather than give up their ideals. No doubt, some communists will try to escape the proscribed fate for apostates by claiming to have been born Jewish."[21] Hojjati-Kermani considers himself to be a modern-thinking cleric.

Equally revealing were the comments that poured forth from émigré intellectuals, exiled newspapers, and rival political parties. Like the Moscow trials, the confessions generated much heat but little analysis. Few linked them to torture and prison brutality. Most cited them to reinforce their own predispositions toward the Tudeh. In other words, even enemies of the regime used the occasion to blame the victims—not to scrutinize the regime itself. For example, the Mojahedin claimed that the show had been staged to mislead the public into thinking the real opposition was the Tudeh. It added that the Tudeh deserved to end up on "Khomeini's dungheap" because it had "opportunistically supported—even spied for—his medieval bloodthirsty dictatorship."[22] The royalists argued that the Tudeh leaders were playing a "clever game" so as to continue propagating their antimonarchist propaganda.[23] This echoed their bizarre claim that the Islamic Republic was a front organization for the Kremlin. They also argued that the confessions merely confirmed the common knowledge that the Tudeh was nothing more than an "espionage network." One royalist even contrasted the recanters with their 1950s' predecessors such as Rouzbeh who had chosen to die for their beliefs.[24]

The Minority Fedayi declared the recantations to be a major defeat not for Marxists but for foolish "revisionists" who had


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refused to heed their warning that Khomeini was out to create a "bourgeois dictatorship."[25] To support their point, they reprinted a secret 1981 government memo outlining plans to round up all leftists, including those supporting the regime. The Liberation Movement, the party closest to Western liberalism, declared that the confessions confirmed what it had been saying about the Tudeh for the last forty years—that it was inherently a "treacherous organization." It added that the Tudeh fate was predictable for those who had taken the trouble to read the Holy Koran.[26]

Even those familiar with the Moscow trials failed to place these confessions in their context. Jahanshahlu, a member of the Fifty-three who had recently broken with the Tudeh, completed his two-volume memoirs by declaring that these "traitors" were merely "spilling the beans about their Russian masters."[27] Iskandari, the former party chairman, argued that the likes of Kianuri had already moved so close to the regime that a "small nudge" was enough to get them to produce such ridiculous statements.[28] Hajj Sayyed-Javadi—a veteran Maleki supporter—wrote that these recantations confirmed that the Tudeh knew nothing about Marxism and that Maleki had been right in his denunciations of Stalinism.[29] Bahman Bakhtiari, a professor of political science in America, managed to write a whole article on the crackdown without dwelling unnecessarily on such unseemly subjects as torture and prison brutality.[30] Similarly, Professor Sephr Zabih—the in-house expert on Iranian communism at the Hoover Institution—treated these "pathetic" confessions as confirming the well-known truths about KGB-Tudeh links.[31] He speculated that the Tudeh leaders had given these history sketches to "flatter Khomeini" and "cultivate favor with the Islamic Republic." Presumably those who had ascended to the auto-da-fé had done so to "flatter" the Inquisition.

Television Confessions (May-September 1983)

Immediately after the Kianuri-Behazin show, eight other members of the central committee made their own separate televi-


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sion appearances. Their statements were equally ambiguous, the newspaper headlines equally sensational: "Members of the Central Committee Confess to Spying for the KGB"; "Tudeh Created for the Sole Purpose of Espionage"; "Tudeh Leaders Confess to Treason"; "Confessions Unprecedented in World History."

Ghulam-Hossein Qaempanah, an army officer who had escaped to the Soviet Union in 1950, gave the longest of the eight statements. He began by admitting that during his twenty-nine-year exile he had "some dealings" with the KGB.[32] It would be hard to imagine a political exile in the Soviet Union for so long without some such dealings. He then digressed into another history lesson, starting with the early 1920s, going through the 1940s, and ending with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. "Our policies over these years," he said, "prove that we are linked to the Soviets." He added that the Soviet Communist party gave financial assistance to the Tudeh and monitored its important central committee meetings. "What better evidence of treason than the closing down of our radio station in 1961 to facilitate the Soviet rapprochement with the Shah?" He further added that after the revolution party cells began their weekly meeting with an exchange of news and information. Significant information was then passed to the central committee. Kianuri, in turn, passed some of this information to the Afghan and Soviet embassies. "Sometimes one needs a sudden shake to wake up from deep sleep. I woke up in prison, opened my eyes, and saw that over the years I had fallen into a treacherous quicksand."

Rafat Mohammadzadeh, a gendarmerie officer who had participated in the sensational 1950 escape from Qasr, seems to have hardly spoken. The press published a two-sentence summary of his supposed acknowledgment that "he had joined the KGB as soon as he had reached the Soviet Union in July 1951."[33] In fact, the KGB had not come into existence until March 1954. Like many others, Mohammadzadeh had spent much of his long exile working for a doctorate. He had also helped to edit the party's journal Donya and contributed social science articles to it.


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Gagik Ovanessian, a printer who had spent much of the 1960s in prison, was equally taciturn, merely stating that after the revolution he often hand-carried reports from Kianuri to the Soviet Embassy.[34] No relative of Ardashir Ovanessian from the Reza Shah period, Gagik Ovanessian was now the only Tudeh leader with a Christian background. He was a childhood friend of the Kianuris from Qazvin. Maryam Firuz considered him "her elder brother."[35]

Mohammad-Ali Rasadi, another army officer who had lived in exile for thirty-three years, admitted that while in Baku Soviet officials had at times consulted him about the internal workings of the Tudeh party. Again the newspaper summary claimed that he had admitted to being recruited "into the KGB in 1951."[36] In 1945, Rasadi and two dozen officers in Khurasan had launched an ill-fated mutiny without even consulting the Tudeh party.

Kiamars Zarshenas, who had joined the party in 1961 as a university student and still headed the youth branch, declared that history, especially Qavam's 1946 coalition cabinet, proved that the Tudeh was linked to the Soviet Union. "After the revolution we tried to undermine the regime by substituting the slogan 'Independence, Freedom, and the Islamic Republic' with 'Independence, Freedom, and Social Justice.'"[37]

Manoucher Behzadi, a party member since his law school days in 1943, had emigrated in 1954, received a doctorate in economics from East Germany, and returned in 1979 to edit the party organ Mardom . He argued that the Tudeh had a minimum and a maximum program.[38] The former was to win over the public by glossing over the differences between Islam and Marxism and by demanding land reform, workers' councils, and student organizations. The latter was to overthrow the regime by inflaming class hatreds and aggravating internal differences among the clergy. He added that the first time he learned of these sinister goals was in prison—after his arrest.

Reza Sheltouki, an air force officer imprisoned from 1954 until 1978, declared that "he had no choice but to confess to treason."[39] You may well ask, he said, why someone like himself, who spent twenty-four years tortured in the Shah's


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prisons, should now come forward and make a voluntary confession. The answer, he continued, is simple: we either confess our crimes or else remain forever banished from the revolutionary movement. He added that one should distinguish between SAVAK and the present wardens who are "considerate," "fruits of the masses," and "use plain everyday language to explain the importance of repentance." Without actually acknowledging espionage, he declared that jasousi (spying) was one of the most shameful words in the whole language: "It is so repugnant that I have trouble bringing myself to say the word."

Finally, Amoui—famous for his twenty-four-year imprisonment—declared the party to be "replete with treason."[40] While pledging support, it had tried to subvert the Islamic Republic. It had submitted to the government an incomplete list of its central committee. It had not really believed in "Neither East Nor West." It had created an armed underground organization. And it had been linked to the Soviets from the very beginning. "The best proof of this is the simple fact that in 1942 the Tudeh established its first cells in the Soviet-occupied zone." He concluded by thanking the authorities for dissolving such a "treacherous" organization. Hojjati-Kermani commented that of all the recantations Amoui's was the most sensational: "I Know Mr. Amoui from prison. He was a true believer in Marxism. He considered the Tudeh to be his whole life—his family, his father, his mother, his wife, his child. . . . His recantation signifies the total triumph of Islam over Marxism."[41]

Once these appearances were over, Ettela'at published an article by a Tehran University professor proclaiming that these confessions proved beyond doubt that the Tudeh was linked not only with the Soviet Union but also with the United States. For the Tudeh and the United States, he argued, have the same long-range goal—to contain and roll back the Islamic movement sweeping across the whole world. "This is why we should consider the Tudeh to be the conspiratorial weapon of both East and West."[42] The United States must have more friends than it realizes.


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Roundtable Discussion (October 1983)

These solo performances were followed in October with a "roundtable discussion" of seventeen top leaders. This was televised in three ninety-minute segments; and then their transcripts were circulated widely through newspapers, journals, even pamphlets with color illustrations.[43] Meanwhile, videotapes of the whole event were repeatedly shown in Iranian consulates throughout the world. This was video recantation par excellence, both in production and in distribution.

The event was staged in the Evin lecture hall. Its high walls were decked for the occasion with large banners declaring "Death to the Soviets," "Death to America," Neither East Nor West," "We don't accept as Iranians those who sacrifice their Islamic and national values for the U.S. and the USSR." The seventeen sat cowed under the banners looking repentant and forlorn. But they had in front of them microphones and water cups—as if at an academic meeting or a press conference.

Among the seventeen were seven who had already appeared—Kianuri, Behzadi, Qaempanah, Amoui, Rasadi, Sheltouki, and Ovanessian. The other ten were all members of the central committee. Some were well-known nationally, having run recently for the Majles or the Assembly of Experts. Dr. Hossein Jowdat, the oldest, was the Sorbonne-educated physicist who had escaped from Qasr in 1950. His elder brother, an army officer who had joined the Azerbaijan revolt, had been executed in 1946. He himself had lived in exile since 1955.

Abbas Hejri, another army officer, had spent twenty-five years in prison together with Amoui and Sheltouki. Mohammad Pourhormozan and Mehdi Kayhan, two survivors of the 1945 Khorasan mutiny, had lived in exile from 1946 until 1979. Ali Galavij, originally from the Kurdish Democratic party, had fled to the Soviet Union after the collapse of the 1946 Kurdish revolt. He had joined the Tudeh in 1960 while studying for a doctorate. Similarly, Anushirevan Ibrahimi, who had a doctorate in history, had made his way to the Soviet Union in 1946 after the collapse of the Azerbaijan government. His elder


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brother had been the justice minister in that government and had been executed in 1946. Their father had been a founding member of the Communist party and had been killed in the Jangali Revolt.

Farajollah Mizani, another recent returnee from the Soviet Union, had joined the Tudeh in 1945 while studying at Tehran University. He had escaped to the Soviet Union in 1957 where he had obtained a doctorate in Persian literature while helping Noshin reinterpret the Shahnameh as a radical antiroyalist epic. He had also headed the party's clandestine radio station Payk-e Iran (Iran's Messenger), which had been located first in East Germany and then in Bulgaria. He was a regular contributor to Donya under the pen name F. M. Javanshir.

Assef Razmdedeh, a factory worker, had been arrested in the early 1970s for organizing illegal unions and had been kept in Qasr even after completing a seven-year prison sentence. Finally, Mehdi Partovi and Shahroukh Jahangeri, both former Fedayis, had joined the party while in prison, and during the revolution had been instrumental in setting up an underground armed network for the Tudeh. Although modest in size, this network had played a role in the final February 1979 confrontation with the royalist forces. Partovi and Jahangeri were the only members of the seventeen who were under forty years of age.

These seventeen reflect the social composition of the top Tudeh leadership in the 1980s. Their average age was fifty-six. Jowdat was seventy-five; Kianuri, sixty-eight. Seven were former military officers—three of them had each spent twenty-four years in prison. Fourteen had graduated from institutions of higher learning—seven from military academies, six from the Soviet Union, and two from Western Europe. Fifteen came from the salaried middle class. Only two were workers—a typesetter and a factory worker. In terms of ethnicity, the group contained eight Azeris, seven Persians, one Kurd, and one Armenian. Like the early communist movement—but unlike the early Tudeh party—the Azeri component was pronounced. (See table 7.)


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Some prominent members of the central committee were conspicuous by their absence from the roundtable. Behazin had disappeared from public view after the May Day program. He spent the next few years in prison translating Roman Rolland's epic novel Jean-Christophe, which he renamed The Free Spirit . Ehsan Tabari—the party's main theorist—had suffered a stroke and was being nursed for a later appearance. Taqi Key-manash, another officer who had spent twenty-four years in prison, had died during his interrogation. So had thirteen others.[44] Maryam Firuz, the head of the women's branch and Kianuri's spouse, was also absent despite her well-known name—she had recently run for both the Majles and the Assembly of Experts. It is not clear whether her absence was due to clerical sensitivity about women participating in such shows—especially at the same table as men—or due to the fact that her interrogation had left her ear and spine permanently impaired. She had trouble hearing and sitting.[45]

The roundtable discussion reads like a parody of public recantations. Amoui—respected because of his twenty-four-year imprisonment—chaired. He opened and closed the meetings but otherwise said little. His introduction saluted the Great Leader of the Revolution, the Founder of the Islamic Republic as well as the Heroic and Honorable People of Iran, and the generous volunteers fighting the Baathist invaders from Iraq. He sought forgiveness for all the participants, arguing that these discussions proved beyond doubt that the Tudeh had "links with the Soviets" and that Marxism had "failed to find roots among the Muslim masses." He concluded, "You viewers, like us, must put yourself at the service of the Imam."

The others opened with similar salutations, sketched their own political careers, and insisted that their presence was entirely voluntary. Kianuri ridiculed the rumor that he had been executed and repeated that he had changed his views not because of coercion but because of "confronting the truth in prison." Ovanessian joked that the rumor of this death was much exaggerated. Mizani dismissed reports that he had been subjected to drugs supplied by MOSSAD: "Our discussions with


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Table 7
Tudeh Roundtable Discussants, October 1983

Name & Dates

Profession

Higher Education

Place of Birth

Past

Fate

Kianuri, Nuraldin (1915–)

Professor-
architect

Germany

Mazandaran

Exile 1955–79

Prison 1983–

Behzadi, Manoucher (1927–88)

Journalist

Tehran Univ.
    & USSR Ph.D.

Tehran

Exile 1954–79

Executed 1988

Jowdat, Hossein (1908–88)

Professor of physics

France

Tabriz

Exile 1955–79

Executed 1988

Qaempanah, Ghulam (1923–)

Officer

Academy

Tabriz

Exile 1951–79

Prison 1983–

Amoui, Mohammad (1923–)

Officer

Academy

Kerman
shah

Prison 1954–79

Prison 1983–

Sheltouki, Reza (1926–85)

Officer

Academy

Kerman
shah

Prison 1954–79

Died in prison

Hejri, Abbas (1922–88)

Officer

Academy

Mashed

Prison 1954–78

Executed 1988

Rasadi, Ahmad (1915–88)

Officer

Academy &
    USSR Ph.D.

Rasht

Exile 1946–79

Executed 1988

Pourhormozan, Mohammad (1920–88)

Officer

Academy &
    USSR Ph.D.

Tehran

Exile 1946–79

Executed 1988

(table continued on next page)


195

(table continued from previous page)

 

Name & Dates

Profession

Higher Education

Place of Birth

Past

Fate

Kayhan, Mehdi (1915–88)

Officer

Academy &
    USSR Ph.D.

Mashed

Exile 1946–79

Executed 1988

Ibrahimi, Anushirevan (1927–88)

Teacher

USSR Ph.D.

Astara

Exile 1946–79

Executed 1988

Ovanessian, Gagik (1920–88)

Printer

None

Qazvin

Prison 1954–64

Died in prison

Mizani, Farajollah (1925–88)

Engineer

Tehran University
    & USSR Ph.D.

Tabriz

Exile 1957–79

Executed 1988

Razmdedeh, Assef

Worker

None

Ardabel

Prison 1965–79

Executed 1988

Galavij, Ali

Teacher

USSR Ph.D.

Kurdestan

Exile 1946–79

Prison 1983–

Jahangeri, Shahroukh (1948–84)

Teacher-taxi driver

Tehran University

Rasht

Fedayi

Executed 1984

Partovi, Mehdi (1948–)

 

Tehran University

 

Fedayi

Amnestied


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our prison guards convinced us that the revolution had made great strides for the masses—especially for the recent migrants into the cities." Sheltouki declared that in prison he had realized that all these years he had been reading the wrong type of books: "The simple fact is that Iran and Marxism-Leninism are diametrically different in all aspects—in ideology, thought, psychology, sociology, and way of life."

Kayhan declared that the guards had psychologically disarmed him with their deep and sincere respect for the toiling masses: "Prison woke us up and made us conscious of the enormity of our crimes. . . . Prison gave us the lash of truth [shalaq-e haqayeq ]." Behzadi declared that he was there to bear witness to the young generation and to show what happens when one wanders from the narrow and straight path. Partovi thanked the wardens for their humanitarian consideration, and argued that history proved torture could never change the convictions of the truly committed. Jowdat described his prison experiences as "highly educational" and thanked the mothers of his guards for having brought into the world such "upright, honest, and considerate human beings." It is not clear how many viewers caught the irony.

In presenting negative propaganda against themselves, they reiterated the litany of historical episodes when the left had supposedly "betrayed" the nation—again beginning with 1905 and ending with the war against Iraq. In doing so, they observed a vague division of labor, with each focusing on his own field of party expertise.

Kianuri repeated more or less his earlier history lesson, stressing that lack of intellectual sophistication had led the Tudeh to persistently "betray the nation." He also "revealed some historical secrets." The Soviets had apparently "created" the Fifty-three. The Tudeh had contemplated supporting Shariat-madari against Khomeini. The central committee had eliminated from Rouzbeh's last testament any reference to his assassination exploits—especially those of Massoud and Lankrani. "We wanted to portray Rouzbeh as a revolutionary martyr


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with no blemishes whatsoever." Little of this was either new or proof of treason.

Meanwhile, Jowdat went over the Lankrani murder. Ibrahimi insinuated that Pishevari had hatched the Azerbaijan revolt because of his personal disputes with the Tudeh and because of his failure to get elected to the first party congress. Galavij claimed that imperialists wanted to create a united Kurdestan and that the Tudeh had done its best to woo members away from Kumaleh and the Kurdish Democratic party. Pourhormozan complained that whereas the Tudeh had persistently supported the Soviets, the Soviets had equally persistently failed to help the Tudeh.

Qaempanah claimed that "the KGB began recruiting from the Firqeh and the Tudeh as soon as these parties fled to the Soviet Union." "They wanted information on our internal working and were particularly fearful of Maoism." Partovi acknowledged that after the Islamic Revolution the Tudeh had retained some weapons and refused to disband its underground network. Rasadi stated that the Soviets were eager to obtain information on the political situation in Iran—especially on such politicians as Bani-Sadr. Kayhan admitted working for the Voice of the Iranian People, a Soviet-financed radio station. He added that this station had supported the invasion of Afghanistan, the arming of Saddam Hossein, and the White Revolution—the last would have been news to the Shah. He further added that the Tudeh—presumably unlike the Islamic Republic—had a "cult of personality" and believed in "blind obedience to its leader." Finally, Hejri thanked the authorities for dissolving the party and declared that during his twenty-five-year imprisonment he had never once imagined he would end up in his present predicament.

Although these presentations used such loaded terms as KGB, khiyanat (treason), beganeh (foreigners), jasousi (espionage), fetnah (sedition), touteh (conspiracy), barandakhtan (overthrow), and vabasteh-e khareji (foreign dependency), they contained nothing earthshaking. It was common knowledge


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that the Tudeh advocated Marxism; failed to forestall the 1953 coup; communicated with the Soviets; and consistently supported the Soviet Union, which support sometimes put it on a collision course with the nationalists. But it is unlikely that they considered these "proofs of treason"—unless, of course, one drastically stretches the definition of treason. In which case, many others, including Khomeini, would be vulnerable to the charge of treason. After all, he—like most clerics—had failed to support Mosaddeq against the Shah and the CIA.

The only hard evidence presented at the roundtable were acknowledgments by Partovi, Ovanessian, and Qaempanah that they had hand-carried sealed reports from Kianuri to the Soviet Embassy. But it was not clear whether these contained top secret military information—as the government claimed—or merely Kianuri's views on the political situation—as Kianuri himself insisted. Whatever the truth, they formed the linchpin of the forthcoming tribunal against 101 defendants—most of them from the armed forces. In later years, Kianuri explained that two of his many reports had discussed military matters: one had dealt with American F14 planes; another with a Soviet submarine that had sunk in the Persian Gulf before the revolution. But he did not consider this "espionage" because these reports affected the security of the United States—not that of Iran. Kianuri reminded his audience that the Imam himself had described the United States as "the main enemy of Iran."[46]

These seventeen were to meet different fates. Kianuri, Amoui, and Qaempanah remained incarcerated for over a decade. Kianuri and Amoui survived to publish their memoirs—of course, leaving out their recent prison experiences. Kianuri's memoirs were even published under the auspices of the Islamic Republic. Ovanessian and Sheltouki soon "died" in Evin. Partovi was pardoned and given a publishing house. Jahangeri was executed in 1984. The others—Hejri, Behzadi, Rasadi, Pourhormozan, Kayhan, Ibrahimi, Mizani, Razmdedeh, and the eighty-year-old Jowdat—perished in the 1988 executions.


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Military Trials (December 1983–January 1984)

The 101 were brought before a Military Tribunal in late 1983. Their judge was Hojjat al-Islam Reyshahri—Mehdi Hashemi's chief interrogator. Although the press gave extensive coverage, it never revealed the tribunal's location. The court walls displayed a well-known Khomeini quotation: "America Is Worse than Britain. Britain Is Worse than America. The Soviets Are Worse than Both." The defendants were charged with "sowing corruption on earth," "spying for a foreign power," "stockpiling arms," "plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic," and "violating the edict against political activities in the armed forces."[47] The press portrayed the trial as one of espionage. But the court itself focused on subversion—especially plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

The defendants included a number of stars: Admiral Bahram Afzali, the commander of the victorious navy in the Gulf War; Colonel Houshang Attarian, a special assistant to the war minister; Colonel Bezhan Kabiri, a decorated field commander from the war front; Colonel Hassan Azarfar, a professor at the Military Academy; Colonel Seifallah Ghiasund, a medical doctor who had also recently returned from the front; and Colonel Abul-Qassem Afrayi, a gendarmerie officer who had been decorated for his refusal to shoot into the crowds during the revolution. Most of the others were young officers, sergeants, and air force technicians.

The prosecutor presented Kianuri and Partovi as "state witnesses." Throughout the proceedings, Kianuri spoke in generalities about how the Tudeh had always depended on the Soviets, failed to study history, and aspired to reach power some day. He also stressed that he, as party chairman, was willing to take full responsibility for all mistakes. Partovi, however, was a cooperative witness, detailing how Kianuri had created an armed underground organization and sent reports to the Soviet Embassy. His evidence helped to seal the fate of some of his colleagues—including that of his younger brother.

Before the trial started, the military prosecutor declared that


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the earlier television confessions had already established the fact that Tudeh was guilty of "treason," "espionage," and "subversion." The newspaper headlines declared: "Tudeh Leaders Confess to Spying"; "Tudeh Plotted to Turn Iran into Another Afghanistan"; "Tudeh Gave the Soviets Information About Iran's Secret Missiles"; and "Authorities Uncover the Largest Spy Network in the Whole World."

Despite extensive preparations and exclusion of foreign reporters, the trial was not as well managed as the previous television recantations. The numbers involved made it somewhat unwieldy. Instead of providing the media with videotapes, the regime published summaries of the proceedings in the main newspapers. These summaries give inklings of the problems involved in stage managing such a large cast.

At first glance, the defendants appear to be acknowledging the serious charges. They use such terms as "treason," "treachery," "sins," "crimes," "guilt," "betrayal," "shame," "dishonor," "subversion," and "deserved punishments." They submit to the regime, thank the wardens, recognize the legitimacy of the tribunal, and praise the ultimate wisdom of the Imam. They beat their chests, beseech forgiveness, and seek a second chance to serve the people, the revolution, and the Imam. One defendant hoped that Imam Khomeini would continue to live until the reappearance of the Hidden Imam. Another declared that he had full trust in the tribunal because he knew it had given fair hearings to previous defendants. Yet another pleaded to be sent to the war front so he could die there and thus remove from himself and his family the stain of being a "traitor" and a "spy"—"the two most shameful words in our language."

Closer scrutiny, however, reveals ambiguities, hidden meanings, and double entendres. Those—including Western scholars—who read only the headlines came away convinced that the defendants had pleaded guilty to the charges. Those who read beyond the headlines are less sure. Some defendants retracted their signed confessions. Others diluted them with so many qualifications and explanations as to make them harmless. One refused to participate in the proceedings. At one


201

point, the judge abruptly recessed the proceedings on the pretext that the electrical system had failed. At other points, the judge and the prosecutor cut off the defendants in the middle of their statements because they had clearly wandered from the expected script. Some managed to drop the information that their wives and daughters had also been arrested. Others proclaimed that "their eyes had been opened in court" and that "the first they had heard of espionage was in prison."

On the whole, the confessions were big on mea culpa but small on incriminating facts. Kianuri admitted that he had instructed the Tudeh underground to hide some two hundred handguns. He himself had purchased from a foreign engineer eight pistols and a radio receiver. And he had sent memos to the Soviet Embassy. But he drastically qualified each admission. The memos dealt with political—not security—issues. The underground organization was designed to forestall a royalist coup—not to overthrow the Islamic Republic. "The 1953 fiasco had to be avoided at all cost." The radio receiver and pistols were to facilitate escape in case of a military crackdown. He added that two hundred pistols could hardly threaten the powerful Islamic Republic. He further added the Tudeh hoped to come to power some day—but only if the Islamic Republic had already collapsed. "The Tudeh—like any real political party—intends to come to power some day." For some, this was a confession of subversion. For others, it was a self-evident fact of political life.

Admiral Afzali implicitly ridiculed the notion that a small organization could overthrow the mighty Islamic Republic. He acknowledged talking to Kianuri about the sunken Soviet submarine but added that this had no military significance as the accident had occurred two years earlier. He acknowledged other conversations with Kianuri but added that these dealt merely with politics and Bani-Sadr's "detrimental policies." He declared that he had joined the Tudeh to "help the country, the revolution, and the people of Iran." He added that he had not concealed his pro-Tudeh sympathies as he had been an active party member in the early 1950s. He denied spying, adding


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cryptically that the "very first time he heard of such activities was after his arrest." He beseeched the judge to undertake the task of defending him because he himself had no legal training. Of course, none of the defendants had legal counsel.

Colonel Attarian conceded that he had joined the Tudeh in violation of the Imam's edict. But he categorically denied spying and plotting against the state. He admitted that he had compiled reports for the central committee but explained that he had relied only on public sources such as newspapers—not on military documents. At this point, the prosecutor interjected to explain that the definition of "espionage" was not the passing of "confidential" information but of any information. "The definition of spy is someone who passes to foreigners any information whatsoever." This brief interjection spoke volumes.

Colonel Kabiri declared that he would accept any verdict the judge handed down but denied the charges and stressed that he had never hidden his sympathies for the Tudeh—even when fighting at the front. Colonel Azarfar denounced himself as a "traitor" on the grounds that he had had reservations about continuing the war into Iraq. "I realize now that I must support the government wholeheartedly." Colonel Ghiasund confessed that he had written a report on war casualties, but in doing so had merely used data published in the daily newspapers. He categorically denied that the party had asked him for secret data. Likewise, retired Colonel Afrayi argued he had no secrets to give and asked why the authorities had not banned the Tudeh earlier if it was such an evil "anti-Islamic organization." Another colonel pleaded that he had given money to the Tudeh not realizing it true nature. At this point, the prosecutor exclaimed: "How can an educated person like you claim you are ignorant of the atheistic nature of the Tudeh party. Only uneducated simpletons could think that Marxism is compatible with Islam." This belied the official claim that the defendants were being prosecuted for espionage and subversion—not for political beliefs.

Many managed to smuggle in pro-Tudeh propaganda. Most


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stressed that they had joined the Tudeh because it was the only party supporting the revolution and the republic. Some repeated the claim that the party had created the secret organization for use only against a possible royalist counterrevolution. The regime could hardly dismiss this as absurd as it claimed to live in permanent fear of such a counterrevolution. Some declared that the money collected from membership dues went to feed the unemployed. One noted that Admiral Afzali had sold family lands in Qom to aid those who had lost their jobs. Another argued that he had no intention of "defending" himself because he did not consider the party to be an enemy of the Islamic Republic. Yet another declared that he had joined the Tudeh because it was the only party at the time to "champion the rights of the peasantry."

The tribunal handed down uneven sentences. It condemned ten to death; six to life imprisonment; twelve to terms ranging from fifteen to thirty years; nineteen to terms ranging from eight to fourteen years; eight to seven years; thirty to five years; and thirteen to less than five years. The condemned—including Admiral Afzali as well as Colonels Attarian, Kabiri, and Azarfar—were executed in February 1984. Nineteen others—including two who had completed their sentences—perished in the 1988 executions.[48]

At a press conference convened to announce the ten executions, Reyshahri declared that he had been lenient with some despite the enormity of their crimes because their cooperation and recantations had proved the sincerity of their repentance.[49] When a French reporter asked if the government had more evidence than that presented in the newspapers, he answered in the affirmative, adding that some of the proof was too sensitive to show in open court. When a Japanese correspondent asked why the numbers of those sentenced did not tally with those originally brought to trial, he hedged—it was rumored some had died during their interrogation. When an Iranian reporter noted that some foreign correspondents were intrigued about why so many diehard communists would repent their sins, he


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replied that he too had been "surprised." But he added that psychologists could understand why even hardened "materialists" repent when confronted by "upright Islamic officials":

One of the revolution's greatest assets is the ability to get criminals to look at their own nature and discard the veils of deception that cover their eyes. As many of the defendants have admitted, they had been blind before their arrest, but in prison they have seen the light. In short, to answer your question, one has to know something about psychology.

Koestler's Ivanov too had flattered himself as an amateur psychologist.

Tabari's Recantations

The grand finale of the Tudeh recantations came in May 1984. It came in the shape of Tabari—the party's main theoretician—making a television appearance. He began by explaining that he was reading his statement and speaking with a slur because he had recently suffered a stroke.[50] He then gave a biographical sketch stressing both his clerical lineage and his fifty-year leftist experiences—beginning with his acquaintance with Arani and the Fifty-three; continuing with his role in the founding of the Tudeh and his 1944 election to the central committee; and ending with his thirty-year exile in Eastern Europe where he had edited Donya and written books on Marxism, Iranian history, Persian literature, and Islamic philosophy.

Tabari declared that his recent confinement had exposed him for the very first time to the works of great Islamic thinkers, especially Ayatollah Motahhari—Khomeini's favorite "martyred" disciple. Giving a reading list of Motahhari's works, he argued that these books had led him first to question his own convictions and eventually to repudiate the works he had written over the past forty years. He now realized that his entire life's work was "defective," "damaging," and "totally spurious" because it had all been based on unreliable thinkers—Free-


205

masons nourished by the Pahlavis; secularists such as Ahmad Kasravi; Western liberals and Marxists linked to "imperialism and Zionism"; and, of course, Soviet Marxists wedded to the notion that Iran had experienced feudalism. "Marxism is not applicable to Iran for the simple reason that our country has a history of oriental despotism—not of feudalism." Presumably feudalism—but not oriental despotism—was a Marxist notion.

Tabari also argued that he now realized that historical materialism was not an exact science, as Marx and Engels had claimed. On the contrary, it was a form of dogmatic Machiavellianism subscribing to the amoral notion that the "end justifies the means." Motahhari, however, had proved that Islam was the exact opposite, and that the Marxist paradigm of economic base and ideological superstructure is wrong because ideas and religions are as important as matter, economics, and the mode of production. "Historical materialism—unlike Shi'ism—cannot explain phenomena such as Spartacus and Pugachef." Tabari's prison experiences must rival those of Saul on the road to Damascus.

In addition to repudiating his own works, Tabari repeated the long history lessons presented by the previous Tudeh leaders—especially Kianuri and Behazin. The Iranian left, he argued, had failed because it had not appreciated the importance of religion and had dismissed clerical leaders such as Kuchek Khan, Modarres, and Kashani as "reactionaries," "petty bourgeois," and "representatives of the landed classes." He also stressed that the "confessions" he had seen on television had convinced him that the party had "plotted" to overthrow the Islamic Republic and had always served as a "Soviet spy network." "These confessions prove the Tudeh has no future in Iran. It leaves behind nothing but a black mark."

Tabari's recantation is conspicuous by its frequent references to religion. While the others had applauded the clergy for mobilizing the masses against imperialism, Tabari praised Islam for its "great spiritual strength." He opened with "In the Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate." He ended with the Koranic verses "God helps those who follow the right path"


206

and "God the merciful forgives those who repent, reform, and proclaim the truth." He sprinkled his presentation with references to the Twelve Imams and Islamic thinkers—notably Farabi, Tousi, Avicenna, Mulla Sadr, and, "most important of all, Motahhari." He also praised Islam for its "spirituality," "mystical values," "high ideals," and "purification of the soul through confessions." He concluded by seeking pardon for his sins and urging youth to read Motahhari instead of Marx. Clearly, the regime wanted the main party philosopher to "return to Islam"—not to just beat his breast about "political mistakes."

Tabari spent the next five years in solitary confinement. But the government-controlled press left readers with the distinct impression that he was living at home giving frequent press interviews. Besides these interviews, he published numerous articles and two books entitled Kazh Raheh: Khaterati az Tarikh Hezb-e Tudeh (The Crooked Road: Memoirs from the Tudeh Party) and Shenakht va Sanjesh-e Marksism (The Epistemology and Evaluation of Marxism). These books were also serialized by the main newspapers.[51] They did against Marxism what Fardoust's memoirs had done against monarchism. The press hailed the memoirs as "the most important book to have ever appeared on the history of the Iranian Left."[52] It also hailed the work on epistemology as one of the first critiques of historical materialism to come from "inside the walls of Marxism."[53]

Tabari explained that he had subtitled his autobiogaphy "an anti-memoir" because it was designed not as history but as "anti-history" to reveal the dangers of deviation from the right path. It was an "anti-memoir" in other ways. It supposedly described his intellectual return to Islam after a long tortuous detour through Marxism. In fact, it reveals nothing new of his life or of the Tudeh party. It reads like a cut-and-paste job from previously published memoirs. It rehashes the stock history of the left since 1905, dwelling on internal conflicts but shying away from political issues. It explains these conflicts simply in terms of personal jealousies. His own role recedes into an occasional reference—invariably in the third person. The book concludes by claiming that the Tudeh had stopped supporting


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the war against Iraq because it wanted to preserve Saddam Hossein. "History shows that the Tudeh has a long record of treachery, murder, lying, deception, and subservience to the West as well as to the East." Thus the main Tudeh theoretician confirmed the regime's claim that the Tudeh was part of the communist-capitalist conspiracy against Iran and Islam. The official press hailed the book as an invaluable 'ebrat nameh (cautionary letter). Despite the nature of this "memoir," one former colleague in Iran took it seriously enough to publish a whole book pointing out its erroneous facts—of course, without mentioning Tabari's own writing environment.[54]

In his salvos against Marxist thought, Tabari used a grab bag of well-known arguments: James Burnham's theory of the managerial class; Talcott Parsons's concept of structural-functionalism; Newton's and Einstein's belief in God; the anarchist influences on Lenin; the Soviet failure to create a good society; the crimes committed by Stalin; the Lysenko fiasco; and the supposed assistance given by the Soviet Union to British and American imperialism. He also argued that Islam was more scientific than Marxism because whereas the former took into account the laws of cause and effect, the latter denied the existence of the Supreme Being and could not explain the "big bang"—or why meteors were "cold matter." As a clincher, he referred to a certain American scientist named Sinnott who had proved beyond doubt that "God directs living organisms." All this went to show that the great Islamic philosophers—especially Mulla Sadr and Motahhari—were correct in believing that "life is the realization of God's will in the organisms."

In the past I was prejudiced against Islamic philosophy. I now realize that Islamic philosophy has moved way beyond dialectical materialism and contemporary Western thought. Nothing remains for me but to pursue a detailed study of this vast literature and thus recompense for my wasted life.[55]

According to some, Tabari had become a born-again Muslim. According to others, he had recanted either because of


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torture or, like Galileo, at the mere sight of the rack. Whatever the truth, Tabari remained not only incarcerated but also in total isolation—even from his own family. One prisoner describes seeing him drag his partly paralyzed body to the Hosseiniyeh podium in Evin to read a long convoluted paper on the weaknesses of Marxism and the strengths of Islam—especially the fact that the world now contained over one billion Muslims. When Ladjevardi asked him to deny outright the rumor that he had cast himself into the role of a "Galileo," Tabari gave another long convoluted response that further befogged the audience.[56]

When Tabari died in 1989, the government-controlled press eulogized him as an intellectual genius who had rediscovered Islam after mastering ten languages, rubbing shoulders with luminaries, studying with the main Soviet Iranologists, and attaining fame as "one of the greatest Marxist theoreticians in the whole world."[57] Tabari had become world famous—at least in the Islamic Republic.


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