Peter Petroff Justice 1909

The Revolution in Persia

Source: Peter P., Justice, August 7, 1909, p. 7;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Side by side with the commercial class the Clericals have taken, a very strenuous part in the war against the old régime. Only the higher officials of the Clericals took a very hostile stand against the Constitutional movement, but, on the contrary, the middle and lower classes of Clericals were the initiators and the leaders of that movement for freedom. And this is quite natural. In Persia the middle and lower class Clericals are the school teachers (no secular schools being in existence), speakers, general educators of the masses, magistrates, judges, etc. Being badly paid they may be described as intellectual proletarians – living, as they do, the lives of the common people, sharing with the poor and ignorant their glory and sorrow – they are, consequently, always in a state of discontent, and the policy of the Government was always inflaming their opposition. It interfered with their work, limited their rights as judges and solicitors, took away their control of the holy places, etc., and even the property of the different religious establishments, as the Russian Government has done in the Caucasus. Thus there arose a sharp conflict between the ecclesiastical authority on the one hand, and the secular authority on the other – the Clericals taking up the cause of civilisation and progress, being the propagandists of democratic ideas and the defenders of the Constitutional; their opponents being in active opposition to the new ideas, and using all their power to bolster up the old régime.

Gradually this opposition spread among all classes of the Clericals, starting from the lowest and reaching even to the highest functionaries. Many of them even came into open strife with the Shah’s Government, preaching against him in the churches, schools, holy places, markets, etc.; calling down the wrath of Allah against him and his camarilla,; promising to those who might fall in the struggle for freedom a happy home in Heaven.

The influence and ideas of these Clericals spread so rapidly and deeply amongst the struggling people of Persia, that when the influence of the Socialist movement in the Caucasus began to be felt in Persia and a Social-Democratic party of Persia sprang into existence, the last proclaimed itself as the defenders of Allah and the great prophet. When the news of the revolution in Teheran and the proclamation of the Persian Constitution reached Tabriz, the Social-Democratic Committee of that town – Andjumarn – published the following manifesto, which was distributed in many thousand copies all over Persia.

“Let all the poor unite! We Social Democrats, the defenders of Islam in Persia, welcome, in this high day of the declaration of the Persian Constitution, the friends of freedom, no matter to what country, they belong. We welcome especially the ulems (Clericals) and the merchants – those zealous workers in the field of the people and defenders of Islam in Persia, who sacrificed their lives and property in order to obtain this the sacred aim ....

“Then we will raise the red flag of freedom and will not allow the little band of men, the enemies of justice, to cover with the curtain of their selfish interest the bright rays of this Constitution which we obtained with so much difficulty, sacrificing our lives.

“Long live the friends of freedom and the Constitution!

“Let contempt and defeat be the doom of the self-seekers!

“Persian Social-Democrats,

“Defenders of Islam.

“25 Djemadi II. 1324.”

If this manifesto shows on the one hand that the word Social Democrat has become amongst the Persian working people the synonym for “fighter” for freedom and a better life for the poor, it shows on the other hand the great part the Clericals are playing in that movement.

The commercial classes, the Clericals (with their young people the students), are not the only revolutionary forces of Persia. The factory workers and craftsmen took also a very energetic part in the revolution. In Persia, of course, there are no tabulated statistics of the factory workers, and it is impossible to define, even approximately, the number of that class. However, as the number of factories is now growing there very rapidly, the proletariat is also growing.[1]

As to the methods which the Persian people used in their struggle against their Government it is not necessary to descend to particulars here. They are very well known to the readers of “Justice.” All I have to say is that their traditional weapon – the general strike – became at last impotent to subdue the tyranny of their enemies. Thus, in this respect, Persia, to a certain degree, reached European civilisation. In the present European countries the army represents an actual State in a State; it is so to speak, a self-sufficient social organism. The armies have their own bakers, bootmakers, smiths, tailors, etc.; they have their own armoured trains armed with guns, motor cars, which can move through various ways in different directions; and they have also colossal provisions-stocks of flour, meal, groats, biscuits, different preserves, and, generally, a great amount of eatable provisions provided in the fortresses in case of an invasion or a siege ofi these places. It is impossible, therefore, by a general strike to beat an army or to starve it to death; but an army is quite able to satisfy, with lead and grape-shot, all the strikers. And in Persia, the general strike proved itself but an ineffective weapon in the struggle against the guns and rifles of the small army of Teheran. The Persian revolutionaries were compelled to resort to other methods, which brought it at last to victory.

Thus we see that all the classes of the Persian population – the merchants, the Clericals, the young people and the workers supported the revolutionary movement. Why, then, was the Shah, with his camarilla and small disorganised army, able to hold out so long against the comparatively organised revolutionary forces? Because the Shah’s Government has been supported by Russia and Great Britain. Until 1907 the Government of Great Britain supported the Constitutional movement in the North of Persia, using it as a weapon against the Russian influence, but at the same time, with all its powers, it supported the reaction in the Southern Provinces.

But, by giving away in 1907 to Russia (according to the treaty) the general part of Persia, with its capital Teheran and the towns Ispahan, Resht, Tabriz, Meshed – the centres of the Constitutional movement – they showed what their sympathy means, which they are, publicly always so willingly expressing everywhere. But more. This treaty with Russia destroyed the past English commercial influence in Persia, giving away to Russia the protectorate over the most important industrial part of Persia and leaving to Great Britain only two poor provinces (Saistan and Mecran). This treaty gives to Russia the advantage for her economical and commercial influence in Persia. In conclusion, I quote a characteristic speech made by the President in opening the Persian Parliament.

Referring to the representative of Great Britain, he said, “Allow me to tell you a parable. A horse was trying to escape from a savage beast. A man, passing by, said to the horse: I shall ride you, if you please, and shall lead you out in a right way on which the savage beast will be unable to reach you.” The horse followed the advice and got saved, but alas, the rider-saviour refused to dismount and is riding the horse till now. The ardent wish of the Persian people, which we beg you to report to the great English people, is that the rider should get off.”

To this we can only add that the Government of Great Britain is not only “riding the horse,” but it has delivered the unfortunate animal to the savage beast Nicholas II.


1. According to some calculations, in Tabriz alone there are not less than 100 factories, with about 10,000 workers; and there are many factories in Teheran, Ispahan, Resht, and in other towns of North Persia.